Okay, so I’ve been pretty much in my cave since getting back from GayRomLit. Not like I’m a terribly social person to begin with, and after five days of more social exposure than I normally get in any given year, I’ve been having some “me” time. Plus editing and writing. No kidding, this is my status message on GoogleTalk right now:
Editing and/or writing. Unless your name is God or Phil Coulson, you cannot possibly have anything to say worth disturbing me for.
So yeah, there’s that, too. Strain edits are progressing apace and it’s really exciting to think that there’s only three and a half months left until it releases. Even better, review copies and an excerpt should be going out within the next month, I imagine, so I can finally start to feel like this book, which has comprised a significant chunk of my creative energy since September last year, is finally getting into people’s hands and I can start getting the pay-off (by which I mean feedback and just knowing people are reading it, which is way more important than money for my creative soul.)
Edits are also in their final stages for Inch by Inch: The Professor’s Rule #3, and I believe we’ll have cover art and more information on that very soon. Heidi and I have begun on TPR #4 and if all goes according to plan, the series will wrap up with TPR #5.
I would love to say I have pictures to share of GRL, but honestly, I’m not a camera person. Like, if something is happening around me, my first thought is never “oh, grab the camera, take a picture!” so I actually don’t have that many pictures. We’ll have to settle for words.
My journey began on Tuesday, when I flew out of PDX with Devon Rhodes. Anne Tenino was on our same flight, but on Wednesday, so we didn’t get to travel with her. Devon booked a car from the airport rather than taking a taxi or MARTA, for which I ended up being extremely grateful because I decided to be very frugal with my packing space and managed to get everything I needed to take (minus the books and business cards that shipped from the printer right to the hotel) in a carry-on size suitcase and my backpack/laptop case, which meant that what I did have was VERY HEAVY. Especially that damn backpack. If I’d had to haul that thing on my back and take MARTA I probably would have cried.
Traveling in the car with us as well was Rick R. Reed, who had been waiting in the airport after his flight from Seattle. GRL peeps were already starting to congregate in the lobby bar of the Melia when we got there, including the lovely P.D. Singer, whom I’ve been blessed to see three frickin’ times this year. I also got to meet Eden Winters and EM Lynley, as well as a handful of others. The most interesting conversation I had that night, hands-down, has to go to Anel Viz, who sat with me and gave me some really lovely feeback, both flattering and constructive, on my Impulse books, which it turned out he’d read. He’s a fascinating guy and meeting him was an absolute pleasure.
Wednesday was the Writer’s Workshop, which was great except that the air conditioning in the hotel was set to “meat locker.” Well, not according to everyone else, but I was freezing. I kept ducking into the “powder room” area of the women’s restroom because it had all these big, warm vanity lights that kept it considerably warmer than the other rooms. The reason I mention this is because when I get cold, I go into hibernation mode and all I want to do is sleep. I swear I’m part reptile or something. Coupled with an already critical sleep deficit, I decided to pass on the third session of the day and catch a nap, but before I did that, I attended the luncheon where KA Mitchell was the guest speaker, and *sigh* I would sell my soul to be able to be that interesting and glib when speaking publicly.
The fourth session, I was a panelist on the BDSM panel, moderated by Sarah Frantz. There I got to finally meet LA Witt and Rachel Haimowitz, and KA Mitchell was on that panel as well. Being the final session of the day, only six people attended, but that was fine because it was intimate and we had a lot of fun and there are six people–including my esteemed co-author Heidi Belleau–who probably now know far more personal details about me than they ever wanted, since I was on the panel as a person who actually is into BDSM in real life.
Wednesday night, Riptide hosted a dinner for all the authors and employees who managed to attend, so there were a lot more people I got to meet, including Cat Grant, LC Chase, Aleks Voinov, Abi Roux, Marie Sexton, Alex Whitehall and Ally Blue, and Riptide’s new marketing guru, Keturah Jenkins. I ended up sitting across from Ally at the table and she was just a wonderful person to talk to over dinner.
Lots of people went out Wednesday night, but by the time I got back to the hotel I discovered my feet were swelling rather alarmingly. Like, I never was that swollen even when I was pregnant. So I decided to take it easy and stuck to my room.
Thursday morning launched GRL proper, and the first function–aside from the newbie informational session hosted by Jay of JoyfullyJay, was the Supporting Author’s Signing event. I had ordered a number of print copies of the Impulse books that I could offer for sale, and I also had coupon codes for ebook downloads. Riptide was giving away copies of Giving an Inch (TPR #1) as swag, complete with excerpts from An Inch at a Time, Apple Polisher and Strain in the back. There I got to meet Allison Hickman, who has been just lovely and supportive and kind here and on other social media. It’s always an ego boost to get to sign autographs, especially being someone so new to the genre whom a lot of people haven’t even heard of, but even more gratifying was the number of people who remarked on Kerry Chin’s artwork on the Impulse covers. I’m so proud of those, I really can’t get enough of hearing how beautiful they are. You’d think I was the frickin’ artist. Everyone kept remarking how sweltering the signing room was, and I was all, “No no! This is the first time I’ve been comfortable since I got here!” Me and my inner thermostat, I tell ya.
At the signing I got to sit next to Anna Martin, the author of Tattoos & Teacups, and listen to her absolutely adorable accent for two hours. That was a lot of fun.
By the time lunch rolled around, the swelling in my feet had escalated from alarming to “Um, do I need to see a doctor for this?” P.D. Singer, a pharmacist by profession, took a look at them and asked me very earnestly if I had a history of congestive heart failure. I’m not even kidding. Seriously, the things looked like balloons and all the tissue from my shins to just about where my toes began had the consistency of molding clay. So I ended up missing Anne Tenino’s reading and the rest of the Thursday afternoon events in favor of putting my feet up on a huge stack of pillows while P.D. Singer graciously brought me lunch so I wouldn’t have to order room service. By evening the swelling had gone down enough that I ventured out to the Juke Joint party, but I was still trying to stay off my feet as much as possible, and where I was staying off my feet was not where anyone I knew–or anyone to strike up a conversation with at all, really–was lingering, so I only stayed about an hour. Then I went back to my room to put my feet up again and fight with the hotel wifi some more.
God, the hotel wifi. I could write a whole post about that alone. It was horrible. Around Friday evening or so, I made a tweet entreating the hotel internet to get fucked with a rusty pitchfork, and I think just about everyone following the #GRL2013 tag favorited or retweeted it, so I was definitely not alone in my struggles. I would pass through an area where my phone managed to connect long enough for me to get a text from my husband and by the time I could stop and reply, I wouldn’t be able to connect anymore (no, I don’t have a data plan on my new iPhone; I almost never use it anywhere where there isn’t wifi, so there’s no sense paying for one.)
Luckily, keeping my feet elevated for the best part of a whole day did the trick and the swelling had gone down by Friday morning. I spent the morning in a bit of a panic because one of the Fun Faire events was a welcome for the supporting authors hosted by Marie Sexton and Lori Witt, for which I’d been invited to do a reading. I’ve only ever done one other reading, and that was in September up in Seattle, and I kind of bumbled it a bit. I REALLY didn’t want to make a fool of myself, so I spent the morning practicing. P.D. Singer promised me I was among friends who would understand if I stumbled or stammered, as did Lori and Marie, but still. However, the reading went very well, I think. I wish I had a video of it, but to the best of my knowledge, no one was taking video of that particular event (if someone was, PLEASE hook me up!) If I had a video, it would be your first look at Chapter Three of Strain, which is where things begin to get really interesting. As it is, you’ll have to wait for the excerpt from Riptide. Sorry. So I was really happy with that event, even if I didn’t win the bag of Tucker Springs print editions. The next event was hosted by Riptide, a competition where you had to guess a book’s title based on an excerpt of a sex scene where the significant give-away details had been altered to make it unrecognizable. I managed to score a paperback of Abi Roux’s Shock & Awe, which was very enjoyable and worth its weight in gold for bragging rights to my BFF, who is a C&R addict.
Friday night was the Dine With An Author dinner, and I ended up sitting with some absolutely lovely people there, including Anna Zabo. The woman sitting to my left–whose name I can’t remember now, I’m so sorry!–actually lives in the area of Michigan where I used to live, so when she asked me about my upcoming releases and I mentioned Saugatuck Summer, she was like, “You mean, as in Saugatuck, Michigan?” and that was really awesome because she knew exactly what I was talking about and why Saugatuck is such a perfect setting for a series of m/m coming-of-age and romance stories.
After dinner, there was the Dreamspinner cocktail party, where we got to see everyone dressed to the nines. I was looking for a place to sit down with my drink and dessert and a party of three other women asked if they could sit at the empty table I’d chosen because all the others were full, and what followed was the sort of socializing I almost never do, which is comfortable, engaging conversation with virtual strangers. Usually I hide in my shell like a turtle until I know someone well enough to venture out, but that evening it was effortless and I really loved sitting and talking with them. After they had moved on, Melanie Marshall, who reviewed the Impulse books over at JoyfullyJay as well as her own blog, made room for me at her table and I got to talk to them for a while until it was time to call it a night so I could go back to my room and call my son and husband before they went to bed.
I’d say of the entire retreat, that party was the most remarkable for me, precisely because of that socialization thing. I spent an ENTIRE EVENING socializing with people I didn’t know. That never happens to me. I am absolutely incapable of bringing myself to break the ice with strangers, but from dinner onward, I didn’t hang out with a single person with whom I had any sort of acquaintance, aside from an email or two I had exchanged with Melanie thanking her for her lovely reviews.
Saturday morning, I attended P.D. Singer’s reading and then hung out in the bookseller’s room with the Riptide peeps for a while. I went out to a late breakfast with P.D., Eden Winters and a couple others, and then I had an appointment with Nicole Forcine, who aside from being an author herself is a member of the Happily Ever After video book club on YouTube. I hadn’t heard of this club before, but I’m definitely a fan now. Being the only member of the four of them who would be attending GRL, Nicole got tapped to do some author interviews and vlogging, and I arranged to do an interview with her. It just so happened that Anne Tenino was also available at the same time, so the Ladies From Portland (minus the lovely Devon Rhodes) did a joint interview. You can find that here:
The interview was a lot of fun, and I’d never met Nicole before but OMG is she a hoot. I just adore her now. It also turned out that her book club had covered Giving an Inch just a few weeks before. You can find that video here:
The night was Totally Bound’s Heaven & Hell masquerade party, for which I got to dust off a very old outfit and add a mask. I don’t have any really good pictures of myself from the party that night, so here’s one from when I bought the gown about thirteen years ago:
I don’t look as good in the gown these days, because I no longer fit into the corset I was wearing under it in this picture, and Spanx just don’t achieve that same effect (namely, pushing your boobs up so high you could wear them as earrings.)
I also had some absolutely amazing old-fashioned shoes laced up with ribbons, which I ended up taking off because Sarah Frantz–God only knows how; I suspect mind-control powers–managed to get me out onto the dance floor. So I spent a good chunk of the party dancing with Sarah, Heidi Belleau, Keturah Jenkins, Alex Whitehall, and Nicole Forcine, who is just a party animal.
I was going to go to the after-hours hangout in the pub, but then I decided it would be better for me to try to pack that night instead of rushing to do it Saturday morning. So I was pretty much almost completely packed by Saturday morning, which meant I got to linger over the farewell brunch with people I didn’t get to spend a lot of time talking to during the conference. And then I got to hang out with them some more in the hotel lobby while I had lunch and waited until it was time for the car service to take Devon, Anne and I back to the airport.
So. I met a lot of people, connected with several others I already knew, and even managed to socialize with some of them after I hit my stride. All in all it was a really great time, even if it was somewhat overwhelming at times. I probably would have gotten more out of the early days if my body hadn’t decided to get weird and turn my feet into inflatable rafts. I think next year in Chicago, if I can manage it, I will try to go as a featured author, and hopefully I will feel less like a clueless newbie and hit my stride a lot sooner.