And then...there was Romantic Times.
Okay, you have to understand that I'm terrified of these things. I'm a shy person. I'm happy to curl up with a book, hang out by myself, pet my cats. Meeting people, in public -- hell, speaking in public -- can make me so nervous that I practically vomit on my shoes. The day before RT, I was so freaked out that I cried to Loving Husband. Me, leave him with the Tax Deductions? For five days? With only his parents to help? Eek! I was a bad, bad wife and mom. I was putting my writing before my family. I was selfish.
I was off the deep end. He practically kicked me onto the plane.
"You know there's a Mr. Romance contest," I said, desperate. "I'll be ogling mostly naked men."
"Have fun," said Loving Husband. "And remember to bring singles."
Off I went to the airport, horribly nervous that the seven (SEVEN) boxes of promotional items I'd shipped (on Monday -- for a total of $616. Have I mentioned that my basement flooded the week before? I was slightly distracted) hadn't arrived, that the airline would lose my luggage, that God would decide it was time for me to meet my Maker and do something whimsical like zap the plane with lightning and sear off a wing. Waiting on line at security at the airport hadn't helped; I'd been singled out to go into the Puffer Room, where a puff of air blasted me for 15 seconds, teasing my hair to 1980s Aqua Net proportions. (I asked what the purpose was after they were done with the uber blow dry. They said that if I'd handled explosives in the past three days, they'd know.) This was after they stopped my carry ons to rummage through them. Apparently, I look like a terrorist.
Finally, I got on the plane. Zipped to Philly, no problem. An hour later, I was on the plane headed for Houston. We taxied out. Ninety minutes later, we actually took off. Hit turbulence along the way. The whole fear about God being whimsical? Dude, forget whimsical; I thought God was being downright sadistic. There are no atheists in foxholes, or in airplanes cutting through turbulence. Where's the barf bag?
And then, Houston. I get my suitcase with no problems. I grab a taxi to the hotel. Fifty-four dollars (yes, really) later, I'm signing in, getting my keycard, requesting that a bellhop bring up all seven boxes of Shtuff, which had all arrived safely. I ride up in an elevator cab that's not possessed (one of the elevators there, every once in a while, would stop on every floor and also ignore all the floors people pressed to have the elevator stop there. Between that and the way the glass elevators looked out over the hotel in stomach-churning glory, I'm convinced someone died in the car and is haunting it) and get to my room. Quick unpacking; then my boxes arrive. More unpacking. The large room now looks like a card store vomited all over it.
Wednesday afternoon was all about me setting up my basket of goodies in Promo Lane (Swag Alley) -- my Love Your Inner Demon post-it notes, pens, stressballs, bookmarks, and business cards, all piled up in a spiffy container, with a foam-backed self-standing board that was a beautiful shot of the Hell's Belles cover standing behind it. Let me tell you, when 300 authors are at a convention, there's LOTS of promo stuff out. LOTS. Hand to stand out. I think next year, I'll hire a Chippendale's Dancer to stand in Promo Lane and hand out chocolate. Eye candy, don't you know.
I also attended some panels on Wednesday, got acquainted with the hotel bar, met my roommate (one of the MaryJanice Yahoos -- hi, Wendy!), opted out of the Tex-Mex dinner to eat at the hotel restaurant, attended a "Moulin Rouge" dance hosted by Ellora's Cave, and got reacquainted with the hotel bar. I also hooked up with Richelle Mead and her husband Michael, with Terri and Jose (more MJ Yahoos -- and uber fabulous people), with Christina Radish from Media Blvd Magazine (hi, Christina!), and met tons of other authors and readers. When I finally get my photos developed (yeah, developed; I didn't have my digital camera. Stop that laughing, damn it) I'll probably remember more about that night. Have I mentioned the hotel bar yet?
Crawled into bed around, um, 12ish. Got up at 6 the next day to call home and speak to the Boys. So far, so good; my sons didn't hate me (yet) for leaving, my husband was still coping, and all was well with the world. Huzzah. Then I showered...and discovered that my disposable razor was missing its disposable razor blade. Looked like airport security had opted to remove such a dangerous weapon. You'd think they would have taken the box cutter I'd packed in my suitcase. Guess they left it because it was a purty blue. Who knows? See the whole God is whimsical thing above.
Richelle told me the night before that she was meeting Charlaine Harris for breakfast...and so was I. EEK! Me? Meet The Charlaine Harris? But...she's a Famous Author! I'd sound like a goober! Richelle pffted my fangirl fears and threatened me with bodily harm if I weren't in the hotel lobby at 8 am. Now, for Richelle to be anywhere at 8 am, you know it's serious. So I didn't mess around: I made it there on time. Along with Richelle, I met Jeanne Stein (a fabulous author and terrific person), two wonderful booksellers whose names I'm totally blanking on, eek, and, of course, Charlaine Harris. (I may have met Debi Murray then, too, but it's all sort of blurring. Did I miss anyone? Eek...) Richelle introduced us, and as I shook Charlaine's hand, I said to her that I feel like I should be bowing. I wound up sitting next to her at breakfast...and had a marvelous time. I didn't vomit, or anything! She's a fabulous person. I'm so going out to buy her Grave series.
I went to a 10 am panel on something I don't remember, then ran upstairs to get the Bookseller Basket I'd made (to be raffled off to a bookseller, natch) and dropped it off. (Those seven boxes of shwag? One was just baskets. That's probably a store somewhere: Just Baskets.) Then I hung out with Jose for a bit by the bar (dude, do I sound like an author yet?), and then I met my agent at 11:30 to discuss Very Important Things About My Career.
Okay, the wheres, whens, and whos are getting jumbled (note to self: BLOG MORE IN REAL TIME, damn it), but off the top of my head, here are some of the authors I met, hung out with, and basically made an idiot of my self with:
Jim Butcher and Shannon Butcher: Shannon is a new romance author, whose novel No Regrets is on my TBR pile. Jim, her husband, has dabbled with writing about some wizard named Harry. (No, the other wizard named Harry.) They're very nice people. I think I scared Jim on Saturday when, after he told me he'd liked Hell's Belles, I said I'd be sending him an ARC of Road. Then I qualified it with "I'm not looking for a blurb, it's just for you to read." Then he breathed a sigh of relief. You'd think he gets hit up for a lot of blurbs or something...
Rachel Caine: Dude, she is so freaking cool that there aren't enough words to explain just how cool she is. Ditto for her husband. Richelle, Michael, Christina and I went out to dinner with them -- a Mexican restaurant, where I thought I was getting tacos and wound up getting something vaguely taco-like -- and we had a terrific time. I already thought Rachel was touched by God based on her amazing Weather Wardens series. Now I absolutely have to get the YA vampire series too. Damn it, why couldn't these authors be NOT so nice? Then I wouldn't be going to the poorhouse. "Sorry," I'll tell my Tax Deductions, "you can't go to college. Rachel Caine's too nice, so I had to buy all her books, and now I'm broke and you're SOL." I'm sure they'll understand...
Cathy Clamp: She's the co-author of the amazing Sazi and Thrall series (er, serieses?) from Tor Romance (along with C.T. Adams). Cathy's also blurbed Hell's Belles -- THANKS, CATHY -- and I'm thrilled that the same blurb will appear on the back of The Road to Hell (in the "Praise for Hell's Belles" section). She joined me and Richelle for lunch at Mickey D's (hey, we authors eat in style), and she shared marketing/promotion tips that were seriously brilliant.
MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi: MaryJanice is one of the most giving, sharing authors I've met. Along with being very supportive, she's told me a lot about the business, and how far she's come in JUST THREE YEARS. Yoikes. She's also hysterically funny. Which helps, when you want to write about snarky vampire queens and disgruntled mermaids. Tony is charming, smart, and just as sharing about the writing process as MaryJanice. I had a terrific time with them, both at the Breakfast Bash on Friday (which MaryJanice invited me to co-host with her and the lovely and talented Michele Bardsley) and at a party on Saturday night.
Okay, there are more, TONS more. But I digress.
Thursday afternoon, I did a panel with Richelle and four other authors on how paranormal can be in any genre. How did I get on the panel? I'm an opportunistic whore. I heard two days before RT that Christine Feehan wouldn't be able to make the convention. I'd known that she was supposed to be on Richelle's panel. So I threw myself at the feet of the gods of RT (in this case, the amazing Cheyenne McCray) and begged to be Not-Christine on the panel. She said, "Sure!" And then Richelle had to strongarm me onto the actual panel when it was time, because I suddenly remembered that I'm actually terrified about speaking in public. So I did the panel...and it went well. Two people told me after the panel that they really liked what I had to say. DUDE! They listened! Cool! (Hi, Lynda and Julie -- I'll get your checks out this week.)
That night was The Fairy Ball. All I can say is WOW, people really go all out on their costumes for this shindig! Me, I wore my devil horns. (Yes, I wore more than that too. Get your mind out of the gutter.)
Okay, I'm exhausted, and there's still Friday and Saturday to babble about. That will be Part Two. Good night!