Dancing with the author stars at the Romance Writers of America national convention 2015

TO TRAVEL TO NEW YORK CITY  for a writer’s conference is awesome.

That it was a conference of more than two thousand romance writers and industry professionals made it a further shade of awesome.

That I attended the Romance Writers of America national convention in July 2015 as a multi-published author with Harlequin, the biggest publisher of romance in the world, shot the awesomeness right off the top of the scale.

Times Square was packed  with visitors - even at midnight

Times Square was packed with visitors – even at midnight

The conference was held at the Marriott Marquise hotel—right on Times Square. RWA delegates prefer to stay in the same hotel as the conference is held.

New York in the summer - what a great place to be!

New York in the summer – what a great place to be!

I was fortunate enough to find a wonderful roommate, blogger Kim Lowe from the popular book blog, SOS Aloha. We barely knew each other but ended the conference firm friends. I also caught I up with writer friends from all over the world.

With my fellow Harlequin Romance authors: (from left) Christy McCallum, me, Jessica Gilmore and Scarlet Wilson. They'd come from the UK.

With my fellow Harlequin Romance authors: (from left) Christy McKellen, me, Jessica Gilmore and Scarlet Wilson. They’d come from the UK.

The convention comprises a myriad talks and workshops aimed at the beginner romance writer to best-selling authors wanting to keep on top of their professional game. The conference is also a good opportunity for authors to meet with their editors and literary agents—many of whom are in New York.

Signing my June release, FROM PARADISE TO...PREGNANT! at the literacy signing.

Signing my June release, FROM PARADISE TO…PREGNANT! at the literacy signing.

Unpublished writers get a chance to pitch their stories in one-to-one sessions with editors and agents—which can be nerve-wracking but ultimately rewarding. You see people practising their “pitches” all over the hotel.

All the authors signing free books at the Harlequin signing

All the authors signing free books at the Harlequin signing

One of the highlights of the conference is the massive book-signing that is open for free to the romance reading public. Publishers donate books for sale and the proceeds are donated to charities promoting literacy in the host state. This year the signing raised more than $US48,000 for literacy. A fabulous result—after all, it’s in our interest as authors to have a literate population!

From my side of the desk at the Harlequin author signing - with my August release HIRED BY THE BROODING BILLIONAIRE

From my side of the desk at the Harlequin author signing – with my August release HIRED BY THE BROODING BILLIONAIRE

Hundreds of authors, ranging from best-selling mega-stars to newbies with their first book, are assigned space on tables set up in rows in a vast room and sat in alphabetical order. Keen romance fans by the thousand start lining up early in the day for a chance to meet their favorite authors and buy a signed book. The noise level is extraordinary!

Welcome to the ball at the Waldorf Astoria Photo © Harlequin Books

Welcome to the ball at the Waldorf Astoria
Photo © Harlequin Books

Other book-signings are held throughout the conference by the major publishers—the difference being that the books at these signings are free. The signings are open only for fee-paying delegates to the conference and are very well attended. We’re all readers before we’re writers. And free books. Needless to say a stash of new books made its way home with me.

Delicious chocolate desserts at the Harlequin party Photo © Harlequin Books

Delicious chocolate desserts at the Harlequin party
Photo © Harlequin Books

A standout of the conference is the parties the big publishers host for their authors, usually on the Friday night. The granddaddy of the parties is the one put on by Harlequin. And what a party! Writers joke they want to get published by Harlequin just to get invited.

Fabulous book shaped lamps at the Harlequin party - I would love one!

Fabulous book shaped lamps at the Harlequin party – I would love one!

Friday night can be a tad dismal for unpublished authors at the conference unless you take matters into your own hands. At one RWA conference years ago a group of us who knew each other online and were meeting face-to-face held our own “pity party”. We enjoyed ourselves immensely—and in later years were able to catch up with each other at our various publishers’ parties. Because we all got published—in part because of what we’d learned from attending these conferences.

Dancing the night away - in thoughtfully provided socks!

Dancing the night away – in thoughtfully provided socks! Photo © Harlequin Books

Much coveted were this year’s invitations to Harlequin’s Black and White Ball held at The Starlight Roof at the famous Waldorf Astoria hotel on Park Avenue.

Many of us writers spend most of our time wearing yoga pants and sitting at our computers. This was glamour indeed—one author told me going to the party was not only the highlight of the conference, but also one of the highlights of her life. Guests took the theme to heart by wearing gorgeous outfits in black and white.

It really was fun!

It really was fun!

They say a writer’s conference comprises a group of introverts desperately pretending to be extroverts. They did a very good job of it at the Harlequin party.

Formalities were kept to a minimum and then the dance floor was thrown open. Harlequin imports the same DJ from San Francisco every year and he knows exactly the music a bunch of writers and publishing staff of a range of ages wants. Everyone danced, danced, danced without inhibition. I got a blister on my toe, which needn’t have happened as Harlequin provides a pair of thick socks to each guest so they can slip off their shoes to dance.

Everyone danced

Everyone danced

Famous authors and high-ranking editors and publishers joined in dancing alongside first-timers. (Yes, Nora Roberts was dancing right next to me!) One author told me the dancing reminded her of long-ago sorority parties. Most of the authors are women and there was a wonderful spirit of camaraderie. In such glamorous surroundings, with an open bar and endless chocolate desserts on offer, it really was the perfect party.

I started off the conference feeling a bit grumpy, overly jet-lagged and wondering if I should have come. Was it worth it for a trip of just six days? My flight from Sydney, Australia was delayed by six hours and missed the connection in Los Angeles to New York. Instead of arriving at 5pm, I arrived at 1am the next morning. Then I lost my iPhone (thankfully someone handed it in.) To top it off, I realised I had packed two left shoes of two pairs of completely different black sandals!

I packed a complete useless "pair" of shoes. What a waste of luggage space!

I packed a complete useless “pair” of shoes. What a waste of luggage space!

Those early qualms soon dissolved in the sheer awesomeness of attending a conference of this size and professionalism. I even managed to see a little of New York on the Sunday after the conference ended (I’ve been there before and done the sights). And to my utter joy, discovered the shops were open until 9pm that Sunday because of the sales. The New York sales where everything was massively reduced. (Some new shoes with both a right and a left were purchased!)

Next year’s conference is in San Diego, California, a place I’ve long wanted to visit. Will I go? I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the kind of bargain airfare that got me to New York comes up later in the year.

Because back in my yoga pants, writing, writing, writing to finish a novel to meet a deadline, I’m fired with inspiration and the satisfaction that I’m doing absolutely what I want to do. The conference works to make me feel connected to the bigger publishing world beyond my desk and screen.

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Kandy’s latest release from Harlequin Romance is Hired by the Brooding Billionaire released on August 1, 2015.

“Beauty and the reclusive billionaire…

When billionaire Declan Grant decides his estate’s enormous garden needs taming, he hires idealistic horticulturalist Shelley Fairhill to take on the challenge. Since losing his wife, Declan has adjusted to a life of self-imposed isolation—he wants Shelley to tackle the weeds, then leave.

But as Shelley gradually restores order and unexpected beauty to his garden, her caring nature also begins to thaw the ice encasing Declan’s heart. Can he let Shelley’s light in and finally let his second chance at love blossom?”

http://www.kandyshepherd.com

Setting the summer scene

ONE THING I REALLY LOVE ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR  is creating settings for my books. The most fun are settings that spring from my imagination but are heavily influenced by real life places I have visited.

The beautiful south coast New South Wales, Australia, is the setting for The Summer They Never Forgot

The beautiful south coast New South Wales, Australia, is the setting for The Summer They Never Forgot

For my fictional small coastal town of Dolphin Bay, the setting of my February 2014release, The Summer They Never Forgot, I was influenced by the beautiful south coast of New South Wales, Australia, about four hours south of Sydney.

I wish I was there right now in that beautiful, cool water!

I wish I was there right now in that beautiful, cool water!

I have spent many happy vacations there and plundered memories of quaint towns, pristine beaches and unspoiled bushland to create Dolphin Bay. It was here I first saw the enchanting sight of dolphins frolicking in the surf. My Top Pick review at RT Book Reviews  says the setting “is described so beautifully, readers will almost feel the sand between their toes”.

The town of Penguin has penguins everywhere, my fictional Dolphin Bay has dolphins

The town of Penguin has penguins everywhere, my fictional Dolphin Bay has dolphins

The people of my fictional Dolphin Bay celebrate the dolphins that come to frolic in their waters in images and representations of dolphins all over town, from dolphin decals to dolphin trash cans.

I visited Penguin last year when the penguins were dressed for Christmas!

I visited Penguin last year when the penguins were dressed for Christmas!

Here, I was influenced by the delightful small, beachside town of Penguin in the southern Australian island state of Tasmania. There are penguins everywhere in Penguin! I personally love dolphins so did for Dolphin Bay what the good folk of Penguin do for their town.

I loved the dolphin outdoor shower at the Blue Dolphin Inn

I loved the dolphin outdoor shower at the Blue Dolphin Inn

When eighteen months ago I stayed at the wonderful Blue Dolphin Inn in Cambria, California, and saw how cleverly they used dolphins in their décor, I knew I was on the right track.

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More beautiful dolphins at the Blue Dolphin Inn

Of course in The Summer They Never Forgot the dolphins aren’t what have stayed in my heroine Sandy Adam’s memories of Dolphin Bay—her thoughts center around handsome surfer Ben Morgan the first love she’d never been able to forget. When Sandy and Ben are reunited after twelve years will they get a second chance at a forever love?

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The Summer They Never Forgot, was released inFebruary 2014 in the US, the UK and Australia.

Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction.

Visit Kandy at her website

www.kandyshepherd.com

Thanks to Tania Mayrhofer for the surf photos.

(This blog  was first published in an edited form at Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs in January 2014)

A collection of covers

My first book with Harlequin is published today—The Summer They Never Forgot is available in print and e-book from wherever Harlequin series books are sold. It’s a deeply emotional, heart-warming story of rekindled love.

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Sometime last century I submitted my first romance to Harlequin Mills & Boon in London. Needless to say it was promptly rejected but later efforts had encouraging replies. I got sidetracked into other writing ventures but never gave up the dream to be published by Harlequin. So I was thrilled when the manuscript for The Summer They Never Forgot was accepted. And can I say that working with the editors at the London office is an absolute pleasure! Well worth the long wait…

My kitty Ivy seems to be urging me to unpack the books and give her the box!

My kitty Ivy seems to be urging me to unpack the books and give her the box!

Waiting to see what cover the publisher gives your book can be a tense moment for an author. How did the cover designer interpret my characters? Did they get my setting right? How does the title look on the page?

I’m pleased to report the Harlequin designers got everything right! The water setting, the dock where some pivotal scenes are played out, the carefree summer atmosphere. Most important, the heroine and hero, Sandy and Ben, fit my mental image of them. “He’s hot!” was my daughter’s reaction to Ben—you can’t get much better than that.

Oh, and I’m a big sucker for pink on covers and I love the pink on the Harlequin Romance covers.

The Mills & Boon hardcover and e-book cover in the UK

The Mills & Boon hardcover and e-book cover in the UK

As this is my first book for Harlequin, I didn’t realize there would be several other covers for the book.

The Mills & Boon e-book cover in Australia

The Mills & Boon Sweet e-book cover in Australia

And I like them too!

Then there are paperback covers for two-in-one editions.

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The Australian mass market paperback Mills & Boon Sweet with Sophie Pemberton’s Heiress on the Run

The UK mass market paperback Mills & Boon Cherish with Liz Talley's His Forever Girl

The UK mass market paperback Mills & Boon Cherish with Liz Talley’s His Forever Girl

I believe if foreign editions are sold, they might have different covers again. I look forward to that!

Here’s the cover blurb for The Summer They Never Forgot:

“It started with a summer kiss…

Sandy Adams is on her way to an interview, but when she sees a signpost for Dolphin Bay she decides to take a detour down memory lane….

Ben Morgan has had his share of heartache. But when a ghost from his youth catches his eye memories of their last summer together come flooding back.

Everything has changed in the past twelve years, and still they’re right back where they started, facing a second chance they deserve…together.”

Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction.

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Watch out for her The Summer They Never Forgot, her first release from Harlequin Romance in February 2014 in North America, the UK and Australia.

Her contemporary women’s fiction e-book, Reinventing Rose, is available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, and other e-book retailers.

Kandy’s romances include the Amazon bestseller The Castaway Bride, Something About Joe, and the award-winners Love is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is.

Visit Kandy at her website

www.kandyshepherd.com