Anne here, coming in very late — with apologies. I'm battling with the effects of jet-lag, and as well, technology is currently not my friend. The good news is that finally my body has adjusted perfectly to Texas time. The bad news is, I'm back in Australia, so I'm still battling jet-lag. (That's me on RITA night)
I was only home two days — just enough time to unpack, wash my clothes, deal with the 874 emails that had piled up in my absence, then pack again and get on a plane to Sydney, where the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference is this year. So last night at 7pm (which is Wednesday morning US time) I lay down on my hotel bed with a notepad and pen to plan this blog, and… you guessed it, I fell asleep. I woke briefly at 3 am, but forced myself to go back to sleep — the sooner I can get back to normal hours the better.
Did I mention I'm in a hotel in Sydney now? A very comfortable and nice one too, in the Sydney Olympic area — when it gets light I'll take a photo from my room. But the last person here must have had to get up at 4.30 am. How do I know? Because that's when the alarm clock went off.
I managed to find the button to shut the rotten thing off — blind luck, I thought — my eyes were barely open — and I drifted back to sleep. Unfortunately it was one of those clocks where the alarm sneakily goes off again 10 minutes later, because it knew I'd gone back to sleep, didn't it? And it's louder and more insistent the second time. And this time the search for the right button involved glasses and lights (and a little bit of quiet cursing.)
So now I'm up, awake (sort of) and sitting in the pre-dawn dark in Sydney, writing a very late blog that I fear isn't going to be up to the usual wenchly standards.
Texas, where I went for the RWA conference, was brilliant. I was lucky from the moment I arrived. After my long trip from Australia, I arrived in San Antonio somewhat of a zombie. When I went to check in, the hotel clerk looked a bit worried — "You booked a room with a king bed," she said.
"Yes, that's right."
"We're a bit short of king beds at the moment."
I told her I didn't mind what kind of a bed I had, that I'd been traveling for the last 26 hours without sleep and that any bed would be just fine by me.
So she gave me a little smile and said if I didn't mind 2 double beds, she could upgrade me. I didn't mind at all, of course. I staggered up to my room, intending to collapse in whatever bed was there, and I found a room with a balcony and this view waiting for me.
Gorgeous, isn't it? I stood there for ages, peering out and grinning and trying to work out what various landmarks were. It put such a complete spin on my mood that after a shower, I felt so completely refreshed and happy that instead of crawling into bed, I met some friends and went out to dinner. (Brazilian — a total, delicious meat-fest.)
The second lucky part for me was that I'd been warned the weather would be unbearably hot and humid. I'm pretty okay with heat but a total wimp with humidity. San Antonio was hot — 100 F (38C) but only about 40% humidity, which didn't bother me at all, so I was able to do a lot of walking and exploring. San Antonio is a beautiful place. I went here. Recognize it?
Maybe this is a more recognizable angle.
And I caught up with so many people. The first evening after I arrived I went out to dinner (Mexican) with PJ Ausdenmore, of the Romance Dish. We walked down along the Riverwalk to this place. PJ's a romance reader, blogger and reviewer, and she and I have been long-time friends since she was introduced to my books by the wonderful Janga, reader, writer, reviewer, blogger and regular wenchly reader (waving to Janga.) PJ and I drank margaritas and talked and ate (chilli rellenos) and talked some more and it was a wonderful night.
The next day the conference started in earnest, and I went to the Librarians' Day luncheon, where Barbara Samuel made a beauful speech that had most of the audience wiping away tears at times. I caught up with the lovely Kristan Higgins, who I'd met in Australia the year before.
The next day I attended a heap of good workshops and in the evening I hooked up with another group of writer friends, in which wenches Jo and Mary Jo were included — these were mostly people I'd met at NINC (novelists Inc) and I hadn't seen some of them for ages. So, old friends and some new ones.
The literacy signing was a blast — so many people came up to me and said nice things about my books. As usual I was sitting next to Heather Graham and she's always so lovely. Opposite me were RITA finalists in the historical category, Elizabeth Hoyt and NZer Frances Housden. And I managed to race around and catch up with some other authors I only ever see at conference.
People might imagine there's a lot of competition between writers, but honestly, I find the conferences so warm and friendly and supportive, it's a joy to be there and to meet friends I've made at previous conferences. You can click with someone at a conference, and with email, the friendships can ripen so that by the next conference, that person is like an old friend, even though you've met them at only two conferences.
A highlight of the week was attending the Harlequin party as the guest of my friend Carol Marinelli, who was being presented with an award for writing 75 books. Such a fabulous achievement, and I know how hard she works. I was so proud of her. She's the one in the middle.
I attended parties given by Kensington (which published the wenchly Christmas Anthology) and my publisher, Berkley, as well as having lunch with my editor and the editorial director of Berkley. Other highlights were having a quiet evening in my room talking and having a glass of wine and talking with the other wenches attending — Mary Jo, Nicola and Jo.
One lunchtime I raced down to the foodcourt to snatch some food and found myself sharing a table with two new young writers — one a golden heart finalist. I love meeting new writers — their excitement and passion for writing is so infectious. Another highlight was the ANZ (Australia/NewZealand) breakfast — Mary Jo and I were meeting for breakfast and she suggested I bring along a few of my aussie friends. I told her there was likely to be a mob — and she said she didn't mind, there was. It was a lovely breakfast and everyone had a great time.
From left: Kelly Hunter, Lilian Darcy,Nalini Singh, Stephanie Laurens, Carol Marinelli, Mary Jo Putney (honorary ANZer) and Golden heart finalist and newly contracted writer, Vanessa Barneveld. Also attending but not in the picture were Jo Beverley, Frances Housden, Melanie Scott, Trish Morey – and I might have forgotten one of two — sorry if I have.
The RITA night was a blast ‚— I was sitting at the Berkley table with my editor and the Berkley editorial director and Sherry Thomas and others. With 17 finalists in the group, I wasn't too nervous, so I enjoyed the night, even though I didn't win a RITA. I love awards night, and the speeches and excitement, and I was thrilled because several of my friends won a RITA — including Susanna Kearsley, Leah Ashley a fairly new, young Australian writer (that's her in the pic) and my good friend Jane Porter, who I've known for years. So we celebrated the RITAs in a group.
Bizarrely the Marriott hotel bar didn't have champagne available to buy — how crazy is that? After a huge awards ceremony. I tried to buy some bottles to share with my friends, and all they had were two (2!) tiny bottles, smaller than a can of soda — for eight people. We managed to celebrate anyway.
After the conference I spent a couple more days in San Antonio, moving to the Mokara hotel, which was simply gorgeous. I was lucky there, too and got a beautiful room with this view.I enjoyed every aspect of my stay there and will stay there again, if I go back to San Antonio.
And I left the USA with these two souvenirs of a very happy time in Texas. (See below — that's a bootjack between them. I'll be wearing these boots at the aussie conference this weekend.)
So there it is, a very brief outline of my conference. And now I'm about to shower and go down for breakfast at the Aussie conference.
This afternoon I'm involved in a debate, an entertainment that will be held with afternoon tea (cream cakes etc) as part of the Author Day. Our topic is "That Alpha Heroes are better than Beta Heroes" — and I'm first speaker on the negative side, arguing for beta heroes, along with Amy Andrews and Sarah Wendell. Our opposition is Cherry Adair, Jennifer St George and Christina Brooke. Wish us luck.
So where are you now, and what are you doing?