This blog post sort of got buried under all of the activity surrounding the release of Still Life. With Still Life in the wild, I can talk about what a wonderful time I had at this event. Though only one day, if you don’t count the author reception the night before, I met so many passionate authors and readers I can’t even count the number on my fingers and toes.
My My roommate for the event, Charlee Allden, was there to show off her books: Deadly Lover and Stealing Mercury.
I shared a table with historical romance author, Madeline Martin (who showed me the proper way to eat avocados – I now keep avocados in my fridge for snacking). She’s the author of Scottish historical romances such as Enchantment of a Highlander.
Marie Long seems to be following me from event to event. This was what? the fourth event we’ve had together? She writes the contemporary, new adult books Scarred, Scratched, and Scorned.
And then there was Abigail Sharpe. Abigail was a volunteer at the event and not there to sell her books (not that this should stop you from buying Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy or Who Wants to Marry a Doctor). Instead of standing in the corner and waiting for me to flag her down and beg for a glass of water, she picked up a stack of Blood Surfers and handed them out to everyone who crossed her path (I was giving my books away for free this weekend). Seriously, Abigail knows how to sell. Don’t get in her way, don’t try and stop her.
I had two back to back events these past few weeks. First, I was invited to be a apart a self-publishing panel at the Ancient City Romance Writers monthly meeting. Susan Keirnan-Lewis and Tmonique Stephens joined me. We had a lovely chat with the ACRW members about why we decided to self-pub, how we self-pubbed, and what the future holds for our self-pubbed books.
Then, I had a table at the Florida Library Association conference in Daytona Beach. I had great fun catching up with fellow librarians and selling books to local libraries.
I have more events coming up in April: The Book Obsessed Babes author signing event. Also, if you are one of the lucky few registered for Paradise Lost this year, I will be among you.
I had the privilege of watching the LBTC documentary with a handful of fellow FCRW members at the main branch of the Orlando Public Library. The documentary looks at the publishing industry from the viewpoint of romance authors and publishers. From the very beginning you witness the pride and the passion romance authors bring to their stories, to their fans, and to each other. The Romance Writers of America helped fund this documentary to add to the growing body of professional literature supporting romance as a genre and romance authors such as myself.
You won’t find a lot of graphs and statistics in this film. You can find that information on the RWA website. What you will find here are the personalities behind the stories we love so much. Here are a few quotes (out of so many – it’s hard to pick just a few)
Jayne Anne Krentz: “I believe it is in popular fiction that we preserve our culture’s core values. And that’s why it survives. We need it.”
Sarah Wendell: “This is the one place where you will find women’s sexuality treated fairly and positively.”
Len Barot (Radclyffe/L.L. Raand): “Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.”
Eloisa James: “Romance is one of the very few meritocracies left…Any woman sitting at her table can look at this book and say I can do it and what’s more I can do it really well. I can be Nora Roberts. Nora Roberts just had her two kids, there was a snowstorm, she sat down, she started writing. Now she owns two mountains.”
This documentary is being screened all over the country. If you have an opportunity to watch it, please do. You will not be disappointed.
As you can see from the pictures, I had a wonderful time at Coastal Magic Con, as an author and as a reader. Jennifer Morris, the con organizer, couldn’t have made my first public author signing any better. She even took time out of her schedule to meet me for lunch pre-con so I could get my (late ordered) swag to her in time to fill all of those welcome bags.
The author signing itself made me jealous. Oh, sure I got to sell my own book, but I couldn’t circle the room to buy books for myself. No fair! I have to give a shout to the amazing Cat Johnson and Nikki Jeffords. I sat in between these two amazing women who kept me calm (or at least some facsimile thereof) while I signed books, shirts, and autograph pads. Thank you, Cat & Nikki.
One of the highlights was having lunch with Jodi Vaughn, Aria Kane, and Mari Mancusi. You all know Jodi from my Starlight Presents column. I discovered Mari back when she wrote Moongazer and Tomorrowland. Aria Kane is a new discovery for me and I have her books on my TBR pile as I post this. I even got to meet fellow Codexian Alethea Kontis.
The best part of CMC was the fun built into every event. Every panel had a raffle. The dance had a fantastic DJ (don’t get me started about dancing – I haven’t danced like that since college). Cinema Craptastique was MST3K on steroids. (And another shout-out to Damon Suede for taking time to give me advice on selling superhero romances – Thanks, Damon!).
Do I even need to say that I’ll be going back next year? (There. I said it on the internet, so of course it must be true).
Today, my Viable Paradise classmate, roommate, and friend, Dawn Bonanno has featured me and four other published novelist who graduated from VP Class XVI on her blog today. Click on over and meet Camille Griep (Letters to Zell), Alison McMahan (The Saffron Crocus), Lauren Roy (Night Owls), and Tamara MacNeil (A Fine Romance).
But before you go – applications for Viable Paradise open today. If you’re a writer of Science Fiction (including Science Fiction Romance), Fantasy (including Urban Fantasy), or Horror, apply to Viable Paradise. You won’t regret it, I promise.
One of the disappointments of Viable Paradise is that it’s a one and done workshop. You can never go back again. Luckily, my friend Sean Patrick Kelly has created Paradise Lost, a more advanced writers workshop that authors can attend over and over again. Which is great because I only got to see a fraction of the sites San Antonio has to offer. Yes, I made it to the Alamo and sampled the restaurants along the Riverwalk and went shopping for cowboy boots, but I wanted to see more!
Paradise Lost allows authors to choose their own experience: the critique track or the retreat track. I opted for the critique track which included two group crit sessions, one with Chuck Wendig and one with Delilah S. Dawson. The creativity and energy flowed throughout both groups where problems were discussed, fixes suggested, and ideas pitched.
Chuck, Delilah, and Robert Jackson Bennett also presented lectures on everything from plot and theme, to How to Write a Sex Scene (the last one prefaced with shots of White Russian because you can’t write a sex scene while completely sober). We also had the unofficial addition of Marko Kloos offering us his story of Manny the Manuscript and how he became a successful self-published author.
I between lectures, I hung out in the con suite where I swapped crits with other classmates, hung out to chat, and played Cards Against Humanity. All too soon is was over and time for tearful goodbyes. At least this time, it’s not permanent. I’m going back next year, so San Antonio better be ready for me!
Starlight Presents is a semi-regular feature where I invite authors to share their latest book release with my audience. In this case I’m making an exception. I’ve invited author Sean Patrick Kelley, co-founder of Paradise Lost to talk about his inspiration for this writers workshop.
1. What made you decide to start your own workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy writers?
It’s not an easy undertaking.
After a decade long hiatus of not writing, I decided I wanted to get back in the saddle in my late 30s. I started by attending David Farland’s 2 day “Write that Novel,” class and then went to his “Nanowrimo Death March” camp in November of 2009. When I was mostly finished with that novel, at the urging of some other writers friends, I applied to Viable Paradise. I was lucky to receive an invitation to attended Viable Paradise 14.
After VP, I was very a trifle overwhelmed, but processed through all the new learning and skills and started to apply what I had learned, but I wasn’t selling yet. I was good enough of a writer to see that I had improved, and to see that my work was still flawed as well. What I couldn’t see was how to fix it myself, and so I started looking for ways to continue my education. There were many writing programs for the early writer, and there were exclusive writing groups that met for those who had professional credentials, but for those writers working at a journey persons skill level, there wasn’t a lot of options to continue your education.
I guess this is where I should say while I play an extrovert on TV, I am prone to being an introvert as much as the rest of my writer brethren. I am also, ah, not much of a joiner. If I want something, I am more likely to just make it for myself rather than ask for help, but in this case I was pretty well stuck. I felt like I had to talk through this frustration. I was lucky that a friend from college, Stephanie Leary, was also a VP grad. I reached out to her and we caught up in Dallas one week when we were both there for business event.
She shared the similar frustrations in the lack of continuing education and the perceived absence of genre writing community continuity for support in Texas. We talked about how cool it would be to host something that suited both of those needs, and in a moment of insanity I said, “We could call it Paradise Lost.” We were hooked.
We did our homework. We poled writing groups, and conducted surveys online to under what writers wanted. We talked to friends, trying to determine if people would show up. We talked to a few professional writers asking them if they could come teach. In October of 2011 we had the first Paradise Lost in Texas, here in Austin.
2. What is Paradise Lost’s mission? We’re both graduates of Viable Paradise and know what an incredible experience it was. Are you trying to recreate that experience, or do you have a different goals for PL?
We started out trying to be a place for Viable Paradise graduates to come and experience that magic again. We figured out pretty early that isn’t possible, but what’s more important was we quickly developed our own feel and culture. Now Paradise Lost is open to anyone who qualifies for the Codex writers group, and alumnus of either Taos Toolbox of Viable Paradise. We did that because we feared being too insular would limit the development of a diverse writing community, and because we realized that what we were doing was of value to more than just VP grads. That being said, we are huge fans of Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox. Those programs are in our DNA and we’ve share staff with both of them.
3. Right now you only accept applicants who have already attendedViable Paradise, Taos Toolbox, or who are members of Codex. Why did you decide to limit your attendees to just those workshops and that one forum?
I’m glad you ask this, because we receive a few impassioned pleas each year for early writers who want to attend, and it is really disheartening to have to explain this each time. It comes down to two things. The first is consistency of skill. When you’re paying to go to a professional event, where you receive critiques of your writing, you want to know that the persons sitting across from you bring as much to the table, or more, than you. The only way to guarantee that consistency, short of moving to a writing sample submission system, is to create standards which set a bar for participants abilities.
The second is that are cruel heartless writing over lords who want to crush the dreams of spunky writers who are just getting their start. Sorry, I kid. The second reason is that our professional staff are not coming to teach you how to get started writing. We structure out lectures for writers who already know how to write, and in fact are already selling their stories to paying, professional markets. The lectures they deliver are not going to be as help or relevant to a person who is just getting started. There are lots of good programs for writers out there at that level, I’ve mentioned several here. Go attend them first so that you’ve got the foundational elements of writing craft in place. Then come to Paradise Lost, and learn and challenge us to learn from you as well.
4. Do you see Paradise Lost expanding to include graduates of other workshops?
I don’t think so, because if you look at Codex membership requirements, it covers most of the other workshops we could add. I want to move away from targeting specific workshops and focus more on broad prerequisites so we hit a bigger audience. Paradise Lost has always been a genre event, but we’ve focused on Sci-fi and fantasy. As we grow I want to see us bring in others elements of genre like romance, westerns, and horror.
5. You have a very impressive line-up of guest lecturers (including Chuck Wendig and Delilah S. Dawson next year). They must be beating down your door to attend. How do you fend them off?
There has been a tremendous amount of interest in next year’s event, and the third professional staff member we are seeking is equally amazing. I suspect we will book up very fast this year. We’re a small event, and we plan to stay small because class size is important to creating the right learning environment. (Did I just say that? Good grief, those education classes from college really did sink in.)
6. Are there any success stories you can brag about? Workshopped stories that are now published?
We don’t track what stories have sold, because many of our students are already selling stories and thus we don’t feel like we should take credit for that success. We are about continuing education for early professional writers. That being said, in the years we’ve had editors on our pro staff, we have almost always placed one of the stories from the critiques. I won’t lie. That is a source of pride for me to see a student bring a story and walk away with a sell.
I’m a little late in floggingViable Paradise this year. This amazing writers workshop opened it’s doors to applications on January 1st and those doors will close on June 15th. If you write Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror (this includes Science Fiction Romance and Paranormal Romance – RWA members, take note), this workshop is a must. Unlike other residential writers workshops, VP is only one week – one very intense week, but for those of us who can’t get away for two, three, or six weeks, this is doable.
For those of you who didn’t attend the VCRW/CFRW Super Saturday yesterday, why the hell not? Seriously people. Roxanne St. Claire taught us everything we ever needed to know about revising a manuscript and she used her own first drafts as examples. When was the last time you let anyone see your first drafts? I’d be horrified, but Rocki, brave soul that she is, walked us through different variations of the same scene until we understood where she went wrong the first time.
Lucienne Diver then gave us the low-down about the role of agents in this brave new world of publishing. Now I want an agent more than ever. Lucienne may regret answering all the questions I pelted her way.
When our original social network expert had to back out of the workshop at the last minute, Lorena Streeter said “No worries,” and stepped up to the plate. She reviewed the latest and greatest about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Linked In. I didn’t know you could use hashtags on Facebook and I have a better idea of how to direct a conversation on Twitter. Go me!
What I’m saying is, the next time you see there’s a Super Saturday happening in your area – don’t ignore it. If you do, you will lose out an an opportunity to connect with other writers. If there is only one thing you learn during a workshop like this, it’s that writers need other writers.