At RWA 2013 – Friday

On Friday morning at the RWA Conference, I went to a workshop given by Deb Dixon, the author of a book that belongs on every novelist’s shelf, Goal, Motivation &Conflict. (First published in 1996, GMC is still available from its original publisher, Gryphon Books for Writers.  Go order it.)  This workshop, however, was on “Finding Your Voice.”  Deb compared an author’s voice to an ice cream cone, with the base made up of what one tells (your themes, plots, story arcs, world view, etc.) and the flavor how one tells it (tone, sound, word choices and so on).

With my head swimming with writing advice, I decided to seek a bit of publishing advice, and went to the Spotlight on Kensington session.  Kensington is an independent American-owned publisher, prominent in romance and a range of other genres.  The Kensington editors were enthusiastic and eager to describe the advantages of traditional publishing, both paper and electronic.

After lunching with another group of ladies I’d never met (this time including an agent who represents several of my friends), I went to another Spotlight session, this one on Sourcebooks, a publisher which started in 1987 with financial and business books and which has successfully spread into fiction over the last few years.  Their team at the conference, including the founder of Sourcebooks, Dominique Raccah, was enthusiastic and encouraging.

And then it was time for the RITA and Golden Heart Finalists reception, held on the Pulse Loft overlooking the Atrium level of the hotel.  Nearly all the Lucky 13s and a good many of the RITA finalists were there, as well as the RWA Board members, who presented us with our certificates.  We were served champagne and petit fours and had our pictures taken.  I’m not sure what happened to the individual photos, but here’s a group pic of the Lucky 13s.

Lucky13s

I managed to hit one more workshop after the reception, “Don’t Just Put Gears on It: Writing and Selling Steampunk.”  I don’t know if I’ll ever try to write in the Steampunk subgenre, but I find the combination of science fiction and alternate history fascinating.

Friday evening was my chance to visit with some of the Starcatchers, the GH finalists from 2011.  A group of us walked down the street to Benihana (the first time I’d been out of the hotel since Tuesday evening–I’m afraid I can’t say I saw much of Atlanta!) for a most entertaining dinner.  I don’t think we were the first group of romance writers our chef Bernard had served, and he took our teasing in good spirits (and the spirits consumed probably accounted for the teasing).  Back at the hotel, we found a few more Starcatchers, and a few more spirits, in the bar.

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.]

Book Review: Maid of Secrets

I met Jenn Stark, on line and then in person, as one of the Starcatchers, the 2011 group of Golden Heart finalists.  Her manuscript, then called Maids of Honor, was a finalist in the Young Adult category.  It didn’t win the Golden Heart, but it did even better–it sold to Simon & Schuster!  Although I’m not a reader of contemporary young adult fiction (it’s been a long time since high school angst played an important role in my life), the Elizabethan setting of Jenn’s story, and the tagline God Save the Queen–or We Will, had me waiting eagerly for publication.

Jenn chose to publish as Jennifer McGowan, Simon & Schuster changed the title to Maid of Secrets and put a beautiful cover on the book, and as soon as it was released last month, I was at my local Barnes & Noble for a copy.  And I was not disappointed.

Maid of SecretsMaid of Secrets may be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, but it stands up quite well as historical fiction for readers of any age.  Although the heroine, orphan and pickpocket Meg Fellows, is a young woman of seventeen, her problems are hardly those of a contemporary teen.  When she is arrested and removed from her company of traveling players to be drafted into the Maids of Honor, a small group of girls trained to protect Queen Elizabeth I and to spy on her court, Meg’s skills as a thief take second place to her phenomenal ability to memorize overheard conversations, even in Spanish, a language she barely knows.

Each of Meg’s fellow Maids of Honor also has a unique skill: Anna the scholar and translator, Sophia, whose “sight” is just developing, Jane with her knives and raw courage, and Beatrice the beauty and charmer of men.  Each Maid has her own secrets as well.

The Elizabethan setting is fascinating, as Meg and Jane prowl through the semi-forgotten passageways from the time of Henry VIII, meet the members of the court, spy on Elizabeth’s enemies and suitors, and discover some things they’d rather not have known.

Among the Spaniards at court, the handsome and charming young Count de Medina keeps Meg guessing—is he her protector, as he claims, or Elizabeth’s enemy, as the spy masters suspect?

Maid of Secrets comes to a satisfying conclusion without answering all the questions raised.  I hope this means we will be hearing more from Meg and the Maids of Honor.

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