The architecture in the French Quarter is gorgeous–the balconies, enclosed courtyards, old buildings, actual operating gas lamps. As for the city aspect, it wasn’t Mardi Gras so I figured it would be pretty quiet, right? Not so much.
I thought I could handle any city, but what I saw on Bourbon Street was enough to shock even a jaded, born and bred New Yorker like me. Strippers, mostly naked, standing in the doorways to lure in customers from out on the street; some of the women were nude and painted gold. Hawkers worthy of any carnival trying to get people into their shows. Bums dressed in costume coming right up in your face demanding you take their picture for cash. Drunk young frat boys. Drunks in general of all ages. Tourists with their young children walking the streets at night among the debauchery. Live sex shows–no cover charge. Live music in all styles. Artists selling their wares. Tarot card readers. Voodoo shops. All condensed in a few blocks in the French Quarter, and my room faced Bourbon Street and overlooked it all. I can tell you the noise and partying didn’t stop until about 5:30- 6:00 am when the street cleaners come and hosed off the garbage and various unmentionable bodily fluids, so it could all start again, which it does by 4 pm.
It was an experience and I had a great time but I can’t say it’s one I’m going to rush to repeat again real soon. At least not in August when the stench is the most pungent, thanks to the heat and the daily torrential rain storms.
But enough of the geographical setting and on to the convention highlights because that’s really what it was all about last week–readers and authors coming together to discuss books and have fun and we certainly did both. Here are the highlights in photos.
Conventions are about connecting with old friends as well as meeting new ones. The first night my author friends and I had dinner together. I had the Shrimp Creole and a Hurricane. Above from Left to Right: Samantha Kane, Eliza Gayle, Mari Freeman and me. Not shown: the photographer Lissa Matthews.
And here I am with fellow Samhain and Kensington author Beth Williamson (aka Emma Lang) at one of the receptions. We did the Western Reader Round-Up together at RT in Chicago in April.
Conventions are also about meeting new people. Here I am at the Bourbon Cowboy during the Pub Crawl Saturday night with the lovely book blogger Obscured Vixen. We flew from NY to LA on the same flight and took the same shuttle bus from airport but didn’t realize it until we hit the hotel! (Yes, my shirt says Nice Rack. It’s from a barbecue restaurant and is referring to a rack of ribs! Get your mind out of the gutter. LOL)
Authors After Dark has also become all about the ink, ever since the so talented and always entertaining VooDoo has been brought in annually to tattoo the convention-goers. He works from morning ’til the wee hours every day of the convention to accommodate everyone’s tattoo needs and has had to bring in a second artist to help. Here is author Eliza Gayle getting the tattoo she had started by Jeff at the AAD Con in NJ 2 years ago finally completed. It came out beautiful!
And speaking of tattoos, possibly the biggest honor of my career to date was when a reader came up to me at the Welcome Event Wednesday night and turned to show me the tattoo she’d gotten at home before coming. She worked with the artist to design it and the text, Let’s Buck, is in honor of my Studs in Spurs series. How freaking cool is that!? I don’t know if someone who’s not an author can appreciate how I felt, but I almost cried… Then told her she had to wear sleeveless shirts and be my living billboard the rest of the con. LOL
I also had the honor of receiving an award at the Bookie Awards. All nominations are made by the AAD Attendees and then voted on online. I won for Best Short Western Romance of the Year for my RIDE (Studs in Spurs, Book 3). I received a “Winner” ribbon as well as an engraved Authors After Dark Hurricane glass. I even got it home on the plane unbroken! Last year I was lucky enough to win Best Western of the Year for my UNRIDDEN (Studs in Spurs, Book 1).
I got to see folks from home too. The Book Obsessed Chicks Book Club from Long Island, NY, whom I’ve visited on 2 occasions here in NY, were represented at AAD NOLA and we got to hang out a bit. Here are those who woke up in time for the morning group photo.
There were lots of panels too, some for readers, some about craft for authors, and I was lucky enough to sit on quite a few. I dressed in my camo corset for the Men in Uniform panel. I’m happy to report the corset stayed on, and everything stayed inside it! Though I found breathing, sitting, bending and eating were all more challenging than I’d expected so I changed for the other panels I sat on: Self-Publishing, Western Romance, Multiple Partners, and Author Book Club appearances. I wore my comfy snakeskin boots for the Western live reading.
The city itself definitely played a part at this convention. Unlike other cons where I saw nothing but the airport, the taxi, and the inside of the convention hotel, here there was no shutting out where we were, and it made it all that more interesting. We walked miles every single day, sometimes in search of food (Gumbo, Beignets, Crawfish, etc), or interesting shopping ( I was in every VooDoo shop in the city, plus one Witch store), or traditional NOLA drinks (besides a Hurricane and a local brewed NOLA beer, I had Absinthe poured the traditional way at the Olde Absinthe House in Pirate Alley). But sometimes the city came to us. Saturday morning we woke to the lobby filled with folks in town for the Red Dress Run–that’s where large sometimes hairy men don red dresses and run through the city for charity. The run is 2 miles, but drinking is part of it all and they came early and stayed late. There were still red-dressed drunks in the street at 3:45 am Sunday morning when I took the shuttle bus to the airport for my 6 am flight home.
Finally, I got to connect with the so sweet and lovely Justine from Kensington who gave me something I’ve been dying for– my cover for ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY. She also told me she got to read the story and she loved it, which is just the feedback and encouragement I need to kick me into gear to get Book 2 in the series done. So above is my new cover featuring my bull riding / Army soldier hero, Tucker. It’s on preorder now but I can’t wait for it to release in February!