Romance Writers of America 2016 Conference Wrap-Up

Whew! I'm back home from the 2016 Romance Writers of America conference. The RWA conference is a non-stop whirlwind of networking, meetings, parties and workshops that leave authors excited, and exhausted. I officially have conference hangover. Before the euphoria completely wears off, I want to share with you some pictures from the event.

For me, conference began on Wednesday with the Beau Monde Conference. The Beau Monde is the on-line Regency specialty chapter of RWA. It was a great chance to meet in person, and to get to know better, all the people I regularly see online. I also presented a workshop on the training and education of medical professional in Regency England. Here is a shot of me in action during the presentation.

The RWA 2016 Literacy Signing was the next event after the Beau Monde Conference. Imagine a large hotel ballroom filled with hundreds of authors signing books and you can imagine the excitement. I was seated next to the wonderful Jade Lee who also writes Regency romances and was the keynote speaker at the Beau Monde conference.

The first official day of conference began on Thursday morning at Richard Walker's for breakfast with  the wonderful Harlequin Historical authors.

After breakfast, there were workshops to attend and later lunch with the talented Beverly Jenkins giving the keynote speech. Sadly I don't have any pictures of the speech but it was inspiring.

In the afternoon, the Harlequin Historical authors met up for tea in the courtyard of the Horton Grand Hotel. It was a lovely setting and a delicious tea. I was even able to try Scotch Eggs for the first time and chat with the wonderful Harlequin editors.


 Thursday evening saw me at the Montlake Romance party at Roy's Hawaiian. Sadly, I didn't take pictures but I met some great authors including Camille Di Maio and Thelma Adams.

Friday morning began with breakfast and a presentation on impostor syndrome by Dr. Valerie Young. It was another inspiring speech. Afterwards, I participated in the Harlequin book signing. One of the great things about conference is that many publishers host book signings where they give away free books. It's a book lovers dream and this was my first time participating in a signing. 

Friday was filled with more workshops before I reached the highlight of conference, the Harlequin Author Party! It was held at the Omni Hotel and offered a delicious dessert bar. Also available was an adult milkshake with Bailey's, Frangelico, coconut rum and too many other good things to mention. This was another great chance to meet with friends, make new friend and dance the night away. 

Saturday began with another inspiring speech by author Sherry Thomas. It was followed by more workshops, including the one below offered by the talented Elizabeth Hoyt.

Afterwards, I had lunch with my excellent editor at the Hotel del Coronado. Saturday night, the conference concluded with the  RITA and Golden Heart Awards ceremony. Once again, I was terribly remiss in taking pictures of Saturday's events. This give me yet another reason to attend next year's RWA conference. 

I hope you enjoyed this little peek at the conference experience. If you'd like to check out the book I gave away at the Harlequin signing, you can find it on my website at

Tea Gift Basket

It's been a while since I last posted a gift basket. Below is one I recently created for a silent action for the St. Madeleine Sophie's Center's annual Haute with Heart event. St. Madeline Sophie's Center is an amazing day facility for adults with developmental disabilities. Check out their website to see the great work that they do. Every year they hold a fashion show and silent auction to raise money for their center and to help fund all the great work they do there.

My contribution to this wonderful event is a tea basket. Inside is everything someone needs for a relaxing afternoon either reading one of my Regency historical romance novels or watching this BBC version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility while enjoying a cup of tea. I set it all in a reusable canvas storage basket which can later be used to store magazines or toys in your living room or bedroom.

 Other items in this basket include:

2 white ceramic Bodum mugs -  I love these because they are stylish but simple and sturdy, and they have the silicone grip.

A simple white ceramic teapot -  I chose a simple white so it would match anyone's decor. This one is from Starbucks but Amazon has an amazing selection of similar teapots.

Signature Tea Company teas in pretty little tins. I love teas in tins because it makes the tea feel so much more elegant.

4 passes to the San Diego Museum of Art - Viewing old masterpieces it's another relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

Threshold linen napkins to liven up a tea spot.

Harlequin cozy socks to help make the tea drinker cozy, along with a journal to write down their thoughts or to be creative.

I hope you like this basket and use it to find some inspiration for your own creations. 

How to Use Canva to Make an Ebook Cover

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Canva is my new favorite picture editing website. The site offers not only free or $1 high quality pictures, fonts, backgrounds and other goodies, it also offers templates. One of the best templates for writers is the ebook cover. You can make a high quality ebook cover for free or for as little as $1. Yes, you read that right, $1.

Here's the one I made for my contemporary romance novella Rock n' Roll Reunion. I'd received the rights back to this novella from the original publisher and I needed a new cover for Amazon and Smashwords. Canva was perfect for me.

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Canva offers a selection of paid and free templates as well as paid and free pre-made ebook covers. If you're awful with graphics, simply plug your title and name into one of the pre-made covers, pay the $1 for the right to use it, and you're off. If you want to make your own cover, choose the ebook cover template and get ready to have some fun.

To use Canva to create your own ebook design, first, choose the ebook template, then pick your photo. Canva offers thousands of stock photos, all for $1 each, that you can search to find the perfect one for your book. Get creative with your keywords when you search. For example, if you're looking for a woman in a dress also use the term gown, formal attire etc.

Photo finding tip: If you've loaded too many picture because of multiple search terms, save your work and then refresh the page. This will clear the photos.

Sadly, Canva does not allow you to save pictures for future use. If you find one that you want to use in the future, click on the i in the corner of the picture and copy and paste the search terms to another document. It will make it easier to find the photo the next time you're designing.

If you're doing covers for contemporary novels and novellas, you'll have a much better photo selection to choose from. If you're doing historical covers, it'll be a little more time consuming for you to find pictures that might work. However, the great thing about Canva is that you can upload your own pictures. If you purchase a historical picture elsewhere you can still use it in Canva to create a cover.

To make the cover for my Regency romance novella, A Necessary Deception, I had to search through a lot of pictures until I found this one. It was perfect to help convey the hint of intrigue in this story about reunited lovers and the heroine's secret.

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Once you find the perfect photo you can crop it, run it through a filter, and tinker with it to make it just right. You can change it even more by clicking on the advanced settings under filter and changing the contrast, brightness etc. What you cannot do for $1 is take it into Photoshop and dramatically alter it but you can do basic editing in Canva. According to the licensing agreement, you can use the picture royalty free for ebooks. If you need it for print there is a limit of 2000 copies but you can review their multi-use agreements, and other user agreements to see how they deal with this

After your photo is the way you want it, choose a font you love and create your title and name. Most fonts and elements are free, including the fancy ones people have created, but there are some additional elements that you can purchase for $1.

Once you create the cover you love, you can download a watermarked sample of it. This is a great way to check to make sure it's correct or to email it to friends to get their opinion.

When you finally have the cover the way you want it, you pay for each $1 element you used then download the finished product. You then have 24 hours to edit it in case you wish to change something.

So check out what you can do on Canva. If nothing else, you can have fun making up covers for the stories you haven't written yet. It's a great way to gain inspiration for future ebooks.

To see more covers of my novels and novellas, some of which I created, some of which I didn't, please check out my books.

How To Strike a Balance Between Historical Fact and Fiction

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I enjoy reading non-fiction history books, and I use a great deal of what I learn in my Regency and historical romance novels. I try to be as historically accurate with my writing as possible but sometimes it either isn't possible or I need to take some artistic license in order to move the story forward. So how do I, as a writer of over ten published historical romance novels and novellas, strike a balance between historical fact and either the needs of the story or the reader's expectations about history? 

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One way that I play with history and still remain true to it is by determining if something would have been possible during the time period I'm writing in. For example, I enjoy reading about medical history, and teach on-line classes about, and I often incorporate my research into my novels. In the time period that I write in (1800-1820), medicine was still rooted in the very distant past. However, there were many medical men making discoveries that were not picked up by the medical community either because the surgeon failed to publish his findings or the medical community wasn’t ready to accept them. By doing research which proves that something can be attributed to an earlier source, I can still be historically accurate while crafting my fictional story. The research also allows me to use the proper nomenclature which adds to the overall feeling of the time period.

Mask of the GladiatorAnother instance in which I remained true to history while still writing my story was with my novella Mask of the Gladiator. The story takes place at the end of Caligula's reign and, at that time, the famous Roman Colosseum had not yet been built. I couldn't write about a gladiator fighting in Rome without a colosseum. So how did I get around the problem? I did some research to see if there were colosseums in Rome at the time and there were. In the end, I simply wrote about a nameless colosseum instead of THE Colosseum. I stayed true to history and my story.

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Sometimes, no matter how much research I do, I can't find what I need in the historical record. The story must go on, so I'm forced to invent something. One way to make historically inaccurate contrivances work is to give them the flavor of the era. Again, this is done with research. For example, having an understanding of the medical capabilities of the period can help me create a believable medical treatment. For example, Georgian and Regency people didn’t understand germ theory but they did have some experience with making the connection between cleanliness and a decrease in infection. The Royal Navy did this by regularly cleaning ships in order to keep down instances of ship fever. Anyone involved in the production of milk and cheese understood that the dairy house had to be very clean in order to keep the dairy products from spoiling (click on the cow above to see an article on it). I've used these connection in my novels in order to make it more believable when a character decides to clean a wound. I usually have the characters mention their reasons for their behavior with a single line or comment. The brief detail gives the characters the proper motivation and roots them in their historical time period.

I hope these tips, and my experiences, help you the next time you're struggling to strike a balance between fiction and history.

Face to Face Promotion Tips for Writers

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The age of Twitter and Facebook has changed the way authors promote themselves and their work. We're used to sitting behind a computer and interacting with people on social media. As a result, when it comes to promoting ourselves in person, sometimes we're lost. Below are some tips you can use to promote yourself in person.   

Face to Face Promotion Tips for WritersBring it up in everyday conversation
When you first meet people or are mingling in line at the supermarket, people often ask "What do you do?" Reach into your purse, pull out a bookmark, hand it to them and say "I'm an author." People are naturally curious so be yourself, be friendly and talk to them. You may never see them again, but since they've met you, they're more likely to check out your work.

Take stock of the organizations you belong to outside of your writing group
For example:
-        Book clubs – Do you have a family member or neighbor in one? A lot of people are in more than one and they'd love to have you come speak. You just have to ask. While there, bring free stuff like books and other goodies. If you can't attend in person, ask if the members would like free books and then give them some. Your books don't do you any good languishing in your closet.

-        Organizations - Organizations often offer speaking opportunities that will get you in front of a large group of people. You get exposure and they get a great speaker. Tie your presentation into what you write. For example, I write historicals and I once spoke to a local Victorian Ladies’ Group on Regency Christmas traditions. I included my talk in a blog post here. Always remember to offer something of value to the listener and to leave participants with a gift for listening such as a bookmark, pens or a free book.

When it comes to organizations, don't limit yourself to writers' groups or book clubs. Think of other places where you know a lot of people and where you can present your work. For example, my church holds a yearly Christmas boutique and I sell my books there. I've gained a lot of loyal readers from this event and it has also led to other speaking opportunities at libraries and with other groups. The more people you meet, the more opportunities will come your way. 

     Recruit Helpful Family and Friends        
Face to Face Promotion Tips for Writers
     The old joke is that your mom loves your work and it's usually true. She's proud of you and willing to tell everyone about you. If not her, then your sister or whoever you know who is outgoing, involved with lots of groups, and not shy about handing out bookmarks and telling people about you. My dentist once offered to display my postcards in her waiting room and I did it. I've also asked teacher friends to leave postcards and books in the teacher's lounge. Don't be afraid to ask people for help. They'll probably jump at the chance to do it.

One oft the biggest thing to keep in mind with all of these ideas is to create personal connections by being yourself and being friendly. You are your most powerful marketing tool so have fun and get out there and tell the world about you and your books. 

If you enjoyed this post then check out my books. They have nothing to do with promotion


Things To Do In San Diego During #RWA16

San Diego

I'm so excited about the Romance Writers of America 2016 National Conference because it's in my hometown of San Diego! Are you going? If so, then check out these fun things to do that are all within walking distance of the conference hotel. They're all a great way to get a taste of this year's conference city.

USS Midway Museum, San Diego
The USS Midway Museum - Visit this historic aircraft carrier which is less than a mile walk along the bay from the the Marriott Marquis. Walk the flight deck, explore the hanger bay and hike your way through the various levels of this exciting, hands-on museum. Need lunch? Enjoy a casual meal at the cafe on the stern.

Seaport Village, San Diego
Seaport Village - A fun mix of shops and restaurants, Seaport Village is perched right on the bay. The Headquarters at Seaport Village is the old San Diego Police Station which has been converted into a place for restaurants, art galleries and shops. You can also visit the old jail cells, check out vintage mugshots and other historic exhibits. Restaurants include Starbucks, The Cheesecake Factory and Flour & Barley. Seaport Village and The Headquarters at Seaport Village are adjacent to the Marriott Marquis.

If you want to see San Diego from the bay then you have two fun options, both of which are close to the Marriott Marquis.

Seal Tour San Diego is an amphibious boat which takes you on a narrated tour of the San Diego bayfront before setting out for a floating tour of the bay. This is a great way to relax and see the sights when you need a break. It leaves from Seaport Village.

Coronado Ferry, San Diego
San Diego Coronado Ferry is another fun way to get out on the bay. Departing from near the USS Midway, it's a leisurely jaunt over to the Ferry Landing on Coronado Island. At the Ferry Landing you can have a great happy hour at Candelas or dinner at Peohe's overlooking the water.

The Maritime Museum is a must see for history buffs. It's about a two mile walk from the hotel, or you can take a pedi-cab. I discuss the museum and the historic ships in its collection in this post on historic research.

Looking to get our of the hotel one night and maybe hear some great music. The San Diego Summer Pops is taking place at the same time as conference and it's at the Embarcadero which is right behind the conference hotel. Sit out on the grass and enjoy the San Diego Symphony's music or walk along the bay and look at the ships moored in the marina. It's a great way to help you relax during the excitement of conference.

If you are looking for a fun bar or restaurant check out the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter. It's practically across the street from the Marriott Marquis and offers something for everyone. Enjoy a treat or pop into a souvenir shop to buy a t-shirt for your family back home

I hope these suggestions give you some inspiration for what to do while you're in San Diego. If you enjoyed this post, please check out my books which have nothing to do with San Diego. www.Georgie-Lee,com

Tips for Preserving Family Memories

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Last week, I was amusing myself with a little antiquing. In the back of one crowded store near the used book section, I found a stack of old photographs from the 1950's. The photos weren't your usual photography studio samples. These were family photos as evidenced by the same young boy appearing in many of them, sometimes with family members, sometimes without. The boy appeared to be between 7 - 10 years old. Since the 1950's weren't that long ago, it's reasonable to assume that the kid grew up and is still kicking around somewhere. If poor Uncle Bob has passed away, did no one care or was there no one left to care? Or was his family so glad to be rid of him that they sold everything lock, stock and barrel?

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No matter what the explanation, the idea of someone's childhood moldering in the back of an antique store isn't appealing. Its bad enough walking around those stores and seeing things from my childhood, such as rotary phones and Star Wars toys, labeled as vintage. My childhood is not vintage!

how to, scrapbooking, photography, familyIn an effort to avoid becoming someone's antique, I've since given all possible next of kin express instructions to burn, not sell my photos should they ever be in the unfortunate position of owning them and not wanting them. If you are even remotely related to me, you will soon receive your letter and a packet of matches.

Since I don't want to have a bonfire before I die, I began to think of ways to make sure family memories are treasured by future generations. Sadly, there is nothing I can do to guarantee it, but below are some tips I'm using, and you can use too, to increase the odds that family photos will someday stay in the family.

1. Label the photo with names, dates and locations. Having looked through many of my grandparent's photo albums, I can tell you it's frustrating when there's no information about anyone or anything in the pictures. Thankfully, my grandparents labeled most of their stuff. It gives names to the faces and provides a more meaningful connection between the past and the present. Also, it's fun to see what a house or place looked like long ago and how it has changed.

2. Arrange photos in attractive albums. A shoe box of photos is a lot easier for a relative to give away than a pretty photo album which can easily be stored on a bookshelf. Organized albums also make it easier to label photos as suggested in tip #1. To protect the photos, make sure they's kept in acid free albums and adhered with acid free products. Most scrapbooking supplies sold at major craft stores are acid free. Check the packaging to make sure.

3. Share the photos with your children. Studies have shown that children who know about their families do better and are better able to handle life's challenges. A firm knowledge of family history gives children a sense of place and makes a family stronger. Flipping through old photos is a great way to spend time with your children while passing on the family history.

4. Write down the stories behind the photos. Not every photo will have a great tale to accompany it, but many will. If not a tale, then maybe an antidote about what happened before or after the picture you took at Aunt Margie's wedding. Not only will you be preserving the family lore but you will be adding to it. The photo and stories will help spark memories years after the event, especially if some of the people associated with it are gone.

5. Entrust the photos to someone who cares. Not everyone in the family is interested in the past, and that's OK. Find the person who is, perhaps it's you, and entrust the photos and albums to them. Not only will you up your odds of keeping everything in the family, but you will help create a repository where others can add to or look for stories and memories.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Please check out my books, which are all set in the time before photography but have strong stories about families.
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