Work in Progress: The White Raven, week 8

I can honestly say that this is my first real off week. I made my daily wordcount twice this week. Now, I know why. I just need to figure out how to work around it.

I did something to my back in mid-October. I’m still not sure how I did it (I think it had to do with coughing and bronchitis), and no one seems to be sure what exactly I did. The current theory is sciatica, and I’ve started physical therapy to see if that will help. Which cuts down on my writing time by about two hours a day (an hour in the office, and the time it takes me to do the exercises at home.)

So here’s the total. I’m pleased to say that I’m still ahead of where I should be for 8 weeks in.

The White Raven
Week Eight Total Wordcount

Now, since I really didn’t get a lot of writing done this week, I don’t have anything new to show you.

I can, however, show off the beginning of Cookiepocalypse 2017 (or as a friend of mine calls it, Porn for Diabetics. Yes, she is diabetic.)

These are gluten free chocolate chip cookies.  Tomorrow, there will be coconut macaroons. Later this week will be the three color cookies that I make every year, biscotti, spritz cookies (at the request of J.), and possibly shortbread with the Lego shaped cookie cutter.

So that’s my plan for the week. Stretches, cookies, and words.

Posted by EASchechter in baking, forthcoming works, Gluten-free, Princes of Air, The White Raven, upcoming work, wordcount, 0 comments

Work in Progress: The White Raven, week 7

This week started out strong. I made 40K words on day 46, which was the last day of NaNoWriMo… and then my forward progress slowed to a crawl. Part of it was that the bullet journal I’ve been using to track words and keep all my story notes in fell apart, and I needed to move everything into a new one. So I’ve been doing stuff that is writing related, but it’s actually writing the story. Baking starts next week (if anyone remembers my posts from last year about cookies), so I need to put some major words on the page this week.

The White Raven
Week Seven Total Wordcount

This week’s excerpt is a short one that I just wrote. Lorcan is going to make is debut in the Coliseum, and is being instructed on what to expect by the senior gladiators. Including an interesting aspect of gladiatorial life…

Excerpt:

Lorcan nodded. “Will I know who I’m fighting before?”

“It won’t matter yet,” Yaroah answered. “You won’t know any of them, and Manius hasn’t let you come see when we fight. He should have.” He frowned. “And I didn’t give it any thought, but he should have, as part of your training.”

“No matter,” Lorcan said. “I go on the sands, and I fight.”

“No, first you salute the Emperor. Or whoever of the Imperial family is in the box,” Ennius said. “If it’s not the Emperor, it’ll be Gaius. The heir. Tavi might be there, too.”

Lorcan nodded. “Salute the box, and whoever is sitting there. And then?”

“Try not to die,” Yaroah said, his voice dry. “When you beat your opponent, the Emperor decides his fate.”

Lorcan stared at him. “What?”

“If you don’t kill him right off, the Emperor might decide he needs killing, and tell you to do it.” Yaroah made a gesture with one hand. “You see that, you kill them. There’s no arguing, either. You do it, or you die with him.”
Lorcan nodded slowly. “I understand. And then?”

“Then?” Yaroah chuckled. “Then, Livia might get mad at you.”

“Why?” Lorcan looked up at Ennius, who was… well, the only word was giggling.

“You know how they scrape the oil off of us?” Yaroah answered. “Do you know what they do with it?” Lorcan shook his head, and Yaroah grinned. “Gladiator sweat is in high demand among the high-born women, Lorcan. And if the gladiator wins, and wins well? So is he.”

Lorcan frowned. “Sweat. They want sweat. Why?”

“It’s an aphrodisiac,” Ennius answered. Lorcan looked up at him.

“I don’t know that word.”

“A sex potion, Lorcan,” Yaroah explained. “They put it into their cosmetics, and they think it makes them… I don’t know. Something.”

Lorcan blinked. He looked up at Ennius, then shook his head. “You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?”

 

Posted by EASchechter in excerpt, Princes of Air, The White Raven, upcoming books, upcoming work, wordcount, 0 comments

Work in Progress: The White Raven, week 6

I might not make the Nano goal of 50,000 words in a month, but just over a third of a novel in six weeks? That’s really nothing to sneeze at. Especially since this week was a holiday week, and I had one day of no words, and one day of close to no words.  I pulled my total weekly words out today when my husband and son went out to catch Pokemon.

The White Raven
Week Six Total Wordcount

I’ve been having a lot of fun with the research into Roman baths. According to what I’ve read, Roman men spent so much time in the baths that they did their day to day business there, while lounging in the tepidarium and getting oiled and scraped by slaves.

Oiled and scraped? What?

Here, take a look. Lorcan’s first experience with a Roman bath.

Excerpt:

The next room was warm, warmer than Lorcan was used to, but he ignored it, staring in wonder at the elaborate decorations on the walls. He wandered over to one, examining the thousands of brilliantly colored tiles that made up the pictures. Laughter caught his attention, and he turned to see his escort smiling. He said something in that other language, then gestured. Two men in brief garments came forward. Lorcan’s companion gestured to a place in front of him, then mimed taking off his robe. Lorcan looked at the other men, then back at his companion. He arched a brow, and his escort laughed and nodded. Lorcan shook his head, and his companion sighed, then left the room. He came back a few minutes later wearing a similar robe. He took his off and handed it to one of the attendants, then looked expectantly at Lorcan. Lorcan grimaced, but took his robe off. One of the attendants took it and laid it on a bench, coming back with two jars. He handed one to the other attendant, then waited. Lorcan looked to his escort for guidance, and remembered Ivo. He tapped his chest.

“Lorcan. I’m Lorcan,” he said.

His escort smiled. “Felix,” he said, repeating the gesture. Then he held his arms wide, and the attendant started rubbing something onto his skin. Lorcan blinked and looked at the man waiting next to him. He held his hand out, and the attendant opened the jar and and handed it to him. Lorcan sniffed at the contents, then dipped a finger in to what appeared to be some kind of thick, heavily scented oil. He handed the jar back and held his arms out, the way that Felix had. His attendant started to smear the thick oil onto his skin, spreading it all over. Lorcan sneezed twice from the scent, and Felix laughed again. Then he frowned and said something to his attendant. The man left the room quickly, coming back leading an old man. He brought the man to Lorcan and said something.

“They tell me you’re from Eire?” he said, his accent jarring in it’s familiarity. He tipped his head back; his eyes were milky white.

Lorcan gasped, then clasped the man’s hand. “Yes! And you’re the first person I’ve heard speak Gaeilge since I was taken from home.” He looked around. “What’s your name? And how long have you been here, Grandfather?”

The old man smiled. “I’m Ercc. And I’ve been here more years than you’ve been alive, I warrant. When I left Eire, Eochaid was still High King. Do you know from Eochaid?”

“I know his name, yes. His son Eogan is High King now,” Lorcan refrained from adding that Eochaid was his grandfather. Better to leave that hidden for now.

Ercc nodded. “And, as to how I came here? I was a mercenary. Then I was a slave. Then a gladiator. Now, I tend the fires. Don’t need to see to throw a log on, hm? What’s your name, lad?”

“Lorcan mac Diarmuid mic Morrigan.”

The effect on the old man was striking. He scuttled backwards and moaned, “The Battle Raven’s own blood? Here?” One of the attendants grabbed him, and they chattered back and forth in that other language. Then the attendant shoved Ercc forward, hard enough that he stumbled. Lorcan caught him before he fell.

“Peace, Grandfather,” he said gently. “My grandmother’s wrath is not for you. They wanted you to explain something to me?”

“Ahhh…” Ercc stuttered. Then he swallowed. “The strigil. They wanted me to explain the strigil, because Felix worried you might kill the man who tried to scrape you.”

“Scrape me?” Lorcan looked at Felix. He shook his head, and Felix nodded. He gestured to his attendant, who brought out a curved blade and started scraping it along Felix’s skin, removing oil and dirt alike.

“Grandfather?” Lorcan asked softly. “What is this?”

“It’s how Romans bathe, Lorcan.”

“This is a bath?” Lorcan looked around. “Oil and a knife? Don’t they have soap here?”

The old man cackled. “You sound like me, the first time I did it. Try it. Just don’t kill Bruno here. He’s a good boy.”

“He pushed you!”

The old man shrugged. “He’s better than most. Will you let them?”

Lorcan nodded, and held his arms out to his sides, letting Bruno come toward him with another curved blade. Without prompting, he held the blade out to Lorcan to examine.

“Grandfather, will you tell him thank you?” Lorcan asked as he took the blade. “It’s not sharp?”

“You couldn’t cut cheese with this. But it will get all the dirt off you. Let him work.”

Lorcan handed the blade back and let Bruno work. The feeling was decidedly odd, and ticklish when Bruno went to work under Lorcan’s arms. He tried to stay still, and mostly succeeded, although he was certain that Bruno was laughing at him by the time he reached Lorcan’s legs. When he was done, he stood up and said something. Ercc smiled.

“He’s asked me to explain to you how the rest will work. We’ll go into the hot room now. You won’t like it. I didn’t, when I first tried it. You’ll stay there for a bit and sweat. They’ll pour cold water on you every so often. Let them. It feels good. There’s a pool in there, too. Hottest bath you’ve ever taken. Then you go to the cold room to swim. You swim?”

“Yes,” Lorcan answered, taking his robe from the attendant and putting it back on. “And this is all to take a bath? Does everyone do this here?”

“Men and women both. In the public baths, they even do business in there. Trading and whatnot. Since they spend so much time in there.”

As an aside, I swear I was not doing research when I was on vacation, but we did do a spa experience that included a tepidarium (your standard sauna), a caldarium (very hot, very steamy), and a laconium  (very hot, but dry), and that replicated the frigidarium (cold) part of the experience by having you go through cold showers afterwards.  Interesting experience! Still, I prefer soap.

Posted by EASchechter in excerpt, Prince of Air, The White Raven, upcoming work, WIP, wordcount, 0 comments

Work in Progress: The White Raven, week 5

I’ve never really been sure how people can manage to do NaNoWriMo in November. Camp Nano in April, sure! But full on Nano in November? How? I mean, the holidays are starting and Thanksgiving is this week and I still have to get my words in?

I did get my words in this week. Yesterday, as a matter of fact. Which is good, because today brought in a whopping 71 words. Total.

The White Raven
Week Five Total Wordcount

Trying not to be spoilery. I suppose it might be a little spoiler to say that Lorcan ends up in Rome. But then, all roads led to Rome, right? And eventually, all stories must reach there, too. Lorcan finds out that his family is known outside of Ireland.

Excerpt:

“Lorcan has no Latin. At all,” Manius said.

“And you want me to teach him, the way I did with the Saxon last year?” Livia said. She picked up a cloth from the table and wiped her hands, allowing Lorcan a moment to shake off the shock of recognition and really look at her. She was almost of a height with him, perhaps a finger or two shorter, and her hair was dark brown, braided, and wrapped around her head like a crown. Strands had escaped to frame her face, making her look sweetly disheveled. She wore a draped gown that did nothing to hide her generous curves. She noticed him looking at her, and raised her chin in challenge. “Will you be a good student?” she asked him.

“I’ll try,” he answered. “I’ve tried to learn before, though. It didn’t go well.”

“We’ll try again. You’ve got more incentive to learn.” She smiled. “Where are you from, Lorcan? Hibernia?”

“Eire,” he answered, and she laughed.

“Same place. Hibernia is what we call it. Mother called it Eire. Come and sit. We’ll start now.” She looked at Manius. “Unless you have other plans?”

“None. Get him started. I want him fluent as soon as he can be.” Manius waved and left, and Livia gestured to a chair.

“Sit. Tell me about yourself while I finish.” She picked up a mortar and pestle. “That oaf interrupted me in my work.”

“I could help?” Lorcan offered. “I was training to be a healer at home.”

She looked at him, surprised, and Lorcan noticed the spray of freckles across her cheeks. “You’re a healer? Then how did you come to be a gladiator?”

“That’s part of telling you about myself, I suppose,” Lorcan answered. “What can I do to help?”

She handed him the mortar, and he ground herbs into powder as they talked. He told her of his training in Eire, about his parents and about Dun Morrigan. He told her about Cormac, and about being kidnapped and sold.

“Your father told me that if I give him a year, he’ll see me freed. And by that time, I’ll be trained properly and I’ll have earned the money to hire men, if I need them,” he finished. He tipped the powder in the mortar into a jar. “ You speak Gaelige with him. Why?”

“Because the gladiators don’t,” Livia answered. “It keeps our conversations private.” She took the jar from him. “Do you know how to make salves?”

“Yes.”

“Tomorrow, then. It’s getting late, and you’ll want to eat.”

Lorcan nodded. “I never did stop to eat earlier. I’m starving.” He picked up a cloth and wiped his hands. “Livia, is Gnaeus bothering you?”

“He’s an idiot. I wish my father would sell him,” Livia said. She looked over her shoulder, then shook her head. “It’s none of your concern, Lorcan.” She turned back to him and smiled. “But thank you. What’s your full name? You didn’t say.”

“Didn’t I?” Lorcan thought back and grinned. “I suppose I didn’t. Lorcan mac Diarmuid mic Morrigan.”

To his shock, Livia’s eyes widened. “Mic Morrigan? You… you’re one of the Raven Boys? My mother told me stories about them! About you, I mean. She said that they could change shapes, become ravens. I thought it was just a tale!”

Lorcan nodded. “We can. I can’t. Not now. But when I was home—” he stopped. “It’s not a tale.”

“How, though?” She studied him. “There’s a lot of you, and not a lot to a raven. How do you change?”

Lorcan shook his head.. “That’s a secret. We have to keep that secret, you understand. Someone found out once, and it went very badly for all of Eire.”

Livia frowned, sitting down across the table from him. “That… I think I know what you’re talking about. A spirit? An evil spirit? I can’t remember what Mother called it.”

“She told you about the deamhan aeir?” Lorcan asked, stunned.

“That’s it, yes. She and her family left Hibernia, for safety. Only their ship was taken by pirates, and she ended up here as a gladiator.” She leaned forward. “I won’t tell. How do you do it?”

Posted by EASchechter in excerpt, Princes of Air, The White Raven, upcoming books, upcoming work, wordcount, writing, 0 comments

Work in Progress: The White Raven, week 4 (and two days)

I realized last night, after I’d shut down the computer, that I never posted my weekly words on Sunday night. I blame Disney (no, really. We were at Disney Springs on Saturday, and that leaves me in a Disney Coma for a day or two afterwards). Add to that we stopped at Ikea on the way home and… yeah. The one-two punch.

I did make my words last week, though, even with the Disney coma. And as of Sunday night, I’m just short of a quarter done with the book.

The White Raven
Week Four Total Wordcount

 

This week’s excerpt marks the first time in the Princes universe that we actually hear from the Morrigan herself. About the names she uses for Lorcan and Cormac. They’re descriptive names, one of which was supposed to be an insult. We have Lorcan Lachtna,   “Lorcan The-Color-of-Milk”, so dubbed by his cousin Cormac. Lorcan deflected the insult and took it as a use-name.

The other name is Cormac an Bratach. “Cormac the Betrayer.” You’ll see why.

Excerpt:

“What about your mother?” Turlach asked. “Have you asked her?”

Diarmuid stared at Turlach for a moment, then at Petran. Petran bit his lip.

“When’s the last time she spoke to you?” he asked.

“Just after Lorcan was born, to congratulate us,” Diarmuid answered. “She’s never been communicative. You know that.”

“I think it might be time for her to start,” Petran answered. “See if she answers you.”

Diarmuid frowned. He closed his eyes and silently called, Mother? I need you.

Almost immediately, he felt her overwhelming presence in his mind. My darling. Even if I don’t speak to you, I am always here.

You know what happened?

I am aware. There is nothing more you can do.

Mother!

He is beyond your reach. He is no longer in Eire. His fate is in his own hands.

But he’s only a boy!

He is a man, and he has a man’s fate. He has a man’s skill, and he has had your teachings and those of your brothers. They will serve him well.

You’ve looked into his future? Will he come home?

There are too many choices. Too many possible paths. I cannot see clearly where his road lies or if it returns to Eire. I can tell you that it will not be easy. But I have been watching this grandson of mine. He intrigues me.

You can’t bring him home, Mother?

I heard Petran’s comment about what Oscar could do. Tell him that Oscar could not have done that. Just as I cannot. No more than I could save my other sons. Especially since he is no longer under my wings. Outside of Eire, in the lands where I am not known, my powers are diminished. But I trust that he will survive his trials. And you must trust in him as well.

Diarmuid sighed. Very well. And what of Cormac? What can be done?

He has renounced his blood, save where it serves him to call himself a child of a goddess. Renounce him, call him outcast, and be free of him.

I meant what should I do about him?

As with Lorcan Lachtna, Cormac an Bratach has his own fate. He can still save himself, if he wishes. There is a chance that he will choose wisely. But I think not. So guard yourself and your flock, my son. There is nothing more you can do. Her mental voice started to fade. I will watch, my son. But I will not speak again. Not for some time. Trust me, and guard your flock.

Posted by EASchechter in excerpt, Princes of Air, The White Raven, WIP, wordcount, 0 comments

Yelling Down a Well.

I just sent this letter to Marco Rubio, our Republican Senator:

Hi, Marco. It’s me, one of your friendly neighborhood constituents. I’m at home in Lake Mary, and I have a question for you.

Have enough people died yet to make you change your mind on gun control? Or are you still so firmly in the NRAs pocket that having a five year old, a toddler, and a pregnant woman gunned down in CHURCH doesn’t even phase you?

You tweeted that you were praying for the victims. Doesn’t it strike you as just a bit hypocritical that you are praying for people who were at prayer when they were murdered? The name and the word of God was literally on their lips when they died. Is all you have to offer them your prayers? Or are you actually going to do something to stop this sort of atrocity from happening again?

How many more will have to die, Marco?

Do I think it will do anything?

Look at the title of this post.

Posted by EASchechter in deep thoughts, hypocrites-and-idiots-abound, I really want some dull, sadness, 0 comments

Work in Progress: The White Raven, week 3

A little short in my weekly words this week, but I’ll take it. I’ve been over two weeks in a row, so I’m still ahead of the game. I’m also reaching the point where picking excerpts is going to be harder. I don’t want to tell you the whole story before I sell it, after all!

The White Raven
Week Three Total Wordcount

Excerpt:

“That was wonderful,” Owyn murmured.

“And… it was the last time, wasn’t it?” Lorcan asked. “That’s what you weren’t going to say?”

Owyn raised his head. “You can hear my thoughts now?”

“No, Wyn. I can see it on your face.” Lorcan smiled sadly. “May I ask why?”

“Because we’re not going to be more than this, and you and I both know it,” Owyn answered. “You’ve got someone else to find, someone who’ll wear your feathers. It’s not me. So you should go and find them.” He shifted, and Lorcan rolled to face him. Owyn leaned in closer and kissed him on the nose, then smiled. “Remember Caoimhe?”

Lorcan blinked. “Caoimhe? The potter’s oldest daughter?”

“Yes.”

“Of course I remember her. It’s been… what? Two years, since her father died and her mother remarried? She lives on the coast now, I think. What about her?”

“She’s coming back to Scath,” Owyn said. He paused, and his smile broadened. “I go see her occasionally. We buy fish from her village. And… she said yes.”

“Said—” Lorcan sat up. “You asked Caoimhe to marry you? And you didn’t tell me? Owyn!”

“I didn’t want you to be hurt by it.”

“Hurt? Of course not!” Lorcan laughed. “Owyn, you had to know I’d remember Caoimhe! She was my first lover!”

Owyn sat up. He looked stunned. “She… she was?”

“You didn’t know?” Lorcan smiled and rested his hand on Owyn’s knee. “Wyn, if you two are happy together, that’s fantastic. I’m happy for you! She’s a wonderful girl.”

Owyn’s head fell forward, and his shoulders shook. It took Lorcan a moment to realize that he was laughing.

When he looked up, there were tears of mirth in his eyes. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell you for days!”

“Wyn, you said it yourself. We’ve known since the beginning that we weren’t forever,” Lorcan said. He smiled and squeezed Owyn’s knee. “I’m happy for you. And thank you.”

Owyn looked puzzled. Then his eyes widened. “Oh.” He blushed. “I thought it would make it… less painful. Or ease the blow. Or something.”

Lorcan laughed. “It was a wonderful gift. Now, we have a stable to clean. Should we get to it?”

Owyn groaned and reached for his clothes. “The sooner we get done, the sooner we can come back up here?”

Lorcan laughed. “If that’s the incentive, then yes. Toss me my trews.”

Posted by EASchechter in accountability, Princes of Air, The White Raven, upcoming work, WIP, wordcount, writing, 0 comments

Work in Progress: The White Raven, week 2

Writing got a little behind this week until this evening. Writing sex scenes does that to me — writing gets slooooow. Tonight, however,  I wrote a scene out of sequence, because I was inspired and didn’t want to lose it. Part of that scene is this week’s excerpt.

The White Raven
Week two total wordcount

Excerpt:

The courtyard was full of birds, the like of which Lorcan had never seen before. They were majestic beasts, long legs, long necks, and the longest tail feathers he’d ever seen. Some of them were a glossy blue, with tails of brown, blue and green. The others were pure white, the same color of Lorcan’s own feathers. As he watched, one of them fanned its tail up and out, forming a backdrop of iridescent blues and greens. Lorcan stared in wonder.

“Tavi? What are they?” he asked.

Tavi followed his gaze and smiled. “Oh. My grandfather’s pets. They’re Persian birds, and sacred to Juno. The first of them were given to him as tribute when he was my age. He’s kept them ever since.”

“They’re beautiful.” Lorcan stepped down into the courtyard. “Are they different colors for male and female? Like ducks?”

“Careful,” Tavi warned. “They’re vicious little beasts. I’ve still got scars from where they attacked me when I was younger. And no. These are all male. The females are smaller, and brown. Over there, by the wall. See them?”

Lorcan looked and saw the smaller birds. “But… the white ones—”

“Sometimes, they’re born that way,” Tavi said with a shrug. “The flock doesn’t seem to care.”

“Because they’re captive?” Lorcan asked.

“Because it’s normal,” Tavi answered. “The same way I have brown hair and you have—” he stopped, and his eyes widened. “White hair. You have white hair and blue eyes. Lorcan, you told me you’re one of the ravens of Hibernia. Does that mean you’re a white raven, like the white Persians?”

Lorcan nodded. “And I’m the only one. The only one that I know of. But if some of these can be white, that means that there can be other white ravens, too.”

Tavi grinned. “It’s actually not that uncommon. I’ve seen white ravens before.”

Posted by EASchechter in accountability, excerpt, Princes of Air, progress, The White Raven, WIP, writing, 0 comments

Work in Progress: The White Raven

The current work in progress is The White Raven, a sequel to my first novel, Princes of Air.  As I work, I’m going to be posting regular updates on my progress. This will, I hope, keep me on track — important, since I have four books to write in the next two years.

The White Raven
Week one wordcount

Excerpt:

It was early enough that there was still a sharp chill in the mountain air, still thin shreds of fog lingering over the urla. The figure moving through them was pale enough that he could have been made out of fog, his white feather cloak and pale hair making him look like a ghost. It was still quiet within the walls. Lorcan liked the quiet and the early morning fog, the stillness that came before the world woke. He liked the way the air tasted, the way it smelled, before the silence was broken by the sounds of his family’s voices and his uncle’s forge.

Lorcan stopped in the center of the urla and closed his eyes. He wasn’t sure what the difference was. He’d tried to explain it to his father, but the Raven King had listened, then shook his head. He didn’t understand. It wasn’t the first time — Lorcan knew he was different. Not just in looks, but something inside. He was different from the other ravens, and it changed the way he saw the world. This wonderfully rich silence, for example. It was something he had experienced nowhere else — not in the village of Scath, only a few miles away, not in the High King’s baile, nor anywhere in the druid’s college. It was a peace that he only knew in Dun Morrigan, and then only in the brief time between when the world woke and the family did. He couldn’t explain it, so he savored it. This was his time. His alone.

Posted by EASchechter in excerpt, Princes of Air, The White Raven, WIP, wordcount, 0 comments

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