Thursday: Up earlyish for a pickup for a tour down to Niagara Falls -- it had to be done, as I hadn't been there previously. There was a certain amount of faff at the start, largely caused by one set of people having booked for two adults when they were actually two adults plus an infant, and the first tour bus not really being set up to put a child seat in; they swapped us onto a larger bus and then we were off.
The first stop outside of Toronto was at the Niagara airport where the option was available to take a helicopter or plane tour over the Falls. Luckily one of the families on the tour (from Malaysia) wanted to do the helicopter tour as well (otherwise I might have had a hard time persuading them to take me on my own -- and it'd certainly have been a whole lot more expensive), so the four of us plus the pilot enjoyed a very pleasant twenty minutes or so flying across to and then along the Niagara river, getting a very good look at the Falls, and then back. It was a lovely sunny, clear day, and the photos look quite good (watch this space) -- the advantage of being there on my own was that there was no question about who should sit up front with the pilot ;) (the family were quite happy to sit in the back)
After that, we stopped at a chocolate factory (who did do sugar-free chocolate as well, although sweetened with the demon maltitol -- oh well, everything in moderation...), and one of the local wineries. Then it was a clear run down to the Falls themselves. It's off-season (just) for the Maid of the Mists, so we got to walk behind the Falls instead, which is remarkably noisy. I had a pleasant lunch and then wandered along the river to look at the US part of the Falls, and the (stupendously tacky) shops, before we returned to Toronto.
I signed in at the convention, boggled at the sheer size and weight of the goodie bag (and people wonder why I was shipping stuff home), which included: the programme book, with a new Michael Marshall Smith story in it; the This Is Now collection from Earthling Publications, which had a new MMS story in it also; oh, and a US proof of The Intruders. Fangasm. ;)
Popped out for dinner and then to a signing at the World's Biggest Bookstore. I only bought a couple of books from the actual signing itself, but then there was the rest of the Bookstore to peruse, which took quite a while; it is, indeed, fairly large. I then spent a couple of hours at the early-arrivals party. I'm slightly proud of myself in that I spent that long at a party where I knew absolutely nobody, and talked to several people ;)
Friday: The opening ceremony for the con was at 0930 (and I managed to get up and have breakfast before that). Panels: SIZE DOES MATTER: HOW TO SURVIVE AS A SMALL PRESS (very interesting but I don't think I'll be trying my hand at that any time soon), WHAT ARE AGENTS AND EDITORS LOOKING FOR, AND NEVER WANT TO SEE AGAIN? (somewhat interesting but I'd probably have got more out of it if I was actually submitting stuff to agents etc.) and IN SPACE NOBODY CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM: HORROR IN SF which reiterated a fairly common theme of the weekend, roughly "everybody hates being forcibly categorised into a genre but the publishers and booksellers seem to insist on it".
There weren't any panels in the afternoon where I felt I absolutely HAD to hear what was being said, so I went out to do some shopping. I came back to hear MMS reading (the prologue from The Intruders) and doing a little bit of a Q&A (I recorded this; it'll be online at some point); after that I had a brief wander round downtown Toronto before going to the Merril Collection -- part of the Toronto public library -- for a launch party for PS Publishing's latest issue of Postscripts, a special issue to coincide with the WHC. Stephen Jones, anthologist extraordinaire and part of the convention committee, enquired as to my reasons for coming to Toronto -- he was, I think, curious as to why there were so many Britons coming over to see guests who (for the most part) are generally around UK conventions. I said I'd wanted a holiday as well as to come and be Drooling Fangirl ;)
The Merril Collection, for those not previously aware of it, is an entire floor of that library, handled as a separate branch dedicated to SF and fantasy. They were running brief tours of the Collection's public areas... and the stacks. I just about managed not to drool on the books... so many, many books I would LOVE to have copies of. All properly cared for and available to the public to read (but not borrow). (Pictures follow.)
On the way back from the Merril Collection, I stopped off to acquire some Japanese dinner; sashimi along with black cod in miso (I am on a mission to compare the black cod in miso from wverywhere that sells it; I'll be sampling it from Tsunami in Clapham, and also the original from Nobu, later in April). Back at the hotel, the mass autographing was in full swing; I persuaded MMS to scrawl on a couple of odds and sods (like it takes so much to persuade the man) and also tracked down Robert Sawyer to get some names scribbled in some hardbacks of his that I'd picked up from the dealer's room earlier on. After that, I came to the conclusion that two nights on the trot partying with people I didn't know might be pushing my envelope a touch, and I headed in the general direction of bed.
Saturday: dawned bright and early (I went for a swim before breakfast -- and I'd done a shortish gym stint on Friday. Friday's session was a bit of an object lesson on how not getting to the gym for a week, being in the wrong time zone, and having spent most of the previous two days sat on one's arse can kill off one's fitness levels). I went to three items: HORROR/ROMANCE/CRIME/FANTASY CROSSOVERS: PUTTING THE SCARES INTO OTHER GENRES (again, much muttering about the publishing industry's inability to cope with cross-genre stuff), GUEST OF HONOUR INTERVIEW: MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH (also recorded, but the battery on my poor beleaguered Kodak gave out after 43 minutes -- oh well) and CINEMA MACABRE: WRITING HORROR FOR THE BIG SCREEN (AND OTHER MEDIA) which was quite a lively debate (somewhat off the point, but lively!). After the MMS interview, I also managed to catch up with Paul Miller of Earthling, who I've corresponded with extensively in the past (admittedly much of this has been along the lines of "please could I have the lettered edition of this new MMS item?"). What a nice guy -- and I'm not just saying that because he had brought me something ;)
There was some more shopping, this time mostly in Sears, where I attempted to buy some stuff in the plus-size section and discovered that, in Canada at least, I'm not actually IN the plus-size section any more. This was a bit of a revelation ;) I found an absolutely great jacket for naff-all money -- I think it'll probably come out on my credit card statement at something like about 17 quid -- which was convenient since I'd omitted to pack anything smarter than my fleece coat.
I'd decided not to book a ticket for the Stoker Awards banquet that evening, and instead I'd made myself a reservation at Ruth's Chris Steak House. Those of you who recall my writeups about GenCon US may well remember my rhapsodising about Ruth's Chris previously; having been past the local branch in a cab a couple of days previously, I couldn't resist a chance to eat there again. I had a lovely dinner and then meandered back to the hotel to catch the end of the Stoker Awards and spend a little bit of time at a couple of parties.
Sunday: I had set the alarm quite early as I suspected it might take me a little while to shoehorn the mountain of books, clothes and random crap into the two bags I'd brought with me.
After having some breakfast, and starting work on the task, it became clear that this was a bit optimistic -- there was WAY too much stuff to fit. (BA's luggage policy to/from North America is "two bags" -- which theoretically should be 23 kilos or less for each bag -- which meant that just going out and buying an extra bag was not likely to help.) Conveniently I had a box about the size which might have previously held twelve bottles of Da Vinci sugar-free flavoured syrup (for some reason) so I bit the bullet and shuffled some of the books I didn't need immediately (cookbooks, craft books for various relatives, freebies from the goodie bag, etc.) into the box so that I could mail it home. I've done this before -- most recently when we visited San Francisco, where I had to mail two boxes home... a slight shopping accident... -- and so far the stuff's always got there eventually. Though, as I recall, last time one of the boxes went via Scotland for no readily-explicable reason.
By the time I'd managed to get two bags closed and locked, and the box filled, it was time to check out and also to go along to the convention raffle. There was a lot of interesting stuff in the raffle but (somewhat to my relief) I didn't actually win any of it -- I have no idea how I would have managed to get it home if I had done.
After the auction I made a trip into the mall to find the branch of Canada Post in one of the shops that I'd been assured was open on Sundays. It was, although I had to wait about fifteen minutes for them to reopen after their lunch break. I paid over my ouch-that-smarts (but probably still a little less painful than excess luggage charges) postage for my box -- nine-odd kilos -- which should, hopefully, turn up at some point in the 6-8 weeks sort of timescale.
Eventually it was time to head to the airport, where it turned out that the combined weight of my bags wasn't too bad (though the suitcase was about five or six kilos overweight). The BA folks didn't seem overly bothered (with hindsight this could have something to do with the flight not being 100% full (as I type this I have an empty seat next to me which is making a convenient resting place for my bag, headphones case, glasses, etc etc)). I spent an hour or so in the lounge and now, I think, once they've served dinner I shall have a well-earned kip!
... in fact I rather failed to get much sleep, but I'll be remedying that shortly ;)