Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I won an Award!

The wonderful Lusty Reader, whom I met in Washington D.C. during the RWA National Conference, nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award! Awesome! This is the first time I've won any sort of blogger award, and I'm so pleased. I have been feeling really Kreativ lately thanks to RWA - I finally started work on my novel's second draft, and I've already finished three chapters (prologue included). Sometimes it's difficult to get started writing. To me, writing is like pushing a boulder down a hill - the initial push is really difficult, the rock looks really big and it's really heavy - but once you go ahead and do it, it's gets easier and easier to keep writing, until whenever you're not, you're itching to go back and do it.

But I can't just sit on my electronic laurels:

The Kreativ rules state that:

Once you receive this award you are to list seven of your favorite things and then nominate seven other blogs.


Okay! In no particular order, seven of my favourite things:

1. Canadian spelling. I'm a bit like Anne of Green Gables - I believe spelling really can affect how romantic or beautiful a word seems to you (to my Nana Ann's dismay, I do think the e on the end of Anne makes it a prettier name). To me, flavour and honour and parlour look so much classier than flavor, honor, and parlor. Plus, it's always a bit of a jolt to read books set in historical Britain that use American spelling.

Pronunciation, too - I'm an Elizabeth with a zed, not a zee.

2. Mary Balogh. Mary Mary Mary Mary. Love her. Love her. I've only read four of her books so far (I'm too damn slow!) but every time she astounds me with how she takes romance cliches and turns them on their ear. Plus, she lives in Canada, only one province away from me (Saskatchewan).

3. Dark chocolate Kit-Kat Bars. Yum.

4. Craig Olejnik. He's a Canadian actor who stars in CTV/NBC's The Listener. Now, when I created the hero of my novel, The Duke of Snow and Apples, I didn't have a particular actor or real-life person in mind. Frederick Snow started out as rather a type of hero I like and rarely see - he's tall, lanky (not beefy), nimble, with dark curly hair and is the complete opposite of tanned (he blushes and sunburns). He also has huge blue eyes that are a source of his secret magic power, but are also his most distinctive and beautiful facial feature. Again, I had no image in mind when I created him a year ago - but then here comes Craig Olejnik and I just went, "Holy CRAP - he's got Frederick's eyes!" Weird. But cool. And pretty.

5. Books. They are my heroin. And RWA was an enormous "Heroin? You like heroin? Have some free heroin!" festival for me.

6. Choral Music. Weird, I know - but this pertains more to singing it than listening to it. I've been part of my University's mixed chorus for going on five years (even though I'm no longer *in* University) and I never fail to feel awed by the feeling of singing these gorgeous, enormous, epic songs with a hundred and fifty other people. Find an example of a choir singing "O Magnum Mysterium" on YouTube and you'll know what I mean. I love being a part of a mixed chorus. I'm a Soprano II, and I usually sit on the far left, and back, because I'm one of the louder voices (I'm the choral equivalent of a linebacker). There's even a video of me somewhere of my solo from The Little Mermaid medley we put on in 2007.

7. Instrumental Film Scores. I love movies, and I know some scenes just wouldn't be the same without the score. I have a great time imagining scenes from my novels when I listen to them. I love the bombastic themes by Danny Elfman and John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith (love the Rudy soundtrack!), although the subtler ones are good too (particularly James Newton Howard's theme for M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable).

Now, for the bloggers! Lusty Reader's already nominated a bunch I already know and love, so I nominate (again, in no particular order):

1. Ramblings on Romance. Not only do I love Kristie J's take on romance (and So You Think You Can Dance), but she's a truly amazing woman in person, too!

2. The Misadventures of Super Librarian. Wendy is an inspiration in so many ways - first, I love her blog and her lightning reviews, but she also writes about the importance of romance in libraries (my public library, for all of its good qualities *cough*booksales*cough* has a sucky romance section it does not organize). Is also super-rad in person.

3. The Booksmugglers. Love these gals. They blog about three of my favourite genres - romance, fantasy, and YA. Their reviews are hilarious and often spot-on (although we've disagreed on things before). They asked me to do a Guest Dare and instantly turned me into a Linnea Sinclair fangirl. One of my favourite blogs ever!

4. Babbling about Books, and More. I got onto her blog thanks to her posts on Ramblings on Romance and Powerpuff Reviews with the Booksmugglers. Seriously awesome - and she's also a romance blogger who's trying to make it as a romance author (like me).

5. Leslie's Psyche. Just an all-round excellent blogger, who reviews both fantasy and romance, my main genres. At the same time, she also does reviews of much older books, which is very interesting to me, who is just getting into the genre and can usually only find the newer books. She's the one who piqued my interest in Westerns.

6. The Book Binge
. They always impress me with the sheer number of reviews they do, always one or two a day. This means I always check in with them, even if a good chunk of the romances they review tend to be outside my circle of interest.

7. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Last but certainly not least - are these gals. They don't review too often on their site anymore, now usually posting news in the industry and discussion topics, but these are the women who got me started in romance. They're the ones who suggested the first romance novel I ever read (Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me), back when they were still called The Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels, and they got me hooked. I can't even remember what website I was originally on when I clicked the link to the Smart Bitches, but the beautiful site design attracted me, and the hilarious reviews that kicked bad romance novel ass while celebrating wonderful, intelligent romance inspired me to start reading a genre I'd never thought of trying. They're pretty much the reason I am where I am today.

So that's about it! A big thank you to Lusty Reader and all my reader fans!

Monday, July 27, 2009

AnimeJune's Big-Ass RWA Post: "Final Booty Call"

WARNING, the content of this post might be construed to seem like I'm bragging. I'm not bragging. I'm just stating the honest facts - okay yes I'm bragging. But not in the bad way. This is the bragging the warrior does after he's combed the chilled forests of the hinterland, taken down a rampaging bison with his bare hands, and hauled the enormous carcass home to feed his village. "Look at how BIG that bison was!"

Okay, so what I did took a lot less blood and pain (although I might have accidentally elbowed a few people at the crowded book signings) but this is probably the closest I'll ever come to big game hunting. I faced the heated battlefields of the booksignings, the lines to the ballroom, rival fangirls, riveting workshops, and now UPS has finally brought back my hard-won spoils. If you would indulge me, please let me hang the literary equivalent of a huge bison pelt on my wall. A huge bison pelt that I will eventually review all of, by the way.

What I mean to say with all this blathering, is that UPS finally delivered the box of books I shipped from RWA Nationals! So (as I mentioned I would in my other posts), let me detail the full extent of my RWA National Conference Bounty. I'm not doing pictures of them all, because that would take a long-ass time to load, but I will describe what made me choose certain books, why I'm excited to read them, where I got them, and who was lovely enough to sign them.

The short, quick and dirty version: these are all the books I got at RWA. 11 were bought at the Literacy Booksigning, 3 were bought with the $25 I won at the RWA Online Chapter party, and 69 were free of charge. The majority of these had to be shipped, thanks to the unfair restrictions in both luggage weight and volume. I think it's safe to say that it's not going to be very hard to refrain from buying books (with exceptions made for going to the Library sale with my Granny in September and spending book certificates given as gifts at Christmas and birthdays, etc.) for the next year to save money for Nashville. At least I won't have to tighten my belt.

Long version (in alphabetical order, and I'm not mentioning the books I got at the Literacy signing because I already did in a previous post):

The Summoning, by Kelley Armstrong.
I found this one while at the Avon book signing. At first she didn't have any books at the signing which I thought was weird, but more were brought in. It turns out her original books had been stolen (along with Melissa Marr's and some others that were all held in the same room at the Marriott), which makes me hopping mad. Otherwise, I was glad to try her new YA book. I've read most of the Women of the Otherworld series (I got them for free by being an employee at Chapters), and she is one of the rare paranormal authors whose work I've read and enjoyed.

Tangled Up in Love, by Heidi Betts.
The knitting cover reminded me of How to Knit a Wild Bikini, but Betts assured me at the St Martin's signing that her book was better. We'll see about that - but the story does sound nice.

One Reckless Summer, by Toni Blake.
A BIG thank you to Katiebabs and her endless generosity - she allowed me to grab this out of her box of unwanted books. I've been wanted to read this since I read the blurb - small town romance! Interclass relationship! Hooray!

Dangerous, by Monica Burns
No idea about the story or the author, but I won a copy of this trade paperback at the RWA Online Party.

Passion for the Paranormal, by Shannon K Butcher, Emma Holly, Alyssa Day, Nalini Singh, Christina Dodd, Jessica Anderson
Okay, so technically this is a book of excerpts, but it's big enough to be considered a real book in my eyes. I wrote off paranormals years ago after burning out on a couple of bad or m'eh ones for The Green Man Review (turns out I don't like Patricia Briggs, so sue me - her first book had huge-ass info dumps and the plot was convoluted and made no sense, so why should I try her other books?), but it's still a huge genre so while I can get examples for free I might as well try more.

Never Trust a Scoundrel, by Gayle Callen.
Found this at the Avon signing, where I first discovered that Gayle Callen is fantastic and superfly and gives bad-ass workshop advice. She was also offering her Julia Latham medievals, but I chose the Regency one. She told me she wrote medievals under a different name so she could have more books out at the same time. Seems like a good plan to me!

Homicide in Hardcover, by Kate Carlisle.
I won this as part of the Orange Country Chapter's prize at the Literacy signing raffle. I'm not familiar with the author, but a "bibliophile mystery" sounds intriguing.

Paradise Valley, by Robin Carr.
Found this at the St Martin's signing once it had cooled down a little and the crowds had thinned. I've heard good things about her work and I love love love small-town romances so I snatched this up quick as I could.

Plundered Treasure, by Charlotte Carter.
I won this hardcover book in the raffle prize. The title made me giggle before I read it and found out it's more of a mystery.

Charmed and Dangerous, by Toni McGee Causey.
Can you forgive me for reading the title and expecting a paranormal? Picked this up at the St Martin's signing and discovered it's more of a suspense a la Stephanie Plum (author's words).

Undressed, by Kristina Cook.
I found this in the Goody Room, but what a weirdly marketed book it is. Go to Amazon or Chapters.ca and find a picture of the cover. Everything about the cover screamed contemporary - the sleek cartoon piece of very modern underwear on the front, the jolly (instead of handwritten) font, even the title, made it sound like a chick-lit-y read. Only by reading the back did I discover it was a historical. *headdesk*

Confessions of a Duchess, by Nicola Cornick.
Found this at the Harlequin signing, and historical + pretty cover + free is pretty much catnip to me.

Tumbling Through Time, by Gwyn Cready.
I found this at the Pocket signing, and picked it over Seducing Mr Darcy - partly because I liked the idea of falling in love with your own romance hero and partly because I'm proud and prejudiced against books that screw around with Jane Austen because they always seem like fan fiction to me - I respect fan fiction, but don't think it should be published.

Start Me Up, by Victoria Dahl.
Found this book at the Harlequin signing. I've heard oodles of positive press about Victoria Dahl, and I'm glad I got the chance to pick up one of her contemporaries as opposed to one of her historicals. Don't get me wrong, I love historicals - but I made a very conscious choice to pick up a lot of contemporaries and paranormals to make sure I don't OD on empire-waist gowns.

Eve of Darkness, by S.J. Day.
Part of the raffle prize I won, donated by the Orange Country Chapter. Awesome cover, non-Caucasion heroine, religious subtext? Yes please!

Wild, Wild Women of the West, by Delilah Devlin, Layla Chase, and Myle Jackson.
This was a part of the prize package I won in a raffle, donated by the Orange County Chapter of RWA. No idea what it's about, but I've been thinking about getting into westerns.

The Girl Most Likely To ... By Susan Donovan.
Caught this one at the St Martin's signing - it sounded like an interesting contemporary. I like the idea of reuniting sweethearts and small towns.

Sins of a Duke, by Suzanne Enoch.
I already know I like her books, so even though I bought Always a Scoundrel at the Literacy Autographing event, when I saw she had another book at the Avon signing, I snatched it right up.

How I Write, by Janet Evanovich, with Ina Yalof.
This was on every chair in the ballroom during the opening session where the Stephanie Plum author gave her speech. Somewhat unsettled by the fact that the famous author didn't write her How I Write book alone.

Wild Blue Under, by Judi Fennell.
A surprising find at the Sourcebooks signing: a merman hero. Count me in!

Suddenly One Summer, by Barbara Freethy.
Found this in my RWA registration goody bag, and was instantly attracted to the beautiful cover and the plot that takes place in a small town. I am a total sucker/addict for small-town stories.

Halfway to the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost.
Found this at the Avon signing, and decided to take advantage of the free book opportunity to give the paranormal and urban fantasy subgenre of romance another go. This one sounded good, and Katiebabs loves it, so that's a firm recommendation.

The Diaper Diaries
, by Abby Gaines.
I won this in the raffle. I'm mostly unfamiliar with category romances, but since I got this for free I might as well try it.

Teaming Up, by Abby Gaines.
Also in the Orange County Chapter raffle prize - it's a Nascar romance. Colour me intrigued.

The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor, by Diane Gaston, Deb Marlowe, Amanda McCabe.
Met Deb Marlowe at the awesome workshop with Sabrina Jeffries about making a single title romance series, and discovered I'd demonstrated remarkable foresight in picking up her book at the Harlequin signing before I'd met her.

Tangled Up in You, by Rachel Gibson.
Got this at the Avon signing to dilute the pure estract of Historical I was tapping from the event, entirely unaware that I was choosing this one over the book that eventually got her the RITA (Not Another Bad Date).

The Blue Zone, by Andrew Gross.
Found a huge stack of these books in the Goody Room, grabbed one. No idea who this guy is or how he writes but I guess I'll find out one way or the other.

Any Given Doomsday, by Lori Handeland.
There's been a lot of buzz surrounding this paranormal series, so when I got the chance at the St Martins' signing to get a free copy of the first book, I took my chance.

Talk of the Town, by Karen Hawkins.
Found this book at the Pocket signing, and I was interested in trying her stuff. I chose her contemporary (rather than the historical highlander romance that she was also signing) because I need to balance my diet of historicals with contemporary and paranormal and other genres, otherwise I tend to go a little nuts.

A Hint of Wicked, by Jennifer Haymore.
HOORAY! I'm so pleased I discovered this was part of the raffle prize from the Orange County Chapter of RWA! This has been on my wishlist for forever. The only regret is that Canadian Customs, when they opened my box to inspect the contents, ravaged the shit out of the cover. It's still readable though!

In Bed with the Devil, by Lorraine Heath.
I met her at the Avon signing, and the story (girl hires "devil earl" to murder a dude) sounded both enjoyably implausible and interesting, as well as being the first in a series, inspired me to pick this book up.

Forbidden Moon, by Elysa Hendricks.
When I went to the Gathering (the party for the FF&P chapter of RWA), there were goody bags on every chair - one seat at our table wasn't claimed, so the rest of those seated divided the spoils. I was given this because, as one of my tablemates said, "You're the newbie, take every opportunity for books that you can." Initially, I wanted to refuse. Why? Because it has an ugly cover. And I mean ugly. I'm talking about cheap computer graphics, an unnecessarily phallic symbol on the front, a publisher I don't know. I took one look and thought DO NOT WANT. But how fair would that be? It's not the author's fault her book looks like ass. So I'm going to make myself read it anyway.

Immortal Warrior, by Lisa Hendrix.
I've been trying to get back into paranormals, and this book sounded amazing - a Viking cursed to be an eagle in the daytime who marries a lady and has to keep it a secret. Sounds a lot like Ladyhawke. I love Ladyhawke. Thanks to the Barnes and Noble giftcard I won from RWA, I got this book free of charge!

Too Good to be True, by Kristan Higgins.
I was delighted to find this in my RWA registration goody bag! I'd heard fabulous things about her books, and the story for this novel in particular (girl makes up a pretend boyfriend to make her ex-fiance and her sister feel less guilty for falling in love with each other) really intrigued me.

Death Angel, by Linda Howard.
This was given to every attendee of the Thursday RWA Luncheon, where Linda Howard was the keynote speaker. Honestly, Linda Howard's speech was hilarious and inspirational, so I'm actually looking forward to trying the romantic suspense genre with one of her books.

Don't Bargain with the Devil, by Sabrina Jeffries
I found this in my RWA goody bag at registration. I was tempted to write Jeffries off after my lukewarm response to One Night With a Prince, but after getting this for free and really enjoying her Series Story Arc workshop, I'm definitely giving her a second chance.

Outcast, by Joan Johnston.
Found a huge pile of these in the goody room. Sounds intriguing (hero with mental issues?).

Sins of a Wicked Duke, by Sophie Jordan.
I discovered the last copy of this in the Goody Room, thanks to my preternationally-good timing, I suppose. The cover is gorgeous, and the story is about a girl who disguises herself as a footman. I'm both intrigued and wary - footmen are supposed to be tall and have sexy calves. How sexy are our heroine's calves going to be, exactly? And how tall will she be, since I doubt any image-conscious duke worth his salt would hire a short, slight footman.

Lord of Legends, Susan Krinard.
Harlequin signing. The hero is a unicorn. 'Nuff said.

The Concubine, by Jade Lee.
I won this at the Gathering by asking a question of the Q&A panel of Prism winners. I'm really excited to read this one - it's a Harlequin Historical set in ancient China, and Jade Lee in person is AWESOME. It pissed me off to no small degree to hear from Lee that the sales for this book tanked because the setting was in Asia! GRRR!

Since the Surrender, by Julie Anne Long.
I count this as a free RWA book because I ordered it with the money I got trading in my $25 Barnes and Noble gift card I won at the RWA Online Chapter party, and boy am I glad I did! Can't wait to read it!

Blood Magic, Jennifer Lyon.
Actually, I honestly can't remember where I found this - either in my goody bag or in the goody room. Either way, it has witches in it. Witches can be good.

Windswept, Ann Macela.
I won this at the RWA Online Party - or rather, I traded my $25 Barnes and Noble giftcard (the first one I won) for it, because we don't have Barnes and Nobles in Canada. I'm excited for this one - it has a gorgeous cover!

A Warrior's Taking, by Margo Maguire.
Picked this one up at the Avon signing because it was the first in a series by an author I was unfamiliar with. Maguire later took part in a workshop I attended about the high-concept historical. Cheesy cover aside, the time-travel-historical story could be interesting.

The Bride Price, by Anne Mallory.
Avon signing. Pretty, pretty, pretty cover.

For the Earl's Pleasure, by Anne Mallory.
Katiebabs let me have this from her pile of unwanted books at RWA. She was dismayed that it was a paranormal (not that she doesn't like paranormals, but rather this book is obviously marketed more as a historical - there's no mention of magic even on the back blurb), but now that I know this in advance, maybe I'll enjoy the book more.

Gentlemen Behaving Badly, by Michelle Marcos.
Found this at the St Martin's signing. Sounded good, even with the mantitty cover that looks really, really similar to the cover for Meredith Duran's Bound By Your Touch. I tend to dislike mantitty covers, I think they demean the genre a bit, but a jovial fellow conference-goer expressed her respectful disagreement by pretending to lick the cover. To each their own, I suppose.

A Highlander of Her Own, by Melissa Mayhue.
I picked this one up at the Pocket signing, mainly because I'd met Mayhue at her workshop for creating a good paranormal world. Reading Sir Walter Scott has given me such a horror of phonetically-spelled Scottish accents that I've avoided all Highlander romances, but that's not exactly fair, so I'm starting with Mayhue.

Labor Day, by Joyce Maynard.
Never heard of this author, but I found a hardcover copy of this in my RWA goody bag.

Bedding the Heiress, by Cathy Maxwell.
Snatched this up at the Avon booksigning. I've heard of Cathy Maxwell but I've never read any of her books. This is what I ultimately enjoyed about the booksignings - not just the free stuff, but the chance to try a lot of new authors at once without breaking your bank account.

Four Dukes and a Devil, by Cathy Maxwell, Elaine Fox, Jeaniene Frost, Sophia Nash, and Tracy Anne Warren.
This is an anthology I found at the Avon signing, and I don't try too many of those, although heaven knows I should - it's a great way to discover several new authors at once. It sounds good - a good mix of historical with a touch of paranormal in for kicks.

Scandal of the Black Rose, by Debra Mullins.
I picked this up at the Avon book signing. I hadn't read any Mullins before, and the blurb, with its secret spyness plot, grabbed me.

To Ruin the Duke, by Debra Mullins.
I won this in the Orange County Chapter raffle prize - so now I have two Mullins books to try.

Never Resist Temptation, by Miranda Neville.
I've never read her books, but I saw her at the Avon signing - and within days of the conference's end she Friended me on Facebook! Can't wait to read her book.

A Scotsman In Love, by Karen Ranney.
I normally have a prejudice against Scottish romances, but something about the story just drew me in, and when Katiebabs let me snag a free copy from her box of unwanted books, I couldn't say no!

Rescue Me, by Christy Reece.
This, along with Death Angel, was given to attendees of Linda Howard's luncheon. I'm not at all familiar with romantic suspence, so I'll give this one the ol' college try.

The Professors' Wives' Club, by Joanne Rendell.
Found this baby in the Goody Room. The Goody Room, while not completely comprised of free books like the popular myth, does often have books in it - the problem is that they tend to go SUPER FAST so it's usually the luck of timing.

How to Knit a Wild Bikini, by Christie Ridgway.
I think this may have been part of the raffle prize I won from the Orange County Chapter of RWA. I'm excited, because I've read one of Ridgway's books and really enjoyed it.

Awaken Me Darkly, by Gena Showalter.
I found this at the Pocket signing (I think), and I picked it up because I was interested in Showalter's series about the Lords who are cursed with the demon imbodiments of human frailty (Wrath, Pain, Doubt, etc. etc.), but she only had her Alien huntress series on the table. Still - sci-fi romance can still be good (as Linnea Sinclair has proven).

Hope's Folly, by Linnea Sinclair.
Found it in my goody bag at the Gathering. YES YES YES YES! Too bad Linnea Sinclair couldn't make it to RWA - I'd love to have met her.

Bad to the Bone, by Jeri Smith-Ready.
Found this one at the Pocket Book signing, and since I'd met Jeri Smith-Ready beforehand at the Gathering and really loved her contribution to the Q&A panel afterwards, picking it up and asking her to sign it was a no-brainer. It is the second in her series, but she assured me it wouldn't leave me lost.

Storm Glass, by Maria V. Snyder.
I was surprised as hell to find this at the Harlequin booksigning, but pleased - since the Book Smugglers wuv her very much.

Heart of the Wolf, by Terry Spear.
It came with the RWA Harlequin tote at registration. Another chance to try an interesting paranormal.

Rewriting Monday, by Jodi Thomas.
This book caught my eye a while ago and wouldn't let go. Small-town setting? Check. Editor/publisher hero? Check and check! Thanks to the Barnes and Noble giftcard I won, I ordered this as soon as I got back from Washington.

Sin and Scandal in England, by Melody Thomas.
I picked this up at the Avon signing, because I looove historicals. It was either this, or Wild and Wicked in Scotland - and even though Scotland had the prettier cover, my terror of having to translate dialogue like "I dinnae ken why ye et so muckle haggis" kept me away.

Winter Heat, by Vicky Lewis Thompson, Jade Lee, and Anna DeStefano.
I got this one at DeStefano's workshop about revising and editing your manuscript. I'm a little ashamed of this one because I whined for it. Everyone who asked a question was supposed to get a book at the end, but by the workshop's end there was a mad dash and no books left. I moped a bit about how I'd asked a question, and someone very nice and very tolerant of my whining childishness offered me their copy. I have very low social skills and read people's emotions very poorly, and I tend to blow my social mistakes out of proportion so I'm not sure if I was a whining baby or if someone at RWA was just really nice.

The Panther & the Pyramid, by Bonnie Vanak.
I came over to buy her latest book, The Lady and the Libertine, because Kristie J had raved about her - and she gave me this book absolutely free, just because it was Kristie J's favourite!

Tempted by His Kiss, Tracy Anne Warren.
Avon signing. PRETTY PRETTY PRETTY pretty pretty pretty cover. Also - I liked her workshop about getting six-figure deals selling historicals.

The Lady Flees Her Lord, by Michele Ann Young.
I caught a copy of this at the Sourcebooks signing. I'd had no idea Sourcebooks published any historicals that weren't Georgette Heyer's, so colour me surprised and delighted.

And that's about it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've suddenly become really really REALLY behind in my reading.

Friday, July 24, 2009

"His Every Kiss," by Laura Lee Guhrke

Alternate Title: Explicit Violins

The Chick: Grace Cheval. Destitute and alone thanks to a scandal in her past, Grace is close to losing her home when licentious composer Dylan Moore offers to hire her as a governess to his daughter. Although a thousand pounds and a cottage of her own are thrown into the bargain, she knows Dylan has more improper designs on her.
The Rub: Dylan makes it obvious he also wants her to be his mistress and artistic muse, and while Grace finds him attractive - she's dealt with unstable artist types before, and she wants no part of the erratic mood swings and blame she's sure will come with the position.
Dream Casting: Scarlett Johansson.

The Dude: Dylan Moore. A famous composer who was cursed with tinnitis after a fall from his horse, the constant ringing sound in his ears has prevented him from composing for five years and he's been drowning his sorrows in drugs, booze and women. However, when he hears the first few bars of a potential symphony in his head after meeting Grace, he knows he has to have her near him to help him compose again.
The Rub: While Dylan is desperately attracted to Grace, he feels he cannot love her, or anyone - as a composer and musician he believes his art's called dibs on all the love he has.
Dream Casting: Eric Bana.

The Plot:

Dylan: I'm going to kill myself!

Grace: No, you're not.

Five Years Later

Dylan: You're going to be my mistress!

Grace: No, I'm not.

Isabel, Dylan's Secret Baby: You're going to be a real daddy!

Dylan: No, I'm not.

Grace: Yes, you are.

Dylan: Yes, I am. *sees paintings of Grace* You're going to leave me house - NOW.

Grace: Fine.

Dylan: Wait - aren't you going to be contrary? Come back! I'll marry you!

Grace: Hooray!

Romance Convention Checklist

1 Stymied Artist

1 Precocious Child and Secret Baby

2 Irritating Older Brothers

1 Very Bad (But Initially Very Good) Husband (deceased)

3 Nudie Paintings

1 Constant Ringing Sound

Several Doses of Laudenum

1 Pipe of Hashish

1 Inspired Symphony

The Word: What's pretty awesome about this book is that I was reading it while I went to the RWA National Conference, and I actually got to meet Laura Lee Gurhke in person and ask her about it. According to her, she came up with the idea for His Every Kiss when she overheard an interview with William Shatner in which he revealed he suffered from tinnitis (a constant ringing or whine in one's head) after an explosion on the Star Trek set and had at one point contemplated suicide. She used that story to explain that a writer should always keep one's ears and eyes open because you never know when you might find the seed for your next story.

And what a story this one turned out to be! The novel opens as Dylan Moore, England's most brilliant composer, walks into an abandoned theatre intending to shoot himself. A fall from his horse and resulting concussion left him with a constant, painful, maddening off-key whine in his head that refuses to go away, and he hasn't been able to compose. Without music, he's nothing. Before he can pull the trigger, he's interrupted by the theatre's charwoman who's playing one of his pieces on her violin and gives him a belligerent, patronizing and entirely unsympathetic scolding about what a stupid ass he is to try and kill himself, that nevertheless works. Dylan loses his drive to commit suicide, but to his astonishment, hears a few bars of potential music in his head, the first such notes he's heard since before his accident. Unfortunately, the charwoman vanishes before Dylan can find her.

Five years later, they find each other again. The woman, Grace Cheval, is playing violin in drag at a fancy party for some extra cash. Desperately poor, she survives by selling oranges and taking what musical gigs she can get, and she still doesn't have enough money to keep a roof over her head at the end of the week.

Dylan, meanwhile - while he's lost the balls to kill himself outright, he's spent the last five years living like a man with a deathwish, trying to find something, anything, to distract him from the noise in his head before he goes completely crazy. He drinks to excess, he takes laudanum and hashish, he gets about 3 hours of sleep for every five days he's awake, he gambles, and he sleeps around.

He's also at the same party as Grace and he recognizes her despite the disguise and the years between them. After the party, he propositions and seduces her, and while Grace physically reciprocates at first, eventually she refuses him and leaves. But Dylan will not be denied - for the first time in years, he hears those precious first notes of a potential symphony, and if he needs Grace to give him that music, then so be it.

When he gets home however, he receives a much bigger shock when a Catholic nun leaves a little girl named Isabel on his doorstep who claims he's her father. There's too much of a resemblance (in both looks and musical ability) to doubt her parentage, but her presence provides an unexpected boon: when he tracks down Grace, he offers her a job as Isabel's governess. If she remains with them for a year, he'll give her a thousand pounds and the dream cottage she's always wanted. While he fully intends to use every one of those 365 days to seduce her as well, perhaps her presence alone might be enough to help him finish his symphony.

Grace has no choice but to accept - she's broke and can't pay her rent. She agrees, but with serious misgivings and a determination to refuse any sexual advances. Grace ruined her reputation and disgraced her family when she ran off with an artist, only to watch their marriage sour as her painter husband's erratic moods and melodrama made him blame her for his inability to paint more masterpieces. Her experience left her convinced that artists are too much trouble to deal with, and that they are incapable of loving anyone more than their art - and Dylan's initial behaviour does little to disprove her suspicions. While she needs the money, she has no desire to be anyone's muse - a false icon who's inevitably blamed when it eventually doesn't work out.

It was interesting to read this right after One Night With a Prince, as both are stories where the heroine is forced into close proximity with a man who intends to make her his mistress, and in both the heroine refuses which makes the heroes have to try harder.

Ultimately, though, why I adored this novel while Prince earned merely a "m'eh" was thanks to the characters. Dylan definitely wants to bed Grace, but he's less of an ass about it than Prince's Gavin. This is primarily because he is more intrigued than confounded by Grace's refusal. She's a challenge and a mystery. Also, his attentions are divided between Grace and his long-lost daughter Isabel, an eight-year-old hellraiser piano prodigy. This isn't a story about a bad boy turned good thanks to good sex - this is a story where a bad boy is challenged on two fronts (by the woman he loves and the daughter who looks up to him) to become a better person, and I loved reading how he reacts differently to both Grace's and Isabel's expectations.

Laura Lee Guhrke's characterization of Grace just blew me away. She's no orgasmless innocent - she's not only familiar with sex, but great sex (with someone other than the hero? Le gasp!) with a man she initially loved passionately, devotedly, and happily. So when Dylan seduces her, she doesn't have this "what is this magical feeling happening to my body isn't sex supposed to be boring and loveless the way my limpdick husband did it?" reaction, but rather a "Oh God, I missed this."

But her motivation for staying strong and out of temptation was brilliant as well. I loved reading her backstory of being the proudly virtuous girl in her small village before her virtue had ever really been tested, and once it had been, she'd ruined her family. Even though her family has long since cast her off, she doesn't want to fail again and whenever she's with Dylan there's the constant fear that she might be repeating her old mistakes. This added some nice tension to the escalating heat between the two characters.

Still, one of the pervading conflicts in the novel is the importance of Dylan's music - can he possibly allow anyone to take up as much space in his heart as his music? Should he? Would that make him a worse musician? Does being a musician hamper him as a lover? As a father? Such is the recurring conflict throughout the novel and Laura Lee Guhrke describes it beautifully and realistically without copping out or compromising the importance of music to Dylan's character.

This novel makes me feel guilty for not reading more of Guhrke's work (I was a bit dimmed by The Wicked Ways of a Duke), because I loved loved loved this book. The writing was lush without being purple, the conflict (both external, internal, and implied) was realistic and well-written, and the characters exquisitely rendered. Dylan is definitely the darker character, reduced to whoring and drugs, but I could understand his desperation and despair, thinking his life is ruled by only one thing and so without it he's trapped in a living death. His passion really is a double-edged sword but being around Grace helps bring about the, er, good edge.

Romantic, passionate, and yet well-grounded in reality, His Every Kiss is a flat-out amazing book.
A+

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Nashville Resolution

Okay, I'm kind of an obsessive person. I also tend to overplan, as both Kristie J and Barbara have discovered, so you can bet that a week after the 2009 RWA National Conference in Washington, D.C. I'm already looking at the website for the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee where the 2010 RWA National Conference will be held.

The rooms are cheaper, and I mean cheaper, than the Washington Marriott's rates - and those rates were RWA discounted. Plus, now that I've met all my awesome blogger and writer friends in person, finding a roommate shouldn't be the scary proposition it was this year. A little voice in my head is already saying "Go again! Go again!" But - but - but .... I have tuition for Library school to consider (should I be accepted). I have the general price of airfare to consider. I have 12 months of time in between with all the crazy accidents of fate that are bound to happen to consider. WHY AM I THINKING ABOUT THIS NOW?

Because I don't want this only to be about going to Nationals. I want this also to be about my writing. About setting a deadline, improving my discipline, and nurturing the proper attitude for a writer who finishes her work on time and is willing to pitch and market the everlovin' shit out of it. So I'm creating a Nashville Resolution - a list of things I want to accomplish or improve about myself to truly earn a trip to Nashville to experience the RWA National Conference again. Are all of my resolutions realistic? No. But I ought to aim high. I might never end up going to the 2010 RWA National Conference, but even if I don't (or can't), the idea of going again might help me to become a better writer ... and prepare me for the 2011 RWA National Conference (see you there, Barbara??).

1. During the Year Leading to Nashville, I will either have made my First Sale (so that I get the pretty ribbon!) or have a Finished Manuscript.
And by "finished manuscript" I mean second, third, fourth, fifth-drafted, polished, critiqued, edited. It has to be shiny. It has to be done. It has to be ready to Pitch. It has to have a Pitch, a Hook, a Query Letter, a High Concept of 25 words or less. In two days, I finished the prologue for the second draft of my novel, so that's a start!

2. During the Year Leading to Nashville, I will not buy a Motherlovin' amount of books and will Save My Money.
Not buying any books at all isn't realistic - but I have to be a writer first, a reader second. Thank God I stocked up this year's RWA!

3. During the Year Leading to Nashville, I will participate in my RWA Special Interest Chapters, Network with other Authors/Bloggers, and Join a Critique Group
I'm an anti-social person at heart - I love talking (and talking and talking and talking) to people when they're in front of me but I am really lax in keeping up correspondences, especially in e-mails. So I'm keeping every one of the business cards I got at RWA Nationals and try to keep up correspondences with as many people as possible. It's good to have a network - you never know how you could help someone else or how someone else could help you. And I really need to participate in my chapters - I only lurked at first because I didn't feel I had much to contribute since I hadn't finished my manuscript yet, but now that I've met so many members in person I know that's hooey.

4. During the Year Leading to Nashville, I will budget for Shipping Costs
Nashville is a hell of a lot farther from my town than Washington DC. Poor UPS. Poor TBR.

5. During the Year Leading to Nashville, I will Apply for the University of Alberta School for Library and Information Sciences
I'm working at a movie rental place right now, and while I'm passionate about film and the free movies are nice, it's not a stable job and it's not a career. There's a determined and loud part of my brain that says, "I don't want any career but a writing career! I want to write for a living!" but I have to realize that realistically the point where I can make a decent and regular living writing novels is a long way off - too far off to consider working at a rental place until I make it. I need another job that I like just as much but will pay the bills in a regular fashion as I write.

I thought about applying for the SLIS years ago but I chickened out because I had the wrong idea about what librarians did (loving books isn't the #1 requirement) and when I found out otherwise (it involves information management, cataloguing, archiving) I got spooked and thought it would be dead boring and/or beyond my skills. But I was wrong again. I had a great experience working as a Materials Processing Assistant at my University's library. Also, talking to other librarians (and especially Wendy the Superlibrarian) there are many directions you can go in as a librarian - if you don't like monotony and want to face new challenges every day, you can become a public librarian; if you love YA and children's books and want to create programming to encourage children to read, you can become a children's or a young adult librarian; if you're a masochist and love making something from less than nothing, you can become a school librarian; on the other hand, if you love monotony and are shy about dealing with people but love to organize and have an attention to detail, you can become an archivist or a cataloguer. So it's an open field and there's lots to choose from when I apply. But the deadline is February so I have months and months to do more research.

So this is My Nashville Resolution. Here's hoping.

"One Night With a Prince," by Sabrina Jeffries

Alternate Title: Never Been Whist

The Chick: Christabel, Marchioness of Haversham. She had the misfortune to marry a lout who ignored her to go to town and gamble. In the process, he bartered away a packet of secret letters to a blackmailer in return for money to pay off his debts - letters that could destroy her family.
The Rub: She knows who the blackmailer is, but the only way to finagle an invitation to his house is to pose as the mistress of notorious gambling-hell owner Gavin Byrne, a man who would like nothing better than to make her his real mistress.
Dream Casting: Sally Hawkins.

The Dude: Gavin Byrne. The illegitimate, unacknowledged son of the Prince Regent, he and his mother were banished to poverty when Prinny cut off his mother's living. Now Daddy Dearest will offer him a title if he helps the Marchioness of Haversham recover an important item from a blackmailing gambler.
The Rub: It doesn't take long for Gavin to discover the letters in the blackmailer's possession have the power to seriously damage the Prince Regent's claim to the throne. He sees this as the perfect way to get revenge. However, if he uses the letters for his own ends, he risks destroying a woman he's gradually coming to love.
Dream Casting: Ewan McGregor.

The Plot:

Christabel: I need to get invited to the party of a cunning gambler!

Gavin: You'll have to pretend you're my mistress.

Christabel: Okay, but no sex.

Gavin: Please?

Christabel: No.

Gavin: Pretty please?

Christabel: NO MEANS NO.

Gavin: Please please please please please please pleaaaaaaaaaase?

Christabel: Okay, fine.

Gavin: Hooray! What's this, secret letters? REVENGE!

Christabel: That's it - NO MORE SEX.

Gavin: All right! All right! Burn the letters!

Christabel: Hooray!

Romance Convention Checklist:

1 Fake Mistress

1 Horny Toad Hero with a Perma-Boner

1 Inconveniently Dead Parent (or IS she?)

1 Very Bad Parent

1 Romantically Lacklustre Rival

1 Very Bad Husband (deceased)

1 Bitchy McBitchface

Several Nasty Ex-Girlfriends

1 Game of Strip Whist

1 "No Sex" Agreement Doomed to Failure

The Word: This was my first Sabrina Jeffries novel, and while I wasn't particularly enamoured with this one, I'm already inspired to try more of her books because I received one for free in my RWA goodie bag and also because she gave a truly phenomenal and helpful workshop at RWA about creating a single-title romance series.

However, it was difficult to read One Night with a Prince, since the plot is superficially very similar to Gaelen Foley's The Duke which I really enjoyed. In both novels, the hero and heroine team up under the guise of the heroine being the hero's mistress to catch a nefarious individual.

In One Night with a Prince's case, Christabel, Marchioness of Haversham is in a serious bind. Recently widowed, she discovered her husband had sold a packet of letters belonging to her family that contained confidential information to the aforementioned nefarious individual to clear his prodigious gambling debts. The nefarious individual is now using these letters to blackmail the Prince Regent, and Prinny is breathing down Christabel's neck to get those letters back pronto.

The Prince Regent (who seems like a pretty organized guy in Jeffries' book) also contacts Gavin Byrne, his illegitimate son, to offer him a barony if he helps Christabel in her mission. The villain, it seems, is an infamous whist player whom Gavin has partnered on several occasions - so Gavin could, in theory, use his connections to help get Christabel invited to the villain's house party so she can recover the letters.

However, one can't be a real villain in a romance novel unless one is also a raging pervert, so, as Gavin gleefully explains to Christabel, in order to justify procuring an invitation for her, she has to pose as his mistress as well as his whist partner to fit in with the villain's sexually deviant circle of buddies. Christabel is shocked, but agrees. She already has no reputation to protect and she needs those letters to protect herself, her father, and the English crown. However, she insists that their relationship be in name only.

Gavin's inner response to this is, "Good luck with that, sugar tits." While the offer of a barony is indeed promising, he has a better idea of what to do with those letters: get his revenge on the father who ruined his life. His mother was an actress and onetime lover of the Prince Regent, who was supposed to provide her with a comfortable living. When Prinny married Maria Fitzherbert and was ordered to cast off his other mistresses, he tricked Gavin's mother into lying about her son's father, spread viscious rumours about what a whore she was to further discredit any ties to Gavin, and then cut off her living and left her destitute and lacking any way to legally obtain support for her son. Eventually she died in a slumhouse fire leaving an eight-year-old Gavin to survive on his own.

But, hey, just because he eventually plans to screw with the English line of succession with damning information (that would also implicate and disgrace Christabel's father, who was also involved), doesn't mean he can't try (and plead and cajole and seduce and beg) to get into Christabel's pants while he's at it. Gavin is one of the most oversexed romantic heroes I've come across and his single-minded determination to get under Christabel's skirts as well as the constant references to how many women he's banged (including an admittedly funny scene where Christabel finds herself in a room with no fewer than four of Gavin's ex-mistresses) was a little unsettling, and incredibly unattractive.

I wouldn't have minded so much if Gavin's horniness had taken a backseat to the plot, but the training he gives Christabel in whist-playing and his search for the letters isn't given near the amount of attention as his attempts to seduce Christabel, grope her in soft squishy places to make their relationship look more "authentic," or at least call attention to how incredibly horny he is for Christabel. Short of poking her in the eye with his enormous and ever-present erection, he makes sure Christabel is constantly aware of when he is aroused and how silly her refusals are. His "So what if I'm trying to ruin her family? What does that have to do with sex?" attitude gets annoying very fast.

Thank God Christabel says no. Despite her irritating name, I rather liked her as a heroine. While she came off as a little too spunky and self-righteous at the beginning (she once put a bullet hole through Gavin's hat when he tried to claim one of her husband's debts), her instinctive disapproval of "Gavin the amoral gambler" quickly phases into the much more understandable disapproval of "Gavin the manslut." While, yes, she does eventually capitulate to Gavin's "seduction by erosion" strategy, Gavin's manwhoring puts a very real stress on their relationship. While Christabel likes having sex with Gavin, she's not blind to his attitude to sex and has to struggle with how she can trust Gavin's seeming affection for her when he's bedded many (so very many) women.

But Christabel is also endearingly flawed - the daughter of an army General, she married the second son of peer, never expecting to become one herself, and feels uncomfortable in the presence of traditional and highborn girly-girls without seeming like a stereotypical and anachronistic tomboy character. I empathized with how she felt out of place, both socially and morally, amongst the glittering but catty ranks of the peerage. And while she enjoys the nookie, once she discovers the extent of Gavin's true intentions (and the futility of her attempts to dissuade him), she cuts him loose immediately, to Gavin's consternation and confusion.

Ultimately, it was Christabel who saved the book for me, because I never really "got" Gavin's transformation from a callous manslut to a lovable, affectionate and monogamous manslut. It was too much trouble to believe that such a drastic change would occur in a man who, for the first 75% of the novel, thinks it's okay to have sex with a woman he's going to destroy and that it's unbelievable a woman would let something as insignificant as trust get in the way of a good lay. And, hilariously, it's the threat of no more sex that finally "converts" Gavin - when he realizes his options are a) humiliate the Prince Regent and get no sex from Christabel ever again or b) accept a barony from the Prince Regent and have lots and lots of sex from a lady who gives great hand jobs, well, the choice is obvious isn't it? Well, officially the novel implies that Gavin realizes getting revenge ultimately wouldn't make his life any better (and in fact, would make it a great deal harder), but I saw it as Gavin realizing revenge would take away Christabel-nookie.

As for Sabrina Jeffries' writing - it wasn't that bad. She took what could have been a stultifyingly boring subplot (a whist tournament) and made it a significant part of the plot without burying the reader in a tedious description or explanation of the rules of whist. Also, I really appreciated how the protagonists from the previous novels in the Royal Brotherhood series get just enough screentime to explain their relationship to Gavin before they are whisked off never to be seen again. Ultimately, my main problem was with the hero, not with her writing style or plotting, so I'll still give her School for Heiresses series a shot.
B-

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

AnimeJune's Big-Ass RWA Post: Sunday - "Afterglow"

Sunday I crawled out of bed and caught the last-minute shuttle to BWI. Both plane rides went without a hitch, although as I landed in my town, I discovered I'd missed a historically-huge windstorm for which I am supremely grateful (I was NOT amused by the severe turbulence going into Minneapolis on the way to RWA).

Next up came Customs. Ha, hahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. While I was smart enough to have listed all the things I received in the US beforehand, uh, well it was an experience to have to read it all out to the Customs officer. Let's see - estimated 50 books shipped over the border, 12 in my bag, 65 bookmarks, 12 cover flats, 11 postcards, 1 rubber duck, 1 license plate holder, 1 flashdrive, among other sundry items, all of which were free.

I still had to estimate the cost of all these items, so it turned out to be something like The Price is Right, only in hell. All in all, though, from RWA I received an estimated $833 worth of free merchandise. Wow. Not bad for a conference with a $525 registration fee, eh?

I will post a full description of my book loot (I've since given most of my coverflats and postcards away) once my package arrives from UPS. Now it's back to book reviews. I'm tired from posting today, so I'll start working on my review for Sabrina Jeffries' One Night with a Prince tomorrow.

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.

AnimeJune's Big-Ass RWA Post: Friday - "It's Business, It's Business Time"

If Thursday was when the conference started to get down to business, Friday was when the conference was all about the business. I was a bit nonplussed by the (seemingly) sudden change in tone from giddy energy to SERIOUS BUSINESS but I got used to it. Workshops all day, some booksignings, and an empty Friday night, so I have fewer pictures for this day than others.

My day started out with the Continental Breakfast, and one of the very, very few problems I had with this conference. See, I have a nut allergy, and several meals are included in the RWA registration fee (which is mighty steep). I contacted someone at RWA about my allergy, and she seemed really helpful and said that my name and information would be given to the Marriott, and that I could find her anytime with the banquet captains, and that there would always be meals and desserts made without nuts that I would be directed to every time. I thought this was amazing - I was expecting that most of my meals with the hotel would involve fruit plates or just being told what not to eat, so I was very excited. Well, I never ended up meeting this woman, none of the banquet captains during the conference knew who she was, and other than my name being on a list for the luncheons, all the rest of my allergy-meal-planning had to be done myself. I had to go to the banquet captains and order a nut-free breakfast by myself and I had to wait 45 minutes to get and eat my Continental Breakfast. Fruit plates were my dessert replacement, and at the RITA reception none of the banquet captains had ever heard of this woman I contacted and worse, none of them could tell me anything about the food they were serving and whether it had nuts in it or whether anything had been especially prepared so I ate nothing at the RITA reception.

I should be clear about this - I'm not angry at the Marriott. I'm used to dealing with my nut allergy in public venues. The reason I'm annoyed is because in my conversations with the RWA representative, I was expecting more. If I'd e-mailed her and she'd said, "Well, all I can say is check with the Marriott - it might just be fruit plates and nothing is guaranteed" - that would have been fine. I could have accepted that and dealt with it beforehand. My problem is that she said, "I will make sure the hotel does this and this and you can be sure to find me here and there will be food prepared for you etc. etc." and yet nothing was done. I was expecting more than normal so when I ended up with normal I was disappointed. I never saw her in person. None of the banquet captains she said she'd be near knew who she was. I ended up on my own for most of it. I hope she enjoys the gift I bought for her beforehand for her helpfulness because I will not be doing it again.

ANYWAY - on to more positive things. After the breakfast I rushed over to my first workshop, Mastering Your Domain: Research and Development of the Paranormal World hosted by (left to right) Alyssa Day, Stephanie Julian, and Melissa Mayhue. It was a vastly interesting workshop. They all suggested research should be done in mythology and history and all sorts of interesting subjects because that will give a fantasy world an interesting backbone - but at the same time everyone should remember that the main idea is your paranormal world is made up. By you. You create the rules, but while you must remain consistant to those rules, you can make up whatever rules you like. However, the authors did mention that if you decide to do something with a magical creature that goes against the collective consciousness regarding that creature, you need to explain it. Example: if you have a vampire character who can go out in the sun without any problem, there will be readers that complain "Everyone knows vampires can't go out in the sun!" And you will have to find a way to explain why you're doing something differently.

After that, I hit the Pocket Book Signing to pick up some interesting reads, and since the Harlequin booksigning was right next door, when I was done with Pocket I wandered into Harlequin, and found a lot more books I wasn't expecting to be interested in. I'll admit, when I hear "Harlequin Booksigning" I imagine category romance which I tend to avoid, but I forgot all about Harlequin's single titles in paranormal, YA, and historical, so I found a lot to like (I even picked up a book with a unicorn for a hero!). Because I went to the Harlequin signing and then talked to some people and then returned to my room to stash my loot, like a muttonhead I completely forgot about attending the workshop Paranormals: Writing Outside the Box, which was a shame.

So instead I lined up for the Awards Luncheon. First, the RWA President alerted us to the bombings in Indonesia which had hit Marriott hotels, bombings that had apparently been aimed at Americans. Weird, but when I'm swept up in RWA I really don't pay attention to any of the news until I'm out. Anyway, she handed out some of the honorary awards to best librarian, best bookseller, and best article that puts romance in a positive light. Afterward, Eloisa James came up to give us her Keynote speech.

Linda Howard gave us a comedic speech, Eloisa James gave us a dramatic one - mainly showing how the events in her life, both tragic and positive, gave her the opportunity to pour her emotion in the similar events she put in her fiction. It was an emotional speech, especially when she explained her fears for her daughter's frail health and her mother's disapproval of romance. I enjoyed it and it made me want to go out and WRITE RIGHT NOW. Anyhoo, since I already had the novels I found on my seat, I dropped them off at the Book Exchange, a table by the conference registration desk where people who get doubles of books can leave their extras for other people to pick up.

After the luncheon, I skipped off to the It's Not the Hottest Genre, So How Do Debut Historical Romance Authors Get Six-Figure Deals? workshop with (left to right) Tessa Dare, Tracy Anne Warren, Helen Breitwieser and Kristin Nelson (agents), Courtney Milan, and Sherry Thomas. This turned out to be much more helpful than I had expected. After all, there really isn't a formula for how to write a brilliant book that gets you the big bucks, but these authors and their agents shared the authors' query letters, discussed what the agents liked about them, and the books' opening paragraphs and writing styles that caught agent and editor attention. You need a hook, basically - or at least a really well written idea.

After this workshop came a painful decision - should I go to the Berkley and Grand Central Publishing booksignings or should I go to the Why We Love Mr Darcy: Insider Tips on the Historical Market workshop with (left to right) Laura Lee Guhrke, May Chen (Avon editor), and Julia Quinn? As you can tell from the photo, you can guess which one I went to, but still...

I love free stuff - free books, especially. I would have loved to have gone to the Berkley and Grand Central signings and snatched up more free books to squirrel away ... but then I would have missed the workshop by authors I adore that was discussing an issue I was interested in. That's when I really had to consider the money and effort I'd put into coming to this conference and what I wanted to get out of this conference. There are always free books, and if there aren't any good workshops on at the time I will hit up a booksigning, no question - but ultimately I'm here to learn and if I came away from this conference with six huge boxes of books but no workshop experience I wouldn't have considered that a good use of my investment. I already had, what, 50 free books already? This wasn't a Free Book conference, this was a Writer's conference and while the free books were a lovely bonus, I ultimately decided to go to the workshops because I am a writer and I did not travel 3000 miles and pay a huge amount of money to get free stuff.

But that can always be someone else's plan - I met someone on Saturday who said she bought the CD-ROM of all the workshops to listen to later while going to all the booksignings she could manage.

My decision turned out to be in my favour because from what I heard - the Berkley signing wasn't very well organized. Instead of letting everyone in, they let a certain number of people in at a time and only let new people in when others left. While this succeeded in thinning the crush of people in the small booksigning room, according to friends of mine who attended, this meant the people who got in first now had the time and space to snatch up all the books they could without lines, and this led to the publishers running out of books before even half the people who'd been waiting in line had a chance to get in! Personally, while the crush at booksignings can be extreme, it's necessary - better that all the people in line get 2-3 free books than a quarter of the people in line get 15 books while the rest get nothing.

The workshop with Guhrke, Quinn, and Chen was relatively illuminating - we were often distracted by the wild cheering coming from the RITA and Golden Heart Finalist party in the room next door. It was also a bit contradictory - Gurhke said if we want to succeed and make a living, we have to be businesswomen as well as artists and research the trends - but ultimately said write for yourself. Huh? What if what you're writing isn't a trend right now? I understand her idea, but I think Julia Quinn was a wee bit more helpful in making sure we research and understand the genre we're writing for and it's general trends, so that we know when we're nudging boundaries or breaking rules.

Next came What Came First, the Plot or the Character? the Yin and Yang of Creating Great Characters within Great Plots, which gave some tips on how to show and not tell about characters, and creating scenes that explain characters in an interesting way.

After that, things quieted down. Friday nights, from what I hear, are traditionally quiet because this is the night when the publishers all give parties for their authors (the Harlequin party was at the Ritz-Carlton, apparently). Katiebabs had invited me to go the big bloggers' dinner she'd planned at the local Lebanese restaurant, but I had to decline. For the same reason people with a peanut allergy avoid Thai restaurants (because they cook everything with peanut oil), people with tree nut allergies like me have to avoid Lebanese restaurants. So I figured it was going to be a quiet night. Kristie J was also too tired to do anything, so I brought up McDonalds for both of us because it was cheaper than room service and we just talked. It was a nice little bit of downtime.


But the downtime didn't last long! Pretty soon the other bloggers were back at the hotel bar so down I went for another chat. In the first picture, that's Rosie, another blogger whose name and blog I have both shamefully forgotten, and Julie James. In the second picture is Aymless, who is AWESOME. I met her at the Literacy signing and she blew me away with all of her energy. While we were talking in the bar, a woman comes up and I asked her name, and she said, "Shiloh Walker."

Cue double-take! She doesn't like having her picture taken but she was a blast to talk to. Lots of fun and energy. She had a southern accent (as a Canadian, I had a hard trouble telling a Southern accent and a Lower Midwest accent apart, which unintentionally offended the Midwesterners who insisted they didn't have an accent), but she said it was because she was lazy rather than being actually southern. As a nurse, she had a lot of things to say about sex scenes that were not only anatomically impossible but damn unhygenic.

After awhile a cowboy (yes, a cowboy) with a porn 'stache dropped off some cupcakes leftover from the Harlequin party and in the last photo you can see Aymless enjoying one. Very surreal (the cupcake cowboy, that is). Eventually people drifted off and I crashed into bed, ready for the last day of the conference.