I Left My Heart In San Francisco

>Warning, this blog will not be short. How could it be given my recent trip to San Francisco? There was a lot happening at the RWA conference, but there was lots of other wonderful stuff happen’ too!

The DH and I flew on separate flights, different airlines. I went first class, a fact the DH reiterated ad nauseam throughout the trip. Hey, it took me two weeks to convince him to come with me AFTER I bought the ticket. He’s got no one to blame but himself for not moving faster on buying his ticket. However, I did enjoy pointing out to him that I got real china and REAL stainless steel utensils. I confess that one confused me given the terrorist orange alert status. I mean there’s a lot one can do with a real knife when you’re airborne and that close to the cockpit, unfortunately.

Our ride to downtown on the BART was a mini-adventure where the DH had his first REAL exposure to alternative life styles. We have gay friends, but they don’t do wet, open displays of affection in public. So that startled the DH a little bit. *grin*

The hotel staff, despite the far from complimentary rip-a-new-one blog post about them prior to the conference, were organized, efficient, helpful and just wonderful. I got my usual, exceptional service that I get whenever I stay at the Marriott. I still need to send compliments via email to the general manager about ALL staff. They went out of their way IMHO to make RWA welcome.

O-M-G! It’s Kate Duffy

Key in hand (we got a small suite complete with refrigerator!! YAHOO!) we head for the room when I see Rosemary Potter, bookseller extraordinaire. I immediately charge over to say hi, and I suddenly realize she’s with someone. So I’m backpedaling and apologizing profusely about interrupting. But Rosemary’s companion scoffs

“NO, that’s what RWA is for! I’m Kate Duffy.” She offers her hand and the whole time I’m shaking her hand, all I can think of is…my hands are sweaty.

“Hello, I’m Monica Burns.”

“Monica Burns! I LOVED Mirage. It was wonderful, just wonderful.” Her words catch me completely off guard as I’m thinking, WTF—she read Mirage??? In the next blip of a thought, I’m thinking, OMG, Kate Duffy loved Mirage! When she tells me to sit, I’m like a new puppy eager to please. I do keep glancing over my shoulder at the DH who finally strolls over and in a slightly (just slightly) exasperated tone says, “Just give me the key.”

For the briefest of seconds (and more like a fraction), I’m thinking why the hell didn’t he come later in the week!! But I introduce him; and Kate while shaking his hand says…

“Do you know what a wonderful writer your wife is?”

Obviously not sure what to say, the DH (who automatically assumes I’m chatting with old friends and NOT a major NY editor) replies, “Umm…yeah….right.”

Shooting him at that point would have been too merciful. Perhaps a room at the world-famous Alcatraz? Feeling a bit overwhelmed, not to mention guilty because the DH and I had planned events for the afternoon, I politely excused myself and headed for the elevators. Inside the small car, I do a happy feet dance plus a bit of screaming! OMG, OMG, KD frigging likes my writing! OMG. Acting the part of Tim “Toolman” Taylor, the DH still isn’t getting the monumental event that’s just transpired!! Even after an explanation he’s still clueless. *sigh*

Fred the Millionaire

With two memorable moments completed, we set out to see the Golden Gate Bridge. With money tight, we decide public transportation is the best option and several San Franciscans cheerfully helped us find the right bus. Along the way, we had to make a transfer, and that’s when we met Fred.

Actually we never got his name; we just called him that as opposed to other less than complimentary monikers. Fred seemed like a rather plucky fellow. He certainly can hold his liquor as he smelled strongly of alcohol. Scratch that, he reeked of the brew, and one could have gotten drunk off his breath. So Fred asks if we’re from California. When he learns we’re from Virginia he’s immediately complimentary, stating we’re “good people. People in California are ____(you fill in the blank).”

The DH slides a glance my way, and I desperately dart a glance up the street for the bus that isn’t anywhere on the horizon. Looking back at the DH, I can see he’s thinking he might have to act like Lancelot or some other knight in shining armor. Only problem is, he’s without a sword of the steely kind. My collection at home can’t be carried on the plane. Now, Fred is still ranting about California when he pulls out this wad of cash. I mean I would have loved to have just had a few of the bills Fred displayed with such open pride. We would have been able to paint the town red for several nights!!

Fred waves the money in front of us like someone offering up a bite of chocolate cake right before they eat it and said, “My Dad just died and I get $500 a week for the rest of my life. Damn Californians. They don’t know what it’s like. They’re F*!kers. My girlfriend just died up there on the hill.”

Fred points to the grove of trees on the hill behind the bus shelter and the DH’s expression is so easy to read…oh God, we’re going to have to report a dead body. Fred continues to point toward where his girlfriend died and rants how the Californians left his girlfriend’s body on the hill for days. Now the DH and I are putting our noses to the wind expecting to smell something far worse than we’ve ever been exposed to before. Fred again calls us good people and says he’s a Vietnam vet whose father sailed out of Norfolk on his way to fight in WWII.

I glance up the street and offer up a Hail Mary (I’m not Catholic, but childhood memories help) because I see a bus. At this point, Fred decides he no longer wants to talk to us. Why the hell not? We’re good people. He takes off to collect his stuff and charges across the street to catch another bus (going the opposite way thank God!). He’s sporting what appears to be a brand spanking new mountain hiker backpack. Clearly the inheritance is the real deal, unless of course he’s robbed a bank. He could have overwhelmed bank guards with the liquor fumes alone.

The Bridge Is Gone

With that small adventure out of the way, we reach the GGB (Golden Gate Bridge) where I proceed to drop $65 on a sweatshirt jacket. My belief that I could survive the bridge’s wind factor was obliterated the moment we stepped off the bus. My shorts and short sleeve shirt are no match for the infamous foggy chill that is the San Francisco bay. The bridge is just as I remember it. Cold, damp, but unbelievably majestic. There are few manmade structures that make me speechless, but this bridge is one of them. The fog kept sweeping in and out (this pic is NOT blurred, it’s the fog!) so that one minute the first tower of the span was clearly visible and in the next instant it slowly melted into the clouds until there was little of the bridge showing at all. Needless to say, we were thinking, damn, all this way and there’s nothing to take a picture of!

Dinner that night was in Chinatown. The Empress China restaurant had decent food, but I love the food at our Peking restaurant here in Richmond much better. I love it even more because our meals at the Peking don’t even come close to the $100 we paid at Empress China for soup, spring rolls and an entrée. It was an a la carte menu. However, I will say the ambiance was nice and we had a nice view of San Francisco’s skyline. Hey we were in SanFran…we should expected high prices.

On Wednesday, my marketing savvy died. I still can’t believe I failed to put my promo stuff out as soon as the goody room opened. I also forgot to deliver my books for the signing by the proper time. I really don’t know where my head was. No wait I do! The hamster wheel kept running the tape replay of KD saying, “I loved Mirage!”.

Where the Body Meets the Road

Bella LeeAnn (she’s a sweetheart), from Michelle Buonfiglio’s blog, and I went to lunch with Sandra Barkovich and Shaunta (I forget her last name and can’t find my bloody business cards *Grrrr*) to a terrific (and MUCH cheaper) lunch at Tian Sing . It was only a short hop, skip and a jump, but somewhere between the hotel and where we crossed the street I became feet-challenged to the nth degree.

With the grace and precision of an out-of-work acrobat (because he’s so bad), I managed to imitate the “help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercial by stumbling my way over the curb. I almost managed to save myself before I wound up flat on my face. Now I normally recover from things like this well, but I was just stunned. Did I lay there thinking OMG can I move my legs, are they broken, OMG, I look stupid laying here on the sidewalk, OMG is my PDA okay? Nope, I just lay there like a beached whale thinking…Damn, I fell down. I really fell down. I can’t believe I fell. This is my best outfit and the damn book signing it this evening. WTF do I wear now???

I managed to get up after about 15 seconds (an eternity when San Francisco just keeps walking on by you while your friends continued forward until they realize you’re not with them). I did have one man ask if I was okay. When I said yes, he nodded sagely and said, “Everyone says that but then they find out that they’re not okay.” I will not even begin to contemplate the deeper truth of that statement. But it was nice of him to be concerned given everyone else aside from my friends was acting like I was a well-dressed homeless person taking up sidewalk rent space.

RWA Book Signing

Friends! You’ve Got to Have Friends (Bette Midler would have loved the book signing!) I kept thanking God that I didn’t have to change clothes because I fell on a clean section of sidewalk. I mean my outfit was selected because it was supposed to make me look my best. Unfortunately the pictures the DH took at the signing were not flattering. I just don’t do great pictures. Cathy and Natalie both looked fantastic. Hard to believe it’s been almost two years since the GabWagon was started and we all came together in Atlanta to get it rolling. Tell me Cathy doesn’t look FAB in this shot! (Nat you’ve been spared a photo because I looked horrible in the pic we got together. It’s for private viewing only!! LOL)

Good friend Melissa Schroeder also popped in for a hello at the signing (see pic). Truth be told, I really didn’t expect to sell any books (mine are those expensive trade size) but after the fifth sale, I was feeling pretty good! A gentleman bought one of my books and someone asked me afterward if I had many men buying my work. They were surprised when I stated yes and that I had several male members on my Yahoo loop (unintended pun! LOL). HEY! Guys read romance. They just don’t rave about it like us gals.

For dinner the DH and I visited Puccini and Pinetti with Mel Schroeder. Both Mel and I were already exhausted (the damn conference hadn’t even started), but the three of us had a lively meal where I flirted with the wait staff. Food = energy and after dinner, I perked up like a Nintendo character, so we hit the RWA Online party.

The Conference

I missed most of it because when I fell on Market Street, my PDA took a hit. I had been AR about making appointments for workshops to attend, etc. and recording them in the PDA with locations and everything BEFORE I arrived. Now I was adrift in the lovely conference catalog trying to figure out where to go. I vaguely remember the annual general meeting, where I do remember getting up to ask a question about the recent RWA survey. I think I was coherent in my questions, and friends said I did great. Later the DH and I attended the Passionate Ink party where he got totally stoked with the vibrator favors. As Mac pointed out I came away with the 2nd place prize for Mirage in the Historical category of the Passionate Plume contest.

Thursday night, the DH and I met up with Natalie and attended the Knight Agency party. Didn’t get much face time with my agent, but I did meet Sara Reinke and I LOVE her!! She’s sweet, funny and absolutely charming! A really nice person I’d love to get to know better! With my feet killing me, we headed back to the hotel for a few hours shuteye before Friday bloomed on the horizon.

How To Interrupt a RWA Workshop

I wanted to hear what Julie Anne Long and Steve Axelrod had to say in their workshop, so I popped in there. Axelrod had just started talking when I began to cough. First it was just a small one, then it became two, then it became a coughing spasm. I realized it was an asthma attack, so I got up and went outside to do my inhaler. I didn’t move fast enough because the coughing grew worse and I was struggling for air. First time THAT’s happened to me. So I’m trying to inhale another puff from the inhaler but can’t. Someone from Low Country RWA’s chapter passes by and stops to help. They tell staff I’m having an asthma attack (I managed to get that info out between coughs) and staff races off to get help. The next thing I hear, tucked away in the little alcove I’m standing in, is the sound of hard pounding feet muffled against the carpet (I’m thinking cops chasing a bad guy sounds). A short guy blazes past us only to slide to a halt like one of those characters in a cartoon. He back pedals and says,

“How old are you, ma’am.”

“Hey, you don’t ask a gal questions like that!”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but I need to know.” I semi-lied in my response.

“Have you had a heart attack before?”

“Heart attack? I’m having an ASTHMA attack. My pacemaker is working fine, thank you very much.”

Now there are more stomping feet and four more staff personnel show up, including the general manager. Damn, these people know how to make a girl feel safe. I’ve always been a Marriott Rewards card-carrying member, but damn, this is exceptional service! Truthfully, the expressions of relief on their face made me wonder how many people have died of a heart attack in the hotel.

The rest of my tale is really too long for one post, so stay tuned for more next week.

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About Monica Burns

A bestselling author of erotic romance, Monica Burns penned her first short romance story at the age of nine when she selected the pseudonym she uses today. From the days when she hid her stories from her sisters to her first completed full-length manuscript, she always believed in her dream despite rejections and setbacks. A workaholic wife and mother, Monica believes it’s possible for the good guy to win if they work hard enough.

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