Very early in the morning of Thursday, May 22nd, my best friend Freya (also known on this blog as Maia) and I started our journey to Berlin, Germany, for our third Love Letter Convention. As we would be gone for a week, we both had lots of baggage, and of course many books for the authors we would meet to sign. Of course we also had to bring some provisions for the long trip, and gifts for some of our favourite authors.
The Love Letter Convention is, as far as I know, the biggest Convention in Europe (not counting England) where there are not only a lot of German authors, but also authors from all around the world who write in English. Nalini Singh is from New Zealand, Annie West and Kelly Hunter are from Australia, Nancy Warren is from Canada, Fiona Harper and Sarah Harvey come from England, and of course a lovely lot are from America. As both Freya and I only read English books, we are very happy with the opportunity to meet those wonderful authors. So we gladly make the 7 hour drive from Holland to Berlin.
We had planned it all out, start early, and have time for some sightseeing in Berlin, as our hotel was near the Alexanderplatz. What we did not count on, was the fact that it was 30 degrees Celsius in Berlin, and way too hot to go sightseeing. We walked about one kilometer, when we had to stop at a nice shaded terrace, drink a lot of cold cola, and after a half hour break, we decided to go back to our nice air-conditioned hotel. There was a nice little restaurant next door to our hotel, where we decided to have dinner, not wanting to wander far in this heat to find another restaurant.
To our surprise, it was a very cheap restaurant, with a very nice waiter, and the dinner was good. The best part though, was the non alcoholic cocktail I discovered, very refreshing and a little bit sweet. A mixture of lime, ginger ale, cane sugar and crushed ice, delicious. The next day, Friday the 23, we met with our friend Peggy from Belgium, and went to Potsdam for some sightseeing. It was still a very warm day, and although the weather report foretold rain in the afternoon, it kept nice and dry until we were back in the hotel around 17.00 hours. And there we found our last friend Karin waiting for us, she had just arrived.
The hotel itself was very cheap, there was not even a lobby you could comfortably sit and chat. So I had arranged we could stay at the same restaurant as the one Freya and I went on Thursday, and have some drinks after dinner. There was plenty of choice on the menu for us to try something new, and of course, I wanted more of that delicious cocktail. Later that evening, I met another friend we would hang out with for the weekend, Jutta, also from Austria.
We came to the arrangement to meet for breakfast early, and then all go by taxi to the location where the Convention was held. It was not that far away, but it was still very early, 7.30 hours, and we all carried heavy book bags with books to be signed by the authors. And we would get even more stuff when we signed in at the convention.
What we did not count on, was a nasty wake up call at 05.00 hours, when the fire alarm went off. I absolutely panicked, roused from a deep sleep, by a blaring alarm and a man talking whom I did not understand at all. Until he told in English that there was a fire and we had to evacuate the hotel immediately. So I stepped in my pants and shoes, grabbed my coat and handbag on the way to the door, and one bag of books. When I opened the door to the corridor, there was smoke, so it was real and not a nasty drill. Of course I know you can’t use the elevator, and I did know where the emergency stairs were, so I quickly went to the right door. Lots of people followed me down stairs (I was on the third floor, fourth for you Americans), and went outside the front door. Now I was looking frantically around for my friends, Peggy and Freya were staying on the same floor, and Karin on the seventh. Peggy and Freya and Jutta soon showed up to my relief, but no Karin. As we learned later, the fire alarm was on the third floor, so the hotel only evacuated the second, third and fourth floor. Jutta called Karin awake on her cell phone. I really was so panicking and shaking, a pounding head ache had formed. Lucky for me, Freya brought me a chair from the breakfast room, so I could sit down. And she had some aspiring in her handbag I could take. After half an hour, the fire fighters told us we could go back into our rooms, everything was over. Apparently, some drunk English tourists were playing with the fire extinguisher and caused the fire alarm to go off. I was still shaken, and had no desire at all to go back to bed, so I took a shower, got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. The other ladies arrived soon after that, as well as the newest addition to our party, Vanessa, a young German lady who had come to the Convention on her own. Of course we welcomed her into our group, as she is a very nice person as well.
Finally, the real start of our Saturday morning at the Love Letter Convention. We were early, and had to wait for the doors to be opened at 08.00 hours. A long line was forming behind us already. Karin had fetched herself some fresh coffee from a Turkish restaurant next door. Our first event for the day was a blind date with some English language authors, and we were quickly able to give out most of our gift bags. It was so great to see Nalini Singh, Maya Banks, Lara Adrian, Larissa Ione, Fiona Harper and Tina Folsom again, as we had met them before. But I made a Facebook friend in Annie West, and she was our first Blind Date author, and it was so great to finally meet her in person. She loved our goodie bag, and surprised us with a cute little koala bear, and a free book! There were 5 more authors to meet and the hour flew. The next event I attended was the Meet & Greet with Maya Banks, Sylvia Day and Nalini Singh. I was glad I went, because I did not see Maya Banks after that again.
At 11.00 hours there was another blind date with English language authors and I really think that is the most fun event on the schedule. You meet 6 new authors and they change tables every 10 minutes. Just enough time to talk a little and have the books signed. Every hour there are 6 to 8 events to choose from, and I learned in previous years that the mixed English/German events are just not for me, as my German is not good enough to follow even half of it. The English language authors all have an interpreter whispering in their ear on stage, but the audience is supposed to follow the German speakers. The last event for the morning for me was a Round Table conversation with Fiona Harper, Sarah Harvey, Kelly Hunter, Ann Major, Jane Porter, Nancy Warren and Annie West. I choose this event, because I also know out of experience that anything with the paranormal authors is overfull, and it was still 30 degrees in Berlin, and we were in an old school building with no air conditioning. And of course, I wanted to meet these new to me authors, and get to know them and their books a little. When I finally made the connection that I have actually read Ann Major, who writes for Harlequin, in my teens, the time when I devoured the Dutch Bouquet Reeks, I really was star struck. I loved her books! And now she was here!
I had not read a book by the other authors yet, except for Fiona Harper and Annie West, but I have been so lucky as to get some free books in English from most of them, and I certainly intend to read them. I really enjoyed meeting them all, and if they come back to Berlin some year, I want to be able to tell them that I did read their book(s) and talk about it a bit.
There was a barbeque lunch set up in the garden, which was big enough for a few hundred readers, the authors and staff of the Convention. It was a nice hour, and it was great talking to other booklovers I met in the previous years.
The afternoon and the Sunday were more of the same, lovely hours spend with authors in Q&A sessions, Round Table discussions, Blind Dates, Workshops and some games.
Saturday we had a nice but strange self-service and extremely cheap Italian dinner with our group of 6 and four lovely French ladies. I have met Fabiola Chenet on Facebook, and we talk now and then about books. It was fun meeting her and her friends in real life, and I sure hope to see them all again next year.
After dinner, we all went back to the hotel, and only Karin and I did not want to go to bed yet, it was still very early. So we spent a lovely hour together at our previous restaurant drinking cocktails. I love being in a group, but I prefer talking quietly one on one. It was good to catch up on each others life, other than on Facebook chat or email.
But the winner of the weekend was our dinner on Sunday evening, in a better Italian restaurant. Our group of 6, myself, Freya, Peggy, Karin, Jutta and Vanessa, and 5 authors: Annie West, Fiona Harper and Kelly Hunter had agreed weeks before, and Michelle Willingham and Nancy Warren joined us. We had a lovely dinner and talked for hours. It was so much fun. Larissa Ione and her husband visited for a few minutes, they had a good German dinner in a restaurant across the street.
So, and now you think, the fun has ended, but for Freya and me, it had not. Not yet. You see, we found out a few weeks ago, that Patricia Briggs, an author we both love, was staying in Germany as well. Not in Berlin, but in Lüneburg, where she was giving lectures at the University. And the lecture on Tuesday was open to the public. She was not able to come to the Love Letter Convention because her schedule was so busy. So Freya and I made our decision fast: we would go from Berlin to Lüneburg, and just extend our vacation by two days. We would go sightseeing in and around Lüneburg, and in the evening attend the lecture and have a nice chat with Patty.
It was even more fun than we anticipated, as Patty and her husband Mike were staying in the same hotel we did (it was still hot and this one did NOT have airconditioning!). Freya had had a nice email contact with Patty’s assistant Ann, and they were happy to see us, but were very tired with jet lag and the heat. Still, they took some time to talk to us, and we got some amazing metal bookmarks Mike had made himself. We kept running into them whenever we were downstairs for a few minutes, so that was fun, but I really did not want to think them we were stalking them.
Freya and me were both really tired after the adrenaline filled weekend in Berlin, and the long drive to Lüneburg. We took a touristic route and avoided the highways, so it took about 7 hours. Our sightseeing was very limited to the old part of town, and Freya visited a big church while I waited outside on a bench and read for a while. I really needed that bit of quiet time. After a real German lunch of Curry Wurst (which was huge!) we both decided to take a nap and meet later on downstairs to get ready for the lecture and think up some questions to ask Patricia Briggs. I had brought a whole bag of books with me for Patricia to sign, only three of my own but also a lot from (international) friends. Patty was so nice to sign them before we left the hotel, so I did not have to carry them with me. The university was at walking distance, only 5 minutes, and to my surprise, the lecture was about mythology in Urban Fantasy, and I really enjoyed it. Patricia Briggs is a gifted speaker, and she could have gone one for at least one hour more if I had a say in it. After the lecture there was time to ask some questions, and then we had to go back to the hotel for dinner. Our last dinner together this vacation, as on Wednesday we would drive home. And to be honest, I was ready to go home. So many impressions, so many events I had been looking forward to for months, and the heat really made me tired.
But yes, we will certainly be there again next year. It will be on May 2nd and 3rd 2015, and there are already 5 authors lined up: Julie Kenner, Erin McCarthy, Susan Elisabeth Phillips, Lisa Renee Jones and Lisa Marie Rice.
I have met Erin McCarthy and Lisa Marie Rice before, and they are both very nice. I have been ordered by all of my friends to start reading Susan Elisabeth Phillips, and I already have some of her books, and some of Lisa Renee Jones’s. I have actually read one Julie Kenner book, but I do have some more.
So now I will be busy reading the books I received for free, and reading books for the Convention 2015. Watch out for the LLC logo in my reviews! I have posted pictures on my Facebook page, so you are welcome to look them up: here
© 2014 Reviews by Aurian