Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring Fling 2012: Day One

So yeah. This will be a long post. You may need to get a sandwich and a drink first. I'll wait. Actually this post ended up being so long I'm only going to cover the first day now, and save day two for later in the week.

This was my third time attending the Chicago North Spring Fling conference. It's been an interesting journey. At my first Spring Fling, I was a n00b. It was 2008, I'd just finished Blood, Smoke and Mirrors and entered it in the Chicago North Fire and Ice contest, and it was a finalist in the paranormal category. My first conference, my first contest success, my first pitch (later followed by my first rejection) was overwhelming. The second Spring Fling I brought my best friend Diana with me, and we somewhat famously lost our fan girl minds over Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Because we both ADORE SB Sarah, she's so awesome. Anyway, it was April 2010, and Blood, Smoke and Mirrors was just about to be released in ebook the following May, and I was so excited.

Now, it's 2012, and Blood, Smoke and Mirrors has been out in print for a year, so I was able to sign it at the Spring Fling book signing. Dude. Seriously. But I'll get back to that.

To begin the tale of this year's SF, let me start with my RWA chapter, the Prairie Hearts. Our chapter is small. Very small. But we're also very close and supportive of each other, and I consider them all my writing family. As such I've been encouraging them for years to come with me to the SF, because I knew it would inspire them. There's something very powerful in being surrounded by so many other writers--fellow romance writers, who understand your struggles like nobody else can. So this year I am proud to say that several of the PHs attended, namely myself, BFF Diana, Victoria Smith, R.T. Wolfe, Rebecca, Ramona, and Nancy (who need pen names and web sites). ;)

This was Victoria's first conference, so Diana and I were very, "Come, young padawan, and we shall show you the ways of the Force. And drive you there." Because I have a minivan and I learned to drive on the Eisenhower, so I'm generally fearless about road trips.

We drove up Thursday night but stayed at my parents' place, because a) it was free and b) I knew Mom would feed us breakfast in the morning (which she did). So we arrived at the SF late Friday morning, unfortunately missing Carrie Lofty's workshop but managing to meet up with Romance Diva Sasha Devlin right away. This was awesome in many ways, because Diana and I met her and several other Divas at the last SF, which was my first intro to the Romance Diva community. Through the magic of Twitter and the #SF12 hash tag, Victoria also almost immediately connected with Nicole Tersigni, who is also awesome. She has a Batman tattoo. 'Nuff said.

We also ran into A. Catherine Noon, another Diva that I've met a few times (also, aside, she looked fabulous, very elegant)(also, aside some more, she didn't recognize me, but that was probably due to the fact that she meets way more people than I do, and I also used to have hair that was long and not pink, so I look a tad bit different). But she immediately made me realize that I was not prepared for this conference, because I have no business cards. Also no new rack cards, because they STILL haven't shipped yet. Really no new, clever promo of any kind.

I am made of fail. /headdesk But, that's mostly due to the divorce and recent move of it all, so I will be better prepared for the Lori Foster RAGT, I promise. (Also fail, I'm supposed to be doing edits for Nightfall now. Like right now, this very moment. Oops.) I also forgot to bring Samhain Duckie, so he is absent from my pics. And I forgot the ipod adapter for my car. So. Much. Fail.

Where was I...oh yeah, even more fail, because I did not go with Diana to the Erotica for Beginners workshop run by Tiffany Reisz. I am super bummed by this. Now, the workshop I did go to, Blog Book Tour Tips, was very helpful for those who aren't familiar with blog tours. Problem is, I'm already familiar with them, and I didn't learn much that I didn't already know. Diana, on the other hand, was all "DUDE, this was so awesome, you should have been there because you would love her!"

So, of course, we spent the rest of the SF trying (and mostly failing) to stalk her so that I could meet her too and learn of this awesome. Because apparently we didn't learn anything from the last SF about not stalking people. Though, to our credit, I think we were less crazed about it this time. Mostly. Maybe?

...damn it.

Speaking of our inability to learn, the next workshop we went to was Self-Publishing with Quality by Courtney Milan. Now, Courtney Milan was the author who was having a perfectly nice conversation with Sarah Wendell at the last SF gala when BFF Diana and I bounded up to SB Sarah and were all, "OMG U TWEETED ME U R TEH AWESOMEST I LURVE YOU 4EVAR!" Like giant Golden Retriever puppies. On Red Bull. So I have this fear that she remembers me and is all "oh, it's that girl." Which I'm sure she has no idea who I am, and probably doesn't care or remember, but that doesn't stop my inner voice of guilt from lecturing me on propriety when dealing with people I admire in the writing industry.

Aside speech time: In case you're not aware, though I have no problem communicating through the Internets, I'm actually painfully shy in reality. This is why I blurt things that are occasionally hilarious--I have no filters. Or few filters. I'm also frickin' 6 feet tall and awkward as all get out, so I can come off as intimidating or standoffish when I'm actually scared to death. And I'm the child of gym teachers, so though I have zero athletic talent, I was still raised in a "rub some dirt in it and walk it off" environment. As such, I lack the social skills of normal women, and I spent much of this SF in terror. Because it's scary to talk about my book to strangers. And then I tend to forget to do simple things like thank people for their interest or ask them where they're from and what they write. But I'm learning. Slowly.

Back to the workshop: it was really, really fabulous. She was organized, her PowerPoint presentation was helpful and put together well, and I learned a lot. If you're considering self pubbing, I would recommend getting a recording of this workshop and listening to it (they'll be selling recordings on the site I believe).

After that was the keynote speech by Simone Elkeles. She was very funny, and I immediately liked her. (No, I haven't read any of her stuff. She does YA, which I generally don't read, but if you enjoy it I'd recommend her. If her books are anything like her personality, she's well worth the read, because she was fabulous.)

After this there was dinner. And then, ABJECT TERROR! Because as a participant in the book signing, I was invited to the Bookseller/Librarian Appreciation Reception. See above aside on my social inadequacies. Plus, there were a few librarians and a ton of authors, so we were all circling them like hawks, waiting for our turn to strike. Awkward hawks, all scared of angering the librarians if we butted in to their conversations. I think I only managed to speak with 2 of the librarians, but I had a marvelous conversation about libraries and how I am in love with the stacks of the main library of the University of Illinois.

At one point I tried to escape, but I ran into my chapter member R.T. Wolfe in the hallway, who essentially told me to put on my big girl panties and get back in there, so I did.

I feel I should also mention at this point that in addition to being a big dork who can't function in social groups, I'm also scared of other authors. Example, Carrie Lofty was in the reception, and I wanted to speak with her because she's really cool, and I never got the courage to do it. Because when faced with this sort of situation, I feel like this:

Because I'm not worthy. Or at least I've convinced myself of that.

Oh! I do have a great pic from the reception though:

I apologize because I've already completely forgotten the name of the author on the left, but the author on the right is Sarah M. Anderson. I LOVED her outfit, and she had kickass boots and an equally awesome hat on for the book signing (more about that in the Day Two post). They were both super nice and look how gorgeous they are. :) (ETA: The author on the left is Andrea Dickinson. Thanks, Sarah!)

After the reception ended it was chocolate buffet time. Good stuff, but not as good as last SF. In fact, I have to say, the food was not as good this year. I am disappoint. :(

I did not attend the Hot Night critiques, but Victoria and Nicole did, and I know they had a great time. (And they stayed up too late, because as Sasha kept reminding us, no one is supposed to sleep at conferences. Or do work, which Diana and I did anyway, but I'll get to that in Day Two.) Instead, Diana, Rebecca and I went to the bar and had a drink. Just one, because I live in a college town and am generally stunned by how much drinks cost in the outside world. (I demand cheap liquor!) While drinking, Diana and I continued to stalk Tiffany Reisz on Twitter, announcing our stalkery intentions, which thankfully she seemed to find amusing and not scary.

Then there was sleep, or at least the attempt to sleep. More on Day Two to come later!

Monday, April 23, 2012

New Cover Goodness

I have two new book covers to share with you! Both were done by Kanaxa, the artist who has done all of my other Samhain covers. She's marvelous. :)

First, as promised, there's a new Bad Witch novella out later this year: Fire in the Blood.

Featuring Patience Roberts, the summoner introduced in Bewitched, Blooded & Bewildered. And Faust. You guys remember Faust, right? Evil faerie, works for Harrison? much shenanigans. It will be out in Fall. I'll update when I have the official release date.

Next, we have Nightfall, Book 1 of my new, shiny space opera trilogy Cy'ren Rising. It also happens to be a M/F/F menage. It's a tad bit steamy (in fact it qualified for Samhain's "Red Hots!!!", which as you can see is 3 exclamation point serious).

I love that cover. I love both covers, really. This one will be out in late summer. Again, I'll let you know the exact date when I have it. I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bewitched, Blooded and Bewildered Release Day

There is so much news, where do I start...?

First, there is book signing goodness! If you live in the Chicago area, I'll be part of the big, awesome Chicago North Spring Fling signing on April 28th. You should come by, so it looks like I have fans. ;)

Next, today is release day for the second Cat book, Bewitched, Blooded and Bewildered.

To refresh your memory, here's the blurb:

It’s better to be a bad witch than a dead one.

One thing stands between Catherine Duquesne and happily-ever-after with her soul mate Lex—her unwanted bond with billionaire vampire Zachary Harrison. Married life is hard enough without adding an uninvited vampire to the mix, and being tied to Zach endangers more than just her relationship. If Zach dies, she dies, and with his new seat on the necromancer council being challenged by older, more powerful masters, his life expectancy is dwindling fast.

Vampire politics is only the beginning of Cat’s problems. Hunters are stalking magicians, abducting entire families and killing anyone who resists. As the current Titania and Oberon, Cat and Lex must protect their people, but Cat’s dark past keeps the victims from seeking their help. Worse, the former Titania’s granddaughter wants to oust Cat from the job, believing her vampire ties make her unfit.

To break the bond Cat must broker deals with devils on a journey that will take her to hell and back—literally. Freedom comes at a high price, but Cat will risk anything to save her people and her marriage.

Warning: This book contains explicit language, faerie shenanigans, a field trip to hell, even more magician sex, and gratuitous violence against vampires, demons, hunters, helicopters and the kitchen sink. 

To celebrate the release, I'm sharing an excerpt. (There are also 2 excerpts up on the Samhain Cafe Yahoo group, if you're so inclined to read those as well.) But this, THIS is an extra special excerpt. Why? Because it has Patience. And Patience has her very own novella, Fire in the Blood, coming out in Fall from Samhain Publishing. I have seen the cover draft, and it is SO MUCH AWESOME. I can't wait to share it with you guys. :)

(There is also news that the first book in my space opera trilogy, Nightfall, will be out in late summer. I have also seen that cover draft. Dude. Seriously. So much fabulous, you don't even know.)

But now, Bewitched, Blooded and Bewildered excerptness (edited for f-bombs). Please allow me to introduce Patience Roberts, she's a woman of wealth and taste:

We left the house around noon and headed toward the city. Oak Park was near the suburb I’d just moved out of, so I was pretty familiar with it. Nice place. I used to take the bus there to browse the shops, which were cute but pricey, and I'd wander around and go stare at the Frank Lloyd Wright homes. Maybe I could talk Lex into buying one of the humongous Victorian houses in the area. He could afford it, though the thought of washing that many windows was a tad bit scary. Maybe we could hire a maid.

We parked in a lot next to an El train stop, and I looked around for an office building. Instead, Lex led me to an inconspicuous door set between a shoe store and a novelty shop. I glanced in the window of the shoe store and eyed the boots, wondering what Lex would say if I asked to shop. I wasn't exactly a cute shoes kinda girl, but I wasn't opposed to the idea of cute shoes. I'd just never had a chance to wear them in my previous day job. Cute shoes meant blisters, aches and pains, and comfortable shoes were usually clunky and/or ugly.

An ancient intercom system was next to the plain wooden door, and I peered at the names next to the buttons. Lex didn't push any of the buzzers and merely opened the door and walked inside. We walked up two flights of stairs—reminding me that I should be grateful that I quit smoking because I get winded way too quickly—and turned down a hallway. Hardwood floors creaked beneath our feet as we passed frosted-glass doors proclaiming Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine and Dr. Howard, until we arrived at the last office, All On Red Consulting. Plain font, no cute logos, nothing that hinted at its being a magician-owned establishment. Usually magician businesses had a tell of some sort, something that signaled to other magicians that the place was safe. The number three was most typical—Three Willows CafĂ©, Three Oaks University. Then again, that was probably about to come back to bite us all in the ass, because the hunters were sure to figure it out.

I followed Lex into the office, and I walked into a wall of pungent brimstone-scented magic. Eau de summoner. Gross. There was a bland waiting area with an empty fish tank and old magazines strewn across the coffee table. Zach's face smiled from one of the covers, his arm around some skinny blonde model, and I flipped him off as Lex opened the inner office door without knocking.
I heard the occupant's voice before I saw her. "No. Get out," she snapped.

"Nice to see you too, Patience," Lex drawled.

I stepped around him and got a look at her. Though her eyes were hidden behind a pair of round, mirrored sunglasses, I knew Patience Roberts was glaring at Lex. Her short hair was cherry red and cut in funky, angular layers, but she wore a plain, black business suit with a white blouse. I wasn't sure what to make of that.

"You're not welcome here, Duquesne, and you don't have grounds to harass me anymore, so you can get the hell out of my office."

"He's not here to harass you—we're here to hire you," I said.

"Oh, this should be good. Are you looking to deal in demons now, Ms. Morrow? Your father always enjoyed it, and he was happy to pay the price in flesh," Patience said. She grinned, and my stomach stopped, dropped and rolled.

"That's Mrs. Duquesne," Lex corrected, "and you'd do well to call her Titania. In fact, as your Oberon, I'm orderin' you to help us, so get the twist out of your panties now."

The smile slipped from her face, and she dropped a series of F-bombs so epic even I was impressed. Finally she jabbed a finger at the empty seats in front of her desk. "Sit down and tell me what you want."

For a moment I wondered if Lex was going to demand she say "please", but he strode across the room and took a seat. I followed, my stomach still knotted. I wasn't sure I could work with her if she'd known my father in the biblical sense. The odds were against it—Lovely Laura didn't like sharing her playthings, and I couldn't imagine her allowing dear old Dorian to have any frolic on the side, even if it was business related.

"We need a guide through the shadow realm," Lex said.

She quirked one bright-red brow. "I knew a summoner who honeymooned there once, but I don't think it’s quite your ideal vacation destination. Why the shadow realm?"

"We need a ritual from the library of Kristoff Valkyrie."

"You mean you need a ritual," she said, turning her attention to me. "This is about you and Zachary Harrison, isn't it?"

"Does it matter?" I asked.

"Damn right it matters. If I help you against him, I'm a dead woman. You can't ask me to do that."

Patience scowled as she tugged a desk drawer open and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. My hands twitched as she lit up her smoke. I wanted one so bad.

"He wouldn't kill you for helping us," I scoffed.

"Yes he would if I helped rob him of his favorite pet. No offense, Titania, but I don't care how hard you and your Oberon ask me for my help. I'm not getting involved in this."

"Name your price," Lex said, his voice low.

...and, scene! Should you want to know more, you can buy it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Mr. Samhain.