I’m Back

It’s been at least a couple of weeks since I’ve posted here, but it’s been a busy couple of weeks, with six days in Atlanta for the RWA Conference in the middle.  I’m still recovering.  The Scorekeeper is a three-person office, so it takes some planning beforehand and catching up afterwards for any one of us to be gone for most of a week.

I left on Tuesday the 16th with my friends Cheryl Bolen and Colleen Thompson.  We got to Atlanta mid-afternoon, and walked for what seemed like miles before we figured out that the speedy  little train running along one side of the passage would take us directly to the baggage area, apparently located in the next county.  (And I’m not kidding about speedy–anyone foolish enough to ignore the warnings about holding on to the conveniently-positioned poles was likely to be tossed the length of the car when it started or stopped.)

We arrived at the Marriott Marquis before check-in time, left our bags in the designated area, and began exploring.  The hotel is gorgeous, with a vertigo-inducing fifty-story atrium and those speedy glass elevator cars that make some people nervous (I love them).  (And the Best Ladies’ Rooms Ever–over six days I never once had to wait for a stall.  The perfect amenities for a conference attended by two thousand women.)

Tuesday evening I felt like a real social butterfly, having dinner at a nearby Turkish restaurant with the Firebirds (the Golden Heart finalists of 2012) and dessert at a Latin-Pacific fusion place with the Lucky 13s (this year’s GH finalists).  The annual RWA conference is as much about renewing long distance friendships as it is about workshops and industry networking.

On Wednesday I attended the Golden Network retreat, the annual meeting of the on-line chapter for Golden Heart finalists.  This year the planners went straight for the top.  Our opening speaker was Susan Elizabeth Phillips, a fabulously warm and funny lady, followed by Courtney Milan, an extremely successful and knowledgeable pioneer in the field of self-publishing.

Our keynote speaker was the incomparable Nora Roberts.  Yes, that Nora.  Her advice to us, a mixed crowd of published and unpublished writers, was “Just Keep Writing,” a motto she clearly follows: her typical yearly output, she told us, is one hardback suspense novel, two J.D. Robb books, and a paperback trilogy.  Exhilarating and terrifying at once.

After lunch we had a panel of agents and editors, followed by a group of multi-published authors, all answering our questions and letting us pick their brains.  Between speakers our talented emcees, Susan Boyer and Lorenda Christensen, kept us entertained with their rap intros and commentary, sometimes even in sync with their prerecorded accompaniment.  We’re writers–technology is not always our strong point.

Wednesday evening was the annual “Readers for Life” Literacy Booksigning, as crowded and noisy as always, with hundreds of authors singing their books.  The event is open to the public, and this year raised more than $50,000 for RWA’s continuing support of literacy programs.  I managed to restrain myself–after all, I had to get back to Houston with one suitcase and a carry on–but I visited with friends around the room.

WordPress is not being its usual cooperative self tonight, won’t even let me upload a photo, so I think I’ll save the rest of the conference for a day or two.  I had a wonderful time in Atlanta, but I’m still trying to catch up with my ordinary world.

 

 

Next Week, RWA13

Back in late March when I learned that Jinn & Tonic is a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart contest, the conference in mid-July was a long way off.  Suddenly it’s next week, and I’m not ready.

Oh, I’m not totally unprepared.  I’ve tried on my conference clothes, and they still fit.  I’ve bought a few new things, some of which will actually make the packing cut.  I should be making a packing list.  (Last year I forgot the evening bag I intended to carry to the awards ceremony; this year I bought a new one and left it sitting out where I can’t miss it.)

I’ve decided how much cash to take, based on what I spent in New York City and Anaheim (thank you, Quicken), but I haven’t been to the bank yet.  I’ve registered (and paid) for the conference and for two events sponsored by on-line chapters that I belong to, the Golden Network Retreat and the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter Gathering.  I’ve sent RSVPs for a couple of party invitations.   I have my airline and hotel reservations.

Lucky 13 pinsA couple of weeks ago I opened my mailbox and found the Lucky 13 Golden Heart pins designed and made by one of our number, who writes historical romance as Eliss Baker and designs jewelry as Lisa Confetti.  The smaller one will go on my conference badge holder, along with my Golden Heart pins and my Starcatcher (2011) and Firebird (2012) pins.  Badge bling is a fun part of the conference.

Plans for the conference–workshops, receptions, appointments, dinners–are filling up a spreadsheet on my computer.  I’ll print that out, and probable scribble on it, because I’m not taking a laptop with me (I don’t even own one).  I know some of my friends are building schedules on their smart phones.  My phone is only moderately intelligent, and I’m still trying to learn how to access my email on it.  I’ll be using paper schedules and a spiral bound notebook.

My email inbox is overflowing with chatter from friends making plans to meet for dinner or drinks, information on the local restaurants, attractions, and transportation in Atlanta, and I’m afraid to clean it out for fear of losing some essential bit of information not yet transferred to my spreadsheet.  Meanwhile, I’m compiling a mental list of all the things I’m putting off until I get back (get the car serviced, have the roof inspected, make an appointment with the eye doctor . . . ).  I probably should put that list on paper, or at least in a computer file.

I’m frazzled, and semi-organized at best, but I’m also looking forward to Atlanta.  This will be my third RWA conference in three years.  I can’t wait to see old friends and new.  Atlanta, here we come.

[For those of you interested in Scrivener, I’ve added an Introduction to Scrivener for Novelists to the article section of the site.]

Getting Ready for RWA13

This morning one of my clients asked, “Have you been to that big seminar yet?”

After a puzzled moment, I said, “Oh, no, that’s not until the middle of July.”

“Oh,” Janet said, “I knew it was right around now.

Right around now?  Good heavens, she’s right.  It’ll be June in a day or two.  Hardly more than six weeks until the Romance Writers of America 2013 Conference in Atlanta.  Really?  Already?

Yes, already.  But I’m actually in pretty good shape, all things considered.  My Golden Heart finalist pinGolden Heart pin and my invitation to the RITA and Golden Heart Finalists reception arrived a few days ago.  Both are sitting on my work table in the box they arrived in, waiting to go to the conference with me.

I’m registered for the conference, the Golden Network Retreat, and a hotel room, and Cheryl, Colleen and I have our airline reservations.  I’m getting to know my fellow finalists, and keeping in touch with my Starcatcher (2011) and Firebird (2012) sisters.  I have pitch appointments at the Conference, and I’ve started to look at the workshop schedule.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I decided to find something new to wear to the Awards Ceremony.  I’m not a Fashionista, and I can’t imagine myself in an evening gown, although I know many of my friends (most of them younger than I) will look gorgeous in theirs.  I think the last time I wore a floor length dress was to a formal party in New Iberia, Louisiana, sometime in the early 1970s, and I have no idea what eventually happened to that dress.  At the last two Awards parties, I’ve worn a gold-trimmed black tunic and black pants, and I was prepared to wear the outfit again.  There will be two thousand people there, and none of them will remember what I wore last year.

But, I thought, I’ll give it a shot.  So on Saturday I hauled myself over to the Mall and checked out the two higher-end department stores, where I saw a couple of pieces I liked, but nothing that stopped me in my tracks.  That was enough shopping for one day, and I had the black-and-gold to fall back on.  But on Monday I decided to give it one more try.  I looked at two more stores–nothing even close.  But the second store brought me back to the Mall (twice in one weekend!), so I went back to Dillard’s to look again.

When I’d been there on Saturday, all the sales women were twenty three years old and size 2.  On Monday I found a woman of comfortably middle years and figure on duty, which somehow made me feel much more comfortable about buying something.  I came away with a multicolored, scoop-necked tunic with black trim to match my pants, and colors that go with my gold and turquoise earrings.  Just what I wanted.  One more item off the check list.

Lucky 13sThe 2013 Golden Heart finalists have named ourselves the Lucky 13s.  There aren’t as many of us as in past years, due to changes in the contest structure which eliminated two of the categories, and one category that didn’t receive enough entries.  It’s been a lot of fun getting to know these forty or so lovely and talented women, exchanging information and cheering one another on in our search for agents and editors.  One of our number, who creates gorgeous jewelry under the name Lisa Confetti, has designed a logo for us, which she’s making into a pin.  (This is just a sketch–click to see some of Lisa’s beautiful art-inspired pieces.)

I need to get back to writing, now, and make some progress on the third book in the series.  I need to think about my wardrobe for the conference.  I need to . . .  Oh, what the heck.  It’ll all come together, and we’ll have a blast.  RWA13, here we come.

 

Another Ride on the Golden Roller Coaster

Last fall as the deadline for the 2013 Golden Heart® contest drew near, I found myself wanting to throw my manuscript into the ring again.  I had been successfully resisting RWA chapter contests for the better part of a year, but I really wanted to enter the Golden Heart.  I had become a GH junkie.

But I didn’t have a new manuscript to enter.  I had a couple of old ones, good books, I believe, but probably needing some work, and I hadn’t looked at them in years.  I didn’t see anything to gain in entering either of my previous finalists, although that is permitted and some writers do it.  The book I had started was far too short to finish by the deadline (it still is).

That left Jinn & Tonic, a book I love, which had done well, but not quite well enough to make the final round, in (mumble mumble) previous Golden Heart contests.  Maybe, I thought, those first chapters could use a tweak here and there.  Well, of course they could.  I’m a writer.  And a rewriter.  I read these blog posts now and then and often find something to tweak.  Legend has it that Ernest Hemmingway used to track down his own published books in other people’s libraries and make corrections in the margins.

Giving Jinn & Tonic one more shot at the Golden Heart would also give me an excuse to bring it into sync with some of the world building I had done for Bathtub Jinn.  When I wrote Jinn & Tonic, I didn’t realize I might be starting a series, but the world of the jinn and their relatives expanded in the second book.

As I was considering my Golden Heart options (option, really), I was also dipping into Scrivener.  Why not jump in all the way, and use Jinn & Tonic as a practice piece, to see if the new software might make revising and editing easier?  So I imported the manuscript into Scrivener, set about tweaking, and in due time sent Jinn & Tonic off for one more shot at the Golden Heart.

Then I did my best to pretend it didn’t matter, even as I continued to polish the manuscript.  Why be greedy?  Why expect a manuscript that had not made the final round in (mumble mumble) attempts to grab the gold ring this time?  Who needed all that fuss, anyway?  I had a lot of work at the Scorekeeper, and for West Houston RWA.  I had manuscripts to judge for the Golden Heart in a category I don’t write.  I signed up for a Scrivener class with Gwen Hernandez.

And when announcement day came, last Tuesday, I stayed late at home, at my computer, just in case the phone rang.  I began to see emails announcing newly-notified finalists.  Early announcements.  Sisters from the Starcatchers and the Firebirds were finalists, and a friend, Lark Howard, from West Houston RWA.  By 8:30 I was thinking I should probably get out the door and off to work.

At 8:33 the phone rang.  As I picked it up I recognized the name of an RWA board member on the Caller ID.  I knew what it was, I had waited for the call, and I was just as thrilled as I was in 2011 and 2012.  Just as happy, just as dazed.  But this time, the third time, I was pretty sure it wasn’t a mistake.  After I saw the list on line, anyway.  (And HERE it is.)  A few minutes after the phone call, a friend on the RWA board sent me a one-line email: “So, how’s your day going?”

A week before the announcements I had dinner with friends before the monthly Houston Bay Area RWA meeting.  Cheryl Bolen said, perhaps a bit rashly, “If you get a call next Tuesday, I’ll go to Atlanta with you.”  Turns out she was serious.  Now we’re both registered for the RWA National Conference in Atlanta in July, and we have a hotel room reserved.  I’ve had a new picture taken.  I’m finishing my edits so I can pull Jinn & Tonic out of Scrivener (and yes, it is easier to edit with Scrivener than Word, but compiling the manuscript may be an adventure).

I have forty new sisters, my fellow 2013 Golden Heart finalists.

RWA 2013, here we come!

 

Weekend With Writers

I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting my blog lately.  We’ve been very busy at the Scorekeeper, and I’ve been judging Golden Heart entries and keeping up with Gwen Hernandez’ excellent Scrivener class.  I don’t seem to have much time or energy left over.

I didn’t catch up on much this weekend–my grocery shopping and laundry remain undone, I’m behind on email and the rest of my Internet activity–because Jo Anne and I drove to Shreveport on Friday to attend the NOLA Stars RWA chapter’s Written in the Stars Conference.  We went because Jo Anne’s manuscript was a finalist in their annual Suzannah contest, and because we have friends in the Shreveport chapter.  RWA is a close-knit world.

The weather was beautiful, cool and sunny, and the roads were clear.  The only problem we had with the trip to Shreveport came when we got off Interstate 20 on the west side of the city to discover that Google maps is behind on updating street names.  The left turn on our driving instructions simply didn’t exist.  We had to call the hotel to ask for directions.  “What can you see?” the desk clerk asked.  “Wendy’s on the right and an Exxon station on the left,” I replied.  “Turn left at the Exxon station and keep driving until you see our sign,” she said, and that worked just fine.

The conference opened Friday evening with a panel of editors and one agent, a Q&A session on industry trends, the editors’ individual interests, and some funny (and valuable) advice on what doesn’t work for them.  Electronic publishing, whether through an established New York publisher, a smaller/newer press, or done independently on line continues to be a topic of major interest to both writers and editors.  After the panel, the members of the North Louisiana chapter really outdid themselves with a buffet supper, featuring local recipes from their own kitchens.  The crawfish pasta was to die for.

Saturday was a mix of workshops, editor/agent appointments, and visiting with fellow writers.  I missed some workshops I would have loved to see because of appointments, but I did enjoy Sarah Hamer’s presentation, “Intimacy: Not Just Sex,” Liliana Hart on “The Indie Revolution,” and the full-time hard work that has gone into her publishing success, Liz Talley on “New Twists on Old Plots,” and Christa Allan on social media (more on that topic another evening).

One of the best aspects of an intimate writers’ conference like this one is the opportunity to see old friends and make new ones.  The conference attracted writers, most but not all of them women, from Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, as well as Louisiana.  I was delighted to find fellow Firebird Pamela Kopfler there–she and a friend drove up from New Orleans via a computer generated route she described as “the theme from Deliverance played Zydeco style.”   A charming expatriate Englishwoman named Mavis, who decided it was time to write a novel when she turned 80, wasn’t the only lady there who reminded me that it’s never too late to try something new.

I also met the wonderfully witty Barbara Vey, an out-spoken and often hilarious lover of books in general and romance in particular, who blogs on the Publisher’s Weekly site.  I had a ball visiting with her, and I’ll be following her blog, Beyond Her Book.

It was about 40 degrees in when we left Shreveport at 11 AM this morning, and about 70 when we rolled into Houston this afternoon.  This is Texas: if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour or drive fifty miles.  It was a lovely day and a fun road trip (especially the stop at the Catfish King restaurant in Livingston), but now I have Friday’s Scrivener lesson to do so I don’t fall behind, and one more contest entry to judge.  I stopped for milk and produce (and one more box of Girl Scout cookies–those little sales women are hard to resist) on the way home, but there’s no telling when the laundry will get done.

 

Welcome, 2013!

The weather has been grey today, the temperature dropping from a morning high of 57 degrees.  I went out to get my newspaper at 8:30 and haven’t been out the door since.  I spent a chunk of the morning (after reading the paper and watching an old Perry Mason episode) dithering over all the Productive Tasks I thought I should accomplish on my day off.  I have lists of them, on my computer monitor, on scraps of paper, in my head.  Pieces I need to write, tasks for my RWA chapter, sections of the house to clean and declutter, and so on.  I’m not very good at relaxing.

I finally convinced myself that this was a Day Off, for heaven’s sake, and I settled on the couch with Nutmeg the cat, a Mysteries in the Museum marathon running on the background TV, and Janet Evanovich’s Notorious Nineteen.  Stephanie Plum’s insane adventures kept me entertained all afternoon, as she and Lula tracked down a few bad guys, blew up a few cars, and made me laugh out loud more than once.

I haven’t had (or given myself) too many chances to sit down and read a book for a while.  I used to read a hundred or more books a year easily, but it’s harder to do that when you work full time at a paying job and take up writing as your other job.  Doesn’t leave a lot of time, and it’s way too easy to fall asleep over even a good book late at night.

This year I read 39 books.  Yes, I keep a list (you mean not everyone does?).  Ten romances (six on paper, four on Kindle), ranging from Regency (Cheryl Bolen) to steampunk (Zoe Archer), paranormal (Darynda Jones) to inspirational (Deeanne Gist), mostly contemporary settings.  I would read more romance–I have stacks of them To Be Read–if I wasn’t writing romance myself.  I suppose I’m afraid of seepage.  And, of course, if I had more time, because I love other genres, too.

I read nine mystery novels (only one on Kindle) this year, mostly on the humorous end, by Diane Kelly, Elaine Viets, Joan Hess, Susan M. Boyer, and Spencer Quinn, with Marcia Muller on the more serious side and Margaret Maron in the middle.   I only read five science fiction novels (one on Kindle), although it’s not easy to draw a line–Zoe Archer’s romance titles are also science fiction, and Sharon Lynn Fisher’s Ghost Planet is also a romance.

I also read four uncategorized mainstream novels, two on Kindle and two on paper, and eleven non-fiction books (six on Kindle, five on paper).  Of the non-fiction, four were on writing topics and three on social media.  The others included a gorgeously illustrated book on all things steampunk and a massive (but fascinating) biography of Queen Elizabeth II.

Here on my blog, WordPress tells me, I published 81 posts in 2012, with 91 pictures.  I had 21,000 page views (I stand amazed!) by visitors from 96 countries (most of them from the US, with significant numbers from Canada, the UK and Australia).  My most-read posts all concern the TV show Hell on Wheels;  that was hardly my goal when I began blogging, but I do find the show fascinating, and I’m looking forward to the next season.

On the writing front, I’m afraid I’ve been more involved in RWA activities than in actual writing.  I’ve served as president of the West Houston chapter (that’s a chunk of the To Do list on my computer monitor right there), been a finalist in the Golden Heart contest for the second year in a row, and traveled to the RWA national conference in Anaheim.  I’ve written columns and articles for my chapters’ newsletters.  I’ve done quite a bit of editing/revising/polishing, begun a new novel, and I’m learning to use Scrivener.

So, in short, I always have two or three bookmarks in play, even if I don’t get through the books as fast as I used to.  I’m building my “Internet platform,” but only as fast as I enjoy doing so.  And I’m pretty much always planning, plotting, or writing something.  I hope to continue all of this through 2013.  Maybe I’ll even manage to clean the rest of the house and hire someone to do something about my yard.  And remodel the bathrooms.  Maybe.

Happy New Year 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I spent a pleasant afternoon with my neighbor, her daughter, and some friends at the Thanksgiving buffet at Moody Gardens down in Galveston.  It was a nice day for a drive, the food and the company were good, and there was no cooking, cleaning, or football involved.  (We might have been seated a trifle too close to the singing piano player and his repertoire of early Christmas carols, but he wasn’t bad, just a bit loud.)

I was particularly impressed with the display at the head of the buffet.  I wonder where one goes to learn the art of fruit carving?  Amazing what an artist can do with a watermelon, and I don’t even know what the birds are made of.  I think the flowers are mostly melon.

I’m working a short day tomorrow, avoiding the Black Friday sales, stopping by to see a friend who’s stuck in the hospital over the holiday.  Last year at this time I was writing furiously to finish a manuscript by the Golden Heart deadline.  That turned out to be well worth the effort, as Bathtub Jinn was a Golden Heart finalist.  This year I don’t have a new manuscript to finish, but I think I’ll enter the one I’m revising.  The deadline dates have changed, though, so I’m not tied to my computer chair for the rest of the holiday weekend.  I may even find time to read.

Today (and every day, I hope) I’m thankful for my health, my home, and my friends, so many of whom I have met through writing (my next-thing-to-a-sister, Jo Anne Banker, and my critique group, Barbara Ewing, Carl Miller, Charles Russell, and Jim Stanton)  and through Romance Writers of America (the members of my local chapters, West Houston and Houston Bay Area, and my Golden Heart sisters, the Starcatcher, the Firebirds, and the Golden Network).

Here’s wishing a happy holiday season to everyone.

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