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The best month ever! July 2009 goes down as the best month of my life, bar none. Here are some reasons:

  • My firstborn turned 21—which perhaps should make me feel a bit old (and in truth, it occasionally does) but hey! He’s a productive member of society who’s earned a full scholarship to CalTech (California Institute of Technology for those who don’t know) for the third year in a row.
  • My second and youngest talked her way into two summer medical programs for the second straight year, with minimal financial help from her father. For a kid who struggled like you wouldn’t believe in 8th grade, this young woman has managed a sea change in her studies in the past two years. She wants to be a surgeon and by golly, no one and nothing will get in her way!
  • I spent 20 days in Maryland and DC with the love of my life. It’s true that he had to work during the week, but that meant I got to sightsee and read at my leisure, and we spent every second we could together. I am so in love with him, it’s probably sickening to see—not that I care, mind 😀

On top of that, said love of my life did two of the sweetest things ever done:

First one: he kept tabs on Nora Roberts’ signings at Turn the Page, and took me to Boonsboro on the 11th for the signing held to celebrate the store’s 14th anniversary. You can imagine, I think, my reaction when he told me of this plan.

July 11th - Turn the Page Bookstore (squee) 2

The store is tiny—but probably perfectly sized for the town itself; after all, it’s not as if these shindigs are held every weekend. The lines were ohmygod long—but chatting about books and romance and Nora with the people in front and behind you can make the time fly, even as you sweat buckets. Met Linda Howard—who recognized my screen handle, huge squeeeeeee!!! as she signed my copy of Burn. Met Nora Roberts, who also recognized my screen handle, even huger squeeeeeeeeeeee!!! (Of course, I now lose all online cred when I confess that I was so flustered (my shaking voice was mentioned, in fact) that I forgot to tell Ms Roberts that Karen sent her, her love. *head desk* Karen, my dear, please do forgive me?)

July 11th - Inn Boonsbory (and I was there!) 2

July 11th - signing at Turn the Page (huge humongous squee) 2

July 11th - the loot! 2

Second one: he registered me for this year’s RWA National Conference, and then, he made it possible for me to actually, you know, attend it.

And here’s where things got so surreal I would think I imagined the whole thing if it weren’t for the photographic evidence—not only in my own camera but in other people’s blogs. I mean, I have followed the goings on at National for years, pretty much since I started reading the Smart Bitches blog—which was just a few short months after they started it, by the way. I love learning about the inner workings of writing, the writer/agent/publisher relationships, publishing, the trends… you name it, I’m curious about it.

But I never expected to attend an RWA Conference. It was not just the money (which dude, it’s a huge deterrent for me on a good day—I iz not frugal, I iz perennially broke) but also the sense that this was a club I didn’t belong to. First, I’m a reader who has no ambition to write. Second, I’m not a blogger— hell, until Karen asked me last year to post reviews in her blog, I was just someone who hogged comment real estate everywhere she could.

RWA 09 logo

So even after everyone I met there was so kind to me at RT in April, I wasn’t prepared for what happened in DC. (And I confess that as I write this I feel a bit uncomfortable, like I’m both tooting my own horn and fishing for validation—but I feel that it would unfair to all the people who were so incredibly kind to me if I didn’t say it, so…)

People—writers and bloggers—recognized my name. I mean, there were a number of writers and bloggers who I expected to accost… erm, meet—Kristie(J) and Wendy Super Librarian for starters, as well as Ann Aguirre, Lauren Dane, Beth Williamson and several others. I have, after all, exchanged emails and comments with them, in some cases for quite a few years. But I’m still amazed that Virginia Kantra, Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas, Anna Campbell, Pam Rosenthal, AnimeJune, Silver James, K.A. Mitchell and so many others would exclaim, “Azteclady!” and smile warmly upon meeting me.

I don’t have the words to convey what their warmth and  acceptance means to me—at least, not words that won’t come across as corny. Enough, I think, to say that by week’s end I was ready to burst into tears of happiness at the least excuse—and equally likely to laugh uncontrollably almost without provocation, to the point of tears (again).

The serious stuff:

The workshops I attended were quite interesting. As a reader-who-doesn’t-want-to-ever-be-a-writer, some of the stuff seemed to me a bit “use common sense here” (but then, I imagine that writers sometimes can be so close to their own work as to need someone to poke at them from the outside and give them some perspective). Then there were moments when writers explained how they pull off this or that effect in their writing that had me going, “oh, so that’s it!”

High octane kisses workshop Ann Aguirre, Carrie Lofty, Laura Bradford and Cynthia Eden (for Elizabeth Naughton) 2

I hope to God and all other celestial beings that RWA will see the light and incorporate digital publishing workshops in the agenda for next year—the Rogue Digital Workshop on Thursday morning was packed, and the presenters, as well as the two invited authors (Maya Banks and Lauren Dane) clearly know their topic. The interest is there, and the need is there—RWA needs to educate all of its members on this clearly burgeoning market.

Audience at the Rogue Digital Conference 2

There are authors who should not attempt public speaking—we all should know our limitations.

On the other hand, listening to Linda Howard speak was a gift from the heavens.

Bad picture of the screen - Linda Howard, Keynote Speak 2

Ditto for Eloisa James.

Hearing Nora Roberts talk is always a complete pleasure.

Same goes for Carrie Lofty, Cynthia Eden and Ann Aguirre (loved their High Octane Kisses workshop, can you tell?)

The Goodie Room was wonderful in its own right, even though there were comparatively few books. Not so much the free swag (though that’s wonderful indeed) but the fact that it—the swag—so clearly portrays the authors it promotes. Personal favorite, this bumper magnet:

Jessica Trap bumper magnet 2

This conference is seriously well organized—from the streamlined registration process to the program, to the signs posted everywhere and the helpful hotel personnel ready to direct one to the appropriate room, it all went like clockwork.

Now, those many signs and people directing conference attendees were actually essential, for the Marriott, while beautiful and beautifully appointed, resembles nothing more than a rabbit warren. Sitting on a hill, its three towers all have different street levels, connected by the lobby level of the center tower and a maze of corridors, rooms, lifts and passages apt to get the most seasoned girl scout lost.

The publishers’ signings had their great moments (should I confess to the embarrassingly large number of books I hauled back home? … … nah) and their “what on earth were they thinking?” moments (other bloggers have already commented on the head-scratching Berkley signing, wherein people were in line outside without being told that a) there were no more books inside, and b) that many of the authors had already left, leaving behind empty tables with, perhaps, some bookmarks. Allow me to express my own astonishment at this. Bad form! And that applies to Ballantine and NAL as well.)

A big issue for many of us was that the wifi in the hotel lobby was not free (although I was told on Saturday afternoon that there was free wifi on the central tower’s tenth floor—too late for RWA attendees to take advantage of, but worth knowing for a potential stay or visit). Considering the cost per attendee, I’m more than a bit perplexed by this. Seriously, $13 per day just for wifi? And since I’m on the topic of costs, I didn’t care to learn that there was a surcharge of $10 at the shipping stations in the hotel.

The funny stuff:

Despite my black stained nails, I really don’t work in a coal mine (free fashion tip: black corduroys continue to bleed after multiple washings; hence, it’s better to avoid wearing them when you want to look presentable and, you know, adult).

The neon blue flip flops I was sporting at the literacy signing were the direct result of my tendency to have footwear accidents whenever I aim to look well. The cute black platform sandals I was wearing that day literally fell apart (with bits flying to the side) as I was rushing across the humongous ballroom to give Ann Aguirre her swag for the signing.

Most of the conference attendees won’t blink when asked for a picture—even by a crazy looking woman during a ten second elevator ride.

Farrah Rochon, who didn't mind having her picture taken in an elevator 2

Finding the perfect shoes for the Ritas, even if it means going to three different stores, is absolutely worth it—more so if a fellow blogger has the exact same shoes for the occasion! 😀

On the left, Barbara's shoe. On the right, my shoe. The difference is one and a half size less 2

Interestingly, it seems that people expected me to be serious (!!!) Huh?

Even more interestingly, some of them were quite surprised I have a name (hello, real person here, not the construct of someone’s imagination—at least, I think I am a real person…)

And looking like a ragamuffin most of the week will not result in getting your girl-card revoked if you can curl your eyelashes with a spoon for the main event of the conference (sadly, no photographic evidence of this—but I have witnesses!)

The freaky stuff:

I stayed in the DC area since July 3rd to the 20th and for each one of those days I found a penny—or more; on one memorable day I found six pennies at various times.

lucky pennies 2

I don’t know about anyone else but I love finding coins, pennies especially. They make me smile, and I always take them as a sign that things will look up, that no matter how tight the money side of my life is, there are always good things in the whole, and that more good things are coming my way.

I had mentioned this to Kristie(J) who laughingly said that, should I visit Canada, perhaps I should aim for a higher denomination (one or two dollars, if I remember correctly). The next day, as we wandered outside for a little break, I found two more pennies about six inches from where she was sitting. Upon which she exclaimed, “You are freaky!”

She doesn’t know the half of it!

On Saturday evening, after the awards ceremony, feeling more than half sad that the conference was over, I jokingly told my beloved that the day had been a bust—I hadn’t found a penny, woe was me! No sooner had I said that, than I found not one but two pennies, inside the sealed case of one of the chocolate sculptures that were scattered through the hotel.

Lucky pennies found on Saturday night 2Lucky pennies found on Saturday night, closer 2

Yeah, talk about freaky!

The verdict:

It is the people attending who make RWA National Conference the amazing, unique, wonderful, memorable experience that it is. The writers, both published and working towards publication, veterans and newbies, speakers, moderators, volunteers. The editors and agents who make themselves available for pitches and panels. The readers and bloggers who attend out of love of reading romance.

And I’m already starting to save those pennies I found all over DC and Maryland, to attend next year’s National Conference in Nashville.

RWA 2010 logo 2


  • Nora Roberts
    July 25
    9:57 am

    AL, I LOVED meeting you! Our paths crossed–at least as my frayed brain remembers–only twice when there really wasn’t much time. Wish they’d crossed when we could’ve had at least a few minutes to talk.

    Come to Nashville so we can have a drink in the bar!


  • AmyC
    July 25
    11:20 am

    Azteclady! It sounds like you had a fabulously good time! Someday I’d love to meet you. Your name is one I’ve see around since I learned of all the readers and authors on the internet.

    Loved reading your RWA recap!

    (My mom would flip if Nora Roberts left her a comment like that one up there :)Maybe some day I can take her to that bookstore!)


  • Congratulations to your kids on their achievements!

    & Felicitations on finding & having a true love. 😀

    Loved your take on Nationals, glad you had a such a great time! (so cute about the pennies. *g*)


  • Michelle(mlg)
    July 25
    11:49 am

    Wow what a wonderful time you had. Isn’t great when you hear all the talk of authors behaving badly to be reassured how lovely, gracious and kind our favorites are-go Nora. Also kudos to your husband for knowing what is important to you and making it happen.

    Congratulations to your kids, you must be proud. A word of advice to your daughter. When it comes to applying to med schools, she should apply to as many as she can afford if she has any interest in the area or the school because she may be surprised. When I interviewed there were some places that looked fantastic on paper but were dissappointing in person, and some that I went to more for “practice/backup” that were impressive in person. She really needs to pay attention to the “vibe” she gets from the students. Where I ended up even though we were competitive we weren’t cutthroat and there really was a sense of camadarie and pulling for everyone to succeed. There have been horror stories of places where people try to sabotage(sp?) each other. It is a rough road but there are few as fulfilling. Feel free to pm me. (I have lots of stories from my surgery rotations).


  • AL: It was such a pleasure to have met you. So glad you had a great time. You have a 21 yr old? Why, you don’t look passed a day over 21 yourself.


  • I so wanted to be there – but I’m glad you had such a fantastic time! Fingers crossed we can meet up next year at Nashville!


  • Sounds like such fun. AL, so glad you got to go. That guy sounds like a total keeper. And I love your shoes.


  • Awwww. I think I’m half in love with your man as well :). What a lovely trip!


  • Karen Scott
    July 25
    3:29 pm

    Ha, I ask you to do one thing, and you forget. You are a terrible person. 🙂

    Awww, it sounds like you had a great time!


  • I’m not sure which news deserves the loudest squee from me! As a Mom of 4 (22,22,17,13), raising motivated, accomplished kiddos is definitely squee worthy. The fact that you look like you are still in college yourself deserves another squee.

    Finding the love of your life AND he knows you so well, appreciates you, and wants to see you happy deserves a few more squees.

    Enjoying RWA so much and, more importantly, enjoying all the people you met, adds even more squees to your tab.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say, AZL, is congratulations on EVERYTHING! SQUEE!


  • It was great meeting your girlie – and my biggest regret is not seeing you curl your eye lashes with a spoon. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that.

    One of these days I would love to hit Boonsboro to attend one of the Turn The Page booksignings. They always have such a wonderful turn out of authors there, and Nora’s got that kickass B&B now…..


  • See, it’s experiences like this that make me miss Nationals so much. (And WOW on the lovely man!!)

    So glad you had a great trip!


  • LOL! Well, what can I say? We have great taste in shoes 😉 It was so great meeting you! I really hope I get to see you again in NYC.


  • Anon76
    July 25
    5:13 pm

    Absolutely AWESOME recap of your adventures. I teared up over and over again as I kept reading.

    Thanks so much for sharing.


  • Oh, wow! Firstly, congratulations to both your children (and to their mom!) and best wishes for their continued success and happiness. Secondly, the love of your life has indeed given you a gift that you’ll obviously never forget for the rest of your life! A trip to Turn the Page and RWA? Wow. Plus all that time simply spent together? How wonderful. I’m so happy for you! 😀

    Thanks for the wonderful recap. The only thing that disappoints me is that I wasn’t among the lucky attendees (both author and blogger alike) who had the pleasure of meeting you in person. For every penny you save for next year’s conferences, save a lucky penny or two for RWA 2011 in NYC, ok? 😉


  • Chryssa
    July 25
    6:09 pm

    Ah, Azteclady, you’re going to finally drag me out of lurkdom here at Karen’s home on the ‘net.

    Thank you so much for this report. I so wish I had been able to attend this year’s RWA. This post was the overview, right? There are more details to come in other posts, yes? (I don’t think I imagined your hinting at such elsewhere.)

    I’m glad you had such a wonderful time. Your excitement and pleasure over the event radiates off the screen. Of course, even without the fun of your first RWA, you have reason to be radiant. Big congratulations to your kids; those are impressive accomplishments! And best wishes for continued happiness with your sweetie, who does, indeed, sound like a “keeper.”


    P.S. Curiosity is going to impel me to ask … so did your RWA nametag just say “Azteclady”?

    Also, it’s great to finally be able to put a face to the moniker!


  • Lauren Dane
    July 25
    6:41 pm

    It’s always a pleasure to see you and get to hang out with you! The cookies were a huge hit, I even managed to wait until I returned home to scarf them and share with my mister (who says thumbs up!). Your dude is a keeper, by the way, he’s as wonderful as you are, which is saying a lot.



  • A-L so glad you had such a great time. Your guy sounds like a total keeper! (And I have a daughter just like yours…she’s 13 and has been saying for the last 4 years that she wants to be either a surgeon or a coroner. She’s just not sure whether she wants to cut into live bodies or dead ones…lol!)

    I did just want to say please don’t think too badly of authors who weren’t at the signings. In my case, NAL gave away copies of my book but I was not allowed to participate in the autographing because I wasn’t registered for the conference. (Money waaaaaay too tight this year…ugh!)I was thrilled that they wanted to give away my books anyway. It honestly didn’t occur to me that attendees might think I was being rude or behaving badly by not actually being there to sign them.

    Not saying that’s everybody’s reason, but it was definitely mine.


  • Your guy is awesome! And I’m so sorry I didn’t get to go this year. But yes, you have to start saving all those pennies you find so you can come to Nashville next year, because I’ll definitely be there and we have to meet! Maybe we can twist Karen’s arm and get her to fly over the pond and attend.

    And really…did you check out Nora’s shoes? Nora always wears the best shoes.


  • LOL! Still not sure if you are “real” *g* It was great meeting you as well, though I think most people thought us strange!

    CalTech! *wow* Book kudos to your son! Tell him to look out for those Harvey Mudders (CalTech’s biggest rival school).


  • Sounds like you had a wonderful time. And congrats on finding such a great guy!


  • Thank you all, ladies!

    Ms Roberts, it’s a date. And you’ll be happy to know it’ll be a very cheap one indeed, as I don’t drink alcohol. A lemonade, no ice, and I’m good 😀

    Amy C, I know! *I* have been flipping out and squeeeeeeeeing uncontrollably for a while (which is why I’m only now replying to all the lovely comments, by the way)

    edited to add: AmyC, check your mailbox next week!

    Vanessa, thank you! I know you can relate.

    Michelle, thank you for the kind advice, and I’ll definitely share it with her when she comes back (she’s spending two weeks in Berkley right now, and earlier in the summer it was Brown in Rhode Island)

    Katiebabs, you are just too good for my ego! 😀 Thank you! (and the next time you talk about having big hips, please look at our picture together and BITE YOUR TONGUE! 😉 )

    Ms Parry, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Nashville–and yes, I’m keeping all those pennies for the RWA ’10 fund!

    Ms Rimmer! Thank you! aren’t those really cool shoes? I love my MaryJanes!

    Alisha Rai, he’s just such a sweetheart! (and totally taken 😉 )

    Karen, I know, I know *hanging head in shame* I’m horrible, terrible, no good *sigh*

    Bev(QB) thank you! See, I squeed so often and so loud at RWA that by Friday I had no range and could no longer squee–which sucks, because I would try and NO NOISE would come out. I looked even more ridiculous like that, than when I was actually squeeing like a fourteen year old at a boy band concert.

    Wendy, I cannot tell you how cool it was to finally meet you–and to listen to your awesomely soothing voice *waving to Barbara*

    Dee, it’s just such an incredible experience that I know I can’t put it into words and make it justice. I’m gonna keep my fingers and toes crossed that you can make it to Nashville–it’s closer to you, yes? and I hear the rooms are significantly less expensive there…

    Anon76 thank you 😀

    Christine, I kept hoping you would find a way to turn up at least for a day… but I know it’s not THAT close. With any luck, we’ll meet soon (and hell, yes, it’d be just awesome to show up for RWA’11 in NY 😀 )

    Chryssa!!!! *tacklehug* Yay! 😀 Welcome, welcome, don’t be a stranger now! (and yes, there will be more RWA posts–too many things and thoughts and impressions [and digressions] to be compressed into one, albeit loooooooooooooooong post)

    Ms Dane, it was wonderful to see you again, and thank you for your kind words, I’m delighted you guys liked the cookies *making note to bake more for shipping out* 😉

    Ms Kelly-Parrish, first, congrats on your daughter! Nothing like knowing what you want to do in life.

    Secondly, my apologies if it seemed I was unfairly criticizing the authors who weren’t there–my observation was meant for the publishers. I mean, many authors had conflicts of scheduling, what with moderating panels or giving workshops. It’s perfectly understandable that they couldn’t be everywhere at once.

    Ms Burton, I am SO holding you to that–I’ll see you there! (hey, if my luck holds, I may have that dragon to show you… 😉 )

    Aymless, you traitorous wench! First you try to blackmail me with giving away my secret identity, now you try to deny the reality of my existence? evil villainess you!

    SaraT, thank you, it was a GREAT time and yes, he is wonderful 😀


  • That’s me… shaymless! *g*

    Though in my defense, I only said I was open to bribes to reveal your secret identity. *wink*


  • Sounds like it was such a lovely, happy visit, AL — a joy to read about! (I heart Mary Janes, too.) And the MAN? Whoa, even better.

    By the way, find a penny, put it in your shoe, and good luck will come to you. 😉


  • Janet W
    July 26
    3:33 am

    Burning ears, burning ears … were your ears burning? One half of Smart Bees was in NorCal today: Candy Tan was all yeahyeah, met AZ, KristieJ, huge grin when she said it. And apropos of lines I want to be in, Boonsboro sounds like a great one. The line-up for Beyond Heaving Boobage was great: love listening to the back and forth and Q&As et al. And the after-signing table agreed that there’s just one writer — initials NR — that can write any genre she darn well wants! (apropos of wondering why authors switch genres).

    So, are you thinking of going to Nashville?


  • Hey, Janet W, so cool to “see” you here!

    Yes, I am definitely thinking of going to Nashville–now I just have to make it a $reality$, if you know what I mean 😉


  • Wait, your real name isn’t Azteclady? 🙂

    Sorry I missed you at the conference but thrilled you had such a good time. Your man is a keeper!


  • Without question one of the best things about RWA this year for me was getting to hang out with you. Every time you walked in the room I had a big smile. Probably did in my sleep the one day when we were all still sleeping too 🙂


  • AZ – You always give the impression that you’re ancient from your comments, but you sure don’t look ancient in those pictures.


  • K.Z.Snow, one penny in my shoe I could–perhaps–deal with. But did you see how many there were there? 😯

    And thank you, the man is definitely the best part of the deal 😀

    Ms Dimon, the funniest thing is that I was more likely to answer to AL or Aztec during those days than to anything else–and ditto on missing you! 🙁

    Kristie(J), you ARE a huge, huge factor in my enjoyment. For the few out there who may not know this: Kristie(J) is one of the warmest, kindest, more intrinsically good people it’s ever been my privilege to meet.

    Ms Bruce, thank you (I think… 😉 ) Now I’m sitting here laughing at myself, never a bad thing 😀


  • Something for me in my mailbox? Hmm, I can’t wait to see what could possibly be in my mailbox! 🙂


  • AL, so wonderful to get a hug from you again ;-). And thanks for the texting convo with me while I sat with an agent for a round of drinks (and thus unable to leave)!

    Your honey sounds like a keeper to me. What a wonderful man to have given you two fab gifts like that! And I love your penny anecdotes; I think I’ll look for pennies from now on and keep in mind what you said about better days ahead!



  • I knew Az was awesome, but it gives me a warm fuzzy to hear the rest of the world singing her praises.


  • Maria
    August 1
    11:33 pm

    It´s me, your favourite niece (María obviously)!! I´m here with “la abuela”, Silvia, Beli and Ana. We’ve read what you wrote (I translated jeje) and can’t stop smiling and laughing at all of it.

    We are incredibly happy to see you happy!! We think that the freaky coin’thing is a family matter; Beli and Rodrigo collect all kinds of coins and they urge me to tell you that whenever possible, they wish to compare each one admirable collections. If grandma were to pick coins she would see the floor she´s walking and “wouldn´t fall down”… hehe.

    Beli says there is no way you are a reader who won’t become a writer, he says he will be your agent so he can quit his job!! (he urges you to hurry up with a book jeje).

    Abuela says she would love to have the opportunity to experience with you the environment and feeling of an event like this.

    Ana, Beli and me send big hugs to the love of your life; it was a pleasure to meet him and we are very glad you had a nice time with him 🙂

    Anyways, we all send you a big big hug, loads of kisses and please know that we are all extremely proud of you and all you’ve accomplished.

    We’ve just decided (Silvia’s idea) that we are going to pick up loads of coins too and save them for you to attend next RWA conference with granma.

    Take care and see you soon.
    Love from all of us,
    María, Ana, Beli, Silvia y abuela


  • :blush: Gee, you guys, way to embarrass me! Thank you *hugs*


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