Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Brief intro for the uninitiated: the Romantic Times Booklovers Conference, put on by Romantic Times magazine since 1983, brings together thousands of readers and hundreds of authors for a week-long romance-celebrating, book-lovin’ extravaganza.
Translation: It’s sort of a big deal.
This year, it’s held in Atlanta, Georgia, at the oh-so elegant Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Its lobby makes me feel small. And provincial. And very aware that a) I don’t know anyone and b) nobody knows me and c) I should go hide in my room.
The first RT attendee I meet, Kathryn Celeste, reads my mind and stares at me sternly.
“Do. Not. Hide. In. Your. Room,” she commands. “Everyone is lovely. Nobody bites.” She pauses.
“Unless you ask them to?” I finish her thought and we burst into laughter. OK. This won’t be so bad.
Kathryn is here all the way from Australia and she’s been coming to RT forever. This year is her first year as a published author—sound trumpets:
It’s a fantasy romance with dirty bits (“As wild as only a ride on the back of a unicorn can get,” starts one of its Amazon reviews) so I’m pretty stoked about getting my hands on a copy. You can read more about Unicorn Gold here: GoodReads Reviews for Unicorn Gold and find out all about Kathryn at KathrynCeleste.com.
OK. I will not hide in my room. At least not until after registration, right?
At registration, I get this:
Did you see that? Did you? Did you?
So, kittens, I’ve been writing for a living since I’ve been 17, but this was the thing on life’s bucket list. Published author. On May 25, it will be two years since Tell Me was released and made me that—and today, May 2 2017, is the release day of Consequences (of Defensive Adultery), which officially makes me a two-novel author, which is, like, more proof that I’m real, you know? And yet, while I always identify myself as a writer with ease, calling myself an author does not come naturally.
So seeing that there, under my name… squee. Woot. Huzzah.
Getting my name badge gets me all excited and I have to, like, sit down and deep breathe. Seriously. That’s where Bryce Evans finds me:
Bryce is also an RT Virgin, but she’s got 15 published novels under her belt. She writes paranomal romance… and she also has the coolest website, y’all gotta check it out: BryceEvansAuthor.com.
This is the cover of book one in her Alpha City series—don’t you just want to lick, I mean, read that?
It’s perma-free on Amazon, and already on my Kindle.
Bryce is from Georgia, but her PA, Janka, is here from the UK. This RT—the first for both of them—is the first time they’ve met! Don’t we live in a freaking amazing world?
Fortified by my encounter with Bryce and Janka, I dare venture again near the registration desk, this time to pick up the conference bag. Which is sponsored by Sylvia Day and Shayla Black (the Sylvia Day and the Shayla Black). Spoiler alert—I meet neither on day one. But, in line behind me, are some fab bloggers.
Brandee Price and Denise Smith both blog at Bookworm Brandee and they’re from… think, brain, think? Colorado? I think Colorado. (Note to self: this is why people writing things down. Response from self: taking notes during a friendly conversation is pathological and rude. Response to self: Why are you always so critical of me?)
Lexxie Lin, of (un)Conventional Book Reviews and the awesome hair (the photo doesn’t quite do it justice—it is such a rockin’ haircut and colour) is from Switzerland! Suddenly, my flight from Calgary to Atlanta doesn’t seem so long and heroic.
It is a very long, long flight. Because, lay-over. And US Customers. But I’ll stop whining now. Because Lexxie flew here from Switzerland!)
Our awesome tote bags in hand, we are herded into the wider spaces of the foyer, where I meet Judith, Anne, Terrel, and Iris.
Judith, Iris, and Anne are from Virginia, and Terrel is from Seattle. They’re all virgins too. Hee hee hee. Just so you know—it’s been an entire day of virgin jokes, and no, they never get old.
Judith R.E. Wansley is an artist. She shows me some of her work on her phone, and the way she plays with primary colours in her work just tugs at my soul.
You can check out some of her beautiful work here: EclecticPalette.JudithWansley.com
She got into book cover designs through Iris Bolling. When Iris—now an award-winning author of more books than she remembers or I can count (check them out at her website, IrisBolling.net)—was starting out and looking for a cover artist to work with, Judith’s son told Iris’s son that maybe their mothers should connect, cause his mother “draws a little.”
Ha. A little. Children are so good for… keeping the ego curbed.
Iris has also produced a television series, The Heart, based on her novels. I am in awe. Iris takes off for the RT Advantage session—a panel put on by Sylvia Day (Sylvia Day!!) and Karin Tabke to tell authors how to maximize their time at RT—while Judith, Anne, Terrel and I go to the RT Virgins panel. I’m torn—and I think perhaps I should go to RT Advantage (also, I want to go drool on Sylvia Day)… but I feel more a virgin than an author in this crowd. Iris promises to take stellar notes during the RT Advantage panel and tell me everything I might need to know. Because she is awesome.
The Virgin panel is a hoot. Ashley Martinez, Lisa Watson, Kathryn Falk—the founder and CEO of Romantic Times—and a couple of other RT staffers and volunteers whose names I don’t catch (although I’m pretty sure one of them is another Jane) reinforce that nobody bites, there’s lots of love in the air, we should keep hydrated, wear comfortable shoes, and not fight each other to the death for swag, because there’s plenty for everyone.
(OK that is not exactly what is said. I’m paraphrasing. And inferring.)
We all giggle and clap and start to feel more at ease. I relax enough to ask my burning question:
If I go to a workshop or panel that’s not a good fit (note how I carefully don’t use the word “lame”) and there’s another one at the same time that I was interested in—what’s the etiquette around leaving? Allowed? Frowned upon?
Allowed, understood, not a problem. Kathryn confesses to being an inveterate back-of-the-room sitter for that precise reason.
Before we go on—here’s a photo of some happy virgins comparing the books they got in their conference bags:
My apologies for cutting off people’s heads in the framing. But I got all the book covers in!
(While taking this photo, we all decide that we’d all totally date a firefighter with a puppy. Wouldn’t you? See, the puppy shows that… ok, I won’t analyze. Moving on…)
As the virgins file out of the room, not quite deflowered but, you know, warmed up, I meet Demelza:
Demelza is named after a “sassy, red-haired Welsh heroine,” and after an opening like that, don’t you just want to know more? Start here:
…and then check out Demelza on film in either the 1970s Poldark or its newest BBC reiteration.
Demelza goes on to the Scrapbooking Mania session where attendees get to make their out scrapbook/autograph book, and I’m so not inclined to hide in my room, I’d go with her, except I’m starving. So I run to get food—and find the door to the room closed. It’s ok. The universe has ordained a nap or a meditation session before the next event.
I go to my room to rejuvenate—not, hide, Kathryn!—and come out ready to experience Naughty & Nice, a multi-author event featuring Victoria Blue, Sasha Brummer, Audrey Carlan, Zoey Derrick, Geneva Lee, R.K. Lilley, Raine Miller, Liv Morris, Laurelin Paige, Angel Payne, Sierra Simone, and Rachel Van Dyken.
Got all that?
Confession: none of the above authors is familiar to me, in the least. My mission, in the room? I dunno. Reconnaissance? Something like that.
Also, they said they were serving chocolate tarts. So, you know. I’m there.
In the line (“Are there going to be lines for everything at RT?” I ask. “I’m Canadian. We don’t have lines.”) for Naughty & Nice, I meet Rosechal and Naomi, who hail from California.
Rosechal Sinio is the owner of Lil Book Bug, an independent bookstore in Palmdale, CA. Business is going very well, thank you—she’s recently opened a new location and is enthusiastic about the future of brick and mortar bookstores. And authors. And readers. She’s just plain enthusiastic.
Naomi Springthorp loves romance. And baseball. So guess what she’s writing?
Confession: I don’t like baseball. At all. But Naomi’s enthusiasm is so incredible, she makes the sport come alive for me for the first time. I look forward to reading her debut novel, soon! She says that crashing Cherry Adair’s pre-con Master Class on plotting, and is now raring to go.
I have not met Cherry Adair—the Cherry Adair—but I’ll probably go crazy fan girl on her when I do.
I’m sure she’ll understand. She’s supposed to be really nice.
In line, I also meet KD Robichaux. Well, I kind of creep on KD Robichaux, because she has the most awesome arm tattoo of Belle:
It took eight—eight!—hours to ink.
Sidenote: I am a coward and could not endure that, for any amount of ornamental beauty.
KD’s books include No Trespassing, featured above, which she says is perfect for people who dug the Nicholas Cage movie National Treasure.
The crowd inside the Naughty & Nice room is insane. You remember the names of all those authors? Ya, me neither. Anyway, each has a table… and we kind of mill around the room in a weird line-not-line to get at them. I can’t do it. I break into the middle and strategically assess what looks interesting.
So, immediately, I’m drawn to this:
Sasha Brummer’s book table is a work of art. Completely. I just want to stand and look at it. Here, I took a picture for you:
So I don’t know anything about Sasha Brummer’s books at this point, but that’s all about to change.
Beautiful table, your mission was successful. 😉
Sierra Simone is giving out Tarot card readings.
She’s just pulling one card out. The woman in line ahead of me says, “Just don’t pull the death card on me.”
The fates have a twisted sense of humour:
As it turns out, the death card drawer, Jackie Jackson, who blogs at The Book Maven, is a little psychic, so drawing the death card—which Sierra interprets in a very positive and change-not-destruction kind of way—was inevitable after she tempted the fates, right?
I draw the Fool, and Sierra Simone’s reading is so accurate, tears well up in my eyes:
At the table next to Sierra is Laurelin Paige, another stranger to me. I’m, frankly, oppressed by the crowds in the room and want out. But the cover of the novella she’s giving away catches my eye sufficiently that I flip. And fuck, the blurb is killer:
Laurelin tells me Sierra is her critique partner, and she wrote the blurb.
Which makes me love both of them on the spot. The human animal is so.. gooey, no?
Here’s Laurelin signing my copy of Dirty Filthy Rich Boys, which, btw is free on Kindle:
And here’s a link to an awesome interview with Laurelin in USA Today that I came across while googling her website.
At this point, you might be thinking, will this blog post never end?
‘s okay. Remember, I’m living this, and at this point, I’m thinking, will this day never end? Not that it’s not a fabulous, amazing day, but I am overwhelmed with all of my experiences and I want sleep. Very badly.
Instead, I go to the hotel bar for a drink with Alice and Taylor:
Taylor is from Alabama, and Alice… dammit, brain… not from Alabama (Note to self: just take notes!). They’re attending the conference as readers, but Alice writes fantasy romance and Taylor writes romantic suspense (Note from self: But see, I remember the important stuff. What people write, what people read!).
At the bar, I also meet Cindy McGree, RT volunteer extraordinaire and avid ribbon collector:
BTW, zoom in and read those tags on the ribbons Lora Leigh—whom I haven’t met yet—is handing out. They’re so fun.
And then, I meet Genevieve Williams, author of Wild Obsession and Cold Obsession—with more obsessions to come, she thinks. They’re both romantic suspense titles. We chat about the challenge of family members who are not necessarily our target audience/demographic reading our books and then giving us unhelpful feedback. Like—what’s with all the sex and romance in the plot? Couldn’t you leave those parts out?
Then I meet Cody. Ain’t he cute?
Guess what he does for a living? 😉
Alas, one can’t hang out in the bar forever. Well, actually, one could… but no. The next event on the day’s agenda is RT institution Cinema Craptastique—a screening of a bad-bad-bad-awful movie accompanied by mockery from the MC, and the audience. And also, live tweeting of insults.
It sounds… well. Like I’ve got to experience it, you know?
On the way to Cinema Craptastique, I meet Sae Ota:
who’s here all the way from Japan! I will now officially stop whining about how long and inconvenient my flight was.
The movie is Glitter. I can’t tell you anymore. A) You had to be there and B) Some things should just never be relived. Also, Damon Suede is hilarious. I didn’t get a pic of him glittered up and dissing Glitter, so please, enjoy the covers of his homoerotic romances instead:
The day’s final event is the YA Spooky Slumber Party, hosted by an entire bevy of YA authors. I don’t read YA at all, but these people in crazy pajamas and onesies have been running around the hotel for the last hour, so I want to see what they’re going to get up.
I stand in another line… but by now, I like the lines. This is where you meet all the people. (Well, here, and the bar.)
So in the YA Spooky Slumber Party line, I meet Stefany, Amanda, and Colleen.
Collen Myers–visit her at ColleenSMyers.com–writes contemporary romance and sci-fi romance (uber cool).
Amanda Jain is a literary agent with Inklings Literary Agency. “Inklings, Inklings, that sounds familiar. Do you know Naomi Davis?” Indeed she does, as Naomi is also an agent with Inklings—and a resident of Calgary, as well as a romance writer under another name. We do the “it’s a small world” thing, a little.
Stefany is originally from France, and, like me, has spent a chunk of her childhood in Africa. But we get marshalled to different tables before I find out more.
And it is at the YA Spooky Slumber Party that I officially run out of steam. But not before my tablemates and I make Sara York, one of the host authors (Sara writes gay romance, including gay YA) twerk, lick her nose, and answer an assortment of embarrassing questions.
The party is so fun, btw. There are hundreds, I think, of books being raffled off. And games. And so much enthusiasm.
I am reluctant to leave, but I can barely keep my eyes open.
Except then, when I get to my room… I write this.
I have ambitions of collating my photos and posting the whole thing up in real time, like the journalist I used to be.
But you know what? I did the important thing. I got the first impressions DOWN while they were fresh and real.
Sharing with the rest of the world can wait.
M. Jane Colette
May 2, 2017, 11:49 p.m. Atlanta Georgia
THE SAGA CONTINUES:
Day 4: Fan Girl Gone Mad
Day 5: Fans Gone Wild
Day 6: 359 days until Reno!
So, um, I had this book launch on Tuesday, May 2. Did you notice? I almost didn’t… because I was at RT! Anyway… Consequences (Of Defensive Adultery) is now available EVERYWHERE.
E-Book available at:
When Cameron Allie asked me in her last month’s Author Spotlight what the book was about, I said: “I’m billing Consequences as an erotic tragedy with a happy ending. The entire story unfolds in a hotel room, in which the heroine, Elizabeth, slowly tells an unnamed lover, during the course of their rather kinky sex, the ‘tragedy of her life’: a youthful affair that led to an unhappy marriage and a string of mutual betrayals. The timeline of the story is simultaneously one night and 15 years—which was actually easy to write and very challenging to edit! But I think it works. The story is really intense and the happy ending it delivers is… unexpected. Unconventional. But oh. So satisfying.”
I’d tell you more… but I think you should just go read the damn book, right?
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m jane colette