Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Orleans and #RT14.

It's been a month since I left for New Orleans and the Romance Times Booklovers Convention (hence forth referred to as RT). I'm still processing all that I learned at the convention, but it's past time for me to share a post about the trip. So here goes.

Since we've both always wanted to see NoLa, I brought my hubby and we went a few days before RT to see the sights and taste the tastes of the Crescent City.

What I learned: New Orleans really embraces being New Orleans.

For example:

Key chain size Voodoo dolls and glittery skull covered knick-knacks can be found in any of the dozens of gift shops that populate the French Quarter. New Orleans knows that it is creepy and it revels in it.

New Orleans enthusiastically encourages drinking. Bars have 'to go' cups and patrons unashamedly walk from place to place sipping from plastic cups. New Orleans is home of the oldest bar in America that is still operating. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is practically a cave and if you ever find yourself in the French Quarter, you need to stop by for a quick drink. It's charming and quirky.

Before you leave the French Quarter, you'll want to stop at a couple other places too.

Pat O'Brien's was recommended to me by one of my best writer friends, former Louisiana resident Melinda Dozier. She said to get a Hurricane while I checked out the Piano Bar. So I did. And then I came back and did it again two more times. It was that much fun. The piano lounge is really not all that large and once they squeeze in the two pianos and the bar, there is not a lot of space left. But the crowd fills the tiny tables and people sit elbow to elbow and everyone sings along and it is just plain fun. If you get a chance, give it a try.

There is something to do in the French Quarter that does not involve alcohol! You can get coffee and beignets at the world famous Cafe Du Monde. Yes, they are simply bits of fried dough covered in copious piles of powdered sugar and yes they are delicious. Mr. Blaze and I had these in the morning, but I'm certain they'd also make a perfect late night snack.

Looking for some other touristy stuff?

Visit the Voodoo Museum. Maybe make a wish on the Voodoo Wishing Stump. :)

Ready for another drink?

The carousel bar at Hotel Monteleone. The bar actually rotates. It was pretty crowded when I went, so I never got one of those prized rotating stools, but the comfy armchairs and couches that fill the rest of the space make for a nice spot to enjoy a beverage and this is the place to get a well-crafted cocktail.
I tried a French 75 because a character in one of the other authors' stories in One Lucky Night (Charlotte from Grace Teague's Lucky Star) claims them as her favorite and I was curious. It turns out Charlotte has great taste. It was delicious. See that little sliver of lemon? I think it was candied or something.

I know it's starting to look like we spent the entire week at a bar, but ...yeah, here's another bar. The Old Absinthe House has been a New Orleans hot spot since 1807. They have a motto: “EVERYONE YOU HAVE KNOWN OR EVER WILL KNOW, EVENTUALLY ENDS UP AT THE OLD ABSINTHE HOUSE” To prove that, people add their "calling card" to the wall. Adding mine was a blast.

We had the most incredible brunch at The Ruby Slipper. If I were local, I'd eat there monthly. (I'd say more frequently, but the portions were huge and I'd be too full to eat there more often.)

Our other favorite meals in New Orleans:

Chargrilled Oysters at Felix's. Yum. I mean...yum.

Lunch at Commander's Palace. --I don't have any pictures, because Commanders is kind of fancy and we were trying to act classy, so you are just going to have to take my word on it. It's lovely. There are several small dining rooms in a gorgeous old building filled with charm and interesting architecture. More importantly, the food and service is unbeatable. It might have been the best meal I've ever eaten. As in best ever eaten. Period.

Tuesday Night Dinner with lots of writer friends!--

The gang's all here (almost). The night before RT started, a whole bunch of us met up at Crescent City Brewhouse for dinner. Going clockwise: Mr. Blaze, my empty seat, Kara Leigh Miller, Rachell Nichole, Kat Daemon, Georgeann Swiger, Aria Kane, Paul (Carmen's hubby), Carmen Paul, Hank (Barbara's Hubby), Barbara Garren, Jenna Rutland, Constance Phillips, Shay Lacy.

So, yeah, I should have asked our very nice waiter/bartender to take this picture. Oops. You live and learn, right? Meeting these women (and Rachel Kall who arrived a day later) who I've been chatting with online, some for a year or more, was the very best part of the trip. They are all so much more charming and funny and delightful than I'd even imagined. It was a lot like having a convention family. We met up for different events and meals and shared information and moral support before pitches. I'd have been lost without them and I cannot wait for next year, when I hope we all meet up at the RWA con in New York.

Before I share about RT itself, I have a couple more pictures of sightseeing around NoLa. New Orleans is famous for its graveyards and they are certainly intriguing. We made sure to find the tomb of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen.
 And also the tomb that will someday be the final resting place of actor Nicolas Cage.
Yup, someone kissed it.

And this one was used in Interview with a Vampire as Lestat's tomb! I'll admit to petting it and sighing wistfully.

Mr. Blaze and I have a special fondness for aquariums, and the one in New Orleans did not disappoint. I could fill an entire post with neat pictures from the aquarium, but I'll resist and just share this one.

Mr. Blaze and I caught a ferry over to Algiers Point. It was a quick ride, but now we can officially say that we rode on the Mississippi River and we got to see the curve of the shore that earned New Orlean's its nickname, The Crescent City.

While in Algiers, I found the Tardis!!!
Okay, it was actually just the entrance to an English Pub style bar, but still...so cool.


RT was a blur of social events, craft and business panels, meetings, pitches and general awesomeness. Wednesday night was a fun event at Mardi Gras World.

There was a parade and beads and New Orleans food. It was a bit chaotic and they really needed more seating, but I still found it fun.
Another night, another party. Here I am with two of my co-writers from One Lucky Night: Constance Phillips and Aria Kane.

Friday Night Masquerade! Left to Right: Rachell Nichole, Kat Daemon, Me, Kara Leigh Miller

And then on Saturday there was a Giant Book Fair! Here is Barbara Garren and Evie Knight, another lovely writer friend I finally met at RT.  You can see Barbara's lovely book, Infinite Potential (Phasms) there on her table. She did a great job at the signing. :)

 Constance Phillips. Ooh, what is that lovely book there on the right? Is that One Lucky Night? Hmmm....
 The lovely Kat Daemon signing Taming Darkness. Aren't her heart-bracelets just about the cutest swag you ever saw?

After visiting some of my writer friends at their tables, I grabbed some presents for my sister and some friends from some of my favorite best selling authors like Charlaine Harris, Jeaniene Frost, Kerrelyn Sparks and Kim Harrison. All I can say is the giant book sale was in fact giant.


Let's talk Swag.

You get a lot of books when you attend RT. This is the pile of books and swag that I ended up with. I swear I wasn't even trying, but someone handed me an awesome bag filled with awesome books at every event. It's basically book lover heaven. Actually, I'm fairly certain one specific event--an early evening social event hosted by Avon books that had wine, gourmet cupcakes and a massive book signing with free books is as close to nirvana as I am every likely to see again.  So yes, I left with an embarrassment of riches. I'm finding the books I don't think I'll read right away good homes with readers who review. :)

And there you go, all too soon it was time for one last serving of beignets and we were headed to the airport.

Good bye NoLa and thanks for all the drinks.

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