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If You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover, How About by the Cover MODEL?

I spent most of last week attending the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. Oh my, what a wonderful and valuable experience! Workshops, socials, speakers, author signings, cover models.

Yes, those too-gorgeous-to-be-true guys who grace the covers of romance novels, sometimes dressed as highlanders, pirates, cowboys and whatever else strikes your fantasy-I-mean-fancy. But here’s the thing: they ARE real. I know because I met some at a Cover Model Meet and Greet. It was truly one of the highlights of the entire convention and maybe my entire life. I plastered photos of myself with them all over social media, acknowledged that some viewers might find me shameless, and added that I was “sorry not sorry, as in so NOT sorry.” Here are just a couple of reasons why I have no regrets.

With Len Gunn, who has been the cover model for books by Janet Dailey, Linda Lael Miller, and Jill Shalvis.

And then we have...

Bollywood actor and model Vikkas Bhardwaj has added interest to the covers of several romance novels.

I told him I wanted us to take a book cover-style photo. You know, sultry, dreamy, seriously intense, something. He nailed it, but I just couldn't wipe that smile off my face, though a friend did mention that I appear to be digging my claws into him pretty good. Actually, I was trying to hide a manicure I wasn't happy with, but if it helped with the photo op, then okay.

Really though, these guys were very nice and interesting gentlemen with a lot on the ball. Definitely more than book cover beef cakes, though there was that, too. I did enjoy speaking with them about the convention and their visit to Atlanta, which is where I live 25 miles north of.

The entire convention was the epitome of total amazement. I offer compliments galore to the people who planned and orchestrated this huge melting pot of romance. How could it not be great with events that had names like City Chicks, Southern Belles and Bad Boys, Sexy Spies and Secret Agents, Petticoats and Pistols, Scandalicious Romance Shenanigans, New Romance in France, Cowboy Corral, and Romance Rockabilly Street Festival? Oh, and one called Chocolate Festival. The promise of that alone was enough to get me up and dressed.

A beautiful display at Petticoats and Pistols, which was a celebration of historical romance.

Something was happening every minute! The convention was attended by people from all over the country and included authors, publishers, editors, agents, bloggers, reviewers, librarians, and readers – those wonderful readers of romance who are some of my most favorite kind of people. Every sub-genre of romance was represented, from the sweet teen and conservative inspirational love stories to the I-adore-you-and-want-to-drink-your blood Gothics and the fifty-shades-of-things-I've-never-heard-of enthusiasts.

There was even a marriage proposal! At one of the socials, everyone swooned when the boyfriend of author Zuri Day dropped to one knee and asked for her hand! How perfect was that? A writer of romance books getting proposed to a convention about romance books! Well, I just loved it.

The workshops covered every topic under the big, yellow sun, led by panels of engaging and empowering speakers. The ones I soaked up were focused on marketing, increasing readership and connecting with book clubs, where I got to gather tips from people who not only decided to write romance, but decided to be successful at it. Teach me.

One of many valuable workshops led by experts in the wonderful world of romance writing!

Author, journalist, and all-round fabulous lady, ReShonda Tate Billingsly, led us in the "Get Media Coverage Now" workshop. She's one of the most motivating and interactive speakers I've ever heard!

Of course, I don’t attend anything without something happening. For instance, my second morning there, I was sitting in a jam-packed workshop called Building and Keeping an Audience when I glanced down and noticed that my shirt was inside-out. Ohhhh-kayyyyyyy.

This was one of those two-shirts-in-one deals. It was a tank top with a loose and flowy leopard print shirt over it and they were attached at the shoulders. I had the tank on right; it was the outer shirt that had somehow gotten twisted to reveal its label (and my size), with the front in the back and the back in the front and visible seams announcing my struggles with inner and outer. Given that these shirts were connected, as in stitched together, I’m not sure how I managed this. People laughed, said “it happens to everyone,” and several pointed out that at least my shoes matched.

Thank goodness that was true!

But hold on.

Saturday arrived and I was scheduled as an “appearing author” at the FAN-tastic Day Party where I’d have the opportunity to mingle with readers and hand out promotional swag bags and copies of Watching the Water. I loaded my car with the goodies and headed to Atlanta, not feeling rushed or distracted at all. When I arrived at the Hyatt, though, I got out of my car and noticed that my feet didn’t look as I would have expected them to for such an evening. That’s because I was wearing my knock-around, Margaritaville palm tree-printed canvas tennis shoes. And they looked like I’d worn them earlier while putting down pine bark …because I had.

Well, what could I do? I just handed my keys to the valet attendant, held my head up and walked right through those revolving doors, proving that you can’t take me anywhere...but I still show up. I call such things the comic relief moments of life. We all need them, but two fashion faux pas episodes within 48 hours? Wow, I'm good.

There was an awesome crowd at the FAN-tastic Day Party.

My swag bags.

I love charms and find that most people do, too. This is my favorite swag bag item.

Despite the shirt and shoes, I can’t gush enough good about this convention experience. Besides the learning, networking, new friends, and just plain fun, nothing catches your appreciative eye more than seeing the covers of romance novels blown up 100 times their standard sizes. I saw enlarged versions everywhere.


Cuddling with the Colonel in KFC's "Tender Wings of Desire" romance novella. This is a real promotion for Mother's Day with free Kindle downloads on Amazon.

It's awesome, though.

Apparently, it's a real 96-page novella that weaves a tale of true love. Amazon reviews rave about its deliciously crisp writing, call it love in the free range, and insist it's finger lickin' good. Rest assured, it's a people romance and not a chicken romance, which I don't think is a sub-genre anyway and really never needs to be.

It does, however, feature Colonel Sanders as the romantic hero.

And I just feel like I might have trouble getting past that.

Nevertheless, I've downloaded it. Maybe we all should then meet back out here for a discussion over a bucket of KFC and an assortment of sides? Think about it and let me know. Or if you'd rather, you can read my book Watching the Water and we can talk about it instead. :)

Whatever you're reading, may it bring the ending you hope for. Have a merry May and I'll leave you with this.

A book cover featuring me.

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