So I have been home about a week now and am still feeling the high from my fabulous time at GRL in Chicago(ish). GRL is impossible to explain. Yes, you can tell people about the authors, and meeting people for the first time you only know online, and even about catching up with your besties who you only see once a year.  But there is just something magical about the whole experience that is hard to put into words.  But, here I go attempting it.  I hope you enjoy. And if you want to see more pictures, I have uploaded a ton on FB you can check out. (also, the gallery pics here show up blurry, but if you click you see better versions)

Ok, so I wish I could tell you I was going to give you a detailed summary of my trip, but let’s be honest here. WAY too much happened for that.  But here are some of the highlights…

Tuesday

On the plane with Leigh and Gyn

On the plane with Leigh & Gyn

I flew into Chicago on Tuesday, along with my besties Leigh Logan and Gyn Hobbs. I met these ladies at my first GRL in 2012 and we became friends instantly.  By pure luck, both Leigh and Gyn live about an hour from me, so I am lucky enough to see them a few times a year (in addition to talking to them daily). But nothing is quite the same as seeing them at GRL.  At the airport we met up with Alexander Gabriel (who we also met at GRL in ABQ and who was our roommate last year and for one night this year), along with Taylor Donovan.  We then proceed to try to cram about 15 suitcases and 6 people into a Chevy Tahoe to get from the airport to the hotel. It was a pinch, but we managed.

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Devon Rhodes, Ethan Day, Tina Miz, Travis Istre, me, and Alexander Gabriel

We had hoped to make it into Chicago on Tuesday but rain and crappy transportation options from the hotel pretty much ruined that.  So we ended up spending the afternoon hanging out in the lobby and the bars, playing Cards Against Humanity, and meeting up with people as they arrived.

Wednesday

In the morning Alex and I slept in while Leigh and Gyn volunteered. Then the rest of my gang headed into Chicago while I banged around the hotel since I had some stuff to do in the afternoon. I ended up having a lovely lunch with Rick Reed, Devon Rhodes, and TA Chase.  And while we were there, who did we stumble upon but my blog wife Lisa Horan, along with Rhys Ford and Jackie McKenzie, on their way to the hotel!

In the afternoon I led a panel at the Writer’s Workshop on working with bloggers and review blogs, along with the fabulous Lisa Horan from The Novel Approach, Brandilyn Carpenter from Prism Book Alliance, and Susan Lee from Boys in our Books. Then we had a lovely reception with some of the publishers and the featured bloggers with lots of yummy food!

And that evening, back to the bar for some drinks and chatting and more Cards Against Humanity!

Even though these were officially “off” days before the con started, sometimes hanging out around the hotel is the most fun of all. I got to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a long time, and to relax and take things slow before the crazy of the official start of the conference.  Plus, many drinks.

Thursday

Thursday was the official start of the conference and we kicked it off with the third annual Newbie Meet and Greet. I have led this event since it started (which coincidentally was MY first year at GRL as well) and it is one of my favorite events to host. I love getting to talk to all the new folks and share in their excitement for their first GRL experience.

The rest of the day is mostly a blur honestly. I had a great time at the Supporting Author Signing, as well as the panels I attended and the Q&A that I moderated.

We also got a great pic of my gang in our matching Love = Love tshirts. They have a fabulous quote on the back about friends and reading.

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And then came the Rumchada…

Ok, so let me say that while I drink more at GRL than I ever do in real life, I am rarely totally drunk.  Well, thanks to my new friend Rumchada and his equally delicious friend Fireball Whiskey, I can no longer say that.  So yes, word of advice.  DO NOT FORGET that Rumchada is actually alcohol, folks. Somehow after pouring myself a healthy swig of Fireball, I added a huge serving of Rumchada, forgetting it was alcohol and thinking in my head I was mixing in something to temper it. No. In fact I instead drank the equivalent of about 8 shots of straight alcohol as I downed about 2/3 of a solo cup full.  Folks, I am a lightweight.  It is my own stupid fault for not paying attention (and maybe a tiny bit Jared Rackler’s fault for getting me the Vodka Sour I drank after that).  But wow, that was not my finest hour.

So here goes, my “letters from Thursday night”:

  • Dear TJ Klune: I am sorry that pretty much the first thing I said to you at GRL was how incredibly drunk I was (though I believe my language was more colorful)!  But I am glad it made you laugh, even if it was AT me.
  • Dear SJD Peterson: I love drunk Jo! And we were so pleased with ourselves, weren’t we? But yes, I am glad drunk Jay and drunk Jo thought better of getting one more drink.
  • Dear Michael and Anthony Kudo: I am sorry for shaking my ass in your face and potentially scarring you for life when a good song came on and I went kind of crazy.  I also told Anthony he has gorgeous eyes (which he does, and which I remember) and apparently also sat in his lap (which I do not remember).
  • Dear anyone who tried to talk to me after about 10:30: So yes, I pretty much stopped drinking as soon as I realized I had too much to drink (which was still way too late) and plopped my butt down in a chair to drink water and sober up. But I was rough guys and I know that people tried to talk to me all night and I barely answered because I felt like crap. So if you spoke to me that night and I grunted at you, please accept my apologies!
  • Dear Hottie Dancer: Thank you for the unexpected lap dance. Somehow I managed to rally long enough to grab your ass and feel your pecs. (Hey, a girl has priorities!)
  • Dear Taylor Donovan: Thank you for taking care of me and putting me to bed!  I know it took me about a half an hour to shuffle my way back to the hotel room, but I appreciate you taking care of me!

Friday

Remarkably I was not hung over on Friday, but I was so freaking dehydrated that I felt pretty grim all day.  Still it was a lot of fun attend some great panels, as well as moderate another Q&A (and thanks to Susan Lee for agreeing to be my back up if I couldn’t make it all the way through).

Friday afternoon was the Fun Fair and I attended the Cock Walk, which is always fun. Edmond Manning is a fabulous host, and the hottie “village people” were amazing as always. I won a picture that I have to figure out where to put in my house with two young kids… But as always it was a blast, and you would not believe the variety of cock art on display!

Friday night was Casino Night, and while I didn’t gamble, I still had lots of fun hanging out and spending time with everyone.  We all clean up pretty nice!  I didn’t stay too late into the after party because I was still not 100%, but it was a super fun night.


Me, Leigh, Trish, Gyn, & Heather

Me, Leigh, Trish, Gyn, & Heather

Saturday

So by Saturday I FINALLY realized that I still felt like crap because I was dehydrated and so I downed two bottles of Gatorade, which were a big help.  The morning was the last of the panels and then the Featured Author Signing in the afternoon.  While I don’t buy many paperbacks anymore, I always love the signings because it is a great chance to chat with the authors one and one and see folks that maybe you have been missing throughout the week.  I love to get pictures and talk about what new things they have coming out.


Leigh, Gyn, me, and Jared

Leigh, Gyn, me, and Jared

Saturday was probably my favorite night of all.  The Time Travel party was really amazing.  First off, it was such a fun theme for costumes. I went with my gang as pinup girls and we had the best time shopping and discussing dresses (you would not BELIEVE how much friend consultation is required for these things).  People came in some great costumes, everything from cavemen to steampunk.  It was so much fun to see all the creativity people put into it.  And the fabulous Madison Parker was taking posed pictures so we got some really great shots.

Plus, we had great music all night (thanks as always to Randy Gresham for being a great DJ).  We mixed it up with everything from disco to 80s metal to modern stuff.  The highlight of my week was probably when “It’s Raining Men” came on. You haven’t lived until you have experienced everyone rushing the floor to dance and singing this song at the top of their lungs. It was such a magical moment in a week of fabulousness.


Of course Saturday night was sad too, because we know that many folks leave early and this is our last chance to see everyone.  I was tearing up when my sweet Lisa Horan left because I knew she would be gone early the next day. I couldn’t even watch her leave or I would have broken down.  So to keep the party going we headed the bar, then the lobby, and finally rolled into bed around 3:30 in the morning.

Sunday

Boo! We hate to say goodbye!  But before we left, we had a great brunch and then some time in the photo booth. I got some great crazy shots and this is always a fun way to wind things down.  We didn’t fly out until dinner time, so I got a chance to have a lovely lunch with Anthony and Michael Kudo, William Cooper, Leigh, Gyn, Trish, and a bunch of other great folks.  It was a fun and relaxing way to wind down the week. But don’t worry, we managed to fit in conversations about masturbation and other inappropriate topics (and no, women do not need candles first Michael).

After hanging out in the lobby most of the afternoon, we said our last goodbyes and headed to the airport.  On the way home, Leigh and Gyn and I had our regular ritual of looking at all of Leigh’s pictures on the plane. It is a great way to relive the week and we were definitely “those people” as we laughed our way through it all.

 

Leigh, me, Trish, and Gyn

Leigh, me, Trish, and Gyn at the airport

 

So, I hope this post gave you a little taste of GRL. As I said, it is almost impossible to really explain what it is all like.  Yes, you meet authors and go to great panels and get your books signed.  And yes, you get to see old friends and meet new ones, and finally meet in person folks you may only know online.  And yes, there are fun parties and events.  But there is just some other intangible magic about GRL I can’t quite explain. These are OUR people. You don’t have to explain why you like to read what you read, or why you chose to spend your money to travel to a romance conference, or even who you love or are attracted to.  People at GRL are just so accepting and loving and inclusive. There are so many people I just adore beyond reason and who have become such important parts of my life.  I come back with such a high every time from being around my m/m romance family. There is just nothing quite like it.

If you haven’t made it to GRL, I can’t encourage you more. And to all my friends and online family, I can’t wait to see you in San Diego next year!

P.S. Be sure to check out Jason and Crissy’s newbie wrap up as well!

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