Wow, I haven't blogged about GayRomLit yet -- I should probably do that before I forget what-all happened. :)
The conference was a lot of fun, more than I expected, actually. I've always loved meeting internet friends in realspace, and I got to meet one of my very best online friends, plus a bunch of other people I knew, people I sort of knew, people whose names I'd seen around, and people I ran into for the first time while I was there. One thing a lot of people have commented about is how awesome it was to hang out with a bunch of people who are all into m/m romance. I've never been to one of the big romance conventions, but people who have talk about been sneered at, snubbed and otherwise marginalized, on a ratio of four or five to one versus people who say everyone was great and they had no problems. Gay romance is the redheaded (bastard, drug addict) stepchild of romance, and it seems to be very stressful, to say the least, to be an m/m romance reader or writer at a general romance convention. This one was for us, everyone was in the same group, and no one was asked, "But why do you read/write that stuff?" with even curiosity, much less hostility or distaste. Good stuff.
I got majorly fangirled a couple of times, which was pretty darned cool. [beam] I even had about half a dozen people ask for my autograph, which was ??? because I don't have any paper books out and wasn't expecting it at all. The first four or five I was trying to actually SIGN a name I'd never signed before, and I'm sure no two were alike, LOL! My usual mode of writing is a rather weird printing style I've developed since I was like eleven, though, so for the last couple I ditched the whole cursive-signature thing and just printed my name. It's still very curvy and doesn't look like anyone else's printing, so that should work fine. Also, it's readable, which my cursive most definitely isn't. [cough] Also-also, this matters less with a pseudonym, but in general you don't want your "autograph" to be the same signature you use on checks and credit card slips, so that's another good thing, just on general principles.
It wasn't all wonderful, of course. I had some tote bags made up with the title and author name (same fonts and all) from A Hidden Magic to give away, and had my vendor send the box directly to the hotel. They lost it. [headdesk] They found it eventually, but it took about a day and a half, and the first couple of people I talked to (two separate occasions) seemed pretty convinced it'd never arrived, despite UPS's web site showing that it had been delivered to the front desk. The third time there were three people hunting for a while, and the bell captain finally found it and brought it to my room, yay! I gave him a nice tip and was very happy to have my stuff.
The day after I arrived, I went out with three friends to Cafe du Monde, where the coffee's great and you have to excavate through the mountain of powdered sugar to find your beignets. That part was good, but there was an older guy right outside the fence, like twelve feet away from us, who was alternating between trumpet music and very loud singing the whole time we were there, such that we had to shout at each other to have a conversation. [sigh] I know the street performers have to make a living too, but the whole captive-audience thing sucks. It's one thing to do your performance on a street corner, or around the perimeter of Jackson Square where a bunch of performers and artists and fortune tellers hang out, so that people passing by can stop and watch/listen if they want. But when we're in a cafe having coffee and beignets and want to talk, it's very unpleasant having music blaring in our ear the whole time. And courtesy dictates that you stop what you're doing to applaud whenever a song finishes, whether you enjoyed it or not, and that got old as well. The guy was all "Thank you for your thunderous applause" whenever there wasn't much, going passive-agressive on people who hadn't chosen to hang out and listen to him in the first place -- so that kind of sucked. He's the one who chose to foist his very loud music on people who just wanted to sit down with coffee and beignets and conversation; if his audience wasn't universally delighted with his offering, that was his doing and nobody else's. If I ever go back, I'll definitely look for a table inside, or way in the back of the patio.
After that, we took a carriage ride around the French Quarter, which was fun. Our driver knew a lot about the history of the area (I'm assuming they all do, but still) and it was nice to see things while sitting down. The carriages are pulled by mules these days. The driver said it was because mules are stronger and can take the heat better than horses. They used to use horses, but there was trouble with the horses being overworked and generally in bad shape, so the city passed a law saying that the carriages had to use mules, which is good. They all seemed to be healthy so far as I could tell -- no hip bones sticking out, no limps, nothing I recognized as abused animals, which isn't always the case with animals who work this way, so that was cool.
I had some "lightly" blackened red snapper later on which was way too spicy for me (I have pretty much zero appreciation for capsaicin type heat in food) so I only ate half of it, although the rice and veggies were good. And on the last evening before I left I had a fried oyster poboy with sweet potato fries, both of which were very yummy. And I had breakfast a couple of times at the hotel restaurant, including my first try at grits. I expected to like them -- I'm Italian and grew up eating polenta -- and I did. Grits have a lighter taste, less corny, if that makes sense. I imagine it's something to do with the chemical processing that turns them white. They're still good to eat with butter, just like polenta, and I'd definitely have them again.
I didn't do any of the walking tours the con had set up -- they did cemetary walks and vampire tours -- and from what I heard I was glad I didn't. It sounded like they were too long and with too much standing around for someone with my mobility issues. I have to be careful what I commit to, and I had a feeling these wouldn't work out for me.
A lot of the planned events of the conference were based on alcohol -- hurricane party, wine and cheese party, pub crawl, that kind of thing -- and I didn't sign up for them because I don't drink. Various authors and/or publishers were sponsoring all these events, and they had to pay so much per head based on how many people signed up. I could've gone just to be sociable, but I didn't think it was right to make someone pay for booze for me that I wasn't going to drink.
I haven't mentioned any panels because... well, I can't quite say there weren't any, but there weren't supposed to be. The organizing committee decided not to hold panels because they, as individuals, don't care for panels at conferences. All right, it's their show, they can do what they want. But there were panels anyway -- two that I ran into, and I didn't try to get to everything -- so it seems at least some of the attendees and sponsors want them enough to go impromptu if none are organized. This would be fine, except that the rooms weren't set up for panels. The idea with the smaller events was that authors or publishers or whoever was hosting a social or signing or whatever would be sitting behind tables around the perimeter of the room, and people would walk in, chat a bit, pick up swag and/or autographs, and leave. The first panel I encountered was in a small room intended for a meet-the-authors social sort of event. A friend was in there and I wanted to go say hi and see how things were going with her, but I found a panel going -- people were asking questions, writers behind the tables were answering them, and everyone was listening to the answers. That's a panel. The room had about six chairs in it, aside from the chairs behind the tables for the authors, and they were all full. There were people standing along the walls, packed into the corners, standing here and there in the middle of the room, and packed very tightly in the doorway and in the hallway right outside the door. I couldn't even get close enough to the door to peer in and see my friend, and I could only hear every fourth or fifth word. I stood around for a few minutes, but then my knees and back started griping so I left.
The second one was a publisher's reception. They were supposed to be hosting a hurricane party on the patio around the pool, but the hotel was going through some rennovation and fumes from the paint had drifted out the windows and made the pool patio uninhabitable most of the afternoon, so events that were supposed to be near there were hurriedly moved. I hadn't signed up for the hurricane party, but I wandered past their relocation room (which was way too small for a party, but they were moved back to the pool patio a bit later, after the painters had gone home and the fumes dissipated) and saw that the publisher was holding a panel. The room was packed again -- there were eight or so chairs that were full, people lining the walls and packing the corners and standing in all the free space, plus people sitting on tables and assorted other things that weren't meant to be sat on. The publisher had been invitation-only up until recently, and one of the bigwigs (I didn't catch her name so I don't know exactly who) was speaking about their preferences in submissions, what they're looking for, how they deal with covers and promo, and generally the sort of thing an author who might consider writing for a publishing house would want to know. I'm happy where I am, but I wanted to hear what the publisher had to say anyway and there was a spot on a table near the door, so I perched for a while, along with a number of other people. Seriously, though, if this sort of thing continues, one of these times someone or a group of someones is going to sit on something that isn't meant to be sat on and break it, and the hotel is going to bill the conference. I get that the organizers don't care for panels, but if they're going to happen anyway, they'd best be organized and scheduled and put into rooms that are set for panels, with plenty of chairs. Otherwise the committee should start setting aside money for a surprise on the hotel bill, because it's going to happen.
I got to meet my own publishers in person for the first time, which was pretty cool. Shawn and Lorna of Torquere Press had a table at the big signing event -- which was on a riverboat -- and invited me to sit with them for a while. That's where I got asked for most of the autographs. :) A lot of writers in this genre don't have paper books, so readers were going around with notebooks and such, using them as autograph albums. One lady was having people sign her e-reader cover, and one of the mods of the M/M Romance group on Goodreads was having people sign her Don't Read In The Closet knapsack, which was pretty cool. That'll be an awesome souvenir.
Later some of us Torquere people gathered in the hotel bar -- which was around a corner and down a long hall and pretty dead unless there was a conference event in it, which sort of surprised me -- with Torquere hosting. Shawn ran a tab, which I've never seen anyone do in real life, and which amused me beyond reason. Okay, I don't go to bars, I'm sure everyone else is eyerolling right now, but it was pretty cool from my point of view. :) I had a couple of sodas and we talked about stuff. One thing that sticks out was confirmation that when the second Hidden Magic novel comes out, they'll bring both it and the first out in paperback, yay! Seriously, that was awesome to hear; I'd suspected they might, just because it makes no sense to bring out Book 2 of a series in paperback but not Book 1, but it's great to hear it officially. I know paperbacks don't sell terribly well in this genre, but I've been wanting a paperback book with my name on it that I could autograph and give my mother for ages, and now I know I'm going to get one. Even if sales are lousy -- which I hope they aren't! :D -- just being able to give her that will be worth it.
Oh, one of the street performers I saw while walking around the Quarter was excellent!! I was on the way to a nearby drugstore and was passing by Jackson Square, and there was a guy who was a police car transformer, and it actually worked!! :D He walked around with pieces of police car hanging off him like armor -- I think a lot of it was sturdy cardboard or light wood, it certainly wasn't plastic or metal, but still -- and then he'd sort of squat and fall forward and the car assembled itself around him with the four tires on the ground and his feet tucked up out of the way. He must've had an electric motor in there somewhere because he could drive around!! Then he'd stop, then put his feet down and stand up, and the car disassembled back into an armor-y thing again! I definitely dropped some money in his bucket, 'cause that was freaking awesome. [beam]
On the whole I had a great time, and I'm looking forward to going to next year's conference, which will be in Albuquerque. Hot and dry instead of hot and humid, so a bit better to this California native who's not at all used to humidity. It's the people who make it a great time, though, and I expect that to be just the same, only maybe a little bigger with any luck. I can hardly wait! :)