This has been a very interesting and fruitful month. One which has had many missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is my life fall nicely into place, and while there may still be a piece or two under the couch cushions, I'm happy with the overall picture.
RWA National was great, but as I said in the last post, very exhausting. On the positive side, I'm becoming more comfortable pitching my work and taking rejection. It's all a process and a growth and necessary in this weird choice of career. I'm getting better at not taking everything so seriously, or getting my feelings hurt.
I topped off my American conference by leaving for the Australian National conference in Brisbane, one week later. It was well worth it. The Aussie's are a fabulous group. I truly felt welcomed and not because I was born in the country (I left for the States when I was 23 years old and never returned, except for frequent visits with family.) The women were very generous with their time, their energy, and their expertise. I never felt lonely or alone. I participated in everything and enjoyed the workshops, the events, and the camaraderie. Author, Debbie Macomber and her longtime agent, Paula Eykelhof, were both amazing and completely available for casual conversation. Such lovely ladies. Every class I took, I must say I learned something new, and isn't that what it's all about? Would I go back? You betcha!
I got to meet and hang out with Allison, one of Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer's CherryBombs. We're a secret society. Not! : ) Actually, we met on the blog, an incredibly oddball community that has become entirely too addictive. I like to think of it as a reward to be taken after each long session of writing. Sort of like, okay, now that I've worked, I'll treat myself to ... no, not chocolate, not a cocktail ... a nice little rambling chat on the blog, a discussion, a disagreement, a joke shared. And if all else fails, or it's a quiet night, a little teasing of Bob and Jenny. They take it all with a grain of salt and just keep egging us on with their posts.
Anyway, after I left Allison and her cute hubby in Brisbane, I took off to Cairns in Northern Queensland and met up with some of my family who are all, barring one couple, from New South Wales. My mother, older sister, younger sister, younger brother and their spouses, all arrived and we rented a house in Palm Cove. It was spacious, nicely appointed, had a salt water pool, and was a few minutes walk to the beach and the shops and restaurants.
We had two four-wheel drive autos and took off each day on explorations for my book. What fun! We took an aerial tramway up to the Atherton Tablelands, took a train ride back, walked tropical rainforests, swam in lagoons, visited Cooktown, Mungumby Lodge (which my fictional lodge is modelled after) visited waterfalls, boated up the Daintree River to look at crocodiles, saw all kinds of snakes and birds and other wildlife. My brother is ex-army, a Sargeant who served in 'Nam. He's in my book and called Sarge. He said he'd only agree if he could have great sex. I told him he was happily married to a woman who still lusted after his hunky bod. I also assured him he definitely was the only one getting any action because the hero and heroine were at loggerheads. He thought that was cool, but he doesn't know romance and how many great scenes those two have to get through before the happily ever after. : ) Or, that I had to put his charming wife into a leg cast.
Some of the wildlife was actually in the city of Cairns, mostly lying on the beachfront called the lagoon. Cute girls in bikinis, buff guys in not much of anything, and lots of open air restaurants teeming with people. Excellent people watching. I also got to visit the Police Station in Cairns, and make some young cops day, or at least give him something to talk about at lunch. He was highly amused at my questions of under-cover drug trafficking, extradition of criminals to the U.S. What authorities would be involved and what procedure would need to be observed. At one point he looked at me rather quizzically then figured, nah, she's just what she says she is, a middle-aged romance writer. I did have a chuckle though when I first introduced myself.
I said, "I'm a romance author writing a story set in this area. It's a romantic suspense."
He grinned, in true hero fashion, and quirked one sandy-colored eyebrow, "Well, you've got the right place, lots of that going on up here."
When I got home I had a delightful surprise. My witch story, Beyond the Shadows, finaled in a contest called the Haunted Hearts. The category I entered was contemporary gothic. I'd wrestled with this story for some time, not being sure what it was. It didn't fit any sub-genre of romance that I knew. Then I ran across something one day on Gothic romance and remembered it was what I had loved to read as a pre-teen and teenager. I spoke with Melissa, one of my part-time critique partners and she got all excited. She said I was indeed writing contemporary Gothic. I figured I had nothing to lose, but everything to gain. Even if they hated it, I'd get feedback, and I so wanted feedback. So I entered the contest.
Happily, that little baby is now off to St. Martin's Press for final judging by an editor who I could never get my work in front of, because I don't have an agent. I'm thrilled to have finaled and honestly don't care if I place first or third. I'm just happy to have my work validated.
But winning would be really, really nice. :0
And, come to think of it, being asked to submit a full manuscript would be awesome.