A few safety reminders for attending conferences or #rwa12

I travel a lot for Harlequin and I stay in a lot of hotels. I also go to a lot of conferences, and I see attendees doing some unsafe things, probably without even knowing, at every single one of these conferences. So as you prep for #rwa12, please keep these things in mind

1) After you get your room keys, do not, under any circumstances, keep them in the package that has your room number on it. Once you get to your room, throw that little envelope away in your hotel room bin (don’t toss it in a trash in the lobby, just to be on the safe side, either). It’s so easy to lose this envelope, or if you have your purse or bag stolen (god forbid) you don’t also want to give the thief free access to all of the possessions in your room. Memorize your room number and keep your room keys somewhere else in your purse or pocket. Not in the envelope.

2) As soon as you know you’re leaving the hotel, take off your name badge. There are a variety of reasons behind doing this, but all of them are meant to keep you safe and from being a target. Gently remind the people with you to take theirs off as well.

3) Know where the stairs are in case of a fire alarm. Yes, it’s a running joke that the fire alarm seems to always go off at RWA, but even so, there is always the very real possibility that it’s a genuine fire. Don’t get caught not knowing which direction to go. If you’re not sure, there’s a map on the back of your hotel room door, but scope it out ahead of time. It only takes a minute and it could literally save your life.

4) Keep your valuables in the safe in your hotel room. Jewelry, ereaders, cash, small laptops. Anything you’re leaving in the room while you’re not there. And even if you decline housekeeping, don’t assume no one will be coming into your room. You’d be shocked at how often hotel employees may have reason to enter your room (checking air conditioning filters, restocking the minibar, maintenance issues, etc.) there are also other people who might enter your room (see #5)

5) And on that note, when you ARE in your room, put the security bar (you know, the one you always forget to take off before you open the door. Or is that just me?) on. As I said, hotel employees often have reason to enter your room, and it’s my experience that they rarely actually give you enough time to get to the door after they knock. You don’t want them walking in on you at any time, though especially while in the bathroom, changing, napping or doing other, er, more intimate things. Not only that but hotels often mistakenly assign rooms more than once so it’s entirely possible they could give someone the key to your room–and your possessions. I have twice been given the wrong room and I know others have as well. Never assume your room is a totally safe haven, free from others entering, because it is not.

6) This is common sense but…if you’re leaving the conference hotel to go drinking, please have at least one person who’s staying relatively sober, who can make good decisions for getting everyone safely back to the hotel, keep an eye on everyone while they’re drinking, and basically make sure nothing tragic can happen. The same things that can happen to us at the bars at home can happen at the bars in the conference city.

7) and on that practical note, here’s another that every college-age girl knows: whether at the bar in the hotel, at the bar somewhere else, do not, under any circumstances, leave your drink or drinks unattended, or accept drinks from strangers. It should come direct from the bar staff, bartender or one of your friends. If a stranger hands you a drink, decline politely. If you all want to go dance, finish your drinks and get fresh ones when you get back, or leave someone to guard them. You guys know this, but I see people treat their time at conferences like it’s life in a bubble, not the real world. Don’t do that.

8 ) Last, be cautious about sharing your room number. Of course you can tell your conference buddies where to meet you. Just don’t shout it across the bar, okay?

I know I’m forgetting some important tips but I’ve covered some of the key things I’ve noticed at conferences. Please share your conference or travel safety tips in the comments.

How do I put this politely…remind me who you are, please?

Ah, RWA Nationals, right around the corner, eh? When several thousand authors, editors, agents, publishers and other people in the industry descend on a hotel to talk about the thing we all love the most…money books.

I’ve attended a rather obscene number of conferences in the past few years, but I do have a special fondness for Nationals. Not because I gain 5 lbs from the ridiculous number of meals I eat, but because of the sheer number of people to talk to, the frenetic energy, the parties, the conversations and, yeah, admit it, the gossip.

But there’s one thing that happens to me every year…someone stops to talk to me and carries on the conversation as though we’ve met before. The truth is, we probably have, maybe even more than once, but I may not remember. I mentioned in the previous paragraph that I attend a lot of conferences and it follows that I meet a LOT of people. Many of whom are lovely enough to remember me. Unfortunately, though my memory isn’t too bad, it’s pretty impossible for me to similarly remember each of you/them. Those meetings are important to me, and I enjoy them, but I simply meet too many people to remember the specifics of each meeting or each person’s name, what they write, etc.

So as you’re enjoying RWA Nationals this year (or any conference in the future) take a moment to reintroduce yourself when you stop someone for a conversation. Not just me, and not just editors and agents, but your fellow authors as well. It’s a good opportunity for you to remind them of not just your pen name (and who knows, this time it might stick!) but of what you write, where you met, etc. It’s a valuable part of building your brand and helping others get the most out of your presence at the conference!

Attending RWA Nationals? Win breakfast w/me & 2 other editors

This past spring, several of the Carina Press freelance editors and myself donated critiques to the Brenda Novak auction. With the critiques was also the opportunity to have breakfast with the three of us. Unfortunately, one of the winners cannot attend RWA Nationals, so we’ve decided to pass the opportunity on to someone else, since it was all for charity anyway.

On Thursday, July 26th at 8am (yes, that’s early for some people!) in Anaheim, California, I’ll be hosting breakfast along with editors Mallory Braus and Rhonda Helms. We’ll be joined at breakfast by 4 authors via the Brenda Novak auction, and we’d like to invite one of you to join us. You can be a new author, aspiring author, self-published author, multi-published author or not even an author at all! Readers, bloggers, reviewers, editors…anyone who has the ability to attend the breakfast at that time and date is welcome to enter to win! (well, maybe not creepy old men looking to just have breakfast with some hot young chicks–that’s us. You guys shouldn’t enter, mmkay?)

This is your opportunity to pick our brains about books, editing, the publishing industry, Carina, our love lives, Harlequin or to just hang out and chat!

To enter, simply paste the first sentence of your book, work in progress,A? current favorite book, or a book you loved in the comments below. Make sure to include your name and when you fill out the comment form, a valid email address (no need to leave it in the comment box, I can see it in the dashboard). And please make sure you’re able and willing to attend on Thursday the 26th.

We’ll draw a winner next Wednesday morning, so you have time to plan. The drawing is random–the posting of first lines is just for our entertainment since we’re giving the breakfast away. If we get more than 50 entries, we’ll pick 2 entrants to join us (we feel this is a safe offer, since we don’t think there are 50 people out there who want to get up for breakfast at 8am. Have breakfast with us? Maybe. Get up that early? Haha, no!)

One for the Money movie thoughts

(what follows isn’t any official type of review of the movie, but more a mish-mash of my thoughts as they relate to both the movie and the books.)

I probably wouldn’t have gone to see this in the theatre, but Groupon ran a deal last week for tickets for $6. Since I knew I had a 4-day weekend (because of all the recent travel) this weekend, I decided to buy a $6 ticket and take myself to see it. I went today and I’m sure you can imagine the theatre wasn’t too busy, but I was surprised that there were still at least 20 other people in the theatre with me on a Monday afternoon.

Before I get into talking about the movie, I have to say a few things about the trailers before the movie. First, the DisneyNature trailer for Chimpanzee made me absolutely sniffly. This looks like a movie Brianna might like, because she adores these animal movies. Second, watching the trailer for the new Nicholas Sparks’ movie The Lucky One, I had a few thoughts: primarily that there’s no way in hell I’ll watch it because we all know how EVERY Sparks’ movie/book ends (someone dies). Apparently, Sparks has something against people being happy for more than temporarily. But I couldn’t help but ogle the lead actor in the movie, because they show him in a pretty sexual light in this trailer, and there’s a lot of sexy times hinted at. And then. And then they put up the actors’ names and I realized…I was ogling Zac Efron. Zac Efron, people. Isn’t he like twelve? I officially feel like a dirty old woman.

Two more trailers caught my attention. Hunger Games, a book I did read and while I thought it was good, I didn’t LOVE it and never felt compelled to read the other two in the trilogy. But the trailer was actually pretty amazing. I think I might like to see that movie (probably not in the theatre, but all the same, the fact that I might want to see a movie of a book I just liked impressed me). The last trailer was for Cabin in the Woods. A horror/thriller type movie that normally might not be my thing, but the trailer showcased some kind of awesome tongue-in-cheek snark. And the movie is produced by Joss Whedon who kind of excels at tongue-in-cheek snark so maybe his brand of awesome is imprinted on the movie. I’ll look for it to rent.

Now, on to One for the Money. I went into it a bit skeptical. I should note that I don’t consider myself a FAN of the books, though I’ve read the whole series twice. I can still remember the summer, at least 12 years ago, that I discovered the series. I think only 6 were out. I was on a vacation with my ex-husband (well, he was my husband then), in a cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan. He spent his whole time fishing on a boat in Lake Michigan, and I get horrible (horrible) water sickness, so I spent my vacation on the beach. Reading Janet Evanovich (frankly, reading on a beach is my perfect vacation). I’d checked out books 1-5 in hardcover from the library, and carted them (and a suitcase of other books) on vacation with me. Yes, I love having a digital library of books to cart with me now. Much lighter!A? I tore through the first five and didn’t have the sixth, but knew it had been released. We were staying near small town Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin, and I looked in both the small local bookstore and the Walmart. Neither had Book Six because the series (and Evanovich) hadn’t quite hit it big yet (there’s a lesson here about the longtail of series, books and publishing). But oh man, they were the perfect beach reads. I continued to faithfully buy each book every June when it released for probably 6 years and then I got a bit weary and jaded. Nothing ever changed, no one ever grew, Stephanie never chose between Morelli and Ranger (I believe Evanovich has since done an interview where she said she never intends for Stephanie to choose. Yes, never. How…depressing).

Anyway. Last year I did a back-to-back re-read of the JD Robb In Death series and I thought it would be interesting to then do a back-to-back reread of the Stephanie Plum series, and see how the two compared in terms of character growth, story ARC, plot, etc over the course of extended series. Though there’s twice as many In Death books as there are Plum books. So I’ve read most of the Plum books twice, with the exception of the most recent, which I haven’t read (with the exception of the Amazon reviewes, which are quite scathing). So I went into the movie with more than a conversant knowledge of the books and characters, but no rabid love, and some rather mixed-bag emotions on the books overall.

That said, what I didn’t really go into the movie with was strong feelings about the actors/actresses chosen for the roles. I know a lot of people went apeshit WTF when Katherine Heigl was cast as Stephanie Plum (which makes sense to me since she freakin’ produced the movie) but I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy and I don’t recall any other movie I’ve ever seen her in (I’m not much of a TV or movie watcher. I like books) so I didn’t have any negative OMG NOOOO connotations associated with her. Likewise the rest of the casting. I think the strongest emotion I had was of Debbie Reynolds cast as Grandma Mazur. I picture Grandma Mazur as super old, super tiny and kind of decrepit and wrinkly. Debbie Reynolds is just a bit too…robust for me to really buy into her as Grandma Mazur. Both when I saw she’d been cast and now that I’ve seen the movie.

What I liked about the casting: I love love loved the casting of Connie and Vinnie. The actress and actor chosen for these roles were absolutely perfect. I wish they’d have been in the movie even more, though their appearances were about commiserate with their appearance in the book. Ditto Lula. The actress who played her pulled her off very well. It’s really a shame Lula’s role isn’t a major one until later books. I also liked John Leguizamo cast as Benito Ramirez’s scummy “manager” Jimmy Alpha. But honestly, has Leguizamo ever not been good in a role?

But what about the main characters? I actually thought Heigl did a pretty decent Stephanie Plum, with one small exception. She came across as quite charming (though a bit skinnier than I’ve always pictured Stephanie, as I’ve always thought of her as having a bit of a muffin top, possibly) and spunky. I did think Stephanie in the movie came across as even more too stupid to live than Stephanie in the books, but I think this had more to do with the translation of her idiocy to the big screen, rather than Heigl’s acting. Honestly, I think Heigl did a much better job with the role than all of the hystrionics suggested she would. I’ll get to the small exception in a bit…

Morelli and Ranger. I was…meh on the casting. I mean, I think both guys are hot, though maybe the actor who played Ranger, Daniel Sunjata has lips that are bit too full and made him look a little more feminine than I think of RangerBut I’m not honestly sure who the actor is that would personify the Ranger in my head. The actor who played Morelli, Jason O’Mara, wasn’t quite…Italian? Dark-haired/dark-eyed? enough for my mental picture, but he was plenty hot. My problem with the movie here comes with the fact that both of these characters came off as not at all charming. Not even a little. They instead come across, both of them, as arrogant and at times a bit alpha-holish (TM @jane_l). I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy about either character, really, in a hero-type role. And here’s where my small exception of Heigl’s portrayal of Stephanie Plum comes in–she had absolutely no sexual chemistry or sexual tension with either actor. None. Not a bit. Nothing. And if you’ve read the first few books in this series, you’ll know that one thing Evanovich, despite any quibbles I might have with the books, does well is the sexual tension between Stephanie and Morelli and Stephanie and Ranger. Evanovich leads you to really imagine the sizzle and steam between these characters and none of that was translated on screen. And I think that’s the movie’s main downfall: there’s no chemistry.

The other thing I noticed didn’t translate as well to the screen was the undertones of humor that are one of the keystones of Evanovich’s writing. I purposely stayed cognizant of whether people were laughing during the movie and the answer was…not so much. There were only 3 main points were the audience really laughed, and one of those was when Grandma Mazur shot the turkey (a scene in the book that nearly had me peeing my pants but on screen only garnered a few seconds of laughter). But I guess I’m not really that surprised, as humor can be difficult to translate from one medium to another.

Overall, the movie was a fun diversion. I think it’s interesting to note that in both One for the Money the book and the movie, we do see character growth in Stephanie. While she remains somewhat idiotic and too stupid too live, she does carry her gun…and learn how to shoot it. When I re-read the books back-t0-back last year, what stood out most starkly to me in that reading was that Stephanie actually regresses from book one to book two…as in she unlearns skills (like shooting a gun) and general self-defense that she shows in book one (and in the movie). So in the movie, we do get the satisfaction, especially at the action climax of the movie, but also in other scenes, of seeing Stephanie do things that show her growth/learning. In the series, for some reason the author seems determined to make Stephanie Plum progressively dumber and I don’t see movie audiences being appreciative of this (if future movies ever get the chance to be made) so this might be a case where we often see books and movies parting ways and being different in script than manuscript.

Do I regret spending a few hours in the theatre watching it? Not at all. I’ve seen movies where I bemoan the time I’ll never get back. With this movie, I was glad for a few hours away from the computer, to keep me from doing work-type things on my day off. I enjoyed the movie enough to be diverted for a few hours. However, I will say that I’m glad I only paid $6 for it, rather than full movie prices. $6 was the perfect price as an excuse to sit in the theatre and inhale buttered-popcorn calories. A

Would I recommend it? Um…gah. The answer isn’t yes, it’s not no. I guess if I were rating it, I’d give it a 5 of 10 (which somehow sounds nicer than 2.5 out of 5, doesn’t it?) Incidentally, this is the same rating it gets on IMDB and I think “in the middle” is a good rating for this. I can’t say how people who have absolutely no association with the books will feel about it. If you’re an extreme fan of the books, yes, by all means, you should definitely go see it. If you’re a casual fan of the books, wait for video. If you hate Katherine Heigl, well, you probably won’t enjoy it no matter how you feel about the books. As I said earlier, I think she did a pretty good job pulling off Stephanie Plum.

All in all, this is not, by far, the worst book-to-movie translation I’ve ever seen and I’d actually like to see a second movie made, if only to see if they can improve on the sexual chemistry, move Morelli and Ranger to the roles of charming, likeable hero material, and to see Lula, Connie and Vinnie get more screen time. They were just that well cast.

Haven’t read the book? Buy it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.


Steven Spielberg, reviews & the thrill of seeing things differently

I’ve been thinking a lot about reviews, as have many of us, thanks to all the debate that’s been raging between authors, readers, bloggers, etc. I’ve edited over 300 books, trust me, I’ve had some bad reviews directed specifically at me, the editor. Sometimes they sting. Sometimes they make me angry. But I have to admit… through it all, through years of being online & years before that of reading RT Magazine…I love reviews. Love them.A? Not just of things I’ve worked on, but of books I’ve read, books I want to read, and books I have no intention of ever reading. And I love being able to review and share my opinion. Because of what I do, I try to be careful about sharing my opinion, but, you know, if you know me you’re rolling on the floor at the thought of me never sharing my opinion.

For me, the last decade of being on the internet and getting to experience this amazing sharing of the reading experience has made my love of books so much more fun. I adore reading other people’s opinions on what they’re reading. I love that people are reading. I love that they care enough about what they read to share their thoughts. I love the exchange of ideas and information and passion about books. Seriously effing adore it. I’m not trying to sound all Pollyanna or goody two shoes here, it’s just honestly how I feel. I can’t imagine my reading life without book talk on blogs, twitter, Goodreads, my moms’ board, and in my email. It would be weird. And kind of sad. And not quite as much fun, I’m guessing. Because I think books are meant to be shared, and how can you share a book without telling someone what you think about it? And isn’t part of the fun then comparing notes later?

While I was traveling this past weekend, I was reading an interview in Entertainment Weekly with Steven Spielberg. At the very end of the article, the interviewer is telling Steven Spielberg about one of his own experiences with one of Steven’s movies and then goes on to say “You must hear these things a lot.” In reply, Spielberg says:

“I hear amazing stories. The most amazing thing for me is that every single person who sees a movie, not necessarily one of my movies, brings a whole set of unique experiences. Now, through careful manipulation and good storytelling, you can get everybody to clap at the same time, to hopefully laugh at the same time, and to be afraid at the same time. But you can’t get everybody to interpret the result in the same way. And that’s thrilling to know–that everybody will see it differently.”

Right on, Mr. Spielberg.

10 things authors should know about Twitter

1. When you start your tweet with the @ symbol, your whole tweet stream doesn’t see what you’re tweeting.

Starting with the @ creates a reply. Not a broadcast to your tweetstream. So only the person you “replied” to and those who follow both of you will see it. In other words: starting a promotional tweet with an @ is ineffective and wrong.

@angelajames taught me something new about Twitter today (only I and people following both of us will see this tweet. Sad. I want people to know how awesome I am!)

If you absolutely want to start with that person’s name, you can get around this by simply adding a period at the beginning of the tweet.

Ie: .@angelajames taught me something new about Twitter today.

Nathan Bransford wrote a great blog post about this more in depth.

2. If you have your tweets protected, and you tweet me, and I’m not following you, I do not see you tweeting me.

Here’s the thing: By locking your twitter account, you’ve told Twitter you don’t want people who aren’t following you to see your tweets. Twitter assumes you don’t want ANYONE who doesn’t follow you to see your tweets. Including people you’re trying to talk directly to. So if you follow me, and you see me tweet something you want to talk about with me, and you tweet me? I have no idea you’re tweeting me. I don’t see it. You don’t exist for me on Twitter.

Essentially, by locking your account, you’re creating a very small circle of people you can have a conversation with. If you’re an author, this makes Twitter a lot less effective as a promotional tool. How are you going to get new people to follow you if they can’t see you conversing with others? Also? A large percentage of people don’t want to follow you before they can see what your account is like. Is stopping a few spammers from entering your tweet stream really worth the promo effectiveness you’re giving up by locking your account?Also? A lot of people assume you must really think you’re someone special if you’re locking your account. It can give a negative impression, which is a bit counter-intuitive to the purposes of social media.

3. You should not, really ever, I mean never, query or pitch an editor or agent on Twitter, unless they’ve specifically said: “Please query me on Twitter.” and you have confirmed with them that it’s actually okay to query them on Twitter.A?

Do I really need to explain any more about this? Please use each editor or agent’s individual submission guidelines and system to query.

4. Please don’t use Twitter DMs (or Facebook messages) to do business with an editor/agent unless they somehow initiate that with you.

If you want to ask an editor or agent a specific question about a business matter, please tell them that and ask if you could get their email address. People actually do business with me a lot via DMs and messages and, the truth is, I’d much rather have everything like that in my inbox. It allows the editor or agent time to absorb and think about their reply, as well as sort, forward, save the info and otherwise reply with full words and a professionally worded email rather than, “Not sure what U R asking. Can U give me more deets, plz?” because they only have 140 characters in which to reply. It also allows YOU to look more professional! Try not to think of Twitter or Facebook as a substitute for a professional email.

5. Just because the editor/agent is on Twitter at 11pm on a Friday night, it doesn’t mean they want to do work, think about work, or answer questions about work on Twitter at 11pm on a Friday night. Or 8am on a Sunday morning.

Twitter makes remembering there are boundaries more hard. Sometimes we editors and agents also make that hard to remember because we talk about more than just business, and sometimes we talk about business at odd hours of the day and night.

But still, do try not to tweet, message or DM us on the weekend or late at night about work. Of course it’s okay to say “I’m reading a book you edited and I love it!” But that’s a lot different than hearing “Your autoresponder isn’t working, what should I do?” at 5pm on a Saturday.

We actually already work pretty long hours, especially since most work reading and a lot of editing is done outside of normal work hours. And if you ask us a question when we’re obviously on Twitter, we’ll feel obligated to answer it so we don’t look like a douche. But it’s forcing us back into work mode during off-hours and we’d think you were awesome if you tried not to do that.

Remember, we might be “us” as editors and agents on Twitter, but we’re also just as often “us” as everyday people there too, and we use it for fun, so just because you see us there, don’t automatically think we should be available for work questions.

6. When we say you should “engage” on Twitter, we mean you should move outside your own tweetstream.

This one has a few parts. First, this means replying to the people who reply to you. Okay, not every tweet, but a good percentage of them. The more followers you have, the harder this will be. (trust me, I know this). Use your common sense about what you should respond to!

This also means moving outside your own tweets replies, and replying to others. Engaging people is a great way to get more followers. And it also makes you seem more interesting!

(as an aside: if you have a Facebook profile or page, you should be monitoring it. Don’t assume no one is posting there. Monitor and reply to reasonable things!)

7. You should be talking about other people’s books. Or other publishers’ books.

To be honest, I think there are a lot of people who can take this advice, not just authors. Editors and agents are guilty of only talking about their own stuff as well. But talking about other people’s work makes you look like more than just a promotional machine, it makes you look like a reader. You know, the people who make the industry go round? You appear more engaged with and interested in books when you talk about other people’s work, not just the stuff you have a direct connection to.

So don’t be afraid to talk about other people’s books, RT other authors’/publishers’ contests or info. You’ll look engaged with what’s going on with others in the industry and you’ll also spread goodwill!

8. And while we’re on the subject of promotion, you shouldn’t be going into someone’s tweetstream to promote to spam them.

Your promo should be done in your own stream, where people choose to follow you and read it. You shouldn’t be doing this:

@angelajames, My book, Circles of Hell, released to day. I KNOW you’ll love it. Buy it here:

Think of Twitter a bit like an email inbox: if someone didn’t invite you to send them a newsletter or promotional email, you shouldn’t be sending it (there are actually laws against this). Twitter isn’t regulated by law, but it should still be regulated by common courtesy: don’t go into someone else’s stream, where they don’t get to choose to read your tweets, and promote to them. Just. Don’t. Do it. You might find yourself in trouble with Twitter, for one thing, because if a lot of people block you and report you for spam (I do this if you promote to me uninvited) and your tweetstream shows a clear pattern of @’ing people with promotional messages, you can get your account shut down.

9. It’s a good idea to be mindful of what you’re tweeting.

If your bad days are the the norm, rather than the exception, you might want to disengage from talking about your personal life, or what’s going on with you, and keep your tweets related more to hobbies, reading, writing, etc.

If you tend to be sarcastic, or passive-aggressive, or find yourself being coy while complaining about something someone did, without naming names, try to keep in mind that this can create an overall negative impression of you if you do it often.

Have an opinion about politics, religion, the news, something having in the publishing industry but don’t be surprised if someone takes exception to it!

And if you feel really, really, really emotionally charged about something, type the tweet in a separate document, like Word or Notepad, and let it rest for a half hour, hour or half a day. If you still think it’s a good idea to post it after that, then go. Just remember, the internet is forever.

10. Twitter should be fun.

If it’s not fun for you, don’t do it. Find another social media or promotional vehicle. If you feel like you’re being forced to be on Twitter, and it’s sucking the life out of you, you’re likely not going to be effective at it. Go ahead and find a different thing that suits you better.

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