Hey! I’m still alive, lack of posts being evidence to the contrary. Things went a little—okay, a lot—sideways over the last couple of weeks, and then there was the brilliant Romancing the Capital conference right after, and between all that, I basically dropped all the balls.
First, a quick update on the sideways: His Fluffy Lordship, Coach, is not well. I spent twelve hours in an emergency animal hospital with him, had to leave him there, my husband had to cut a conference in San Francisco short since it looked like things might be ending, but then Coach rallied. Then he crashed again (this time only six hours in emergency). By the time this back-and-forth was done over the course of a week, tests and scans and more time at the hospital gave us pretty much the worst news any pet owner can get: time is going to run out, soon. Coach handled the surgery well to remove his spleen (turns out those are optional), but the cancer that made that necessary is going to mean we’re saying goodbye to the puppy bear in the next undisclosed while. The good news is he’s pain-free (and will re-main so, given the type of cancer and also the finest pharmaceuticals royalties can buy) and we’ll be able to say goodbye from the comfort of our own home. No more trips to the hospital or vet.
So. That sucked, continues to suck, and will still suck even more, and was why I went radio silent for a while.
Once we had his Fluffy Lordship stable and comfortable, however, it was time for Romancing the Capital 2018. Organized by Eve Langlais, this is an Ottawa reader-centric conference on all varieties of romance, and it is, put simply, a blast.
The conference itself took place over Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, cumulating in an open-to-the-public book sale and signing, and was the perfect counterbalance to one of the worst couple of weeks of my life.
After arriving, Elizabeth Lister and myself (and her helpful and super-artistic minion Gillian) set up shop in the badge decorating room and had a blast with very sparkly gem stickers, markers, and what might have been the most resistant and difficult lipstick mark kiss stickers in the history of all of stickerdom. But, by the time people left, they were blinged up to the nth and sparkly for the duration of the conference.
The Thursday included more writer focused sessions for early arrivals and hopeful (and established) authors to gather and talk craft. Kobo and Direct2Digital were both there, and I sat in on a great discussion of shared worlds. Milly Taiden is hysterical and always offers up so much candid advice, and both she and her shared-world writing partner Marianne Morea must have said the word “contract” so many times it was very, very clear where the smart author should focus their attention before joining in a shared world project. And Susan Hayes was there with a more, uh, colourful history with shared world writing and some incredibly practical advice about world-building and tracking. (Also, I learned hair dye can be a branding write-off.)
After sneaking out for some food—which I was lucky enough to share with the lovely Linda Poitevin—I was up next with a quick workshop of my own—Queer Inclusive Writing. It went really, really well. My goal was to give authors a few guiding notes, a couple of a-ha! moments, and some recommendations of obvious pitfalls and tropes to avoid, as well as set aside some time for questions and an ask-me-anything session. Frankly, I feel like it hit all the points I was hoping for, and more than that, the feedback I got from participants for the rest of the weekend was really positive, so I wipe my brow with relief. I was also really, really pleased at how many of the questions came from a “I want to do no harm…” point of view, and a complete lack of defensiveness to criticism and discussion. It’s never easy to have a marginalized voice in romance, but sometimes Romancelandia really, really steps up and reminds you it’s full of people who want to learn, and use happy-ever-afters for good.
After dinner, I hustled my butt over to Viola Grace‘s 7:00p party. She was celebrating a milestone, 400 titles, and brought 400 cupcakes.
Yeah, you read that right. FOUR. HUNDRED. TITLES.
So, after opening my little bottle of bubbles to and cheering at four hundred titles—FOUR. HUNDRED. TITLES.—I grabbed me some vanilla and red velvet cupcakes and basically sank into the floor in gratitude. Cupcakes. Mmm.
(One last time: FOUR. HUNDRED. TITLES.)
Friday morning brought my favourite time in the conference, when I got together with Sheri Lyn, A.M. Griffin, and Eve Vaughn, and got to take part in a panel idea I pitched: “People are Not a Sub-Genre.” In a word, it was awesome. We talked about the wince-worthy notion of identity-based categories in awards, pitfalls of writing characters outside your own lived experience and identity, the never-ending frustration of trying to honestly use the “category” systems to gain visibility for lesser-heard voices without being buried by those who use them as a quick way to hit a top-ten, and how dodging stereotype for layered characters (and supporting cast) can help world-building to be more diverse.
And we laughed our butts off, had solid questions from the audience, and—I hope—offered up some “a-ha!” moments for everyone present. Hell, I know I had a few myself, listening to these awesome authors talk from their own experiences.
After that, I grabbed a quick snack, then popped in to the “Family Feud” style game hosted by Sheri Lyn, Gracen Miller, Cassidy O’Connor, and Elizabeth Lister (all the answers were collected from RTC registrants before hand, and it was hysterical!) Then I joined all the other Canuck authors present for the “Canadian Author Meet & Greet” was was a fun Q&A session and chat with attendees where I met some awesome readers for the first time as well as catching up with some I’ve met before.
Then it was time again for RTC Against Humanity, 2018 Edition. Just like last year, I made up decks of Cards Against Humanity cards out of blurbs from the attending authors. Every single author was in the deck at least five times (one black card and four white cards) and many were in there multiple times (tricksy pen-name authors, co-authors, etc.) and the end result was a room full of laughing people for an hour. We handed out chocolate bars and free books, and listening to people burst out laughing was music to my ears.
New this year was something I did based on last year’s feedback. Last year, many times I was asked questions about a particular black or white card from the deck (like, “Who wrote a book with Loki and Thor running a matchmaking service?” which was Sheri Lyn, by the way.) So, this year I put on my smart cookie cap and every card had the author surname on it as well. I was gratified to see people snapping photos of particular cards or writing down author names. I hope you found some awesome new books. Just watch out for unexpected moose.
Unfortunately, after that point, His Fluffy Lordship took a turn for the worse and I needed to get home to help my husband—things worked out, and Coach rallied and by the time the next morning rolled around, he was up and about and bright eyed (well, high-as-a-kite eyed) and bushy tailed and so I managed to come back.
I missed the play-doh event, but I was in time for Eve Vaughn and E.M. Griffin’s Totally Tubular 80’s Trivia and I even managed to win myself a prize! Who knew a sad and nerdy 80’s childhood watching movies and television would ever pay off? Although my music knowledge is terrible. Like, shame-worthy terrible. Thank all the powers that be for the inclusion of movies and TV trivia, is all I’m saying.
The important thing is I got to finish off the RTC weekend with the biggest and best part: The Book Fair & Signing.
Open to the public, the two-hour event was a constant stream of awesome people, laughter, and signing. I was really lucky this year, and Kanata Chapters had Light, Triad Blood, and Triad Soul at their table, so I got to focus on Of Echoes Born and Saving the Date (if you ever sign a book with Angela S. Stone, leave her lots and lots of room!)
The reception from the readers was fantastic, and it was so good to meet new faces and also catch up with some readers-turned-friends from years past. Everyone who came by, said hello, bought a book, or brought a bought for me to sign? Thank you. You make this whole writing thing possible.
And—of course—the biggest thank you goes to Eve Langlais, who organizes this fun, laugh-filled event that so perfectly connects romance readers with romance authors, and gives everyone a great time full of awesome memories.
This year, part of RTC included a postcard hunt, and I embraced my nerdy side and came up with a game to put on the B-side of my postcard, ‘Covens of the Capital,’ and holy heck it was fun. In between sessions, attendees who were playing could stop and ask me for quests, and their characters—wizards set in my urban fantasy Triad world—could form covens to get stronger, and do their own mini-quests (like gathering author autographs or going to panels) to make their magic stronger.
To say it was a hit with my fellow gamer nerd demographic would be something of an understatement. Quite a few people went out of their way to finish all six quests, and the end result was—I hope—fun for all involved. Even better? I had enough prizes to hand out pride-themed chocolate bars from Peace by Chocolate and folded origami earrings (a tip of the hat to Handmade Holidays) to the people that played their way through Covens of the Capital.
I’d definitely do it again, and I’ve already got some ideas on how I could streamline it, or make it multi-author (y’know, if I got my butt in gear ahead of time). But the main thing? People liked Covens of the Capital, and it was a great way to get to talk to some readers who—like me—exist in the crossover of the Venn Diagram circles of “nerdy” “gamer” and “reader.”