On Saturday, March 17th, I attended the Third Annual Liberty States Fiction Writers’ Create Something Magical Conference. Last year was the first year I attended and it was one of the best conferences I went to. Again I have to thank Caridad Pinero (secretary for LSFW) for telling me about it. This is a one day conference that takes place in the same hotel where NJRWA is every year.
The Create Something Magical Conference continues to grow every year and welcomes all types of aspiring writers and published authors from all walks of life. Regardless if you’re self-published, epublished or traditionally published, all can attend. Also this year, there was a reader track I felt was very successful because as authors, readers are the most important people out of everyone. I was also honored and thrilled to be asked to be on the Inside Scoop on GLBT Romance alongside Ally Blue and Tere Michaels, which was also open for readers to sit in on.
Jonathan Maberry’s Teens at the End of Time: Writing Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian YA Fiction. Jonathan is a well known horror novelist who currently writes a very popular young adult Post Apocalyptic series set in a world where zombies have taken over the world. His male protagonist is fifteen year old Benny Imura, and you may recognize titles from this series such as Rot & Ruin and Dust and Decay. The first time I met Jonathan was at last year’s LSFW con and I had no clue who he was! Jonathan is so awesome. I think I have a slight fan girl crush on him.
Jonathan’s talk was incredible. He could be a teacher or a college professor in his next life. I really could listen to him for hours. He talked about the difference between Dystopian and Post- Apocalyptic and why teenagers really enjoy these themes in their books. Jonathan’s books are for 12-15 year old audience. He finds most of his readers are kids who move from school to school and don’t have roots in one place.
Important points I took away from his workshop:
- Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic are not interchangeable. Post-Dystopian is a new genre.
- Examples of Dystopian books: Hunger Games, 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. Dystopian is out of evolution. These books are a good example of what could happen in society. It’s extreme but not out of the realm of possibility.
-Why are teens so interested in Post- Apocalyptic fiction? Teenagers go through a type of apocalypse in their lives. Worlds end for them because structure changes. They have doubt, fears and many uncertainties.
-The Wizard of Oz is a good example of Post-Apocalyptic. Dorothy grows as a character, much like the main character does in other Post-Apocalyptic fiction. Dorothy’s entire world has been destroyed. At the beginning she is self absorbed but by the end she has become empowered and has a “tribe” with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. Star Wars is another example of Post-Apocalyptic. Luke has a journey that leads to self empowerment.
-Jonathan mentioned The Walking Dead television series. He explains how under certain pressures, people become twisted. Shane from The Walking Dead is a good example of this. Shane has made bad choices and even though he wanted to be alpha he failed and is considered to be a tragic figure. Teenagers can sympathize with a character like Shane.
- Some problems found in young adult are there aren’t enough flawed complex characters. There’s too much black and white and not enough conflict. Conflict is storytelling. The protagonist in young adult must win in the end. No one else can do it for them.
Larissa Ione’s World Building: Creating Something Strong and Different. I adore Larissa oh so much. She’s so much fun to talk to and is so sweet and nice and LOL funny. She has a soft spot for Mho Fho also. She’s one of my favorite author people and her books are so full of win. Larissa is one of the best Paranormal Romance authors and was this year’s Keynote Author speaker.
Important points I took away from her workshop:
- Know your audience.
- Setting is important for your characters.
- On the topic of religion- Religion is all around us, so don’t neglect it. Your characters should have some sort of belief. Larissa’s characters all have a set of beliefs.
- Larissa also talked about working with a writing partner. For those that may not be aware, Larissa and Stephanie Tyler are a writing duo under the name of Sydney Croft. Their Sydney Croft books are erotic paranormal romances.
- As for her writing technique with Stephanie, Larissa will write the heroine while Stephanie will write the hero. Larissa is a heavy world builder. Stephanie isn’t. They trade off scenes together and play off of one another, but don’t know what will happen next. They have no real outlines. They will outline the plot but not the relationships that are created for the books. One of their books took three weeks to write.
- Larissa was asked, what does she do when she’s backed into a corner. She recommends not writing absolute rules. Be careful when it comes to absolutes in the world you build. Play the “what if” game if you’re backed into a corner.
- Reader feedback can shape an author’s book or series. This happened in the case of a character Larissa originally planned to kill off. Now she won’t based on reader interest.
Larissa as the Keynote author gave a very poignant, funny and emotional speech at the lunch. She talked about fear and how that shouldn’t limit you. Larissa and her family had lost almost everything because of Hurricane Katrina but for some reason her husband had insurance on her computer. If anything spilled on the computer, they would get a new computer. And even after they called for a new computer and explained how a hurricane dumped on their old computer, they were given a new one. From that new computer, Larissa continued to write, especially after being rejected, (see, all authors get rejections!) and then she was offered a contract from a publisher.
Did you know Larissa was first published with Red Sage? She also has a book with Samhain Publishing. Her roots are in epublishing.
Larissa’s speech brought tears to my eyes because fear can be a dangerous thing when it concerns a writer. Fear of writing a book that the reading public may hate and rejection are the two main things that consume me as an author. And when you think everything is lost, so in the case of Larissa and her family because of a deadly hurricane, you can’t give up. But Larissa is a perfect example of not giving up hope, trekking along and believe in yourself. Don’t give up, don’t surrender and don’t let fear rule you. That was the most important thing I took away from Larissa’s speech.
After lunch was the Inside Scoop on GLBT Romance. Both Tere Michaels and Ally Blue are well known Gay Romance authors. Tere is also an editor at Loose-Id. I felt a little out of my element sitting next to these two women. We talked about how great and successful Gay romance is, including the label of M/M. There was also a nice discussion about lesbian romance, which I was happy to give feedback about.
Afterward, a woman who sat on our panel and I talked, and she likes to read all types of romance and doesn’t care what gender the main couple might be. The most important thing mentioned during the GLBT panel was that GLBT is exactly like straight romance. It’s all about the story and the gender shouldn’t be the important part when reading. This brings to mind my book, The Princess’s Bride. For me it’s a pirate romance and not necessarily a Lesbian romance. This is a romance first that features a pirate setting involving two women.
Next I was the moderator for Larissa Ione’s chat that was open to readers. I introduced Larissa and made up her bio on the spot and started the chat with asking Larissa questions. Her room was packed and the discussion was wonderful. A mother came with her two daughters, who are all big fans of Larissa’s work. They’re in a book club. Many book clubs are reading more romance, including paranormal romance like Larissa’s books. We also talked about how Larissa handles reviews, readers who send her nasty emails about her books and how she handles it and the sensual tone in her novels, including her next book, which is Lethal Rider that comes out in May.
After the workshops and panels there was a book signing open to the public. I didn’t sign but was able to chat with a few authors. *unfortunately my camera wasn't working so I wasn't able to take any pictures of the signing and give Mho Fho his time to shine with the authors there*
Caridad Pinero has some awesome sounding books coming out! She’s been writing more erotic romance, which is the in thing now thanks to you know what book. Caridad told me about The Vampire’s Consort (available from Harlequin), which I can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on.
I also chatted with Judi Fennel who with her iPad can create the most incredible book covers. If you’re looking for a new cover artist, get in contact with Judi. She plans on self-publishing in the future, and we both agree the digital publishing world, whether you self publish or epublish is a great time for publishing and authors in general.
I also had a lovely chat with Maria V. Snyder, who I have never read. We talked about young adult and her years as a young adult author.
Debra Hyde, my fellow Ravenous Romance author who wrote The Story of L, a Lesbian romance that features BDSM was waiting to hear about the nominations for the Lambda Awards. The Story of L was one of the nominated for Lesbian Erotica and the awards ceremony takes place on June 4th in NYC.
And one of the cool as a cucumber editors and owner of Lyrical Press, Renee Rocco was there. I think I have another girl crush. Renee is so full of awesome and I implore you, if you have a lesbian romance, SEND IT TO LYRICAL PRESS! That also goes for paranormal romance. I know for a fact Lyrical Press authors are making very good money each month (some are selling thousands of books in a month). Renee is the real deal, she loves books, her authors, publishing and she has perfect hair I wish I could have. She also rocks a business suit like nobody’s business.
There was some talk about Fifty Shades of Grey. I chatted with a few agents and authors about this and overall the consensus is very positive. They feel Fifty Shades of Grey can open a whole new world of possibilities for romance, especially erotic romance. And for those who are involved in fan fiction, you may not want to hear this, but most don’t see what’s the big deal about publishing fan fiction. It’s not illegal and has been done before. But keep in mind, most I talked to about this don’t know the whole fandom community and why most people involved in fan fiction believe a writer shouldn’t profit from fan fiction. But on the positive side there was this excitement in the air, knowing that romance, especially erotic romance is hot and those who had no chance in selling their erotic romances before now can. Agents are dying to get their hands on any type of erotic centric romance.
Larissa Ione and Rayna Vause *picture from Caridad Pinero*
In closing, the Create Something Magical Conference was a great success. There was so much buzz in the air about books with many of the authors who attended and their individual successes. I must give a big thanks to the volunteers and the LSFW community especially Rayna Vause, Jon Gibbs, Kiersten Krum and Gail Freeman, as well as many others who pulled off an incredible event. I was thrilled to be a part of the Create Something Magical conference and look forward to attending again next year.
I welcome anyone who was at the conference this year to leave a comment here about their experience and talk about the wonderful people you came in contact with or talk about the panels and workshops I didn’t go to.