Category Archives: conversation starters

Meet Me in Milwaukee, by Katy Lee

Hello Readers!  On April 26, 2014 I am heading to Milwaukee for a fun day out with romanceVey logo readers.  The event is put on by the fabulous and beautiful Barbara Vey, a blogger for Publishers Weekly.  Each year she holds an event called Barbara Vey’s Reader Appreciation Luncheon, and boy, do readers get appreciated!  If you love romance of any and all sub-genres, you don’t want to miss this day made just for you.  There will be gifts and favors and books and conversations and books and…well you get the idea.  But if you want the details, click on Barbara’s site here.

There will be 40+ awesome and talented authors, each with their own table, and readers get to choose the author they want to hang with for lunch.  Seats are limited on a first come first serve basis, which is why I am getting this message out to you now.  I don’t want you to miss your opportunity to sit with your favorite author…or perhaps, you want to meet new-to-you authors.  Go for it!  Head to Barbara’s website to check the author list and scroll down to sign up.

Me and Barbara at RWA
Me and Barbara at RWA

And if you’re still not sure, let me tell you about the Keynote Speaker.  Perhaps you’ve heard of her?  She’s goes by the name of Debbie Macomber.

Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 170 million copies of her books in print worldwide. Macomber brings to life the compelling relationships that embrace family, community and enduring friendships, filling her readers with a sense of love and hope.

Macomber is the author of more than 100 novels, most recently the instant #1 New York Times bestseller Starting Now, and The Inn at Rose Harbor; two bestselling cookbooks; numerous inspirational and nonfiction works; two acclaimed children’s books and the Mrs. Miracle Christmas novels.  She is also the author of beloved and bestselling series of novels set in Cedar Cove, Washington on which Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove, Hallmark Channel’s first dramatic scripted television series, is based. She is the recipient of a RITA® award; an RT Book Reviews Lifetime Achievement Award, and is a multiple winner of both the Holt Medallion and the B. Dalton Award. In 2010, the Romance Writers of America presented Macomber with their prestigious Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

And she taught me how to knit!  Seriously.  I owe all this fine handy work to her.

Katy Lee Books' Sock Monkeys
Katy Lee Books’ Sock Monkeys

She is a wealth of knowledge.  You will be so glad you came to hear her, and I will be so glad to meet you, either at my table or during the meet and greet!  Start planning today!  And stay tuned to see what my table favors will look like.  Oh, the possibilities!  And if you have any questions, feel free to ask. 

How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

Hello,loves. Suze here.

With CTRWA’s Fiction Fest, an annual writer’s conference held in Connecticut (this year beautiful Mystic, home of a first-rate aquarium and a seaport village museum) fast approaching, I thought it might be useful to list a few do’s and don’ts for getting the most out of a conference. By the way, there’s still time to register for Fiction Fest if you haven’t done so yet. Click here for more information.

1. DO dress appropriately. You don’t need to be attired in full business suit, spectator pumps and a strand of pearls, carrying a leather briefcase. But don’t show up in Daisy Dukes and a cowboy hat, or yoga pants (sorry!) either. Remember you will be meeting and mingling with industry professionals–other writers, potential readers, and those who have the power to sell or buy your book (agents and editors). These are people who are, or who will be, your peers or your fans. Do you want to look like a slob, a working girl, or a writing professional?

Wear something casual, but moderately stylish. A dress or skirt and cute top are always appropriate. Jeans, as long as they’re in good shape (not faded, ripped or frayed) are okay, but I would definitely pair them with nice shoes, a well-fitted colorful jacket (not denim, unless you’re actually a cowgirl), a new-looking tee shirt, and a statement piece of jewelry. A big colorful necklace or chunky bracelet not only looks great, but can serve as a conversation starter. When in doubt, watch a few episodes of What Not To Wear on TLC. Stacy and Clinton are usually right on the money about what looks appropriate and stylish and they address all body types.

That being said, there are a very, very few people–and you know who you are–who can get away with outrageous outfits like corsets and feathers. Chances are extremely good you are not one of them.

2. Related to #1 above, DO wear a bra. This should go without saying, but Bouncing Betty has been spotted at conferences. Ask Sugar Jamison.

3. Also related to #1 above, DO wash and comb your hair and wear a little makeup. You don’t need a full Clinique makeover with products expensive enough to pay your mortgage, but you’ll look and feel more professional with at least some mascara and a lightly tinted lip gloss (my favorite is Burt’s Bees in Watermelon).

4. DO bring some business cards. You can get them quickly, free or extremely inexpensively, from Vistaprint. Even if you’re just getting started as a writer, a business card with your name and email address (social media information if you have it) is essential. You’re not being presumptuous by having cards. You’re going to be meeting lots of people, some of whom you are going to want to stay in contact with–and who will want to stay in contact with you. A preprinted business card is a necessity, in my book.

5. DO bring some extra cash for the raffle. There are always tons of great prizes, and it’s a money-maker for the organization hosting the event.

6. DON’T hang out with your friends all day. Sit–and talk with–with new people at the luncheon and the workshops. I would argue that the most important part of conferences is the networking. Sure, the workshops are great, and the chance to hear a good speaker is valuable and inspiring, but you need to be making industry connections. The more people you know, the more opportunities you have. That’s just business. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Trust me on this. I am a former wallflower who now feels comfortable talking to just about anybody. If you’re at a loss for words, here are some conversation starters:

  • Hi, I’m Glenda. I came here from Vermont. Where are you from?
  • That’s a gorgeous necklace. Are you enjoying the conference?
  • You were in the BDSM workshop, weren’t you? What do you write?
  • Oh My. Wasn’t that Katy Lee who just walked by? I love her books.

See, it’s not that hard. You automatically have something in common with everyone at the conference–you love to read, and you write (or want to write). I don’t know any writer who doesn’t like to talk about writing. So don’t be shy.

7. DON’T get drunk during the cocktail hour. ‘Nuff said.

8. DON’T stalk people. If you happen to meet up with an agent, editor, or author in the ladies’ room, just say hi and maybe that you are enjoying the conference. (If it’s an author, you can tell her that you loved her last book) Don’t try to pitch your book while the stalkee is attempting to apply lipstick, blow her nose, or dry her hands at the turbospeed machine. If you are asked, that’s great. Go for it. But there’s a time and place for everything. Talking to someone in the next bathroom stall while you are each trying to do your business is not, um, good business. Again, be professional.

OK, how about you? What are your tips for getting the most out of a conference? What was the best conference you ever attended?

So Bad It’s Good

Hi, all. Suze here. It’s great to have you with us!

Over the weekend I watched a movie. Big deal, Suze, you’re probably thinking. Everybody watches movies on the weekends. (Well, they might not if they’re in full writer mode, but you know what I mean)

MV5BOTE2OTk4MTQzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODUxOTM3OQ@@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_[1]But what if I say the word … Sharknado (Sharknado, Sharknado, Sharknado, echoing off into the distance)

Yes, Sharknado. The SyFy channel original movie that was so well received on its first showing that it’s now been aired several times since, and even got a mention on The Today Show. But its popularity isn’t due to its poignant dialogue, fast-paced action, all-star cast, gorgeous cinematography, or compelling message.

It’s popular because it’s so darned stupid.

But Suze, you admonish. It’s not nice to call people–or movies–stupid. But I mean stupid in the most complimentary way. ‘Cuz this movie is brilliant in its suckiness. A tornado rips across the ocean, sucking up Great Whites, hammerheads, and other shark species, then releases the chomping creatures where they eat their way (airborne, on land, on a boat, and back in the sea) through a large–and bloody–cast of actors. There are homemade bombs, a possibly tragic love story (no spoilers here!), conveniently placed chainsaws, and the destined-to-be-classic line: We’re going to need a bigger chopper. On August 2, you can actually watch Sharknado in the movie theater (check here for a location near you). Or you can stay home on Saturday night and watch it on SyFy.

And while you’re waiting for the sequel (yes, it appears there will be one), you can always watch Ghost Shark on August 22. (Click here for details). You know you want to.

I love the crazy, the ridiculous, the stuff that makes you roll your eyes, groan, and spit out your wine you’re laughing so hard. The Jerry Springer Show. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The Bulwer-Lytton entries/awards. Bubba Ho-Tep. Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo. The Three Stooges. Weird Al. I watch/read/listen to this stuff and I instantly feel better about whatever’s going on in my life.

Low-brow? Sure. Slapstick? Yes. But laughter is the best medicine, baby.

What about you? Have you seen Sharknado? Want to see it? What are your favorite ridiculous-but-wonderful books, shows, movies, and music? The Scribes are a Judgment-Free Zone, so you can admit it here. Edited to add: Let’s have a party! Stop by the Scribes Facebook page at 9:00 on Saturday, August 3, for a Sharknado Watch Party. Edited to add: Let’s have a party! Stop by the Scribes Facebook page at 9:00 on Saturday, August 3, for a Sharknado Watch Party. Bring your snark. Or your snack. Whichever you prefer.  https://www.facebook.com/secretsof7scribes Invite your friends!

Launch Party Time!

Welcome friends, guests, and party crashers! I’m so happy to have you all here to celebrate my latest release, WESTERN DESERT, Book Two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I’ll get the business end of this gig over and done with so we can relax and have a few refreshments.

Drum roll…Curtain draws back…MC (preferably George Clooney) takes the stage, smiles and says: Without further ado…INTRODUCING PJ Sharon’s latest release!!

Thanks, George! I’ll take it from here…

Available NOW!
Available NOW!

WESTERN DESERT, Book Two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, takes off where WANING MOON ends. Genetically enhanced sixteen-year-old Lily Carmichael, and seventeen-year-old Will Callahan embark on a journey across a sun-ravaged and decimated U.S. in the year 2057, bound for the Western Desert on a dangerous rescue mission. The survivors they meet along the way put Lily’s healing abilities to the test and challenge Will’s resolve to find his missing father—no matter the cost. But even with the burden of life and death on their shoulders, and the Industry hot on their trail, the greatest challenge they face is trusting their hearts to each other.

BUY LINKS:

Amazon

BN

Smashwords

Print copies available directly from CREATE SPACE or on AMAZON

If you haven’t read Book One in the trilogy, WANING MOON, it’s available for FREE this week (June 24-28) for Kindle owners!

WM Final SMALL 72 pixels

Also available for FREE is SOUL REDEMPTION, the short story prequel to WANING MOON. You can download it for your e-reader from Smashwords, or read it directly on Wattpad. You won’t want to miss this dark and twisty journey into the mind of a teenager with the power of life and death in his touch. It definitely makes you wonder…what would I do?

Creepy, I know!

Let’s move on to the fun part…

Feel free to pop over to Suze’s page of treats later where you’ll find some awesome recipes for drinks (non-alcoholic ones for our YA friends), and some tasty hors d’oeuvres! But don’t forget to come back, because I have some prizes to give away.IMGP0088

Three of you will be chosen randomly to receive signed copies of one of my first three books. You can choose between HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, ON THIN ICE, or SAVAGE CINDERELLA. You can find out more about these books by visiting my website’s Contemporary YA Books page. I’ll be happy to mail you your signed copy, providing you leave a valid email address in the comments below so I can contact you privately for your mailing address. Enter ie: maryjanedoe(at)emailaddress(dot)com.

You can also win a nifty swag bag with some cool Lily Carmichael items, including a wooden whistle, a lanyard, bookmarks, and a signed copy of both WANING MOON and WESTERN DESERT.

My grand prize giveaway is a NOOK Simple Touch!

It’s easy to enter. Simply leave a comment below with a valid email address if you want a single entry. For more chances to win, just let me know what you’ve done to help spread the word about my new release. Share this post to FB, twitter (or retweet any tweets with the hashtag #WesternDesert), or you can follow me on any of my social media platforms listed below. You could also sign up for my newsletter (for occasional updates). For each effort you tell me about, I’ll enter your name for another chance to win! Contest ends at midnight on June 30, and winners will be announced next Tuesday right here on the Scribes.

Hang out with me at the following places online:

Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+

So now that you have the low down on where to find my new book, connected with me at my various online hangouts, and you’ve downloaded some FREE books, pull up a chair and let’s chat. Don’t forget to grab a beverage and a snack and leave your comments, an email address, and what you’ve done to enter for the prizes. I’ll be posting some excerpts today in the comments section below, and look forward to you sharing your questions, responses, and thoughts.

Flowers from Mom's GardenI love a simple bouquet of flowers for a center piece, don’t you? As a conversation starter, tell me what books have you most been looking forward to reading this summer? Any new releases coming out soon that you are dying to get your hands on? Come on, people, dishing about books is what we do around here. Let’s get this party started!

WWFD

A few weeks ago, a collective gasp was heard throughout social media when Amazon acquired Goodreads. This strange, yet brilliant acquisition got me thinking.  WWFD. What would Fusco do?  What would I do if I owned Amazon, acquired Goodreads, and planned to take over the book buying universe?  Yeah, my brain can be used for evil. I have a day job. I’m well versed in sinister.

So, I did what I do when the axis of evil takes over my brain: I listed all the ways I’d put the collective fuck to authors, publishers, and the book buying public by ram-rodding them into buying what I, Great Ruler of Amazon, wanted.

Here’s how:

  1. Consume data like it’s covered in chocolate: So far, Goodreads users have treated the site like it was their own personal safe haven. They added, uploaded and reviewed books, and they thought, quite foolishly, no one was watching.  Oh. Hell. No. Not only were the good folks at Goodreads recording everything you clicked, liked, and TBR’d. Now, they’re turning that data over to Amazon, to make the company smarter, faster and more efficient at selling you shit you don’t need.
  2. Biatchslap the Author:  I love authors.  Some of them are my friends, clients and BFF’s. However, nowadays, thanks to Amazon and CreateSpace, everybody’s a fucking author. Whether they should be is another blog for another day. But, if I owned Amazon/Goodreads, anybody who could form a complete sentence would get the screws handed to them if they wanted to advertise on my site. You see, now, I’ve got the data to the readers you want.  Look out bitches, it’s gonna cost ya. Sure, I’d sell it–if it were legal. Thank God it’s not. So, instead, I’ll tell you to bend over and reach for your ankles while I decrease your royalties and up your cost to target your readers.  Just leave your money on the nightstand, dear author. Oh. Wait. You don’t want to pay me to advertise your book? That’s alright.  “NEXT!!!”
  3. Beat the Big 6 into Submission: See that, that’s me, Amazon/Goodreads, the fat kid in the sandbox. It’s time to play by my rules. While over the years I’ve appreciated your love of the written word, chase of trends, and airplane reads, I’d plan to send to you running for cover and only publish shit no one reads, like poetry and recipe books. In fact, I’d beat you back so far that it would force you to become smaller, niche, and more nimble by keeping your overhead low, print runs smaller and expectations realistic.  My plan wouldn’t be to shut you down altogether. While I could easily be the only book selling game in town, I do need a dog to kick once in a while.
  4. Line my pockets with gold: Amazon is in the publishing game for one reason, and one reason only, to grow revenue.  And once my pockets are filled to the brim, I’m going to look to other ways to exploit the arts for my own financial gain.  I’d fool the public into recording their own music, creating their own video games and to share with friends, or starring in their own feature film.  Who needs Hollywood when you’ve got me Amazon/Goodreads/Chocolate Data Covered Fat Kid?

It’s probably a good thing I don’t run Amazon. I’m old school. I like things the way they were. I like to read books and not feel forced to write a review, like the author on Facebook, or download the next series to my Kindle HD, superfast e-reader spy gadget.

So, no more Goodreads for me, if you need me, I’ll be reading a good book, in hard cover, at the library.

How to Choose a Writer’s Conference

PJ here, happy to be on the East coast and back in my own bed…ahhhh. After doing this writing thing for a while, I’ve been to quite a few writer’s conferences, and I wanted to share my experience on how to choose the “right” conference for you. If you belong to RWA or a similar writer’s organization, you probably get inundated with lots of options. Here are a few things to think about.

road tripLocation/Accommodations: Check out the hotel venue and make sure the location is some place you’d like to stay for a few days. A bad night’s sleep, disappointing food, or poor quality hospitality can really put a damper on your stay. It’s worth visiting the hotel’s website and checking out their reviews. Make plans for car rental and recreational activities ahead of time so you don’t get there with hopes of visiting a locale on your “down time” only to find that you can’t get a car rental on short notice or the place you want to visit is closed. Although you are going for business, one of the perks of traveling is enjoying the sights along the way. Also, check to see what is around your hotel. Are there local restaurants and shopping within walking distance? Is there a gym? An indoor pool? Are you next to a train yard, airport, or in a bad section of the city? Some of these things may not be important to you, but if they are, make sure you know what you are paying for ahead of time. Scope out your hotel and surrounding area on Google maps.

Price: Is it affordable and worth the money for what you are getting? Are meals included? Are the speakers well known and knowledgeable? Is it worth your time, money, and effort? Remember to consider your loss of income while you’re away from your day job, and factor in any accrued costs such as wardrobe, entertainment, and additional travel fees (taxis, trains, buses etc.). Remember to save all receipts for tax purposes.

Focus of conference: Does the conference offer workshops that will help you further your career goals? If you are a newer writer, make sure there are craft workshops geared to what you’d like to learn. If you are seeking publication, are there opportunities to meet with agents and editors to pitch your story? Agent and editor panels offer a great opportunity to ask questions, find out what they are looking for, and hear the latest about the industry from publishing professionals. If you are a published author, do they offer promotion, marketing, and business oriented workshops? Interested in self-pubbing? Do they offer the most updated information available in this rapidly growing and changing aspect of the industry? If you are participating in a book signing, how successful have previous years been and how many readers can you expect to see? Shipping books is expensive, so ask for clear answers about realistic expectations. My experience is that print books don’t sell all that well at conferences and I rarely recoup the cost of shipping. I can see e-books being the way to go for future signings.

Networking: Conferences are a wonderful place to meet like-minded individuals and make professional contacts that you might never have the chance to meet otherwise. Don’t stalk the agents and editors but research them and know who you’d like to make a connection with. Make the effort to sit next to them at lunch or dinner (or in the bar). Be ready to talk intelligently about your work. Be prepared with a SHORT pitch of your WIP. Create a one or two sentence summary (log line) of what your story is about. The most common question asked at conferences is “What do you write?” The second most common question is “What is your story about?” Have an answer memorized and ready, and confidently smile as you give them your brief spiel. Don’t monopolize their time, but use the time wisely. If you get tongue tied and start rambling or their eyes begin to glaze over, stop talking and ask them a question about something unrelated. Where are you from? Are you a writer, too? Do you love baseball, zumba, pole dancing? Something that will put you at ease and take the heat off of you until you can collect yourself and get comfortable enough not to sound like an idiot. These are just people, but they are professionals and are there to FIND YOU! Respect their time, but don’t let your fear stop you from putting yourself out there.

Quality Speakers: I cannot stress this enough. Do some research on the speakers. What are their publishing/professional credentials? Just because they are there, doesn’t mean they are interesting, entertaining, or an expert in their field. Have they done this workshop before? How many times? Ask around to other writers and check out the websites of your presenters. If they don’t have a professional website that is engaging and informative, it might be an indicator that they aren’t all that well organized.

Organization: If you’ve ever participated in organizing a conference, you know about the gazillion moving parts and the army of people it takes to put on a seamless production. Of course there are always things that go wrong or details that get missed, but overall, organizers want it to be a good experience for everyone and they want attendees to return year after year to support the effort. If they don’t return e-mails, or answer your questions clearly up front, chances are the conference won’t be much better organized than the individuals running it. Conferences are generally a way for organizations to make money to support writers and their endeavors, so organizers (who are all volunteers, so be patient and kind to these people) are invested in making your conference experience successful. If there are suggestions you have for improvements, be sure to share them with conference organizers.

Image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=3421&picture=apples-and-pears
Image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=3421&picture=apples-and-pears

And last but not least, Food: You might have to contact the conference organizers for this information, but it’s worth asking about the menu ahead of time. If you have dietary restrictions or just want to make sure that some healthy selections are available, it’s worth the added effort to ensure that your needs are known ahead of time. You also have the option of doing a bit of shopping when you get settled in and stocking your hotel room refrigerator (make sure one is available in your room when you book your reservation) with fruit, yogurt, water, etc. so you can avoid the breakfast buffets that offer all those yummy bagels, pastries, muffins, and such. Will there be adequate chocolate selection at breaks? Just sayin’.

Unlocked Secret: Do your research, guys. There are enough choices for quality conferences around the country and your educational dollars are valuable, so make them count and get the most of your experience.

I hope to see you all at the RWA National convention in Atlanta this summer. It’s shaping up to be a fabulous time!

Any other tips for our readers to help them find a quality conference? What has been your favorite conference experience? Any funny experiences you’d like to share from the “trenches”?

Let Your Geek Flag Fly

Hi, all. Suze here, wishing you a lovely day.

logo[1]This past weekend, Mr. Suze and I attended a two-day event in New Hampshire. Our son, the Crown Prince of Hardydom, is a member of his school’s FIRST Robotics team and this was his first competition. FIRST is an organization founded by Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway as well as numerous medical devices–and he’s also king of his own island nation, the Kingdom of North Dumpling). Teams from across the country work with local mentors on a predetermined challenge: build a robot to accomplish specific tasks. This year the robot needs to be able to shoot disks (frisbees) into a goal as well as climb a pyramid in order to score points. Click here to see the robots in action.

As I watched the competition from the stands, I couldn’t help noticing that there were a lot of, well, geeks in that arena. Proud geeks. Intelligent geeks. Geeks wearing capes and tights and labcoats and team tee shirts–working hard and having a heck of a lot of fun. And it got me thinking. We each have our own particular brand of geekness, don’t we?

Me, I’m a history nerd. If it happened a couple thousand years ago and we’re digging it up now, I’m hooked. Add an element of DNA or skeletal analysis and associated artifacts, and you can forget about dinner and clean clothes, because I’ll be parked in front of the computer or television screen sucking up factoids. I’m also fascinated by stuff like ancient languages and their relationship to modern tongues, and what they tell us about our ancestors’ migration/settlement patterns. I’m that girl who rubbernecks, nearly causing accidents, every time she drives past a house with one of those signs nailed to the front telling who built the place and in what year. If I miss it, sometimes I’ll turn around and go back and look. Later, I may Google the name and date to see if there’s any more information available. If I possibly can, I stop to read historical markers on the side of the road. I was captain of my school’s history bowl (trivia) team–2-time New York State champions!

MV5BMTMyMTQxMTQwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjE5ODg4._V1._SX78_SY140_[1]So I totally get what these robot-building kids are about. And I applaud them!

Say it loud. I’m a nerd and I’m proud.

What about you? Are you ready to let your geek flag fly here at the Scribes? I’d love to hear what geeky interest keeps you away from your chores–Cryptozoology? Comics/graphic novels? Computers and technology? Experimental horticulture? Eighteenth century poetry written by nuns? Free yourself and admit it here! Inquiring Scribes want to know.