Following Choc Lit’s success at the 2013 Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention in Kansas City, Choc Lit’s Marketing Director, Lyn Vernham, plus six of her authors, including me, went to New Orleans this May, the location for the 2014 RT Convention.


It’s amazing the people you meet when you step out in New Orleans. Here I am with The Greats of the past: Antoine ‘Fats’ Domino, Al ‘Jumbo’ Hirt and Pete Fountain


And some of the greats of the present day.

Lee Child signing a Jack Reacher novel for my husband

With one of my favourite authors, Rachel Gibson

E.L. James


Fellow Choc Lit authors Christina Courtenay and Beverley Eikli have already written blogs about our visit to New Orleans. You can read Christina’s blog here and Beverley’s here.

As they’ve so ably and entertainingly covered the basics of the week, and as I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, my contribution to bringing the convention alive for you will mainly take the form of captioned photos. So here we go!

Since there’s no direct flight from Heathrow to New Orleans, and since I had a cousin in Florida, a State I’d never visited, I opted to change flights in Florida and spend a few days on Florida’s west coast with my cousin before flying on to New Orleans.



Pride of place goes to the alligator. This was what I’d expected to see in Florida, and this is what I saw on my first morning there. Walking across the wooden bridge to Siesta Beach, I peered over the side and lo, there it was. Having only ever seen an alligator in the zoo prior to that, this was an exciting moment.


Now you (almost) don’t.

Now you see it … 

Now you really see it …



Three more shots of wildlife in Florida.

A white heron

A roseate spoonbill – a member of the flamingo family









Whistling ducks with their brilliant red bills


Sadly, I don’t have a photo of an anhinga. Anhingas, also known as snakebirds, don’t have oil glands so they can’t waterproof their feathers. This means that after they’ve been in  the water, they have to come out on to the bank, spread their wings and dry out thoroughly for a long period of time. If they attempt to fly while still wet, they can’t get off the surface of the water.

All too soon, it was farewell, Florida, with its miles and miles of wonderful fine white sand beaches …


At every turn there was a stunning beach


… and HELLO, NEW ORLEANS, with its vibrant night life, unforgettable jazz and tasty beignets.


The wide Mississippi, which winds crescent-shaped through New Orleans. Though the river water – the water upon which the city depends – is muddy, the purifying system is so effective that the city’s drinking water is the fourth purest in the US


A box of the iconic beignets. We had breakfast most mornings at the famous Café Beignet

A New Orleans streetcar. Riding from one end of the line to the other is a great way to see the city


The Café Beignet. Note the trumpeter outside the café, which is typical of the New Orleans scene



And now to the hotel…

We stayed at the New Orleans Marriott, the hotel on the left

Posters like this greeted us in the hotel lift

The key to my hotel room. Of course.




I think it’s time we had some people in the photos.


What better way to start the day than with breakfast at the Café Beignet? Lyn and Paul Vernham and Beverley Eikli

Strolling along the bank of the Mississippi, Lyn Vernham, Pia Fenton (Christina Courtenay), Sue Moorcroft












The Samhain Saints & Sinners party. Red balloons float above the Sinners, and white balloons above the Saints

Me at the Saints & Sinners party

Beverley Eikli and Rachel Daven Skinner at the Saints & Sinners party


Sue and Pia with a Stormtrooper. Naturally.

Lynne Connolly


Here I’m admiring the interesting floor decoration (ahem)


On my last full day in New Orleans, I went first to the main cemetery, and then I took a swamp tour.

In the cemetery, I learnt about HAINT PAINT, a blue paint. It’s believed that the dead can’t pass through the blue paint, hence you see blue throughout the city. A number of the TOMBS are painted blue so that the dead are kept within the tomb.  Shells and pieces of brick are left around the top of the tomb to be used as currency in the afterlife. People place items used by the deceased when they were alive in front of the tomb on the bottom left hand side. The items are then broken in order to symbolise the transition between life and death.

Blue paint was also used to keep the dead out of the houses.


Haint paint is seen on a number of tombs

Reputed to be the resting place of Marie Laveau, the ‘Voodoo Queen’. The voodoo cult is a mystic cult of African origin that flourished in the 19th century.

Burial crypts serve as a cemetery wall. Because of their arched shape, they are known as ‘oven vaults’



The blue door kept the dead out of the houses. They also painted the porch ceiling blue for that purpose

And there’s a whole lot of blue on this house

There’s quite a lot of blue on the front of this house



No, there’s no blue on this, but there’s some lovely wrought iron, which is frequently found on New Orleans’ houses


One of the last things I did in New Orleans  was go on a SWAMP TOUR.


There was a tremendous variety of the foliage

There’s a real serenity to the bayou in the swamp

Wild hogs


During the tour, I cuddled an alligator.  Well, perhaps ‘cuddled’ is a weeny exaggeration.


Surprise and horror …

… gave way to smiles when I remembered the camera, and also when I realised how soft-skinned and rather sweet the alligator was.









Well, that’s it! It’s over and out, and farewell to Louisana.