Book in a Week

Reading about the RWA Kiss of Death Chapter‘s online Book in a Week (BIAW) gave me a tingle.   The timing looked perfect. It would start on Post-Thanksgiving Monday, a work holiday for me.  I haven’t written much this year.  Could be a much needed jump start.

Registering was easy enough.  So was reading the KOD online article archive.  Patricia Rosemoor graciously hosted Sunday’s pre-workshop.  Motivating!

On Monday morning, I rose early.  Of course, before I could start writing I had some chores to finish from the weekend but they wouldn’t take long.

When I finally sat down at my computer, I stared at a blank screen.  No surprise.  Despite Sunday’s strongly worded advice, I still had no inkling what storyline I wanted to pursue.  As a historical writer, I wasn’t even sure about the time period.  I took a deep breath, grabbed my coat, and flew out to visit some thrift stores.

Sometime around 1:30 pm, hunger called.  I pulled into a diner parking lot then picked up my purse and one of the books I’d just bought as an aid to motivation.  Inside, as I waited for my salad, November’s sun poured through the window. I flipped open the pages of the suspense and started reading.  Along with my delicious salad, I was soon wolfing down the story.  It had been ages since words tasted so good!

A long time later, I walked back out to my car.  An idea began to emerge. (Cue Alleluia music!)

Yesterday I wrote just over 2,300 words.  I’m posting this in my blog because I need to share, to shout it aloud.  I’m writing the post on my lunch hour so I’ll have tonight free to devote to my story.  Feels good to say that again.

Wish me well. 

AGM, Workshops, & Death by Chocolate

RWA's Annual General Meeting

RWA's Annual General Meeting

Thursday, 8 am. My volunteer assignment had me counting proxies for RWA’s AGM (Annual General Meeting).  The actual meeting started at 10:30 am.   RWA’s Board has met over the past few days and worked late to resolve several issues.  Members are urged to log on to the member section of the RWA website to review the Hot Sheet for changes in contest rules.

NY Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich started the Conference with a rousing opening session at 9 am.  Keynote Speaker Linda Howard had the whole room in stitches as she described her position in her family as the Keeper of the Nuts.  And then came the first workshops.

Two Thursday Workshops of Note:

Brenda Hiatt gave her annual talk “Show Me the Money.” Throughout the year she surveys authors confidentially obtaining their advance figures then averages the numbers and presents the results at RWA National, and on her website.  In her workshop, she also summarizes what happens financially after a writer gets the CALL.

In “Got High Concept?” Lori Wilde pulled us through the steps needed to create a high-concept story.   Another Wow! presentation that included 25-word High Concept pitch examples.  fyi – Lori’s workbook is available for sale on her website.

Washington DC 2009 RWA 116Thursday, 8 pm. The Kiss of Death/Mystery & Romantic Suspense Chapter held their annual DEATH BY CHOCOLATE Party & Awards Ceremony.  Members were treated to tables of delicious chocolate and other desserts.  The awards ceremony for the Daphne DuMaurier Awards ceremony followed, coordinated by Donnell Ann Bell.

2009 Unpublished 1st Place Winners in the KOD Daphne Awards

Category/Series – SEE JANE RUN – Angela Platt

Historical – THE DECEIT of DESIRE – Pamela Bolton-Holifield

Inspirational – ESCAPE to TERROR – Sandra van den Bogerd

Mainstream – MOONLIGHTING in VERMONT – Kate George

Paranormal, Time Travel, Fantasy – UNDERBELLY – Tammy Hoganson

Single Title – GUARDIAN’S GIFT – Sharon Wray

The overall winner was Sandra van den Bogerd for ESCAPE TO TERROR.  Congratulations, Sandra, and to all the winners and finalists!

2009 Published Winners in the Daphne Awards

Category/Series – TERMS OF SURRENDER- Kylie Brant – Silhouette Romantic Suspense

Historical – SEDUCED BY A SPY – Andrea Pickens – Grand Central

Inspirational – SUSPICIOUS MINDS – Christy Barritt – Kregel Publications

Mainstream – THE TENTH CASE – Joseph Teller – MIRA

Paranormal, Time Travel, Fantasy – APHRODIASIC – Allyson Roy-Berkley – Penguin

Single Title – VICTIM – Gayle Wilson – MIRA

The Overall Winner was Kylie Brant for TERMS OF SURRENDER – Silhouette Romantic Suspense.  Congratulations, Kylie, and to all other winners and finalists!

Kylie Brant

Kylie Brant shows her gold award for Best Overall.

Crystal KOD Skull

Kiss of Death's Skull.


Death by Chocolate.

Winning KOD (& NJRW) Member Carolyn J. Coles with a KOD Raffle Bag.

KOD (& NJRW) Member Carolyn J. Coles won one of 12 Raffle Bags.

More on Friday! 

RWA National – KOD Tour

My husband and I arrived in Washington, D.C. Monday. We have a grand view from our hotel room window – Washington DC 2009 RWA 009the National Cathedral is stunning at sunset!  We hope to visit it sometime before returning home.

Our first action as tourists (other than prerequisite checking in…tipping the very helpful bellman… unpacking) was a stroll up to the National Zoo.  From the conference hotel, it is a 3 to 4 block walk to the zoo’s entrance.  The pandas all seemed to be eating, or sleeping.   A new elephant habitat is under construction.  Good seeing how huge and natural looking it will be.  Although there’s a cost for parking, like many other national sites in D.C. the zoo itself is free to visitors.  Quite pleasant for strolling.

Tuesday, 8 am. Kiss of Death met in the lobby for the annual pre-conference tour.  I enjoyed saying “Hi!” to fellow WisRWA member, Laura Iding.  Also met other KOD members I knew mainly by name from the loop.   We boarded.  On our way to the first stop, our driver treated us to a drive-by tour of some of Washington’s many memorials.

At the U. S. Department of State, we were greeted with courtesy and security then ushered into the Loy Henderson Auditorium.   Washington DC 2009 RWA 029The next three hours we learned about diplomats, foreign service, and counter-terroism.   Director of the Foreign Press Center, Gordon Duguid, gave a great Overview of the Department Mission and Function.  Michelle Bernier-Toth, Director of Overseas Citizen Services and Crisis Management presented a lively discussion about Overseas Citizen Servies.   The Deputy Coordinator for Programs and Policy, Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, concluded with a terrific talk on U.S. Counterterroism Efforts.   They all highlighted the morning with lively anecdotes while answering many of KOD’s authors’ questions.

We drove south to the National Abortoreum to enjoy a brief box lunch and a little more chatting with fellow writers under the shade in a serene setting.

The United States Postal Inspection Service was our afternoon destination.  USPIS We were met at the door and ushered in like honored guests.  A team of at least twelve Postal Inspectors greeted us with agendas, personalized name tags, and cold drinks.  An enthusiastic introduction was followed by a dynamic presentation by the Team Leader on the Anthrax Investigation.  After catching our breath, our large group was broken up into groups of 12 or so and rotated through five breakout sessions on topics that included Mail Fraud, Mail Theft, and Child Exploitation, among others.  I was awed not only by the Inspectors’ excitement in their jobs, but also the breadth of their knowledge.   They seemed genuinely excited to share their passion with us.  Lots of heroes in that group! 🙂

For a few years I’ve heard about the superb quality of the Kiss of Death Pre-Conference tours but have never been able to attend one.  Today I experienced this tour first hand.  The word “Wow!” falls short.  Thanks to the U.S. State Department and to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  Finally, my sincere appreciation to the organizers of this year’s event – Nina Bruhns and Debbi Ward.   Thank you, ladies!

2009 RWA National Updates

Studio 16 is again bringing their magic mobile photography studio to RWA National.  From Dallas to Chicago, Denver, and Atlanta,  Studio 16 has helped writers attending RWA Conferences achieve their best look. This year, Studio 16 will be in Washington, D.C.  So…

  1. Do you need a new headshot for promotion?
  2. Do you hate having your picture taken?
  3. Are you going to RWA National in D.C.?

If you’ve answered “YES!”  then you’re in luck.

STUDIO 16 wants you to look your best.  Touch-ups aren’t designed to make you look like someone else,  just soften what is often revealed by bright studio lights –  flyaway hair, wrinkles and blemishes. And, if you want, they can even take off 10 pounds!  (Or at least make it look like you have.)

To pre-book an appointment, and receive 20% off your entire photo package, email Studio before July 12th.  They’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about the process.

kodIn other Conference news, the Mystery and Suspense chapter of RWA, aka/Kiss of Death, opened member registration for the pre-conference tours and the Death by Chocolate party.   The main tour will be held on Tuesday, July 14.  If you are a KOD member who will be in D.C. this July, be sure to go on the members only section of Kiss of Death to register.  Registrations for the pre-conference tours, and the Death by Chocolate Party, should be sent in – now.  In my experience, both sell out early.

For more information on this year’s RWA National Conference, click to go to RWA

→Are you speaking at RWA National?  Is your chapter hosting a member get-together there?  Maybe you can’t attend but are holding an online or an at-home chapter event for yourself and others not attending.  If so, please contact me so I can include it in next month’s update.  Thanks!

KOD Retreat – Other Posts

In the fun-filled spirit of networking, here’s what a few others have to say about our recent Kiss of Death Retreat at the elegant Portland Regency Hotel:

Now, back to the book!

KOD Retreat – Day 3

The final day of this year’s Kiss of Death Retreat came too soon. It seemed like I’d just arrived then suddenly it was Sunday and only a few hours remained.

We gathered for a breakfast buffet in the Atlantic Room of The Portland Regency. The hotel set out an assortment of pastries, cereals, scrambled eggs, potatoes, French Toast, sausage and bacon. The coffee was hot and strong, much needed after some late nights.

Literary Agent Meg Ruley opened the day’s sessions with a workshop she titled Ask Me Anything. Ms. Ruley pulled up a chair and sat comfortably in front of us. Then, in a wonderfully relaxed manner, she began by sharing her path to publishing – from relishing library smells and reading Victoria Holt and Anya Seton in her early teens, to her rewarding 27 year career with the New York City-based Jane Rotrosen Agency. After her talk, she answered an array of questions, graciously sharing her knowledge and experience in the business of publishing.

Dianna Love presented the last workshop with her highly informative talk on World Building, It’s Not Just a Myth. Following a short wrap-up, we began leaving the hotel, and the 2008 Kiss of Death Retreat. I walked down the steps of The Portland Regency into the brisk autumn air feeling renewed, and oh so anxious to return to my manuscript!

Heartfelt thanks to all involved for a truly sensational weekend!


P. S. According to Lisa Tapp, 2009 Retreat Chair, next year’s retreat will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico the weekend of October 23-25, 2009. Information will be posted next year on the Kiss of Death website.

KOD Retreat – Day 2

Author Mary Buckham started Saturday’s workshops with a session titled Conflict, Driving the Plot. “True conflict,” she said, “cannot be resolved by conversation.” A well-crafted template provided the questions needed to determine if our characters have the true conflict needed to move the story forward. Details from the movie Finding Nemo provided great examples.

In a gripping, and sometimes hysterical, two and a half hour presentation, retired Atlanta Police Lieutenant Danny J. Agan discussed police procedures then guided attendees through the important details of a murder investigation. Kiss of Death members stepped into the various roles of two emotional witnesses, the first officer on the scene, and a police detective, complete with a deerstalker hat.Beanie” (at right, on the floor) played the part of a stabbed and strangled victim.

After a delicious buffet luncheon in the hotel’s Regency Room, we gathered for another session. NY Times Bestselling Author Lisa Gardner spoke on Winning Tips for Romantic Suspense. Here are some of recently contracted author Casey Clifford’s comments on Ms. Gardner’s presentation.

“Saturday afternoon, Portland, ME., I sat listening to Lisa Gardner discuss Romantic Suspense writing. What an informative and interesting speaker! Each moment she spoke I found myself thinking, had I done that, or had I thought about that point in my recent writing project. She gave me so much to mull over on my return flight home.

Perhaps, the most significant point she made was the element of keeping hope alive in your characters, and therefore in your readers, as you ramp up their danger. She hammered home how necessary it is to make our heroes and heroines “not perfect” so readers can relate to them. On the flip side of that Ms. Gardner reminded the audience that memorable villains have a soft human spot and we, as writers, must reflect that in some way to our readers.

This conference has been a creative spark for me. I’m sure the others in attendance have felt the same way. Each speaker brought special expertise to us. I’ve been very fortunate to be here.” ~ Casey Clifford

Thank you, Casey!

At 3:30PM, authors assembled for a booksigning. I enjoyed chatting with all, including authors Hank Phillipi Ryan and Susan Vaughan (on right).

In another room, both published and aspiring authors pitched their books to Literary Agent Meg Ruley of Jane Rotrosen Agency and to Publisher/Managing Editor Raelene Gorlinsky of Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.

Dinner was on our own. Some of us gathered in The Armory, the Regency’s lounge, for dinner and more conversation.

Tomorrow morning we will meet for a buffet breakfast and final workshops. Check back Monday for a final wrap-up to the 2008 Kiss of Death Retreat.

KOD Retreat – Day 1

Twenty Milk Street is elegant, sophisticated, and endowed with traditional charm – a perfect complement to the Portland Regency. Breakfast there was a delight.

As we entered, the waiter seated us next to a front, deep-set window. Small vases of yellow roses adorned the table. The menu held a variety of traditional breakfast foods and regional favorites – Smoked Salmon Plate, Lobster Eggs Benedict, Malted Pancakes with Warm Maple Syrup. A Maine Blueberry Waffle and hot coffee were a perfect start to my day.

The Kiss of Death Retreat officially started with a noon registration. Our speakers, Diane Love (on left) and Mary Buckham (on right), warmly greeted us at the door at today’s Early Bird Workshop. Their talk focused on Power Openings and Power Pacing. Using templates the pair developed for their Break Into Fiction presentation, they guided us through the important opening questions we must ask ourselves when writing our novels. Their superb talk gave more than one of us that all important “Ah-Ha” moment.

After the two-hour workshop, we broke for some “retreat” time. Small groups gathered for dinner. At least three of us went down to DiMillo’s, a floating restaurant on the wharf just a few blocks from the hotel. The restaurant is a converted car ferry that once ran between New Castle, Delaware and Pennsville, New Jersey. Check out their menu by clicking on their site (above). If you are ever able to visit, you must try their New England Clam Chowder – thick and rich with whole clams, and wholesome Maine flavor.

An evening dessert buffet, coffee, tea, and a cash bar allowed attendees an opportunity to socialize. Publisher Raelene Gorlinsky concluded today’s events with her informative talk, An Arranged Marriage: The Editor/Author Relationship as an Arranged Victorian Marriage.

Please check back again tomorrow evening for more happenings at the KOD Annual Retreat.

Thursday in Portland

After a relatively smooth flight, I arrived in Portland, Maine just before noon. The hotel’s shuttle was prompt and the driver friendly. The ride into the city took about 15 minutes.

The Portland Regency is an elegant hotel filled with old-fashioned charm. The organizers for this retreat chose wisely. Described as neo-classic it sits two blocks from the waterfront. It was built in 1885 as an Armory for the National Guard. In addition to its use as an armory, the drill hall served as an auditorium. During World War II the US Navy used the building as a recreation center. In 1962 it was almost razed by the military as surplus property. Fortunately it was saved and served as a warehouse until the mid-1980s when it was purchased for conversion to a hotel. In 1987 the building opened as The Portland Regency Hotel & Spa. (Info courtesy of the Historic Hotels of America.)

Portland weather has been undecided today, varying between sun and rain showers. Incredible cloud patterns. Shortly after unpacking, I took a walk along the brick paved sidewalks in the blocks surrounding the hotel. Lots of shops and restaurants in the area.

My roommate arrived early afternoon and we spent hours catching up, as friends do. This evening the hotel shuttle gave us a lift to the Ri Ra Irish Pub several blocks away. We continued our talk over drinks, crab cakes (superb!), champ (mashed potatoes with scallions), and asparagus. Our four-hour meal ended with a shared slice of sinfully delicious raspberry cheesecake. Both the service and the atmosphere at the Ri Ra were top-rate. More rainfall so we called the hotel for our ride back.

Tomorrow other attendees will arrive and we will begin the 2008 Kiss of Death Writer’s Retreat. Looking forward to it! Please check back in for tomorrow night’s post.

Kiss of Death Retreat

On Thursday morning I leave for Portland, Maine and the Kiss of Death Annual Weekend Retreat. The retreat doesn’t actually start until Friday afternoon, but a good friend and I decided to get an early start.

As you see by the above link, bestselling suspense author (and sensational speaker) Lisa Gardner will speak. So will Homicide Detective Danny Agan, authors Mary Buckham, and Dianna Love Snell. Publisher Raelene Gorlinsky will join us, as will noted agent Meg Ruley.

Attendance was capped at 50. I’m not sure how many actually registered. I’m glad I did. Two friends are flying in from Wisconsin, fellow WisRWA members, and I heard at least one fellow NJRW-ite is attending. The writing life can be lonely, and I’ve always loved Maine. I can barely wait to get on that plane.

I’ll be posting daily so check back late Thursday evening for my first post from Portland – complete with pics!