Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RWA Day One

Today has been a long, amazing day that started with my life flashing before my eyes and ended with several fangirl moments. I'll save the story of my flight down for another day and give you the short version here: Big storm, angry piece of atmosphere, plane dropped 100 feet in altitude causing even the flight attendant to gasp, I held hands with an Asian woman and nodded vigorously as she prayed (or cursed) in a language I didn't understand.

Her prayers must have worked because I am sitting in the lovely Swan Hotel in Walt Disney World listening to fireworks in the distance. I'm here for my very first RWA convention. I've only been here five hours and already I've met some of my favorite authors and made a couple of new friends.

RWA is the only place I've ever been where people introduce themselves with two names. "Hi I'm Jane Doe, but I write under the name Jezebel Desire." I kind of felt inadequate when I answered, "Nice to meet you. I'm Kathy Owens, and I write under the name Katherine Owens."

Okay, I didn't really answer that way, and not everybody had two names, but a lot of folks did. Actually, my first interaction with other convention goers occurred on the shuttle ride from the airport. I was still considering kissing the ground and maybe renting a car for the drive home on Sunday when a large, gregarious woman waiting in the shuttle line with me asked if I was going to the convention. I told her I was and that it was my first time.

When we climbed into the shuttle, and it was apparent that almost everyone was going to the convention, my new friend announces, "This is Kathy! She's a virgin!"

Everyone looked at me expectantly, or at least it seemed like they did, so I responded with the first thing that popped into my head.

"Well...I guess it depends on how you're using that word."

The one guy on the van choked, and all the women laughed uproariously. I wondered if they had been on the same flight as me and had hit the booze as soon as they landed. The atmosphere in the shuttle was giddy. One woman regaled us with her story of riding with the SWAT team as research for her new book. Someone asked what sub-genre of romance she writes. Romantic suspense? Paranormal? Contemporary? Nope...none of those. She writes erotic romance. I wonder if she told the SWAT team before she went riding with them. She was so funny, they probably wouldn't have cared. I kinda want to read that book when it's finished.

I have lots of other books to keep me busy in the meantime. When I checked in at the registration booth, I was handed a bag full of books...yes, my friends, free books, including Meg Cabot's new hardcover. The bag also contained a flash drive with all the handouts from the conference and MORE books. You could tell who the newbies were because we all had the same incredulous looks on our faces.

The first big event of the conference was the literacy signing. Over 500 authors were in a giant ballroom signing copies of their books. In this case, attendees had to pay for the books as it was a fundraiser for several organizations that promote literacy, including local groups in Orlando and Nashville where the conference was originally supposed to be.

I bought another four books. I rationalized that I could cut back somewhere else...skip a meal or something. It was for a good cause, right? Plus, I got to meet several very cool authors.

The first author I talked to was Lori Handeland. She writes a series called the Nightcreature novels. I've read several of those. What pulled me over to her table was the display of her new book called Shakespeare Undead. The cover sports Shakespeare with vampire teeth and a zombie standing over him. The back cover talks about the Dark Lady of the Sonnets and something being rotten in the state of Denmark. How could I not buy that book? Especially when I got to talk to the author, who was awesome, and have it autographed.

I thought about standing in Linda Howard's considerable line, but I already have the book she was selling, and I didn't want to buy it again. Nora's line curled all the way around the hall. She's the keynote speaker tomorrow, and rumor has it there will be free copies of her book at the luncheon.

Heather Graham's line was kinda long too, but I really like her books. I have a ton of them, but lo and behold, neither of the ones on her table. I chose the paperback over the hardcover, so I could keep shopping. It's called Ghost Shadow. She was so incredibly gracious. She asked questions about where I was from and what I wrote while she signed. We talked about her dress, and then she took a picture of me. I'm taking a lesson from her. I will now buy everything that woman writes because she took two minutes to interact with me.

My next stop was Christina Dodd's table. She was sold out of her books, but that was okay. I have Chains of Ice on my bedside table at home, and I didn't need to buy it again. She signed a page in the nifty conference planner that came in our big registration bag. I'll make a bookplate out of it or something. She also took a few minutes to talk to me. She's written an article in this month's "Romance Writer's Report," the RWA's monthly magazine. The article was about cliches and why we like them...really good stuff. She was pleased I had read it. I was pleased to talk to someone who says you should always write "balls to the wall." She also took a picture with me.

I bought a book by Shiloh Walker called The Missing. She's from the Louisville area, and I like supporting Kentucky authors. We talked about places we both knew.

My last stop was at a debut author's table. Her name is Therese Walsh. She's a finalist for a Rita in the Best First Book category. Ritas are like the Oscars for romance novels. I read a blurb in that same issue of RWR about her book and it sounded fascinating. It's called The Last Will of Moira Leahy. There's a mystery about a dead twin sister and an ancient Javanese artifact involved. She isn't very well known yet and didn't have a line at her table. If the book lives up to its billing, I'm guessing that will change. She was sweet and wrote a long note when she signed the book.

I made myself stop at four books. I was tempted to get copies of Simone Elkeles' and Kelley Armstrong's new YA's for the library at school. Autographed copies are always cool. The event was open to the public and both authors had long lines of teenage girls. The wait gave me time to decide I didn't want to spend the money. Sorry kids.

The last event of the day was orientation for first time attendees. I got lots of good information and met a couple of interesting writers. Sandy from Bismark, South Dakota writes romantic comedy, and Tracy, didn't get where she was from, writes contemporaries. Tracy and I realized we were on the same shuttle from the airport with the erotic SWAT lady.

A good first day all in all. Tomorrow, lunch with Nora Roberts and several workshops I'm excited about. Now, if the adrenaline will dissipate, I'm going to try to get some sleep.

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