Now that I've got your attention, I want to tell you about my wonderful trip to Italy last week. Don't get your own panties in a wad as I'll explain the title of this blog in due time.
My trip started off last Tuesday with a three-hour flight from Dallas to Charlotte where I met my agent, Christine Witthohn. Four hours later, we boarded the plane to Rome in first class. Somehow, I let her talk me into this even though I couldn't afford it.
But, oh my, it was nice. We each had our own cubicle that totally reclined to make a bed. Since it was an overnight flight, it was terrific. We arrived in Rome about 9:30 Wednesday morning where we met up with Joni Sauer-Folger, my critique partner and fellow BC client, and Daleen Barry, a nonfiction writer from Christine's home state.
All was going well – – – until we tried to check in at Alitalia for our flight from Rome to Bari.
"Are you sea men?"
Excuse me? I write romance, and that word has an entirely different meaning than what she was asking. I gave her my best confused look.
"Ships," she explained in broken English.
It seems the flight I booked on Cheapo Air – – already overpriced at $283 one-way – – was a discounted rate for Italian Navy officers and was invalid. To rebook the same flight would have cost us €450 – – about $580 US one-way – – and they were unable to refund our money since we paid Cheapo Air and not them.
Talk about being at their mercy. We ended up booking a much later flight for about the same price as the earlier one. But that left us with another problem. Now we missed the shuttle waiting to take us from Bari to Matera, and we would have to pay a much higher price for transportation. Not to mention that we'd arrive with little time to spare before the welcoming cocktail party which I was really looking forward to.
As luck would have it, we hooked up with a French publisher on his way to the conference, and Christine used the opportunity to pitch him the entire trip. Once in Matera we barely had time for a spit bath before the party began
From this point on, everything was fantastic, including the terrific conference and beautiful Matera. Liz Jennings, a romantic suspense author, puts on this wonderful conference every year and goes out of her way to draw in lots of important people in the publishing industry. It was kinda cool listening to the Italian publishers/agents through headphones and an interpreter.
Lunch and dinner every day included Adam Firestone, a hilarious gun expert from Virginia, the French publisher and a wonderful German publisher. I discovered the wine over there didn't give me a headache. So, like the Italians, it became part of the ritual for every meal. (This is Joni and Daleen with them. I was taking the picture.)
Before the Festival wrapped up I had made lots of new friends, including the Aston family (Lizzie, Eloise, and Anselm) from England and lots of American authors living in Italy, including New York Times bestseller Shannon McKenna. (Here is Anselm with Shannon.)
The conference ended with a brunch on Sunday, and then we boarded a bus to Naples with Liz Jennings and four of the loveliest interpreters/translators I could ever want to meet. (Mickey, Helga, Lorena, and Angela) From Naples we took the ferry to Ischia where we met up with Entangled editor, Nina Bruhns, and two American writers, Mary Leo and Janet Wellington.
OMG! Talk about beautiful. We stayed at Pensione Mena where our hostess – a beautiful bighearted Italian woman we called Mama Mena and her family treated us like royalty. I ended up bringing home lots of her recipes to be included in CHICKEN CACCIA-KILLER.
The first day in Ischia we spent discussing business deals and translations, and the second day we played. Here's where the panties come in.
We went to a gigantic spa situated right on the sea with several pools of healing water of various temperatures and a treatment center right in the heart of the spa. Since my bursitis was acting up from lugging my big-ass luggage (big mistake taking so much) all over Italy, I decided to have the massage after the translators arranged for the therapist to concentrate on my sore hips.
Now I have to tell you that I hate massages. I don't even let them turn on the massage feature of the chair when I get a pedicure. But my hips were screaming at me, and through the interpreters, the therapist assured me she could help.
She took me back to a room with a table and handed me a pair of paper thong panties. First of all I've never worn thong panties nor have I ever had paper ones.
"You want me to wear these?" I asked, praying she'd laugh and say it was all a joke.
She did laugh, but nodded in agreement.
"I can't wear my own panties?"
Again she smiled and handed me the paper ones. Then she indicated that I needed to take off all my clothes.
"You want me naked?" I asked, now in a panic.
Again the smile.
"Oh hell!" I peeled off my clothes and prayed I didn't scare her off.
It only took about 10 minutes of my hour-long massage to get over the paper panties and the naked and fat thing and to start enjoying the massage. It was wonderfully relaxing, but probably was the one and only massage I’ll ever have.
The next day was spent traveling – – first we took the ferry to Naples, then a train to Rome, followed by a taxi to Contessa Alessandra Oddi-Baglioni's house – – she's a client of Christine's – – where she gave us a mini tour of the city.
Then we went back to the train station for the trip to the airport Hilton. The nearly 11 hour trip to Charlotte wasn't too bad because I snagged the bulkhead seat – – pulling up my pants leg to display my knee brace for the sympathy vote just in case someone tried to make me move back to my cramped seat.
All in all, it was a wonderful and productive trip, but it was not without its consequences. Did I mention the salty seawater had apparently acted as an irrigation to my chronically infected sinuses, and I came home with a raging sinus infection? After nearly coughing up a lung, the antibiotics and codeine cough medicine has it finally under control.
But you know what? It was worth it. The Italians are wonderful people and the country is lovely.
Would I do it again? You bet! I came home with requests for my books from both the French and the German publisher. I met friends I will cherish forever, and the best news of all – – paper thong panties do not give you a wedgie!
Oh, and did I mention the hot Italian men??