Finally, right? I am home, it is Monday morning, and I slept for 9 hours straight! Sorry for the delay in sharing my news but the last 2 conference days were jammed from early sunrise to well after the sun was set. I am not complaining as it was fabulous. I have loads to share, so be warned that this may be a long post! All of us who were there have been blogging and sharing our experience, so if curious to read more about this great event, visit Marie Force, Julie James, Kendra Leigh Castle, Casablanca Authors, Judi Fennell, and Cheryl Brooks.
OK, my experiences….. Friday the 17th did start right off, but there wasn’t an early workshop I wanted to see so I took my time leaving the hotel and did write the previous day’s events on the blog. But once I got to the Marriott it was non-stop! I attended a workshop that, frankly, did not include the info I anticipated so was a disappointment, especially when I was torn between two choices. Oh well, live and learn: sit toward the back so it is easy to slip out! Then I attended the workshop on Online Promotion that our own Danielle Jackson was a part of. It was so great. Danielle did a fabulous job for her very first public engagement and all the information offered was apropos to this internet-based world we live in.
The Awards Luncheon – It focused on giving awards for those support people, such as the volunteers and librarians, and was held in the ballroom. The guest speaker was Eloisa James. She is HUGE in the Regency romance genre of novels. In fact, I began reading “Duchess in Love” while on the plane (She signed the copy for me!) and it is really good so far. Her speech was outstanding. Humorous and very touching. She focused on persevering amid the hardships and the negativity, a topic that resonated deeply within me since I struggle with this.
After the luncheon I met with my editor, Deb Werksman. I just love her! We chatted for over an hour, covering everything both personal and professional. Of course, it was primarily a chance to talk about the current events but also to discuss my future. Deb is very smart and Sourcebooks as a company has a philosophy of building authors, of helping them discover their niche, of planning beyond the “now” to the whole career arc. I so appreciate Deb’s honesty, even when I may not agree! She is very gifted in listening, understanding, offering her experiential opinions and insights, and meshing it all together to a conclusion that fits all of us. I love that I can talk about Loving Mr. Darcy but also plot for what I hope to be doing 2 or more years down the line. It is far too premature to say anything specific, but I will say that there are surprises on the horizon and I am feeling very, VERY good about being able to pursue my dreams of writing Kitty’s story and the adventures of Dr. George Darcy. And I also feel confident that if inspiration leads me down another path, whether historical (my heart) or contemporary, Sourcebooks will be there for me. An author can hope for nothing else. I will, naturally, keep you posted as is appropriate.
Several workshops followed and I employed my newfound knowledge of staying toward the back so I could slip in and out! That way I got to hear portions of a couple topics I was interested in. The one I loved was “Why We Love Mr. Darcy: Insider tips on the Historical Market.” Naturally the Mr. Darcy in the title captured my eye, but also because it was led by bestselling, award winning historical novelist Julia Quinn. It really wasn’t about Austen-related historicals, but about the genre in general. Very good information and I learned a tremendous amount.
After that I had no time for additional workshops as I had to get gorgeous for our Sourcebooks Authors Dinner. Greeting everyone was the first fabulous part. A few of the ladies I had not yet run into, like the stunning Amelia Grey and beautiful Michele Ann Young. Others I had only been able to briefly chat with, like Robin Kaye and my longtime internet buddy Loucinda McGary. And there were some new writers too! So we gabbed for a time in the lobby before piling into the 2 stretch limos provided by our publisher. Talk about fun and feeling special! The restaurant was called 1789 and we dined in a private room on the third floor. It was amazing and so great to be able to freely chat without external noise to interrupt or dampen our conversation. Of course, we raised the voice levels pretty high all by ourselves! The food was delicious, but truthfully I do not think it would have mattered as we were having too much fun. Dominique Raccah – CEO and Publisher of Sourcebooks – gave us an in-depth update on the business aspects of the Casablanca imprint. Then she and Deb had each author talk about what they wrote, always following it with humorous and glowing commentary from their perspective. I can’t express how marvelous the whole evening was, so let me simply say that it was magical.
Saturday dawned way too early for my taste, but there was a workshop I HAD to attend! I met Cheryl for breakfast, then headed to “Lessons of Firefly: Learning from the Works of Joss Whedon.” I have freely stated in previous blog posts that I am a huge fan of this show, so I simply had to be there. And, no, Nathan Fillian did not show up, shirt on or off, but there were photos! LOL! The interesting aspect is that Jacqui Jacoby used the brilliant writing that made Firefly and the movie Serenity so fantastic as a lesson in how to write in a novel. It was very well done and I learned more than I anticipated, I will confess. Next I popped in to a couple other workshops and managed to get a few more signed books for my daughter and I to read.
At 11am was the Spotlight on Sourcebooks. Had to attend that! Dominique, Danielle, and Deb – The 3 D’s – gave their presentation and it was wonderful! Dominique is somewhat flamboyant and a ball of energy. Her enthusiasm and passion for books is so incredibly apparent. I could write a whole essay on this astounding woman whom I so admire and genuinely like. I am unbelievably fortunate to be a part of this organization! The room was filled to standing-only capacity, free books and flyers were given away, and all of us were present to support our house. My series was highlighted with the news that Target has taken me on revealed to all and I was singled out by Dominique. It was quite a thrill. Don’t my covers look awesome on the big screen?
Lunch was next, a group of us leaving the hotel for a change of scenery. We were joined by Marie Force’s daughter Emily who was in town to celebrate her 14th birthday with mom! More on darling Emily in a bit. No time for anything after lunch as we had our official, separate Sourcebooks author book signing. This is the first year it has been done! The Landmark Casablanca line has so expanded that we needed our own room. The waiting line was long and we were mobbed. The only mishap was the surprise of such a remarkable turnout, so none of us had enough books! Mine were gone in about 20 minutes, even though I tried to write slow! I apologize profusely, as does Danielle and Dominique, for not realizing what to expect. It is still a learning curve for us as a romance line, so next year we will be way more prepared! But it was fun while it lasted. My tagline: “Happily ever after comes true.” Nice, huh? I have to confess that it was the most fun I have had in a long time and I am so very proud of the novel I and Sourcebooks have produced. A personal, heartfelt thanks to everyone who rushed to my desk and expressed happiness to be acquiring my novel. I do pray you enjoy it and share your pleasure with other potential readers. Or write to me! I remember you all and would love to hear from you!
The last, big event of the conference was the Rita and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony that night. This is the Oscars for Romance Novelists. It is a huge event with all the glitter and glitz one expects from such an event. I sat back and simply enjoyed it. I still did not know most of the authors being nominated, but am proud to say that there were a large number I did! Including some I can now think of as, at the least, acquaintances. Such as Stephanie Laurens who won a Rita. It was glamorous and exciting. But the pinnacle of it all was as we were leaving the ballroom and who should be walking directly in front of us but Nora Roberts! #1 fan Marie Force was shaking with nerves, but her bold daughter steps forward and congratulates Ms. Roberts on her new Rita win. Nora, gracious and absolutely gorgeous, stops and says thank you. Marie finds her voice and mentions that it is Emily’s birthday, Nora extending a big smile and wishes for a happy birthday. Then she agrees to pose with Emily for a candid shot! It was utterly amazing! Even I, an embarrassed non-reader of a Nora Roberts novel, was awed to be in her presence. But she was kindness itself.
That pretty well ends the adventures for me. A few snacks at the reception and teary good-byes to all my friends, and I was ready for bed. Funny thing: I was so exhausted, missing my family, and dying to sleep in my own bed, yet sad to leave. It was an incredible experience and I already can’t wait until next year when the conference will be in Nashville. I have only scratched the surface in relating all the fantastic conversations I had and in assimilating how profoundly I was affected by all I learned. My heart was rejuvenated, my purpose refocused, my determination bolstered, and my confidence restored. I had great fun, created lasting memories, established relationships, and marketed myself well, but most importantly I renewed my joy in writing and reaffirmed my place as a novelist. Some will continue to try to rob me of that title and to tarnish my accomplishments, but they will fail. Because like it or not, I am a published novelist! It is a cemented fact that I now wholly grasp and will never forget.