Kate MacLachlan is another author who I’ve had the opportunity to meet “in passing” – we’ve not gotten to chat or get to know each other, but I personally believe that “in passing” counts.  🙂  I was at the conference Kate mentions below.  My mother was there with me.  When Kate won her first award, I remember my mom leaning over to me and saying, “Oh, she seems really excited!”  When Kate’s name was called for the second award, mom clapped a little harder and said, “Oh, good for her!  Debut and a category award…that’s great.”  It was my mother’s first time at the awards ceremony, too…and even she recognized the excellence of Kate’s accomplishments.

Take a few minutes and read about Kate’s experiences at her very first GCLS conference.

Tonie and I attended our first Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) Conference June of 2011 in Orlando, Florida. Con Virgins, they called us, and they had a special introductory section just for us. There were a lot of Con Virgins. GCLS is a literary society devoted to lesbian writing. Writers, readers, publishers, editors, and even a literary agent showed up at the Con. My best estimate is that there were between 250 and 300 people each day, though some people came on some days and not others. Most, though, stayed the entire time, like I did.

I was fairly new to the lesbian fiction world. I’d been a lesbian for a while, and I’ve loved fiction my entire life, but it wasn’t until after I’d written my first lesbian novel that I learned there was a whole world out there with a culture all its own surrounding lesbian fiction, and that part of that culture is GCLS. I didn’t learn about last year’s Con until it was too late for us to attend, but Tonie and I started planning to attend this year’s Con many months in advance. Tonie traded her time-share for a week in Orlando, and we lured a couple of friends from Seattle into joining us there with the promise of Harry Potter World at Universal Studios.

We arrived Sunday night, with several days of play ahead of us before the Con started. We’d been warned about the terrible heat and humidity, but I was thrilled with it. I think it was the first time I really was warm since the previous August. First thing Monday morning we set out for Universal Studios. First thing Tuesday morning we set out for Universal Studios. First thing Wednesday morning we set out for Universal Studios. Yes, we spent three days in a row at Universal Studios! We had a great time, walked until we had blisters and aching muscles, and rode rides that I would never in my right mind ride. I wasn’t in my right mind. Maybe it was the heat. But this is a blog about the GCLS Con, not Universal Studios, so enough of that.

I’m shy. I think most writers are. All those years of my youth, when the rest of you were out there developing your social skills (aka ‘partying’, ‘dating’, ‘getting stoned’), I was in the library reading. My social skills were honed on Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott and Georgette Heyer. In the books I read, there were RULES about social conduct, and everyone knew what they were. In modern life, though, social skills aren’t a set of clear cut rules. They’re more of an instinct that is developed at one of those developmental stages of life. Those of us who spent those crucial years with our noses buried in books are a little stunted.

The opening volley of the GCLS Con is the Meet and Greet on Wednesday evening. I was nervous about going, but thought I should, and Tonie agreed to come with me. At first, it was as bad as I thought it was going to be. We didn’t know anybody, and everyone seemed to have groups they were talking to or they were meeting up with old friends. We bellied up to a half-full table and asked if we could sit there. Of course they said yes. A group gathered around them and we soon realized that this was a group of Blue Feather people. I worried that we’d committed a faux pas, since I’m a Regal Crest author, so we went to get some ice cream and let them have their table. We’d had a big dinner and weren’t hungry, but ice cream gave us something to do, an excuse to move and leave the chairs for Blue Feather folks. But we cast a look a bit longingly at them as we left. Let me tell you, those Blue Feather people are highly entertaining!

We sat at a couple other tables for brief periods, and Tonie started conversations with them, letting me join in as I chose. Tonie is not developmentally disabled, as she spent her youth honing her social skills in the traditional methods listed above.

There were a few people I was eager to meet. Lynette Mae, another Regal Crest author, and I had struck up an on-line friendship and were looking forward to meeting in person. I wanted to meet Lori Lake, my editor for Rip Van Dyke. And I wanted to meet my publisher, Cathy Lenoir. She’d changed my life, to some extent, when she accepted Rip Van Dyke for publishing, so I was curious to finally meet her.

There was Lori Lake! I probably interrupted her in a conversation, I was so excited to meet her, but she was gracious about it and gave me a big hug. I don’t know if it’s because she was my first editor or because she’s Lori Lake, but I felt we bonded during the editing process. I didn’t realize until the GCLS Con what a rock star Lori is. I didn’t get to talk to her much after our first greeting, but everywhere I saw her after that I got a smug feeling and congratulated myself. “That rock star is my editor.”

Lynette showed up, and I was surprised and delighted to see that she is short like me! If you’ve read Lynette’s book Faithful Service, Silent Hearts, you might expect its author to be something like its main character, Devon. In fact (it’s a secret, but I can tell you), the woman on the cover of Faithful Service, Silent Hearts IS Lynette Mae! But you can’t tell from the photo how tall the character is, and Devon is tall. Lynette is not. In fact, I think I have an inch or two on her.

Lynette and I were getting to know each other when we heard that Cathy Lenoir was in the room. After a bit of sparring (“You go say hi,” “No, you go first!”) we womanned up and went to meet her together, along with Tonie. Cathy was gracious and jovial and in love. Sorry to be so blunt, but when people are that newly in love, it becomes part of their character description. Besotted.

So Lynette and I hit it off, and so did Tonie and Sandy, Lynette’s wife, who we got to meet on Friday. By Saturday my shyness was wearing off and I was getting ready to really have a good time, but of course, by then, it was nearly over. We still had the awards ceremony to look forward to, though.

Rip Van Dyke was up for two awards, Debut Author and Paranormal Romance. I’d like to say it was an honor just to be nominated, but I nominated myself. Cathy doesn’t like to nominate books from Regal Crest because she doesn’t want to appear to pick favorites. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided it was a good policy. After all, what if she did nominate the books she thought might win and didn’t nominate mine? That would be awful.

I realized I only had one chance in life to win a debut author award, and that was with Rip Van Dyke. So for sure I had to nominate it for that. Then, because Debut Author was such a long shot, I nominated it for paranormal romance as well. It was a smaller category. Maybe I’d make the short list.

When the finalists were announced, Rip Van Dyke had made the short list for both categories. I was thrilled. I can honestly say, even though I did nominate myself, it was really an honor to be a finalist. Truly, it was the first indication I had that maybe, just maybe, Rip Van Dyke wasn’t crap. You authors know what I mean. My friends and family liked it, sure, but they can’t be objective, can they? And the book wasn’t getting much attention. It had only received one review, but it was luke warm. What if the book was crap? When it was named as a finalist for both categories I was able to tell myself, finally, it can’t be all that bad.

And then it won. Debut Author, one of the first awards of the evening, before I even had time to get nervous, they said my name. Rip Van Dyke won! Rip Van Dyke is not crap! I think I screamed. I know Tonie did. We kissed, and I went up to accept the award. I made an on-the-spot speech, thankfully coached at the last minute by Dejay (Regal Crest author of Redemption), who thought I ought to be ready, just in case.

Back at our table, which was in the back of the room, I was giddy. Lynette had been chosen to announce the Paranormal Romance category. I told her I didn’t care whose name was on the card, just say mine. Joke was on me, because when she went up there and said my name, I had a momentary freeze. Was it real? Did she mean it, or was she kidding with me in front of everyone? She meant it. Rip Van Dyke had won again.

Well that was the highlight of the trip. It had to be. But there were so many other highlights. Being interviewed for Lara Zielinsky’s radio show, Readings in Lesbian and Bisexual Fiction. Meeting the fans at the book signing, where I was comfortably seated between K.G. MacGregor and Lori Lake, whose lines of autograph seekers let me imagine they were there for me. The fans who were there for me. Meeting Elizabeth Sims and learning from her. K.G. MacGregor telling me after the awards, “Don’t ever forget your fans. They’ll always be loyal to you.” (I don’t remember the exact words, K.G., but it was something like that.) Hugs from Patty Schramm and Lori Lake after I won the awards. I think Cathy was proud.

Kate McLachlan lives in Eastern Washington with her wife, two dogs, and two cats. After teaching in the public schools for 14 years, Kate developed a case of temporary insanity and entered law school. All she really wanted to do was write stories but, despite the common misperception, legal briefs are not fiction, and Kate’s creative urge was not satisfied by her day job. She writes now for the joy it brings her and for the joy she hopes it brings others.

%d bloggers like this: