Category Archives: conferences

From Wallflower to Life of the Party?

Happy Sunday, Katy Lee here. This past week my business-type husband announced he was going to send me to a media networking conference. For some reason he thought this was an exciting idea, but me? Not so much. It took all I had in me not to run for the hills. You see, I am an introvert; a solitary person by nature. Just for the record, though, being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m anti-sociable. It just means, please, for the love of God, whatever you do, don’t throw me into the middle of a crowded party and tell me to go mingle…or worse, go network.

Coming up with that opening line – that small-talk starter – is the biggest problem an introvert has. And what can make other people think we are anti-sociable.

But as a writer I’ve got pages and pages of witty dialogue to prove I know what sociable looks like. The clincher being, I’ve had hours to work on those scenes. And yes, I am one of those people who will come up with the perfect comeback or topic hours after the conversation is over… when it doesn’t matter anymore.

Now I’m not saying all writers fall into this personality trait. In fact, I have met many authors who are just as quick with their words in person as they are on the page, and I am unabashedly envious of you all, but I believe more writers than not would say they are quite content to barricade themselves into a room with nothing but their computer and their characters to talk to for days on end.

Sound familiar? You just might be an introvert.

Admitting it is the first step. The next is getting prepared to overcome it–because as much as you want to disappear into the shadows of the party, you can’t.

I attended a conference once where you had to write your name on your name tag along with one topic about yourself. Something that the other person could ask you about and you felt comfortable talking about. It was a great icebreaker, and it took the pressure off of me having to come up with something. They then could ask me about my topic, and conversations just bloomed from there. Before I knew it, I was mingling.  

Unfortunately, we don’t walk around every day with name tags with topics about ourselves on them. I do think the world would be a friendlier place if we did though. Just saying. So how can you keep yourself from being a wallflower?

First off, you don’t need to be the life of the party. It’s okay to find a table where a couple people, probably people just like you, are sitting. But if they are just like you, it could end up to be a pretty quiet table…unless, you come prepared.

Think of a few standard questions you could use when you find yourself in a social situation. I read once a mystery writer who was a self-professed introvert had a standard question she would use in social atmospheres. She would go up to a complete stranger, ask them about their career (a very standard icebreaker for strangers) and then, she would tell them she was a mystery writer and ask, “Why would someone want to murder a person in your profession?” She said it never failed to lead to great conversations and even business relationships. Obviously, though, make sure you’re in the right setting for a question like that, or you could end up being removed from the building.

The Unlocked Secret: Starting the conversation is only the first step.  It is critical that once you start it, you have an obligation to listen. When people realize you are genuinely interested in what they have to say, they will be more apt to listen to what you have to say after. Before you know it, your conversations will be blooming, and you’ll be networking.  

Question: Do you have the perfect icebreaking question? How do you overcome the bothersome personality trait of being an introvert?

Police Procedures and Author Sandra Orchard

Hello all, Katy Lee here. First off, on this tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, my appreciation and prayers go out to all of our law enforcement and first responders. Thank you for keeping our towns and cities safe every day. God’s blessings to you all.

Now, as writers, we can only depend on research to get the story right, and today I have Sandra Orchard, a fellow Inspirational-Romantic-Suspense author, here to discuss how she came by her research for her Undercover Cops series and novel, DEEP COVER. FYI- One lucky commenter will be drawn tonight at11:59PM (ET) for a free copy!

Sandra attended a writer’s police academy, and I just had to have her here today to share a few of her hair-raising experiences with us all.

But first, can you tell us a little bit about DEEP COVER and your main characters?

Thanks for having me here, Katy Lee. The hero of Deep Cover is undercover cop Rick Gray. Fifteen months ago he let the woman he loved walk out of his life, rather than expose her to the dangers of his job. Now, he’s back with a new alias, posing as a foreman on a development project to bring to justice the man who caused his partner’s death. That man is the heroine Ginny’s uncle. And the project is a group home for her mentally challenged sister—a group home Ginny is very much involved with seeing built. Only Rick’s mission could destroy that dream and her family, and he can’t tell her what he really is, or why he’s there for fear of jeopardizing the case. But someone else wants to make her uncle pay, too. And Rick must face his worst nightmare—that someone he cares about will be killed because of his job.

I have had the pleasure of devouring this book, and it had me on the edge of my seat from page one. Great read, Sandra!

Now as a writer, I want to dig in to how you came by your research. Can you explain to us what WPA means, how this experience helped you revise Deep Cover, and shape the subsequent books in your series?

WPA stands for the Writer’s Police Academy. It offers hands-on, interactive and educational experiences to enhance the writer’s understanding of all aspects of law enforcement and forensics. Every imaginable kind of police and rescue vehicle and equipment are on display with knowledgeable officers answering questions. You can choose from a variety of workshops from fingerprinting and arson investigation to the gruesome details of autopsies or undercover operations. The event takes place at a police college, and one morning, they actually staged a school shooting, complete with lockdown, real police officers doing exactly what they’d do in the actual scenario and EMTs dealing with the casualties afterward. For my series, the most enlightening class was presented by a former undercover officer. Not only did he share many of his experiences, he gave us glimpses of what went on in his head and heart during that time, which is where the real meat of my heroes’ stories lie.

Can you share one eye-opening tidbit you learned from WPA that gave you a whole new perspective on what it’s like to be a law enforcement officer?

I participated in Fire Arms Simulation Training, FATS for short. We were given Glocks and faced with a floor to ceiling screen that showed videos of shoot and don’t shoot situations. When we took a shot, the hit would show on the screen. We were surprised more than once by the post-simulation explanation of why we should have or shouldn’t have taken a shot. The most adrenaline-pumping moment for me was when I had to face a hostage taker alone in an office (depicted on screen). A disgruntled employee had his boss in an arm lock and was waving a gun. I was telling him to put down the weapon, he really didn’t want to do this etc. to no avail, all the while training my own weapon at his head—the only part of his body visible past the hostage. The instant he lifted his gun to the guy’s head, I took the shot. His brains splattered on the screen behind. The officer in charge of the simulation turned to me and said, “Great shot.” I pretty much freaked out on him, saying I could have hit the hostage. I was shaking, heart pounding. It was unbelievable. It certainly gave me a whole new perspective on the split second decisions officers are called upon to make and the emotional havoc it can wreak afterward.

Wow! What an amazing experience. As a suspense writer, that sounds like an event I’d love to attend. Where can writers get more information on one of these experiences?

WPA is organized by author (and former policeofficer) Lee Lofland. The 2011 academy is September 23rd to 25th in Jamestown N.C. The FATS training portion is already sold-out, but there is still time to register for the conference. Members of Sisters in Crime are being offered an incredible discount. I am so disappointed I’ll miss it this year, because ACFW is the same weekend. This year some lucky participants will get to go on ride-a-longs with on duty NC police officers! You can learn more at: http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com/  

Sandra, how can readers keep in touch with you on the web?

Visit my website ~ www.SandraOrchard.com

Visit my personal blog ~ http://www.SandraOrchard.blogspot.com

Connect on Facebook Page ~ www.Facebook.com/SandraOrchard

Subscribe to my newsletter ~ http://bit.ly/SandraNews

All right, Readers, I’m opening the floor up to you now. Do you have a similar law enforcement experience you would like to share? Do you have a question for Sandra about hers? Do you have a question about her new Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, DEEP COVER, and let me remind you, one lucky commenter will receive their very own copy of Sandra’s book delivered right to their door!

So comment away!

Book Trailer DIY tips

Tuesday’s Child, PJ, coming to you from abroad.

Here we are again. At least, here you are again. I’m actually on a cruise ship heading into port in Barcelona. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to be with you via internet, so I’m posting ahead of time. Before I left for this vacation, I was working on creating a book trailer for my upcoming September release, HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES.

As J mentioned last week, book trailers are the latest and greatest way to promote your books. J talked about her experience with hiring the task out. Being that I am also indie-publishing and trying to keep costs down, I figured I would do it myself. Initially, I asked for help from my step son who is a TV producer, but between his schedule and mine, and my neurotic need to have my project ‘just so’, I decided to save him the head ache. I mean, how hard could it be? Right?

So I watched a million trailers, took power point lessons from my techno-genius hubby, and dove in. If I was being paid for this project, I couldn’t have afforded me. Now, I know there is a learning curve the first time out with any new skill, but I literally spent hours (probably more than 30) and between licensing fees for stock photos and music, my book trailer cost me…wait for it…approximately $350.

That may seem like a lot of money…well…it is. But I’ve researched several sites that produce book trailers and the costs run the gammut. You have companies like Apex Reviews who offer book trailers for as low as $59 and as high as $199. Their trailers are professional and they even offer distribution and book reviews. This is an excellent value for the money and I would definitely consider using them in the future. Author Traci Hall used them and has a fabulous trailer for her new release, DIARY OF A BAD BOY. The trailer is eye catching, short, and straight to the point. No frills, but effective.

On the other end of the spectrum, Simone Elkeles just released her uber trailer for her latest book CHAIN REACTION, the third book in her PERFECT CHEMISTRY series. I imagine her budget was quite a bit higher than my meager $350. But since most of us don’t have it in our budget to hire a cast and crew–which must have been a blast (and boy, did she find some great young hotties)–we need to do what is comfortable for us and most importantly, create a budget that won’t break the bank.

For me as a new author, I consider a book trailer an important investment. In my opinion, my marketing dollars are best spent getting the book out to the widest audience, and it’s pretty clear from the You Tube craze, that millions of people (young adults especially) are watching. Getting to my target audience is the keystone to my marketing plan. I will also admit that maintaining creative control of my product was one of the main factors in my choice to indie-publish, so creating my own trailer was a labor of love. However, I’ll admit that me and Power point have developed a love/hate relationship and I will look into filming and editing my next trailer. My goal is to have it look as professional as possible for my buck and to be different enough to catch the attention of readers/viewers. After all, this trailer made me read ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Vampire Hunter.

I heard some excellent advice about book trailers at the RWA National conference in NYC this summer. Sophie Gunn said, “A bad book trailer is worse than no book trailer.” She also suggested that trailers are beginning to all look alike. She recommended that if we were going to have one, that we make it unique, eye catching, and dynamic. Great advice. I hope I was successful. If not, I still have time to make changes before it goes out to You Tube (ahh, the flexibility of DIY). Let me know what you think. I’ll let you be the judge.

Am I Worthy to Write?

Greetings all, Katy Lee here. I have just returned from the national Romance Writers of America conference in New York City, and I have to say, there is something to be said for attending one of these events. No other place can you surround yourself with the cream of the crop. The best of the best. The victorious published authors who have gone before you. I feel rejuvenated, educated, motivated…overwhelmed, unworthy, misguided…did I mention unworthy?

As exciting and informative as these conferences are, and don’t get me wrong, they are. In fact, in the upcoming weeks, I’ll be sharing with you all some of the golden nuggets I took away from the event, so stay tuned. But these events also have a way of reminding you just how much you don’t know; just how much further you have to go…just how unsubstantial you really are.

Now I could make this post about the amount of competition that is out there, because when you are staring at those thousands of other authors, that notion really hits home. But, instead, I want to share the feeling I got inside myself in the midst of all those authors.

Who am I, and why would people care about my little book? What makes my story just as special as any of these others? Why bother to write when there are so many others already doing it?

And the BIG question…Am I as good as all of them?

I would not be surprised, in the least, to learn about so many people who put down the pen after attending one of these conferences. The overwhelming visual is enough to start that tiny voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough.

So there I was, standing in this sea of word scribblers. People from all walks of life. People with their own personal experiences that brought them to the same place I was at. And that’s when it hit me. We were at the same place because we all had one thing in common.

Writing comes natural.

Now I don’t mean the mechanics of writing. Those we do need to learn and perfect. And being at the conference, you’re in the right place to take that first step. What I mean is the desire that comes from within you. The one that isn’t satisfied until you put your thoughts down on paper. That’s the natural writer in you coming out. And that’s what makes you just as worthy to be standing amongst the sea of all those other writers.

The Unlocked Secret: Anna J. Cooper, a 19th century slave’s child, who grew up to become an educator, author and speaker for African American women in the United States, said this. ”Nothing natural can be wholly unworthy.” So if it’s coming natural to you, lift your head up, look people in eye and own it. It’s yours. You are worthy to call yourself a writer.

Question: When people ask you what you’ve been up to, do you tell them you’ve been writing? What’s stopping you from owning it?