Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I survived the 2007 RT Convention

Okay, now that I have your attention...

Getting any idea at all about my week at the RT Convention?

Let me start at the very beginning and then I'll tell you a bit about the guy in the photo. Ha ha - his name is Travis.

So my flight to Houston last Wednesday was eventful, damn it. We flew over tornadoes and monsoons and it was like being on a roller coaster for two hours at least. I'm not afraid to fly but I hate amusement rides and that awful, not being able to touch bottom feeling you get when you are unnaturally tossed around so when I got off the plane I was totally disoriented.

Which meant I could not find the shuttle to the hotel anywhere. I walked around the airport dazed and confused, out in the ground transport area where it had to be one hundred per cent humidity, hot, and rainy...and then I almost got hit by a cab. Anyway, that woke me the hell up and I walked back into the airport, determined to find the shuttle which was, according to the RT website, especially there for us. Oh well. After asking about a hundred clueless people I gave up and used a private service to get to the Hyatt.

On the way there, I saw this and almost fell off my seat laughing:

That would be the law office of Tim Hootman, Esquire. Yep, an attorney with an office in a gaudily painted trailer complete with a large, paper mache naked woman with rather large, err, hootmans, out in front to greet clients.

Anyway, between the delays caused by the weather and my own ineptitude as well as those of the Houston Hobbie Airport employees, I arrived at the hotel around 3:30 p.m. as opposed to 1:00 p.m. as anticipated. And I was freaking starving.

I checked into the Hyatt -- pretty nice hotel -- stumbled into my room and crashed onto the bed. Oh please make the room stop spinning, I begged, burying my face into the pillow.

And then I remembered Oh Crap, I need to register for the actual conference, get my badge, schedule, etc. I dragged myself out of bed, unpacked my suitcase, and headed back down to the lobby.

"Oh, RT registration is on the third floor," the concierge told me after I again wandered around aimlessly. (This is not the hotel or RT's fault...solely mine...okay, not really mine, the fault of the bad weather and rocky flight).

So I went up to the third floor and naturally got lost -- this is a huge, huge hotel but then I saw a bunch of women wearing RT badges and they kindly pointed me in the right direction...and of course once I got there, there was a gigantic line.

I stood there hopping from foot to foot, praying I wouldn't have a panic attack or pass out from hunger. I also knew I had at least two parties that night -- a private party being held in one of the suites at the hotel by author Kally Jo Surbeck, which, I'm going to tell you right now, was probably the best party I attended all week...and the Ellora's Cave Moulin Rouge Party, where I was planning on wearing my new Betsey Johnson dress (see prior post), drinking champagne, and eating decadent chocolate.

Anyway, I finally registered and was given my cool badge, which was blue and said "published author". Readers and aspiring authors got yellow badges which had either "reader" or "aspiring author" and their names on it; book sellers got green ones, and publishers orange. So all of us with blue badges pretty much stalked those with green and orange, and oh god, I saw a whole new side of myself that week which I will go into in a minute.

Oh yeah, these badges were attached to these little badge holders we were supposed to wear around our necks on long black strings but naturally I could never do anything that uncool so I strung mine through my jeans belt and wore it long and hanging like I was working backstage at a rock festival.

Ha ha, what can I saw, once a rebel, always a rebel.

They also handed me a glossy booklet which, hooray, gave me the rooms, times, and information for every single event that week so I no longer had to walk up to other clueless people and ask them where to go.

I got back to my room around 4:30 and my hunger was now making me hallucinate. With two alcohol laced parties ahead of me and no real clue as to whether there'd be anything but snacks and chocolate, I ordered room service. I was still too frazzled to go back down to the lobby and schmooze...even though the lobby looked to have a very nice restaurant as well as...bleh...a Starbucks. That was the biggest bummer of the week -- the hotel only stocked Starbucks coffee. I'd normally rather drink a cup of cigarette ash because they are one in the same and in Houston, smoking is still allowed in hotels so I probably could have dumped out an ashtray and had a free drink instead of $4.50 (yes...that is what they charged...I'm still reeling) for a cup of Starbucks drek.

I ordered a grilled salmon salad and a glass of good wine. I really needed to decompress. But as I've said here on many occasions, I am a lousy drunk, and that one glass of wine combined with nothing but a salad made me even dizzier/giddier. Oh well. I sat on the edge of the bed, talked myself down from all the weirdness. Have I mentioned that some people walk around in costume the whole week? I kept a low profile and watched a little television until it was time to go to Kally Jo's party. I decided to stay in my jeans for that because the Ellora's Cave Party three hours later was formal and there is only so long I can be comfortable in a dress and panty hose.

Kally's party was a blast -- not too many people, and the ones that were there were either Phaze authors I already knew or women I'd met at the RT Convention in St. Louis two years ago so it was a very cool crowd and I felt instantly better. I reached for a shot of something that looked chocolately on a large round table in the middle of the room because it had a can of whipped cream next to it.

"No, no, Robin. You can't just squirt the whipped cream in that drink and swill it normally -- that's a bl*wjob!" (Ahem. I am deliberately misspelling that word because I don't want every knucklehead who googles the real word to find my blog)

"It's a what?" I told you I'm not a drinker...I was never into going to clubs, either, so drinks with names like bl*wjobs and the large display of colored liquids in testtubes also on the table meant nothing to me.

"A bl*wjob! You have to bend over, wrap your lips around the shot glass without using your hands, and drink up," someone said. And then they topped the shot with whipped cream for me.

"So you are telling me I have to stick my face in that and drink it without using my hands?" I asked dubiously, wondering how the hell I could manage that and really, did I even want to?

But then I realized: Robin, you are here to sell books. You are here to schmooze. You know if it were up to you, you would hide in your room all week. Get into the spirit. Kally was nice enough to throw this party and invite really like Kally...drink the damn bl*wjob.

Okay, how sad is that? Again I will reiterate how un-photogenic I am, which will be demonstrated further in the photos below, but in this one I look like I'm at a deranged pie eating contest. I was so nervous -- I had my hands behind my back scared to move lest I break the rules; I don't even remember anyone holding up my hair but there you have it in the photo so someone must have -- anyway, I could not do it. If I had attempted to put that entire shot glass in my mouth filled to the top with Bailey's Irish Cream and whipped cream, I would have spilled it everywhere and I would have been a sticky mess. I know why they're called...heh...never mind. So I made a few feeble attempts, and when people got tired of egging me on and a new victim walked into the room, I quickly drank it up like a normal person and then moved on to the stuff in the test tubes.

Pink and green and pretty tasty -- I still never asked exactly what it was I was drinking, but I believe it was flavored vodka.

An hour later, I found my way back to my room. It only took me ten trys to get the door card to work. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and almost had a stroke. My hair was sticking straight out from the humidity; I was so tipsy I had this silly assed look on my face that I couldn't get rid of even though I tried to physically re-arrange my features with my hands...and I was like "Oh no. No, no, no. How will I ever make it to the Moulin Rouge Party?"

I decided if I attempted a nap, I'd never wake up, so instead I washed my face and pulled my new dress off the hanger.

Uh-oh. I couldn't get it over my head. I kept trying, I really did, but my head ended up in the sleeve one time; and then, when I finally accomplished getting my head through the right hole, I realized I had the damn thing on backwards. As I'm crashing into furniture trying to rectify the situation, I realized I couldn't get it off. It's a really tight, form fitting black velvet dress without a zipper. I sat on the bed, the floor, tried bending over like a pretzel...could not do it. By then I was sweating and hyperventilating and my hair was like this huge scary Afro and I vaguely thought: How the hell can I go to a party tonight?

Because you must, Robin.

Finally, after at least fifteen minutes of struggling, I was able to get undressed.

Without even giving it a second thought, I changed into my pajamas.

It was now around 7:00 p.m.; I had two more hours until the party. I would just stretch out on the bed and take a little nap.

When I opened my eyes again, the bedside clock said 4:00 a.m.

Okay, so I missed my first big RT party. Robin the socialite was already on a roll before the convention was in full swing.

The next morning authors Christina Skye and Bobbi Smith threw a breakfast mixer. They are probably two of the biggest superstars at the convention -- I would later learn to host an event like that costs thousands -- and oh my god, a glance at the program told me something incredible. By the good graces of the alphabet, I would be seated in between the two of them at the book fair/signing on Saturday, which is what all of these parties and mixers led up to. You talked to people and made friends for four days; then they would remember you and come to your table and buy your book on Saturday. Skye, Slick, Smith. How freaking lucky was I? Both women had large lines of fans wherever they went. I would get their run off by sitting at my pathetic, empty spot looking sad and lonely.

Well, this was all in my head of course...because yep, I did indeed start acting like a social butterfly that morning and once I started, I could not shut up. This was good because later that morning and throughout the day, I was on duty at Club RT, which was a large room where every publisher had a long table for their authors to sit and chat with fans and give out promo items.

There I am sitting in between Phaze author Alessia Brio on my left and our publisher, Kat Lively, on my right.

I'm serious. Maybe it was the two cups of Starbucks coffee I had at the Smith/Skye mixer; maybe it was nerves, but I could not shut up. I talked to everyone and anyone who came to our table; I talked Alessia and Kat's ears off...I just could not keep quiet.

It was pretty cool I was in such a state because that night was the night I was dreading the most -- the faery ball.

I'm sorry. I love my faery crown...which I am going to wear at all future readings...heh..well, at least for a while...but my dress made me look like Moby Dick. Here's a photo, but don't even bother to click on it...I shrunk it down for damage control.

There I am looking dazed and confused with my fellow Phaze authors, some of whom were a little too comfortable in their costumes (snort).

Okay, I'm kidding, I'm kidding.

The women in charge of this event really did a nice job, though. The room was beautifully decorated, especially the colored light centerpieces, and we were fed Beef Wellington and this insane chocolate mousse thing for dessert with fresh raspberries. Again, Robin the strangely outgoing talked, took photos, smiled...and kept visiting the bar for courage.

By the time dinner was over, I had to get the hell out of there before I did something stupid. Okay, stupider.

Oh. I just realized I forgot something. We also had a luncheon that day, which I walked out of. It's just that it seems to be that a lot of the women there are either part of military families or are very pro-Bush...anyway, when they served us lunch a speaker stood up and started cheering on our men in Iraq; made an announcement that one of the husbands who was just sent home was being deployed again...and the whole room burst into wild applause. I was horrified and said to myself "You'd better get the hell out of here before everyone starts singing God Bless America" and you scream at the top of your lungs "Impeach and Arrest Bush and Cheney! They have committed murder, you fools!"

I mean, I was over caffinated, over-tired, and another person had entered my body that day so I could not trust what I'd do. My leaving that luncheon was brilliant, actually, and by walking across that crowded seated ballroom while the speaker was still in full pro-war mode was one of my favorite non-writer moments of the event. Yes, I know. I am a legend/rebel in my own mind, but nevertheless, I made myself very happy by doing that. At least I wasn't a total sell-out.

The next day brought more time at Club RT where I really had a blast. People I'd met the day before stopped by to talk, they picked up my book, my publisher told them if they bought it at Club RT she'd take $5 off the list price so it flew off the table before the actual book sale on Saturday.

We also had another luncheon that day and I decided to go and play nice. But while standing nervously in line, I noticed a tall, attractive man giving out books and standing next to him was a woman signing them. Uh-oh, he had an orange badge on. That meant publisher. Who was he? I grabbed one of the novels he was offering. Oh. My. God. He was Ken Siman, publisher of Virgin Books. What a perfect fit he would be for my novel! I'm afraid I went into full Insane Robin overdrive and pitched him my book while waiting in line. But check this out. He knew about Rock School, he knew about Adrian Belew...and oh holy crap, despite my obnoxious, aggressive behavior while this poor man was trying to help his new author distribute and sign books, he graciously invited me to send him my manuscript directly. you think I said yes and thanked him enough times?

So yep, my first act upon returning to Philly was to visit the post office. Light a candle for me or something, will you?

Anyway, that little encounter made my day and I was on cloud nine for the much so that I didn't even worry about the vampire party that night. Oh. Excuse me. The Wild, Wild, West Vampire Party. Which I guess meant fangs and a cowboy hat? I had no idea. All I knew was, I'd missed wearing my Betsey Johnson dress at the Moulin Rouge party; I was going to wear it to the vampire thing instead because of course when I tried my vampire dress on, which also had no zipper, I managed to rip it practically in half pulling it over my head.

What, do I have the biggest head in the world? Great. Just what I need. Another complex.

There I am with author Eden Bradley, who apparently took her role as vampire very seriously. Do I look like I was enjoying it a little too much? Nah. Trust me on this. Once again, two glasses of wine and I was three sheets to the wind.

Needless to say, I ate my dinner...which oddly enough was billed as a Texas barbecue and instead were two sausages on a plate in a pool of sauce...and I couldn't help but think to myself "Oh, I see how it is here. First you have to drink a bl*wjob, then you have to actually eat the....never mind."

I booked out early once again and apparently missed a lot of unladylike behavior.

There is a God.

Oh. I just realized I forgot to tell you about Travis and friends. Travis, in case you have forgotten by now, is the boy whose photo appears first in this mini-series of a blogpost. Travis was one of I guess ten or so cover models vying for the title of Mr. Romance. Whoever won that contest also won the opportunity to be the next Dorchester Publishing cover know, the next Fabio. So these guys walked around all week, having their photos taken with "fans"...because really, a lot of romance readers attend this convention and they live for this stuff. Look, I'm going to be honest here. Most of these guys are either way too buff, oily, or, um, gay. But poor Travis, who is actually entering medical school in the fall, was there because his mother is a romance writer and she coerced him into it. He's really a nice kid and I voted for him despite my saying to myself I would never vote for anyone...but he didn't of the oiled guys did instead, I think...I really have no idea.

Anyway, finally after three days of hard work and social torture, it was time for the bookfair on Saturday. I fucking ruled there! I sold every single book I had; all of the readers I met at Club RT on Thursday and Friday did in fact visit me; I went out of my way to talk with Bobbi Smith and Christina Skye's fans and yep, they all bought my book, too -- by the way, I adore both Bobbi and Christina and Christina actually hugged me after the event was over. I picked their brains, especially Bobbi, because I'd heard the unfortunate rumor...which isn't a rumor at all...that places like Borders and Barnes and Nobel would soon be doing print on demand. Which meant that they would carry one print book by an author to stock on their shelves and if you wanted to buy it, they're going to have special machines on location which would print out your copy. Oh, the humanity, I thought to myself. All the jobs lost. And what about hardcover books? Would they be going the way of the dinosaur?

This just can't happen. Ebooks are horrid enough, and I have one out there but thankfully it's going to print. I tried to make myself feel better by equating publishing to music. I mean, who'd have ever thought albums would be obsolete let alone CDs? Tower Records went out of business! So why should writing be any different.

I'm sorry. I love books. I love their feel, their smell, everything about them. No fucking way am I going to sit there with a Sony reader on a four hour plane ride with an ebook. Okay, no fucking way am I ever going to sit with a Sony reader anywhere. I want print books, damn it! We must rebel against this crap, fellow writers!

Whoops. There I go again. But damn it, this country needs a revolution in more ways than one!

So here I am at the book fair, and I actually love this photo (which Bobbi Smith was kind enough to take)'s the only one here which I really feel looks like me. Damn digital cameras. Don't get me started on that, either.

So after a triumphant day of book selling and having enjoyable author/reader chats, we had our final party of the convention, Dorchester Publishing's Rock and Roll Immortals. Yay! Finally something I could dress like Robin for...and here I am with Eden in, yes, it's true, my Gaiman shirt again. Hey, I went five days without wearing I get a trophy?

Only bummer about that party was the music. Err...they did say rock and roll, but that translated into "Shout", "Louie, Louie", and "Dancin' in the Street".

Eden and I looked at each other, pissed.

"I'm going to go speak to the disc jockey," she said. I laughed. I was already planning my escape back to my room, especially once I noticed they were serving nothing to eat but popcorn and cheese. But then again, I love popcorn and cheese and they didn't advertise this as a dinner, it was a late night wrap party and what goes better with alcohol?

Eden came back and said to me, "The dj told me he's under strict instructions to play this stuff. I asked him, like, don't you have any Doors or Led Zep?"

"Ha ha, as if," I replied.

But sure enough, maybe because Eden is so fucking gorgeous, the very next song was The Doors.

Except of course I am a snob who doesn't like the Doors, either, but compared to Louie, Louie and Shout it was like listening to Frank Zappa so I stayed for another glass of wine before quietly slipping out the door.

I fell into a coma like sleep, woke up Sunday morning, took advantage of the hotel's all you can eat Sunday brunch where I behaved and had a custom eggwhite omelet filled with mushrooms, fresh fruit, and yoghurt.

The convention was over and I went home. I was never so happy to see Philadelphia in my life.

And yet...despite my differences...i.e., being cool hippie chick in a decidedly unhip environment, I ended up having a blast. Every single person was ultra-nice; I really bonded with a couple of people (Hi, Stella! Hi, Audra...Eden, Kat, Bobbi, Christina, Ken Siman hopefully, etc. etc.)...and yeah, yeah...assuming I have a new book out next year, I will be back again for RT Convention 2008, which is being held in Pittsburgh this time! Yay, Pittsburgh!

Cos' this time I'm bringing Gary with me...we'll drive instead of fly...and he really needs to see this for himself.

Or it's more like I need him to help me get dressed, feed me, and take photos because I am an apparent failure to do any of that without him.

Okay, it's really because Gary would have yelled Impeach and Arrest Bush and Cheney at that luncheon and not wimped out like I did which is why I love him so much.