Archive for category rainbow romance writers

RWA National Conference Next week! #RWA14

RWA is next week. I’ve been at turns excited and anxious about it. As one is, I guess. I’ll get a shiny Chapter President ribbon, so that’s cool, and I have a handful of meetings set up with various people, so I hope to have lots to report when I get home. I like the RWA conference, though it’s more business and less fun than a convention like RT; it’s more business casual and sensible shoes, basically. Last year, I actually had time to go to panels, though—which is not so much true of RT—and there look like there will be some good ones this year, so I hope to do that again, too.

If you’re in the San Antonio area, I’m signing at the literacy signing Wednesday night. I’ll have copies of The Stars that Tremble and The Silence of the Stars for sale. We have a small enough space that I didn’t go overboard with swag, but I will likely have bookmarks and things, too. And if you’ll be there, let me know so I can say hi. :)

The Pollyanna Principle

I am, generally speaking, an upbeat, optimistic person. I have dark moments—we all do—but for the most part, I try to keep a positive attitude.

But lately I’ve developed a complex about this.

This post is about to get kind of rambley, so apologies in advance.

First, an aside: A coworker of mine announced a few weeks ago that she was only going to read YA and not read literary fiction anymore. I am personally not a YA reader and have struggled to figure out why the genre is so popular among adults, but my coworker summed it up in a way I appreciated: YA is optimistic. Even in the darkest, most violent post-apocalyptic books, the teenage characters tend to have hope and optimism in the way only young people can, and my coworker liked that hope more than the sometimes depressing stories found in the literary fiction section of the book store.

And I said, “Why do you think I read romance novels?”

Romance is an optimistic genre. There are dark books and fluffy books and deeply emotional books and sweet books and basically anything that will hit your emotional sweet spot, but the key to the romance genre is the optimistic ending. Love will conquer all, the characters will end up together (at least for now), and good will triumph over evil.

I find that reassuring. There’s hope in the world, you know?

cheerleaderSo back to my complex. I’ve been working on an article that I want to pitch to a magazine about how having a positive attitude can help with book marketing. The gist is that getting bogged down in negativity—which publishing is rife with in the form of things like rejections, disappointing sales figures, bad reviews, and the like—could affect both your approach to self-promotion and how you come across to readers.

And I wrote a post for the new Rainbow Romance Writers blog about thinking bigger and LGBT romance breaking out of its niche to go mainstream, which I think a lot of people don’t realize is possible, but that I think totally is now in a way it never has been before.

But then I thought, Wow, do I come across as a ditzy cheerleader or what?

I believe every word of what I wrote. I believe that new opportunities for writers of LGBT romance open up every day. I believe that our little community does not need to be relegated to the ghetto, that readers are out there who want to buy our books in droves, that editors want these books.

But.

Just showing up is not enough. There’s still something of a disconnect between mainstream publishing and what indie/digital publishing has been up to for a while. The Big Five still aren’t really sure how to market LGBT romance, or aren’t sure how to acquire the good stuff. We’ve got a ways to go there.

I choose to view the fact that many editors I’ve talked to over the last few months are open to new things: Big Five publishers want LGBT romance; digital-first pubs that have only ever put out m/m are interested in the other colors of the rainbow. (Guys, a Big Five editor just told me this past Saturday that she’d love to see a good lesbian romance. For real!)

But maybe you are not so optimistic. And so I have a complex. Because I think maybe I’m coming across as the insane person, but I do believe, deep in my gut, that there are opportunities here for those willing to put in the effort to take advantage of them.

On the other side of the coin is the effort it takes. LGBT books won’t win major awards if none are entered in those contests. There won’t be LGBT panels at the big conventions if no one submits workshop proposals. The Big Five say they want LGBT romance but I get the impression some editors aren’t sure where to look for it, so we should bring it to them. It means pitching to editors or finding an agent, maybe, or taking a risk and trying something new. And, dude, I know, it’s not easy. Just writing a novel is a lot of work, and doing all this on top of it, putting yourself out there? That’s tough.

And, yeah, sure, for every editor on a panel at a conference who says she wants an LGBT YA book, there’s somebody in the audience who says, “Good luck with that. I hope you’re ready to lose readers and get threatening letters.” (This actually happened at a panel I attended. I was like, “Way to rain on the parade, lady.”) It’s also true, unfortunately, that not every writer who wants one can get a Big Five contract, that some writers will just never catch on with readers, that some books are too niche-y and weird to ever gain mainstream attention, or even that real life will get in the way of a budding career before it takes off.

So I guess my point is not to be all Mary Sunshine about this but to just say that these opportunities exist.

And I know there’s been some criticism of romance’s “culture of niceness.” It’s not limited to romance; I think this is something endemic to spaces dominated by women. Perhaps in some cases it can stifle legitimate criticism—the pressure put on reviewers to be nicer, for example, which I don’t think they are under any obligation to do. But there is also something to be said for professional courtesy. I view it this way: I treat other writers the same way I treat my coworkers at my day job. I try to be polite and respectful, basically. I want to foster creativity and create opportunity, not tear people down.

So I don’t know. Perhaps what I’m trying to say here is that I’m aware of the challenges because I’m well-informed and not delusional (…as far as I can tell), but at the same time, I can’t help but be hopeful. So I’ll keep churning out these cheerleader posts and hoping that some of what I say will stick and we will enter a brave new world where gender and race and those kinds of things matter not a whit, when the majority of readers just want a good story and that drives the market instead of vague inaccurate perceptions of what readers are really looking for. (Okay, now I’ve gone over the edge with the optimism, but I think the point holds.)

Being the president of Rainbow Romance Writers gives me a platform, and I choose to use it to inspire others because I want to see LGBT romance (and multicultural romance and anything else that people want to write that is considered outside the “mainstream”) prosper and succeed, not even for personal gain but just because I think these are stories that should be told and deserve an audience. I want to see an LGBT book win a RITA, be a New York Times bestseller, be that book that everybody is talking about. I want us writers to be taken seriously because we work hard at what we do and we deserve respect.

I want a lot of things, I guess.

So… Go team!

class participation

Because I am a total sucker for a clearance sale, I bought these beautiful shoes that are too nice and summery for the gray, slushy New York City winter we’re currently having. Because I am a writer, part of me thought, “That’s a really great metaphor for an essay I’ve been meaning to write.” Basically, a lot of us pay for opportunity—pink Fluevog pumps that can’t be worn until spring, say, or a membership in a professional organization—without fully taking advantage.

As you may be aware, I’m currently serving as president of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America. It’s an online chapter, as opposed to a local chapter (for example, I am also a member of RWANYC). All exist to serve the interests of career-focused romance writers.

I get asked frequently whether joining RWA is worth it. “What’s in it for me?” writers want to know.

Here’s my answer: Maybe nothing. Or maybe a great deal. It depends on what you put into it.

My first year in RWA, I paid my dues and then… did nothing. I’m not sure I really understood RWA’s mission or how it operates, so I mostly waited, figuring the value would make itself apparent. It didn’t. I joined my local chapter, which has an active email loop, but I mostly ignored that. I didn’t attend any events. When it came time to renew my membership, I almost didn’t, because I didn’t understand what I was supposed to be getting out of the organization.

But then I renewed and also joined Rainbow Romance Writers. I volunteered for RRW projects and started attending local RWANYC meetings. New York City actually has a wonderful, thriving community of romance writers and fans, and I had no idea until I started going to events.

Anyone who has ever been to a convention knows that feeling of walking into a room and feeling like you’ve found your people. That’s been my experience at RWA events, at conventions, at readings and signings. I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to get involved in person. Because it’s not just meeting your fellow tribe members; every chapter of RWA has writers at all stages of their career, from “pre-published,” in the parlance of RWANYC, to bestselling. Everyone’s experience has been unique. I find it tremendously valuable just to talk to other writers, to learn from their experiences or to spitball ideas or even just to talk about books we love or tropes we could do without. I actually spent a lot of time this past weekend having meals with other writers and talking about the biz. It’s inspiring.

My local chapter, probably primarily because of its location, also attracts a lot of industry people to our meetings. We get editors and agents and librarians and lawyers and publicists and bloggers and so on as guest speakers. That’s been educational. I’ve gotten to meet and have great one-on-one conversations with some of my favorite writers. Hell, meeting Nora Roberts at last year’s RWA conference and gawking at her shoes was basically worth the price of admission if you have been reading her books as long as I have.

One of my first acts upon joining Rainbow Romance writers was to volunteer for a chapter project, which also turned into other opportunities. The most notable thing I did was co-write a survey of romance readers and then later analyze all the data. I learned a ton. That work apparently convinced the powers that be that I was board material, so I was persuaded to run and now I’m sitting here wearing the proverbial tiara as president.

A lot of what RRW does is probably not obvious to its membership, but I can point to some tangible things that happened before my time on the board (helping to get reviews of LGBT romance in RT magazine being the big one) or things I had a direct hand in (like the Writers Workshop at GayRomLit).

My project for my presidency is bookstore and library outreach—I want to see more LGBT romance in those places, to raise the profile of LGBT romance writers and get books into the hand of more readers. That’s maybe a lofty goal, but I believe it’s doable. I’ve already talked to bookstores and I’m doing a panel at a library next month and I’m hard at work as president. Library outreach in particular has been a pet project of mine for a while, particularly since I learned via the aforementioned survey that many, many readers discover new books at the library. That’s a huge opportunity our community might be missing out on.

I wouldn’t be doing any of this if I hadn’t gotten involved. I wouldn’t be having these experiences, and I do believe my life and career have been greatly enriched by my involvement with RWA. My dues money would be like throwing a fistful of cash into thin air if I hadn’t started going to meetings and volunteering.

RWA, RRW, local RWA chapters, all of these things can do a lot for you, but only if you get in there and take advantage of what’s being offered.

news briefs

Happy holidays, everyone! Here are a few things happening in 2014:

I’m reading at Lady Jane’s Salon on January 6th! If you can get yourself to Houston Street in NYC at 7pm, you should come! I’ll be reading from The Stars that Tremble.

Last week, I signed a contract for the sequel to The Stars that Tremble. It’ll be out late spring 2014. It’s called The Silence of the Stars and I pretty much put Sandy through the emotional ringer. I put up an unofficial blurb on the Upcoming page.

I just booked my hotel room for Liberty States (finally) and got my roommate situation sorted out for RT, so conventions are happening.

And I’m gearing up to take on the presidency of Rainbow Romance Writers on January 1st.

In the meantime, I spent December writing a very silly holiday novella that may be out next December? I always hate to predict these things before the ink is dry on the contract, especially for something like this that wasn’t in my schedule. I like this story, but it’s over-the-top happy holiday fluff, basically. Sometimes you need that, though.

Warm wishes to you and yours! Here’s to a stellar 2014!

GRL 2013 Wrap-Up

I can say, as someone who has been to every GRL, that each one has kind of a different vibe. For me, the six days I spent in Atlanta were busy and intense but also really wonderful and surprising and inspiring.

[I wrote this post Tuesday, and then thought, "I didn't take any photos, so I'll pull some off Facebook later," then kept forgetting to go do that. If you are friends with any gay romance author on the Book of Faces, you've probably seen the photopalooza of the last few days and are totally sick of it, so this will be a texty review of events. I'll paint pictures with words! (Ha, no, what am I, in a college creative writing class?) Here are my impressions as recorded Tuseday.]

This year, I got involved behind the scenes to help run the first ever Writers Workshop. The Workshop was run by Rainbow Romance Writers, for which I am the current president-elect, and it was intended to bring together writers to help share and foster talent. The whole event was a phenomenal success. It went more smoothly than I ever thought possible and we got nothing but positive feedback. Participants seemed to enjoy the classes—even my workshop on setting, although I felt like I got off to a slow start—and the pitch appointments ended up being a great surprise, with many writers doing their first ever pitches. I know some editors asked for partials and full manuscripts, so maybe the next big success will come of it.

I’ve already started talking to the GRL organizers about bringing it back next year, so stay tuned!

Somehow in all this, the Scarf Dance meme was created. Well, Damon Suede told a room full of people that I would be performing a scarf dance at the post-Workshop cocktail party, and people might have been disappointed that I just gave a short speech, but I did wave my arms a bit, and then Damon spent the rest of the week yelling “scarf dance!” at me.

(Phrase memes became a theme of the week. I roomed with Tere Michaels, and by the end, we were so tired, we were basically just speaking to each other in code. “Scarf dance?” “Clown!”)

Thursday morning, I went to the supporting author signing. I grabbed the sampler of stories by the supporting authors and carried it around to get signed by everyone. Putting that book together was a fantastic idea and gave me a good excuse to talk to all the authors there. I can’t wait to flip through it and read.

I volunteered to moderate, so I spent all of Thursday afternoon at the pub for readings. I moderated the very first session—Anne Tenino, Lloyd Meeker, and Shannon West, who were all fantastic—then I stuck around for Damon, Heidi Cullinan, and Deanna Wadsworth, then finally I read from The Stars that Tremble after readings from Jade Buchanan and Anna Zabo. (I heard later that while I was reading, TJ Klune proposed to Eric Arvin. Congrats, guys!)

Thursday night was the neon-themed Juke Joint party, a blast as always.

Friday morning, I did a storytelling panel on sports romance with Devon Rhodes and TA Chase, who are awesome and amazing and now I want to read their athletes series. (Obscure sports from around the world!)

Friday afternoon was the Fun Fair, including Scrapbooking with the Rainbow Romance Writers, which seemed to be a big hit. After doing all the prep work for that, I could go a while without seeing another glue stick, but we’re already talking about doing it again next year and extending the event to 2 hours instead of just 1 so readers have time to hit up every author.

At Dine with an Author, I wound up at a table tucked in the corner with Mr. Suede, but we had a fun little bunch of people. This was followed up by the Dreamspinner cocktail party, which was super classy! I really enjoyed seeing everyone all dressed up.

Saturday morning, I moderated the first session of readings—Jordan L. Hawk, P.D. Singer, and Angel Martinez, who, again, were all fantastic—then I crashed Tere Michaels’s panel on cop romances, which she did with Hank Edwards and Sylvia Violet. (Poor Tere had no voice by then.)

Saturday afternoon was the big book signing. Three hours is a lot and I had a terrible headache through most of it—not to be whiney—but it was great to see fans and talk to people I hadn’t been able to talk to up to that point in the convention.

Then there was a cocktail party and the Heaven & Hell Masquerade. I’m not really into wearing costumes, but I appreciate when other people do, and I really loved that party and how great some of those costumes were. My halo and angel wings were apparently not convincing, though. I can’t imagine why people weren’t buying the angel act. O:-)

There was brunch Sunday. I was busy trying to figure out how to ship leftover scrapbooking stuff and missed the photo booth, something I regret in retrospect. Then I flew home.

I worked yesterday, which wasn’t as bad as I expected, but today I am tiiiired.

My takeaways? I love this community of writers and readers so very much. I am SO EXCITED to get back to writing as soon as I have enough energy to do it. I have a towering virtual TBR pile on the Kindle with books written by authors I met and adored, so if I could have a week off to just read, that would be awesome. (My boss does not seem to like this idea.) And finally, I left with a lot of optimism for my tenure as RRW President in 2014. (I’m about 80% happy and excited and 20% abjectly terrified about taking over as president. I have some, er, big, loud shoes to fill. Perhaps my reign will be more understated but we’ll still kick ass and get a lot done as a chapter.)

RWA is next week!

If you’re attending the Romance Writers of America convention in Atlanta next week, hopefully I’ll see you there! If you’re in the Atlanta area, the big signing Wednesday night (7/17) from 5:30 to 7:30 is open to the public. I’ll be signing there, so stop by and say hi!

I’m really looking forward to it!

I’ll start up the Five Things on Friday posts again later in July when I’m back.

five things on friday: lots of news!

I saw these gorgeous pink flowers yesterday. Hooray spring!

I saw these gorgeous pink flowers yesterday. Hooray spring!

Lots of things to report in the weekly wrap-up post!

1. I’m trying to get the word out that there’s still time to register for the GayRomLit Writers Workshop if you have not done so yet, but you only have until July 15th. It takes place the Wednesday before GRL and is a separate event, so make sure you register if you want to go. If you need an extra incentive, the preliminary schedule has been posted to the GRL website so you can get an idea for what you’re in for. I think this is a fantastic lineup and I’m really psyched for it. There’s something here for everyone, too, from the aspiring to the established author.

2. Ink is drying on the contract for my next novel, the book I’ve mentioned before that is a romance between an opera singer and construction worker called The Stars that Tremble. It’ll be out in the fall (hopefully in time for GRL *fingers crossed*).

3. Book Expo America is next week. I’ll be there on Thursday and Friday—if you will be there also, I want to know! Maybe we can wave at each other across the vast expanse of the exhibition hall!

4. The TV show White Collar has been filming in my neighborhood, much to the consternation of anyone who needs to navigate 8th Avenue in Brooklyn because they keep closing off streets, but I don’t even care because I walked past Matt Bomer on my evening commute Thursday, and that, my friends, made my week. Dear Lord, that is a beautiful man. (I was too awestruck to get a photo. Next time!)

5. You may have heard about the wave of anti-gay violence in New York City. Monday night, I was in the West Village for a book club meeting, and I saw part of the neighborhood rally against the violence. I’m appalled by these crimes—I think there have been 7 incidents just this month, including one man who was shot and killed—but it’s amazing to see people in Chelsea and the West Village come together. Still, it’s alarming; the crimes are seemingly random and unconnected, maybe not a reaction to anything specific so much as a coincidence. I’ve lived in New York in an era when it is one of the safest large cities in the country, and it’s so easy to forget that it’s still a city where crime and violence are not exactly anathema. Although, I also read an articule today that argued that it’s not so much an increase in anti-gay crime in the city as it is an increase in reporting.

BONUS! If you like Regency romances, I just read A Lady Awakened by Cecelia Grant and I loved it so, so much. (It’s not m/m, no, but it’s such a great book.) It’s so refreshingly different from every Regency you’ve read before, with a cold heroine who must be thawed and a flawed hero who has to grow up, and together they fumble their way through their specific purposes—hers to keep her estate, his to learn how to manage his land—and end up together, and it’s fantastic.

Romance Reader Survey!

Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America, is conducting a survey of romance writers in which we (yes, we; full disclosure: I’m a member and helped create the survey) are asking nosy questions about your reading habits and genre preferences, among other things. If you’ve got five minutes, we would greatly, greatly appreciate your taking the time to respond. We’re looking to get responses from a wide swath of romance readers, not just readers of LGBT romance, so we want to hear from everyone. Tell your friends! Pass it around!

Take the survey!