Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day: Sullivan Ballou's letter

Here's one that will be familiar to you if you've seen Ken Burns' Civil War. Which, incidentally, remains compelling to this day. About a year or two Mr. Fraser and I happened across it while channel-surfing and watched it for three hours as if we were in suspense about the ending. (I'm the same way with accounts of the Battle of Waterloo. I'll read late into the night, anxiously turning pages, as if this time the Prussians aren't going to show up or the redcoat squares aren't going to hold or the Guard won't flee at the end, because you never know, the timeline might've been altered while I wasn't looking.)

Anyway. I digress. Sullivan Ballou was a Union soldier from Rhode Island who was killed at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. The following letter to his wife Sarah, written a week earlier, was found among his effects. She lived till 1917 but never remarried.

My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . .

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day: In Flanders Fields

John McRae's famous WWI poem, which I have to admit always makes me think of Rilla of Ingleside.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Memorial Day: Kemal Ataturk on Gallipoli

For Memorial Day, today and tomorrow I'll be posting poems and quotations about war and warriors. While Memorial Day is an American holiday that originated to honor Civil War dead, I'm not going to limit myself to American writings. Courage and honor know no national boundaries.

I'll start with Kemal Ataturk's tribute to the ANZAC soldiers who fell at Gallipoli in WWI. At the time of the battle, Ataturk was a lieutenant-colonel commanding Turkish infantry opposing the ANZAC troops. Years later, as the founding father and first president of modern Turkey, this is what he had to say about his former enemies. And if you can read it with dry eyes, you're made of sterner stuff than I am.

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Not to Wear to RWA: Shoes

I'm a shoe minimalist. My feet force me to be. They're big--size 11 even though I'm a barely above average 5'7" in height. They're an odd shape, narrow at the heel and wide through the toes. And they're on the flat side and need lots of arch support. One of my great-uncles on the side of the family that bequeathed me these ginormous flat wedges was deemed unfit for combat in WWII on account of his feet.

At any given time I have less than ten pairs of shoes in circulation. Shoes that fit me comfortably are hard to find and expensive, so I rely on basic styles that work with a variety of outfits.

So I feel weird about giving shoe advice for a writers conference. But I will anyway.

Leave your sneakers and Tevas at home (or save them for the hotel gym or your side trip to Epcot). They're too casual. But for daytime events, pick something that looks dressier but feels just as comfortable. You'll spend a lot more time than you expect on your feet walking from one workshop to another, waiting in line, and the like. So if the shoes you want to wear would pinch your feet or leave you with pained arches and a sore back after a day at the mall, leave them home. And if you buy new shoes, do so at least a week or two beforehand and break them in good first.

My personal choice? Dansko professional clogs like the one in the picture. Comfortable and cute, and they work equally well with jeans and my Take Me Seriously job interview black pantsuit.

For evening events? Wear whatever matches your dress. And if you can wear the dainty, flimsy little things that are pretty much just feet jewelry, I'll be envying you in my sensible low-heeled pumps or sturdy sandals.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What Not to Wear to RWA

As promised, I'm going to talk about dressing for RWA National, probably over the course of several posts, since it occurs to me that if I wrote many short posts instead of one long one on any given topic, I'd update my blog more often AND produce more readable posts. Win-win!

So, as a quick overview/introduction, I'll just say that you really shouldn't worry too much about your clothes. Mind you, I'm speaking as someone who has a spreadsheet listing what I plan to take and what still needs to be bought. But that's not worrying, that's planning. I work in a very casual environment, and my summer wardrobe needs some filling out in general, so it makes sense to evaluate what I have on hand and plan some shopping trips. I'm just not obsessing about it the way I did before my first National back in 2006.

Because, really, it's harder than you think to get it wrong because of the sheer variety of people attending National. I bet there's at least a 50-year age gap between the oldest and youngest writer there, and there will be women from all over the country and not a few from overseas. A twenty-something kindergarten teacher from rural Indiana is just going to dress differently from a thirty-something lower-level university administrator from Seattle (i.e., me) or a forty-something stay-at-home-mom from Pennsylvania or a fifty-something best-selling full-time author from Atlanta and so forth and so on.

And that's fine. We don't have to all fit the same mold. Plus, once you know that there's no one correct way to look like a writer who belongs at RWA National, you can stop obsessing over every single scrap of clothing you pack.

That said, I can think of three common mistakes to avoid when dressing for a writers conference:

1) Too Sloppy: Many will advise you not to wear jeans at all to RWA, and that's certainly a safe choice. Personally, I think they're fine as long as they're reasonably new (i.e. not visibly worn or faded) and paired with a nice shirt and shoes. In other words, dress up the jeans, don't dress down to them.

What stands out to me as too casual isn't jeans, but khakis, shorts, or jeans paired with some combination of sneakers, a t-shirt (especially if it has writing on it), and a baseball cap. If you bring such items at all, save them for the plane and whatever touring you do outside of conference hours. Don't wear them to workshops.

2) Too Shiny: On the flip side, I've seen writers show up at workshops dressed in clothes more suited to a bar or a dance club than a daytime professional event. My advice? Save the shiny, slinky looks for evening events--of which there are plenty--and play it more subtle during the day.

3) Too Last Century: A friend of mine once noted that people tend to get fossilized in whatever fashion era they graduated high school or college in. I know it took me longer than it should have to let go of my early 90's fondness for baggy flannel shirts. Every once in awhile you'll see an extreme version of this fossilization at a writers conference--someone who looks like she just stepped out of a time machine from 1985 or so, big hair, obvious shoulder pads, and all. If you rarely shop and haven't changed your hairstyle in over a decade, do at least consider updating your look. You don't have to throw out everything. Just look around you a bit more to get an idea what people are wearing now, have fun at the mall picking up some new pieces on sale, and ask your hairstylist to try something new. You don't want to be 1985 Woman.

Unless you really did just step out of a time machine from 1985. If you did, can you show me how it works? How far back does it go? Mind if I take it for a little spin to, oh, 1815 or so? I've got research to do...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My very own office

As I mentioned in my introductory post, Mr. Fraser and I just bought a house, and we're getting ready to move in three weeks. We've got a ton to do. Among other things, there's hardly a room in the house that doesn't need repainting, and we want to get it done before we move because it's so much easier to do before there's furniture to work around.

So we're living in a world of paint samples and bickering over color. For people with similar tastes, Mr. Fraser and I can get up a good argument over, say, whether Martha Stewart Bay Leaf is too dark for the kitchen. I say yes, because a kitchen should be a bright cheerful color, like yellow. He says I'm just saying that because my mom had a yellow kitchen. We agree on Wedgwood Blue for our bedroom, then send dueling emails about just what shade that is. Turns out I was thinking of the very darkest pieces of jasperware, while he was imagining a far softer hue.

One room, however, is mine. All mine. The smallest bedroom is to become my office. (Mr. Fraser gets an office too, a little bigger but with less natural light and doubling as the guest room, so I figure it's a fair trade.) I'm ridiculously excited about it--a true, dedicated writing space set up for my needs and decorated to my taste.

At first I was going to make the room dark, maybe a deep claret red or forest green. Those, along with black and navy, are my go-to colors for clothes, and I love the deep richness of them. But the more I looked at that tiny, tiny south-facing room, the more I thought that what's beautiful on a sweater or dress might be a bit oppressive in a small room--not to mention upping the temperature a few degrees during our rare Northwestern heat waves.

However, my Very Own Space cannot be pastel. No way, no how. So, despite having lived in rentals all my adult life, looking with longing to the day I can have walls that aren't white, I'm painting my office...cream. With white trim. Specifically Martha Stewart Rice Paper with Picket Fence trim. (The color names crack me up.) I'll bring in the rich colors with curtains and rugs and give it personality with what I choose to hang on the wall.

I think. I may change my mind between here and the paint store.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Today's blog post was going to be about What Not To Wear at RWA National...but that topic is going to have to wait, because I just got my cover art for The Sergeant's Lady!

Isn't it lovely? I'm extremely pleased with how it turned out. I think it's romantic, atmospheric, and in tune with the mood of the story.

Squeee!!! And also, whew. Of all the things that impact a reader's first impression of a book, the cover is the biggest piece that the author has the least control over. I'm overjoyed to be getting one that IMHO fits so well. I wasn't too worried, because I've been very impressed with Carina's cover art to date, but I'm glad that The Sergeant's Lady is no exception.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Desert Isle Book

My new novella is going to be a shipwreck story mostly set on an island in the Indian Ocean. I was open to either using a real island or inventing my own, but if I invented one, I wanted it to have realistic topography and flora and fauna. So I started out on Wikipedia, where I found a list of islands in the Indian Ocean. I focused on islands close to Madagascar, but not too close, because I want my hero and heroine to be enough off the beaten seapath that they've given up hope of rescue by the time another ship happens by.

I'd almost decided to invent my own when I clicked on the link for Tromelin Island. It's a tiny little teardrop-shaped scrap of land, more sand than anything else...and yet it supported a group of shipwreck survivors for 15 years in the 18th century. If you click on the link you'll find a remarkable story. A French ship transporting slaves was wrecked there, and the surviving sailors built a boat to sail for Madagascar--but left the slaves behind because there wasn't room for them. Somehow a rescue attempt was never made, but more than a decade later a ship happened to pass by the same spot and saw signs of life.

I wish there were more details known about the survivors, and a writer with slightly different interests could make a hell of a novel about their experiences. Me, I'm just going to borrow their island, though I doubt I'll actually name it in the story. It's small enough to be claustrophobic, which I want, since my hero and heroine have a history. But they'd have plenty to eat, also a big plus. I may be gritty for a Regency writer, but I don't think I can make starvation sexy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Three Susannas in one body

Earlier this week, I introduced myself on the Carina authors' email loop, which is a private Yahoo Group. I used both my legal name and my pen name. Until I sold The Sergeant's Lady I'd been participating on various online writing forums under my real name, and I wanted anyone who already knew me to connect the names.

Normally I post to Yahoo Groups directly from my email account, and as far as I can tell those messages come up under the name associated with that account. Currently that's my legal name, though I suppose I should resubscribe to all my writing groups from my Susanna Fraser email just for consistency's sake. But in this case I posted directly from the Yahoo Groups home page--and had the post come up attributed to my maiden name. You see, my relationship with Yahoo Groups predates that with my husband, and there's probably some setting I've never changed. Theirs isn't the most user-friendly interface in the world.

Anyway, I got to thinking how nice it would be if I actually WERE three different people. I'd actually have time to get things done!

I think Susanna Maiden-Name would be in charge of my day job, since her name is on my diploma. She works diligently, but when she gets home at night, she puts all that behind her and relaxes. She's fond of geek TV in all its forms, and she reads, purely for fun, at least an hour per night--mostly historical romance, mystery, and epic fantasy, but also a lot of nonfiction on history, politics, and popular science. Because she has so dang much free time, what with not having a second job or a husband and kid, she's active in several online communities of the sort that build up around geek interests, and she regularly goes for walks with friends to stay in shape.

Susanna Maiden-Name seems to have an easy life, but she's advanced as far as she can along her present career path without further training. She's eying graduate school and asking herself if she's ready to give up some of that nice tasty relaxing for the sake of more prestige and pay.

Susanna Married-Name, however, is a domestic creature, devoted to her husband and daughter. Her house, though not quite immaculate, is neat and clean enough to entertain drop-in visitors and host play dates for Miss Fraser. She's a brilliant cook who throws monthly dinner parties and a dedicated baker who wows her friends with such traditional family recipes as pecan pralines, divinity, and burnt sugar cake. She never misses a PTA meeting, and she volunteers in her daughter's classroom.

For fun Susanna Married-Name goes to baseball games, watches 30 Rock and assorted food shows with Mr. Fraser, and goes out for nice dinners whenever they can find babysitting for Miss Fraser. Note that none of her domesticity makes her crafty. Miss Fraser does not wear handmade dresses, and Susanna does not knit, embroider, nor even scrapbook. All three Susannas are genetically identical, after all--good with words and musically gifted, but all thumbs and inept at the visual arts.

And Susanna Fraser? She's a full-time writer and she loves it. She spends 20-30 hours/week working on her manuscript, writing in the afternoon and early evening when her energy level and creativity are at their peak. (Our three Susannas all are equally baffled by the existence of morning people.) She spends her less creative morning hours on the business side of her writing career and devotes many of her evening hours to research, which she loves almost as much as writing itself.

For fun she watches Jane Austen adaptations and historical epics. Her favorite movies are the Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth, Master & Commander, and Glory, and she has a sneaking fondness for Gladiator despite its major liberties with the historical record. She takes fencing lessons and goes to Jane Austen Society events to practice her country dances. She's found a stable where she can learn to ride, and she's taken up historical reenacting so she can play with muskets and rifles. In other words, she's a method writer.

How much of all that do I, the one person who has to combine all three of those roles, actually manage to do? About a third, maybe a little more. Definitely less than half. I don't get in anything like as much recreational reading as I'd like, and I've barely watched TV in the six years since Miss Fraser was born. My house? A total mess, definitely not fit for company and play dates. I write 10 hours/week, maybe 15 if I manage my time well. I've taken fencing lessons, but I had to drop because it just wasn't a good fit with my schedule. The rest of that method writer stuff is still pure fantasy.

On one level it's a bit sad to look at all the things I wish I could do, but simply don't have the time for. But spelling it out this way helps me clarify my priorities. E.g. I really hate that I don't invite people over for dinner more often or have Miss Fraser's friends over for play dates, so when we move to the new house next month I'm going to make it a priority to keep it a little cleaner, maybe spend a bit less time online to free up that extra half hour to hour a day. And while grad school in the abstract sounds like a wonderful idea, writing is my real career. Who needs to maximize day job prestige and earning potential when you can write books?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My next project

Short forms do not come naturally to me as a writer. I've yet to submit a manuscript of less than 90,000 words, and I don't think I've ever had a first draft come in under 100,000. I'm even more comfortable on Facebook than Twitter precisely because the character limit isn't so stringent.

I've never written a short story, and I rarely read them. I want to really dig in to characters and their world, and there just isn't space enough to do that in a story that can be read in one sitting. (Unless, of course, that "one sitting" means sitting down with a book the instant you get home from work, avoiding chores, neglecting your own writing, and all but ignoring your family until, at 3 AM, you finally reach the end and stagger off to bed. I've done that a few times. OK, a few dozen times. Or more. Most recently while catching up on Julia Spencer-Fleming's Millers Kill mystery series, which are just plain wonderful books.)

However, much to my own amazement, I'm contemplating writing a novella. I've had an idea for a shipwreck romance bouncing around in my head for a couple of years, but my initial concept seemed far too complex and unwieldy for a nice, tidy 80K-100K novel. So I thought, "What if I strip away the secondary characters and subplots? Half of them are just me indulging myself with cameos by characters from The Sergeant's Lady or ones I'd like to write about in the future, and that can be annoying for readers." But when I did that, the story was too simple, with nowhere near enough conflict even for a short story.

I nearly shelved the whole idea as unworkable, but my critique partners kept saying they really liked it. So I started playing with my hero and heroine, trying to think what sort of conflict could take the story beyond "Me man, you woman, we on island paradise." I gave my hero a secret and my heroine an edge. I made the island less tropical and therefore less paradisaical. And I think I have a story now.

But unless I miss my guess, it's a novella. Less than 50,000 words. The characters have genuine problems driving genuine conflict, but unless I deliberately pad it out I don't think it'll take them a whole book's length to solve them.

It's a new venture for me, but I'm going to try it. New ventures are broadening to the mind, after all. There are at least two good potential markets that I know of--my current publisher, Carina, is looking for novellas, and if it comes in really short, like 15K or less, it might fit Harlequin's Undone line. And if it turns out I have more story than I think...well, hey, then I'll have another novel. Not a bad outcome at all.

Readers: Do you enjoy romance novellas or short stories? Why or why not?

Writers: Have you written a novella or short story? Any advice for how to make the transition from full-length novels?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Music for my novel, part one

Many writers write to music. I'm not one of them. I've tried, but I get distracted from my story and start singing along.

I do, however, develop a soundtrack for each book. I listen to it while I clean house or fold laundry, and I burn it to a CD to keep in my car. The soundtrack helps me think about my work-in-progress even when I'm far from my keyboard, and I think it makes me a more creative and emotional writer.

The Sergeant's Lady ended up with a lonnnggg soundtrack, about half of it period songs my characters themselves would've sung or danced to, the other half a bit more contemporary. This post will focus on the latter set of songs--the ones those of you reading this are likely to have heard of!

If there's one single song that sums up The Sergeant's Lady for me, it's Bryan Adams' "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" from the Don Juan de Marco soundtrack. Partly for the sound--the style and all the gorgeous acoustic guitar work fit my Spanish setting just right.

But it's really about the lyrics. Allowing for sundry differences of vocabulary and style of expression, it's exactly how my hero, Will, feels about the heroine, Anna. She's the recently widowed survivor of an abusive marriage, and over the course of the book Will helps her heal not just because he loves her, but because of why he loves her. From the first he recognizes that she is above all a woman of courage and integrity. To be valued for those qualities, when in the past she'd been sought after for being pretty and rich, gives Anna the confidence to live into her strengths--and then to defy her world for Will's sake.

So. That's my core song. But there are others. I can't leave out Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers In a Dangerous Time," whose lyrics also fit my story well. My favorite line: But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight -- Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight.

I listened to the West Side Story Soundtrack a lot, because it's perfect music for star-crossed love stories even when you're writing one with a happy ending. I'd play the whole thing, but "Tonight, Tonight" got the most repeats. Also included were bits and pieces of Les Miz, mostly because I love it and will use any excuse to listen to it, but "On My Own" is the perfect song for a section of the story where Anna thinks she's never going to see Will again.

Writers, do you make soundtracks for your books? Readers, do you read to music?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

RWA to Orlando

The RWA National Conference is moving to Orlando.

I wish it was somewhere a little bit closer, given that Florida is literally the opposite corner of the country from me. St. Louis or Dallas would've been a less burdensome flight. But I'm glad they were able to find a good place on such short notice, and it's a city Southwest flies to, so I'm in good shape.

And, really, when else am I going to stay in a hotel with giant swans on top of it? Never, that's when! So I will enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Monday, May 3, 2010

About that conference...

You know how yesterday I was all, "Yay! Going to RWA National!"?

Well, the conference is supposed to be in Nashville. On a hotel on the banks of the Cumberland River.

It now has ten feet of water in the lobby.

The hotel sent out cancellation notices tonight. RWA has not of this writing made an announcement about the fate of the conference...because, I'm certain, they're frantically working the phones to figure out if they can salvage this thing. I doubt there's another single hotel in Nashville big enough for the group, but hotels run in clusters, and if they can book two or three on the same block, it could work. Or, and this is more of a stretch because of the havoc this would wreak on people's travel plans, they might be considering nearby cities like Memphis or Birmingham or Atlanta.

At this point, I'd say there's at least a 50-50 chance the conference will be canceled. Which would suck. On a purely selfish personal level, I was looking forward to swanning around in my First Sale ribbon and being invited to a publisher party. Multiply that by three or four thousand people all hoping to celebrate a publishing milestone or make connections at their first conference or meet that perfect editor or agent, and you've got a lot of angst.

But, you know what? If it's canceled, it's canceled. Who am I supposed to be mad at? Not RWA or the hotel management, who both seem to be doing their best under trying circumstances. If it's canceled, I'll go ahead and register for PNWC or Willamette and make plans to attend ECWC in October. I'll also start saving up for next summer's RWA. It'll be in New York, so I can plan a few extra days to visit my old stomping grounds in Philadelphia...and I'm sure RWA will still let me wear a First Sale ribbon.

Half the reason I'm so philosophical about this, though? I booked my tickets on Southwest. As I know from very recent experience of having to reschedule a flight less than twelve hours before takeoff due to a severe stomach virus, I'll be able to apply the full price toward my next flight, as long as it's within the year. We always fly to see my in-laws at least once a year, so I'm not losing a dime if the conference is canceled. At the risk of sounding like a corporate shill, fly Southwest whenever you possibly can. They're friendly, you don't lose everything if your plans change even if you're cheap like me and buy Wanna Get Away fares, and they even have a couple inches more legroom than other airlines' coach seats.

Oh, one more thing? I keep seeing people say they're going to call RWA first thing in the morning. Speaking as someone who was an event planner in a former life, it's probably best if you don't. They're fully aware of the problem, they're doing everything they can to find a solution, and they'll announce relocation or cancellation as soon as they make their decision.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Release date and RWA National

I have a tentative release date for The Sergeant's Lady--the second half of August. I have to say I'm glad it's late rather than early in the summer. We're moving to our new place at the end of June, so it'll be good to have a month or two to settle in before the bulk of my promo push (blog touring and the like) once the book is out.

When I found out I was likely to be a summer release, I signed up for the RWA National Conference July 28-31 in Nashville. I usually go to at least one small to mid-sized conference per year--the Surrey International Writers Conference just outside Vancouver, BC in October is a particular favorite--but this will be only my second time at RWA, which is HUGE and therefore a bit overwhelming to your typical introverted writer. Which I certainly am.

That said, I'm looking forward to the trip. It's always fun to get away from my everyday world and be nothing but a writer for a few days. The workshop list is up, including handouts for a good many of them. Lots of good stuff there. I may change my mind between now and July, but I'm planning to focus on career and productivity--time management, working with editors and agents, being productive as a "pantser" (i.e. a writer who works by the seat of her pants rather than outlining and plotting in advance), coping with professional jealousy, etc.--with a few carefully selected craft workshops, because there's always more to learn.

I'm trying not to get too excited about an alphabetical workshop list, though. There seems to be a Conference Law of some kind where the three workshops I'm most interested in are scheduled for the same slot (probably the very hour I have an agent appointment or the one time my editor is free for a one-on-one over coffee or drinks), while there will also be at least one slot where all the workshops are on writing inspirational, erotica, or romantic suspense (the three romance subgenres I have the least interest in ever writing), along with how to perfect your 50-page outline before starting to write (blech!), and one LOVELY workshop whose loveliness I can attest to because the same author gave the same talk at Surrey or Willamette or Pacific Northwest last year.