Friday FabOoolousness – A Weekend Away: What Writers Really Do at Conferences

Last weekend marked my second trip to DFWcon.  Granted it’s not a long trip for me, considering the conference usually takes place halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, but it was a weekend away nonetheless.

So Friday night Jillian Dodd and I filled our hotel room with drinks (the adult kind) and snacks, and we mingled with some from our local writing circle and a few from different parts of the country.  Already, my conference experience was off to a better start than last year.

Don’t get me wrong; last year’s DFWcon opened my eyes.  For the most part I attended craft workshops and learned all about synopses, beginnings, plotting, and social media.

However, this year I experienced a different element all together – the human element.  I was fortunate enough to meet so many of the online friends that I’ve only known through social media over the past year.  And let me be the first to say that mingling at a conference, versus only attending the classes, makes all the difference.

But more on this later…

First let’s discuss the business side of attending writing conferences.  Probably one of the most important tools a writer can take to a writing conference is – get this – a pen and pad.  Jess Witkins had the right idea when she showed up with this:

Yes, this is Jess Witkins’ notebook… Rockin’ notebook, right?

Immediately, I knew Jess and I would be life-long friends, and not just the online kind.

Once we’re prepared with supplies in hand, the next important decision a writer must make is which workshops to attend.  Unlike last year, I took more of an interest in the business side of writing.  I attended workshops led by agents discussing the publishing world today, panels made up of other writers sharing their self-publishing experiences, and even a class presented by an entertainment lawyer/agent who gave the rest of us the inside scoop on what kind of money a first-time published author can expect to make in the traditionally published world.  Let’s just say that each and every one of these workshops solidified my decision to self-publish.

But still, even though I’ve attended this conference before, I still selected a few craft workshops that I felt were crucial to my writing career.  After all, knowledge is the key to success — right?

My first craft workshop was led by the New York Times Best-Selling Author James Rollins – “Putting the Thrill in Thriller.”  James’ class was fabOoolous, but my favorite lesson he shared was this: never kill your characters the same way twice; make sure there is blood on the page (okay, so not literally).

And let me just say how fabOoolous James himself is.  Our group of MyWana faithful was lucky enough to get to spend more than the Key Note speech and workshop hour with James, no doubt due to his friendship with Kristen Lamb.  But I can honestly say now that I’ve had dinner (twice!) and lunch with James Rollins.  I’d say NYTBSA again, but everyone gets the point; instead, I prefer to call him my friend.

Just havin’ lunch with James Rollins… Somebody pinch me!

The next craft class I knew that I must attend was “Writing Love Scenes” by erotic romance author Roni Loren.  As a YA writer, I shy away from the love scenes (my first book, Football Sweetheart, has a classic “fade to black” love scene,  because that is what the genre calls for and what I am comfortable writing).  The first point Roni made was probably the most important lesson she shared, and it sounded almost like a duh! moment once she said it: all love scenes need to keep the story moving forward and/or change the characters; otherwise, it’s unnecessary.

And just how awesome is Roni?  She provided the class with a “Why Does this Love Scene Suck?” Checklist.  All I know is that when I’m ready, she has me prepared and ready to move forward with writing some sexy-time.

Partyin’ with Roni — you know our group closed the reception down… Literally.

The next craft workshop I selected was absolutely full of potential: “Crime Scene Investigations: Fingerprints, Truth & Myth” taught by a local DFW CSI.  There was so much information to cover, that our instructor was clicking through the slides every two seconds.  Every time I’d write something down, he’d move on to the next slide.  It got to the point of ridiculousness and I just started laughing.  I wasn’t alone; Donna Newton can back me up on this one.

So I just sat back and listened – so much wonderful information about fingerprints – but I think I may need to buy a book.

Donna and I ready to learn all about fingerprints… thanks for the picture, Dawn Alexander!

The last few workshop hours of the final day were a bit more difficult to choose from, but along with what seemed like the entire conference, I chose to attend the “Writing Emotion” class by NYTBSA Lori Wilde.  Similar to what Roni mentioned earlier in her love scenes lecture, all emotions should lead to decisions and keep the story moving forward.  Ms. Wilde’s class on emotion was simply fabOoolous (I’d say fantastic here, but it is Friday FabOoolousness after all).  She was generous to offer the class email copies of her notes; I need to get on that…

As everyone can see, I wasn’t kidding about my statement that the entire conference attended the emotion workshop.  Julie Glover and I had to sit on the floor at the front of the room.

Sittin’ on the floor like the star pupils we are, right Julie Glover?

For my final workshop of the conference, I selected the “12 Do’s and Don’ts of Thriller and Mystery Writing” taught by agent Ann Collette.  I’d seen Ann around the conference, particularly at the Gong Shows, but didn’t experience the full Ann until attending her class.  She’s hilarious y’all – if you don’t already follow her on Twitter, find her.  She’s friendly too; we’ve already had a Twitter conversation.

And in going out with style, being the last session of the conference, somehow Ann knew we’d be tired of writing so she distributed a fabOoolous five-page handout listing not only twelve, but thirteen Do’s and Don’ts.  My hand thanks her.

Now back to the social story of this past weekend’s adventure.  As if we didn’t already know it, writers are fun:  no subject is off topic or inappropriate (I’m talking about the “Big O” conversation at the lunch table Sunday… poor James); sleep is overrated (this one’s for you, Kait Nolan – since you put me on your “poo” list for keeping you up too late and having margaritas in our room); and silent auctions are a murderous game (right, Piper Bayard and Jenny Hansen?).

“Winning!” with Piper Bayard and Jenny Hansen

I ended my 2012 conference experience with a huge smile on my face — maybe it’s because of the people (okay, it’s definitely because of the people); maybe it’s because I felt like I was actually in my element; or maybe it’s because I won a rocking door prize (admission for two to Southfork Ranch, a one night stay, and breakfast for two).  All in all, I’d do it again.  And again.  And again.

Did I mention the people?

Lunch time with my new English bestie (Donna Newton) and my roomie (Jillian Dodd)
Posin’ with the beautiful Ingrid Schaffenburg
MyWana 0311 – this one’s for you! (with Jenny Hansen, or the More Cowbell blogger as she’s known around social media)
Me and my friend Jess Witkins from Canada. I mean Wisconsin…
Showin’ off my signed copy of Red with Kait Nolan
And one last photo with the brave and fabOooolous Nigel Blackwell

Did you attend DFWcon?  What do you find the most beneficial in attending writing conferences?  Have you had the opportunity to meet any of your online friends recently?  I’d love to hear from you!    

Friday FabOoolousness – Roni Loren’s Crash Into You

Last year, I met Roni Loren on Twitter and immediately fell in love with her blog and her voice.  At the time, Roni published two different types of blogs – one for writers and one for her brand.  You see, Roni is a romance writer and to attract us to her style and words, she publishes a Boyfriend of the Week post every Tuesday containing drool-worthy and day-dreamy photos of hot, hot guys (mostly celebrities).

Author Roni Loren

Roni has been writing romance novels since the age of fifteen, when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them.  Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has.  Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son — funny story: her husband used to live in my home town and was my brother’s boss — small world.

Since the inception of our cyberspace friendship, I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Roni in person.  She is just as delightful in “real” life as she is online.  She isn’t afraid to help the rest of us struggling to get our first work out, and she has the pop culture knowledge for those days when we just need a break and want to talk TV and movies (and many of you know, for me, this is all the time).

Roni debuted her erotic romance novel, Crash Into You, earlier this year.  How about a tease (pun intended!)?

Crash Into You:

Brynn LeBreck has dedicated herself to helping women in crisis, but she never imagined how personal her work would get, or where it would take her. Her younger sister is missing, suspected to be hiding from cops and criminals alike at a highly secretive BDSM retreat—a place where the elite escape to play out their most extreme sexual fantasies. To find her Brynn must go undercover as a sexual submissive. Unfortunately, The Ranch is invitation only. And the one Master who can get her in is from the darkest corner of Brynn’s past.

Brynn knows what attorney Reid Jamison is like once he is stripped of his conservative suit and tie. Years ago she left herself vulnerable only to have him crush her heart. Now she needs him again. Back on top. And he’s all too willing to engage. But as their primal desires and old wounds are exposed, the sexual games escalate—and so does the danger.  Their hearts aren’t the only things at risk. Someone else is watching, playing by his own rules. And his game could be murder.

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

I always loved to read, but in 5th grade my teacher started reading a chapter of A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle to us every day. That was way too slow for me, so I went to the library and proceeded to read all the books in the series. I remember thinking then that it’d be really cool to be a writer.

But I didn’t think about it seriously again until I was in high school. I wrote a novel at 15 (that was basically really crappy New Kids on the Block fan fiction), but that gave me the bug. I went to college as a double major in English and Psychology, but ended up being overwhelmed with two majors. So I dropped the English to be more “practical.”

I wrote here and there while I was building my social work career, but didn’t get serious about it until I had a baby and became a stay at home mom. That’s when I finally decided–okay, let’s do this. A little over three years later, here I am. : ) Took a while to get here, but I kind of always knew it was where I wanted to be.

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

I honestly find inspiration everywhere. It can be something really small that sparks a book idea. For CRASH, I pulled from my former life as a social worker and research I did in college. For STILL INTO YOU (coming June 2012), I was inspired by, of all things, a Reba McEntire song. For MELT INTO YOU (coming July 2012), I actually got an idea when I saw a commercial for the Dr. Phil show. The story question that came to me: What would happen if America’s leading relationship expert was really gay? Would he fake a marriage to be accepted as an expert by the mainstream? My heroine in MELT ends up engaged to her gay best friend who is trying to get a TV deal for his relationship show.

So you never know when inspiration will hit. : )

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

In my genre, I love Maya Banks, Lauren Dane, Shayla Black, Lorelei James, Joey W. Hill, and Jaci Burton. The list can go on and on. : )

The cover art for your book is super sexy.  Did you design it yourself?

Lol, definitely not. I have zero talent when it comes to design. Berkley asked me to give them an idea of what I’d like and had me send character descriptions and inspiration pics. All I told them was that I’d love a couple in the rain because a pivotal scene happens in the rain. Then voila, the talented art department sends back this gorgeous cover. Berkley does some of the best covers. It’s actually one of the reasons why they were at the top of my list when my agent was submitting my manuscript to publishers.

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Brynn and why?

I honestly didn’t have a clear picture of Brynn at the start. The hero is usually clearer because I often pick celebrities for inspiration early on for the hero. But when I sent in my pics for Brynn to the art department, I used a dressed-down, make-up free Scarlett Johanssen. It’s not *exactly* how I picture Brynn but that’s the closest I could find.

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

Country singer Blake Shelton is constantly in my brain these days because I’m wrapping up the draft of Book 3 and he’s the visual inspiration for my cowboy hero. : )

Besides writing, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

I love to cook and have a bit of a cookbook addiction (like two full bookcases worth of them). I also love live music, so the hubs and I go to lots of concerts.

You’re an LSU grad (sorry about the National Championship; I was yelling for your team!) and the city of New Orleans holds a special place in your heart.  What is your favorite restaurant and attraction in The Big Easy? 

Let’s not speak of the National Championship. My household is still in mourning. And I do love New Orleans since it’s my hometown. Hard to pick a favorite restaurant because there are so many good ones. The food really is its own attraction. But anytime I go home I must have these things at least once: boiled seafood (preferably crabs), a fried shrimp poboy, a muffaletta, and beignets.

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your four favorite television programs airing today? 

Top Chef, True Blood, American Idol, and Vampire Diaries. Two Broke Girls and New Girl are also moving up the list.

I know you love the reality TV like me, particularly Big Brother.  Which season and houseguest is your favorite of all-time? 

I was a big fan of Evil Dick during his original season. Also liked Janelle. And who could hate Jordan, she was so darn sweet.

What is your favorite movie?

Dirty Dancing – I think that’s the movie that planted the seed that eventually grew into me becoming a romance writer.

We’ll always love Baby and Johnny…

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

We usually go to a theater that serves full meals and drinks, so I usually get pizza or chips and queso. Though the last movie I saw, I just had a martini, lol.

Lastly, I know I’m not alone when I say that I love your Boyfriend of the Week blog series.  Who has been the most and least popular “boyfriend” with the readers and were you surprised by the feedback? 

Surprisingly, the one that still gets the most hits is Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue. I still get like 100 hits a week on that one and it’s an old post. As for least popular, it’s usually the lesser known people–guys that are models and not actors or new to the acting scene.

*****

Isn’t she the best?  She writes romance, she’s a fan of college football to the point of real fandom levels, she shares the love with hair-band members from the ‘80s in her Boyfriend of the Week posts, and she’s not afraid to admit she watches reality TV — Roni is an all-around great girl.

If you haven’t already, be sure to get to know Roni better by reading her blog, liking her Facebook Author Page, and following her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Do you have a question for Roni?  Have you read Crash Into You yet?  Are there any other New Kids on the Block fans out there who’d like to join Roni and me in celebrating one of the best bands of our childhood?  Which New Kid did you crush on?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Amazon (available in paperback and Kindle) or Barnes and Noble (available in paperback and Nook) to buy a copy of Crash Into You if you haven’t already!

For those of you lucky enough to be around the DFW, Chicago, and Anaheim areas, take a look at Roni’s upcoming appearances for your chance to meet her!

Texas Two-Step Conference (3/30-4/1) – Book signing and on a panel with agent Sara Megibow
DFW Con (5/19-5/20) – Presenting two workshops: one on love scenes and another on querying
**I’ve taken Roni’s querying workshop at a local writer’s group and it is FANTASTIC.  I highly recommend…
Romantic Times Convention (Chicago, IL) April – Book signing
RWA Nationals (Anaheim, CA) July – Book signing, on two workshop panels (tbd)

For more info on any of these, visit the events page on her website.

Friday FabOoolousness – Kristen Lamb

When I lost my job in 2010, I decided there would not be a better time to embark on my next journey.  I immediately started my first manuscript, a story I’ve dreamed of telling since college.  The writing came naturally, but then I started to ask myself – what’s next? 

In November, I registered to attend DFWcon, and hoped to answer just that.  My friends had always laughed at my refusal to set up a Facebook account, and one friend harped on me for years that I needed to blog.  So, I faced my fears, and walked into a Branding and Social Media Introduction class led by Kristen Lamb.

Kristen Lamb

At the conference, I heard over and over again that social media leads the way, and helps aspiring authors build their community & platform.  If people like you, they’re more inclined to buy your novel.  Isn’t that what all writers want?    

So I bit — I took a big bite for me — I enrolled in Kristen Lamb’s online workshop.  For thirty days, she provided her FabOoolous insight and held my hand as I took baby steps into social media.  And I mean baby steps.  I think they may have coined the saying, “there’s no such thing as a stupid question,” for me; to make me feel better.  At the end of the first month, I started panicking.  I wasn’t ready to go out on my own!  Kristen proved herself even more FabOoolous when she extended the workshop for another thirty days.  Whew!  That was music to my ears! 

Now, thirty-six days in, I have tweeted, blogged, and Facebooked.   I have officially joined the 21st century.

Kristen Lamb knows what she’s talking about.

Facebook is one thing; I found most of my old elementary, high school, and college friends, and have built my community around them.  And you know what?  I should have joined years ago.  I’m having a blast catching up with everyone! 

But Twitter?  Day one, I had two followers.  Two weeks later, I am just shy of 200!  I have met hundreds of writers who are just like me.  What a relief, I am not alone!  I love reading their posts, and have found so many useful tips by simply following the writing community on Twitter. 

And the blog – I was probably the most nervous about blogging.  I’m not an expert in anything, so what do I blog about?  Kristen recommended that I reach out to friends and family and build a list of 100 words that described me:  my very own spaghetti sauce ingredients.  What a fun exercise!  The word that most of my dearest replied with was opinionated.  I have to laugh, there’s no surprise there!  With my list, I built my platform. 

My Platform = My Opinion

Week one, I had over 470 visits to my blog.  To me, that is amazing!  And now, I’m blogging two posts a week:

 Tiffany’s Tele-Tuesday – where I give my opinion based on my addiction to television

Friday FabOoolousness – where I give my opinion based on all other things fabOoolous (authors, books, movies, sports, etc.)

I didn’t know Kristen Lamb in February, but today I have the honor of saying I do. 

Kristen, you are absOoolutely FabOoolous! 

Kristen, you are my social media guru!

I highly recommend everyone check out Kristen’s FabOoolous blog, her FabOoolous website, & buy a copy of her FabOoolous bestselling book, We Are Not Alone – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.  

Who is your guru?  Who has helped you achieve a goal?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Check back next Friday for a FabOoolous Scream edition!

Friday FabOoolousness #1

Who doesn’t love Fridays?

Friday FabOoolousness will follow pretty much any ‘ol random thing that makes me go “Ooh.”

My first FF installment congratulates bestselling author, Candace Havens.

At DFWcon, I walked into a workshop for non-plotters led by the FabOoolous Candace, and I liked her immediately.  She shared with us three simple ways to plot, but she really grabbed my attention when she referenced one of the TV shows I loved (and was yanked too soon): The Dresden Files.

I read Candace’s bio and learned that she wrote the biography on Joss Whedon, Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy.  Are you kidding me?  The Dresden Files and Buffy? Now, I’m really a fan!

Candace has published multiple times including Charmed & Dangerous, Charmed & Ready, Charmed & Deadly, Like A Charm, The Demon King and I and Dragons Prefer BlondesShe also writes steamy romances for the Blaze line of Harlequin including today’s feature, She Who Dares, Wins.

Oh, yea – did I mention she also does radio reviews for 96.3 in the DFW area and is one of the top entertainment journalists lucky enough to interview top celebrities?

Candace, you make me go “Ooo”!

Today she celebrates a book-birthday: She Who Dares, Wins, a sexy, romantic mystery out today. Check it out:

He’s high risk… and very high reward!

Well, it certainly wasn’t the assignment detective Katie McClure was expecting. Traveling to London to protect an old scientist who’d been receiving death threats? Too easy.

As it turns out, Dr. Macon Douglas is hot. The kind that makes Katie ponder her own kinds of experiments – namely ones that involve Mac being naked. But the death threats are real…along with the wicked chemistry that seems to sizzle and zap whenever they’re together. Can Katie keep her professional thoughts in mind and keep Mac safe – or will she risk everything and dare to be bare?

You are FabOoolous, Candace!

http://www.candacehavens.com/

What author do you think is FabOoolous?  I’d love to hear from you!

Next week, my social-media guru and bestselling author, Kristen Lamb.  Be sure and come back!

My First Post

For as long as I can remember, I’ve nearly centered my social life around the nightly television schedule.  As a small girl, I vividly remember rushing home from Friday night high school football games to watch Miami Vice.  Not the normal play-date for an eight-year old.    In high school, I looked forward to Thursday night when my parents were out and I had the TV to myself.  To this day, Thursday is still my favorite day of the week because of the television lineup in the 90s.  Plus, Thursday means only one more day until the weekend.  In college, I made my friends wait until the series finale of 90210 wrapped before I’d join them at our favorite bar, and then asked them to wait longer so I could repaint my face from all the crying.  I have the best girl friends a woman could ask for – love you, you know who you are. 

The past decade, I worked in a very crazy environment serving as a multi-business owner’s Executive Assistant.  He was always out of the office leaving me behind to handle all the b-s.  Don’t get me wrong, I adored working for him but I wasn’t really a fan of all my co-workers.  Come six o’clock, I used television as my outlet to relieve my stress.  Maybe it’s not the healthiest habit but definitely enjoyable.

Today, I stay home and write fiction not leaving much time for my beloved pastime.  My minor case of OCD (well, I say minor but my friends and family insist I have more of a problem than I recognize) nags at me because I have over 130 recordings on my DVR, but I’m battling those demons one day at a time.  For the first time in my life, I’ve found something I enjoy more that curling up on the couch with my blanket and remote control: writing. 

Last month, I attended DFWCon and I can honestly say it’s the best investment that I’ve made in a long time.  At the conference, I signed up for a Social Media Workshop led by the great Kristen Lamb.  Until then I didn’t Facebook, Tweet, or Blog.  I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with long-lost friends via FB and this week, I successfully launched my new twitter account: @Tiffany_A_White.  I’ve met some wonderful writers’ online suffering through the same struggles I battle daily and it helps to know that I’m not alone.    

I dedicate my inaugural blog to Kristen and my fellow classmates.  Thank you for the inspiration!

Kristen Lamb – http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/

Damian Trasler – http://dtrasler.com/

Amy Shojai – http://amyshojai.com/

Danielle Meitiv – http://daniellemeitiv.com/

Pamela Mason – http://www.writermason.blogspot.com/

Jen Greyson – http://www.thesurvivalmama.com/

Shellie Sakai – http://shelliesakai.wordpress.com/

Jenny Hansen – http://jennyhansenauthor.wordpress.com/

PJ Kaiser – http://pjkaiser.com/

Grace H. Lewis – http://sweetdreamsflyingmachines.wordpress.com/

Michele Blaker – http://micheleblaker.wordpress.com/

Tune in Tuesday for my first edition of Tiffany’s Tele-Tuesday!  Please feel free to leave comments.  I would love to hear from you!

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