Good Times, Bad Times - SC Book Festival - cross posting

Part of this could be a horror story - my friend thinks so and I think in the horror area, comes the crime of rudeness by hotel staff - so this is my crime related story and I'm sticking to it - lol - Actually, I have cross posted this on my other ning groups and done this in a 2-part posting on my regular blog -

Book festivals are fun - you get to meet new authors and some more familiar ones alike. You get to renew friendships and acquaintances from other areas of the writing life. I was a volunteer at the SC Book Festival for the fourth year in a row. I had a blast, save my horror story. So long story but overall, the book festival was another success.

(This is posted in two parts on my regular blog -

The SC Book Festival was this past weekend and as you can see I had good times and bad times. Let's get the bad times out of the way so I can really talk about all the good times I had.

I headed to Columbia Friday afternoon, later than I had originally planned because of daughter being sick during the week and having to take her to the doctor's office and then taking her to school (sinus headaches were the culprit so not "sick" in that way). After dropping her off and having my day interrupted, I rushed home to get my work done and then back to the school to pick her up and drop her off at a friend's house. I was supposed to have dinner with some friends but because of my leaving later than planned, that got cancelled but at the last minute (I was almost in Columbia and had just told them to meet me and they called back and said they couldn't because of the 2 hour delay and they had things to do. So woe was me; I didn't get to meet my friends for dinner to celebrate my new contract. Oh well, maybe another time.

So I went on to the hotel to check in. I was staying at a local hotel on the other side of the bridge from "downtown" Columbia. I signed in, got on the computer for a bit and then went to dinner. Came back and worked a bit more and then finally crawled in bed about 1:30 a.m. I laid there for a bit and then jumped up and tried brushing the bed off because it felt like something was crawling on my legs (I never saw anything). Laid back down, jumped up again several times. About 3 a.m. after fighting this feeling and not sleeping, I packed my car and went to the front desk to check out. The girl, "Tolley" was her name, at the front desk was rather rude. I told her I needed to check out because 1) I had a family emergency - I just wanted to leave; and 2) it felt like there were bugs crawling on my legs and the bathroom floor was dirty or moldy. She didn't hear the second part. I handed her my receipt (had paid for two nights, cash since I was supposed to be there for the weekend) and she hoitily said to me, "Oh you paid cash. We'll have to mail your check refund to you in about a month." I didn't want to leave without my cash since I was now faced with finding another place to stay and my money was limited. I had the business card that was on the front desk. I asked if this was the owner's name on it and she said yes and I could call the number on the card (which went directly to the hotel - hahaha - like I would have been able to speak to him had I called that number). So I asked to speak to the owner; for her to call the owner so I could speak to him. She refused, telling me that he wouldn't want to speak to me. She did call him but wouldn't let me talk to him. Another 10 minutes went by and she called him the second time and again refused to let me talk to him and even asked if she should call the police on me. So I asked her if she had a phone book so I could look something up; she refused to let me have the phone book and told me I could walk across the street to the phone booth at the gas station (this is a 4-lane road and pretty busy even at 3 in the morning because it is a main artery in the area). So finally at 3:30 I told her to call the police. They came and I was escorted off the property for harassing and causing a disturbance - all because of her rudeness and refusal to let me talk to the owner - whatever happened to "The Customer is always right" in a service business?

After leaving the hotel property, I drove around Columbia for a bit wondering where I could just crash for a couple of hours until I had to be up for my duties. I went to IHOP and had a breakfast of sorts - they were packed and it took a long time to get service and all and then the waiter got my order incorrect but fixed it, finally. I left IHOP about 5:30, drove around a couple of blocks and pulled into the Hilton drop off area (I had to use the restroom and the book festival was using the Hilton facilities for some of the activities this weekend). I explained to the desk clerk the situation and she was nice about things - told me I could crash on the sofa in the lobby and no one would bother me (not the problem for me - I snore and I could just see myself waking up with drool all over the place and being kicked out of the Hilton for snoring off the rafters - lol). I refused her kind offer, told her I was going to park in the garage and crash a couple of hours in my car. I did just that. Found a nice spot on the second level of the garage, leaned my seat back a bit and slept for an hour and a half.

Saturday, I was so busy with book festival stuff, I didn't feel tired really. Saturday evening, I came back over to the Hilton and of course different staff at the desk this time and I explained the situation to the girl again and even offered to give them my credit card if they would hold off billing me until Friday since I didn't get paid until then (my credit card is a debit/credit card and is linked directly to my checking account and I knew I didn't have any funds in my account to cover hotel costs). She told me she needed to speak to her manager and she would see what they could do. I went to supper (Wendy's) and when I came back in, she told me that the manager said they couldn't do anything but she had made me a goody bag and even told me if I happened to crash on the sofa, no one would disturb me. I sat on the sofa for a couple of hours and attempted to read "Summer of the Monkeys" that was so highly recommended by my son (sorry to disappoint him in that I couldn't really get into the story, maybe it was the way it was written or whatever, but I just couldn't get past chapter 2). Finally about 10 p.m., I told Joy (the desk clerk) I was going to crash in my car for the night (again parked in the parking garage for the Hilton - I felt very safe there). In my goody bag was a sleep mask and I used it and actually got several hours of sleep. My car isn't too bad for crashing for a few hours (my biggest problem was the cup holder because my leg tended to rest against that and so I think I have a bit of a bruise on my leg from that). I woke myself up several times thinking it was later than it was (disoriented slightly because of the sleep mask and being in my car) but I did get about 5 hours of sleep.

Sunday morning, I entered the Hilton lobby again and Joy was again on duty (she worked 3 pm to 11 pm Saturday and returned at 7 a.m. on Sunday for her next shift). I got on my computer for a bit and left a couple of messages for a friend and then went to get a towel and washcloth and went to the handicap bathroom to do a sponge bath and wash my hair in the sink - did wonders for me.

So that is the horror part of the weekend. When I got up Sunday morning and after having my creamed chipped beef on toast breakfast from Lizard's Thicket, I realized I had left my towel at the other hotel (bath towels aren't big enough for me and I so I use a beach towel for my bath towel) and I was going to have to go over there and get my towel. When I entered that lobby, I was informed that yes they did have my towel and that they had a "refund check" for me. I doubt they intended to mail it to me since it was not in an envelope and it was just in the desk drawer, but needless to say I did get a one night refund (not that it did any good at the time since it was a Sunday morning and no banks were opened to cash it, and none of the grocery stores would cash it because it was considered a two party check - it was handwritten and signed). So coming home I had $2 cash to my name and just less than half a tank of gas (I drove around a good many more miles than my normal trip down that way) and I was so hungry and wanting a place to cash my check so I could at least get some dinner and put a little bit of gas in case I needed it. I stopped at Wendy's again and got a burger (in my goody bag was a bag of those filled pretzels - Combos and some fudge striped cookies and a bottle of water - so I had a drink, a substitute for fries and a dessert). I was concerned that I wouldn't make it home on the gas though. I prayed and drove the speed limit most of the way to try to be as conservative as I could - not accelerating too much and overdoing the gas. I got home and still had some gas to spare and my "idiot light" never came on, not until I was out and about Monday.

Okay all horror aside, the rest of the weekend was so awesome. As a volunteer, I usually am a greeter at the top level where most folks enter and I so enjoy getting the folks to fill out the surveys and hear their reactions and all about the different activities, panel discussions and the book festival in general.

Saturday started with a book club breakfast with the authors and that was so awesome in and of itself. I got to mingle with Gwen and Cathy and some other authors as well as some book club folks (I don't belong to a book club because I just don't have time but I would if there was one local and I had the opportunity to do so).

This year, TJ had other plans for me - I was a room monitor part of the time and a greeter part of the time (well I was scheduled to be a greeter half the day Sunday but ended up being a room monitor all afternoon which was fine with me).

As room monitor, your duties include making sure the water pitchers are full and that there are clean glasses on the tables for the speakers, making sure the temperature, lighting, sound, et cetera are good and holding up signs so the moderators and panelists know that they have 10 minutes left in the session and 5 minutes (so they can wrap things up and get on over to do book signings too).

The first session I got to monitor was entitled "Bartenders, Cops, & Priests, Oh My!" - I had no idea what to expect but I'm glad TJ assigned this one to me. Julia Spencer Fleming writes mysteries with a priest or preacher as the amateur sleuth. Interesting concept and not one I think I've seen done before. With my father being an ordained Orthodox Priest and all, I think I need to check out some books by Ms. Spencer-Fleming. Con Lehane is an ex-bartender and so naturally his protag is a bartender. His series sounds very interesting too - it's amazing how mystery writers are creating new and unheard of characters for their stories. James O. Born was the last speaker on the panel. He is an FBI agent/cop or some such thing - I believe he has worked as a DEA officer at some point. He writes more real-life experiences of course with a fictional twist. The panel was very interesting and the moderate, Paula Benson, did a great job of questioning each of the authors and bringing the whole discussion together.

The next panel I got to monitor was "SHE Did It: SC Women of Mystery" with Gwen Hunter and Cathy Pickens (both of whom I have met previously in other venues), moderated by Carla Damron (again someone I knew from other places). Now talk about a funny, Gwen and Cathy both have such southern backgrounds and a great rapport and definitely are not conceited about being an author, that I don't think anyone walked out of that panel not laughing. Cathy has a posting on her blog about the book festival and her newest book that just came out. Check it out here for more details.

Gwen on the other hand is absolutely schizo (her words not mine) because she has to be two different people (writing under Gwen Hunter and Faith Hunter and she said if she were to write romance she would write under yet a third name - I honestly don't know how she keeps up with all novels she has out there). You can check out her blog postings here.

The rest of Saturday I just hung around and did my greeting in the late afternoon. I don't feel I did near the job I usually do with the greeting because I was only there a couple of hours. I hope there were plenty of surveys filled out for the book festival.

Sunday - wonderful day. Panels I monitored were: Cassandra King (The Queen of Broken Hearts - novel that came out last year). She was a very good speaker and of course her southern charm and stories came out. Like she said, you can't make up some of this stuff (the reality is so much more interesting than the fiction and her novels are based on her life experiences of having grown up in a small southern town and everything in between that has given her some great fodder).

Civil War - with Orville Vernon Burton, John Wesley Brinsfield, Jr., and Andrew Billingsley - Andrew Billingsley has written a memoir based story on Robert Smalls entitled "Yearning to Breathe Free..."; John Brinsfield's book is about the chaplains of the civil war - "Spirit Divided ..." (I found this interesting because of my father being an Orthodox priest and wondering if he would read something that is civil war based - an idea to look into later). Orville Burton's book is called "Age of Lincoln". He takes the civil war way past the end of the war and into the reconstruction. This panel was different for me because I'm not a big history buff although I do have some roots in the civil war due to my grandmother's family having killed a soldier on the property and burying him, no questions asked.

Southern Writers: Exploring and Revealing Their Passions - Panelists Marti Healy (animals and God - her book "The God Dog..."), John Lee (wild turkey hunting and God - I forget the title of his book but it is about Wild Turkey hunting and being a novice hunter) and L. D. Russell (NASCAR and God - his book "God Speed...") all spoke on their passions. Even though each of their books has a religious undertow, the discussion was not overtly religious and was very enjoyable.

Last room monitored of the day was a poetry reading session with Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Joyce Brinkman, Marjory Wentworth, and Lisa Starr. I have never been in a poetry reading room before and this was interesting because to me poetry is rhyming, follows a certain beat or whatever my preconceived idea was at the time. I left the room with a different perspective of what poetry is. The one thing that really fascinated me was the "simultaneous poems" - they are basically two poems written together that each line of one completes the line of the other but they should be able to stand alone too. I can't even fathom writing something like that but I guess it is the equivalent of writing a dialogue based story where each person's voice is very distinct and complements each other, but if you read them without the other, you would still have a sense of the voice.

All-in-all, I had a great time. Check out some other fun postings on the festival - Daisy's Dead Air; Shannon's posting; Arts Institute Blog. I'm sure there are many more postings out there but for now that is a taste on the variety of folks who attended the festival in one capacity or another -

See you all in the postings - E :)

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