Sunshine and Silken Sands

Okay, I’m getting my feet under me again. Thank you, everyone, for all your kindness and support.

I might even have looked at some kitten pictures yesterday. David is egging me on for a Norwegian forest cat. Wouldn’t that be fun?

So, finally, here’s my break-down of the Gulf Coast Writers Silken Sands Conference last weekend. It was a lovely conference and I’m so glad I went, even with what happened while I was gone. A small conference like this lets you have so many more opportunities to hang in a casual way with the editors and agents in attendance. That OMIGODINEEDTOPITCH OCD frenzy just never develops.

It’s actually fun.

So, when I got in, the fabulous conference organizer, Jillian Chantal, picked me up from the airport. My hotel room had a view of the beach.

AND of the pool bar. You folks know me. I just love me a pool bar.

I soaked in the view – and the moisture – then hooked up with Jillian and Angela James, executive editor of Carina Press, to head to this We Got Crabs place next door.

Very fun place. We sat outside, enjoyed the live band. AND they had $2.50 martinis.

There’s Angela, looking happily dwarfed by her martini.

I got to have fresh crab. Even though it took me a while to get the bib open.

Thank you, Angela, for the picture!

On Friday morning, I grabbed a little beach time with Carolyn Crane’s second book in her Disillusionists trilogy, Double Cross. Man, did I gobble up these books. Such a fascinating approach to the use of psychic energy. Her cast of characters is like a deeply twisted Justice League. I’m working on getting her to write more! This is one of my favorite parts of being an author – I can stalk other authors without them being so suspicious and then badger them into giving me more of what I want. Guerilla author – that’s me.

Then Angela took me and two other Carina Press authors out to lunch. Katie Reus and Wynter Daniels were delightful companions and Angela a charming and generous hostess. I got this amazing shrimp boat platter:

Afterwards, we attended Angela’s seminar on building your author brand and author websites. Very informative. And she analyzed our websites, too. She took great care to make us feel like valued members of her publishing family. It was really lovely.

That evening was the costume party – come as your favorite literary character. That’s the picture at the top. Me as Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. I carried the book with me as a clue, but nobody got it. Mainly because very few people there had read the book. Seriously people, this is such a good book! How can I make more people read it???

On Saturday morning, I got to pitch The Middle Princess to a lovely editor from St. Martins, who I’d already chatted with (small conference for the win!), so it was laid back and pleasant. It helped that we sat on the patio overlooking the beach. Okay, it was a little weird because Angela and my Ellora’s Cave editor, Grace Bradley, were also taking pitches at nearby tables. I felt like a pitch-slut. But, I also know that Middle Princess isn’t right for either of those presses and I’m writing stuff for them.

I may or may not have put in a little more beach time after that.

After that, I had lunch with Grace, which was lovely and low-key. The conference provided yummy box lunches and they made a (mostly) Vegan one for her, so we took our lunches and had a long, leisurely conversation. I attended some workshops that afternoon and spent a bit of time at the pool bar with the charming Keri Ford.

This was St. Patrick’s Day and by evening the beach was a MADHOUSE like you would not believe.

I had a lovely low-key dinner with several author friends, Katie, Wynter, Cindy Eden and new friend Manda Collins, who suggested a perfect high-concept pitch for Middle Princess.

Sunday morning – well, if you’ve been reading you know Saturday night and Sunday morning were bad for me. But I did my workshop on the Erotic Story Arc. (Thank you Keri Ford for the pic!)

Grace came to the workshop and had great input. Keri took a pic of us together, but it’s on Grace’s phone and she’s on vacation in the Caribbean, which makes me bitter on several levels. Hopefully I’ll get that eventually and post it here.

The always-generous conference organizers gave me a ride back to the airport, along with Jenny Bent. It was fun to get to talk to her and discover we have surprising things in common. What a delightful person she is.

That’s the round-up. In case you haven’t been reading carefully: try the small conferences. *Totally* worth it.

Missing My Muse

Thank you, everyone, for all the kind words and heartfelt sympathy on yesterday’s post. It helps a great deal to know so many of you out there care and share this particular kind of grief.

I took yesterday off to wallow and let myself just be sad. Today I’m trying to move onward.

And I really tried to write today’s post about something else, but clearly I’m not done thinking about Teddy and her enormous impact on our lives. This picture is the last we have of her – that David texted to me Thursday afternoon, so I could see she’d gotten out into the sun and was enjoying herself.

Naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot about Teddy and all the times we’ve shared over the years. David and I have been trading memories. And it’s funny, because it occurred to me that we got kitten-Teddy right when I first “became” a writer. It was on my mind, too, because someone asked me this weekend, at the really wonderful Silken Sands Conference, about my writing history.

Astonishing that over 16 years have gone by.

I remember that time well. I cut bait on my PhD, took a Masters degree and ran. I’d decided not to do research, but to become a writer. I got a job that paid pretty decently and gave me the freedom to write. To celebrate that job and my new direction, I bought a Maine coon kitten. Teddy.

She sat on my lap while I wrote. One of my early essays was about her, published in a literary magazine dedicated to odes of all kinds.

One thing I wanted to tell you. Early Sunday morning, when David and I were talking about the bad night he’d spent with her, he suddenly said “whoa.” It was just after six his time, and a cat had just looked in the front door. “A bobcat?” I asked. No, a domestic cat, he though. Orange and striped.

Now this is odd, because we don’t really have domestic cats wandering our rural neighborhood. The houses are quite a distance apart and nobody lets their cats roam far, because the danger from bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions is very real. Especially when the light is dim. He’d never seen this cat before. It looked in and ran off. We haven’t seen it again.

I like to think it was Teddy’s spirit guide.

Sand, Sun and the Erotic Story Arc

I’m starting to think beach.

Not this particular beach, but the one I’ll be visiting in Pensacola, Florida for the Silken Sands Conference March 16-18. I’m so looking forward to this conference, not just for the warm and the beach, but because it’s a small conference packed with a lot of really great people. Two of my favorite editors, Angela James (Carina Press) and Grace Bradley (Ellora’s Cave) will be there, along with Holly Blanck (St. Martin’s) who I’d like to be one of my favorite editors. 😀 There will also be fabulous author friends there and I’m looking forward to hanging with them.

So, I’m working up my presentation in my head. Brewing it up so I can start making some slides. My workshop? The Erotic Story Arc: Not a Contradiction in Terms.

Yeah – you know what I mean.

A lot of people think an erotic story is simply porn and nothing more. And – hey, let’s face it – some can be. Over on Word Whores this week, we’ve been having an interesting debate on action scenes and whether we skim them as readers. The consensus has been that both action scenes and sex scenes suffer by being all stage direction without real story. So, in the erotic story, the sexual interaction takes center stage, but it still must serve to move the character from one place to another. That’s the core of a story: how the characters change.

Often the change in the characters in an erotic story is the simple coming together. They start out strangers and end up together – classic romantic story arc. There’s also the sexual journey, which usually involves some kind of self-discovery. I like the stories about breaking taboos or old beliefs, liberating the characters to embrace more of the world than they did before.

Any that I’m missing? I’m also looking for suggestions, of really well-done erotic stories that were also moving and meaningful.

And, if you want to see my workshop or just come hang at the beach with some fab writing and publishing people, you can still register!