A Different Tribe–Genrecon (Australia)

Last weekend the inaugural Genrecon was held in Australia, with international guests Joe Abercrombie, agent Ginger Clark and Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell along with many other luminaries of the Australian genre fiction writing scene–including our Anna Campbell as well as Helene Young, Kim Wilkins/Kimberley Freeman and Bandita friend Denise Rossetti.

This was a writers’ convention primarily but we saw a few friendly reader faces in the crowd. Bandita Buddies Helen and Barb made the trip to come and see us. Aren’t they honeys? It was great to meet Barb after all this time and of course, catch up with Helen, whom we often see at ARRA events. Kat from BookThingo was there, too.

Romance was well represented among the science fiction, fantasy, crime and horror writers. Nikki Logan, our super-organized and savvy RWA president, spoke about the organization and the many benefits of membership. There was a murmur of appreciation in the crowd when Nikki said the organization is 800 members and counting.

Lisa Heidke joined Anna Campbell and Daniel O’Malley in a debate for the pantsers (writers who write by the seat of their pants rather than planning the book) team against the evil plotters, Kim Wilkins, L.A. Larkin and Narelle Harris.

I have to say, I found the plotters a tad scary, but maybe that’s just because I am a seat of the pants writer, through and through. I have tried to change this, but it never works so I’ve learned to live with it.

I had to leave early to catch my plane but I hear the debate took an interesting turn at the end. Correct me if I’m wrong, someone, but did Daniel actually kiss Kate Eltham, who chaired the debate? That certainly demonstrates the power of pantsers to pull the unexpected plot twist out of their hats!

Here’s a photo of a few of the romance and women’s fiction writers in attendance at the Pistols and Parasols Banquet on the Saturday night. From left: Nikki Logan, Helene Young, Anna Campbell, Denise Rossetti and Lisa Heidke. Bronwyn Parry was there too and I’m sure I’ve forgotten others–please excuse me if I have!

Looking around, I realized it’s the first writers’ conference I’ve been to with so many MEN in attendance. The testosterone quotient was an interesting variation on the usual 99% female contingent at romance conferences.

Here’s a picture of former police officer and private eye, martial arts expert Simon Higgins showing us the real version of the Vulcan Nerve Pinch during his workshop on writing fight scenes. I had to admire the lady who volunteered. He said, “tell me as soon as this hurts”. I think about a nanosecond passed before she said ‘stop!’

Simon was a fascinating speaker and I now have a few ideas for my next couple of books about the Westruther men. In each book in the series, I keep writing a throaway line that Xavier, Lord Steyne is rumored to have killed a man with his bare hands–not knowing how this works or whether it’s even true for my character. (I’m a pantser, what can I say?) Now, having attended Simon’s workshop I know precisely how Xavier did it and it’s given me the kernel of an idea for Xavier’s book.

On the banquet night, Smart Bitch Sarah did a live version of one of her famous cover snarks involving covers depicting Australia, the high point of which was PRIDE AND PLATYPUS. I kid you not. I’ll leave you to google that image for yourselves! I also scored my first ever Tootsie pop from Sarah for asking a question during her Q&A with Kim Wilkins.

Kim came up with the memorable bon mot (which I probably don’t have verbatim here) “If I had a dollar for every person who trashed romance I’d have enough money to buy a boat to sink them in”. Needless to say, there was much cheering from the romance writer table over that one!

An articulate and intelligent advocate for the romance genre, Sarah Wendell impressed me with her knowledge and affection for the genre. I think her snark plays a part in getting those who might dismiss the genre on her side so she can take them by the hand and lead them to the real message about romance and why we love it. Who knows? Maybe a few people left the con with fewer misconceptions about romance and its writers than they had before.

Sarah was a gracious and amusing guest, eager to experience everything about Australia, including the fact that we had power and gas (Sarah is from New Jersey) and the infamous Tim Tam Slam (above). We so enjoyed having Sarah here and we’re looking forward to seeing her again for the RWAus conference in Perth.

Btw, do you see who is also taking a piccie at the same time as I did? Our lovely BB Helen!

I spoke on a panel about Subtext and also a panel with Kim Wilkins and Tansy Rayner Roberts about Monsters, Villains and Cads (right). Hmm, any guesses which of the three I spoke about? We had a lot of fun with Kim’s Vikings, Tansy’s Ancient Roman villains and my rakes and scoundrels.

I also found out that Kerry Greenwood’s Hellenic Women series is being published by Clan Destine Press in Australia. This makes me very happy–they’re a superb feminist re-telling of Grecian myths. Having read them years ago, I have looked for these books for a while now without much success and happened to mention this during the panel. Only to have everyone in the audience yelling at me that MEDEA was for sale outside in the lobby!

Needless to say I snapped up MEDEA and a previously unpublished Kerry Greenwood,  OUT OF THE BLACK LAND. The Clan Destine Press people took this as a photo opp and promptly tweeted it. For 10 seconds, I felt really famous!

Here I am with Lindy Cameron, the woman behind Clan Destine Press and one of the founders of the fabulous Sisters in Crime Australia.

Joe Abercrombie is the author of a very gritty high fantasy series and was one of the star attractions at the con. He is English, very self-deprecating and witty. I hadn’t come across him before but I bought the first book in his series for my husband who is a major Tolkien fan. Here’s Joe below (right) with Simon Higgins at the Pistols and Parasols banquet. Apologies for the quality of the photo–I took it on my iPad.

Joe was on a panel on worldbuilding with Anna Campbell, crime writer PM Newton and RC Daniells. It was interesting to hear the differing approaches between a fantasy world, a fictionalized historical world and the real world of the police force, of which PM Newton was a member at one time.

Even the real world of policing has to be fictionalized to some extent–the amount of bad language is cut down considerably, for example! PM said if she included the amount of swearing that actually goes on, her books would be unreadable.

Genrecon was a huge success and we all came away energized and optimistic about our writing, despite the fabulous Ginger Clark’s incisive (and rather depressing) summary of the state of the three major English-speaking markets. Kudos to the brains behind Genrecon–Meg Vann, Peter Ball, Kate Eltham, Jason Nahrung and many others who volunteered their time and expertise to make the con run smoothly. We all had a fabulous time and we’re already looking forward to next year in Brisbane.

In their opening speeches, Meg Vann and Kate Eltham both spoke about the importance of finding a ‘tribe’ who gets what you do and I realized I’m lucky enough to have several tribes. Here at Romance Bandits we love the fact that all of you Bandita Buddies are part of our tribe. We hope you always feel welcome here in the lair.

But now I want to know, what other tribes are you a part of? Do you like other genre fiction besides romance? If you do, does there have to be a romantic element in those books or are you quite happy to take a break from romance for a while? Do you want to know how to kill someone with your bare hands?

Come on over here and I’ll show you. Tell me when it hurts…

I’m giving away your choice of my Ministry of Marriage series today to one lucky reader who comments!

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