Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Decadent days in Orlando: The Romantic Times Convention 2009

So you know, you go to the Romantic Times Convention to meet and mingle with your readers, attend/speak at workshops, and go to a few faerie and vampire balls, and then, the big wrap-up, sell your books at Ye Olde Book Fair. In other words, you are supposed to be on your best author-like behavior. Meet me and my posse:

Okay, obviously I'm the one in front who hasn't learned proper posture yet, and behind me, going left to right, the following brilliant women: Author/artist Ash Arceneaux, editor Luci Calanor, author/artist Stella Price, and author Kayleigh Jamison. The five of us basically stuck together throughout the entire convention, with the exception of Saturday night, when Luci and Kay snuck over to the "dark side"...i.e., the cover model competition. More on that in a minute.

But first, here are some photos I took of our accommodations. Not too bad, huh.

The only real problem with our hotel was that the convention center was a hike from our "garden apartments" but they had these little golf carts you could call to transport you to and from. I was pretty lucky, though. My room not only faced the pool, but I was only three buildings away from said center so it was a five minute trip over various footbridges surrounding the lagoons and other than drunkenly getting lost my first night there and walking around the pool, oh, seven or a thousand times, I finally realized the buildings were numbered and I had in fact passed mine, Building 10, at least 50 times on my search...but after that...a piece o'cake.

So here's Stella, Kay, and yours truly getting together Stella's infamous goodie bags to give to unsuspecting readers at the first Book Expo on Wednesday night..and yeah, I know, corny and immature as hell, the finger gestures for whatever reason became my m.o. for almost every photo session. Why, why, why. Can I blame alcohol? Because yeah, that stuff flowed throughout the convention. You might think writers drink a lot or something. Sheesh.

Here's Ash and I having a glass of champagne at what had to be the absolute BEST party I have ever attended during all of my years at various RT Conventions, including the dastardly Faerie Ball and Vampire whatever. This was a private, catered pre-faerie ball affair thrown by the wonderful people at All Romance Ebooks. Okay, now I must go into food freak mode because it was an incredible spread. Huge, unbelievable shrimp. Skewers of roasted vegetables. Skewers of chicken and fresh pineapple. Sweet potato empanadas. Open faced mini prime rib sandwiches. Oh, and did I mention the champagne? It literally flowed. I was so buzzed when I left there I was like, fuck the faerie ball, but the others made me go. They were all dressed up, I chose to stay in jeans but as you can see by the below photo, I did make one concession - I traded my black t-shirt for a ruffled black blouse from Lucky Brand Jeans which I thought was way cool until I just saw that pic and realize I am so, so, so not a ruffle person. Looks like my daughter may be inheriting a new piece of clothing...

Because my room was closest to the "ball", my, um, posse decided to change in my room. It was like the Rocky Horror Prom Night Show. Since I was not getting dressed up, I sat back on the bed and watched, but when Ash took out her bra, it was hard not to (1) wonder how I could get it into the Guinness Book of World Records and (2) put it on my head because trust me, there was enough for two heads in that thing:

The five of us quickly realized that the food at the hotel was, well, awful, so we frequently went on jaunts to Orlando restaurants. I can't find a photo from the first night, but we ate at an amazing seafood restaurant where I had oak grilled salmon topped with lump crab meat and asparagus, swimming in a white wine sauce with baked, yes baked, french fries on the side. Sick, sick, sick. Anyway, you'll have to take my word for it since I didn't whip out my camera, but here we are at lunch...God forgive me, you know my stance on chain restaurants, but we ate at the Olive Garden and oddly enough, it was good. Of course I stuck to the pasta, salad and breadstick lunch and it's pretty hard to fuck that up...they were even kind enough to substitute whole wheat pasta for me, which, after looking at these photos, I clearly need and should have said "no" to the breadsticks but oh well, I was on vacation and the diet resumed when I got home.

At least in theory.

I'm also noticing I have a drink in my hand in many of the pics (P.S., if you visit Ash's site linked above, there are many, many more photographs and you will also see that this is where I've lifted most of these)

Like, I found this one on Ash's site - do not remember if it's from the Faerie or Vampire Ball but you get the point...i.e., why I wanted to blow them off.

Okay, this one was definitely from the Faerie Ball and why this guy is wearing a french maid costume I have no idea (because it belonged to his wife and she said "I'm sorry, I don't have any more faerie costumes but how about this?) but it seemed like a good photo op at the time. Remember, much alcohol consumed here...in fact, I don't even remember that pic.

Nor this one...but obviously I was beginning to fade. I'm just kind of staring at everyone, wondering WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING HERE?

Oh, yeah, I remember. It's so I can meet and hang out with famous writers like New York Times best selling author Jacqueline Frank.

Remember when I mentioned the "dark side" as concerns two of my friends? Well, apparently Jackie took a walk over there as well...

I, however, am far too cerebral for that, choosing instead to fawn over hang out with brilliant author Barry Eisler.

Hey, Susan Henderson! Barry says Hello!

Oh look, yet another restaurant shot, this time with uber fan Andrea, and meeting her was one of the highlights of the trip. We seemed to share the same wardrobe...i.e., black t-shirts and jeans...throughout.

Finally, though, it was time for the big book sale/signing. After partying half the night away, it was a two fisted coffee morning for me.

Here's a shot of my author table at the Grand Ballroom where the book sale was held...pretty impressive swag, huh. Note to all of those of you to whom I promised guitar pic jewelry...I struggled like you would not believe to make those necklaces because I had grand plans of adding beads and crystals, etc. but it literally would have cost me $1,000 and about three months of my life. So I finally threw in the towel and improvised...i.e., just stuck the damn pics on some silk cord, and they actually came out awesome so I will be mailing them out to anyone wanting one this week.

Now this next photo makes me kind of famous - i.e., I made the front page of the official Romantic Times Blog:

"Bring On the Book Fair
This morning's book fair was a madhouse - tables of books galore, authors talking and taking pictures, and of course the readers. My roommate and I alone managed to buy a total of 37 books, give or take a few. Each of us went in with the intention of not loading up our arms, but neither of us managed to succeed.

Shortly after I was done at the book fair, I donated blood. Raz Steele held a blood drive, with all donors getting a copy of one of his books.

It was a fun experience, getting to chat with authors I missed during the previous few days, and catching up with the others. I made a point of finding some authors I hadn't already read and am looking forward to finding out how good they are."

And as you can see, I'm the first photo under that paragraph and she actually bought Daddy Left Me Alone with God ten minutes before the book fair opened to the public which was way, way cool.

After the book fair ended, naturally we were starving again. It was our last night there, and since Kay and Luci went over to the dark side along with our pal, Andrea, to vote on the best cover model and watch them strut up and down the "runway", Stella, Ash and I decided to have dinner at a nearby Japanese steakhouse and Ash got the hostess to take our pic for yet another restaurant Kodak moment.

Meanwhile, the entire time, I was feeling sicker and sicker. My head ached, my throat burned, and my stomach...well...let's just say I spent more time sleeping on the bathroom floor than in my bed. I thought for sure I was going to die on the flight home to Philadelphia the next morning, and I spent the next seven days sick as a dog in bed, pretty sure I had the swine flu, which, all things considered, seemed like a fitting end...

But all is cool now and I'm back and ready to write.

Stay tuned for some more news tomorrow about Eric's ever increasing gig list (including his participation in yet another band...which is probably the worst kept secret in Prog World right now) and photos of some ultra cool gifts from ABPT fans!