I survived my first GRL Retreat … and it was wonderful.

Last week marked my first trip to Denver, my first GRL, and my first signing of books from the Unbreakable Bonds series with Rinda. Yep, a week with lots of firsts.

My sweet husband accompanied me out to Denver and he stuck close by to carry heavy boxes and serve as walking promo while wearing our Ward Security t-shirt. He even wore a kilt two days of the conference to the joy of many people.

At the conference, I met so many amazing readers! Every last one of you is absolutely wonderful.

Rinda and I wrote the Unbreakable Bonds series hoping that maybe a few people would discover the books and that a few people might come to love Lucas, Snow, Rowe, and Ian as much as we do.

We were just stunned by the outpouring of support and love. You were there to mourn the loss of Mel and celebrate when Ian and Hollis finally got together. You love to lament Lucas’s bossiness and there’s never enough time to cover all of Snow’s sexiness.

I think writing is an act of love and self-discovery. (Even when you’re torturing your characters.)

But publishing… that’s jumping off a ledge time and time again. No matter how many books you’ve written – your first or your hundredth. You jump, releasing the book to the world, and you never know if anyone is going to be there to catch you, to care, to fall in love.

GRL was an in-person reminder of the lives we’ve touched with the Unbreakable Boys. It was seeing the joy in person. It was seeing that the books have helped and touched lives.

It’s a humbling moment and a driving force. It makes me ready to jump into the next book. To keep going when things are daunting.

I met many wonderful authors in person for the first time – people that I’ve spoken to only online. It was a great, educational moment to swap stories and experiences when it comes to publishing stories. We’re always searching for ways to reach more readers and I appreciate authors who are willing to honestly share their experiences. Why allow one of your co-workers to make the same mistake? We’re all in this together. We should always be supporting each other.

I wish I could name all the lovely authors and readers I saw, but I’m more concerned with forgetting someone so I will simply say thank you to all those who had time to share their wisdom and kindness with me.

And the final bonus was getting the chance to meet and chat with Carter Dane and Alex Mecum at the signing on Saturday. Both were absolutely lovely, sweet gentlemen. I was so lucky to have met them.

I find myself sitting back twenty-four hours later, now that the dust has finally had time to settle, wishing I’d had more time to talk to them. I wish I could just sit and spend hours talking, pulling stories, thoughts, and experiences out of their heads. I want to know so many little things (and not what you’d necessarily expect) because the muse is screaming in my brain. She wants to write books around them, but we can’t even guess at their experiences.

It’s like finding a torn train ticket to a totally different world. I have proof that it exists. I hold it in my hand. But I can’t get there. Can’t see it or learn about it.

But despite my muse’s frustration, I’m glad that I at least found the ticket. It proves there is more than what my imagination had previously believed possible.

In the end, GRL was a strong reminder of why I do what I do. I write stories because I love to explore new worlds, meet new people, and go on adventures.

I publish books because I want people to love and experience those things too.

But for now, I’m recovering from the conference. There’s a high price for me when it comes to events like this and it’s time to pay the piper. I’ll likely be offline for a bit, but no worries. My muse and I will be mulling things over, discussing new book ideas, falling in love with new characters, and maybe … maybe we will plan a new car chase.