#RWA16 Day Three

Phantom of the Opera theatergoer

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.

Phantom of the Opera Lady in blue

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!


#RWA16 Day Two

Paranormal Chat
Authors Rebecca Zanetti, Heather Graham and Nalini Singh. Photo by M.C.

The Romance Writers of America Conference on my second day opened with Dr. Valerie Young speaking at breakfast. During classes writers take notes. When the Keynote Speaker speaks we listen. Then there is always one non-writer who speaks during one of the meals. And, as usual we get out our pen and paper.

Dr. Young talked about the Imposter Syndrome. The Imposter is someone who feels like a fraud and doesn’t deserve praise for their accomplishments and even believes they have duped the people around them. She said what you can do is normalize your accomplishments by talking about them in a matter-of-fact way. Second, reframe your thinking by telling yourself you have the right to make a mistake. She said feelings are the last thing to change. Third, keep going regardless of how you feel. Win or lose you gave it your best shot.

In a nutshell, think like a man!

For my first class, I went to Focus on KDP, Createspace and ACX. (ACX is part of Audible.) There was a representative for each department. Amazon reps are always helpful and every time an author or two lay into them. Many of us had questions about how to deal with aspects of using KDP and one librarian had a complaint about distribution. So if you have issues, it’s not just you and Amazon is happy to help.

Daniel Slater for Kindle reminded us we can put our book up for Pre-Order, 90 days before sale to drive publicity. There are also KDP ads that cost per click, but you can put a cap on the click.

One thing I will consider about Audible that Coleen Barr mentioned, you may want the same narrator in your series. I think it may be best to wait until a series is finished to go to Audible. You can get the narrator in a contract, but she suggested you give them a flat fee and not a percentage. Because what if your book does fabulously?

At lunch I met a friend and made a bunch of new friends which is a big part of these conferences. As writers we need fellow writing buddies. And then I heard this sexy voice and I realized I was eating lunch with the 2016 RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the year, Anna Brown!

(I missed one craft class on the second day since the service at Roy’s for lunch was slow. And another craft class I went to I won’t mention because most of us walked out. I think the presenter was having an off-day because I was told she’s normally a great teacher.)

Lori Freeland, a sweetheart who writes Young Adult romance, presented Frame Your Scene, Build Your Story: The Art of Layering. She kept the information basic because she has had people ask, “What is a scene?”

Lori says to set the stage by letting readers know what to expect. In the opening scene the first line is a promise to your reader. She suggested to read the first line in every chapter of our own manuscript. The opening needs to answer who we are, where we are, when we are and who’s with us.

A couple of things that stood out­—hooks and layering. The conclusion of the scene hooks the reader to turn the page. Your last line is as important as your first line. “Don’t fortune tell,” Lori says. Keep readers unsatisfied so they’ll move onto the next page.

The layers in a scene are dialogue, internal thought, action, emotion, setting, voice cues and body language. She suggests to write a brief summary of what you want to accomplish in a scene. Get the structure down before writing beautiful prose. She believes the prose will end up on the cutting floor if you put it in too soon.

Lori Freeland also mentioned she pays her children to read her drafts. Sounds like a good way to get the kids involved in a family business.

My favorite moment was the Paranormal Chat with Rebecca Zanetti, Heather Graham and Nalini Singh. These ladies really liked each other. Rebecca was the youngest who kept passing the mic, Heather comes off as an approachable bad-ass with blond hair dressed in black and Nalini is bubbly. (Lucky Nalini went to Antarctica in 2015.)

The conversation was all over the place and lots of ideas too. Nalini said she takes three weeks to fact check for her series. Heather said to create a bible for your series. She reads Poe. I can totally see that.

“I know people who love sweet paranormal romance,” Heather Graham said.

Someone asked about creating romance with a married couple. Heather suggested, “Think about real people—use humor. You can have a sexy scene with no sex.” She pointed to TV shows like Remington Steel, Bones and Castle and then boo-hooed over the loss of Castle.

Rebecca does a daily word count. Heather word counts by week. Nalini builds time for the unexpected. They suggested books by Anne Rice, Ann McCaffrey and Dorothy Eden’s Sleeping in the Woods. I definitely will be reading books by the ladies on the panel!