Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Happens in San Antonio - - Part Three

Thursday is a good day at conference with people filled with energy and enthusiasm; not yet hitting the wall of sleep deprivation. That wall is looming in the distance but not here quite yet.  My morning began early at a book discussion breakfast hosted by Eloisa James with Linda Francis Lee the guest of honor and her new book, The Glass Kitchen: A Novel of Sisters, the topic of discussion. It's a beautifully written book that I highly recommend.

Our hostess, Eloisa James.

Linda Francis Lee, author of The Glass Kitchen.

The breakfast group.  We had a lively discussion and a wonderful time.

Thursday also kicks off conference workshops as well as the publisher book signings.  Here are some photos from Thursday's signings.

Kat Martin

Jo Beverley

Mary Jo Putney

Did I mention the book posters displayed on elevators, columns and walls throughout the conference hotel? Here are a few:

Grace Burrowes...

Jill Shalvis...

And the granddaddy of them all...

Late Thursday afternoon brought a couple more parties.  The first one I attended was the Lady Authors' Rakes and Cupcakes party hosted by Miranda Neville, Caroline Linden, Katharine Ashe and Maya Rodale. The company was good, the champagne bubbly, the tiaras sparkly and the cupcakes delicious...especially the chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting.  OMG good!

Here's a photo of historical author Jennifer McQuiston and me enjoying the party.

And here's one of those fabulous cupcakes!

Do you know any Pro Ro's?  I do!  Here are the wonderful founding members of the Professional Romance Fans at the Robyn Carr party.

And here are their Pro Ro rules. Rock on, ladies!

PJ and Robyn Carr.

Here are a few more random shots to round out the day.

Check out Kay Thomas's awesome purse!

Trish Milburn (2014 Emma Merritt Service Award Winner), Roxanne St. Claire and Marilyn Baxter

Tina Dick of the German romance magazine, Love Letter with Terri Osburn whose Anchor Island contemporary romances are very popular with German readers.  (American readers too!)

Jennifer McQuiston, PJ and Miranda Neville. Jennifer is the Queen of selfies!

Tomorrow, it's more workshops, publisher signings, breakfast and lunch with favorite authors and the Avon Books publisher party.  Be sure to come back for photos and details you won't want to miss!

For more great photos and conference highlights, check out Kim in Baltimore's travel blog at Aloha on My Mind.


How are you at taking selfies?  

Are you a tiara girl?

Are you looking forward to the new Outlander for TV?  An author posted today that she subscribed to Starz just so she can watch it.  Would you?

What's your favorite kind of cupcake?

Do you belong to a book club or book discussion group?  What book are you reading?

If you had an elevator in your office or home, what book cover would you put on it?  

Three people will be randomly chosen from comments posted no later than 12:00am Saturday, August 2nd to win today's prizes.  Those prizes are:

Signed copy of Summer is for Lovers by Jennifer McQuiston (U.S. only)

Signed copy of How a Lady Weds a Rogue by Katharine Ashe (Canada only)

Copy of The Promise by Robyn Carr (International to any country to which delivers)


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Happens in San Antonio - - Part Two

Wednesdays always start early for me at the RWA National Conference.  It's my morning to volunteer at the conference registration desk, a tradition I began with the first conference I attended, back in 2008.  RWA has a wonderful staff but there aren't enough of them to run a conference this large.  They need the assistance of volunteers to do everything from checking people in to moderating workshops to setting up signings to checking badges at the door.  Volunteering is fun, rewarding, a great way to meet people and, for four lucky people, very profitable.  You see, every day of the conference RWA randomly chooses one person who volunteered that day to receive a paid registration to the next year's national conference.  That's almost a $500 value folks.  If you're planning to attend next year's conference in New York City, I highly recommend signing up to volunteer.  Honestly, it's one of the highlights of my week.

Eloisa James & Hellie
Did I mention that volunteering (especially at the registration desk) is a great way to meet people? This year, one of those people was our very own Dish reviewer, Hellie.  Now Hellie and I have known one another online for many years but we had never met in person until last Wednesday. Yes, there was squealing (that would be me). Also hugs. And a date made to meet for mid-morning refreshment after my shift ended. That's one of the joys of attending a conference such as RWA national - the chance to make new friends, nurture existing friendships and take cyber friendships to a deeper, real-life level.

Lunch was next up on my schedule and my lunch date for Wednesday was another wonderful Aussie friend, Kandy Shepherd.  Kandy is writing for the Harlequin Romance line now and has a wonderful contemporary series set in a fictional Australian coastal town.  The first two books in the series are The Summer They Never Forgot and The Tycoon and the Wedding Planner.

The actual conference doesn't begin until Thursday but festivities kick off Wednesday evening with the giant Literacy Signing, usually preceded by small author/reader parties.  This year I attended two such parties Wednesday afternoon; one hosted by Sabrina Jeffries and another by Eloisa James.  Sabrina's party was held at Rita's on the River and included the surly taxi driver I spoke of in yesterday's blog.  He may have been the only rude person I encountered in San Antonio but he couldn't dampen the spirits of a group of happy women ready to party.  The fabulous frozen margaritas at Rita's on the River may have helped too. Here's a photo of Sabrina pouring.

The Menger

At Sabrina's party I was delighted to meet fellow readers who I have known online; readers such as Kristy Birch and JacknSusan Knight (screen names). Kristy and I were both going to Eloisa's party at the historic (and apparently haunted) Menger Hotel so we set out together to catch a taxi to our next destination. Remember, it was really HOT in San Antonio at 3:45 in the afternoon.  Alas, there wasn't a taxi in sight so I ducked into a western clothing store and asked for directions.  The associate (or maybe the owner?) was a stereotypical Texan with big hair, a big hat, kick-ass boots and plenty of sparkle.  I wanted so bad to take a photo of her but was afraid I might offend so I didn't ask.  Anyway, she was sweet as apple pie, gave us directions and told us the Menger was "right around the corner."  Not exactly, but pretty darn close.  We managed to walk there with a minimum of heat-induced "glow." At Eloisa's, we made more new friends (are you sensing a theme here?) and had a lovely time getting to know everyone.

It seemed we had just settled in at the Menger when it was time to be off again.  This time, our destination was the Marriott Rivercenter and the Literacy Signing, a huge, crowded, crazy book signing with 400+ authors. Visualize a kid set loose in the world's biggest candy store then replace the kid with readers and the candy with authors and their books and you'll have a good idea of the frenzied excitement that filled the room.  It's best to have a "battle plan" when attending this signing.  Otherwise, you're sure to miss I did.   I made one swipe through the "S" tables and didn't see first-timer Anna Sugden (one of my favorite people) so I moved on, intending to return later.  I never made it back.  Didn't get a photo of her at her first signing.  That makes me sad but you won't be sad if you win a signed copy of Anna's terrific new contemporary romance, A Perfect Trade.

Here are a few of the many photos I did take at the signing.

Rita Finalist Courtney Milan

Rita Finalist Courtney Milan

Elizabeth Michels and Trish Milburn

Kristan Higgins and Double Rita Finalist Jill Shalvis

Rita Winner Sarah MacLean

PJ with Susan Andersen and Stephanie Laurens

Historical Author Valerie Bowman

The Literacy Autographing raises money to support literacy in the city where the conference is held.  This year's signing raised more than $53,000.  You can see more of my photos from the signing at my facebook page.  

Beth Andrews, Donna MacMeans, Tawny Weber, Anna Sugden

You might think I'd be exhausted by this time and you'd be right (grin) but I had one more social obligation with a group of some of the best women on the planet:  The Romance Bandits.  The Bandits generously offered drinks at RWA to the Brenda Novak Auction for Diabetes Research and I won the item!

We met next door at Maria Mia's Mexican Restaurant for drinks, dinner and a rousing good time. They are some of the nicest, most generous, most talented authors around and I adore them.  If you aren't familiar with their multi-author blog, do check it out.

And that does it for Wednesday.  Be sure to come back tomorrow for the next installment of RWA 14: What Happens in San Antonio!

As you may have gathered, we did a lot of eating and drinking at RWA 14 and, being as we were in San Antonio, many of those drinks and dishes were Mexican.  So tell me, what's your favorite type of food?  Do you have a favorite drink?  Do you enjoy trying new dishes or do you stick with your favorites?  

If you could have dinner and drinks with any author - or authors - who would you choose and why?

If you could attend the Literacy Autographing which authors would be at the top of your "must meet" list?

Do you have any questions about the RWA Conference?  

One person randomly chosen will receive a package of books and swag from my conference stash.  (U.S. only)

One person randomly chosen will receive one signed book from my conference stash (Canada only) 

One person randomly chosen (international - not Canada) will receive one book of our choice from

Winners will be randomly selected from all comments left by 12:00am Saturday, August 2nd.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What Happens in San Antonio - - Part One

I live in the South.  It gets hot in the summer.  But hot in North Carolina and hot in south Texas are obviously two very different things.  I landed in San Antonio at 7 pm Monday evening, walked out of the airport and my glasses immediately steamed over. "Wow," I thought, "it's really hot!"  Taxi driver Eduardo greeted me with a smile, warmly welcomed me to his city and said, "Isn't this weather great?"  It's supposed to get hot later this week. At this point, I had two thoughts.  First was, "Holy guacamole!" and second was "I wonder if I'll sweat enough to fit into the RITA dress I brought with me?" Who says I don't have my priorities in order? LOL!

Thanks to Eduardo, my initial impression of San Antonio was a favorable one that set the tone for what was to be a lovely week in his city.  Everyone I encountered; from the hotel housekeeper who cleaned our room (Dolores Q rocks!) to the wait staff at local restaurants to shop owners to river barge drivers/tour guides to people on the street were friendly, accommodating, proud of their city and eager to help.  Okay, there was that one taxi driver who got ticked off that we only wanted to go five blocks in his cab but I don't count him. I'm sure he was a transplant from somewhere less friendly.

My roommate, Lisa wasn't scheduled to arrive until Tuesday so I hit the sack early Monday night for a good night's sleep in preparation for what was sure to be a week of sleep deprivation.  RWA's national conference is like that.  ;-)

PJ & Elizabeth Essex
Tuesday morning I awoke refreshed and ready to explore San Antonio with the awesome Kim of the SOS Aloha and Aloha On My Mind blogs.  While I was waiting for Kim in the hotel lobby I ran into historical romance author Elizabeth Essex.  At RWA, the hotel lobby is a great place to meet and greet, second only to hotel bars.  We started chatting about places where we get great ideas and when I mentioned I write entire reviews in my head while in the shower but forget key points by the time I get to the computer, Elizabeth whipped a pad of Aqua Notes (waterproof note pads) from her purse with a magician's flair. This product is my new best friend.  Thanks, Elizabeth!

Kim and I kicked off our exploration of San Antonio with a riverboat tour of the San Antonio River then followed that with a walk around San Antonio and the River Walk.  Following are a few highlights:

Captain D

We really lucked out when we stepped onto Captain D's boat.  He was funny, knowledgeable and made the trip entertaining, educational and fun.  Tip:  River cruises begin running at 9am.  Take the early cruise before the heat becomes unbearable.

The River Walk is a calm oasis of lush vegetation, sparkling waterfalls, cozy shops and festive restaurants. It's also the number one tourist attraction in Texas according to the official River Walk website.  Most hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions - such as the Alamo - are easily accessible via the River Walk.  

One of the gorgeous flowers found along the River Walk. 

It's an optical illusion but check out the cool "flat" Nix Professional Building shown to the left.  It's a 23-story hospital on the River Walk that, at the time it was built, was the tallest hospital in the U.S. A bit of trivia: Carol Burnett was born in this building.

The Bexar County Courthouse is one of the most distinctive buildings in San Antonio.  This historical landmark sits on the Main Plaza along with the Cathedral of San Fernando.  Completed in 1896, the red sandstone building is on the National Register of Historic Places.  

The Cathedral of San Fernando was founded in 1731, is the oldest, continuously functioning religious community in the state of Texas and one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States.  In 1836, the cathedral was instrumental in the siege of the Alamo when, according to Wikipedia "the cathedral, still a parish church, played a role in the Battle of the Alamo when Mexican General Antonio L√≥pez de Santa Anna hoisted a flag of "no quarter" from the church's tower, marking the beginning of the siege."  

The Cathedral also houses the burial tomb of Davy Crockett, William B. Travis, Jim Bowie and other heroes of the Alamo.  

Speaking of the Alamo, we visited that too!  

While at the Main Plaza, Kim and I checked out the Farmer's Market where we met these hardworking folks from the San Antonio Food Bank. If you're on Instagram, check out fitbot3000 for healthy eating tips.    

They say everything is bigger in Texas...including the animals at the Buckhorn Gift Shop.  

And, of course, no visit would be complete without a seeing a few cowboys.

These two work a couple days at the shop but the rest of the week they're out on the range doing real cowboy work.  

All that walking around in the heat - believe me, it was hot - conjures up a mighty thirst so I popped into Schilo's German Deli for a glass of their homemade root beer.  Having grown up on "real" A&W root beer (not the bottles and cans that can be found at grocery stores), I consider myself a root beer aficionado. I have to say, Schilo's make one delicious root beer!  If you're ever in San Antonio, I highly recommend it!  

PJ & Anne Gracie
After my day of sightseeing, I returned to the hotel for a shower (I don't care what Eduardo said, it was HOT and I was soaking wet by the time I got back to my room) and got ready for my Tuesday evening dinner date with one of my favorite Aussies, Anne Gracie. Anne is one of those people who instantly puts you at ease and it doesn't matter how many years there are between visits.  When I see her we pick up as easily as if we had just seen each other a couple months ago.  We kicked off the evening with delicious frozen margaritas and followed those with authentic Mexican cuisine at Casa Rio, the first business to open on the River Walk (in 1946) and one of the most photographed with its patio of colorful umbrellas bordering the river. The core of the Casa Rio building is a Spanish hacienda on land first granted by the King of Spain in 1777.  Anne and I enjoyed a leisurely dinner and great conversation about a variety of topics, including her 2014 RITA nominated book, The Autumn Bride.  If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it!

The colorful patio umbrellas of Casa Rio.  

PJ and Erica

Back at the hotel, I stumbled upon my roommate, Lisa Lin as well as (suspense author) Carey Baldwin, (historical romance RITA finalist) Tessa Dare, (historical romance Golden Heart finalist) Lenora Bell and (historical Romance author) Erica Monroe.  We caught up over drinks (Strawberry Margarita, anyone?) before finally heading to bed. I knew I'd need a good night's sleep for all the fun and festivities of Wednesday!

Tell me about your latest vacation.  Where did you go?  How was the weather?  Were the people friendly? What were some of the highlights of the trip?  Were there margaritas? Have you been to San Antonio?  

One person (U.S. addresses only) who leaves a comment will receive a package of books and swag from my conference stash.  I'll randomly choose a winner from comments left before 12:00 am, EST Saturday, August 2nd.  

Don't forget to come back tomorrow for the second installment of What Happens in San Antonio!