Romantic Times Convention 2002
by Linda Hurst
I really wanted to title this article "Linda's Most Excellent Adventure at RT" as that sentence pretty well captures my experiences. But, I believe Bill and Ted have already used that title and I wouldn't want to be derivative.
I arrived at the Circus Circus Hotel in Reno on Monday, October 21st with my husband in tow. We are planning a move to the Reno area and used Monday and Tuesday for househunting (no success - drat). When Roger saw all of the women arriving for RT on Tuesday evening, he quickly fled to safer grounds so that my roommate Leslie Tramposch could join me for fun and frolic. Oh the fun and frolic we had!
Tuesday night saw us dining at a hotel restaurant and greeting friends and authors we had met at previous reader conventions. We happily sat up talking books till 3:45 and then realized we had to be up early for the Brunch and Authors awards.
Amazingly, we arrived in time for Wednesday's Brunch and quickly found ourselves seated with Susan Grant and Lisa Cach as the awards were handed out. The awards ceremony was shorter then I remembered from Houston RT, which I think was because fewer authors were there to accept them. Whether fewer is better will depend on how you feel about author's "thank you" and "you like me/you like me" speeches. For me less is more.
I decided to hang out in the Hospitality suite on Wednesday afternoon and quickly met Susan Squires and her husband Harry. Susan is such a talented author and I loved her book Danegeld so much, that I was really happy to meet her. Susan proved to be a down-to-earth person, who found her experience at last year's RT a little overwhelming and had brought Harry to help her cope with all of the non-stop action at RT. I was happy to discover that AAR's review is quoted prominently on Susan's next book and she quickly advised that she was a big fan of our site.
The hospitality room was an amazing place, right after I met Susan I ran into Robin Schone and her husband Don. I thought Robin was an amazing author when I read The Lover for Pandora's Box, I told her that I would have never believed an author could make me love an aging, burned-out, male prostitute (Michael), let alone worms, but Robin pulled it off with what I believe was amazing style.
Robin told me that when she was writing The Lover, she didn't tell her editor what to expect nor did she tell her husband Don. After she mailed the book off, she sat down and read it to Don. His amazed response was "Robin, what have you done?" Robin then waited on pins and needles to hear from her editor, who called her at late at night to say that she loved the book. Authors who take chances and push the envelope do have to wait trepidatiously to see if the powers that be will accept their new directions. Happily for her readers, Robin's editor was open to a "gothic/erotic romance."
Robin also wanted me to tell her readers that her next book was delayed due to her illness and is now scheduled for September 2003. The only hints she would give me were that it is set in England in the 1880's.
I did not attend many workshops as many of them are targeted for "aspiring authors" of which there are many at RT. Leslie and I were surprised though to see one badge that said "aspiring reviewer," we did not know reviewing unpaid as most of us are would be something to which one would aspire.
Late Wednesday afternoon though I went to a scheduled 3 hour paranormal workshop run by Dara Joy and featuring Susan Krinard and Sherilyn Kenyon/Kinley MacGregor for the first half. The discussion centered on the recent expansion of paranormal romances. Dara and the others made it clear that this new sub-genre is still on the "bubble" and it will take reader support to keep these books coming. Publishers look only at the numbers and if sales don't support our on-line requests for "something different," we will be back to the "same old same old" in short order. Dara and the others did state that they know how important it is to keep the things readers expect in a romance (i.e. the happy ending) while pushing the envelope on plot and setting. Also, it seems that the term "Science Fiction" is preferred by authors to "Futuristic." I think they are hoping that being designated Science Fiction will gain them a larger audience, while still keeping their Romance fans. Authors like Joy, Catherine Asaro, Susan Grant and Susan Squires are definitely bending the lines between the genres and as long as they keep a love story at the heart of their books, I am happy to go where they take me.
For Matrix fans, Dara did state her intention to finish the Matrix series even though she's currently involved in litigation with Dorchester over the series. To my delight she also plans to write the Scarlet Pimpernel character from Tonight Or Never and she advised that we will get to see Lord Sex and Chloe again in the next book. I love this book and since the Zorroish character is one of my favorites, I'll be glad when it comes out. If only Dara wrote faster.
After the first half of the seminar an amusing thing happened. Dara told everyone to take a 15 minute break before Lisa Cach joined her for a discussion of magical elements in the paranormal. Well, my roomie and I stayed in the room as we were talking to Lisa and Dara - finally we all noticed that none of the women had returned. Cory-the-webguy (Dara's companion) went to round them up, but all had disappeared. Dara apologized to Lisa for not having tied everybody down and it was agreed to continue the session at Dara's midnight party that night.
During the wait to see if anyone was coming back, Lisa Cach did share the attached picture with me. It seems that Lisa does not intend to marry. A friend insisted she try on the friend's wedding gown and the ensuing picture had me laughing. We told Lisa that she needs to write a story to go with the picture and were quickly batting ideas around - it is the perfect picture for a runaway bride story in my opinion.
Next we were off to the Medieval Calabrian Dinner. In the reception area we met Lisa Cach, Susan Grant and Melanie Jackson, each of whom was clad in a white gown. Together they said they depicted "the three virgins," which of course engendered a lot of giggling and funny repartee. Susan invited us to sit at the Dorchester table, where I was seated next to Chris Keeslar. Chris is Senior Editor at Dorchester at only 28; his roster of authors reads like a "who's who" of those up and coming in the genre. I was happy to be able to tell him how much I loved the new books coming from Dorchester and that I hope he will continue helping authors to push the envelope while still maintaining the things we love about romance novels.
The Calabrian Ball was given by Helen Rosburg and her husband, who give it every year. Helen is apparently a long time Romance author, but I have never encountered one of her books. Their Court was dressed in Medieval dress and the costumes were lovely, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the sound system was not up to the size of the room and we could not hear much of the presentations and program going on on the dais.
At midnight we headed to Dara's party and about 40 of us ate snacks and discussed what we like and don't like about Paranormals. It was interesting as the readers were a disparate group, but I personally was dazzled by Dara's recall of SF books she had read 10 years ago. I have trouble remembering books I read 10 days ago, let alone 10 years.
After the Dara bash my roommate and I again adjourned to our room to discuss books until the wee hours. Leslie was more intrepid then myself though, as she made the 8:00 Breakfast that I chose to sleep through on Thursday morning.
Thursday afternoon we ran into Dara Joy and Cory in the coffee shop. They invited us to join them and we started visiting about Robin Schone's Awaken My Love. I mentioned that I thought the scene where the heroine looked in the closet and saw what she thought was a bird cage was funny. Dara started giving us a history of the bustle and how the original ones were quite heavy and made of iron. Someone commented that would give a new meaning to "buns of steel" and Dara quickly put together a QVC promotion selling the "Bun Bustle" guaranteed to give you Buns of Steel. Selling today for not $40.00 or even $30.00 but for an introductory price of $19.95!! We were all in agreement that if people thought that the Bun Bustle would help them get a tighter rear end, it would be a best seller and we would shortly see people on the exercise trails wearing bustles tied to their buns. My sides were hurting from laughing by the time we had finished writing our infomercial.
On Friday I spent most of the day in the Reception room, visiting with different writers as they drifted through. But, from 2:00 to 5:00 I attended one of the highlights of the entire convention: The Wild and Wacky Diva party given by Tina Wainscott and Kayla Perrin. Having arrived early, I recieved one of the coveted pink diva boas and posed for pictures. After that was a truy wild and wacky session where readers shared some of our most embarrassing real life romantic situations. The situations ran the gamut from a meeting with an entire football team, to a side trip to a rest stop on an interstate and we were all in stitches by the end. One mother/daughter pair certainly learned more about each other's private lives then they did when they arrived for RT (all told in good fun of course). The sharing was followed by a game of Jeopardy with romance related questions and books for prizes.
Midway through the party, the door opened and in walked all of the cover-model wannabes from the RT Mr. Romance Pageant. Most of these guys were gorgeous and they were all incredibly good sports. Kayla read them questions that ran the gamut from "what do you call your manroot" to "have you ever had sex in a public place?" The answers were a hoot. Memorable names for the "manroot" ran from Lucky to Junior to most memorably "Mr. Go Down." It was funny to see these outgoing men blushing at some of the questions that were asked. By the way, one of the contestants said he had sex at Disneyland, upon which Kayla remarked that it gave a new meaning to "it's a Small World." This party was just a riot, but one guy took the prize when he described an encounter that had us all going "ewwwww," while he couldn't see why we thought it was gross. Very funny! We ended the afternoon by posing with the contestants in our boas, which we were told would appear in RT in January.
Friday night Elizabeth Boyle and Tina St. John took my roomie and me to dinner and we spent a lovely hour eating great food and discussing books - life doesn't get much better. The fun of meeting authors is that most of them are also avid readers of the genre and it is always fun hearing who their favorite authors are.
We then went to Heather Graham Pozzessere's Vampire Ball and Play (Heather Graham is also Shannon Drake, btw). Since the sound system was yet again making all of the people on stage sound like the adults on the Charlie Brown cartoons we gave up on the Clue Play and we introduced ourselves to our tablemates. I was lucky to sit next to two young readers who liked the same authors I do (including Diana Palmer) and we spent the next 3 hours talking books and sharing life stories. Laurie had some truly interesting stories to share, her husband works in the San Francisco Medical Examiner's office and suffice it to say that one has no secrets from one's autospy doctor. Leah is a concert violinist married to a singer/songwriter in a rock band. They are pooling their experiences and hope to write a romance book as a team. After hearing some of their ideas, I think they will put together a truly fun book.
Saturday Morning we were up bright and early and ready to boogie over to the Book Signing and Sale. This is always a highlight of RT and the only time that the general public is admitted. We met up with friends from Celebrate Romance who came in for the day and we all spent a very pleasant afternoon buying books and having them signed. Nirvana for a bookaholic like me!
After the Bookfair was the Mr. Romance Pageant. The show this year was lots of fun, with great repartee between Connie Perry and Heather Graham who portrayed two opposing Queens. The cover models and readers depicted various romance novel heroes and heroines; some of the costumes were truly lovely. The cover models threw some of the ladies over their shoulders or carried them off to great applause.
The true highlight, though, was the largely adlibbed repartee between RT's Mr. Romance for 1996, Mark Johnson (pictured to your left), and Leland Burbank (seen on your right with his wife Leslie; they met as models at a previous RT convention) - they were truly hysterical. I was hoarse afterwards from yelling "Huzzah," but it was worth the loss of my voice.
Last year's Mr. Romance, Tony Ranaudo (depicted to your right), is also a stand-up comedian. He did an absolutely hilarious routine involving a scene from one of Lisa Cach's books. He explained to the audience how Lisa's words varied from what a man would fantasize. Trust me the variations were huge! I have always thought a sense of humor was sexy and Tony certainly had it in spades.
Next we had a reunion dinner with buddies from Celebrate Romance and discussed the next location, which appears to be Chicago in May.
We then went to the Dorchester Invitation Only party given by Connie Mason. My roomie won the door prize: a gorgeous porcelain knight and I was absolutely green with envy. I did offer to mail it home for her, but for some reason she declined.
Next it was off to the Dorchester 50's Rock 'n' Roll party where we visited with authors and readers until the wee hours. The DJ was great and had lots of people out on the floor, but we were not among them.
The only scheduled event on Sunday, was Pam Binder's Pajama Party. We decided we did not want to walk through the Casinos in our Jammies, althiough many others did. Leland Berland even had jammies featuring knights in full regalia on them. My roomie wanted to put pictures of the models on her webpage and so I volunteered to have my picture made with them. It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it <G>. The guys were uniformly nice and one even gave me a kiss ( I may never wash my cheek again). The music was very danceable and I even got out on the floor to do the locomotion with a group led by Katherine Falk, RT's CEO.
Next up was Karaoke! Don Schone proved to be an outstanding singer and we all enjoyed his rendition of House of the Rising Sun. Our group proved to have many talented singers in it, with only a few "klunkers" - one of whom had my roomie and I wondering what Simon of American Idol would have to say about her performance! It was a really fun party and we stayed along with the Schones for the Roast of Kevin Beard, who was celebrating his 10th year of working at the RT convention. The roasting was good humored and Kevin took it in good grace, he even got off a few witty rejoinders to those roasting him.
I hated to see Pam's party end as that meant RT was over for another year, but as we left the room my roomie and I were singing "Going to Kansas City, Kansas City Here I Come." It will be interesting to see how many Dorothy's realize that Kansas City won't be the same after RT lands.