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Moonlight and Magnolias

I suppose that if I had more energy, I’d have blogged during the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference put on by the Georgia Romance Writers. There was certainly a lot to talk about, not least of which was my good friend Jo Anne Banker’s First Place Win of the Maggie Award of Excellence for Long Contemporary!

Everyone I met was a real treat and I loved chatting with them. My Building Emotional Resonance workshop went well, and I learned a lot listening to Linda Howard talk about her publishing experiences.

Overall, it was a great conference. My good friend and critique partner, Dawn Temple, signed all copies of her wonderful TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, Silhouette Special Edition, and I suspect she had just as much fun as I had.

One request: Would the lovely person who gave me your business card after the workshop please please please email me? I lost your card and I’d love to send you the extended handout you requested!

Tilting at windmills

Periodically a journalist comes out with an interview or story about the romance industry or about a specific author, and within about 20 minutes of the story hitting the internet, a busload of romance authors gets bent out of shape about it.

The latest case involves a Jacksonville, Florida paper whose journalist, Diana Middleton, talked to several published RWA chapter members to get the skinny on publishing in today’s romance industry.

Middleton wrote a solid story that reflects an interesting shift: from assuming that romances are mindless to understanding that they can’t really be slotted into any easy categories. She interviewed several authors from the First Coast RWA chapter, and includes lots of quotes from them. Her article talks about the various subgenres cropping up, and then says things like:

But the widening selection means romances are shaking their bodice-ripper labels and are now falling comfortably into the loose category of mainstream women’s literature.

and offers up some stats:

While romances are the pounding heart of the paperback industry, romance publishers are pumping sales by flooding the marketplace with new titles and new genres. And the romance genre’s sales are steaming: Torstar, the parent company for Harlequin Enterprises, the genre’s largest publisher, saw second-quarter revenue increase $6.7 million, with its book publishing division seeing positive growth. Net income for the company shot up 17.6 percent for the second quarter, as well.

But what writers seem to be up in arms about is the use of the word “formula” or “formulaic.” Those are four-letter words when journalists use them, but here’s an interesting tidbit: What’s the first piece of advice a new RWA member gets when she starts writing? “Read several books in your genre or category so you’ll know what the editors are buying and how the stories constructed.” In fact, when I started trying to write Intimate Moments books, I read about 10 of the things and dissected them so I’d know how they worked.

So we can readily talk about the storytelling patterns in our books, but journalists aren’t allowed to call those patterns “formulas”?

Writers apparently have gotten bent out of shape over all kinds of things in this article, and I’m just not seeing why. The article is balanced, interesting, relies on published author input, and isn’t snarky.

What more do we want?

The sound of silence

The quote that came up for me today in my Franklin-Covey was:

Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.

and I have to agree.

I’ve recently been thinking and practicing silence when engaged in one-on-one conversations, and it’s pretty eye-opening. When I’m silent — when I’m not thinking about what I’ll say in response to whatever someone else is saying — I can hear better. The practice has been teaching me that when I’m in conversation and chatting away, I’m not truly listening. I’m not truly engaged with the other person. Instead, my busy brain is all about me, and the person sitting in front of me could, on some level, be anyone who might spark a response in my head.

I had the experience recently of sitting at lunch with a dear friend and really listening to her. I stayed “present” with her, so that my brain wasn’t off thinking about something else while she was talking. She’d finish saying something and only then would I think about it, then come up with a question about what she was saying. She’d talk more about what I asked. The silences between our words gave us both time to ruminate.

I walked away from that conversation feeling as though I’d finally learned what it was to communicate. To truly hear. Not to try to anticipate, not to try to show how insightful I was (which is a great character defect of mine), not to justify my existence by participating as a Speaker With Something To Say. It was the active listening that gave me a wonderful peace around the conversation, and I felt great affection for my friend.

Active listening is also restful. Because my brain isn’t scrambling to show off, I can remain in a passive posture — and not expend energy creating my self during the conversation.

The trick now is to continue practicing this art in all my conversations….


Last week, the dSO and I closed on our new home. I was a little sad to leave the boat, but as he pointed out to me, our new house sits on an island, so it’s kind of like living on a really big boat.

The actual closing and furniture-getting and moving in went quite smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that I wondered what kind of shoe was about to drop…. My best bet was Hurricane Dean, until he started churning on a more southerly course. Then on Saturday we discovered the surround sound system that had served us so faithfully for the past 7 years didn’t survive the trip from the boat to shore, and we spent Saturday afternoon (and more money than I care to think about) on a new system.

We’re concentrating now on getting the house put to rights. The yard isn’t very large, but it is extensively landscaped. Fortunately, the lovely previous owners used primarily native plants, and I won’t have the kind of maintenance that drives folks nuts in the summertime when the rains fail. (Not that they’ve failed us this year.) My main challenge is going to be coaxing birds to the bird feeder….

In the past I had trouble writing while listening to music, but since I’ve been listening to music at work (mainly to avoid hearing my coworkers in the next cube do their customer support thing), I’ve discovered it easier than it used to be.

So here’s the “soundtrack” for Without A Trace:

  • Shake Ya Boogie, Mocean Worker
  • Caramel, Suzanne Vega
  • The Dark End of the Street, The Commitments soundtrack
  • Rock the Casbah, The Clash
  • Tickle It, Mocean Worker
  • What I Like About You, The Romantics
  • Sugar Water, Cibo Matto
  • Forever May Not Be Long Enough, Live
  • Reykavik, Mocean Worker

Yes, there’s a lot of Mocean Worker in here, but I discovered him recently and his stuff is just too cool to ignore…

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