This 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!
Category Archives: conventions
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.
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.
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.)
Wednesday, 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 Cousins 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!
Friday 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!
The 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.
Sunday 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!
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%)
I’m just home from a whirlwind trip to New York for the 2015 Romance Writers of America conference. It was a fabulous week, filled with meet-and-greets with lots of author friends plus a few NYC locals, plus some really good content on the pro-writing side of things.
I only made it to two panel sessions during the conference, but both were great. The first, “Diversity in Romance: Why It Matters,” featured five authors (four POC authors) who had wonderful things to say about, well, why diversity matters. One of the panelists, Alisha Rai, compiled a Storify of many of the tweets from the panel. (I especially loved her “duke-fic” analogy, LOL.) The second panel, “The Human Experience: Throwing Away Stereotypes and Creating Realistically Diverse Characters through Empathy,” included the awesome Farrah Rochon, who was also on the first panel (and who I assured I was not stalking!), and Suzanne Brockmann.
Yes, diversity was a big topic of discussion at RWA this year. It’s one of the ongoing issues in the romance genre, and one that’s changing, albeit slowly. Romances about and written by people of color, LGBT people, and people with disabilities are gradually becoming more and more common and are working their way into the “mainstream” of the genre, rather than being relegated to the sides—though that still happens too. It’s a slow process to change decades of industry practice, but many amazing, smart women are making it happen.
(Adding a bit to the discussion, while I was at RWA, my July Outside the Margins post went up: Mainstreaming the Rainbow.)
One of the best things about RWA is that the “official” events are just the tip of iceberg. I attended a grand total of four events: the Literacy Autographing, the two panels, and the RITA/Golden Hearts awards ceremony. The rest of my time was spent in small groups or one-on-one discussions with other industry professionals. I was part of a critique workshop on Thursday afternoon that gave me some great insight into one of my works in progress, had a meet-up with members of a Facebook author group, and ate several meals with author friends. But mostly, I spent many hours just hanging out in the lobby, chatting with whoever was around. I met so many people I’m afraid to list them for fear of leaving some out!
So now I’m back home, tired and brain-dead, but at the same time energized and ready to dive back into my works in progress. Too bad I’m still booked up with Dragon Con and my sister’s wedding on the horizon!
I am not going to attempt to list everyone who was awesome at GRL because I would leave people out FOR SURE. But here are a few highlights:
1. First and foremost, getting to listen to Shira Anthony sing. She did several classic showtunes and torch songs plus a couple of opera arias, and she basically blew the walls off the place. WOW.
2. The always fabulous J.P. Barnaby picking me up at the airport on Wednesday and delivering me back there on Sunday.
3. Michael Kudo and William Cooper being absolute sweethearts every moment of every day.
4. Cuddling by the fire with Posy Roberts (and everyone else who was trying to stay warm!).
5. Andrew Gordon recruiting me to be his “arm candy” and good luck charm during the Casino Night party, and then dragging me onto the dance floor at the costume party.
6. Getting to have dinner and drinks with local friends N, J, and R.
7. Seeing all the awesome folks from Dreamspinner and Wilde City (and the other great publishers in attendance!).
8. Buying two of my all-time favorite books in print and getting them signed by the authors.
9. The fabulous T.C. Blue bringing me water and Coke from her offsite run so I wouldn’t have to pay hotel prices.
10. The Firefly crew at the costume party!
11. And, of course, handing out the HUG ME! buttons, which turned out to be the best idea ever, if only for the dozens and dozens of hugs they garnered me. 😀
(Thanks to my fellow con-goers for the pics: selfies with Andrew and Sue, I think Lisa Horan took the one with Michael, and the fabulous official event photographer Madison Parker for the costume party group shots!)
Well, once again it’s time for me to gird my loins for a week at Dragon Con. Yes, I’m well aware that Dragon Con is a four-day convention. I am a crazy person who volunteers, so I’m on site Wednesday afternoon, and I don’t schlep out of there until lunchtime in Tuesday. In between, I’ll mostly be in the Chicago Room of the Hyatt Regency or snoring into a pillow in my hotel room, though I do hope to be able to emerge into common areas and maybe catch a meal or a drink with friends here and there.
This will be my ninth trip to Dragon Con, my eighth straight as a volunteer. I went for a day once in about 1998, when I was deep into fandom for “The X-Files,” but it wasn’t until 2007, after I moved back to Atlanta from my New Jersey exile, that I looked into going again. I discovered the Daily Dragon, the on-site publication, and contacted the editor, Eugie Foster, asking if she needed any volunteers. She did, as it turned out. She’d tried several people to do layout for the print issue that’s handed out each morning, but none had gotten the job done. She’d been ready to give up, but she gave me a shot… and at the end of the weekend, begged me to come back. I told her I’d be delighted. LOL
My tasks have morphed and grown over time. I now do editing work for the larger publications department, including editing guest bios and panel descriptions, and this year I helped out with some film festival editing, too. August always gets a little hectic with everything needing to be done at once—including planning and packing for the actual con!—but it’s all too much fun to give up.
I did decide to simplify things this year and forgo costuming. I’m going to stick to jeans and geeky t-shirts in the name of comfort. Plus, I usually end up in what amounts to jammies for my late-night volunteer shifts anyway. I might go for some interesting hair color to make up for the lack of costuming, though.
Despite the listing of Dragon Con on my appearances list, I won’t actually be doing anything as my author self. No panels this year, and none of my publishers are doing anything. But I’ll be there, of course, and anyone who’d like to meet up is welcome to email or tweet at me, and I’ll do my best.
Really, though, the best way to find me will be to find the Daily Dragon offices, especially after 10 p.m., and ask for Shae. Because that’s where I’m most likely to be!
I’ll be at Outlantacon/Gaylaxicon this weekend, mostly doing things related to the Butt Ninjas from Hell anthology. When I’m not on a panel, I’ll have a spot in the vendor room, but here’s where you can come to listen to me blather:
Butt Ninjas from Hell: The Back Story
Saturday, May 3, 3:00 PM, Dekalb Room
It’s the sequel to Butt Pirates from Space! Meet the authors of the new Butt Ninjas from Hell Anthology prior to joining them for their book signing party. Presented by: Kage Alan, JP Barnaby, Ally Blue, TC Blue, Shae Connor, Jevocas Green, Kiernan Kelly, and Eden Winters.
Writers Workshop Series: Fan Fiction vs Pro Writing
Saturday, May 3, 4:00 PM, Decatur II
Some rules are universal, but there are a few distinct differences between writing fan based fiction vs the big leagues. Our experts share their secrets. Mentors: Shae Connor, JP Barnaby, and Kayelle Allen.
Butt Ninjas From Hell Book Release Party
Saturday, May 3, 7:00 PM, Magnolia Room (Con Suite)
Check out this ninja themed party and get to know the authors of the hot sequel to Butt Pirates in Space. Refreshments provided. Presented by: Kage Alan, JP Barnaby, Ally Blue, TC Blue, Shae Connor, Jevocas Green, Kiernan Kelly, Eden Winters
Sunday, May 4, 12:00 PM, Decatur I
Can’t get enough Avengers, Buffy, Angel, or Firefly? Neither can we! Let’s talk about it. Presented by: Shae Connor, Kage Alan, and TC Blue
Sunday, May 4, 2:00 PM, Dekalb Room
Potter-verse, Pottermore, and beyond. We’re just wild about Harry. Presented by: JP Barnaby and Shae Connor.
Inspiration and Process
Sunday, May 4, 3:00 PM, Decatur I
How does an aspiring author find creative inspiration, stay motivated, and get from the blank page to editing the final draft? Presented by: Shae Connor and JP Barnaby.
As you’re reading this, I’m in Tampa at RainbowCon, getting my author geek on and spending my downtime doing some writing but otherwise being as lazy as possible. After the convention ends, I’ll spend a few days visiting with cousins who live here, during which time I hope to be by the pool or on the beach, for the most part. And then I fly to Portland (by way of Detroit) for the Dreamspinner author workshop. I’ll be back home a week from Sunday.
I started doing regular travel for work of one sort or another 15 years ago, and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I can’t stomach it unless I’m very, very careful. Oh, I’m mostly fine with flying, which was something I didn’t learn until I was in my 30s, because we never had the money to fly anywhere when I was younger. My problem is a tendency toward occasional motion sickness, which can happen any time and with any kind of motion but has certain triggers. Riding in the back seat of a car, for example, is usually a bad idea. And eating heavy or greasy meals before travel is right out.
When I’m on the road, I do my best to follow the usual travel guidelines. I get plenty of rest, drink a lot of water (most of it bottled), and try to eat healthy meals. That last part is tough when you’re eating out most of the time, but I pay particular attention to what I eat on days when I’m traveling. I’m lucky that I don’t have any serious food restrictions, but light meals on travel days are a must, and I also carry something snacky with me. A bout of low blood sugar is never fun but ten times worse when you’re sitting in an airport. I also stock various medications for various digestive-related ailments in the mini pharmacy that always goes into my travel bag.
(I’m trying to avoid going into much detail here. There’s TMI, and then there’s T. M. I.)
One thing I still try to do when I travel is eat locally. I don’t want to go across the country and then eat food I can get around the corner. I avoid chains, unless they’re regional and don’t exist near me (I’ll be visiting Wawa while I’m in Tampa). I’m happy to visit tourist-attraction restaurants (I will have a VooDoo Doughnut in Portland) but like to find the places where locals eat. I’m cautious about foods I’ve never had before, and I stick close to my regular personal guidelines (nothing too spicy, for example), but I firmly believe food is a big part of the travel experience, so I stretch as much as I feel like I can. Not that this plan is foolproof, but then, nothing ever is. 🙂
So wish me smooth travels and safe eating, all, and I hope I’ll have foodie stories to share when I get back home!