GRL 2013 Recap – A Newbie Perspective

When Wave first asked me if I wanted to write a post about GayRomLit, I was a bit skeptical—mainly because I spent most of the week in a fangirl state of shock and awe. I’m lucky I even remember the happenings at all, as I was wandering around in my little bubble of amazement and OMFG. But I really enjoyed my first GRL so, what the hell. I apologize in advance for the rather narrative nature of this post, but it’s the best way I can describe the week.

While I’m an author, I haven’t published any LGBTQ stories to date, so I signed up for GRL as a reader, naturally, to fangirl over my own favorite authors. I drove down to Atlanta on Wednesday, though based on the feedback I’ve heard, next year I will definitely try to sign up for the writing workshop. I’ve heard great things. As soon as I arrived, I decided to jump right into the GRL fire, which in this case, was the hotel lobby, where authors and readers alike were mingling around the bar. I figured I needed a little liquid courage, so I sneaked up to the bar and tried not to make eye contact (all the while squeeing things in my head like “Holy crap, that’s Damon Suede!”). After I got a drink and some surprisingly good pizza, I started talking to a nice woman named K.T. Grant (katiebabs) who is an author and a book blogger, and I quickly found my friend, author Kade Boehme. K.T. and I went out into the city for a lovely evening of ogling hot boys at Swinging Richards, a non-GRL-related event organized by fellow Charlottean author Blake Deveraux. Sorry folks, pictures weren’t allowed!


Suede Swag!

Thursday morning, things kicked off with a vengeance, starting with the Newbie Meet & Greet, hosted by Joyfully Jay. This was a must for me, because I was totally overwhelmed. Jay explained the various events, where they were, and how things were going to work, which was very helpful. After that, we broke off into smaller groups to introduce ourselves. After the newbie gathering, the swag room opened. So, stampede. Everyone brought awesome stuff! My son is still enjoying playing with Angel Martinez’s squishy cow, and I collected as many shot glasses as I could find. The best swag award (IMHO) goes to Carter Quinn, who brought monogrammed eyeglass cleaning cloths and hand sanitizer key chains. Made my little OCD heart beat faster.

Carter Quinn, my winner for best swag. (photo courtesy of Madison Parker)

Carter Quinn, my winner for best swag. (photo courtesy of Madison Parker)

Once I made the rounds in the swag room, I ran into authors Cait Miller and K.A. Mitchell. It was interesting meeting Cait because she is from a town in Scotland that is very close to where my husband’s grandparents are from. And K.A. Mitchell is one of my top favorite authors, and she is absolutely the sweetest, most down-to-earth person you could meet.

It was really hard to choose what to do, as each time slot had several events going on simultaneously. Of course, I wanted to meet my favorite authors, but I also wanted to learn more about some of the lessor known or new-to-me authors. Here’s how I divided my time:


The lovely Marie Sexton

The first panel I went to was a Q&A with Marie Sexton, Mary Calmes, and Scotty Cade—a total rock star panel. I was excited to find out about all of their upcoming projects. Marie said there will most likely be another book in her Oestend series (yay!) and Mary is working on a new shifter project. I asked Scotty about his book The Mystery of Ruby Lode, and whether or not he believes in ghosts himself. Turns out, he owns a haunted inn in Martha’s Vineyard. I am totally going there on my next vacation.

Next, I attended a reading with Damon Suede, Heidi

Damon Suede reading from Bad Idea (photo courtesy of Madison Parker)

Damon Suede reading from Bad Idea (photo courtesy of Madison Parker)

Cullinan, and Deanna Wadsworth. The venue for the reading was the Rathskellar Pub (Feliz tells me it means “The Council Inn” in German) inside the hotel, which had a nice dark, cozy ambience. Heidi was amazing, as always. I was unfamiliar with Deanna but I will definitely be checking her work out in the future. I was most excited to hear the excerpt from Damon’s new book, Bad Idea, which I am reading now. Bad Idea is the story of the creator of the character from Horn Gate. Sounds kind of confusing, but you’ll understand when you read them.

My third event for the day was a Q&A with Jambrea Jo Jones, T.J. Klune, and Eric Arvin. The house was packed. I haven’t read Jambrea, who spoke first, but I looked over her backlist while she spoke, and she definitely had some stories I would be interested in.

T.J. and Eric after The Proposal (photo courtesy of Madison Parker)

T.J. and Eric after The Proposal (photo courtesy of Madison Parker)

T.J. & Eric went together, obviously, and the panel played out much like one of their youtube videos. Together, they are sugar-coma-inducingly sweet (love you guys!), and we all got a little taste of it when T.J. proposed to Eric right on panel. Apparently there are videos floating around where some of the audience members went into the ugly cry. It was pretty sweet though. And there was an incident with Lisa from The Novel Approach and a champagne cork. I couldn’t see from my vantage point, but apparently it scared the bejeesus out of T.J. and he left Eric to his own fate.

There were only a few meals included in the price of the ticket—and personally, I would have rather paid a little more at registration and had more meals included, because the hotel amenities were pretty darn expensive, but there were a couple of cheap places to eat nearby.


Kris Jacen speaking at the MLR opening reception

Thursday evening was the MLR welcome reception, during which we learned the location of next year’s GRL—Chicago. I think the GRL organizers did such a great job, but this particular event was…weird. The ballroom was full of large round tables so it kind of looked like there should have been a meal served, but there were only hors d’oeuvres. Even drinks were only available before the reception. There weren’t assigned seats so it was a bit high-school-cafeteria-esque, and I felt a little bad for people who were shy and/or didn’t know anyone. Also, other than the of next year’s location, nothing else really happened despite the buildup, but it was nice to have some time to relax and get to know the folks I found myself sitting with.


A photo of me with one of Charlie Harding’s lovely go-go boys.

The evening entertainment was the Juke Joint dance party with cover model and adult film star Charlie Harding and his boys. The party was all neon and black lights, and the boys posed for pictures before the music started, and then danced for us on a go-go stage. So, yeah, guess where I stayed pretty much the whole time.

A very sweaty Zack Taylor

A very sweaty Zack Taylor

We were generously provided with a handful of free drink tickets, which was great because the hotel charged a lot for drinks. This was the first moment it really hit me that I was among my people; people who enjoyed reading and writing these books; and I was in a place where I could be perfectly comfortable and not judged. It was kind of amazing. Not much else to say about the Juke Joint—lots of fun, nearly naked boys. Yay!

On day two, I slept in and missed the first slot of panels (hand slap!). I started my day off with a Q&A with L.E. Harner, A.K.M. Miles, and Kiernan Kelly. I haven’t read L.E. Harner yet, but I was interested in hearing what she had to say as one of the few authors at the event who writes both m/f and m/m, since that is eventually what I would like to do. A.K.M. Miles was adorable and funny, and it was evident that her book Soldier had had a profound effect on a lot of the attendees. Kiernan Kelly’s talk was interesting because she has written so many different subgenres: western, paranormal, contemporary, etc. I like when authors don’t pigeonhole themselves.


J.P. Barnaby posing with the painted boys (Photo courtesy of J.P. Barnaby)

After lunch was the Fun Fair, a cluster of events that were, well, fun. I attended the body painting hosted by J.P. Barnaby. She had recruited several of her adult entertainer friends, along with authors Geoffrey Knight, Steve Leonard, Hank Edwards, and Jared Rackler, to allow us to literally paint them for charity. The donations went to raise money for Lost ‘N Found Youth ($600 in total!).

Me and Kathie painting Jared Rackler

Me and Kathie painting Jared Rackler

All the men were so nice and such good sports. None of them received a dime to be a part of GRL, they came because they wanted to. Oh, and I also got to meet the lovely Rhys Ford in line to paint!

The next event I attended was Name That Scene by Riptide, which involved several of Riptide’s stable of authors reading random sex scenes with the names changed, while attendees tried to guess which books they were from. The funniest thing was the authors actually reading the scenes—it’s awkward enough to read sex scenes aloud when they’re your own work!

Once that wrapped up, I was able to duck into the Cockwalk. This was basically a room full of phallic-themed artwork that was being raffled off to the attendees. Alas, I did not win any cock. But it was fun seeing all of the different…um…interpretations of cock art.

That night was the Dinner with an Author event. Each attendee was given a table number and were seated with two or three authors. This was a great idea in theory, but needed better execution. Because the tables were huge and round, and there were so many people in the ballroom, we could really only hear the folks immediately beside us. Despite that, I was seated next to Silvia Violet. I found out she lives not too far from me, and it was interesting talking to her about balancing being a mom and a writer. Tere Michaels was also at our table, and she seemed delightful, although I couldn’t hear much of her side of the conversation. Both authors generously provided books as gifts. While I hope they improve the logistics of this event for future cons, this was definitely one of the highlights.

B.G. Thomas and Poppy Dennison looking dapper and lovely (Photo courtesy of Madison Parker)

B.G. Thomas and Poppy Dennison looking dapper and lovely (Photo courtesy of Madison Parker)

After dinner was Dreamspinner’s One Enchanted Evening formal party. Everyone looked beautiful, but the mood wasn’t as lively (obviously) as the Juke Joint. One lovely lady passed by me in the drink line and told me how good she thought I looked. Turns out it was Ariel Tachna! Whom I’ve read, but I didn’t know what she looked like. Looking splendiferous in their tuxes where Andrew Grey and B.G. Thomas. I turned in early to be ready for all the festivities the next day.

First thing on Saturday morning was the “Angst and Pain” storyteller panel with K.A. Mitchell, Amy Lane, and J.P. Barnaby. J.P. read an excerpt from her upcoming book Spencer (Sequel to Aaron, Yay!) and it was oh, so good. Amy Lane told a funny/sad anecdote about her family, and she also gave away some beautiful donated yarn, by throwing it into the audience. Then K.A. started throwing, and all hell broke loose, along with (almost) the ceiling. K.A. is a bit trajectorily challenged.

K.A. Mitchell (she seems pretty calm for just surviving a Yarn Riot)

K.A. Mitchell (she seems pretty calm for just surviving a Yarn Riot)

K.A.’s talk involved a funny story about some close friends that gave her the idea behind Bad Boyfriend, that had everyone dying laughing. Each author answered a few select questions from readers in between and after their stories. It was SO much fun, and I snagged a skein of yarn like the last single girl at a wedding snags the bouquet! #yarnriot2013

I missed the next set of panels due to the great coffee debacle (you can read about my misery here) and the last one I attended was the “Boys with Badges” storyteller spotlight, featuring Silvia Violet, Hank Edwards, and Tere Michaels. I’ve only read Tere before, but I will definitely be checking out the other two. Y’all know I’m a sucker for cop dramas.

Beautiful Mary Calmes

Beautiful Mary Calmes

That was the end of the panels, and after that was the jumbo featured author book signing. I only do ebooks, so I didn’t look for signatures really, but I got to chat with folks like Mary Calmes (who was sought out for us by my girl Jessie Potts, a.k.a. Booktaster, a reviewer for USAToday’s romance blog–she says she has “Mary-dar”), A.K.M. Miles, P.D. Singer, and J.P. Barnaby (who brought her gorgeous cover model, Drake Jaden).

Myself, Tina Blenke, and cover model Drake Jaden (with his boyfriend)

Myself, Tina Blenke, and cover model Drake Jaden (with his boyfriend)

I also got to speak a little bit with some of the folks I’ve talked to through facebook, like Taylor V. Donovan and Aleksandr Voinov, along with fellow JW reviewers Lloyd Meeker and Feliz Faber.

Eden Winters as  Belle Mor-Tay (Photo courtesy of Feliz Faber)

Eden Winters as Belle Mor-Tay (Photo courtesy of Feliz Faber)

Probably my favorite event of the week was Totally Bound’s Heaven & Hell Masquerade Ball. The top floor was divided into two rooms that represented Heaven and Hell. We did a quick tour through Heaven, but stayed in Hell most of the time (to be fair, that’s where the dance floor was!). Some folks just wore masks and some went for very elaborate costumes.

Me in costume - a gentleman ganster

Me in costume – a gentleman ganster

Me? I busted out the Ralph Lauren suit, the fedora, and the cigars, and went full drag. I escorted the lovely Kathie Smestad, K.T. Grant, and Tina Blenke. The music was lively, the dancing was enthusiastic, and J.P. Barnaby’s gorgeous friends were also in attendance. We closed the place down.

Demonic Damon Suede and Devilish Deanna Wadsworth

Demonic Damon Suede and Devilish Deanna Wadsworth

Each night, the Rathskellar pub was reserved for GRLers for afterhours partying, though Saturday night was the only time I went. It was fun smooshing in there with everyone in their costumes. The poor bartender tried so hard to keep up with us. I found a flapper to my gangster, may have grinded a little on Damon Suede (because who wouldn’t?), and I danced a fair bit with K.A. Mitchell (fangirl, mind: blown). We closed down that one as well, and a good time was had by all.

The next morning, the last event was the farewell brunch. It was nice to wrap things up and say goodbye to all of my new friends, readers and authors alike. Though I didn’t participate, the GRL photo booth seemed like a fun way to get a souvenir of the trip. All in all, my first GRL was an awesome—though overwhelming—experience. I think even the organizers would agree that the hotel left a lot to be desired with its wonky elevators and terrible wi-fi, but beyond that, everything was awesome. I highly recommend GayRomLit for any reader and/or writer of LGBTQ romance!


  • Great con report. 🙂 Sounds like a blast and I wish I could’ve been there. I haven’t made one since New Orleans, but hopefully next year. [crossed fingers]

    I have to point out one thing, though, to be fair to the organizers. As someone who spent many years working and running conventions (both SF cons and professional conferences) I have to say that this:

    personally, I would have rather paid a little more at registration and had more meals included

    would not have happened. The hotel banquets department charges a LOT for food. For more meals (plural) to be included, you would’ve paid a lot more at registration. In New Orleans, a lot of food functions were sponsored by various publishers, but sponsors of such events rarely make back their investment in additional sales. The only time I’ve seen that work was at the Computer Game Developers Conference, where a company pushing a new joystick or sound card or whatever gave away a bunch (along with food and/or drinks) to the hundreds or thousands of game developers attending, many of whom tried them, liked them, and developed games that supported them, which encouraged gamers to buy those products. If it costs a publisher a few thousand dollars to provide food and drinks to GRL attendees, though, I doubt very much they’re going to see anywhere near that amount in new sales traceable (even if we had magic sales tracing abilities) back to the event. I’m not really surprised that there are fewer large publisher sponsors now than there were in NO. (Note that I’m speculating based on what I’ve heard from various people who attended, plus my own experience. I’m not on the GRL committee, and haven’t talked to any of them, blah-blah-blah.)

    Most cons try to choose a venue that has a relatively cheap coffee shop/restaurant, arranges with the venue to set up snack carts/areas selling sandwiches, burgers, fruit, candy bars, soft drinks, etc., for a reasonable price in whatever out-of-the-way corners they might have in their facility, or at least pick a venue that has cheap food within reasonable walking distance. Getting cheap food en masse through the hotel just doesn’t happen, unfortunately. :/ Banquets is a major profit center at any largish hotel, and food functions are pumped for whatever the hotel can get.


  • Great recap of the GRL. So many great memories were made that weekend. I must admit the go-go boys both dressed and undressed were a hit with me. Can’t wait for next year! Thanks again for friending this shy girl and allowing me to hang with the cool people.

  • Oh God, I was there and didn’t meet you?? Great write up! TJ’s proposal was the highlight for me although there was lots of second place ones! See you in Chicago!

    • Haha, yes, I was there! There are still so many people that I talk to online that I didn’t get to see. I actually had a conversation with someone during the body painting that I frequently talked to on twitter, but it wasn’t until I tweeted about it later that I knew it was her!

      I’ll make sure to look for you in Chicago!

  • J.K., I am green with envy–LOL! Honestly, so glad you had a wonderful time–this was such a great post!! Thanks for telling us all about it! Am going to make my way to Chicago next year for sure! 😎

  • Thanks! You should definitely go next year! I’ll be doing everything to convince my husband that it’s worth a flight to Chicago. I got to chat with Lloyd a little bit, though I only briefly spoke to Feliz in the line for coffee/tea at the brunch. There were SO many people to talk to and meet, you almost need more than one trip to do it.

    The Juke Joint was great, and I think the Masquerade will become a new GRL staple. It looked like everyone had a great time. There was one lovely there with Silvia Violet whose name I didn’t get, and she had taped a bunch of grey paint sample strips to her shirt. I asked her what she was supposed to be, and she pointed at her shirt and said there were 50 of them. Heh heh heh.

  • J.K.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I’m so jealous. 😀 This post brings back memories of last year and how much fun I had. I met so many people – readers and authors – and I see from the photos that many of them were back this year.

    Weren’t the Juke Joint guys a lot of fun? 😆 I’m really happy you met Lloyd and Feliz. Sammy was going to be there but a personal problem prevented her from being there, she was so disappointed.

    I’m very happy you had a wonderful time. Maybe I’ll go next year.

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