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April 30, 2009

Lifetime Achievement

Lifetime Achievement

by Nancy Martin

Last weekend, I went to Florida to receive a Lifetime Achievement award from Romantic Times magazine.  It's the kind of recognition you get, maybe, when people figure you're over the hill, right? Next stop--my obituary? 

I hope the hell not. This particular award was for the mystery novel category--amateur sleuths, donchaknow--and I was nominated along with the likes of Edna Buchanan and Carolyn Hart, both of whom have been writing mysteries much longer (and better!) than I have. But in addition to solving crimes, my characters tend to take off their clothes and have wild monkey sex, which I think made the crucial difference to the RT folks, so I took home the statue.  (The statue looks a lot like Oscar, by the way, but smaller.  My daughter started calling him Humphrey, and it stuck. He's on my mantel at the moment.) 

Twenty-six years ago, I attended the very first Romantic Times convention in New York.  I was a young mother who was so desperate to avoid going back to teaching junior high English that during my maternity leave, I had pulled out my portable typewriter from college and tried writing a book--a long historical romance that was more Jane Eyre than bodice ripper--and by some miracle, I managed to sell it to a New York publisher. Trouble was, I didn't know anything about the publishing industry.  And I lived in a very rural, isolated part of Pennsylvania with no resources for an aspiring popular fiction writer, so I knew I needed help.  I spotted a tiny ad in a writing magazine that spurred me to send money to register for the first ever Romantic Times convention, which was going to feature agents, editors and publishers, plus a chance to meet other authors who would surely help a newbie. 

I packed my Samsonite and went to New York for the very first time.  The hotel was crowded with women like me--all a little intimidated, but eager to learn more.  It was also thronged with panting media (the goddesses at Romantic Times have always known how to draw a crowd of reporters) who were ready with cameras to record what they obviously thought was a silly bunch of women making fools of themselves over love stories.

Well, 26 years later, who's smirking now?  Romance novels sell 1.375 BILLION DOLLARS EVERY YEAR. Romance Writers of America is the go-to writers organization in the world. (If you don't know exactly what a romance novel is, go here.  And if you don't keep an open mind, more the fool you are.) And I know fans who keep spread sheets of the books they've read (Debby, are you there?) and timetables for books that will be soon released. This genre may be single-handedly keeping the publishing business alive.

After my first workshop at that long-ago RT convention (I took frantic notes during Bertrice Small's session on historical research) I worked up the courage to approach the woman who was going to publish my first book in a few months' time.

She shook my hand rather coldly and said, "Oh, I remember that book.  I didn't like it.  But we'll publish it anyway."

I would have been devastated by her cruel remark, if I hadn't found myself standing in the center of a phenomenon---that exciting convention of women just like me. 

From the very beginning, Romantic Times magazine set out to create a supportive community of writers and readers.  (The close interaction with readers, I think, has always made the romance genre more quick to respond to the market. Surely one of the genre's strengths.) RT's staff of reviewers has been unapologetic about their love of romance and encouraged fans to branch out and read widely.  The enthusiasm generated by the RT organization has surely been a part of that $1.3 billion in sales. And they have pried open closed minds with a silk-covered crowbar. (What became of that cold publisher, you ask?  Well, she's no longer with us on this earthly plane. And I've written nearly 50 books since the day she tried to cut my heart out.)

I have been very grateful for what Romantic Times has done for me for these 26 years. Oh, it's nice to receive an award, and Humphrey's going to stay on my mantel for a while, but I'm much more thankful that Kathryn Falk, Carol Stacy and the rest of the RT staff have created a community where writers like me can flourish.

I'm skipping the Malice Domestic convention this week, and I don't plan on attending the Edgar festivities next week, either. I'll miss the fun, of course. But I'm not heartbroken. Because my homeys are at Romantic Times.

PS.  You can find us on Twitter now!  Look for Lipstickblog. I think.

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Comments

Dear God, that a publisher could say something so cruel -- shouldn't she have been in horror, rather than romance?

What a satisfying "last laugh" story, Nancy. And yes, others may have been at it longer than you, but as for better? I think not.

Congrats Nancy!!! Whoo Hoo!

Congrats Nancy!

I managed to put the link for this blog on Twitter (my first Tweet!) but with a typo. So much for Career Achievements! Off to Malice today. I'll check back on the road. Thanks for the pats on the back, darling backbloggers!

Lovely! Humphry is the perfect name.

Gak -- I can't get either Lipstickblog or yostroh to be recognized by twitter.

CONGRATULATIONS, Nancy! This is terrific.

I've attended two RT's in my day, the first back in 2000, the second in 2007 where I got to meet Harley, Kathy, and Michele face to face. (Margie could have been there, but I didn't know her then. Come to think of it, Harley's mysterious Elevator Incident... there was a rumor the Concierge was, um, 'distracted' when that happened. Nah... too coincidental.)

RWA is an amazing organization. I joined back in 1999; it was the only writers group close by. I confess to some trepidation, but when I walked in to that first meeting, it was made clear it didn't matter what genre, type, category I wrote in, what was critical was that I DID write.

Now, we've got Romantic Suspense, Romantic Mystery, Romantic Paranormal, Romantic Futuristic, Romantic Policiers, Romantic Thrillers, all genres and stories. Through absolutely no action on my part, I have to tell you ALL the Tarts are well-known, well-read, and adored.

The Northwest Houston Chapter is THE very first RWA chapter created. I'm still not sure how or why, but I am currently serving as President for this chapter, and it is my honor to do so.

From beginning Newbie to experienced Professional, there is no finer writers organization anywhere. If you even dream of writing, look into your local chapter; you'll love it....

Congrats, Nancy. I'm absolutely thrilled for you.

Good for you, Nancy--and incredibly well-deserved!

Congratulations, Nancy!

You should take Humphrey with you wherever you go. He'd probably look cute in a grocery cart, on a table at a restaurant, beside you in church...

Good thing I'll never win any awards!

Way to pick up the gauntlet thrown by that mean editor! I'm proud to know you!

We Tarts knew about this award a while ago, but we were sworn to secrecy. I am so happy we can celebrate it with our whole TLC community now.

Yay Nancy!!

How does that saying go, "Revenge is a dish best served cold"? I hope that editor came to realize how wrong she was. Thank goodness someone else at that house had better sense than she.

This is such delicious news, Nancy, and I'm so happy for you. It's a reward richly deserved.

My mother and I share one important characteristic--we are both diehard readers who collect authors whose work we enjoy. I accidentally bought a duplicate of one of your books so I gave it to her. She has now become a fan, as well, and has read as many of your books as she can find.

I'm impressed that you're Twittering. Give Humphrey a surreptitious little smooch from me!

Remember the party we had here one day last year? Isn't it time for another one? All kinds of great things worth celebrating have happened for the Tarts lately, after all!

Congratulations, Nancy!!!!! That is a wonderful honor and absolutely well-deserved. But man, do you look young and fabulous for a lifetime achiever. They must be putting something special in the water at the Tart office.

Hey, I keep spreadsheets of my books to buy and what I have read. Freaked the wife out to find out we own 20 of the now 22 Elaine books and that she was way behind.

On the other hand, I do read "The First Gift" and "Amilea Bedilia" once a week.

Congratulations Nancy! May the awards keep coming!

I thought every diehard reader had a spreadsheet...hmmmm. Maybe Dear Hubby is right. Maybe there is something different about me!

Congrats, Nancy. Well deserved recognition.

Congrats, Nancy! What a great honor, one you definitely deserve IMO. And I'm with Joyce about you needing to carry it everywhere. The thought of Humphrey sitting in your shopping cart *is* kind of funny.

(I don't keep a spreadsheet, but I probably need one. I do, however, search the amazon.com "Mystery" section to see what upcoming books I want to buy.)

Um, I have a spreadsheet too. I now want some portable device to keep it in, so I can have the updated copy with me at all times. My reading preferences are largely mysteries, which often come in series (one reason I like them), and I really need a list to keep track of the order.

Congratulations, Nancy. I love Joyce's suggestion, and can just see Humphrey sitting next to you at church. I agree with Harley; there may be some who have been writing mysteries longer, but certainly not better. I can't believe the woman would say that to your face.

My first RT experience was last year, and I'm still recovering. I've heard only good things about RWA - very cool, William, that you get to serve as president of your local chapter.

Has anyone gotten a copy of "Beyond Heaving Bosoms", written by the Smart Bitches girls? Sarah Wendell was at the Nora Roberts signing, and I got a copy. I love their attitude (and descriptions) of intelligent people enjoying romance. And as William pointed out, there are so many types of romance to read, how can anyone justify categorically shunning this genre? And yet the disdain is still widespread.

Oh, and I must mention, I love the website www.stopyourekillingme.com. It's an awesome way to keep track of mystery authors and the order of the books. You can also look up by character's name. :)

Congratulations, Nancy! Sorry I missed running into you at the RT convention, but I was only there for a day.

When you figure out your Twitter ID be sure to post it somewhere! (And put something in your one-line bio on your Twitter profile so that your fans can figure out which Nancy Martin you are.)

Hey Alan, I read Amelia Bedelia with my literacy student last week. She makes her living cleaning houses, so it was great and she got the jokes.

Hey, Becky, let me suggest other sources of upcoming new books. Both Mystery Lovers Bookshop in PA and Murder By The Book in Houston, TX keep a good list of upcoming books, and both will take your order on line and ship them to you, even sending autographed copies of your favorite author's books. I use both of these sources and find them much more conducive to buying than Amazon.com. See them at www.mysterylovers.com and www.mysterybooks.com. See ya at Malice this weekend. It's my first ever and I am very excited to meet everyone. I'm sorry you, Nancy, won't be there but I know eventually we will meet. Congrats on a fabulous recognition of your hard work.

Laura! Thank you, thank you, for posting that site! What a great resource for readers who enjoy reading series in the order in which they were written. It's much more fun to read that way. Now I can! Yay.

Lol, Karen - I'm glad you find it helpful. I am VERY anal about reading series in order, and that site definitely makes it easier, especially since you can get all the information in one place, rather than having to go to each author's website.

Congratulations Nancy, I love your Blackbird books!!

I am so glad Nancy announced her award! Sitting on a secret has never been easy for me! LOL

CONGRATS and WELL-DESERVED!!

Post a picture of Humphrey.

William - I had no idea you were president of NWHouston Chapter. I visited that group a few years ago. Great chapter. And RWA is a terrific group for aspiring and well-published authors.

Big Congratulations Nancy!
I think you should go gangsta with Humphrey, get a big chain welded to his head and wear him everywhere!

I found "lipstick blogger" on twitter but I don't think that's y'all.

Can someone post the TLC twitter link?

Nancy,
Congratulations! Mysteries with monkey sex are my favorite kind. I'm so happy for you.

Nany,

Yes, I am here. LOL!!! And the list keeps growing and growing. I've got books and authors listed into late 2010 already. :)

And congratulations!!! I am so very proud of you, and glad to know that others have acknowledge your skill. A mystery with monkey sex is a good thing....keeps it from getting to weird. Unless the monkey sex is happening in weird locations???

Party? Oh yeah... got my brownies made already.

So happy for you, Nancy - ghod knows you've worked hard and deserve the recognition.

As for Humphrey - I think you should get two sand-cast copies made and gilded - then mount one to either side of the ridge on the hood of your BMW. 'Cuz why be shy about a Humpty?

Thanks, JodiL, for mentioning the independent bookstores. I should have said that too. It's my little secret that I just *look* at amazon.com and buy elsewhere. Hope we meet up at Malice. I'll look for you.

First, Nancy, congratulations. You deserve it.

For all the twitterers (twits?) out there looking for The Lipstick Chronicles, you'll find us at:

http://twitter.com/lipstickblog

I just checked the link and it seems to be working fine now.

Lisa

To follow Sarah Strohmeyer:

http://twitter.com/yostroh

To follow me, Lisa:

http://twitter.com/lisadaily

For keeping track of books, this helps also
http://ww2.kdl.org/libcat/WhatsNextNEW.asp

My sister reserved a Dana Stabenow book for me -- read it and realized I was four books behind in the series, caught up, and the book makes far more sense. If I'd just checked first . . .

Soooo....Nancy! We all know you are award winning and this is great!!!!! (Now we do the dance of joy!)
I'm with Tom and at least have him mounted on your dashboard like one of those Saint statues.
Sorry to have been MIA but I've been drowning in the Jury Pool at the courthouse in Downtown Miami for, count them, four days. "One Hundred and Fourty" people were in the pool. Only six to be selected.
I am one of them. I feel like I won the audition! I also want to teach public speaking in High school. What an experience.
So this should be interesting.
Until June 5th I'm sworn to secrecy and will be a tad scarce here at the TLC. I'm getting there on the Metro-rail also. Good people watching plus I've already crocheted (knitting needles won't be allowed through the security scan at the courthouse for obvious reasons) 2 shawls while waiting on thee hardest wooden benches outside and inside the courtroom that must be from the dark ages of torture. I asked the Baliff (sp) if people got "Bench Sores" from sitting on them for so long. Seriously...I took my neck squishy for the rail ride and ended up sitting on it!
I'll tell you all about it after we reach a verdict!
I will miss you all and will try to chime in late after court and my Sound of Music rehearsals in the evening!!
Again Nancy...bless your heart you deserve this wonderful award!
Just saying.

I'm surprised they won't let you have your knitting needles. Airplanes started allowing them again quite some time ago. I use the circular ones now for almost all my knitting, far more portable.
Are you required to sit when waiting outside? Would yoga stretches, for example, be allowed? Tai Chi?

Mazel Tov, nancy!
Bring Humphrey to the Festival on Monday.

Good for you! I saw you with your Humphrey last evening at the Mystery Lovers Festival..I'm the one that ask you about "the girls" and told you that I didn't post...so here it is! Waiting for BB sisters to return. CW in PA

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