What Happened in Vegas: Part 2
Friday morning, I arrive at registration for the Erotic Authors Association Conference to find Nan Andrews, DL King and Kathleen Bradean working the table. I’m in awe. My heroes are giving me a swag bag and a name tag! If that’s not enough, my name tag has a red ribbon that tells everyone I’m a panelist. That’s right, me. I’m a panelist!
Breakfast is a bit like Christmas morning. We’re all pawing through our goody bags when Hazel Cushion, my publisher from Xcite Books, arrives followed closely by the lovely Sharazade — at long last we meet face to face!
There’s barely time for greetings and to ask how everyone’s trip was before the publisher’s panel begins. Hazel, representing Xcite Books along with M Christian from Renaissance E Books, Brenda Knight from Cleis Press, Lori Perkins from Ravenous Romance, and Cecilia Tan from Circlet Press are all on the panel.
I take notes fast and furiously and there is no shortage of questions about ePublishing vs print as well as the future of self-publishing in the age of the eBook. Everyone agrees that in spite of all the upheaval eBooks have brought into the world of publishing and in spite of all the changes, it’s a very good time to be a writer. Now there are more possibilities than there have ever been before.
I’m on the Erotic Romance panel with Shawn Clements and Lorna Hinson from Torquere Press and Sascha Illyvich from Renaissance E Books. Talking romance, whether erotic or not, is always a chemistry lesson, and one of my favourite topics, so the hour goes fast.
As one who has a deep appreciation of the beauty and symmetry of grammar, the next session could have been tailor-made for me. I hurry off to Sexy, Sexy Grammar, taught by Jean Roberta and Sharazade. Grammar has never been so hot, nor so much fun!
For every session I attend, there are two I miss, along with a group of fabulous readings, and the readings are sizzling! I need clones of myself!
I have lunch in the darkly paneled, stained glass gloom of The Victorian Café in Bill’s Gambling Hall. What starts out as lunch with Sharazade and Katie Salidas ends up being a party when I. G. Frederick invites us to a huge round table where Jean Roberta, Jolie Du Pre, Zetta Brown, friends, partners and a totally cool waitress are all squeezed together talking promo, inspiration and lunch. It is then I realize I have fifteen minutes to finish my general’s chicken and get back to the Flamingo for my reading. Of course I’m in the middle of the big round booth, so everyone slides and I make a dash for it.
I feel a little nervous reading opposite M J Williamz, Cecilia Tan and Kate Dominic with Remittance Girl in the audience, but sex on a Harley from The Initiation of Ms Holly, I’m comfortable with, and everyone else seems to enjoy. We all end up laughing and talking after.
When the last session of the day is over, we are all invited up to Cecilia Tan’s suite for a wine, cheese, and chocolate party. Even without the wine, cheese and chocolate, who could resist a chance to chat with the fabulous Cecilia Tan! I don’t remember the wine and cheese, but I do remember being in a sun drenched pink and white sixties-style suite with the buzz of erotic writer-talk all around Cecilia Tan, who is seated on the sofa and Lori Perkins, who is standing by the door. Wow! Who needs wine?
The big event of the day is ‘One Very Steamy Las Vegas Evening’ at The Erotic Heritage Museum. Susana Mayer has brought ‘The Erotic Literary Salon’ on tour. There is an open mic and more readers than there is time for. There are at least twenty people, each with only five minutes to read. Rachel Kramer Bussel Kicks off the reading, Hazel Cushion make a rare reading appearance, Emerald, Jolie Du Pre, I. G. Frederick, Cecilia Tan, Laura Antoniou, just to name a few, are all reading stories from the many facets of erotica.
Sadly, I didn’t know about the event in time to get signed up. Happily, in spite of a full house, enough people don’t show up that there is room for me and several others to read. Sadly,(and stupidly) I don’t have Holly with me. Happily (and smartly) Hazel is sitting next to me with a huge bag full of Xcite anthologies, one of which just happens to be Dark Desires: Love that’s Out of This World, which contains my story, ‘Flaws.’ Sadly, I’ve never practiced reading any of this story for an audience. Happily that doesn’t stop me.
In the end, I read about a sexy love spell gone awry. I do this while standing between two giant velvet draped beds and a plethora of white marble penises taller than I am. Oh yes, a good time was had by all!
Back at the Flamingo, Hazel, Sharazade, and a friend of hers, and I buy beer and peanuts at the hotel shop and find a quiet table outside the casino in the gardens next to the habitat where the flamingos stand sleeping with their heads tucked under their wings. Writerly people love to talk, and casino bars are not good places to talk. Sleeping flamingos, however, are the perfect ambiance for conversations about publishing and editing and story, and I realize that though Las Vegas wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea, a quiet table in the desert heat with other writers is certainly my bottle of beer.
The next day begins with a full house for the editor’s panel, with Miranda Forbes, D. L. King, Kelli Collins and Rachel Kramer Bussel. I attend two reading sessions, finally getting to hear the ever so hot and talented Sharazade read steamy tales of travel sex from her book, Transported: Erotic Travel Tales. I love the fabulous Blake C. Aarens’s John Malkovich fantasy and Emerald’s amazing tale of first-time rope bondage to the music of Pink Floyd is not only erotic, but moving. I find myself wishing I could attend all the readings. Listening to what other writers write, allowing myself to be pulled into their stories, is one of the best ways to learn to be a better writer. I know I can read all those stories, and that’s good too, but experiencing the tale aurally adds more depth, more sensuality to the experience.
Graydancer’s hands-on kink session is one of the highlights of the day. His basic introduction to BDSM and kink for erotica writers who want to make sure they get the kink right is invaluable. In fact, the rope bondage demo spills over into the cocktail party afterwards with the leotard-clad Sharazade volunteering to be bound, and volunteering yours truly to take photos.
As Sharazade sheds her bonds and leotard for the beads and sparkles of her evening gown, Aisling Weaver announces the party will continue over at her suite in the Cosmopolitan. She and her lovely partner even go so far as to shoo us all into a yummy stretch limo for the short, but luxurious drive to the Cosmo, where we all enjoy the views of the Bologgio Fountains and the Eifel Tower from their balcony. There are more readings from iPads and Blackberries as people come and go.
Eventually Hazel, Sharazade, Jolie, and I opt for one last photo session along the Strip, and I am once again back amid the holiday making crowds and the women in wedding gowns taking photo ops in front of the Bologgio fountains and the Saturday night revelers. We make it as far as The Venetian before the rain starts, then we hurry back to the Flamingo drenched and giggling, pushing and shoving our way through the press of people in the deluge.
Back in my room, I fall into bed and slept like the dead.
I end my adventure in Vegas over breakfast with Hazel and Sharazade back in the dark Victorian. After good-byes all around, I catch the shuttle to the airport. The Sunday morning shuttle riders are more subdued than those I arrived with three days ago, and it’s nice to stare out the window at the city, now quiet and pale in the desert sun, and reflect on the adventure I had in Vegas, the things I learned, the new friends I made, and the intimations already being whispered about next year’s Erotic Author’s Association Conference.