So much went on at this year’s RAGT, I don’t even know where to start. To which my brain chimes in “at the beginning, dumba$$.” Which means the 9 hour ride from just east of Toronto starting at 5:30 a.m. with fellow author Anara Bella and reviewer Mary G the day before the event started. We usually get together for lunches that last into the dinner hour, so you can imagine that we talked non-stop the whole way down.
Well, except for the 45 minutes we spent at the US border when a border guard decided Anara’s trading cards were cause for concern. For those who have never driven across the US-Canadian border, it’s like going through a toll booth initially. You take off your glasses, hand over your passports and answer questions about where you’re going, how long you plan to stay, and why you’re going. (Along with questions about if you’re bringing in any fruits or vegetables.)
The first guard didn’t seem to understand why anyone would want to go to a book conference to discuss books. Then he got Anara to pop her trunk and discovered her trading cards. Since they had a tag line on them, he figured she would be…I don’t know, selling them like baseball cards I guess. Which led to him flagging us for investigation. Which meant pulling up to another building where they had us empty our purses of everything, took away any electronics (I’m assuming they were worried we might use a cell phone to explode a bomb? Which given the environment these days, I totally understand and had no objections to.)
We faced more questions about what RAGT was and had to explain who Lori Foster was, and why we were going–they couldn’t seem to understand that we wouldn’t be setting up a booth. While we were answering the second guy’s questions, other agents were pulling our suitcases apart, and poking through the gift basket Anara and I had put together for the raffle that raised money for One Way Farm Children’s Home (the raffle donations raised $13,000 by the way.) So while we’re alternating between being grilled and waiting for them to make a decision, I’m sitting there wondering what we’ll do if they let Mary and I go through but turn Anara back, or vice versa.
The second customs agent–who was a Hotty McHot who could totally be a hero in a romance book, especially with the little bit of scruffy beard–disappeared for a while and then came back and displayed a sense of humor the first guard completely lacked. He told us he’d read the back of the copy of Northern Heat: Best Canadian Erotic Romance Stories and asked which of us was the millionaire. I wish! He also called in the first guard and questioned him about just why he’d flagged us. (I’m thinking he did it loud enough so we’d hear and understand that he thought the first guy was off-base too.) And then he let us go.
Phew! Unfortunately, they forgot to mention that in pulling out our suitcase, they’d scratched Anara’s new car. Ah well. Fodder to use in a book somewhere.
Things got WAY better after that. We arrived at the Marriott and they put us in rooms reasonably close together, and as usual we headed down to the restaurant. The first year we went, we were so hungry when we arrived we agreed to meet up at the restaurant after we’d dumped our bags in our room. Mary had been hoping to run into Cheryl Brooks but hadn’t arranged where or when. While we were sitting in the restaurant, there was a woman sitting beside us, eating all alone, and Mary realized it was Cheryl. We pulled her over to our table, and that’s become a tradition every year – that’s how we met Vicky Dreiling last year. Our table of four generally ends up sprawling into a table of twelve or more. And the numbers swell and ebb as people leave to go to their appointments and then are replaced as new friends arrive. It’s turned into a great way to meet people.
The same thing happens at the main events in the ball room too. That’s how I ended up meeting Desiree Holt and Virginia Nelson this year. (Jade Lee, Beth Kery, Marie Force in previous years.) I love how RAGT lets the authors mingle with the readers–and since I’m a reader as well as an author, I appreciated having the opportunity to table hop and meet my fave authors like Lorelei James too.
But mainly it’s all about meeting the readers. Last year I sat with Joni whom I knew from FB, and she introduced me to Margie who is now on my street team, and Margie introduced me to the Book Obsessed Chicks, and so on and so on. It’s kind of like that old “and they told two friends, and they told two friends” commercial. So this year wherever I walked, I heard my name being called out by old friends. It made me feel like a rockstar.
RAGT started a day earlier than normal this year–with a dance and some games, including one that challenged participants to match authors up with pictures of their pets. I was surprised to see a photo of Seamus and Turtle up on the board. (If anyone attending got a photo of the boards, can you email me or contact me on FB–I’d love to have a copy.)
Friday morning, I took the members of my Street Team who were there out to breakfast, along with a couple of other new friends – Sarah (whom we hope to convert to being a Braemel Brigade member), and Sharon (whom you may know as Slick Reads from Guilty Pleasures) From left to right it’s Lori M, Margie M.H., Slick Reads, Sarah, me, and Lisa B.
Friday afternoon was the digital book signing. Which is one I’ll never forget–hey, any time someone comes up with one of my books they’ve brought from home and asks me to sign it is unforgettable. I have to admit, I suck at coming up with those witty lines above my signature. No different from when I’m signing birthday or get well cards. I hope none of my fans are disappointed at what I wrote, or shocked (I got risque on a few RAGT first-time attendees books 🙂 ) Saturday’s signing was just as fun–and challenging coming up with those witty one-line dedications.
For the first time, I had some buttons made up — for my Brigade members to wear, but also Hauberk Protection buttons, and one for almost all my heroes. I was pleasantly surprised to discover people snatching them up and it became a private game to spy them on other people’s lanyards. The Hauberk buttons were the most popular, followed closely by the I ♥ Sam buttons. Though I ran out of I ♥ Chad buttons first (mainly because I’d had twice the number of Sam buttons made up since he’s the most popular of all my heroes.)
Saturday night’s Carina Press Pictionary game was a hoot as always–I’m going to see if I can get some of the photos Mary took of the hints that were drawn to see if you can guess the word(s). As I did last year, by the time the game ended, my already-hoarse voice was strained to the limit, but I had a grin a mile-wide from the fun we’d had. And many of the other sponsors had fun games too — like the “cup” game Author Island had in the ballroom Saturday night.
RAGT gives me such an opportunity to meet so many people–I named some yesterday, but I wanted to acknowledge more today: authors like Jayne Rylon, Lissa Matthews, Robyn Bachar, Drea Becraft, Maddie Barone, Macy Beckett, Dee Carney, Alannah Lynne, Janice Maynard, Jeffe (pronounced Jeffey, but please, no Y) Kennedy, Linda McMaken, Hildie McQueen, Monica Burns, Jodie Redford, Keri Stevens (who injured herself on the treadmill and declared ‘exercise kills’), Tatum Throne (really Tatum, submit to Carina! Rhonda meant it when she gave you her card), Beth Williamson, and for a moment Wendi Zwaduk (sorry I didn’t get to spend more time talking with you, Wendi). And also Kendra Egert (the cover artist who designed Private Deceptions’ cover), Diana Neartrour, Amelia Durbin, Jodi Anderson, Valerie Cozart, Alannah Lynne, Kim Rocha of Book Obsessed Chicks, Kim Killion of Hot Damn Designs and the Killion Group, not to mention all the Samhain and Carina folks. I know I’ve forgotten others, and I apologize if I’ve left you off the list.
I also met dozens of readers — you are what made the event for me, whether you stopped by and said hi at the signings or sat with me at the dinner tables and threatened to take my cowboy hat. 😉
There is one very special lady I finally got to chat with this year–she joined us for breakfast last year, but since I was at the far end I never managed to actually talk to her. Boy I wish I had had the chance because she is something special. She is one of the reasons I will always remember this year’s RAGT and rate it the best…but that’s for tomorrow’s post.
Note: I apologize if there are any typos but I am writing this one-handed. Turtle has been a little clingy since I returned and has claimed my right arm/hand as his bed. He looks so cute I don’t want to disturb him.