I had to get a tissue out at the Romance Writers of America Conference on my third day with Sherry Thomas speaking during breakfast. And I don’t remember why. I think it had something to do with her getting pregnant before she was to go off to a prestigious university. Thomas is a historical romance author whose second language is English. Needless to say, her mother was very disappointed when she didn’t go to college.
The class I most wanted to attend was Jennifer Carole Lewis’ workshop Beyond the Furrowed Brow: Letting Your Characters Speak Non-Verbally. Of course I liked her—she writes paranormal. She went through universal emotions like sadness, anger, surprise, fear, disgust, contempt, embarrassment and happiness. Then she talked about non-verbal signals showing photos of different types of smiles, concealed smiles, handshakes, kisses and courtship signals. Someone asked why wasn’t love in the list of emotions? Lewis said, she is going by what psychologists developed. She suggested reading Dr. Paul Ekman, the micro expressions expert and Peter Collette.
I went to a crowded room for It’s Just Emotion with Author Elizabeth Hoyt as speaker. She’s a hoot and writes beautiful prose. I’m not the biggest fan of her jerky heroes. That’s her thing. She had never given that workshop, so I feel like I was in the right place at the right time. She says emotion is the most important. She covered characterization, intensity and scene tropes.
“You want your character to care about something, and not her cupcake business,” the funny blonde said. She asked the audience how we could up it. “Make it a family business,” one woman said. Hoyt said we needed to make these “life or death” cupcakes. Someone upped the ante by suggesting the cupcake heroine is a single mom and needs the family business to be a successful.
We went through another example to get the character to care about something. She picked someone. The hero could care about a parent. The next level would be to have the parent dying. To make the story worse the father is dying and the hero hates him. Plus, the heroine can help the hero.
Even though Hoyt can divvy up the conflict she thinks we should stay away from reality.
“Right now reality sucks donkey balls. Don’t right reality,” Elizabeth Hoyt says in her Midwestern-southern accent.
Hoyt also mentioned, “I’m not seeing subtlety in emotional range in beginner books.”
Like I said, she loves to make the hero egregiously awful. She wants him down on his knees begging for forgiveness. She gives examples of how he can be horrible: got his sister pregnant and calls her a whore.
She suggests reading Lady Gallant by Suzanne Robinson.
And when it comes to the I love you Hoyt says, “Make it perfect. Don’t gloss over it.”
I was tired from the start of the conference. Many people were walking zombies by the middle of the first day. By the third day I was tired of sitting and wanted something different.
I was hoping to be active in Silver James’ class Situational Awareness: Staying Safe in an Unsafe World. We sat but that’s okay because she taught us how to use a belt two different ways to secure a door if there is a gunman in the building. If you can secure the door the gunman may leave. She said he is looking for the easiest way to his goal.
She gave three personal safety tips: keep hands free or at least one, paranoia keeps people alive, and routine is boring, change is good.
One of the highlights was a fashion show, Dressing the Part: Costuming Romantic Characters of 19th Century Regency. The San Diego Costume Guild put the show on. Many of the models sewed the dresses themselves. We were also shown a woman being dressed by two maids in period costume. There were endless layers. We were able to get up close and some of the audience touched the clothing, but it was only cotton and taffeta. We were told to look at old catalogues for clothing descriptions. Half of the clothes were from the Regency Era (1811-1820) on up to the 1880s and the other half of the show presented Phantom of the Opera costumes, which is 1880s inspired. Absolutely phenomenal.
I made it to the last hour. The topic was the Other Side of the Career Coin. I won’t mention the author who spoke because she was honest and gave insider information. I believe much of the discussion was supposed to be about getting an agent. An audience member asked if she had an agent. The answer was no. She said to hire a legal attorney to look at your contracts. I’ve heard that one before. She also said to be a hybrid because the romantic market is flooded. I’ve heard to go hybrid for a couple of years. Hybrids traditionally and independently publish. She talked about Rights of First Refusal. This gives the publisher the first look at your manuscript. Don’t sign it because the publisher could take years. As far as who to query, she recommends Dreamspinner (I think she is talking about Dreamspinner Press. I believe they publish male/male romance.) and Evernight Publishing (Looks like they publish all romance and have a short story line, a young adult line and Planet Alpha which is, er, you look it up.) She doesn’t recommend Entangled Publishing because the editors can go from awesome to crazy town. However, she claims some authors are making money with Entangled. She also didn’t recommend Soul Mate Publishing, but I didn’t write down why. And this just in, Samhain Publishing decided to not close their doors and instead downsize.
At the 2012 RWA Conference I went to a Spotlight on Samhain and I really liked the editors on the panel. Authors seem to be happy with Samhain. Hopefully, the publisher makes it through this rocky chapter.
Mostly the author of this workshop seemed to prefer self-publishing, but likes small publishing houses to get seen.
That wraps up the three day 2016 RWA Conference. I hope some of this helps. Happy Writing!