Saturday–the Grand Finale

We’re up to Saturday now. I have to admit, it’s all becoming a big blur–even the big bruise is beginning to fade. (Okay, it’s turned really ugly reddish purple and black and hasn’t made it to the yellow-y green shade yet except in spots, but it is getting better…)

But Saturday. I once again made it down to breakfast and this time ate with some lovely ladies from upstate New York. That’s one of the things I really love about RWA National–doesn’t matter where you sit down, you’re going to meet someone lovely who has something in common with you: writing books. (Oh yeah, almost forgot to share my “wardrobe”–I know you don’t really care, but…I wore a white short-sleeved sweater with colored (peach, turquoise, yellow and black) trim around the square neckline and sleeve hem, black slacks and my loafer shoes–I started with the black jacket, but dumped it in the room early on and never missed it.)

I didn’t have a workshop I really wanted to go to at 8:30, and I needed to see about getting my big box of books shipped home (plus some of the freebies that I didn’t want to lug in my suitcase), and there was a PAN workshop at nine I thought I might like to sit in on, so I went upstairs and loaded the big box. I took out two of my books and put in two freebies, carted the heavy box downstairs to the hotel’s UPS location, picked up a box (those boxes they had available really were NOT large enough!), went back upstairs to load it up, came back down and filled out all the shipping paperwork. I still have no idea how much I spent to have those books shipped home. (I’m kind of afraid to look.) Somewhere in here, I went up to the OCC chapter’s suite and gave them one of the books for their Chapter Birthday Party. (Remember that “get the books in the hands of readers” thing I’ve got going on…) Still had a book to give away, but I figured I’d find somebody who’d take it off my hands. Then I went to the workshop on The Numbers.

It was very enlightening. For instance, I didn’t know that the New York Times Bestseller List was made up of reports from only 35 stores, (or maybe it was 38–fewer than 40 anyway) all on the East Coast. It may take Wal-Marts into account, but I was still shocked. Of course, it’s the New York Times–I’ve found that to many New Yorkers (and many East Coast-ers), the rest of the country doesn’t really exist. Of course to many, it does, but… Then again, I know a lot of Texans to whom anything outside Texas doesn’t really exist… we’re all provincial in our own little way. And I’ve really gotten sidetracked from talking about the workshop, which was about sell-through and lay-down and getting on one of the Best-Seller lists, and that it was easier to do in the months when there aren’t a lot of releases. Writing fantasy, I don’t know that I’ll ever make it–but who knows. Dream big, right?

Somewhere in here–or maybe I did it on Friday–I ordered the CD sets for my crit partner and for the Heart of Texas chapter. I think I was the only one of the Waco area ladies (even though I don’t live in Waco any more, I’m still one of them in my heart) to make it to Atlanta, so I bought their CDs of the conference workshops for them.

I picked up a cup of tea (real tea with orange & lemon, not herbal) in the PAN lounge and started walking back to the lobby with it–and of course spilled it as I was walking up the little steps outside the Harlequin room, so I stopped walking. Turns out, people were gathering for the SPICE book-signing. The line didn’t appear to be too overwhelming, so I joined them and chatted with Stephanie Lynch (aka Arwen, aka half of the Cai Stephans writing team) and another woman who was there whose name has slid into the black hole of my faulty memory. Anyway, we had a fun time talking about erotica publishers and Tarot. Stephanie does Tarot reading professionally–I’ve been reading for myself and friends for about 10 years and still feel like such a beginner, so it was fun talking to her.

Anyway, I went into the book signing and picked up copies of the books and had them signed, talked for a minute to Kayla Perrin–her Getting Even sounds like such a fun book–kind of like one of the Chick-lit/Women’s fiction stories about a group of women who get even with the guys who dump them–only it’s erotica. I haven’t pulled it out of the TBR stack to read yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

Let’s see, then I went to the PAN promo workshop about what kinds of promo works and what doesn’t. There were three women who do lots of promo and one who does none whatsoever–except for her website and writing back to the fans who write/e-mail her. And it worked for all of them. It was a great workshop about finding what works for you and what you feel comfortable with, and not worrying about anything else.

I like doing talks and workshops. I like doing this blog (although I’m TERRIBLY erratic about it, as some of you may now). I like sending my books (and bookmarks–though I’m almost out) out to various conferences and events to get them into the hands of readers. (I’m trying to do more fantasy conferences this year.) And that’s pretty much it. I’m not wild about booksignings, unless I’m with other people–though I do like to go into bookstores and “sign stock.” Hmm–that reminds me–I may not have sold many books at the big signing on Wednesday night, but I signed enough bookplate stickers for people who already had my book (and loved it) to almost run out of them. That makes me feel better. Anyway…that was that workshop.

And then it was time to go meet my editor and two other authors–Judy Duarte and Kelsey Roberts (who has another name, and I was told her other name, but darned if I can remember it now!)–for lunch. We walked over to the Ritz for lunch–very fancy place. Very nice lunch. I had shrimp and sausage gumbo (without a single shrimp in it! but it was still very good) and a crab cake sandwich. Yummy. And I enjoyed talking with the other authors, getting to know them, and hearing about the editor’s new baby.

We got back to the hotel just a little bit after 2 p.m. I had wanted to go to the Nocturne booksigning and pick up some books to read and get a feel for what the line was going to be, and by the time we all said goodbye and I got around to the Harlequin suite, every single book was gone and the room had cleared out. I signed up to get copies sent to me and chatted with Lisa Childs who I met several years ago, and who I think might be from Texas, and who was, I swear, EVERYWHERE in Atlanta–every time I turned around, I saw her again.

Anyway, I was talking to Lisa and to Joanne/Sapphire (from the Harlequin boards and the fateful taxi trip) and Eileen Dreyer (aka Kathleen Korbel) stood up with two of her books–she’d found them on the floor where they’d apparently been knocked during the stampede. Joanne and I immediately glommed onto them. The lovely Eileen signed them for us–and then a friend of hers came in and she still had my book in her hand when she hugged her friend–and I was incredibly rude and pushy because I was worried about my book getting away–she handed it to me and went back to greeting her friend, and then I worried about being so rude…but I just got out of her way. Still, I love Eileen Dreyer. And I love her books, but that’s another story.

Okay, so by this time, it’s pushing 3 p.m. I’d missed the Spotlight on TOR–but I got a set of CDs for myself too, so I can put all the workshops and spotlights on my I-Pod when they come–and I’d put some workshops down for the 3:15 time. I went to the “Google This! Tips & Tricks for Writers” workshop, and it had a LOT of great info on how to find stuff on Google. Virginia Kelly is a librarian who does Google workshops for all kinds of groups, so it was a very well done workshop, and the handouts have almost all the stuff she showed us, except she had the screenshots for us to look at.

Then at 4:30, I went to one last workshop. Stephanie Bond talked about building a Brand. (I think the workshop title was “YOU, New and Improved: Building a Brand.”) And I think maybe I finally get it. Her brand is sexy romantic suspense, usually humorous. The brand is as much the type of books one writes as it is the advertising you use for it, and it’s as important to work on your brand before you are published as after. Which I have never done.

Except–one does tend to write the sort of things one likes. And even though I have–before publication and after–been all over the map, my stories have always been sexy, and they’ve always had some adventure in them. So I can say my brand is sexy adventure. But I think I’d like to refine that a bit more and say sexy fantasy/paranormal adventure. Now the question becomes–just how sexy do I want to make it? I don’t think I’d have any problem upping the heat to erotica/romantica level, and it would still fit in the brand…but… Hmm. Well, I can ship it off to the swamp and see what the alligators make of it…

Okay, so that was my last workshop. My roomies were ordering pizza to eat in the room and be lazy before we got ready for the Rita/GH celebration, so I ran upstairs and arrived just in time to hang out for a bit before I went back down with Karen to pay for the pizza and help carry it back up. While we were chowing down, Wayne Jordan called about bringing his contribution to the Harlequin/Silhouette e-mail loop, so we invited him to the party. Of course, there wasn’t much pizza left by this time, but he had a piece and sat down to talk about Barbados (he’s a high school teacher there!) and Kimani Press and such. He’s publishing romance under his own name. We thought that was very cool. Very nice guy…

And then it was time to go to the Ritas! I looked pretty spiffy in a black sleeveless sweater with pearl and bead trim around the neckline and my black handkerchief-hem skirt. I could “dress down” a bit, because I wasn’t up for an award, though I had lots of friends up for the award–Besides Bronwyn of the three finaling books, there was Jodi Thomas in short historical, Stephanie Feagan in Best First Book, Candace Havens in Paranormal, Alesia Holliday in Best Novella–It was very exciting. I sat between Karen and Juliet right behind the “reserved” section and could see –well, everything. It was great. I was so excited when Jodi won and then was inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame for winning her third Rita in the same category. She is the nicest, sweetest person in the whole UNIVERSE, and totally deserved her win, because she writes fabulous books as well.

The party afterward was great–I gobbled down chocolate/orange cake and strawberry trifle and a peach mousse thingie, then wandered around till I found most of my friends and congratulated and hugged them. It was a while before I found Stephanie because she had to go upstairs and call her fella after winning the Best First Book Rita, and I never did find Alesia, but it was still lots of fun, and yeah, I know I need to post the pictures on the website. I got to rub somebody’s Rita for good luck, and I have completely forgotten whose it was. Oh well. The mind goes first, you know.

And then it was time to go back up to the room, peel off the glad rags and try to get everything packed in time to head home on Sunday. It was a great week, but definitely time to go home. I had a good trip home–hung out with the North Texas girls (and a few from Houston and/or San Antonio) at the airport, talking about “what was the best moment of the Conference”. I ran across Mary Theresa Hussey (the senior editor for Luna) at the Burger King–which had these weird computerized ordering systems–and talked for a few minutes. Then read most of the Korbel Nocturne on the plane, got to ride around to another terminal at DFW to take off for Amarillo (where I finished Korbel’s book waiting for flight time). Got into the “big city’ by 6 and was home by 7.

And now it’s time to start over again. Whee!!

One Response to Saturday–the Grand Finale

  1. Gail, it sounds like you had a wonderful time. Thanks for sharing. If you ever come out East to the NJRW Conference let me know and we can “hook up” with a bunch of FF&Pers.

    Someday, I’ll get to Nationals.



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