5 Great Years!

It hardly feels like it, but today is the 5th anniversary of my first sale to Harlequin Desire. I’m including my original Call Story below. So funny to look back. My 20th project with Harlequin is out this month, so it’s been a busy few years!

Pigs Do Fly

You all have no idea how long I’ve waited to write this post. How many times I imagined how The Call would go. How I would react. Who I’d call. And yet, in my wildest imaginings, it never went down anything like last Tuesday.

We will start with some backstory. I’d been working closely with Shana Smith at Harlequin Desire. I’d gotten good feedback. Things were going well despite the first book not working out and having to start over. But I was so close. Agonizingly close. But I wouldn’t let myself believe it until I heard the words. I dream big, but I’m not one to get my hopes up and be disappointed. At the same time, I was doing everything in my power to seal the deal. I wrote a new book from scratch in 3 weeks. I revised it in a week. I wanted to do everything I could to sell before conference.

After I finished revisions, I mailed the book, nauseated. Maybe I hadn’t spent enough time on it. What if I’d worked too fast and blew it? Either way it was too late. I started work on another book and worried about my upcoming vacation. DB’s niece was graduating high school and his brother was retiring from the Navy after 25 years. We were flying to Baltimore for a few days with his parents. I figured it would be a while since Shana had to read it, the senior editor had to read it and whatever magical editorial mojo had to happen. The office was closing for a couple holidays. No big deal. I tried to forget it was even out there and headed to the airport with my family.

I was none too pleased to find out that our flight was 4 hours delayed when we reached the gate. We’d arrived early, so I was due for at least 5 hours in the airport with DB and his parents. While gearing up for a game of spider solitaire on my iPhone, a NYC number called. I figured it was a telemarketer. I’d gotten a lot of those calls lately. But what else did I have to do? So I answered. Not once did it register until I heard the woman introduce herself as Shana Smith. Not really even then. I figured she was calling about her guest blog or something. It could possibly be that.
Then she said she had great news and wanted to buy my book. This was the point in time where the universe slowed to a crawl. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say or do. I was dumbstruck. I couldn’t yell or cry. Not only was it not cool, I was in an airport terminal and didn’t want security called on me. I think my first words were “oh my god, I’m in the airport.” That was followed by a lot of ‘wow’ and ‘that’s great’ while she talked about contracts and revisions. I think she knew not to say too much given I was reduced to muttering those two phrases over and over. I wrote things down on the back of my boarding pass so I wouldn’t forget. I tried to think of intelligent questions and failed. I was a spacey mess. But the message came across – my first book was tentatively scheduled for spring 2012.

After about 10 minutes, I hung up and turned to DB. He smiled and hugged me, having heard my stupid rambling and knew what had happened. I sat back in my chair for a good 15 minutes. I knew I needed to tell people but I wasn’t ready yet. I needed to come to terms. It just didn’t seem real. Finally I told my inlaws, who were very pleased for me, but really didn’t understand what a big deal it was. So I called my Mom and cried. Then I called each of the Playfriends and squeed. I had to leave a message for PM because she was at the doctor. Then I called the Mavens and a couple others. I ended up sitting on the floor in the airport near an outlet so I could charge my phone while continuing to call everyone who had supported me and kept me writing when I wanted to stop. They deserved to hear right away. Then I texted a slew of people. Posted it on Twitter and Facebook, and went back to waiting for my flight.

Of course, my call story had to be weird! It all went down in an airport. I couldn’t leave, couldn’t fully celebrate. I was in a damn airport. The bottle of champagne I’ve neurotically kept on hand for just this occasion was in my fridge at home. And I’m at the airport. Then I was in Baltimore, with more family celebrating other people’s big life events. Family I love, but still people who don’t get it, really. No Playfriends or HOD people to dance around and squeal with. I was trapped in a LaQuinta Inn with nothing but my iPhone to connect me to the people that understand.

PS. The picture at the bottom is me in my “sale” shirt. I bought it 3 years ago at a RWA conference and put it in the closet. I hadn’t even let myself try it on in all that time. On Tuesday, I pulled it out of the closet and wore it. It fit, thank goodness! 🙂

Release Day – THE CEO’S UNEXPECTED CHILD

It’s March first, and that means my newest release has arrived. I was very excited to be asked to write another Billionaires and Babies title and this one is a part of my Millionaires of Manhattan series. I hope you like it!

The CEO's Unexpected ChildClaiming His Child… At Any Cost

A shocking fertility clinic mix-up has resulted in Luca Moretti fathering a child with a woman he’s never met. There’s no way the CEO will walk away from his baby girl. But he has thirty days to convince her distractingly beautiful mother to do exactly what he wants.

Widow Claire Douglas is still reeling from the loss of her husband when she discovers a stranger has fathered her child. And the rich bachelor will stop at nothing to gain joint custody. How can she possibly fight a man with such money and power…and a charm she can’t resist?

You can order it now from Amazon, iBooks, B&N and other retailers!


Ten Years on the Swingset!

andreaslogo_bigWow. It’s been a long time since I’ve started a blog post with this logo! For seven years, every Friday on the Writing Playground started with a blog featuring my Smarty Pants graphic. Ten years ago, Kimberly Lang, Kira Sinclair, Dani Wade, Marilyn Baxter and I decided to start a website. The Writing Playground was the place we created for writers to learn and play. We interviewed authors and industry professionals, shared craft articles, recommended books, drooled over hotties in our locker, and I loved every minute of it.

The intention of the playground was to gain visibility in the writing industry, as we were all unpublished at the time. Since we launched, all of us have published and sadly, maintaining the site became harder and harder. I became better known as Andrea than as Smarty Pants. Although we may not post the way we used to, the friendship and the spirit of the Writing Playground is still very much alive. These ladies are my best friends and I’d never make it through the ups and downs of this business without them.

The picture I’m sharing is of the five of us (nicknamed the Children) and our mentors Linda Howard, Linda Winstead Jones and Beverly Barton (nicknamed the Mavens). On our one year anniversary, we invented a drink that mixed sparkling apple cider with asti spumante. Since we hung out on a ‘playground’ we named the drink the Teeter-Totter. We celebrated with the drink every year when we got together.4thanniversaryAs part of our birthday celebration, we’re giving away a $50 gift card to Out of Print clothing. To enter, visit all five of the Playfriend’s websites (listed below). Each picture has a theme word. Enter all five of the theme words at www.andrealaurence.com/contest and we’ll pick a random winner from the correct entries.

For the contest, my birthday keyword is “TEETERTOTTER.” Gather the other words at the websites below:

www.booksbykimberly.com

www.kirasinclair.com

www.daniwade.com

www.marilynbaxter.com

SP (AKA Andrea)




Pre-Order Contest for STIRRING UP TROUBLE

firegraphicThe third book in the Rosewood series will release on October 12th. Between now and then, I’m doing a contest! Pre-order STIRRING UP TROUBLE and enter with your confirmation number. One lucky winner will get a Kindle Fire HD 7 in their choice of black or magenta. Enter here by October 11th to be eligible to win!

All entrants will receive an exclusive Rosewood short story not available elsewhere.



Contents of a Writer’s Signing Kit*

At a recent signing event, myself and fellow author Kimberly Lang started comparing our signing kits, noting deficiencies and what we wished we had on us at the time. Together, we came up with a list of things we needed to add to our bags based on issues we’ve run into in the past. So, with RWA around the corner, I thought I’d share the list in case you need to beef up your own kit.

First, the container – I use a small zipper pouch, although I’ve also seen pencil boxes. Whatever inspires you and is big enough to fit everything. My new additions are making for a tight fit on my current pouch. I may need to up size the bag or get some smaller containers for pills, mints, etc.

Now, the contents –

  • One or Two of my favorite purple Geltec pens (my signing pen of choice)
  • Three sharpies – black, pink and silver (for signing fabric, kindle covers, etc. The silver works well on glossy and dark surfaces)
  • Autograph stickers – I get mine from Ninth Moon. I love them.
  • Small scissors (3-4 inches)
  • Tape (opted for the small, pop up tape dispenser)
  • Removable Putty Tabs to hang things without leaving holes
  • Safety Pins
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Travel size tissue
  • Mints
  • Aleve
  • Stash of Business cards
  • Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick
  • A Square or other device to accept credit cards if you’re selling your own books

imageI’ve probably forgotten something, but here you go. Aside from the first few obvious things, the rest result from times when we needed to hang a sign or banner, trim something, or needed to spiff up after some long hours with readers. I have also found that having a mint or headache medicine can endear you to nearby authors in need.

Is there anything I’ve missed that you can’t live without during a signing? I’m always looking for good ideas.

*The title of this blog is inspired by the short story “Contents of a Dead Man’s Pockets” by Jack Finney, which I read in high school. I don’t know why that sort has stuck with me, but basically, its a man on the ledge about to jump who is distracted by what is in his pockets. As I recall, whatever he finds there convinces him not to kill himself. This list is nowhere near as dramatic.


Release Day – Seduced by the Spare Heir

SBTSH_smallIt’s officially release day for my entry in the new Montoros series – SEDUCED BY THE SPARE HEIR! I’m so excited to share this story. Gabriel was an interesting character to write. All playboy on the exterior, but underneath, a guy that was desperate for someone he could trust. Serafia was a woman that everyone thought was beautiful, except her. In their quest to make him suitable to be king, they find what they need in each other and in themselves.

For more information on the book and where you can order it, click here!


The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List

Back when I was on the Writing Playground blog as Smarty Pants, I was known for my annual RWA packing list. I have realized that I leave for RWA in NYC in two weeks, so it’s time to start thinking about packing. It’s been a few years since I posted my list, but I depend on it, so I thought I’d put it on my personal blog for anyone interested. It’s a great place to start building your own list if you don’t have one already. It isn’t specific to NYC, so some things you may need to add or remove depending on the weather of the locale. I’ve also added a few things that are specific to published authors, so if you don’t need to attend a signing or distribute promo, you can ignore those with an *.

Mine is broken into sections, starting with what I’m wearing on the plane. These are usually items that are too bulky to pack and comfortable for travel. Jeans, a sweater and sneakers are must haves in my book and I’ve racked up my share of airline miles in them. Planes get cold and I’ve been so happy to have my sweater instead of wearing shorts and flip flops like all the other tourists. Plus, when they change your gate for the 10th time or your plane is late and you have 15 minutes to make your connection, sneakers are a godsend.

Wear on Plane :
– Nice Shirt
– Jeans
– Sweater
– Sneakers (or slip-ons for walking to make getting them on and off in security easier)
– Socks

Then I have the list of what goes in my carry on. I like backpacks because my hands are free, but this could be your small roller bag, laptop, your toiletry bag…whatever. Just make sure these items are in a bag you physically have custody of at all times. Must have stuff. You don’t want it to end up in DC while you’re waiting at the luggage carousel at LaGuardia.

Backpack :
– Plane Itinerary / Ticket
– Camera & Battery Charger
– Cell Phone & Charger
– 1 extra pair of panties & socks (just in case)
– Book or e-Reader of choice (& charger) to read on the plane
– ID and/or Passport (I keep this and some cash in an easily accessible pocket – one that zips for security – for the 20 times I have to get it out to travel. This is mainly because of the next item.)
– Purse (I transition to a smaller purse and stuff it inside my backpack so I have less to carry. This makes it harder to get to, so I take a few essentials out for the day. Even though you won’t need your keys, be sure to carry them with you as well so you have them when you get home.)
– Snacks & An Empty Water Bottle (They don’t feed you on planes anymore, so this is a MUST. Its also good to have once you get to Nationals so you have something to eat aside from the overpriced hotel food. There is a Walgreens not far from the hotel in Times Square, FYI. As for the water bottle, if you don’t want to pay $3 for a drink, you can refill it as you travel, but it must be empty to get through airport security. You can also get one of those Brita Filtering bottles.)
– Prescription Medication (Never, ever check your pills with your luggage.)
– Travel Alarm Clock (If you can’t set your cell phone, and you can, I’m pretty sure)
– Mini flashlight
– Business Cards
– Signing Kit (pens, stickers, etc.)*
– Presentation Materials (If you’re doing a workshop, everything needs to stay on your person)
– Laptop (If you’re planning to work. Never check your laptop or other expensive electronics.)

Next is what goes in my toiletry bag. Mine is actually a small bag that fits inside my luggage, which is good considering all the charges for extra pieces these days. If you’re carrying this on, remember all liquids, gels and aerosols must be smaller than 3 ounces and must all fit within a clear, one quart ziplock bag. You have to pull this out and run it through the security x-ray separately. If you do check the bag, I still recommend putting liquids inside a ziploc bag in case a bottle comes open and leaks all over your clothes. My makeup remover wipes got squished in my bag, leaking out and making my bras smell like Neutrogena the whole trip.

Toiletry Bag :
– Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss & Mouthwash
– Deodorant
– Hairbrush
– Shampoo & Conditioner (if you can use the hotel provided ones, ok, but my hair is too picky)
– Lotion and Soap (I will use the hotel provided stuff, but if you can’t, pack your own)
– Hair Products – Gel, Hairspray, Mousse, Detangler
– Hair Electronics – blow dryers, curling iron, flat iron, etc. (coordinate w/ roommates to cut down on unnecessary appliances)
– Makeup, brushes, cotton applicators, good mirror, tweezers
– Moisturizer w/ SPF (you might also take outright sunblock if you’ll be outside a lot siteseeing)
– Razor & Shaving gel
– Feminine Hygiene (I always take an emergency stash just in case.)
– OTC Meds – Pain Reliever, Antacids, Stomach Pills
– Clear and colored nail polish & file for manicure fixes and hosiery runs
– First Aid Kit & Extra bandaids (if you have to ask, you don’t know me very well)
– Mini Sewing Kit & Scissors
– Mini bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release Spray & Febreze
– Bandaid Friction Block & Moleskin

Luggage :
– Another copy of your flight itinerary in case your bag loses its ID tag
– Promo items for the Goody Room (bookmarks, giveaways, chocolate for signing)*
– Panties x # of days, plus one or two if you’re going siteseeing and might get sweaty
– Sport or Trouser Socks x # of days needed
– 1 pair pantyhose (I hate them, but its good to carry one pair JIC. I have a pair of shoes that just rubs something fierce without them, but are super comfortable otherwise)
– Regular bras & dress bras (as needed for formals, etc)
– Spanx (the ever-so important foundation garment) & slips as needed
– Casual tops x # of siteseeing/travel days
– 1 pair jeans (if you aren’t doing a lot of tourist stuff, this might not be necessary, especially as I’m wearing a pair on the plane)
– Seasonal Jacket, Raincoat, etc, as needed (depends on where you’re going, as SFO was cold, NYC is NOT)
– Pajamas (I don’t know how many times I stress over every outfit, then forget PJs)
– Pashmina or sweater if you run cold
– Daytime Outfit Components (see breakdown below)
– Party Outfits as needed for Ritas, Publisher Parties, etc.
– Swimsuit, if you think you might manage to make it to the spa at some point
– Badge Lanyard with conference and chapter pins
– Shoes – At a minimum, 2 pairs of comfortable casual shoes or sandals, 1 or 2 dress pairs for formals, maybe some slippers or flip flops if you’re inclined to swim or visit the spa. If you coordinate your outfit to a color scheme, you can cut down to less. I do not recommend wearing the same shoes every day, even if it matches. I find even the most comfortable pair will start to rub and make your feet sore if you wear them over and over. You will do a lot of walking.
– Jewelry – Make sure you know what you’re wearing with each piece and put them all together in a bag with tissue if you don’t have a jewelry travel case.

Finally, to determine my outfits, I use a daily breakdown. I try to bring some neutral pieces like a black sweater or a skirt that I can use a couple times if I need to. Microfiber is awesome – it doesn’t wrinkle and it takes up almost no space in your bag. I also advocate the inclusion of one extra outfit that lies somewhere between your workshop attire and your formal in case you get an impromptu invite to a dinner or a party someplace nice. Here’s my breakdown based on my typical activities…

Wednesday – Blue & black sheath dress, black sandals, navy jewelry
Thursday – Black jeans, pink silk blouse, black ballet flats, pink jewelry
Thursday Night – Navy lace cocktail dress, silver heels, silver jewelry
Friday – Paisley sheath dress, black heels, purple jewelry
Friday Night – Black and white formal, silver heels, silver jewelry
Saturday – Black dress, black heels, pearl jewelry
Saturday Night – Purple formal, purple heels, purple jewelry
Sunday – T-shirt, jeans, etc. for flight home (add days as needed if you’re siteseeing)
Pitch Outfit – if you are pitching, bring the outfit that makes you feel your best if its not already one of the ensembles you’re wearing
Extra Outfit – a fabu, just-in-case outfit that you can wear with the shoes and jewelry you’re already planning to bring

Hope The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List helps make planning for the big trip a little easier for you. Have I missed anything? What’s on your must pack list?