Friday, July 30, 2010

Pitching a Fit

Today, I woke up nauseated. No, not from too many roller coasters or too many drinks. It's because I have pitches this morning. Back to back pitches. Like ripping off a band-aid, I guess I should be pleased its relatively early (10:20 and 10:50 AM) and will be over quickly. Of course, that will just leave me time to worry about my workshops tomorrow. :)

I've worked on my pitch ad nauseum. I'm pitching the same book to both an editor and an agent. Hoping my quirk will catch their eye. I've reviewed Instigator's Pits of Pitching Hell article. Now all I can do is get dressed and wait in the lobby with all the other high strung people.

Here's a couple tips I have for pitching:

1) Don't arrive too early. You don't want to be late, by any means, but arrive exactly 15 minutes ahead of your appointment as instructed. If you're nervous about being late, go almost to the area, but not inside. Inside the waiting area is worse than the lobby of the free clinic. Everyone is panicky. Everyone is nervous. The energy in there is awful. The longer you sit the more you'll absorb. Just arrive 15 minutes ahead, check in, get a seat and review your pitch cards. Don't let it all get to you.

2) See if anyone you know has a pitch around the same time. I think Angel or her sister have a pitch right around mine. We can sit in the waiting area together and chat. It helps the nerves and if you wait for eachother after the pitches, you can share your good news after its done.

3) Schedule yourself some free time before and after the pitch. Mine is early, so I've pretty much written off going to any workshops before. And right after, I'm going to either go back to my room and collapse on the bed in an adrenelin crash, or I'm going straight to the bar. (Yes, I know it will be 11AM.) Don't rush out of a workshop, pitch, then run to the next event. Give your brain some space.

4) Remember you've got 10 whole minutes. They will manage to crawl by and fly by all at once. My point is that you don't have to shake hands and immediately launch into your spiel. Introduce yourself. Thank her for seeing you. Ask how her conference is going. Tell her a little about yourself and your writing. Then go ahead with your pitch. Let her ask questions. When the business is wrapped up, if there's still time left, thank her again, and gift her with the extra two minutes to do whatever she needs to before the next person comes. Being courteous and friendly will help her remember you.

5) It's just a pitch. The editor knows you're a writer, not a public speaker. She knows the pitch could be great and the book could be awful. She also knows an awful pitch could still mean a good book. Do your best, but remember, in the end, its the product you send her that will make or break the book. You could have a stellar pitch that makes them leap for joy and request the full, but if it shows up and its obvious you've spent more time on the pitch than the manuscript, you've got trouble. Once you get home from conference, you really need to focus. If you haven't already, get that partial or full to shine. That, more than anything you say or do (short of vomiting on the editor's shoes) will make you memorable and get that project some forward momentum.

Ok, hope that helps everyone. I need to take my own advice and chill out for a while. I'll post later with my results. If you're pitching today or tomorrow, share your good news and we can all squeee together!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Harry Potter Here We Come

Today is the first full day of conference. After the fun and stress of the Lit Signing (I love signing but being 1 in a sea of 500 can be intimidating) Smarty Pants and I have some fun planned for today. Yes, we're playing hooky and skipping the AGM, workshops and various Pan/Pro events to attend a theme park. But this isn't just any theme's HARRY POTTER.

This 'world' at Universal Studios only opened last month. It's new and for a fan of the books it's a chance to see the places and things that we've read about for years. As an author it's amazing to be able to watch the visualization of a story as it comes to life.

From what I understand it's actually a fairly small place...especially for the number of people who are trying to cram into it at once right now. I'm looking forward to riding the three rides. Forbidden Journey a state of the art trip through Hogwarts and the Harry Potter world. Flight of the Hippogriff where you have to learn how to bow to the proud animal before you're allowed to ride. Dragon Challenge which gives you the opportunity to be part of the tri-wizard tournament by riding on the back of a dueling dragon roller coaster. I've heard the lines are atrocious but I know they're going to be so worth it.

But the rides aren't the only things I'm looking forward to. Ollivander's, Filch's, Dervish & Banges, Honeydukes, the Owl Post, Zonko's, the Three Broomsticks. I want to see all the treats from the books. I want to buy a wand. I want to try a frozen butterbeer and eat at the three broomsticks. I want to walk through Hogwarts. I want to immerse myself in the world that I've read about for years...the world I've imagined in my own head for years.

For anyone also planning to hit the park while we're down in Orlando, a little advice. It's being reported that there is a 2 hour wait to enter that area of the park during the morning and late afternoon hours. Forbidden Journey is running at a 120 minute wait. All of the rides do have a single rider line, however, if you do it on Forbidden Journey you'll miss seeing some of the castle. Ollivander's is running at a 2 hour wait (all of it in the sun). They take 20 to 25 people at a time and only one person will be picked for the show where the wand chooses the person. If a child is in the crowd they will be picked. The Three Broomsticks usually has an hour wait to get in for lunch and dinner and they do not take reservations.

For any Harry Potter fans out there, I'll be happy to report on my favorite parts of the experience when we get home. Have you read Harry Potter? Do you have plans to visit the park?


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We Have Liftoff!

The past two weeks we've given you a "Countdown to Conference" with tips on preparing for and surviving the RWA National Conference.

Today, the clock has counted down, we gone through the mandatory holds at various intervals and we're ready for liftoff.

I'm packed. I have a new manicure and pedicure. I've checked in online for my flight. My passport, ticket information and transportation reservation are in my backpack. I'm riding to the airport with several of the Playfriends and Angel's sister.

I'm ready (I think) for my editor pitch. Think of me at 4:30 Eastern time on Friday. I've picked out the workshops I want to attend, though that's always up for negotiation. I have some times scheduled to get with friends for drinks or coffee (I'll be having my usual virgin version of some sort of margarita or daiquiri). I have writing friends I see once a year at this conference and I so look forward to the social aspects of the trip. And after the year I've had, I need to refill the well and be amidst kindred writing souls and maybe even cry into a virgin margarita or two.

PC will have her netbook and Instigator will have her laptop so we'll try to pop in during the week and keep you updated on things (like the results of the National Readers' Choice Awards). You'll be able to follow the Golden Heart and Rita ceremony on the RWA website. They'll be updating real-time with results.

If we don't post often, or even at all, it isn't that we don't love all of you. We're out there learning new things, meeting new folks to interview and have as guest bloggers and collecting books and goodies to give away as prizes over the next year.

Stay tuned next week because we'll be reporting back on the conference. We have a pretty large contingent from Heart of Dixie attending and many of them have blogs too. It's always fun to read about other people's experiences.

Stay cool! I'll see you when I return if not before.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bags are packed and I'm ready to go...

Depending on when you're reading this, I may be gone already.

Although the conference doesn't officially start until Thursday, my conference starts tomorrow at 10 am. Tonight I'll be figuring out the hotel (so I can report back to the Playfriends) and having dinner with my Fabu CP. Drinks in the bar may also be on the agenda.

I leave behind a book that needs to be written, a child that needs to be packed for camp, a house that still needs work done (round two with the kitchen floors just for starters), PTA paperwork, the gerbils, and figuring out what's for dinner.

For the next 5 1/2 days, I'm Kimberly Lang, Harlequin Author, with all the glam and excitement I can possibly pack into that. I will wear cute clothes and shoes. I will wear makeup every day. Hopefully, someone will tell me "I love your books." I'll mingle and mix with the biggest stars in Romancelandia and meet the newest and upcoming. I'll give workshops where people think I have something interesting to say.

People will bring me food and make my bed. No one will ask me to find their socks or the remote or tell me how bored they are. Everyone will want to talk writing and the ups and downs of this business. No one will ask me when I'm going to write a 'real book' instead of those "trashy romances.' There are no Hannah Montana rerun marathons at RWA, and for that, I'm very grateful.

And on Sunday, I'll come home to the people who love me and think I'm fabulous the other 359 1/2 days of the year (if for no other reason than I know where the socks are and where the remotes hide). Hello t-shirts and yoga pants and optional hygiene.

Maybe Hannah Montana has a point with that "Best of Both Worlds" thing.

(Dear dog, I just quoted Hannah Montana. I really need this break...)


Out of curiosity, where's the strangest place you've ever found the remote...?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Craziness Has Ensued!

While I know that everyone else is going about their daily lives in a normal manner, I must confess that mine is focused around one simple activity right now: obsessing over my upcoming trip to RWA National Conference in Orlando. But it isn’t just the conference itself that has me in a tizzy. I have much more to worry about than that!

1. My plane leaves on Wednesday!
This might not seem like a big deal to anyone else (after all, I still have 2 days before I have to actually enter an airport), but since I’m afraid of flying, I start to worry about it way ahead of time. More experience flying has taught me some ways of calming these fears, but it still niggles in the back of my mind. And since I usually only fly once a year, I have to remind myself of these strategies with more frequency than if I flew all the time and they became second nature to me.

2. I have to pack!
Yep, I sure do and though I prefer not to be up packing at midnight the night before I leave, chances are, that’s where you’ll find me. But I try to plan ahead. I’ve been working on my packing list a little at a time for over a week (thanks, SP!), I’ve tried on clothes when I had time, and done copious amounts of laundry. Speaking of which…

3. Laundry needs to be done!
Don’t you hate it when you get all the colored clothes washed, then find that one light blue shirt that you need… still dirty?!?! Now what will I wash it with? Do I have time for another load? Is it worth the hassle? Sigh. If bosses in Corporate America only acknowledged the organizational skills it takes to wash and pack clothing for a trip, it would be on my resume in bold letters.

But it isn’t just my laundry that needs to be done. I try to get everyone else’s washed along with mine, because I don’t like to leave my family behind with more tasks than absolutely necessary. Which leads me to…

4. Do we have enough frozen dinners?
If you’ve been reading long enough, you’ll recognize the control freak in me rearing its ugly head. Couple that with my particular psychosis and the results sound like this, “I feel guilty about being gone for a week and leaving other people to deal with my (jobs, chores, tasks, etc), so I need to do as much as possible before I leave to make it as easy as possible for that person while I’m gone…” Not pretty, I know, but if stocking the freezer with frozen foods, leaving behind lists, and washing everyone’s laundry before I go makes me feel better about stepping onto that plane, then that’s what I’ll do. (Don’t hate me because I’m obsessive.) ;) Unfortunately, it also makes my To Do list double, so yes, I stress over time too.

5. Will everything fit in my suitcase?
Back to packing for a moment… do you know how hard it is to get all your conference stuff into a suitcase at less than 50 pounds? I’d really like to head down there with only one suitcase and a carry on, though I know I’ll come back with an extra duffle bag. But at $30 a pop, I’m hoping to take it down for less. But when you end up packing at midnight…

Okay, I think that’s enough obsessiveness for today. So tell us, what are you obsessing about these days? What thing do you always tell yourself you won’t do before a trip (like pack at midnight) that you always end up doing?


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Special Opportunities at RWA in Orlando

If you're unpublished and headed to the RWA Conference next week, here are two opportunities you might want to take advantage of:

Open House for Unpublished Authors
Thursday, 7/29, 3-4 pm
Harlequin Hospitality Suite, Europe 8

If you're interested in writing for one of the Harlequin/Mills & Boon lines edited out of London (Historical, Presents, Romance, Medical, Modern Heat), you can come meet the M&B editors in an informal setting. Linda Fildew, Joanne Grant, and Jenny Hutton will be there (with their fabulous accents!) and they're very friendly. It's a great chance to meet and greet and maybe ask a few questions.

Want to tell Brenda Chin (Harlequin Blaze) about your book?

PC and SP are doing a workshop with Brenda Chin on Saturday, 7/31, 2-3 pm in the Americas Seminar Room titled, It's For Your Own Good: What You Can Learn From Rejection (from two authors and the editor who rejected them both).

Brenda will give attendees the opportunity to write a short pitch for their book and hand it in. It's a great opportunity to "pitch" without the scary appointment and submit without landing in the slush pile. I know of several people who have gotten requests through this process, and Brenda has even bought books pitched this way. It's a great opportunity for aspiring Blaze authors.

It's also going to be a fabulous workshop... :-)

Speaking of fabulous workshops, here are a couple of others that might interest you...

Three Steps to a Highly Hot Hero (Saturday, 7/31, 8.30-9.30 am)

Speakers: Rhonda Nelson, Kira Sinclair, and Vicki Lewis Thompson

Three best-selling authors share their secrets on how to create a hot hero for every genre.

I've Got a Fever: Taking Sexual Tension from Lukewarm to Hot (Saturday, 7/31, 3.15-4.15pm)

Speakers: Lynn Raye Harris and Kira Sinclair

Two Harlequin authors demonstrate how to amp up the sexual tension in your manuscript to give it that memorable quality that keeps readers turning pages to find out what happens next.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lay of the Land...or World, Rather

We've covered a lot of the conference basics, so today I'm going to tackle a topic specific to this trip - WE'RE AT DISNEY WORLD!! Yay! I love the House of Mouse. I can't help it. And yes, I will admit, it makes it very difficult to focus on conference knowing what's right outside the doors. Workshop... Magic Kingdom? Tough choices.

As a seasoned Disney-a-holic, I thought I'd share some tips you might find handy about our hotel specifically and about the World as a whole. If you can sneak some time away to sitesee, great, if not, there's still some interesting stuff right in our hotel.

The Hotels

Ok, to start... The Dolphin and Swan Resorts. This is where the conference is taking place. From what I've heard, you may be staying in either resort, but all the conference activities will be in the Dolphin. There's a short covered walkway connecting the two.

Facts to know - check in is at 3PM and checkout is at 11AM. The rate you pay includes a $10 'resort charge' that will provide access to the fitness center, unlimited high-speed internet in the rooms, up to 60 minutes free local, toll free and credit card access calls, 2 bottles of water daily, and 20 minutes of domestic long distance per day. I'm not sure if the internet is wireless or what the availability is in common areas.

There's a fabulous 3 acre pool complex with white sand beaches, waterslides and swan boats. There's also the Mandara spa if you need a little pampering.


In the two hotels are several restaurants. Some require reservations and you'd do well to get them in advance. Unlike a lot of conference hotels, its hard to crash a Disney restaurant with a large party.

At the Swan:
  • Il Mulino New York Trattoria (Italian, reservations required)

  • Kimono's (Sushi Bar & Karaoke, reservations required)

  • Garden Grove (Casual Buffet, with Characters at breakfast)

  • Splash Grill and Deli (Hamburgers, etc.)

At the Dolphin:
  • Todd English's bluezoo Restaurant (seafood, reservations required)

  • Shula's Steak House (steak, reservations required)

  • Picabu (cafeteria/convenience store)

  • The Fountain (50's diner)

  • Fresh Mediterranean Market (breakfast and lunch pick up)

Nearby are also the Yacht/Beach Club and Boardwalk resorts. The Boardwalk features an Atlantic City style area with more restaurants and shopping. You can also catch one of the buses to Downtown Disney. A shopping and dining Mecca, you can buy nearly anything you could possibly want, Disney related, without having to step foot in a park.

In addition to resorts, the Swan and Dolphin are situated between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Both are within walking distance and you can also ride the boat launch across the lagoon. The closest entrance for Epcot takes you in the secret backdoor of the park, landing you smack in between the UK and France - perfect to pick up a pastry and a pint. Once you get inside Epcot, the dining options are limitless - Italian, German, Moroccan, Japanese, Mexican, Chinese... of course, this will require you to have park tickets, so let's talk about that, too.


Online tickets were available at a discount for a limited time online. Since conference is so close, these are no longer available. You can, however, call 407-566-5600 and order them over the phone. They will be available for will call at any park or ticketing area. You'll need the code off your hotel room confirmation to order, but you'll receive a 10% discount and also be able to purchase "After 2" or "After 4" tickets you can't get anywhere else. Spur of the moment, you can simply buy tickets at any park entrance, and I believe at the Dolphin resort as well. Here's the prices, hold your breath:

Magic Your Way Tickets (1 park per day)

  • 1 day pass - $79

  • 2 day pass - $156

  • 3 day pass - $219

Park Hopper Tickets (allows you to go in and out of as many parks as you choose, per day)

  • 1 day pass - $131

  • 2 day pass - $208

  • 3 day pass - $271

As a guest in one of the Disney resorts, you'll also be eligible for Extra Magic Hours. These vary by day, but typically one park will open 1 hour early or close 3 hours late each day exclusively for resort guests. Plan your days accordingly. I'm pretty sure midnight at Magic Kingdom will be a lot more comfortable than noon.


Magic Kingdom - the classic. If you want to relive your childhood, this is the place. See Cinderella's Castle, ride the teacups and the recently revamped Space Mountain, eat ice cream shaped like Mickey's head and get a hug from a real life Prince Charming. Other points of interest include Pirates of the Carribbean including an animatronic Johnny Depp and the Main Street Electrical Parade on loan from Disneyland for just this summer.

Epcot - the foodie paradise. I've never really been able to figure out Epcot. The front is this space age place with technological learning experiences and heart pounding rides like Test Track and Soarin'. Then, in the back is a whirlwhind world tour. Do they go together? Not really. Do I care? Nope. Epcot is all about the food for me. I can grab a pint of cider in the UK, a pan chocolat in France, stroll through watching street performers, buy authentic goodies from all over the planet, then kick back and watch awesome fireworks with a margarita and a soft, German pretzel. Love it.

Hollywood Studios - the thriller. Hollywood Studios, formerly MGM Studios, has stuff for both little and big kids. There's shows like Indiana Jones and rides like the very cool Toy Storia Mania, which are good for anyone. Then it also has the only inversion coaster - the Rock n Roller Coaster with Aerosmith Music. It has the Tower of Terror, with a 13 floor drop at the end. Fantasmic is a great show, although it isn't offered every night, so check the schedule so you aren't disappointed.

Animal Kingdom - the change of pace. Animal Kingdom is the biggest park of the four, so be prepared to walk. At the same time, a lot of it is shaded and surrounded by plants, so its a touch more comfortable than some of the other parks. It also has a slower pace. I don't know why, but I never feel the need to rush through AK. There's a myriad of animals and exciting rides like Expedition Everest - a coaster that actually goes backwards at one point, and Dinosaur, which I can't remember because I had a panicking six year old in my lap the whole time, but seemed cool. The Safari Ride is not to be missed as is The Festival of the Lion King, hands down one of the best shows in any of the parks.

If you're wanting to eat at any of the parks, do some research in advance. As I mentioned, there's plenty of places to grab a burger but if you want to eat in a sit down restaurant, you'll need advance dining reservations, which can be done online.


Although not technically a Disney hotel, the Swan and Dolphin are included in the Park Transportation System. As I mentioned, HWS and Epcot are within walking distance, but if you want to get to Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom or one of the other resorts, you'll need to get on the bus. Each bus is well marked with one of the parks. To get to another resort, you'll have to take the bus to the Transportation Center/Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom bus doesn't actually to go the park itself. It goes to the Transportation Center where you catch the Monorail to the park entrance. This is the main hub and from here, you can grab a bus to any of the parks or resorts.

If you want to get off property or visit another park like Universal Studios, you'll have to grab a cab.

Got any Disney questions I didn't cover? Ask! Instigator or I will probably be able to answer any questions you've got.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conference Extras

So, we've talked about wardrobe, workshops, shoes (yes, that is a choir of angels you hear singing) and conference preparation. What's left to cover? How about the extras?

Book signings - Not only the Literacy Signing on Wed night, although that's a great place to meet all of your favorite authors in one room - not to mention any purchases you make go to support literacy in Nashville and Orlando. But also the many free book signings that the publishers offer throughout the weekend.

What I've discovered over the years is that if you want to attend a specific publisher's signing you better be in line way ahead of time. While most of the signings are scheduled for an hour and a half towards the back end of that time frame you'll find that the most popular authors will be out of books. There are usually at least 2 house signings scheduled for the same time frame so you might have to choose. In most cases you'll find the signings themselves will straddle workshop times and often knock two possible sessions off of your schedule. Sometimes when I need a break from learning lining up for free books is a great opportunity. Although, these things can often turn into chaos in a very short time. The rooms they're held in can be small with lines for individual authors snaking through the room and making movement difficult. I enjoy the book signings but I often find myself forgetting about them since they aren't in the same schedule as the workshops.

The Goody Room - Don't forget to visit! Several times. There are so many opportunities for fun marketing promo and toys. You'll also often find free books - either leftover from the luncheons or an author offering their own copies. My girls usually love the fun and funky things I bring home from the goody room. I will admit though, that I usually pass over the multitude of paper products that are offered unless something really catches my eye.

Books - Books reign down from the sky at RWA. Be prepared and plan ahead for how you're going to get them home. One price priority boxes from the post office are an excellent idea. Pre-paid postage slapped onto a box that lies flat in your luggage can't be beat. In past years there has been a shipping section set up in the lobby/conference area of the hotel on the last day or two in order to facilitate shipping for those that want to take this route. While this is a good idea, I usually go with another. I pack several non-perishable food items in my luggage (peanut butter, crackers, brownie bites, granola bars, etc.). These things will either be consumed or left and their space in my luggage can be filled with freebies and books.

Spotlights - Not quite a workshop, spotlights offer the publishing houses an opportunity to talk to writers about what they're looking for. You'll often learn information about what specific editors are interested in. This is also when a house might announce some change in their cover art, editorial and/or new avenues they plan to peruse. If you're interested in a specific house or editor spotlights can be an excellent source of information and well worth the time they tend to take up.

Conference offers so many options for writers and readers alike. Sometimes all of the choices can be overwhelming and paralyzing. I hope I've given you a little information on the extras that might help you make informed decisions about how to invest your time.

Are there any other parts of the conference that you're not quite sure about? Any other questions you have about what to expect/what will happen?


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Countdown to Conference: Staying Healthy

A couple years ago I came home from conference looking and feeling like this. And since then I've tried to take steps to come home NOT looking like this. Well, I'll be exhausted but hopefully not sick.

So how do you mingle at close quarters with 2000 other writers and stay healthy?

~ Drink lots of water. This conference is pretty much at sea level, but some years back we were at about 4500 feet, and that can make a big difference in how your body behaves. Even though we don't have altitude to worry about this year, we'll have extreme heat. Orlando in July is like a steam bath. So drink lots of water and stay hydrated. A dehydrated body is more susceptible to germs. Dehydration can also give you a headache, and a crowded meeting room is the last place you want to have your head pounding. More than likely, every meeting room will have a water station in the back. If you like, you can carry an empty water bottle through airport security and fill it up from the drinking fountain on the other side. This way you can start drinking while you're in that pressurized cabin (which also causes dehydration) and get a head start.

~ Hand sanitizer. Need I say more? You can get it at the dollar store and while I don't suggest becoming Mr. Monk-ishly obsessive with it, it can help ward off nasty germs.

~ Be careful about your alcohol consumption. Sure, that cocktail tastes good and has a cute little umbrella in it. I'm not telling you not to drink. I'm just saying that alcohol acts as a diuretic, which dehydrates you. At our RWA meeting last month, etiquette expert Laura Bingham Ritch advised drinking a glass of water between cocktails to lessen the chance of getting plastered. I'm guessing it will help re-hydrate you.

~ Be careful about your caffeine consumption too. Caffeine is also a diuretic. And it can give you a right good buzz if you consume too much. We don't want you wide-eyed and dehydrated at 3 AM.

~ Try to eat well at the conference. I know. I'm dreaming the impossible dream. But go for protein over carbs if possible. Go for complex carbs over simple carbs (i.e. an apple instead of a cookie). That cookie will give you a quick sugar rush, but an apple will stick with you longer. And some cheese or yogurt is even better if it's available. I plan to tuck a box of Kashi bars in my suitcase for the inevitable mid-afternoon slump.

~ Schedule yourself some "down" time to de-stress. When you're out and about, you're ON and you need time to flip the switch to OFF for a while. Go back to your room and lie down. Or sit with a good friend in a corner of the lobby and take a load off your feet. You won't regret it.

~ If you're going to be outdoors in Orlando, remember my previous caution about water and also slather on some sunscreen. You don't want to have to fly back home with a nasty sunburn.

~ If you take any sort of prescription medications, be sure to carry them ON THE PLANE with you so you don't end up in Orlando while your meds end up in Boise. Also take along any over-the-counter medications you might need such as pain reliever, anti-diarrhea pills, antihistamines and/or decongestant, antacid, motion sickness, cortisone cream, antibiotic ointment, et cetera. One thing NOT to pack: your perfume. Many people are allergic plus a room with fifty different perfumes wafting about can get pretty noxious.

~ Plan ahead. This eliminates a lot of worry and stress, which are known to weaken your immune system. Look over the workshop offerings before you go to Orlando and make a list of those you want to attend. Add in any other scheduled meetings or appointments. I use a chart like the one below and fill it out before I leave home. Having my schedule on one page helps a lot.

You can design something for yourself in Word or Excel and eliminate schedule confusion before you go.

So what have I missed? What's your suggestion for staying healthy during the conference?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A dual purpose post...

First, I’m going to interrupt the advice we are dishing at the moment and brag. And Squee. And lead the Happy Dance Conga Line around the swingset.


If the Ritas are the Oscars of the Romance world, then the Maggies are up there with the Golden Globes. It’s a big deal to final. And I’m just tickled pink to be able to say that The Secret Mistress Arrangement is a finalist in the Short Contemporary category.

TSMA was my first book, and therefore it will always be very special to me. The fact it’s now a finalist in the NCRA and the Maggie just makes me love it all the more.

And, again, Anonymous Blogger Who Called It Lame: pppppbbbbbbbbtttttt.

So I’ll be headed to Georgia in October for the award ceremony.
I’ve never been to the GRW Moonlight and Magnolia conference before, but this seems like an awesome year to attend.


Now, for those of you who tuned in for nuggets of conference wisdom, I’ll get on with it.

1) Realize that you cannot do it all. You can’t attend every interesting workshop, hit every book signing or party, or meet every online friend for a drink. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for that. Accept it, do the best you can with your schedule, and then give yourself a break about it. Not only will you burn yourself out, you’ll ruin your overall conference experience. And remember, things are going to pop up and your carefully constructed schedule might need to go out the window. That’s okay too. Enjoy it.

2) When you’re in the elevator (or anywhere) with someone you recognize – a favorite author, a blogger you read, a reviewer for a site you trust – speak up. No author I can think of ever gets tired of hearing someone liked their book. Bloggers and reviewers like to know someone is reading what they put out there. I’m still constantly amazed that anyone has heard of me – much less likes my books – so in my case, you’ll make my day (and possibly be my new best friend).

And for our Honorary Playfriends who will be attending --- please come say Hi. We love to meet you. Kira and I will be at the big book signing and Kira, SP, and I are also doing workshops (our workshops are also a great place to find the other Playfriends, too, as they show up for moral support). Don’t be shy – even if you are. We’re safe and friendly.

Now, back to the Conga Line...


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Conference Prep for Introverts

For those of you who haven’t guessed by now, I’m a confessed introvert, which means that crowds of people (especially strangers and unusual situations) drain the energy from me quicker than anything. Until the past 5 years, I would have described myself as a painfully shy person who had a great deal of difficulty talking to strangers and had uncomfortable physical reactions to speaking in front of others (shaking, flushing, nausea and nerves). RWA was the first organization I joined by myself, because I’m a twin, I often had my sister or husband with me in any new situation. Since I joined RWA solo, I had to put myself out there without the safety net of a “buddy”. :)

But I learned that practice makes putting myself out there a little bit easier. My local chapter has been a wonderful arena to gain experience as a speaker, in meeting new people and expanding my group of friends and acquaintances. There’s only one thing remaining that scares the bejeezus out of this introvert: National Conference! Two thousand editors, agents, authors, and RWA staff in one hotel with workshops, publishing house spotlights, pitch appointments, and—most stressful of all—social events like lunches and parties. It is one of the biggest learning and entertaining experiences a romance author can have. But the anticipation of all those opportunities to speak, be seen, have conversations, ask questions, meet people, and-did I mention-speak? The nervous anticipation can start getting to you before you even make it to Nationals.

I’m happy to say that, like my involvement in my local chapter of RWA, attending Nationals for several years has given me a chance to work out some of the nerves. I’ve learned a few tricks to help this introvert stay more calm and not so drained. I hope they can help you too!

Be Prepared!

This has been the biggest sanity saver for me. Before my first National Conference, my local chapter was generous with the information of what to expect and I took their advice to heart. Before I stepped out my door, I had thought through answers to some key questions that you hear all the time at Nationals. They show up during a lot of conversations and now I can answer them without having to obsess (before or after).

The questions that I’ve concocted short and sweet answers to are:

• What do you write? “Currently I’m working on a spicy romantic suspense with southern gothic influences. I’ve also written category length romance and short stories.”
• How did you start writing? “I’ve always made up stories in my head, but after my daughter was born a friend encouraged me to put them on paper. Once I started my first book, I was totally hooked!”
• Are you published? “I’ve published a bunch of short stories and articles, but I’m still working toward my goal of publishing a book.”
• Who are your favorite authors? Here I try to narrow it down to authors who have something in common with what I write, to give the listener an idea about my tastes. For instance, if you write paranormal vampires (and read them), you might mention Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark Hunters) or Kerrelyn Sparks (humorous). If you write erotic, you might mention Beth Kery (light on the suspense angles) or Lora Leigh (heavier romantic suspense). Get the drift? Choose your favorite authors that reflect your writing interests, if possible.
• Have you seen (fill in the blank with local attraction)? Hopefully you can remember your traveling itinerary without preparing ahead of time, but keep this answer short. Mention your favorite thing so far, or if you are sightseeing after conference, the thing you are most looking forward to. Then let the other person interject their own thoughts on the subject.

***Because these are common questions at conference, you don’t have to wait to be asked them. Use them yourself to start up conversations when you find yourself meeting new people!

Schedule Rest and Time Alone!

Definition of an introvert: when being with other people drains you of energy, instead of energizing you. This means that spending all day mingling with others, talking after workshops, making small talk over lunch, or being brilliant in the elevator will make you very tired, very quickly. For me, the fatigue is more mental than physical, but it still forces me to collapse for several days after I get home. But I’ve come to recognize the fog that can suddenly make it hard to think and the overwhelming urge to just be alone, even if it is simply to lock myself in the bathroom for 5 minutes.

Some introverts can last longer than others. For instance, you may be able to interact with people all day, but need definite down time scheduled for each night. Others might need some alone time around mid-afternoon siesta, then be able to tackle the rest of the day. Whatever it is you need, acknowledge and plan for it! My plan usually includes taking my time in the shower each morning, even if it means getting up 5 minutes early. In a room with 4 people (even if they are my best friends), there is no solitude, except in the shower. ;) So I indulge a few extra minutes in the morning to start my day off with a good mental attitude. Also, I’ll occasionally come back to the room some time after lunch. Usually anyone in the room at that time is asleep anyway, so I can simply lay on the top of the covers with my eyes closed for 10 minutes for a touch of rejuvenation.

Other strategies might include planning a dinner that you can take back to your room one night for some peace away from the crowds, going out for a little solitary sight-seeing or browsing the bookstore by yourself. If you do little things like this for yourself throughout the day, your psyche won’t feel like it has to crash and burn by Saturday night. We want to see you all dressed up and happy at the Awards Ceremony, not stressed and frowning!

As for sleep, well, you can be guaranteed not to get the amount you usually do at home. Even if we make it to bed at a decent hour, my roommates and I often discuss the day’s events for a while before drifting off. At home, I’m an 8 hour a night girl. At conference… let’s just say I sleep a lot when I get home! That being said, it is a good thing to know your limits. If you absolutely cannot function without at least 5 hours (usually the minimum I need to be coherent), then getting only 3 the night before your editor’s appointment is a sincerely bad move. So be aware of your limits and work within them.

Remember: Editors are People Too!

A worrisome thought that gets planted into an introvert’s head can be: “What if I do something stupid in front of (insert here: editor, agent, publisher, best selling author, etc.)?” One of the big warnings that floats around the blogosphere and RWA chapters is to remember that people are watching and listening. And yes, there are plenty of publishing professionals at these events that I wouldn’t want to insult in some way with my behavior. Unfortunately, that puts a great deal of pressure on an introvert to be “on” all the time, draining their energy that much faster.

Here are a few things to help ease your stress in this instance: 1. Remember, these warnings are there to prevent UNPROFESSIONAL behavior, like complaining about an editor in the bathroom where anyone can here. There’s a big difference between that and tripping over your feet in the lobby of the hotel (been there, done that). The latter doesn’t mean someone will bar you from publishing for life. A simple use of common courtesy is all that is expected.

2. Remember, editors (and agents, publishers, etc.) are people too. They don’t need you to be cold and stiff with them. They simply want you to talk to them as if they were people (not your only hope of ever getting a book contract—there’s nothing like desperation to run off an editor!). Speak to them as you would any other acquaintance you meet. Often, publishing professionals won’t wear their nametags if they aren’t at an actual event, so saying hi or asking the stranger sitting next to you in the bar about their favorite area attractions is always a polite move. Ask them if they are there for the RWA conference and if so, what they write. If they don’t write, they’ll say so. Let them volunteer the information they want and don’t push to “pitch” unless they specifically say, “Tell me about your book.”

When the Nerves Start to Flutter…

But sometimes, despite everything you’ve tried, the nerves will strike out of nowhere! This always happens to me before my editor and agent appointments. Just thinking about those 10 minutes makes my stomach contract and flutter like butterflies have taken up residence. What’s an introvert to do then?

Well, the first thing I do is breathe. And I don’t mean this flippantly. Have you ever noticed that it is hard for your stomach to tighten if you are taking a truly deep breath? It may take several, but breathing is my first line of defense in these situations (and has the added benefit of helping you think more clearly).

Speaking of thoughts, that’s the next line of fire. If you are having specific worries, address each one. “What if I say something stupid? Well, if I stumble over my pitch, I can just stop, take a breath, give a little smile, and say something like, ‘Sorry, I’m a little nervous’.” “What if she hates it? Well, the worst she can do is say no, and then I’ve learned she isn’t the editor/agent for me.” See what I’m doing here. Don’t let your worries and fears spin out of control. Combat them with the truth of the matter. Then calm yourself down with a simple “This will be over in 10 minutes. I can survive anything for that long, right? :)”

So there you have it. These strategies have made National Conference (or any big event with lots of strangers) much more manageable despite my introvert personality, although I do spend some time after events wondering, “How I could possibly have said that!?!?” But I get over it and try to move on quickly… oh, another strategy slipping in there!

So tell us, what are your strategies for big crowds and situations where you might be uncomfortable? If you are lucky enough to be an extrovert, we’d love any advice you could offer too!


**For more professionally based information, check out the Clinic on the Playground and Counselor Shelley's advice for Introverts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Return of the Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List

It's July again and RWA Nationals is right around the corner. Its time to start thinking about really important stuff like "What am I going to wear?" and "How many shoes can I cram into this bag without going over the weight limit?" In honor of this important event I'm bringing back the Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List. Its a great place to start building your own list.

Mine is broken into sections, starting with what I'm wearing on the plane. These are usually items that are too bulky to pack and comfortable for travel. Jeans, a sweater and sneakers are must haves in my book and I've racked up my share of airline miles in them. Planes get cold and I've been so happy to have my sweater instead of wearing shorts and flip flops like all the other tourists. Plus, when they change your gate for the 10th time or your plane is late and you have 5 minutes to make your connection, sneakers are a godsend.

Wear on Plane :
  • Shirt
  • Jeans
  • Sweater
  • Sneakers
  • Socks
Then I have the list of what goes in my backpack. I like backpacks because my hands are free, but this could be your carry on, your toiletry bag...whatever. Just make sure these items are in a bag you physically have custody of at all times. Must have stuff. You don't want it to end up in New Jersey while you're waiting at the luggage carousel in DC.

Backpack :
  • Plane Itinerary / Ticket
  • Camera & Battery Charger
  • Cell Phone & Charger
  • 1 extra pair of panties & socks (just in case)
  • Book to read on the plane
  • ID and/or Passport (I keep this and some cash in an easily accessible pocket - one that zips for security - for the 20 times I have to get it out to travel. This is mainly because of the next item.)
  • Purse (I transition to a smaller purse and stuff it inside my backpack so I have less to carry. This makes it harder to get to, so I take a few essentials out for the day. Even though you won't need your keys, be sure to carry them with you as well so you have them when you get home.)
  • Snacks & An Empty Water Bottle (They don't feed you on planes anymore, so this is a MUST. Its also good to have once you get to Nationals so you have something to eat aside from the overpriced hotel food. As for the water bottle, you can refill it as you travel, but it must be empty to get through airport security.)
  • Prescription Medication (Never, ever check your pills with your luggage.)
  • Travel Alarm Clock (If you can't set your cell phone, and you can, I'm pretty sure)
  • Mini flashlight
  • Business Cards
  • Presentation Materials (I'm doing a workshop this year, so anything I need is staying on my person.)
Next is what goes in my toiletry bag. Mine is actually a small bag that fits inside my luggage, which is good considering all the charges for extra pieces these days. If you're carrying this on, remember all liquids, gels and aerosols must be smaller than 3 ounces and must all fit within a clear, one quart ziplock bag. You have to pull this out and run it through the security x-ray separately. If you do check the bag, I still recommend putting liquids inside a ziploc bag in case a bottle comes open and leaks all over your clothes.

Toiletry Bag :
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss & Mouthwash
  • Deodorant
  • Hairbrush
  • Clips/Bands/Barettes
  • Shampoo & Conditioner (if you can use the hotel provided ones, ok, but my hair is too picky)
  • Lotion and Soap (I will use the hotel provided stuff, but if you can't, pack your own)
  • Hair Products - Gel, Hairspray, Mousse, Detangler
  • Hair Electronics - blow dryers, curling iron, flat iron, etc.
  • Makeup, brushes, cotton applicators, good mirror, tweezers
  • Moisturizer w/ SPF (you might also take outright sunblock if you'll be outside a lot)
  • Razor & Shaving gel
  • Feminine Hygiene (I always take an emergency stash just in case.)
  • OTC Meds - Pain Reliever, Antacids, Stomach Pills
  • Clear and colored nail polish & file for manicure fixes and hosiery runs
  • First Aid Kit & Extra bandaids (if you have to ask, you haven't read this blog for very long)
  • Mini Sewing Kit
  • Mini bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release Spray & Febreze (another must on the Playground!)
  • Bandaid Friction Block (a nifty new item I found out about from Lynn Raye Harris. You apply it to your feet to keep your shoes from rubbing blisters.)
Luggage :
  • Another copy of your flight itinerary in case your bag loses its ID tag
  • Panties x # of days, plus one
  • Sport or Trouser Socks x # of days needed
  • 1 pair pantyhose (I hate them, but its good to carry one pair JIC. I have a pair of shoes that just rubs something fierce without them, but are super comfortable otherwise)
  • Regular bras & dress bras (as needed for formals, etc)
  • Spanx (the ever-so important foundation garment) & slips as needed
  • Casual tops x # of siteseeing/travel days
  • 1 pair jeans (if you aren't doing a lot of tourist stuff, this might not be necessary, especially as I'm wearing a pair on the plane)
  • Seasonal Jacket, etc, as needed (depends on where you're going, as SFO was cold, Orlando is NOT)
  • Pajamas (I don't know how many times I stress over every outfit, then forget PJs)
  • Daytime Outfit Components (see breakdown below)
  • Party Outfits as needed for Ritas, etc.
  • Swimsuit, if you think you might manage to make it to the spa at some point
  • Badge Lanyard with conference and chapter pins (RWA did a nice one in Reno for their Anniversary that had a pocket and a pen holder that I like to bring and use instead of the normal ones they usually have.)
  • Shoes - At a minimum, 2 pairs of comfortable casual shoes or sandals, 1 or 2 dress pairs for formals, maybe some slippers or flip flops if you're inclined to swim or visit the spa. If you coordinate your outfit to a color scheme, you can cut down to less. I do not recommend wearing the same shoes every day, even if it matches. I find even the most comfortable pair will start to rub and make your feet sore if you wear them over and over. You will do a lot of walking.
  • Jewelry - Make sure you know what you're wearing with each piece and put them all together in a bag with tissue if you don't have a jewelry travel case.

Finally, to determine my outfits, I use a daily breakdown. I try to bring some neutral pieces like black capris or a skirt that I can use a couple times. Microfiber is awesome - it doesn't wrinkle and it takes up almost no space in your bag. I also advocate the inclusion of one extra outfit that lies somewhere between your workshop attire and your formal in case you get an impromptu invite to a dinner or a party someplace nice. Here's my breakdown based on my typical activities...

  • Wednesday - black microfiber skirt, pink top, black sandals, pink jewelry
  • Thursday - black capris, blue microfiber top, black sandals, blue jewelry
  • Thursday Night - eHQN PJ party attire, flip flops/slippers
  • Friday - black microfiber skirt, purple microfiber top, black sweater, black heels, purple jewelry
  • Friday Night - black sequined top, dress pants, sequined skull heels, black/pink jewelry
  • Saturday - black capris, pink satin top, pink heels, pink jewelry
  • Saturday Night - purple formal, purple dress heels, purple jewelry
  • Sunday - t-shirt, jeans, etc. for flight home (add days as needed if you're coming early or staying late to sitesee)
  • Pitch Outfit - if you are pitching, bring the outfit that makes you feel your best if its not already one of the ensembles you're wearing
  • Extra Outfit - a fabu just in case outfit that you can wear with the shoes and jewelry you're already planning to bring
Hope The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List helps make planning for the big trip a little easier for you. Have I missed anything? What's on your must pack list?


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Which Workshop's for Me?

For the last couple days we've been talking about conference - shoes and wardrobe specifically, both thing near and dear to the Playfriend's hearts. But ultimately, the conference is about learning, networking and spending several days immersed in your craft.

It can be completely overwhelming to open that large booklet of information that you get in the welcome packet. There are so many workshops scheduled for every hour of every day. How do you choose which ones to attend? The answer to that is going to be different for every person at every stage of their writing career, but I'm going to share with you some of my criteria in the hopes that it might help you stave off the panic when there are four workshops in the same hour that you really want to attend.

The first thing you need to do is set a conference goal. What do you want to accomplish? Is the most important thing this year your pitch to that dream editor or agent? If so, stop worrying about workshops so much! Do you want to increase your knowledge of POV? Do you want to concentrate on characterization? Is there some element of writing that's been pointed out to you as your weakness? Answering these questions will help you know where you need to focus.

Evaluate the workshop listings ahead of time. It's so much easier to break this step up into a few day process instead of an hour long marathon on your hotel bed. You'll be able to evaluate each workshop better if you take your time (and some breaks) while you're reading over what's offered. Print out the listing available on the RWA national site. Go through and highlight those workshops you're interested in. This will show you at a glance where you might have a conflict.

Feel free to slip in and out of workshops - as long as you do so quietly. And if you think this is a possibility I'd suggest sitting in the back of the room to make a quick exit. Everyone at conference is busy with pitch appointments, business meetings and workshops of their own. No one will mind if you have to leave in the middle of a presentation. If you get into one workshop and it isn't what you expected and you'd really like to be in the one down the hall...leave. You've paid good money to be here and should be able to get as much out of the experience as possible. There is no reason to sit through a workshop you find you don't need because there are too many others you might benefit from.

It is perfectly acceptable to attend a workshop specifically to hear the presenter - that editor, agent or author you've been dying to see. It's the perfect opportunity to learn their likes, dislikes and personality. In most cases if you're attending a workshop with an editor or agent you'll get to see how they interact with one of their authors or clients. This is invaluable information to have. A brilliant friend recently mentioned that when she's doing her highlighting if she's interested in a workshop just for the presenter she highlights their names instead of the title. It's a simple trick that reminds you why you were interested in the workshop in the first place and can help you decide at the last minute whether you really want to attend it or need a few minutes in your room to get away from the action.

And that leads me into my number one conference tip. Whatever you do, leave yourself some down time! Do not schedule yourself for every hour of your day. If you do, you'll hit a wall midway through the conference and your brain will stop absorbing the information being thrown at you. It is so easy to get up at the crack of dawn and find yourself in the bar until 2 AM during conference. Workshops are simply one aspect of the conference - an important one but not the only one. Leave time for other things like networking, socializing and sleep.

Remember, there are conference tapes available as well. Not all workshops are taped but most are so be sure and add that factor when you choose your workshops. Our local RWA chapter purchases a set of the tapes every year for the benefit of our members. If there are a couple workshops you can't seem to find the time to attend don't sweat it. Get the tapes or find someone who's planning on purchasing them and ask to borrow them. They are full of invaluable information and well worth the cost if you can swing it.

So which workshops should you attend? Obviously the ones the Playfriends and Honorary Playfriends are doing - Kira Sinclair, Kimberly Lang, Andrea Laurence, Lynn Raye Harris, Rhonda Nelson & Vicki Lewis Thompson. :-)

So, I'll help make you do step one for homework. If you're going to conference, what's your goal this year? Are there any workshops/topics that you're excited about attending?


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Countdown to Conference: What to Wear

All over Romancelandia, folks are getting ready for the annual RWA National Conference. Two weeks from today I'll be jetting my way to sunny Orlando to attend, and for the past two weeks I've been worrying about my wardrobe.

Last week I blogged about shoes and the situation with my poor feet, and yesterday PC blogged about how the perfect shoes make her feel good. Today I'll be attempting to answer the oft-asked question, "What should I wear to the conference?"

Simply put, you should pack two types of clothing: business or business casual for everyday (the choice of casual or not is a personal preference) and dressy for publisher parties and the awards ceremony. Simple, huh?

Not really. A lot depends on your pocketbook, your personal taste and style, perhaps the stage of your writing career and what you will be doing at the conference (for example, are you speaking?). Let's go through each of these in a bit more detail.

~ Your pocketbook - For some folks, dropping a couple hundred dollars on a suit is nothing. For me, it would be the precursor to bankruptcy. I'm a bargain hunter and a discount shopper. I haunt places like Ross and TJ Maxx. I'm also not above shopping at thrift stores. Just a few months ago I found a fab skirt that's going to conference and it was only $4. I also found a pair of genuine Crocs for $5. They're not going to conference but they were terrific at the beach. But I digress. It's not impossible to look good on a budget. It just requires a little diligence and patience as you rifle through the racks at an off-price store or watch the sales at your favorite mall anchor store. And it doesn't hurt that I'm of an age when certain stores give me a 10% discount on a certain day of the week.

~ Your personal taste and style - Yesterday, PC blogged about shoes and how her personal taste runs to stilettos. My personal taste, foot problems notwithstanding, runs to flats and lower heels. PC also wears a lot of really cute dresses. I tend to lean more toward dress pants with some sort of stylish top and a jacket or sweater. PC feels good in her wardrobe, and I feel good in mine. And that's what it's all about, folks. Feeling good about yourself and projecting an image of self-confidence and professionalism. Some authors have a personal style that makes them stand out in a crowd. If you see a very attractive woman wearing an uber-stylish business suit and stilettos, it's probably Hank Phillippi Ryan. Hank not only writes, she's an investigative reporter for a Boston TV station and has won a gazillion Emmy and Edward R. Murrow awards. She's about as put-together as they come. I can't imagine her in what I'm wearing as I write this (capris with the waistband unbuttoned, a t-shirt, no bra [okay, I know, too much information] and barefoot), but I'm sure she has her own brand of "writer casual" for home.

~ The stage of your writing career - Published writers are "on" much more than us unpubbed nobodies. Granted, I want to look good, but at this stage of the game, I don't have an adoring public watching my every move like Nora does. I'm sure if she showed up at conference in cut-off sweat pants and a ragged t-shirt, the blogosphere would be all ablog about it. But even at the unpublished stage, I want people who DO notice me, to notice someone who's put together. A couple years ago I actually had someone look at my nametag in the elevator and say, "YOU'RE the Playground Monitor! I love the Writing Playground!" I was flattered. And shocked. And very happy I was dressed nicely.

~ What you will be doing at conference - Are you just attending workshops or are you perhaps also presenting or moderating one? I'll be moderating on Saturday afternoon, so I'll want to look especially nice because I'll be behind a podium reading into a microphone that's connected to the all-conference recording system and my voice will be recorded for posterity and OHMYGOSH everyone will be looking at me and gee whiz, should I buy a new outfit for that day? ---deep breath--- Do you have an editor or agent appointment? I do, so I want to look sharp for that too. My wardrobe won't make her ask for my book, but feeling good about myself will surely come through in my demeanor. You only have one chance to make a good first impression and I want that editor's first impression of me to be a positive one.

So based on the aforementioned criteria, what will be in my suitcase? A couple pairs of black dress pants and coordinating tops, a jacket to go with these (probably black too), the fabu $4 skirt and a top, a dressy outfit for awards night with my fancy new shoes and a small evening purse, jewelry for all my outfits, shoes for everyday, undies, pajamas and blah, blah, blah. (Hint: Stay tuned on Friday for some awesome packing tips!)

What about after-hours attire, you ask? In past years I've taken clothes to change into after the workshops are over and brought them home unworn. I may tuck in a pair of capris just in case. Gym clothes and a swimsuit? Are you kidding? I took a swimsuit to my first conference and never used it either. Just remember, though, if you do change into something more comfortable or are tempted to "just run to the ice machine in a t-shirt without a bra," you also might just run into the agent you pitched to earlier in the day. I'm just sayin'.

This will be my 7th national conference, and you'd think by now I would have it down pat. Oh no. I'm still agonizing over evening wear even after the fashion show the Playfriends had Saturday after our RWA meeting. It's not so much about the perfect dress as it is about the dress that doesn't elicit an "UGH" when I look in the mirror. And who knew there were a dozen shades of black? I have so many debits and credits to and from Ross that I'm afraid my bank might be thinking I'm laundering money or something.

What's YOUR answer to the question of "What do I wear?"

P.S. Cheryl is the winner from Monday's blog. Please email Angel to claim your prize.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Feeling the power (because I can't feel my feet anyway...)

Shoes are important for Nationals. The Playfriends are not the only shoe whores in Romancelandia. RWA as a whole seems to have a shoe fetish. One year, I took 8 pairs of shoes for a 5-day event.

This year, though, I’m looking at half that. Why? Because it just so happens that I have one pair of shoes that goes with about half of my conference wardrobe. This is good. The practical travel people of the world would approve.

These are the answer to my shoe-packing problem.
Well, not exactly. My shoes are solid black patent leather and there’s no bow, but structurally, that’s the shoe I’ll be wearing almost every day at conference because it goes with everything.

Now, one of the first pieces of advice you’ll hear about the national conference is “wear comfortable shoes.” Yes, you will do a lot walking simply because the venue is large. Most people assume comfortable = flats, but walking in flats all day will kill me.

These won’t. They have good structure to keep my foot solid in the shoe and enough arch support.

Yes, I know that’s a five inch heel and a one inch platform.

I *like* high heels. Some folks have power suits; I have power shoes. An awesome pair of stilettos does wonders for my attitude. I feel tall. I feel competent. I feel powerful. These shoes give me confidence.

Now, I’m not stupid. I do carry a pair of flip flops in my conference bag just in case I need to cover a long distance in a hurry. Stilettos and running would lead to a broken ankle in no time. But I don’t run unless I absolutely must, so I’m free to strut my stuff in heels. You also never know when you’ll find yourself on very slick or uneven terrain because some designer thought it would be cool to use real cobblestones on a pathway.

(And after the Great Knee Fiasco of 2007, I bring a pair of flats, too. But those are for only if I blow a knee out again.)

I’ve heard all the lectures. But since I work at home, most days I don’t even put on shoes, so my Achilles’ tendon is not going to shorten abnormally. With or without stilettos, my feet and knees are going to be a mess when I’m 70 anyway, so I might as well enjoy the pretty shoes while I can. I have good balance and years of practice, so I’m not worried I’ll fall over or off my shoes.

And honestly, I don’t care what people think about my choice of footwear.

I don’t go up to people at conference and say, “Birkenstocks? Seriously? Why would you wear *those* to conference?” I wouldn’t be caught dead in Birks at conference, but I don’t feel the need to tell others what they should or shouldn’t wear on their feet. Yet many people feel the need to question what’s on my feet. I *know* how high the heels are. I *know* some without Feet of Steel would be crippled by the end of the day. But, hey, it’s America; wear the shoes that make you happy and make you feel good.

And I’ll wear mine. Because those shoes are awesome and they make me feel like a million bucks. At a business conference, isn't that exactly what you need?

So, what do you wear when you need to feel awesome? What's your Instant Power outfit?


And a very Happy Birthday to our Instigator! We love you!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Guest Blogger: Kelly Fitzpatrick

I'm lucky to have Kelly Fitzpatrick as one of my fellow Ruby Slippered Sisters! She graciously agreed to join us today to talk about how she came to be published and her first release, Lily in Wonderland! Ask away, because Kelly will join us today and answer questions. One commenter will receive a free download of her book!

Welcome to the Playground, Kelly!

People always ask me how I came to start writing. No, actually they don’t, but for the sake of this blog, we’ll say they do. If someone did ask me how I came to start writing, this is what I’d say, “It all started with insomnia.”

Have you ever in your head rewritten the end of a movie? A book? Your life story? Me too. So already we have something in common. Add insomnia to the mix and you can entertain yourself for many, many sleepless hours. Try it. That started about five years ago, although I’ve had the insomnia for—well—ever. I still have it. Writing is not a cure, more of a coping mechanism.

My favorite rewrite is the movie Love Comes Softly (Insert heavy sigh laced with longing). The story of a newlywed who crosses the prairie in a covered wagon only to become a widow who is then left with no choice but to marry a stranger. Only I added some sex, some snark, got rid of the kid, put it on another planet in the future, and viola! I had an interplanetary mail order bride story. Yeah, that never got published. But that’s how it began.

So you probably think I write paranormal, futuristic, urban fantasy. No. I can’t even work my cell phone, update my website, or change the batteries in my TV remote, let alone predict what sort of technology the future holds. Okay, I must write sweeping epic historical novels. No. I wish. Too much research. I write contemporary romantic mystery with a side order of humor.

I wrote and wrote and wrote with a burning passion. I entered writing contests, becoming a finalist in several, but not with Lily in Wonderland, my bad-girl-heroine-with-a-past-that-follows-her-to-her-future manuscript. And no, there is no time travel involved. I decided it was time to join the romance writing community, because I needed all the help I could get.

The first thing I learned at the local chapter of Romance Writer’s of America meeting was: The reader must fall in love with your hero and like your heroine. Uh oh. My heroine is a trash talking, promiscuous, recovering drug addict. I got called names by contest judges. Names like crass, flippant and snarky, and that was from people who liked my writing. On a whim, I entered Lily in the Golden Rose. Why not? It’s only money. Right? And then I won.

Winning got me a request from Cerridwen Press for the full manuscript. The request led to a contract, but I don’t want to make it sound easy. There were rewrites, resubmits and several rounds of edits before Lily went to print. She’s out there loose in the world, and she does give the term loose a whole new meaning.


So what keeps you up late at night or gets you up early in the morning? Talk to me. I’ll randomly pick a winner for a free e-book download of Lily in Wonderland or a deck of Ellora’s Cave playing cards.

For more chances to win in July, just go to my website (where you can also read an excerpt) and leave a comment on my blog.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Free Book Friday - Scottish Edition

Welcome to All Things Scottish. Our slogan is: If it's not Scottish, it's CRAP! - Mike Myers, SNL

I was flipping through my scrapbooks this past weekend, reminiscing over the Playfriend's trip to Scotland. Hard to believe, but its been 3 years since we went over there. Crazy how time flies. Anyway, I noticed I also had a couple books with Scottish heroes on my shelf, so I thought it would be an appropriate theme for this month's Free Book Friday!

If You Dare by Kresley Cole

Can he exact revenge?

High in the Pyrenees, a band of mercenaries led by Courtland MacCarrick wages war for General Reynaldo Pascal. When Court turns on the evil general, Pascal orders him killed but Court narrowly escapes and exacts revenge by kidnapping Pascal's exquisite Castilian fiancée.

Can she deny her passions?

Lady Annalía Tristán Llorente despises her towering, barbaric captor almost as much as she does Pascal. Her inexplicable attraction to the Highlander only fuels her fury. But nothing will stop her from returning to Pascal -- for if she doesn't wed him, she signs her brother's death warrant, as well as her own.

Can there be love between them?

From the moment Court discovers that Anna's prim façade masks a fiery, brave lass, his heart's ensnared, and he dares to defy the curse that has shadowed his life -- to walk with death or walk alone. But Pascal vows that he'll hunt the two, never stopping until he's destroyed them both.

Highland Fling by Jennifer LaBrecque
(this one is autographed to me, but wanted to share)

Talk about powerful attraction!

E.R. physician Kate Wexford is used to expecting the unexpected. But even she isn't ready for this... One minute she's visiting her local museum, lusting after a man in a painting--Darach MacTavish, Laird of Glenagan. A man who died at Culloden more than 250 years ago. Then the next thing she knows, she's in the painting with him... in his bed...NAKED!

Laird Darach MacTavish has enough to worry about without being ambushed by beautiful women. Still, he has to admit, he's never met--or enjoyed more--a lass like his Katie. It's too bad she's a little daft. Because Katie's insisting she's been sent back in time to save his life. Ha! Darach would like to see her try--that is, if he decides to let her out of his bed....

I just love a steamy Scottish Historical and visiting Scotland was a really great experience to share with my friends. I can't wait for us to go on another exciting adventure. Where would you love to visit with your friends? Share and maybe we'll steal your idea for our next trip. To enter this month, comment with the phrase "If it's not Scottish, it's crap!"


Coming Soon!
Join us on Monday when guest blogger Kelly Fitzpatrick talks to us about her journey to publication... with more chances to win! :)

P.S. Sherry Werth is PM's winner from Wednesday. Please email her at to claim your prize.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Yeah, so my birthday is coming up next Tuesday. It's not a big least not one of the 0 or 5 ones I tend to dread for no good logical reason. It's just a birthday, but I'm really not looking forward to it. I'm tired of not just growing older but growing up. I wanna know who said I had to start acting my age?

I still shop in the teen section because their clothes are so much cuter than the ones in my own section. The problem is they aren't exactly cut for someone who's been through childbirth twice... Part of me realizes that I'm getting too old for this, that forty is around the corner and I do not want to be the woman everyone says dresses inappropriately for her stage in life. (Although, hey, I could consider it research since I'm working on a YA) But I'm just not ready to let go of my teenage/twenty-something years! They were fun. I was fun.

I'm not ready for my girls to get older either. I'm happy with them being cute, sweet, appreciative, polite 9 and 6 year olds. Me getting older means that the teenage years and endless months of rebellion, sulking and hormonal temper tantrums are right around the corner. I'm. Not. Ready! I'm not ready for the day they come home and want to spend time in their rooms with the doors closed instead of telling me about their day. I'm not ready for Zilla and I to become less and less important to their daily routine. Yes, I realize that's what's supposed to happen...I'm just not ready for it.

So, yeah, I have a birthday next week. It isn't a major one but apparently seems to be sending me into a tailspin none-the-less. I'm not sure what to do with that. It's surprising. I don't think I've ever had this response to a birthday. I've still got 6 years before 40 but I can suddenly see why so many people go through mid-life crises. If this feeling is going to get worse and worse for the next 6 years I'm going to end up jumping out of a plane (with a parachute of course) by the time 40 actually gets here just for that rush of adrenaline.

So, anyone else got a birthday coming up? Is it wigging you out or is it just me?


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Not So Happy Feet

I am of the opinion that people with foot problems should not be friends with people who like cute shoes.

Well, not really, because I'd lose some of my very bestest friends. But right now I'm feeling mighty frustrated.

Some time back I blogged about the problems I’ve been having with my feet. With the RWA National Conference looming on the horizon, I’ve started sorting through my wardrobe to see what I want to take. I’ll need business casual clothing for workshops and my editor appointment and a dressy outfit for the awards event.

My big problem is shoes for those business casual clothes. Normally I wear some sort of flat, black shoe designed for comfort. I have terminal cold feet and combined with the meat-locker temperatures in hotel conference rooms, my toes would be a delightful shade of arctic blue if I wore sandals. However, I can’t wear closed shoes because they make my toes feel like someone’s holding a blowtorch to them. Well, I can wear tennis shoes because of the wide toe box but even I have enough fashion sense not to wear them to conference. On the plane to and from, yes. But at the conference, nope.

So I went online and searched for days and days to see if I could come up with some sort of flat, black comfortable shoe with a wide toe box that wasn’t a tennis shoe. I found some shoes with a buckle strap and also some oxfords. The pictures didn’t look too bad, and the company offers free shipping both ways, so I could put them on my credit card and return them if they didn’t work.

The shoes arrived last week. I tried on the buckle strap ones and it was apparent nothing was going to make them fit. Oh, they were wide in the toe box, but I have a narrow heel, and I could not buckle them tight enough to keep them from slipping on my heel. Even an sole insert wouldn’t work.

So it looked like I was going to have to wear the oxfords. They were comfy and didn’t slip on my heel. So, there. Shoe problem for conference solved.

My 4th of July weekend was a little sparse on plans, so I settled on my new sofa and watched about sixteen episodes of Sex and the City that had taped while I was at my mother’s house. I never saw the show in its original run because I didn't have HBO. Sixteen episodes of Carrie Bradshaw and company sporting cute shoes and stylish clothes while they flounce around the Big Apple and date handsome men. And did I mention cute shoes?

Suddenly, those damn oxfords began to resemble something worn by a prison matron. I want cute shoes too!

Why did I have to be the one with foot problems? And when did I get hung up on fashion?

In addition to TV, it’s the fault of my RWA chapter, which is also lovingly referred to as the “Cult of the Shoe.” When you’re surrounded by friends wearing Manolos and Louboutins, the oxfords are pretty much a couture cardinal sin. They’re like visible panty lines, mixing stripes and plaids or wearing a top that’s strapless and a bra that’s not.

And it's not just Carrie and company and my RWA friends. Watching What Not to Wear instills an urge to go to Ross and rifle through the racks of clothing. Get thee away, Stacy and Clinton!

Marilyn Monroe was considered one of the great beauties of her era. I’ve even heard that she wore a size 14. She was curvy and voluptuous, and men worshipped her. A dress size is just a number, isn't it? A number like my age, my shoe size, my bra size and my bank balance. Ugh.

I have curves now too, but I feel like they should have big, yellow warning signs. Intellectually I know all these body issues are just my mind playing tricks with me. They’re nothing a good pair of Spanx wouldn’t help.

Anyway, the prison matron shoes are on their way back to the online store. I’ve decided frozen toes are far better than ugly-a$$ shoes, thank you Carrie Bradshaw very much. I’ve also fantasized about Carrie needing Spanx when she’s my age along with orthopedic inserts for her Jimmy Choos. Ha!

I went to Ross and Shoe Carnival yesterday, hoping to take advantage of my old lady discount to buy a cute pair of dressy sandals for awards night because I've worn the same pair for the last five years and I think it's probably about time to retire them. I looked and looked and finally test drove a pair around the store. Here they are! Sparkly, huh? I'll definitely have to have a pedicure right before I go to Orlando.

Does watching What Not to Wear or Sex and the City or any other show have the same fashionista effect on you? Let’s talk about fashion and shoes. One lucky commenter will get a thong – not the underwear kind, silly, but a book thong you use to mark your place in your favorite romance novel.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Actually, it was last weekend, and it happened just a few miles from my house, but…

I became the proud wife and mom of two newly knighted Jedis.

Why? Because I’m the coolest wife and mom EVAH!!

I’ll back up. The Star Wars traveling exhibit is in Huntsville this summer at the US Space and Rocket Center. Now the USSRC normally runs Space Camp where kids (and adults) get to train like astronauts. To celebrate the Star Wars exhibit, the creative folks at the USSRC turned some of their Space Camps into Jedi Training Camps. And they weren’t just for kids either… they had Parent/Child Jedi camps.

Now, you know my Geek, by virtue of being a Geek, LOVES Star Wars. He has also brought our child up in the ways of the Force. We have light saber apps on our iPhones so they can do battle in the living room without breaking a lamp. One of the very first pictures AC ever drew for us was of 3CPO and R2D2 (or “R-tooey-too” and "Fwee-pee-oh" has she called them. I think she was maybe 3?). There are conversations about Stars Wars minutiae at my dinner table and I don’t have a clue what the hell they’re talking about. AC went as Princess Leia for Halloween last year. (She prefers Ahsoka, but my limited costume-making skills aren’t nearly good enough for that.)

Meeting an old friend for the first time...

AND the first Jedi class would graduate on DG and AC’s birthday. The Universe was definitely telling me what to get them for their birthday.I signed them up the moment the link went live – which was important, because the camps sold out completely. And it worked out well because that was the same weekend as my reunion, and I took them to camp on my way out of town.

First stop – matching t-shirts donned after check in.

They spent the weekend building and racing Pod racers, training with light sabers, and learning all about the Jedi way of life. (Unfortunately for DG, Jedi camp – like all camps – is actually designed for children, so the beds aren’t comfortable, the food is questionable, and the hours are long. He couldn’t go to work last Monday because he was exhausted. I think he’s the first person in history to call in Jedi to work.)

The counselors -- ahem, the Jedi Masters -- wore their official outfits all weekend. Here the Master leads the young ones to their next lesson in the ways of the Jedi...

Although I was hung over like you wouldn’t believe Sunday morning and feeling like dirt, I crawled my butt out of bed and drove home to make it to graduation where my Geek and his little Geek-in-training were knighted as Defenders of the Galaxy.

AC was the only girl in her entire Jedi class, and was therefore the first female knighted. (Way to shatter the Glass Ceiling with a light saber, honey!)

And since it was their birthday, Smarty Pants made them a special Death Star birthday cake. My Jedis used their new training to destroy that Death Star as well, only to find it had a yummy center!

That cake is just awesome.

So, I'm the best mom and wife ever, and I have very happy geeks -- I mean, Jedi Knights.

Are you a Star Wars fan? Would you like to go through Jedi training? (Y'all know how I feel about camp in general, so unless the accommodations are upgraded to the Hilton, you know it's not for me!)