Sunday, April 27, 2008

Romantic Times Booklovers Convention - A Brit's Eye View

First off, if you haven't already done it, check out the previous post, which has Helen's eye-catching artwork for The Magic Knot, and pictures from the conference.

Now -- where to start?

If I had to sum up the RT Booklovers convention in one word it would have to be amazing. We don't have anything like that in the UK. I had a GREAT time. Reporting on everything would take up pages of the blog, but I can give you impressions and some edited highlights that I hope will provide a taste of five hectic days. You can be on your feet and at some event from breakfast time until the early hours of the next day – we did our best, but even Title Magicians can’t keep partying forever!
So – who did I see, what did I do?

The people
One the very best things about the convention has to be meeting the other American Title IV finalists, plus Jenny, Judi and Raz from American Title III and Liz from Romantic Times -- people who already felt like friends. After that, well -- one minute you could be in an elevator with a group of aspiring authors, the next standing beside a writer you’d admired for years -- it's that kind of event. As Mel put it, a very high squee factor! I met so many people, and everyone had something interesting to say. There was the lady who shoots those delectable covers who had tales of putting hunky models through ordeals of nibbling fish, biting insects, and sunburn. Those guys really do suffer for their art! Then the lovely ladies from the Between your Sheets website with whom I discussed Welsh ancestry. The two visitors who came all the way from Belgium, just to be at the convention -- because they love to read romance …

The parties.
Most of the day could be a party, if you wanted, but the big ones – the Fairy Ball, Monster Mash, Ellora‘s Cave’s homage to Hollywood and Dorchester’s shoe fest were something special. Costumes ranged from a simple pair elf ears to the most complex designs, with wings that looked almost as if they might work. Guests could do as much, or as little as they wanted. Judi won a prize with her wonderful peacock shoes and we all danced and had a good time.

The workshops
So many choices, so little time. I sat in on discussions of romantic suspense, psychic romance, new historicals and the intricacies of e book publishing. Everything I attended was fascinating and useful, particularly the practical sessions on pitching and synopsis writing. We’re hoping to have one or two of those speakers as guests on the blog so everyone can share.

The books
Whatever your taste in romance you could get it at RT. There were two huge signings, one for e-books, the other for print, when the noise levels and squeal levels, as someone spotted their favourite author, were high. Bearing in mind the weight of my suitcase, and the cost of shipping, I contented myself mostly with taking names, so I could track down the authors here in the UK. Jenny Gardiner was signing many copies of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, last year’s AT winner, and I also had the chance to speak to Sylvia Day and thank her for hosting interviews on her blog with all the ATIV finalists, back at the start of the competition.

The give aways
Again I had to be careful but I still managed a pile of books and goodies. The handles on the case may never be the same again. A few other ladies made Sunday trips to Macy’s to buy an extra bag to carry home all that stuff. Now I’m unpacked I can’t find my wonderful collection of promo pens – yes I’m a geek over them, just like Mel. I can only guess that somehow I left them behind. Pause for big tears!! Thank goodness Helen’s Magic Knot pen was in my handbag. For those travelling by car there were hundreds of free books and, in promo alley, tables groaning with every kind of promotional give away, match books, bookmarks, magnets, bags, badges – and the list goes on…

The men
Ellora’s Cavemen are total hunks, and I’d be proud to have any of the contestants from the Mr Romance contest gracing a book cover for me. All the ones I met were charming as well as good looking, but I have to say that they mostly brought out my latent maternal streak rather than fits of lust. I must be getting old! There were one or two other brave men in attendance. Mel’s husband Morgan deserves special mention for courage over and above the call of duty. There were even a few male authors, like Shane Gericke from the Mystery Chix and a Dix group, with whom I shared a table at the Monster Ball.
And of course Fabio!!! And Judi and Katherine have the pics to prove it!

The hotel
The Hilton was still under renovation, which led to some improvisation and use of back stairs, letting guests see parts of the hotel they wouldn’t normally get a look at. My room on the fourteenth floor was lovely but I heard other stories of layers of dust and a total absence of beds, internet connection, phone signal. Everyone knows the story of the missing coffee maker in Holli’s room. Trish came to the rescue on that one, though the rest of us were slightly disappointed not to find out what kind of shape shifting Holli might get up to if deprived of her early morning caffeine blast!

The city
Pittsburgh is a lovely city, with friendly people. I managed to get out and about a bit – to the Rosebud Market on 7th Street for essential supplies of mineral water and fruit, to Macy’s for a little light shopping, to the Andy Warhol museum for lunch and a look at the exhibits and to the O’Reilly Theatre for a wonderful play, called Rabbit Hole, a beautifully acted and heart wrenching piece about a young couple coping with terrible tragedy. And the sight of the three quarter moon over the river at four in the morning was extremely romantic – and no I wasn’t sharing it with anyone. Unfortunately.

The special moments
The biggest moment had to be standing with Helen, when she received her winner’s tiara on the same stage as authors such as Jennifer Blake and Bertrice Small were being honoured as pioneers of romance.
Then there was the moment in the Mr Romance contest, just after the SOS Military Mixer, when George Small, veteran of World War II and looking wonderful in his uniform, was called to the stage. I had a much loved uncle by marriage who was a GI in that war. I remembered him as we all stood to applaud. I’m sure that most of the rest of the audience had a lump in their throat similar to mine.
Then there was the moment when I exited a crowded elevator as Rosemary Laurey, an Internet friend, was getting in. She recognized my accent and we introduced ourselves as the lift doors closed …
I could go on much longer, recalling people and snapshots. It really was a wonderful five days.


Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Wow, I feel almost like I was there with you (without the hefty price tag but also without all the booty!)

I guess I should probably start saving NOW for next year! :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Evonne, thank you, thank you! What an incredible report. Makes me wish even more I had been there. Who knows? Maybe next year.
So sorry about your pens. I'd be feeling the same way!

Trish Milburn said...

Fun reading through your impressions, like reliving the conference. Cool that you got out a bit to see the city. I really didn't see a whole lot as I had a long drive home.

Mel Hiers said...

Pen geeks, unite!

And I think Morgan pretty much earned his brownie points for the rest of the year by going to the con. :-) Oh, and I don't think we ever answered your mom's question about his name! (We were a little bit wonky from the road that night.) His mom pretty much just chose it because she liked it. It's his middle name actually, but he hasn't been called by his first since he was little.

Anitra, Savanna, it would be so cool if we could all go next year!

Savanna Kougar said...

Mel, oh how I wish!