With a Little Help from My Friends

The first morning at the RWA conference saw us playing. There’s not much going on that first day, until you get to the Literacy Signing that night. (There’s a great video of the madness that is the Literacy Signing here, if you care to see.)

So, with no need to attend the business meetings, we took off on a long walk with my roommates. The lovely Tawna Fenske already did a blog post (she’s so efficient) about me and Marcella as bunk mates. The thing is, we had a great time together. I wanted to see Rockefeller Center, Tawna wanted to see Central Park.

Of course we did the carriage ride.

Our driver had a lovely Irish accent, too. Amusingly his patter consisted of him pointing out sites where movies had been filmed. Most of which we’d never seen. I finally asked him if he’s a movie buff and he admitted that, no, it was just part of the job. He seemed surprised to be carting around a carriage-full of romance writers, particularly when I told him what I write.

More and more, conference for me is about spending time with friends like this. People I usually only “see” online. Laura Bickle is one of those. She arrived later that day, with just enough time to tie a little wine on before I had to work the registration desk before the signing.
Turns out that’s a great time to work the desk, because a lot of the big authors arrive right before the signing. The best part? They’re all registered under their REAL names.

So when Eloisa James stepped up and I couldn’t find her packet, I had to ask her if she has another, legal name. At this point, they look abashed and glance around to see who’s nearby. She leaned over the desk and said, “…” See, I swore not to tell. But I learned at least five secret identities. And yes, it’s totally enough just to know that I know the secrets.

The other funny thing was that the big speakers, like Diana Gabaldon, were done the great favor of having their registration stuff put in their rooms. Only a lot of them hadn’t BEEN to their rooms yet. Ironically, they couldn’t enter the signing without a name badge. When I told Diana her stuff was in her room, she gave me the terrified puppy-dog eyes. This was half-an-hour before the signing. She was afraid that, if I sent her to check-in and go to her room, she’d never make it through all the people in the lobby.

I ranted once before about how writers will never be rock stars. But Diana Gabaldon at a huge gathering of romance writers and readers? Totally a recognizable rock star.

We printed her up a special name badge. She was charming and grateful.

As I do every year, I also attended the Secrets of the Best-Selling Sisterhood seminar with Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This time I asked how they’ve maintained their friendship over all these years – if they have strategies. They seemed taken aback by the question and I wondered if maybe it wasn’t always easy. Finally they said that they don’t live near enough to irritate each other.
See? Just another reason to value those online friendships.

But it was really lovely to spend some in-the-flesh time with them, too.

Stealing My Own Thunder

Okay, so, yesterday I told you all about my Attack Cupcake at the Harlequin Party.

I know you’re all still waiting to hear how the big outfit went over. You know, the one I angsted about, that took the combined efforts of at least five people to figure out?

Meh.

I don’t really have any good pics of it, but I’m posting this one that I don’t like for posterity’s sake.

The outfit was fine, I think. It didn’t quite gel, I wasn’t Katy Perry in Gautier, but it was good enough.

Or it would have been, except for Cat Woman.

See, I dressed as Cat Woman for the FFP Gathering (lead pic with the ever vivacious Michelle Miles). It was a crazy evening for me. I made sure The Gathering was set up, went to the Carina Press cocktail party, then back to The Gathering. So I just brazened it out and wore the Cat Woman outfit to the Carina Press cocktail party.

It was a total hit.

I thought I’d get some funny looks and snide remarks, but no. Everyone seemed to think I was making a fabulous statement. I kept explaining I was double-booked – they didn’t care. Angela James said she had the urge to grab my ass, but thought it might be sexual harassment, even though she’s not technically my boss. Thankfully I managed to persuade her that she has ultimate power over whether Carina accepts my work and she refrained. She did, however, attempt to talk me into wearing the Cat Woman costume to the formal Black and White Ball later that night.

“Um, this is not a formal outfit by any stretch,” I said.

“Those are totally formal ears!” they assured me.

The upshot is, I put on my very fancy, extremely complicated, layered outfit, that really did look pretty close to what I’d imagined and everyone was disappointed. Over and over they stopped me saying, “Oh no, why did you take off Cat Woman??”

I would respond, “hey, I worked really hard on this outfit!” And they would say it was nice, but I could tell they didn’t care.

They only wanted Cat Woman.

One woman said to me, “you should have worn that costume – then no one here tonight would ever have forgotten the name ‘Jeffe Kennedy.'”

There’s a moral to this tale, though I’m not sure what it is. Any guesses?

Would you have worn Cat Woman to the formal ball?

The Tale of the Attack Cupcake

Thanks to the hysterically funny Victoria Dahl for this pic of me at the Harlequin party. Yes, this was well after midnight. I still like it.

I talked a little bit about the RWA Conference on Word Whores on Sunday. I’ll keep filling in with the stories this week. But since I already started with the Harlequin party on Word Whores, I’ll finish telling you all about that.

So, I headed over to the Harlequin party late. This is because I was at The Gathering through the PRISM ceremony. (Petals and Thorns took second place – alas no trophy for me! It was still a way fun party.) I dashed out of there, changed clothes, and went down to the taxi stand. The bell captain was loading another group of gals into a cab, so I waited. This pretty young woman walked up to me and asked if I was going to the Harlequin party and would I like to share a cab. We laugh, because we’re both dressed in black and white, so the “going to the HQ Black & White Ball” is such an obvious flag. I am, of course, delighted to share the taxi ride.

She introduces herself: Nalini Singh.

Yeah – way famous, mega selling author Nailini. And, it turns out, nicest person in the world.

We chat on the ride. When we get to the Waldorf-Astoria, she sticks with me and introduces me to people. I got pulled away at one point and lost her. Later I ran into her again and I apologized for poofing. She laughs and says that’s how these parties are. Then she asks if everyone is being nice to me.

Everyone was so great to me.

This party was AMAZING. The DJ played every girl power song you can think of while everyone danced barefoot or in our party-favor Harlequin footy socks. I had a mini-chocolate eclair with gold leaf on it. The coffee stations had bottles of liqueur lined up to be added to your cup at will. I drank flute after flute of champagne. There were stations manned by handsome young men where you could build your own ice cream cone or cupcake.

After lots of dancing, I decided I deserved a cupcake. I chose a red velvet cupcake and the handsome young man swirled cream cheese frosting on it with a pastry bag, then added my choice of chocolate shavings. It was a thing of beauty.

Proudly I carried it, and my champagne up to this balcony area. There I see Candy Havens. We hug. We chat. I feel my plate wobble. We both watch my special cupcake tumble from the plate and splat, icing-down, on the carpet.

We start to giggle. Yeah, who invited us to the fancy party?

I recover and reach to pick it up, but even as I do, this woman facing away from us, taking a photograph, takes a step back to position herself. Candy and I watch in impotent horror as her stiletto heel impales the crumpled cupcake, then rides off with her as she strides away.

We totally lost it. Gasping with laughter, we are unable to stop her, to tell her. She disappears into the crowd.

And, of course, because we were laughing so hard, I hadn’t picked up the frosting splat before another bare-footed guest stepped squarely in it.

Alas.

Oh, and I did get another cupcake. After I cleaned up the first.

I sat down to eat it.

I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Rain

A new fire started yesterday, just south of Los Almos and this morning is a mile away from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Amazing how the smoke plume casts a shadow across the sunlit clouds.

After night fell, we could see the flames along the ridge. From our porch 35 miles away, we could see the flares rise and fall.

Just incredible.
I’m frivolously off to the RWA convention now. So I might not be posting much this week. Internet charges are rumored to be $17/day. We’ll see.

The good news is, the weather might be turning. Pray for rain for us, and less for those getting flooded!

Turn, Turn, Turn

Yeah, it’s that time of year again. The time when grown women camp out on the living room rug and play with ribbons, hole-punches and silk flowers.

Being a writer is a pretty good gig.

Last night I assembled these, so I can ship them off today. No jump drives this time – just little bubble bottles, which is fun. And considerably less expensive, especially considering I’ve got 240 of the little cuties. (I was going to call them “suckers” and changed my mind.) The labels also say that Sapphire is coming soon.

It ended up being a family effort. David helped me wrap the labels around the tubes and attach the ribbons. At one point he informed me there is no such thing as an incorrect job, only unique ones. The kitties helped, too. If you get one with a ribbon that looks a bit gnawed on, well, that makes it extra special.

Zip didn’t help because there was a thunderstorm in the movie we watched, so he had to take cover.

It’s funny thinking about that Petals and Thorns has been out for nearly a year. July 13 is her one-year birthday. Last year, the RWA convention was a month later (actually this year is a fluke and is occurring a month early) and so I was there about two weeks after Petals and Thorns released. Once there I thought, golly gee whiz, I should have done some promo, but it flat out didn’t occur to me.

Part of is was that I didn’t get my cover until about a week before the release date, so it would have been tight.

But I also think that I didn’t really value this little book. It wasn’t a Big 6 book deal. It wasn’t one of my novels. It certainly didn’t compare to what some of my friends were going to convention with.

Comparisons – such invidious things.

Now, a year later, I’ve seen how well Petals and Thorns has done. The reviews, the private messages, the sheer enthusiasm of the readers – well, it’s all been just lovely.

So this will be my last big push for her and it’s really mostly to scatter rose petals for Sapphire‘s debut. Hopefully Petals and Thorns will win some prizes this year, receive her tiara and have her promenade down the cat walk.

It’s been a good year.

Strawberry Moon Interludes

I was so het up to discuss my fashion emergency yesterday, that I forgot to mention that I skipped over to Karen Katchur’s blog, to talk about fitness and writing.

No, I haven’t gotten one of those treadmill desks. Mostly because I think it would look ugly in my office. Priorities, people!

The other thing I’ve been forgetting to mention is that I’ll be in Memphis this weekend. The River City Romance Writers are hosting me on Saturday and we’ll be talking about novellas and “writing tight.” Should be very fun. The rest of the time you’ll likely find me wandering Beale Street with a frozen daiquiri in my hand.

If all goes as planned, that is.

Today I find myself between projects. I remember this feeling, from when I was only a reader. I’d finish a novel and, still swimming in the lovely world the author had created, try to decide what to do next. More often than not, I’d turn back to the first page and start over again. Or go through and re-read my favorite bits – which usually morphed into a full second read anyway.

Then I’d choose the next book. Sometimes this would be dictated by school, or by what was due at the library soon. But every once in a while I enjoyed the luxury of spreading out all the waiting books and selecting whatever seemed most exciting.

I’m kind of there right now.

I’ve sent off all my “supposed to’s.” All my deadlines, internal and external, have been met. I’m holding off until after the RWA conf on one novel. The other is out. I’m all caught up.

Work is quiet, too. I’d really pushed to finish things, both in work and writing, because I anticipated this month would get crazy. But the projects haven’t come in yet. They’re still hovering on the horizon, like storm clouds that will eventually gain enough momentum to swoop down on us.

But for now the sun is shining and I feel like I should be making hay. Instead I’m kind of lying in the grass, lazily eating strawberries.

The Strawberry moon is a gentle moon, isn’t she? Full and sweet, serene in the twilight sky.

I might sit here and enjoy it, just a little longer.

Village Fashion Assistance

Why, yes, that is Katy Perry dressed in Gautier from the June 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. And there’s a very good reason she’s there for you to admire.

Let me tell you the story.

See, I’m going to the RWA National Conference the last week of June. This will be my fourth time. This year I knew I’d be invited to the Carina party, as one of their authors. Author cocktail party? Pretty much a slam dunk in fashion-planning department.

Now I had a bit of an additional complication, in that I discovered the Carina cocktail party would be right before the FFP Gathering. Not a big deal, right? One party to the next, stick to the same drink, all is fine, tra-la tra-lay.

Only there’s one little hitch: the FFP party is a Superhero theme and I have my heart set on being Cat Woman. I don’t think I’m ruining any surprises here by leaking that, especially since I fully expect to be far from the only Cat Woman at a Superhero party attended primarily by women. In fact, I figured I’d just go to the Carina party in my Cat Woman outfit. It’s pretty demure, since I’ll be more of a Michelle Pfeiffer version than the Halle Berry iteration since, hello, I do not have Halle Berry’s vicious body. Dress myself only in black leather straps? I don’t think so. My costume looks like this (sorry it’s so small) and I figured I could be brassy and just wear it to the cocktail party, too.

But, and this is a big “but,” then I was happily invited to the Harlequin party, too. I wasn’t expecting to, but since Carina is a Harlequin imprint, they included us questionable digital types. It’s after the FFP party, so that’s fine. And, hey, everyone says it’s THE party to go to, so woo hoo! Except, I get the invite and it’s a rooftop Black and White ball, formal dress.

I’ve got nothing.

Clearly I’m not wearing the Cat Woman outfit there. Even if it wasn’t an outfit that can’t be worn outside of air conditioning (lemme tell you, that thing does NOT breathe), it just ain’t formal, by any stretch. I look in my closet – nothing. You know what that means, right?

~FASHION EMERGENCY~

I’m going in a couple of weeks, have practically no time to shop, and no inspiration.

So, I’m getting my hair done – my carefully planned pre-conference beautifying appointment – flipping through Vanity Fair and whining about my fashion emergency to a sympathetic Larry. I get to the above Katy Perry pic and say, this! This is what I should wear. Larry peers over my shoulder. “That’s perfect,” he says, “that’s exactly what you should wear.”

I say, “Um, Larry, that outfit is Gautier and out of my league on so many levels it’s not funny.”

“Oh no,” he waves the scissors in the air, “you could totally fake this outfit.”

He outlines how I’ll do it. Do I have a black skirt I could slit up the front? As a matter of fact, I do. I have a black pleather pleated Jones New York skirt that would work. Put a white lace slip or skirt under it, black heels, black leggings – I love how he never once considers putting white stretch lace on my thighs – with a big white blouse on top, belted with a fabulous Santa Fe belt.

I’m sold.

Of course, this is not so easy as it sounds. (Did it even sound easy?)

Once I left the salon, clutching my pic of Katy Perry in *my* outfit, which Larry thoughtfully tore out of the magazine for me, I began to lose heart.

“Just find a little black dress,” my mother counsels. “You don’t have time for this.”

I went shopping Saturday morning and nothing, just nothing lit me up. I began to despair. Sunday I hit the consignment stores and Goodwill thinking I could cannibalize a wedding dress for the white lace underskirt. Big goose egg.

Then, in Dillards, of all places, I found a big white jacket – spunky, sheer and shimmery. It’s the last one, and I make the sales gal take it off the mannequin for me. It’s a large, turns out, but that works perfectly. I find some black leggings with black lace edging at Kohls. Already bought funky black heels for the Cat Woman look. I’m rolling now.

Back at home, I start Googling for wedding slips. KAK is helping me via IM. But even her Google-Fu, which is very strong, fails. She does, however, find me this fab black corset to wear under the white jacket.

Now we just need the lace skirt, which totally should not be this hard. But it is.

She’s combing eBay. Laura Bickle comes on IM and I catch her up on the Story So Far. Almost immediately, Laura finds this skirt on eBay. It’s perfect. It’s in Hong Kong.

BUT, they have express shipping and it’s not that much overall.

Win!

So, all the parts are acquired or on order. Yeah, we’ll see how it all works out.

I think it will be fabulous. I’ll try to post pics of the final product.

Could never have done this without my pals.

Digital Publishing – What a Long, Strange Year It’s Been

Today is Carina Press’s one year anniversary. Word-Whores is hosting one of Carina’s executive staff, Aideen O’Leary-Chung, Director of Digital Commerce for Harlequin and Carina Press. If you hie over there, you stand to win some pretty fab prizes.

It’s funny that it’s been a year since Carina launched. So much has happened since then. Reading through the various posts (there are 20 in all), it’s interesting to hear the reminiscences of the Carina folks. It makes me remember how it all appeared to us, from the outside.

Today is the anniversary of Carina’s launch – when they debuted their first books to the world. But we first heard about Harlequin’s new digital imprint quite a bit before that. The news astonished everyone because, *gasp* Carina would not be offering advances.

This sent RWA into a frenzy. The Romance Writers of America non-profit corporation is one of, if not the most, powerful writers organizations in the world. The venerable standard of RWA has been, for decades, that to qualify as an approved publisher, they must give their writers advances. This has been a non-negotiable standard that, really, any legitimate publisher could meet. It was a low bar for a very long time.

And then the world turned and times changed.

With the advent of electronic publishing, paying the author up front no longer made so much sense. Instead epubs offer authors much higher royalties (~35% for most as opposed to 8-10% for print). Carina chose that business model.

Well, this turned into a BFD, because Carina was an imprint of Harlequin, which means just a subset of the overall company, and Harlequin has been the queen of romance publishing for longer than RWA has been in existence. And boom! Harlequin could no longer be an approved publisher by RWA.

At the time, no one could understand why Harlequin was doing it. They were accused of vanity publishing (where authors pay to get published). People thought they were completely nuts to potentially compromise their publishing empire for, what? some stupid ebooks??

They sorted it out. I believe (and someone correct me if I’m wrong) Harlequin satisfied RWA by legally separating themselves from the Carina digital arm. Harlequin is approved. Carina is not.

And look what the last year has wrought.

Ebooks are now the only part of the publishing market that’s growing instead of losing money. More and more people have ereaders. Everyone wants to digitally publish. I’d love to see a list of all the epubs started in the last six months.

I set my sights on Carina because they have the forward-thinking excitement and savvy of the electronic market founded on the Harlequin rock of excellent business sense. I’m so pleased that Sapphire will be published by them in October.

Happy One-Year Anniversary Carina Press!