Saturday 31 December 2011

Event Report - Author's After Dark 2011 - #AADPhilly

I just realised that we're about to reach the end of 2011 and I still haven't shared any of my American adventures from the summer.  I had a whole series of posts planned but with everything that has been going on with the house (in case you missed the updates I've been in temporary housing since a couple of weeks after we got home, first in a B&B and now in a flat with no internet access!) I haven't had the time to write them.  My Dad, brother and I had an amazing time in Washington, New York and Niagara Falls but I'll tell you more about that some other time.  For today I want to share with you one of my bookish highlights of the whole year - the Authors After Dark Con in Philadelphia.  Really this was the most amazing experience and although there were a few problems with the hotel I loved every minute of the weekend.

Day 1 - 11th August

Thanks to a mix up over train times I ended up getting to Philadelphia later than planned so I'd missed the convention opening and quite a few panels but luckily I managed to find my roomies quickly so we could get checked in & offload our bags.  I can't tell you how excited I was to finally meet Larissa (from Welcome to Larissa's Bookish Life) her blog is one of the first ones I discovered when I started blogging and she is just as lovely in person as she is online.  I was also really looking forward to meeting Jaime (author JA Saare who also writes as Aline Hunter) who I have been chatting to on twitter forever and I love her!  She has the most adorable southern accent & we were the terrible red-headed twosome for the weekend :o)
Roomies! Jaime, me & Larissa

I can't believe I had to go all the way to America to meet one of my favourite UK bloggers and twitter friend Jules (Minxy) from Loose Knickers and Window Lickers (isn't that just one of the coolest blog names!).  Jules and I had a blast and we're already plotting ways to try and do the whole Brit Chick on tour thing again & get back to AAD another year.  If only flights weren't so damn expensive!  Someone else I'd really been looking forward to meeting was Jen from That's What I'm Talking About.  I've been chatting to Jen for so long now and it was awesome to finally see her in person.

The first event we all went to was the Blogger ARC party where we got to meet some amazing authors, were given a stack of fabulous books and I got to chat with some other fab bloggers.  I know I'm going to have missed some off this list (probably some that I spent lots of time chatting to over the weekend knowing my memory!) so I'll apologise in advance for that but a big shout out to Bells (Hanging With Bells), Joy (Joyfully Reviewed), Grace (Livre D'Armour), Robin (Intense Whisper), Pam (Wicked Lil Pixie), Marq (Love to Read for Fun), Felicia (Geeky Blogger) & Mandi (Smexy Books) and everyone else I spoke to (please let me know if I missed you!).

Lara Adrian & me

Then there was my highlight of the entire year, you know that moment where you meet your favourite author ever, the one you love so much that your first ever tattoo was a symbol from her series?  Well, perhaps not everyone knows that exact moment but you get the idea lol.  Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed series was the first adult paranormal romance series I ever read and it hooked me in from the minute I picked up Kiss of Midnight.  I have spoken to Lara on twitter and via email pretty much since I started blogging but I can't begin to tell you how excited I was to finally meet her - it was the whole reason I wanted to go to AAD in the first place (although finding out that Larissa Ione was going to be there too was just the icing on the cake!).  The fact that Lara spotted me from across the room, knew who I was (OMFG SHE KNEW WHO I WAS!!) and came over to give me a hug made my day!  Not only that but I got to go for dinner with Lara and some of the others which was fantastic.  Lara is so lovely and I'm so pleased I got to spend time chatting with her!

Larissa Ione & me

After dinner we went to an event hosted by Lara Adrian & Larissa Ione where we had lots of giggles and begged for spoilers (not that I could possibly tell you if we got any or not!) and posed for pictures.  So less than 1 full day at the con & I'd already met my two favourite authors!  Yup, it was a good day :o)  Larissa is just as lovely as I knew she would be and meeting her was awesome!  Lara & Larissa are both the friendliest and coolest people and I may possibly have worried them a little by stalking them bumping into them all weekend.

Day 2 - 12th August

I have to admit the second day passed in a bit of a blur, I'd only had about 3 hours sleep since Jaime, Larissa and I were a bit hyper and over excited the night before.  It was like being a teen again at a girly sleepover where you spend all night whispering in bed, I think we finally turned the lights off at about 4am but since Larissa forgot to turn off her alarm we were up again by 7am!  I know we went to several panels but I forget which ones & you're probably not going to believe this but I was incredibly lax about taking pictures.  I think I was so overwhelmed by the whole experience that I just completely forgot I was walking around with a camera in my hand.  I met so many fabulous authors and hardly took pictures of any of them, not at all like me I know and I was really annoyed with myself afterwards.

I spent quite a bit of time on the 5th floor balcony which was where most of the smokers gathered and there was always someone to talk to.  It was there that I got talking to Dakota Cassidy who is without a doubt one of the funniest people I've ever met.  Seriously, if you ever get a chance to meet her do it but expect to laugh until your sides hurt!  I hadn't read any of her books before but I bought several at the AAD signing and if they're half as funny as she is in person then I know I'll love them. 

Stella Price & me

Jules and I also managed to spend a few minutes with the lovely Stella Price who works so hard to organise AAD every year.  I know there were a lot of complaints about some things that happened at AADPhilly but that was mostly down to the seriously bad customer services of the hotel, I can guarantee I'd never go back to that hotel again!  It was irritating that events switched rooms at the last minute and you couldn't always find what you were looking for but that didn't stop me from having the most amazing time at the con so I'm not going to say anymore about it.  Other things that people have complained about didn't effect me personally so I'm going to stay away from the drama there, yes I'm sad that some people were disappointed but I'm not going to let that colour my experiences.  I thought AAD was fantastic and I would love to go again every year, the only thing stopping me is the flight costs but trust me as soon as I've saved up enough I'll be going again!

Jules & me

Jules and I might have sneaked into the hotel bar for cocktails before we went to get changed for the Masquerade dinner & ball.  The evening was great fun and there were some fabulous costumes, everything from Greek goddesses to Medusa, geisha girls to faeries.  Leanna Renee Hieber & her partner Marcus looked absolutely amazing dressed as the Goddess and Alexi from her book The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess and I also loved Stephanie Burke's geisha outfit (you can see pics in the slide show below).  We got to sit with Larissa Ione for the dinner which was fantastic as it was also her birthday so we got to help her celebrate.  After the dinner there was dancing but I have to admit I spent most of the evening sitting outside chatting so I missed most of that. 

Day 3 - 13th August

This was the busiest day of the con and I'm still not quite sure how I survived it considering Jamie, Larissa and I had spent another night gossiping and giggling rather than sleeping!  Jules and I hit a couple of panels in the morning including the "It's All About the Fangs, Baby" panel with Larissa Ione, Lara Adrian, Jess Haines, Jennifer Armintrout, Alexandra Ivy and Samantha Sommersby which was great fun and added quite a few books to my wish list!

Jess Haines, Lara Adrian, Larissa Ione, Samantha Sommersby, Jennifer Armintrout & Alexandra Ivy

After the panel we had about 2 hours to spare before the big book signing in the afternoon.  Jules and I were both leaving Philadelphia as soon as the convention finished so we decided it would be nice to spend a little bit of time exploring.  Admittedly we didn't have time to see everything but at least we can say we ventured out of the hotel now!  We were able to go on a tour of Independence Hall which is where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were discussed and then signed.  We also got to go and see Liberty Bell, there was quite a long queue but luckily it was fairly fast moving and we managed to get back to the hotel just in time.  Here are a few pics I took as we were walking around Philadelphia, I'd love to go back and explore properly one day:

Then it was time for the signing, we had been given quite a few books by authors who were at AAD but there was also a book seller outside the signing room where we could buy more.  I have to confess that I got a bit carried away at that book stall & I spent nearly $200 buying books (well when am I going to get the chance to get books signed by all these American authors again?).  I'd heard so many good things about Meljean Brook's The Iron Duke (which I have since read & reviewed here - it was AMAZING!), I loved the first book in Nicole Peeler's Jane True series (Tempest Rising reviewed here) so had to pick up the next couple of books and I've wanted to read Leanna Renee Hieber's Strangely Beautiful series for ages so I couldn't resist them either.  I also bought books by Jess Haines, Carolyn Crane and Dakota Cassidy who had all been on my wish list and I'm sure some more that I've forgotten about.  Of course I'd bought full sets of Lara Adrian and Larissa Ione's books with me to get signed too :o)

I had so many books to get signed that I had to carry them in 3 batches (by the time I'd packed a box to ship home I could barely pick it up!).  Along with the authors mentioned above I got to meet and get books signed by Lia Habel, Kristen PainterAnton Strout, Lydia Dare, Karin Harlow, Sidney Ayers, Erin Kellison, Theresa Meyers, Nancy Holzner, Monica Burns, Judi Fennell, Jessa Slade, Bianca D'Arc, Sylvia Day, Jennifer Estep, Bronwyn Green, Mia Watts, Brynn Paulin, Samantha Kane and Stephanie Julian.  Stupidly even though I had my camera with me I only remembered to take one picture with Leanna Renee Hieber.  If I ever make it to AAD again I WILL be more organised with my camera!

I did remember to take lots of pictures at the steampunk ball though!  I'd been looking forward to seeing everyone's steampunk costumes for months, it had taken me forever to decide on my own costume too but I had some help on that one.  I have to say there were some absolutely fantastic outfits and people had come up with so many different ideas.  One of my favourites was Lia Habel who looked like a princess in her pretty pink dress (you can see some action shots of her dancing in the slide show below), Leanna Renee Hieber and her partner Marcus both looked fab and I loved Meljean Brook's wonder woman tshirt and corset combo.

I wasn't too sure what to make of the carnival side show, I'm a bit squeamish so someone hanging weights off of hooks that have been poked through their eye lids is enough to send me running from the room!  I think it was a fun idea if you have a stronger stomach than I do but I stayed outside until it was over and then came back in for the dancing.  It was a great evening though and one that involved a bit too much drinking and yet another late night.

Day 4 - 14th August

Jules, Jen & me

It was so sad to reach the last day of AAD, we'd had such a fantastic time that I didn't want it to end!  Unfortunately the closing ceremony had been cancelled so there were no organised events on the last day but I did get to go for breakfast with Larissa, Jules, Jen and some of the other bloggers before it was time to check out of the hotel.  I have to say by the time my Dad and brother collected me to head for the train station for our trip to New York I was ready to sleep for a week.  I had less than 10 hours sleep in 3 nights and was completely running on empty but it was worth every minute. 

AAD was such a fantastic experience, I met some amazing people - some who were already friends and some who are now, I have some wonderful memories and some fab books that I really need to make time to read.  Thanks to everyone who I spent time with for helping make it so special and I hope I'll get to see you all again another year!

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