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August 3, 2003: Summertime and the Living is Wonderful

July 31, 2003:
What a wonderful summer this is. My website is up now (http://www.mariannestillings.com), though the email thingie isn't working yet. But that's okay; we'll get it there. If you have a chance, please take a look. I hope you like it.

Mike and I returned last Sunday from the RWA National conference in New York City (Manhattan). The four days before the conference were spent on the two of us seeing as much of NYC as we could: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Natural History Museum, the Empire State Building, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We actually had to buy another suitcase to bring back all the books we bought. I was exhausted before the conference even began!

I won't go into how much we loved New York, except to remark on two things. First, the streets are so narrow; what a surprise! I've only seen the city in movies and photographs, and had no idea the streets were so small. Second, I don't know how New Yorkers got the reputation for being grumpy, because everyone we met was friendly and helpful and nice. Had it not been for the National conference, I would never have thought to visit New York as a vacation destination, but now I can hardly wait to go back and see all the things we missed.

The first day of the conference, I met my agent for the first time. She is absolutely terrific. Mike, Pam and I sat and had cool drinks and talked about books and writing and families and New York. It was totally wonderful.

Over the next few days, I got to meet AARers Sandy, Robin, and Megan in person, too. What a terrific group! It was so nice to finally put faces to names and I can hardly wait for next year in Dallas to see them again.

With 2200 members in attendance, I met dozens and dozens of people, all of them new to me. After a while, I'm sure I looked a little shell-shocked. At one event, I spotted a woman I was certain I'd seen before so I went over and introduced myself. She got a wry look on her face and said, "It's me! We had breakfast together yesterday! Remember?" Okay, so my mind isn't exactly a steel trap, but she understood. She said I had Conference Brain, and since I can't remember the names of half the people I met, I suspect the effects are lingering.

Another highlight was when I got to meet my editor. She is a lovely person and I enjoyed the time I was able to spend talking with her. She told me that a cover conference has been slated for the second week in August for The Damsel in This Dress (looks like I get to keep that title after all!). How cool is that? Getting a book to market is a multi-phased event, and to me, seeing the actual cover is a major phase.

The Avon authors were all invited to a brunch at HarperCollins and the room we were in displayed cover flats of the books that will be coming out soon. I loved them. Avon has some terrific covers out there and I can hardly wait to see my very own.

Avon also invited its authors to cocktails and dinner at the Essex House Hotel on Central Park South. In a word, it was fabulous. I got to meet so many of the Avon authors and spend an evening in an incredible setting. The food and ambience were first rate and I was both awed and overwhelmed, and very thankful for the opportunity to be part of such an exciting event.

Okay, so what happens next? Well, after the cover is drafted, I'll get a copy and make suggestions (or not, depending), then it'll go to the artist for a final rendering. At the same time, the manuscript is in copyediting, after which I'll get a marked-up version where I can make changes or corrections or answer the copyeditor's questions. When that's done, the ARC (advance reader copy) is printed and it is at that time I can post the first chapter on my website. That should be just after the first of the year. In keeping with this schedule, the book will be out in early July, so I'll have a book in my hands to sign in Dallas at National next year.

In the meantime, I'm working on Murder Hunt, the follow-up to Damsel... and will be getting the synopsis and first three chapters to Pam next week. The two books will be connected via geographical location only (thanks to the urging of my friend Robin). Betsy Tremaine McKennitt, the heroine of Damsel... will appear briefly in Murder Hunt, but other than that, the books stand alone (unless characters from either of those books beg for stories of their own).

So, please check out the website. If you like what you see or have any suggestions, please let me know. The site email doesn't work yet, but clicking on my name at the end of this journal does. I'll let you know as soon as I see the cover. And thanks for sticking with me through all this. I'm having a great time and I hope you are, too!

And . . . you know the drill . . . Keep On Writing. Never stop, never give up . . . you will get there.

-- Marianne


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