Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Conventions

2012 RT Report

2012 RT Report

This year’s Romantic Times convention was my fourth in a row. Since my first visit, RT has underwent a dramatic change and much of it has to do with moving the focus away from cover models and toward the readers. In 2012, RT did not have a Cover Model pageant and while there were cover models roaming the halls, the overt sexuality of past conferences was not present.

This is not to say that all readers are happy with this change. Some vocal readers expressed unhappiness at the lack of eye candy and the disappearance of the Mangeant, as it is fondly referred to by some of us. (I think Heather Osborn may have named it) I overheard one reader exclaim to a friend after having her picture taken with a cover model that “it made her conference.”

You can’t really have an increased YA celebration and mantitty all over the place and thus I believe that in choosing to foster young readers, RT is making the absolute right decision as to the direction of their conference.

During the immense signing, RT set up Teen Alley. It was mobbed during the signing. There were groups of girls, some who came with their mothers and others who came with library groups. One library group had printed “Author Prom” t shirts for their readers. The readers wore the shirts and had the authors sign the t shirts. What a marvelous idea.

Even though the conference price is high, the hotels they choose are reasonably priced, some meals are provided, and a ton of swag (books and other items like bookmarks, chapstick, pens). However, I believe the most valuable thing that the readers get from this is the opportunity to meet with authors. The authors will sit in the bar and the lobby and are very receptive to readers coming up to them and engaging in them. Authors, I’ve learned, get a thrill from being recognized and acknowledged by readers. Some authors, like Beth Kery aka Bethany Kane, were anxious to meet other authors like Anne Rice. (I’m not sure if Beth ever got her Anne Rice meeting but I did hear that Anne Rice was in the elevator at some point!)

The Hyatt was really a great conference hotel. The staff was super nice and they put out signs that celebrated romance readers and had no snark! (At least none that I saw). Whether it was Hyatt or RT, there was a big dry erase board where a new question was posted every day and people were invited to write in their answers.

Hyatt Whiteboard RT 2012

I attended a couple of sessions. One was the reader roundtable that Sarah and I facilitated. It ended up being a lot of authors wanting to hear from readers (dear readers, we want to hear from you!!) but listening to authors talk about their favorite books was really fun. MaryJanice Davidson confessed that she just started reading George RR Martin’s series and that she was totally hooked.

There were some RT scandals. What would RT be without scandals? J.R. Ward instigated #peegate. Apparently she twice used the restroom on Friday and both times had her bodyguards prevent any one from entering. Dear everyone there, no one but the hotel staff has the right to bar you from the restroom, particulary if you were a paying customer. Of other interest to Ward readers, she intimated in her panel that Butch and Vishous are regularly having sex. I guess that is okay for Jane, after all, she is just a ghost but what about poor Marissa? (Edited to add a link to someone who took more copious notes)

Q: We haven’t seen much of Butch and V lately–
JR:
 interrupts They’ve been seeing plenty of each other!
Q: — will we ever see any of that on the page?
JR: No..
 [paraphrased]... I will give hints about it and talk about it verbally, but it won’t be on the page… because too many people would hate it.  sotto voce Butch is getting it regularly.

Nalini Singh 2012 RT

I tried to pump Nalini Singh for details about the ghost but she refused to give it up. Actually, she seemed close to being broken on Friday night (I had worked her over good for three days) and admitted that she wanted to tell but was afraid that if she spilled the beans to even one person that the floodgates would be breached and she couldn’t keep it a secret anymore. I told her that I knew it was Kaleb and in the event that she choose someone else to be the ghost, I would need a legal brief justifying her alternative choice. Someone is going to have to write a lot of fan fiction for me if the ghost ends up being someone else. Nalini is a very good sport. She had dinner with Angela James and Sarah Wendell and I. I think Angie and I spent about a good hour complaining about certain aspects of Nalini’s books. (Angie and I are not fans of reincarnation stories) Nalini took everything with really good humor. Perhaps it helps that Angie and I are real fans of both series but as I look back at that dinner, I am pretty amazed at how gracious Nalini was with Angie and I.

Loretta Chase RT 2012

One of my highlights and more embarassing moments came right before the booksigning. I had slipped in to take photos which I have uploaded to the new Dear Author flickr account. Loretta Chase was there. I told her that when I was in Korea, I went to a bookstore and there was Lord of Scoundrels in Korean. I wished I had brought it with me. I shared with her repeatedly, in a rush of garbled words, how much I appreciated her books and loved her writing. I also told her that no matter what grade we gave her on the blog, we still appreciated her contribution to the genre. I think I may have said that three or four times. It was embarassing. I’m glad few people were there to see me.

RT has made Saturday into a reader event. There are four or five sessions going on at one time so that there is always something that will fit a readers’ particular interest. I’m not certain what readers want out of conferences but if it is to meet with other readers and authors in an informal but engaging setting, then RT is likely to satisfy.

 

Sunita reports from Bouchercon 2011, Part 2

Sunita reports from Bouchercon 2011, Part 2

I went back to Bouchercon on Friday and Saturday and caught as many panels as I could, given my other responsibilities this weekend (why does everything always happen at the same time? Argh).  [Check out Sunita's report from Friday] Unfortunately I had evening commitments both days, so I couldn’t hang out at the bar (which is of course where so much of the fun is). But the panels were well worth attending and I was able to speak to authors during the books signing slots, so I’m not complaining. I promised more pictures, so here’s a shot of the free swag we got in the tote bag:

I went to all or part of eight more panels. I got up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to get to the 8:30 panel (hey! I had to commute!) because it was about epublishing and provocatively titled “Everything is Broken.” It was moderated by author Eric Stone and the panelists were two editors from New York houses, another author, and the proprietor of a mystery bookstore in Minneapolis. One of the editors was refreshingly open to the idea of ebooks. He stated that he didn’t think ebooks were entirely cannibalizing print; while print runs were definitely lower, ebook sales were increasing and that offset some of the decline. He also said that he didn’t think piracy was killing sales. His company has a lawyer who sends out C&D notices when they find out about illegal uploads, but the rate of piracy was “not enough to make a dent.” He compared it to playing whack-a-mole, which I think is precisely the correct image.

The most disappointing aspect of the panel, I’m sorry to say, was listening to the comments of the  bookstore owner. He was adamant in his refusal to stock any books published by Amazon, even by writers like Barry Eisler whom he had successfully sold in the past. He will keep Eisler’s backlist but not order anything from Amazon. When the moderator asked whether his bookstore had considered adopting Google Books’ program, which allows independent bookstores to sell Google Editions (ebooks) through their stores, he said no. He was supportive of authors epublishing their backlists, because it helped sell the newer books, but he wanted nothing to do with ebooks. He didn’t seem to realize (or he didn’t believe) that indie bookstores could benefit by selling ebooks. He acknowledged this could be self-defeating (and even used the “cut off our nose to spite our face” metaphor), but he was resolute. Handselling is the key, and handselling is exclusively about print to him.

A couple of librarians were in the audience and they emphasized how much ebooks were helping them. One compared it to the decision to embrace the internet and said that teaching people to download ebooks and the software to read them was much like that earlier experience. Another said that it allowed her library to be a 24/7 resource and ebooks didn’t require extra physical space, which was a big plus.

One of the last comments from the floor was warmly received by the rest of the audience, which interrupted her repeatedly with applause. A woman stood up and said (I’m paraphrasing here):

I’m not a writer, publisher, or seller of books. I’m a reader and buyer. I’m the one you all want. I buy ebooks, I buy print books. I’m a library trustee. When I travel I visit bookstores and buy their books. Your panel subtitle says “Friend or Foe.” I think this should be about collaboration and partnership. We’re in this together. We all want publishing to succeed.

I agree with her, but I don’t think the friend-or-foe mentality is going away any time soon.

When the session ended, Patricia Rice and I discovered that we had been sitting right next to each other, so we chatted for a while and then made plans to have lunch along with Eileen Dreyer, who is also local and attending the conference. We met up at noon and spent two hours in the Dubliner Pub (where the PCA romance group went last year). Sadly, we all had afternoon obligations so we stuck to sodas and iced tea. But it was wonderful to meet romance authors face-to-face. We romance people really are everywhere.

Right after the epub panel I went to a panel on writing mysteries with social justice themes, moderated by Sara Paretzsky and featuring Laura Lippmann, Colin Cotterill, Frankie Bailey, Libby Fischer Hellmann and Gary Phillips. Everyone on that panel was wicked smart and thoughtful in their discussion about how to write characters with opposite political views, how to write convincingly about social justice without preaching, and what issues should be written about more (Lippmann and Phillips mentioned urban black male unemployment and poverty, Hellman child slavery in Africa, Cotterill and Bailey the conditions for migrant workers). A comment that stood out for me was one from Colin Cotterill. When Peretzsky asked how the authors reconcile their political views with the requirements of the novel, Cotterill said (I paraphrase again):

I tend to write from every character’s point of view. I’m writing books that cannot be published and read in the country where they are set.  So I try to stand outside the setting, paint the picture and let you decide. I put myself very much in the middle [ideologically].

Colin Cotterill was my biggest discovery and author-crush of the conference (and he beat out some stiff competition). Keishon has been pimping his books for ages and now I totally see why. I picked up his first Dr. Siri book as well as his new release, and he was charming when he signed my book. He thought he was terrible on the social justice panel. So he’s modest, too. Here he is taking pictures of the audience before the “Cranky Streets: What’s So Funny About Murder?” panel, with Eoin Colfer to his left (sorry for the horrible quality, I was in the back so I could sneak out midway through):

Some of the other highlights: I attended part of a western mysteries panel. Lori Armstrong was there, as well as historical and other contemporary writers. They agreed that the western setting allows them to write interesting and strong women characters. I sat in on part of a historical mysteries panel with Tasha Alexander. She was just as insightful and thoughtful as you’d expect, and I was sorry I didn’t see and hear more of her, but I’m definitely picking up one of the Lady Emily books. I went to the Q & A session with Robert Crais. My notes say “Handsome, witty, charming, thoughtful, intelligent. Too bad he’s a Dodgers fan.”

I discovered a lot of new authors who sounded so smart and funny and thoughtful that I want to read all their books. There were some boring moments on some panels, but for the most part, I felt fortunate to be able to attend. I was reminded over and over that authors are storytellers first and foremost, not just in their fiction but in their daily lives.

I also attended an LGBT authors’ discussion and book-signing session at my local independent bookstore, but this post is already long enough so I’ll write that up at my VacuousMinx blog, along with some more tidbits about the convention and thoughts about the mystery genre.

Every time I went to a panel I wound up buying books by an author. Thank goodness we just picked up some more bookscases. Here’s some of my haul:

Finally, I attended a panel chaird by Colin Cotterill on Amazon reviews. He had requested the panel, and as he is one of the International Guests of Honor, Bouchercon agreed. I wasn’t sure what it would be about but I hoped it wasn’t just about bashing online reviewers. There was a little bit of that, but mostly directed at the genuinely stupid and thoughtless reviews, and mostly done with humor. Authors shared some of their favorite negative reviews, but they also read from reader emails that had especially touched and moved them. Linwood Barclay read an email from a teenager in a care home in England who hoped he would write more books because “there isn’t much to do.” Lisa Lutz said she loved the idea that her humorous Spellman series mysteries were not just “beach reads” but “hospital reads” that made people feel better in tedious and difficult times.

Cotterill closed the session with his favorite negative review, of an edition of the King James Bible:

It’s almost preachy in tone.

I cannot top that. Next year, Bouchercon continues its tour of past-their-prime US cities and takes the convention to Cleveland. No Arch, but the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!