Adventures at RomCon in Denver

This weekend, I attended my first ever romance conference.  This is RomCon’s  first year, and as Denver is only a six-hour drive from BFE Nebraska, I decided to go.  Since Backstage Pass hasn’t been officially released yet, I attended as a reader.  I figured if I went incognito, I could observe and figure out how real authors act before I had to pretend to be one (this is where I picture the back cover of a Barbara Cartland romance, where the author is in an evening gown lounging on a chaise in her mansion surrounded by her little dogs and crystal chandeliers worth more than my house). Boy was I in for a surprise. Here’s what I discovered. Romance authors are really nice women. Even the big-name authors are totally… nice. And gracious. I chatted with Christine Feehan and Lori Foster and dozens of hyperventilation-inducing authors. Every last one of them made me feel right at home. Like I was a real author–no mansion required for admission.      

While at the conference, I attended numerous events:      

Friday, July 9th – I got there a bit late.  Around 2.  Did I mention the 6 hour drive? Got checked in and went to my first session.      

Strip the Heroine: I don’t write historical romance (yet), but I love to read it. During this session, historical romance authors demonstrated all the clothing that women wore from the Elizabethan era through the Regency era. They had beautiful costumes and demonstrated the corsets and the hoops and all those other torture devices women used to subject themselves to. I can’t imagine having to dress like that. I learned a lot. A great, fun, and informative session.      

Book Reviewer Panel: In this session, the topic of book reviews was discussed from the perspective of a new author, an established author, a blog reviewer, a book seller and an editor.  I found it interesting that when the audience was polled everyone said they had a) bought a book because of a good review and b) bought a book despite bad reviews. So while reviews are important (and give authors ulcers), a bad review isn’t the end of the world.  It just feels like it sometimes. We also learned, from Deb Werksman, that our books are not our babies.  ;-)      

Susan Mallery’s Book Launch party: Here’s another example of a nice, gracious author. Susan Mallery mingled with the crowd and made everyone feel right at home.  Oh and there was free champagne and brie.  :-)      

Dinner and the Readers’ Crown Awards: Though the acoustics in the dining room were TERRIBLE, the dinner was scrumptious. Lori Foster charmed us with her keynote speech, then Charming and Dashing (two very charming and dashing princes in costume) did a skit.  This is where the terrible acoustics came into play.  I couldn’t hear most of their routine.  sigh…  I was forced to just watch two hunks sword play.  Poor me…  They also read the nominees and passed out the Readers’ Crown Awards.  BEAUTIFUL crystal statuettes. Yes, I’d like one of those, please. Congratulations to the deserving winners!      

This is where I wimped out and went up to my room to a) edit Rock Hard and b) try to consume adequate oxygen.  Denver is a MILE high.  And I sure felt the high altitude. I was exhausted. Next time, I’ll stock up on erythrocytes before hand.      

Saturday, July 10th      

I started with Deeanne Gist’s session: A Bridal Gown, A Photo Shoot, A Cover Model: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Making of a Book Cover. She did a FABULOUS job showing us how a book cover is made; starting with the sketches to the model selection, costuming, photo shoot, the design and finally the printing. Her daughter was selected as the cover model of one of her novels, so she had an insiders view that most authors will never have. And Deeanne is such a sweetheart. I don’t read inspirational romances, but by the time she finished, I was charmed into wanting to read everything this woman had ever written.  Loved this session.      

Speed Date a New Author: Okay, this was SOOOO much fun, because a fellow Sourcebooks author (Joanne Kennedy) and I double dated about 15 other authors. You have 3 minutes to chat with the author about their books and then you get up and move to the next author. Repeat. Most of them asked more about my and Joanne’s books than they talked about their own.  See, they’re gracious, wonderful women. And Catherine Anderson, who is sensational, gave me TWO autographed books.  She said she was going to get me hooked on her series. I have no doubt that she will succeed.      

Book Fair: I didn’t stick around long. I just wanted to see what it was about. I’d never seen one before. Basically, ALL the authors sit at long tables in alphabetical order and sign books which are bought in a separate room or that the readers brought from home. Some authors had long lines, others not so long, but a good time was had by all.  I got a free t-shirt from Samhian publishing. That was nice. And I got a great idea for publicity for my Sinners on Tour series. Fake tattoos! I spent most of the book fair time in my room a) editing Rock Hard and b) trying to consume enough oxygen.  I also switched hotel rooms at this time because my air conditioning unit was broken and it was around 90 that day.      

Susan Mallery-En Route to the Bookstore. This was a great, candid session for unpublished writers. I wish I’d attended it before I got published, then I wouldn’t have been surprised by much of the publication process. She did a fabulous job explaining what goes into making a book from the writing, to the editing process (all those various layers) and title selection. Yeah, title selection. I know a little about that.      

Personal meeting with my amazing editor at Sourcebooks. I don’t know why I get so nervous. Sorry for all the flustered stammering, Deb. You are FABULOUS!      

Meet Sourcebooks: The four Sourcebooks authors in attendance (Judi Fennell, Joanne Kennedy, Lisa Renee Jones, and myself, Olivia Cunning) were introduced and talked up (yes, I blushed like an idiot), Laura Kinsdale books were given away (yes, I snatched some up for myself, helloooo, free books…), and the acquiring editor at Sourcebooks, Deb Werksman, let everyone know what a great publisher Sourcebooks really is.  The aspiring authors in the crowd were frothing at the mouth to get their submission on her desk. (And even several authors published with HUGE houses told me how they wished their books had been published by Sourcebooks – proud moments for me, let me tell you.) And then, we got kicked out of the room because of another event. We sojourned to the hotel bar to finish our Q&A session with readers and authors. That was great!      

Dinner with the Sourcebooks crew.  It was great to sit and chat (and eat a filet mignon yummy enough to inspire the hero in my next novel) at dinner in downtown Denver. Denver is a fabulous city. I’m going to have to spend a weekend there one of these days.      

I wussed out again and didn’t attend the Black & White Masquerade and Dance even though I brought a fabulous dress to wear to it.  After dinner, it was back to the hotel room to a) edit Rock Hard and b) try to consume enough oxygen.  I was soooo exhausted.      

Sunday, July 11th – I overslept!  I told you I was exhausted.      

I attended half of the Meet TOR session. Got me some more free books. Said good-bye to my new friends and drove back to BFE Nebraska, where there’s plenty of oxygen.  And I’m still editing Rock Hard.      

Overall impression: There were a few kinks and bugs in the conference that need to be worked out, but I would DEFINITELY attend again.      

I’ll see you all in Orlando at RWA Nationals. I’m going as a real author this time!      

I only took one picture.  Sorry it’s so blurry.  I bought a new, small camera, because my regular camera is huge and I didn’t want to look like a member of the paparazzi.  My new small camera is apparently a piece of crap.  I didn’t even know how to set the date and time.  LOL!      

Sourcebooks Authors: Joanne Kennedy, Judi Fennell, Olivia Cunning