Saturday Date Night

Free time is a luxury. Between work and the kids I don’t have much. I try to use the few moments I have to get some writing done. I work on the relationships on my page. I stress over them and wonder how I can get them to their happily ever after.

But recently, I realized how long it had been since my husband and I had worked on our relationship. For that matter, I couldn’t remember the last time we spent any time together. Sure, we saw each other every night (or rather most nights as he travels a lot for work). We caught glimpses of each other while we cleaned up after dinner, gave the kids their baths, put them in their beds and everything else in between. Even after that, he’ll want to watch the hockey game while I want to write and watch the Big Bang Theory so off we went on our separate ways. Him in the living room as I settled into our bedroom to get an hour so of quiet time in before the baby woke up.

I’m tired just typing this up. It’s my life everyday and I’m sure there’s a lot of you out there who feel the same way.

We’ve been married for the past seven years and had our first child five years ago. Between work and life, we let our connection falter a little. The good thing is I know that we’re meant to be together, as annoying as we find each other sometimes. So, in order to get things back on track I’ve reinstated a once a month required Saturday Date Night. Now I know this sounds super scheduled and restrictive…well it is and too bad. We needed it! We needed to force ourself to give each other some time together, just us two in a nice restaurant with nice cutlery and alcohol.

Our first scheduled date was last week and I’ll be honest, it almost didn’t happen! Once again we were about to let life get in the way, but we pushed through, drove the kids to Grandma’s house and headed our for our 6:30pm reservation. YES, I said 6:30pm and I’m not ashamed (although the restaurant was pretty empty when we arrived!) This gave us plenty of time to relax before we had to pick up the kids at around 9:00pm.

Guys. This is the best thing we’ve done in years. We didn’t talk about anything important. Nothing about money, bills, daycare, work. I can’t even tell you what we talked about because for the most part we were just joking around, and most importantly eating. Oh it was SO good. I forgot what it was like to go to a nice restaurant.

And it was exactly what we needed. Some time together without outside stresses. Enjoying each others company instead of struggling to get through the chores of the day.

It’s so easy to forget how much work a relationship is, and not just in a couple. Siblings, parents, friends, coworkers, neighbours, the list goes on and on.

What do you do to keep  your relationships on track? Girls night with your best friend?  An after work cocktail with coworkers? With everything we all have going on, how do you find the time to fit everyone into your busy schedule?

RWA Conference – Day 2

I wake up on day two with one thought on my mind, “Thank goodness I pre-ordered my breakfast from room service last night.” There is a buffet offered by the conference downstairs, but there is no way I’m going to make it and I knew that from the moment I got into my room a few hours before. I jump in the shower and I’m ecstatic that as soon as I finish getting ready my breakfast arrives right on schedule. I need to post a picture of this just because of the sheer perfection that is this sandwich. I swear I’ll be trying to recreate this awesomeness in my kitchen for the rest of my life. It’s a runny over-easy egg served on buttered and toasted rye bread with cheese, bacon and tomato.Day 2 - Breakfast

Workshops

I walk into conference room number two to find it’s a full house and not one chair is available. I really wanted to take this class so I sit on the carpet near the back. The feeling seems to be mutual with other attendees since people keep coming in and sitting on the floor wherever space is available. I’m also very pleased with my choice of jeans over a skirt at this point.

This workshop, “Deep POV: How to Increase the Intimacy between Your Characters and Your Readers”, is wonderful and I’ll talk about every workshop in a separate post later. The worst part of the workshop? The woman sitting behind me who apparently couldn’t stop talking to save her life. Even the woman she was speaking to was ignoring her. But, there’s always a bright side to be found and the fun part about this is that through our mutual annoyance of “The Talker” I met Claudia, my new friend and the woman I would enjoy the rest of my conference with. Ah, bitterness, where would I be without you!

Day 2 - WorkshopImmediately after this workshop ended, we both happened to stick around in that room to attend the next one, “It’s Showtime: Show, Don’t Tell”. I loved pretty much every workshop I attended.

Attending this conference is apparently the best diet you can go on. We spent three days running from workshop to workshop, lucky if we managed to grab a coffee or for that matter a bathroom break between sessions! I’m sure in the years to come I’ll become less obsessive, but there was just so much to learn and see. We wanted to go everywhere and do everything! Most times workshops, publisher spotlight events and book signings were scheduled on top of each other so we would race to the signing either before or after and run back into the next workshop. I’ve never been so happy to be hungry and exhausted. It was great!

Keynote Luncheon with Guest Speaker “Stephanie Laurens”Day 2 - Stephanie Laurens

Claudia and I made our way into the Marquis Ballroom on time, but we were surprised to find hardly a seat remaining. The meal had already begun and from what we could tell the food service began the moment each individual sat down. It took a little hunting but we finally found a table with two chairs free!

We pulled out our chairs to have a seat and were surprised to find more free books! I slipped them into my ever present tote bag and we sat down to eat. I was sitting next to the most adorable older woman. I mention older only because she must have been at least seventy. I loved the thought that this woman enjoyed writing so much that even in her later years she still made her way to the conference and shared in the excitement. I hope to be in her shoes decades from now.

The food was great; they served a mixed green salad with yummy house dressing to start. By the time our main dish arrived, a grilled chicken breast with steamed vegetables and roasted purple potatoes, Stephanie Laurens made her way onto the stage. She spoke about the changing trends in publishing, the increase of e-publishing, what this means and how it affects publishers and authors alike. She is a fantastic speaker and I hung onto her every word as she spoke. It was funny to listen to all the clinking and clattering of cutlery as she spoke, but I am probably the only one who noticed. Her speech was fairly quick and lasted until the end of the meal, so, although this event was scheduled as a two hour event, it only took about an hour and everyone left after the deliciously strong coffee and desert was served.

The only thing left this afternoon was the Annual General Meeting. Although all members are welcome to attend, I chose to skip this one. There weren’t any other workshops that afternoon. We decided to take the next two hours to rest in our rooms before getting ready for our next outing!

Van Gogh Vodka sponsored “Romancing the Cocktail”

Day 2 - Van GoghAfter registering for the conference I received an email for this event. You had to RSVP by a certain date and I did even though I figured I might not show up when the time came. At least the option would be there. Claudia had RSVP’d as well, so at a quarter to six we made our way to the event. It was a bartender from Van Gogh Vodka and he made three drinks for us. They. Were. So. Good! There was a drink made with each of the following:

Pomegranate Vodka (Honey Pom Pom: 1.5oz VG Pomegranate, 75oz pom juice, .5oz lemon juice, .25oz honey syrup. Shake well w/ice & strain into martini glass.)

Peach Vodka (Best Billini Ever: 1 oz. VG Cool Peach Vodka, 1/4 of a ripe peach, 1 tsp. agave nectar, 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice, 3 oz. Prosecco)

Chocolate Vodka (Dutch Chocolate Desire: 1.5oz VG Dutch Chocolate, 1oz milk, 1tsp chic syrup, 1tsp coconut cream. Blend in blender w/ice and pour into glass).

Day 2 - Van Gogh 3The pomegranate and chocolate ones were by far my favorite. I couldn’t manage to catch a photo of any of the drinks beforehand! I did however get a photo of what was left of my glass of chocolate vodka frozen goodness. I have to be honest, we weren’t listening too closely to the bartender while he was explaining things. Thankfully they provided a list of recipes!

THE BAR

Yes, this segment deserves all caps. I would install little blinking lights to announce it if I had any idea how. Packed at all hours of the day, and not just for drinking, the food was great too. I unfortunately don’t have any photos because nothing lasted long enough to capture on film. We were famished and usually sat down to eat at around four or five o’clock. The beef/pork/duck street tacos (three different types) and quesadilla with a huge side of guacamole became quick favorites and we kept re-ordering them. I tried to stray and ordered calamari once, and they were great, but I spent the rest of the night fantasizing about the shredded beef taco that got away. So sad.

This is also where the best conversations took place. At the end of the day everyone would share stories and experiences. It didn’t matter how long you’ve been writing, one year, ten, twenty, published or not, everyone shared information freely. I’ve never met a group of people so ready and willing to help each other out and try and advance someone else’s career. We’re really lucky.

Day 2 - Jessica ScottTonight, on our way from the Van Gogh event to the bar, we ran into author Jessica Scott. We stopped and introduced ourselves and she was nice enough to talk to us for about five minutes before we continued on our way to the bar.

The ridiculousness continued as we sat down amid a bit of a commotion tonight. There was something different in the water tonight. It didn’t take too long to find the lone guy in the middle of the swarm of women. I noticed his RWA badge and because I’m first and foremost cynical, my first assumption was that he swiped someone’s badge to pick up women. Ridiculous I know, but I’m the least trusting person you’ll ever meet and its best you know that now. The other women, the ones grounded in reality, picked up on what I missed. He’s a cover model. Okay, my bad. I totally didn’t see that one coming. Apparently this guy has been on a couple thousand romance novel covers and he currently works for an indie publication magazine.

Day 2 - Bar Calista FoxThat’s him in the middle (obviously) in the photo to the right. On his left, holding the iPad, is author Calista Fox. She’s got her browser open to the image of one of her books with him on the cover. On his right is author Erin Quinn who has also had him on her book covers. Both Calista and Erin are so kind and spoke to us a lot over the course of the conference. Erin also hosted a workshop called, SOS (Simple Organic Structure) for writers. One of the better workshops and I highly recommend this one. Alas, I was exhausted and wanted to go back to my room to rest. Claudia and I made plans to meet back at the bar a little later, but once my body hit the bed I fell asleep, desperate to rest before I tortured it again tomorrow. It’s not used to having so much fun you see!

RWA Conference – Day 1

After getting my room key, I registered and received my tote bag full of shiny new books. I was told that this was nothing and the free books would keep coming. I figured that`s nice but really how many could there be. A LOT. I had to leave at least thirty books behind in my room. Most people bought ups or FedEx boxes in advance (there’s even a FedEx store in the hotel) and shipped their books back instead of paying fees on overweight luggage. Unfortunately for me, shipping them to Canada would have cost me a small fortune anyway, so I left mine behind for the hotel staff.tote

The FIRST TIMER‘s badge. Oh boy. When they pulled this thing out at the registration desk I couldn’t mask my groan of disapproval. I already look like a little girl lost in a shopping mall and now you’re handing me a nice neon banner just in case anyone missed the terrified look on my face? I was assured by the women around me that it was the best thing I could wear since everyone would be extra nice to me. By the end of my conference, I realized they couldn’t have been more right. I found the strength to pass the full sized Starbucks inside the hotel without buying anything and I made my way over to the elevators.

I’m clutching my twenty pound bag of books and my carry-on when the single most amazing coincidence of my life occurred. Victoria Dahl, the reason I started writing, gets on the elevator with me. In total fan- girl fashion, I introduced myself between stuttering out how incredible she is. We awkwardly shook hands as I tried to throw my bags out of my way and she tried to reposition the fruits in hers. I had bid and won a night of drinks at the hotel bar with her through the Brenda Novak Auction and told her I was her date for the night. A few floors of sounding ridiculous and she had to get off. I spent the remaining floors staring at the closed elevator doors in shock like a moron. Lucky for me no one had to get on because my face was about three inches from the door. Holy crap. That. Was. AWESOME. I couldn’t have written a more perfect start to my conference experience.

So I get to my room and plop onto my fluffy king size bed like a twelve year old. No joke, I was this close to jumping up and down on the mattress. But, you’ll be happy to know I put on my big girl panties and contained my excitement.

The “Readers for Life” Literacy Signing. I got my act together long enough to freshen up after my eight hour connecting flight hell and head out the door for the Literacy Author Signing. Someone mentioned that I should get there a half an hour early and I’m glad I listened. The line was huge but everything was well organized and the entry into the main room passed quickly. I got to meet and get an autographed book from every author I had planned. Such an amazing experience.

An hour later, I make my way back to my room, passing the crowds in the lobby and at the bar. To be honest I was half disappointed at this point that I didn’t have a friend to share this experience with like all the other women.

It’s now six thirty pm west coast time and I’ve been up since three am east coast time. I have drinks at ten pm in the bar with Victoria Dahl. I was so tired I wanted to cry. Instead, I opened my room service menu, ordered dinner and took a nap.

At nine pm, the buzz from my cell phone woke me up. I dragged my lazy ass out of bed, pulled out my straightening iron, and got to work, because seriously, I couldn’t show up with pillow marks on my face.

TGVDDrinks with Victoria Dahl AND Jami Alden. Yes, that’s right, BOTH of them. Ms. Dahl was wonderful enough to ask me if I wanted to meet anyone else. I never thought this would actually happen though! My two favorite author’s in the world and I got to drink and tell filthy stories with them. THIS my friends, is what pure luck feels like. I drank greyhounds by a pool with my idols! We closed the bar at two am and I floated back up to my room a little tipsy. I couldn’t have cared less that I had to get up in five hours to get ready for my first ever conference workshop.

Within hours of arriving, I was in heaven. Surrounded by people who wanted the same thing as me. I fit in. I belonged. And I couldn’t wait for the workshops the following morning…well, not until the alarm went off the next day.

TGJA

 

So, I’m curious, are you considering attending RWA this year? If you’re undecided, what is holding you back? Have you already signed up? Attended before? If so, please share your favorite part of the conference!

RWA Conference – Going In Alone

So I have this dream. I want to write a book. And not just any book…a Romance Novel. Yup, you heard me right. I want to write books full of love and hate and tension (sexual or otherwise) I want to make you blush, cry and laugh. Most likely I’ll irritate the crap out of you by keeping my hero and heroine apart when you know they just want to be together.

Last year I somehow convinced my husband to spend four days at home from work and take care of our 4 year old and 1 year old.  All so I could fly from Montreal, Quebec to Anaheim, California to attend the RWA Conference. It was the single most terrifying and liberating experience of my life and for anyone who may be on the fence about registering this year, I’d like to share my trip with you, hopefully nudging you to take the leap as well.

DAY 1 – This was the most terrifying part. Walking through the lobby doors into what felt like hundreds of women of all ages talking to each other as though they had known one another forever. There I was, alone and petrified to cross the threshold and make my way to the check in desk.

I remember thinking with each step, “What the hell am I even doing here.” I’m an introvert at heart and this was the worst possible scenario I could have put myself in. Flying across the country, across a border, and being forced to talk to countless strangers for four days! What was my other option? Admit to my family that they were right? That I wasted money not only for the conference registration, but the flight and the hotel too? Not a chance. I was going to talk to these people. Eventually.

Something was slowly creeping in as the terror of being at RWA2012 subsided. Excitement. And pride too. I’ve never done anything on my own, just for me, and in that moment I realized that as selfish as it sounded, I didn’t want to share this moment with anyone. Not my husband, or sister, or mother, because for the first time I had something that was mine alone and I had no desire to explain my need for this experience to anyone who didn’t understand.

In my next few posts I’m going to share my journey with you, but for this week I’d like to know: When was the last time you did something for YOU? 

Maybe it was a guilty pleasure. Maybe, like me, by putting yourself first for once, you messed up someone elses schedule. In the end though, putting myself first made me happier with myself. This trip, it was more than an escape from my everyday life. It was the first serious step I’ve taken towards hopefully one day becoming a published author.

I look forward to sharing sharing my experience and hearing about yours!

RWA Conference – Going In Alone.