Novelists Inc 2018

©Deborah A. CookeLast week, I attended the Novelists’ Inc conference, which is held each year. This year (as in many recent years) it was in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida. This conference brings together a lot of incredible people and is a terrific gathering of ideas and energy—plus it’s at the beach.

These beachy pix are from recent years. This year, I didn’t take more because they would have been similar, but also there was a red tide. This is an algae bloom which is detrimental to fish near the beach and I believe it had begun after hurricane Florence. At this particular point on the beach, there weren’t so many dead fish—they do clean them up every day—but a lot of dead crabs. While it was intriguing to see how many kinds of crabs there are in the gulf, it was sad to see them when they were dead. There were also a lot fewer birds, probably because the death of the fish meant there was less (or nothing) for them to eat. I love seeing the pelicans and they were a bit scarce. I didn’t see any dolphins this year either, but that might have been timing – in previous years, I saw them in the afternoon or early evening. I walked first thing in the morning, and the smell from the red tide wasn’t too bad. Mr. Math suggested that the algae needs the sunshine and warmth of the day to bloom, which would explain why people had troubles later in the day with eye and throat irritations.

©Deborah A. CookeAnd then there was the conference itself. As always, NINC brings together an amazing group of workshop presenters, but this year it was particularly hard to choose between sessions. There were four tracks and it seemed that I wanted to attend two workshops in every time slot. I learned a tremendous amount and made a huge To Do list (this is typical). Highlights for me included David Gaughran‘s workshops – because no matter how often I go to his workshops, I always learn more. (Plus he has a wonderful Irish accent 🙂 that would be easy to listen to forever). He taught about BookBub ads and more about Amazon’s algorithms. Joanna Penn taught two fantastic workshops, one about content-based marketing and the other highlighting global English-language markets for books and strategies for reaching them. I learned a lot in Mark Dawson‘s session on strategies for AMS ads. A surprise hit for me was Dr. Jennifer Barnes and her workshops about the psychology of fiction and of titles. Representatives were also in attendance from almost all of the portals, and all of them had interesting information to share. It’s a fantastic conference to discover new opportunities and strategies.

Jewels of Historical Romance at the Novelists Inc conference September 2018The truly fabulous thing about this conference, though, was that this was the first time I attended as one of the Jewels of Historical Romance. This fantastic group of historical romance writers invited me to join them last spring, and I was thrilled to do so. Although I knew most of them from online, I hadn’t met many of them in person – and there was going to be a big confab of Jewels at this conference, so I went. Here are nine of us at the gazebo in the hotel courtyard. From the back left, that’s me (not smiling. LOL) then Erica Ridley, Lucinda Brant (who came from Australia), and Cheryl Bolen. In the front from the left, Lauren Royal, Darcy Burke, Tanya Anne Crosby, Glynnis Campbell and Cynthia Wright. Brenda Hiatt was also at the conf, but isn’t in this picture. Kimberly Cates and Jill Barnett were the only two Jewels not in attendance this year – there are plans for all of us to make this conf in 2020. Meeting these women in person and having the chance to not only get to know them better but to plan some joint promotion for the future was certainly the highlight of the conference for me.

And then there was karaoke night… This is the second year that Draft2Digital has hosted this event, and it wrapped up the conference this year. It was such a success that I suspect they’re going to need to do it every year.

I suspect I need to go to NINC every year, too.

Home with Lists

The exciting thing about attending a conference like Novelists’ Ink is that I always end up with so many action items. Novelists’ Ink is also unusual among the conferences I attend because it’s only for published authors, most of whom write genre fiction. (A high percentage of members write either romance or mystery.) So, there are no reader events like booksignings during the conference (although Jodi Vaughn and I made an exception and met with some readers for lunch on Saturday. It was such fun – Jodi is lovely and it turned out that her fans were also some of mine!) So, NINC is about the business of publishing. In this still-changing market, there are not only new options available, but better ways evolving to get things done. I always end up making lists on the flight home. You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes.

You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes. For example, I need to review my notes from Erica Ridley’s wonderful session on newsletters, and decide what to improve first with my monthly newsletter. (There are LOTS of things to be improved there!)

Wyvern's Mate, book #1 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeI’ll also be changing the numbering of the Dragons of Incendium series. Amazon doesn’t allow incremental numbers on series pages and I’ve been stubborn about changing my idea of the book numbers to fit theirs. 🙂 In talking to other authors, though, it’s clear that there are tangible benefits to having all of the books on the same product page. I’ll make them the same at all portals once they’re reformatted. The short stories will be given whole numbers in this arrangement, so the book order will become:

  1. Wyvern’s Mate
  2. Nero’s Dream
  3. Wyvern’s Prince
  4. Arista’s Legacy
  5. Wyvern’s Warrior
  6. Kraw’s Secret
  7. Wyvern’s Outlaw

Love Potion #9, a paranormal romance and romantic comedy by Claire DelacroixI’m going to commission new covers for my time travel romances, and probably move Love Potion #9 over to the Deborah Cooke side of things. It is a contemporary paranormal romance, after all. I do love the cover image, but it doesn’t communicate the subgenre clearly enough to do its job well – if you love this cover and want a print copy, grab it soon!

There are dozens of other tweaks and changes to be made. I attending workshops with tips on productivity and on strategies for publishing. I learned about conferences that I haven’t attended before and revisited the idea of attending some others again. I’ll let you know when any of these items impact what you see on your end of the publishing biz.

The second exciting result of going to conference is meeting new authors. I always meet some authors I haven’t met before and learn a bit about them during the conference, then come home with a huge shopping list so I can become acquainted with their books. No matter how avidly I read, there are always new voices and new fictional worlds to be discovered – that I’ve sat with the author in a workshop or had lunch with him or her is icing on the proverbial cake. I’ve already added a dozen books to my reader and am looking forward to digging in. When I find some I particularly love, I’ll share them with you here.

The third and maybe the biggest benefit is creative. Walking the beach is certainly a contributing factor, plus I went offline for the week. I came home from NINC recharged, with my imagination full of new stories. I did a lot of plotting, which surprised me but that’s all good. I also have more ideas to connect my existing stories with each other. I have started to do this (as some of you have seen in A Duke By Any Other Name) but the possibilities multipled for me when I gave them the opportunity.

Whisper Kiss, #5 in the Dragonfire series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeIn the Midnight Hour, book #3 of the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeFor example, I need a tattoo artist based in New York for the Flatiron Five series and realized that Rox’s tattoo shop, Imagination Ink, which we encountered first in Whisper Kiss, is in NYC. Rox has a partner and friend named Chynna (as well as one named Neo). I decided that Chynna would be perfect. She’ll turn up at F5 in Damon’s book, In the Midnight Hour and become a continuing character in that series. Flatiron Five doesn’t have any paranormal elements, but Chynna isn’t paranormal. Even Rox isn’t paranormal herself—she’s just partners with Niall, a dragon shifter. This kind of cross-pollination between series is particularly fun—I went back and read what I’ve said so far about Chynna and got excited about the possibilities. I remembered writing a scene with Chynna that didn’t make it into the final book and had to hunt it down. I posted it as an out-take right here so you can meet Chynna. (She doesn’t actually appear in Whisper Kiss.)

There are wonderful plans in the works already, and I’ll share them with you as soon as I can!

Since we’re talking about conferences and reader events, tell me whether you attend any reader events. If you don’t go to reader conferences or events, is there a reason why? (Some readers like to save their money for books, which is good, too.) If you do go, where are the events located? Do you attend for workshops or signings or both? What’s your favorite part?

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada—we celebrate a little earlier than our neighbours to the south, where it’s Columbus Day. It seems to me that Americans are very firm about which day they should celebrate Thanksgiving (i.e. on the Thursday that is Thanksgiving Day) while most Canadians I know are pretty flexible about the date. Usually, we do the turkey on the Saturday or the Sunday of this weekend, not the Monday. This year, because I’ve been at the Novelists’ Ink conference and got home late last night, we’re going to have our Thanksgiving dinner next weekend.

I am, however, feeling quite grateful today. At the conference, I saw a lot of friends, made some new ones, learned a great deal and had a wonderful time. I had lunch with some readers from the area, too, which was wonderful – and made me grateful for all of you who read my books. I stayed offline for the week that I was away, and that had exactly the result I’d hoped for—I have a lot of new ideas and stories to be told. I picked up a LOT of seashells and walked at least once a day on St. Pete’s beach (which is beautiful).

I understand a little bit better why those who live in hurricane areas are pretty relaxed about hurricanes—Nate sailed up the Gulf of Mexico, not all that far from us, and we had a little wind, some clouds, and the tide came in higher. I learned that it was called a “king tide”  because there was a full moon and a tropical storm within proximity, pushing more water into the shore. I thought there would be no shells on Sunday morning, because the surf had been crashing so hard, but I was very wrong. I had an awesome shelling morning and brought home far more than usual. (Mr. Math said “of course, you did.” :-)) I’ll sort them out and share a few pix later in the week.

And of course, coming home made me feel grateful, too. (There’s nothing like coming home, is there?) I have a big list of things to do, am both relaxed and inspired, and ready to dive in. If you’re expecting a reply from me on something (anything) I’ll be going through all my correspondence this week and will get to your message. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, do you do it on the actual date or are you (and your family) more flexible?

So, tell me today. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, do you do it on the actual date or are you (and your family) more flexible? What are you grateful for in your life?

 

Home from NINC

Phew! I’m home again from the fabulous Novelists’ Inc conference, which was once again held at St. Pete’s Beach in Florida. It was – as ever – an informative and interesting conference, plus a chance to meet up with good friends and make new ones. I had a lot of good meetings, and will have lots of news to share with you in the coming months. While it was wonderful to spend the time to connect with friends, I could have spent another two weeks there, talking with authors I’ve only met online before.

©Deborah A. CookeThe beach makes this conference special – I tried to walk on it each morning, and again in the evening when the stars were so bright. I didn’t take any pictures this time, but we had the same sunny skies and warm weather as last year. Last year’s pix tell the story.

©Deborah A. CookeI did find some shells. There seemed to be more fighting conch shells on the beach this year. Last year, many were occupied by hermit crabs (like the one at right.) This year, most were still live conchs – and I saw several strike, which I’d never seen before. A little bit of research reveals that the Florida Fighting Conch, which is what I should have seen according to Wiki, looks a bit different. The shells (and conchs) I saw in St. Pete’s look like the West Indian Fighting Conch.

Here are the shells I found: three conch shells, all abandoned by their original residents and without new (hermit crab) tenants:Deborah Cooke's shells from St. Pete's Beach

I also met another visitor to the beach who was looking for shells for her son. While we walked along and chatted, I saw a piece of a lightning whelk that was about 3″ x 3″ that looked like part of a big shell. It was buried in the sand and there were a lot of broken whelks on the beach so I assumed this was another. All the same, I dug out this one, only to discover that it was almost intact – and HUGE! It was about 8″ across. It was pretty much a sphere – although the stem was broken off. I’ve never seen one so big, and gave it to her for her son. (I think she might use it as a planter in her garden. It’ll make a good one for some succulents.)

A friend and I visited the Salvador Dali Museum on the day before the conference began, and it was truly wonderful. The location is beautiful – we had a perfect sunny day – and I loved the design of the building. The visiting exhibit was the work of M.C. Escher, so it was well worth the trip to see it all.

Highland Heroes, a digital boxed set of Scottish medieval romances by Claire DelacroixAlthough I ended up being offline for the week, I found out on my way out the door that an interview I’d done with BookBub about creating multi-book single author boxed sets had been posted on their blog. It’s the result of interviews Diana did with several authors – I talked about my experience with Highland Heroes – and she pulled a tipsheet together from the various authors’ comments. You can read it on their blog right here.

Once the conference started, things got busy! On Thursday morning, I saw Susan E. Smith, who is just the most lovely person. I met her originally at Romancing the Capital in the spring, and will see her again there next year. (So can you, if you register for the RTC reader con!) She asked if she could feature me in her reader newsletter which was going out that day. Of course, I was thrilled to be asked – by the time we’d found each other again to do an interview, she’d written a post herself and sent it out. She’ll be visiting my blog in the next couple of weeks, so you can all learn more about her.

Right now, I’m glad to be home AND pretty much caught up on the laundry. The New Girl danced on her hind legs when I came home, then ran in circles of joy. Of course, Mr. Math spoiled her terribly when I was gone, but she just likes having the pack together again. I think she was too excited to know what to do next, but she’s been following me around ever since. 🙂 I was very excited to get home and get cooking again – I didn’t expect to miss it so much. I made fish tacos yesterday, then roasted a chicken for dinner. Yum!

Did you have a good week?

Back from the Beach

Last weekend, I attended the Novelists’ Ink conference, which was held in St. Pete’s Beach in Florida. As well as the conference being fun and informative—and a chance to see good friends—there was The Beach!

I walked the beach every day and here are some of my pix. We had truly gorgeous weather, over 80 degrees every day with clear skies. I walked mostly in the mornings. First off, the beach itself. This is looking north from the hotel:

©Deborah A. CookeThen there were the birds. I love the pelicans, which are quite common in this area. ©Deborah A. Cooke These are seagulls but this variety are a little smaller than the more common ones. They hang out together and have jazzy little black caps:©Deborah A. CookeHere’s a sand piper. There were two different kinds that I noticed – this is the taller kind.©Deborah A. CookeHere’s the smaller sandpiper. They were a bit fluffier.©Deborah A. CookeHere’s a heron with a more common seagull looking on. When I first saw this one, he was fishing up a storm, so busily snatching at little fishes in this pond that he blurred in every picture. He’s eaten his fill now and is heading out.©Deborah A. CookeAt the north end of the beach, there’s this rock pier where people fish – and of course, the birds that like to eat fish hang out in the vicinity, just in case. There are at least three kinds of herons in this shot, including a great blue heron to the very far right (who blends in very well.) If you go back to the first picture, you can just barely see this rock pier at the end of the beach.©Deborah A. CookeHere’s a shot of a large white heron. The two on the left are smaller, like the one I showed above.©Deborah A. CookeOf course, there are also shells on St. Pete Beach, given that it’s on the gulf side. I picked up a fighting conch shell and it vibrated like a cell phone. I thought maybe the conch was still alive and, since they’re poisonous, left it alone. Farther down the beach, I met a woman who knew the real answer: there was a crab inside. Here’s the crab she found, taking a peek at the world: ©Deborah A. Cooke And here’s the crab I found further on, having a bolder look. He might have a neighbour in the next shell, too. The fighting conch shells with barnacles tend to have been abandoned by the conches and taken on by the crabs.©Deborah A. CookeI brought home a few shells, too, but not any crabs!