Unexpected Family

Did you ever find yourself thrust into a group of people who were supposed to have a lot in common with you but . . . not so much? It’s way worse for me. I’m a devout introvert. I’d rather spend time alone than with anyone else. So social situations can be, for me, awkward. Uncomfortable. Painful, even.

Now, add to that I’m flying all the way across the country – from New England to Burbank, CA – to a place I’ve never been. Alone. I’m rooming with folks I’ve never met other than online. I’m going to be spending 5 days with people I don’t know. The only thing we have in common is InD’Tale. InD’Scribe Con. Virtual connections.

Holy buckets.

Nervous? Uh, yeah!

It all started on the plane. JetBlue rocks – onboard WiFi, right? You never lose touch. Except that I discovered, just an hour before landing in sunny CA, after a 6 hour flight, that my planned roommate wasn’t checking in until THE NEXT DAY.


It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was too-busy schedules and time zone differences and, well, my own stupidity. I shoulda coulda checked. Bottom line was, I was flying into Burbank airport, landing at 7:15 p.m. on a Thursday night (my brain thought it was 10:15 p.m.!) and I had nowhere to sleep. The Marriott where the InD’Scribe was being held was booked solid. My options were to Uber across town to another hotel, or to sleep in the lobby.

In steps Tonya Gibbons Smalley, Executive Assistant for InD’Tale, who smoothly said, “Give me a minute.” Her text arrived a moment before I landed, assuring me I not only had a place to lay my head, but arms to wrap around me, reassuring me I was not completely alone in a place where I’d never felt so alone.


And so it began. And it never stopped. I have never – EVER – felt as accepted, so appreciated, so embraced, as I did by the staff of InD’Tale. I remember asking Tonya the night I arrived, “So, T.J…is she hard to please?” I mean, she’s freaking GORGEOUS, obviously brilliant…I felt so outclassed. Tonya assured me, “The first thing she will do is wrap you in a hug.”


And she did. I have a new family. In California. About as far away (geographically) as one can get and still be within the continental United States.

It’s a crying shame. I love these people. I’ve never had so much fun, never smiled so much my face hurt, never worked my BUTT off so hard (Beth, you’re a slave driver, and I LOVE you, girl!), so hard in my life.

And I can’t wait until next time.

Thank you to all my new friends I met and grew to love in such a short, wonderful time. These are life’s unexpected gifts. Times like these are miracles.




Claire Gem writes paranormal romance featuring ghosts and psychics. She is an official reviewer for InD’Tale Magazine and loves, loves, loves, her new family in California.