Icon 39

How does one condense three wildly, amazing days and nights into a blog post?

I’ll start off by saying my caffeine and chocolate intake were way below normal levels. It would’ve been impossible to navigate the crowd with my usual IV of caffeine and wheelbarrow of peanut butter M&M’s. Then again, I really didn’t need the extra stimulus, there was so much to do and even more to see. People watching at its finest!

It’s not easy picking who and what to talk about, from fellow sci-fi and fantasy fans to incredible writers and artists. There were so many standout moments, too many to mention.

We kicked the celebration off right with a signing at Barnes & Noble. My table mate was the most excellent Aaron Bunce. The boy has more energy and enthusiasm than the Energizer Bunny. On my other side was the gorgeous Maria Watson, who made her dreams into fictional reality by spinning them into a marvelous science fiction tale.

Across the isle was a reminder of home that put me at ease, the two Rachels, Aukes and Eliason. And straight across Dennis Green, who I would later discover is the best panel buddy ever. Just call us Popcorn and Potato Chips.

That was pretty much the extent of my bookstore chatting, besides readers. Oh, how there were readers. If the writers were energizing, the readers were electric. So much excitement, especially for the guests of honor Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, Lar deSouza and Jim C. Hines. There’s nothing like being in a room full of book lovers.

Dinner at Napoli’s was lovely, a mile long table filled with creatives, conversation and marvelous food. The Breadwinner and I were lucky enough to share space with Lar—in all his peacock haired glory—and his lovely wife, Dennis again—to my delight—and Terri LeBlanc from Second Run Reviews. She’s adorable, vivacious and a fountain of information.

Friday was a bear and I don’t mean Elizabeth, but she was involved. Busy, busy, busy, but so much fun.
DreamCon was a dream, the authors and artists were broken up into groups and the attendees were encouraged to migrate to the tables that most interested them. Every so often they were encouraged to switch tables. Someone made the comment it was speed dating with writers. Two young men at our table had jumped from dating to commitment, opting to continue our conversation over choosing another. They were sweet and intelligent, full of great ideas and possessed many of the good habits a writer needs. When they finally decided to move on, we were joined by another group, similar yet so different. In both groups I was impressed and moved.

A theme quietly emerged if you listened. These young writers were taking from their own experiences, their own lives and crafting tales they could relate too. They weren’t writing super heroes or a perfect world, many were pulling from their own disabilities. Turning the word on its head, it was no longer an impairment, but a strength. Out of all the authors around me, it was the attendees who inspired me the most. Those budding writers full of life and wonder, who openly shared their stories. They were the magic of the day.

My next event was a makeup demo. It’s been a while since I’ve done one and it showed, I have evidence in the form of a video the Breadwinner made. The only person more nervous was my model, Rachel Aukes. I can’t blame her. Seriously, if I had someone as nutty as me allowed to do anything they wanted to me, I’d be hard pressed not to jump out of the chair and run. Rachel was amazing and it was a joy to paint someone so beautiful. And a huge complement that she didn’t want to wash it off immediately. I also owe Cheryl Corbin a huge thanks for helping me setup and tear down at the end.

Then came my first panel, I was going to be at the front of the room with sci-fi and fantasy royalty, Elizabeth Bear, Tamara Jones and Glen Cook. This should have terrified me beyond belief, but ya know what? It didn’t and that was because they made me feel welcome at the big kid’s table, urging me to join in the conversation. I even answered a couple of audience questions. Yes, they are incredible writers who have been doing this a lot longer than I have, but they are also incredible people. I learned a lot and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

Now my next panel was the complete opposite. The train went off the tracks the minute I walked into the room, taking my presentation right along with it. It was scheduled opposite the dance and a movie viewing. Those of you who know me, know my hearing isn’t the best—years of loud music will do that to you—and I had a hard time concentrating. Yes, it was late, but that was no excuse. Somehow—magic?—I was incredibly lucky. Maybe it was that penny I found in the parking lot. You know, find a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. My support team was there to help me pick up the pieces and get the audience involved. Thank you, Tammy and Bill Jones, Rachel Eliason and Cheryl Corbin. Don’t know what I’d do without you!

Saturday I was only scheduled for one thing, the author Meet and Greet. Now I’d done this type of event a few times, they’re usually pretty easy and relaxed. This one turned into a party. Darth Vader even showed up, I’m sure he felt right at home. Most of us have a tendency to dip into the Dark Side every now and then. What can I say? They have cookies! Toward the end, we were treated to a battle of the guests as Jim Hines, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch showed us how to conduct an action scene. Yes, the ‘swords’ were foam, but the danger was real. The danger of throwing out your back attempting the poses of fantasy covers. I gotta say this was one of the highlights of the weekend.

With the rest of my day free, I was able to enjoy some of the other panels and chats. An hour with sci-fi legend, Joe Haldeman was wondrous. He and his wife Gay are so open and helpful, sharing  their advice and wisdom. Gay was also part of a panel with other spouses of writers and artists and how they cope. I only took in part of this, having split the hour with a panel on zombies. I had to see Rachel Aukes in action. But the Breadwinner thoroughly enjoyed it, especially Bill Jones, Tammy’s husband. The man has the best sense of humor.

The panel on killing characters was interesting, to say the least. There was a consensus that writers got more hate mail for killing animals than people. Strange, but when I look at past reads, those where a pet is killed seem to hit me harder than loosing a favorite character. Go figure. About half way through, it evolved into a lively discussion revolving around plot and if it should be a straight line or a winding road. The take away? Everyone has their own way of getting from point A to point B, do what works for you. And if you want to piss off your readers, kill a pet.

I ended the night with Dennis Green. Get your minds out of the gutter, there where several other people present, including the Breadwinner. Now that I think about it, go ahead and put them back in the gutter. Both the sneak peak into Prisoner and the short story—complete with visuals, no not those kind of visuals—were rather steamy. We all have our fingers crossed that he’ll be releasing Fifty Shades of Green soon.

Sunday I was free to attend a few panels before my last commitment. I started the day off right, attending Rachel Eliason’s Software for Writers. That woman is a fountain of information when it comes to tech stuff for creatives. I learned a lot, especially about my beloved Scrivener and will continue to pick her brain when I have the chance.

From there I moved on to Middle Book Blues and felt validated that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with a second book in a series. Now that I look back, book one seemed to be the easiest to write.

Beyond SF 101 was a hoot and a half. So much information packed into such a short amount of time. I could have listened to Scott Lynch and Jim C. Hines chat about writing for hours without becoming the least bit bored. Their main advice was keep putting out stories and be nice to people.

And then it was time for my last panel of the weekend and probably the best. Rachel Eliason, Dennis Green and I got to discuss Urban Fantasy, or as Dennis and I like to say, Contemporary Fantasy. Dennis was an awesome moderator, keeping the conversation flowing and on track, but not suppressing Rachel and I. It was at this panel I blurted out one of my favorite descriptors from a reader. My books are like potato chips, absolutely no nutritional value, but addictive and fun to read. Dennis leaned over and said, “Mine have been compared to popcorn.” Hence forth, we shall be known as Popcorn and Potato Chips.

The end was bitter sweet as I had to say good-bye to all these wonderful, creative souls. Some, I’d just met. Others, I hadn’t seen in a while. The long weekend suddenly seemed too short. I wanted to continue chatting, especially now that our commitments were over and we were relaxed, but it was time to go home.

Monday morning, the strangest thing happened, many of those lovely people I’d met found me online. The conversations continue and expand, the magic of community.

I hope your take away from my long and goofy tale is community and connections. There’s nothing like being surrounded by like minded people who communicate and work together.

A special thank you to Jori, Dennis L, John, Dana and the rest of the Con workers and committee who make Icon possible. I had a wonderful time and hope to be invited back.