Sunday, September 15, 2013
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
While I was working on Ash’s copy edits and dealing with various real world problems—my new computer decided to stop working and something (not the computer) was producing an electrical burning smell—I got a phone call. Surprising Lord Ash is a finalist in the historical category of the New Jersey Romance Writers’ Golden Leaf contest. Yippee! I was already planning on going to their conference in October. I’m giving a workshop—and those New Jersey ladies know how to party.
Then, just a couple days ago, an email from Tara at Eye on Romance popped into my inbox with a link to a review of Jack’s book. I’ll confess I always cringe a bit when I click on review links, because I’m never sure what I’ll find at the other end. This time it was a lovely review! If you’d like to read it, it’s in the Historical Romance Writers section here.
Monday, September 9, 2013
Friday, September 6, 2013
Tuesday morning I handed in the edits for Loving Lord Ash, the final book in my Duchess of Love series, so I thought I’d take a moment to look back at my Naked series. I’m very excited to tell you that my two Naked novellas, “The Naked Laird” and “The Naked Prince,” will be released as separate e-novellas. So if you missed them when they came out in their respective anthologies or if you just want to complete your Naked collection on your e-reader, you’ll now be able to do that. Well, not quite now. The Naked Laird releases November 1; The Naked Prince will be out December 31. I'm pretty sure you can preorder them now, if you want to.
The Naked Laird first appeared in February 2009 in the anthology Lords of Desire. You can read an excerpt on my web site here. You’ll see the cover of the anthology which, if you’re already a Naked reader, may help you remember if you’ve read the story before.
The Laird was the first novella I ever wrote. (A novella is about a quarter of the length of one of my books.) It was a fun challenge. And being a glutton for challenges, at least sometimes, I set the story during a house party that occurs during The Naked Baron, so you’ll see a glimpse of the one story in the other.
Monday, August 5, 2013
The final day of the conference began with another quick trip to the gym and the Corner Bakery before the Kensington book signing. Kensington had provided a huge stack of Surprising Lord Jack for me to sign and give away, and I’d bought—at a deep discount—most of the books I had left over from the big book signing on Wednesday. I was able to give a book to everyone who stopped by—and I still had one left.
After the signing, I met one of my French editors...
...and then grabbed lunch with a couple of friends. I had to dash from lunch to the RITA rehearsals and then on to “Giving to Get: Creating Free Digital Content to Promote Your Print Book,” the workshop panel I was on with Kensington editors Alicia Condon and Audrey LaFehr as well as fellow authors Victoria Alexander and Donna Kauffman. My roomie snapped this shot:
After the panel, I scurried off to get dressed for the RITAs and then go to dinner with my agent and editors. (I just got a new editor; I met her for the first time at RWA.) I enjoyed the dinner, but I was a little on edge—at the RITA practice, they’d stressed being on time. One of my other “must haves” at conferences is my watch. I don’t wear it much at home, but I rely on it when I’m traveling to get me where I need to be when I need to be there. However, my watch is more utilitarian than elegant. It didn't go with my fancy dress, so I left it in my room. Fortunately my agent came through and made sure I wasn’t late. We even had time to take some pictures before things got underway. Here I am with my agent and editor.
I was afraid I might be nervous during the awards—my category wasn’t until close to the end—but I wasn’t. I even managed to get a picture of my “moment” in the sun when they announced the Duchess.
I didn’t bring home a RITA, but I had a fabulous time anyway. I was just so delighted to have the opportunity to go through the process again since I’d been so overwhelmed by everything when I’d been a Golden Heart finalist back in 2004. This was my chance to travel roughly the same path, but with some sense of the greater picture—and knowing so many more people!
I won’t lie to you. It would have been really, really cool to have won. Of course, then I would have had to give my lame acceptance speech. And, well, I've been around the block enough now to know that winning a RITA doesn’t mean you’ve reached the pinnacle of your career. Writing careers don’t seem to have pinnacles—they are more like amusement park rides, going up and down and sideways.
Years ago I happened to walk out of a RITA awards ceremony next to a woman who’d been a double finalist but who hadn’t won either category. She’d remarked to her companion that she felt like such a loser—and I had stick my nose into their conversation to point out that she was not a loser at all. I promised myself right then that if I was ever up for a RITA, I would not feel like I’d lost if I didn’t win. And I didn't. Especially when the lights came up and I looked at all the other finalists who weren't holding RITAs, I truly felt honored to be among such wonderful, amazing authors. And of course I love Eloisa James, who did win my category!
And I brought the RITA finalist flag home! It’s very cool, too. I put it up on the shelf in my office to remind me of all the fun I had in Atlanta.
Friday, August 2, 2013
After the gym, I met my pal Vanessa Kelly for breakfast. She’d found a new-to-her place about a block from the hotel: a Corner Bakery. We have Corner Bakeries in my neighborhood; Mr. M and I had breakfasted there while we were staying in a hotel, waiting for our wood floors to be done. I was so happy to have food I recognized, lol!
My agent took me out to lunch—sadly, I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was next door to the Corner Bakery—and one of the highlights of my conference occurred. Well, yes, I enjoy talking to my agent. and the food was excellent, but that wasn’t it. What made my day was the reaction the woman seating us had to my ensemble.
Some personal history here. I grew up with two older brothers—no sisters—and I was a bit of a tomboy. I attended Catholic schools, so I wore uniforms for twelve years, and then I went to basically an all male college—the University of Notre Dame the year it went coed. And then I was home with four sons and a husband who often wears clothing the Salvation Army wouldn’t accept. (He’s loyal though. He has a jeans jacket that he’s owned longer than he’s known me—and we met in 1976.) Now I work at home in my comfy clothes which I think (I hope) are presentable for a trip to the grocery store. So my fashion sense is a bit stunted. My mother was very stylish, but I’m afraid I didn’t inherit her panache. (One of my daughters-in-law just explained to me that it’s acceptable not to wear stockings in the summer. This is so liberating on so many levels!)
So I was feeling a little out of my comfort zone with what I was wearing to lunch. I’d seen a nifty, knit, long black skirt—longer in back than in the front—when I was doing my mad pre-conference shopping. (My pre-con shopping was especially bad this year because of the RITA dress hunt.) I somewhat hesitantly bought it and paired it with a sleeveless black knit tank that I already had as well as a white, glittery sweater thing (yes, I should be a fashion writer). And while I was buying the skirt, I saw a cool necklace on sale—well, it was so inexpensive, I had to buy it, even though it was bigger and flashier than I usually wear. (Who am I kidding? I don’t usually wear jewelry.)
So when the woman seating us said what an awesome dress I was wearing (okay, those weren’t her exact words, but that was definitely her meaning) and, somewhat sheepishly told my agent (who is far more stylish than I ) that her dress was nice, too, I just about floated to the table. And, no, sadly—or perhaps just as well—I did not think to get a picture.
Later that afternoon, at the RITA/Golden Heart reception, I got my finalist certificate.
Best of all, I got to hang out with friends, drink champagne, and nibble on cute little pastries. Here are RITA finalists Jade Lee (on left) and Angie Fox (right). The lovely lady in the middle is Terry McLaughlin, long time pal and RWA President-Elect.
Shortly after this gathering, I headed off to the National Readers Choice Awards—the Duchess of Love was a finalist in that contest as well. The novella didn’t win, but I enjoyed more champagne (I had to pace myself as I didn’t want another headache) and ice cream sundaes. Yum! I don’t think I ever had dinner, but having foreseen that possibility when I looked at my schedule in the morning, I ate enough at lunch to keep body and soul together. See? Eating is definitely tricky at these conferences.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
A week or two before the conference, I was chatting with some friends on Facebook. I’d brought my workout gear to the RT convention, but I’d decided to leave the gym shoes at home for RWA. I knew my RWA schedule would start around 8:30 every morning and go all day, so working in a workout would mean giving up precious minutes of sleep. But my friends persuaded me to squeeze the gear into my suitcase, and they said they’d meet me at the gym. (Ahem. I saw only one of them once in the fitness room…but one was injured and perhaps the others were there at different times.)
I’m glad I brought my gear. I managed to get in three workouts and though they were only 30 to 40 minutes long, I felt much better for having sweated a bit. I’m going to add working out to my list of conference survival practices. What else is on the list? Drinking plenty of water. I bring my own water bottle and carry it with me, not only to the gym but to all the conference events. I also try to bring comfortable shoes, but this time I brought heels, too. They weren’t high heels—they were probably only about two inches—but my legs aren’t used to anything but flats, so I discovered some new muscles. And I always bring slides or flip flops to wear around my room.
I also try to watch what I eat when I’m travelling. That was a bit tricky on this trip. Unfortunately, I missed both of the conference luncheons, so I can’t comment on that food. And I’m sure starting out with a migraine didn’t help. But as to the various restaurant food I sampled…as I suspected, I’m not a huge fan of Southern cooking. I don’t generally eat fried foods, and I don’t each much meat. But I eventually found options at the hotel and off site. The other problem with conference eating, at least at RWA, is sometimes it’s difficult to find time in the schedule to grab something. I solve that problem by packing a plastic bottle of almonds, so I always have something healthy at hand.
One of the highlights of the day was the Kensington party. It was so much fun seeing everyone. And they had a fabulous photographer. Here’s one shot, courtesy of Edward Zelster Photography.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
I live in the D.C. area, so I have a choice of at least three airports whenever I travel by plane. Each one—BWI, National, and Dulles—have their pros and cons, but my favorite is Dulles. This is mostly because Mr. M works in that neck of the woods, so he’s usually willing to drop me at that airport on his way to the office. (Though he did very kindly take me to National when I was flying to Kansas City for RT…he’s a keeper!) And since he's on his way to work, I usually take a morning flight, a safer bet in this area in the summer anyway. We are prone to afternoon thunderstorms.
The RWA conference doesn’t really begin until the Literacy Signing Wednesday evening, but I always come in the day before, partly to avoid a mad scramble to get to the signing on time, but mostly to attend the beau monde mini-conference which begins bright and early Wednesday morning. I like coming in before the crowds. I like collecting my registration materials and getting the lay of the land before things get crazy. But I don’t much like eating by myself, so I asked around before I left home to see if anyone I knew was also coming in on Tuesday. I assembled a lovely group: my roomie Teresa Bodwell, Nancy Herkness, Elizabeth Hoyt, and Wendy La Capra. I didn’t manage to get a shot of all of us, but here I am with Terry on my left and Nancy on my right.
I emailed people to find out when they were arriving, and Elizabeth said her plane got in about a half hour after mine, so I said I’d wait for her…except when I got to Atlanta, I didn’t see her flight number on the arrival board. I asked some friendly airport volunteers, and they couldn’t find her flight either. So I called her—and she answered! Yes, she was in the airport—her home airport. She’d given me her departure, not her arrival time. Needless to say, I decided not to wait for her.
Elizabeth had suggested we share a cab, but now that I was on my own, I went with what would have been my first choice: MARTA, the Atlanta subway system. I’ve ridden MARTA a few times and I like it, but I’ve noticed that there is usually someone on the train looking for handouts. I was thinking about why this might be, since I don’t see that behavior on D.C.’s Metro. At first I thought it must be because Metro is so much more expensive, but then I remembered Boston’s "T" has the same low fare as MARTA. In fact, I’ve ridden subways in lots of large US cities—Boston, Chicago, D.C., L.A., New York, and San Francisco—as well as the London tube, and I don’t remember seeing folks panhandling on any of those trains. I also noticed when I ventured out of the hotel in Atlanta, I had people—some quite well-spoken—come up to me and ask for money--again, something I'm not used to. I’m not sure what to make of all that—someone said the hotel was quite near a homeless shelter, so perhaps that was part of it—but I was surprised by it.
My room was on the 37th floor. Here’s the view from the window:
The hotel had glass elevators. I’m a huge fan of glass elevators, though I know not everyone is. Mr. M is not. And I imagine one poor woman I met in the elevator wasn’t. She was going up with a bellman and one of those big rolling things that you can hang clothes on. She’d almost climbed into the rolling thing and was hiding her head with a folder or pad of paper. I hope she discovered there was one non-glass elevator. I was always disappointed when I had to take that one, but I can see why it might be a good option for some folks. Here’s a view of the elevator from the Pulse Loft, the restaurants where the RITA and Golden Heart reception was held later in the week.
I think it looks a bit like a spine and ribcage. When I posted it on Facebook, a few friends said it reminded them of the movie Alien.
Monday, July 29, 2013
I’m still recovering from the annual Romance Writers of America conference, and I didn’t even stay up that late while I was in Atlanta. I think all the excitement and the stimulation of being around so many people drained my energy reserves. I loved the conference and had a fabulous time, but I am at heart an introvert.
Being a RITA finalist this year made me think of my very first conference, the 2004 RWA conference in Dallas, when I was a finalist in the Golden Heart contest, RWA’s big contest for unpublished writers. I had just sold The Naked Duke via the contest to Kensington Publishing. To say I was overwhelmed is like saying the Atlantic Ocean is a trifle damp. I knew almost no one. I’d written the book in isolation before I joined RWA. I hadn’t even connected with my local chapter. In contrast, this year I could barely take two steps without running into a friend.
I knew things were going to be crazy this year as I saw my conference schedule begin to take shape. I had RITA events, as well as publisher and agency parties, and various other meetings to attend. The RWA site had a conference builder function, but I’m more a paper and pen kind of gal. And I had the perfect tool to keep me organized! The lovely lady who translated the Japanese version of Bedding Lord Ned had sent me a very cool, very lovely present:
The book on the left is filled with blank, lined sheets that I’d hoped to use as a diary…well, that sort of got away from me. But in a pocket in the back of the book was the little pamphlet on the right--perfect for keeping track of my schedule. There were exactly enough pages for each day of the conference. I wrote everything down before I left home, and then crossed each event off after it happened. And the best thing? It fit in my neck badge, so it was always at hand.It was totally brilliant. I’m planning to visit a stationery store to see if I can find something similar for future conferences.
And what is a neck badge, you ask? Well, if you’ve been to any conference, you’re probably not asking, but over the years, I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur…or maybe I’ve just become finicky. Here’s a picture of two badge holders:
The bluish badge on the right was this year’s RWA offering. It was very nice, but it didn’t have my favorite features. The badge on the left is the one I brought from home. It has a zippered compartment under the front flap (the bit above the name tag window) where I can keep money, if I think I need it, as well as an unzippered compartment (also under the flap) where I stored the pamphlet with my schedule. And then the back has a slot for cards—I usually put some bookmarks there to hand out to anyone willing to take one—as well as two slots for pens. I also loaded the badge holder with my favorite pins before I left home, including the silver RITA finalist pin. I didn’t want to forget that one!
The ribbons at the bottom I got at the conference, but I had to use a pin to keep them on—the sticky stuff doesn’t stick too well. The top green one was for being a RITA finalist, the pink one was for being a speaker—I was on a PAN panel--and the bottom green one was for “The Duchess of Love” being a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards. Since my badge is my entry to all the conference events, I’m always careful to put my conference name tag in the new badge holder.
I also got a new smart phone before I left for Atlanta. My old phone was a couple years old. I’d been having problems with it, and when I was at the RT Bookreviews conference earlier this year, I saw how easily other people could take pictures and post them to Facebook or Twitter. But the phone did work…sort of. So it was with some hesitation that I decided to upgrade to an iPhone 5 before I headed to Atlanta. I’m SO glad I did. Not only was it so much easier to get and respond to email, but posting pictures to social media sites was a snap. If you’re on Facebook, you may have seen my posts on my page: https://www.facebook.com/sallymackenziebooks It was great fun…though I haven’t seen that phone bill yet!
Saturday, July 6, 2013
Meanwhile, my hosting situation was going to change. It's too complicated--and boring--to go into, but suffice it to say, I had to find a new host for the site. And while I still like my website, I've had it for almost ten years. I felt it was time for a change. So I found a new web designer who will also be my host--DreamForge Media. I'm excited--only they can't get to me until October. So I'm going to try to use this blog to keep you all up-to-date until then. I can get my designer to do some updates, but I'm trying to avoid that. The program I used tends to send real web designers into fits.
Things are in a bit of lull here anyway. As I say, I turned in Ash's book--yay! It will be out in March--I'll share the cover shortly. Now I'm in my writerly cave, trying to come up with a new proposal. At the moment I'm thinking of setting some stories in the Lake District, since I fell in love with that area last September. I'm also getting ready to head off to Atlanta and the RWA conference. I'm hoping to be better about posting to Facebook and tweeting while I'm there, and if I can, I'll post something here. But if you're on Facebook, do stop by my Page. I've been posting a picture daily, Monday through Friday, from our local travels. We took off once the floor guys arrived. They said we could stay the first few days, but the hammering and the fact that stuff was crammed in every available crevasse (we don't have a large house) persuaded me (and I persuaded Mr. M) it was best to flee. Here's the link to my page--all you have to do is "like" it: https://www.facebook.com/sallymackenziebooks
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Okay, back to my cave...
Friday, February 1, 2013
I'm popping in here today to say if you're on Facebook, you might want to check out the Washington Loves Romance page here. Today they're beginning Bedding Lord Ned. I'll be stopping by from time to time to answer questions. Hope to see you there!