Monday, July 21, 2014

Conference 101

So, you're going to the annual RWA what?

If you're like me, signing up for a conference is a double-edged sword. You want to go network and learn, but the overwhelming urge to stay home nags at the soul.

Over the years and the dozen of conferences I've attended - both small and large, I've come away with a few things that keep me sane.

1. Leave the big, everyday pocketbook at home! At every conference I've attended they give you a totebag - you don't need your pocketbook too. Bring a small bag that you can tuck inside the totebag with a few essentials. Trust me, you don't need a whole lot. You'll be going from early morning to late at night, you don't need the extra bag!

2.  Bring a few of your favorite snacks. Conference food is (a) not always good and (b) not abundant. You don't get a choice...and at one conference at few years ago, over the four days and several lunches and dinners, the conference hotel served the exact same chicken at every meal only smothered with a different color sauce each time. YUCK. That gets old FAST. It's also unlikely you'll have the time to eat off-site for every meal. So when those midnight munchies hit, you want to be prepared with a few snacks in your room.

3. Bring a sweater. The conference rooms are usually set to FREEZING.

4. Have a bottle of water in your bag. Along with the freezing conference rooms, the dry air has a habit of making us dehydrated.

5. Get over the idea you have to attend every workshop, every party, every meal, etc. You DON'T! The national conference is four days of non-stop networking and learning and putting faces with the names you see everyday on the loops - but it can be overwhelming. There is nothing wrong with taking a break. Sneak in an afternoon nap, take a few hours to walk around the host city and enjoy where you are. Taking time for yourself will give you the opportunity to sit back and recharge - important for all us.

Sadly, the conference wasn't in my budget this year, so I won't be there. I'll be there in spirit and can't wait for all the blogs to come. If you are going, ENJOY!

Monday, July 14, 2014

RWA Nationals - Cause for Controversy?

Wow. Some strangeness has been happening in the blogosphere surrounding RWA nationals and the choice of content for the workshops. Now, I've never been to nationals before, but I am a somewhat seasoned con-goer and I want to set the record - at least from my perspective - straight...

First, I can hear you all exclaiming. "Bianca D'Arc has never been to nationals, you say?" Yeah, that's right. I've been hiding under my desk every July, recovering from RT and assorted other conventions, and have been too wiped out to go to nationals before this year.

I actually took this year off from RT and decided to try nationals, even though I'm afraid of it. Why? Well, San Antonio was a big draw for me. I've been to TX many times, but never to San Antonio. I'd like to see it. Also, I feel the climate at RWA has changed in recent years. With new voices in positions of power, new attitudes toward non-traditional publishing avenues have become a little more accepted and we can have discussions like:

Is There a Case for Traditional Publishers and Agents?

The speaker is Dr. Dana Beth Weinberg, an LI RWA chapter member. I've also volunteered to moderate her session, so all of you who have your pitchforks sharpened and ready after some recent blogs about how "she's not an industry insider" and "how dare she talk about numbers and facts?" etc, can just check your weapons at the door, okay? ;-)

Here's the blurb for her workshop for those of you still interested in learning something:

Join a sociologist for an inside look at the evidence for and against the importance of publishers and agents, using industry data typically only available to publishers and their market research departments, including a look at the market performance of traditionally published and self-published authors.

I know Dana, and I know she's a level-headed professional with no particular ax to grind. Give her a chance. You might learn something. *gasp!*

And then there's my own panel discussion on Saturday afternoon:

Clause and Effect: Understanding Your Contracts and Terms of Service Agreements

Speakers: Bianca D’Arc, Crissy Brashear, Treva Harte, and Caridad Piñeiro Scordato

Whether negotiating an agency contract, representing yourself in publisher negotiations, or selecting “I Agree” on a self-publishing terms of service agreement, understanding what you’re signing and knowing the potential pitfalls are crucial. A panel of publishing professionals and author/attorneys will provide a balanced, accessible look at what to watch for in various publishing agreements.

Three of us on this panel are also lawyers. Two of the panelists are also small press publishers with years of experience. We did a similar panel at RT two years ago and it was really fantastic. I encourage you all to come and discuss both agency and publishing contracts with us!

Now I need to clarify something I said earlier. I said I was "afraid" of nationals, and yes, darnit, I am. Why? Because over the many years I've been a member of RWA, I've experienced many varying responses from other writers to my choices. First, I was small press published and I was looked down on for that. Then I got my first "NY" contract and suddenly everyone was counting my sales numbers. Then my mother died and I didn't write for years. Now I'm back and I've pretty much gotten on the indie bandwagon - though I pass no judgment on people who've chosen other paths.

I've been published every which way and I've never sought PAN membership. Maybe I will. *shrug* Or maybe I'm still on the fence because I'm still worried about how I'm going to be treated. Frankly, I dislike the way some in our profession feel entitled to sit in judgment of others who have made different choices.

Personally, I've been dissed, dismissed and downright trod on in the past by the attitudes of a few of my fellow writers. I know that those few don't speak for all, but I'm - understandably, I think - wary. I'm being bluntly honest when I say that, and perhaps others will be surprised by my candor.

That said, my local chapter-mates are fantastic! We are a supportive, inclusive group. We encourage each other regardless of what path we individually decide to take to publication. (Do I sound like Pollyanna yet?) I'm proud to call the members of LI RWA my friends and colleagues.

Hope to see many of you in San Antonio! :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Five lessons a Ferret taught me about writing and life.

                Some people said that she was a baby substitute.  We were newly married and having a ball being just married without little nose miners running around.  So when I walked into the pet store on the South shore and from (here comes the cliché) across a crowded room, I saw a little ferret, much smaller than the others, trying to hop over her glass enclosure, I was smitten.  There were at least ten inches of glass above her that she needed to scale in order to affect her great adventure but it did not sway her from her quest – the challenge only made her more resourceful.

                 I watched her as she pushed wood shavings against the glass to make a hill which she'd scramble up and promptly roll down, paws and tail akimbo.  She wasn't dismayed, she'd get back up and try again.

Lesson One: Don't let obstacles, no matter what they are, hobble your dreams.  Take inspired action.

                It wasn't until she started to push a rolly plastic tubey thing with about a six inch diameter toward her hill that I thought to look around me and wonder if anyone else was watching this precocious little creature.  I also wondered what would happen when she finally flew the coup.  Funny how I just knew she'd manage it.  Apparently she shared my confidence, or rather, inspired mine with her keep-at-it attitude.   I moved closer.  Of course, the rolly tubey thing kept rolling off the hill she'd made from the wood shavings.  It even rolled over her once before she realized she had to dig away the hill and move the tubey thing in its place. 

                Lesson two: Obstacles are usually of our own design and tend to be lessons for us to learn from.  Take what you need from them, they are a gift, then sweep away what doesn't work anymore.  Then all your Rolly Tubey things will stay put.

                 Tube thing in place she was now a few inches higher.  She jumped on her hind legs trying to use her 'hands' to grab the top of the wall. 

                Lesson three: Nothing is out of reach if you keep striving for it – with or without little rolly tubey things. Keep learning, keep adapting, keep trying.

                I grinned when she started pushing another tube toward the first one and I started thinking that maybe this creature was an architect in one of her alternate lives.  Needless to say the second tube wouldn't stay atop the first - minor miscalculation – which sent the second tube rolling over her head.  Alright, so maybe she wasn't a great architect in that alternate life – but I had to give her snaps for working her theory.   

                By this time I knew this critter was going home with me.  I settled in to watch what she'd do next.  She clambered up the tube again too enthusiastically, lost her balance and went spout over teakettle onto her back.  Because ferrets have long sinewy bodies – my mother calls them hotdogs with hair - she twisted in a flash and was back on her feet chuffing and squeaking as if she were laughing, with her back end dancing back and forth while her front end stayed put.  She was a cartoon caricature of herself and she looked like she was having the time of her life.  I found myself laughing out loud at her antics.

                Lesson four: Amuse yourself.  The ability to laugh even when things or circumstances are falling on or around you is a rare gift.  Indulging in it keeps your gumption up, entertains your innate funny bone and may make someone else smile too, and spreading joy is always a good thing.  

                Out of nowhere someone who worked at the store came along and picked Madison Valentine (I'd named her by then) and took her off the tube and put it back in the middle of the display.  The store clerk smiled.  "She's a cutie isn't she?" 

She sure was!

                As if she was waiting for the coast to clear, Madison went back to work the moment the clerk walked away.  She rolled the tube back in place and resumed her comical jumping.  I was pulling for her.  I moved closer.  She hunkered down again, I could have sworn I saw a determined little tongue peek out of the side of her mouth, she pushed as hard as she could and flew upwards.  Her little paws latched onto the top edge of the glass enclosure. 

                She hung there for a second, in one of those now-what moments and then tried to gain purchase with her back paws, which of course, slipped ineffectually against the smooth surface.  I chuckled and took pity.  The little thing had worked so hard to make it as far as she did.  I reached in and carefully picked her up.  She chuffed and squeaked and looked at me with those soul-deep brown eyes in that bandit stripe across her face.  Then she bumped her head into my chin.  She had my unswerving devotion from that moment on.

                Lesson five: When you find someone to encourage and lift you up and set you back on your feet again, chuff and squeak and bump their chins and make sure they know how much you appreciate their friendship.  Show them the same unswerving devotion they show you and your great adventure in this life will be all the sweeter for it.


Dedicated to Madison Valentine.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tit for Tat

Psst. Come over here and have a seat. Please. I'd like to ask you something.
They say you have to put yourself into your writing. Okay, but do you put someone else in?

You don't understand? Well, this is what I was thinking. A lot of writers say they loosely base their characters on people (friends) they know.  You might be one of those writers.  Let's say you are. What about people you hate?  I know, you don't hate anyone. Please stop shaking your head. How about immensely dislike? You're STILL shaking your head. You mean there hasn't been a person who irked you one iota? Ever?

 Hmmm, just what I thought. No problem, your secret is safe with me.  Now the question is, have you ever used that person as a murder victim or villain?  Or someone the heroine hotly tells off or gives a great left hook to? Or created some action or situation to deal out a little passive-aggressive tit for tat?

Really, no? Yeah, yeah, I believe you. I was just wondering if that stuff ever low crawled into your story. Thought I'd throw it out there. You know what? I haven't done it either - yet.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

New Releases!

Looking for romance? 

Check out these debut novels from LIRW authors! 

The Mark by Arla Dahl  
Click here! 

Autumn Getaway by Jennifer Gracen
Click Here! 

Past Hurts by Jessie G
Click Here! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

When The Muse Says NO!

I'm on a deadline, late with my blogging obligations (why yes, this post IS three days late, thanks for noticing!) and it's the usual end-of-the-school-year hysteria.

And the muse has packed up her bags and headed for calmer shores.

Damn that woman.

Here's a few ways I plan to lure her back...

Mix up the routine - I'm normally an early riser, at the computer around 6am. Over the next few days I'm going to let the muse sleep in and get a little extra dream time in (let's see if that coaxes her back to work!)

Offer her something sweet - The usual treats can get boring, so I'm heading out to the local Farmer's Market this weekend and loading up on sweet fruit (of course I'll probably come home and dip them chocolate!)

Take the laptop on the road - Maybe a change of scenery is what she's craving? I plan to find a comfy spot outside under the shade of an umbrella or hit the local Starbucks for some new inspiration.

Girl's Night Out - and I'm leaving the muse at home! I'll be spending some time with my friends and WON'T be talking about my book or my writing at all...I hear the muse hates nothing more than being left out!

When all else fails...I'll have to sit my butt down at the computer and write without her, this is a job and sometimes we have to pull up the big girl panties and just get to work - even if the muse is off on a tropical vacation. With any luck she'll be back in a day or two complaining about her sunburn...but full of new ideas!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Crystal Ball Cloudy? Hindsight is 20-20

"A goal is a dream with a deadline." - Napoleon Hill

Well, it's mid-May and time for my reality check after the first quarter of the year.  Yes, one-fourth of 2014 is over with... Yikes!  As I look into the future - my crystal ball is a bit cloudy and hazy.  Goals I had set for myself in January have not crystallized into reality. I had wanted to be an RWA-PRO member by this time.  There were a couple of contests I wanted to enter and didn't. How about you?

I wanted to complete Seekerville's SPEEDBO, an annual 31 day self challenge for writers each March.  I signed up - started to write; and life intervened. So I couldn't finish.

Now, not all was a total loss.  I did enter my first page of an inspirational romantic suspense manuscript in Harlequin's new Love Inspired Suspense (LIS) #KillerVoices competition, and made it to round 2, and I did write a full synopsis for my MS and entered that, and was passed through to round 3. I am very excited to have gotten that far and took to heart advice on the synopsis that each of editor Emily R's team of ten writers received.  Unfortunately, I had to withdraw from round 4 (submitting my first three chapters by May 8) because they weren't submission ready after learning a bit more of the LIS style and some life commitments. And, knowing the deadline for round 5 was submission of the full manuscript by June 9th, well, with my current medical and manuscript issues, I knew that was never going to happen. 

Sound familiar? Were there goals or deadlines you set for yourself earlier in the year, that have passed you by?

It's not too late!  There are still 8 months left to the year. I plan on resetting the writing clock and have already committed to submitting a full manuscript to LIS by end of summer. Which also helps me attain my goal of becoming a PRO author with RWA. 

Another online writer's challenge, Camp Nanowrimo happens next in July. Camp Nanowrimo

LIRW"s annual day long writing retreat at Camp DeWolfe is fast approaching in September. 

There's also NANOWRIMO, National Novel Writing Month, to sign up for in November - another month long self-challenge for writers.  

Even if I make plans to complete half of these things - I am well on my way.

Here's a link to a helpful blog post on making deadlines work for us as writers:
Deadlines Are Your Friend   One of the tips mentions accountability - and I've already enlisted the "butt kicking" boots of LIRW's PRO Liaison, Maggie Van Well to ensure I get to my goal.

If you are feeling even a teensy bit brave, look back to January, and revisit some of the resolutions and goals you hoped to complete. Pick just one - and plan some steps towards accomplishment. 

After all, hindsight *IS* 20/20.  Let it make the future crystal clear.

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