Why am I always the last to know?

This is probably old news for all you D&D enthusiasts but it’s new to me. Dungeonmastering.com rulez. What a great website. So funny and entertaining and educational at the same time. Oh, Yax, why couldn’t you have taught Algebra when I was in high school? Maybe because you would probably have been like 8 years old and it would have been weird to be taught by a little kid. Oh well.

Anyway, even if you don’t play D&D, you’d probably still be amused by some of the articles on this site.

Happy Labor Day

I hope you all enjoyed your Labor Days. I haven’t had mine yet as this year it occurs on September 18th. Say what, you say? September 18th is the day my baby is born.

My friend had a baby a few weeks ago. A real baby—not a book baby. About a month prior she confessed what I expect most soon-to-be mothers feel—I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE! She was terrified. Like I-changed-my-mind-can-we-pretend-this-never-happened-terrified. She ran—or rather waddled being that she was 8 1/2 months preggers—outside to where her husband was watering the dahlias and explained they had made a terrible mistake. Having a baby was not in fact a good idea. What with all those lead paint laden toys and choking hazards and cougars making their way into downtown shopping centers and boy scouts getting lost on hikes and shark attacks! Don’t even get her started on shark attacks! They’re practically happening on land now-a-days! There was simply no way they would be able to keep this kid safe and surely they would both lose their minds in the process. She likes to sleep in on weekends and gets queasy cleaning out the cat’s litter box. Just the other day she came home from the grocery store with four cracked eggs in her carton. She KNOWS she checked before she put them in her cart and if she DIDN’T check doesn’t that just prove how irresponsible and impetuous she really is? Much too much so to be someone’s mother!

Her husband calmed her down, admitted his own fears, and reminded her of the closet full of sun dresses and overalls and the pink and yellow velour track suits folded in the newly assembled Land of Nod armoire. He pointed out the high chair that sits between the two grown up chairs at the kitchen table and the velveteen Eeyore that’s been propped on the fireplace mantel for six months like he’s been casing the joint. They laughed about the four weeks she lovingly spent mixing just the right shade of celadon for the nursery, convinced she was getting a “cool-toned” vibe from the baby. Her and Don are both “cool-tones” so of course their baby would be too.

“I mean, obviously,” she said. “Right?”

She didn’t just feel better; she regained all her enthusiasm towards motherhood and then some. She repainted the nursery yet again because it still wasn’t the right shade of celadon. It’s beyond perfection now. Cool and almost as green as a cucumber.

Granted, I won’t need to feed my book or change it or burp it. It won’t wake me up in the middle of the night or cause me to get shamed out of restaurants because it throws Cheerios on the carpet and screams bloody hell when I try to take cutlery away from it. But in a way I will need to keep it alive. I brought it into this world. I created it, nursed it, fawned and feared over it. And now, in just under 2 weeks, it will be out there in the real world. I CHANGED MY MIND CAN WE PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED?

What if someone makes fun of it? What if no one wants to sit by it at lunch or pick it for his or her kickball team? What if no one takes it to the prom or accepts it into college or offers it a job or considers it for a promotion? What if it’s always a bridesmaid and never…well, you get the picture. How did our parents ever let us out of the hospital nurseries?

Even with all the books and videos and hospital-sponsored classes, my friend said nothing really tells you how to take care of your new baby and they certainly don’t tell you how to take care of you. They’re still absolutely paralyzed with fear every second in the company of their newborn. But at some point instinct takes over and you find your groove. You just have to trust that it will happen. (She read that in a book.)

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the same as having an actual baby but I can relate to what my friend was saying. Writers could benefit from a class in swaddling too. Our egos are very fragile. We’re very used to sharing our work with other fragile writers, and teacher’s we pay to tell us we’ve got potential and mothers who think we write Pulitzer Prize winning grocery-lists. Maybe I should have taken that food writing course offered through the local community college or joined a critique group instead of writing a book people who are not related to me could potentially read. They don’t have to like it!

Don’t get me wrong. It’s exciting beyond belief and I can’t believe how lucky I am. But I’m also feeling incredibly schizophrenic. I’m bouncing like Pong between elation and desolation, fighting the urge to tell every human being and most dogs I encounter that I’ve written a book, “go me!” and then daydreaming about moving into my parent’s basement with a cozy down comforter and an air mattress, and making my mom leave Saltines and diet green tea for me at the top of the stairs. I could hang out there until this whole thing blows over. It’s a nice basement. They even have a treadmill. And wireless internet. And cable TV! Wait a minute. Their basement has better amenities than my house.

Today I heard the first batch of books have been delivered. They’re hanging out in warehouses and backrooms awaiting the sound of a packing knife slicing through cardboard. Soon they will find their way onto bookshelves in all their pink and white glory. I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but in this case please do. It really is quite beautiful.

I can’t be there with my book every day (although I’ll try) so maybe if you’re ever at a bookstore you could stroll on over to the Roleplaying game section and visit. Maybe stand her up straight if she’s slouching, or face her forward if she’s hiding in a corner. Maybe give her a nudge and a smile and embarrass her in front of The Monster Manual and The Player’s Handbook by telling her Mommy loves her. I hope those boys take care of her.

Thankfully I’ll have some distractions. My new mommy friend needs me to help her paint the nursery yet again. Even before she can fully process colors, little Stella has rejected her almost-celadon nursery.

“She’s warm-toned,” my panicked friend says. “How can this happen?”

We’re going with Golden Apricot. I hope Stella approves.

I don’t know if I’m warm or cool or even what it means, really. But I do know it’s clear babies—human and otherwise—will always make their parents loose their cool.

Godspeed, Astrid! (Who by the way is most definitely cool-toned. I mean, obviously. Right?)

Still Remembering GenCon

Bear with me–we’re almost done!

Saturday at GenCon:

No plans to workout or take a walk or hit the breakfast buffet. I was much more the wiser today. However, I did order a nice room service and ate a relaxing breakfast of French toast and coffee while watching HBO. HBO! Yes!

Today was book-signing day. Nervous, yes, but I was already prepared to spend two 1/2 hour blocks of time pretending to look busy and not notice no one was waiting to get a book signed. And that’s okay! Book-signings aren’t exactly the big draw at GenCon. So imagine my surprise when I showed up at the WotC booth at 10:20 and saw actual people—people I’ve never met—standing around with copies of “Confessions” in their hot, little hands. Huh? I was so surprised I’m fairly certain I spelled my name wrong. Or their name wrong. Or D&D wrong. I just got flustered! But I also got to meet some really nice people, including the very sweet Lady Trek who was first in line. You rule, Lady Trek!

After the first signing, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Sara Girard who ripped the microphone out of Gamer_Zer0’s hands. Felt very Good Morning America. Someone said it wasn’t so much an “interview” as two girls chatting—like that’s a bad thing? What did they expect? Sara and I are friends. She asks me questions all the time, none of which, I answer with “Well, Sara, that’s a fine question. Let me ponder if we’ve got any letterhead around here.”

It was also around this time I inadvertently blew off a co-worker who wanted me to sign a book for his daughter. I only know I blew him off because he ambushed me in the hall today and thanked me, loudly, in front of a lot of people, for “blowing him off at GenCon.” Wow. What a bitch I am.

After the Gamer_Zer0 interview I was whisked back to the Marriot for the Spin a Yarn with Ed Greenwood event. I was fully prepared to leave this event emotionally scarred due to the heavy mature subject matter being flung at my unadulterated eardrums. I’ve heard stories about Ed and his fans. Perhaps they were on their best behavior? Maybe I’m just a jaded old hussy? It wasn’t scary at all. It was fun! And yes, borderline raunchy at times but I could handle it. You should see my girlfriends on a typical Saturday night.

THEN, I was taken back to the WotC booth for another signing! How freakin’ “real author” do I sound? I’m impressing myself! This was a fantastic signing. There was a line of people waiting before I got there all holding copies of Confessions. It was like Astrid cast Mirror Image on my mom and dad or something! People were so nice! So nice, I can’t stop using exclamation points! ! !

Seven times that day I heard “I met my husband/wife while playing D&D.” a couple of times I heard “I’m being forced to learn this game so this book better be good.” Um…okay. Too late now if it’s not, I guess. It was also a general consensus from the guys that they were grateful there was something out there that could at the very least explain to their significant others what they’ve been doing once a week for the past 23 years. And several women were also buying copies for the same reason. Cool huh? I also go to meet several of the wondrous Gamer Wenches who were cool enough to drop off little rubber pirate duckies for me! I’ve got one on my desk at work and one on my desk at home. Thank you, Gamer Wenches! I heart my rubber pirate duckies.

After the second signing I walked around in a daze for a bit. I even wandered through a door marked “Emergency Exit Only.” No alarms went off thank goodness. My friend found me and made me realize I had missed lunch! Oh no! Determined to get in all my main meals plus snacks, we went to the food court to dine on bagels and salad. Two things I found amusing: My friend is from Italy and for some reason never had Ranch salad dressing before and fell in love with it. And I saw a baby dressed up like a dragon. He was conked out in his stroller and one of his chubby paws was propped up on the stroller tray in such a position it looked like he was giving his parents the finger. Very cute. And very likely when he’s old enough to realize what his parents did to him.

After lunch we went to the ballroom to visit the giant beholder and giant troll and talked to my mom for about 45 minutes. Then Italian friend and I went back to the hotel and actually used the gym! Finished just in time for my next meal.

We took it easy this night because, well, I’m old and can’t handle 3 nights in a row of debauchery. At least that’s what I told everyone. Truth is I wanted to crawl into my freshly made bed, watch some HBO and eat a bag of Chex Mix, which is exactly what I did. Woke up fully refreshed for my four-hour flight back to Seattle where I slept for three and half more hours.

There were about 30 Wizards on this flight, including 2 fancy pants from R&D which made me think there should be rules about those two traveling on the same flight together.

Back in Seattle, I realized it actually cheaper to park at the airport than to take a taxi to and from. When I got home I immediately took a nap, waking up just in time to eat a large vat of Thai food and watch Big Brother. Then I feel asleep again until Monday afternoon. What a big baby, I am.

All this reminiscing is making me sad. And tired. I think I’ll drink a Bud Light and take a nap. Hope to see you next year!

GenCon Remembered

EDITORS NOTE 1: I realize I should have posted this, oh I don’t know, 2 weeks ago? And I would have if I didn’t get so darn distracted. I happened upon it on my hard drive—just sitting there, sad and lonely. So without further ado, here is some very old news.

EDITORS NOTE 2: Warning…this is looooooooooooong. Wordy McWorderson strikes again. It’s so long I have to break it up into the 2 parts. Now it looks like I posted 2 new blog entries in ONE day! When I’m on, I’m on!

GenCon Thursday and Friday:

GenCon. Where for art thou GenCon? Is it really over already? I feel like I went to sleep in my mushy Marriott bed and magically woke up in my cat hair infested real bed. Even weirder because I don’t have a cat. But yes, all good things must come to an end and GenCon is no exception.

I know what you’re probably thinking. Wasn’t GenCon like 3 years ago? Okay so I’m a little slow on the uptake, or in this case, the download. But I’ve been—umm, busy? I, like many of my co-workers, have been nursing that GenCon hangover. Often it has nothing to do with drinking (often it does depending on who you’re talking to) and more to do with being up way past your bedtime, getting up much earlier than you think is fair when sleeping in a hotel room, and eating more meals a day than a Lean Cuisine taste tester (what a fun job, that would be, no?)

I had a wonderful time—the best GenCon I ever attended which has much to do with being the only GenCon I ever attended as an “author.” Traveling as “author” means many things.
1. You only have to be in the booth when you’re scheduled to be there for things like interviews or book signings.
2. You get to do things like interviews and book signings.
3. You get your own hotel room.

I felt guilty about the hotel room, especially when I saw the bloodshot eyes of my coworkers who didn’t sleep the night before because they got stuck with a “Snoring Guy” or a “Sleep Walker” or a “Hot Water in the Shower Hoarder” or the “Digestively Challenged.” Freshman year of college Take 2.

By far the highlight of the show was seeing the real, honest-to-goodness, straight off the line copies of Confessions perched on the metal retail shelf. It’s gorgeous and I’m not just saying that in an “only a mother could love it” sort of way. The cover is extra special with its fancy spot-gloss dice and Astrid is looking particularly hot in her Marc Jacobs ensemble.

I arrived in Indianapolis (my first time there) Thursday evening. Accompanied by friend, co-worker and fellow author Nina Hess (A Practical Guide to Monsters), we met up with some co-workers for dinner at a German bar called The Rathskeller. Despite the scary amount of menu items that contained the word “schnitzel” I found myself enjoying a delicious slab of fish and steamed veggies. This place, like most of the bars and restaurants in Indianapolis was deceptively larger than it appears on the outside. It was cavernous, even hosting a reception hall somewhere between the bathrooms and bar area. It was very D&D looking on the inside and made me imagine this was the place Astrid and friends came too after they accomplished another tedious task for the very demanding Lady Elaydren. I polished off two 20 ounce equivalents of German Bud Light and officially crossed my “too much to drink” threshold.

After the German bar we ended up at what became the unofficial Wizards hang out for the remainder of the trip—a bar called the Slippery Noodle. Again this place was cavernous. So humongous they had two stages with live music going at the same time and neither room disturbed the other. There were a lot of Irish car bombs being handed out but I clung to my last shred of responsibility and stuck to my drink of choice, Bud Light. Some six hours later, I made my way back to the Marriot. Yes. Six hours. As in four in the morning! I don’t know what happens to turn perfectly sane, responsible, hard working people into frat boys. Is it seeing co-workers socially you normally only get to see in meetings? Is it for some the fact they don’t have to leave early to relieve the $20/hour babysitter? Is it the idea of having an expense report and room service? My plans to hit the gym, eat a nice breakfast, maybe take a walk downtown were quickly dashed when I realized, best case scenario had me only getting 4 1/2 hours of sleep. That’s not nearly enough time to sober up and start the hangover proceedings.

Needless to say I was hurting Friday morning but the line between hangover and nervous anticipation was a blurry one. Today was the day for the Female Gamers and D&D panel. The panel that consisted of myself and five other women from Wizards was something we were all looking forward to. I have to admit though; I was a tad bit nervous. Ok, I was terrified. First of all, the description was listed as “Join Shelly Mazzanoble and other…”which I thought wasn’t much of a selling point. I voted to leave my name off completely or if they insisted say something like “Join Shelly Mazzanoble and all the free cheesecake you can eat” or “Join Shelly Mazzanoble for a tour of the Indianapolis Nordstrom” I was shot down on both accounts.

So why the nerves? It’s not the being in front of people part. I was a theater major and don’t mind public speaking. Dare I say I actually enjoy it? And I was going to have back up with me, all of whom promised to defend my honor if things got dicey (get it? Dicey? A little D&D humor there.) I guess it was not knowing who would come to this. Perhaps a roving bad of angry boys who were pissed off I was trying to encourage gross, dumb girls to play their game? Maybe a few women who thought my using shopping, reality television, and M&M’s to warm up other women to the idea of playing D&D was nothing more than pandering to stereotypes they were fighting like Tetris blocks everyday to shoot down? Maybe no one would show up?

I didn’t eat breakfast Friday morning, which cued a lot of people something was very wrong with me. I have been blessed with an appetite that never quits—not for hangovers, depressions, stress, excitement, first dates, stomach flu, mouth surgery, nada. I also happen to love hotel breakfasts. Why? They’re usually buffets and who doesn’t love not choosing between the cheese Danish or the sesame bagel? On this Friday morning, I could barely make the non-fat latte Nina treated me to go down. And to top if off, another co-worker thought now—a hour before show time—was a great time to mention the Astrid Parlor message boards on the Wizards website were so heavily moderated, most of the content had to be taken off.

ME: “Oh no! Why all the fuss?”
HER: “I’m not supposed to tell you. Sorry!”

Sorry? I’m about to stand in front of heavily moderated, potentially very angry people with nothing more than a sleeveless shirt and kitten heels for protection and all you can say is “sorry?” Why bring it up? Fortunately this is also the same person who teaches self-defense and can pretty much give you a black eye just by looking at you. She too would be at this panel and promised to “have my back.” That did make me feel a little better. But still…why bring it up?

Turns out it was all for nothing as this is now known as the “panel that never happened.” A very long apology is needed for what apparently is a very short explanation—an administrative error. I did a little detective work to find out exactly what the problem was here. My detective work does not involve me wearing a little, tweed hat and taking cryptic notes in a pocket-sized notebook. It’s me running up to everyone in a Wizards polo shirt going “What the BLEEP happened to our seminar???”

Contrary to public opinion, Wizards did not change the location at the last minute. They never changed the location in fact. It was always meant to be in the Marriot along with the other Wizards sponsored seminars. I guess whatever ends up in the program book goes online and whatever goes online is thought to be true as per the GenCon volunteers so they all insisted it was at the Embassy Suites. I still have no idea how or why it was listed wrong. I came up with numerous conspiracy theories mostly because I always wanted to be part of one, but even I can see they’re full of holes.

After waiting 20 painful minutes, we left the vacuous walls of the Santa Fe room and headed down to the hotel restaurant for lunch. My appetite was raging! I needed comfort! I even opted for the fries that came with my wrap instead of the side salad. Oh yes, I needed French fries. That’s how bad I was feeling. It’s like second grade and no one wants to talk to me.

Half way through our lunch we get a call from someone in the booth. A few weary travelers stopped by to find out where the heck we were as they and around 30 other people were patiently waiting at the Embassy Suites for the panel! 30 people??? Waiting? Curses! They did come. They did want to talk about women and gaming. I didn’t care if the roving band of boys or the angry women were among them. I wanted to have this discussion! I had a seven-page intro! I guess it should have made me feel better knowing that people did show up, despite the panel’s description, but I actually felt worse. The thought of thirty people sitting in a room at the Embassy Suites waiting, checking their watches, thinking “I got up early for this?” and none of us showing up? What a waste of their time. I’d like to buy them all French fries.

So to anyone who was at the Embassy Suites, I’m sorry for the mix up. Please know it was an error out of our control. Everyone at Wizards feels terrible for the mistake. Ever since I returned from GenCon I get stopped in the halls by another co-worker saying, “I heard what happened to the seminar. That SUCKS!” it’s like having 300 Mommy’s in cubicles there. I hear we’re going to take this discussion online so stay tuned for details on a live chat.

The rest of Friday was kind of a blur. I know I ate a cookie from Starbucks (still feeling bad about the seminar) and spent most of the afternoon in the Wizards booth. I bought two new sets of dice: aqua for me, purple for my friend Elena. Then it was off to the VIG dinner.

Still not sure how I got invited to this event as it was for an elite group of gamers known as “Very Important Gamers” and several “industry guests.” Me? Industry guest? My first thought was it’s a roast. Revenge of the roving band of boys and angry women! The dinner was held is a lovely, historic venue that made you feel like you were dinning in a cul-de-sac in some remote Spanish suburb. I knew that there were several people going whom I wanted to meet but alas, no one wore nametags so it was impossible to know who was who.

We sat at a table with a father and son duo and two childhood friends who met up at GenCon for a reunion. They were wonderful company. One of them said he was at the Embassy Suites earlier. Oh no! No food was thrown. He was just genuinely disappointed it didn’t happen. On a happier note, he introduced me to someone I had been hoping to meet—Sephera, one of the lovely Gamer Wenches, who was also at the Embassy Suites earlier that day. Happy to have met her, but said again for the mix up, I hit the dessert buffet for the second or third time. Who’s counting?

The evening ended with foosball, live music and more Bud Light at our favorite hangout, the Slippery Noodle. This concludes days 1/2 and 1. Stay tuned for Saturday. It’s already written! Don’t worry.

Flipping the Birdie

Here’s a fact truer than apple pie on a summer day. I’m no athlete and I’m perfectly okay with that. We all have our talents. I said before I’m good at rhyming. And recently I discovered finger puppet shows. But hitting a small object into an even smaller receptacle? Not my bag.

I had one great sport’s moment in my life. It was in seventh grade where I, alongside my BFF at the time, won a badminton championship. I brought home a trophy which my parents treated like it was the Noble Peace Prize. It was a little gold asexual being perched on one leg brandishing what was presumably a racket. It appeared just as likely I was being crowned “spider-swatting champion” or “easiest person to find in a large crowd” and I would have been just as happy. That little gold trophy nestled on my dresser between my jelly bracelets and Tiger Beats was a big checkmark on my list of things to do before I’m ninety. Do something decent at sports. Any sport. And now twenty-some years later, I earned my second-ever sports related allocate at my company’s annual golf tournament.

Here’s what I know about golf: It can be played indoors or outdoors and sometimes involves windmills or tiny bridges that cross tiny streams where tiny trolls hide waiting to capture your tiny golf balls. I also know about bogeys and birdies but only because I had a parakeet named Bogey when I was ten. I don’t see how she fits into this quite yet. In terms of actually playing the other kind of golf, the kind that doesn’t involve windmills and is generally played and revered by grown-ups like my dad, my experience was limited to Man Day.

Man Day, if I may digress, happened in April while I was vacationing in Florida. Mom went out on the gambling cruise while dad and I stayed behind to celebrate the first annual Man Dan. We started our day by lifting weights at Gold’s Gym, then got an oil change, ate burgers and drank beer for lunch (it was actually a veggie burger and diet root beer but go with me on this) and finally concluded Man Day with a trip to the driving range. I had never tried to hold a golf club properly or even go the distance with a golf ball and was surprised at the level of difficulty involved. But still, I walked away thinking I was a natural. My dad told me I had potential. Two or three more years of lessons and I might actually hit the ball straight.

So this golf tournament…it’s not the World Open of course. It’s meant for fun, first and foremost (get it—I said “fore,” hee hee.) I’m all for fun and goodie bags. And let’s not forget the most important part. I can drive the cart! Yesssssssssssssssssss!

But first, another digression. There is a universal problem facing society. The Nintendo Wii. Yes, that’s right. That darn Wii is breeding generations of overconfident athletes. We all seem to think that our Wii living room skills will translate to the court, the course or the ring. I’m pretty good at Wii bowling. In fact, last night I scored a 119. That’s four times higher than my real life high score. See what I mean? The Wii makes you cocky. It makes you delusional. It makes you do ridiculous things like sign up for your company’s annual golf tournament. The Wii is a little, white, electronic version of my parents.

My team consisted of two other women and one man. We called ourselves the Part-Time Models—a nod to our stunning good looks and my latest obsession, The Flight of the Conchords. Between us, we’ve been on golf courses five times. (Two of those times had nothing to do with golf, mind you, but I’m saying what went down or who was involved.) Ilja was in the tournament last year and was on a team so good I think perhaps he measured his own prowess accordingly. Sarah is an athlete by nature and I think the “by nature” part is really a stubborn competitive streak that says “if I can’t win now, I’m going to at least get good enough this time around so I can kick all your asses next time.” If not for Sarah, surely we’d have been rescued by helicopter days later somewhere on the 7th hole. Nina and I were very similar. We figured out quickly that golf wasn’t our game and the company’s tournament complete with uptight co-workers shouting at us from the tee to “hurry the hell up or just move on” was not the place to perfect our swing. We were perfectly content to drive the cart, keep score and caddy. We named the clubs. Harry Putter, Jackson Five, Foury Pouvich. Nina was expert at filling the divots we made on the course, running out from the protective shade of the cart with her plastic bottle filled with sand. She even filled other people’s divots.

I have found that after three or four beers, I’m in my “window.” The window is a short period of time where I’m actually pretty good at sports. I can hit a bull’s eye with a dart, shut someone out at air hockey, even earn the high score at Pop-a-Shot basketball (actually I’m pretty good at this even when I’m sober.) Golf was no different. About six holes into it, I stepped onto the tee and made one impressive shot. It was like the beautiful lush green course in the middle of nowhere was gone and it was Man Day and the vast flatness of the driving range was spread out before me. I heard Dad saying things like “straighten your arms, bend your knees, don’t look up. Don’t you dare cross the street without looking!” (Oops. That’s not really golf related, is it?) I took a mighty swing and sent the ball somewhere in the vicinity of the hole. Like close enough to the hole we had to get out the putter on the next shot. Overconfident and more than slightly drunk, I grabbed Harry Putter and proceeded to putt the ball thirty feet in the opposite direction. Window closes. I told you it was short lived.

Did I mention it was something like 190 degrees outside? Probably closer to 80 but it felt like the burning bowels of hell by the time we reached the three hour mark. I was hesitant to get out of the cart because it provided the only bit of shade I could find and even more hesitant to bring the cart to a complete stop because cruising at the maximum 4 mph was the only way we could get a breeze. Sarah suggested we play a round of “polo golf” using our carts as makeshift horses. Personally I think it was a brilliant idea. Ilja who plays more video games than a Pac Man arcade machine in the 80’s and therefore the most delusional of us all insisted that we could still find our groove and rack up enough points to make us contenders. Contenders? Contenders for what? “Contenders for second to last place,” he said.

This is the point where Nina and I turned into three year-olds on a long road trip who ate all their Teddy Grams, watched all their DVDs and drove all their crayons into backseat lakes of magenta and brick red. We were so over this whole tournament thing. We needed entertainment STAT. While Sarah and Ilja tried to find the 116th ball we lost in a sand trap, Nina and I took off in one of the carts and visited co-workers on other holes. We watched other people suck and get sunburned and lament they too were only half way through with this course. They missed their wives, their kids, and dentist appointments. How long exactly had we been out here? Nina filled their divots. I named their clubs.

Not until we saw Ilja in the other cart driving wildly towards us, Italian hands waving, Italian swear words spewing, did we realize that the cart we escaped in had the clubs strapped to it. In our effort to get back to the previous hole before Ilja got to us, Nina flipped a colossal U-turn, which included us driving over part of the tee. One of the guys yelped, “You’re going to drive on the tee???” Nina stopped smack in the middle of the tee, beer in hand, and asked with the utmost sincerity, “Is that bad?” It is. Who knew?

If after the ninth hole we packed up the clubs, drove back to the clubhouse, got a bite to eat, nursed the hangovers we were already getting, and recounted our adventures to co-workers, the day would have been almost perfect. But after nine holes we came to the sad realization that golf is actually nine holes too long. We had been out there in the lushy, green wilderness for well over three hours and we were only halfway there.

Why oh why must I be on a team that insisted on finishing what they started? Why couldn’t I be on the Part-Time Slackers who were more inclined to slip into the shade of the woods and knock back a few Bud Lights and bags of Kettle chips and wait out the next three hours? But no. We paid for this tournament and bully for everyone if we weren’t going to finish it! Nina and I realized that if we couldn’t convince them to give up the dream, we would have to join them. We would finish this game if it were the last thing we did and quite honestly, I was beginning to think it was.

Tiger Woods we’re not. Tiger Whoosh? More like it. We teed off with no regard for direction, just an inconsolable urge to hit that ball as far away from us as possible. We chased our balls in twelve feet increments and when we lost sight of one in the brush or sand or fake koi pond, we pronounced it dead and moved on. By the last hole—YES THE LAST HOLE—we were down to ONE ball. Out of the 1, 543,987 we started with. I have later discovered this is not, in fact, normal. Oh and golf balls can get pricey. Sorry Sarah. Upon completion, we jumped into those golf carts with the ferocity of firemen responding to the screeching shrill of an alarm and drove the twelve miles back to the clubhouse.

Most of the other teams were already back and enjoying a very meat-filled dinner of chicken and hamburgers. Would it kill golfers to eat a vegetable once in a while? Ilja gave our score to the boys who manned the white board. They laughed at our score—those teenaged bastards! Threw their little teenaged heads back and let out a mighty guffaw.

“Wow,” one of them said. “Are you serious?”

“I think you’ll get a prize,” the other said.

Well good for us. We should get a prize. The Swiss Family Robinson Prize for survival, perhaps?

Here’s the deal. The first place team came in with forty-four points. The second-to-last team brought home thirty-three points. My team? Ready for this? Are you sure? Wait for it—we got…ten. That’s right. Ten. As in points.

I’m still not sure how scores are calculated but I know how to tell if we suck—the mighty applause that erupted from our former friends and co-workers when they caught sight of the white board. No doubt the teen-agers drew everyone’s attention to it. The Part-Time Models left with handy golf ball retrievers that sure would have been helpful on the course. At least we’ll be more prepared next time. Wait. Did I say next time? Oh please let that be the free Bud Light talking.

Social Experiment #1

Social Experiment #1

My co-worker, Adam and I decided to conduct a social experiment at work. What do you get when you take a handful of trading cards and a Post-It Note with “DO NOT TOUCH” written in black marker on it? We found out by placing both of the above on the break table in one of our office kitchens.

Here is the pile of cards as we left it.


Here is the pile of cards when we came back an hour later.


As you can see, people we work with have very little regard for following instructions. Perhaps they find it hard to resist a pile of Magic: The Gathering trading cards. Perhaps the cards were in the way of their roast beef sandwich. Perhaps someone spilled a Diet Coke and someone else was trying to rescue said cards from being eating alive aspartame. Or, perhaps, I work with a bunch of anarchists who live to defy authority on every level. That seems most likely.

Pam, our wonderful receptionist and witness to our experiment said people were getting downright mad at the pile of cards with strange instructions. They stood leering over the pile of cards like they were the pissed off parents of a four year-old who just caused a ruckus at an Olive Garden.

“Why can’t I touch these? What’s wrong with them?”

“Just because it says not to touch it, I’m going to.”

“Don’t tell me what to do! I won’t wear the red coat! I hate it! Not the red coat!” (Not sure if that one was in regards to this experiment or not.)

And finally, “Is this a test? This has to be a test.”

Ah, yes, you are correct. This was in fact a test. And you all failed! Good to know my fellow humans are so insubordinate. That being the case, I’d like to ask you all to stop reading this entry. In fact, don’t ever come back to this website! And don’t you dare even think of buying my book when it comes out on September 18th, 2007.

An Interview with My Brother

While visiting the family, my brother Mike insisted on an interview. Maybe he heard how popular my mom became after people read her interview. Or maybe my mom is making him do this so I get off her back. Regardless, I shall indulge him so here goes.

ME: Hello Mike. I hear you want to talk to me.
MIKE: I’m forced to.
ME: By whom?
MIKE: By justice. Who knows the crap you’re writing about me.
ME: If you didn’t have this forced interview, I wouldn’t write anything.
MIKE:Everyone is afraid to say things in front of you for fear you’ll exploit them on your fancy, new website. Not that it matters because you’ll make something up like you always do.
ME: Example?
MIKE: Mostly everything you wrote in that Dragons book about me is not true.
ME: Oh, you knew I wrote a book? I had no idea.
MIKE: I’ve heard about it.
ME: Did you read it?
MIKE: Just the parts Mom read out loud.
ME: So you didn’t read it.
MIKE: I heard it, if you want to get technical.
ME: And only the parts that offended you, I take it?
MIKE: She seemed to think it was funny.
ME: Are you denying that you’re an asshole to play Monopoly with?
MIKE: I play to win. Why bother otherwise?
ME: Are you denying that you idolized Donald Trump?
ME: Are you denying that you made me call you The Michael?
MIKE: You needed to show proper respect. I am your elder.
ME: Indeed you are. So it sounds like everything I wrote about you was true.
MIKE: I don’t understand what this interview is for.
ME: You demanded it! You said you were forced.
MIKE: It’s a preemptive strike in case you embellish anything else about me.
ME: Don’t flatter yourself! I wasn’t planning on writing anything about you. And for the record, my friends think you sound “cool” in the book.
MIKE: Why don’t you give me their numbers?
ME: Because they wouldn’t like you if they met you in real life. I’m trying to save you the heartache.
MIKE: Well don’t flatter yourself. The most attractive thing about your friends is that they live 3,000 miles away. (PLEASE NOTE: HE’S SMILING WHEN HE SAYS THIS.)
ME: Ooh! Nasty.
MIKE: I just don’t think you should be exploiting our childhood for the purpose of your writing. All that stuff about our stuffed animals and their questionable life choices. That’s nobody’s business. You could be sued.
ME: By Froggy O’Hara?
MIKE: By anyone you exploit them in real life.
ME: But I’m not exploiting. I’m reminiscing. Now, let me ask you some questions. What is your fondest memory of our childhood?
MIKE: Eating. And vacations in Ocean City, Maryland.
ME: I fondly remember mom and dad driving slowly down hotel lined streets while you leapt from the car and ran into lobbies grabbing brochures.
MIKE: I hardly leapt. And I don’t think that was odd. I was doing research for when I owned a hotel someday.
ME: Mom and Dad’s friends used to call you and ask for recommendations on where to stay.
MIKE: That’s true. Sometimes I made their reservations. For a fee.
ME: But you were like seven years old.
MIKE: I was driven and determined even then. I even wrote to the Chamber of Commerce’s on my own.
ME: And then I was finally old enough to go into the hotels with you and ask for brochures. What a thrill!
MIKE: You were my apprentice.
ME: When did you decide you didn’t want to own hotel?
MIKE: When I finally worked in one. It was horrible. Horrible hours, horrible people, horrible jobs. So I went from the cooker to the frying pan.
ME: Hmm…I’m not entirely sure what you mean. Are you trying to say you went to work for dad?
MIKE: Yes. Whatever.
ME: So Dad is the cooker?
MIKE: No. The hotel was the cooker. Dad is the frying pan. Duh.
ME: I like your spin on old clichés. Can you share some more Mike-isms? How about “Don’t throw glass houses at too many hands in the kitchen?”
MIKE: I will not be made a mocker.
ME: A mocker! Good one. You’re a modern day Confucius.
MIKE: Stop it! You know what I mean.
ME: Tell me more about myself. How was it having me as a little sister?
MIKE: You were a rotten child.
ME: No I wasn’t. I idolized you. I did everything you asked. I wanted to play restaurant. You made me play hotel. I wanted to watch The Dukes of Hazard. You made me watch the Mets.
MIKE: It was a constant struggle.
ME: I cried for you when our babysitter made you eat peas. I remember screaming “No! Don’t make him eat them! He hates peas!”
MIKE: You should have cried. I was being tortured!
ME: I wanted to go to Friendly’s. You insisted on Chinese. You made me hate Chinese food.
MIKE: Mom and dad hated Friendly’s. That’s why we never went there.
ME: Stop spewing that hateful venom.
MIKE: It’s true. They didn’t love you enough to sacrifice even one bad meal.
ME: I’d break your arm for a Reese’s Pieces Sundae.
MIKE: Let’s talk about something else. You’re clearly getting upset.
ME: Okay. I seem to remember us getting along. At least until about thirty seconds ago.
MIKE: Sure we got along. Compared to Michael and Latoya.
ME: Or Bart and Lisa.
MIKE: Or Will and Dixie.
ME: Oh good! An All My Children reference. Let’s talk about our love affair with soaps.
MIKE: Summer 1982. We got hooked on AMC with the “Jenny and Jesse Escape to New York” storyline only to be devastated in ’84 when she was killed in the famous Jet Ski incident.
ME: Jenny and Jesse are what made me want to run away to New York to become a soap opera actress.
MIKE: A ridiculous dream but still better compared to your lofty ambitions of being a waitress at Friendly’s.
ME: Which is still cooler than being a twelve-year-old guy who watched soaps.
MIKE: I only watched soaps because I read that hockey players watched them on their summers off. It’s also why I took French instead of Spanish. I wanted to be Canadian.
ME: Uranus rules some people. Donald Trump and hockey players rule others.
MIKE: I remember when you were like five or six I taught you to swear. You walked into the kitchen when Mom was making dinner and said “God damn shit bitch.”
ME: I remember you making me play hockey with you when you needed a fourth. You made me stand in the goal while you and all your friends took slap shots on me.
MIKE: I sprayed oven cleaner in your eye.
ME: You slapped me with a piece of pizza.
MIKE: (Laughing like a hyena) Yes! I was jealous you had a better night than I did.
ME: And us trying to make an ice rink in our backyard by throwing ice cubes in a baby pool.
MIKE: It might have worked if it wasn’t June.
ME: And I remember you coming home so drunk you swung off the screen door. Dad found you plastered to the side of the house with screen marks in your cheeks.
MIKE: He stayed up with me all night in case I puked in my sleep.
ME: He must have been so proud.
MIKE: We bonded. You were a goody-goody. You never had those moments with our parents.
ME: I wasn’t a goody-goody. I was just better at not getting caught. I mean, ringing the doorbell with your drunken forehead in the middle of the night is pretty obvious.
MIKE: Oh yes! Another great memory—playing “Another One Bites the Dust” every time one of your goldfish died!
ME: Oh my God! That isn’t funny. That’s a horrible memory!
MIKE: Such a sensitive child. This is fun. Remember when I used to try peeling your fingernails off? And when you were six I woke you up to tell you Mom and Dad were getting a divorce and you were getting put up for adoption so start packing. And I threw your all your birthday presents in the fireplace on your eighth birthday.
ME: Weird. I can’t seem to conjure any memories of me doing bad things to you.
MIKE: I told you. I was your elder. You needed to show respect.
ME: Now who’s exploiting our childhood? You’re a monster!
MIKE: I’ve got more. Let’s see. I taped over some Bon Jovi concert you recorded with an Islander game. And I dropped your Winnie the Pooh cake on your sixth birthday.
ME: Stop it!
MIKE: On purpose!
ME: Enough. I think Mom is calling you. Why don’t you drink a bunch of tequila and go bond with her?
MIKE: Hey! I have an idea. Let’s play Monopoly.
ME: I’m going to puke.
MIKE: A fool and her money are soon worth two chickens before they are hatched.
ME: Oh wow. And people think I make this stuff up?
MIKE: This was fun. Thank you for your time.
ME: My pleasure. I’m sure you’re coming across even cooler now.

Is This News?

Probably not, but I wanted to say thank you to everyone for dropping whatever they were doing to visit my website. I really appreciate it, along with all the nice comments you made that I’ll be sure to share with the designer. What I do not appreciate however is getting mail like this:

what the hell kind of web site is this…write something…you’re supposed to be a writer…why did i put you in my favorites…?

This is from my dad.

Yes, I know, I’ve been lax about updates but I was in DC until yesterday at 8:25 AM working at the American Library Association (ALA.) There was no time! I plan on recapping that event mostly because no one believes A. 26,000 librarians really travel to an annual convention B. There are 26,000 librarians or C. You could possibly have a good time with 26,000 librarians. Really it’s my favorite show. Soon you’ll see why.

So fine, I’ll write something. For those of you who have something better to do like water a plant or watch some grass grow, go forth and do it. You won’t be missing anything. This will not be an astounding work of literary genius but rather a breadcrumb for the angry mallard that is plaguing my mailbox with hate mail.

I’m writing to you from Binghamton, NY where I’m relaxing on vacation with the family. Poor mommy just had back surgery (which she rallied through like a champ) and was worried that I would have a sucky vacation because she’s not supposed to do anything more than move from the bedroom to the living room and back to the bedroom again. Sadly, she said I’d be resigned to reading lots of books, watching lots of HGTV and falling into a narcoleptic stupor every thirty-six minutes. And that’s bad why?

I arrived at the airport to find my dad at Subway, sitting at his favorite table in front of the window. You can sit here and watch passengers who have just gotten off the plane, which is what he does only while pretending not to see me. Today he was deeply immersed in a Golf Digest. We stared at each other through the window for a few minutes, feigning surprise and half-recognition while my fellow passengers marveled at the uncanniness of a man who decided to take an early lunch at the airport Subway and looked up from his Golf Digest just as a woman (who looks remarkably like him) that he happens to know was just getting off a plane from Washington, DC. Weird.

Although they were happy to see me, my parents were sad because they wanted to surprise me with a swimming pool. That’s right. A swimming pool. In our backyard. It was supposed to be done by the time I got home but alas, the date got pushed back and they haven’t broken ground yet. This is weird, right? Don’t most parents surprise their visiting offspring with things like reservations at their favorite restaurant or painting the guest room or a divorce? But a swimming pool? I will most likely not get to enjoy the new pool, as I’ll be heading back to Seattle before it’s birth but I will get to see a big, dirt hole in the ground reenact that scene Poltergeist when JoBeth Williams mud wrestles with the skeletons in the empty pit of a pool. Finally!

Today I woke up at 9:00 AM, which pissed me off. I am on vacation after all. I made my way downstairs to mom’s bedroom to continue my slumber. She was reading the newspaper and watching the Food Network. After a quick nap, we decided to do something productive so we rented Dream Girls from On Demand. After the movie we forced ourselves to get up. Mommy made a pie while I ran on the treadmill. Then we fell asleep while watching Paula Deen.

Now I’m hanging out in the kitchen waiting for the couscous to cook. Mom just yelled in from the living room making sure I had the gas on low. “Really, really low. Are you sure?” I would have responded with something snarky like “It’s couscous, not a kidney transplant” but the poor woman is trying to Saran wrap her back so she can take a shower. The least I can do is keep my bitchiness on my hard drive. I’m trying desperately not to fall asleep again.

I would love to stay and chat but I need to tend to my couscous, which at this very moment is foaming like a rabid raccoon and spilling over the sides of Mommy’s Farberware pot. Oops. Good thing I didn’t make that snarky comment after all.

Looks Like the Real Thing

I’m pretty proud of my webpage and I can be because I had nothing to do with it! My very talented website designer, Karin Bolstad did the whole thing (with a little “Can that be in italics? You can make that a link??? from me.)

Karin is not only a wonderful webdesigner (and very patient and easy to work with too!) she’s also a really good illustrator. To prove my point, check out the life-likeness of my two favorite animal companions. You’ll find them both on this website.


Yes, it’s really me updating this website. Karin is that good of a teacher! Someone please call me right now and ask what I’m doing so I can say, “Oh nothing…just updating my website with pictures of my dearly departed dog and ex-boyfriend’s cat.” Er, actually, that doesn’t sound nearly as cool as I thought it would. No matter. Welcome to my website. I hope you’ll come back and visit.

As of tomorrow I’ll be DC for the American Library Association and then on vaction for 10 days so I’m already coming up with excuses why this thing won’t be updated. But do check back. If nothing else, I’ve got hundreds of pictures of Charlie and Zelda. I’ll post pictures of your pets too. And your self-indulgent diary entries. Bring ’em on!


BEA Part 2: Enough Already

BEA is BEAT. Yeah, yeah, I agree. But indulge me here. I suffer a bit from OCD, which means lots of things, one being I must finish every lingering project if I said I would. No matter if it’s fifteen years later. If I said I’d do it I will. Thankfully this does not apply to the seventeen or eighteen half done projects around my house like The Great Recipe Organizer Project of 2006 or The Absolutely Essential Storage Room Cleanout of 2004. No one knows about those. And let’s not forget the Live off the Land Container Garden Masterpiece of Summers 2003-2007 (yes I’m trying it again this year and now that I’ve written that, it will come to fruition. And when it does, I shall eat it.)

So now you understand why you must suffer through a recap of an event that occurred a few weeks ago and you probably didn’t care about to begin with. You can stop reading now. Seriously. I’ll never know. But there are a few cool things to talk about like the dozen cupcakes that made their way into our booth (thanks, Joe!) and into my heart.

Seeing as though we’re discussing psychological ailments, here’s another one to add to the kitty. I’m food obsessed. At the animal shelter where I volunteer, they test the dogs’ food aggression by using a rubber arm on a stick (which someone decorated with fake blood for added effect) and use said stump to pull the dog’s food bowl away while they’re eating. An aggressive dog (me) will go after the bloody limb while a happy-go-lucky pooch will follow the food bowl wherever the stump takes it. Personally I don’t think this is a fair test. For one thing, they use really good food so the dogs are way more likely to protect it than if you were grabbing generic, liver and cod flavored stale kibble. Second, why is it a bad thing if the dogs go after the bloody appendage? I WANT any dog of mine to recognize an unattached, foreign object, decorated in fake blood that tries to steal our food and to go after it. Not cool, bloody arm! Not cool at all. Anyway, I digress…

Last night I had a dream of twelve little cupcakes. Twelve perfect and unique cupcakes decorated to perfection with frosting the colors of baby blankets. Seeing as though it was my dream I sampled all twelve by biting into their little frosted heads until I got to the cake layer then dropping the half eaten nuggets back into the box. I did not, however, take advantage of the dream factor here or else I would have eaten the whole darn things and then taken off flying. What a waste. Oh well. I’m sure the dream will happen again.

What does this have to do with BEA? Nothing. Sort of. Let’s start at the beginning with Saturday’s breakfast of a giant toasted sesame bagel smeared with eleven pounds of cream cheese. Toasted sesame bagels with cream cheese are no doubt in my top five favorite foods. Delicious. And because today was the day I would do my first ever book signing, I ate the whole thing with no regard. What empty calories? Bad Carbs who? I ate it all including the excess cream cheese that oozed out of the giant bagel and had no other vessel to my gullet other than the wax paper it was wrapped in. I ate it, I loved it, and I would do it again. Back off, Dr. Atkins! Not in my house, you don’t!

This was also the day I finally got to wear the green dress. Correction. The Green Dress. It is a proper name, after all. The Green Dress was spotted at Nordstrom and way too expensive for a green, cotton dress. It’s the kind of expensive you can only justify if you’re going to the Emmy’s or competing in Miss Teen USA or attending BEA for your first ever book signing. So I bought it under the guise it’s a reward for writing a book. Or rather, another reward, but who’s counting? I love me, ok?

So, The Green Dress and I tooled around the booth in the morning (with a dime sized piece of dried cream cheese stuck to the side of my nose) and wandered briefly to other booths like Ripley’s where I saw the two headed goat, shrunken head and God (or maybe Moses.) God wandered around the Javits Center with a staff, long robe, gray beard and a sign around his neck that read “Need Work.” Not “Need Work?” Need Work. It was a statement. God needs a job apparently. I might have pondered this more heartily, maybe even offered a suggestion or two, had I not been distracted by the site of a toucan a few booths over. Not sure why he was there, or even if he was a he, but I got to hold the exotic he/she on my forearm and gaze lovingly into it’s pretty blue eye (you can only see one eye at a time thanks to the foot long honker, but you probably knew that.) I want one!

Other animal sightings included a beautiful black lab that was the star of a children’s picture book. You could have had your picture with her, which I would have been all over had it not been for the fact I was with an interviewer when I saw her and wanted to appear somewhat “professional.” Yes, the girl who writes diary entries from the point of view of her D&D character wants to come across as professional. Problem?

Oh and let’s not forget Dogtoberfest. A full-on beer and schnitzel party hosted by a fellow publisher. They had pugs decked out in lederhosen. Unhappy looking pugs (but really, do they ever look happy?) wearing green lederhosen. Suspenders and all. I’m fairly certain these same pugs ate their owners in their sleep that same night. Even I would draw the line at lederhosen. (Tiaras and cashmere scarves, yes. Lederhosen? No.)

Right-O. Onward. This brings us to The Hugger. Paul, my co-worker, happened to mention seeing The Hugger walking the floor. I saw him too but my mother told me to pay no mind to people who dress up like mimes (only without the creepy make-up), trailing a 1920’s suitcase behind them offering “Free Hugs.” Nice try, Buddy! Paul however was not raised with my apposite moral values and jumped right into the loving arms of this maniac. And he insisted that a professional hug is indeed noticeably different from an amateur hug.

“Professional, how?” I asked. I’m a pretty good hugger but even I wouldn’t say I was professional. This guy has a lot of moxie.

“It was sort of Zen,” Paul said, his eyes glazing over. “It was calming and massaging and awakening.”

“Sort of like Dove shower gel?”

“Go see for yourself.”

Clearly I’m not enlightened enough for The Hugger. At least I wasn’t on Saturday and technically that’s what day we’re still on. But—Spoiler Alert—Sunday was a whole different ballgame!

So now it’s time for my book signing! But first, let’s set the record straight. This wasn’t MY book signing. This was R.A. Salvatore’s book signing. It was not entirely without reason. He writes about D&D, I write about D&D. He’s got a zillion fans, I have one and unfortunately she was in Upstate New York nursing a sore back. Maybe he was in need of some good karma. Or maybe the thinks I really am a sorceress and could cast a spell on him. Whatever the reason, he’s an incredibly gracious man who let me act as the appetizer to his main course. The calm before his storm. The Skid Row to his Bon Jovi. I am the Youth Gone Wild.

Bob’s fans started lining up an hour and a half before the signing. Good thing we had catering that day because some of these people were sounding like they crossed the Sahara with nothing but a pair of soleless Keds and a backpack full of New York Times best-sellers. They were NOT moving. Not for free coffee or pistachio muffins or sesame bagels with cream cheese. Not even for me so I could get through and take my seat next to Bob. Most of them were happy to have me divert their attention while Bob was deep in conversation with the person in line ahead of them. And hey—they got another free book. Only a few thought I was the person who hands Bob a bottle of water and a fresh Sharpie and simply smiled at me while fanning themselves with their free copy of my book.

Bob is amazing and not just in the zillion of fans sort of way. He treats everyone like they’re his neighbors. He’s friendly and relaxed and chatty and makes you feel like any conversation is a meaningful conversation. And he lets newbie writers hijack his fans! Let me tell you—if you have to do a signing, try to do it along-side a New York Times best selling author.

Saturday concludes with another great meal at some Italian restaurant in the Village where food starts flying out of the kitchen the second your butt hits the chair. What’s bad about that? Woof!

On to Sunday. By far the slowest day but that’s good because it gives us a chance to walk around and see what the fuss was about all this free stuff. It was a great day for the food obsessed because most exhibitors were having a fire sale on all their edibles. By “fire sale” I mean “stuffing shortbread cookies and Tootsie Rolls into your pockets as you walk by.” By 9:30 I already consumed more sugar than Barry White (does that make sense to you? Because it makes sense to me.)

There were still lots of books for the taking but after watching the debauchery that surrounded our booth the last few days, I was hesitant to take anything. But I did. No one wants to ship that stuff back, right?

Perhaps it was the sugar gushing through my veins or the punchiness of having spent the equivalent of an entire day confined in the Javits center with cream cheese on my nose, six-dollar lattes and a throng of angry pugs in lederhosen on the loose. Whatever. But I succumbed. I got hugged.

Nina, co-worker and editor extraordinaire, new friend and agent to the stars, Stephen Barbara (and winner of some people’s poll that deemed him “hottest man in publishing”) and myself walked the hall in search of an exhibitor’s booth where some party was going on. We found the booth after about forty-five minutes but there was no party. Unless of course you think two sad looking, beaten down, publishing dregs that probably quit their jobs the next day constitutes a party. Stephen stopped outside their booth and called the friend who spread the vicious rumor of this party and proclaimed loudly, “There ain’t nothing going on here!” The sad publishing dregs merely shrugged their shoulders in apology. I think I saw a tear slide down one of their cheeks. They might as well have been hog-tied and duct taped to their folding chairs, so crushed were their spirits.

But had it not been for the would-be party we never would have crossed paths with The Hugger. He and his handler were casually strolling down a wide aisle, 1920’s suitcase trailing behind. Was he too beaten down and weary after three days of non-stop hugging? Just one more, Mr. Hugger!

“Hugger!” I yelled.

He turned around, no words, just a smile.

“Will you hug my friend, Stephen?” I asked.

No falser words could ever have been strung together than “friend” and “Stephen” judging by the look Stephen shot me that declared our friendship was short-lived and oh-so-over. Oh well. It was almost worth it to see Mr. Hottie Agent-Pants enveloped by a middle-aged man dressed like a mime for what seemed like several hours. Apparently it felt like several hours to Stephen too because he totally broke the Zen-ness of the moment by declaring, “That’s enough, Dude.”

The Hugger backed off. He has boundaries, which I’m grateful for because I threw myself into his loving arms next. I gotta tell you. There IS a difference between a hug and a professional hug. It was relaxing, sort of massaging, and not nearly as weird as I thought. Or as Stephen looked. I think the secret (and I think this is sort of a cop-out) was the fake carnation he wore on his suspenders that strategically hit where most people’s hearts were. The darn thing vibrated! I know, I know, I should assume the buzzing I felt and heard was the sounds of his heart finding mine in a joyous awakening. But that would be…weird. Needless to say, The Hugger was on to something. He’s definitely honed his craft. Hats off to you, Hugger! Or rather, arms out?

I’m not sure much else happened after the hug. Really, what more could happen?
Nina and I bid farewell to Stephen. We even hugged, which of course paled in comparison. We gave away the rest of our giveaways and guarded the Sharpies with our lives. After the show I fled Manhattan on a bus destined for Jersey where I spent some much needed quality time with my dear college friend and her family. Then returned to New York the next afternoon to spend some quality time with my dear friends, Macy’s and Bloomingdales, and later another college friend I don’t get to see nearly enough. Good times.

Wow. I think this little ditty is officially longer than BEA. But I feel much better having wrapped it up. Now I will work on finishing the other 16 entries half-written on my desktop. Or maybe I’ll do that in the morning. Right now I could use a cupcake and a professional hug—both of which I’m resigned to only dream about.