Category Archives: conventions

#RT2017 Part 3: Nearby Restaurants

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

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
Café Momo (salad and hot bar by the pound)
Metro Café (diner)
Firehouse Subs
Moe’s Southwest Grill
Willy’s Mexicana Grill
Great Wraps
Yami Yami Sushi
Turmeric Indian Bistro
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


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%)


From New York, With Love

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!

GayRomLit in (very very) Brief

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.

With Michael Kudo

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!).

With Posy Roberts and Bru Baker

With Andrew Q. Gordon

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!

With Cherie Noel (Zoe), Jambrea Gaff (Kaylee), and Ally Blue (Inara)

With super!reader and friend Sue N.

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!)

Dreamspinner Paperback Sale & Preorders for GRL

Attention, GayRomLit attendees! For those who haven’t heard, through this Sunday, September 21, Dreamspinner Press has ALL paperbacks (even ones they don’t normally keep in stock) on sale for 35% off and will deliver your purchases to you in Chicago for no shipping charges. That way, you won’t need to buy on site, and you can order any paperbacks for any authors, including those of us who aren’t registered as authors, or even authors who won’t be attending at all.

To designate your order for pickup at GRL, use the code GRL2014 at checkout.
The offer applies for some books that haven’t officially been released yet, including the All in a Day’s Work anthology, which comes out on Monday. Several of the anthology’s authors will be in attendance at GRL, including Bru Baker, AJ Cousins, and me, of course! You can also order paperbacks of my novel Sand & Water or the Playing Ball or Grand Adventures anthologies.

The 35% discount is available for everyone. You can still order books to be delivered to you directly (with the usual shipping charges). So whether you’ll be in Chicago or not, this is a great chance to stock your bookshelves with old favorites or new reads.

Happy shopping!

One Does Not Simply GO to @DragonCon


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.

logoThis 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!