This year, I was invited to be an author panelist at the Anne Rice Undead Conference. I could play it modest and act like it was no big deal, but… huzzah! Even before I left for New Orleans, I knew it was going to the trip to remember. An important moment in both my personal life, and my writing career.
Now, if you read my books you’ll know I’m no stranger to New Orleans. Quite the opposite: I am obsessed with this strange, decadent, architecturally and culturally incredible city. Really, all of South Louisiana, from the Quarter to the many beautiful bayous. I owe my writing inspiration to every smell, sound, and sight in that corner of the world. I make an effort to visit as often as I can, usually annually. Usually with my bestie, Laura.
With four days worth of amazing events, I knew we had to pack in some R&R&R (Rest, Relaxation, & Research) time, so we added two days to the front of the trip, and two days after.
To start, we spent two luxurious nights at Houmas House Plantation & Gardens. We didn’t do a whole lot, and that was the point. Mimosas, bathrobes, good books, and the sound of cicadas set against a backdrop that could inspire any novelist. Oh, and this backdrop did inspire this novelist, as HH is one of the original inspirations for the fictional plantation in my books, Ophelie. *~The More You Know.*~
My brave and daring companions through the rest of this whirlwind adventure were my two dearest friends: Laura and Shawn. I seriously could NOT have done this without either of them. I am a very lucky gal.
Thursday morning, we packed up our tiny rental car with enough luggage for a royal progress, and headed into NOLA for the Meet & Greet at St. Alphonsus Church. Anne and Christopher Rice would both be there (Anne promoting her latest Vampire Chronicles book, Prince Lestat, and Christopher his new supernatural thriller, The Vines. Both excellent reads by the way), as well as Christine Feehan. Those of us invited as panelists were also guests, and were gathered near AR and CR.
First off: if you’re a Rice fan, you already know how beautiful St. Alphonsus is purely from her vivid descriptions. But seeing it in person was absolutely stunning. On a prior trip I’d walked past it, but this was my first time inside.
As authors, we were among the first to meet Anne and ask her a few questions. I was relieved to have a question that was not entirely ridiculous. Honestly, I was surprised I could still speak English when sitting right in front of my dang muse.
Also awesome was meeting and spending time with fellow authors, panelists, and friends, like Becket, Raven Quinn, K.L. Bone, Greg Wilkey, Alys Arden, CM Michaels, and more. We spent a lot of time posing for pictures, and looking otherwise glamorous.
After the Meet & Greet, we closed the night out with some vino at Patrick’s Bar Vin in the Quarter. Great choice, by the way.
Of course, we couldn’t stay out too late. Friday was scheduled to be RI-DIC-U-LOUS.
First off, we watched the panel with Christopher Rice, Eric Shaw Quinn, Christopher Buehlman, Christine Feehan, and Paul Koudanaris. So much entertainment (and talent!) in one tiny table.
Next up, was our panel. Becket, Raven Quinn, Greg Wilkey, KL Bone, CM Michaels, and yours truly. For as nervous as I was starting, I was quickly reminded how easily I’ve always found talking to crowds (a strange trait for an introvert, I know). The time flew by, and it was a blast. What an honor to be surrounded by so much diverse talent.
With both Halloween panels complete, that only meant one thing: Lestat Coronation Ball!
Well, no. First, we spent four hours getting our hair and makeup done. It may be enough to say that none of us had been this fancy since prom.
The Lestat Coronation Ball was an event I’ll probably have trouble describing. From the music to the decor to the elaborate costumes and dresses, it felt like stepping into another time and place. And as an author, it’s absolutely stunning to witness the impact a character and a series can have on so many.
And the moment of the trip for me: taking a moment to sit down and thank Anne for the impact she has had on my writing. I suppose I could have asked her a thousand questions, but all I wanted to do was say thank you. And I did.
After the ball, we took a few spins around the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, and met a unicorn flirting and drinking his heart out. #Halloween in NOLA
We kicked off Saturday with a tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 for All Saints Day, which included LITERALLY EATING FOOD ON TOMBS. I was skeptical, but this is apparently a tradition, and I love me some good NOLA traditions. We then hopped over for a late breakfast at Cafe du Monde, an afternoon in the Garden District (where we visited the location of my Oz Sullivan and narrowly avoided a restraining order) riding the streetcar, and then a fabulous dinner at Galatoire’s, our New Orleans favorite. Sunday was equally nice, from our jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace, to spending the last couple hours of the UC weekend saying goodbye to the other authors at the cocktail party.
By Monday, all our excitement caught up with us and we lazed about. We had a wonderful lunch with Christina “Stina” Barnett, and then dinner with new friends Alys Arden and Alex Rosa.
As with anytime I leave NOLA, a piece of me stays behind. But the rest of me is ready for next year!