Have just returned from London

And I had such a marvelous time! As soon as I download pics, I'll put some up, but for now you can read a bit about the AMBA luncheon and see a pic of me at other sites.

First, Kate Walker, who is much more organized than I. She had her post up so quickly! Read about some of what we did here.

And then Kate Hardy, who I just met for the first time, posted a pic of us together! She also took pictures of the luncheon food, which I totally forgot to do. I took pictures of other food I ate while in London, but forgot this particular meal. You can read about Kate's AMBA adventure here.

RWA Conference Recap – Part 3

I didn't meant to let so much time go by between recaps, but I've been busy working on revisions! So now I'm up to Friday. Janette and I stayed up until 2 AM talking, and then had to get up bright and early Friday morning for the Harlequin booksigning. I think I had 3 hours sleep total, because I woke up around 5 and couldn't go back to sleep. *sigh* The booksigning was a blast! I met so many people whose names I recognized from online, but that I'd never met in person before. I won't remember them all, but I met Lynn Spencer from All About Romance, AztecLady – who really wanted her books signed to AztecLady – and Kris from LoveLetter Magazine, who came all the way from Germany. I also met Jami Gold, who has commented on this site, but I can't remember whether I met her here or at the Lit Signing! She is lovely and has a gorgeous blue streak in her hair. πŸ™‚

So many people came up to say hi and get my book, and I really wish I could remember them all! If you met me at either of the signings, tell me, because I'll remember if you give me a few little details. In the end, I signed all my books and had none left (yay!). And I got to sit beside my friend Carla Cassidy, which was awesome. I've known Carla for many years now (I won't say how many, because it makes us both seem older than we'd like, ha) and it was just wonderful to get to sit beside her for an hour and a half and chat when we could.

After the signing, it was nearly time for lunch. I'd arranged to meet some old friends (Carla included) and we had a fabulous time catching up during the banquet. After lunch, I finally got to the ONE workshop I would attend the entire time I was there (other than the one I gave). It was a fabulous PAN workshop and I learned a lot. Then it was time to dash off to the Harlequin Series Spotlight, where I got all misty eyed when they put my cover up while talking about Harlequin Presents. The editors were talking about new writers they'd bought for the line and why they'd bought them. I was the writer chosen for Presents, and it was quite humbling and lovely to sit there and listen to the nice things they said.

Seriously, no matter how successful a writer may seem to you, at heart she's still that trembling and insecure writer she was at the very beginning in some ways. Hearing that your publisher loves you is a good thing, no matter where you are in your career. When the RWA conference CDs come out, I'll be playing back that part to listen to whenever I feel down about my writing. πŸ™‚ (I could use them right now, truthfully! I'm starting a book over today because it didn't quite work as I had it. It's only 2 chapters I have to throw away, but still. It's hard.)

After the spotlight, I had coffee with some of the Presents authors, and then I went up to my room for a short nap before getting ready for the Harlequin party. The party was, as always, amazing. And this year, Harlequin tightened down on the guest list. No more crashing as in years past — and it was smaller and better because of it. No massive lines at the bars. The dance floor was still crowded, but you could find a place to get your groove on. πŸ˜‰

Janette and I made it back to our room around 1, I think. We talked briefly, but fell asleep pretty quick. We both slept in on Saturday morning, then got ready for the Presents lunch with the editors at the Grand Floridian. That was a marvelous time! We had wonderful food, and I got to talk to Linda Fildew and Jenny Hutton quite a bit. Jane Porter and Janette Kenny rounded out our end of the table, and we had a lovely conversation.

Too soon, I had to get back to the Dolphin for the workshop I was giving with Blaze author Kira Sinclair. Imagine my surprise to walk into that room for the last workshop of the day, and find it was standing room only. We hadn't expected quite so many people, but we had a good crowd and only a minor hitch with equipment that was quickly straightened out. At the end, we gave away the books we had brought and chatted with attendees. It's so wonderful to know that you've helped people have an aha moment with their writing. I've been the recipient of many aha moments, so I like to give them back if at all possible. πŸ™‚

Almost as soon as the workshop was over, it was time to get dressed for the RITAs. Janette and I met up with several of the Presents authors so we could get a table together and support our Presents nominees – Jennie Lucas, Jane Porter, Anne McAllister, and Kelly Hunter (for Modern Heat). We had a lovely dinner and a fun time together, and then adjourned to the Blue Zoo for drinks. I think the party broke up around midnight. Jan and I went back to our room, stayed up to pack, and then said goodnight. Sunday, we went our separate ways, and after 4 hours delay at the Orlando airport, I was finally on the way home. Hubby took me for barbecue, not that it was our first choice but it was still open when I got home late, and then I came home and crashed.

Recovery always takes several days, and this time was no exception. The lack of sleep, the constant go-go-go, and the incessant talking catch up with you at the end. But I love it so much and can't wait until next year! I finally got my camera cord, so here are a few pictures.

Sandra Marton and me

Michelle Styles, Carole Mortimer, and Jennie Lucas

Tea at the Grand Floridian

Carla Cassidy and me

Susan Stephens, Maisey Yates, and Sandra Marton

Maisey Yates, Kate Hewitt, me, Jennie Lucas, Kimberly Lang

The DJ and me

Jennie Lucas and me

That's the RWA10 conference recap! I'm sure I have forgotten much of the details, but you don't want to read a blow by blow detailed recap anyway. I had so much fun, as always, and I got to see so many people I adore, meet new people I've known online only, and talk to the most interesting women imaginable. The national conference is jam-packed busy, but it's always a great time. If you've never been, I suggest you make plans to go. You'll come away inspired, I assure you.

And now I have a new book to get busy writing! Leave a comment for a chance to win some conference goodies — books and swag, my dears!

UPDATE: The winner is Kirby! Kirby, send my your details at lynn AT lynnrayeharris DOT com, and I'll make a trip to the post office….. πŸ˜‰

RWA Conference Recap – Part 2

So where was I? I think I'm up to Thursday. Woke up bright and not too early, got dressed, and headed for the Mills & Boon meet & greet. This is where I got to talk to other authors, the editors, and some of the Harlequin executives. It only lasts an hour, but the hour flies — especially when I spent at least 20 minutes of it talking shoes with Shirley Jump. That woman is gorgeous, y'all — and she knows her shoes! Shirley and I could go shoe shopping anytime. πŸ™‚

I also typed an update for The Pink Heart Society into Michelle Styles's mini while there, and even managed to stay over into the next meet & greet that was hosted by some other Harlequin entity while I talked to familiar faces as they came in. I seriously didn't know I'd landed in another meeting. It was hilarious to realize I was there 20 minutes beyond the M&B time, but I quickly scooted off at that point.

Next came lunch and Nora Roberts's speech. First, our very own Carole Mortimer (Harlequin Presents author extraordinaire) got an award for her 100th book — though she's way beyond 100 now. The Presents authors gathered at a table close to hers to cheer her on. Then Nora took the stage and wowed everyone with her straight talk and her advice to “embrace the hard.” Writing is hard work. Publishing is hard work. It's never been easy and it never will be easy. To succeed, you have to embrace the hard. It was a fabulous speech. If you've never been to conference, I highly suggest that when you do go, you march straight to the always-scheduled “Chat with Nora Roberts” and soak in that woman's wisdom for an hour. Amazing lady and very inspiring.

After lunch came the wonderful, amazing, fabulous Presents tea hosted by Jane Porter. We went to the Grand Floridian resort, which looks like Churchill Downs to me, and sat in a beautiful tea room where they brought us sandwiches, tea, scones, and desserts. I was so full by the end of tea that I knew there was no way I would eat dinner later.

After tea, I met old friends in the lobby and chatted for a couple of hours before I had to change for a champagne party thrown by Carole. After the champagne party, I had another reception in another hotel and then the Harlequin PJ party where I talked to more people and finally met Wayne Jordan — who smells really, really good, y'all! I think Wayne thought I'd been tipping back the drinks, but I hadn't and I swear he smells wonderful. πŸ™‚

So, it's a mind-boggling schedule, isn't it? I was busy from the time I woke up until I went to bed that night — and, unfortunately, Janette and I decided that talking until 2 am was a good idea. Why, I don't know, because we both had to get up for the Harlequin booksigning early the next morning.

I still don't have a camera cord, but here are a few pictures that people have been kind enough to share with me.

From left: Kate Hewitt, Janette Kenny, and me at the meet and greet.

Sandra Marton, me, Kimberly Lang, and Jennie Lucas at Jane Porter's Presents tea

The whole gang at Jane's tea.

Have you ever been to high tea? Or have you ever been so scheduled that you don't even have a down moment to yourself? Let's talk conference, tea, or schedules — or whatever you want, really! And yes, I'm giving away more prizes — books, swag, and maybe even a tote bag. Leave a comment for a chance to win!

Edited to add: The winner is Kathy Schindler! Kathy, the random number generator must have known all about your last minute conference issues, because your number popped right up! Email me with your address so I can get the books to you. lynn AT lynnrayeharris DOT com

RWA Conference Recap – Part 1

I know there are dozens of recaps out there already, but I'm still gonna add to the pile anyway. Except that my recap won't feature pictures (beyond a couple I downloaded before tragedy struck). It seems as if my camera cord, the one I finally remembered to actually take to a conference so I could upload pictures there, is still in Orlando. Joining the cord are a pair of Spanx. Both decided not to get into the suitcase for the trip home. Perhaps they knew we'd be stuck in the Orlando airport for 4 hours longer than we were supposed to be. Perhaps they were miffed I didn't feel the urge to tour Disney and stayed behind to do it for me. Who knows, but both are gone.

The cord is a surprisingly cheap replacement. The Spanx, OTOH, aren't cheap at all. πŸ‘Ώ

As I promised, I didn't leave the hotel unless I had to. I did not tour the Disney boardwalk, I never went to the Swan, and I did not go to any other hotels unless I had an event there, at which point I traveled in an air-conditioned taxi. πŸ™‚

Tuesday, my flight was delayed and I arrived with only an hour to spare before dinner with the Presents authors. I raced up to my room, did a quick freshen and change, and then we were all off to the Polynesian where there's a restaurant called Ohana's that serves up TONS of food. The food just keeps coming.

The best part was meeting the Presents authors I didn't yet know — Susan Stephens, Carole Mortimer, Caitlin Crews, and Maisey Yates — and catching up with those I haven't seen in forever — Jane Porter, Sandra Marton, Janette Kenny, Kate Hewitt, Jennie Lucas — as well as spending time with Michelle Willingham, who arranged the whole evening (Michelle is a Harlequin Historical author).

After, it was back to the Dolphin and down to the Blue Zoo restaurant, where we had a drink in the bar. The evening ended at a fairly reasonable hour and I did not stay up all night talking to my roomie, the wonderful Janette Kenny (though we stayed up late talking on other nights).

On Wednesday, I had a focus group at 10. We talked about reader expectations of Harlequin books, got a wonderful cake server shaped like a high heel, and I met the delightful Molly O'Keefe, who would go on to win a RITA on Saturday night. After, I went to lunch with Kimberly Lang. We hadn't planned it, but it worked out to be a mojo lunch (which is when we go together and nobody can join us). And the mojo totally worked, because Kim won the National Reader's Choice Award for Best First Book on the following night. Yay!

Later, I met with my agent and had a lovely chat with her in the bar. Then it was time to change for the Literacy Signing. The signing was a mad house, as usual, and I met Molly Harper and Meagan Hatfield, who sat on either side of me. I also got to meet some great people who came to say hello. I can't remember everyone, but Rebecca Lynn is one I definitely remember. She is so bubbly. I also met Gibb and Sabrina, who both comment here on a regular basis. It was great meeting them all, but I never ran into them again. That's conference for you!

I also saw fellow 2008 GH finalists (the Pixie Chicks!) Anne Barton and Keli Gwyn, who was nominated for a Golden Heart this year. The editors from Mills & Boon made the rounds, stopping by all their authors' tables, which is so nice of them. Jo Grant took my picture — I only hope I didn't look like a dork. She seemed to think I didn't, but who knows. πŸ˜‰

Once the literacy signing was over, I went up and changed before heading to Sandra Marton's famous pizza party, which was held in Jane Porter's suite this year. Susan Stephens shocked us all when Sandra asked what kind of toppings she should order. Sue said, “Tuna,” which made our jaws gape. Apparently, in the UK, canned tuna on one's pizza is all the rage.

Never fear, we got the usual — supreme, cheese, and pepperoni — and then waited forever for the guy to arrive. When we went down to the lobby to find him, we couldn't. Eventually we realized he was outside and retrieved the pizzas. The evening ended reasonably early, and I got to bed at a decent hour — the last night I would, sigh.

The pictures below feature me and Rebecca Lynn, me and Janette Kenny, and me alone at my signing table.

And now the best part for you, the reader. I brought home tons of books and swag from the conference. Leave a comment, and I'll pick a winner to send some goodies to. You can just say “I want books” if you can't think of anything else. πŸ™‚

UPDATE: The winner is Marcy! Marcy, email me at lynn AT lynnrayeharris DOT com, and I'll get the goodies in the mail to you! Everyone else, stay tuned for more fun….

Which bread plate is mine?

I meant to post this yesterday, but it turned into such a crazy day of errands and etc, that I never got the post written. So, RWA peeps, last post (I think) before we all converge on Orlando next week.

If you've been to a huge banquet before, you might know everything you need about table settings. But just in case, I'm gonna tell you all about what the etiquette expert who visited my RWA chapter last month said.

The banquet tables at the luncheons and dinner will likely be big and round. They will be crammed with dishes, glasses, and silverware. Which glass is yours? Which bread plate? It seems logical, and yet you sit down and that bread plate could be yours — or it could be your neighbor's because the settings are so close.

Relax, I'm about to give you the secret: the glass is to your right. Everything else is to your left. I repeat, all extra dishes are to your left (clearly, your plate is in front of you). The glass is the only thing on the right that belongs to you (of course the silverware on the right of the plate is yours; I'm talking about big things that might be confusing). Easy, right? If you remember that place settings are designed for right-handed people, you'll see it makes sense. (If you're left handed, it's not fair, but this is the way it's done. Majority rule.)

What other things did the etiquette expert say? So much I can't remember it all, but here are a few tidbits.

1. Work from the outside in on your silverware. It's permissible to keep your knife if you only have one and you've used it to cut salad before the main course arrives.
2. You will be served from the left. The servers will clean up from the right, so make sure you have your knife and fork on the right, angled across the plate to indicate you are done. Don't put the fork on one side and the knife on the other. Don't prop the knife across the top of the plate. Angle them both across the middle, like they are the hands of a clock pointing at 4. It's easier for the servers.
3. Don't put your napkin on your lap until everyone is seated. You may be standing up and sitting a few times before everyone sits. Oh, and men should stand whenever a woman arrives at the table. Women don't have to.
4. Don't eat until everyone at your table is served. (Hey, I'm just reporting it!)
5. Do not leave your spoon in the soup bowl or cup. Lay it across the top.
6. Break your bread and butter the piece you are eating. Don't slice it and put a slab of butter in the middle. (Seriously, I'm just reporting it! If you aren't concerned about the Junior League or the Debutante Ball, do it your way if you must.)
7. If you must get up during the meal and you plan to come back, place your napkin on your chair. If you are all done and leaving, put the napkin on the table.
8. If someone asks you to pass the salt or pepper, pass them as a set because someone on the other side of the table might want them both. Likewise, if the packets of sweetener are closest to you, take what you need and pass them.
9. Don't talk with your mouth full (who doesn't know that one?).
10. There are two styles of eating which are permissible. American and Continental, or European. American style is fork in right hand, switch to left hand to cut meat, switch back after cutting. Continental is fork in left hand and knife in right. Stays this way through the whole meal. The knife is used to push food onto the fork. (I eat this way; learned it in Europe and it makes more sense to me. Both, however, are acceptable.) Do not grip knife or fork with your hand over the top of the handle. This is rude. And, well, more appropriate for a caveman. (Sorry Geico Cavemen!)

That's most of what I remember. It all makes sense, I think, though I probably wouldn't have thought to pass both the salt and pepper if someone only asked for one. Oh, and pick them up by the sides, not the top — no one wants your germs.

Finally, the thing the etiquette expert said was the most important? Graciousness. You can get away with a lot if you are gracious. πŸ™‚

So that's it. I'll see you next week!

The art of the mingle

Next week, around two thousand people (mostly women) will be converging on Orlando for the RWA National Conference. For many of us, this is a been there, done that a hundred times adventure. For quite a few, it's the first time. Whether it's your first time or your tenth, you may be thinking about how you're going to interact with all these people. Many writers are introverts, and introverts tend to be drained by the thought of so many people in one place. I'm one of those introverts, but I'm lucky enough to be able to put on an extrovert face for a few days.

Still, it's not my true nature, and I sometimes get overloaded. So here are my tips for mingling as an introvert.

Talk to people. Seriously. (If you're a first timer, get the orange First Timer ribbon and wear it proudly. People will help you.) You are a writer at a writers' conference. The one thing you have in common with everyone is writing. So asking someone what they write is a good conversation starter. At my very first conference (Dallas 2007), I went to the Kiss of Death AGM. I knew no one. I even went into the room too early because I didn't know I was supposed to wait outside. No one told me to get out. Instead, Connie Cox took me under her wing and asked me to sit at her table. I had a good time talking to everyone at the table that night. I don't remember everyone's name, unfortunately, but they were wonderful to this newbie. A couple of nights later, at the Death by Chocolate party, I met a woman from Nashville who I hung out with at a few other events after that (I wish I could remember her name! I gave her my card, but I don't believe she had one). I also met Debbie Giusti and Juliet Burns, who were so gracious to me.

Smile. Smiling transforms you from a nervous, lost wanderer into someone interesting and approachable. A smile is friendly. A smile makes you seem confident. Don't force a smile on your face. Think of something that makes you happy — your kids, your pets, a joke — and smile naturally.

Don't be afraid to be alone. Seems counter-intuitive, but it's not. In Dallas, I sat down at a table to myself in the coffee shop in the lobby and called my husband. Then I sat there with my drink and just watched people. At the table next to me was a woman I was sure I recognized, but I was too shy to ask. But she recognized me too, because she finally asked if I was Lynn Raye Harris. It was Nalini Singh, back before she became NALINI SINGH (in all caps because she's so fabulous and writes those great paranormal and urban fantasy novels). We'd “met” via our blogs and chatted quite a bit, so it was great to meet her in person. She invited me to sit with her and her friend — a woman who'd sold a historical to Avon not that long before. Her friend was the amazing Anna Campbell, whose first book hadn't even come out yet. They were marvelous and friendly, and had those great accents. πŸ˜‰

So if you see someone you think you recognize, ask! You never know. I wasn't brave enough to say, “Hey, are you Nalini?” Because, telling the truth here, I always think that no one knows who I am. I still think it, even though I've published a few books now. I see people I recognize, and who I've chatted with online, but I think they won't know me so I don't approach them.

Which leads me to this point: if you see me and you want to say hi, please do so. Tell me who you are, and don't think I won't know you. If we've chatted here on this blog, or if we've chatted on Twitter or Facebook, etc, all you have to do is tell me that. If you've read my books and emailed me about them, tell me. Don't think that I don't want to talk to you, or that I'm too busy (or, worse, that I'm too important — I'm not, I assure you!) Come say hi to me.

On another note about talking to people: if you see someone you know and speak to them, don't assume if they don't respond that they are ignoring you. Conference is so busy, so jammed up with sights and sounds and people, that it's easy to get tunnel vision. If you speak to me and I don't respond, I didn't see you. Honest. I may not always have time to stop and talk for a few minutes (you should see my schedule this year!), but I will respond if I know you were talking to me.

Another aspect of mingling is to ask people about themselves. I already told you to ask what they write. But also ask where they're from, what they do, how they like the conference, etc. Being interested in people is one of the keys to being interesting. No one wants to talk to someone who only wants to talk about herself.

And, finally, part of the art of mingling is knowing when to retreat. If you're feeling burned out, anxious, or frustrated, go back to your room and take a break. Conference can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time. Take the time to be alone. Take a short nap. Read (you'll have plenty of books to read, believe me!). Write. Conference is the place to get inspired, to learn, and to dream about the future.

Hope to see you next week! I'll be at the Literacy Signing on Wednesday, July 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 and at the Harlequin book signing on Friday, July 30, from 9:45 to 11:15. I'll also be giving a workshop on Saturday at 3:15 with Blaze author Kira Sinclair. And of course I'll be around the rest of the week. πŸ™‚