Yes, my week of fun in the Windy City is past. I had a marvelous time! So many wonderful moments to share and I know I shall not be able to cover them all at once, but shall get started. My husband joined me on this adventure both as companion and helper. We left Fresno on April 10, getting into O’Hare airport around 3pm. Compared to sunny CA where we are already feeling the approaching warmth of summer it was chilly. And windy, of course. The convention was held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare hotel which is very close to the airport. Day #1 was primarily resting up after a long flight. I did register for the convention but that was as far as we got.
Day #2 was the official start of the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention but with most events happening in the evening we opted to spend the day in Chicago being tourists. With assistance from the wonderful hotel concierge we made our way to the train station, boarded the blue-line, and arrived safely at the “loop” of downtown. Our first goal was to tour Millennium Park, but along the way we stubbled across an Intelligentsia coffee shop. This pleased my hubby immensely since he is a major coffee geek and has ordered fine beans from Intelligentsia many times. I enjoyed a lovely cup of latte, warming me for the cold outside. Our search for the best deep dish pizza led us to Pisanos on Wabash St. Can’t say if it was the definitive “best” in all of Chicago but it was yummy. After filling our bellies we made our way to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent a couple hours touring through the sections we love best: Armour and pre-19th Century Art. Next stop was Millennium Park and the famous mirror “bean” which I frankly could not grasp the coolness of until I saw it for myself. Fairly awesome, as it turns out.
That evening I met up with an author pal of mine name Cheryl Brooks. I have known Cheryl for ages now and we look so forward to these conferences as a way to reconnect. We had dinner together and then slipped into the fun to be had at the Foxy Dames Jazz Speakeasy. Oh Baby! It was a blast, but with a full day ahead we didn’t stay out too late or get too wild!
Day #3 was where it truly began for me. This was on Thursday April 12 and the Sourcebooks Spotlight was first thing. Once again guests were treated to an enthusiastic speech by my publisher Dominique Raccah, editor Deb Werksman, and many others from the Sourcebooks family. Right after we loaded up two big limos and drove to nearby Naperville where the Sourcebooks facilities are. The day was spent in a grand tour of the entire place, a chance to meet most of the over 70 employees who make the books possible, and then a delicious lunch. It was wonderful to finally see where my novels are given a chance to shine. It was also wonderful to reconnect with a whole bunch of other authors that I have known for a while now as well as meet the new authors.
Actually, that is the best part of these events all the way around! Meeting friends and making new ones. I was blessed to hang out with the lovely Sara Taney Humphreys, Emily Greenwood, and Shona Husk. I chatted with old friends Delilah Marvelle, Sabrina Jeffers, Ashlyn Chase, Ann Lethbridge, and many others. Austen Author Karen Doornebos came by for a while (she lives in Chicago) and we chatted for a couple hours. I met the incredible Jade Lee (helped lace up her corset no less!), Deb Marlowe, Barbara Vey from Publishers Weekly, and a slew of others that I can’t possibly take the time to name. Oh, and yes, there were a fair number of gorgeous male cover models roaming about! That night there were quite a number of them dressed in kilts (and little else) at the Clan McFae Magical Scottish Fling. That was an experience, let me tell you! But before that I finally met fellow Austen Author Marilyn Brant. Yeah!! We were able to spend several hours together, with Cheryl Brooks, and popped in to the Samhain Stampede for snacks and socializing. Indeed it was a long day and late night for me.
Day #4 – Friday – launched with me attending a couple workshops. Most enlightening. I had little time to attend the numerous workshops offered, however, as my time was filled with fun! My pal and co-Austen Author conspirator Abigail Reynolds breezed in my noon, so we had lunch and hung out for the rest of the day. I did meet with my editor for a while, chatting about Dr. Darcy plans and future endeavors. Nothing decided at this point, but it was good to discuss what the possibilities are. Lots ahead! Dinner was at a nearby steakhouse with Abigail, my husband, and C Allyn Pierson, who came with her delightful father and sister. Excellent food and company.
Day #5 was Saturday and the final day for me. We began bright and early setting up for our Jane Austen Happy Hour. That took a bit of work, but we got it together before needing to ready ourselves for the Big Book Signing. And it was BIG! Over 300 romance novelists, and YA and other novelists, all in one gigantic room. I do love these events, even if I end up with a headache from the noise. It it totally worth it! I signed copies of Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, The Trouble With Mr. Darcy, and Miss Darcy Falls in Love. It was marvelous to meet so many new people who could not resist once they saw the famous “Darcy” on the title! It is amazing how many readers love Austen and Pride and Prejudice but are unaware of the vast genre of Austen literary fiction. Together the 5 Austen Authors at the booksigning passed out tons of bookmarks for our blog and enticed a bunch of new fans to purchase our books and explore our genre. Score!
I was also honored to welcome those who are already fans of the Saga. I signed bookplates for those who have copies at home and signed at least a dozen copies brought in from home. Gloria came with all of my novels to sign, lugging them in a bag that had to be heavy! Thanks for the privilege, Gloria. Jennifer takes the prize, though, for driving 4 hours just to see me. WOW! I was totally blown away. Never has this happened, at least to my knowledge. I am still in awe at the dedication. Her husband accompanied, proving that devotion and love can selflessly be shown. Jennifer, you made my day. Truly!
Lunch was taken quickly because the Jane Austen Happy Hour was next. We hastily mixed our drinks and barely got the room set up before the crowds came. We could not count but figured we had around 150 people listen to us give our brief history lessons and then sample our alcoholic beverages – only those over 21, of course! I spoke about and served orgeat. For more information on my topic click over to Austen Authors where I shared the recipe and history lesson: Can you say Orgeat?
The workshop was a major hit. We passed out a ton more bookmarks and recipe cards while chatting with everyone about Jane, our books, and especially the drinks. After clean up we wanted to rest but there was more fun to be had! The party was to welcome librarians and booksellers – a group of people authors highly honor – and also to celebrate the launch of Discover a New Love. This is a new venture created by Sourcebooks to connect readers with our novels and authors. You have to check it out!
The last night ended with another social gathering for fans and a last dinner with pal Cheryl Brooks. The Austen Authors sadly dispersed – your’s truly trying not to get misty-eyed when saying good-bye. As fabulous as it is to see folks not seen for a while it is equally rough to bid adieu. Luckily we “see” each other on our blog every day! Bright and early the next day, or rather while still dark, my hubby and I board to plane for home. Another fabulous event done and successfully enjoyed. Next up: The RWA in July! In the mean time I am finishing Dr. George Darcy and getting back to the real world.