ONE TRIBE AGAIN
Something strange and wonderful happened at the first GRL in New Orleans in 2011.
It’s really quite difficult to describe, and at the time we all just let it fill us, silently and happily, and rolled with this strange feeling like a big old riverboat drifting down the Mississippi. Everything felt very familiar, but it wasn’t like déjà vu. We felt like we had all been together before, but it wasn’t like a past-life experience or anything like that. No, it was a simple sense of ‘oneness’. That we strangers from all over the United States—and all over the world—belonged together. We had a true passion, a burning love, for m/m fiction that bonded us so unexpectedly, and yet we barely discussed how incredibly comfortable we were in each other’s company. We didn’t need to. Why? Because we felt so safe with each other! Some of us were openly dedicated to gay romance in our normal lives; others held it as a precious secret that they could finally let out in front of other people without fear of being judged or ridiculed. We felt like a tribe that was always meant to belong together.
Many of us left New Orleans with brand new life-long friends, and in the year between New Orleans and the second GRL in Albuquerque in 2012 we often discussed this weird and wonderful experience of meeting a group of strangers who instantly become your best friends. After all, it’s not something that happens often in life. When you start a new job or go to a new school, friendship and trust takes a long time to build. But the oneness of our tribe at GRL was immediate. And very genuine. In Albuquerque the feeling was back, but bigger and stronger than ever!
Now, as we steam swiftly toward GRL 2013 in Atlanta, I know that this event will be more fun than ever before—four or so days filled with familiar, smiling faces and lots of new ones too. So while our new memories await us in Atlanta, I thought I’d write this post to revisit some of my favourite moments from the last two GRLs.
The Gentlemen’s Juke Joint Parties at New Orleans and Albuquerque!
Ah, there’s nothing quite like an opening night party to kickstart proceedings, and when those opening nights involve lots of fun, booze and hunks in G-strings (if not nothing at all), then bring it on! Over the last two GRLs, the man with the moves, Damon Suede, has rounded up the male authors of m/m fiction to host a helluva party, the first being at the landmark gay bar Lafayette In Exile in New Orleans (where the blurry night involved us all downing shots off the stomach of a hunky naked stripper laying spread-eagle on the pool table… yes, we’re all class, I know), and the second being a cowboy-themed night at the Albuquerque Hard Rock hotel (where Damon himself had a dance-off with strippers on stage). This year’s opening night will be sponsored by Stiff Rain Press, eXtasy Books and the publishing company that Ethan Day and I started this year, Wilde City Press. Get your party on with a night you won’t soon forget, hosted by male entertainer extraordinaire Charlie Harding!
Bourbon Street… Every Night!
While I had been to the States many times before GRL 2011, I had never been to New Orleans and I couldn’t wait to experience the French Quarter. And while my hopes for a great time were high, I’m happy to report that New Orleans came to the party and exceeded those hopes in every way. Yes, Bourbon Street with all its chaos, colour and calamity—with its sugary cocktails and gay bars like Oz and Lafayette In Exile filled with bare cocks and tails—was like no other place I had ever been. Our nightly strolls up and down the street made my head spin with delight… or was it the Hand Grenades?
Discovering New Orleans
Prior to GRL, Ethan Day and I had begun work on our first co-authored book To Catch A Fox. The story is set in New Orleans, and while its fun as an author to travel to places you’ve never been in your mind and put those imaginings down on paper, there’s nothing quite like visiting a city to really get a feel for it. I’m so glad we didn’t finish the book before GRL, because discovering New Orleans gave me so many new ideas to add to the plot. One was spotting the old Mardi Gras warehouse on the outskirts of town; a huge old storage building filled with Mardi Gras costumes from years gone by. The moment I saw it I knew I wanted to use it as a setting for a chase/fight scene. Another sensational discovery was the creepy old LaLaurie Mansion on Royal Street. On a very spooky ghost tour one night, we learned that the history of the house involved serial killing and torture, with slaves bricked inside a hidden room in the house. It was the inspiration for the ghoulish Mr. Graves in To Catch a Fox.
The Riverboat Book Signing
The Riverboat Book Signing was both a chance to meet all the authors and readers at GRL plus a relaxing cruise up the Mississippi River. It was my first time doing both things, and what an awesome experience it was! Perched between Ethan Day and Carol Lynne, with Jambrea Jo Jones at the table next to us, we chatted with fans and with each other while the paddle wheel of the riverboat thumped away and the sunny banks of the Mississippi drifted by. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!
A Visit to Roswell
GRL is as much about the people you meet and the friends you make, as it is about books. This was something we all quickly discovered in New Orleans, so planning fun stuff to do together in New Mexico for GRL 2012 was totally on the cards. Being the total geek that I am, there was no way on earth I was going to New Mexico without a visit to Roswell. Thankfully I’m not the only geek among us, and when I mentioned the idea on Facebook I soon had a gang of geeks willing to trek across the desert to visit Roswell and it’s crazy UFO museums with me. And so it was that Tracy Ward, Poppy Dennison, Amy DiMartino, my mum (whom I took on the trip with me for her first ever visit to the States) and my bestie Helen Beattie all piled into Tracy’s rental car to go meet ET! It was one of the quirkiest, weirdest, most wonderful days of my life, I loved every minute of it!
The Day of the Dead Party
One of the events organised for last year’s GRL was the Day of the Dead party hosted by MLR Press. The traditional Day of the Dead celebrations are designed to honour those who have died and celebrate their life and memory. This particular event had special meaning for Laura Baumbach and Kris Jacen from MLR, as well as the organisers of GRL, because a few months before GRL 2012, MLR author and GRL organiser William Neale passed away very unexpectedly. His sudden death affected us all greatly—even those who had never met Bill or those of us who had only briefly befriended him in New Orleans—for the tribe had lost one of its own. It was a wonderful and moving experience to celebrate Bill’s life together at MLR’s Day of the Dead party.
Elisa Rolle’s Guided Tour of Santa Fe
On a day trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, it was decided that the very well-travelled Elisa Rolle (the only person smart enough to bring a guide book with her) would become our tour guide for the day. And so with hand held high to keep our little group together, Elisa led us on a wonderful day’s excursion of the old city, visiting churches, marketplaces and the town square. Elisa even managed to track down the well-hidden chocolate shop Kakawa Chocolate—makers of traditional Mexican chocolates filled with various spices and scents—which I wanted to visit as part of research for a new book I’m writing. Naturally, we all left with goodie bags filled with tasty treats!
My Skull Collection!
Lastly, I’ve unwittingly started my own GRL tradition that I will now continue forever! In New Orleans, I visited a Voodoo shop and found this gorgeous purple quartz crystal skull. It’s my most cherished souvenir from GRL 2011. Then in the old town of Albuquerque, I stumbled across this wonderful Day of the Dead skull decorated with fruits of the harvest. It’s my most cherished souvenir from GRL 2012. So, anybody know of a good little shop tucked away in a secret corner of Atlanta that sells skulls? :)
Of course, there are many many more moments I haven’t even touched on here, like the many unforgettable author readings, the fun and fabulous discussion panels, and of course meeting all the amazing, dedicated and passionate readers! Just writing this post has made me SO excited to get to Atlanta and re-live it all again. To all my old friends—and all the new ones I’m about to make—I can’t wait to see you all. Let’s make GRL 2013 the best one yet!
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED