Monday, August 11, 2008

RWA day 4, more of everything

Before I left home I recognised that my timetable for RWA was unrealistic. I'd already had to make decisions about functions that clashed. I had to miss both a Red Sage dinner and the Outreach Chapter Big Bash. Even though that was hard, I thought I’d been sensible. Pah! By Friday I knew that my timetable was *still* unrealistic, and even though I thought I’d built in gaps to rest, I was exhausted. Jetlag was the major culprit, but even when you think you have an hour or two of downtime it soon evaporates. By the time you get up escalators and into elevators, back to your room, change, shower, prepare, get to the next venue, there isn’t as much actual downtime as you’d envisaged. Friday morning I had to put my sensible head on. Unwillingly I crossed more events off my timetable and concentrated on what was crucial.

That morning I met with my Berkley Heat editor, Kate Seaver. I've been working with Kate for about three years but this was the first time we got to meet in person. We spent an hour together and it flew by! Kate made me feel instantly comfortable. She’s a warm, gentle person. For the first part of the meeting we talked about the conference and my reaction to the signing, travel, the erotic market and so on. Then we talked about my three publications with Berkley and ideas that I have for the future. Meeting face-to-face created a whole different opportunity to discuss work and the author/editor relationship, it was a super meet.

I had just a couple of hours to get ready for the Berkley signing in the afternoon and I was determined to have a bit of a rest. I ordered room service, but then still managed to fill the time with phone calls to my critique partner (who was originally going to come to the event, but couldn’t make it) and then Mark phoned from home with the exciting news that my cover had appeared on a Today show TV feature about the conference, and Nora Roberts. My dear friend Cynthia Eden had e-mailed about the Today show, and Mark was checking for important messages. Even though I couldn’t see it, it sounded very exciting!

As I prepared for the Berkley signing I realised I hadn’t thought about this event much at all, because I’d been concerned with my meetings and with the big literacy signing. Perhaps it was better that I hadn’t thought about it beforehand! It started at 3 and I got myself down there about 10 minutes early. Got to the top of the escalator and was stunned to see this huge line/queue winding round the corridor, readers with trolley suitcases and boxes and bags all waiting to get into the room. I went hot and cold all over. Surely I couldn’t just go over there and walk in? I forced myself to go over to the woman at the front of the queue and asked her if she had seen any authors. Luckily she smiled and said yes some authors had gone in. I took a deep breath, opened the door, and walked in.

Nerves hit. The room was small and the names were huge! My table was feet away from tables labelled for Nora Roberts, Rebecca York, Angela Knight and Virginia Kantra. Oh my! I started to feel really shaky with nerves and kind of leapt/collapsed into the seat behind the table with my name on it! LOL! There was a pile of books on my table and more in a box underneath. I foresaw myself begging people to take my books when everyone else had gone. Luckily that wasn’t the case and my books all went inside of forty minutes, but the fear was there.

In the run-up to the event opening there was a lot of buzz in the room. Nora Roberts came in and she walked within two feet my table. I had wanted to see her in person, but hadn’t had the opportunity. Besides, she’s always surrounded by a huge crowd. ;-) She’s an extremely elegant lady and yet there was an understated way about the way she walked into the room and took her place, got to admire that.

Authors ran to each other’s tables and I was delighted when several people came for a copy of RECKLESS. Jo Bourne came by for a copy and to my horror I didn’t even realise that it was *the* Joanna Bourne until after she’d chatted with me about Yorkshire accents. Blush! To say I was completely spaced would be a kind way of putting it. Ahem. I also exchanged books with talented writers Candace Havens (LIKE A CHARM) and Jasmine Haynes (SHOW AND TELL.) Both were warm and friendly and made me welcome. Just before the door opened I could see that Virginia Kantra was now sitting about five feet away from me, and she was signing SEA WITCH. I’d been reading this one before I left home and took the opportunity to go across to Virginia to tell her what a marvellous book I thought it was. (If you love paranormal, you must read this!) She went to sign a book, so I said I already have it and I just wanted to tell her what I thought. She has the most wonderful smile!

Conference staff blew a whistle to get our attention, yes, a whistle! The doors opened and the room was deluged with eager fans. I barely had a chance to whisper to the gods “please make somebody want to come to lil old me,” when miraculously there was someone in front of my table.

Again, several people came because they knew me from the SECRETS anthologies and several readers mentioned DOUBLE DARE. Some readers said they hadn’t read my work yet, but had heard good things about it so I was pleased to encourage them to give me to a try. Several booksellers stopped by to chat, many of whom I recognised from having sent them promo materials. There were booksellers from as far as Australia and New Zealand, and a local San Francisco bookstore owner told me I had a following in her store. To say that I was delighted is an understatement, and I’m pretty sure I had developed a stupid-looking nervy grin by this point.

Author pals came by, as well as Kris Hohls from the German romance magazine LOVE LETTERS. Kris has recently started reading my work, enjoyed DOUBLE DARE and wanted a signed copy of RECKLESS. Yay! Another magical moment was when Wendy Superlibrarian called by. I had hoped to meet her at the conference but wouldn’t have had the nerve to approach her. I must have squeed or done something silly when I saw her name badge because she stared at me and said: “You know who I am?” Too true! Wendy is a talented reviewer, she not only gives readers an idea what to expect, she gives the writer a good sense of where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Personally, I’m all about learning. I learned from Wendy and I was delighted that she had come for a copy of RECKLESS and wanted to read more of my work.

A very special and unexpected aspect of this event was that my editor Kate Seaver came by to support me. She helped me by chatting in between visitors and restocked my table with books from the box. It was a lovely gesture. I felt very much the team that we are when it comes to the end product. I told her about the Today show featuring my cover, and I could tell by her reaction this was very exciting news! ;-)

I had also put bookmarks and business cards on the table. The business cards feature the logo for my new web site design (coming soon!) Several people commented on how much they liked it, which was very promising. Alas no photographic evidence of me signing at this event either. The time went by in a flash and all my books had gone long before the end of the session. I felt relief, and also slightly high, partly I’m sure because of the lack of rest, but also because it had been a great experience.

I got back to my room with about an hour and a half to get ready for the next event, the Berkley cocktail party. I rested, managed to eat something, and got changed out of my smart outfit into something more casual. Although I still had the opportunity to speak with professionals that evening, it seemed like the big business was at an end and I was finally on the wind down.

When I walked into the Berkley reception I was greeted with a glass of champagne, and even though I didn’t feel up to drinking alcohol at that point (truly past it, I was, my friends will be amazed,) I took it, sipped the champagne, and congratulated myself on having made it through this far. There were many times over the last six months (once I’d made the commitment and booked to attend the conference) when I thought I wouldn’t be able to make the most of it. My stamina isn't great because of my disability, and although I used to be a social butterfly I know I am very rusty indeed. I was afraid I would waste my opportunities and I wouldn’t express myself as well as I hoped. Overall I think I did reasonably well, and over the rest of the evening I felt myself winding down and turning into a happy-faced rag doll. You can see that in this photo taken that night, me on the right, with fellow Secrets author Leigh Wyndfield on the left.

At the Berkley party I met with Kate Seaver again, briefly talking about what a positive experience the signing was, and I also touched base with my agent to tell her how my editor meetings had gone. But it wasn’t over. As a newly signed Harlequin author there was another party to go to around the corner at the Four Seasons hotel.
I have to confess that this one especially is a blur. I do remember that it was a super party with delicious food, an exotic bar and party music. I also remember grabbing a moment to chat with good friends, Leigh Court, Leigh Wyndfield, and Jina Bacarr. But once again, I was bound for my bed by 9.30. Shame on me! If I get to do it again, I definitely need an extra day to rest up at the beginning of this event.

Posting this piccie again, taken on the Friday night. Together with my travelling companions Portia Da Costa and Madelynne Ellis.

There isn’t much left of my RWA adventure to report, so I’ll do a windup post for Saturday and Sunday tomorrow.


Portia Da Costa said...

Wow, that Friday was *intense*! I don't know how I stood the pace either, and I didn't have nearly as many events on as you did... Well done, chum!

Wendy said...

Weeeee, I got a shout-out from Saskia! Let's see....

I enjoyed Double Dare, and your story in Kink. And I just realized I have Secret Vol. 12 sitting in my TBR! Geez. That's what happens when you own too many books for your own good.

You did have a busy Friday! Nationals can be overwhelming, even for seasoned pros. This year I purposely told myself I was "doing less" and by Sunday I still felt like I had been hit by a truck. And I didn't have jet lag to contend with.....

Cynthia Eden said...

Well, of course, there were people there to snatch up your books--you're awesome, woman!

Saskia Walker said...

Portia, I think you're just blanking stuff out so you feel less tired. :) You were at numerous events that day, and that's not even including your mysterious twilight zone visit to the Hungry Horse. :o)

Hey Wendy! Thanks for calling by! Once I get done with my recap I'm going to post a list of things I learned about RWA, one of them being to expect exhaustion. There's too much happening and it's tempting to try for more. Ooh, I hope that whenever you get to it, you find lots of juicy conflict in Reckless. ;-)

Cynthia, RWA was a (pleasant) shock to my system. Here in England signings of any sort are few and far between, especially for romance authors. I write my stories in my little house in Yorkshire and most days I find it hard to believe that I'm selling to an international market at all. Just seeing my books on shelves in SF was a real treat, the rest was positively surreal! I really thought no one was going to have a clue who I was. Thank you for your kind words, sweetie!

Portia Da Costa said...

Oh, yes, the Hungry Horse... LOL

I'm still not sure what that pub was called... I *think* it was the Thirsty Bear, and it was the fabboo Smart Bitches bash. Yummy food, fun company, and delicious strong lager... wahey!

Oh, and I second the 'culture shock'... the difference between writing in a small room in Yorkshire, seeing my books on sale in San Francisco, as well as signing them in a major event like the Literacy Signing is just gob smacking!

Madelynne Ellis said...

Aren't you good writing such a detailed summary of RWA. I simply couldn't face the 5K of words it would take to even attempt to do it justice.

The whole event was completely mad (in a good way) and I didn't have nearly the same number of events to attend.

I have to say that the best bit was definitely hanging out with you and Portia :-)

Saskia Walker said...

Madelynne, thank for stopping by. We had lots of giggles didn’t we! I’m blogging it because it was such a special time and I want to try to remember every part of it while it's fresh. I'm getting old. ;-)

Lucy Felthouse said...

I think if you three walked into a bar, people wouldn't dream in a million years what you do for a living! Naughty girls! ;) x