March 24-26, 2017: Los Angeles RWA California Dreamin’ Conference

The conference was the ostensible reason for the bike journey (but really it was to meet George and Marla, my fabulous beta readers!!)

After collecting my name tag and bag-o-swag I headed off to find and meet my internet pal, Marla.

Here I am with a goodie bag:

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Marla and I finally met that first night and she was just as wonderful as I’d suspected she’d be! Sorry, no pictures of that emotional first meeting…

Anyhow, she brought her wonderful husband Murph along with her and I’m already trying to figure out ways to get them to move to New Mexico!

Here we are Saturday morning drinking coffee and discussing our plans for the day (Brantly is the camera man):

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I finally got to wear the skirt that took 400 hours of my life to crochet, so here is a close up below…

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The question I was asked most often was where I bought it. Right after that came, “What are you wearing under it?”

Yoga pants. Nothing more exciting than yoga pants.

The conference had a lot of interesting speakers and workshops, but my two favorite parts, hands down, were California Readin’ and getting to dress up in period clothing!

Marla scored tickets to the California Readin’ event, which was apparently a first at the conference. Both attendees and fans purchased tickets and were seated at tables with seven others, two of whom were published authors.

The event was billed as reader appreciation and they weren’t kidding. There were 60 authors total and each gave out a gift basket. The tables themselves were loaded with cool swag and we got to play. . . BINGO!

No, I didn’t win, but Marla scored a huge basket of romance novels and an ice cream maker. Also lots of candy and desserts everywhere. . . Tons of fun.

Not only that, but afterward was a monster book signing sponsored by the Ripped Bodice book store. I got to meet one of my favorite historical romance authors, Tessa Dare, as well as contemporary romance queen, Robin Carr. Lots of fun meeting and chatting with authors.

Marla went to an afternoon session and I went to play dress up. The people offering hair/makeup/costumes were in the business of shooting book covers but on Saturday they were beautifying the contest attendees and taking cover shots, as well as dress up, fun shots.

I had a blast. My only complaint is that it didn’t last all day and I didn’t get to try on every dress.

Here is a shot of me in one of their masterpiece creations:

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This was a photo Brantly took before the photographer stepped in and posed, moved, and generally made me look far better.

The dress was 8 layers of skirt in addition to the top, which was another two pieces. This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but I’m hoping the photographer shots will show the colors and craftsmanship.

After I took off my 10 layers of clothing I was off to the banquet hall for dinner, where NYT bestseller Robin Carr was our keynote speaker.

Sunday’s highlight was our lunchtime speaker, Sarah MacLean, who gave a wonderful keynote speech on the place romance novels hold in modern life.

By the time lunch was over I was beginning to suffer from conference fatigue and ready to head over to Marla and Murphy’s house for a couple days of R&R LA style. Here we are ready to take off:

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LA is a huge city. And I mean huge. One of the favorite topics of conversation is the state of the freeways. Getting anywhere takes 2 hours. Even with all that traffic, the Los Angeleans are almost scarily happy. In fact, everyone in that part of the state seems really happy.

Anyhow, the next three days of relaxation were blissful after the chaos of the conference and road trip.

We hung out, chatted, went to see a magic show at the Magic Castle, checked out Santa Monica Pier and the neighboring beach, and beaded! Yes, I got to savage Marla’s fabulous bead collection and make myself a lovely bracelet.

Here we are getting ready to enter the Magic Castle:

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The Castle is a members and guests only establishment and it felt like we’d entered a secret world. From the moment you say “Open Sesame” to the bookcase to enter the house, to the ghostly piano playing of Irma, to the wonderful prestidigitation of LA luminaries such as Pop Hayden, the experience was a one-of-a-kind.

Here I am destroying Marla’s pristine living room:

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This was a wonderful trip and WAY too short.

Here is a photo of my long-suffering photographer and SAG wagon driver with his new friend:

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Thanks to both Marla and Murphy for being such lovely, generous hosts. We’re coming back next week…

 

 

March 23, 2017: Day 13-The Last Day! Alpine, CA to San Diego, CA

Not much happened last night except losing $40 at the craps table. We’re not even sure how or why that loss happened, either. Craps is hard-like, calculus hard. So, even though we didn’t know what the hell was going on we couldn’t resist getting involved. Chatting with Robert and Mark, two of the craps dealers, was very entertaining, so that was worth the forty bucks.

Map from Alpine, California to San Diego, California

Anyhow, the next morning I woke up before first light and was the rain coming down pretty heavily on the well-lighted parking lot outside our window. Went back to bed and woke up at a decent hour.

The trip down the mountain was short (less than 30 miles) and almost all down hill. It was also a bit terrifying in spots because of the slick roads. According to Zach, my bike guru, my bike was not the best performing in ice, snow, or rain. After breaking on a particularly steep hill and skittering to the left, I finally knew what he meant.

The good news? I finally got to wear a lot of that expensive rain gear I bought in preparation for the trip.

Here I am coming down the hill from Alpine:

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What d’ya think? Too much gear?

Hey, it’s the last day, I had to wear it all. Cars were swerving and retinas got burned, but I got to wear every damned piece of biker garb I purchased.

Here’s another:

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At the bottom I got my reward:

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Yes, I took a wrong turn somewhere along the line and ended up back in New York, or maybe Phoenix? Anyhow, look who was waiting for me…

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Yeah, we hung out.

So, after a bit of a carb extravaganza I got back on the bike and onto Ye Olde Hwy 80 (that’s really what the signs say!)

Most cyclists keep going through the city and stop at the water’s edge to dip a bike tire into the Pacific Ocean. Snoopy put the kibosh on that idea as he’s not overly fond of water. Also, it was time to get our butts to Los Angeles.

This was the end of the road for me:

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I got lost multiple times on my way to this park entrance. I kept following the bike lane, thinking it was THE bike lane. It took me a while to figure out San Diego has a whole pile of bike lanes,  not just the one. Huh.

I flipped a coin with Snoopy to see which of us got to ride shotgun and who got to ride on the rack.

Guess who won? (I tried not to gloat. . . )

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For whatever reason Brantly thought this photo was hilarious:

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I really had no idea that my normal smile looked so . . . demented.

Anyhow, after loading up we got on our way and headed north to LA. After a quick stop for fish and chips in Oceanside I got to meet the first of two people I came to see: my fantastic beta reader George!!

Here are Snoopy and me with George and his wife Bette, who kindly put us up for the night before the conference began:

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Brantly and I had a great time with George and Bette and took an evening lake cruise graciously provided by George’s brother Bob and his wife Deb.

Thanks so much Bette and George for having us at your house!

Onward to the conference, where I get to meet Marla! My other fabulous beta reader . . .