RWA Nationals and What I Learned There

I recently had the chance to attend the annual convention of the Romance Writers of America. I’ve been a member of RWA since 2010, but this is the first time since I joined that I’ve been able to go to the convention (usually referred to as Nationals). The location changes every year, and this year, Nationals was at Walt Disney World. For me, that’s close enough to commute.

What happens at Nationals? I didn’t know before I went. I’ve been to conventions before – mostly science fiction conventions of all sizes, from tiny local conventions where everyone knows everyone else, all the way up to the big ones like Megacon, Gencon, and the World Science Fiction Convention. And I’ve been to professional development events before. Neither prepared me for what I walked in to that first day.

When you check in your first day, they give you a tote bag (remember this – it’s important later) and lanyard, your name badge and a pin for that year’s Nationals. And if it’s your first time, they give you a brightly colored ribbon that reads “First Timer.”

That ribbon is considered an open invitation for people to talk to you – to check on you, make sure you’re not getting overwhelmed, that you’re drinking and eating, that you’re just having fun. Random people will come up to you and introduce themselves and ask what you’re writing. It sounds like it would be introvert hell. But somehow, it isn’t. I’m still working out why that is. Maybe because most writers are introverts themselves, and they know how to read the signs on someone who needs a little more space? I don’t know. But not once during Nationals did anyone approach me when I needed my space to process or to just be.

Now, when you get to Nationals, if you want to get your name out there, you go put something out in the Goody Room. If you’re promoting a book, or a service, or just yourself, you get something for that room. I’ve send postcards to other Nationals, but paper very rarely gets any notice because there’s so much of it! The goodies that get noticed and talked about fall into one of four categories:

    • Useful

    • Clever

    • Whimsical

    • “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Since I didn’t want my goodies to be immediately recycled, I went for what I thought was whimsical, but which turned out to be a solid “why didn’t I think of that?!?” I brought naughty dice. They disappeared from the Goody Room in under an hour, and since I was commuting, I missed the flurry of “Who brought the sex dice???” questions that happened after the panels were over for the day. Apparently, no one ever thought of this before, and I’m wondering how many other erotica writers will be bringing sex dice to Nationals next year in Denver!

This brings me to the second thing I learned. Commuting to the conference was a mistake! Even though Nationals was only forty five minutes from my house, I should have stayed the entire time. I learned a lot during the day, but all the real networking happened after the panels were over. I missed out on a lot of meeting people because I simply wasn’t there!

There is another reason to stay on site. Remember that tote bag? By the end of four days, I had filled that tote bag twice, along with two reusable grocery bags. With what? Well, every publisher that had a presence at Nationals hosted signings with as many of their authors as were available. These signings ranged in size from good sized conference rooms to ballrooms that could hold several hundred people. And all of the books at these signings were free. All of them. Including the brand-new not released to the public until Saturday Sherrilyn Kenyon book – I had it on Thursday. I kept having to go put books in my car, because I couldn’t carry all the books!

So, so what I learned is that Nationals is all about socializing, swag and books, right?

No.

Remember how I said I’ve been to professional development conferences and to big science fiction conventions like Worldcon? At those conventions, there are definite distinctions between the “Real” writers and the “Real” fans, and everyone else. There are cliques, and there are gatekeepers – those people who determine if the newcomers are worthy to be admitted into the cabal. There can be a lot of dissension between the older fans and the new blood, and there have been conventions that have suffered because of it.

There’s none of of that at Nationals. And from what I’ve heard, there’s none of that at RT – the romance reader convention hosted by Romance Times. So I have to say that the single most important thing that I learned at Nationals is that in the romance community, the operative word is “community.” The romance community is made up of people who look at that brightly colored “First Timer” ribbon and say, “Oh, it’s your first time! Welcome home!” In the romance community, a newcomer can go to an awards luncheon, and sit next to a luminary in the romance world, a lovely woman who has been writing for thirty years, and have that luminary make sure that the newcomer is not eating anything that they shouldn’t because of their allergies (that Luminary just found out about that moment. Yes, this happened to me.) The romance community is made up of the amazing men and women who write these books, and who consider each other family, so Nationals is essentially the romance family reunion.

That is what I learned at Nationals. I think other genres can learn from us romance writers. Here, there are no puppies – sad, rabid or otherwise. There are no gatekeepers. There is no hierarchy here, no “I’ve been doing this for aeons, so you must bow down!” There is no “Us against Them.” Here, there’s teasing and laughing and just having fun with each other, because we’re all in this together. Here, there are only writers, at different stages in their careers, who are here to support and help and learn from each other, the way families do.

Next year, the romance family reunion is in Denver. I can’t wait!

Postscript:

Now, I wrote everything preceding this paragraph in the initial rosy glow of a post-Nationals haze. In the weeks after Nationals, I learned that, just like other families, there are those relatives — the ones that make the cousins groan and shake their heads. However, unlike at my other family reunions, those relatives aren’t allowed to expound their unpopular opinions because they’re older. At the RWA, when those relatives started going on about how things were better when that sort of people weren’t allowed a seat at the table, they got shut down. Hard. It was inspiring to see how many people called the bigots on their bigotry, and how little the family was willing to tolerate.

There was a a time, apparently, when it was okay in the RWA to say that that sort of people shouldn’t be allowed a seat at the table. Not anymore. We’re not only at the table, we’re being fussed over by luminaries not to eat the things that might make us sick.

Is the RWA perfect? Probably not. But, like Stitch might say, “It’s still good. Yeah, still good.”

Posted by EASchechter in RWA, 0 comments

Release Week, Day 4 — Writing the Other, part 2

Today I’m a guest over at Bending the Bookshelf, talking once more about Writing the Other.

This book did it to me again — first, it was Matthias telling me halfway through book one that I was wrong when I planned for him to be gay. He was asexual.

Now, there’s a new character who did the same damned thing! I wasn’t planning on writing a transgender character when I started this book, but the character had other ideas.  Which meant that once again, I had to stop midstream and make sure I was doing it right. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know how important that is for me.

Go read the blog post. Then go read the book. I want to know what you all think.

 

 

Posted by EASchechter in Blog Tour, guest post, new books, Rebel Mage, Where Home Lies, 0 comments

Today!!!!

It’s out! It’s here! 

No longer in exile, the rebel mage Matthias can finally return to his home enclave and settle into a new life with his beloved Solomon. As he struggles with his role leading the new town of Sanctuary, upheld by the people who once rejected him, Matthias knows all too well that the relative peace he’s found is temporary. The forces that razed Haven are still out there, still looking for him, still seeking to destroy everything he now protects. While there are alliances to make, mouths to feed, and people who look to him to protect them, his enemies will just have to wait.

When tragedy strikes, Matthias, Solomon, and Matthias’ cousin Tam are forced back onto the road again, this time seeking answers in the forbidden north; answers that may lead to new beginnings, or to the end of everything they’ve ever known. (M/M, M/F)

Here, have an excerpt:

“Sol, can I talk to you? Alone?”

Solomon looked puzzled, but he stopped and waited, listening until the front door closed and the house fell silent. Matthias let out the breath he was holding, then gestured — the library door closed and locked.

Solomon arched an eyebrow. “We’re alone in the house. Isn’t that overkill?”

Matthias smiled slightly and started to pick his way around the stacks of books, pacing nervously, drunkenly through them. It was hard to look at Solomon, hard to get the words out.

“You asked me to marry you,” he finally said.

“I remember.”

“I said yes.”

Solomon coughed. “I remember that, too.”

Matthias stopped, looking out the window. He really couldn’t see anything except his own reflection — the windows on this side of the library faced away from the square, and in the darkness, the glass was more of a mirror than a window. He could see Solomon watching him, and it didn’t make the actual asking any easier. He watched in the glass as Solomon came closer.

“Matt?”

“Tomorrow is Midwinter,” Matthias said. “I was born on Midwinter day.”

Solomon’s hands were warm on his shoulders. “I think I knew that. What are you trying to ask me, Matt?”

“Solomon, if I asked you to, would you take me upstairs and take me to bed? For sex, I mean. Not for sleep.”

For a moment, there was no answer. No sound at all, and Matthias wondered if he was even breathing. Then Solomon gently turned him around until they were face to face.

“Explain?” Solomon asked softly. “I can’t follow you when your thoughts go off at angles like this. How did we get from one to the other?”

Thoughts going off at angles? It was a good way to describe it, and it took a while before Matthias could manage to gather his thoughts into something that might make sense to someone who wasn’t inside his head. “I’m twenty tomorrow. I’m of age by the laws of the Enclaves, and don’t tell me that those laws don’t matter anymore. I know that. But I’m used to them.”

“I wasn’t going to say that,” Solomon said, sounding amused. “I am going to say that for someone who hasn’t had a man’s status, you’ve had a man’s burden for a long time.”

Matthias nodded. “No arguments. And tomorrow… I want my life back, Sol. I want what the Elders took from me. Everything they took from me. I have most of it — I have my freedom again. I have a home, a place. A purpose. I have people who care about me, and that’s something I never thought I’d have. There’s one thing left.” He rested his hands flat on Solomon’s chest. “I want to feel whole again. I want to stop feeling broken. I want me back.”

Solomon swallowed and let out a long breath. He covered Matthias’ hands with his own and looked Matthias in the eyes. “Matt, do you understand that this might not change that? It’s not going to magically make it all better.” He grinned slightly. “I’m good. I’m not that good.”

Matthias smiled. “I know it won’t make everything right. Give me that much credit. But that’s not what I’m looking for.” He licked his lips, and saw Solomon’s eyes track the movement. “I’ve taken back control over the rest of my life. It’s time I stopped being afraid and took this back, too. I don’t know if I’ll want it ever again, but tonight? I love you, Solomon. I know you said you weren’t going to take me to bed until I was ready. I’m saying that I think I’m ready.” He paused. “No. I’m saying that I am ready.”

Solomon nodded slowly. He ran his thumbs up and down the sides of Matthias’ hands, then asked, “You’re sure?”

“I think so, yes.” He swallowed, then repeated, “Yes.”

Solomon smiled slightly. “Then ask me again.”

Matthias blinked. He tried to step back, but Solomon kept a firm hold on his hands. He nodded, wordlessly encouraging Matthias to speak. Matthias licked his lips again and softly asked, “Solomon, will you take me upstairs and take me to bed?”

Solomon smiled broadly, bringing Matthias’ hands up and kissing both palms, one after the other. “All you had to do was ask, love. And mean it.” He tugged Matthias toward the door. “Come on. We’ll eat first, then—” He smiled. “Then I’ll show you how it’s supposed to be.”

Posted by EASchechter in Blog Tour, excerpt, happy-happy- joy- joy, KermitArms, new books, Rebel Mage, Release date, Where Home Lies, 0 comments

Release Week, Day 2 — The Secret to Writing Success.

Release Week (to the tune of Maria, from West Side Story)

Tomorrow, my new book releases tomorrow…

And.. that’s about as far as I got on that one. Luckily, I write novels better than I write song parodies!

Today on the blog tour, I give up the secret to writing success, something I learned while at RWA Nationals this past July. Want to know the secret? Go look!

Posted by EASchechter in Blog Tour, Rebel Mage, Release date, RWA, upcoming work, Where Home Lies, 0 comments

Release Week, Day 1 — Interview!

It’s here! It’s here! Where Home Lies drops on TUESDAY!!!

Since this is release week, Forbidden Fiction has a whole bunch of things lined up, including a release party with giveaways on Thursday night from 8PM to 10 PM Eastern. First up, though, is an author interview.

Check it out!

Posted by EASchechter in happy-happy- joy- joy, interview, Rebel Mage, Release date, the-end-is-near, upcoming books, Where Home Lies, 0 comments

I *might* have forgotten to post this…

In the sheer mental exhaustion that came after nearly a week at RWA Nationals, I might have forgotten to post this…

Heart’s Master is a finalist in the LGBT category for the Golden Flogger Award for Best BDSM book of 2017!

Here are all the finalists:

BDSM Light:

D.M. Barr Expired Listings
Sierra Cartwright Boss
Chloe Cox Trust An Even Hand
Jill Shannon Onxy
Maddie Taylor Sweet Submission
Jade Waters The Assignments

Advanced
Alexis Abbott Owned by the Hitman
Lilly Freeman A little band of red
C.D. Reiss Marriage Games
Elizabeth SaFleur Perfect (Elite Doms of Washington Book 3)
Amelia Smarts Emma’s Surrender
Tara Sue Me The Master
Katy Swann Behind the Scenes
Cecilia Tan Taking the Lead
Maddie Taylor French Kiss
Jillian Verne Harmony

Dark Erotica
Alaska Angelini Insufferable
Jennifer Bene Lethal Sin
Annabel Joseph Trust Me
Claire Thompson Secrets
Dominant women/submissive men
Cailin Briste Maon: Marshal of Tallav
Monica Corwin On a White Horse
Mariel Dumont A Job Well Done
Elia Winters Tied Score
LGBT
Elizabeth Andre Give Me Thorns
Lynda Aicher The Deeper He Hurts
Jenna Jacob Bound to Surrender
Elizabeth Schechter Heart’s Master
L.A. Witt Kinky Sprinkles

Ménage
Livia Grant Infamous Love
Joey W. Hill Naughty Wishes
Cherise Sinclair Mischief & The Masters
Lainie Suzanne Wicked
Novella
R.E. Hargrave Brooklyn Blues
Renee Rose Theirs to Punish
Tara Sue Me The Claiming
Minxie Wells Communication Skills
Jade Waters The Assignments
Paranormal — Futuristic — Fantasy
Cailin Briste Maon: Marshal of Tallav
Monica Corwin On a White Horse
Joey W. Hill Medusa’s Heart
Christian Kennedy The One Gold Slave
Non-fiction
Mrs. Darling Darling Discovered: A True Story of Submission
Felicia Vine BDSM Mastery: 29 Must-Know Tips to Spice Up Your Sex Life
Anthologys
HL37 Make Me Take it for You
Ashe Barker His Domain
Mari Carr One Night in Vegas

The awards will be given at BDSM Writers Con in New York, on August 17th.

And hey, if you’ve read this far, maybe support the Thunderclap for Where Home Lies? That will be coming out in September!

Posted by EASchechter in Golden Flogger, happy-happy- joy- joy, Heart's Master, KermitArms, kvelling, 0 comments

Thunderclap for Where Home Lies!

Wait, I hear you cry. What’s a Thunderclap?

It’s a way to help a creator promote something — you agree to allow a one time message to be sent through your social media. In this case, you’ll send out one message on your Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr on September 4th, telling the whole world, or all your followers, that Where Home Lies comes out on the 5th.

That’s it. That’s all.

Interested in helping out? Click here!

Posted by EASchechter in Forbidden Fiction, forthcoming works, new books, promotions, Rebel Mage, Release date, Thunderclap!, upcoming work, Where Home Lies, 0 comments

And the Prism goes to….

Someone else. Harper Jameson won with her very first book The Spirit. Congrats to her!!!

Heart’s Master tied for second. I’m still very pleased!

Posted by EASchechter in award-winning, contest, Drum Mage, Heart's Master, kvelling, Prism 2017, SQUEEE, 1 comment

Cover reveal!

I have to admit, I squeed a little when I saw the cover for Where Home Lies. It’s a very undignified noise, but I don’t care, because TAM!!!

I have to admit, I never intended for Tam to become a major character in the series. If I remember my original outline correctly, he never made it to Haven. Stubborn cuss that he is, he refused to die. And decided for me that he was going to become an important character. So I’m fond of him.

So, without further ado, here’s the cover. Where Home Lies will be available from Forbidden Fiction on September 5th.

Posted by EASchechter in cover art, Forbidden Fiction, forthcoming works, new books, Rebel Mage, SQUEEE, 0 comments

More Cover Art

I don’t have a release date for these, but I do have some really nifty cover art for the reissue of the first two Tales from the Arena books.

 

 

And just to let you know, there will be a third Tales book. Tales from the Arena: Dead Man’s Hand will be around at some point (yes, that’s vague. All I know about it is the title!)

Posted by EASchechter in cover art, slow-writer-is-slow, Tales from the Arena, 0 comments