I just returned from a trip filled with firsts. My first trip to Denver; my first time doing the "face" thing with booksellers, asking them to remember my book and perhaps schedule me for an event next March when LIFELINES debuts; my first Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold conference; and my first ever keynote speech.
Can I just say, Wow!!!

I was nervous about all of the above except visiting Denver. Turns out that was the only thing I should have been worried about—the first night I stayed with a friend at high elevation and got acute mountain sickness. Otherwise known as barf-o-rama in the guest bathroom.

But the next day I was fine. We traveled to bookstores in Denver and Boulder and holy smokes, this place felt like a writers Nirvana!

Not only were there bookstores everywhere (the nearest one to me here at home is 30 minutes away and is a chain store) but they were filled with people—gulp—reading!!! Not to mention the wonderful booksellers, like Lauri Ver Schure at
Murder by the Book and Cynthia Nye at High Crimes Mystery Bookstore.

Both of these wonderful ladies ignored their ringing phones and inventory stocking to stop and chat books with us—aw bliss! Not only were they warm and welcoming to this soon-to-be-released author, they seemed genuinely interested in LIFELINES and its cross-genre appeal to their customers.

Being in their stores, talking with people who love books as much as I do felt like coming home!

And that same welcome-home feeling continued once I made it to the conference. The folks at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers not only put on a stellar conference that was well-organized and filled with great workshops and panels, they also exhibit a level of writing talent that is truly amazing.

There I was sitting with people like Jeanne Stein, a newly minted NYT bestseller; Mario Acevedo whose vampire detective stories are as sly and witty as the man himself is in real life; YA author Bonnie Ramthun whose mastery of all things Mac kept me from committing hari-kari via laptop; and the always uplifting and energizing NYT bestseller Joan Johnston who offered her wisdom and expert advice on this wild and whacky publishing business.

Then they call me up to give the Kickoff Keynote Address. Yikes! Here I am, unknown, unpublished (until next March!), about the most unlikely Guest of Honor you could ever meet…..and my job is to inspire and motivate all these wonderfully talented people???

Yet, somehow, I wasn't nervous or scared. That's how comfortable and accepted they made me feel. And with folks like Vicki Law, Marne Kirstatter, and my hostess, Margie Lawson, leading the way, how could I feel anything but?

So I spoke from the heart. Asking hard questions, sharing a little of my own life and the answers I've discovered, challenging the audience to search for their own answers. My speech was titled after the conference itself: Dreams to Reality and in it I explored why I write and what makes a "real" writer.

I was certain it was all just maudlin-Disneyesque crap, wondered right up to the moment I stepped on stage if I shouldn't just grab a football and punt it as my "kickoff" instead. But they laughed at all the right spots, cheered at all the right spots, even cried (well, not Mario of course—he has that tough guy vampire detective street cred to keep intact).

Afterwards, the most amazing thing happened. For the next two days of the conference, writers—published and unpublished—kept coming up to me and thanking me!!! Saying that my speech had touched them, inspired them, helped them as writers.

Now it was my turn to blink back tears—I felt so privileged that they would invite me into their lives and share that with me.

I realized that this also reflects my highest aspirations for my writing—to reach out, connect with a reader and through them change the world, one reader at a time. How fitting is it that I plan to return to Denver and launch LIFELINES at Left Coast Crime next March?

Although, it seems desperately far away, because now I'm hooked!! I want to have this feeling again—and again and again!!

Thanks for reading!
CJ Lyons

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Comment by Karen Dionne on September 19, 2007 at 10:31am
What an incredible experience that must have been, CJ! I'm SO looking forward to when Lifelines is released. March will be here before we know it!

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