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The Great Capitol Crimes Writers Workshop

If you’re in Northern California and looking for an inexpensive, one-day workshop for writers, check out The Great Capitol Crimes Writers Workshop in Rancho Cordova (Sacramento) on April 22nd. It’s sponsored by the local chapter of Sisters in Crime, but the topics are relevant for any fiction author.

The lunchtime keynote speaker is New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter.

And, I’ll be there, talking about—what else?—Scrivener. 😉 I’ve cut back on appearances since the move, and this is my only scheduled in-person workshop (so far) this year. Maybe I’ll see you there!

SINCC conference flyer

By the way, if your group or conference would like a Scrivener presentation, contact me about putting on a one-hour or half-day workshop. I’m also available for group presentations via teleconference.

New York-New York: Back-to-back conferences in Manhattan

times square

At the end of July and early August, I spent two consecutive weekends in New York City, mingling with my kind—aka writers, you know, the ones who understand why I stare at the wall and call it “working”—exploring the busy streets on foot, attending workshops, and giving my own presentations (on Scrivener and self-publishing).

The first weekend, I attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA) annual national conference. Imagine 2000 writers and industry professionals, 99% of them women, talking plot, characterization, self-publishing, industry trends, writer’s block, query letters, and work-life balance.

The fun goes from sunup till midnight for four straight days. Once conference starts, you could easily never leave the hotel. After you’ve faced the mad crush of Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen, and Broadway—think facing off at the line of scrimmage—you might not want to. 😉

[click an image to enlarge]

Gwen and Keely with plaques
Can you tell I woke early and spent the morning on a train? Keely Thrall and I won signed quotes from Nora Roberts at the Golden Network retreat on Wednesday.
central park west
Running down Central Park West before the conference starts on Thursday.
fruit stand
A fruit stand we found on 8th Ave in Hell’s Kitchen on the way back from dinner. I loaded up on snacks.
Hudson River
Running north on the Hudson River Friday morning.
Kiss and Thrill friends
All but one of us from kissandthrill.com managed to attend RWA this year. It was great to catch up with each other in person.
Highline Trail
The Highline Trail (an old elevated railway turned multi-use path).
Hudson River and Highline Trail
View of the Hudson from the Highline Trail.
Funny ad on building
This ad made me laugh on my run to the Hudson River. You can just see the USS Intrepid at the bottom right of the picture.

The following weekend, I returned for the annual Writer’s Digest (WD) conference, an event for all types of writers in both fiction and nonfiction. In my unscientific visual survey, the 800 or so writers, agents, and editors in attendance appeared to be split roughly 50/50 between women and men. That definitely affects the atmosphere (not better or worse, just different).

Since WD is affiliated with a magazine rather than a membership organization, most people didn’t know each other—and many of them seemed to be earlier in their writing career—but everyone was friendly and excited. I met three people in the first hour, just standing in line to register (wrong line, oops) and sitting on the hotel’s mezzanine. Along with the workshops and keynote speakers, the pitch slam—like speed dating with agents and editors—was a huge draw.

It was also nice being in Midtown East, which despite boasting Grand Central Station, the United Nations, Park Ave, Madison Ave, and the Chrysler Building, was far less crowded than the west side.

Roosevelt Hotel lobby
The lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel from the mezzanine level.
grand central exterior
I stumbled upon Grand Central Station while walking down Park Ave on my way home from dinner the first night.
Chrysler building and Grand Central Station
The Chrysler Building at sunset, towering over Grand Central Station.
Inside Grand Central
Inside Grand Central. There’s even an Apple Store.
Ceiling inside Grand Central Station
Part of the ceiling inside Grand Central Station. Zodiac signs in the stars.
Freedom Tower
On Saturday morning I ran down Park Avenue–which was closed to cars for the morning–to the Brooklyn Bridge, then veered west to find the Freedom Tower and World Trade Center Memorial.
WTC memorial
World Trade Center Memorial, north pool. I was surprised how small the footprints of the WTC buildings were.
Storm trooper in doorway
The “guy” loitering near the door of this restaurant on Park Ave looked a bit out of place…
Patience the lion at NY Library
Hanging with Patience the lion outside the NY Public Library on 5th Ave.
Chrysler Building at night
The Chrysler Building at night from 5th Ave.
East River
Running on the East River on Sunday morning.

Back-to-back weekends in Manhattan was definitely exhausting, but I squeezed as much as possible out of both the conferences and the city. I had a fantastic time, reconnected with old friends, made new friends, learned lots, and came home motivated and inspired to get back to writing in my quiet little suburb.

Friends, fun, and combat medics in San Antonio

Image of my 2014 RWA conference name badgeMore than 2,000 romance writers and industry professionals have descended on the San Antonio Riverwalk for the Romance Writers of America National Conference. For the fifth year in a row, I’m one of them.

The conference workshops don’t start until tomorrow, but I’ve been here since Monday and I’ve been busy, busy, busy.

Monday:

After a long morning of travel, I spent the afternoon and evening with three of my fabulous Kiss & Thrill blog sisters and a new friend. In addition to eating good food, chatting, and laughing, we brainstormed each other’s stories. I’m not usually comfortable getting feedback on my book or premise before the first draft is done, but after Monday’s session, I might be a convert. We came a ton of great ideas that I think will help get me back on track with Men of Steele book #2.

Tuesday:

Yesterday kicked off with a sunrise bus ride to Lackland AFB where we visited the National Military Working Dog monument and spent the morning learning about how the Air Force security forces (military police) train, and their various missions. I had no idea that one in six new enlisted recruits enters the security forces.

Image of the National Military Working Dog Memorial

During lunch I got a chance to chat with a real live Air Force combat controller! It was the first time I’ve met a member of the special operations forces and it was great to learn about what motivated him to choose the USAF and special ops, and learn more about what he does.

After lunch we drove to Fort Sam for an informative session on Army combat medics. They showed us their state-of-the-art training facility complete with the sounds, smells, and feel of a real combat scene with life-like “casualties” that breathe, have pulses (or not) and blood pressure, and have gruesomely realistic injuries. We also had a Q&A session with several decorated medics who are now instructors at the school. As usual the tour with my Kiss of Death chapter was worth the trip to conference all by itself.

Image of an Army Combat Medic training simulator

We capped off the day with dinner and a fun speech by suspense author Wendy Corsi Staub.

Wednesday:

Today I started with a sunrise run on the Riverwalk. Due to a lack of “you are here” stickers on many of the maps, I ended up running a couple more miles than I intended, but I can’t fault the view. From mid-morning on, the Riverwalk is packed with tourists, but before breakfast, the only people on this oasis below street level are the walkers, joggers, park police, merchants, and sidewalk cleaners. It was the break from chaos that I needed.

Photo of the San Antonio Riverwalk

Despite getting back to my room later than planned, I made it to my Golden Network (for current and former Golden Heart finalists) retreat on time, and what a day. Robin Perini, Jennifer McGowan, Cathy Maxwell, and many others shared their words of wisdom, I made new friends, and I finally met several online friends in person.

After three nonstop days, this introvert-at-heart was ready for some downtime. I skipped the madness that is the literacy signing, ordered room service for dinner, took a short nap, and just decompressed.

Now I’m ready for the conference to begin bright and early tomorrow!

Hibiscus flower picture

Home!

Moving boxes in living roomSorry I’ve been so quiet lately. We finally moved into our house and I’ve been buried under boxes—it took me nearly three days just to get the kitchen in order. Plus, I always forget how much time it takes to make address changes, update insurance policies, get a new driver’s license, and on and on…

Write? Fuggeddabout it (okay, sorry, that’s NYC).

The good news is that we’re loving the Boston area already. New England is somehow even greener than northern Virginia and there’s so much to do here. I can’t wait to start exploring. We’ve already done a bit of it, and we’ve been enjoying the nearby bike trail as much as possible.

My oldest is off to college in about a month—yikes!—so we’re going to do the touristy Boston thing before he goes (he’s forgotten a lot from our trip back in 2008). But my list is long, and that’s just for around here. All of New England and Quebec beckon. 🙂

Moving boxes in kitchenThis week, though, I’m still trying to arrange, rearrange, and unpack. Plus, I’m getting ready to fly to San Antonio on Monday for my fifth Romance Writers of America national conference, so I have lots of packing and some shopping to do. It takes careful planning to get a week’s worth of clothes, shoes, and workout gear into a carry-on bag, but I’ve done it four years in a row and it’s worth it.

BTW, if you’ll be at RWA14, my workshop, “Easy E-books with Scrivener,” is on Saturday the 26th at 3:15pm. Even if you can’t attend the workshop, I hope to see you in Texas!

Now back to my regularly scheduled unpacking, unwrapping, and piling things in corners until I figure out where they go…

Where I am this week

GwenStonehengeI’m all over the place this week! Yesterday I wrote a personal post for my group site Kiss and Thrill about how much I love visiting places I’ve read about, and reading about places I’ve visited (complete with pictures). I’d love it if you stopped by to tell me about a book you enjoyed because you were familiar with the setting, or a place you’d read about and finally got to visit.

Today, I’m with the lovely ladies at Eat, Read, Rate divulging my writing secrets. You know, like what I wear when writing, where I write, and the story behind some (really) early manuscripts. Come over and share your own  writing quirks, or ask me a Scrivener question. 🙂

On Friday, I’ll be at the New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. My Scrivener workshop starts at 3pm, so if you’re there stop by and say hello in person. I’ll also be participating in the conference book signing on Saturday, which is open to the public.

Wherever this week takes you, I hope you have a good one!

Feeling like a rock star in MT

On the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier NP.
On the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier NP.

Sometimes you feel like a rock star. Last weekend in Montana was my turn.

Thanks to the lobbying efforts of a former student—writing instructor and novelist Dennis Foley—I was invited to speak at the Flathead River Writers Conference (FRWC) in Kalispell, near Glacier National Park.

This was the first time I’d been paid to attend a conference, rather than just having part of my registration fee comped. I was flown in, fed, given my own hotel room, and gifted with treats.

It was non-stop fun the whole weekend.

Shortly after arriving, I was joined by literary agent Paige Wheeler and novelist William (Bill) Haywood Henderson, and we were whisked away for a trip up the Going-to-the-Sun Road that leads to the top of Logan Pass in Glacier.

Top of Logan's Pass in Glacier NP. Cold!!
Top of Logan Pass in Glacier NP. Cold!!
(Photo courtesy of Constance See)

The views were fabulous, though the top of the mountain was bitterly cold and windy. The three of us bonded over scary drop-offs, frozen toes and fingers, and knock-you-down wind. On our descent we stopped for several short scenic walks and a tour of the lodge.

Then we were off to dinner to meet up with some of the other presenters, and members of the Authors of the Flathead.

On Saturday, after a full day of fabulous presentations by Bill, Paige, agent Liz Kracht, and several local authors, I spoke for an entire hour—my longest ever non-teaching speech—about how I (try to) fit in writing, training, family time, travel, and exercise. I was nervous about this one. How to give tips without sounding like I think I’m fabulous or perfect? Based on feedback, I *believe* I managed to find a good balance.

FRWC is one cool conference. You might be surprised how many successful and aspiring authors live in sparsely populated northern Montana. I was. With only 100 attendees, the conference is cozy and welcoming, and everyone is friendly, yet the lineup is on par with any first-class conference. (If I do say so myself. 😉 )

I couldn’t believe how many people thanked me for my speech and for coming to the conference. We all need to feel special now and then, and this weekend, I did.

On Sunday, during my Scrivener workshop, I mentioned that the bookstore had about ten copies of Scrivener For Dummies still in stock and that I’d be happy to sign for anyone who bought it. Several people stepped out immediately and then approached me after the workshop. And the bookstore sold out!

That night, one of the local authors hosted a potluck at her house in nearby Whitefish. Good food, good conversation, and a packed house full of friendly faces.

I almost didn’t want to leave.

At FRWC, I learned new things, made new friends (and met some I’d only known online), and explored the local area on our tour and my Monday morning run. All in all, a great time.

If you’re looking for a well run, casual, and welcoming general writing conference, you can’t beat Flathead River Writers.

Many thanks to the Authors of the Flathead for making me feel like a rock star in Montana!

More pics (click for slideshow)…

Friendship, research, and craft: RWA13

RWAbadgeI spent last week at the Mecca for romance writers, RWA’s National Conference, which took place in Atlanta this year. I listened to inspiring, educational, and sometimes heart wrenching speeches by the likes of Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Courtney Milan, Cathy Maxwell, and Kristan Higgins.

On my annual tour with the Kiss of Death (KOD) chapter–for writers of romantic mystery and suspense–the Atlanta firefighters shared their lifestyle, equipment, and stories. And, for the fourth year in a row, I made a new friend. The KOD tour is always worth every penny.

ATLFireTruckAt the conference, I learned about self-publishing from best sellers Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, and Gerri Russell. A former green beret provided information about weapons, training, operations, and jargon. A cop-turned-writer shared undercover procedures and interesting stories from her time working narcotics for the Los Angeles sheriff’s department.

Plus there were the craft sessions. Characterization, hooks, suspense, plotting, and more. On Saturday morning, I even gave my own workshop on creating e-books with Scrivener.

There’s nothing quite like a whole week of rubbing shoulders with successful and aspiring authors, rekindling old relationships, and making new friends. An entire week surrounded by people who “get” me. Those who understand that particular brand of crazy that makes us writers.

That’s why I go to conference.

Hanging with my Kiss & Thrill blog sisters, Manda Collins and Sarah Andre, in Atlanta.
Hanging with my Kiss & Thrill blog sisters, Manda Collins (L) and Sarah Andre (R), in Atlanta.