I had a wonderful time at the Florida Romance Writers Fun-in-the-Sun Conference on board the RCCL Navigator of the Seas, Jan. 22-24, 2009. This was the first time we held the conference on a cruise ship, and it turned out to be a blast. Aiming to get a good night’s sleep, I missed the pre-cruise party the evening before at the Hollywood Ale House but heard it was tons of fun. By noon the next day, most of us were aboard the ship. I was impressed by the efficiency of RCCL’s boarding procedure. There weren’t any lines and we breezed through the check-in process, passports in hand. Armed with our ship credit card/room key, we stepped on board and headed for the Windjammer Café and a buffet lunch. At one o’clock, our cabins were ready, so we dumped our luggage before heading to the conference center on deck two. Here is where our editor/agent appointments were held along with the workshops. After my own editor appointments, I attended a workshop on Public Relations. The rest of the afternoon became a blur: check in our books for the signing later that day; explore the ship, and grab our life jackets for the life boat drill. If you want an exact rendition of what this is like, read my humorous cruise mystery, KILLER KNOTS, which I’d researched on the Navigator on a prior voyage.
At five o’clock, we returned to the conference center to hear a panel of editors and agents. They talked about submissions and current works that excited them. It was interesting how most of them mentioned paranormal stories. It was a lively discussion. From 6:30 to 8:30, we held a booksigning on the Promenade deck, a ship-length interior main street lined with cafes and boutiques. Here I greeted old friends who attended the conference: Linnea Sinclair, Toni Andrews, Leanne Banks, Cherry Adair, Christine Kling, and more of our own members: Karen Kendall, Rhonda Pollero, FRW president Kathleen Pickering, Traci Hall, Jianne Carlo, Mona Risk, and many more. Then we went to dinner in the Nutcracker dining room where I had the grilled salmon. I heard about the wonderful karaoke session led by the indomitable Heather Graham but was too tired to attend. I had to be up early the next day, so after a brief walkabout, I retired for the evening.
Day Two: At 8:00 am, I gave a workshop on World Building. Then I met my roommate, historical author Allison Chase, and we strolled around for our morning exercise. At 11:00, Cynthia Thomason, Sharon Hartley, and Zelda Benjamin joined us and we took the tender over to Coco Cay, RCCL’s private island in the Bahamas. Browsing amid brightly colored huts housing the native market, we resisted the temptation to take home a souvenir and instead bought rum punches and headed for the barbecue lunch. The sparkling water was a beautiful aqua color. The white sand beach drew us to kick off our shoes and lay out on a lounge chair while listening to steel drum music. It was a sublime, relaxing experience.
Back on the ship, my pals attended Floridian Idol wherein editors and agents critique pages submitted by attendees, while I crashed and took a nap. I met up with Judi McCoy and several other authors later. Judi is in charge of the aspiring author’s workshop at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Orlando on April 20-21, so we had a meeting about the program.
After a snack in the café, we headed to the conference center for the keynote speech by the delightful Christina Dodd. She’s a truly lovely woman, very friendly and sweet. Her speech on the Sidewalk to Success inspired us all. Afterward, we changed into nicer clothes for the FRW cocktail party in the Dungeon nightclub. Everyone looked lovely in their fancy outfits. From here we went to dinner and then roamed around the ship until the late hours when we had to put our suitcases in the hallway for pickup. We had a great time, thanks to conference chair Aleka Nakis and her fantastic hard working Committee. Disembarkation proceeded the next morning, and we returned to reality, newly inspired to get back to writing.