Whew. I have now been to my first RT Booklovers Convention, and I tellya, it won’t be my last. I had a fantastic time, met a large number of the people I stalk on Twitter, as well as a fair number of those who stalk me, had my rock star moment when I collected the RT Award (Reviewer’s Choice for Erotic Romance), met lots of the great people at my publisher, hung out with lots of fantastic writers, AND also for extra special bonus, it was New Orleans, so that’s always fun, too. Oh, and I got tattooed.
Trying to do a full recap of the entire 5? 6? day extravaganza is too much, so some fun photos, amusing anecdotes, and random information follows, after my Top Ten Things I Learned at RT 2014:
Top Ten Things I Learned at RT 2014 (Some of which I already knew…):
1. Suzanne Brockman is super nice. (See also Heather Graham, Eloisa James, etc…)
2. You can never have too much creme brulee.
3. There’s no reason to panic over hair and makeup if you can have professionals do it.
4. Damon Suede isn’t just a masculine pen name.
5. I can be femme for five straight days and not die.
6. A surprisingly (to me) large number of romance authors are M.D.s.
7. My pain tolerance isn’t what it used to be.
8. Forever Romance at Hachette/Grand Central Publishing has an awesome team.
9. Awards are remarkably validating.
10. Absinthe is just as good as I remembered.
Details and photos under the cut:
So I met Suzanne Brockman in the registration line. When I got to the hotel on Wednesday they had closed convention registration “for lunch” so me and a hundred or so other people lined up to wait for them to re-open. (They were due to reopen at noon and Mark Coker’s presentation on price and popularity data for Smashwords indie authors was due to start at noon, too. So I hoped to get my badge and hurry to see what I could of it.) I had of course just spent far too long trying to get my packages from the hotel, and realized I wouldn’t really get a chance to eat for a while, so I was standing in line with my too-heavy bags, packages, etc… trying to edge along in the line and eat a chocolate covered granola bar and check Twitter all at the same time. The woman behind me in line was doing the same, eating a peanut butter sandwich with one hand, trying to check her texts with the other, and trying to move a tote bag of books etc. along when the line would move. Thank goodness I’m not the only one doing it, I thought. Then some women a little further back in the line squeed. “You’re Suzanne Brockman, aren’t you?” they asked the woman with the peanut butter sandwich. “Yes, I am,” she answered. More squeeing ensued, and squee somehow led to talk of Joss Whedon, and Ms. Brockman then recounted a story of how she won dinner with Joss Whedon as part of a charity auction, and told us all how super nice Joss was, even though she fangirled him something fierce. And thus the cycle of squee and super niceness was complete.
AWARDS ARE VALIDATING
So one of the big reasons I came to RT was to collect the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Erotic Romance. Winning this award for my book Slow Surrender is a Really Big Deal. They announce the winners in advance in RT Magazine, so we knew about it in April, which is a good thing, because it took that long to get my outfit together. Or maybe it just took me two months to be ready to seize the moment. Next thing you know, I’m striding across the stage ready to grab the microphone like Steven Tyler of Aerosmi–I mean, walking up to the podium with 60 seconds to deliver my acceptance speech. The organizers gave us one minute each, and had asked us to not just deliver 60 seconds of thank-yous but to say something personal about ourselves or our book.
My speech was somewhat improvised, since with only 60 seconds I didn’t have time to express more than one basic thought, which was this: I wrote Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords 22 years ago and self-published it with the mission of trying to change to world, specifically trying to create a world where BDM was better accepted than it was. And now we’re in a world where BDSM actually IS better accepted! Yeah!! I was maybe a teensy part of that change, but readers were an even bigger part of that change, and I thanked them and the romance industry for celebrating female pleasure–not just sexual pleasure, but the pleasure of READING, too!–because there’s immense power in that. And so thank you for using that power for good and changing the world. Something like that. (As far as I know, no one took video of the awards so I can’t show it to you!)
But anyway, yeah, it turns out winning an award like this really does make you think, wow, I wrote something good, I did what I set out to do. I knocked one out of the park, and now I want to do it again. Based on the interest my agent is getting in my work from publishers right now, it appears to make publishers feel that way about me, too.
Speaking of publishers, I got to meet a bunch of people on the Forever Romance team, finally. I had met my editor, Latoya Smith, before, but everyone else who works on the imprint have just been email addresses to me. I went to see their Publisher Spotlight, and we had two events where we got to hang around and get to know one another — staff and authors. Forever was one of the sponsors of the Mardi Gras World party on Wednesday night, which meant we authors got to throw beads from a float, but before the parade started we hung around for about an hour, talking and goofing around, and then on Thursday night the Forever staff and all the Forever authors went out to a private dinner (which was fabulous, by the way, and some of the best brisket I’ve ever eaten). Much exchanging of business cards and much mutual stalking on Twitter ensued. They are a smart, energetic, impressive group of women and I hope to be working with them quite a bit more in the future.
Maybe it’s just me and the circles I move in, but I felt like there was a lot of LGBT representation among the authors and readers I met and in the advertising I saw, books I received, etc. Probably some of that has to do with Riptide Publishing and Dreamspinner Press being as active as they were with sponsorships and promotions. Samhain has a fair bit of m/m stuff in their stable, too, and they were very present, as usual. Even Forever, the Hachette/GCP imprint that published my het BDSM billionaire books, is looking for m/m now, so that’s fun, eh? People tell me that RT didn’t used to be so inclusive, but since this was my first one, all I know is I felt like queer folks were happily everywhere, as were writers of m/m of varying genders and sexualities themselves. I met Rachel Haimowitz from Riptide very briefly, and authors like Kerry Adrienne.
Those of you who have followed me on the Internet for a long time know that I have tattoos on my arm of black feathers, which I started doing myself, punk style, with India ink and a sewing needle, back when I published Telepaths in 1992. There is supposed to be one for each book I’ve published, though lately I’ve been falling behind, and so I started catching up by having Walt Clark, formerly of NOLA Tattoo (and now at Freaky Tiki Tattoo) put four feathers onto me, one for Mind Games, my first real Romance with a Capital R novel, and then three to represent the Struck by Lightning trilogy. I plan to add 4 more, for the Magic U books, in August when I go to Authors After Dark in Charlotte, NC. (Stella Price, the organizer, apparently knows her audience well. She allows two vendors: one with corsets and one tattoo artist.) It turns out I’m not as much of a masochist as I used to be: pain seems to hurt more. Or maybe I just don’t enjoy it as much? I did enjoy Walt’s company quite a bit, though. And the ink looks beautiful. (It’s so vivid when it’s fresh!) If I’m here next year for Saints & Sinners maybe it’ll be time for another one by then.
MEETING NEW PEOPLE
I finally got to tell Heidi Cullinan how much I liked Nowhere Ranch. Except actually I forgot to tell her in person when we met, so I told her on Twitter instead. One night in the bar, I finally met L.A. Witt, making me probably one of the few US-based writers who met her writing partner Alex Voinov first. (You can thank Sarah Frantz for that! Sarah was also there, though I only got to see her in passing, and I believe Lynne from the UK, who I met when I flew over for the IASPR conference was ALSO there, though I only saw her from a distance and didn’t get to talk to her!) Coincidentally, L.A. Witt and Anna Zabo also got tattoos while in NOLA, and at the Forever dinner a few other authors were considering it!
Among the Forever folks I talked to most: Sofia Tate and Shannon Richard (that’s ree-shard). And Rie Warren, who has done an incredibly daring thing by writing a series that has a male/male pairing in the first book and a het pairing in the second one. I might be the only other author I can name at the moment who has done a similar move mid-series.
Let’s see, who else? Damon Suede, Liz Talley, myself, and Candis Terry are all alphabetical, so we were adjacent during the Giant Book Fair and got to chat a lot.
I also shared a table with Jamie K. Schmidt (whose dragon-shifter novel The Queen’s Wings is newly out) and Lori Perkins (my agent and the editor of 50 Writers on 50 Shades of Grey) at the Jenny Bent Agency bingo party, at which immense amounts of prizes and swag were given out, and got to say hi to Joy Daniels there, too. Louise Fury is the agents at Jenny’s agency now, and I got to say hello to Lisa Renee Jones there, as well. And I caught up with another Twitter pal there who is making that transition from reader to author and now I realize I’ve spaced out on her pen name. Dangit.
Olivia Gates! Winner of this year’s LA Banks Warrior Woman award, she’s a romance novelist from Egypt whose husband told her not to return because it’s too dangerous there now. She started life over with her daughter and two suitcases in the US. Ended up chatting with her at the Harlequin “prom” party. And Delilah Dawson! Whose steampunk book won an RT Award and now I really want to read it. Talked quite a bit with Christa McHugh at the Avon cupcakes and wine party. And made mutual fanfic confessions with Cyndy Aleo and Tara Sue Me at that same party. Yes, where else but at a romance convention would they cater a party entirely with wine and cupcakes? I also got to meet Chris Cox, who writes m/m and also is a fan of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles. And the Book Divas!
Of course it was also really great to catch up with a bunch of my “science fiction/fantasy” peeps, like Jessica Freely, Mary Robinette Kowal, Carrie Vaughn. (And Marjorie Liu was there somewhere, though I didn’t see her, and Malinda Lo!) Meanwhile, in California, the Nebula Awards were being given out, and for the first time in the history of the awards women writers swept all categories. Not too shabby. And I connected with a bunch of the “Ravenous alumni,” all folks who had published with Ravenous Romance around the time I did, like Em Lynley, Louisa Bacio, and KT Grant. Rachel Kramer Bussel was also there, working on an article or two about the convention.
And I know I’m forgetting people but hey, my brain is FRIED to a sizzling crisp after this con.
Of course then there were people I knew there there somewhere but who I never laid eyes on! Nicole Peeler (who Remittance Girl tells me I must meet), Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, and Tiffany Reisz will all be on my “next time” list!
All in all a good time was had, and now I need to get some sleep. This coming weekend, I’ll be at Wiscon! And next week Book Expo America!