Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Conventions I'd Love To Attend

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Juliana at Vegas.com, and we had an interesting chat about book conventions and what sorts of items top the list for a writer heading out to such a huge event. In years past, I've attended several amazing and well-organized writing events, both on my own as part of a small local organization of writers, so I can definitely give some feedback into what to bring to an author convention ... except ... well, I've never actually been to an author convention, specifically. Signing events are a bit different - they lack the same level of learning experience offered by the chance to attend (or participate in) speaking panels, as well as the pomp and circumstance of awards ceremonies and things like that.

But a girl can dream, right? So without further ado (and in no particular order):



 01. Penned Con
This convention is hosted annually in St. Louis, MS, and from what I hear, it's utterly amazing. The convention offers a variety of learning experiences, tons of chances to get up close and personal with the authors you love, an awards show, a two day book signing event, panels, workshops, and even a huge party! And to top it all off, the convention is deeply focused on giving back to the community and helping those in need with their connection to Action for Autism. 2017's event just passed, but 2018 is underway for the minds behind Penned Con, and tickets to the 2018 event are already being advertised here!

When I first heard about this signing, I literally squealed with glee. There was a masquerade ball. I believe there was some mention of horse-drawn carriages. It was to be held at an unspeakably lovely Inn in Frankenmuth, MI. There would be books and authors and workshops and awards and ... sigh. Just the place for me - I could lose myself among the most bookish of people, spending time learning and having fun with those most like me! Due to certain circumstances, I didn't get to go that year, and I haven't had the chance to go since then, either. But I want to. I want to with all my little heart! Tickets for the 2018 event are already available for this one here, and there will be a Toga Party! What?!

Started as a conference for writers and lovers of Young Adult fiction, this conference has grown over the years and exploded in popularity - at least in my circles. I've got several author pals who have gone multiple times, and I always have to unfollow them a little bit during UtopiaCon season, otherwise it breaks my heart a little every time I'm reminded that there's a major writing conference only a few hours away from where I live every year and I can't go to it. I'm okay with the fact that travel and conferences just aren't part of this chapter of my life right now, and I'm thrilled for my friends who are there experiencing and learning with the pioneers of independent publishing ... but it still stings a little, if I'm honest - especially because it's in Nashville, which is literally just a few hours drive away.

I don't think a romance novelist can make a list of dream conventions without including something from RWA. Despite recent whisperings in the publishing industry about problems within the RWA, their convention is generally agreed to be well-planned, well-executed, and full of incredibly valuable information. I also love that so many of my personal favorite authors are members of RWA, and thus, I could hope that some of them might be in attendance. Another amazing thing is that if you click the link above this paragraph, you can find information about RWA conferences all the way out 'til 2021. How's that for planning ahead? The only thing is, the 2017 event has already passed - but that just means you've got time to plan ahead for a ton of learning in 2018!

This is another one that came onto my radar because I'm connected to people who have gone to it or are involved with throwing it (similar to Penned Con and Once Upon A Book), and have heard about a million firsthand stories that illustrated the awesomeness of the event while shattering my left-out little heart into jagged little pieces of sadness. This year's InD'Scribe event literally just passed (only a few days ago), with the talented Marie Force teamed up with Brenda Novak to act as keynote speakers at the event. Unfortunately, as the event literally passed, I couldn't find information about the 2018 conference, but the link above would take you to more direct information.

The fun thing about this convention, other than the party and signing event and VIP extras, is that as this event moves around the country, its name changes each time. Aptly named LoveNVegas, the 2017 event will be held in Las Vegas, NV, and hosted at the beautiful Planet Hollywood Hotel. They've even created a beautiful itinerary for this year's Love N. Vegas event, to be held October 27th/28th; tickets are still available for this event, and they'll have volunteers at the event who will act as "bookmarks" to hold your place in the longer lines, so that you have time to meet and greet as many authors as possible! Future events from Love N. Books are just as cutely named, with LoveNSalem being held in June 2018, and then LoveNColorado to come in April 2019.

This is another huge event, with the 2018 version spanning three days at the end of May 2018 and including celebrities of all sorts, including Ginger Zee (who I loved on Dancing With the Stars), Gabrielle Union (can't wait to read her memoir), and the beautiful Colleen Hoover (OMG I can't even!). Then you tack on the likes of Stephen King and ... well, politics aside, you can see why I'd want to attend. And even if these particular names weren't enough to get you moving, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of learning sessions to attend. Oh, and it's in New York City - as if it needed that. But you guys, NYC?? Imagine!

This particular event combines all the best things about conferences for me - it's a book signing with group workshops and activities ... on a cruise ship ... out at sea. And as if that wasn't enough, it's usually right around my birthday. For instance, the 2018 Book Splash is coming back into port on February 16 in Port Canaveral and will be debark on the 17th. My birthday. This event is a literal dream vacation for me, and is one of those events for which my heart actually aches. It's one of those things where longing sets in and determination locks up your jaw so hard it hurts. And you whisper to yourself ferociously, "ONE. DAY. I. WILL. GO."

09. BlogHer
I've wanted to go to BlogHer ever since I first learned of it many, many years ago. I've been blogging off and on for a little over ten years now, and when BlogHer became a thing back in 2011, I was chomping at the bit over the idea of being able to hang out with people like me - creative people who loved the written word and had a passion for storytelling, whatever form it takes. And while this isn't a novel-writer's conference, blogging is quite similar (to me) in that it still requires dedication and a strong desire to spend time writing, combined with a need to be heard and a willingness to speak - so I think a blogging conference still qualifies for sure. I also love that this conference has such a focus on empowering women to be themselves and tell their stories in whatever form works best for them - y'all know how much that whole idea means to me especially. Still, I haven't yet been, so here it is, on my wish list to the universe.

Last but certainly not least on this list is the RT Booklovers Convention. This is another one that settles in a different city every year, giving authors (and readers) from around the country a chance to attend without going bankrupt on book shipping. Like most other events on this list, the RT Booklovers Convention 2017 has already passed, but 2018 promises to be an exciting time in Reno, NV, with panels, parties, signings, and more! 


In honor of today's book-con-themed post, today's "Featured Favorite Product" is exactly the kind of lightly lined, beautiful hardback journal you'll want to keep at your side at any convention. It would make a great keepsake, filled with the signatures and information of all your favorite authors and writing industry professionals, and is definitely among my list of must-bring convention items.


Seriously, isn't it gorgeous? That one's called Versailles, but if you click through, this particular seller also has several other cover patterns that are all utterly stunning. Like this celestial one - so pretty! (You can just click either image to purchase - these are both under $15 on Amazon.)


I like that these are great for just regular journaling too, if conventions aren't your thing; and they'd also make a perfect gift for the writer in your life, regardless of your preferred writer's preferred writing style.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links here, remember that if you choose to click product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)
If you could choose one of these conferences to go to, which one do you think sounds like the best fit for you? Are there any others you've been to that you didn't see mentioned here - or that you think should have been mentioned? If you've been to any conferences, what was your favorite thing about them, and what would you say is the number one most important thing to bring (besides books, because duh)?

Take some time to look around while you're here, too; if you find something that really resonates with you, I'd love for you to share a link with your friends! I'd also like to invite you to hang out and follow along with my journey; if you subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, you can rest assured you'll never miss a post! And while the darker content of this blog may not always be easy to read, I truly hope that through the light days breaking up the darkness, we'll learn from and inspire each other.

And if you're a book lover like me, come on over to Patreon for a whole new way to read my novels - WHILE I WRITE THEM! You can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, and your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content, including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life. And if you want a little more, for just $2 a month you'll also get to vote for upcoming content, read my upcoming poetry release as it's written, and have access to weekly L.A.F.F.S. - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, my PhLogs will start going up daily!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but one each month is marked public, and the one from October 2017 is REALLY good.)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Woman Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Storytime Saturday: Downtown

I've posted a bunch of Storytime Saturday posts before, and even a really funny Storytime post that wasn't on Saturday. Most of them were written in my usual conversational blog style - just me, talking to just you, sharing my story and my experience with someone who might relate to where I've been or understand where I hope to be going. But I love writing fiction too, and even though one of my novels is actually available for free and I've shared a little bit of my fiction writing here on the blog, I thought it might be fun to write this storytime post in a fictionalized style.


"Urrrgh!" The car jerked a little as it slid forward, inching up through the coils of the parking garage. I pressed a little harder on the gas, careful to let up from the clutch. I was giving up on second gear; there was no way we'd be going that fast anytime soon anyway, not with the slow old man in front of us driving like he'd never been in a garage before.

"What's wrong, mom?" My teen spoke quietly from the passenger seat beside me. She shifted her eyes to my hands, clenched tightly on the wheel, and the corners of her mouth tightened as she pressed her lips together.

"Nothing, I just hate this car." I loosened my grip on the wheel, reminding myself to keep perspective, and smiled over at my daughter. "It's a decent car, I guess, but I'm out of practice. It's okay, Jo."

In the backseat, her sister chattered mindlessly, an endless outpouring of cheerful but totally unfiltered thoughts about the day to come. We had been planning Trolley Day for weeks, and while both girls had been disappointed at the need to rearrange the day, both had recovered well. There was nothing we could do about the trolley system not running - but we still had a whole day ahead of us, and we were determined to make the best of it.

"So first we're going to the library?" The chatter ended on this question, the word library accented with the higher pitch of hope seeping into Eden's voice as she anticipated the pleasure of losing herself in the stacks.

I rolled my eyes and maneuvered into a parking spot, still frustrated with the car and glad to be out of it. "No, not 'til later, babe," I said. I watched the reflection of her lowered face in the rearview mirror, smiling as she pouted a little in disappointment, my pride in her love of books washing away the last of the annoyance over the car. "We'll go there last - just in case."

Her face came up quickly at that, her eyes finding mine in the mirror, lit with excitement. She smiled faintly; I smiled back, ignoring the twinge of sadness that hit me as I looked into her face. Already self-conscious of her crooked teeth and too-small mouth, she rarely smiled completely, but I loved her face. "Just in case what?" she asked. "In case we get books? But I thought we weren't getting any books because it's a hassle to keep track and that's why we always check them on the kindle so we --"

"Just in case," I said again, smiling wider. If I didn't cut in and stop her she'd talk this over for the rest of the day and we'd never get anywhere. But she was right and I knew it - we would get books despite my vehement denial of this possibility. We all knew it - because I was a mom who couldn't resist a book, proud to raise two book-loving kids.

Beside me, Joey sighed, shaking her head. She knew too. "You guys ready to go?"

"Yep," I answered. "Grab your drinks."

Armed with bottles of flavored carbonated water and a small backpack of grocery store snacks, we left the car and headed out, making our way from the garage. Out in the sun, we looked around, trying to decide on the course of action for the day. I pulled up my trusty GPS. Downtown Knoxville can be crowded at times, and if you were unfamiliar with the area, it wouldn't be that hard to get turned around - but with a glance at the map on my cell phone screen, we were off.

I lingered alone as we walked, hanging just a few steps back, watching my daughters interact together. They traded playful elbow jabs and alternated between bickering and joking together, and I marveled at the way the five year age difference between them had begun slowly growing less and less obvious as Josephine's growth slowed down and Eden's began - finally - to catch up. They reached the end of the street and I called out to stop them, holding them back with the sound of my voice, thankful that my voice was enough to command them. They waited the few beats it took for me to catch up, two girls looking up to the sun-filled sky, bottled waters held carefully close, and then, reunited, we stood together on the corner of the intersection, waiting to cross.

It was Eden's first time crossing the Henley Street Pedestrian Bridge, and as we walked, she looked through the protective barriers, exclaiming over the height of the bridge and the relatively small size of the cars passing below us. I smiled knowingly, waiting until the girls were ready to keep moving. They would both be exclaiming soon.

Within the next fifteen minutes I stood grinning widely, one arm around my oldest daughter's waist, the other arm resting lightly on my youngest daughter's shoulders. And they were exclaiming - at the beauty of our city, the sheer height of our view from inside the Sunsphere, the minuteness of the people walking the streets and sidewalks below. We made our way slowly around the observation deck, admiring and comparing the views - did we like the World's Fair Park side, or the downtown view? Both had their perks, but we chose the park side, with it's wide expanses of bright green and the sparkling fall of the water in the park fountain.

"Is that where we're going, Mom?"

I followed the direction of Joey's arm as she pointed toward the spires of a park in the distance. It stood out from the buildings that surrounded it, painted wood tops colorful against the darker wood of the playground structure. "Fort Kid?" I asked, shaking my head. "Not this time." I took her hand, adjusting her arm so that it pointed toward the playground we were aiming for - the World's Fair Park Playground. "It's just there," I told her, aiming her wrist so that her finger pointed toward a stand of flags.

"Not a playground, mom," she answered, lowering her hand.

Beside me, Eden had spotted the largest splash pad in the city and was all but vibrating with excitement. "We're going to the fountain?"

Laughing, I shook my head, plucking at the fabric of her cotton sundress. "No, we're not dressed for that. But look there. Between the flags and the water. Those trees are blocking the playground, but there's one there."

"Does it have a tire swing?"

Josephine had fallen in love with tire swings recently, and this question from her was no surprise. Shaking my head in amusement, I steered my girls toward the elevator that would take us back to the ground below. "We'll see."

There was a tire swing, and two hours later, the girls and I broke away from the heat of the park to rest on a bench in the shade, snacking on the sweet chocolate-dotted granola bars we had carried along for the day, guzzling the rest of our waters.

"Do we have to go now? To the library?" Eden asked, talking as always with her mouth full. There wasn't much that would stop her from talking - not even a mouth full of granola.

"Chew first," I reminded her, pulling my cell phone from my pocket. I tapped the screen to wake the device, checked the clock, and sighed. The heat of the day had been wearing on me already, and while it had been a fun afternoon, I was ready for it to wind down. "Yeah," I said. "The library closes in a couple of hours, so if we want time to really look around while we're there, we need to go."

On the way back, we stopped to run our hands through the waters of the fountain pool, rode the elevator back up to the observation deck of the Sunsphere, and chatted about our day as we crossed the pedestrian bridge. But back in the downtown area, we check the map again.

"Which way is the library?" Eden asked. She had been equally as excited about the prospect of books as she had been about playing at the park, and I smiled down at her, proud to have successfully shared my love of books with her.

"It's close, right?" Joey asked, gesturing further down the street. "Like a block or two?"

"I think it's a few blocks over, actually," I answered, studying the map. "Yeah, but we're close though."

Walking into the children's section at the Lawson MgGhee branch of the Knox County Public Library was like leading a child into wonderland. Eden dropped my hand as soon as she'd entered the doors, anxious to scour the shelves for her next new read. Josephine headed for the computers, her mind already suggesting and discarding possible titles and authors to search for. And I? Well, I was in the world of printed pages, surrounded by the smell of aged paper, comforted by the heavy silence of the books and the quiet whispers of my children.

This photo was originally shared to Patreon here.

Two hours later, we left the library, weighted down with books, our hearts light and our minds already racing in preparation of the adventures we had checked out. Joey and I exchanged amused glances as we juggled books around the still-chattering Eden. It was over, and we were all ready - but it had been a great family day, downtown.


In honor of today's story, today's "Featured Favorite Product" is ... well, me. Some of you know that I recently had the opportunity to update the covers on two of my books, and I'm so excited to share them again here because I'm in love with how gorgeous they are! I mean, not that I didn't like my covers before, but wow. These are gorgeous, aren't they??

 click to purchase      click to purchase

The Selkie Trilogy is a series of sequential romantic fantasy novels. Each book in this series follows the last, with each new book continuing the story. These books are best enjoyed in order of publication, and this series contains mild/moderate sexual content. More information about this series and the books in it can be found here - or if you're one of those people who sees a gorgeous cover and just can't resist the one-click, then you can find Selkie here, and Selkie II here. There's sex, love, adventure, fighting, death, birth ... well, let's just assume you'll love it, shall we? Because you will. Because it's awesome.
What did you think of today's post? Did you like the short story format? Have you ever visited my city before, and if so, what was your favorite part of the visit? And what do you think of my new book covers? Are you as in love as I am? And if you've read the Selkie books, how do you feel about how these covers fit the story?

Make sure you take the time to look around while you're here; if you find something that really resonates with you, I'd love for you to share a link with your friends! While you're here, I'd like to invite you to hang out and follow along with my journey; if you subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, you can rest assured you'll never miss a post! And while the darker content of this blog may not always be easy to read, I truly hope that through the light days breaking up the darkness, we'll learn from and inspire each other.

If you liked this bit of fiction, come on over to Patreon for more - you can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, and your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content, including photos (like the one I shared in the post) and mini-blogs (that expand on the photos) from my personal life. You'll also get advance peeks at my fiction writing, which is a pretty slick deal for just over $.03 a day. But if you want a little more, for just $2 a month you'll also get to vote for upcoming content, read my upcoming poetry release as it's written, and have access to weekly L.A.F.F.S. - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, my PhLogs will start going up daily!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but one each month is marked public - there's even a little tribute to my favorite "person!")

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Woman Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.