Saturday, 11 August 2012

RWA 2012 - part four: plans gone wrong and more food...

If anything, Saturday was even busier than Friday. I saw that Michael Hauge was doing another workshop, so decided to get another fix. Unfortunately, they had given him a room half the size of the one yesterday (which had been full), and people were lining the walls. I decided to sit on the floor at the front of the room.

 It was only after Michael started talking that I realised this was a repeat of the workshop I'd been to yesterday. Note to self: read programme properly before you plonk your bum down. And I was sitting right at the front, facing more than a hundred people. It was going to be really, really obvious if I left straight away. I decided to sit it out for a bit and then creep out after twenty minutes.

Bad plan. As the room started to fill, our illustrious speaker began to get worried about us all cramming in. He turned and asked me directly if I was okay sitting on the floor, especially as I wasn't leaning against the wall. I nodded fiercely and said I was fine, but a couple of minutes later when he said the wrong word, he said: "It's because I'm still worried about her..." and pointed over his shoulder at me. Flip, I thought. I can't leave now! The whole room is looking at me. I'm just going to have to wait a little bit longer...

Now, there may be those of you who are wondering why I just didn't get up and walk calmly out. I asked myself the same question, and I have only one logical answer: I'm BRITISH! It's part of my genetic code to have a really low embarrassment threshold. Add in the fact that I'm a shy introvert at heart and there was only one thing to do - listen to more of the the workshop and hope the pins and needles didn't eat my legs alive.

After forty minutes I was ready to go. Unfortunately, I suffered a bout of pins and needles so strong that it left my right leg totally numb. I could have stood up, but it was likely that I'd fall straight over again. Not the way to make a discreet exit! I just had to sit there a little longer and subtly try to get the blood to revisit my leg.

Yes, I finally made it. But walking those steps to the door was like walking the green mile... ;-)

Thankfully, after the next seminar I could head out for lunch with some of the editors and gals who write for M&B RIVA. If you haven't heard already, Harlequin is launching a new line next year called KISS! It's basically the North American version of RIVA. Stories will have a range of sensuality levels but will be fun, sassy comtemporary books united by a similar tone and 'voice'. Books will be by authors either currently writing for Presents Extra or Harlequin Romance. 

RIVA/KISS authors Kimberly Lang and Heidi Rice

We went to Benihana and sat round a hot plate while our chef cooked our food in front of us. First, he impressed us with his knife skills and then he started cooking our rice. 

Look, he even made a heart with our rice! I don't know if he knew that was significant or not, but I thought it was kinda cute. I had scallops and steak and Oh My Goondess! Heaven. Do we have this restaurant in the UK? I have to find out. Too lovely. (Newsflash: Two branches in London! Yay.)

Behind: Heidi Rice, Kimberly Lang, Aimee Carson, Exec Editor Tessa Shapcott & Susan Stephens
Front: Senior editor Bryony Green, Fiona Harper & editor Lucy Gilmour

Thursday, 9 August 2012

RWA 2012 - part 3: Fan-girl moments and crazy dancing...

Michael Hauge
By Friday things had shifted into high gear at the RWA conference.  I spent Friday in two double-length workshops given my screen writing guru Michael Hauge. If you frequent this blog, you’ll know how I rave about his approach to storytelling. I’d heard his workshop about internal conflict and romantic comedies before, but I always get something new out of it. And in the afternoon I listened to him give a breakdown of Pretty Woman, showing how it applied to his ideas – something he’s never done before, so it was really worth attending.

At the end of the second session, I decided to buy Michael’s book, Writing Screenplays That Sell, as I don’t have a copy yet, and I asked him to sign it for me before I left. When I told him my name, he said: “Fiona? Like the princess!” Consider me completely won over. (I don't care that she's green - the crown is all that matters!)

In between my day of workshops was the annual Awards Luncheon with speaker Robyn Carr. Another inspiring and entertaining speech! 

Robyn Carr at the Awards Luncheon

I had just enough time to nip back to my room and get ready to go out to dinner before the Harlequin party. Donna and I joined Jennie Lucas, Lynn Raye Harris and Jenette Kenney for dinner at the Hyatt to toast Donna’s status as a “RITA princess”. The champagne was our unofficial sixth guest, as it got a chair of its own at the table. Here we all are, looking pretty and serene before a night of partying.

Jennie, me, Donna, Janette and Lynn

And for the RNA bods: Jennie and Lynn's shoes!

What can I say about the Harelquin party at RWA? It's simply the best night out ever. Let'a just say that everybody dances like there's no one looking. All night. Since a picture says a thousand words, I'm just going to post some of mine:

Hyatt ballroom at start of the party
The cupcake dessert table - DIY decorations
Jennie Lucas caught in the act with her cupcake!

Dance your hearts out, girls!
Donna Alward, me and my lovely editor Lucy Gilmour
"We're lost in music..."

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Three books out!

I'm pausing from my RWA re-cap to mention it's publication day for Always The Best Man in the US! 

Take one perfect best man, add a less-than-perfect, sassy bridesmaid and a borrowed honeymoon and you've got a recipe for romacne!  

To read more about the book, you can check out my website.


But that's not all! Three Blind-Date Brides is out at the M&B site, and will be on general release in September. A few years ago I did a trilogy of books with authors Jennie Adams and Melissa McClone about three friends who lived in different corners of the world, but had resorted to internet dating to solve their man troubles. All three stories have now been released in one vlume. If you want to know more about each of the books, you can check out the website!

And finally, my RT Award nominated book, Housekeeper's Happy-Ever-After, is in an anthology called Cinderella Housekeepers.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

RWA 2012–part 2

literacy signingAfter my adventures at Disneyland it was back to the hotel to get reader for the Readers for Life Literacy Signing. Each year RWA holds this charity event to raise money for literacy charities. Publishers and authors donate books for the event and all the money raised goes to the charity. If you ever wanted to wander through a room full of more than 400 authors, all happy to chat and meet readers and sign books, you really need to pop along if it ever happens in a city near you! This year RWA raised more than $50,000! Way to go! 

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to chat or buy a book! Here’s me sitting at my desk:

me @ signing

After the signing, it had become tradition for the Mills & Boon authors (Harlequin authors edited out of the London office) to meet up for a pizza party. This year was the busiest ever! Much wine was drunk. Much pizza was eaten. Much laughter was had. And for the first time I can ever remember, I was in a room with TWO other Fionas – Fiona Lowe and Fiona McArthur, both Aussie Medical Romance authors. I was all for hatching plans for world domination, since the Fionas were in the majority for once, but the other two managed to talk me down...

MBpizza party collage
Thursday the conference really got underway. Workshops started and we also had the Keynote luncheon, with speaker Stephanie Laurens. Her speech was both thought-provoking and inspirational, and if you want to read why she thinks authors need not panic in the current publishing climate, you can read her address here.

cheesecake by DA smHowever, the real highlight of my Thursday had to be the Harlequin Romance Authors’ tea at the Cheesecake factory in Anaheim, with authors Donna Alward, Barbara Wallace, Melissa McClone, Teresa Carpenter, Patricia Thayer, editors Bryony Green and Tessa Shapcott and VP of series Dianne Moggy.

I LOVE cheesecake, but unfortunately my hubby does not, so I don’t get to eat it very often. We ordered eight pieces between ten of us. Surely we’d be able to defeat that many bits of cheesecake between us? The challenge was on! (I’ve borrowed Donna’s photo, because it shows more cheesecake than mine did!)

And just so you can see the depths of my cheesecake obsession, I am going to tell you exactly what we ordered:
  • Red Velvet Cheesecake
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake
  • Banana Cream Cheesecake
  • Dulce de Leche Caramel Cheesecake (OMG!)
  • Chocolate Tuxedo Cream Cheesecake
  • Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake
  • Dutch Apple Caramel Streusel (my choice!)
Top votes went to the Reese’s cheesecake and the Dulce de Leche, if I remember rightly. And did we defeat the cheesecake? Well, here’s your answer:

cheesecake devastation

No we did not. And I think we should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves.

barb & me palm treesBarbara, Donna and I decided to placate our consciences by walking back to the hotel instead of getting a cab. It was only about ten minutes away, and it was a lovely walk in the afternoon sunshine down avenues of palm trees.

But Donna and I were back that way later in the evening, when we headed out to Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. for dinner. We even managed to impress our server with our Forrest Gump trivia knowledge when he gave us a quiz! The only one we really got stuck on was Bubba’s full name. I challenge you all to remember it (without Googling, you cheaters!) and see if you can get it right.
Here’s Donna at Bubba Gump’s looking very happy she’s about to have fish and chips. Me, I gorged myself on shrimp. What else?
Me and Donna go together like peas and carrots...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

RWA 2012–part 1

I hadn’t planned on attending the RWA conference this year, much as I love the craziness of the whole event, but then my best writing buddy Donna Alward was shortlisted for a RITA I counted up my pennies and decided to go. How could I not be there to cheer her on? (Lest anyone think I am completely saintly, I did really want to go anyway.)

It’s a long old flight to LAX from London. Thankfully, fellow Harlequin/M&B author Heidi Rice and I had organised to sit together and gossiping between watching films definitely made the 11 hours go more quickly. The flight itself was amazing. We had pretty clear weather and I saw the coast of Greenland, icebergs in Hudson Bay and then the casinos of Las Vegas and a vast desert all in the short space of a few hours.

I don’t remember much of my first night in California, apart from being very, very happy to see Donna again and sitting down and eating dinner at what would have been 4 a.m. UK time.

I had a choice of what to do on Tuesday. Either I could attend a mini women’s fiction conference – the sensible and professional option – or I could go to Disneyland. Yep. No prizes for guessing what I did! But seeing as I’ve never been to a Disney resort before in my life, how could I go within minutes of the gates and not visit?

Thankfully, Michelle Willingham, Historical Romance Author and trip-organiser extraordinaire had volunteered to wrangle a group of assorted authors and editors round the park with maximum efficiency. I had one plan for the day: don’t fall asleep and go where Michelle tells me. It worked out rather well! Here’s our party:

From left to right: Jennie Lucas, Maisey Yates, Lucy Gilmour, Michelle Willingham, Katy Madison, Julia Justiss, Cara Elliott, Bryony Green, Blythe Gifford, me & Tessa Shapcott. (Pic taken with Michelle’s iPhone)

We started with the Matterhorn, which unfortunately triggered my motion sickness, but next was Buzz Lightyear and I discovered I’m quite a whiz with a laser gun! Pic, courtesy of Jennie Lucas (including me with alien eyes) to prove it.

We also rode the jungle river ride, the Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World (a slightly psychedelic experience when you’re spaced out on jet lag!), the Haunted Mansion and a few other things my tired brain has probably eaten.

Probably most fun was Splash Mountain. I thought I was clever sitting in the back of the boat until Jennie told me you get just as wet there. She wasn’t wrong. The water splashed those in the front then swooshed up over the sides at the back to get me. As you can see, I didn’t really care much. (That's me, smiling but hanging on at the back.)

While some of our party had to leave, five of us stayed to have lunch at the Blue Bayou – a restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride that resembles a Mississippi swamp at night. I tried to take photos, but it was too dark too see much but the paper lanterns that hung from the ceiling. I did eat the nicest Jambalaya I’ve ever had there, though! Seriously good.

Then we did the Indiana Jones ride, which took over as my favourite, before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the more writerly events of the afternoon. Here are a few more of my favourite Disney pics: