Tuesday, July 21, 2009

AnimeJune's Big-Ass RWA Post: Saturday - "The Forbidden Fire Alarm and the Angry Marine's Virgin Blogger Mistress"

So, the Saturday post - last day of the conference. Lots of magic and wonder. There was still so much to do that I never had a moment to pause and think "Oh God it's almost over I don't want to go home waaaaaaaaaaaaaah".

First things first, though - my books. Yup, that's them, from the Literacy signing, the raffle prize, and the three booksignings I attended. The day before, I called the Baltimore-Washington International Airport to see what their luggage weight restrictions were. BWI's response: "50 pounds. No exceptions, and no fees. It's either 50 pounds or less or it doesn't go on the plane." Well, on Friday (I forgot to mention this in my previous blog post), I packed all my books onto my suitcase and brought it down to the hotel's shipping room to be weighed and it clocked in at 42 pounds. Well. I could probably manage if I didn't accept any more free books or go to the rest of the signings but how likely was that, right?

In a brilliant move, I discovered that RWA and the Marriott had arranged a satellite post office station to be set up on Saturday for anyone who wanted to ship their books home. What a great idea! But - well, there's an attention whore in me that secretly wanted to be able to pack all my books so that I could open my suitcase with a dramatic flourish to show off all my loot at once. I realized it wasn't going to happen so first thing Saturday morning I stacked all the free books I got up to that point and took a picture before I eventually shipped them off.

After that, I went to the Continental Breakfast, which went a lot better because the staff knew me by now and my special breakfast was ready - since I couldn't eat the pastries and bagels, I got eggs, potatoes and bacon. Yum, yum.

After that, it was off to the Learn to Rewrite: Finishing the Manuscript Is Just the Beginning workshop by Anna DeStefano. She takes a lot of notes and does a lot of stuff to her story, and while I appreciated what she was telling us to do, I knew it probably wouldn't fit my style (she writes on the computer, I write longhand, she prints out a hardcopy and uses doodles and post-its - I do my second draft on the computer and only on the computer).

Next was a choice between the NAL or the Ballatine/Bantam Dell book signing or Unveiling the Mystery of How Book Covers Come About. It wasn't even a choice for me - I, who always complain about the horrid covers in romance, simply HAD to find out their process. The workshop was hosted by Deeanne Gist, an inspirational author for Bethany House. And wow, are her covers gorgeous. I've never read inspirational romances, but I am a Catholic so maybe I should - her covers certainly make me want to. The workshop was very enlightening - with everything from tidbits (Gist's daughter was the model for A Bride in the Bargain cover), to sound advice (write your pitch, synopsis, and query letters carefully - because these are the pieces of information that the artists, photographers, or artistic directors receive when they're designing the cover).

Next up was From Hook to Happy Ending: Using High Concept and Conflict to Make Your Historical Novel Rock, hosted by Paige Wheeler (agent, and not in photo - she was late thanks to agent appointments), and (left to right) Margo Maguire, Gayle Callen, and May Chen. I walked in thinking I knew what a high concept was (that is, an original or difficult concept) and was quickly corrected (high concept = a basic hook or glint of your awesome idea that is used to attract editors and agents - all in a very short 25 word sentence). This was a very interesting workshop. Gayle Callen was AMAZING. Such a friendly and open and opinionated personality! That's the thing about RWA - you come away thinking "I need to get all these books" not because you've heard anything particularly good about them but because you've met the authors and they're such fantastic people.

After this, I decided to use the lunch break to ship my books back to Canada. The US Postal Service was the only way to go - I couldn't put them all in my bag and FedEx cost $150 for 25 pounds. It took longer than I thought it would, though. By the time I brought all my books down to the shipping room and had them packaged and paid the postage (which wasn't bad), I'd used up the entire lunch break and missed half of the workshop Our Favorite Flavors: What it Takes to Succeed in Some of Today's Most Popular Romance Subgenres which was a shame.

As I decided to take a look at the Goody Room again (it's always good to check at least once a day because they change the stuff around by the hour), flashing lights came on with the fire alarm. I filed through the emergency doors with some other people (one of whom turned out to be Joanna Bourne!), but we ended up having to go down eight flights of stairs because we were in one of the hotel towers that was on a hill - what was the ground floor for the other towers was the eighth floor for this one.

We dashed out and weren't allowed back in - not that that stopped some people. As seen in the first photo (left to right) Carrie Lofty, Ann Aguirre, and Smart Bitch Sarah continued their Digital Marketing conference right outside the hotel doors. I kept walking, and, thanks to the magic of RWA, met up with two total strangers and had a perfectly lovely lunch in an Irish pub next to the hotel (see second photo).

By the time we finished lunch, people were allowed back into the hotel. Rumours abounded about what had caused it - a grease fire, a false alarm, even a bomb threat (probably stirred up by the bombings in Indonesia, which had also hit Marriott hotels filled with Americans). I still don't know what happened, but was relieved I got back in time to line up for the St. Martin's and Sourcebooks' signings.

But boy, oh boy - St. Martin's did not organize their book signing properly. In the whole conference, I think Avon's was the best organized but St Martin's didn't come close. At first, there was a huge crush of people - not even people in line. Just people lining up and looking around. Why? No one had thought to put up signs or things that indicated which table held which author, and in the mad press of people you couldn't see who anybody was until you got to the front of the line! I backed out and went to the Sourcebooks signing instead, which, since it was a smaller publisher, was more successful and I picked up some really interesting finds (like a Merman romance!). I spoke with the publicist for Sourcebooks and they said they're expanding and will accept pretty much any genre and I could definitely tell - they had historicals, paranormals, contemporaries. There were only about 12 authors at that signing but they were all writing different genres.

I'm glad I went to Sourcebooks early because they didn't have a lot of books and so ran out fast. After I was done with Sourcebooks I went back to St. Martin's and found much easier to manage. I picked up some contemporaries and paranormals (to cleanse the palate of the massive amount of historicals I picked up at the Avon signing - historicals are my favourite genre but if I read too many back to back they drive me nuts).

After that, I went to the supremely helpful The Birth and Feeding of a Series Story Arc workshop hosted by (left to right) Sabrina Jeffries, Deb Marlowe, and Claudia Dain. Why supremely helpful? Because they gave me some great advice that spoke straight to what I was doing with The Duke of Snow and Apples. My novel (in theory) is the first of a series that in my wildest, most ambitious imagination is seven books long, and these women helped me a lot. First of all, they helped convince me to cut my character list waaaay back in my first book (in my first draft, all seven Dowagers [whose offspring and great-offspring serve as protagonists for future books] are in residence, as are all of their future-protagonist children, as are all of my hero's belowstairs servant buddies). As these wonderful authors pointed out, it's fine to pepper your first book with a few future protagonists and some continuing storylines, but you need to sell the first book before you can sell book 4 and 6. Meaning, don't hamper your first book by overplanning for your future books.

After this, I met up with Aymless and Katiebabs, the latter of whom was insanely generous enough to let me raid her Box of Books She Doesn't Want (One Reckless Summer! For the Earl's Pleasure! Hooray!) before she brought it down to the book exchange. Since Aymless and Katiebabs weren't going to the RITAs (and I needed to eat fast enough to get ready for the RITAs), I glommed onto Janine from Dear Author and author Meredith Duran, and we ended up going out to an Italian restaurant together. I mean, it sounds so casual now but if I'd known I'd be doing this before I went to the conference I think I might have psyched myself out. I mean, everyone's heard the "authors are just people too" but it's hard to think of them that way when you read their books without meeting them in person. I would have been afraid I'd make a fool of myself and be too loud or speak too much or bore them. But somehow it worked out - it was great talking to them over really good Italian food.

After that, it was off to my hotel room to change for the RITAs. Here's a blurry picture - sorry I can't do better, but my camera can't focus worth a damn in uncertain lighting. It was a fun show, though - Anne Stuart hosted it and she was so goofy and pleasant - "Here in Washington DC, where we will be celebrating the power of love, instead of the love of power". I cheered very hard for Joanna Bourne when she won. Watching the RITAs really brought home what a great support network RWA is - for every person who won, everyone would cheer, but there'd always be one small section that cheered extra loudly, and you could tell those were the women in the author's chapter.

And at the very end of the RITAs we got to see the logo for next year's conference, which will be held in Nashville. It's pretty, but I have to say the logo for this year's conference was really stellar. Afterwards was the RITA reception, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I met Janet Mullany, who wrote The Rules of Gentility and because someone at the Literacy Signing had suggested talking to her because she is a veritable wealth of historical information, I struck up a conversation about servants and she was delighted to oblige. She also said she'd e-mail some great sources, so I'm looking forward to that.

After the RITAs, I wound up in the hotel bar with Julie James, Colleen Gleason, Aymless, Katiebabs - and Marines. Honest to God Marines, with the jarhead haircut and everything. They were in town to unwind before going back to Afghanistan, so they were hitting on a few of us (myself included). But ... but but but. They were stuck in a bar with 2000 women, all yelling, so everyone had to shout to be heard. Let me tell you, dear readers, that a Marine's shout is an entirely different creature from a regular person's shout.

Marine #1: I'M SORRY IF I'M COMING OFF AS REALLY INTENSE. YOU ARE A VERY BEAUTIFUL CANADIAN GIRL.

I asked him if he ever wanted to write anything, and then I was subjected to a very angry, loud, and intense rant from him about Marines who hook up with ghostwriters and write negative books about wars they volunteered for. He then proceeded to tell me in detail how hard his job was, how many people he'd killed, how everyone in his unit depended on him and if he screwed up once he lost their loyalty forever whereas romance writers (his words) could write a shitty book but then follow up with a brilliant book and win readers back. Honestly, I was a little unsettled, but felt proud I didn't back away very slowly when I had the chance. I'm unused to getting hit on by even regular guys, so being yelled at by an angry (although not at me) and physically imposing Marine was an unfamiliar and not necessarily pleasant experience.

Marine #1 then proceeded to hit up Katiebabs, and turned out to be way creepier than either of us suspected (I'd say the details, but really that's Katiebab's story to tell). Marine #2 (younger, prettier, waaaaaaaaaaay more normal and laid back) expressed his delight that I, unlike the seemingly thousands of women in the bar, was not wearing a wedding ring (or being shouted at by Marine #1). I earned a few laughs by explaining that being in a bar with 2000 romance writers wasn't a bad thing - after all, there had to be a whole Harlequin line dedicated to hot Marines.

I next had a conversation with Julie James and Colleen Gleason (whose The Rest Falls Away I read and stupidly didn't review even though I liked it), which was a huge ego boost as Julie was pimping my blog to Colleen - particularly the post I made about sex in romance.

After that, I headed up with Katiebabs to the Smart Bitches' blogger party in their suite. In this photo, we have Julie James, Meredith Duran, and Sherry Thomas, to name a few. I also met a Tor editor and Jane from Dear Author. What an amazing time!

It was so cool to meet SB Sarah and SB Candy. Meeting Sarah, she said, "OMG you're AnimeJune! NO WAY!" Recognition, *lol*! Seriously, such a fun party. I didn't even mind staying up until 1 in the morning (I had to be up by 5 to catch my flight, aaaaaah). So many great conversations, how could I describe them all? I think the funniest and most awkward for me was when I saw Sherry Thomas:

Me: Sherry Thomas! I liked Private Arrangements!

Sherry: Really? Because I remember your blog post said you didn't.

Me: .......

Thankfully the conversation turned more to how I did enjoy her creative and unique writing style but that the book didn't click for me emotionally (I seriously wasn't butt-kissing but was trying to tell her how impressed I was with Private Arrangements) and we had an interesting talk about reviews. She's scary smart. All the authors are. While there's a part of me that says, "They're normal people like me! I can be an author too!" there's an equally loud part of me that says, "They're so much smarter than me! I'll never be published like them!" It's a painful balance.

Eventually, though, the time came to say goodbye. To Kristie J, to Barbara, to Aymless and Colleen Gleason (hugging in the picture). I had to be up for my plane at 5. Even though RWA was now coming to a close, I still was on such a Writer/Blogger/Fangirl high that I didn't even have time to feel sad that it was ending.

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