ORAcon 2013

creative-writing

 

 

Nothing like a conference to remind you how little you update your blog.

I had a fantastic weekend in Springfield, Missouri with the lovely ladies (and gentlemen) of the Ozark Romance Authors during their annual ORAcon convention. Alongside other industry professionals, including Laurie McLean of the Foreword Literary Agency and Tish Beaty of L. Perkins Agency, I chatted with authors, took pitches, and participated in the “Query Letter Gong Show.” There were other incredible events and workshops, presentations by the Killion Group, Leigh MichaelsShawntelle Madison, and  Jeannie Lin.

These events are incredibly valuable to authors in terms of resources and networking, as well as enhancing an overall sense of community. It’s a good reminder of how far-reaching the industry is, especially since the vast majority of our work is done in an empty office, or while balancing writing with friends and family who might be supportive, but don’t “get it” the way other authors do. The ORA Convention was hosted by a small but well-organized regional author group; I heartily encourage all authors, published or aspiring, to seek out local groups like ORA. Our online family is amazing, but sometimes you need what a computer screen can’t provide.

Personal highlight: I put a face to Candice Gilmer, who is as hysterical in person as she is online. For those skeptics, Candice yelled across a bar, “That’s my dick!” and didn’t realize how it sounded until after it was out. I couldn’t stop laughing.

“If anything can go wrong, it will, and at the worst possible moment.”

“I never could make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it.”
- Mark Twain

Happy 4th, everyone!

I will be celebrating with work, which I hope to do without being blown-up by my rambunctious in-laws.

I will also be preparing for my talk on Saturday, July 6th at the Ozark Romance Authors monthly meeting. I need to come up with something witty or informative to say, or I’ll just hide under the desk the whole time. Anyway, if anyone is in the Springfield, MO area and would like to come and make me even more nervous, details for the event are available on ORA’s Facebook page!

Fear-of-public-speaking

The Kitchen Sink

So, this post is going to contain a little bit of everything, because it’s been a while since I updated.

Tangible72lgFirst and foremost, belated congratulations to the wonderfully talented Jody Wallace on the release of TANGIBLE, a kick-ass Whedonesque urban fantasy that will leave you begging for more. Rest assured, she tells me she’s working on the next in the series.

Second…RT was amazing. Yes, a month later and at least twelve conventions have occurred since then, but I had a ball at RT. I got to connect (kinda) with Laurelin Paige, via a friend of hers who attended the Samhain Safari Party. And I ended up with more books than I know what to do with.

Third, for those familiar with the Ozarks region, the Ozark Romance Authors (or ORA) will host their annual conference this September. Yours truly will be in attendance, both on panels and taking pitches and possibly doing other things. This will be my first time attending, which really shows bad form on my part, considering the group is relatively local to my area. Anyway, I’m anticipating meeting a lot of people and hopefully seeing a few familiar faces.

Lastly…the hubs and I are house-hunting. As though life wasn’t complicated enough. We found one we really like, but are trying to exhaust all possibilities, which works well in theory but we also don’t want to wait too long, or else someone else might snag it. Any advice from house-hunting veterans would be appreciated.

That’s the last month and a half in a nutshell.

 

Wherein I wax poetically about my wedding day.

wedding pic

WARNING: Emotional sappy post ahead.

A year ago today, I was a nervous wreck.

pre-wedding

As of writing this, the time is almost 1:30pm Central Daylight Time. On April 28, 2012, I was in a room in a small church I’d only visited a handful of times, packed into a wedding dress, thick hair piled into an up-do, and listening to my maid of honor sing Man Up! from the hit Broadway show Book of Mormon to pump me up and fight my stage fright. The ceremony started at two o’clock.

holly and kimmie

This past year has been amazing for any number of reasons, but everything seemed to spiral toward a special kind of awesome starting that day. I was never the kind of girl who fantasized about her dream wedding. There were only a couple things I said I wanted for my wedding day, but these were things I had likewise supposed would never happen.

I’m a realist in so many ways. I knew growing up that becoming exactly what I wanted to be as a child was far-fetched at best. I thought my standards were unrealistic, and perhaps I made them such to do as much as I could to avoid getting hurt. In many ways, I could commiserate with Sandra Bullock’s character in Practical Magic—concocting the perfect spell for a dream man who couldn’t possibly exist (and therefore couldn’t possibly hurt me), only I had no magic, just my own personal way of keeping people at a distance.

I was ready to meet Aaron when I did, and every time I showed him a part of myself that I thought was a deal-breaker, he insisted on getting that much closer. We were both nervous and horribly inept at dating, and for as much as I was a coward in personal relationships, I was also a hopeless romantic. I’m a romance editor and author—I live, eat, drink, breathe this stuff every day. I knew what I wanted was impossible, yet Aaron was hell-bent on showing me otherwise. And while our love story isn’t something I think could be written into a marketable book, it was perfectly us.

Before I knew Aaron, I honestly didn’t think I’d get married. I didn’t think I could get close enough to someone to want that. I’d speak flippantly about my theoretical wedding day and the sort of kickass party I’d throw, but nothing was concrete. There were only two things I knew for certain I wanted if it ever happened. One: I wanted my grandfather to perform the ceremony. He’s a Church of Christ minister, incredibly fundamentalist, and even though I am not religious in any sense, I wanted him to officiate because my grandfather is one of the two best men I know. He and my grandmother were there for my brother and me during the dark times of our childhood. He has been more of my father than my real father could ever hope to be. I wanted him to be a part of it.

holly and fafa

The second thing? I wanted my brother to give me away.

stephen and holly

I have a complicated relationship with my father. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s not been a father in the strictest sense, more like a fun uncle I see a couple times a year. Those father/daughter moments that make up the traditional idea of a wedding wouldn’t work; I couldn’t see him giving me away, because he was never around in the first place. So, from the time I was in high school, I had decided if I ever got married, I wanted my brother to fill that role.

stephen and holly2

And that was it. My dream wedding. Marry my best friend, grandfather leading the ceremony, my brother walking me down the aisle.

A year ago today, that actually happened. And I was nervous as all get out. At least my nervousness gave me a great story to tell…to Josh Gad from the Book of Mormon cast. Aaron and I went to NYC for our honeymoon and actually got to see the play with the original cast. Afterward, while we piled outside to get the casts’ autographs, I told the original singer of Man Up! my wedding story. Well, that part. It was a living fairytale.

josh gad bookofmormon

A few weeks ago, Aaron and I started talking about potentially buying (or building) a house. This will be down the line, of course. Probably after we have the car paid off, or at the very least have a bit more set aside. It occurred to me, describing to him what sort of house I’d want (antebellum architecture), that nearly everything I wanted as a child—even the impossible things—had occurred. I’d published books, married my best friend, had the wedding I wanted, and had landed my dream job as an editor for Samhain Publishing. If I actually get the house I’ve wanted since childhood…well, let’s just say no one ever gets to pinch me.

Life isn’t like fiction. These impossible things that became possible for me didn’t happen the way they would in a story. But sometimes life imitates fiction. I won’t say everything has been easy, because it’s easy for me romanticize the path that brought me here today of all days. There were obstacles to cross. Fights to get through. Habits to kick. Patterns to make and break. Yet I am so grateful for everyone who made the last year possible: my mother, my brother, my grandfather, my hetero-lifemate Kimmie, everyone at Samhain, my authors, and of course my husband. He’s been a hell of a cheerleader from the beginning, continually embodying my construct of a perfect romance hero.

Thank you, Aaron, and happy anniversary. I love you.
holly and aaron

Accepting limitations

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It’s easiest to blame my mother. Now that I spend my days with her (as the company’s in-house proofreader, secretary, errand-girl, etc), I can see my future, and it’s…well, expected. I suppose to a degree most daughters inherit mannerisms, habits (good or bad) from their mothers. Perhaps this is an ‘as you age, you notice…’ thing, though I also have to wonder if it’s something one can change about themselves once they’re aware they’re doing it.

I’ve inherited two things: my enthusiasm for the phrase, “Yes, I can definitely do that!” and my general self-loathing when, after stressing about something and wallowing in guilt, I realize I am indeed mortal and cannot do everything, and have to have an unpleasant conversation with whoever I’m about to let down.

Like my mother, when I say, “Yes, I can definitely do that!”, I absolutely one-hundred-percent believe I am saying the truth. I internally section off time to devote to whatever it is I’ve agreed to do and make it sound incredibly simple. A half hour here, fifteen minutes there, maybe a few hours on this. Easy peasy.

Reality is not so forgiving.

Between the hours of 8am-5pm, I am at an advertising office. My duties here are not overwhelming by any means, and the fact that my mother owns the company certainly doesn’t hurt. I get tasks ranging from picking up dry-cleaning to transcribing focus groups. Some are intensely time-consuming, and others can be knocked out within an hour or so. I am fortunate in that I can also do a good amount of work from my other (and, to me, primary) job as a Samhain editor, though usually limited to answering author emails, reading submissions, sending out cover art and blurb forms, and completing tip sheets. When I get home, my husband and I eat dinner, and then I spend another four hours doing the actual edits. I set reasonable goals for how quickly I want something done and back to the author, and usually end up doing most of the work on the weekends. Somewhere in between, I try to find time to write.

I’m nowhere near the busiest person in the world. I’m not busier than my coworkers at the advertising firm, whose duties and obligations with our multiple accounts greatly outnumber mine. I don’t have to take that stress home with me, thank God. Also, I don’t have children. I have absolutely no idea how working parents do it, because the time I spend baby-sitting my four-month old nephew absolutely drains me. And though I love him to pieces, I’m always relieved when his parents pick him up. So no, I don’t have any delusions about being busier than the next person. I still have time to spend with my husband and friends. We go to movies and shop and do things for recreation. Yet I do keep busy, and being busy makes me treasure my free-time in ways I never did before.

People need time to themselves. For me, that’s learning to say ‘no’ to things that would otherwise eat up that time. That’s learning to be occasionally selfish, and accepting that disappointing someone from the start is much better than saying yes initially, only to retract after you’ve committed. I’m not good at saying no. My mother raised me to be, well, like her. A people pleaser. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it can pave the path to frustration and guilt.

I’ll always want to say yes to things, and I probably will say yes if I think I can do it. But I have to accept there are some things I can’t or shouldn’t say yes to.

Hopefully I’ll learn how to do this better than my mother did.

Past and Upcoming Releases

Haven’t had much time to update over here, but I thought I’d pop in to show off some upcoming books. I get all my fantabulous blog-posting ideas when I have no time to write them. In the meantime, if anyone wants to drop off a question or suggest a topic you’d like to see covered, please feel free. Honestly, the past few weeks have been so topsy-turvey. I’m evening out now, but after an exhaustive month, which included a day-job change and a new pair of prescription glasses (something I’ve never needed before), I’m just trying to catch my breath.

I do want to take a moment to brag over my authors, past and pending releases. A complete list (and all will be featured here as release dates approach) can be found here. All books listed below have excerpts available on the Samhain site. Just click on the cover for your preview.

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Co-Edited with Amy Sherwood

Co-Edited with Amy Sherwood

How far will a strong woman bend? Maybe past the point of rescue.

The Elect, Book 3

Years ago, former Special Ops officer Carter Owens made the biggest mistake of his life. He met the woman of his dreams—and didn’t fight to keep her. Now that he’s learned Jamie Wade is still alive, and that she bore him a son, Carter plans to protect his family at all costs. Right after he’s rescued them along with several other Elect members being held prisoner in a private hospital.

He isn’t prepared to find her battered, drugged-up, and half-starved. Whatever her captor wanted, the madman hadn’t gone after it humanely.

When Jamie awakens, she’s stunned to find herself free of the abuser who tried and failed to make her admit she’s a telepath. As a police detective, she is driven to join the investigation into the organization that held her and her son captive. But she’ll have to do it in secret, away from Carter’s too-watchful, overprotective eye.

Which isn’t going to happen anytime soon, because first she has to recover—and convince him that their out-of-control sexual chemistry isn’t a good enough reason to stay.

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And coming up on March 26, we have Frank Tuttle and Rinda Elliott, both with highly anticipated releases.

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BrownRiverQueen72lg

When the banshee howls, start looking for the lifeboats.

The Markhat Files, Book 7

Take a simple, three-day cruise on a lavish steamboat casino, they said. Just keep an eye out for trouble while the Regent rolls the dice, they said.

Markhat should have known the maiden voyage of Avalante’s vampire-crewed Brown River Queen would be anything but a finder’s dream job. Especially when he charges a ridiculous fee—and gets it without a peep of protest.

Then a pair of identical murderous maidens attack him and his lady love, and it doesn’t take a banshee’s howl to confirm his sinking suspicion he’s about to earn his fee the hard way.

As the heavily guarded steamboat casts off, Markhat is forced to navigate shoals of old enemies, treacherous political undercurrents, and rogue waves of assassins. All to keep the walking dead from turning the Brown River Queen’s decks red with blood.

 

 

 

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DwellerOnTheThreshold72lgBeri O’Dell is investigating paranormal creatures because she wants to know what she is.  Taller and stronger than most men, she astral projects and can peel through dimensional layers to see the creatures and spirits beyond.

She once helped her foster sister, Detective Elsa Remington, track down killers in Jacksonville, Florida, but stopped when a nasty fire elemental turned her strength against her. Now, she finds herself pulled back when something steals Elsa’s soul and puts her into a coma.

With little time to spare, Beri searches for the reason behind her sister’s coma. She has help in her spirit guides Fred and Phro, but others come along for the ride, including a pyro-nervous witch, and an androgynous necromancer.

The last thing Beri needs is to fall in love with a mysterious stranger. But the handsome Minoan warrior Nikolos knows what creature she’s after because he’s battled it before.

It’s bad.

Really, really bad.

He calls it the Dweller on the Threshold.

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Who has two thumbs and is going to RT?

“I laugh in the face of danger…then I hide until it goes away.” – Xander Harris from Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Since RT 2013 is in Kansas City this year, there really is no good reason for me not to attend. Sure, I could argue that the thought of driving in Kansas City traffic makes me want to curl up and whimper until the lambs stop screaming, but I’ve decided to suck it up and deal.

Though I’ve only attended one such convention in the past, I can attest the events themselves are a lot of fun. And it being on my home-turf makes it even more exciting.

I will be at RT in both an author and an editor capacity, attending as many workshops as I can feasibly squeeze into my schedule and hooking up with the Samhain staff whenever possible.

To get more information on RT dates/events, visit their website.