Harry Potter World, Part II… HOGWARTS

(Part I of Harry Potter World)

Hogwarts is amazing, both inside and out. Not built to scale, but a good size. You go beneath the hill for the recreated classrooms/halls/offices. I really hope they expand this because it’s just great for us fans.

The approach...

walking alongside it

First order of business, though, someone needs to redesign the free lockers where you put all your stuff. You can’t bring it with you on this motion-simulated ride. Note: I do NOT do well on motion-simulated rides, but this is one not to be missed. Especially if you’ve always wondered what it’s like to ride a broomstick. The ride was the best part of the day, even though ours stopped for about 2 minutes midway through. I heard stories all week how the ride kept breaking down; let’s hope they get that fixed.


Another tip: volunteer to go as a single rider. Have your whole family do it and you’ll get on the ride in about 10 minutes instead of the 2 hour wait that we did. (Emily, we have to get you riding by yourself!). The ride contraption you sit in looks like a cross between an upright coffin and a pew. The bar thingy comes down over your head, the sides extend out past your shoulders, so you’re lucky if you can see the person’s feet next to you, let alone talk to them or hold their hand. So, go for the single rider thing and ride it a few times, and compare notes with family and friends after. They have a singe riders line that moves really quickly.

the detail is AWESOME!

Tip: put as much of your personal stuff as you can in your pockets and not in the locker, namely your wallet with money to buy water, because you’ll need it, a tiny umbrella b/c there is very little shade when you’re in the “back lot” walking through the roped off line, and the fans are only blowing hot, sticky air at you and aren’t really any help (and someone didn’t think to put an awning up over this ungodly hot waiting area, nor is there any place to sit down. They have water fountains, but they’re like teasers. By the time you get to them, you’re only about 8 minutes from the door. The other 2 hours prior to that, you’re looking longingly at the water vendor but you don’ t have your wallet b/c nowhere is there any sign at the lockers that you’re in for a 2 hour broiling wait. Also, put your camera in your pocket. I owe all these interior shots to Emily b/c she had her camera. Stupid me, stuck mine in the locker. Dumb…

Emily and I didn't remember this from the books, but it was cool

The locker area is a mess. People coming off the ride (and out of the gift shop, convenient how they walk you through that, but, hello? We don’t have our wallets…) are trying to get their stuff out of the locker while people coming in are trying to put their stuff in lockers. The biometric locks were a little touchy, so I really wish I hadn’t put my cell phone and money in it. This is a good place for a fanny pack, I don’t care how touristy it looks.

Dumbledore's Office

So, now you have nothing with you and off you go to explore the castle. Universal needs to take not only People-Moving lessons from Disney, but also How to Construct a Ride classes. You know how, in the Haunted Mansion in Disney you sit in this little motorized cart and here a ghost talking to you throughout the ride? That’s what they should do with the walk through the castle. You could have Ron, Harry, Hermione, Sirius, Dumbledore, etc.

Dark Arts Classroom

talking to you as you wend through the Dark Arts classroom and Dumbledore’s office. They could point out the Mirror of Erised and the pensieve. You could hear the pictures in the hall better than when you walk through. It’s a great concept, but they need to up the presentation.

the pensieve

Especially when you hit the back lot out back. I sincerely hope they were just anxious to open the park and have big plans for this waiting line b/c it’s a FAIL of EPIC PROPORTIONS. Poor shade, hot air from the fans, no seats, no water to drink, and the decor is sorely lacking. It looks like a back lot of a movie set, and while maybe that’d be cool to see, it’s just not cool in bazillion-degree heat.

entrance/staircase to Dumbledore's office

All this sounds like I hated it, doesn’t it? I didn’t. I really really didn’t. There’s magic there. I just wished someone had thought beyond the magic they wanted to create to the reality we all have to deal with waiting in line. Disney knows how to do this – someone please go take their management class or something!

mandragora plant

talking pictures

spell book

RWA Saturday

Sourcebooks book signing and Rita/GH Awards – Congrats to all the winners!

RWA Friday

Just t

he pictures b/c I’m running out for a panel.

RWA National, Thursday

VFRW-er Pat and Janet Evanovich

VFRW-er Pat and Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich was our speaker this morning. There’s a reason this woman writes humor!

First Official: My First Literacy Signing

Wednesday Night at the RWA Conference and pictures from the Bookseller/Librarian Luncheon.

For My Dad (and Hubs and Mom and kids…)

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers


Hope Diamond
Hope Diamond

Bus, Train and Automobiles – My 2009 Conference Schedule

And not an airplane in sight this year. That’ll seem weird.

I just posted a comment at Deb Maher’s blog about Nationals in DC (driving) – I cannot wait!! First of all, I’m always excited for National, and second, this one will be the first one I’m signing at. Talk about a rush! My book will have been out for a month, so I’m hoping people will have read it and stop by to let me know how they liked it. (I’ve already gotten a review, so that was cool!)

I love getting together with friends from around the country – and the world (shout out to Tracey in Oz and Helen, Evonne & Lynne across the pond).

Writing conferences energize me. I know some people get exhausted, but I love them. I thrive on the energy, the bustle, the constant go. Oh, don’t get me wrong; you don’t have to constantly be on the go. There’s plenty of time for downtime; I just choose not to find it. :)

I’m also heading to NY for the PASIC Conference (bus) – my first one. Again, I’m really looking forward to it – especially hanging out with my roomies! I’m told this conference is a blast and my agent’s going to be there, a Wombat or two, so it should be great.

Then, of course, there’s the annual trek to the Romantic Times Convention. This year it’s in Orlando and Steph and I are rediscovering our PSU roots – we’re going on a road trip to Orlando! She’ll have her Sirius radio and I’ll have my Combos (original flavor) and off we go!

In June comes the Long Island Luncheon (car, train, train, taxi) – an event near and dear to my heart. The ladies there do a wonderful job with the luncheon and industry personnel – that event helped me sell my Mer trilogy last year, so you can bet I’ll be back!

So, as I sit here putting the finishing touches on Wild Blue Under, I’m already planning the costumes at RT, promotion for In Over Her Head, (mentally working on Catch of a Lifetime), I’m getting really excited. So who else is going???

“The Call” story


So many people have asked for more details, so I’ll share them here.

My publisher is Sourcebooks and my editor is Deb Werksman. Deb and I met at the 2007 National Conference when she had been a Golden Heart judge and LOVED my friend Robin Kaye’s finalling manuscript, Romeo, Romeo. She offered Robin a contract AT National. Robin and I, not knowing a whole heck of a lot about Sourcebooks, went to their Spotlight and were blown away by Dominique Raccah’s (publisher) and Deb’s enthusiasm and publishing history. Robin was thrilled to accept the contract and I was thrilled for her!

What does Robin’s sale have to do with mine? Well, I’ll tell you. Deb hung out with us a lot during National. I got to know her; she got to know me. I had already submitted a time travel to her so that was sitting in her queue. She got to it a few weeks after National, sadly, rejecting it. But that was okay.

Flash forward to October 2007 at the New Jersey Conference. Deb was there. We chatted. She sat at my table for lunch and I proceeded to drag pitches from everyone at our table b/c I knew Deb wanted to hear them (this is why you need to work on that “elevator pitch”/high concept thing so you can do it at a lunch setting). I happened to mention that In Over Her Head was probably going to end up in the Top 5 of the Gather.com First Chapters Romance Contest. Deb wanted to know why I hadn’t submitted it to her and I said I couldn’t, according to the rules of the contest, but if it didn’t make it to the Top 5, I’d send it along. It made it to the Top 5.

Life got hectic when it was in the Top 5. I worked that final into agent interest, garnering multiple agent offers (the winner of the contest was guaranteed to be published), and accepting the offer from Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates.

Something to note: one of the final judges for the contest was Sue Grimshaw, Romance Buyer for Borders. I introduced myself to her at a conference after the contest was over (and I hadn’t won) and Sue proceeded to give my story such praise that it stunned me into silence. (If you know me, you’ll know that this feat doesn’t happen all that often. Maybe twice before in my life. Seriously.) She gave me some advice to make the book marketable and I made the change.

I also saw Deb at the Long Island Luncheon where we, again, sat next to each other and I dragged pitches from everyone at the table for her. I also mentioned to someone at the table that I had two partials of the next two Mer stories ready and waiting. Deb jumped – “It’s a trilogy?”

Now, you know, we all hear to only pitch one book. Will an editor really take a chance on three books by a debut author? Here I had an editor asking me about all three when she already had book 1 in her queue. The books are stand-alones, but contain characters that you hear about in the other books, so I mentioned it. She wanted the partials.

My agent sent everything out, and Deb jumped. I remember her words to me were, “Frankly, I’m surprised this hadn’t sold yet.” That makes a writer feel good, let me tell you!

Deb called on Monday that she was taking it into Editorial on Tuesday. I got an email from her IN the Editorial meeting that they wanted it and to have my agent call her, my agent did her agenting thing where it was on submission elsewhere (thank God I had an agent!), and on Thursday, July 17, we accepted the offer.

However, the offer wasn’t just for In Over Her Head. Deb also wanted the rest of the trilogy AND gave me release dates that I only dreamed about.

Now I’m hard at work polishing those other two stories so they sparkle like In Over Her Head. Look for all three books next summer: June, August and October – the perfect beach read since they, ya know, take place at/in the ocean.

In Over Her Head

Whale of a Tail

Catch of a Lifetime

“Sight”seeing in San Fran

The Naked Cowboy

The Naked Cowboy

’nuff said.

He said he’s the guy from NYC and did have a cameraman behind him (not touching THAT comment…) He doesn’t have a hat out for dollars, there were no dollars, ahem, on him, so I don’t get it. Add in the fact that he sings the same song over and over, something along the lines of “You gotta do what you gotta do” but don’t quote me, because, really, I was laughing too hard to pay attention. I will say, he’s in good shape, but the white undies? I’m just going to go with “huh?”

Other sights included Lombard Street, via cablecar and then I walked down it since I couldn’t 2 years ago when I was here due to the torn ACL. One good thing about San Fran (okay, there are many good things about it) are the unique houses. I love to take pictures of them. Beats the same old cookie-cutter ones you see pretty much everywhere else.

Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world

Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the worldWalking down Lombard Street

Colorful house on Lombard

Colorful house on Lombard

cablecar turnaround

cablecar turnaround

There were other street performers; one guy covered himself in tree branches and jumped out from behind them down at the Wharf. Scared quite a few folks. One guy dressed as a cat. Again, ??? A few people with signs and microphones proclaiming the end of the world. Reminded me of Bro Cope in State College back in the 80s. Apparently the world’s been coming to an end for a while now.

Lots of exercise, lots of sights, lots of cool things to see and do here. I highly recommend a trip. Even with The Naked Cowboy sighting…

NJ Romance Writers Conference

I just got back from the NJ conference and boy, are my arms tired. Sorry, couldn’t resist :)  Seriously, a great time was had by all. Lots of networking, meeting up with old friends (that’s friends as in “long term” not “over the hill”), learning all sorts of new stuff (hence my very own blog from a great course by Penny Sansevieri at AMarketingExpert.com) and fun speakers. Agents and editors from NY and other locales were there for us “hopefuls” and I got to meet one of my fellow ATIII finalists, Sally Stotter. Plus Janice Lynn, the first AT winner, was there.

 For those of you interested in a career in publishing, there’s nothing like a conference in or near NY – you get a great chance to put names and faces together with those people who send you rejection letters–er, suggestions on how to better your story.

 So, I’m off to update my website with pictures from the conference. Stop by and check ‘em out and if you’d like to know how to vote for Beauty and The Best in the American Title III contest, beginning next Monday, the 16th, register for my newsletter.  Have a great day! -Judi


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