Thursday, July 31, 2008
Hi, readers, just so you won't stumble in shoe ignorance forever, let me tell you who's wearing what shoes in the photos from Annabelle's Bistro.
Scroll down to the bottom of Wednesday's blog. In the top photo, Bandita Kim, aka KJ Howe, is wearing red patent leathers with an ankle strap. Tres chic!
Next, we have Tawny Weber wearing beautiful red strappy shoes. These actually look quite comfortable!
And finally, there's Vrai Anna Sugden in a gorgeous pair of black and white wedged shoes with a peep-toe and a running-stitch ribbon around the edges. Rumor has it that VA chose the shoes to match the restaurant's tile flooring, but we couldn't confirm that. However, Vrai wore a lovely hot pink polkadot pair of shoes to the Bandita Bash Wednesday night.
Everyone looked beautiful in her shoes, but by the end of the day, I envied those conference attendees who'd worn sensible and sturdy tennis shoes. My blisters have blisters on them!
By Kirsten "I'm tired already!" Scott
Day Two of the Conference and I'm already pooped! Too many parties, too little time, right my little chook? Er...chook? Chook? WHERE IS THAT DAMN ROOSTER NOW?! What? Jeanne has him? And Cassondra? At the same time?
Well, you'll have to see if you can find him, ladies. I think he's somewhere in San Francisco. Let me know if you spot him, okay?
Here's Banditas Donna and Beth signing at the Readers for Life Literacy Event, and Joan welcoming all the readers to come visit our signing Banditas!
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Reporting to you LIVE from the Twenty-eighth National Conference of Romance Writers of America in San Francisco.
Word on the streets is that the women are beautiful and the men . . . well, largely the men are absent. This is pretty much Estrogen City this week, aka the City by the Bay.
The city of little cable cars that climb halfway to the stars.
The city that features Alcatraz and Lombard Street.
Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39.
The city where you just might leave your heart.
And you know what? In all those movies set in New York where working girls wear tennis shoes with their designer suits and dresses, then change into their designer shoes when they get to work?
Not so much in The City. People are still crazy enough to drive their cars in San Francisco, one of the cities with the highest insurance rates in the nation. And tourists wear shorts or jeans, sweat shirts and, you got it, some kind of walking shoes.
In fact, I’m not even sure people actually WORK in San Francisco.
Maybe they just buy beautiful shoes and ship them to New York.
Tonight the Banditas gathered at Annabelle's, a charming bistro across from the hotel and later assembled in the baaaarrrr for their first annual mee . . . uh, part . . . uh, oh hell, let’s call a spade a spade.
The First Annual Wild Bash of Girly Girls and Kick-Ass Shoes.
Our Aussie, English, and Canadian Banditas are here, weathering distance and airline food -- or the lack thereof -- to join our congregation. We have our Southern Banditas, our native Californians, and our Midwesterners. But the thing we all have in common (besides a whoop-ass attitude and a love of reading and writing romance) is . . .
Drum roll please . . .
Okay, some of the smarter Banditas wore tennies to negotiate the streets of San Fran, but others wore something like the ones below and to the right.These shoes are a few of my favorites. Now, I don't actually OWN any of these shoes; the Manola Blahnik eyelet shoes and the Mary Jane double straps below are darling, aren't they? The Naughty Monkeys -- the pink and gray plaid -- are fairly inexpensive, but the Manola Blahniks are pricey.
As you know, it’s all about the shoes. Just ask Vrai Anna and Tawny! If we can’t wear them ourselves, we gawk at them and admire them on the beautiful feet of the stylish women who can wear them.
No outfit is complete without the proper pair of shoes, including jeans and walking shorts, dresses and suits.
And for that reason we’ve posted what three Banditas are wearing tonight on their feet tonight. Excuse the fuzzy piccies.
Can you match each correct Bandita with the pair of shoes she’s wearing?
Meanwhile, we’re kicking back, taking in a little wine, seeing the beautiful sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge, and
enjoying our gal pals and their kick-ass shoes!
So, do you have a favorite shoe experience? That perfect pair with the five-inch heels that killed your feet but were so worth it? Your wedding shoes that wore a blister on your heel? The most comfortable pair of shoes that you cried over when they finally fell apart? Tell us all!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The winner of Karen Kendall's Take Me If You Can is Natalie Hatch. Natalie, please email Karen via her website: Karen AT KarenKendall DOT com.
The winner of Patricia Rice's Mystic Guardian is Buffie! Buffie, please mail Pat through her website, readers2 AT patriciarice DOT com.
They're both at RWA and may or may not have computer access, so don't worry if you don't hear back right away.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by, both for your comments and for your patience. Have a great week, everyone!
Okay, Bandita Buddies. This is it. The Big Ticket. Our Annual Event.
The Banditas have left the Lair.
For the next five days, if you're looking for us, you'll find us at the Romance Writers of America's Annual Conference in San Francisco. We'll be stalking agents & editors, hanging out with old friends at the bar, attending workshops, hanging out with new friends at the bar, stalking our favorite authors, hanging out with total strangers at the bar...
You get the idea. :-)
Hope we see some of you there! But if San Fran wasn't in your budget this year, keep visiting us here in the Lair this week. The Romance Bandits have your back. We have cameras & internet access, so check this page over the next couple of days for breaking news, interesting tidbits, the latest gossip & possibly some of the coolest shoes ever. (That'll make sense in a couple days, promise.)
And stay tuned also to RWA's website on Saturday night, where the winners of the Golden Heart & RITA awards will be posted in real time. Anna Campbell is a double RITA finalist, Susan Seyfarth is a double Golden Heart finalist & Kim Howe is a Golden Heart finalist. Our own Louisa Cornell has a horse in the Golden Heart race as well, so keep an eye on this site: www.rwanational.org
See you all when we get back!
Monday, July 28, 2008
The Bandits are going on vacation. Yep we're taking time off from the blog this week.
Wednesday is the official start to the Romance Writers of America's national conference in San Francisco. Yippee!! As you know 19 of the 20 Romance Bandits will be in attendance at the conference. Yippee!! 6 of our published Bandits will be signing their books at the mega-author book signing Wednesday night. Yippee!!
While this is exciting for us and whichever of our readers make the trek to San Francisco, it leaves a bit of a hole in the blog schedule. Some of us flew to SF early to do some sight seeing before the conference starts. In fact, when y'all read this I'll be touring Sonoma Valley wineries with some friends from Texas. (Hopefully the limo driver will know the way back to the hotel!) So be patient with us. We Bandits love all our readers and will be missing our time with you here in the lair.
While we're out connecting with our Bandita sisters, researching ideas for our books, attending inspiring seminars, and partying like crazy, please know that we've left Christie Kelley in charge of the Lair. She will be making the cabana boys do their exercise routine like a drill sergeant. Sven will be practicing his massages, (on her, I'm sure). And the gladiators, (except Demetrius who is traveling as Joanie's personal body guard), will be polishing their gear in preparation for our return to the Lair! (Must remember to buy body oil for the boys while in SF!)
We have a few planned blogs ready to post. And if we get time with a computer, we'll try to pop on to flash y'all some pics of our adventures. (San Francisco may never be the same after a Bandit raid!)
So while we've got the "Gone Fishing" sign up on the lair door, be sure to check out the blog. You never know what or WHO might pop up!
Sunday, July 27, 2008
I'll say it right up front: I don't read to improve my mind.
Reading does improve my mind, of course, but it's just a fringe benefit. I read to be entertained. I read to be taken away. I read to get sucked in, carried along, then spat out, exhausted but satisfied. I read to see characters I love grow, change & earn their happy endings.
I read because sometimes characters become so real to me that I keep thinking about them well after The End. I hear their voices in my head, the particular cadence of their speech. They turn up in my dreams.
If I find an author who can give me those kinds of characters plus the happy ending I love so much, I'm a fan for life. I'll gorge on their backlist then gnash my teeth, mutter bad-tempered things about slow writers & wait for a new book to come out.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself crushing on Dennis Lehane.
The characters are everything I could want but Dennis Lehane isn't exactly Mr. Happy Ending.
Remember Mystic River? It came out as a movie several years ago--Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon? Three kids in Boston who used to be friends until one of them got snatched off the street by child molesters? That was Dennis Lehane.
Remember Gone, Baby, Gone? Another book-turned-movie. Came out last year, Ben Affleck's directorial debut, earned his little brother Casey a Best Actor nomination? The one about a little girl's kidnapping & the PIs who investigate? Also Dennis Lehane.
I enjoyed the movies. But I wasn't hooked. Not until my husband brought home Shutter Island from the library. Shutter Island starts out like a traditional dectective novel. A U. S. Marshall is called to a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from a hospital for the criminally insane. And you roll through 2/3s of the book totally buying it.
And then the final third unspools & you think, "Wait. I didn't sign up for this. I was supposed to get a detective novel. Good guys taking it on the chin, then rising up in triumph. I didn't sign up for...for...for THIS."
Because what you get is totally different from what you're led to expect. And it's a mark of Lehane's immense talent that when it's all said & done, you're satisfied. You think, "Okay, not what I was hoping for, but it was the only way. I see that now. If I had been paying attention, I'd have seen it sooner."
I'm being purposefully vague because I don't want to unload any spoilers on you. I'll only say this: The book jacket actually says "Nothing is what it seems." But do you believe it? Of course not. Lehane takes you by the hand & says, "Pay no attention to that. We're going this way." And you go. He's that good.
After I finished the book, though I realized what really impressed me about it. As a writer, I know how hard it is to keep several balls in the air. Try writing a sex scene or a fight scene sometime--it's like being schizophrenic. You have to keep track of the physical action, the emotional consequences of that action, & then keep moving the plot forward at the same time. It's one scene--five to ten pages--and it's exhausting.
Then I thought about Lehane writing an entire novel in which he knows the reader is going to think one thing is happening while meanwhile an entirely different reality is spinning out before our eyes. But we don't see behind the curtain until close to the end of the book. So he had to write an entire novel in which every single scene had to work on two levels--the surface level he'd encouraged us as readers to buy, then the ultimate reality which he as a writer had to make inevitable so that we'd get to the end of the book & think, "Of course. I should have known. I should have seen it sooner." But that's the trick. We did see it sooner. We saw everything. He laid it right out there. We just didn't get it.
So here I am, the most devoted hearts-and-flowers romance reader you're ever going to find, nursing a killer crush on a guy who takes me to some of the darkest, sickest corners the human psyche has to offer. And why? Because he's a damn good writer. Too good to resist.
Just try him. If you don't like him, that's okay. He's not the most comfortable of reads. But if you do like him, you're going to track me down me in San Fran next week to shake my hand. Either that or to punch me in the nose for getting you hooked on the literary version of crack cocaine.
Start with Shutter Island. They're making a movie of it as we speak (Scorcese!) so there's no time to waste.
So tell me--have you ever found yourself in love with something--a book, a food, a TV show, a person--that completely surprised you & everybody who knows you? Have you ever had a crush that was wildly out of character? When was the last time your heart surprised you?
Saturday, July 26, 2008
These last few days, as the lair buzzes with travel preparations and conference plans, I've started to feel kind of journey proud, as my mom would have put it. That was the phrase she used for excitement over a trip. As y'all know, the Romance Bandits are preparing to descend on San Francisco (an apt phrase in this case since so many of us are flying in), and I'm getting excited about seeing everyone and meeting so many of our online buddies. Oh, yeah--other RWA buddies will be there, too. The RWA conference is always a fun time to see friends and make new acquaintances as well as developing professional contacts.
I just returned from the mall, which was not the nightmare experience it sometimes is. I actually found things that both fit and looked pretty good, things I can no longer depend on happening. Fashions keep getting younger while I, well, don't. As the saying goes, though, not getting younger beats the alternative.
Some trips require a lot of wardrobe planning and packing while others require almost none. For DragonCon, over Labor Day weekend, I'll pack spare jeans in case of a spill, a selection of appropriately adorned t-shirts, the usual unmentionables and vanity "products," and no extra shoes. That's it. Fits in one carry-on bag. Everyone there "just want[s] to have fun," as Cyndi Lauper noted on a different occasion. Everyone just hangs, and almost no one notices what anyone's wearing. Well, except for the people in costume.
Professional gatherings are different, to varying degrees. For RWA, we need business clothes, sightseeing clothes, dressy clothes, and appropriate accoutrements such as shoes, jewelry, makeup, and so forth. (I'm sure some of you are better at creative ideas for "and so forth" than I am, so I'm leaving you room here. *g*) While networking can occur in the pool (note: add swimsuit), the health club (note: add sneakers and workout gear), or the bar, it most often happens in restaurants, workshops and appointments. Since presenting a professional appearance is important, we have dress appropriately. Is wearing a nice suit going to sell my book? No. Is looking like a slob going to prevent it from selling? Probably not, but it's not going to make me an appealing person to strike up a conversation with.
Since I wasn't born with the accessorizing gene--and oh, how I envy those of you who were--I have to make a list. Just as an aside, watch out for confusing navy and black when you pack. I once did, and only the intervention of a friend with the accessorizing gene saved me from a major panic attack. I recommend bright light, preferably sunlight, for the packing stint.
Then, of course, there's the matter of book-shipping. Between the book sale, the literacy autographing, and the lunchtime giveaways, I always end up with way more books than will fit in my suitcase. I've started shipping them home. Especially with airlines dropping their weight allowances, I'd rather pay to send them along than hassle with carrying them. I sometimes pack a jetpack and strapping tape for this purpose, but only if there's a post office near the hotel. This time, there doesn't seem to be, but you can check at the Post Office website.
Despite all these concerns, I'm excited. I always am. The conference is so laden with possibility. While that can be anxiety-inducing, it also offers the chance to act on our dreams, and what's greater than that?
Once upon a time, many years ago, my parents scrimped and saved to send their Anglophile daughter to Oxford on a summer study program. I got to travel roads I'd dreamed about and see castles and armor and the Crown Jewels and all kinds of cool stuff. It was a dream come true.
Dreams can come true without travel, of course. But there's a reason someone coined the phrase, "journey of a lifetime."
What's your favorite travel experience? Did you take a trip that was a dream come true, or just very special for some other reason? Or did you have one that was a nightmare?
Friday, July 25, 2008
You've heard their advice.
Step out of your comfort zone! Mingle!
Make a new friend at lunch every day!
Smile! Look approachable!
Everybody has an area of expertise! Give a workshop!
Are they kidding?
Have you ever noticed that the people who offer advice to us shy types are often jolly, talkative, outgoing extroverts who have absolutely no clue what HELL we introverts go through at times like this?
I mean, seriously! Mingle? Smile? Don’t they get it? If I smile at someone, that person might actually talk to me! Then what’ll I do? Answer them? Talk? I don’t think so! Spill my guts? It’s not going to happen! I’ll hem and haw and splutter and make a fool of myself – as usual! I might drool. I’m better off hiding in my room. Hey, people will bring me food and alcohol. It’s called room service. You should try it!
I’ve really got to mingle?
Okay, so how does a painfully shy person manage to enjoy a huge writers conference, meet new friends, mingle, impress industry professionals, and come home refreshed, revitalized and ready once again to take on the New York publishing industry?
Well, it helps to have friends in the Lair! Be sure to look for any of the Banditas wherever you go (your chances of spotting us are much higher if you’re in the bar). But what if you truly don’t know anyone?
Well, I’m here to help! I’ve come up with a few helpful hints and I call them…
The Three—no, Four—wait, Five!—Habits of Highly Effective Shy People. Catchy, don’t you think? I should’ve come up with seven but I’m really shy, so give me a break.
1. “You have a pretty smile.” Really? I thought you were kidding about the whole smiling thing. I should smile more often? Yes, you should. People actually respond and appreciate someone who smiles at them. Editors will see your smile and like you. They'll look at your badge and remember your name and buy your book. This is a habit you could get used to, so try it.
2. “Can I bring you a shot of gin?” Be generous. Offer advice. Lend someone a pen. Show someone where the goodie room is. Better yet, show them where the bathroom is. It’s good karma, and people remember you later. Especially agents. Statistics prove that writers who show an agent where the bathroom is end up signing with that agent and selling more books than anyone else.
3. “Fake it ‘til you make it.” It’s lunch time and you’ve got to face those thundering hordes in that huge conference hall. It’s enough to drive a shy person right back up to her room where she can relax and watch Oprah. But NO! You must persevere! Here’s what you do. Look around for a familiar face. Not really, because you have no friends. You don’t know anybody. But you’re faking it, remember? So look around for someone. Darn it, you think. Where did that person, that fake friend of mine, go? Now find a table with an empty chair and an appealing vibe, glance around the room once more, then shake your head and say to whoever’s sitting nearest, “I can’t seem to find my critique partner. Is this seat taken?” Then sit down and say hello. Voila! You start the meal and the conversation on an even keel, with them knowing you’ve got friends--whether it's true or not! They don’t feel sorry for you, and you don’t feel sorry for yourself. Everybody’s ready to chat and have a nice meal. Uh, pass the congealed salad dressing, please?
4. “Hi, my name is Marla, and I’m sorry.” Okay, stop it. Don’t apologize. Shy people often feel like they’re intruding or imposing, but it’s not imposing to say hello and show an interest in someone else. It’s friendly! Try it! Without apologizing. Unless you step on their foot. That’s really awkward. You should apologize and try not to do that again.
5. “What are you writing?” Even shy people like to talk about themselves and if someone asks them this question, they’ll jump right in. So ask a question. Then listen to the answer. It’s the best way to keep the conversation going and possibly make a new friend. Hopefully that friend is a multi-published author who’ll introduce you to their agent who will quickly sign you up and sell your books for lots of money!
Good luck, shy people!
Okay, your turn! You don’t have to be going to conference to share today. Are you an introvert? Are you shy? Do you have any hints to share with the rest of us? Any tips to get us out there and mingling?
And you extraverts out there! I know you’re dying to give some networking advice! Please share your best experiences with us!
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I wasn’t born in San Francisco, but have made it my home for the past decade so here are a few suggestions regarding what to see while you're in town.
Getting out and about: What makes San Francisco so unique is its proximity to breathtaking natural settings. If you get a chance, slot in an excursion to Muir Woods, the redwoods really are astonishing. Or head just across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands for a quick, easy hike and tour of WWII bunkers. Alcatraz is also definitely worth the trip (take the audio tour, it’s great), and offers unparalleled views of the Golden Gate Bridge. But be forewarned, you usually need to book a spot on the ferry a few days in advance.
Closer at hand, one of my favorite spots in the city is Crissy Field. Great views of the bridge from here, too, and there’s an easy walk along the shore where you can watch kite-surfers jetting across the Bay. (Also, there’s a hot dog vendor in front of the warming hut that sells organic all-beef hot dogs: delicious, and a far cry from your average sausage). If you keep following the road around the warming hut, it ends at Fort Point, where in Vertigo Kim Novak jumped into the frigid waters. Sticking to the Hitchcock theme, take a cable car up Mason Street from Union Square. At the top of the hill you can visit Grace Cathedral, our miniature version of Notre Dame. And at the intersection of Mason and California is The Brocklebank, a historic building featured in both Vertigo and Bullitt (any other Steve McQueen fans out there?)
San Francisco Landmarks you won’t find in any travel guide: Keep your eyes peeled for “The Twins,” elderly twin sisters who dress in matching hats, dresses, and wigs, frequently spotted strolling arm-in-arm around Huntington Park (across the street from Grace Cathedral—also a great place to see Chinatown locals practicing Tai Chi in the morning).
If you’re in the mood for a more serious walk, head to Coit Tower. Interesting art exhibits inside, and great views of the city. Afterwards, walk down the east stairway (on the Bay Bridge side). Halfway down, keep your eyes peeled for the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill, a flock of birds that have escaped their owners (there’s wonderful documentary and book about the birds available).
My Favorite Restaurants: I love all the restaurants in the Ferry Building, which range from cheap eats to more highbrow fare (there’s a fantastic independent bookstore here too, Book Passage). Try Mijita for the best fish taco you’ve ever had in your life, or the Slanted Door for upscale Vietnamese. Lulu Petite sells delicious sandwiches, and Taylor’s Refreshers has milkshakes and burgers. Or grab fixings from the Farmer’s Market and stroll along the Embarcadero to picnic at the base of the Cupid’s Span (Embarcadero and Folsom Street—tough to miss, it’s a sixty-foot tall bow and arrow. What could be more perfect for romance fans?) Houston’s along the Embarcadero has fantastic ribs and a cute outdoor patio in back. And granted it’s touristy, but no stay here is complete without eating chowder from a sourdough bread bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf.
North Beach is the place to go for Italian. My personal favorite is Da Flora, a bit pricey but very romantic with its muted lighting and fabulous food. A cheaper option is Steps of Rome, the food is decent but the real treat tends to be the handsome Italian men packing the place. If you’re in the neighborhood, grab a drink at Vesuvio, an old beatnik hangout, and check out Jack Kerouac Alley which runs along the side of the bar and features an amazing mural.
For French food, try local favorite Café Bastille. This restaurant is located on a cobblestoned alley with a slew of other wonderful restaurants, and they close off the street on Bastille Day for a major fete every year.
Best fish restaurant (and one of the oldest eateries in the city to boot) is Tadich Grill. They don’t accept reservations, so there might be a bit of a wait, but the food and atmosphere is worth it.
Best breakfast: line up at Sears Fine Foods (Powell Street and Post) for a terrific and reasonably priced breakfast. Order the Swedish pancakes, you won’t be disappointed.
I’m more of a foodie than a shopper (in case that wasn’t already apparent) but the best department stores are all located around Union Square. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, right behind City Hall is Hayes Valley, where there are a number of boutiques stocking local designers (most of them are located on Hayes Street itself). Union Street (oddly enough, not located anywhere near Union Square) also has high-end boutiques, but you’ll need to cab there (this would partner well with a Crissy Field excursion!)
Safety: Not the most fun topic to close with, but it bears some discussion. As Candice said, the streets of San Francisco are filled with characters, homeless and otherwise. And there’s generally safety in numbers. That being said, 6th Street is to be avoided at night at all costs. Just a few blocks from the hotel, it’s one of the most dangerous spots in the city (as is Market Street for a block before and after it). Then, when 6th Street crosses Market, you’re entering The Tenderloin, so named because in the past cops who worked that beat received a higher salary, enabling them to bring home a better cut of meat in exchange for putting their lives at risk. And not much has changed. The safest bet at night is to stay fairly close to the area around Union Square, or stick to the streets between the hotel and the Ferry Building. And I recommend taking cabs after dark if you’re going more than a few blocks.
I think that’s everything, but if you have any other questions fire away! I’ll draw from the pool of comments, and the winner will receive a signed edition of my first thriller THE TUNNELS. If you don’t win, console yourself by signing up for my newsletter at www.michellegagnon.com and I’ll toss your name in the hat for an Amazon Kindle, iPod Shuffle, Starbucks gift certificates, and other fabulous prizes.
Looking forward to seeing you all next week!
Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, bartender, dog walker, model, personal trainer, and Russian supper club performer. Her debut thriller The Tunnels was an IMBA bestseller. Her next book, Boneyard, depicts a cat and mouse game between dueling serial killers. In her spare time she loves to eat out.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
by Donna MacMeans
Can you feel the anticipation?
Next week the Romance Writers of America's annual convention will end with the announcement of the Grand Poobah of romance writing contests - The Golden Heart and RITA awards ceremony. Now we banditas have representatives in both divisions - Anna Campbell - a double RITA finalist - and Susan Seyforth and KJ Howe, along with Bandita Buddy Louisa Cornell, in the Golden Heart division. So let me offer a toast to their success. We'll be cheering loudly in the audience in our spandex and spangles.
As you tell from the sidebar, we banditas are familiar with writing contests. As I've been talking this week on another loop about contests, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about contest judges.
5. Most judges really try to say something positive about the entries they judge - but it often gets overlooked as we obsess on the negative. I suppose that's human nature.
As is complaining about rotten judges.
So in the spirit of "human nature" I'd like you to share a bad experience with a contest, just to get it off your chest. For me - I had a judge chastise my hero because "a business executive would never say those things." Not sure what planet she was on, but as I was a business executive at the time - I'm pretty sure my dialogue was realistic.
So how about you? I'll give a copy of my Golden Heart winner - The Education of Mrs. Brimley to someone who doesn't already have it (I've given away so many!) So if you'd like to be considered for an autographed copy, just mention it in your comment.