Wish you were here…Pensacola Beach Silken Sands Conference March 16-March18

Today I am going to feature Pensacola and Pensacola Beach in anticipation for the 2012 Silken Sands Conference. There has been a lot of publicity over the last two years about this wonderful beach and the tragic BP oil spill. Today our beaches are beautiful and ready for visitors. The conference is scheduled during one of the best times of the year for visiting the beach.

March is a great month to visit for any reason. The weather is usually at its best during the two month period of March and April. I can’t promise perfect weather, but if I had to choose an almost perfect month it would be March. Spring is evident everywhere, trees are returning to lush green, flowers in a variety of colors are blooming, the temperature is warming up, but not to the point where you work up a sweat just walking out the door.

Furthermore, Pensacola is one of the oldest cities in the United States. With so many historic sites to visit, I couldn’t begin to list all of them in this post, but anyone writing historical romance should take advantage of one the historic village tours in downtown Pensacola or explore it on your own.

During one of the breaks you can even visit one of the old forts and visitor centers located in Ft. Pickens or the large white cross memorializing the first Christian mass in 1558 without leaving the beach.

Finally, the theme of this year’s conference is Take Your Muse to the Beach. As you can see from these pictures, you and your muse can just simply sit and enjoy the white sands and tan bodies while your story unfolds.

All of the members of the Greater Gulf Coast Romance Writers Association hope you come for the conference and stay for the fun. It is not too late to register for the whole weekend or just Saturday so you can meet with editors and agents and pitch your story.

So I think I speak for all of us when I say…Wish You Were Here -MARCH 16 -MARCH 18, 2012

The Happily Ever After

Bangin’ Keys on the Hoopty ‘Puter

My laptop is now in the tender care of Gothicdweller’s hubby, Mike, at Fast Systems computer repair in Picayune. I say tender care because my idea of fixing it was the driving urge to take a ball peen hammer to it out of frustration. Mike told me to put the hammer away. He has the patience of Job. He explained slowly and carefully, as if for the simple-minded (or in my case red-headed temper fit inclined), for the thousandth-time-over, no matter how much devastation I wreak on it, the hard drive will still be intact and the hard drive contains the problem.

So while Mike’s fixing mine I’m using my hubby’s antique laptop hoopty computer. He loves the thing, even if he uses the excuse he keeps it ‘so the grandkids will stay off the one I write on’. The truth is he hates change. Thank heavens, or I’d probably have been traded in eons ago!

It’s old (antique), slow (I can do housework —shucks!— while waiting for it to go from site to site), makes noises (truly obscene whines and groans) and weighs a ton. How heavy? Imagine working with a twenty pound granite slab in your lap. Of course, I get exercise pretty regularly when using it. I have to get up and jog in place to restore circulation to my legs from the thigh down from time to time.

I really shouldn’t complain, because at least I can still work while waiting for mine. The thing actually has– Hallelujah! –a USB port for my memory stick. Mike breathed enough temporary life into mine to recover a requested story I was working on. I make a practice of saving everything to an outside source, with only the collective first three or four chapters of each MS set to submit on my actual laptop, but Murphy’s Law decreed the only one I needed hadn’t been backed up before shutting down.

All the laughing hoopty talk we did prompted a memory. The kids, all now grown, knew a fantastic young man in Jr. High and Highschool who drove an old brown Ford LTD Station Wagon. I mean really old, even back then. It was huge as older versions of Station Wagons tended to be, so big it looked like a land-locked yacht rolling up and down the dirt roads around here. The paint was a chalky memory of its original color. Except for the darker places where a few tenacious pieces of chrome had taken their time falling off. But he’d proudly christened it “My Hoopty” down both sides in bold white letters. Other students drove everything from jacked-up, mud-tired four-wheel-drive pickup trucks, sports cars, hand-me-down parent sedans, even a Beamer. He was teased unmercifully by classmates about his poo-poo rider.

But at least once, every single one of them had to call “My Hoopty” for a ride because their ‘better’ vehicle had broken down. Turns out this kid was a master mechanic. And it was a good thing he never held a grudge. The guys in the bad boy pickups went mud riding? My Hoopty would have mud piled atop the front bumper where it’d plowed its way in to help drag a few trucks from bogs, or replace ruined universal joints at the front of a drive shaft. When the new fangled electronic systems went haywire on the new sedans, good old My Hoopty with its trusty points and plugs showed up to get them rolling again. Even my youngest daughter’s low slung Nissan sports car needed a rescue at three in the morning. Of course, she’d managed to skid sideways through three front yards on Hwy. 603, after dodging a deer doing ninety. Her, not the deer. (Yes, I convinced her she needed a truck. A full size one. More metal surrounding her in case she decided to go gunning for lawn ornaments again.) I have a picture, too, somewhere in an album, a shot I almost didn’t get. Too many tears in my eyes from laughing at the image of My Hoopty’s oversized pointed hood parting traffic like the prow of a ship parting waves, dragging a smart navy blue Beamer with sparkling little wheels on a tow strap behind it.

Guess that means I need to quit poking fun at hubby’s Hoopty ‘Puter. Especially since it’s still running and mine isn’t. Seems the old hoopties keep going no matter what. I’m going to ask that you excuse me for now. My legs are numb again, and I need to set an alarm for six this evening before I forget.

I’m sure I’ll have to start the upload at that time tonight for this to post at 12:01 Friday!

Happy Hoopty-ing, folks! I’m sure enjoying (?) my current experience!

Silken Sands Success Stories

Today, the Sizzlers share our Silken Sands Conference Success Stories. Imagine pitching to your agent or editor at a table under an umbrella on the veranda of a resort hotel on the beach with a cool breeze blowing.  Most of our conference attendees had great succeses.  When The Calls come, ladies, please share them with the Sizzlers so we can post them in our blog.

Gothic Dweller

Gothicwriter: This year our Silken Sands Conference meant more to me then any of the others. I felt more of a member and I pitched for the first time to Lindsey Faber, and Elaine Spencer. Both requested material. Being around our group of writers felt like coming home. People who understand the need to write. It’s like a sisterhood. I have made history in my life this year and even if nothing becomes of what has happened. I’m proud of myself for the experience. I’m proud of all who tried, and to the ones who didn’t. Next time will be your time to shine. We understand the need to step back. It just means you weren’t ready. Dreams do come true. If you want something, you have to work for it. In the end, it’ll mean all the more. To Cynthia Eden. you put together a mean conference. Thank you for everything. You’re wonderful. And to all the ladies who received a request to send out “Good Luck!”  We’re getting closer.

Lizbeth:   The conference was great and I really learned a lot, especially at the editing presentation which will help with the final edits before submitting them. Patience Smith requested a full of my romantic suspense and Lindsey Faber requested a full of my paranormal short story. 







RitaVF:  Appreciated Cynthia Eden’s and Joan Turner’s hard work. Loved the conference. Learned a lot. Met new folks and visited with old ones. Only pitched to Samhain’s Lindsey Faber. She requested a full of His Obsession (SQUEEE!!). When I apologized for talking so fast (I had so much to say and so little time to say it.), she replied, “I talk fast but I hear fast, too.” A genuinely nice lady.  I’m going to do one more read before emailing it.  Won a basket and a critique by Dianna Love.  HAPPY DAYS!

Rita VF and Romancemama

Romancemama:  Wow! It was a fast, furious and fun weekend. This weekend marked the “coming out of the closet” of my pen name, Arabella Stokes. She has written books, but I have never introduced myself as her. Felt very odd. I talked about it with my new buddy Karen Rose (yes, shameless name-dropping here!) who like me has people in her life who can’t handle some of her writing.

And to me, that is just one example of what was so great about Silken Sands. We had all the bright-eyed neophytes like moi sitting down with industry powerhouses, and the biggies not only didn’t act bored with us, they were positively friendly and encouraging. I mean, for Karen Rose to compare any, any aspect of her incredible career with my hesitant little baby steps?!?!?! I sat and swilled cheap white wine with Barbara Vey, people! She put a picture of me on her blog! I chatted up the future of e-publishing with Lindsey Faber!It does not get any better than that.

The Gulf Coast Chapter is a rare and unique group, and our conference reflects that. I’ll go a step further: Cynthia Eden is one of the most professional, delightful people you could meet, and under her leadership, the conference couldn’t be anything else. The 2012 Chair (are you listening, SFCatty? LOL!) has huge shoes to fill!!!

Runere. I’ve piloted offshore marine vessels through Texas locks, and sat box on a dice game with over half a million dollars in play with only one tenth the trepidation with which I approached my two pitch appointments! Yes, it’s that big, and all consuming when it’s something you want so badly and only eight minutes to accomplish it. I felt like one of Sayde Grace’s cowboys in slo-mo: eight seconds vs eight minutes! I’m so fortunate to be part of the support system called RWA Chapter #125 and their spicy spin-off the Southern Sizzlers (Go, my writing sisters!). And I am beyond excited to report I have a request from Laura Bradford for the first thirty pages and a detailed synopsis of the book I pitched to her; and a request for the full MS of the book I pitched Lindsey Faber from Samhain Publishing. Lindsey went out of her way to make my experience a pleasant and promising one! Thank you so much Silken Sands for providing that opportunity!

Runere and Steve






Sayde Grace: I received a request for a new short story from Lindsey Faber and an ms from Megan Records.  

Sayde Grace







SFCatty:   Silken Sands Conference was a wonderful experience. Met lots of amazing people from all over the country as well as Canada. This was my first experience at a writer’s conference since I came out of the writing closet a bit over a year ago. I’m wondering what took me so long to get involved with such an awesome group of supportive people. It is inspiring to be around so many others that have the same interest in being the best we can be in our writing endeavors. I was impressed with each and every one of the editors and agents I met. All the speakers had knowledge to impart. It was a great experience and one I hope to repeat again and again. Even if none of the requests I got for my work pan out to anything, it was so worth it. Patience Smith asked for a full on Runaway, my romantic suspense and Lindsay Faber asked for a full on Redemption for the Devil , my 1920 Irish historical. I am also sending a partial of Runaway to Elaine Spencer. And, I’m proud to say that I’m not a pitch virgin any longer. Kudos to our conference chair, Cynthia Eden and her co-chair, Joan Turner. They are da bomb!    


Special Make-up Wetsday on Sunday

Since we have been doing our countdown to the Silken Sands Conference (you are planning to be there, right?), I have held off on the Wetsday posts. I don’t want to have my ramblings interfere with the very important and useful advice we are getting from the agents and writers who will be at the Conference on the Beach!

But my public has spoken. I am told that there is an audience for Wet Men, and that their absence has been noted with concern. So here, in honor of his March 2 birthday, is one of my favorite British boys – the amusing, enchanting — oh heck, just plain hot Daniel Craig.

Now, for those of you who are naughty enough to be wondering, yes, I did consider having our birthday boy in his birthday suit. This is, however, a family-friendly blog. (Although of course my family does not visit the blog. The DDs are beyond embarrassed that their mom [a] writes romance [b] and her books have people doing it and [c] at her age she even remembers what doing it is.)

But if anybody feels the need to see the lovely Mr. Craig in the altogether, his picture is out there for the googling. Or for the ogling. Whatever. If you can’t find it, let me know, cause IMHO it is kind of like the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains — one of those wonders of nature you shoudl see at least once.

(and ignore SFCatty if she disses Mr. Craig’s naughty picture — it is a shadow, I tell you, a shadow. Never impugn Bond, James Bond’s endowments in such a manner!!!!)

The Sizzlers Welcome Allison Knight!

One thing you have to say about the Southern Sizzlers, we have got some of the coolest friends you could ever hope to meet. Today it is our pleasure to introduce to you our friend Allison Knight, whose medieval story of love and jealousy, Heartsong, was voted the Best Novel of the Year by her publisher, Champagne Books, Inc. The eagerly-anticipated sequel, Battlesong, will be coming out August, 2010. Then you have to add to that our excitement about her upcoming “sweet Gothic” novella, working titled The Haunting of Hastings Hall — part of the Shadowed Hearts series. And we just got word today that Allison’s “A Treasure For Sara” has been nominated as Best Historical of 2009 by Love Romances and More.

In other words, Ms. Knight is one busy and popular author, and we are so pleased that she took a few minutes from writing to talk to us!

SS: Welcome to Southern Sizzle Romance, Ms Knight. Let’s talk about these releases. First, tell us about Battlesong.

ALLISON: Thank you for the welcome. About Battlesong, as the name implies this it a tale about a few battles. Of course, I write romance so these are battles between the hero and the heroine.

SS: What can you tell us about the story?Was there any incident or idea that inspired you?

ALLISON: I just knew Arthur, the youngest brother of Rhianna, my heroine of Heartsong, had to have his own story. Lo and behold the beginning (which I hope is a shocker!) came to me after my husband and I discussed various romantic hooks, some I’ve read, some I was thinking about using. (You have to understand I run most of my plots, especially the beginnings, by my husband before I actually start to outline things. He is great and often his comments will lead the story in a completely different direction than what I planned.) This beginning was a perfect start for Arthur’s story. Then I had to get him out of the situation I got him in, in the first place. Hence the title, Battlesong. Not sure that makes sense. You just have to read the book. I do love the beginning of this book.

SS: What drew you to the Middle Ages for these books?

ALLISON: I loved reading about the Middle Ages. And I write about the time periods I like to read myself. Besides, you can get away with a lot in a historical tale, that doesn’t work for a contemporary novel.

SS: Your readers can tell you do your research. But as writers, we’d like to know more about how you do it. Do you do all the research, or at least the bulk of it, before you write, or are you a look-things-up-as-you-go kind of girl?

ALLISON: I usually try to start with as much information as I think I’ll need. Notice I said – think! The book I’m working on now takes place during the reign of Charles the second. I did the research on clothing, London at that time, the plague and the London fire before I started. But, and that’s a big but, I get into the story and find I need to do more research. Not really sure if I need to do more research, or if something sparks an interest but off I go. I do love the research part. HMMMM Maybe that’s part of why I write historicals.

SS: In writing historical fiction, what resources do you find most useful, and why?

ALLISON: The computer…. I wrote my first three books on a typewriter. I hate to think of how many times I typed a page over and over and over. Being able to pick out sentences, rearrange paragraphs, change chapters. Oh, glorious.
With my second book, published by Kensington, I decided the second chapter was really the beginning of the book, not the original first chapter, which finally became the third chapter. I would have loved to have a computer then.
I also value my books. I have a wonderful book called the reverse Dictionary. I don’t know much about horses, or saddle parts, so I look up the word saddle in the reverse Dictionary and it lists everything and how and why. Invaluable. I have four different word finders – in case. You’d be surprised how many times they’ve come in handy.

SS: Got to get me a Reverse Dictionary! Having grown up loving Victoria Holt and Daphne DuMaurier, I am intrigued by the description of your novella as a “sweet Gothic.” How is it different from what you usually write?

ALLISON: A sweet Gothic is a Gothic without any sex. The most my hero and heroine do is kiss. Some of the Gothics by modern authors take the hero and heroine into the bedroom. I don’t. I figured my granddaughters could read them at 12 and 13 without their mothers yelling at me.

SS: Will we be seeing more Gothics from you? What great stories do you have up your sleeve for the future?

ALLISON:I love Gothics. I truly enjoy writing in the first person. I love becoming the heroine, struggling with danger, trying to figure a way out of a dilemma. At the present time, I’m working on the historical romance taking place in England during the fire, I also have the next ‘song’ book in the works. Not sure yet if this will be Arvil’s story or another of Rhianna’s brothers. When I get tired of writing third person, I’ll write another gothic. It might be next week, or next year.

SS: I am seriously looking forward to your Gothic – I love ‘em! Now, we never tell our ages here on the Sizzle – such an insignificant factoid, to our way of thinking. But we have to say that you have had a long-running successful career as an author. How does one maintain that kind of achievement over the long haul?

ALLISON:Like any thing else that is worth doing, you keep at it, and you have to enjoy what you do. I love writing. I love story telling, I always have. My kids will tell you, I told them stories as we occasionally drove to my mother’s (a three hour trip) as well as the trips to the lake for swimming in the summer. (a two hour trip). We’d go two or three times a week to the lake so I finally ended up verbally rewriting some of the bible stories for inspiration. My kids still laugh about some of my tales. But I truly enjoy what I do.

SS: And your readers enjoy what you do, too! You have been involved in e-publishing as much as anyone I can name. What should aspiring writers know when they are comparing going e-pub with more traditional publishers? The upside of e-pub, and what to look out for?

ALLISON: Probably the best advice to give is KNOW YOUR PUBLISHER. Note, I’m shouting. When I first started with e-publishing, the concept was new, the publishers inexperienced, some of them dishonest. I was lucky. I got my books back without too much damage. But there are companies now with track records. Those are the ones you want.
Another thing. Be realistic. If you don’t promote your work, no matter who the publisher, you will not make any money. Also if you write to get rich, you’re not realistic. According to research, the average author makes about six thousand a year. Not a living wage. E-publishing pays more now than when I started, but it still can’t compete with the money paid by traditional publishers per book. However, you can receive royalties on books five, six, seven years old because they are still out there. And if you continue to publish people will look for your old books. Old paperbacks only come from used book stores. No royalties on that.

SS: We have all heard horror stories about authors who sign over their rights to an e-publisher, and then the company disappears, with no sales, no royalties, and no right to re-sell the works to someone who will really market them. How prevalent is that, and how do authors guard against these problems?

ALLISON:You always hear about the bad ones. But with this business, again the best advice is find out everything you can about the publisher, ask questions, contact other authors who write for the same company. Do your research. There are crooks in almost every profession.

SS: So let’s say one of us finally gets the letter we are all wishing for – an e-publisher wants our baby! What should we look for (and look out for) in an e-pub contract?

ALLISON:Like New York’s big publishers, many of the better e-publishers have boilerplate contracts. The important thing is to learn what royalties mean, what rights mean, ask about the company’s business model. And don’t sign anything where you have to pay one penny to be published. Don’t pay to have your work published. It’s worse than giving your hard work away for nothing…….

SS: We are all somewhat familiar with the ways an author promotes her books with a traditional publisher – ARC’s, signed copies, etc. But how does a successful e-book author promote her books? What works for you, and is there anything you tried but found not to be successful?

ALLISON: Well, let’s see. Making ARC’s for reviewers, signing copies you make of your cover, chatting online, having a web presence. What works for traditional publishers works for e-published authors as well. Today, all authors have to promote their work. It doesn’t matter who their publisher is. After all, a book is a book, whether you hold paper in your hand or an electronic device. How your eyes see the words really doesn’t matter.
The one thing I don’t have much faith in are bookmarks. You can pay a lot for them and they really don’t do much for you. People tend to throw them away.

SS: Well, kids, now you have heard the inside story on e-publishing from someone who has the credentials. We cannot thank you enough for your insights, and the way you encourage all of us who want to grow up and be just like you!

If you want to meet Allison Knight and other great writers (and the Sizzlers themselves!) join us at the beach for the Silken Sands Writer’s conference in March. White sand beaches, good friends, and all the romance industry guidance you could ask for – so why aren’t you registered yet?????


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