Five things I learned about at the ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA conference

DSCN4710I was thrilled to attend the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Annual conference in New York City this year. I was on a panel with some fabulous mystery writers—Sheila Connolly, Linda Johnson, Maggie Sefton, and Denise Swanson. We didn’t get much of a crowd—but we were up against some very big names (Suzanne Elizabeth Phillips, anyone?).   Here’s a little something about what I learned. (Okay, some of it really is more of an affirmation of what I already knew.)

  1. Romance writers are passionate about writing. When they get together they talk about craft, marketing, and offer one another much support, sharing resources, names, and so on. Wow. I felt the love.
  2. Having two pen names is hard. Yep. I know that. But I went to a panel, which was really not a panel. It was one woman being interviewed on how she made the two names work. Her answer didn’t work for me because her two writing selves are more closely aligned than mine. She cross promotes herself now. The two blogs, two Twitter/Facebook accounts, and so on? She gave it up after about a year. I’ve been doing it for about four years. Rather successfully on one, not so much the other. Am I giving up romance? No, but I will be either using my own name or able to cross promote in other ways. But it was great to see that there were several other writers like me, writing in a variety of genres. That matters.
  3. I love having a publisher and I love my publisher. I heard the way other people were talking about Kensington–without knowing I was a writer for them–and they came off well during the conference. You’d think I’d know this right? And I did–and I do. But sometimes it’s easy to dream about making a lot more money self-publishing, for example. We hear about all the success stories, and I am happy for those folks. I’m always happy to hear about other writer’s success. But hearing Rebecca Zanetti express why she chooses to remain with a publisher was an ah-ha moment for me. I want to be writing. Self publishers write, but they spend much more time on the business than what I want to. I’m not saying I will never self-publish. what I’m saying is that for now, it’s not for me in my current life situation.
  4. Romance readers are voracious. At a book signing sponsored by my publisher, where they were giving away books, my cozy mystery went as quickly as the romances. This was the experience of my cozy-writing friends who were there, as well. I’m not sure mystery readers read across the genres like that. I tend to think readers read across genres. But I can’t see straight-up romance writers at a mystery conference, but I may be wrong. There ARE a lot of romances within mysteries.
  5. The layout of a conference hotel matters. I hated the Marriott Marquis and will never go back. Usually I say never say never, but in this case it took away from a lot of the conference. The elevators were freaky and sometimes very slow. And the escalators were arranged in a weird way. Like sometimes you had to cross a the span of the hotel to go up or down on the things. Not good for the foot weary conference goer. Also, the meeting  rooms were not large enough. Some of them were standing room only and some had people in the hallways spilling out of the rooms. Not cool. The conference is very expensive. If you can’t get to your session early enough for a seat (because of the escalators and elevators) that is more than too bad, it really egregious and poor planning.

So there you have it. I’d love to go back to another RWA conference. I highly recommend it—just not at the Marquis. The best part of the conference was catching up with friends that don’t live near me and seeing my editor, who I adore.  It’s always good to see your editor in person once a year or so–if not more.

Have you been to any writing conferences? Which are your favorites?

Big St. Paddy’s Day Weekend Events Ahead

 

So you all know by now that DEATH OF AN IRISH DIVA has a bit of a St. Patrick’s Day theme. This weekend, I’m participating is some fun Irish-themed event. On Saturday, I’ll be signing books from1 to 3 at Celtic Tides, a delightful new Celtic-themed store in downtown Staunton, Va. Also, I’ll be participating in a Facebook party with three other writers. “Bleedin’ Green: An Irish Mystery Gab Fest.” Here’s all the information. You can do a FB search to find us. There will be prizes and loads of information about Ireland and we’ll answer your questions.  Hope to see you there!

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“Death of an Irish Diva” Pre-Launch Promotion

Death of an Irish Diva Mech.inddGreetings, friends!

DEATH OF AN IRISH DIVA will be out next month! February 4, to be precise—but who’s counting? (Raising my hand!)

I’m so excited about this book that I want to offer a pre-launch special prize for you. From now until February 4, pre-order the book, send me proof of purchase, or a screen shot of the purchase, and you are automatically entered to win a $30 gift card from Amazon or B & N. Your choice! You can also order the book and Tweet about your order–from Amazon–instead of the proof of purchase. I’ll be looking for those Tweets daily.

The address to send that proof of purchase is molliebryan@comcast.net. My Twitter account is @molliecoxbryan.

May the luck of the Irish be with you!

 

Off to Malice Domestic and the Festival of Mystery

In a few days, I’ll be heading to Malice Domestic, a mystery fan conference in Bethesda, Md. Last year was my first conference and I was blown away by the organization of it, the fabulous panels, and the community of writers and readers.

This year, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS is up for the Agatha Award for the Best First Novel of 2012, so I will be attending the awards banquet on Saturday night. Of course, I’m extremely honored to be included on the list of nominations and I’m humbled by the group of writers that are also on that list.

After Malice Domestic on Sunday, I’ll be driving a group of writers up to the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, Pa., which takes place on Monday, May 6.

If you are attending Malice, I hope to see you there. Here’s my schedule of events —but I will be attending as many panels as possible.  By all means, if you spot me at a panel in the audience, or in the hallway, or at the bar, introduce yourself. I love chatting with readers!

 

Friday

Malice Go Round at 10

Opening Ceremonies at 5

Reception at 9

 

Saturday

Panel at 2 “New Kids on the Block: Our Agatha Best First Novel Nominees”

Book signing 5:00 in the atrium

Awards banquet: 7:00

 

Monday: The Mystery Lover’s Festival, Oakmont, Pa.

Scrapped, Chapter Three

This is the last free chapter of SCRAPPED I can offer you. If you didn’t see the first two, scroll around on the blog and you will see them. They are also printed all together in the back of the first book, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS. SCRAPPED will be published December 31 and I am counting the days. You can pre-order on Amazon. If you hit the like button, I’d surely appreciate it. Enjoy!

 

Vera’s back twisted in pain as she placed a sleeping Elizabeth into her crib. After all the years of dancing, who would have thought parenting would be the most physically taxing thing on her body?

“She’s down for the time being,” she said to her mother, who was sitting next to the fireplace, wrapped in a quilt.

“Go and have a good time,” Beatrice said. “This fire is so nice. Think I’ll stay right here. Be careful, Vera. It’s not safe out there.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

It had been almost a week since the mysterious body washed up in their park, with nobody claiming it. How sad to think that nobody missed this woman enough to report her absence—or to claim her body.

But still, Beatrice was acting a little more concerned about her safety than usual. Vera wondered if Beatrice would ever be the same. After she returned from her vacation in Paris, a general malaise hung over her, and no matter what Vera said or did, it was clear Beatrice didn’t want to talk about this trip, which she and her long-gone husband had dreamed about taking for years. Vera had thought she would return home with countless stories about the city, its food, and its people, but she didn’t. Instead, she’d shared a few photos and thoughts, said she was glad she went, but that was it. Vera mused over this as she opened the door to Sheila’s basement scrapbooking room.

“How’s Lizzie?” Sheila said after Vera sat down at the table and cracked open her satchel of scrapbooking stuff. She was still working on chronicling Elizabeth’s first birthday party.

“Rotten, but asleep for now,” Vera said, feeling a wave of weariness, reaching into her bag for chocolates. She had found a new chocolate shop in Charlottesville the other day and was smitten with the handmade dark chocolate spiced with chili pepper. Who would have imagined? She sat the box on the table. “Chocolates,” she said.

“Have some pumpkin cranberry muffins,” DeeAnn said, shoving the plate toward Vera.

“Thanks,” Vera said.

“God, these are so good,” Annie said, taking another bite of muffin.

“Thanks. We’re selling a lot of them at the bakery,” DeeAnn said and sliced a picture with her photo cropper. “Business hasn’t slowed down a bit for us, thank God.” She made the sign of the cross across her ample chest, even though she wasn’t Catholic. She was the town baker, and her place was always busy, particularly in the mornings.

“Wish I could say the same thing,” Sheila said, pushing her glasses back up on her nose. “Digital scrapbooking is all the rage. I’m losing business with it being so paper based.”

“My business is going through a rough patch, too,” Vera said. “This darned economy.” After a few minutes of silence, Vera brought up the subject of the mysterious body. “You know, I just can’t get the dead woman out of my mind,” she said. “Any word yet on who she is?”

“Not that I know of,” Annie said. “I’ve called the police a few times. Bryant’s supposed to let me know.”

“I wouldn’t trust that,” Sheila said, placing her scissors on the table with a rattle and a clunk.

“Don’t worry,” Annie said. “I have his number. I’m already researching these symbols carved into her body.”

“Symbols?” Cookie asked.

“A first I thought it was Hebrew, but it’s not.”

“Ooh,” DeeAnn said. “That just gave me the chills.” Her blue eyes widened, and she leaned on her large baker’s arms. “I’m thinking Satanists . . . or witches. . . . Sorry, Cookie.”

“Witches don’t do that kind of stuff,” Cookie said. “We are gentle, earth loving, people loving. I’ve told you that.” She grinned.

“I would assume you are not all the same, though,” Annie said. “That there are bad witches, just like there are bad Jews or Christians.”

“Well . . .” Cookie shifted around in her chair as it creaked. “You’re probably right about that.” She turned and asked Sheila, “Now, how do I use this netting?”

Sheila happily showed Cookie the technique. She unrolled the netting from the packaging ball. One side of it was sticky. She placed it on the page at a diagonal and pressed down, then cut it with her scissors, giving it a rough edge, which added to the textured page.

“I honestly still don’t know why you call yourself a witch,” Vera said.

“Oh, Vera, would you just please leave it alone?” Sheila said. “Good Lord. We are having a crop here, not a trial.”

Cookie smiled slightly. “Thanks, Sheila, but I don’t mind answering. I call myself a witch because I feel I’m honoring the women who were burned at the stake in the name of witchcraft. I reclaim it. That’s all. And if people have a problem with it, they can either educate themselves or not. But I don’t dwell on their issues with it.”

“Humph,” Vera said and laughed. “I guess she told me.”

Cookie smiled. “Well, you asked.”

“Indeed,” Sheila said. “I’d much rather talk about your sex life than Cookie’s witchcraft.”

“Oh yes, me too,” Annie said. “What happened last week? What kind of kinky sex did you have last weekend?”

“Good Lord,” Sheila gasped, red-faced, clutching her chest. “The way you just blurt those things out.”

Paige, the other steady scrapbook club member, entered the room with a flourish. Paige, DeeAnn, Sheila, and Vera were the original crop. Annie came along last year; then came Cookie.

When Vera thought about how things had changed over the past year, it almost gave her vertigo. She was now the mother of a sixteen-month hellion of a baby, who refused to take naps and didn’t want to be weaned. Annie was going to be a published author. Sheila’s daughter Donna was now in her senior year of high school—which set Sheila all atwitter from time to time. Paige had announced she was going to take an early retirement from the school system—this year, her twenty-fifth, would be her last. And DeeAnn’s bakery was just becoming more and more successful.

Paige’s breezy pink silk shirt almost caught on the corner of the ragged table as she waltzed by. “Sorry I’m late.” She placed a scrapbook on the table and opened the pages. “I had a flat tire, and it took a while for my husband to get it changed. I mean, Jesus, it’s not as if he hasn’t changed a tire before. What kind of muffins do you have there?”

“Pumpkin cranberry,” Annie answered, holding her page up and eyeballing it. “We were just going to talk about Vera’s sex life.”

“Oh, really? What did he do to you this time?” Paige asked.

Vera just laughed and waved her hand. They wouldn’t believe her if she said that there was absolutely no sex between them the last time she went to the city. They just laughed a lot and talked even more. They had so much to say to one another. She would never tire of hearing Tony’s Brooklyn accent as he told her stories about going on tour with this or that dance company. His voice soothed her—it felt like home. And his touch burned her skin with a passion she hadn’t known since they were together all those years ago in college, as young dancers. Maybe it was time he visited Cumberland Creek. But how would Bill feel about that? Would he make trouble for them? God knows she couldn’t keep his coming a secret. He’d be arriving on a Harley, and if that wasn’t enough of an attention getter, he was a beautiful dark man. Not many of those around Cumberland Creek. He’d stick out no matter where they went.

“Yoo-hoo.” Paige waved her hand in front of Vera’s face. “Where are you? I was asking about the dead body. Did you say she had red hair?”

“Yes,” Vera said. “Long red hair. Annie saw her.”

“You know, I was just thinking about this the other day. There seems to be a bunch of redheads that live up on the other side of Jenkins Hollow,” Paige said, twirling her own wavy blond hair with her slender finger.

Vera looked at Annie, who, at the mention of Jenkins Hollow, coughed on her wine.

“I’m just going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Annie finally said.

 

 

Mary Burton’s Draft Process—the Final Word, Almost

So some have you have been following along with the writing process of my third book in the Cumberland Creek Mystery series. Because I’m always looking at ways to be a more efficient and better writer, I decided to try Mary Burton’s draft process. I ran across this on her blog and it made such a perfect sense to me. (For a reminder of what her process is, click here and go to her initial blog post. Here, here,  here and here are my previous blog posts. ) So I thought I’d give it a go.

Overall, the process forced me to slow down a good bit. I am a fast writer, which is a good thing in some aspects. But when it comes to catching typos and other problems, it hasn’t served me well. My brain works for quickly even when I reading and I think that it skips over any mistake I make. (that is not the case with other writer’s mistakes. I catch those, only too well. ) I think because I approached this book is a more organized fashion, I was able to let the “final” draft sit for a good bit longer. This helps immensely. The other thing that really helped was printing the manuscript out. The eye catches more and different typos on the physical page than the computer.

I think I’ll use this process, or some variation of it, in the future. I’ve just turned in the manuscript to my Kensington editor. I feel really good about this book, even thought the story became more complicated than what I anticipated. I’m hoping he notices a difference in how much cleaner the manuscript is.  In the mean time, it’s time for me to set aside thoughts about book three—and time to focus on book 2: SCRAPPED, which will be published on December 31. Stay tuned for contests and signing dates and so on.