Romantic Times Booklovers Convention

In keeping with my 2011 goals, I was lucky enough to attend the convention when it took place near my hometown last week.  As part of that, I entered the Advanced Aspiring Authors workshops the two days before the general conference opened.  After that, there was a bevy of workshops to choose from–often more than one at the same time–packed full of useful information.  I took tons of notes. 

I’m also afraid to admit that I got overwelmed.

What a roller-coaster of ups and downs!  SO much to learn.  So much to absorb.  I felt surges of hope and dips into self-doubt. 

I’ve decided that after a short breather, I’ll come back and assimilate the things I learned and review the (plentiful!) notes I took at the workshops.  I just wish I could have spread that information throughout the year–say have one of those workshops a week, for example.  That would have been nice refreshment.  As it turned out, I felt like I was trying to get a sip out of a high-pressure fire hydrant.

So, for now, my Top 10 list of Hi-Lights from Romantic Times 

10. Getting “up close and personal” advice from romance authors like Bobbi Smith, Mary Wine, Mia Marlowe,  and Amanda MacIntyre, and fantasy author Karen Miller  during the pre-conference workshops.

9. Watching the Avon Historical Authors answer questions live on the Internet.  And the cupcakes and wine were nice, too!

8. Having lunch with an agent and editor and being able to “talk shop” with them.

7. Having an editor give me her card and ask me to email her personally regarding my opinions on eb00k pricing and marketing.

6. Having an agent give me her card based on a pitch for a book I haven’t even started yet!

5. Learning that the difference between “good” writing and “great” writing is all about CONFLICT and EMOTION. 

4. Meeting amazing and sweet people who write cool Historical Science Fiction (Steampunk) like Nathalie Gray and Suzanne Lazear.

3. Enjoying the parties!  So many nice people gathered in so small of an area.   Also, sitting in the bar and actually RECOGNIZING people from their author pic on their blogs.

2. Meeting fellow aspiring authors-in-crime like Miss Anita.

1. Finally: meeting my WONDERFUL crit partner, Kate McKinley, and discovering that she is just as wonderufl in person.  She’s going to do amazing things.  Keep an eye out for her!

Through the Genres

I started out writing Fantasy.  Pure Fantasy.  Swords and sorcery and… well actually if I go even further back I started out at the ripe age of twelve writing poems.  Some people think in pictures.  I have always “seen” and “heard” my thoughts as words.  Words that form pictures, concise and succinct.  Words that paint colors and punch snapshots of emotion.  It’s hard to explain.  But for me, when a poem came to me, I always got a sort of “feeling” –it was a tingly sort of prickly feeling at the back of my throat and behind my eyes.  It’s like I’d feel it coming “on” (not unlike the feeling of a migraine or attack of bersitis about to come on).  The poem would “appear,” almost leaping off my fingers.  Almost as if I hadn’t written it at all.  Almost as if I was plucking some formless shape from the ether and giving it form, words, colors, emotions.

Writing poems kept me sane during some of the darkest times of my life.  I called them “naked pictures of my soul” because they exposed my inner emotional workings like no other form of art could.  I suspect it is much like this for visual artists.  Whenever I started to create I could never see the entire “thing” I was creating until the end.

Writing fiction creates a little more distance than I had with poetry.  I can “shield” the rawness in fiction.  But kernels of those inner workings still emerge.  I’ll often sit back and wonder, “Where did THAT come from?”  Creation is strange like that.

More to the point, why the switch from poetry, to longer fiction: first fantasy, and then historical romance?  My first work of long fiction centered around a character named Synna.  I started out writing her “history” and somewhere along the way, her story evolved into an epic fantasy that would have stretched volumes, had I written it all out (three volumes exist in a fairly primitive state now and are, for now, trunked).  When people asked me what I was writing, I’d first say “Fantasy.”  When I got a blank stare, I’d elaborate:  “Think LORD OF THE RINGS meets PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.”  They’d quirk their brow, intrigued.

It was the best way to describe the Synna story.  Though I could never hope to touch Austen or Tolkien, it gave people a filter to categorize my writing.  It gave me a goal to shoot for.  It was a novel of manners and relationships against a backdrop of epic Fantasy story lines–good versus evil and the imminent doom of the world and all that good stuff.

So why romance?  It kind of snuck up on me. (And yes, I know that ‘snuck’ is not proper usage, but it’s such a great word).  I’ve been a Jane Austen fan since college when I first read “Pride and Prejudice.”  Her work is the precursor, in my opinion, of the modern romance novel.  Her novels are about relationships and the growth and development of characters as a result of finding true love.  They are about the happily ever after.  Every one of Jane Austen’s novels ends with a wedding or proposal.

Romance, for me, is about what it provides for the reader.  It is not unlike Fantasy in the respect of feeling a need for escape.  A romance novel immerses a reader in another world, governed by it’s own rules, encased in boundaries so-defined by the author and peopled by characters that are real people.  Characters that could be your friend, your cousin, yourself.

The romantic element in literature is so ingrained that rarely a popular piece of fiction (whether in novel, cinematic or other form) does not have a love story somehow involved or attached to it.  Romance is important.  Love, desire, hope are all facets and parts of feeling human.  They soften the hard parts of the world and make it easier to live in.  I’m waiting for the study that shows that reading a romance novel releases the same amount of endorphins in the brain as eating a good piece of chocolate.

A Writer’s Tools: Fingerless Gloves

I do most of my writing time on my laptop, a Macbook which happens to be made of aluminum.  And as aluminum is a conductive metal, it gets ice cold in chilly weather–or in an overly air-conditioned Starbucks (a coffee-fueled writer talking, here).

I can be all swathed in a comfy jacket, warm socks and scarf but if I’ve got my wrists resting on arctic metal, then it’s very difficult to concentrate and get to the work at hand.  Conversely, wearing full gloves and typing is pretty much impossible. 

There is a remedy!  The fashion of the day has brought us the practical and useful fingerless gloves.  I recently purchased a pair on sale at a local sporting goods store and they look something like this:

Fingerless gloves let your fingers do the work & keep you warm.

I’m sure there are loads of lovely items on etsy you can peruse.  But since I crochet I’m going to make these before the weather gets too nice to wear them:

Measuring Up

On the very first day of this year, 2 months ago almost to the day, I drafted a list of writing goals for the year.  When I did so, I promised myself that I would revisit them often and not forget about them.  There were ten goals altogether, the first nine of which had due dates attached to them (what can I say, I’m a teacher, I work better with due dates in mind!).  The due dates have made all the difference!

Two months into the year and I have accomplished two of the ten goals.  In January, I was pleased to become a member of RWA- Pro by querying Broken Oaths to an agent, which I did.  As expected, I got rejected, but it was the rejection I needed to provide in order to show the organization that I am seriously pursuing publication.

In January, also, I began writing a short story which, for goal number two, was to enter into the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest.  It was an amazing opportunity that comes along rarely for aspiring writers.  I figured I’d take a shot at it.  To my great pleasure, I am honored that “The Love Letter” has been selected as one of the top ten stories.  To think that people read and liked my work well enough to vote for it is very validating for me.  To think that my story will be read by an editor, and considered for inclusion in an anthology amongst many other great writers, is thrilling indeed.

While I’d love to pause, sit back and savor the moment (and I will for a little while), I realize that I only have a one in ten chance of winning the grand prize.  The odds of winning this round are less than they were at the beginning (10/88 is still better than 1/10) but I will cross my fingers and remain hopeful.  Even if I don’t win, though, I’ll still be thrilled that I made it this far and that my work was appreciated by many of those who read it.

Now, on to the next goal.  I’m in the process of polishing the first section of Violette and write up a short synopsis of the plot for entry into the Orange Rose contest held by my home chapter of RWA.   Those due dates sneak up quickly!

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