2005 RWA National Conference
Blythe Barnhill: Day Three (July 29, 2005)

Linda and I were highly motivated to get to the conference on Friday, as that’s when the publisher book signings begin. We were eager to meet authors we’d missed at the literacy signing, and we weren’t exactly adverse to free books either. <g> First up were signings with authors from Ballantine and Berkley. I had been hoping to catch up with Suzanne Brockmann, who was swamped at the literacy signing. Alas, she ran out of books fast and was gone before I could ask what was up next (or compliment her on the touching prologue to Hot Target. We did catch Julie Garwood, however, and were excited to hear that an historical is in the works. Apparently it’s not the next book she is working on, but is planned for the one after that, and the books will tie together somehow. Readers

[like LLB] who haven’t wanted to follow her into romantic suspense will really have something to look forward to. Linda and I were not very quick; after injuring herself at the literacy signing, she was in a wheelchair, and the long lines of eager conference attendees made for some tough maneuvering. Nonetheless, we were soon weighted down with tons of books, and both of us have some new authors to try. Both of us were intrigued by Lisa Valdez’s Passion; I’d already heard that it was very steamy, but the author gave us the caveat as well.

We popped into the Harlequin suite to straighten out some AAR business matters (they’ve had changes in their publicity department, and we were looking for new contact information). We were pleasantly surprised to discover a signing there as well, with authors from Harlequin’s Next line. Next books are targeting an audience of women over 35 (as of this year, I fall in that category). It features heroines who are falling in love for the second time, or dealing with other “over 35” challenges. We both grabbed a few of these and then headed out to a Spotlight on NAL.

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The NAL Spotlight was hosted by NAL editors and publicists, and they detailed what was new in their line. They also talked about what is selling right now, and the various subgenres of romance that are growing. The main message is that the range is broader than ever. Historical romance and fiction is an important part of their line-up, and contemporaries range from heartwarming to romantically suspenseful. And anything to do with a vampire practically flies off the shelves. New focuses include edgy urban Gothics and Chick Lit mysteries. NAL will also publish more historical mysteries, including one by Candice Proctor, who will be writing as C.S. Parish.

NAL publishes Erotica and Historical Fiction in trade paperback, and both are doing very well right now. They plan to expand their offerings in both of these areas. NAL also publishes NAL Accent books, which are more Women’s Fiction than Romance.

They are also expanding the range of their chick lit to include YA fiction and what they called “Lady Lit.” Their YA line will be called NAL Jam, and they billed it as “Chick Lit for teens.” Lady Lit, on the other hand, is aimed at readers over 30. It was described as “light and fun,” and somewhat different from traditional Chick Lit.

Friday’s lunch was an awards luncheon. Waldenbooks/Borders presented its awards, and RWA recognized various booksellers, librarians, and board members. The most stirring moment was definitely Sherrilyn Kenyon’s acceptance speech (she won a Walden award for best-selling Paranormal Romance. Kenyon was moved to tears, and everyone in the room could feel her excitement and gratitude.

After lunch there were more publisher signings, this time with Avon and Pocket authors. We chatted with several authors, and amassed still more books. We headed out to Linda’s car with our haul, and by this time it was starting to look like the Joad’s truck in The Grape’s of Wrath, completely loaded down with luggage, books, and bags.

Linda and I cut out for a trip to lake Tahoe (“it would be a crime to come this close and not see it,” said she). We had a gorgeous drive, and the lake was as beautiful as promised. On the way back we drove through a rare torrential downpour, but fortunately arrived in one piece. Linda and her husband (whom I met later Friday night) are relative newcomers to Reno, and after over twenty years in Dallas they are a little amused at their neighbors’ reaction to rain. Apparently every drop is greeted with enthusiasm and much conversation.

When we arrived back at the Hilton, we attended the Penguin Putnam cocktail party – and got to witness one of the prettiest rainbows I’d ever seen. Meanwhile, I chatted with Megan Frampton, former AAR reviewer and soon-to-be published Signet author. Megan told me why her book would be published as a Regency (it has sex, but the conflict is not as “big” as that of a single title). It reminded me of my earlier discussion with Madeleine Hunter about high stakes romances. Megan also introduced me to Janet Mullany, who also has a sexier-than-typical Regency coming out this fall. She referred to it as her “filthy Regency,” which frankly perked my interest. I also had the pleasure of meeting Renee, a new author of an multi-cultural Romantica release. She’d been sitting in the same NAL Spotlight that Linda and I had attended, and had the pleasure of seeing the cover of her book for the first time (they showed slides of upcoming books from various lines). She was completely overcome with the emotion of the moment. We also bonded over children (not only did we both have four; they were all exactly the same ages and the same gender order).

After the party wound down, Linda and I drove back to her house, hoping to get some sleep and ready for the next – and last – day of the conference.



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