Last winter I had a wonderful idea. I would drive down to Cincinnati for the Lori Foster Reader Author Gathering and meet some readers and other authors at what was touted as the friendliest environment around. What can I say?
Yes, I am a driving maniac, and Yes, they were correct. I have never been in such a warm and fuzzy environment with so many huggy people.
I spent five days in Joliet on the outskirts of Chicago, meeting and greeting a friend that I have only known previously in online conversations. We went shopping, played Magiquest (with her teen children...twice) and enjoyed the peculiar environment of Medieval Times and the challenge of eating in a dim to dark environment while using only our hands.
After this riotous good time I got my butt back in my car and headed for Cincinnati. With my GPS now sporting the voice of C3P0, I giggled may way through the tolls and snugged into the Marriot of West Chester.
I had previously signed up for the breakfast gathering and even losing an hour by heading east, managed to get up and into the main hall for breakfast across the way at Bob Evans. I sat with authors, a reader and the event photographer enjoying a lively discussion of everything from the layers of ordering that some dishes required (eggs - doneness, meat - type, sausage - configuration, toast- species) By the end of the list I had a fork to my throat and I was willing to use it.
After breakfast I returned to the hotel and met my writing partner. It was slightly odd as I recognize her from her photo, but no camera has yet been able to capture my soul. ;-)
We greeted, hugged and arranged to meet later.
I had donated some of my needle felted dolls as centrepieces and sat down at the table that sported them, introducing myself to a lovely and friendly reader group from Kentucky, one of whom who had actually read and enjoyed my work.
I stifled a tear as Dawn Z. told me she had a print copy of Champions of Terra for me to sign and I informed her that I was not going to be parked in the hall for an official 'signing'. She found me anyway.
I met several authors that I had previously known by name and spent every moment I could with Tianna and her husband. Meeting two additional authors from Extasy Books was also a treat and Missy Martine and Tim Smith were perfectly charming. If fate is kind I should have a picture of all four of us as there were several of them taken by the official gathering photographer.
Energized by the open friendliness of the gathering, I headed for home on the Sunday and made it home Monday evening.
Next year I will be attending RT 2012 in Chicago as well as the Lori Foster Gathering and enjoying my local sci-fi/fantasy con in between. It is going to be one frenzied spring and I am looking forward to it.
As a final note, I cannot say enough good things about the Hampton Inn Joliet I-55. They went above and beyond and had the cleanest, friendliest facility I have ever been to.
If you are staying in the suburbs of Chicago, this is one Inn you would not regret staying in.
You may have noted the word Friendly came up a lot in this post...when you are traveling alone, friendly counts for everything. I was out of my country, away from my friends, family, and surroundings I was used to and having smiling faces greet me was what made the difference between me staying in my room and coming out to play with the folks who belonged to those faces. Thank you Tianna, Kevin, Trixie, Dawn, Wendy, Lily, Cathy, Kathy, Belinda, Mary (and the rest of the Canadian contingent that invited me to the bar). It made all the difference.