Save the Date: New England Chapter RWA Conference April 7-8, 2017

I’m a planner of novels but not an event planner. The whole idea frightens me, in a flying-through-a-narrow-trench-on-the-Death-Star-to-find-its-only-vulnerable-point-while-there-are-TIE-fighters-everywhere kind of way.

But when friends in NECRWA, the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America, came forward with great ideas for next year’s Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference, I wanted to be a part of their success. With a group like this, how can you go wrong?

An Inside Look at the Committee

These are only a few of the full-length novels produced by this talented group. Follow author links below to buy books. I recommend them all!

The real leader of our charge is Kristen Strassel, one of the most innovative and prolific independent authors I know. We joined NECRWA the exact same month: January 2013. Since this time, she’s published at least 26 books by my last count, in both the paranormal and contemporary subgenres. (In contrast, I’ve published two books in one subgenre.) The woman gets shit done, so it is not surprise we asked her to take the reins. She’s also a talented makeup artist by day (and sometimes by night, too).

I’m the vice chair, which means I give encouragement on vice to the chair. Okay, I can do that.

Jen Doyle is the registration chair. Before you say, “I’ve read Calling It, and this is one funny woman. Why did you give her such a boring job?” please do know that she wanted it. She’s got day job skills, you see. And she’s organized. I mean, have you seen her Facebook parties? If not, join her and two other great authors this Monday, August 29th, here, for the release of her second novel by Carina Press. Jen writes sexy and clever sports romance with small-town feels.

Our workshop chair is Stephanie Kay, who just released her debut novel, Unmatched, to great acclaim: 4.9 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon! Holy reviews, Batman! Steph’s biting sense of humor comes through in her writing, but it also makes her a lot of fun to work with. She’s passionate about bringing together the most innovative and helpful workshops possible. If you’re interested in presenting at our great conference, email her at conference_workshops@necrwa.org or submit an online form here.

More by Authors

Our agent and editor chair is Tamsen Parker, who writes emotionally intense BDSM erotic romance, or “elegant superfilth.” Believe me, it delivers on all those promises. Her experience as an agented hybrid author gives her great insight into all facets of our industry, which is why she was the natural choice for A&E. And if you could just see her desk calendar and washi tape, you would know that she has her act together. She puts the elegant in superfilth.

Kari Lemor is our book fair chair, when she’s not working as secretary of our chapter! She had her first novella published as a part of the Beautiful Disaster Anthology, and she has three novels coming out soon from Kensington. She’s one to watch, and she’s a super sweet person, too!

Finally, you’re not going to find this on our conference webpage, but here’s a scoop for you. We have two more committee members-at-large: Teresa Noelle Roberts and Alexa Rowan. Both have been incredible supportive to me over the last few years. Teresa is a veteran author of fantastic paranormal, science fiction, and erotic romance, yet she was kind enough to take newbies like me under her wing. I’ve beta-read her latest release, Buck, Naked, and it is a cheeky, suspenseful sci fi interracial romance with loads of sexy. Just dreamy.

Some newbies make a splash: Alexa won the 2015 RWA Golden Heart award (a big effin’ deal for unpublished romance writers) for Best Short Contemporary Romance. Check out the winning book, Winning Her Over, for yourself. She writes swoony romance for the professional woman featuring hot lawyers, sexy massages, and smart plots. She’s our resident perfectionist, too, so any typos in this post are mine and mine alone.

Conference Authors Shorter

That’s the gang. We write different stuff. Some of us are cat people. Some are dog people. At least a few of us are bird people (including chickens). But you’ll have to trust me on this: we get on really well. It’s awesome how much we like each other, and this chemistry will infect every minute of the conference. You gotta come.

The Speaker Teaser

Did I mention that we have an amazing line up? First, there’s Joanna Bourne, our keynote speaker, who has no idea that she was a key influence in my own writer-origin story. Her Spymaster Series takes place in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars—and, as a professional historian, I have to tell you, these books are amazing. I have one name for you: Hawker. You’ll find out.

NECRWA SPOTLIGHT ON

Joanna’s latest novella is in a delightful anthology called Gambled Away, and guess what? Our Master Class teacher, Molly O’Keefe, is in it with her! (And check out that cover below. It’s one of my favorites of all time. I wish it was mine.) Molly writes historical, erotic, contemporary, and category romance—all sizzling. She’s won two RITA awards (a big effin’ deal for published authors) and some Romantic Times kudos, too. You don’t want to miss this chance to pick her brain.

NECRWA SPOTLIGHT ON Molly O'Keefe

Last but not least, we will be wowing you at lunch with Zoe York. What a repertoire this woman has. Small town romance? SEALs? Vikings in Space? Yes, please. And, if you want something a little more naughty, check out her alter ego, Ainsley Booth. This woman has got you covered…um, literally. I mean, check out those covers!

NECRWA SPOTLIGHT ON Zoe York

Sign me up, you say? Stay tuned at our Facebook page for all the latest information on registration and the workshop program. See this and more links below. We look forward to seeing you in April.

It may be premature for thanks, but who cares? Thank you to all the great NECRWA committees that paved the way, and a special shout out to the Board of Directors for their guidance, support, and enthusiasm. The current board includes Myretta Robens (president), Patricia Grasso (vice president), Jackie Horne aka Bliss Bennet (treasurer), and Kari Lemor (secretary, as linked above).

Board Authors

I could go on and on, but those books in your pile are not going to read themselves. Or maybe you’ve got audio editions and they will. Just go do it!

Conference & Chapter Links

Conference Facebook page

New England Chapter of RWA Conference Page

Conference Twitter: @NECRWA

Conference Instagram: necrwa

Sugar Sun series glossary term #25: boondocks

No, not these boondocks:

Boondocks Media

They are probably fine entertainment, though I haven’t seen either. And not this Boondocks, either:

Boondocks_Tavern_Country_Grill

(Coincidentally, this tavern used to be in my hometown in New Hampshire of all places. It has changed name and ownership since, but what are the odds?)

But, no, I mean none of the above. I mean the boondocks behind me in this photo:

P1030421

Bundok is the Tagalog word for mountain. When American soldiers arrived in the Philippines in 1898, they adopted the word and, of course, changed its meaning. Because ‘Merica. U.S. Marines, in particular, made “boondocks” a buzzword for everything from jungle to backwoods to, in fact, mountains. In their minds, whatever looked “wild.”

For the first half of the century, it remained specialized military slang. One source claims that boondocks appeared in the 1909 Webster’s New International Dictionary, but if so this was the first print usage by at least 30 years. The Online Etymology Dictionary also recognizes the word’s vernacular use as early as the 1910s, but it was otherwise not published until 1944 in the Marine Corps Reader—interestingly, describing Parris Island, South Carolina, a Marine Corps training station that looks pretty flat to me.

In World War II, the word was revived, not only among American fighting forces in the Pacific, but also among those soldiers’ and sailors’ families Stateside, too. The Vietnam War reinforced this usage, and now the word is ubiquitous: being out in the boondocks means being in an isolated or wild region. And, yes, my town in New Hampshire probably counts. I’m proud to live in the boondocks—but I just wish it were closer to the real mga bundok (Philippine mountains).

P1030447
A selfie before smart phones—and selfie sticks.

Featured photo by Jojo Nicdao in the Creative Commons, found here.

Sugar Sun series glossary term #24: quartermaster

Quartermaster is a military word, and therefore it may be as unfamiliar to you (or more so) than the other phrases in this glossary. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term comes from the Middle Dutch word quartiermeester, the naval officer responsible for organizing the watches. This duty was expanded to include all provisioning—from rations to ammunition, from rifles to haversacks, and from ships to horses.

Two views of the Quartermaster Depot of Southern Luzon in Binondo, Manila, c. 1900.
Two views of the Quartermaster Depot of Southern Luzon in Binondo, Manila, c. 1900.

Today, military logistics is more important than ever. The US Armed Forces recruits men and women with engineering and business degrees to keep the soldiers, sailors, aviators, and marines “marching on their stomachs.” But during the Philippine-American War, it seems that anybody could get a job in the quartermaster depot. Why were they so desperate?

After the Civil War, the United States Army had shrunk to a size smaller than today’s New York City Police Department. Think about that for a minute. Yes, there were small military interventions in Mexico, Korea, and Samoa, in addition to a series of conflicts known as the Indian Wars, designed to consolidate Federal control over the rest of North America. But at the time Americans feared they would lose their liberty to a large standing army, so the military remained small despite it all.

When the Spanish-American War began, Congress found itself in a bind. At first they relied upon volunteer units from each of the states, but those enlistments were only a year long. When the Cuban conflict turned into a protracted war in the Philippines, Congress doubled the size of the regular Army once, then twice. For the first time, the US sent a large force to Asia—up to 69,000 at a time—to fight its first overseas war of occupation.

This huge force needed to be fed and armed. If you could read and write, you might be able to swing a job “in the rear with the gear,” rather than wading through rivers and rice paddies under fire. And, if you had an entrepreneurial spirit, a golden opportunity beckoned: crates and crates of goods came in, and who was to say if a few hundred pounds here or there was “lost”?*

One of these “entrepreneurs” was Captain Frederick J. Barrows, who was found to have been embezzling $100,000 a month—the equivalent of $2.9 million in today’s terms—in flour, bacon, and other staples. He then sold the goods to local hotels, bakeries, and restaurants.

The Los Angeles Herald tells of the Manila quartermaster fraud.
The Los Angeles Herald tells of the Manila quartermaster fraud in 1901.

Barrows got away with this scheme for almost a year. In sum, he and his accomplices probably made (and spent) about $24 million in 2015 dollars. Even now, that goes a looooong way. As the article says, Barrows used his ill-gotten gains to lead “a scandalously immoral life…entertaining officers,” which means he was throwing big parties with lots of prostitutes. It’s good to be the quartermaster.

But, be careful: if you steal while you’re in the Army, and steal from the Army, you get punished according to Army regulations—in this case, five years imprisonment in Bilibid Prison in Manila, which might have been worse than Leavenworth. The Spanish built Bilibid but never imprisoned their own citizens inside, which is never a good combination. Don’t let the quaint postcard below fool you.

Bilibid Postcard Colorized

So you see, the scandal I used in Hotel Oriente was a real one. But my hero, Moss North, managed to avoid the dragnet. How? Read the book and find out. It’s available free on Kindle Unlimited or for purchase at only $0.99.

Hotel Oriente Banner

* In the “history repeats itself” column, the US sent plastic-wrapped crates of cash—$12 billion dollars worth—to Baghdad in 2004, and about half of that seemed to disappear. It was called “the largest theft of funds in national history.” But don’t worry—the Department of Defense finally accounted for the funds in 2011, which to some was 7 years too late.

Sugar Sun series glossary term #23: barong tagalog

Pressed against Javier’s arm as they waited for the band to begin, Georgie studied his barong tagalog. It was simple ivory with a plain collar—elegant and traditional—not dyed or striped or ruffled. He had also chosen geometric embroidery over floral. Still, it was not exactly a modest garment. Though the piña felt sturdy and substantial where it brushed her skin, it was so sheer it displayed his snug undershirt with remarkable definition.

“Why wear a shirt so thin that you need a second layer?” she asked, eyes fixed where his short sleeve revealed some bicep. “Isn’t that hot?”

One eyebrow shot up. “It depends with whom I’m dancing.”

—Under the Sugar Sun

Oh, Javier.

But he’s not entirely wrong. There is a rare intersection of sexy and convenient going on here. The barong tagalog (the “Tagalog shirt”), or just barong, is the formal garment for men in the Philippines. No tie. No tucking the darn thing in. What’s not to like? At least, that’s my husband’s attitude. He actually went to fancy dress parties and weddings in Manila, as a result. He’s even worn his here in the States.

He doesn’t look this good in his—shhh, don’t tell him—but he looks pretty good:

Three handsome men in barongs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada (far left). Find photos here, here, and here.
Three handsome men in barongs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada (far left). Find photos here, here, and here.

If you do a little research on the barong, you’ll run into an urban myth—at least, from what I could find, it is an urban myth. I’ll let Javier tell it:

He flicked the loose tail of his shirt. “I’ve always been told that the Spanish required the indios to wear these so we couldn’t hide our daggers underneath.”

Georgie wondered if these islands had ever known peace. “Is that true?”

“It’s certainly the kind of thing the Crown would have done, but there’s no specific law anyone can point to.” Javier paused, his brown eyes studying her. “It makes a good story—and at Spanish expense, too, which makes it even better—but in truth the barong is probably all Filipino. Do you like it?”

Georgie looked up the shirt line and across his chest. “I do.”

He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “I would wear anything to catch your attention, Ina. Or nothing.”

You can find some historic examples of barongs at my Pinterest site on traditional Philippine dress. And if you keep digging, you’ll find there’s lots of variety: ruffles, fabrics, cuffs, length, and more. Some have floral designs, and others geometric. Some are dyed, others are natural piña. All look pretty terrific on a handsome man, though, and isn’t that all we want in the end?

Featured image by Angel N at Flickr.

Three more non-Filipino barong wearers. Who wrote it best?
Three more non-Filipino barong wearers. Who wrote it best? Far left is actor Jeremy Remmer, pictured in Manila to shoot Bourne Legacy. The middle is filmmaker Quentin Tarantino at the 2007 Golden Globe nominations. Far right is President Barack Obama at the 2015 APAC Summit. Most experts agree on Obama with the win, and Remmer second. It’s all about the undershirt. Read on.

EPILOGUE: My husband thought that I left out the most famous non-Filipino to wear a barong, Quentin Tarantino. But there is a problem with Tarantino’s high-profile debut of the garment at the 65th Annual Golden Globes Nomination ceremony in December 2007: he forgot the undershirt. And he left it unbuttoned at the collar, which made the lack of undershirt even worse. His general look of dishevelment did not help matters. As a result, many Filipinos felt he did not present the Tesoro barong at its best. (It was a gift by the Film Development Council of the Philippines, by the way, and Tesoro’s made it in a day. The source is quick to add that Tarantino was, in fact, given an XXL undershirt.) At least the filmmaker wore it with genuine affection, and isn’t that the most important thing?