RWA 2014 Wrap Up


If you’ve been following along on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I attended the annual Romance Writers of America (RWA) Conference in San Antonio last week. It was a fun-filled, exhausting four days, and so worth it.

I attended workshops and author chats. Ate. Hung out with my editor and publisher, as well as other Soul Mate authors. Ate. Attended the big party at the end. And did I mention, ate? So much good food in San Antonio!

Some of my favorite activities to attend at “Nationals” are author chats, especially Nora Roberts. I go every year. This year, when asked what her top three pieces of advice were for authors, Nora answered:

  • Stop whining and write.
  • Stop f#*&ing around and write.
  • Stop making excuses and write.

Ha! Gotta love Nora!

10574462_807981605912758_9081888863152366631_nKristan Higgins, another of my fave authors, broke her ankle the week before RWA, so here we are together, showing off our matching boots, starting a new fashion trend at RWA. We weren’t alone. There were lots of walking wounded. With all the walking boots, knee braces, crutches, and other orthopedic paraphernalia it could have been an Orthopedist convention.

The final night of the conference celebrates the best of romance, both published and unpublished with the Golden Heart Awards (unpublished) and the Rita Awards (published). Everyone puts on their best for the Oscars equivalent of romance writing. The atmosphere is charged with anticipation, nerves, and a dose of cautious hope.

I think I rocked my boot! Evening sandal on one foot, walking boot on the other. I felt10383953_808560085854910_3946314990447234250_n like Bella going to prom.

On the ride home from the airport, my husband asked what the single most important thing I learned was. I attended a workshop with Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jayne Ann Krentz, who played off one another like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby (I know, that’s quite a throwback). When asked if the self-doubt and fear ever went away, Susan said, “Every book I’m working on at the moment is the book I know will end my career.”

It’s nice to know you’re not alone in that boat called self-doubt, and that even after some twenty books, the self-doubt still lingers.

I always leave RWA feeling inspired and ready to tackle whatever I’m currently working on with renewed energy and drive. And since my latest manuscript, Ship of Dreams, is due to my editor on August 31, I’d better follow Nora’s advice, and stop f#*&ing around and write.

Meet Linda Pennell

Today, I’m happy to introduce author Linda Pennell. Linda, why don’t you tell us a0449.highres little something about yourself?

I reside in the Houston area with my husband and a German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she is really a little girl. We have two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, and the love of our lives, our precious granddaughter. As empty nesters, we divide our time between our home in Houston and our place in Matagorda, Texas, the best kept secret on the Gulf Coast. When I’m not writing, I sing soprano with the Texas Master Chorale, volunteer with my church and local cultural organizations, and work with the local school district. I stay pretty busy, but all of the activities are rewarding and things I love doing.

Tell us about your latest book.

Set during the aftermath of the American Civil War, Confederado do Norte tells the story of Mary Catherine MacDonald Dias Oliveira Atwell, a child torn from her war devastated home in Georgia and thrust into the primitive Brazilian interior where the young woman she becomes must learn to recreate herself in order to survive.

Confederado-Soulmate 505_505x825Blurb

October, 1866. Mary Catherine is devastated when her family emigrates from Georgia to Brazil because her father and maternal uncle refuse to accept the terms of Reconstruction following the Confederacy’s defeat. Shortly after arrival in their new country, she is orphaned, leaving her in Uncle Nathan’s care. He hates Mary Catherine, blaming her for his sister’s death. She despises him because she believes Nathan murdered her father. When Mary Catherine discovers Nathan’s plan to be rid of her as well, she flees into the mountain wilderness filled with jaguars and equally dangerous men. Finding refuge among kind peasants, she grows into a beauty, ultimately marrying the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. Happiness and security seem assured until civil unrest brings armed marauders who have an inexplicable connection to Mary Catherine. Recreating herself has protected Mary Catherine in the past, but this new crisis will demand all of the courage, intelligence, and creativity she possesses simply to survive.

Why do you write?

I write because I find it intellectually stimulating, entertaining, and just plain fun. I love the research, the creative process, the interweaving of kernels of fact with imagined outcomes. Basically, writing allows me to play “let’s pretend” all day long. What’s not to like?

I know, right? Have you always dreamed of writing?

Not really. I got a taste of the creative writing experience in high school, but left it behind when I got to college in favor of the requirements of academic writing. It is only within the last five years that I have come full circle back to the creative aspect.

What drew you to write historical fiction?

I write historical fiction set in the South or about Southerners. I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

I, too, am from the South, and I can remember stories from my own grandparents about our kin. When you’re working on a manuscript, what motivates you?

My motivation usually centers around taking an actual historical fact or episode and weaving it into my fiction. For example, my debut novel, Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel, is set in the real town of Lake City, Florida where the actual Blanche Hotel has stood since 1902. Al Capone really did stay there in transit from Chicago to his property in Miami. The rest of the story is a product of my imagination. With Confederado do Norte, the basic premise of Southerners emigrating to Brazil after the Confederacy’s defeat is based on historical fact. The descendants of those real Confederados can still be found in and around Americana, Brazil. On festival days, they break out the Confederate gray uniforms, anti-bellum ball gowns, and the Stars and Bars. My heroine, Mary Catherine, is based VERY loosely on my own grandmother’s experience as a young girl who lost her parents. Grandmother didn’t move to Brazil, but her uncle was not very nice to her.

Lake City is only 45 minutes from where I live. Very interesting. What frustrates you?

The thing that frustrates me most is copy editing. I hate, hate, hate it!!  With a passion. Did I tell you how much I hate it? I like to think it isn’t laziness or carelessness, but rather my ability to read anything placed before me, no matter how poorly written. This comes from my other life as a secondary school assistant principal charged with keeping the peace. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I’ve read, ahem, translated, from student statements and notes. My mind automatically corrects whatever it sees so that it can make sense of the writing. Great when I am trying to figure out exactly what one gang member is threatening to do to a rival, but murder on my copy editing. My tendency to becoming word blind after several readings doesn’t help, either.

What are you working on now?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked! I’m having great fun with another historical tentatively entitled Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn. Here is what I think will probably be on the back cover.

Casablanca,1943 – a viper’s nest of double agents and spies where OSS Officer Kurt Heinz finds his skill in covert operations pushed to the limit. Allied success in North Africa, perhaps the outcome of the war, may hang on Kurt’s next mission. The nature of his work makes relationships impossible; nonetheless, he is increasingly torn between duty and the beautiful girl who desperately needs his help.

Sarah Barrett, U.S. Army R.N., is finished with wartime romance. Determined to protect her recently broken heart, she throws all of her time and energy into caring for her patients, but when she is given a coded message by a mysterious dying civilian, she is sucked into a vortex of danger and intrigue that threatens her very survival. The one person who can help Sarah is Kurt Heinz, a man with too many secrets to be trusted but to whom she is drawn like a moth to a flame.

Ooh! Love the blurb! What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Learn your craft, practice your craft, know who you are as a person and as a writer, write the book you want to read, and be prepared for rejection. Rejection is a painful, but necessary, part of getting published. Do not become discouraged. Writing is a skill, just like learning to play the piano or to throw a football with accuracy. It must be practiced in order to improve. The better you get at your craft, the closer you will come to your goal of being published.

Good advice. What do you like to read?

I love mysteries, historical fiction of all kinds, suspense, and women’s fiction. I think that shows in my writing choices.

If you could, what deceased author would you most like to meet, and why?

Oh my, only one? This is really hard, but if I can only pick one, it would have to be Charlotte Brontë. Jane Eyre was the first and best loved of all the classic gothic romances I read. Did I mention I was a big fan of gothic romance as a girl?

Describe your perfect Sunday.

Well, I usually go to church on Sunday mornings. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I find the spiritual renewal important in my daily living. If we are at the beach, sitting on the deck listening to the Gulf roll in, watching the flights of pelicans on patrol, and reading a good mystery make for a wonderful day.

Confederado do Norte is available now on Amazon.

Thanks for joining me today, Linda. You can learn more about Linda and her books at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter




RWA Bound

In less than a week I’m off to the Romance Writers of America (RWA) annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. The meeting draws some 2000 published and yet-to-be published authors from around the country and around the globe, along with editors and agents who are looking for that next bestseller. Think of it as Comic-Con for romance writers, only without the costumes. Okay, maybe a few costumes.

Me with Jodi Thomas at the Literacy Autographing 2013.

Me with Jodi Thomas at the Literacy Autographing 2013.

The days are chock-full with workshops, author chats, meet and greets, networking, and pitches to editors and agents. There’s also the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing event where hundreds of romance authors meet with and sign books for fans, with the proceeds from book sales going to literacy organizations. You can find your favorite authors there, from Nora Roberts to Charlaine Harris, and Jodi Thomas to Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I must admit, I get a little star-struck when I see my favorite authors, and I try not to go into crazy fan-girl stalker mode. I look forward to author chats with my idol, Nora

Nora Roberts' Author Chat 2013

Nora Roberts’ Author Chat 2013

Roberts, how-to workshops with such fabulous authors as Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, Julie James, and Laura Kaye. You’ve never met such a giving group of people, all willing to share their experiences, both the successes and the failures, and who remind you that they too were once in your place as a newbie author. But more importantly, with their stories of disabilities and hardships overcome and their sheer determination to write the books they love, their rallying cries urge you to never give up on your dreams.

It’s an exhilarating, exhausting, inspiring, wonderful four days. Check out my Facebook page next week where I’ll be posting photos from the conference. Even those of the crazy fan-girl stalker with her favorite authors.

Me with fellow Soul Mate author, Char Chaffin.

Me with fellow Soul Mate author, Char Chaffin.