Which is why I'm only now posting about it in August! Ha! July is the dead zone month for me creatively, because my job . . . the one with benefits that allow me to go to the doctor and maybe survive once I retire (if that is still even an option by the time I reach that point) got insane. I worked a total of 207 hours in July (not counting the editing job I do for Red Rose and etc). Technically, I am only supposed to work 175 hours/month. I had no space in my head for anything creative. At all. I'd try to write and it just looked so foreign and AWFUL. It was not a good look. Even my bosses were like "get some rest."
But did I do that? No. Instead I call myself going out of town EVERY OTHER WEEKEND. What is this foolishness? Granted, the first weekend of July was the 4th, and I went home to South Jersey to the fam--Dad and Cousins I haven't seen in almost two years. I figured it was about time. I also had the opportunity to meet Eve Vaughn, erotica writer extraordinaire. Keep in mind, I've been fangirling her for several minutes, until another member of TST told me she loved my writing.
Right, so obviously, I was like, "we must meet" and we did. And we talked . . . actually not about writing! Which is fantastic, because when you don't talk about writing, you talk about things that make you a writer or give you inspiration/material for writing in far more organic and salient ways, to me, anyway. I learned so much about her, and she me, and we met for much longer than I thought. She's good people, Eve Vaughn, and all of you need to check out her books. And speaking of, we went to Borders, and her book was on the shelf! So of course, I bought it, even though I already had a book with me I wanted her to sign. I want that to be me one day, just browsing through the shelves and see a book with my name on it . . . yes. And then she had the nerve to say (as she signing her books for me, no less) she can't wait until I'm a bestselling author.
Um, whose book was just bought at a bookstore? Certainly not mine! lol
But the bigger thing is that even though she's definitely ahead in the game, she has nothing but well wishes for ME. I'm still learning how to get used to that, all of these established SUCCESSFUL authors who are expecting great things from me. I've not really ever had that in terms of something that's REALLY important to me. Academically, yes, that went without saying. But this writing thing, something that I haven't started sharing with the world with my name until about four years ago . . . I realize I am an infant in this business. I really am, but people are so excited for me.
It's humbling. Mentors rule.
So, two weeks later, the week that I worked 50 hours for my benefits job, I went directly from the work to NYC for the Harlem Book Fair. It was really a last-minute decision, because I was EXHAUSTED, but I need to network. That is something that needs definite improvement in my skillset, I feel, so I went.
Glad I did. I really only sat through two panels: the one on African-American Publishing and the one on Black Romance and Street Fiction. That last one was the main reason I went to NYC, and I wasn't disappointed. Although the Publishing panel was more geared to nonfiction/self-help publishing, it highlighted the importance of African-American booksellers, word-of-mouth, and creative ways to gain access to the resources the major mainstream/white publishers have in comparison. As an African-American author who writes primarily Interracial romances no less, that was a very worthwhile panel for me, because I know it's going to be harder for me to gain access to some of those resources than other types of romance writers. However, the Black Romance panel . . .
I rode on the elevator with Sandra Kitt and didn't figure it out until she sat on the panel.
Clearly I was more exhausted than I thought, because Sandra Kitt . . . she was THE FIRST black romance novelist/interracial romance novelist that I EVER read. Ever. And my slow self didn't catch on it was her, which meant I missed a GREAT opportunity to talk to her. But, she was fantastic on the panel. She broke down the history of black romance, kind of shocked it's only a few years older than I am, and she talked about her way of writing her novels. She, like I, can't just have them falling into the bed after a sentence. She takes the slow-burn approach. And considering she was the first I read, maybe that's why I do, too. But it's hard for me to write sex/intimacy just for the sake of it. Like Ms. Kitt, it has to make sense for the characters and the story, or else why bother?
Also on the panel were Leslie Esdaile (LA Banks), Gwynne Forster, and Nathasha Brooks-Harris; and it was moderated by Donna Hill. Just listening to these ladies speak was so informative and wonderful. I learned so much--I think I was probably the only one there with a notepad and writing notes, like I was Black Romance 101 and I had a quiz in two days! After the panel, I found a huge pair of ovaries somehow and approached them all. Ms. Forster actually remembered me from Chicago, which is notable because the only interaction we had was me asking her to autograph my book of hers! Ms. Brooks-Harris, who sat on the panel with me and Ms. Jenkins, gave me a hug and her contact info! And THEN, in a move that surprised even me, I asked them to sign MY proof copies of The Beauty Within and Reconstructing Jada Channing because I didn't have a book of theirs to sign--to give me inspiration and encouragement when I start to lose focus and faith. They did so willingly, even Ms. Banks, who I'd never met until I asked her to sign my book. They were all so gracious and stayed and signed as many books after the panel as they could. The only reason Ms. Kitt couldn't was because she had a panel directly after the Black Romance and Street Fiction one ended, or else I would've asked her to sign too.
After that, I met an online friend who, which shocked me, said I was the first romance novelist she'd ever read. Wha? MORE shocking was she was the SECOND person to tell me this in as many weeks (the first being my coworker who actually read the proof copy of The Beauty Within before I even did--said she loved it. yay!)! She was patient and let me meet some members from Beverly Jenkins's Yahoo Group and the authors to sign my books. Unfortunately, the long week had caught up to me during the panel because I had a headache the size of Jupiter, so she let me get some drugs from the corner market (the combination of the lack of sleep, eating little that morning, the heat (it was HOT), and meeting everyone . . . she was awesome with her understanding). Then I had to hurry to a manuscript pitch, and she had to go to the ATM because she was buying two copies of AJ's Serendipity for me. Yay!
Of course, I got sidetracked walking through the Fair and talked with an author, Lizette G. Carter, who was with a traditional publisher and self-published her second release and doesn't regret the move. This is further ironic because the manuscript pitch I gave was actually for HBF Publishers, a DIY publishing company established by the same person who started the Harlem Book Fair. I thought it was going to be an editor from a publishing house, but I'm glad because I now have yet another avenue to get my books out there, and it sounds like something that people should keep an eye on in the future. They liked my pitch, and apparently so much so because the reps mention me on their blog!
Too cool! Especially since I know I was among the last to have a pitch with them!
But, of course, to further complicate things, I spoke to Ms. Banks again to thank her for signing my book and briefly about my publishing experience thus far, and she encouraged me to talk to her editor at St. Martin's Press, because traditional publishing is the way to go, in her opinion.
So, two votes self-pub, and two votes traditional pub, because Ms. Banks is VERY successful and clearly it's worked for her fantastically.
I don't know what got to me, people, but I must've been either too tired to let my shyness hinder me or the pain medication I took to get rid of the headache gave me some extra courage. I talked to the editor and gave her my card, and she was lovely with giving me advice and quick To-Do and Not-to-Do pointers for when I submit to editors and agents. Considering the fair was winding down, I was very appreciative of her taking the time out to talk to me!
Finally, I leave and meet up with a friend I hadn't seen since I went natural with my hair (so, over five years ago). He gives me the name of his agent, who SELLS books, and we talk about ways in which to get our names out there (he writes, too, mainly commercial fiction/thrillers). I hope I helped him with my limited expertise, but his connections into the publishing industry are really out of control, so I don't see him having such an issue with getting his work into the right hands, and he has a style and a product that lends itself well to crossover/mainstream publication.
So I make it back from my weekend in NYC (complete with an, essentially, two-hour detour to Philly because I got on the wrong bus! yes . . . 50-hour weeks are clearly no good), and then from then until about last Friday not an original thought crossed my head because I had no space. Couldn't really even be excited that my first contracted story The Coach's Counselor was going to be released at the end of the month because I was THAT out of it. I even thought the stuff I'd already written was utter garbage, which made Aliyah want to reach through her monitor and slap me for speaking, in her opinion, utter nonsense.
Well, I'm better now! I'm writing again, on Trolling Nights especially, which those who have read drafts are loving, especially Tim . . . which I really can't blame them because he is a whole lot of hotness (Maybe I'll be nice and post up a few more chapters here, yeah?). The Beauty Within is formatted and ready to go barring me seeing just ridiculous errors in this (hopefully) final proof. Other authors are doing the dang thing and releasing books so I'm never bored when my own characters are trippin'. And I'm an Author Spotlight on Rae's blog! Check it out!