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    Maggie’s Coffee House Blog

    Pour a cup and let’s talk about life, love, books, and blessings!

    Welcome to my new Coffee House where we’ll chat about family, life, love, books and writing.
    If you’re looking for my spiritual writings, they’re at Maggie’s Bliss Blog.. You’ll have to resubscribe from the new site to receive notification of new posts there.

    I think all my blog bases are now covered. But you never know! I’m a verbal thing!

Pre-Release Jitters? Me?

This book, TWILIGHT GUARDIANS has suddenly become real.

I think it hit me when the pre-order button went live on Amazon. All of a sudden, I was unable to share it. I put it off for hours, thinking, well, we have a lot going on this week. Maybe I should wait a few days. Maybe the pre-order page is looking sparse without the print version yet up there, so maybe I’ll share the link once that goes up.

Then I stopped myself and took a clear look inside my head. Why would I hesitate? When had I ever, in 22 years, had exciting book news and not shared it immediately? And I realized that I was nervous. More nervous about this release than any release ever. I didn’t know enough about the business to be nervous about my first book. I was just glad it was being published. But for this one, which is number 59, not counting nearly 30 novellas and anthologies? I am a wreck.

The reason is pretty clear to me. I’m publishing this one on my own. I chose the cover art, the model (my daughter,) the photographer, the pose, the outfit (those boots are my own!) the background. I’ve got no big publisher behind me this time, and it feels like flying without a net. Jumping without a ‘chute. Leaping without a bridge. You pick the cliché, it’s that times ten.

Even re-publishing my own backlist books wasn’t this scary, because they had already passed muster. They had been given the stamp of approval by a New York publisher.

This is very different. No one has told me this book is worthy. You would think that after writing this many novels, I’d be a bit more confident than that. It’s been ages since my editor has changed more than a few extra commas, caught an inconsistency or two, or asked for further clarification on a line here and there. Why am I so nervous? It’s illogical to be.

But, logical or not, I am. This is a whole new world for me. I guess I’m supposed to be nervous. We didn’t even have time to send it out to reviewers yet. I’m still polishing for one more week. So we have no idea what the response will be.

So that’s where I am today. Taking a break before re-starting my final pass through the book, and being nervous, while trying to talk myself down.

The pre-order price at Amazon is $2.99, which is considerably less than the regular price will be starting on 9/1.

And we will be putting pre-order links up anywhere else they allow it, but most outlets do not. Regardless of price or pre-order buttons or my own nervous breakdown, TWILIGHT GUARDIANS, Book 1 of the NEW Wings in the Night: Reborn, goes on sale at all outlets, worldwide, on September 1st.

And if my nerves continue to build up until that date, I’m going to need blood pressure meds or something!




Here is, the cover we’ve chosen. Photographer Paige Wissenbach, model Lisa Benson, and graphic design by Jessica Lewis of Author’s Life Saver.com Lisa is my youngest daughter, Jessica my middle daughter, and I’m looking into adopting Paige to keep things fair.  ;)  TWILIGHT GUARDIANS goes on sale September 1st.

Thank you so much for your input! It made the difference!

Living Indie-pendently

OUAT-3dSince leaving traditional publishing, I’ve been busier than the proverbial long-tailed cat in the roomful of rocking chairs. But we have a lot going on. So let me fill you in.

*We have just received word that all rights to the entire Texas Brand series and the entire Oklahoma All Girl Brands series are about to revert to me. This was a generous gift to me from Harlequin. They didn’t have to give them up for several more years. I’ll always be grateful. We really have had a wonderful working relationship. If there’s any lesson at all in this, it ought to be that you can disagree, you can even part ways, but you can do so from a place of mutual respect and maintain friendships.










What this means for all of you is that the entire series will be spiffed up, repackaged, some of the books re-titled (The Husband She Couldn’t Remember for sure!) and re-released over the next few months or so, with prices that will make it irresistible to readers, new and old. What it means for me, is that I can afford to continue pursuing my independent career.




Viking6*As we speak we’re spiffing up some of the classics, revisiting the covers of Miranda’s Viking, Forgotten Vows, making minor changes to the covers of Dr. Duffy’s Close Encounter and Annie’s Hero, and repackaging the Fairies of Rush Duet in a two-in-one volume titled Once Upon a Time (shown above.) Each of these are in progress now.

*In September, we’ll be releasing my very first full length indie novel, TWILIGHT GUARDIANS. (We changed the title after polling the readers.) The book is nearly finished. We have a cover art photo shoot slated for Wednesday June 25th, no matter what. (We already had to postpone it twice.) There will be a pre-order link, with a special pre-order price, and there will also be review copies available via Netgalley, just as soon as we can get them there.

*In October, the first of my final two titles for Harlequin MIRA, Brown & De Luca #4, INNOCENT PREY, goes on sale.

*In November, I hope hope hope, we’ll be ready to release a special Brand holiday novel, SWEET VIDALIA BRAND.

*In December, my final MIRA book hits the shelves, Brown & De Luca #5, DEADLY OBSESSION

My plate is very full, but I’m having fun with every minute of it. Beyond these few things, I can only say that my plan is to keep writing Wings in the Night books, keep writing Brown & De Luca books, and to write sequels to several other series of mine, including the Immortal High Witches, The Fairies of Rush, and Gingerbread Man as my schedule permits. There might even be more Brands.

If there are special requests, let me know. I would love to hear from you. It’s you readers who are giving me the best input and the best ideas right now. So stay in touch. You’re very important to me. Hell, you’re why I do what I do.

And if you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, you should. It’s not at all pesky or spammy. I only send it out when there’s something free or super cheap or a contest to enter with fabulous expensive prizes. So you should sign up. (Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. Sign up form is on the left.)


The end…and the beginning!

the-end-old-movieThis past Saturday, I typed the words “The End” at the bottom of a manuscript before clicking save, and sending it off to my editor. I don’t usually type “The End” at the end of my manuscripts. But this time, it really was an ending. The very end of the final draft of my final book for Harlequin Enterprises.

When I first sold to Harlequin, I was barely out of my twenties. Now I have ten grandchildren. Reckless Angel was picked up for Silhouette Intimate Moments by editor Melissa Senate, an author herself now. She said it was the perfect Intimate Moments book. (That’s the line that’s now called Harlequin Romantic Suspense.) She had, only days earlier, turned down my first vampire novel. She’d wanted to buy it, but because I was an untried author, I needed to do the required revisions first, to prove I could, I guess. So while I was revising Twilight Phantasies, she bought my sexy little romantic suspense. And my career was born.

I left Harlequin twice. Once to publish fantasy romances for Avon Books, (Fairytale, Forever Enchanted, Annie’s Hero) and later to publish my Immortal Witch Series and a single romantic suspense, Gingerbread Man, for Berkley. In both cases it was because the other houses outbid Harlequin. And in both cases, Harlequin later offered me an even better deal to get me back. I kind of expected that pattern to last forever.

Other than those two breaks, I’ve been with Harlequin for twenty two years. I’ve written for Shadows, Intimate Moments/Romantic Suspense, American, Nocturne, MIRA, and HQN as well as several continuity series.

Writing “The End” on that book (Deadly Obsession, Brown & De Luca #4) was like stamping “The End” on a very big, very important part of my life. I shed a few tears while typing those words, followed by the date: April 19th, 2014.

images-10I took the next day off. It was Easter, we had family stuff, and it was all really nice. I wrote a blog about the meaning of the holiday, the themes of rebirth and renewal, and how life always returns. How every ending is a new beginning. It was deep. You should read it. (Link: Bliss Blog)

And then today, Monday, April 21st, I went upstairs to my office. I’ve been working downstairs lately. My office has been getting sorely neglected. I straightened up a bit, and then I sat down and I began writing exactly what I felt like writing. I didn’t have to write a synopsis first, or wait for approval on said synopsis or, worse, revise it to someone else’s preferences. I had a flash of inspiration a week or two ago and scribbled dozens of scenes on index cards. It was way more fun than writing a synopsis. And today, I wrote the first three pages, a sort of first-person introduction by a beloved narrator that I don’t now if I’ll keep or not. I wouldn’t have written it at all, before. It would have been cut for sure.

Note: Not my cards. Just where I learned the method

Not my cards. Just where I learned the method

Then I sorted the index cards and stuck them on my walls as I figured out what went where. I can change my mind mid-stream, take cards off, put new ones up. I don’t have to write the book’s back cover blurb until I’ve written the actual book. I don’t need to know before page 1, what’s going to happen on all 400! I had no idea how freeing that was going to feel.

Next I wrote the opening scene of the book from the perspective of its hero, a vampire who’s far younger than I had expected him to be. He’s telling me his story and I’m writing it down. It doesn’t start out in a way I could have got away with before, but now I can. Now, it’s up to me.

Saturday, April 19th I typed “The End.”
Monday, April 21st was my brand new beginning.

You get one of those after every ending. Seriously. You do. It’s kind of a good thing to keep in mind, don’t you think?






Going Indie

For the past 22 years I’ve been publishing books the old fashioned way. I write them, I send them to my publisher, I get paid, and the publisher does everything else. Lately, these book sales have been falling.

For the past 2 years, I’ve been publishing some older books whose rights reverted from my publishers back to me, in the new way. I repackage them, put a new cover on them, write my own back cover blurb, upload them, and promote them myself. These book sales have been rising and rising.

There is a new paradigm in publishing. In fact, there’s a new paradigm in the world. The instrument of this change is the Internet, and the gist of what it has done is this: It has brought together the creators of products, with the consumers of those same products, without the need for a middleman. Mega-corporations are no longer needed to bring books, or music, or films, or shows, or jewelry or art or fashion or a million other things to the public. This is the way of the future, I promise you this.

When one little book has to support its author, her agent, the publisher, all the publisher’s employees, CEO and overhead, that book is bearing a very heavy load. Its price has to be high, too high to compete with a similar book that’s only trying to support its author and her comparatively tiny team. I believe that’s why traditional publishing is seeing shrinking sales.

images-4Publishing is undergoing a rapid, radical change. Publishing companies know this, and they are scrambling to adapt. But as I’ve been told by people who work for big publishing, it’s like trying to turn around an ocean liner. It takes time and effort. It’s slow.

I don’t think you can be slow to respond to these changes, though, because by the time you do, there’s a whole new set of them underway. Our industry is evolving too fast for the ocean liners to keep up. Publishing today requires us to be nimble, quick, readily able to change course, do a complete turnaround, zig and zag as needed. Ocean images-5liners aren’t the best vessels for traveling these new waters. Speedboats are just the ticket.

I’ve had excellent results from independently publishing fifteen backlist titles. I’ve changed covers multiple times, I change prices often, I run special promotions and sales on a couple of days notice, I tweak the blurbs if I feel I can do them better. I can pay individual attention to each title, giving it just what it needs to succeed. And it has been working for me. So I just have to take my front list titles off that big ocean liner and put them into my little speedboat. I think I can do a better job with them than big publishing can.

That is not to say that I think this is right decision for everybody. I just think in my case, with my books and my readership and the level I am at, this is the best move. And maybe I’m wrong. Time will tell. But if you don’t go for the gold, you can’t move forward, and the one thing I know for sure is that I’ve gone as far as I can with big publishing. They’ve had the best books of my life. If they couldn’t build me any higher with those, then they’re not likely to ever be able to do any better. And I am always striving to do better.

So I’m taking a shot.

I have a great team lined up behind me. I have two daughters now with successful businesses who are the heart of that team; Jessica, the virtual assistant, ebook formatter and cover designer behind Authors Lifesaver, and Jena, the proofreader, book editor behind Practical Proofing. I had just begun working with photographer  Paige Wissenbach, so I won’t have to use stock art for my covers anymore. I have just hired a top notch web designer Kim Killion of Hot Damn Designs to create a new web site for Wings in the Night, which I have just decided to bring back. I have a fabulous street team headed up by the phenomenal Michelle Leah Olson of Literal Addiction. I’m calling my company Thunderfoot Publishing, and right now, I’ll only be publishing my own work through it. Though it might end up being a family business down the line. We’ll see how it goes.

I still have two more Brown & De Luca novels coming out from MIRA this fall. But these will be my final two books for them.

Meanwhile, I plan to begin a whole new phase of Wings in the Night I’m calling WINGS IN THE NIGHT: REBORN  Book 1 will be released in October. Title is still being brainstormed. The big question, do I continue using the word “twilight” in each book as I’ve done with all but three of them since 1993? Or do we go a whole new route? (I’ll take any input you have on that question, btw.)

So buckle up. We’re about to blast off on a whole new adventure. Life is good, isn’t it?



A Christmas Surprise!

Mommy for Christmas-redJust in time for the holiday season, I’m bringing out one of the most heart-tugging Christmas miracle stories I’ve ever written. It was originally published in December 2005, titled, FEELS LIKE HOME, and was part of the Oklahoma All-Girl Brands (a spinoff of the Texas Brand series of the mid-to-late-90′s.) A few weeks after this book’s release, my mom passed away. I’d been nursing her through pancreatic cancer during the writing of this novel. As I re-read it in preparation for its re-release, I realized I was not at my creative best at that time. The suspense plot had some holes and took up too much of the book’s focus, while the mother and father and child relationships and the meaning of the holiday season, took up too little. The sex and the violence were far too graphic, I thought. They didn’t fit the deep emotion and sacred nature of the story.

So instead of just checking for typos and uploading as I’ve done with some of the my other backlist titles, I gave this one a total re-write. It’s deeper now. Softer. Truer to the kind of story I think it was meant to be, the kind you watch on the Hallmark Channel during holiday movie marathons. Heartwarming and so deeply moving that you’ll shed tears of joy as you read it.

Re-working this novel made me re-examine where it was coming from inside me. As my mother was dying, I was writing about a little boy who didn’t have a mother. (That he knew of. In fact, he did have a mother, a drug addicted one who’d never wanted him.) But to Tyler’s knowledge, he had no mother, and that’s the only thing he wanted for Christmas. His dad, Jimmy Corona, was determined to find him one. A good girl, who’d love his little boy the way he deserved to be loved. He’d treat her like gold, he vowed. But he would never give his own heart again. Jimmy’s own mom died of cancer. He nursed her through her illness at the age of 11.

In hindsight, I think my journey in this novel was about really examining the good mother young Tyler wanted, the bad mother he had, the mother his own dad had loved and lost, just every angle of mothers and their children. Of losing them, and of finding them, and of life and death. It’s also about the truly wondrous magic of Christmas, which my mom always believed in (and so do I) and the ultimate healing power of love.

I think I had to write my way through mom’s illness, but at the time, even though I was trying, I was skating across the surface. This time, I dove down into the depths, seeing things much more clearly through the goggles of 8 years’ time.

This is the kind of story I love best at holiday time. I hope you’ll enjoy it too.

Kindle UK
Kindle CA

What We Leave Behind

Read my

tmp_NEW_110813_oHEOAjZxbpNyillsEnjoy my blog post here, and then click on the logo to visit the other blogs in the Sultry Summer Reads Blog Hop, and see the great prizes being offered, including a Kindle Fire, $100 gift card, signed books and more! Post a comment including your email addy to be entered for the prize drawings!

I’m writing this blog from Fort Sill, Oklahoma where I’ve come to welcome my newest grandson, Allan Colin Lewis to the family. He arrived Saturday. I arrived Sunday. We’re a close family. I live in rural Cortland County NY so it was a bit of a trip. Allan is my daughter Jessica and son-in-law Ben’s fourth little boy. Since I had five little girls, all these little boys seem like a lovely way for the Universe to balance the books a little. Allan is my tenth grandchild. We stand now at 3 girls and 7 boys. Every time a new one is born, I relive the emotions that filled me when my very first grandchild came into the world, Ella Josephine, now fifteen. I felt this sense of continuity, this sudden knowing in a way I had never quite known before, that I am eternal. And that we all go on and on and on, in many many ways. One of those ways is through our children, and theirs, and so on and on down through the ages into the future. Part of us will always be here.

Maggie holding little Allan for the first time

Maggie holding little Allan for the first time

Another of the ways we live on is through the things we create while we’re here. The works we do. The stuff we leave behind. For me, that stuff is my body of work. My stories. 54 novels and 27 novellas now by my most recent count. I’m proud of every one of them, and glad they’ll be my voice after I’ve moved on. Just like my family will carry the things I taught them, the example I gave them, the life I lived, through their own, so will my words carry forward all the things I consider sacred. My books contain my innermost beliefs, my values, my perceptions, and my opinions on things, as seen and experienced though the lenses of the characters I create.


As I hang out here in the Southwest, my newest novel is getting ready to release and it, more than any so far, really holds my most cherished ideas.  SLEEP WITH THE LIGHTS ON is a thriller that’s already stirring up a lot of buzz. It’s the first book of a new series we’re calling the Brown and De Luca novels, and you can read the back cover blurb and a big juicy excerpt right here. It’s heroine is a self help author who doesn’t really believe the message she delivers, (or claims she doesn’t.) She’s sarcastic and sassy, a bit jaded, and has just regained her eyesight after 20 years of blindness. Her cornea donor was a serial killer, and soon she starts dreaming of crimes as seen through his eyes. Crimes he seems to be continuing from beyond the grave.

This book gave me the chance to explore things that are important to me, from the deep truths behind the messages of Rachel’s self help books (she might not believe in it, but I do) to the notion that there is more to us than our bodies, and that maybe something survives the transplant process. Since I’ve begun this series (I’m writing the third full length novel now) I’ve been exploring that phenomenon even more. And one of the most fascinating things I’ve found has been a documentary, a snip of which appears on You Tube. Check it out. I’m blown away.

SLEEP WITH THE LIGHTS ON releases on 9/24 followed by an online novella, DREAM OF DANGER in mid October, and then the second novel, WAKE TO DARKNESS at Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, you can grab my backlist thriller GINGERBREAD MAN Free in all ebook formats until the end of the month. We’ve given away well over 200,000 copies so far, and it’s garnered over 200 reviews, most of them 4 and 5 stars. This is my way of giving new readers a chance to get to know my work, without them having to invest a thing beyond their time.

Links to all of the above are right HERE. I hope you enjoy them. And enjoy the rest of this blog hop. If you like what you see here, pop on over to my Facebook Page and see what other fun things there are to be found or hit me up on Twitter: @MaggieShayne

Why I’m Giving it Away: An Author’s Honest Answer

Gingerbread Man-1From now until September 24th, one of the best novels of my career, certainly the most critically acclaimed, is going to be appearing in electronic formats for the first time, and its price will be listed as Free. A few readers have asked me why I’m doing this. So I’m going to tell you exactly why.

This novel, GINGERBREAD MAN, was a romantic thriller. I’ve done several books labled romantic suspense by the publisher, that I consider romantic thrillers instead. The action is constant, the pacing breathless, the thrills and chills are rapid-fire. The word “suspense” conveys a slower pace to me. Maybe I’m wrong.

Anyway, I’ve done seven of these books now. The Mordecai Young trilogy (Thicker than Water, Colder than Ice, Darker than Midnight) followed by its spinoff, The Secrets of Shadow Falls trilogy (Killing Me Softly, Kill Me Again, Kiss Me, Kill Me.)  And this stand alone novel, Gingerbread Man, which is still awaiting its sequel. (I swear I’ll write it one of these days!)

When I look at the number of RITA nominations and other awards and nominations I’ve received for my romantic thrillers, as opposed to the number for my parnormals (for which I’m more widely known, because I’ve done so many more of them) I see that the kudos rate is far higher for the thrillers. PW has raved about them, four out of the seven have garnered RITA nominations.  (That’s 57%) They’ve raked in several other industry awards as well.

And now I’m stepping into a whole new phase of my career with a new set of thrillers that are better than anything I’ve ever done. In these books, which we’re calling “The Brown and De Luca Novels” we’ll see the same hero and heroine over the course of several stories. Their relationship builds slowly, but more deeply, while the stories themselves are fast paced thrillers that throw them together over and over again.

I figured I had a ways to go to convince readers used to me writing paranormal romance, to trust me enough to buy a thriller series. (There are paranormal elements to SLEEP WITH THE LIGHTS ON, WAKE TO DARKNESS, and DREAM OF DANGER, namely Rachel’s uncanny extra sense developed during 20 years of blindness. And in Book One, it’s even more than that via her transplanted corneas, from a donor who was a serial killer.)

My best bet, I think, is to show those paranormal fans who haven’t read my thrillers before, and those thriller readers who haven’t read me before, what I can do. And the best way to do that is to give them one for free. And that is the honest and frank reason why I’m releasing GINGERBREAD MAN for the first time in all ebook formats, absolutely free. And because I want readers to get excited about the new Brown and De Luca series, I’m including a super-sized excerpt of SLEEP WITH THE LIGHTS ON that you won’t find anywhere else. Four chapters! That way, you’ll know for sure whether you’re going to love the book before plunking down the publisher’s list price.

GINGERBREAD MAN is free now at the following sites:

Kobo  Nook  Kindle  iTunes  Smashwords


Top Ten Things that Happened to Me at RWA


I had my best RWA xperience ever this year (and I’ve attended 15 or so of these annual Romance Writers of America Conventions, including one at Disneyworld, so that’s saying a lot.)  Here are the top 10 things that made this year so special, in no particular order.


Moi, Christine Wenger, Gayle Callen aka Emma Cane, and Michele Masarech

#1. Road Trip with my BFFs.
It’s really too seldom that adult woman have the equivalent of a raucous teenage slumber party, but road trips become just that with my pals and me. Thank goodness we do this. It’s such a great bonding experience, even if we are threatening to smack each other by the time we get home. (Lovingly, of course.)







#2 Hanging out with my heroes!


Maggie Shayne and Brenda Jackson at the Harlequin Signing

Here I am with Superstar Brenda Jackson at the Harlequin signing where we gave away books to happy readers. Hanging out with the authors I most admire is another of the thrills of every RWA for me.








#SuperBonus: I attended a romantic suspense workshop so I could get to meet my idol, Karen Robards. After, as I gushed, she stopped me and said she had a whole shelf of my books and that she thinks I’m an amazing writer. That was my favorite moment of the entire con and was far better than winning the RITA would’ve been. She later emailed me a cover quote for my next book, which you’ll soon see decorating my website, my Facebook page, my Twitter account, my blogs, and possibly on a bumper sticker on my car and a T-shirt I’ll never take off.  I left that room blubbering, and quickly emailed my daughters and agent, called my fiancé, and texted my editor, all on the way to find and inform my roomies.

last victim jpg


I even scored a copy of Karen Robards’ latest, THE LAST VICTIM, among many others.

#4: Making new friends!
I got to meet the fabulous Gwendolyn Overland, psychologist and “Authentic Voice coach,” author, and then some, and we formed a bond I think will last forever. Wish I had got a picture of her. There’s a great one at her site, though, www.expressivevoice.dynamics.com (click the About tab.) Her services are fabulous for authors, IMO. She’s also an aspiring suspense writer. Since I’m an aspiring self-help writer on the side, we connected like two pieces of a puzzle. :)





I just love RITA night, whether I’m a nominee or not.  Several of my favorite things about conference pertain to RITA night, so bear with me.


RITA Night with Sharon Sala, Maggie Shayne


#4: Getting all dressed up (embracing my inner Barbie.) Here I am with Sharon Sala in our RITA Evening Gowns. Those are real pearls around my neck. A huge strand of them, courtesy of my roomie Michele.













#5: Being treated like a queen by my editor and agent, (Tara Parsons and Eileen Fallon respectively) at a dinner at the Ritz, and even by the staff, who made us this creme brûlée as a lovely surprise. They all called us by name as we walked to and from our table. It was straight out of Pretty Woman.









#6: The elegance of the Awards ceremony itself! It always just takes my breath away and reminds me that this is a really big deal.












Maggie Shayne, (best paranormal) Sharon Sala (best romantic suspense), Jean Brashear (best long contemporary times two!)

#7: Sitting at a reserved table with other nominees, cheering for the winners and meaning it, even the one who won in my category, and earned her extra special Hall of Fame RITA for winning 3 times in the same cat. (Kresley Cole for Shadow’s Claim. Well deserved!) None of us won that night, but we had just as great a time just being together.










#8: The desserts at said table.IMG_1866

I just loved that we were able to have tables and desserts this year, rather than the theater seating with dessert served elsewhere, post ceremony, as we so often do.









#9: The View from My Hotel Room

I don’t know what building this is. Is anyone does, leave it in comments, will you?












Gayle Callen aka Emma Cane, Michele Masarech, Maggie Shayne, Christine Wenger

#10: The Ride Home, (which just so happened to coincide with National Ice Cream Day.)

Pardon my expression. I was holding the iPhone, and it’s hard for me to concentrate and look nice at the same time. Go figure.


And of course the best part of all, was being enfolded in a strong, loving pair of arms upon my return.

But oh, there was so much more! I got to reunite with Maggie Mae Gallagher, to spend time  with Eileen Dryer, to finally meet Joyce Lamb of USA Today’s HEA Blog, to escort first timer Stacy Snyder, a girl I’ve known since she was eleven years old, around her first RWA, to finally meet Tara Parsons, the new executive editor of MIRA, the absolutely fabulous workshops, the half hour I spent catching up with old pal Lisa Gardner and her adorable mom, and just so so much more.

This was really a great RWA Conference for me. If you’re a writer, you should really go if and when you can. If you’re a reader, and RWA comes to a city near you, you must come to the Literacy Book signing on the Wednesday night of the conference week.

Before conference, I was muttering that I didn’t want to go anymore. Too expensive, too long, too exhausting, too much time away from the home and hearth that are my life’s blood. Afterward? I can hardly wait for next year in San Antonio!



writersIt’s that time of year again. A week from today I’ll be heading down to Atlanta for the 2013 Romance Writers of America Convention. I’ve been to lots of these. I’ve lost track of exactly how many. (See Tip #7) But as I count back, I know for sure I’ve attended at least ten. I’ve learned a few things, mainly by doing them and then later realizing I shouldn’t have. So here are my top tips for making your RWA National Convention more fun.

1. It’s “National” not “Nationals.” It’s not a horse show or an athletic event. Well, it is, but not like that. This is more a pet peeve than a tip, I know.

It’s singular, not plural. One convention, not a series of them. And no, this won’t make your conference any more fun. It’ll just make mine more fun if I don’t have to hear “nationals” while I’m there. We’re writers. We should use words correctly.

2. Handing your synopsis to an editor at a con is like saying, “Please recycle this for me.”

Editors are flying to these events. Take a moment to think about flying. Extra bag fees, checked bag fees, limited space in the suitcase. No one wants to lug your book proposal home with them and no one has time to read it while at the conference. In this age of instant communications, you can email your proposal to the editor in a nano second. (Bonus tip: Wait until after the conference to do so. A week from the first Monday after con, email it first thing in the morning.)

3. Breath mints are more important to carry than business cards.

A lot of the time, you have to stand very close to people to talk to them at RWA. Big crowds, long lines, lots of background noise. Brush. Floss. Mouthwash. And keep mints in your pockets.

4. Never leave a wallflower unpicked. Snap her up and carry her around for a while.

When you see someone with doe-in-headlight eyes, standing all by herself and looking overwhelmed, don’t just keep on walking. Go over and say hello. Introduce her to your friends. Invite her to sit at your table. This isn’t going to do a thing for your career. It’s super good for your soul, though.

hello-my-name-is-anxiety5. Talk to people BEFORE you check out their name badge.

When people say hello at RWA, it’s really easy to fall into the habit of letting your gaze dip to that name tag even as you utter your first sentence. That can give the impression that you’re checking to see if they’re important enough to talk to. Even if you’re not. So try not to do that. And introduce yourself right off the bat, so they don’t have to do it either.

6. Whoever you are with at the moment is the most important person in the room.

Another bad habit we develop at RWA is that, while talking to one person, our gaze is constantly hopping around the room. It’s normal. We want a celebrity sighting. We want to spot that editor we’ve been meaning to chat up. We want to see what Nora is wearing. But this tip is really valuable. It’s one you can apply to the rest of life, too. When you treat people as if they are important to you, they’ll remember that. If you spend your time looking for someone more interesting (and that’s how they’ll read it) you leave them feeling demeaned. That feeling gets translated, in that person’s future conversations as, “Yeah, I met her once at RWA. What a snobby bitch.”

7. Don’t drink too much. (Shut up, bar-pals from Atlanta 06! I learned from what I remember of that night.)

Yeah, the last Atlanta con was a rough one for me, as I was moving out of my house and marriage as soon as I got home. I’ve given up alcohol completely since then, but you don’t have to go that far. What I learned is that RWA isn’t the time or place for heavy drinking. Get your drinks weak, sip them slow, make them last. Water and food in between.

8. More valuable info is shared at the hotel bar than in the workshops.

Yes, despite my warning about booze, the hotel bar is the place to be. People remove their badges and relax. I spent an hour chatting with a beautiful young woman one year, and didn’t even realize she was an editor, soon to be MY editor, until much later.

499ecc8c47eaf34456713459. Meeting in lobby for dinner? Find out if you’re walking or driving to the restaurant before choosing shoes.

Yeah, I screwed up big time on this one. Met a group in the lobby to go to dinner, and wore my most fabulous kick-ass shoes ever, only to learn we were walking to a “nearby” restaurant. It was several blocks. I had to get a cab back and my feet killed for the rest of the con.

10. Never try “Nair for Facial Hair” for the first time on Day 1 of the con.

Yeah, I did this one too. A little pale peach fuzz on the upper lip. I bought the new and improved, extra gentle product to remove it, tried it in the hotel bathroom, and then called my BFF, who’s an RN, to help me paste my skin back on. (Only a slight exaggeration.) I had to keep ice on my face for over an hour, and then needed pancake-batter-thick makeup to cover up the bright red welts for the next three days.

11. If the project fits the line, editor appointments almost always result in a request to see more. RELAX.

I’ve seen people so nervous about editor appointments (aka pitch sessions) at RWA that they throw up. And it’s all so unnecessary. Listen, editors are the first to admit, they can’t tell if a story is publishable from a pitch session. So if the project fits the line, and they don’t already have ten just like it, they’re going to ask to see the synopsis and first three chapters. Instead of practicing your pitch over and over and over (making you come off as robotic and leaving you unable to come up with answers to probing questions about the story, such as “So what’s their conflict?” Yes I’ve done this) focus on projecting confidence, professionalism, and an open, friendly, positive attitude. This is going to be far more memorable than your pitch anyway.

12. If you smoke, you smell. RWA is not the place to be stinky.

Yes, I’m a former smoker. I know, we’re the worst anti-smoking zealots. But since quitting, I’ve realized that people who sneak out for a quick one, stink to high heaven when they come back in. I’ve noticed it at many RWA events. And in the grocery store. And in hospitals. On nurses. ICK. People who smoke, frankly, reek and non smokers can smell it a mile away. Breath mints don’t help. The smell is in the hair, it’s in the clothes, it’s on the handbag. It clings like a cloud. Which is fine as long as you’re aware of it and have made a conscious decision to smell unpleasantly throughout the convention. But the sense of smell is a powerful one that triggers all kinds of reactions in all kinds of people. It’s a turn off to many, including my own editor, one of the veterans of the biz. It’s not offensive at all to some. But it’s never a turn-ON. It’s never a positive thing. So it’s up to you if it’s worth it or not. On the other hand, this would make an awesome time to quit.

13. If you wouldn’t announce it over the hotel’s PA system, then don’t say it at all.

Never ever ever say anything negative about anyone else in the biz, especially at an RWA con. I had a group dinner once with an author who spent the entire time trash talking other writers. And I could see the distaste in the eyes of everyone at the table, including the editors. Huge career misstep on her part.

Remember that the most negative things you say are the things that will be remembered and repeated.

14. Don’t be a zebra. Break from your herd now and then.

If we attend RWA with a group of friends, we tend to stick together like glue. My chapter pals and I used to do this too. But seriously, it’s so much more interesting to sit at a table with no one you know, to meet new people, talk to them. Spread your wings a little bit. We can see our chapter pals at home any time at all, right? So spend time interacting with people you can’t see all the time.

15. Conversation 101: Ask questions. And then listen to the answers.

99% of the people at RWA seem to think that every conversation is an opportunity for them to talk about their work in progress. And I know, being on the listening end of this is liable to make your ears bleed before the week is out. But it’s better to be the receiver of this type of assault, than the deliverer of it. You don’t want the person you’re talking to, to duck behind a pillar the next time they see you in the hall, do you? So instead of blabbing about what you’re writing, ask questions. And feel free to ask about something besides books and writing. Get a true conversation going. When giving answers to questions from others who’ve taken this advice, give them in short, digestible bits, then give the other person a chance to talk again.

Now this doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your work at all. Just keep it brief and to the point. “What are you working on?” is not an invitation to present an oral synopsis. More like a log line.

“Soft of eye and light of touch, speak ye little, listen much.” ~The Wiccan Rede

16. When you see someone in deep conversation with an editor, do not cut in.

This is a biggy. I’ve had this happen a lot. I’ll be talking to my editor in a public area, then someone glimpses the color coding on her name tag and interrupts to introduce herself, hand the ed a business card, and pitch her book. It’s just really super rude.

Bonus Tip: If you didn’t get an editor appointment and want a chance to talk to the editor, attend a workshop she’s giving, get there early and sit right in front. Then you might get a shot either right before she begins (careful here, don’t make her late or distract her from reviewing her notes) or after she finishes the workshop.

And that’s my bit on RWA and conferences in general. I hope you’re going. I hope to see you there. And I hope you have a great time.