RWA Conference: Thursday

On Thursday morning the Conference started in earnest, with half a dozen workshops to choose between in every time slot.  So where did I go first (after hitting the continental breakfast and chatting over coffee and muffins)?  Why, to the Book Fair, of course, where I bought three more books.  (Anyone who stops by here more than once a month knows how much I need more books.)

The first workshop I attended was a presentation by two authors and an editor from Sourcebooks on how sell the book you want to write, the first of many to include the pros and cons of digital self-publishing.  From there I went to a hour on “Writing Intimacy Across Genres,” both because the topic interests me and because three of the five presenters, Shana Galen (historical), Deeanne Gist (inspirational), and Sophie Jordan (young adult), are my chapter sisters from West Houston RWA.  I managed one more workshop before lunch, Voice Lessons: How to Pinpoint and Develop Your Voice, given by Darynda Jones and Liz Talley.  I love discussions of voice, as everyone (including me) attributes my wildly erratic contest results to a strong voice.  As good a reason as any, and more comforting than most.

At lunch, where I shared a table with old friends, new friends, and one three-month-old hero-in-training (the infant son of Firebird Liz Bemis), best-selling author Stephanie Laurens gave a keynote speech, “Weathering the Transition,” that truly struck the note of author power and publishing shift that carried throughout the Conference.  I’m not going to try to summarize it because you can read the whole thing (and see the illustrations) HERE on Stephanie’s web site.  Go read it.  Right now.  I’ll wait for you.

We were also treated to a preview of Love Between the Covers, a documentary film under construction (with a start-up grant from RWA) by The Popular Romance Project.  You can watch it yourself HERE.

By this time I already knew that not only was I unavoidably missing a lot of good workshops, even the ones I was attending were beginning to swim together in my fuzzy brain, so I stopped to order the Conference recordings, available every year from Bill Stephens Productions.  CDs containing the most popular workshops from the last two Conferences were also available at the booth, so I picked up one of each (haven’t had a chance to listen yet).

After one early afternoon workshop on using emotion in writing (Make ’em Cry, Make ’em Scream, Make ’em Laugh), I went to the Annual General Meeting of RWA, mostly because I’d never been to one, and because I’m a chapter president this year and felt I should have something I could report back to WHRWA.  The current membership of RWA is 10,051, making a quorum of only 10% a mere 1,005 members.  116 showed up.  Not the most popular event at the Conference.  Nothing was up for a vote this year, so the various board members (a very hard-working and under-appreciated team) cheerfully gave their reports.  There was, in fact, some interesting news, mostly of interest to RWA members, regarding changes in the Rita and Golden Heart contests, which has caused considerable discussion on various web sites and Yahoo loops.

After a pass through the Goody Room (where authors leave piles of promotional material, including free books, of which I picked up two more), I joined a group of Starcatchers at a very pleasant local Italian restaurant called Carolina’s for dinner and conversation.

Here are the books I brought back from the Conference.  The short stack I bought, but the books in the tall stack were freebies, in the tote bags, in the chairs at lunch, and in the Goody Room.  Talk about a Book Lover’s Heaven.  Some of the folks (local readers, I’m sure) left the Literacy Signing on Wednesday night with armloads of books they could barely see over.

Recent Reading: A Little Bit of Everything

I’m in no danger of getting ahead of my To Be Read shelves, but I keep trying.  The biography of Queen Elizabeth still sits on my coffee table–it’s a good book, but I don’t have time to pick it up very often.  Today I’ve been reading on my Kindle, Ghost Writers in the Sky, a mystery set at a down-scale writers’ conference.   I ran across this novel by Anne R. Allen while blog surfing one night.

A few weeks ago the ad campaign for the movie John Carter reminded me of the many Edgar Rice Burroughs books I read long ago.  Sadly, the movie seems to have been a colossal turkey.  The generic-sounding title can’t have helped, but maybe the studio was afraid boys wouldn’t want to see a movie called A Princess of Mars, the original novel written in 1917.  Of course if the princess looked anything like the Frank Frazetta cover paintings I remember from the editions I once owned, I’m sure anyone with a Y chromosome would have bought a ticket.

I knew I had none of Burroughs’ novels in my library now.  If I had hung onto all the books I’ve owned over the last (mumble mumble) years, my house would look like the set for one of those shows about hoarders on cable TV.   Browsing through the Burroughs novels available on Kindle (which is most of them), I was reminded of The Land That Time Forgot and its two sequels, The People That Time Forgot and Out of the Abyss, three short novels that I enjoyed long ago.  Never mind Barsoom, I decided, I want to revisit Caspak.  So I downloaded the trilogy in one ebook, complete with the original pulp magazine covers, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The narrative is old-fashioned, the “biology” ridiculous, the sentiments often sexist and/or racist in a rather innocent early-twentieth-century sort of way, but the adventures are still fun to read.  And still available, after almost a century, which is more than one can say for most novels written in 1918.

I wonder if the same will be true of Catching Fire, the middle book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.  I read this one in the wake of the publicity for the movie, found it not quite as compelling as the first, haven’t read the third book yet despite the cliffhanger ending.

For a change of pace, I picked up Deeanne Gist’s charming Love on the Line, a sweet romance set in Brenham, Texas in 1903, and featuring a very independent female telephone operator and an undercover Texas Ranger posing as a “troubleman” for the phone company.  Deeanne’s novels are delightful not only for their characters and plots but for the wonderful details of their thoroughly researched settings.  Love on the Line is a finalist in this year’s Romance Writers of America Rita® contest.

Marcia Muller has been one of my favorite mystery writers since I read her first novel about investigator Sharon McCone, Edwin of the Iron Shoes, back in 1977.  I recently enjoyed her latest, City of Whispers, which continues McCone’s adventures and the stories of her friends and family.  Sharon has been through a lot through the series, but she has not aged those thirty-five years.  What a shame that only works in fiction.

Tuesday Ramblings

I’ve taken the first few steps toward the RWA Conference in Anaheim this summer.  I’ve registered for the conference and reserved a room at the hotel.  The memory of my face on the Jumbotron at last year’s awards ceremony inspired me to try for a new photograph (which has to be uploaded to RWA by next Monday).  So I asked my friend Ha to take more casual shots this year.  I’m still getting used to cameras that don’t waste film and transfer pictures to a flashdrive, but that’s natural to Ha, and he took quite a few.  Jo Anne and I winnowed them down to three favorites, and I think I’ve picked the one to use.  I won’t have a lot of shopping to do this year–I have luggage, and shoes–but I’ll do some for fun.  Maybe a different dressy top for the Big Party.  No hurry–the conference isn’t until the last week in July, a month later than last year.

Last night I finished reading Catching Fire, the second book in Suzanne Collins’  young adult trilogy.  It ended on more of a cliff than The Hunger Games did, so I’ll probably read the third book, Mockingjay, soon, to find out how it all ends.  If, like me, you have mixed emotions about the current trends in YA fiction, stop over at Spacefreighters Lounge and read Donna Frelick’s thoughts on where, and by how much, the genres of science fiction, romance, and young adult fiction overlap.  (Donna is a double finalist in the Golden Heart® this year, for two science fiction romances.)

For the moment I need something more cheerful, so I’ve picked Deeanne  Gist’s latest novel off my To Be Read shelf.  Love on the Line, the story of a female telephone operator in turn of the century Texas, a Texas Ranger under cover, and a gang of train robbers, is a nominee for a Rita® award this year in the Inspirational category.

I love this picture from the April, 1935 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics, as reproduced on the Paleofuture blog at  Go read about it.  I’m going to have to spend more time prowling around the site.

Here’s something else worth visiting: a videocam view of an eagles’ nest on the grounds of the Alcoa plant in Davenport. Iowa.  Liberty and Justice are raising three eaglets in perfect peace under the watchful eyes of a couple of million visitors

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