Yes, no photos because I had enough to coordinate without adding a camera. Also, you’ve been warned about the excruciating detail (almost 4,000 words in this post).
Two things to give you context: (1) I’m currently living in Albuquerque so I had a different experience than the hotel experience, and (2) I’m probably the most introverted person on the planet, so I was very pleased to find everyone so friendly and relaxed. Though, as a huge introvert, I had quite a few deer-in-the-headlights moments where I found myself staring intensely somebody while unable to think of a thing to say.
Chris showed up to stay with me and my husband during the conference, and we all went to dinner.
* Chris is the best conversationalist ever. We talked about everything from Asperger’s (very eye-opening!) to books and reading (very funny!) to the visual spectrum of reptiles (yes, very nerdy).
* Chris has real empathy with animals. I was so impressed at how well she interacted with my pets, who can be nervous around people they don’t know. Well, my toad is stoic and easy-going. :D
I arrived at the Hard Rock Casino at 845am to put my swag in place in one of the ballrooms. I browsed the ballroom and picked up a sample of everyone else’s swag.
Then I got to meet some authors.
First, Kate McMurray, one of my favorites. Her books are so authentic, deeply layered, and subtle that, without having seen her photo, I’d assumed that she must be my age to write so well.
Surprise! She’s easily twenty years younger than I am. Very stylish, and tall. I wish I were five eight or five nine. I was thrilled to learn that her newest book is coming out in January. Here is her blog post about it. See point #4.
I also met Marie Sexton, and had my first deer-in-the-headlights moment where I wanted to tell her how much I’d enjoyed Promises, but I just couldn’t get the words out. She looked great, very elegant. She, Kate, Z.A. Maxfield, and Aleks Voinov were the probably the best-dressed authors at all the events.
Next I went to the GayRomLit Newbie orientation at 10am, which was an invaluable idea organized by Jay at Joyfully Jay blog. Thank you, Jay. I really appreciated the orientation. There, I got to meet attendees Candy, Dianne, and Wave from Reviews by Jessewave. I went on to have lunch with Wave, who also took me under her wing for the next hour and introduced me to several people. An introvert like me cannot even begin to express how helpful that is. Wave turned out to have an outrageous sense of humor, and was so much fun to hang around with!
At 1pm, I attended my first event, the Author Q&A with Geoffrey Knight, Heidi Cullinan, Trina Lane, and TC Blue. Afterward, I was delighted to meet Dolorianne from Mantastic Fiction blog, a truly gracious person with the ability to set me totally at ease in the conversation. I wish we’d had more time to hang out and talk.
Then I attended the next two blocks of author readings.
That evening, my husband and I met up with Chris at the very end of the MLR Press opening reception where we got to chat with Kate McMurray again and … Clare London! I hadn’t known she was at GayRomLit, and was delighted to meet her. She turned out to have a dry and devilish sense of humor, very fun.
Next was the Gentleman’s Juke Join Wild West Party, featuring loud music and three strippers, dressed in skimpy costumes. They didn’t exactly strip further, but enthusiastically danced for us. The hottest point of the night occurred when Damon Suede danced with the strippers, and he was an even better dancer than they were.
Very briefly, I got to meet Amy Lane. I was trying to scream over the music and tell her how much I loved her book Keeping Promise Rock, not just for its great story and characters, but also for having one of the most complex and three-dimensional settings I’ve ever read in our genre. More than two years after reading it, I’m still haunted by the vivid northern California location. It reminds me of the sense of place in Joan Didion’s nonfiction (also specific to the Sacramento area). I don’t think I managed to get all this across past the dance music, but I want to go on record here as a big fan of the book.
I got to meet PD Singer, who is absolutely gorgeous. She had some very encouraging information about self-publishing to share.
I also was thrilled to meet Lauraadriana, also gorgeous, tall, and with a truly sexy accent. She gave me a compliment I will never forget – that, after reading my novella FALL INTO THE SUN, she had thought I was Hispanic like my characters. To have a Latina reader think that I am Latina is the ultimate compliment to the authenticity of my work. In real life, despite my Ukrainian pen name, I’m about as Anglo-Saxon as someone can possibly be. Thank you, Lauraadriana. I think that was the best moment for me in the entire GayRomLit.
* Never put your swag out all as I did. My minimum order had been 500 magnets (which featured the gorgeous cover art by Jordan Castillo Price for REACH FOR THE MOON, my upcoming book featuring Alejo and Bobby from FALL INTO THE SUN. Unfortunately, 500 magnets was still 100 more than the 400 total attendees. And I was trying to fit it all into a designated space measuring about size of my laptop, maybe 15 inches by 10 inches. If I could do it again, I would bring only one-fourth of my swag and replenish as needed.
* Most common swag? (1) Pens, (2) paper items like bookmarks, and (3) magnets. Also beauty products such as tubes of lip balm, and edibles such as chocolates.
* The funniest swag I saw? A tape measure from Joyee Flynn, labeled the Pecker Checker.
* The most interactive swag? Kiernan Kelly’s playing cards featuring naked cowboys. Amy Lane’s tote bag containing crayons and an activity book with puzzles connected to her books.
* The most original swag? Eden Winters’s calculator and ZA Maxfield’s bandage dispenser with the slogan “When love hurts, a book makes it better.” Also, Damon Suede had purse hooks, a concept I’d never encountered until then. Very cool!
Arrived at 9am to do my author reading in the 505 Fusion bar with ZA Maxfield, Ellis Carrington, and Eden Winters. I got very lucky to be included with these three because I was guaranteed an audience. Ellis’s reading was my first introduction to her work, and now I want to buy her books. I think I’ll start with Amor Prohibito, which is an awesome title.
ZA Maxfield’s excerpt from E-Pistols at Dawn, was hilarious. Between the material and her delivery, we audience members were laughing out loud.
Eden Winters read from Diversion, and I was immediately hooked, and not just by her appealing Southern accent. The scene had really hot chemistry between the two main characters. I’m buying the book today (now that I have time now that GayRomLit is done).
My reading went fine, even though it was the only author reading to feature a violent action scene. Later, I learned from reader John (tall John from Texas whom I know from Reviews by Jessewave) that the most violent part of my scene made all the audience members around him flinch. :D Thank you, John. I was very pleased to hear this because it proves people were involved and listening!
I stuck around for the next two blocks of author readings. Damon Suede had the best actor-type training at reading aloud (and this is saying something because several of the authors -- including Cherie Noel, ZA Maxfield, Anel Viz, Ethan Day, and Hank Edwards -- were very good at it), and was especially good with dialog. He read from a work-in-progress, featuring zombies in Central Park, which I hope we get to see in published form soon.
Hank Edwards had the most entertaining reading of all, which again is saying something because there were several readings that bordered on comedic genius. He read from Plus Ones and added some improvised lines that had us audience members almost rolling on the floor, delirious from laughing. I love comedy. I enjoyed his reading so much that I bought his book at the Saturday booksigning, the only paperback I picked up at the conference, and this is from someone who is trying to get replace all my paperbacks with ebooks!
Next, I browsed the swag room (yeah, my swag still wasn’t moving). I was thrilled to meet Laddie, whom I feel I know very well through Goodreads. Laddie is one of my Goodreads friends whom I’d really wanted to meet in person (of course without having any idea what she looked like or where she would be) so it was random good luck that we met in the swag room and had a chance to talk. Laddie, I’m so glad I got to meet you!
I also had my biggest fangirl moment (which fortunately did not coincide with one of my deer-in-the-headlights moments) when I ran across Abigail Roux in the swag room. I was very lucky to catch her momentarily alone without the hordes of Ty-and-Zane fans, and I begged her for a sequel to her amazing novel According to Hoyle, which I’d snapped up way back on its release date because of its awesome blurb.
People, this is one of my favorite books in the entire gay romance genre. I’d been hoping for the sequel, and fearing that she might have put aside the idea indefinitely to focus on other things.
I was happy to find that she has maybe two more books planned in the series for the near future! I kid you not, people – whole sections of the book stand out vividly in my mind. The two U.S, Marshall characters had distinctly three-dimensional personalities that really caught my imagination, and not just because they were Civil War veterans and I’m turning into a big Civil War buff.
I remember reading that Eli and Wash fought together at the Battle of Antietam for the Union, which was a surrealistically nightmarish conflict in the Civil War, right up there with the Battle of Shiloh, and I’ve been dying to have that story written so I can read it. So, in the swag room, I tried to talk Abigail into writing it. I think even a short story would be awesome, and I know I’d be promoting the heck out of it in my reviews. *hint* *hint* :D
That afternoon featured the Old Town shopping expedition, but I skipped all that because, as an Albuquerque native, I am way too familiar with Old Town.
The evening event centered on karaoke, but I skipped that, too, because Chris had found another event for us – the Big, Gay Undead Wedding, a musical Halloween type event put on at Effex gay bar in downtown Albuquerque by the Albuquerque Gay Men’s Chorus.
I expected something like the Rocky Horror Picture Show (and they did sing one of the songs from it), but it was very different. A completely musical narrative with breathtaking singing and an amazing range of popular music.
Actually, Chris and I and several other conference attendees who were there have Snowtulip to thank for discovering this event for us. I was very pleased to have a chance to meet Snowtulip at this event – she’s a real sweetheart, very fun to talk to, and she even came by to say hi to me during the booksigning on Saturday and picked up some of my swag (for which I’m very grateful!).
At the Big, Gay Undead Wedding, I also got to meet Cole, someone else I’d really hoped to talk with. Cole and I have in common a background in singing for school choirs. We’ve both even had the same experiences having to sing across tenor and alto ranges (not the easiest thing in the world to do!).
* Everyone I spoke to had nothing but praise for the GayRomLit organizers. They all said that this year’s GayRomLit was better organized and more fun than last year’s.
* For the author readings, the trend tended toward (1) romantic comedy with dialog, (2) sex scenes. Very brave! Author Jackie Nacht did an outstanding job of moderating and organizing the readings.
I arrived in time for the first block of author readings (and got to see Wave again and sit with her in the audience!). Anel Viz’s reading about an alien abduction fantasy was hilarious. He had great comedic timing. JP Bowie did a very funny reading from a William Neale short story told from a terrier’s viewpoint.
I went on to the Mexican bingo event sponsored by the Fiction with Friction blog, where I got to meet James Buchanan! I was very pleased to find out that there will soon be some Deputy Joe books published.
The bingo event itself was so popular that we didn’t have enough Mexican bingo boards, so the authors had ticket drawings for prizes.
I was sitting at a table between author Kendall McKenna and another of my Goodreads friends Leaundra and everyone on every side was winning a prize but me and Leandra. :D We were joking about being the vortex of bad luck at an otherwise lucky table.
Afterwards, I had the good luck to run into another Goodreads friend in the hallway – Anke! I’d been looking for her with my only appearance clue being that she would be dressed in navy blue like me.
Anke and I went on to the barbecue lunch sponsored by Silver Publishing.
Anke speaks English better than I do (yes, and I’m American), and has a slight German accent that I found very appealing (precisely enunciated and with a lilting quality). She was the best possible lunch companion with a great sense of humor and filled me in on the Old Town excursion that I had missed. Anke, I’m so glad I got to meet you!
Through Anke, I met MLR Press author Lynley Wayne, who has the most striking green eyes. (I’m fascinated by accents and eye color.) She had her husband with her, whose name was Brian, I think (my apologies if I got that wrong). He had the best Mississippi accent ever. I wanted to keep both him and Anke talking so I could enjoy their immensely appealing (though very different) accents.
Lynley’s husband does amazing cover art. Look at this awesome cover he did for her novel Scars. Normally, I don’t like too many different elements in cover art, but he does it perfectly here and gets the lighting exactly right. Here is a bigger photo. I believe he is a freelance cover artist, so definitely contact Lynley if you’d like him to do a cover for you.
From here, Anke, Lynley, and Lynley’s husband went to the MLR Press spotlight event and I went to the Kinky Craft Fair sponsored by authors Damon Suede, LC Chase, Taylor Donovan, and Anne Tenino. Here, I painted an e-reader cover, but had to abandon it because the paint wasn’t drying fast enough.
This was another event that had massive attendance (as you might imagine), and I was delighted to run across Lauraadriana, Laddie, Chris, Leaundra, Clare London, and others. Also, I’m not sure if they were at this particular event, but I did have the good fortune to repeatedly meet two Goodreads friends of mine Sadonna and MsMiz (Tina). Both were great conversationalists. I got to meet Nikyta, who is the best person and so cute, exactly the way I pictured her!
On to the massive booksigning event in one of the ballrooms. While I’d been lining up my free lunch earlier, the wiser authors had been securing a good spot for the booksigning. I’d thought we authors were going to be placed in alphabetical order, but it turned it to be entirely random.
Coming in late, I was allowed to sit wherever I could find a spot so I sat at the same table as Jambrea Jo Jones, who turned out to be a very pleasant table companion, and I put out my swag since I didn’t have any paper books to sign.
Alas, no one but some friends I’d previously met came over to my table to take some swag (thank you, Snowtulip!). I did get to sign a photo frame and two iPads from three enterprising readers who were collecting autographs from every attending author.
I wandered around and had a wonderful conversation with Kathy from Book Reviews and More by Kathy. We talked about blogging and living in different regions of the U.S. Being part of an Air Force family, she has lived in a lot of different places, and had some great descriptions of Alaska and South Dakota, both of which I now want to visit. Thank you, Kathy. I’m so glad I got a chance to have an extended conversation with you!
In addition, I got to compliment Hank Edwards on his reading and buy his book Plus Ones, which he inscribed for me.
I had the great good luck to run across Abigail Roux, again momentarily without the hordes of Ty-and-Zane fans, and asked for the one and only autograph I had the nerve to ask for during the GayRomLit event. She wrote, “For Val, thank you for loving Hoyle”! I’m keeping it forever. :D
I had a deer-in-the-headlights near-encounter with Aleks Voinov, where I couldn’t quite get the nerve to step forward and say how much I enjoyed the Dark Soul series and especially Counterpunch. Part of it was my surprise at seeing him in that I hadn’t expected him (or Clare London) to come to the GayRomLit so soon after they had done the UK Meet.
He looked great in a pinstriped suit and tie, and was just about the only author present who looked exactly like my mental picture of him (except his hair was darker blond than I’d pictured).
Back at my table, no swag had moved, so I sat one row over with Lori Torland, who had a slide show on her tablet of her cats. Gorgeous cats – a big calico cat (probably my favorite type of cat), and a big white cat with very cute black markings. Lori was great to talk to, and we kicked back and watched videos on her tablet of her cats. :D
[Jeez, this blog post is getting long!] Okay, from there, my husband and I took Chris out for dinner and all three of us showed up in time for the Dreamspinner Press event at 9pm, the Cosmo Cabaret Lounge.
The piano guy they hired to do the event was worth every penny of whatever they paid him. Not only could this guy play ANYTHING on the piano, however far-fetched, he was also great at getting the audience to participate in sing-alongs and interactive stuff that he fashioned from song requests from the audience.
For example, Angel Martinez and her friend Freddie requested “Roxanne” by the Police, which he turned into a competitive drinking game with them having to drink every time they heard the words ‘Roxanne’ or ‘put-on-the-red-light’, respectively. Or, do you remember that God-awful Kenny Rogers song “Lucille”? Our piano guy played it in a very sprightly double-time tempo with the audience divided into thirds, screaming out insults to poor Lucille upon command. All this sounds weird, but trust me. If you were there, you know how much fun the evening was.
He also had four contestants, including one very brave man, doing a dance-off to various songs he played including Chubby Checker’s “Twist,” and the Macarena.
I got to sit next to Ally Blue and sing along with her! I wish we’d had a quieter place to talk because she seemed like such a fun person. Chris thinks that I was tipsy that night, but I actually didn’t touch a drop through the whole GayRomLit. My silliness was coming out through the momentum of the event alone. :D
Did I mention this piano guy could play ANYTHING? Everybody in the audience was challenging him with some very far-out requests, but he handled them all, including songs by AC/DC (You Shook Me All Night Long), Guns and Roses (Sweet Child O’ Mine), and – I kid you not – Nine Inch Nails (Closer). And he could make the songs sound the way they were supposed to!
Chris and I got to the Hard Rock casino in time for the last part of the farewell brunch, which wrapped up early. I had my biggest deer-in-the-headlights moment in the hallway standing next to Chris when Heidi Cullinan came up to talk and I just stared at her and felt my mind completely evaporate until I couldn’t think of a thing to say. So, I want to go on record here as having loved her novel, Special Delivery. If you’re one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t read this book yet, and you like road trip novels, you’re in for a treat.
I also got to meet author EM Lynley, literally in the eleventh hour before Chris and I departed, and I’m glad we had a chance to talk and share cough drops. :D (Seriously, between the allergies and all the talking we all were doing, our voices were getting an unaccustomed workout.)
* The interactive group events such as bingo and crafts seemed to be more popular than the readings and QandA sessions by far.
* If you’re doing a booksigning event, you’re at a true advantage if you’re nearest to the main doors where they let the readers in.
* If you’re an author, do an author reading. It really does sell books. I bought a book based on every reading I attended.
* I want to thank the GayRomLit organizers, the authors I met, and the readers-bloggers-reviewers most especially. Thank you very much for reading!