An Event and a New Book

I haven’t been blogging much this year. The truth is, I have been in a very deep depression and my anxiety is out of control. I finally went to see my doctor about a month ago and we’re trying a mix of meds and therapy. So far, it is helping a little bit, but not a lot. I need to completely unlearn almost forty years of unhealthy coping mechanisms and replace them with healthy ones. But what I haven’t been doing much of is writing.

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Secret Magic is still coming, but right now it’s on an indefinite hold while I work through the worst of my issues. I did manage to write a few short stories during my black times, though, and those will be coming out later this year. The first one is called “A Change of Heart” and it will be out in July in the anthology Born to Love Wild. More on that in a few weeks, but for now, check out the cover to the left and click this link to reserve your copy on Kindle!

In the meantime, I am still making my annual trek back to my favorite place on earth, Seton Hill University, aka Hogwarts for Writers. I graduated with my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction in 2012, but I miss it so much I go back every year for the alumni workshop, In Your Write Mind. If you’re looking for a small but very craft- and business-focused event where you can make connections with other authors as well as industry professionals like agents and editors, check out In Your Write Mind.

And if you’re going to be in the Pittsburgh area this Saturday night (June 23rd) from 5:30-9:30, you can come see me! I will be at the Seton Hill Performing Arts Center in downtown Greensburg, PA at the mass booksigning. I’ll be signing from 5:30-7 and 8-9:30. That hour break isn’t for dinner, either—it’s to hear amazing historical romance author Beverly Jenkins speak!

I will have copies of all my books, including Kindle download codes for cheaper than what you’d pay online! So come see me, pick up a book, and then stay to visit with all of the other awesome authors who will be there. I hope to see you!

Con Report: In Your Write Mind

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I enjoy going to conventions. I like meeting new authors and readers, and sharing my books with others. I like going to panels and learning new things. But there’s one convention/workshop that I look forward to every year and would only miss for a family emergency.

That’s In Your Write Mind.

IYWM is sponsored by the alums of the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction MFA program. Alumni run the convention and make up most of the module presenters (although we are open to anyone with expertise!). Every year we bring in a panel of guest presenters as well (usually 2 agents, 1 editor, and 1 author), and that’s always a highlight of the event as they take pitches and do critiques in addition to their presentations. There are also several large events such as a mass booksigning and a costume ball that are not to be missed.

This year was particularly wonderful. Last year I had a single book out, and although I participated in the mass book signing, it’s a very different experience to sit at a big table alone with one book and some bookmarks than it is to have four different books, lots of signage and swag, and beautiful new covers.

But I should tell this in order.

The first day of IYWM is low-key. There are a few semi-structured events such as pitch practice and query critiques, but mostly we all just hang out and spend time with our favorite people that we haven’t seen for a year. I am a highly introverted person with mild social anxiety, and when I first came to the SHU WPF program there were many times when I felt like I was on the outside of things looking in. I never once had that experience this year unless I deliberately took myself away from the group for some down time. There was always someone I knew and someone who wanted to chat, whether about writing or publishing or random stuff like kids and pets. So that was fantastic. I was also too distracted to take many pictures, so this con report is text-heavy and image-light. Sorry!

I stayed in the dorms, which is semi-equivalent to staying in the convention hotel, except with paper-thin mattresses and inadequate pillows. But it was nice not to have to drive in from another location in the morning–until I had to go pick up our guests.

One of the awesome things about IYWM is the opportunity to volunteer to be a “minion” for the special guests. I had a mini-van, so I ended up being one of the primary sources of transportation for Kurestin Armada, Sandra Kasturi, and Diana Rowland. We had a blast, even when I managed to get us completely lost one day.

But I’m getting ahead of myself again. That first day, I met the other minions and Sandra and Diana at the guest hotel and we all went to dinner. Kurestin didn’t come in until later, so after dinner I went to pick her up and took her to one of the “genre dinners”–a meal hosted by current WPF members in a given genre. This one was for spec fic. We had a good time chatting with everyone, but the service left A LOT to be desired.

Friday morning started with a critique session. I haven’t been to one in years, but I got some good feedback on my short story for the summer science fiction romance anthology (Love Across the Universe), and then went back to the guest hotel to get Kurestin. We both went to an excellent module on advertising given by J.R. Baird, and then went our separate ways. Other presentations I saw that day include one on writing passion that doesn’t equal sex, and another on writing video game guides. I also gave a presentation on indie publishing.

Then I went to dinner with some truly awesome people and afterward headed to the Performing Arts Center to participate in the book signing.

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As I mentioned earlier, I very much enjoyed the book signing this year. There were problems (it was our first year in a new location and it POURED rain all night), but I got to talk to lots of authors and readers, and I sold more books than I expected to sell, so for me it was a success.

Saturday was guest presentation day. The first class I went to was on story structure with Diana Rowland, where I got some great ideas to implement as I write book four in the Fay of Skye series. She also showed us some very cool photos of when she worked in the coroner’s office! After that, I went to John Bowers’ presentation on foreign and film rights and got some names of agencies that specialize and will work with indie authors.

Then it was time for the hilarious author lunch with Diana Rowland, who told us the story of her publishing life and was a hoot.

After lunch I went to Kurestin Armada’s class on the first five pages of a manuscript, and how they should break down in terms of plot, character, and worldbuilding. I realized I didn’t actually introduce the plot for my kitchen witch book until the very last sentence of the first scene. Problematic!!

The last presentation of the day was a panel with all four guests, talking about various aspects of the publishing industry. That was fun, too, and the guests (especially Sandra and Diana) had us all laughing.

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After the guest panel, we took the guests out for dinner at Primanti Bros and I took us on the “scenic route” around Greensburg thanks to letting Google Maps direct us instead of just looking at where we were going and figuring out the best way to get there. It was a little stressful and embarrassing for me, but we all joked about it and the next time I see any of them, it will be an easy way to remember me!

That night was the costume ball. The theme was “International Persons of Mystery.” Usually I try to come up with a costume, but I’ve been working non-stop all spring and didn’t have time to put together anything interesting. So I wore my Death Star dress from Torrid and my combat boots and decided that was mysterious enough!

At the ball, I finally got the chance to talk with author Andi Adams, and we had a good time sharing publishing stories and talking shop about reviews and marketing.

Sunday was more of a low-key day. We minions made sure our guests got back to the airport/train station, and I managed to go to a panel about military life and one about naval warfare before the graduate luncheon, inviting new MFA grads to the alumni association. Then there was just the business meeting to attend and back into my car to head home.

I’m still recovering physically (I’m writing this on Wednesday 6/28–the workshop was 6/22-6/25), but I’m creatively recharged and emotionally content after a fulfilling few days with my writing family. Going through the SHU WPF program was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life (student loan debt aside!).

As I said on my personal Facebook page while I was at the workshop, I have worked hard to achieve the success I am experiencing now, and I will continue to do so. But I would not be where I am without Seton Hill and the WPF/IYWM network. If you have any way to get to Greensburg, PA next June, I highly recommend you purchase a membership and join us for next year’s workshop.

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Booksigning at In Your Write Mind

one person presents a book to be signed to the author, who holds a pen

For my readers in the Pittsburgh area, I’ll be in Greensburg on Friday night for a booksigning! You’ll find me at the Seton Hill University Performing Arts Center in downtown Greensburg, PA from 7:00-9:30 PM.

Check out the In Your Write Mind webpage for more information about the workshop.

I will have copies of Essential Magic, A Theft of Magic, Memories of Magic and Crazy Little Spring Called Love, as well as bookmarks and some other fun swag. Come say hi and get your copies signed!

 

When: Friday, June 23, 2017
Where: Seton Hill University Performing Arts Center
100 Harrison Avenue Greensburg, PA 15601
What: Booksigning and Sales

In addition to me and my books, there will be over 40 other authors there including IYWM’s guest author, Diana Rowland, and guest editor Sandra Kasturi, co-publisher of ChiZine Publications. Authors also donate books to a giant book-basket which is raffled off at the end of the evening, so you could walk away with a huge pile of books!!

 

Convention Report: Balticon

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I had a lovely time over Memorial Day weekend at Balticon, the Maryland Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. The link there goes to the 2017 Balticon, but if you go to balticon.org you will be redirected to whatever the current year is.

Balticon technically starts on Friday, but my Friday included being interviewed by Focus on Fantasy Romance (see the video here), so I didn’t show up at the convention until Saturday morning.

The first thing I did was check in to the Broad Universe table in the dealer’s room, drop off my books, and sign up for a few hours “broadening” the table (thanks to one of my fellow Broads for that one–sadly I can’t remember who!). I also said hi to some friends, and then headed off to attend a panel on cover design.

I already knew most of the things discussed in the panel (which isn’t to say that I execute any or all of those things well/perfectly!), but I did learn something new about fonts and textures (or rather, when not to use special effects), so that was valuable.

I then went to a series of panels about podcasting and audiobook narration. You might be able to guess (and you would be right!) that there’s a reason for my interest. I haven’t finalized all of the details, but I am planning to start a monthly podcast either this month or next month, depending on how quickly I can get things up and running. I plan to use the material from my romance pet peeves and sex and romance blog series as most of the initial fodder, but I am also going to open it up to any questions about writing, books, publishing, or anything else you’d like to hear me talk about!

The next thing on my agenda was the Rapid Fire Reading with Broad Universe.

Each author had about 4 minutes to introduce their material and read. I was the only one who picked a passage short enough to stop before the moderator cut me off, which was nice because I got to end on a dramatic note. (I read the first scene from Memories of Magic, up until the point were Olivia opens her eyes).

On Sunday, I spent most of my time hanging out in the Dealer’s Room with the Broads, chatting with passersby about books and other things. I also caught another panel about podcasting (this one talked about crowdfunding, specifically through Patreon, which is something I’ve been considering for a while anyway). After the panels were done, I got to go to dinner and chat with some writer friends, which was fantastic.

On Monday, I once again spent most of my day in the Dealer’s Room. I only left to chow in the con suite and to check out J.L. Gribble’s reading. But, I sold a book, so that was the highlight of the convention for me. Sadly none of the authors sold much at our table–or anywhere else in the Dealer’s Room. All of the vendors complained at the low sales this year. But I don’t mind–that was one sale I didn’t have before!

So in all, a great convention. Next time I’ll either stay in the hotel or find someplace closer to sleep so that I can attend more early and late panels.

Leave me a comment about what you’d like to hear on a podcast, or send me a message on Twitter or Facebook. If you want to hear about it, I want to talk about it!

World Fantasy 2016 Recap

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Cara in Columbus, OH for World Fantasy

Last weekend was this year’s World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio. I had a fantastic time!

I drove in on Wednesday with my business partner. The ride out was easy, but once we got to Columbus we drove around in circles for a while trying to find the entrance to the parking garage for the Hyatt. We finally found our way after a mire of one-way streets going the opposite direction of where we wanted to go.

We then checked into the hotel and I took some pictures of the awesome view:

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In the one picture, you can just make out the fountain from my selfie. 🙂

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for my picture-taking all weekend. I did manage to snap a pic of Guy Gavriel Kay during his reading, but it isn’t the most flattering image so I won’t post it.

In any case, I finished up Wednesday by joining several of my fellow SHU alums in helping to bag books. One of the awesome things about World Fantasy is that every attending member gets a giant bag of books at registration. The selection is random, and is based on promo copies sent by publishers. But when you volunteer to help, you get to make your own selections!

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I had my hands on at least 90% of the bags we made (about 700). At first I lugged them to the staging area and then, when my body started screaming at me, I switched to zipping and prepping them for removal to the staging area.

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The books I chose! Sometimes there wasn’t much of a choice–some tables had only one book on them! But most of the time we attempted to have a variety of books (all matching type: trade, hardcover, MM paperback) on each table. We were allowed one book per table.

After that, we had dinner at a nice restaurant across the street (we got a little turned around in the hotel trying to find it) with Lee Modesitt (two of his books are pictured above).

Thursday started slowly. I spent much of it in the food court beside the hotel lobby, where renovations were ongoing. I got to chat with many of my friends from Seton Hill, as well as other writers and editors (particularly Joshua Palmatier, who was rooming with a friend from SHU). Then I went to a panel on alternate history, but didn’t learn much that I hadn’t already figured out as a consequence of writing it!

My two roommates got in late that afternoon and we went to dinner at a place called Gordon Biersch, which had very tasty food (so tasty we went back again the next night). After dinner, we hung out at the bar until closing time, talking shop with fantasy author Michelle Sagara/West (she writes under both last names). My roommate Erin and she are both pantsers (which is to say that they don’t plan their stories first). I am stolidly a plotter. I must outline!

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A view of the hotel from the outside.

I only managed to make it to the first Friday morning panel because we forgot to put the privacy sign on our door and room service knocked at 8:30. That gave me time for a quick shower and a cup of tea before a panel on the 1890s. It was supposed to also be about the 1990s, but most of the panel felt there weren’t very many comparisons between the two decades, and I was (obviously, if you’ve read my series!) more interested in the 1890s anyway.

After the panel, I chatted with fantasy author Elizabeth Crowens (author of Silent Meridian) about primary research and the late Victorian period. The next panel was about long-running series, and there were some arguments in the group about series that were effectively a single story broken into multiple segments versus stories that simply take place in the same world. I would argue that mine is a kind of hybrid between those two types–you can read each book independently, but there’s a shared “meta-story” that continues to be developed in each novel in the series.

After that I outlined book three for a while, and then listened to the lovely Carol Berg read from her new book. Following that was Ellen Kushner reading from the Tremontaine serial (check it out over at SerialBox.com), as well as a new short project set in the same world. And after that was a fantastic reading by Sharon Shinn from the latest installment of the Elemental Blessing series. She had a drawing for some swag, and I got an MP3-CD of the second book in the series, Royal Airs. Score! (I’ll update this when I can take a pic of it–my roommate borrowed it to listen to on her drive home). She also handed around a box full of blessings. In the series, during important times in people’s lives, they will go and draw out a blessing (or three) to help them figure out their problems. This is similar to tarot or runic divination, which anyone can tell you is more about helping people discover their own truths than it is about telling the future. Anyway, I drew out the following:

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Elemental Blessings from Sharon Shinn’s series of the same name. Blessings in order: Certainty, Hope, Grace.

I was happy to get those, as that’s how I feel about my writing career at the moment. I only hope that I can live up to that last one, and always act with grace, empathy, and honor. She also gave out sheets of blessings, and I’m going to make lots of copies and start pulling them at the beginning of each day. I may even tweet about them!

That evening we hung out at the bar again, and I had a lovely conversation with Greg Tremblay, an audiobook narrator and voice actor, about romance, representation, and religion. Once NaNoWriMo is over, I’m going to check out some of his work with Rhys Ford, which he highly recommended as a source of well-told gay romance/spec-fic.

Saturday I went to more panels (Sword and Sorcery, Archaeology) and listened to Guy Gavriel Kay read from Children of Earth and Sky. We had dinner that night in the bar, and my roommate Erin Bales invented a new dessert. She ordered a burnt lemon panna cotta and I ordered sweet potato fries, and she had the wild idea to dip the fries into the panna cotta. It was delicious. Another writer at the bar with us (Evan Braun) accidentally called it a terra cotta, and then we realized that was the perfect name for this brand new dish. Thus the Terra Cotta was born, and culinary history made.

Sadly, Sunday was the final day. We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant where I once again got to chat with Greg Tremblay and renewed my convictions to write more LGBT-inclusive stories. I’ve already got minor characters of varying sexualities, but I’m going to up my game starting from this book, with major characters from many different ethnicities, races, sexualities, and ability. Representation matters!

My business partner and I drove home using a different route than we had on the way out, and got to see some very lovely mountains covered in brilliant red, gold, and yellow foliage. I would have taken pictures, but it was also quite overcast so not as gorgeous as it could have been.

We ended up being stymied by the town of Cumberland, MD, which had zero open restaurants on a Sunday evening except for fast food. So we got peanuts at the gas station and continued on our way.

Now I am home, and I really, really wish I could go to WFC next year in Texas. Not only do I love this convention in general, but my favorite author Martha Wells is going to be there! Alas, I can only afford one plane ticket next year, and it’s going to have to be to RWA in Florida. Maybe if I can sell several thousand copies of the books between now and next October…

It was a great con, I miss everyone already, and I’m excited to be diving right into book three, Memories of Magic, now that I’m home!

Con Report – In Your Write Mind 2016

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The Seton Hill Campus. Image courtesy of setonhill.edu.

I can’t believe I haven’t already waxed enthusiastic about Seton Hill on this blog, but let me take a brief moment to say: if you are an aspiring writer, or a published writer looking to up your game and make new connections, consider Seton Hill University.

The Writing Popular Fiction MFA program is a big investment in terms of time and money, so if you aren’t sure if you want to take the leap, every June the alumni of the program host a writing workshop called In Your Write Mind. We bring in agents, editors, and guest authors to give workshops and be on panels, as well as accepting pitches from attendees. Alums of the WPF program and current instructors in the program also present workshops, and next year they are planning to schedule an “unscheduled” day of writing sprints, pitch practice, critique workshops, and more.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely love the Seton Hill experience, and keep coming back for In Your Write Mind. There’s a reason that alums call SHU “Hogwarts for Writers.” But why might you want to give the workshop a try?

For one thing, it’s low-key. We come here to have a good time, and there’s no sense of a hectic pace or the need to be somewhere or do anything. If you want to hang out and talk shop with other writers, you’ll have lots of opportunities. But if you like go to go classes, the programming tracks focus on craft and networking, and there’s a good mix of information about writing a better book and being smart about the business side of the industry.

Here’s what I did this past weekend, to give you an idea of what the workshop is like:

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I had some childcare issues and so I wasn’t able to arrive early on Thursday. But I drove in on Friday morning and went straight to campus. I planned to move in to my dorm room* right away, but I immediately started talking to people and got pulled along for the first two workshops of the day.

I took Plotting the Mystery with Victoria Thompson, author of the Gaslight Mysteries, and The Zero Draft Approach to Novel Writing with Symantha Reagor (who runs the social media for the workshop) and my very own editor, the lovely Anna LaVoie. Plotting the Mystery reminded me of where I’d lost my focus when I wrote my cozy mystery about a kitchen witch, and the Zero Draft module gave me permission to write a crappy draft just to get the story on paper. A blank page can’t be revised!

In the afternoon, I pitched to all three agents and editors: Diana Pho from Tor, Kimberly Brower from the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency, and Eric Ruben of the Ruben Agency. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I want to be a hybrid author, with books both traditionally published and self published. I got some requests and will be sending queries out next week. Cross your fingers!

I also went to a workshop about method writing (using the tenets of method acting to better understand your characters) and a panel on freelance editing (to support the best editor EVER).

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Yours truly, signing copies of Essential Magic!

That evening was the mass booksigning on campus. I idiotically forgot a handcart and had to lug a million-ton box of books from my car to the gymnasium, but I survived, and sold some books, so that was awesome. There were over 40 authors there signing books, and I got to be at the table next to my mentor, Maria V Snyder! I love her to death, and it was awesome to be between her and Andi Adams, who recently hosted me on her blog and will be featured here in a few weeks.

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The 40+ authors at the book signing. I’m way up on the top left, near Andi Adams, Kristin Dearborn, and Maria V Snyder!

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Saturday was the guest presenter day! First, I got to hear Kimberly Brower talk about the things that grab her – or turn her off! – in a query. Then Eric Ruben broke down some legal issues for writers and was very entertaining in the process. Everyone got to have lunch with guest author Daniel José Older, who has a magnetic personality and sold me on his books within five minutes of being in the same room. Then came another fantastic and fun panel with Eric about the future of the industry (takeaway – nobody knows!), and a presentation about Writing Across Difference by Diana Pho that was informative and eye-opening. The workshop sessions for the day closed out with an AMA-style panel with all four guests. They gave thought-provoking and often hilarious answers, and the whole room was filled with laughter. It was a blast!

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Our amazing guests! Daniel José Older, Eric Ruben, Diana Pho, and Kimberly Brower!

That night I went out to dinner with my editor and then we descended on a local restaurant for the yearly costume ball! That’s right – this workshop has a costumed event every year! This year’s theme was “Trope Your Genre” and we saw many interesting interpretations, including a billionaire romance hero, a ripped bodice, and a secret baby! Next year’s theme is “International Persons of Mystery” so start planning your spy-themed garb now!

Also at the party they raffled off baskets donated by workshop attendees. The proceeds go to a scholarship fund for the WPF program, and the baskets are always awesome. This year, I won one! I forgot to take a picture of it before I dismantled it, but it had a bunch of kitchen tools and recipe books. If you follow my other pseudonym, you know that I’m into cooking and baking and have written a cozy about a kitchen witch, so I was very excited to win.

I’ll be honest. Except for the fact that the booksigning was on Friday, Saturday was my favorite day of the workshop. The guests were amazing presenters, I learned things I had never known before, and I got to go to a fancy dress party!

SUNDAY

I may have chosen to sleep on Sunday morning instead of getting up early enough to go to the 9 am workshops. I’m sorry! By Sunday I was so exhausted that I needed the extra rest. Note to self: next year, do not schedule your book release for the same week as IYWM!

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Symantha Reagor teaches us about character flaws.

I did, however, go to two fabulous workshops later in the morning. The first was on strengthening character by exploiting flaws by Symantha Reagor, and the second was a scorching-hot workshop on erotic romance by the amazing Anna Zabo.

Every June we have a fancy lunch where the alums welcome the graduating students into the alumni association, and that is always good times. Then we have a business meeting, which sounds super boring, but isn’t because our committee rocks.

I didn’t want this year’s workshop to end, but it finally did, and I had to say goodbye until 2017. But many of us are going to World Fantasy in Columbus in October, so that’s only four months away. I can’t wait!

 

*One of the nice things about IYWM is that you have the option to stay in the dorms rather than booking a hotel. Now, they are definitely not glamorous. They’re your typical college dorms with very few amenities. But there’s a bed, WiFi, a shower, and electrical outlets for my devices, so it’s all good. And they are much, much cheaper than a hotel. So if you need to save a little cash – consider the dorms.

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