A First Timer, no more

I registered for my first RWA National conference back in March or April and this past week, I attended it and am no longer a first timer.  The orange ribbon won’t hang from my nametag again though I’m hoping that Golden Heart Finalist or Rita Finalist will soon.

Victoria Alexander and Me

Anyway on Tuesday, the Literacy signing, a crush of romance readers and fans filled a large ballroom where tables lined the room, authors sitting behind their pile of books.  The blend of heat, human flesh, and paper and the almost non-existent air conditioned air filled the room.  Luckily, Victoria Alexander gave out fans to cool the excitement of being surrounded by books and an authors.  So, I walked around seeing my favorite authors, Christina Dodd who remembered me from Twitter.  I was so very thrilled that I nearly floated away like a helium balloon escaping its grounding weight to float into the upper sphere.  Susan Elizabeth Philips who signed my Call Me Irresistible. I asked for a picture and she gladly stood from her seat.  Of course, my phone froze, (I hate that stupid thing) and her daughter saved the day and took the picture. I went home ready for Wednesday.

Susan Elizabeth Philips and me

Wednesday, off to the conference.  I attended workshops and took notes until my hand cramped.  I also ordered the recording because there so many great workshops but only one of me who lacks that ability to be in one place at one time.  Then the free books, sat down to lunch a couple of book by Madeline Hunter (love her), someplace else a free book. At the end of the day, my mind had so much to absorb.   A half a day that wet my toes because on Thursday, I would be drenched.

Thursday, workshops from 8:30 to 5:30.  I moved from workshop to workshop. Taking notes and asking questions and getting answers to that helped me in my revisions of my category romance for the Harlequin Desire line.
 
Then came the publishers signing which is a room filled with their authors signing free books. I was in heaven.  An romance addict surrounded by her drug.  I snatched up every book and tried authors I’ve seen yet never risked.  But I was always asked the two same questions:  How do you say you name and Are you have fun? 

The first question is one I’ve dealt with all my life so it’s expected after I introduce myself.  And the second one received the same answer, “Oh Yeah!”  I imagine my eyes were bulging, not wanting to miss seeing everything and the brackets wrinkles cracking through my face deepened from my smile.   I didn’t care.

I had some many books that I had to have my mother come with the shopping cart to pick them up to bring home.  My scrawny arms and Fibromyalgia and Lupus affected body couldn’t do and made me struggle through this days.  I swore that I would be found under a towering pile of books, suffocated by the written word.

Lisa Kleypas and me.
Sherrilyn Kenyon white dot in foreground.      .

Friday, the last day.  So my feet were swollen and achy from the walking and sitting, and the walking and the sitting and the walking.  My left arm couldn’t straightened from carrying books. My energy level nearing E and needed fuel which wasn’t food but rest.  I promised that I would do nothing until Tuesday and I keep that promise.  I attended my workshops, learning about police officers, emotions and others topics.  I spotted friends I had seen in a while.  I liked that part too.  I met new people and then came the luncheon.

I sat down at a table with Karen Hawkins!!! Then Sherrilyn Kenyon spoke.  She spoke of her life, her older brother who taught her to read with a wrinkled Spiderman comic, the same brother who believed that her books would be published and the brother who died before he could see her success.  I wept, having similar hurting experiences in my life, I felt the pain for her too.  Though some people might take away to never give up no matter the hardships, me, I learned one lesson– Everyone needs a champion!  The one person who believes in us, that cheers us on when we feel we’re in the dirt, the one that we sometimes get up for when we want to stay down.  I’m gladly to say I have a few champions.

So, I’m no longer a first timer. I learned craft skills, which is helpful but I learned a very important lesson I didn’t even know would be taught.  I’m a writer and would not give up writing for any reason or hardship.  This is what I want and one day, others will be entertained by the books I write.  

Why Women Have More Than One Pair of Shoes?

Two days ago in the bookstore, I spotted that same question on a book and I already knew that answer. The answer is something that in embedded in the nature of women.

Men are hunters. In centuries ago, men headed out and bagged whatever animal. An animal to feed and cloth their tribe until the next time. Whereas women, we went out and gathered. One piece of fruit wouldn’t do nay, our ancestors filled their baskets.

Nowadays, men head out to hunt. They hunt for resources some money, ladies, cars and anything else. They play sports and all that other manly stuff that shows off their masculine wonderfulness.

As for us ladies, we gather, bags, lipstick, shoes. Gathering shoes or anything else answers to our primal need and desires. Us female species look for resources, the necessaries in life. In these times, resources are different.

And though, I love strawberries and spaghetti and I love shoes that make my legs look good, the perfect red lipstick and every other item in between. So Jimmy Choo and Blahnik and Louboutain, keep flowering for the seasons.

Female Friday

I first saw Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story decades ago when TV had few channels and aired old black and white movie to fill up the channels. I watched her, in awe of her spunk, her confidence in herself and in the world around her. I thought wow I want to be a woman like that. I watched her movies, Bringing up Baby, African Queen, Lion in the Winter and On Golden Pond. I think I was the only 7 year old who watched that movie.

As I grew up and started figuring out how the world worked, my respect and awe of her grew. She donned pants when women were being escorted off the street even arrested. She had strong beliefs and spoken them never apologizing for her intelligence. And when her career tanked and she was considered box office poison, she turned her career around with the Philadelphia Story. I too wanted to have that strength and needed in my life when the life I knew and loved was shredded with my parents’ divorce.

I needed Katherine more than ever. I watched her lined face hanging and liver-spotted, her hair tucked up, heard her scratchy, posh voice and watched her hands shake. She hadn’t lost any of her spunk or intelligence. I never met her but she helped me decide on the woman I wanted to be. Katherine didn’t follow the beat of her own drum, she created the music. My music sometimes skips or hits a horrid note but Katherine taught me to Write a new song.

Ready, Set, Dress

RWA Nationals starts next Tuesday and I’m prepared. I have business cards and most importantly, my outfits are planned out and just waiting to be donned. I’ll be posting my daily dress so check back for that. I’m only missing a pair of comfortable shoes. I have a few ideas but will have to wait for weekend to check out my choices.

As a writer, I generally spend my day in comfortable clothing, old t-shirts, shorts, pj bottoms, sweats basically college gear, which really helps with my body pains. Anyway, I’m ready to dress and waiting to go to my first Nationals. Too attend the workshops, meet Rachel Gibson, the author who inspired me to write romance, meet friends from Twitter and Facebook. I will be weak, tired, overwhelmed, excited, happy, inspired and I think two weeks will be needed to recover but that’s fine.

This is a chance, an opportunity to mingle with a large crowd of romance writer, editors and agents. And I plan to dress for it in my personal style. And I’m hoping that it jolts up my confidence, has me feeling comfortable, stylish, professional, and ready to take on the world.

When was your chance to get closer to your dreams? Do you remember what you wore? How it made you feel?

Wednesday Review

Amanda Foreman with her daughter

Inside the June 2011 issue of Vogue with cover girl, Oscar winner Penelope Cruz looking her  usual gorgeous self, is a great article entitled Foreman on Fire.  The profile is on Amanda Foreman, writer of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.  

Writer Eve MacSweeney writes a great article about Amanda.  Eve peels back her layers to reveal the writer however preserving some of her privacy.  The voice of the article is easy as if she wrote about a respectable and loved friend.  Vogue has excellent writers to match their excellent content. 

Besides being entertained as a Vogue reader, I learned a few things that tilted my outlook so my viewpoint on life is fresher and brighter and most certainly, less worried.  How did all that happen in two and half pages? 

The first lesson taught me more about character.  Eve shows Amanda’s life that balances work and family.  Through this I see what is important to Amanda and can relate that to my characters.  You can read what drives Amanda to write and her love of history and how she relates it to today’s world.  And why her childhood and life led her to having five children and what she pushed aside to do what is important to her. 

Another lesson learned is the life of a writer.  Sure she might be an award-winning writer whose biography turned into a movie.  But one can relate to her.  She wrote Georgiana for years, which was also her doctorate at Oxford.  But you discover her passion.  The passion needed to work on a book with no promise of success after all that’s what all unpublished writers and some published writers face each time we sit down before our computers.  She reinforced my belief to follow your heart’s desires and not just with writing but with all that you desire, which for her was having a family. 

Those are the lessons that fueled me. I’m revving to go.  Good thing since I already started to follow them.  I hope you do too.  What are your passions?  Please share with me.

There’s No Crying in Baseball…

Tom Hanks’s famous line from A League of Their Own may be true but emotions rear up at any time or place. And maybe tears aren’t needed in baseball but emotions are required in stories especially romance novels. After all, love is the one emotion everyone chases after.

Thanks to another blog, I learned about the book, Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot: A Guide for Screenwriters written by Peter Dunne. Don’t let screenwriter turn you novelist away. It works whatever your genre.

The books offers a great many lessons but the first one is about knowing your story.
He separates this lesson into two parts:
1. Plot
2. Story

Plot is what happens and not just what happens but what happens to the protagonist.
Go ahead and read that sentence again.

Plot is what happens and not just what happens but what happens to the protagonist.

So you have the witness to a murder or a business collapse, a divorce or anything else that is outside the Protagonist. Some call it the External Conflict. This is what propels the pro tag to act.

Onto number 2– Story:
Story is what it does to the who it’s happening to.
Read it again and let it sink in.

Story is what it (the plot) does to the who (protag) it’s happening to.
So your witness now has to decide whether to go to the police or stay quiet. This plot is affecting him and his life.

These two parts are the units of a novel or script. And you can’t have one without the other.
So, you merge these two parts.

Let’s say our no-doubt-dashing hero and homicide detective, must find the murderer of the local football hero. The town where the murder occurred is hometown and as part of his job, he must notify the boy’s mother and his high-school girlfriend who broke his heart when she married his best friend. He plans to act professional and friendly without the warmth or how he always behaves with her. That’s his emotional defenses. He hides behind the badge and uses the distance to hide how much she hurt him.

When he arrives at her home, she throws herself into his arms and weeps. She tells him that she needs him. He promises to give his attention to finding her son’s murder. But his ex won’t give up, pulling at the emotion in him and so he tries a different way until he can get back to normal. Those skills he developed before have failed him.

Then something else happens. Let’s say, the victim is his son. So he has to use another tactic, use another skill to get back to his normal. Then something else happens and the protag must react and this repeats to the end of story and each time, he learns a new tool by reacting in a new way until his weakness is exposed. He might be unaware of the exposed weakness but he must change or fail.

This leads to our story’s climax when the character learns something. Here the emotion has to change because the hero has broken down his walls. Now he’s a better healed person for it.

Female Friday

With the tornadoes carving a path of destruction in the Untied States and with the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, only one female deserve to be remembered on Female Friday: Clara Barton.

On Christmas Day in 1821 in Oxford, Massachusetts, Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born.  Clara as she became know was one of five children.  At 11, she received her first patient, her brother David.  For three years she cared for him and that started her life in nursing. 

Almost three decades later, her nursing skills helped the men fighting against their brothers in war.  Nine days after the start of the Civil War, Clara tended the soldiers quartered in the US Senate chamber in Washington.  She was dedicated to these injured men so much so that after the first Battle of Bull Run, she established a main agency to obtain and distribute supplies.  Even that wasn’t good enough for her.  She was then given a pass to ride in army ambulances to provide comfort and nurse the injured back to health.

With the end of the war, in 1865, President Lincoln placed her in charge of the search for missing union men. A daunting task but one she gave her all to.  As luck would have it, a young soldier named Dorence Atwater came to her.  He had a list of 13,000 deceased Union men.  Atwater had carried this precious list through his time in the Andersonville prison.  The list became known as The Atwater List as Clara Barton named it in her official reports.  Both Atwater and Burton sent 42 headboard carvers to Andersonville and became known as the Angels of Andersonville, which was her second nickname.  The first was The Angel of the Battlefield. 

She became a celebrity in her time with her lectures seen by the populace, meeting with Susan B. Anthony on Women’s rights and as well as Fredrick Douglas about Black’s rights.  In 1869, she learned about the Red Cross and Henry Dumant’s Book, A Memory of Solferino, during her trip to Geneva.

On May 21, 1881 in Dansville, New York,  Clara became the president and founder of the American branch of the Red Cross or the American Red Cross.  To continue helping people in need, she sailed to Istanbul and opened the first American International Red Cross.  Her works continued in Armenia as well as hospitals in Cuba.   Needing funds to continue her works, she teamed up the New York World Newspaper to accept contributions for relief efforts.  Nowadays, we text in our donations.  Her last field operation was the relief effort for the victims of the Galveston Hurricane, the deadliest in US history in September 1900.  She resigned four years later at age of 83. 

On April 12, 1912 at the age of 90, she died in Glen Echo, Maryland, which is also the location of the Clara Barton National Historic Site.

The Red Cross still serves this nation in every tragedy we have suffered.  And it’s one of the greatest services this nation has.  Not to preach but if you can give $1 or 5, or whatever you can, please do and help people get back to their normal lives.  And if you did as an American, I thank you.

Wednesday’s Review

New to my blog is the Wednesday Review. It might be a book, magazine article, essay, blog post, or novella. However, my reviews will have a twist as you will read below.

This week’s review is Daddy’s Girl by Lisa Scottoline.
Natalie Greco loves being a teacher, even though she can’t keep her students from cruising sex.com during class. She loves her family, too, but her boyfriend fits better with the football-crazy Grecos than she does. Then a colleague, handsome Angus Holt, talks Nat into teaching a class at a local prison, and her world turns upside down.
 

A violent prison riot breaks out, and Nat rushes to save the life of a mortally wounded guard whose last words are:”Tell my wife it’s under the floor.” Nat delivers the cryptic message, but before she knows it, she’s suspected of murder and hiding from cops and killers alike. She is forced on the run to solve the riddle of the dead man’s words and to save her own life–and find real love.

Lisa Scottoline is a New York Times Bestseller and she has her niche. Her heroines are Italian attorneys in Philadelphia. The old writers advice is write what you know and Lisa does it with a freshness to each book. I like that she has created a brand. Her readers know the level of book they get when they pick up one with her name on it, which is one of the reasons she’s a bestseller. And this is a lesson I wish to learn from her and apply to my career.

The second lesson I learned is Plot. Daddy’s Girl’s plot twists this way and that so you don’t know where you are heading and end of the reading ride leaves you with whiplash in the greatest way. Although I’m revising a contemporary series romance I’m still perusing it with attention to how to twist the plot in unexpected ways to freshen up the manuscript.

The third lesson is what Margie Lawson calls NYT writing. That means writing at the level of New York Times bestseller. This writing seems quite simple yet it’s harder than it looks. And Margie I’m still learning. 

Another lesson is pacing. The story doesn’t slow. Natalie’s tale has moments that release the tension but the conflict it still there and the external conflict is simmering in the scenes. And the ending doesn’t drop-off. Sometimes, writers are so excited to be nearing the end that the last pages feel as a let down. This story satisfies the reader.

The last lesson I learned was the seamlessly blending of the Internal Conflict into the story and plot. I think I can improve on this front. I saw how the external and internal conflict, story and plot, came together and enriched each word on the page. So, I’m also applying that to my story.

It seems that my to-do list is growing but my writing is getting better thanks to my favorite pastime, reading.

Have you read Daddy’s Girl? Do you have something to add? Please share.

A National Newbie

In case you are unaware, Romance Writers of America, also known as RWA, is holding their national convention in New York City and just a few avenues from me. So I slapped down my registration money and made an appointment with an agent to pitch my category romance. Now,I’m not nervous about pitching. What powers up my heart rate, turns my easy and deep breaths into shallow pants is crowds. And they’ll be a crowd.

I sometimes have panic attacks when I’m in crowds. I don’t want to be the nutter, shuddering and gasping and curled in the corner. I once thought these episodes were asthma attacks but I’ve discovered I was wrong. I’m starting to prepare myself thinking about the good times I’ll have, the people I’ll meet and the workshops. But those aren’t my only thoughts.
I’m thinking about my manuscript.

I’m revising it, going over it to fix the problems, mistakes and put missing words back in and all that other stuff. So, if you are attending, I hope to meet you and if you want to learn more about RWA, here’s the link

Also does anyone out there have any advice or wants to share a story good, bad or funny, please post. I love hearing people’s tales. That’s why I read so become a star on my blog. See you at Nationals.