Wednesday, June 26, 2013

RWA in Atlanta July 17-21, 2013! See you there!


What not to do at RWA in Atlanta?
Do NOT spill 10 pounds of shrimp on your shoes at Nora Robert’s party.

I’m sure you are nodding as you read the above, and thinking, “Well, what kind of dolt would do that?”
This dolt.
It was a few years ago, and Ms. Roberts had graciously invited her home chapter of RWA to join her and her many other guests for cocktail hour in her suite.
It was perfect…view out the windows glorious, delicious and varied spread of cheeses and dips and seafood, waiters with drinks on gleaming trays, fabulous clothes and sparkling party jewelry. The room was packed with well-known and much loved writers, very important editors, publicists and fans and fellow WRW members like me who were thrilled to mingle and have a couple of munchies and a fortifying drink before the Awards Ceremony.
I was nervous, as always, like most of us there, hoping to make an impression on those we wanted to do business with. I had my elevator pitch ready and my new high heels on and was keeping my eyes peeled for an editor I was dying to chat up. I decided I’d grab a drink, but realized sensibly it would be much smarter to first take a lovely little cocktail plate and grab a few bites. The line was forming, shoulder to shoulder hungry writers were starting to queue up, and I somehow, with a graceful step or three, managed to plant myself right in front of an amazing display of shrimp.
 A gorgeous silver bowl of the plumpest, freshest, yummy little creatures sat on a table covered with  crushed ice, the enormous bowl tilted just so one could poke a toothpick in and spear one without any effort at all. Plate in one hand, toothpick in the other, I first spooned on a tablespoon of lovely red cocktail sauce, then speared a shrimp.
I plopped it on the plate and frowned, not sure but wondering, did the  silver bowl gently, oh so freaking gently, begin to turn on its bed of ice? I thought it might have, no more than a degree clockwise, if I remember right. The room was warm, the ice was melting just a bit, but no problem. Surely.
I speared a second shrimp. When I picked the thing up from the mountain where it perched with a thousand of it’s lovely pink  buddies, disaster.
Like card 101 in a design that could only ever balance 100, the silver bowl of shrimp moved again. Wildly. The thing took a full, dizzying ninety-degree spin, and one second later tipped forward and spilled at least half its content onto the table, onto the table cloth, onto the floor of Ms. Nora Robert’s suite.
And onto my totally shocked and humiliated feet.
It made quite a noise. A crash, actually.  Ice, silver, shrimp, glass. I don’t know what broke, but something did.
One hundred people fell silent. And then an anonymous voice from across the room asked gently, “Is everyone thinking, Thank god I didn’t do that?”
Which was hilarious at the time to everyone but the woman with seafood stuck between her toes.
In an instant a waiter in a black coat appeared at my elbow. He smiled at me and then spoke into a walkie-talkie, which appeared in his hand as if by magic.
“We have a shrimp emergency,” he said. Clicking sounds. Static sounds. Then a disembodied voice asked, “Is there sauce involved?” The waiter met my eyes. He looked relieved. “No, no sauce.”
Many more people in black coats appeared. The shrimp was cleaned up. Replacement bowls of the jumbo little devils arrived. The hostess was gracious and kind and did not have me thrown out of her penthouse window. She waved me to come over to where she stood, sympathetic and smiling, and had me sit down while people brought me drinks. 
Later that evening, after all the fun, I had an excellent discussion with the editor I was chasing, but it centered on faux pas in public, not my book. I believe she said me vs the shrimp was the worst she had ever witnessed. Ha.Ha.Ha.
Yay! I made an impression!
Okay, so lesson learned and duly passed onto fellow Conference goers.  “Step away from the shrimp”, as my dear critique partner, Elaine Fox, now whispers in my ear whenever we’re in a buffet line anywhere.

Especially if the sneaky devils are in a bowl on an ice display, intent on proving Al Gore is totally right about Global Warming.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Just a little encouragement

I just got a royalty check for $2.29. 
Break out the champagne! I’m not kidding…

I got my first royalty check in the early 1990s. It was for about $4,000. Celebration all around. Bills paid. A vacation with the kids. Feelings of euphoria…I had done it. I really was a professional writer, earning money for stories I’d made up!

All told, I sold about 800,000 books over ten years writing for Harlequin Intrigue, books made of paper. Books translated into French, German, Japanese, Icelandic (a surprise) and Turkish. The Turkish version was about 120 pages while the English language original was about 300, so I always wondered about how they’d so effectively edited…but I digress (not, alas, unusual for me).

My last royalty check from my life as M.L. Gamble was in early 2002. It was for less than the first, and was for the residuals on the seven novels I wrote for Harlequin Intrigue. Still a nice little amount, in my opinion. But as I’d taken a sabbatical from trying to publish new books and was concentrating on family demands and a new career, I knew it would probably be the last. For awhile, I told myself. I knew I had more books in me, because I was a writer. A professional writer. And, like the cliché says, writers write.

Now it’s 2013 and I am indeed writing for money, a professional writer once again. And money is part of why I write. Not the biggest part. I’ve gotten over the starry-eyed hope for huge money. But a part. My main focus is to do good books, develop a new following of readers who like my ordinary heroines who are confronted by extraordinary situations. But money is certainly an affirming, ‘professional writer’ component.

So, when I opened an envelope from the wonderful agency that represented my work as M.L. Gamble and found a check for $2.29, money earned for two e-versions of those seven paper books I’d written so long ago, my heart lifted. I smiled. I waved the check at the always-supportive-happy-with-any-success-at-all man I love and said, “Look, money!” 

We laughed and hugged and did a fist tap. Told the beautiful daughter in London via g-chat, who woot-wooted across an ocean. Told the son in person, who grinned.
“You’re back,” he said. I am.

And that’s why we broke out the champagne.

Because after a decade out of the game, after a couple of years of researching and grappling with all this new, fabulously challenging and terrifying reality of publishing books NOT made of paper, I had earned $2.70. And I’d paid my old agent their cut, $.41. Happily. The new reality of what it takes to publish, and what form a book exists in when it is published, had changed completely. But that dear little check reminded me that I hadn’t changed.

I’m still a professional writer.