Silken Sands Writers Conference! See You at the Beach!

Writers conferences. A matter of hot debate, the question asked most frequently “Is a conference worth the time and money you spend to attend one?”

IF you’ve done your research, IMHO, yes, they are worth it! You can find sources in writer’s publications, local writers groups, and on line. One quick warning; there are as many types of conferences as there are genres, so research until you find one benefitting your genre, level of experience, and budget. You can find single subject conferences (characters, dialogue, marketing, etc.) that last a few hours or a single day. Weekend conferences with pitch sessions, meet and greet, and craft workshops. There are week-long retreats as well. Conferences have sprung up not for writers, but for readers. Many of your favorite authors have conferences to meet their fans, held in cities or on sea cruises. But for this blog, we’re dealing with writers!

First, choose a conference in your genre. If you write Mystery, don’t attend a Paranormal conference. Seems ridiculous to mention that, but one Romance conference I attended had a lone male there. Talked to him a bit and it turned out he was looking for help with Westerns. He was one lost puppy. But we put our heads together over the workshops, and craft is craft, so it wasn’t a total bust for him. Pointed out if he’d substitute ‘six gun’ for ‘stilettos’ in certain aspects, he’d do fine. Plus he loved the attention he got from all those ladies when word of his dilemma got around. Made me feel good he went away smiling.

I write paranormal romance. I’m attending Silken Sands Writers Conference in Pensacola, Florida this March 16-18 because of the sheer diversity of romance genres represented there. (If you need info, click here: www.gccrwa.com/silkensands .) Barbara Vey from Publishers Weekly is the Kickoff Speaker, a mighty presence with her personal blog there. Yet I’ve never met a more unpretentious woman. She has one of those smiles that has you opening up to her without being aware you’ve done so. Knowing she’s with us . . . Please excuse the strange woman doing the disjointed wiggle dance in the corner; I’m trying to stay to the shadows, but I’m super excited! And multi-published Historical Romance author Beverly Kendall is our Keynote Speaker. Can’t wait to hear what she has to say!

Speakers provide more than group entertainment. They’re head cheerleaders for every one there. The Keynote speaker is the individual held up as a success story, proof the dream can be accomplished. I’ve heard Keynote Speakers who tore at your heart with what they endured to achieve that dream. Sherrilyn Kenyon is one. She’d just started using her MacGregor moniker for a series, and we chatted about ancestors. She didn’t know me from Adam, yet was interested enough in the subject to ask how far back I’d tracked mine. I responded with a rousing “Clan MacClaine o’ Loch Buie, Scotland”, complete with hacked consonants and swallowed vowels. She started laughing. “How do you do that?” she wanted to know. “I still can’t get it right!” (Helps if you have family who never lost their accent. Imitation comes naturally to a child, and I guess I’ve never grown up.)

At another conference Romantic Suspense author Karen Rose talked about her writing journey, then brought home how ordinary individuals comprise writers’ ranks. Turns out she’s terrified of snakes. I’ll never forget her pot and spoon story, holding up the very items she bangs away on to scare off serpents every time she walks her dog. Even after a family member told her snakes have no ears, she refuses to budge off her stance her system works. After all, she’s never encountered a snake!

How many? And why? I try to attend three conferences a year. Why? Because there’s no better place to stay abreast of changes in the field. And with the financial crash of major publishing houses that left their long-term authors unpaid, the mass charge to ePub and Indie Pub, the change in royalty percentages and house expenses charged to the author, they’re changing often and quickly. Attending every four months or so to put your finger on the pulse is not unreasonable; in fact it’s good business. But even one a year will recharge you. Every conference has panels of experts, those knowledgeable of current facts, not just rumor and hearsay circulating the Twitterverse, loops, and email. They also have the most current list of author loops and organizations to choose from. Unfortunately there are scam artists out there. It’s comforting you can rest assured everyone at an RWA conference has been vetted by the chapter putting it on.

Throw in the opportunity to pitch a project one-on-one, directly to an acquiring editor or agent, and they become an unbeatable prospect. Being able to write “Requested Material” on an envelope or in a subject line lifts you out of the slush pile of thousands.

What Can You Expect At Conference?
Initially, a bad case of nerves. But then you look around and see quite a few others in the same condition. Nerves turn to excitement. Only another writer can truly understand a writer, and it’s a giddy moment when you realize you’re in an entire herd of them. Speaking with others at every level of the field gives you a good sense of what you’ll need to do to accomplish your goals.

Workshops at conference are varied, and set up to appeal to writers at almost every level. What do you need help most with? POV problems? Dialogue? World building questions? Where to start your book? Perfecting your pitch to that editor or agent? Organizing your space or writing to be your most productive? Finding that cotton pickin’ Muse who heartlessly abandons you when you finally have an hour to write? By going over the workshop descriptions, you can pick the best ones that specifically help you improve your craft.

But it’s the friendships you form, the networks you enlarge that stand out the most. The encouragement you get from someone who has been where you are. The inner glow you feel when you help someone who’s where you’ve been.

So come join me at Silken Sands. I need a few more friends who write. We’ll learn. We’ll teach. We’ll commiserate. We’ll cheer. We’ll laugh. We’ll stay up too late. We’ll share.

And at least once, we’ll take time to walk to the water’s edge and play in the waves and push our toes into the sand.

I promise!

See you on the beach!
~Runere~
Visit her at http://www.RunereMcLain.com      Friend her on Facebook @ Runere McLain     Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain

Silken Sands Conference

Here are four of the Sizzlers relaxing in our room at the Silken Sands Conference on Pensacola Beach.  SFCatty, Romancemama, RitaVF and GothicDweller.   The fabulous Barbara Vey took this stunning picture.   Check out Barbara’s blog. 

  http://www.publishersweekly.com/blog/Beyond_Her_Book/index.php

Kick Off of The Countdown to Conference

Hello everyone! Today the Sizzlers are kicking off our Countdown to Conference. What  conference you ask? Why the 2010 Silken Sands  Conference at Pensacola Beach March 19-21 of course. Today we are honored and elated to have an interview from one of the fabulous editors who will be attending the conference. So I welcome you all to read, comment, and learn from Kensington Publishing Corp, editor Megan Records.

First off on behalf of everyone reading this I would like to thank Mrs. Records for taking the time to participate in the countdown and attending the Silken Sands Conference. So without further ado, I give you the questions and answers we’ve all been looking for:

[Sizzlers]. Tell us what you think is hot and what’s not. ?

[M. Records]

Hot: dark paranormals. I am seeing a larger variety of creatures these days: angels, genies, etc, but werewolves and vampires still dominate. I hardly ever see funny paranormals. Shame, because I like those too!

Hot: historicals in which the characters have “modern” issues. I say “modern” because these issues existed back then, but were not really discussed or brought to light until more recently. For example: domestic violence.

Hot: historicals where the heroine is not a virgin, or is a virgin but grew up on a farm and/or reads, so is not completely ignorant of the mechanics of sex. I’m seeing much more of these than I have before, and loving it. I don’t mind the naïve virgin, and I know that’s historically correct, but I can only read so many where the heroine wonders exactly what is in a man’s pants.

Not: I never say something is “not.” I say that it might be more difficult to make these elements work. For instance, it is probably easier to make a white tiger shifter a sexy hero than, say, a 3-foot tall leprechaun. But will I say it can’t be done? Never. I’ve bought books in which the premise didn’t sound like my thing, but the writing sold it to me (a historical set in Mongolia? Who would have seen that one coming?). It’s all about the writing. If the writing makes it work, then you can sell me anything.

[Sizzlers] What types of work are you most interested in seeing at the 2010 Silken Sands Conference?

 

[M. Records]

 

I have a lot of room in Brava at the moment. Brava is our more sensual imprint; sexier than Zebra, but generally without the kinkiness found in Aphrodisia (ménage, sex in animal form, bondage, etc.).

I also buy for Zebra, and I’m certainly willing to read manuscripts for this line, but right now there is so little room that I’m having to turn projects down even if I like them.

I would like a good urban fantasy, or perhaps a historical fiction novel.

I don’t work on Aphrodisia, gay fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, etc. I am perfectly happy to give you the name of an editor at Kensington that does, but my insight into these genres is limited, so I probably won’t be able to give you much feedback.

[Sizzlers] This question goes back to the “writer rumors”, but so many times I’ve heard that agents/editors will throw out a manuscript if they see grammatical errors. Personally, this is a huge one for me as I am grammatically challenged.  Many times authors will edit and edit then send to a contest and have their manuscript ripped to shreds because they used “ing”, “ly” or “was” to much for the judges liking. Do you look for these issues when reading requested material or is it more about the story?

[M. Records]:

I like to use an analogy of a job interview to explain this. If you walk in and your shoes are a bit scuffed, or you are just really having a bad hair day, that shouldn’t be held against you. However, if you are in torn, wrinkled, dirty clothing, and smell like you haven’t bathed for days, that’s going to be a big black mark.  Similarly, if you have a few typos or grammatical errors, most editors will not hold that against you. But if there are glaring errors repeatedly throughout the manuscript, that’s going to be a problem. In dialogue, ok, because most people don’t speak in perfectly grammatically correct English, but otherwise, too many errors are going to hurt you. It may sound unfair, but you have to set some standards. If a singer hit too many wrong notes, you probably wouldn’t want to continue listening to them. Same principle applies.

As to using “was” etc, too much, that speaks more to the writing style than grammatical errors. If the writing feels repetitive, or the sentence structure is always the same, it makes it hard to stay interested. I don’t think I’ve ever said someone used “was” too much, but other repetition can really get to me. For instance, if you use the word “stunning” 3 times in two paragraphs, and it isn’t a situation where the character is dumbstruck and can’t think of what to say, then that stands out when I’m reading. If you end every bit of dialogue with an adverb, e.g.“he said quickly,” “he said glaringly,” “he said grudgingly,” “he said invitingly,” after a few pages, my brain will go on overload.

After that long ramble, if you want it in one sentence: The writing should never hinder the story; it should only enhance it. Case in point: this interview. I can almost guarantee that it’s not entirely grammatically correct. But that doesn’t detract from its general readability (I hope!).

[Sizzlers] What is your opinion on emarket vs. traditional print? I know this is a hot topic and we all appreciate whatever comments you can give us.

 

[M. Records]:

To me, they are two similar but different animals. E-books have the advantage of being able to take risks that traditional publishers are not. I’ve seen more than one trend start in e–books and then move to print once it was deemed “successful enough.” And I’ve bought several authors that originally started in e-books and are now writing for Kensington. On the other hand, print publishers have distribution, and a certain reputation that can make readers stick with them instead of going to e-books. The goal of both is the same: to sell books. But how they go about it and what they are able to sell is different.

I like to think of it as the young rebel teenager vs the senior citizen (can you tell I like analogies?). The teenager has fresh ideas and a new perspective, and often evolves and adapts more quickly than the senior citizen because they haven’t been around as long and aren’t set in their ways. But does that mean that all the experience and methods of the senior citizen are useless? Of course not. Both have something to bring to the table, and once they both realize this, they are able to learn something from each other.

Full disclosure: I have an e-reader. I use it for manuscripts, library books and free e-books, but I haven’t bought an e-book in the 3 months or so that I’ve had it (and I didn’t usually buy them before that because reading entire books on the computer gives me migraines.) The books I read in my spare time are generally from traditional publishers. Partially this is because many of my longtime favorite authors are from print houses. And partially this is because I am more aware of new authors in the print market, seeing as that’s what Kensington does and what most of my contacts focus on, and I get a lot of these books for free. It also helps to have something physical to point to when my husband asks, “Wait, how many books did you buy this month?”

[Sizzlers] I know that when I am researching an agent or editor, I Google them, check their Facebook page, and tweet them. I read their posts and blogs.  I try to see if their tastes would lean toward my writing style or not. And I try to get a feel for their personality to see if we might “mesh well” if the opportunity ever arose. If you have a manuscript on your desk, do you ever check the same accounts for that author?  Do you ever check to see what he/she is posting? If so, have you been influenced by what you’ve learned?

 

[M. Records]:

I freely admit I am an Internet addict. Generally speaking, though, I only look up authors after I’ve already made an offer. The exception to this is if something in their cover letter feels sketchy. For instance, if you say you are a published author, but do not mention any houses, I go look it up. If you say you are an award-winning author, but don’t mention any specific awards, I Google it. Or occasionally, I get a submission and think, “Why do I know that name?” and of course cannot rest until I’ve found the answer on the web. But for the majority of manuscripts, I do not do any initial sleuthing. With the number of submissions I get, it’s just not feasible unless I already have an interest in the book.

[Sizzlers] If an author has queried you and you’ve rejected that query/partial and the author emails you asking for details on why you’ve rejected their ms, what is your process here? Do you give specific reasons on why the manuscript may not have been for you?

 

[M. Records]:

This is probably the biggest single pet peeve of any editor you will encounter. When an author does this, however nicely, it puts them on my mental blacklist as “high maintenance—stay away!” If I had any details about why I passed on it, I would have said that in my initial letter. Authors seem to feel it’s an editor’s job to give them feedback, and it is, if you are an author under contract. Otherwise, I have no obligation to do so. And let’s be honest, sometimes I don’t get far enough into a manuscript to give any viable feedback, or I can’t say what I really want to say without being horribly impolite, so I send a rather generic letter.

That said, I do appreciate that authors want to improve, and when I have something specific to say about the manuscript, I say it. If I think the manuscript could be great with some revision, I mention in my letter than I’d love to see it if/when the author revises. If I think the writing is just amazing but the particular project just doesn’t fit well with us, I ask to see any other projects the author has in the works. I always try to be very honest in my rejection letters, without being harsh.

Related to this is the “rejection rebuttal,” in which you explain why a comment in my letter is incorrect, or tell me you don’t think I “understood” your book. Only do this if you want an ironclad way to ensure that I will never buy your book, and you don’t want any other editor at my house to buy it either (because yes, we talk).

[Sizzlers] As a final wrap up could you tell us some of your pet peeves in the industry? Or is there anything happening in the industry you’d care to comment on or discuss?  We’d love to hear some of your views and opinions on the state of the craft and the market.

 

[M. Records]:

Oy, pet peeves could go on for a while :] Besides the one mention above, another one is the “equality complaint.” Various versions of this are:

“I sent you my manuscript in Oct, and this author send you hers in Nov, and you sent her a letter already and not me. Why?”

“This author at your house got 25 galleys and I only got 15. Why?”

“I heard you got a quote from [insert big name author here] for this book, why not for mine?”

I will say to you what my mom sarcastically said to us kids whenever we made this type of complaint: “It’s because we love him more.” Publishing is not equal. Marketing attention varies. My response time for manuscripts varies. Do not make comparisons.

Caveat: I can hear the voices now…“But what if I think her response to me might have gotten lost in the mail/email or I just want to double check that she got the manuscript?” Sure, go ahead and ask. Just don’t mention another author when you are doing so. And for heaven’s sake, wait at least 3 months before asking for an update, unless you have an offer. Excessive checking in will get you blacklisted. I am a very stubborn person; if you nag and push me to do something, I will resist just to be obstinate. Childish? Yes. But at least I can admit my faults, right?

On to happier topics, the industry. Romance is still selling. It is one genre that where sales were actually up for us last year, when many other categories were falling. Ironic, when romance is what I like to call “the bastard child of the publishing industry.” But I’m convinced it’s this very stereotype that has helped romance remain successful. Romance authors and readers are a community like none other in the publishing world. We band together to help each other succeed. We blog, we cross-promote, we give each other quotes. Do you know how rare it is to find a group of general fiction authors sharing a blog? And yet, that’s pretty commonplace in the romance community. We can go to local conferences where readers can actually meet New York Times bestselling authors…usually you don’t get to do that unless you buy a book at a signing. We all know that there are a lot of naysayers out there that think romance is fluff and nonsense, so we do everything we can to promote ourselves and the genre as a whole. Would romance be the top-selling paperback genre if this wasn’t the case? Somehow I don’t think so.

Okay I forgot to mention that Mrs. Records will be checking in from time to time. Feel free to ask questions as she may answer them. Thanks again to her for this great interview and remember Thursday we will have author Cat Johnson guest blogging. All right off to ask Mrs. Records one more question 🙂

If this man is on your beach, you’re in trouble

cantore2cantoreSo, this theory was proven wrong last night.  Thank God.  The non-event of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ida was great.  Poor Jim, though.  He’s such a good looking man and seems so nice.  Pity he’s treated like old Typhoid Mary must’ve been.    Anyway, its early for Wets day  but I couldn’t resist bringing you some Jim:  cantore1

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