Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Today, I need to clone myself, because I want to do EVERYTHING, and it all happens at the same time.
Today, I also need to medicate myself, because I’m pitching to Kensington Books in the morning and I haven’t practiced and I’m starting to feel a little nauseated.
Wait. That might be the lack of food.
Fortunately, the first thing on my agenda is Muffins & Magnolias, the Romantic Times’ welcome breakfast. I’m going to it under the care of Kymber Morgan, an Alberta author and a past president of my local chapter of the Romance Writers of America… who I’ve had to travel all the way to Atlanta to meet, apparently.
Kymber—author website KymberMorgan.com, go take a peek—writes paranormal, modern fantasy, and contemporary Western romance. When I go to pick her up from her room—she’s on floor four, I’m on floor 18, and the welcome breakfast is in the bowels of the Hyatt convention area, so she’s on the way—I pounce on her collection of books and her awesome poster, all ready for one of the big author signings she’s participating in.
Isn’t “Mystics, Mavericks & Mayhem” the best tag-line ever?
We get down to the breakfast half an hour before its start time… and we encounter this:
Did I mention—I’m Canadian? I don’t know how to stand in line? But RT staff and volunteers have line management down to a science and they herd us all into the room quite smoothly. And then it’s all worth it, because waiting on every chair is this:
…and there’s tea and coffee and muffins and lovely, happy people:
Left to right that’s Brenda, Amy and Mom—er, I mean Meg—Taria, Harper of the fabulous hair, paranoid Fiona (she’s the one behind the program), Natasza Waters and Kymber Morgan.
Natasza Waters hails from BC (we Canadians lurk everywhere down south) and she writes military romance. She’s got this cool thing happening on her website right now, Mission Romeo Tango, where she’s inviting her readers to step into the action of her books and complete a mission. Uber cool.
We don’t get much time to chat because there are many speeches, mostly by RT staff and volunteers, some of whom have been with Romantic Times from the time Kathryn Falk founded the magazine in the early 1980s.
For me, it’s Karen Robards, veteran and best-selling author of more than 50 novels, who steals the show during her tribute to RT. Robards attended the very first RT Conference 34 years ago (“When I was nine years old, and already had three books published—I was very talented,” she quips). The industry has changed, is changing, yes, she says. But you know what?
“There has never been a better time to be a writer.”
I feel all uplifted and cheery.
And not at all nauseated.
Did you not remember that I started the morning sick to my stomach, because I was going to pitch an ms to Kensington?
Kensington bills itself as America’s largest independent publisher. I’m pitching to Kensington because they’re Sonali Dev’s publisher and I have a fan girl crush on her—because she’s one of the authors who’s really taking romance to a new place these days…
…and I spoke with her at length when I met her at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference last year, and was quite impressed at how Kensington treated her.
My pitch appointment is coming up. I must go breathe. It’s too late to practice and prepare—I just must NOT panic. Oooh. Look:
I talk with Janet Lee Nye about her fab cherry blossom tattoo and ask her what she got first—the tat or the matching T-shirt? She told me—but I’m not going to tell you. You have to guess.
On my way to my room to prepare—I mean, not panic—for my pitch appointment, I meet—you will never believe this—I meet Cameron Allie in the elevator!
Cameron Allie is a fellow erotica author, who’s got three books out and a fourth in the pipe:
We met in an online course put on by Passionate Ink, the erotic romance chapter of RWA a few months ago, and last week Cameron did this amazing interview with me just in time for the launch of Consequences (Of Defensive Adultery) (you read it, right? No? What? Go here: Author Spotlight on M Jane Colette), but we’ve never ever met in person. And there she was. In the elevator at RT.
I read her name tag before she read mine and squealed and hugged her. Then introduced myself.
Note to self: next time, introduce first, then hug.
K, I’m putting off telling you about the pitch. Breathe. Don’t panic.
This is the room of doom where it takes place:
Actually, it’s not that bad. I perform pretty well under pressure. I’m all hyperventilating and panicked and sweaty until I walk into the room, and then it’s game on. Also, Kensington’s Tara Gavin is lovely and does not bite or snarl or call me a talentless impostor.
In fact—I pitch… and she asks for the full ms.
I float out of the room.
Into another room, in which the Totally Bound-Totally Entwined folks are telling us about their author developments, and their plans for a new on-line romance store, which will be called First For Romance.
They say other things, but all I can think about is that KENSIGTON’S TARA GAVIN ASKED TO SEE THE FULL MS OF THE BEST BOOK I’VE WRITTEN!
True thing: writing professionally is like 90% rejection and people telling you they’re not interested. A sane person would not let their hopes shoot through the roof at every single little maybe, right? Me, I’m already imagining my conversations with Kensington’s art director about cover designs.
Ok. Breathe. Maybe eat something? No time. But I do need to run to my room quickly for some snacks, which means I head back to the elevator… in which I meet Madison Stevens:
…who gives me her book, Shadow Embrace. Squee. It’s a paranormal romance and the page I randomly flip to refers to a brush against hard nipples, so I’m all in.
In the meantime, Cameron Allie tweets me, “Where’s the best place to meet people at #RT17? The elevator!”
I’m not going to go to any more sessions today. I’m going to do all my networking in the elevator.
OK, so not true. I fucking love the sessions.
Before my next one, I take a stroll down Promo Lane. I try very hard not to take all the pretty shiny things. I have just one suitcase… I take photos instead:
And then I bump into Ashley Gillis, who is having the same problem I’m having: she’s interested in two concurrent sessions, and modern cloning technology sucks ass. We decide I’ll go to Book Clubs & Social Media and she’ll go to Dive Into Data, and we’ll compare notes after.
Ashley, btw, is a “southern Belle who writes military suspense.”
The Book Clubs + More session is absolutely fab, not just for the content—which is pretty useful, of course—but for the chemistry between the four panelists, Iris Bolling, Misha Elliott, Stephanie Phillips, and Samantha Chase, and their moderator, La Sheera Lee:
Let me tell you a little about them, because they are AMAZING.
Iris Bolling, I met in registration line yesterday and, somehow, she now feels like an old friend. She writes romantic suspense–and she’s also the queen of street teams. I am in awe.
Misha Elliott—ok, this is funny… I sorta feel I know her, because I accidentally texted her as if she were an old friend. See, what happened is I have this Twitter friend Mischa Eliot, who is an erotica author. MisCha with a C and the single l and t writes fabulous smut and has a fabulous sexy blog, and is a really generous, sharing member of the Twittersphere (@mischa_eliot, you’re welcome). So when I saw Misha Elliott checking in on the RT17 App, I thought–ooh! Wow! How cool is that, I’ll finally get to meet MisCha face to face! And I sent Misha a message along the lines of “Squee! I just saw you check in! I’m here too! Let’s go grab a drink!” and then, just to make the situation doubly-weird, I tweeted to Mischa to tell her I messaged her on the RT App, and… well, it turned out Mischa wasn’t Misha, and Mischa was not coming to RT17 while Misha was, and I didn’t know Misha at all, except, well, now I did, because when you act like a total goof in front of a stranger and they’re lovely about it, that’s sort of the beginning of a friendship, right? Anyway–Misha (not MisCha) Elliott (not Eliot) is at RT, in this incredible panel on Book Clubs, and she is lovely. She writes romance… well, I’m just learning her books, but I’d say she writes across the genre and across genres–my favourite type of writer.
Next: Samantha Chase—the Samantha Chase, the outrageously prolific Samantha Chase, hybrid author extraordinaire who already has 10 books out this year. Samantha released her debut novel in 2011, and has now hit 50 books. Are you in awe? You should be. She writes “pure contemporary romance,” and I learn so much from her during this presentation, I feel I’ve accelerated my own career by a year, more. Here’s a snapshot of Samantha’ s most recent books:
Panelist number four: Stephanie Phillips, the owner of, and agent with, SBR Media, as well as blogger, vlogger and mastermind behind Stephanie’s Book Reports. She strikes me as so incredibly dynamic, connective, and aware of and, more importantly, responsive to the changes in the publishing and social media landscape, I start to wonder if I should talk with her about possible representation. Hmmm. I wasn’t planning to… but… maybe?
The final ingredient of this incredible panel is the moderator, La Sheera Lee, reader, blogger, virtual assistant, social media coach, multi book club president, and host of the blog talk radio show Read You Later, and clearly an amazing human being.
Do you know how some people just make you a better person by being in the room with you? That’s what happens at that panel.
Also, I think Iris Bolling gave me the secret to cloning myself. But I’ll share that with you another time.
I do, btw, take a break to eat. At a Turkish restaurant called Truva. Look it up if you’re ever hungry in Atlanta–it is fabulous.
But then, back into the fray, where I meet Heidi Cullinan while she’s being hugged by a fan:
…and get educated in the course of a 10 minute conversation on so many career-related things, my brain explodes and starts to leak out my ears and nose (no, it’s not an allergic reaction). Anyway, here’s one of the things Heidi does:
…and there’s more, but isn’t that enough?
Have you noticed? The time in-between the sessions is just as important as the time in sessions?
The next session is a great example of that—tantalizingly entitled “How To Write Copy That Sells Books,” it’s put on by BookBub’s Hannah Reynolds and Carlyn Robertson. BookBub, incidentally, is this holy grail advertising vehicle for authors—indie authors in particular. It has like, 10 million subscribers. You might think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. So you know what that means? That’s right–great data. And Hannah and Carlyn show us how BookBub uses its immense database to optimize and tests its blurb copy. Fascinating. Mind-boggling. My brain is still exploding and I think I need to rewrite and test ALL of my blurbs.
Lucy’s latest release is killing it, in the number one spot in so many of the LBTQ fiction categories on Amazon, I won’t bother to list them all (holding number 4 or so two weeks later, way to go, Lucy!). But she wants to broaden her target audience to readers of F-M romance… who she believes will find in M-M romance a lot of the elements that turn their crank in straight romance.
I refer Lucy to Jackie Horne of Romance Novels for Feminists, and her recent review of How To Bang a Billionaire, in which she ponders why (so many) straight women (might) like reading M-M romance. And this leads the four of us into an awesome convo that lasts almost as long as the session did… and makes me late for my nap.
I mean my next session.
OK, fine. I confess. Nap. I go upstairs and have a power nap. Then meditate. Think about eating. Don’t. Gird my loins and go once more into the fray…
But this time, it’s all fun and games. It’s the City Chicks, Southern Belles and Bad Boys party, and I’m just going to tell you about it in pictures:
A massive line forms for the next party before this one is over (I’ve told you before, romance writers throw the best parties—and this is true—and romance readers clearly love the parties a lot). The next party is called Petticoats and Pistols, and it’s all a celebration of historical romance. And man-oh-man, them historical authors went all out. I mean…
Well, just look:
Isn’t that amazing? But wait. There’s more. Yes, there are three crazy costume theme parties that night. And they might kill me… but not before I understand the truth of RT.
It’s Disneyland for romance readers.
Pure and simple.
I engage in my secret vice between party two and party three. You don’t need to know what it is, but feel free to guess. ;P
I have also now cracked the secret of Disneyland and the line-ups. See, there are thousands of people here—some say two, some say three, some say four, and some say all the answers are right depending on the day—and there is a gazillion-bazillion bags of swag and books and all sorts of other freebies… but there isn’t always enough for every attendee of every event. So the truly swag-committed need to stand in line.
The rest of us—we can chill and… um… just chill. Ssshhh. You don’t need to know what I was doing. But these are the people I was doing it with:
Diana Connors writes YA and is here all the way from Portugal. Also, she’s probably the most beautiful woman at the conference. I’m not Anglo, so I tell her so, and she’s not Anglo, therefore she takes it the way compliments are meant to be received.
Renita McKinney, voracious reader and developmental editor, among other things, got into her current line of work in the best way possible: she had read a book that she had really enjoyed… but had some issues with it. She wrote the author a letter outlining what rocked about her book–and what she would do to make it even better. The author asked Renita to dev-edit her next project… and a career was born.
Kate writes historicals and hails from the UK—but now lives in Illinois. She has three kids, like me, spaced almost identically like my three kittens–they’re all just a few years younger. I lie, and tell her it gets easier. Ha. (It doesn’t. We–the mothers/parents–just get better. Or, give up. ;P But that’s a topic for another post.)
And Patricia Lewis is a hardcore RT volunteer who’s been doing the conference for 27 years. Which, incidentally, is one of the reasons I think Kathryn Falk must have magic around her. For so many among her staff, volunteers—and of course conference attendees!—to keep on coming back year after year after year… it’s not just about what she delivers, right? It’s about who she is.
K, Last party of the night. Ready?
I know. Me neither. Let’s just go to bed…
Fine. OK. I can do this. I MUST do this. The closing evening event, the Romance Rockability Street Festival, strives to capture the spirit of an Atlanta street festival … in a ball room. So there’s… well, just look at this:
OK, and this needs a close up:
And, OMFG, can I please go to bed now?
But I hear that the Smart Bitches are hanging out in the hotel bar—Smart Bitches Trashy Books is, like, THE best romance book review blog on the planet, and I have a fan girl crush on Sarah Wendell, who dreamt up and runs the whole thing—and I need to see them, right?
I kind of make it. Into the bar. Onto a stool. A few words exchanged with the bitches (is it ok if I call them that? I mean it with all the affection in the world). But Sarah is leaving as I arrive, and she looks as tired as I feel, so I decide now is not the time for fan stalking.
Now is the time for bed.
Get. Me. To. Bed.
May 3, 11:32 p.m. Atlanta
COMING NEXT–a break from RT so that I can tell you how Cherry Pie Cure got made, and then, back to Diary of An RT Virgin with Day 3: Battle Fatigue.
IF YOU MISSED IT: Diary of An RT Virgin, Day 1: “What are all these lines for?”
THE SAGA CONTINUES:
- Diary of an RT Virgin, Day 2: I figure out RT is Disneyland for romance readers (you are here)
- Diary of an RT Virgin, Day 3: Battle Fatigue
- Diary of an RT Virgin, Day 4: Fan Girl Gone Mad
- Diary of an RT Virgin, Day 5: Fans Gone Wild
- OTHER STUFF
Really interesting read about the future of the Indie Book Store by Peter Goodman, publisher of Stone Bridge Press and outgoing board chair of the Independent Book Publishers Association: How to Fix the Indie Bookstore
MY NEW BOOK!
Is out and is awesome. If you like your love stories, complicated and dirty, give Consequences (Of Defensive Adultery) a nibble. Available EVERYWHERE.
E-Book available at:
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