Category Archives: conventions

A Few Quick Updates

As most of you probably saw already (since I’ve been mouthing off about it a lot), I had my gall bladder removed last week. My recovery is going well so far, with just a little achiness and tiredness. I hope to be back to 100% within a few weeks.

Writing-wise, I signed a contract last week with Dreamspinner Press for my first title in the Dreamspun Desires line. Teaching Ben, a student/teaching assistant romance, will be out early next year.

(Side note: I signed the contract the day of my surgery, despite all the warnings about not doing things like signing contracts within 24 hours of general anesthesia. I’m a rebel!)

Also, I found out just today that a panel submission for RT 2018 has been accepted, so looks like I’ll be in Reno after all!

And with Dragon Con 2017 behind me, I’ll be digging back into my WIP list. Hoping to finish book one of my baseball series in time to write book two for NaNo…

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#RT2017: Tips Roundup & My Schedule

Previously…

The Hyatt Regency Atlanta
Eating On Site
Nearby Restaurants
Playing Tourist
Travel Tips

And a few specific answers to questions I’ve been asked:

The road closure on Interstate 85 should not affect you UNLESS you’re driving in from that direction. (We’ll try to hold the rest of the highways together!) See the Travel Tips post for more info.

According to the Hyatt, all rooms in the two main towers (Atrium and International) have refrigerators. No microwaves, though.

There is no grocery store nearby. The CVS next to the hotel (see the Eating On Site post) carries snacks, sodas, and the like, including beer and wine. There’s a package store across from the hotel, but I haven’t been there, so I can’t vouch for it. (A note on Georgia law: beer and wine are sold in grocery/convenience stores, but liquor is sold only at package stores. Also, alcohol is not sold/served before 12:30 p.m. on Sundays, so plan your mimosa brunches late.)

UPDATE: The weather! Looks like it’ll be on the cooler side for early May:

RTweather

As for my RT schedule, I have just one definite event: I’ll be at the FAN-tastic Day Party Saturday night. I’ll be going to some of the social events, and I’ll also probably be helping out at the Wheel of Romance again, but everything else is up in the air right now. Feel free to tweet me if you’d like to meet up. I’m also on the RT app now, so you can message me there as well! 🙂

#RT2017 Part 5: Travel Tips

Previously:
The Hyatt Regency Atlanta
Eating On Site
Nearby Restaurants
Playing Tourist

Hi again! One last post to cover tips on getting to the hotel. I’ve been trying to think of things that I’ve found helpful when traveling, so I hope these are helpful to you too.


ROAD ALERT: Interstate 85 Closure

As you’ve probably heard, a section of I-85 is closed indefinitely both northbound and southbound inside the city (see purple circle on map). The good news is that the problem is about 6 miles north of the downtown area (where the hotel is), and the airport is south of the city. So, for those who are only planning to travel from the airport to the hotel and back, by whatever means, you’re unlikely to run into any problems.

If you’re coming in from out of town by any route except I-85 from the north, then you should also be fine. If you’re coming down I-85 from the north, you’ll need to reroute around the closed section. To get to downtown, the easiest plan is to take the bypass, I-285 West, to I-75 South. It’s a slightly longer drive, but it’ll get you where you’re going. If you don’t need to drive downtown, you can also park at at MARTA station on the north side and take the train into downtown. (I recommend that plan anyway; MARTA info is in its own section below.)

If you have plans to visit any locations toward the northeast side of the city, check Google Maps or GPS for the best alternate routes to get you around the closure.

Hotel Information
The hotel is the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, and the address is 265 Peachtree Street NE. Phone: 404-577-1234.

MARTA
If you’re flying in and traveling light, taking MARTA from the airport might be your best bet. The airport station is on the west end of the domestic terminal: from South baggage claim, turn left, and from North baggage claim, turn right. Regular fare is $2.50 one way (regardless of distance), plus a one-time $2 fee for a reusable Breeze card.

HEADS UP: If you have a BLUE Breeze card from a previous visit, it is no longer valid. You’ll need to buy a new SILVER card.

From the airport, take any train north to Peachtree Center station (eight stops). Follow the signs in the station into Peachtree Center and to the Hyatt Regency.

Airport Shuttles
The hotel does not have airport shuttle service. The airport website links to several private services. I haven’t used any of them personally, but from checking websites, I’d lean toward ATL Airport Shuttle ($16.50 one way).

Rideshare Services
Both Uber and Lyft offer service to and from the airport. Fares vary, but start at around $20.

Taxis
Flat-rate fare of $30 airport to downtown ($2 each additional person) plus meter fee.

Rental Cars
Most national rental services have locations at the airport’s Rental Car Center, which is reached via SkyTrain. Be aware that downtown parking is both limited and expensive.

Parking at/near the Hotel
The Hyatt’s on-site valet parking is $35 a night. Self-parking in garages nearby runs $15–$20 (generally with no in/out privileges).

If you’re driving in, MARTA may also be a good option. Many of the stations farther out from downtown have inexpensive overnight parking, much cheaper than parking at the hotel or in most other downtown locations. On the north side, Lindbergh ($8 parking) is a particularly good option because it’s the transfer point on the north side, so you’ll never have to pay attention to which train you’re taking. MARTA’s parking information page shows which stations have overnight parking (Red line is north, Gold line is northeast).

Toll Roads
Atlanta has express toll lanes on Interstate 75 on the south side and Interstate 85 on the north side, but those are outside the airport-to-hotel route. You shouldn’t pay any toll charges on an airport trip.

#RT2017 Part 4: Playing Tourist

Previously:
The Hyatt Regency Atlanta
Eating On Site
Nearby Restaurants

Like a lot of larger cities, Atlanta has plenty of tourist attractions and sites to visit. Now, Atlanta’s also more spread out than a lot of big cities, so some of those places are a bit of jaunt to get to. However, you can still get your tourist on without having to go very far afield.

To start with, Centennial Olympic Park is just a few blocks down from the Hyatt. Built for the 1996 Games, the park features lots of green space, a rings-shaped fountain that plays musical shows, and a number of attractions on its edges:

The SkyView Atlanta ferris wheel gives awesome views of the Atlanta skyline day or night. Tickets: $15

The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere and features dolphin and sea lion shows, a 4D theater, and a daily “Waddle Walk” featuring some of the resident penguins. Tickets: vary a lot, from under $30 after 4PM to around $48 for full-price admission (with extra charges for special programs like behind-the-scenes tours)

The World of Coca-Cola is an interactive museum dedicated to Atlanta’s most famous product. Watch films about the company’s history, check out all kind of memorabilia, and taste Coke products from all over the world. (Don’t miss the Beverly!) Tickets: $17

The Center for Civil and Human Rights is a museum and monument to the Civil Rights Movement and today’s global human rights movements. Tickets: $19

For the football fans, the College Football Hall of Fame is on the far side of Centennial Park. Tickets: $22

Also on that side of the park is CNN, which offers a behind-the-scenes studio tour. Tickets: $16

Other places of interest not far from the hotel:

The King Center and MLK Jr. National Historic Site are about a mile away, and admission is free for both.

The Margaret Mitchell House is about a mile and a half away, and just a block down from the Midtown MARTA station. Tickets: $13

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum is just 3 miles away and includes a replica of the Oval Office and plenty of historic memorabilia. Tickets: $8

Zoo Atlanta is in Grant Park, about 5 miles from the hotel, and has baby pandas! Tickets: $26

Fernbank Museum of Natural History, also about 5 miles away, has lots of cool exhibits and two giant-screen film theaters. Tickets: start at $18 for museum only, $33 for museum + films

In addition to individual tickets, Atlanta does have CityPass, and some organizations have combo tickets (like an aquarium/zoo pass for $54).

Also, RT is offering three different combinations tours on Monday and Tuesday of convention week (I have not checked status, so they could be full/cancelled):

Explore Atlanta! ($160) includes the World of Coca-Cola, the Krispy Kreme “mothership” location on Ponce de Leon, historic Inman Park and Little Five Points, Eagle Eye and Book Nook bookshops, lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, and a trip to the Varsity.

History & Historic Homes Tour ($190) includes the King Center, historic homes including those of Joel Chandler Harris and Margaret Mitchell, a visit to the Atlanta History Center, and lunch at Swan Coach House.

Hunger Games/Walking Dead Tour ($200) includes visits to locations featured in the film and television series, including Swan House (President Snow’s home), the Marriott Marquis (the Capitol), Terminus, the CDC (TV version, not real-life version!), and lunch at Pittypat’s Porch.

Next time: more information about getting to and from the hotel!

#RT2017 Part 3: Nearby Restaurants

Previously:
The Hyatt Regency Atlanta
Eating On Site

So you’ve exhausted the on-site restaurants at RT and want to head outside for some fresh air. Or just escape the craziness for a while. No problem! There are plenty of places nearby.

Some of the restaurants I listed in the last post as being the food court also open onto the street along Peachtree Center Avenue, the street that runs behind the hotel. From the lobby, take the escalators down one level and exit through the doors, taking the stairway down to street level. Turn right and cross the first street, and you’ll find Benihana, Gibney’s, Metro Café, and across the street, Truva (Turkish) and Cuts (a steakhouse). In the opposite direction from the Hyatt you’ll find Pacific Rim Bistro (great sushi), Big Kahuna (surf-themed burger and tacos joint), and Morton’s Steakhouse.

Now, going back to the front of the hotel, directly across the street are White Oak Kitchen (modern Southern fare) and Corner Bakery (sandwiches and pastries, similar to Panera). Down the street to the left you’ll find a Starbucks, Ray’s in the City (great local seafood chain), and Jalapeno Charlie’s (Latin American). At the next corner, International Boulevard, turn right and go halfway down the block to Pittypat’s Porch, an Atlanta tradition for Southern food. Across the street from there is the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel (the tall, cylindrical, glass hotel), which has a rotating restaurant called Sundial on the roof. [EDIT: Sundial is currently closed after a tragic accident there in mid-April. I don’t know when it will reopen.]

If you keep going down Peachtree Street, you’ll pass Hard Rock Café and Alma Cocina (great modern Mexican) on the left, Meehan’s Public House (Irish pub), the Braves All-Star Grill, and Sweet Georgia Juke Joint (soul food) on the right. On that next corner is the Ritz-Carlton, which has a couple of higher-end options as well.

Now let’s back up to the corner of Peachtree and International, where the Hard Rock is. If you head down the hill and turn left at the front of the Westin, a couple of blocks down is Ted’s Montana Grill, Ted Turner’s restaurant chain. And if you keep going straight at the Westin, you’ll find a Waffle House across from Centennial Park.

One more nearby restaurant: from the front of the Hyatt, turn right and go down a couple of blocks to Max Lager’s, a brewhouse.

There are many, many other restaurants within a short driving distance/ride from the hotel. A few I’d recommend:

  • Mary Mac’s Tea Room, 224 Ponce de Leon. THE classic full-service Southern restaurant. Everything is delicious!
  • The Varsity, 61 North Avenue. Classic Atlanta hot dog and burgers joint. Just don’t forget the antacid chaser.
  • Six Feet Under, 685 11th Street. Seafood and pub fare with lots of craft beers.
  • Bartaco, 969 Marietta Street. Lots of great tacos and drinks, super casual.

All right! We’ve got you all fed. Next time, I’ll talk about a few of the touristy things to do near the conference area, including some of the tours being offered through the convention.

#RT2017 Part 2: Eating On Site

Previously:
The Hyatt Regency Atlanta

All right! We all need to know where to eat more than almost anything else, right? Thanks to skywalks that connect several downtown buildings, the Hyatt has a heck of a lot of choices without even having to go outside. Early May in Atlanta shouldn’t be too sweltering, but it’s likely to be pretty warm and humid. Staying in the air conditioning is a good thing.

We’ll start with the hotel’s four restaurants. Twenty-Two Stories, the lobby bar, is also a gastropub, with “elevated” bar food in addition to the full bar and specialty cocktails. Sway, just inside the front doors, is a full-service restaurant featuring Southern-focused cuisine. Market is a 24-hour, quick-service spot tucked into the corner of the lobby, offering premade sandwiches and other light meals and serving Starbucks coffee. And up top, on the 22nd floor, is Polaris, a high-end, revolving classic Atlanta restaurant.

The hotel also has room service, though only for breakfast and dinner.


One of the best things about the Hyatt, though, is that it connects directly to the Peachtree Plaza Food Court. Just take the hallway marked Radius Tower, between Twenty-Two Stories and the reservations desk (see image), and at the end you’ll find a number of fast-food and quick-service restaurants, as well as several nicer sit-down restaurants. Be aware, however, that a lot of these places are only open during the day, since they’re designed to serve the businesses in the area.

A few of the restaurants in the food court (current as of January):

Caribou Coffee
Au Bon Pain
Farmer’s Market (meat-and-veggies plates)
Gibney’s Pub
Dairy Queen
Chik-fil-A
Café Momo (salad and hot bar by the pound)
Metro Café (diner)
Firehouse Subs
Subway
Moe’s Southwest Grill
Willy’s Mexicana Grill
Great Wraps
Yami Yami Sushi
Turmeric Indian Bistro
Benihana
Hsu’s Gourmet Chinese

There’s a CVS Pharmacy over there, too, so you can even pick up snacks and drinks to keep in your room. (All rooms in the Atrium and International towers have refrigerators.)

The Hyatt also has a skywalk that leads to the Marriott Marquis across the street. The entrance is between the bar and the café in the lobby. The skywalk takes you into the Atrium level of the Marriott, which has a bar in the center and two full-service restaurants: High Velocity, a bar and grill; and Sear, a high-end steak restaurant. From there, go down one level to the lobby, and there’s a Starbucks and an M Store that sells prepared sandwiches and snacks.

And there’s yet another skywalk from the Marriott to the Hilton! Go down one more level from the lobby, to the Marquis level, at the back side of the hotel to find the skywalk. That will take you into the second floor of the Hilton. Go down one level for the lobby restaurant, called Southern Elements, and a Marketplace with prepared sandwiches and the like. Down one more level is Trader Vic’s, a Polynesian restaurant and bar, and up on the roof is Nikolai’s Roof, a fine dining restaurant.

Next up: I’ll cover some of the other restaurants in the area near the hotel—many of them within walking distance.

#RT2017 Part 1: The Hyatt Regency Atlanta

Hi all! This is the first of several blog posts leading up to the RT Booklovers’ Convention in Atlanta that I hope you’ll find helpful. The convention is being held at the Hyatt Regency downtown, a hotel with which I am intimately familiar, particularly after 10 years volunteering there during Dragon Con.

The hotel is on Peachtree Street Northeast—not to be confused with any of the other streets with Peachtree in the name. (That includes Peachtree Center Avenue, which runs directly behind the Hyatt!) Be warned that several streets near the hotel are one-way, so if you’ll be driving, watch out for that. If you’re taking MARTA, you want the Peachtree Center station, which is the first stop on the North/Northeast (Red/Gold) line. Any northbound train from the airport will get you there.

Let’s start with some quick-and-dirty directions inside the hotel.

First: no, there will not be long distances to walk to get to the conference space. The hotel has two main towers, Atrium and International, and they’re basically right next to each other. (A third tower, Radius, has only guest rooms, not meeting space.) International Tower will be used only for Teen Day activities, so I won’t cover that section here.

When you come in the hotel’s main entrance, you’re in the Atrium Tower, lobby level. Most of the primary conference space is on the two floors directly below the lobby and the Atlanta Conference Center—basically an underground habitrail lined with smaller meeting rooms.

Here’s the lobby, standing just inside the front door.

On the right is the Atrium Tower elevator bank, and on the far side of the floor is Twenty-Two Stories, the lobby bar-slash-gastropub (and likely central meeting point). Turn right and…

You can see the bell stand and concierge desk. Straight ahead is the gift shop, and right from there is hallway to the International Tower. To the left is the registration desk. (Note that there may be specific line or luggage management set up for the convention, so it might not look exactly like this.)

Registration desk.

Closer shot of the bar area.

Here are the escalators from the lobby down to the conference levels. The elevators also go to the bottom levels, but elevator access can be dicey, so best to reserve those for people who need them whenever possible.

The first level down (LL1) has three main conference spaces: the Centennial Ballroom, the Regency Ballroom, and the Learning Center (an auditorium-style space). The pool is also on this level. The second level (LL2) has Grand Hall East and West, Hanover Hall, and the Chicago Room.

When you come off the escalators on LL2, there’s another set of escalators to the right. Those take you down to the Atlanta Conference Center (LL3); the motor lobby is also on that level. Again, the atrium elevators will take you all the way down.

The Atlanta Conference Center has lots of smaller meeting rooms down here, so I won’t try list them all. There are hallways in both directions, with signs overhead:

Most of these rooms will be in use throughout the conference, so you’ll likely spend a lot of time down here. Also, if you turn right here and follow the hallway all the way to the end, you’ll find the elevators and escalators for the International Tower.

I hope that’s not too confusing! I think that’s a good place to stop for this post. Feel free to ask questions in comments if you like, and I’ll try to answer them in a future post. Next up will be the other most important information: where to eat!

Moonlight & Magnolias Schedule

grwThis weekend, I’ll be at the Georgia Romance Writers’ Moonlight & Magnolias conference here in Atlanta. The conference is at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast, 5993 Peachtree Industrial Blvd. At 3 p.m. on Friday, Vanessa North and I will be presenting a workshop titled “Writing the Rainbow: Creating Authentic LGBTQ+ Characters and Stories.” And on Saturday from 3:30 to 5 p.m., I’ll be signing at the Book Fair & Author Autographing for Georgia Literacy. The book fair is open to the public, so Atlanta folks, come on out!

RT16: A Quick-and-Dirty Recap

The biggest lesson I learned from my first trip to the RT Booklovers Convention? I need to work on my stamina. Holy WOW is it ever a marathon! Forgiveness in advance for any events or people I misremember here. 🙂

My week started late Sunday with a smooth flight into Las Vegas and a shuttle ride to the hotel. I got checked in easily and schlepped my much-too-heavy bags up to the room, unpacked just as much as necessary, and crashed, hard.

Grand Canyon

Monday morning, I was up early (if not all that bright) for a cab ride back to the airport with a chatty driver from Nigeria who warned me to watch out for crazy drivers if I drove in the city. (I didn’t, thankfully.) I met the fab Bru Baker, my roomie for the week, at baggage claim, and we hopped the shuttle to Enterprise to get our car. We ended up in a Camaro convertible, though thanks to rain, we never got to let the top down. After a stop at Jack in the Box for breakfast, we headed southwest toward Arizona and the Grand Canyon. That was a long, long drive that just seemed to get longer as we went. We finally arrived and got our chance to see the great big hole in the ground. And it is a BIG hole. (There were lots of jokes about that, yes. Also dusky pink rims.) Once we had our fill of the view and silly pictures, we headed back to Vegas to drop off the car. Another cab ride and we were back at the hotel, where we ordered late-night room service dinner and managed not to fall asleep in our food.

With Bru Baker at the Grand Canyon

Tuesday morning, we decided to take advantage of a rewards coupon I had for 2-for-1 lunch buffet at the Bellagio, which turned out to be delicious. The hotel is gorgeous, and I adore the Chihuly glass displays, but we made it a quick trip so we could get back for a panel on getting the most out of RT. Afterward, we headed back to the room to finish putting together swag for the various giveaways planned during the week and then went down to help set up for that night’s Cinema Craptastique. The movie was Abducted, starring Taylor Lautner (and his abs and eyebrows), and although the whole evening was funny and Damon Suede a hilarious host, the best part was that Bru got jumped on by a bunch of Lautner fangirls for making fun of him. (It was just a bad movie, okay?? Great supporting cast, but bad movie.)

Chihuly glass on the ceiling of the Bellagio lobby

With Kate McMurray and Christopher RiceWednesday, I slept in. We’re talking until nearly noon here, folks! Clearly I was exhausted. Once I woke up, and after briefly crashing Kate McMurray, Amy Lane, and Christopher Rice’s brunch at the Hash House A Go Go, I visited with various people (including the fabulous Robyn Carr) and then hit a couple of panels. First up was Writing F/F Sex for Romance and Erotica (aka the #ladybanging panel), where I got to meet Dahlia Alder and sat in a Vanessa North/Tamsen Parker sandwich (woot!). Great information on techniques and dos-and-don’ts for writing sex between women. After lunch, I chatted with Amy Jo With Amy Jo CousinsCousins for a while before her next panel, which was LGBTQ+: Characters and Stories in Changing Times. Another great discussion with the fabulous Amelia Vaughn from Riptide Publishing moderating. I finished off the afternoon with a get-together for the former Anything Goes Facebook group, where we talked crossover romance (that is, writing different types of pairings: m/m, m/f, f/f, etc.). A group of us decided to go to the Indian restaurant on site for dinner: me, Amy Jo, Tamsen, Vanessa, Karen Stivali, and Sasha Devlin. Loads of fun!

Thursday morning was the Dreamspinner reader party, for which I dropped off swag but couldn’t stay because I needed breakfast. I paid $9 for a small cup of coffee and a banana in the conference “snack bar,” which was the last time I bought anything there. At 11:15 was the panel on Crossing Over: Writing Straight and LGBTQ Romance, another great discussion with some favorite authors. I grabbed lunch from Starbucks and ate it back in the room before heading back out to visit with more people and then go to a panel at 4 on Reviews: How to Get Them, and What to Do with Them, featuring Jay from Joyfully Jay and the ladies of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I took notes on that one! Dinner that night was with Bru, Brandon Witt, and Hunter Frost, finishing with some amazing apple pie with vanilla ice cream and warm caramel sauce. OMG so good!

Fountain show at the BellagioFriday was another early day, kicking off with the Wheel of Romance. I helped hand out swag to the line and found a fan along the way who gushed over Sand & Water! (It’s still so weird to me to have fans, man.) Then I helped out along with other Dreamspinner authors while the featured authors gave away lots and lots of prizes. I spent the rest of the day hanging out and visiting with people, including drinks by the pool and lunch at the Guy Fieri restaurant in the hotel with Bru and Hunter, and then a group of us headed for the Strip. We had dinner at the Cosmopolitan buffet and came back by way of the Bellagio fountains, where we watched two “performances.” So pretty!

At the Giant Book FairThe final stretch of the marathon started Saturday morning with the Giant Book Fair. Brandon was a rock star, running around getting coffee and water and books for several of us who were signing. I got some new newsletter subscribers and signed for a few people, so that was awesome. Afterward, I joined a big group at Hash House for a late lunch, then headed back to the room to rest a bit. The final big event was the FAN-tastic Day Party, sponsored by Dreamspinner. I helped hand out raffle tickets, worked the room greeting people, and gave away a whole bunch of books, including clearing mine off the table and signing a bunch of them! I hung out with Janet Lee Nye for a bit afterward, and then it was off to bed with me. I had hoped to make it to the party that night, but I was wrung completely out by that point.

With Karen Stivali and Jacob FloresSunday was sleeping in, packing up, checking out, and hanging around the conference area until time to go to the airport. That’s when the only real bad luck of the week kicked in: the airport shuttle was late, so Bru and I took a cab to the airport, where the Delta baggage drop line was super-long. By the time I dropped my bags, walked a long way to security and got through, and took a tram to the concourse for my flight, my flight was half boarded. I managed to grab dinner from the Chili’s cold case and was in the last dozen people to get on the flight. But I did make it, got back home after midnight, and thanks to an amazing friend, got home and unloaded by around 1 a.m.

In summary: RT rocked, and I am already counting the days until next year’s, which is here on my home turf!

Where to Find Me at RT

rt

Next week, I’ll be in Las Vegas for the RT Booklovers Convention. Woot! Here’s where you can find me (barring any last-minute complications):

Tuesday, 8PM: Cinema Craptastique. I’ll be in the audience throwin’ shade (and giving away a prize pack) while we mock a Taylor Lautner movie.

Wednesday, 8:30PM: Vintage Vegas Romance Casino. Look for me in an animal-print dress. Rawr!

Thursday, 10AM: Dreamspinner Reader Party. I’m throwing in some goodie bags as prizes for the Apples to Apples games.

Friday, 10AM: Wheel of Romance. I’ll have another prize pack to give away!

Saturday, 10:30AM: Giant Book Fair. I’ll have Unfortunate Son and Nobody’s Son up for sale (and if you buy both, you can get Wayward Son for free!)

Saturday, 6PM: FAN-tastic Day Party. I’m in the first group of authors featured at this Dreamspinner-sponsored event, so get there early!

Saturday, 8:30PM: An Evening with the Bat Pack. Look for me with devil horns at this one. 😀

Currently writing: Tongue & Groove, M/M novella (~28%)