The Thriller Writer at the Romance Conference

It seems odd that someone who actively writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction would attend a romance writers conference. However, for those of us who live in New Zealand, our options for writers conferences are extremely limited. I’m a member of ALL of the national writers organisations (all three of them), and Romance Writers New Zealand (RWNZ) is the only one who is actively doing anything to help its members learn their craft and advance their careers. It’s a sad truth, but a truth none the less.

However, I made the decision to attend the 2018 RWNZ conference back in August 2017 when the lineup for keynote speakers was announced. Shall we say that it was amazing? My mind is still reeling.

I attended the 2017 conference as a presenter, presenting on Scrivener (a word-processing program designed for writers) and on the Hidden Traps of social media and writers’ platforms. At the end of that conference, they announced that among the line up for 2018 speakers was Geoff Symon, a real-life forensics investigator. I really didn’t care who else was on that list. The moment I heard forensics… “I’m going!” How often do you get the opportunity to pick the brain of a forensics investigator with over 20 years of experience?

I will admit that I was dubious about what I would pick up at the conference in the other sessions, wondering if the forensics session would be it. But I went with an open mind, and now that mind is overflowing with information that it’s struggling to take it all in. The forensics session was awesome, but the sessions on intimacy, character and dialogue… Wow! Just wow!

From Mixed-Bag to Almost 100% Positive

In 2017, I walked away from the RWNZ conference felling like it was a mixed bag. Of the sessions that I could attend (when I wasn’t presenting myself), there were some where I felt like I had to grit my teeth. (And I was getting constant text messages from a writing buddy who sat on the other side of the room telling me to breathe… She knew I was getting furious with the speaker.) But there was also the moments that had me giddy and floating on air — particularly when I got such rave feedback from the acquisition editors present from Random House and Harlequin.

(Before I get too far, I should point out that I have no intention of submitting to Harlequin, because I don’t write romance, but still the comments and feedback on my opening pages of The Eagle Order were awesome and a boost to the fragile ego.)

So, I was expecting much of the same thing for 2018. Boy, oh boy… I’m over the moon to have been so wrong!

Damon Suede — The Devil Between Rough and Soft

Damon Suede

Damon Suede (2018 RWNZ Conference)

Damon Suede is a romance writer who writes LBGTQ stories. I probably won’t read his fiction, as it’s not something that I’m into, but that’s not where he started. His career started in scriptwriting for stage. And his ideas for character development…

I won’t go into the details here (but I did release a post on Black Wolf about it), but let’s just say that using verbs to describe a character in the way he presented to us never occurred to me, yet it seems so logical. We describe characters through their actions, so defining a characters as a group of verbs… How could I have missed it all these years?

And he was hilarious. He knew how to convey an idea to a crowd, and how to get us to work. I can guarantee that my writing will take on a whole new level after the sessions with Damon.

(BTW, I’ve put out a post on Black Wolf Editorial Services about what Damon taught us, along with links to his nonfiction book Verbalize.)

Fan Girl for Geoff Symon

Me with Geoff Symon

Me with Geoff Symon (2018 RWNZ Conference)

I said at the beginning of this post that the main draw card for me was the forensics investigator. Well, I went a bit Fan Girl over Geoff Symon. I took with me my copies of his books and got him to sign them, and I managed to pick his brain about a few plot specific things for Pen Name. And I discovered how many of us were actually morbidly interested in crime and murder.

Signed by Geoff Symon

Check out the cool inscriptions from Geoff Symon. (I’m still going Fan Girl.)

I wasn’t the only one to go totally Fan Girl over him, but I think I was the only one to do it before the conference on Twitter.

Traditional vs Self-Publication is HOT

There were a significant number of conversations about whether an author should go down the traditional road or self-publish. There were a mountain of different view points. All I can tell you with any certainty is that there is a list of advantages and disadvantages to both. As a writer, one has to weigh it up against what your ultimate goals are.

Okay… my one and ONLY dark moment from the conference, and it happened AFTER the conference was over while I was in the bar the night before I headed home. And it’s revolves around this particular topic.

I was talking to the others present about my hopes and dreams, and I openly admitted that my ultimate goal is to see my books (plural) on the selves of bookstores everywhere I go (in the western world). For that goal to happen, I NEED to be traditionally published. The response I got to this…

“Why are you trying to push a bicycle uphill with flat tires?”

When the woman first said it, I honestly thought she was joking, and laughed. Then she carried on. I don’t remember her exact words, but she was basically trying to convince me that traditional publication was a waste of time, because I would make more money if I was self-published. She went on about her own experiences with traditional publication and told me basically to not bother.

For a moment, I actually was hurt and started to question my path. Then I got irritated and a little angry. How dare this woman impose on me HER goals and HER dreams.

Yes, it would be nice to make a decent living at writing, but that’s not my end goal. That’s not how I define MY success. Too many times in the last few days, I’ve had to remind myself to chase my own dreams, not the dreams of others.

Don’t get me wrong. It was great to hear from others about issues they have been facing within traditional publication. I learnt about some clauses that I need to watch out for that are becoming common, and I’ve learnt about issues that writers are facing who are dissatisfied with their publishers. It was knowledge that I crave, so I can understand the world that I’m entering into — so I can learn how to protect myself.

However, no one has the right to tell me that I shouldn’t bother to pursue my dreams. To make matters worse, in my reflection later of what she said, I realized that she effectively said that I CAN’T make a decent living from my writing.

There’s that word: CAN’T. I have written about that word before. To me, that word is an evil word. The moment I hear it, my brain goes, “Watch me!” and I do. For better or worse. (And trust me, sometimes it is for worse. Just read about what happened to me when I was in my 20s, and you’ll understand.)

But I Parted with a Giddy Moment.

However, the final moment of the conference for me was a giddy moment. Only minutes after that annoying conversation above, I met another woman who had overheard that I was an editor and she asked me for my business card. When I handed her my card, there was a moment of excitement.

“OMG! So, you’re the Black Wolf editor! I’ve been following your blog for some time. I thought you were based in the US.” She even showed me her email inbox with all my blog post from the Editor’s Blog on Black Wolf sitting lovingly in her inbox.

How cool is that? To encounter someone who has already been eyeing me up to be an editor for her, but to meet with her in person. And the story she’s writing… A paranormal romantic suspense. As she described it to me, I was grinning, getting ready to metaphorically sink my teeth into it. It was a definite “I like.”

You never know exactly what is going to happen at conference and how you’re going to feel when it is over. However, this one will definitely go into my good memories — for the most part.

P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2018

Posted in A Writer's Journey, Random and tagged , , , .

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