Okay, Thursday - Thursday was a day when people started getting down to business. Workshops began today, editor and agent appointments started today, and while there was still a lot of fun and networking and craziness to be hand, there was some buckling down (although not nearly as much buckling-down as Friday and Saturday demanded).
I got in line at the hotel's restaurant for breakfast, and ended up standing behind Elizabeth Hoyt in line (although she left for her table before I could talk to her). I had breakfast with a mother and daughter - the former a published Inspirational author, the latter an aspiring author. It was wonderful - there's such a sense of trust at RWA in the "we're all authors" vein that if you sit still long enough someone will invite you along to do whatever it is they're already doing. I have to admit, to my great misfortune, that I have forgotten their names (I forget a lot of names, which is why I've spent that last week poring through the business cards I received putting names to faces).
After breakfast came the Opening Session with Janet Evanovich. On every chair in that room were free copies of How I Write by her, and I learned that every function with a keynote speaker gave free copies of the speakers' books to everyone. First, of course, we had a speech by RWA President Diane Pershing who was great at getting us all motivated and excited for RWA. Then we had Janet Evanovich who basically answered questions that were given to her on cue cards that she hadn't seen before. She was pretty funny - starting with "It's so hard to be cool as Janet Evanovich," showing off her broken foot that she'd received falling off a stage during a booksigning in Toronto. She ended describing how, dejected at the packing crate full of rejection letters she'd received, she took it out into the yard and set it on fire.
She choked up a bit (and everyone in the room did too) when she mentioned how her husband and son came out and gave her a hug before they told her, "Your editor just called" when she finally made her first sale. That was the cool bit - every woman in that room was on the exact same page about the magic (or anticipated magic for when they finally get one) of the first sale.
After that I checked at the conference desk to see if my ticket had won in the raffle - during the Literacy Signing there was a huge raffle where different chapters of RWA donated baskets of goodies and books by their authors to be won, and people bought tickets and placed their tickets in the little bags beside whichever prize they wanted to win. Sure enough - I WON A RAFFLE PRIZE! WHOOHOO! From the Orange County Chapter! I got a bag of books (including Jennifer Haymore's A Hint of Wicked which was on my wish list!), some gorgeous stationary (individual handmade cards! How could I ever mail them, they're so pretty! I'm very selfish and would rather mail them to myself...) and a license plate holder that said Romance Writers Love Doing Research. Almost makes me wish I had a car. And maybe a driver's license. Maybe I should make a contest on my blog, but I should e-mail and ask the OCC first - I don't want to re-gift such a wonderful prize without getting their okay.
A couple of hours after that came the Keynote Luncheon with Linda Howard as speaker. Again - free books on the seats, and some interesting people.
The woman on the left is Kathrynn Dennis, author of Shadow Rider (and also a horse veterinarian!), and the woman on the right is Jessa Slade with her "First Sale" ribbon, author of Seduced by Shadows (who was bragging about her "naked man chest" cover). It was a hoot talking to them - I traded my business card for their promotional materials (such as an excerpt of Seduced by Shadows - I got a lot of excerpts, hmmm, maybe I should do a joint minireview of all of them?).
On my other side at the table was Kit Donner, holding up the cover flat of her first sale, The Notorious Bridegroom. It made me itch to get started on the outline for the second draft of The Duke of Snow and Apples so that I could hurry up and finish the book and hurry up and pitch it to an agent so I could hurry up and get my first sale ribbon when I go to RWA next year (umm, yeah, one of the things that was pounded into my head during the conference - in the publishing industry and the lives of those that aspire to it, there is no hurrying whatsoever).
Linda Howard, as the lunch speaker, was hilarious. Her speech, basted in a golden Southern accent, was meant to be inspirational, so she detailed how she agreed to be the Keynote Speaker while still under the effects of general anesthesia; how if you have an injured leg and your wife has an injured leg you shouldn't drag her wheelchair behind your car tied to a cord, or if you absolutely must you better damn well make sure it's not a BUNJEE CORD (true story - Linda Howard calls herself "keeper of the nuts," in regards to her crazy family); but if you can handle your crazy relatives and cows ("the devil's handmaidens - they have horns, the devil has horns. Coincidence? I THINK NOT") and still manage to write - you're a true author, hahahaha.
After that came the workshops. The first one I attended was Hot Vampires, Demon Slayers, and Enchantresses: the Many Flavors of Fantasy that was hosted by Pati Nagle (the woman in blue with the loooong hair) and Mary Jo Putney (on the far left). This was interesting because it helped to differentiate between fantasy, urban fantasy, fantasy with romantic elements, fantasy romance and paranormal romance. Basically the main message these two wonderful authors (Putney, more romance than fantasy; Nagle, more fantasy than romance) was that in the description of category, one is the adjective and one is the noun, and the noun should be the dominant genre in my story. Example - in fantasy romance, romance is the noun so that story should be dominated by the romance. In romantic fantasy, fantasy is the noun so that story should be dominated by the fantasy aspects.
After that, my friends, came that most wonderful of RWA National events - the publisher booksigning. In this case, the first one on Thursday was the Avon signing. Essentially, at publisher booksignings, a number of authors under a particular publisher all get into a room and sign copies of their books. For free. FREE. FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
I'm not kidding - it's like Halloween for readers. You line up in front of author tables, say hi, they sign a book, you put it in your giant gorgeous Harlequin tote or a large box and you move on to someone else. It's fantastic. But - there are lines, particularly for the more popular authors like, in Avon's case, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, and Stephanie Laurens. Wendy the SuperLibrarian advised that for the authors you really like that are must-haves on your list, the safest bet is to buy their books at the Literacy Signing. Because of the lines and the crowds and the randomness, the booksignings are better for trying newer authors - although if you can get a copy of your favourite author's book for free, might as well.
I picked up Suzanne Enoch's Sins of a Duke, Tracy Anne Warren's Tempted By His Kiss (in part for its bee-yu-tee-full cover) for a start. I also picked up a copy of Sophia Nash's The Kiss for Barbara who had to miss most of the publisher booksignings because she had workshops at the same time. Now, after my vehement dislike of The Kiss, why would I give a copy of it to someone else? Well, I love Barbara, but reading her blog I know we tend to differ a great deal on the types of romance we like so I figured if I hated it, she'd be sure to love it! I also got a bunch of other cool books that I will discuss in detail once UPS sends the box to my house.
After that I walked through the bar in the hotel and saw a familiar face whose name I couldn't quite remember. I figured, "I recognize her face, she must be an author!" and she caught me staring and came over - and it turned out to be Katiebabs from Babbling about Books! I sat down to talk with her, Julie James, and the incomparably awesome Joanna Bourne.
She wrote My Lord and Spymaster and Spymaster's Lady and just won the RITA. She was really super nice and helped me a lot with some of my questions about historical research (Googlebooks is apparently a fantastic resource). You can bet I was cheering extra loud when she won the RITA.
After that came Lauren Willig's How to Live in Another Century or Just Sound Like You Did workshop. She was helpful. While I was still a little intimidated by all the research I feel I still haven't done, I found I already researched in much the same way she suggested - first, general research (immersion in the period), then more specific research (when I stopped studying The Regency in general and started researching Servants in Particular) and spot research (when I come up against a particular problem while I'm writing). I take heart from the fact that my novel is a fantasy romance set in a world based on Regency England so that I don't have to be exactly like Regency England (for instance, in my world, daughters can inherit as long as there are no sons because direct magical bloodlines are more important than men inheriting so there are more peeresses in their own right).
After that, came the Gathering - the party and general meeting for the FF&P (that's Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal) chapter of RWA. I sat at a great table with some wonderful people (and I got Linnea Sinclair's Hope's Folly in my goody bag! Hooray!), and had a great time, even though I was behind a pillar and could see absolutely nothing.
These two wonderful ladies are La-Tessa (on the left) and Marguerite (on the right), whom I met first at the RWA Online party and now here at the Gathering. Seriously, they were a blast to talk to. One of their funniest stories was how they got a publicist fired because said publicist asked them to change one of their book reviews because they referred to the heroine as a "stereotypical island nymph."
Marguerite: "I wrote that because I was being professional. I could have just called her a ho."
Publicist: "The heroine went to grad school!"
Marguerite: "Fine - she's an educated ho."
Publicist: "She's an attorney!"
Marguerite: "So she's a loose litigator!"
La-Tessa: "We even talked to the author, she said 'Hell, I know she's a ho! That's how I wrote her!'"
After this, came the Prisms - the awards for the best Paranormal romance, and it was interesting to note the different categories (Light Paranormal, Dark Paranormal, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Novella, Young Adult, Time Travel, Erotica - pretty cool). What was really fun was afterwards some of the winners participated in a panel where we could ask questions. In this picture, from left to right, we have Isabo Kelly, Leanna Renee Hieber, Jade Lee, Jeri Smith-Ready, and Catherine Asaro.
When I got up to ask my question, they all admired my glossy red pumps, and I increased my sci-fi street cred to an incredible degree when I revealed I shared a hometown with Firefly's Nathan Fillion and "my sister once sold beer to his mom" ("Oh my God, you're one degree away!" cried Leanna).
There was some great info to be hand. Leanna talked about the importance of small presses like Crescent Moon, and that they shouldn't be discounted just because they're small because they can often give your manuscript the attention and focus it needs that larger presses might not have time to provide. On the other hand, she also said we shouldn't sell our work short and not try the larger presses as well because we think we're not good enough.
After that, I just stayed behind and talked. There is so much opportunity for excellent conversation at RWA, let me tell ya. I took a picture with Jade Lee (and I won a copy of her book The Concubine and was dismayed to discover how poorly it had sold because it was a Chinese historical instead of an English historical). I also talked more with Leanna Renee Hieber, because her fantasy romance (The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker) is based in Victorian England. And I even met Angie Fox (author of The Accidental Demon Slayer).
Now, by this point it was 10 pm and I thought I might head to bed early and read a little - but no. There is little to no downtime at RWA, so just heading to my hotel room I ran into people going to the Moonlight Madness Bazaar (where chapters of RWA sell handmade goodies to raise funds), and I bought a t-shirt that said "Romance Writer" on the front and "As a matter of fact I do write real books" on the back.
Wandering around some more I just happened upon the eHarlequin pyjama party. I was not wearing pyjamas, by the way, but I didn't stick out too much. People asked partygoers to make up the best story about their pyjamas, and I won a cute paperweight when I said that my pyjamas, being Canadian-government-issued, had been held up at Customs because they wouldn't let PJ's made of moose-fur, polar bear-fur, and Wayne Gretzky's hair over the border.
After that, well, it really was time to crash. Good thing I still had Friday and Saturday to look forward to!