I did my first-ever photo shoot yesterday, courtesy of Denver-area photographer Eric Weber. Eric does tons of headshots for actors—including Tom’s—so I figured he’d do a fine job for my author photo.

Why a professional author photo, you ask, when I’m still a writer and not quite an author? One word: marketing. I’ve made my first pitch and will make several more when I attend the Romance Writers of America national conference next month. If an agent is interested in a writer’s book, the agent will Google the writer, see what they’re doing online, see how many followers they have on Twitter, take a gander at the website. And what’s on their website? A picture. And it had better not be that picture of you from last year’s conference where you cut out Darcy who was standing next to you and you’re grinning a bit maniacally. (Not that I did that. At all. Not even close. Okay maybe that’s my profile pic on my Facebook author page.)

A proper picture tells a prospective agent you’re ready to be an asset in the real world of book marketing, that you’re polished and professional and already hard at work building your “platform.” You’ve been telling potential readers about your book and building buzz. You’re serious about becoming a published author.

Whew, I’m feeling all growed up about now.

As for the shoot itself, I had a makeup artist do her thing first, as I have no idea how to do makeup for photos. It always amazes me how much makeup you can have swabbed, smoothed and brushed on your face, yet look like you don’t have much on at all. I’m also incredibly impressed when someone else can put mascara on me and not stab me in the eye or blind me. (By the way, once again a professional makeup artist used Maybelline mascara—the stuff in the hot pink tube—which pleases me. I like that I can buy industrial-grade mascara at Target.)

The actual picture-taking part was fun, though stressful. You would think that for someone as vain about her looks as me, a photo shoot would be like Christmas morning, but I didn’t feel like I was very good at it. I had to smile not just to smile, but to convey something else, a “buy my book” message. I had to keep my “brand” in mind, that I want to appear friendly and approachable so readers will want to keep in touch with me and keep reading my books. I’m selling myself as a storyteller, but also as a friend, because when I look at authors’ website pictures, I like the ones who look like I’d want to chat with them. But I’m a romance author, so a bit of glamour or sexiness is just fine too. One little picture has a lot of work to do. And Eric did a terrific job of putting me at ease and getting the expressions he wanted.

My job now is to look through the dozens of pictures and choose the best one. Then Eric will make it all pretty, adjusting the colors, etc. (possibly erasing my ever-increasing laugh lines!), and poof! Jean Ditslear of Redwall Communications (she designed my site) will put it up on my website and my fancy new business cards. I debated putting my picture on my business cards, as it smacked of me being a Realtor or an actor. But business cards fly around the RWA national conference like fireflies in June, and a picture will help people remember who I am. It feels rather vain, but at the end of the day (a catchphrase I hate), it’s practical.

Stay tuned for the big reveal. And thanks for your support!

  • Yesterday I attended the Colorado Romance Writers mini-conference in nearby Arvada, at a golf club. As part of my day immersed in all things romance-novel writing, I pitched THROWN to a real live editor for the first time!

    How this works is, you sign up ahead of time for a pitch appointment, and then you get 10 minutes (which is generous—at some conferences you only get five) to sit at a table with an editor, tell her about your book and hope to pique her interest. My appointment was at 10:10, so at 10:00 I went to the ladies room to primp and run hot water over my (freezing) hands so the editor wouldn’t think she had inadvertently grabbed a dead carp during the greeting handshake. It very much felt like a blind date, especially when I stuffed 42 breath strips into my mouth, nearly burning a hole in my tongue.

    The editor was Kristin Sevick from Tor/Macmillan, a house known more for its science fiction than romance, but they certainly publish romance. Kristin was a dream first pitch, friendly and engaging, and I thanked her for making my first time so pleasant (wow, does that sound like I write romance novels, or what?). Even better, she likes horses, so we talked about Brooke and the difficulties of riding in or near New York City.

    Happily, she asked for a query, synopsis, and my first three chapters!! Now, I know it’s a staggering long shot that my first pitch to an editor would result in my book getting published. But still, it was nice to be asked. Especially when I looked at the Macmillan website and all the romances seem to have ghosts, werewolves, vampires, demons, time travelers and/or people with special powers. Not sure Amanda, Grady, the horses et al are up to traveling in those circles, but who knows? And hey, if Kristin says, “I love your book, but I can only buy it if you add an alien or make the horses psychic,” I may oblige.

    Kristin also taught me the term “math face,” which is the face a person who is actively afraid of math (me–and her) makes when forced to DO math. I thank her for that almost as much as for letting me send her my chapters.

    Does anyone else find it interesting that my first pitch for my book was mere yards away from a bar? NOT that I went there for anything stronger than a Coke (cutting down on my Diet Coke consumption, and soda in general, but every now and then…) until after the mini-conference was over.

    Speaking of the mini-conference, it was a day of education and inspiration from Harlequin author Kara Lennox, who has written more than 80(!) romance novels. She writes screenplays too, and a lot of her writing techniques are based on screenwriting techniques, which meshed beautifully with how I write, since I do the same thing. I got lots of tips on writing, as well as query letters, finding agents and the business of writing. Plus she was funny, which always helps.

    AND I found out about the Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest because they posted the results on their website. I came in third, which ain’t bad for the first contest I’ve ever entered. It was a little disheartening to see how judges asked some of the other entrants for “fulls” (full manuscripts), but that just gives me something to strive for. Congrats to Katherine Lowry Logan and Virginia McCullough, who took first and second respectively in the Contemporary Single Title category.

    Today, all I want to do is write, but I must go see Brooke (who was neglected yesterday) and do something about the rain forest that is taking over my backyard. I’ll get SOME writing in, but right about now, boy I wish I had servants. Any takers?

    Thanks for reading and for your support!

  • Yes I do. Because where the stars at night are big and bright is home to the Winter Rose Contest, and the writer of this blog found out today that she won the Contemporary Single Title category!

    Happy dance! Back handspring! Happy dance! Squee! Woot! (Insert celebratory expression of choice here.)

    Margo Lipschultz, an editor at Harlequin, was the final judge, and wrote some very nice comments. You can be sure I’ll post them on this site in the near future. I extend a huge thanks to her and all the preliminary judges at the Yellow Rose Romance Writers, the RWA chapter that sponsored the contest. A special thanks to Michelle Miles, the contest coordinator.

    Thanks to my early readers who helped me craft the story, especially Belinda, Tom, James, Elizabeth and Hal. And of course, thanks to you for your support!

    And now, please join me in singing a few bars of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Thank you.

  • Ah, the waiting game. Trying not to watch the clock, because a watched pot of contest entries never boils. Or something like that.

    But enough with the mixing of metaphors. I have good news and mediocre news. I’ll give you the mediocre news first. I haven’t won the Winter Rose contest, but I haven’t come in second or third, either. There’s a problem with one of the judges, which I found surprising because they’ve had six weeks to read the three entries they had to judge. But then I thought, maybe the judge is like me, a procrastinator, and waited until the last minute, then came down with the flu or her dog ate her email account or the like. Bottom line, the contest poobahs have pushed back the announcement of the winners for one week to give the new judge a chance to evaluate the entries. So you see, it’s not exactly bad news, not exactly good news, it’s mediocre.

    As for the Cleveland Rocks contest, they apparently have managed to keep all their judges on schedule, and they will announce the winners soon. They don’t say exactly when, but it could be as early as today, or over the next few days. They announced the winners yesterday at their writers’ conference, and had I been more on my game, I would have had one of my friends in Ohio sneak in and spy for me.

    That’s the contest wrap-up. In case you’re keeping score at home, I have since entered two more contests: The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Contest for unpublished authors, and the Alaska Romance Writers’ Break-Up Contest. I may enter one of the Denver-area’s romance writers chapters’ contest, but I’m not sure. Part of me wants to support them, but part of me wants to concentrate solely on revising THROWN.

    Which brings me to my good news. I had lunch with the lovely RITA-nominee/brilliant author Joanne Kennedy last Sunday to discuss her suggestions for making THROWN the Best Romance Novel EVER. She handed over six pages of notes and we spent almost the whole entire time talking about my novel. Imagine how distraught I must have been, having to spend hours talking about ME and MY story. As I expected, her comments were dead on, and I’ve been revising ever since, in drips and drabs. This is another one of those times when I wish I was independently wealthy and could spend all my waking hours writing. But I’ll get it done before the Romance Writers of America conference in late June, so that’s the important thing.

    And there you have it. The update. When I hear about the contests, I’ll be sure to let you know. As always, thank you for your support!

  • Are you enjoying the new design on the new WordPress blog/website? I hope so! As the McDonald’s people say, I’m loving it.

    I was a bad blogger for a bit as I waited for my new design to go up, and a few things have happened since we last met. For one thing, I finaled in another contest (I first finaled in the Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest), the Winter Rose Romance Contest. I also entered more contests because I have Contest Fever, apparently. I entered a contest sponsored by the Alaska Romance Writers called the Break-Up Contest. You send in your best break-up scene–how fun is that? How could I possibly resist? I rewrote the big break-up in THROWN and liked it even better, so I might use the contest entry as the real thing. I find out about this one in early July.

    I also entered the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers contest, another contest where you send in the first 25-30 pages of your manuscript. And finally, I plan to enter a similar contest sponsored by another local Romance Writers of America chapter, the Denver Romance Writers. That deadline’s in mid-May.

    But that’s IT, I swear. No more contests for a while. Honest. No really. I mean it.

    Besides the contests, guess what else is going on? I’m now an RWA PRO! PRO status means you’ve gotten to the point where you’re ready to send your story out to agents. I sent my query letter to an RWA-approved agent, sent in the application to the RWA (along with my manuscript), and voila! Now I get to sign up for pitch sessions at the RWA conference in Manhattan in June a week earlier than non-PRO members, and I can attend a PRO workshop at the conference where they will doubtless teach me the secret handshake.

    And finally, Joanne Kennedy, RITA Award nominee and all-around fabulous author, has finished reading THROWN! We are going to meet for lunch in Fort Collins (halfway between Cheyenne–where Joanne lives–and Denver), and I’m going to pay for a lavish lunch and Joanne is going to share her vast wisdom with me. I will then revise my manuscript if I agree with her suggestions, which I’m guessing I undoubtedly will, as we share sensibilities. And then I will be ready to submit to agents and editors, and pitch to those agents and editors at the RWA conference.

    All this also means I haven’t been writing all that much. I’ve been revising LOVE IN THE TIME OF COLIC some, but my real focus is on THROWN and making a serious push to get it published.

    Oh, and today I met a little girl at the barn where Brooke lives who looks exactly like Wave, the 8-year-old in THROWN! How weird is that?

    Hope you enjoyed reading this update, and thanks for your support, as always.