Romantic Life Lessons

Romance Tales from Louisiana

Last weekend, I went to Shreveport, Louisiana, to attend a conference for romance writers. I had gone to this event maybe fifteen years ago and remember feeling like such a newbie, quivering over my speech, but having a blast with some amazing people. My colleagues have been as well, and they always come back with raves. I knew I was in for fun (and work, too). As usual, I went through my pre-flying rituals:

1. Freaking out

2. Packing and re-packing

3. Picking out a Steven Seagal movie to watch but then opting for Sons of Anarchy instead–sort of same thing (bringing out inner warrior self)

4. Looking at husband, possibly for the last time (since I could die) and feeling that if I did plunge into a land mass due to engine failure, I’d have absolutely no regrets. Everyone knows I love them.sam

Oddly enough, this time, I had no flying terror since I’d spent most of the week on weather.com, ensuring perfect plane vistas from my window seat. Because I’m a spaz and superstitious, I don’t eat while in transit (since eating brings on wild turbulence and the universe operates based on my actions always) so I arrived in Dallas famished but ready for my next flight. Alas, it was cancelled. Luckily, the conference organizers had a nice lady ready to drive me to my final destination. My luggage decided to stay in Dallas until the evening when it magically appeared in Shreveport.I didn’t know this until later that evening, after visions of sleeping in my business clothes and wearing them again.

After a mini-road trip, I arrived only to set down my purse and run to be on the editor/agent panel. I’m not sure what I said that evening, but it was lovely to look out into the audience and see three of my authors–Lenora Worth, Beth Cornelison and Farrah Rochon–smiling at me. They gave me hugs of sympathy, though by that time, I was deliriously happy to be on the ground. A lovely agent loaned me her brush. My author gave me some toothpaste and the nice lady at the front desk passed me other supplies. Oh right, and I was hungry-ish, but too rattled to eat. After twelve hours on the road, I went to my room and just collapsed. At 10pm, my luggage arrived.

The next day, I felt amazing with the post heinous travel glow of gratitude and did a “Chat With” workshop. Most of the questions involved preparing a good pitch, how publishers feel about hybrid authors, deal breakers in a submission to an editor, how can writers improve their work. There’s no substitute for being able to engage with writers face to face. For a few hours, I also did appointments, which I’m hoping will yield some great projects on my desk (e-reader). A nice perk–there were snacks everywhere and I indulged, making up for my travel hunger strike. Hurray for bags of snacks!!!

The conference en11043052_805084322873362_8048958285275004698_nded at a nice dinner with my authors. I gave up giving up gluten since bread must be eaten sometimes. No regrets, especially since the next day promised rain for my journey home. Memories of bread, amaretto house cake and enthused writers got me through those jerky moments in the clouds. After lugging my suitcase up five flights of stairs (our elevator is out for three months), I opened the door to find my favorite guy and my favorite foods waiting for me.

Though depleted, I always return from conferences energized. It’s a festive time for both introverts and extroverts to bond over their craft. Only 4 months until RWA…

 

Romantic Suspense, Uncategorized, Writing Tips

Some Things I Love in a Romance Novel

Where have I been? Well, let’s just say that Sandy delayed me from posting. Oh, it’s so romantic to live like olden times, burn candles and play Scrabble. Sure, for a night or two, but not five. It wasn’t that fun, except when I went to see a certain Broadway show for the 4th time. My heart goes out to those still suffering from the storm’s aftermath. I got off easy and count my blessings that we were just mildly annoyed.

As promised, back to what I love in romance novels:

Really messed up characters. One author asked me if she could make her hero suicidal and I thought, COOL! I realize this is a serious issue, but if you can show your character overcoming a tremendous obstacle, I’ll cry buckets and vote him/her into office.

Sweet or hot? I edit sweet, mild and hot stories. I guess I appreciate sweeter stories because if you can relay emotion and romance without the sheet-tangling, I’m impressed. Then again, one of my authors had a great opening seduction scene that thoroughly wowed me. So, I know nothing. Romance novels do need to convey a strong connection between the characters. If you’re not used to writing love scenes, I suggest practice. But if you really object to writing them, that’s okay and you should research what lines carry sweeter stories.

Setting description. I work in an office all day and like to see the places the hero and heroine go.

Feminism runs in my blood, but I love a good boss-secretary romance! She’s naive and little awkward, but earnest and good at office work. Yes, I love this woman and I adore office work, too. She’s ripe for the repressed adoration of a take-charge boss.

Food descriptions: This is a new thing since discovering the Food network. Strange since I don’t cook, but if you can describe a meal (omitting the “garden salad” and “crusty bread”), it adds some color to the scene and usually compels a voyage to Starbucks for the chocolate covered graham crackers.

Don’t you love chemistry so good you forget what the story’s about? I’m reading one now. The characters are amazing, their interaction intense. The romance is one long scene and I can’t stop turning the pages. What are they doing? Practically nothing.

Bad girls can be a hoot, especially if you can identify with the heroine. She does something bad you dream of doing, only she gets away with it, often–like Emily Giffin’s Darcy character. A bad girl doesn’t need to have tattoos or a leather jacket. She’s just kinda bad, but you love her anyway.

I enjoy being shocked, traumatized and scared (not in real life!). This is evident in my television choices: A Haunting…, Sons of Anarchy, Prison Break, The Shield, Homeland, Dexter, Snapped, Deadly Women, and some Cupcake Wars/Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to balance my mentals.

High school reunion stories are fun.

Plain Janes rule. But if your heroine is a glamazon, that’s okay too. Just give her some flaws. Can we the reader relate to her?

I have many more “loves” for my list, but these are just a few…