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March 29, 2006

Yes, Virginia, there is a Book Festival in Charlottesville....

Yes, Virginia, there is a Book Festival in Charlottesville...and it rocked!

by Susan

Warning:  Reading this lengthy travelogue may cause drowsiness.  Do not operate heavy machinery or drive while perusing.  And note that anything inside quotation marks is my version of the actual dialogue--in other words, the James Frey Memoir Technique.

I had the great pleasure of participating in my second Virginia Festival of the Book last weekend in Charlottesville, and I figured I'd give you the blow-by-blow so you could almost feel like you were there. The lovely Laura Durham was kind enough to play chauffeur, picking up me and Ed at Reagan National on Friday afternoon so we could catch up during the two-hour trip (loved Laura's stories about weddings involving strippers) and making a pit-stop to chow at an Olive Garden so I could fill my belly and dispel any notions that I only eat lettuce.  (As a matter of fact, I do have hollow legs, which is where all the breadsticks, salad and pizza went.)

Upon arrival at the Omni Hotel in C-ville, we ran into David Montgomery, moderator of my Saturday morning panel.  I introduced him to Ed, who, upon being asked what he did for a living, said, "I work in the mail room."  David went, "Huh, and Susan told me you were a software engineer."  Aw, geez, computer dudes are such comedians!  We ended up in the elevator with Karin Slaughter, whom I'd never met but had emailed many moons ago regarding agent stuff, and so I introduced myself while Laura and Ed looked on with amusement.  (And that wasn't nearly as amusing as my elevator trip with two musicians in Nashville who encourged me to sing Def Leppard...so I did.  Maybe why they raced off the elevator at their floor, never to be seen again.)

After freshening up, we strolled the cobbled street behind the Omni lined with shops, restaurants and movie theatres ("Hey," Ed noted, "Larry the Cable Guy is playing!"), ending up at the Gravity Lounge where the mystery authors' cocktail party was in full swing.  And awfully dark.  It reminded me of a CSI episode where the crime scene is examined with tiny Maglites, as no one seems to want to flip the light switch.  Despite the dim, I spotted Ms. Nancy with pal Ramona, and I made Michele Martinez show me her shoes ("Oh, these old things?  They're just strappy little Michael Kors, nothing exciting").  I glimpsed David yakking with Jeffrey Deaver and John Lescroat (whose last name I can't pronounce--can someone spell it out for me phonetically?), was bear-hugged by Marcia Talley, and finally met up with Ron Hogan of Beatrice.com and Galleycat.  Bob and Ellen Byerrum were hangin' with the homeys, too, and we all quickly settled into chat-mode.  Ed was quite interested in the bar's vast selection of beer. I had my heart set on a margarita but had to settle for a lo-cal brew that Ed ended up finishing for me.  We took off as soon as the Gravity Lounge folks cleared away what was left of the hors d'oeurves and did a sound check for the bongo player of the band appearing that night.  Call me psychic, but I had a strong sense they wanted us out of there.

Saturday morning dawned crisp...and frigging cold!  So, of course, I put on a short-sleeved top with my black pants for the 10 a.m. panel.  I figured the conference rooms would be heated to make up for the chilly temps outside.  Heat in a hotel meeting room?  Ha ha, I know, I'm hilarious.  David did a faboo job moderating, "Keeping Up Appearances:  Cozy Mysteries," asking each of us different Vfbpanel questions to spice things up.  I'd been on panels with Laura, Ellen, and Nancy before...but never Emyl Jenkins, antiques appraiser and author of STEALING WITH STYLE.  Emyl's no wallflower, that's for sure!  I need to shore up some good stories for the next time I share a mike with her (if anyone has some side-splitting tales I can borrow, please email them).  We discussed the definition of a cozy (hmm, none of our books have cats, so we agreed it meant little on-the-page violence and only the rare appearance of maggots), Ellen's escapades taking PI lessons, Laura's desire to kill with ice sculptures, and the tiring research I do to keep up with the latest fashions ("sigh, must check out Prada.com...sigh again, must read the latest issues of Harper's Bazaar and Lucky").  Book signings followed and then the Crime Wave Luncheon, where Michael Connelly talked about how mystery authors are like grill-smiths who fry Krispy Kreams.  (I'm still trying to figure out that one.)

Edsuevfb Okay, fast forward past lunch with Ed at The Nook (my favorite greasy-spoon--where else can you get a Veggie Melt, chunky applesauce and sweet potato fries for, like, $4.95?), the stock signing at the Barnes & Noble on Emmet Street, and Ed's and my aborted attempt to go ice skating ("it's rented out to a private party, so come back after seven when I've Zamboni'd").  Caught a bus to the reception at the house of the president of UVA that evening, which David Baldacci was hosting (I did introduce myself to him, chatted a bit about our respective publishers, made the mistake of thinking his wife was hosting with him when it was his sister Sharon...oops).  Schmoozed with Ron Hogan, who took some pics for Suelaura Galleycat (don't ask about the one where Ed stuck his cup o' wine in my face, and I did my infamous bug-eyes and open mouth expression), met some nice folks, petted the outdoor kitty Sebastian, and admired a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, framed on the wall.  (Yes, Tom was snarking on George Washington...again.  Like I haven't heard that a million times before.)

Ed and I went back to the skating rink afterward, donned the ugly blue plastic boots with blades (what happened to renting leather skates?), and whipped around the ice a few hundred times until I got a bloody blister through my thin sock.  Julian Rubenstein showed up about then, loaned me $1.50 for a hot chocolate (okay, so he'll never see that buck-fifty again), and I sat it out while he and Ed skated 'round and 'round, along with loads of kids, a crying Michele Kwan wannabe with a large red "ouch" on her thigh, and a woman in a cat suit who splatted on the ice right in front of me.  As if that wasn't the perfect way to end the weekend, Ed and I went back to The Nook the next morning (dragging Laura) and had their famous pancakes (banana nut for me and chocolate chip for him).  Ahhhhh.  I do hope I get invited back to Charlottesville next year, so I can do it all over again.

Now, WAKE UP, Y'ALL.  It wasn't that boring, was it?

Cheers, Susan

P.S.  Big breaking news!  Def Leppard is touring this summer with Journey!  They'll be in St. Louis in July!  Eeeeeeeee!  Lisa Coutant, you'd better check and see if they're going to Philly, girl!


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The fact that someone has mentioned my recent, and typical, spills for all to read on the blog; I feel compelled to note I don’t own a cat suit, nor was I anywhere near Virginia this past weekend.

Great blog Susan, sounds like you had a lot of fun.

Def Leppard is coming here in August, Woo-Hoo!!

Philly? How are we going to rush the stage and play tambourines if I'm in Philly and you're in St. Louis? One of us is getting our booty on a plane with a tambourine and ready to shake the night fantastic.

BTW, didn't read the whole blog (OK, I have a really early work meeting but ...) Ed is HOT! Woo HOOO! Girrrrl. You go in that red modern art shirt.

Seriously, I've seen Journey live. Fab - although it's not the original Journey. No Stevie. Kinda a downer. And Def always jams live.

For what it is worth, Kansas and Styx are playing at Musikfest in Bethlehem over the summer, and that isn't too far from Philadelphia. It is, however, an infinite distance from Wilmington and Montpelier, if you get my drift. Much rather attend KC's Boogie Blast, see http://www.musikfest.org/about/news.asp.

I have seen Styx in concert but I haven't seen Kansas since the early 90s so that might be interesting.


Sooooooooooooooo have you told us about Ed in detail before? If so I need to catch up! He looks quite good in that picture as do you. It sounds like fun to me.

Just a quick update on the middle aged student: I got my grades yesterday, a 3.8 for the quarter! Apparently teenagers DO NOT suck out ALL your brain cells! My mother has been waiting for one of her kids to make the dean's list, I just wish she lived to see it.

ahhhh . . . elevator high-jinks! Ever try to jump up when the elevator stops or starts to get that instant of zero-gravity feeling? FABULOUS for helping you hit those Def Leppard high notes, Susan. Sounds like you had fun and made the most of it.
Obviously this elevator trick has never really worked for me (since I don't know if you should be going up or down when you try this), but my feet are pretty attached to the ground these days! Give me a cat suit, though . . .

(Nancie, I'll let you borrow it for future athletic endeavors!)

Hey, Nancie the Gun Tart, since I have yet to see any pics from San Diego so I still don't know what you actually look like, that could most definitely have been you in the cat suit, splatting on the ice! I mean, how would I know for sure? I just have to take your word for it, huh?

Lisa, yes, Ed is hot! (And if his mom is reading this, I mean that in the most respectful way, of course.) Okay, when is Def in Philly? And can I sign books somewhere while I'm there? (That way, it's really a business trip, and I can write it off, correct?) I've seen Kansas, Styx and Journey, but with all the original players. Never Styx without Tommy Shaw or Journey without Steve. I hate to even think of it. But I won't be going for Journey this summer...I'll just be there for Joe and my Leps! Woo hoooo! Warm up the tambourine, Ms. Lisa!

Josh, is that KC and the Sunshine Band doing the Boogie Blast??? Will you take a video of you shakin' your booty at the concert? I think we can put it up on the blog and stream it. Hee hee.

Janice, no, I don't think I've mentioned Ed in detail before...and I likely won't on the blog. I'm the shy Tart, I guess, when it comes to personal stuff. But if you want to email me off-list....oh, hey, congrats on the great grades! I'm very sure your mom knows and is super-proud of you. Yay to the gray cells that still work! I'm trying to keep mine alive in mass quantities for as long as possible,

Wndrgrl, I haven't tried jumping on the elevator when it starts or stops. Will have to try that next time, if I'm not busy introducing myself to folks penned in with me...or singing Def Leppard to entertain everyone. ;-) And doesn't Nancie wear cat suits at the shooting range??? I think she should!

This was my first time going down to the Festival, but it was a lot of fun. I'd definitely go back.

It was cool to see Susan again and to finally meet Nancy. I think the panel went really well, although at one point I was afraid Susan was going to turn on me when I shorted her a question!

Oops. Seems as though they'll be in Hershey, PA on April 1 http://www.ticketmaster.com/venue/16394

I'll be in NY this weekend. We're going to see Lestat the musical (either this is going to be great or uhm not.) And to check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Yes, I'm an art geek too.)

Maybe they'll come back and perform in Philly?

Okay, I want everybody to click on the link to my website in Susan's post right this minute and see what I have to endure. This is why it has become second nature, when I give my web address, to add, "AND THAT'S MICHELE WITH ONE L YOU MORONS." I have the sneaking suspicion that people who go looking for me and stumble into MICHELLE WITH TWO L'S website by mistake will hang out there rather than leaving and trying to find me. I suppose she's not a bad namesake to have, but neither is she selling any books for me. We did track her down at one point to offer to buy the URL but she wouldn't sell.

Anyway, VaFest was a blast. I had a great dinner with Miss Nancy but whenever I tried to speak to Susan she and Ed were off for some, ahem, quiet time.

Aaaah, sorry, Michele With One L. I don't know what overcame me, linking to your twin sister's web site, Michelle With Two Ls. Why can't you plug your book on her site? I don't get it. She's got plenty of space since she doesn't have many clothes on. (Seriously, mea culpa! It's fixed, it's fixed, and I shall never make that mistake again.)

David, since I was able to hog the first audience question, you were off the hook. But next time...look out! I can turn into Scary Tart when shorted a question...it's a little like turning into the hulk, only in pink.

Lisa, I'll be in Orlando this weekend, so I can't go to Hershey anyway. Although seeing Def and eating loads o' chocolate sound like a really, really good combination.

Susan, you’re going to have to take my word that it wasn’t me performing that spectacular dive on the ice. If I would’ve been there on the ice, cat suit or not, I certainly would’ve provided you with several spectacular tales to tell. Pictures from San Diego didn’t come out well due to camera errors, which were most likely caused by operator error.

Thanks for the suggestion of wearing a cat suit to the range, and I’m sure this could provide some interesting tales involving coyotes stalking me, so uh, I’m going to have to say no. I have enough problems with the other wildlife menaces on the property.

Wndrgrl, thanks for the offer of the suit for future unplanned stunts, but concealing my identity wouldn’t work, everyone would know it was me when I hit the ground.

Hey, Janice, I was in Charlottesville over the weekend, and yes, Ed is hot.

Also met Susan, Michele, David, Ellen, Marcia, and Laura--they're all hot, too.

Yep, Ramona was there, looking very chic! (And, man, I'll have to make sure Ed reads all the comments today, although maybe it'll give him a swelled head...hmmm.)

Ah, but, Nancie, fending off big cats in your cat suit sounds like a sure-fire publicity stunt! You'll be on "Letterman," schmoozing with Dave...on the "Tonight Show," sharing stories with Jay...trading fashion and gun tips with Katie on "Today"...while I'm still road-tripping around the country, begging people to buy books. Hey, maybe I should wear the cat suit and, um, fling myself at the lion cage at the zoo. Tho' I figure that'll just earn me a straight jacket and a trip to the local psych ward. Phooey.

Man, I wish I could have gone. It sounds like lots of fun. What's 3000 miles?

You and Ed make a very nice couple.


Susan, you should hire me for your publicity stunts instead, and save yourself from the white coat guys. I’m already doomed, so I suggest you act fast! My well-meaning-ahem-friends are currently gathering info for the commitment hearing. They’re using the-Danger to herself-argument for their case. I’m trying to build a defense, but I got nothing, it’s really hard to argue that point.

If you decide to go ahead with your own stunts, maybe we should ask for a discounted rate at our new residence. I’ll save you a seat on the bus.

Susan, I'm hurt. All these years of friendship (well, two) and you never sang Def Leppard to ME in an elevator.

Maybe I missed something but I thought a cat suit was the kind of leotard that is for the whole body. Nancie I would like to see you try the cat suit!!!!!! Do it so I can take a pic of you and send it to Mark. He would be soooo proud. Sorry couldnt stop myself,and I refuse to apologize.:-)
Dont forget your going to tell me the tale of the rattler versus you!
Congrats on those grades!!!!!! Way to go Janice!!!!

Sounds like a good time. I'm kinda bummed to be missing out on the whole convention thing- what with LCC having an interesting interpretation of the whole "west coast" thing and the stuff I've been hearing about Bouchercon, I don't think I'm going to make it to one this year, thus depriving me of many opportunities to wear nametags and get lost looking for the bathroom. Ah, well.
Love the shirt, by the way.

Mark, thanks! My mom looked at the pic and said, "You and Ed sure have nice teeth." Ah, mothers!

Nancie, I would love it if you'd do my stunts for me! Doesn't that make you my Stunt Tart?

SusanCo, you're right, a cat suit is a unitard. And this woman was waaaay too old to be wearing one, skating around the ice, where the median age of chicks in unitards or skirted skating outfits was probably 10. Yipes. (Another reason I realize it couldn't have been Nancie. I know she's older than 10.)

Daisy, I think you'll have to go to LCC in Seattle next year to experience the insanity of these book thingies. (And thanks about the shirt! It just called to me. You know how that is.)

Harley, I'm saving your elevator serenade for Daytona. So prepare yourself. Ear plugs are recommended.

Of course TEETH would be uppermost in a mother's mind. You didn't tell her about my veneer problems, did you, Susan? I'd hate for her to un-adopt me.

Harley, are you kidding? My mother would never unadopt you for that. She has many teeth woes herself and traces them back to an uncle who did her dental work growing up and told her at one point that she'd never keep her own teeth past 40. Egads. So she is the Root Canal Queen. I hope to follow in my dad's footsteps, as he's gone through 70-odd years of his life without even getting a cavity (okay, though I do have a few fillings but that's about it).

My sister of the same name always says there's no hell in Michele.

Mary Alice...fighting a flu bug to the death

I could always join you in St. Louis in July. I've never been to St. Louis and I'm always up for an adventure, especially if music and books are involved.


Susan, while it is true I’m physically older than ten, some will argue the mental part. I’m frequently accused of having an attention span of around 12 seconds, or about the same as a three-year-old.

All of my stunts are unpremeditated, so a video camera is necessary to capture footage to use at future events.

Susan- I did go to the LCC in El Paso (stood behind you in line once, as a matter of fact- you pointed out that I was very young and I was forced to agree) so I know conventions can be fun; I just wish they'd hold them closer to me.

Well, Daisy, why didn't you introduce yourself? Okay, I know, it was pre-blog, so we weren't shoe-chums already, but still it would've been fun to meet ya! You must be older than 10, like Nancie, right? And I know you weren't wearing a cat suit. Lisa, I might get free tickets to Def, if my friend with her music site http://www.nighttimes.com comes through. Def's publicist contacted her, and she responded that she wanted to send a reporter (namely, me!) to review the show...so cross fingers!

OHMYGOD! That's soooo great! You HAVE to tell me what happens. You SO deserve to go for free. How cool to not only get to see DL but see them for free and usually if they send a reporter, then that means you get to meet them. Are you psyched? Freakin' out? I can give you tips on how to go backstage and not end up like some floozy from the movie Rockstar.



Your guy is indeed a cutie! Glad that you had such a great time in Virginia.

Hey, Naomi! Aw, thanks. :-)

Lisa, I'm really hoping I do get to meet the Leps (okay, just Joe would be fine). My fingers and toes are crossed, though Julia tried this last year when they played Schaumburg, IL, and it didn't pan out. One can always dream, however! And if it does work out, I will definitely ask you for tips so as not to seem like a floozy groupie. Is the number one rule "don't drool on Joe's shoes?"

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