RT Convention 2014 – NOLA

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Pictures, Writing/Indie Life | Comments Off

The Romance Times Booklovers Convention in photographs…

First night, we were ALL in, dining on Bourbon Street at Saints & Sinners. Thank you, Kennedy Layne and Jeff Griz for dinner and the T-shirt (which I'm writing in right now, BTW, because I'm both a saint and a sinner).

First night, we were ALL in, dining on Bourbon Street at Saints & Sinners. Thank you, Kennedy Layne and Jeff Griz for dinner and the T-shirt (which I’m wearing as I write right now, BTW, because I’m both a saint and a sinner).

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The famous

The famous Pat O’Brien’s. No, I didn’t have the drink they are famous for – the Hurricane, but I have friends who did, and they took nice long naps afterward. :)

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We began the next morning in arguably the most famous restaurant in New Orleans - Cafe du Monde, where they serve beignets and coffee, and that's pretty much it.

We began the next morning in arguably the most famous restaurant in New Orleans – Cafe du Monde, where they serve beignets and coffee, and that’s pretty much it.

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By the end of the day, many have compared the floors of Cafe du Monde to a coke factory. (Hey! I didn't say it. That's just what I was told.) The powered sugar on top of these deep fried pastries makes hot chocolate taste like water.

By the end of the day, many have compared the floors of Cafe du Monde to a coke factory. (Hey! I didn’t say it. That’s just what I was told.) The powered sugar on top of these deep fried pastries makes hot chocolate taste like water.

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This is the official marker for the burial site of Marie Laveau, the Queen of Voodoo. Whether she's buried in this particular tomb, or in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 at all, is up for debate.

This is the official marker for the burial site of Marie Laveau, the Queen of Voodoo. Whether she’s buried in this particular tomb, or in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 at all, is up for debate.

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Many visit the voodoo priestess's tomb daily to "draw "X" marks in accordance with a decades-old rumor that if people wanted Laveau to grant them a wish, they had to draw an "X" on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it was granted, come back, circle their "X," and leave Laveau an offering."

Many visit the voodoo priestess’s tomb daily to “draw “X” marks in accordance with a decades-old rumor that if people wanted Laveau to grant them a wish, they had to draw an “X” on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it was granted, come back, circle their “X,” and leave Laveau an offering.”

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Another tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 thought to be the "actual" (unmarked) burial site for Marie Laveau.

Another tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 thought to be the “actual” (unmarked) burial site for Marie Laveau.

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This tomb that is a stark contrast to the other burial sites in this historical cemetery was purchased by movie star Nicholas Cage. Interesting, I know.

This tomb that is a stark contrast to the other burial sites in this historical cemetery was purchased by movie star Nicholas Cage. Interesting, I know.

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One of the prettiest sculptures in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

One of the prettiest sculptures in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

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Jazz in the streets. I love New Orleans!

Jazz in the streets. I love New Orleans!

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The awesome Denise Grover Swank. You can find her at http://denisegroverswank.com.

The awesome Denise Grover Swank. You can find her at http://denisegroverswank.com.

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Veronica Roth. She popped in for one talk. I found her to be model-beautiful (and tall!), genuinely kind, and super intelligent! You can check out my YouTube video from that week to hear a little more about her.

Veronica Roth. She popped in for one talk. I found her to be model-beautiful (and tall!), genuinely kind, and super intelligent! You can check out my YouTube video from that week to hear a little more about her.

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E.L. James was lovely to meet in person. She says she's writing a Young Adult book. I gotta say... I'm super curious.

E.L. James was lovely to meet in person. She says she’s writing a Young Adult book. I gotta say… I’m super curious.

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The gang all went to dinner at a fabulous diner one night. This is me with J.M. Madden, Kennedy Layne, and Jeff Griz.

The gang all went to dinner at a fabulous diner one night. This is me with J.M. Madden, Kennedy Layne, and Jeff Griz.

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Me, Kathleen Brooks, and J. M. Madden.

Me, Kathleen Brooks, and J. M. Madden. I’m getting better at selfies, don’t you think? (Kathleen writes romance set in the Bluegrass. J.M. writes military romance. Both awesome authors. Both write adult romance, so beware.

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Me. Kris Calvert (who writes awesome Southern contemporary romances), and Robyn Peterman (who is and who writes hilarious romance - both contemporary and paranormal). Both of these authors write adult romance, so beware.

Me. Kris Calvert (who writes awesome Southern contemporary romances), and Robyn Peterman (who is and who writes hilarious romance – both contemporary and paranormal). Both of these authors write adult romance, so beware.

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This guy was set up with his old fashioned typewriter in front of Jackson Square. I never got close enough to see what he was writing.

This guy was set up with his old fashioned typewriter in front of Jackson Square. I never got close enough to see what he was writing.

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The mighty Mississippi at sunset.

The mighty Mississippi at sunset.

So, as you can see, I had a great time in New Orleans. And there is some photo evidence that I actually attended some of the panels and workshops. The best discussions, though, occurred over breakfast, lunch, dinner, and evening cocktails. And while shopping. The shopping in NOLA is amazing.

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Ten Pieces of Advice for People Who Wish to Write

Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Writing/Indie Life | 1 comment

making notes by wickenden (CC)

Every week (and ongoing), I ask for questions on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.  that I might use in weekly YouTube series: Pick Heather’s Brain. These questions can be about anything. They can be funny, serious, about writing or reading, or how to train your cat. (Okay, well, not about that, because everyone knows you can’t train a cat unless a cat wants to be trained, but even then, you’ll never know if the cat is appeasing you just to laugh at you behind your back later.)

You can watch this week’s video by clicking here (I think): http://youtu.be/304lGG6g08w. Be sure to subscribe to my channel while you’re there.

One of the questions in this week’s video is from Derrick on Facebook, and he asks for “10 pieces of advice you would give someone wanting to write.” I cheated and gave you twelve below along with some narrative. *smile and curtsy*

Here they are:

1. Caffeine

All writers seem to have their own favorite caffeinated beverage. I know writers who cannot write without Diet Dr. Pepper. Tea and coffee are also popular choices. My choice? I enjoy my morning coffee. I’ve cut way back in the last year and only have one mug of coffee (which is larger than a cup), then I switch to the Ultimate Green Smoothie for breakfast.

2. Pajamas or your definition of comfort

There are days, especially in the winter, when I don’t come out of my PJs until 4:00 in the afternoon. Those are usually the best or the worst writing days. They’re either the best because the words were flowing so well that I simply couldn’t stop to shower or change clothes, or they were the worst because I couldn’t get a single good word written, so I just sat there and stared at a blank screen all day hoping it would come before I had to quit for the day.

On normal days, I write for a bit in the morning in my PJs while I have my morning coffee, then I take a break for a run and/or shower. After that, my writing uniform is usually jeans and flip-flops.

3. The ability to shut out all other voices (the ones inside your head and the ones of naysayers in your life)

I’m definitely my own worst enemy when it comes to doubt and  criticism. Sometimes the self-doubt can be such a powerful force that I’m paralyzed with the ability to move forward. We have to shut those negative voices out.

Also, we must learn to ignore the naysayers. I wrote a whole post about it: Naysayers Are A-holes. Naysayers are the people in our lives whom we (often) love dearly but who tend to poo-poo on our dreams and calculated desires. Don’t let them. Be smart and make decisions and take risks for you, not them.

4. Learn the rules, then after learning the rules, break them.

With any art, I think we must learn the basic rules of the craft. We must learn how to structure scenes, how to plot a well-paced story, how to create tension in every scene, how to build compelling characters, and lots and lots of other rules, but then we need to be brave enough to make the story our own, and sometimes that means breaking the rules and stepping out of our comfort zone to create a story that really sticks.

The best novels often come from writers who create stories from their hearts instead of their brains. Stated differently, the best stories often come from writers who don’t yet know the rules. So, write from the heart! Find your unique voice without getting bogged down by the rules. You can always go back and apply the rules later.

If you’re ready to learn the rules, I recommend reading lots of different types of craft books. You can check out the ones I’ve read and re-read on my Goodreads page of writing-how-to books. I’m always adding new ones. In addition to the books, I also love this video series by Dan Wells on story structure. I just recently rewatched it and keep it in a playlist on my YouTube channel.

5. Exercise

It’s amazing how exercise spurs creative energy. I often go for a run when I’m super stuck within my plot in hopes that cleaning my brain and stepping away from the story will help me see the bigger picture, thereby helping me get back to where the story needs to go.

Plus, we all need exercise for our health and to prevent the need for a larger wardrobe. That’s never fun to realize.

6. Journal or blog.

It used to be that blogging was great for building platform, and that it was a necessary step in the journey to publication. I no longer believe this. I do not think blogging is necessary for all writers. I do believe, however, that writing is necessary for all writers. And that can mean blogging or journaling. It’s important to learn to write about different subjects and express opinions in  new and different ways. Blogging can help us improve our own unique way of stringing words and thoughts together, which helps us find our unique voice.

7. Don’t be afraid to be read.

This goes along with #6. By blogging (rather than journaling privately) you put yourself out there, and I think this is necessary to growing as a writer.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others. Write what you want to write.

The compare game can paralyze you and feed into that self-doubt we talk about in #3. Also, our writing journeys are all unique and special in their own way. Comparing your success or failure to someone else’s is bad for you. We all start at different times. We all should be writing differently. And if you are being true to yourself, you should be striving for the journey that is meant for you, not someone else.

Also, and this one hurts a little, many writers stumble onto opportunities and appear to be luckier than others. It happens. But we all can make our own luck with hard work and perseverance. When it appears that someone got lucky with their timing or the right person saw their work at just the right time, there’s nothing we can do about that except be happy for them. Cheer them on, even, because it’s awesome and inspiring to see others succeed. We must learn from writers who are further on the path, and we must keep writing and doing our thing. Keep believing our “luck” will come.

9. Don’t be afraid to write poorly. That’s why we edit.

Re-read #4.

10. Don’t succumb to what some believe to be writers’ block.

If the words aren’t flowing one day, just keep writing. They will come. Or take a break and do something that might help you shake off that feeling, like #5, exercise. Don’t be afraid to take a break when the words aren’t coming, but not a very long one. Writers write. And writers’ block is a myth.

11. Read.

Writers read. A lot. You can’t expect to write good stories without reading good stories. And you can’t expect to write good stories without reading bad stories and recognizing why they’re bad. I think you can learn a lot about the types of stories you want to write by studying your favorite authors or the authors who are doing well right now, not to copy them, but to understand why readers are drawn to certain stories and authors.

12. #JustWrite.

My biggest piece of advice for people who say they want to write is, “Then write.” Writers write. Writers don’t think about writing. They don’t plan to write. They don’t dream about writing. They write.

So, what are you waiting for?

And, what would you add to the above list?

 

Photo Credit: Flickr/Creative Commons by Don Lavange

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The RT Booklovers Convention: A Reaction from Little Ol’ Me

Posted by on May 18, 2014 in Writing/Indie Life | 4 comments

Seriously? See the mask holding my business cards?  I taped that to the table, yet someone removed the cards from the holder, placed them on the table, then took the holder I had purchased while in New Orleans. FYI: The mask is a hint to the cover of Mindsurge. ;)

Seriously? See the mask holding my business cards? I taped that to the table, yet someone removed the cards from the holder, placed them on the table, then took the holder I had purchased while in New Orleans. FYI: The mask is a hint to the cover of Mindsurge. ;)

Let the ranting ensue (but not from me)…

Okay, maybe a little…

You will see many rants surface around the blogosphere (maybe you have already) about the signing at the RT Booklovers Convention yesterday when indie authors felt slighted when they were separated from the traditionally published authors. (You can find links to some here.) Read those posts, because they are important. They are expressing the frustration of some VERY BIG names in the writing community, and you should decide for yourself if this convention will ever be the right place for you in the future.

I was not part of the signing and did not even show up for the signing until it was well underway, but I witnessed quite a few irritated authors. And for me? It was the final straw. I won’t say “Never,” but I’ll probably never return to the RT Convention unless I’m assured some changes have been made.

So, this post is not a rant, but a list of highlights and… um… lowlights from the conference. (What the hell is the antonym for highlight? I just got home and I’m tired.)

First the highlights.

1. It was New Orleans!

The food was fantastic everywhere (except at the hotel). I pretty much ate my way through New Orleans. It’s going to take weeks to undo the damage. We also had a lot of fun taking in the Creole culture and distinct history.

2. Relationships.

Conferences are wonderful for building and strengthening relationships with other writers, industry professionals, and readers. I watched as friends met with Apple, Amazon, and other booksellers. Others formed anthologies over martinis. And many of us simply grew closer as we bounced marketing and career building ideas off of each other (usually over food and drink). I seriously ate my weight in red beans and rice this week! But more than anything, I made some new friends, strengthened the relationships of others, and met with some fabulous readers.

3. Some of the panels. (But only some.)

I’ll probably blog about these later. I did pick up some tidbits worth sharing.

Then… There were the lowlights.

1. Promotion Lane.

This was a highlight and a lowlight, really. I enjoyed talking to readers as I set up my table. It’s fun to give things away that might attract readers to your writing.  But my friends all know I was pretty upset when I discovered Friday afternoon that someone had stolen something off of my table that was clearly not meant for them. Come on people!!! Thou shalt not steal!!

2. The young adult panels that I attended.

I met some really lovely young adult authors this week. However, I think young adult authors (especially indies) thinking about attending this conference need to know what the workshops and panels are all about.

Unlike many of the other panels (the non-young adult), none of the young adult panels that I attended had any indie representation AT ALL. NONE. Indie young adult authors are not even allowed to submit to serve on panels or teach workshops at RT. (Feel free to email me if you’re thinking about attending this convention and want to know more.) While you might think this isn’t a big deal, I promise it is a big deal. Traditionally published authors and indie authors see many things about writing, marketing, and social media very, VERY differently. RT could have used some indie YA authors on their panels, you know, to balance things out a bit. I know for a fact that the indie authors and the traditional authors can teach other a thing or two, but we won’t be doing it anytime soon at the RT convention.

I’m glad I went to New Orleans this past week. I had a ton of fun. And I’ve returned more energized than ever to tackle my writing in big ways. But I only credit about 10% of that to the RT Convention. And that’s being generous. I’m pretty sure indie writers can find a much better way to get together and share their expertise and publishing and writing knowledge.

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