Two weeks ago, I went to Romancing the Capital in Ottawa. The brainchild of the wonderful Eve Langlais, this was the first romance conference I attended, and the bar is now crazy high for all future events to meet. Milly Taiden said it felt like a wedding, and it really did–catching up with distant friends, making instant connections, and coming together for a joyous celebration. Plus dancing, great food, tons of hugs, and special, meaningful moments…and lots of conversations.
We talked about books we love, and writing we want do it. Publishing we’ve done and plans for the future. Some of those plans changed because of the conversations we had.
On the long drive back to London, my friend Stacie and I started talking about historical romance, and she mentioned the lovely Mia Marlowe. Right now I’m finishing up a newsletter-exclusive novella, Fall Deep, that I built off the bones of my first (almost-but-never finished) romance novel. That story was hopelessly flawed, but the “meet cute” in a bar in Hastings, England was one that I could never lock in a drawer and say goodbye to. Every time I thought of that story, I regretted that I didn’t know enough when I wrote it to fix the problems I ran into.
Craft is king, in so many ways. But the start of that story had an advantage–Mia included it on her blog, for her Red Pencil Thursday critique, and that was my first experience with critting. It was lovely, gentle, honest, and extraordinarily helpful. [Trivia point! Readers of all of my series will recognize the name of the pub, The Green Hedgehog — I use it in my Pine Harbour series, as well — that name came from that blog post, one of the commenters suggested it and I loved it so hard I used it in Pine Harbour, when I thought this book would never see the light of day; but I couldn’t change it once I started revising Piper and Miles’ book, so now it’s an homage.]
That first positive experience led me to seek out different writer communities (I ended up at Romance Divas) and craft workshops (like Before You Hit Send, led by Angela James). And nine months later, I published my first book–a different book, one that had series potential and better conflict, and almost no head-hopping (a year later, when re-reading What Once Was Perfect for a boxed set, I found some slides…gotta love that ebooks just let us snip and fix quietly!).
This is what we do for each other as romance writers–this is the helpful sorority we have, and it’s so special.
I’m going back to Romancing the Capital next year (May 6 and 7, 2016–author tickets already sold out, reader tickets available now!), and it blows my mind to think of where I might be, career-wise, at that point. A lot has happened in the last year, two years, three years.
Today is my one-year anniversary of writing full-time. I’m about to start edits on Pine Harbour #3, Love on a Spring Morning. This is Ryan Howard’s story, and I first had the idea for his series one year ago today, when my life changed a million times for the better…but I also had to step up my game, big time. I was writing Beyond Love and Hate, Wardham #4, and mapping out the character of Finn Howard when I stumbled across his brother. Grumpy, grumpy Ryan Howard. Married, three kids, but the dude wouldn’t leave me alone, because maybe he knew that his life was about to get shitty and he needed a writer friend to get him through it.
It didn’t take me long to realize that Ryan’s book couldn’t be book one in a new series. I’m not going to lie to you guys, it’s really sad. I’ve cried more in writing and revising this story than probably all my other books combined. [And probably in the final version, those sad moments are going to flip by in a few pages and nobody will know that I ached over them for months. Except the people at my local Starbucks–they’ve seen all the tears] So I wrote bits and pieces of his story here and there as it came to me, but I also rounded out the rest of the community of Pine Harbour and met the Minellis and the Fosters. Ryan’s friends, all needing HEAs themselves. Score.
Pine Harbour is one of my shortest series, because the books take me longer to write, but it’s the closest to my heart, because it’s the series that was borne at the same time as my full-time career. Love in a Small Town, now available for free everywhere to celebrate this anniversary, was the first book that I launched as a “professional writer”. The reviews are still glowing, almost a year later, and they too make me cry. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I’m so glad I tried. And I did it because of readers, like my Wardham Ambassadors group, and other writers.
So finally, I’ll leave you with this trailer for a new documentary about romance readers and romance writers, because everything in it is bang-on. This romance community? It’s unbelievably special. I honestly got a little teary watching this. If anyone stumbles across my blog and wonders…could I do that? Yeah, honey. You could. And if you start writing, you will.