Yeah, I’m being melodramatic. So sue me. First off, thanks to all of you who stopped by and tried to help me calm down in my pre-conference panic. You were all so sweet to this crazy old woman. As I guessed would be the case, I was better once I was on the plane and everything was in motion. But that build-up and packing stress nearly did me in.
The trip was fantastic. I met up with J Perry (aka Julianne) at the Atlanta airport and right away started to feel better. It probably helped that she made me take some of that Airborne stuff. Have I mentioned J is pushy? No? Well, she is. [to the right is a shot of the city from Pier 39]
Anyhoo, smooth flights all the way, none or little sleep achieved which is probably what did me in. We didn’t get to the hotel until 3pm Cali time which meant at that point I had been awake for fourteen hours. And I had at least seven or eight hours to go. Not good.
Since I had to report for raffle ticket selling duty at five, the girls had to go to dinner without me, but Kim C. was awesome enough to stay with me while I grabbed a bit of coffee cake from the Starbucks in the hotel. Kathryn Caskie made me try my cake first before she’d decide if she would buy her own. Happy to say I didn’t mind being her guinea pig one bit. Kathryn is always so sweet even if she does make me feel like a dwarf. [to the left are my fabulous roommates and bestest buddies J Perry & Santa]
Then it was off to sell the tickets. At the signing I met up with *takes a deep breath* Anna Campbell, Christie Craig, Gemma Halliday, Donna MacMeans, Loucinda McGary, Lorraine Heath, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Julia Quinn, Christie Ridgeway, Liz Carlyle, Deb Marlowe, Claudia Dain and Beth Andrews. Oh, and before the signing I caught Leslie Langtry in the lobby bar. Ms. Phillips was out of books by the time I got around to talking to her, but she was incredibly sweet, signed a bookmarker for me, and didn’t seem frightened at all when I said I want to be her when I grow up. By the time I finished attending her workshop the next day, I wanted to tuck her in my pocket and take her home.
Needless to say, with over 500 authors in the room, there were tons more with whom I never got the chance to visit. I almost got to meet Connie Brockway but she was on her way out and I’m not even sure I managed an introduction. Nora Roberts’ and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s lines were way too long to even get close to them. I walked past countless others but couldn’t begin to name them all. [to the right is my other bestest roomie, Manda]
And that was only in the first few hours! There were still three more days to go! Right after the signing I had the pleasure of attending the bash thrown by the Romance Bandits. Talk about an awesome group of women. The fact they are talented writers is just a bonus, these women are funny, generous, and gracious. It felt more like a reunion of friends than a first meeting. I would thank them all but there are so many and I know I’ll miss someone. Here’s a picture of the bunch so you can see I’m not making that number up. And three of them are missing! And yes, I did get my Tim Tams! Whoot to the Awesome Aussie ladies!
The rest of the trip is a whirlwind in my mind. My fondest memories are spending time in the room with my phenomenal roommates. Santa, J Perry, and Manda are the best roommates ever. I would never have had such a good time without them and I thank them for their patience, their humor and their sheer, contagious love. And I especially appreciate my bedmate’s revision of her “sleeping without panties on” policy. Thanks, Santa. LOL! [to the left is Sabrina Jeffries & Stephanie Janulis and our waiter Mitch who jumped in at the last minute]
Saturday was the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn luncheon and though we missed Eloisa terribly (she’s in Italy so we can’t feel TOO sorry for her), we had a fabulous time with special guests Laura Lee Guhrke, Sabrina Jeffries, Elizabeth Hoyt, Candice Hern and Susan Kay Law. And our hostess with the mostess, Julia Quinn, was nice enough to bring an Advance Readers Copy of her next release, Mr. Cavendish, I Presume, which is now making the rounds to all the luncheon participants’ houses. [to the right is Cinthia Hamer (one of my future roomies for M&M) Mary Danielson and J Perry]
I could tell you that snard was pretty much the topic of conversation and many laughs were had by all, but then you’d just be confused and I couldn’t possibly explain it all here. Suffice it to say, my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing and I think I scarred Franceza for life.
After walking to the luncheon with Elizabeth Hoyt, I walked back to the hotel with Julia. I’m not sure my feet touched the ground the rest of the day. Then again, I know they did because that afternoon is when I played hookie from the workshops and book signings to take a sight seeing trip down to Pier 39. Local native, Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy on the Romance Bandits blog, was sweet enough to jump in a taxi with me and be my tour guide for the afternoon. I couldn’t have asked for a better one. [to the left are sea lions at Pier 39]
She pointed out all the important sites, gave background and local folklore, and made sure we made it to the most important shop – Chocolate Heaven. Need I say more. We walked a bit with the goal of getting me on a trolley, but with an hour and a half wait, we decided it was time to find a cab. I’m proud to say that is when I flagged down my first taxi ever. I felt so grown up and “Sex and the City” like. LOL! Then back at the hotel she sat down and taught me how to knit. She even bought me my own needles! I’m adopting her first chance I get. Here’s AC at the Rainforest Café with one of the café regulars. Isn’t she the cutest thing?!
Saturday night was the RITA/Golden Heart ceremony, which is pretty much the RWA version of the Oscars. Everyone looked beautiful and some of those dresses would have looked perfect on the red carpet outside the Shrine Theater in Hollywood. We screamed and cheered for our favorites, jumping out of our seats when Bandita Susan Seyfarth won the Golden Heart and again when Julia Quinn won her second RITA in as many years. Some speeches made us laugh while others made us cry and still others had everyone in the room blushing. I believe everyone there knows which one that was. [to the left are some of the Romance Bandits in thier beautiful RITA/Golden Heart outfits]
I forgot to mention the amazing lounge at the top of the hotel called The View (for obvious reasons). Yes, these pictures are taken out the windows (or should I say glass walls) of the bar. And this is a picture of my James McAvoy bath water. I admit I can’t prove he ever took a swim in the spring in Scotland from which this water was collected, but I have no proof he didn’t either. 😉
Sunday was bitter sweet as I had to watch each of my friends wonder off in the direction of their hometowns. Each time I had to let another go, it felt as if I had this adorable litter of pups and I was giving them all away to good homes, never to see them again. First Manda in the cab, then Santa at the San Fran airport and J Perry in the Atlanta terminal. Even Sabrina Jeffries, who was on our flight and spent lots of time hanging out in the aisle talking to us, was hard to leave in Atlanta.
The good news is that I am determined to put all of the knowledge, determination and inspiration acquired over those four days to good use and finish this damn book! And the even better news is that I get to see J Perry, Manda and my new-found, sweet-as-a-peach friend Cinthia Hamer at the Moonlight & Magnolias conference in Atlanta in October. Then it’s pining away for next year’s conference in Washington D.C. I’m happy to report it’s in my time zone, I can drive up, and I will be much more awake! [to the left are Lindsey Faber (book trailer extraordinaire!) and Sara Lindsey who recently sold for the first time in a 3-book deal to NAL]