I'd like you to imagine that you've been given the opportunity to leave the country for a week and stay at a fabulous resort. For a flat fee, you'll stay in a nice (if a little small) hotel room, have food available around-the-clock, dinner at a five-star restaurant every night, see stage shows at a theatre, dance at a nightclub, skate at the ice rink, swim in the pool, or even sit in the library for some quiet time. Now, while you're singing at karaoke, this entire resort is on the move, taking you to places where you can swim in the ocean, snorkel with sea turtles and tropical fish, and wander around the remains of an old French fort.
Oh, I forgot to mention, your resort looks like this:
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Freedom of the Seas. It, along with its sister ships the Independence of the Seas and the Liberty of the Seas, forms the second-largest class of cruise ship in the world. Did you catch the part where I said there's an ice rink?
So, this pretty much sounds like a dream vacation, right? Wait, there's more. Suppose that one of your favorite authors is offering, during the three days the ship is at sea, traveling between ports of call, to share advice about writing, their own experiences, and critique your work. We have just moved from dream vacation into, "am I dreaming?"
Nope. That would be myself and my husband standing with Lynn Flewelling after one of the formal dinners. You may recall a few months ago when I wrote about her Tamír Triad, and I still need to talk about her Nightrunner Series, book 5 of which was just released a week ago. Words cannot describe how I feel about this.
Wait, one can.
So here's a little recap of what happened each day:
Day 1 - Book Release Party!
While the book didn't officially release in the States until Tuesday the 25th, Royal Caribbean got some of the planning mixed up, and set up our champagne release party for Sunday the 23rd, the day we got on the ship. We met Lynn when we boarded, to get information about the where and when of the workshops, and then took a little time to learn where our room was located, and get a feel for the layout of the ship. Huge. Rather than go on in excessive detail, I'll send you here: Freedom of the Seas
That afternoon, we met in one of the upper lounges of the ship to drink champagne, play Apples to Apples, and hear Lynn read from the book. (She read at least part of Chapter 15, in case you're wondering...) We each got copies, which we later had her sign during the workshops.
After the party, we went on to dinner in the formal dining room, where the group was split between three tables. We were seated with Gia and Keenan, from Chicago, Kim from Omaha, and Thea and her mother Karyn from a town near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Lynn dropped by the table after dinner to chat with us a bit.
I'd also like to point out that I successfully restrained myself from running at her, screaming and waving my arms like a maniac. The combination of Dramamine, Claritin, and Mucinex I was on probably didn't hurt...
Day 2 - Coco Cay, Bahamas
Coco Cay is a small island owned by the cruise line, and basically functions as a giant beach and water park. Being as I'm not a beach sort of boy, we really didn't do much here, other than swim for a bit, and struggle with the sunscreen melting into my eyes. Since I don't have anything else to show from this trip, here are some seagulls. :-)
Awesomely, the first formal night was scheduled for this night. Sunburned people in tuxedos and full-length gowns are an amusing sight.
Day 3 - Workshop
I won't go into a lot of detail about any of the workshops. The information is copyrighted by Lynn, and I'm not going to step on her toes there. The short version is that there were several different classes, each surrounding a separate topic like Character Development, Plot, World-Building, and Editing & Publishing. For more information, check out her website.
Day 4 - St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
I didn't ice skate, as me + ice skates + moving boat = stooopid idea, but hubby and I did go snorkeling with Lynn, her husband Doug, and our new friends Gia and Keenan who were also at the workshop. There were some turtles, along with other tropical fish and coral at Turtle Cove, just off St. Thomas. No underwater camera = no underwater photos, sadly. Barring that, here's us on the boat...
In order: Keenan, Gia, myself, Michael, Lynn, and That Bald Guy We Didn't Know...
Post-snorkeling we were pretty wiped out, but the party wasn't over yet. Captain Joe and his crew started handing out punch made of a liberal amount of rum and a dash of pineapple juice. And free refills. Lots of refills. We were feeling pretty good by the time we got back to the boat, but thankfully had enough time to sober up before dinner. :-)
Day 5 - Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles / Marigot, Saint Martin (French Side)
Philipsburg is not terribly exciting. The main industry is tourism, and a lot of it is jewelry and liquor stores. Not really our cup of tea either way. We did, however, get the chance to see more of the island as we signed up for a bus tour that included a talk of the history of St. Maarten/Martin, and took us to Marigot, the capital of the French side of the island. Sadly, it was a French holiday, so most things were closed, but we got to eat a tasty lunch at Le Oizeau Rare, and check out the remains of Fort St. Louis, which were beautiful and featured an excellent view of the island. See below...
Day 6 - Workshops
The second day of workshops took up a significant portion of the day today, covering Plot and World-Building. I got a lot of great info about how to space out your plot to keep it moving, which I will be putting to use in the very near future.
This was also the second formal night, so we got a lot of pictures of all of us in our pretty clothes. Here are the three tables:
Day 7 - Workshops, Long Goodbyes
The final workshop was today, focusing on editing, how to get published, and a few personal stories from Lynn about getting Luck in the Shadows purchased by a publisher. The afternoon was a long critique session, and I, personally, got a lot of great feedback from Lynn and the other writers in the group. Again, a lot of great info that I'll be putting to use, and am already including in my ongoing project.
The evening came to a really tough end. After seven days with really awesome new people, we all stood on the deck, watching a thunderstorm in the distance, the moon shining through the clouds, reflecting on the waves. It took until about 1:30 in the morning before we all gave up and went to our staterooms. As Lynn put it in an email later, "I came to meet students and came away with friends."
An absolutely unforgettable trip. Many thanks to Lynn, Doug, Gia, Keenan, Thea, Karyn, Kim, Nico, Sharon, Betty, Stephanie, Joanna, Carter, Amy, Rowan, Leslie, Janel, Laura, and Justine for making this such a memorable and amazing trip. We'll see you all around the waves again, I hope!
A towel bat. Our favorite of the towel animals we received...