This was my first year attending the GRL (GayRomLit) Retreat and as a lover of all things books the experience was almost indescribable. The reader portion of the event officially started on Thursday and there are Writers’ Workshops on Wednesday. I arrived on Wednesday in order to meet my roommates and settle in before the start of the official retreat.
Arriving early is definitely one of the best decisions I made. From the very beginning the atmosphere is filled with both a welcoming vibe and a lot of excitement. Many attendees had been to previous GRL’s and so for them this was a time to reconnect with friends that you haven’t seen since the last retreat. As a newbie, I was meeting new people and yet I never felt like I didn’t belong or that I was an outsider. From that very first day it was like an instant connection with people and new friendships formed. Wednesday I shared lunch with TM Smith and Morticia Knight. Both authors are brilliant and a heck of a lot of fun. This lunch wouldn’t be our last time together and every single time the conversation flowed without hesitation.
Sitting in the hotel lobby on Wednesday night I got a chance to talk to Olivia Black about her upcoming book Drunk in Love, which is part of her Silver Bullet Series from Siren Publishing. If you have never had the pleasure of reading the Silver Bullet Series, then you have to fix that. The books are paranormal romances with some very interesting characters. Drunk in Love is the thirteenth book in the series and will features characters based on three real life individuals.
Then there were my roommates, I could probably do an entire post just on them. From the initial meeting Wednesday night, I could never have imagined how perfectly we would fit together. They are some of the best people I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a room with. Some of the best moments of the retreat were with them. From preparing for the night time parties, to a very late dinner with two of the very talented and wonderful dancers from Thursday night and ending with pictures in the photo booth and hugs, these three virtually made the experience what it was.
Thursday was the official start of the retreat for the readers. My GRL experience kicked off with a breakfast with author Lynn Lorenz. A small group of readers won breakfast with Lynn and as we got to sit there and discuss books it was already clear that this was going to be a special few days.
After breakfast one of my breakfast partners and I hit the swag room which was a blast. Having the chance to pick up goodies from so many amazing authors was a lot of fun. There were key chains, books, pens, bookmarks, trading cards and so many other interesting items that it is hard to name them all.
The supporting authors’ signing was across from the swag room and the room was filled with such amazing authors that it is impossible to list them all. As part of a very special gift from GRL, readers were given a book filled with stories and excerpts from the supporting authors. As I walked around to get the book signed it was so much fun to meet authors such as Kim Fielding, Zathyn Priest, Wade Kelly, Freddy MacKay and TM Smith. Chatting with the different authors about their past books and what was coming next made the signing feel so much more personal than just having an author smile and sign before you walk away.
After the signing there were author lounges which were a less formal way to chat with the authors. I will admit I missed most of the author lounges. I did get a chance to meet Carol Lynne during the only author lounge I stepped into. Standing there getting a chance to talk to an author I have almost idolized since her first books was pretty magical.
The afternoon portion of Thursday, Friday and Saturday gave the options of seeing Author Q & A’s, Storyteller Spotlights or Author Readings. I chose to attend author readings on all three days. There is something very inspiring about watching and listening to an author read their work. All of their blood, sweat and tears have gone into these books and getting a chance to listen to them read their stories was amazing. Some of my favorite readings came from Rick R Reed, Geoffrey Knight, B.G. Thomas and Brandon Witt. The authors made us laugh and cry with them and it is an experience that is hard to forget.
My Thursday continued with lunch with TM Smith. Sitting at the bar with TM meant that we got to chat with people who came to visit or join us; this included two cover models and other authors. The conversations ranged from book topics to how many red bulls would it take to stop your heart. Random conversations were a really unique aspect of the GRL experience. While we are all there because of our love of books and in particular the gay romance genre, conversations touched on everything.
After lunch there was some free time before the opening reception. The opening reception was hosted by MLR Press and gave us all the location of next year’s GRL. The retreat in 2015 will be in San Diego. The opening reception was a nice way to start the evening and continue to meet new people. The reception was followed by The Juke Joint.
The Juke Joint was hosted by Extasy Books and Wilde City Press. If ever there was a party to open an event, this was it. With three amazingly talented Go-Go Dancers for our entertainment, this was a dance party that was filled with hot men, dancing, cocktails and friends. Johnny V and Big Joey D, two of the talented dancers are some of the nicest men you will ever have the pleasure of meeting and watching them dance is downright sinful. The hosting publishers even offered a few giveaways which our very sexy dancers presented. More dancing and photos with the sexy dancers followed the giveaway. The Juke Joint was followed by the after hours party and I had the privilege and pleasure of sitting down with Johnny and Joey with a few others for a late dinner. This dinner was hands down as much fun as the dancing since both men are smart, funny and extremely engaging. The night was long but well worth the lack of sleep.
With a long and packed Thursday behind us, it was time for Friday’s fun. The mornings started with a nice spread from Riptide Publishing that included coffee, muffins and pastries to kick-start the day. Anyone who didn’t get a chance to hit the swag room still had some time on Friday morning to pick up some author goodies.
Again the morning offered the Q & A’s, Readings and Spotlights. I again got to spend some time with both Olivia Black and TM Smith during the morning. This was followed by another quick lunch before the author lounge events.
After the author lounge was the much anticipated fun and craft fair events. There was a scrapbooking event with the Rainbow Romance Writers, the Nothing Better Than… Blue Notes, and last but certainly not least the Cockwalk. While both the scrapbooking and musical offerings sounded like a lot of fun, I chose the Cockwalk as my afternoon entertainment. The art was amazing, the stories hysterical and the overall atmosphere was electric. I have never seen so many cocks in one room before. There was art, jewelry, bookends, wine, bottle openers and so many other phallic items that it is impossible to really list them all.
Once the Cockwalk was over, there was some downtime in order to relax and get ready for that night’s party which was the Casino night hosted by Dreamspinner. Everyone was resplendent in their casino wear. There were table games, some giveaways and a lot of mingling and chatting. With an after hours event to keep the party going, the night didn’t end until early in the morning.
After another late night, I listened to more author readings. I got a chance to once more catch up with Olivia Black and then I spent some time with TM Smith prior to the featured author signing. Spending time with TM meant meeting Andrew Grey and getting a hug from this amazing author.
Saturday’s lunch with TM included Wade Kelly. Lunch was a fun planning session in preparation for the big featured author signing. With so many authors and three hours for the signing, we all wanted to make sure we got our books signed.
Walking into the signing the readers were handed the featured authors anthology. This book was a great way to get a book signed if you couldn’t carry all of your favorite authors with you. The highlights of the signing for me was getting to meet TJ Klune, Cat Grant, Brandon Witt, Ethan Day, and so many others. Having these authors sign my books was so much fun. Watching other authors and readers get their books signed was a blast.
Meeting back up with TM Smith, we left the signing and headed towards the lobby area. After some chatting and relaxing, we enjoyed the Sausage-Fest hosted by Samhain Publishing. The sampling of food was fun and delicious.
Saturday night’s party was the Totally Time Travel Costume Party hosted by Totally Bound. The costumes were fun and ranged from Star Trek to Harry Potter. There was an Adam (minus his Eve or Steve), some gypsies and an entire assortment of other costumes. The dancing was lively and everyone was having fun.
Sunday dawned bright and early as many prepared to leave. The final event of GRL was the farewell brunch. Along with brunch there was a photo booth to capture a few last minute memories. Saying goodbye was hard but it leaves you counting down to the next GRL.