Monday, July 30, 2007

National Reflections

Reading over what I wrote about the National conference, it does seem like a list of "people I talked to." But this conference, that's exactly what I needed. I had good one-on-one time with editors. I had discussions with authors and booksellers about what is really going on in the industry.

Sometimes you can glean more from standing in the hall (or in this case, the atrium), and chewing the fat.

What did I learn about the industry? Several things:

1. I heard a lot less moaning about the book market in general. Romance sales are up. Erotic romance is doing very well.

2. Romance sells better in stores where the bookseller understands the romance reader's needs and tailors the section to those needs.

3. Ellora's Cave posted record sales in May or June (can't remember which now, but one of those).

4. Paranormal romance sells strong, but editors are overbought in it. (I'd recommend new authors try to sell a historical or contemporary just to catch their attention!)

5. Historicals are strengthening again. (I've seen that for the last year or so, but when a bookseller says it, then everyone listens. :-) There's a reason I stay in that market.)

6. Editors and agents are always looking for new authors/new voices/new marketable ideas.

7. Romance readers are the best! (I knew that, too.) Many romance readers will readily read outside their genre, but always return for more romance. Readers of primarily other genres are on the whole not as adventurous.

8. Romances still kick butt in the publishing world.

That's my not-so-technical wrap-up of market news from RWA. :-)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Saturday the 14th

Saturday was the Big Day. The Rita gala and party afterward.

By Saturday I was tired, sore, and cranky. I'm good at conferences for 2-3 days; after that, I'm ready for the hot bath, the massage, the two days in bed. But I perservered.

8:30 am--I give another workshop. This one a panel on worldbuilding with author Cathy Clamp, editor Heather Osborn (now at Tor), and editor Anna Genoese (formerly of Tor). Pretty good crowd, good info on the panel. The great thing about panels is that I learn from the other people while I'm sitting up there waiting for my turn at the mic.

9:30--upstairs for a room service breakfast (I really went for the room service this time!)

I was tired and knew I'd have a long night, so I tried to take it easy. I cleaned up my room and started to organize and pack (ha!), and mailed three boxes of stuff home to myself.

2:30 was the Rita/GH rehearsal. I apparently recieved an email telling me when my groups was to show up. If I ever got the email, I promptly lost it, misfiled it, or forgot. I arrive at 2:30 and am in the wrong group. Oh well, it can't hurt. (Turns out I was in the second group).

The director explains the sequence of events to us: The announcer for the category will read the finalists, and behind her will be slides of our photos and our book covers. (Thank heavens I sprang for a decent photo last year so I'm not embarrassed by the pic that flashes by).

When we're announced, we're to walk up the stairs (in the dark!), take the award from the announcer, and walk to the podium on the left to give our speech. I am convinced I won't win, so to me it's a moot point.

We're asked to look at our slides and make sure everything's spelled right and it's really us in the photo. Mine looks fine. I try out the stairs, say my name in the microphone so I won't be worried when I hear the sound of my voice.

(I don't mention to the director that I got to hear my own voice in painful detail when I recorded my friend Nancy's CD in March. Talking to a roomful of people is nothing to standing in a small, hot booth and hearing my voice over the headphones--singing! Aaaaaaa!)

I talk to Sylvia Day and Marjorie Liu who both have butterflies. They're having a hard time eating that day. I say I just finished a bowl of Hagan-Daaz dolce de leche ice cream (nummy!). I have no butterflies because I'm not going to win. There are far better books than mine, and it's such a long shot. Why worry?

After rehearsal I go to the atrium and sit with Desert Rose/Valley of the Sun ladies--Kayce Lassiter, Tina Gerow/Cassie Ryan, Isabella Clayton. Leslie Langtry, a new author at Dorchester stops by and talks about the Spotlight on Dorchester, which I had to miss to do the Rita rehearsal.

(This whole conference I either had six things scheduled on top of each other, or nothing.)

I'm still calm and cool, because winning is such a long shot!

At 5, I meet up with Bonnie Vanak, who sweetly takes me out to dinner at her hotel. We arrive before the restaurant is open and have a glass of wine in the bar to wait. We're on the 29th floor, and there are gnats up there. What is the deal?

Bonnie interviews me for her live blog (she actually recorded the events as they happened, instead of being lame like me, doing it a week or so later). She takes a photo and uploads it as I watch. (Technology is scary).

We have our dinner, but have to hurry a little because we have to shuttle back to the main hotel and I have to dress. Bonnie already looks lovely, but I need to change.

We make the shuttle bus, which craawwlls back to the Hyatt, dropping us off near the ballroom, which is hell and gone from the elevators to my room. Bonnie and I race back to my room where I throw on my clothes. (I'm not going to win, no one's going to see me except sitting down.)

Back down to the ballroom in the nick of time. Except, I've lost one of the two tickets we need to get in. Bonnie had hers. They were going to stop me. Fortunately, one of the coordinators was there, and let me in.

Bonnie sits next to me to cheer me on. The Dorchester Rita finalists are nearby: Pam Clare, Marjorie, Gemma Halliday. Even though I finalled with a Berkley book, they are rooting for me (and I am for them).

The ceremony gets underway. Bonnie is nervous because she wants Pam and me to win. I'm still cool as a cucumber, but getting a *little* nervous. Mostly I want it to be over with.

The Golden Heart finalists are presented first. The ceremony was fairly simple, just the announcers reading the finalists with interludes of clips put together about some big name authors (Nora Roberts, Suzanne Brockman, Anne Stuart, Elizabeth Peters.)

The GH winners were so happy; it was fun to applaud for them. I was a Golden Heart finalist once, and went through this, though I didn't win. (BUT, almost all the finalists that year published before the winners did. Not in every case, but in many.)

Before the Rita starts, I duck out to the bathroom. I can't trust my bladder to hold up through the whole thing.

The Rita categories begin. I'm a tiny bit more nervous. I was more interested in categories besides mine. I judged one (not saying which), and I wanted my pick to win (she didn't, rats). Plus I wanted Pam, Marjorie, and Sylvia to take home a trophy (thet didn't, double rats).

And then Alesia Holliday read my category. I tried not to be nervous. I really tried. I was jumpy, though. She said, "And the winner is..."

And lo and behold, it was me! (A Lady Raised High) Bonnie screamed and jumped to her feet even before I did. I somehow got up onstage without falling and hoped my dress wasn't riding up or something.

I didn't have a speech, but I had thought about what I might say, on the off chance (LOL). I thanked my editor Ginjer, who couldn't be there, but another Berkley editor picked up the plaque for her. Then I rambled on thanking my RWA chapters, who really are so supportive. Plus my husband who was home painting the living room--even as I spoke. I saw people wanting to start applauding again, so I shut up and got off the stage.

It was very nice to have Alesia give me the award. She was a Dorchester author and now a Berkley author (we're following each other around).

Afterward was a blur. I went up to the front to take pictures. I saw more of my editors, Kate at Berkley and Leah at Dorch. They were both incredibly happy for me, even though this book wasn't theirs.

Lots of hugging! I never realized I knew so many people, but they all came to congratulate me. That teared me up more than winning.

Anyway, it was terrific. I stayed out in the lobby talking to people (Squires, Kathy Caskie, Claudia Dain, met Cindy Hwang of Berkley). The lovely Sophia Nash interviewed me for Romance TV (I'm not sure when or where that airs--I think it's an Internet thing? I met the ladies who run it--they're fun.)

So for an hour or so, I was a princess. Then the princess took her trophy upstairs, called husband, cried to him, frantically finished packing, and fell into bed.

Sunday was easy: Breakfast at the coffee house, talk to Leah and Chris Keeslar, who were also leaving, catch shuttle to airport, hobble onto plane. Husband picked me up on the other side and took me for a much-needed lunch.

I packed the Rita carefully in my clothes and now she sits on a table in the living room.

Thus endeth RWA Nationals, 2007.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Friday at RWA

To make up for all the room service Thursday, Friday I didn't pay for any meals.

8:00 am, meet Leah Hultenschmidt at coffee house in lobby to get ready for our workshop. We met, I sleepily had a croissant and juice. (The croissant was the only thing I could eat. I hate sweet food in the morning--which means all those muffins, donuts, pastries, and Danishes are out. I look at them and get nauseous. The only thing "sweet" I can eat is fresh fruit. No sugar. [For some reason I don't like anything sweet after 10pm either. Weird, but probably good for me.])

8:30--Leah and I do our workshop on Title and Premise. It's a full house, the double room packed with SRO. Whenever people left (they workshop-hop--you have to, there's so much going on!), there were plenty of people to take their places. It was a success. Many people stopped by to ask us questions or pitch to Leah afterward.

9:30--Leah takes me to breakfast. Mmm fruit smoothie. Anyway we talk about how I'm doing at Dorchester (all good news!). We chatted about various books we liked (and didn't like), especially Naomi Novik's dragon series. Leah got me hooked on that series and we're both fans.

I "pitched" my next idea for a historical series. (Tease--it will be yummy! A "straight" historical romance, not paranormal.) I laugh at myself because I'm always giving advice to nervous new authors doing their first pitch. "Keep it very simple," I say. "Ask the editors what they like to read, don't make it all about you."

So what do I do? Ramble on about my series idea and the characters and take forever to get to the point. Good thing we were there an hour and a half, and Leah is patient and has some trust in me. We discussed the idea, and it's going ahead. I talked a little bit about another paranormal idea. That one is still vague in my head--but book 1 isn't due until the end of 2008, so I have a little time to ponder. :-)

Leah also gives me some good news--Immortals: The Calling has gone to third printing (The Darkening has too, btw). There was other good stuff, but I should probably wait until it's concrete before announcing.

At 11:45, I have another appointment: Lunch with Kate Seaver at Berkley. She took me off-campus to a nice restaurant called Hattie's in an area of Dallas that's been gentrified. There were cute shops, bookstores, and coffee houses around, and Hattie's was an elegant little restaurant serving up classic Southern food. (I recommend the buttermilk fried chicken salad--it was divine).

Guess what I ask Kate? How am I doing at Berkley? (Keeping track of three careers is so much fun.) She tells me Dragon Heat hit #27 on B&N and #47 on Bookscan. Woo hoo! Not bad for Allyson's "debut." We also talk about my upcoming books for Berkley's Heat line. These will be more erotic, more in the style of my Allyson James books at EC. Also about the anthology I'll be in with Robin Schone, Claudia Dain, and Shiloh Walker.

I like these one-on-one meals with my editors because there's time to do more than talk about me, me, me. We can chew the fat, talk about publishing in general, and more personal stuff. Most editors are big readers themselves so we can talk about books we love.

We go out to find a cab, and it's pouring rain. To me, this is wonderful because where I live has been bone-dry this year.

Wet stuff, fall from sky.

Rain smells so good, doesn't it? And makes such a delicious noise.

Back to the hotel.

Now I have a dilemma. I'm supposed to sign books for Berkley at 3:00. The Rita/GH reception is also at 3:00.

Here's the problem: If I skip the reception, people will call me a Diva because obviously I'm blase about being a finalist (NO! I am so excited!). If I skip the signing, people will call me a Diva because obviously I'm too lofty to interact with my readers. (NO! I love meeting readers!).

Sigh. Either way, I'll end up a snotty Diva.

Two things won me to the Rita reception: 1. I did not expect to win, so I wanted to pick up the framable certificate that says I am at least a finalist. 2. the Rita reception had champagne and chocolate.

I go to the reception, had a good talk with Sylvia Day, met Gemma Halliday for the first time, said hi to a lot of other authors I hadn't seen thus far. Got my certificate and champagne and chocolate. There wasn't much more to the reception than receiving the certificates, so at 3:45, I head back to the Berkley signing.

I walk into the ballroom and promptly trip on the stairs. My dang shoes slid out from under me, and my legs folded wrong, and down I went. I felt myself going, and just went limp (I only had half a glass of champagne, I swear!).

So I'm laying there, thinking the stairs are a comfortable place to take a load off, but everyone around me is distressed. There is talk of calling the hotel to get someone down there to help me. But I'm really fine. I did strain a muscle of my right leg, but I wiggled all my toes and rotated my ankles and knew I was ok. Nice people helped me to my feet and I recovered my Diva dignity and went on. (Those stairs should be looked into, btw. Another author fell on the same stairs and broke her foot.)

I find my placecard for where I'm supposed to sit, but my books are gone. Kate Seaver tells me they put out a stack, and people snatched them away (shades of the goody room). Oh well!

I met up with Marjorie Lui and Allysa Day who were signing their Berkley anthology. The last ones were going as I walked up. Oh well. We talked with some of the RBLromantica ladies (I love them!), plus Sylvia from The Good, The Bad, The Unread blog. These ladies love romance, and are so enthusiastic.

(There has also been controversy that bloggers were at RWA at all--big heavy sigh. I think they should be there, if nothing else to see that authors are people! Not faceless entities who don't interact with humanity. You know, Divas.)

I think after that I talked with people in the atrium, before I got sucked into the Borders store (again!). It was Tina Gerow's fault. I saw her in there buying something. I hadn't had much time to talk to her this conference because she was staying in the overflow hotel. (Tina writes for Kensington as Cassie Ryan.)

I chat with Tina who was buying an interesting book (how to keep toxic people from keeping you from your goals). I have mostly learned how to do that--I've trained myself to not listen when people try to pull me back from what I want to do. (Aside: Some people try to pull you back not because they're hateful, but because they have the best intentions. They don't want to see you hurt. But sometimes you do have to go through pain and scarring to get to the other side. Sadly, sometimes I hear myself trying to over-caution people. I try not to.)

The store has some great non-fiction resources for writers as well as the novels of many of the authors/speakers at the conference. I was pleased to see big stacks of Dragon Heat and Immortals: The Calling. I bought a fun book on vampires plus a book on crime detection for writers.

No chocolate this time. :-)

I went to the goody room to pick up my leftover stuff, because they were going to close up the room and do whatever with leftovers if authors didn't collect them. I was pleased to see ALL my Queen's Handmaiden cards gone (I did oversized cards about the size of a trade paperback). Only about half the bookmarks went, but I had left a ton, and so did everyone else. :-) But I'd pretty much made my goal.

4:30. Dorch authors meet up in the lobby to take the magic bus to the Dorchester dinner. Gracious there are so many of us! We filled up a huge tour bus, almost every seat full. I sit with Pat White, who I haven't seen for a while. She's doing well at Harlequin. Erin G. (our new mom), goes through the bus and makes sure no one's missing, then we head through slums to a fun Mexican restaurant.

The only downside to a dinner is you can only sit within shouting distance of a few people. In my case: Marjorie Liu (looking cute and pretty as usual), Barbara Vey of PW, Stephanie Rowe, and Linda Keller, who won the 2007 Bookseller of the Year award (Yay!). Leah also sat with us, but she was hopping up to talk to others constantly (which is what I should have done). (Ask Barbara about the anatomically correct signs on the bathroom doors.)

Stephanie shared funny stories, and Marjorie and I talked about how we both liked to stay at home (in our caves), and how we are both so thankful for our current jobs (full-time authors), for several reasons. She gave me some tips on how to make my mailing and conference-going life easier, for which I heartily thank her. (See, you learn things outside of workshops!)

I was sitting close to Robin Popp and Leigh Greenwood and never got to say a word to either of them! Noise level.

Marjorie, Barbara, and I left early, sharing a taxi back to the hotel to slide into the Berkley cocktail reception (another problem with RWA--almost ALL the publisher parties are Friday night, so if you write for more than one publisher, you party hop.) We got to the Berkley reception before they finished, and talked to Kate Seaver.

Claudia Dain was there! Woo! Hadn't seen her in a while, and we're going to be in that anthology together at Berkley. (She asked if I'd finished my story--she's so cute!)

(At some point during the day, can't remember when, I met up with Susan Squires too. Squires! One of my favorite ladies of all time. She's still going strong at St. Martin's Press.)

I was invited to share a cab to an off-site hotel to crash the Harlequin party (apparently, everyone crashes the Harlequin party). But I decided to call it a night. My legs and feet were aching from my fall, and I wanted to get out of my shoes. I did hear all about the party (Emma Holly interviewed in the bathroom and so forth), so I felt like I was there. :-)

I watched more of my DVDs and did some yoga stretches. My legs felt much better after that and I slept like a comatose dog again.

Saturday, the Big Day, dawns.

RWA: Thursday addendum

More happened Thursday than I listed below.

1. I had an appointment to talk to Raelene at Ellora's Cave, mostly to reassure myself how I'm doing there (apparently, just fine. My sales are good, and she advised me to keep on doing what I'm doing). That was good--I hadn't had the opportunity to talk to Raelene more than a "hi, how are you" before. We had a good long talk.

2. While writing in my room, Bonnie Vanak called me and gave me the news that fellow author Ronda Thompson had died. I was in shock. Ronda was writing at Dorchester when I first started and was one of the authors who befriended me and helped me. I admired her writing, liked her a lot, and am sad and shocked that she passed.

Angry too. She had cancer, which no one caught until a few weeks before her death, when it was far too late. When women don't feel well, people are so apt to blame stress (in the olden days, they called it hysteria). Women experience symptoms of some diseases differently from men. I say when you don't feel well--there's probably something wrong!! We've been societally trained to dismiss women as hypochondriacs or over-stressed--very likely because if women's symptoms are different than men's they are more difficult to diagnose. Just because a doctor doesn't know what's wrong, doesn't mean nothing's wrong! (Another rant, but damn, it's our lives at stake here.)

Anyway, Ronda had given me a very nice quote for The Mad, Bad Duke (it's on the back cover), and she was doing so well with her Wulfs at St. Martin's Press. She hit NY Times in an anthology with Sherrilyn Kenyon, and was looking forward to working on her next series. She had a great sense of humor, and I counted her as a friend.

I could end with the cliche "she will be missed," but I'm too pissed off. There was no reason for her to have gone that quickly and so young.

3. We all heard about the board decisions at the AGM. The big one that has many knickers in a twist is RWA redefining vanity/subsidy press as a press that sells primarily from their own website. Well, most e-publishers sell their e-books primarily off their sites--it's the best place to do it. They might also sell through Fictionwise and other outlets, but mostly straight from the site. I have no idea why that would make something "vanity."

The board did backpedal and say they'd change the wording from "primarily" to "exclusively" but this is still ridiculous. A vanity or subsidy press is one in which the author is made to pay for all or part of the publishing process. Usually you answer ads in magazines that say "Ms. wanted! Get your book published!" You give the "publisher" money (usually thousands of dollars), they print your book, and then do nothing to distribute or sell it. That's up to you.

Publishers like Ellora's Cave and Samhain are NOT vanity! I have eight releases with EC (soon to be ten), and I never paid them a dime. In fact, they send me nice checks every month.

The problem is not so much "can they be RWA-eligible or not." I don't really care. The problem is what the outside world will think when they see that RWA has classified presses like EC and Samhain as vanity. Will people think "Oh, that's just according to RWA's definition to decide whether or not they have to pay to attend the conference."

No. I fear people in the "real world" will think--Ellora's Cave. Hmm. This RWA group defines it as a vanity press. We should steer authors clear. What this redefining has done is make e-presses work that much harder to prove their legitimacy.

Here's a news flash. E-publishing is here to stay (it has been for the last several years). Catch up with this century and get over it.

Wow, more ranting!

Anyway, I think I'm done with Thursday.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thursday: Room Service and Writing: Meant for Each Other

Thursday morning I wake up and lay across the bed like a comotose dog.

Should I get up and get showered and dressed before room service arrives?


I was at least dressed with hair combed. I ate. Impressed with quality of food and service, which is better than the restaurant downstairs. Go figure.

I decide that day to lay low. Traveling always fatigues me, and I know Friday and Saturday will be packed with activity. I eat, shower, and dress, then take my stuff down to the goody room.

I liked the way they had the goody room laid out, in two rooms with plenty of space to walk by all tables. I left cards for The Queen's Handmaiden, bookmarks for Dragon Heat and bookmarks for Immortals. I left several copies of A Lady Raised High (Rita finalling book), Rees (by Allyson James), and Dragon Heat.

I go back upstairs to find I'd forgotten a stack of books. I plop them in my bag and head back down to the goody room.

I was probably gone ten to fifteen minutes with the elevator wait both ways. But ALL the books I had just put in the goody room WERE GONE. Readers are fast!

I laid down my last stack and ran.

I made the mistake of spotting the Borders store they'd set up in one of the rooms. Dang it. There's lots of good stuff in there! I get away this time with buying Ghiradelli chocolate and a cool bookmark. But the store wants me back... I know it's only a matter of time...

See more people and talk to them. The Dorchester contingent is there: Cindy Holby, Marianne Mancusi, Liz Maverick, Chris Keeslar, Erin and Brooke who do publicity, Colleen Thompson, and former Dorchies, Winnie Griggs, Alesia Holliday (Alyssa Day), and many, many more.

Back upstairs to my cave. I brought my laptop with me because I have got to get Highlander Ever After under control, due August 1! I planned to write, then go to the luncheon and hear Lisa Kleypas speak.

Good intentions. I got the writing part done, made good headway. But I was tired, so lay down and took a short nap. The lunch was at 12:15; I woke up at 12:08.

Room service.

Had surprisingly good sandwhich (and even better, iced tea!) while I got myself back to work. If I'm going to miss everything downstairs, I'm going to get something productive done. I did get all the way through the hundred pages I'd already written, seriously revising it. Fixed character motivation and dialog, etc. Wrote some more after that.

I did take breaks to go downstairs and chat with people. Saw Bonnie and Pam Clare again. Pam was excited because her mom was coming in to attend the Rita ceremoney with her. I said that my parents were on a road trip somewhere on the Oregon/Washington coast. Somewhere ...

Marianne and Liz were working to promote their Shomi books. (Some controversies have started on a couple of blogs about whether they should have worn Anime constumes at RWA--by people who obviously need more to do! They were adorable, and the books are awesome! Can you say starred review in Pub. Weekly?)

Anyway, back upstairs. More writing, more room service. It was like a dream vacation. I had brought some DVDs with me (mostly British mysteries), so I had my own movie night. Talked to Forrest a lot on the phone. I loved it.

That was Thursday. Friday and Saturday? Roller-coaster!

RWA Blow by Blow (or aching foot by aching foot)

I probably should write up my RWA experiences before I forget them. I had good conference with a few setbacks, but setbacks are inevitable at an event like this. Let me take it day by day.


Get up at the crack of frigging dawn to catch a flight to Dallas. I'm only two hours by plane from Dallas, but if I want to go to Love Field, the plane has to stop once, making it a three hour flight. Plus I lose two hours for time zone change, so five hours after I take off, I land at Love Field. Hotter than Hades outside (100+ and throw in humidity), but I have to wait nearly half an hour for the Super Shuttle. At least we go right to the hotel, which is not far from this airport.

I check into the Hyatt with no problem, get my registration stuff from RWA, and find my room. Turn down the AC! Unpack my clothes, take a shower, fix up my badge, look through bag. There's five books in the bag. I decided that this conference, I wouldn't take home any books. Ha ha ha ha! All five are either books or authors I've been DYING to read. Oh well. Once I get rid of my promo stuff I'll have room. Right?

Dress self and slide downstairs late to the author-bookseller tea. There are actually a few nibblies left and some water. Not many people though. I did get to say a big hi to Marjorie Liu and Pamela Clare, fellow Rita finalists. Also talked to Barbara from the Pub. Weekly blog. She is loving the Immortals, and somehow talked me into sending her an ARC of The Gathering. How'd she do that? She looks so innocent. :-)

On to the literacy booksigning!!

I walk in and am accosted by several Dorchester authors. "Are your books here?" they ask.

Aside: I had opted this year to sit as Allyson James, because when I sit as Jennifer Ashley, I get to face a blank wall (WHY, WHY, WHY?? Why do the A's and early B's always have to face the wall? We get no traffic over there and have to work extra hard to sell anything. Please someone who organizes these events, start the A's in the middle of the room and rotate outward. Give the poor A's and B's a chance. We have to go through this every conference! I'm sure XYZ has much the same problem.) Whew. End rant.

Anyway, I check my Allyson James place. Plenty of Dragon Heat and my latest one in print from EC Double Trouble (yay!). I walk across the ballroom to the placard that says "Jennifer Ashley: Signing as Allyson James). No Jennifer Ashley books.

It turns out that ALL Dorchester books got erroneously placed in the goody room for giveaway the day before. They were devoured. Oh well, the point of the exercise is to get books into the hands of readers. At least I have Allyson James books to sign.

I had a good signing, readers sought me out or decided to give my books a try. Double Trouble sold VERY well. (That book is still selling well as an e-book too--what is it about sexy twins? [OK, I know what it is, heh heh]).

I sat next to Myla Jackson/Ella James. I had no idea she and Delilah Devlin were sisters. Where have I been? It was good to talk to her--had been meaning to for some time.

Elizabeth Hoyt also didn't have books to sign (Warner had the same problem with missing books), but she kindly signed the free copy I'd gotten in my RWA bag. She also put up with my obnoxious teasing (sorry Elizabeth! I love your books, and you've become one of my favorite people). Also got to drool on Emma Holly. She says she doesn't remember drool, but maybe I wiped it away in time. I picked up promo items from her (like a free chapter of her next book!). Yum.

Allysa Day came by and asked if she was pronouncing the Laurien Gardner name correctly. (She was). Turns out she was announcing my category of the Rita on Sat. night. Yay. A friend being there on the stage is a good thing.

Someone pointed out Sherrilyn Kenyon in her goth swan--she was sitting almost directly behind me. I loved it! I momentarily wondered why *Sherrilyn Kenyon* needed to stand out (LOL), but I love the way she interacts with her readers. She takes time for each person, and she really gets into the whole fantasy of the books. She has fun with it, and with the readers. She is my role model for book signings. If I hadn't been so tired, I might have done it standing up too. (Hint: Don't do a big booksigning an hour after you get off a plane).

I'd made a pact with friend Bonnie Vanak to go to the FF&P party with her after the signing. As the signing wound down, I realized I left my checkbook in my room. I asked friend Penny Nickel from the Desert Rose chapter to sit at my place while I ran up, afraid someone would pack up my books while gone. I ran into Bonnie on the way, we went up together and then back down. I bought books (which I then gave away in the goody room--literacy got money, readers got free books). And I need to do something nice for Penny.

Then we go to the FF&P party. Except--by the time we got there, they'd run out of food. The early people at the party ate it all! You know who you are. I'll remember this.

The poor person given the wonderful task of telling people as they came in that all the food was gone refunded our money and Bonnie and I went upstairs to the restaurant. An hour and a half wait later, we finally got seated and had dinner. Bonnie, on Florida time, was already half-asleep. Me on Pacific time still thought it was 8pm so I'm full of energy.

People we talked to as we waited: Pamela Clare, Gennita Low, ladies from Orange County Chapter, ummmm, many others. Drunk guys wanting to talk to romance writers. Dear, dear. (Do they have to make such fools of themselves? Is it a rule?)

My husband calls just as we get served and tells me he saw the Bookscan list. Dragon Heat debuted at number 47. Woo hoo! Way to go Allyson James!

We finished the meal, Bonnie took a cab back to her hotel, and I went upstairs and fell into bed (after hanging the room service menu outside the door). End of Day 1.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Everything but cute strappy shoes

I have to be careful with my back, so I can't wear the cute strappy shoes so many authors, aspiring authors, editors, agents, and guests had on at the RWA awards ceremony. I can't even wear them for short periods of time, so I stuck with my Naturalizer slides, which aren't too bad.

But I had shoe envy! LOL However I did have a nice dress, bought for the occassion, and a lovely burn-out velvet wrap.

I seriously did not think I had a chance of winning my category of the Ritas. The other finalists are excellent writers. The ones I haven't read personally I've heard fantastic things about. So it floored me when Alesia Holiday (aka Alyssa Day) called me up to the stage to receive a Rita! I've known Alesia for a while, and it was so terrific to get the award from her! My editor, Ginjer Buchanan at Berkley got a nice plaque for the book as well. I like that they give the editor recognition.

I hadn't even bothered to come up with a speech! I was so convinced I wouldn't win. I was ready to applaud the winner and head out for chocolate. I had to come up with a speech on the spur of the moment, which I hope was coherent.

Ok, I did *think* about a speech, on the off chance. But I certainly didn't write it down or rehearse it.

I'm very grateful to the judges for picking the book (A Lady Raised High). It was a labor of love. The book is out of print now, unfortunately, though Berkley plans to reprint it in trade paperback next spring.

The outpouring of excitement, friendliness, and hugs afterwards from fellow authors, chapter members, editors, and complete strangers was overwhelming. I was blown away by everyone's support.

It was an interesting, stunning, exciting experience.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Part II

Ok, so one check later I have clear drains again. Now to finish the laundry and pack, pack, pack.

BTW, the CD I did tracks for in March is finished and done. When I'm back from RWA, I'll put up some teasers and things. It's really quite a cool little story, with a hunky werewolf. :-)

Ain't it the way

So I'm doing laundry prepatory to packing for RWA, and what happens but the plumbing in the entire house backs up. The toilets glugging and dirty water spilling up from all the drains. Like a horror movie.

This happens about once a year (tree roots), and we have to call in our guys to drill it out. Of course it has to happen today. Not tomorrow when I'm safely gone so my husband can deal with it (LOL).

Which means I can't do laundry or use the bathroom until the plumbers get here, which could be...who knows when?

Thankfully I have most of the clothes I was going to take ready; I was just washing up odds and ends. I might be driving to my mother's house with a laundry basket (and a roll of toilet paper).

This is why I write humor. I can't make this stuff up.