My plan was to get up at 6.00 AM. I was awake at 3.45. After an hour spent trying to get back to sleep, unsuccessfully, I grudgingly got up and prepared for the day. The extra time was good, but more sleep would have been better. ;-) I met with Madelynne and Portia somewhere between 7 and 8 am to visit the librarians and booksellers goodie room, where we left books, bookmarks and postcards, hoping to tempt them to our wares. Conference events were already in full flow! The librarians and booksellers were having breakfast with a speaker as we passed by.
We then joined the queues for registration. The area was thronged with people and I started to feel a little lost. Thankfully a friendly lady called Susan chatted to me in the queue. She was pitching to a British editor for one of the Harlequin lines and we had a chat about England and the atmosphere at the conference, making the time go quicker. I never saw her again during the event, which was a shame because I wanted to thank her for making feel so welcome. Once I had my badge and my official bag of goodies, I started to feel a little bit more a part of everything. All the time it was getting more and more obvious that there were 2,000 writers and industry professionals coming in for the event, corridors and rooms filled with people.
Madelynne then joined a one-day historical themed conference, by all accounts a super event. Meanwhile Portia and I decided to grab the spare three hours we had that morning to see a little bit of San Francisco. Neither of us are able to do much walking, but we didn’t want to go home having seen only the outside of the hotel/mall! So we grabbed breakfast at the food court in the mall, and then got a taxi down to Fishermen’s Wharf.
There we ogled Alcatraz from the shore and raided the souvenir shops, stocking up on all manner of tacky Alcatraz souvenirs (Mark is wearing his “Alcatraz swimteam” hat as I blog :) We decided to take the cable car back up to Union Square, instead of getting a taxi back. One of the best impetuous decisions of all time!
The cable car was a truly memorable experience and much more fun than I had anticipated. Portia impressed me (and all of the occupants of the car!) by regaling us with all the film titles that had been filmed in San Francisco, and who had starred in them! She’s a mine of information! The cable car deposited us at Union Square, where we planned to visit the local Borders. Seeing my books on the shelves was a new experience for me, and I was stunned by it - truly felt I was in a dream. I was able to sign 3 copies of RECKLESS, a copy of KINK, and a copy of SECRETS Vol 12. The assistant was really pleased that we had called by and it was a memorable moment for both of us. Incidentally, I think it might have been the same Borders where they filmed part of the feature for the Today show later that day, not sure though.
We dropped in at the food court again on the way back to the hotel and had a good lunch. I had a huge Greek salad, which set me up well for the day. When I got back to my room I phoned my friend/critique partner in Sonoma again, and we had an hour-long chat, by the end of which I realised I didn’t have much time to rest before the Literacy signing, my first official event! Gulp. It was really happening, and I was really going to be part of it…the nerves set in.
We’d booked to chat with the librarians and booksellers between 4 and 5, and this was a helpful way to warm-up for the signing. All the books we had left in the goodie room had gone, and many of the bookmarks and postcards too. That was a good start! We chatted with booksellers and librarians and several other authors, bumping into people that we knew from Internet that we had never met in person until then. Portia especially had many squeeing moments because so many people know her name and love her books. Much glee and hugging all round.
We then went down another level to the ballroom. There was a huge queue waiting outside and it didn’t quite register with me at first because I figured it was the authors, then I realised we were going in a separate door and that was in fact the queue of excited fans waiting to meet the likes of Nora Roberts and Sherrilyn Kenyon. I was already nervous, and when I walked into the ballroom I was overwhelmed by the size of the event. I had to part ways with Madelynne and Portia, and began to look for my table.
The rush of emotions I felt when I stood in front of this table hit me oddly, and even now as I look at the photo I experience an echo of it. Firstly, I was deeply touched by all the hard work by the volunteers who set everything out and made it look so good. Volunteers also came around with much-needed ice water during the event, for which we were very grateful. A special thank you to the people who help set this event up. You’re very much appreciated! Secondly, I couldn’t quite believe that I was there… that I was part of this prestigious event, that was my name on the table, and those two books with the beautiful covers were stories that I had written and that my publishers had shipped for me to sign. My writer’s journey hasn’t been the easiest, and in the early days I was put down and discouraged by the people closest to me. I’ve come a long way since then and I’m in a much happier place, thankfully, but looking at the table stirred up emotions that I thought were long buried. I actually had to walk away from the table. It seems funny now, but at the time I had to do that in an attempt to settle my emotions. I did a little circuit, then came back to lay out my bookmarks and put my pen on the table. Then I took the photo, and had to wander away again. :)
My nerves were just about getting the better of me when my signing neighbour, Kate Walker (a fellow British author and a huge name with Mills and Boon in England) arrived next to me and settled me down. Kate was the best neighbour I could wish to have, she had attended several of the RWA signings and chatted to me throughout, making me laugh and forget my nerves.
In the run-up to the opening, a voice over the loudspeaker counted down the minutes, asking us to take our seats. Yikes! Then the doors opened and this huge crowd emerged into the room, running in all directions. I stared in awe as a stream of goth girls ran down the centre aisle towards a table behind us, where Sherrilyn Kenyon was sitting. Wow. It was so interesting to observe. The noise level in the room shot up as the place was filled with excited chatter.
The photo here is of Kate Walker and I, and was taken by her lovely husband, just as the event was kicking off – in fact you can see the queue forming for the big-name authors who had tables along the wall behind us.
During the signing itself I was so pleased to have people come by looking for lil old me, because I didn’t know if anyone would! During this and the other signing I did, (the Berkley signing on the Friday afternoon,) I had several visitors who came to me because they had read my stories in the SECRETS collections. “Are you the Saskia from the Secrets stories?” “I couldn’t put your Secrets novella down.” “Is this your novel? I’ve been dying to read it since I read your Secrets stories.” Then they would grab a copy of RECKLESS or UNVEILING THE SORCERESS. It helped me feel more confident about what I do, (part of the reason for me to go to the event) because this is simply the best response an author could wish to have!
Several dear friends who write for Red Sage also came to see me, Leigh Court, Leigh Wyndfield, Rebecca Ferare, and Jane Thompson. Lovely, welcoming ladies, one and all. My agent also stopped by and the time went quickly and left me on a high. This photo with fellow Berkley author, Nalini Singh, was taken at the end of the event, and you can see I look a little bit more relaxed at this point. Nalini is the sweetest person! Readers of my blog will remember me posting about her best selling Psy/changeling series.
Wednesday evening was rounded off with The Gathering, courtesy of the FF&P (fantasy, futuristic and paranormal) chapter, of which I’m a member. Portia came as my guest and we both said it was the perfect way to round off the evening. It was the most scrumptious meal of the conference, and we sat at a table with Jordan Summers (who I’d been looking forward to meeting, I’m a long-time follower of her blog and her writing,) fellow Berkley heat author Julia Templeton, Liz Kreger, and my dear Red Sage pal, Leigh Wyndfield. It was a much appreciated meal, a relaxing chat with a fab group of women, and the best way to end a busy day.
Tomorrow I will post about my Thursday experience - the start of my meetings, as well as the start of the back-to-back parties. Too much in one day, and Friday was more of the same! It is now almost a week since I left, and I'm only just starting to feel normal today. Still tired and still unwell, but not as spaced/wired as I have been for the last week, courtesy of that nasty horrible jet lag. I’m relieved. :)