Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gen Con Report Day 4: The End

Sunday we hauled ourselves out of bed and started packing. Even though we hadn't bought much, it still seems like we had way more stuff than we came with, which always happens.

I put on my favorite outfit- cute skirt, Hello Kitty t-shirt, Hello Kitty shoes (no, seriously), knee socks, adorable lion necklace, and braids. I was like a pastel Sanrio nightmare. I hit the only panel I planned on for that day: a 9 a.m. discussion on how to end your stories. Once again, I was entertained but not particularly informed, as most of what the panelists suggested was pretty basic stuff.

My husband had been waiting outside the dealers' room with a ton of other people until it opened at 10. By the time I got there around 10:10 the crowd was clear, so I waltzed in and over to Meg Lyman's table. The cuttlefish print I bought on Saturday made me so happy that I decided I needed more. I told her this, she seemed touched and I think she actually gave me a discount on the other two pieces I purchased.

I met the husband outside True Dungeon (we'll have to do that someday, maybe when the kid is old enough to come and enjoy it). He had a massive pyramid of Warhammer miniature boxes. He'd already bought a new rules book which is REALLY pretty, at least, as pretty as 40K could ever get. He spent a couple hundred but it was still far cheaper than buying his army elsewhere. I don't remember what they are exactly. Death Angels? Something like that. They look like robots.

We traipsed back to the hotel, checked out with a minimum of fuss and sat down to wait for the valet to retrieve our vehicle. And waited. And waited. Half an hour we sat outside with out stuff, among others all waiting for their cars as well, most of them toting much larger amounts of stuff. It appeared only two valets were actually working. They were apologetic about the wait and of course we didn't hold it against them, but you'd think the hotel would schedule more employees on a day when lots of people are likely to be checking out.

And that was the end of our Gen Con 2012 adventure. We'll be back next year, hopefully with me in a new costume (hee hee...>evil twining of fingers<). See you then!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gen Con Day 3: SHAZAM!

Saturday came after Friday, as it usually does. Saturday I couldn't drag my butt downstairs to the treadmill; in fact, I didn't even get up at the time assigned to the alarm clock, which is why I missed my first panel.

That say I costumed as one of my favorite superheroines- though she's partly my favorite because she has a costume that isn't made of spandex or particularly slutty-looking. Mary Marvel is the twin sister of Captain Marvel, and if you want people to yell “Shazam!” at you all day, wearing a Marvel Family costume is the way to get it done (there is also Captain Marvel, Jr.). Now, I wore her original costume from way back when- and by that I mean the 1940's- not her white costume from The Power of Shazam or her black latex costume from when she accidentally acquired Black Adam's powers. It's simple, comfortable and shockingly recognizable- last year I was surprised and pleased how many people professed to be Marvel Family fans. This year was not different. I posed a LOT and got to talk to some very cool people, including one guy who was taking pictures with all the superheros he saw to show his nephews that he really knew superheros, then asked me to sign a card for them as Mary Marvel! 

(and only one person called me 'girl Flash'...I can forgive that since the Marvel symbol and the Flash symbol look very similar)

The panel I missed was The Business of Writing. I actually hate the business of writing. I like writing, but I hate submitting, researching, networking, reading contracts...all that practical crap (which is probably why I needed the panel). I did attend the same panel last year, though, and if the other panels were any indication it probably wasn't going to tell me anything I didn't already know (but didn't want to hear).

My next panel was Big on Small Press. I am already big on small press; in fact, I decided some time ago to skip the big presses and market my stuff solely to small presses. I like the tight relationships between editors in the small press world, the way everyone seems to know everyone else, or at least their names. I like the fact that there is less bullshit (less money too, but if you write for the money you're better off selling your body. You get more money that way, at least if you're reasonably attractive and have a generous pimp). I also ran into Steven Saus of Alliteration Ink. I knew Steven from Millennicon a couple years back, and Gen Con 2011, and Fandomfest 2012. I was the only person to show up at his Read & Critique panel at Fandomfest, and he read the beginning of a novella I had. Then he generously offered to read the rest of the novella (he does this for cash money, so it was quite a generous offer). We did the exchange, chatted a bit, and then I skipped my next three panels in favor of the siren call of the dealers' room and lunch.

First, let me explain something about my feet at this point. My Mary Marvel boots have three-inch chunky heels and are just slightly too large. Last year I put on socks over my nylons, preventing my feet from sliding too much. This year I forgot (!) and instead spent hours wondering what was different about this year.

At any rate, by 10 a.m. my feet hurt. A LOT. I have had a c-section and I think walking in these boots was roughly equivalent to walking the day after my surgery, the pain was just in a different place. I was literally limping but hey, I'm a stoic. And a huge attention whore. No way was I taking off the costume on the busiest day of Gen Con.

And it was fortuitous that I didn't. Because while I was wandering the dealers' room, I caught sight of something amazing.

“Oh my God!” I shrieked to my husband. “An Uncle Marvel!”

In the old comics, Uncle Marvel was a man who pretended to be one of the Marvel Family- but when it came time to swing into action, he always had 'shazambago' and couldn't fly, so the others would give him a lift. Amazingly, he sometimes did things to really help out, like tricking Black Adam into saying the magic word so he turned normal again. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would see an Uncle Marvel. I RAN to him (not easy in those boots) with a huge fangirl squeal. We got several good pictures. Sadly, I didn't see him again that day. But from other people's galleries I saw that Uncle Marvel was in the costume contest, and now we're blog friends, and he's an awesome guy. That pretty much made my Gen Con right there.

I also found some new dice. I LOST my old set, which made me really unhappy as they were a gift from my husband and a very pretty blue. The new ones are red and blue and shiny. The Husband calls them my Superman dice. When we got home I tied my blood-red bag to his bag of dice so they won't be lost. My other acquisitions were a Hello Kitty shirt (surprise...), a Hello Kitty figurine, a Jesus Loves Gamers sticker for my laptop, and a stuffed goblin for the man-child. I very nearly fell prey to a fuzzy hat with fox ears but instead was beguiled by the artwork of Meg Lyman. Meg Lyman loves cephalapods almost as much as I do. And I really, really love them. I bought a postcard-sized piece (cuttlefish holding a romantic).

The Husband and I had lunch with three friends at a place called Scotty's Brew Pub. I don't drink (they were all trying different beers) but they had Arnold Palmers there, so it was A-OK. I had some kind of enchilada (that sadly came with black beans, which was not mentioned on the menu, but I managed to eat around them). Our waiter asked us about Gen Con and said he had recently begun playing D&D with some friends. Of course we gave him a big tip- gamer solidarity- and it wasn't until several hours later we considered the possibility that he just said that to people with Gen Con badges to get bigger tips. Not like he even needed to- gamers are some of the most generous people I have ever come across.

I made it to my 2 p.m. Panel- Writing Excuses Recorded Live. Writing Excuses is a podcast partly hosted by the Gen Con Writer GOH, Brandon Sanderson. It was entertaining to see other podcast hosts doing interviews and talking about stuff while actually staying on topic, something we at The Yellow Menace Podcast can't do to save our lives.

After that it was seven hours of people-watching, hall-wandering, picture-taking, Husband agonizing over whether to buy a shitload of Warhammer 40K stuff, and dinner at Johnny Rockets (it was all right but it did have places to sit, unlike the rest of the mall food court). Our server's nametag said “Kentucky” but when we asked what part of Kentucky she was from, she said she wasn't really from there and her manager had randomly put it on there. Strange. I had pictures made wit Powergirl and the best Phoenix I've ever seen, AND met a guy who showed me a picture of the Black Adam costume he wore to a local comic convention, but HADN'T worn to Gen Con. It was terribly disappointing, we could have had epic photos with Uncle Marvel. Dude, if you read this, wear it at Gen Con 2013 on FRIDAY. 

At this point I was in such horrific pain that I had to go back to the room and change into tennis shoes and my Game of Thrones Clegane t-shirt. Oddly enough, the first day of the con I had seen a man wearing the same shirt. I almost yelled “I have that shirt!” at him, but he was talking to someone so I didn't.

I had bought tickets to the Tom Smith concert at 10 p.m. Tom Smith is the only filker who consistently makes me laugh and who seems to hate fairies as much as I do. We had to walk to another hotel about a block away. The first song he performed was actually Smash the Fricking Fairies, my favorite! There followed a mix of old and new for an hour, including new songs about how watching Death Trap turned a redneck onto his potentially homosexual side (seriously, it's not even that hot of a kiss) and the Mighty Thor's version of John Denver's “Rocky Top”.

We later stopped by to see the ruins of Cardhalla, which had been speedily cleared away so there wasn't much to see. Then, bed.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gen Con Day 2: Everybody Loves Owls

Friday I actually managed to drag my lazy ass out of bed at 6 a.m. and hit the treadmill in the hotel's exercise room. It's a really nice place; the treadmills even have little TVs with cable on them. There were some guys already working out, which was kind of annoying as I like to work out in privacy (since I probably look like a moron doing it) but was also good, because when there are other people there you don't want to look like a pussy so you try harder.

Then I hauled myself upstairs and put on Friday's costume: Athena, complete with laurel leaves and owl. The owl was a burrowing owl puppet by Folkmanis (burrowing owls = not native to Greece, but he look liked an Athenian owl). I just tucked his legs into the hand-pocket and safety-pinned him on. He stayed up surprisingly well. I discovered two things during the 14 or so hours I wore this costume:

  1. If you want people to like you, just pin a stuffed animal to your shoulder

Seriously, walking along, people kept glancing at me and smiling. I thought, “Wow, people really like Greek mythology!” Then I realized they weren't smiling at me- they were smiling at the owl! Every time I stopped for a picture the photographer commented on my owl. Kids loved it. I heard one girl say, “She has an owl! I want an owl!!” (sorry parents, I didn't mean to). So if you're kind of socially awkward and want to make friends, pin a stuffed animal to your shoulder and you will instantly be Mr/Ms Popular.

  1. Corsets, worn for 14 Hours, Hurt Like Hell and Leave Marks for Days

Although my friend Kim, who is well acquainted with corsets, told me that quality ones with steels stays don't do this. Guess I better shell out next year for a real one. Also, I've complained about women wearing corsets before, so I will only say this once: back panels, ladies. They do exist. And also if your breasts are hitched up so high that if you look down you would suffocate, you might want to reconsider how tight you have that thing cinched.

My first panel was 9 a.m., Mano-a-Mano. This could have been about gay sex in fiction, or fighting, and it turned out to be about fighting. Ah, well. It was very entertaining and pretty helpful for someone like me who sucks at writing action. Next I had a panel about Alexander the Great (speaking of gay sex...). This panel was a bit of an ordeal to find. I didn't know there were actually two Marriott hotels connected to the ICC (TWO? Overkill a bit?) and so ended up in the wrong one. I had to cross a parking garage to get to the correct one, and then ask for help finding the room. I know the most popular events will be held in the highest-traffic areas (and I am grateful the writing panels are!) but I actually skipped a couple panels later in the weekend because I didn't want to have to track them down in one of the hotels. I don't blame Gen Con; I need to be more proactive about finding where things are, I suppose.

I checked on the Husband in the gaming hall (he was playing some sort of massive 100 hour Battletech game) and wandered the Dealers' Room, picking up two books from Chaosium (weird tales of Arthur Machen volumes 1 and 2; I am grateful to Chaosium for keeping a lot of awesome stuff in print, but I only pick up their stuff at cons because I have heard stories about the difficulties of actually receiving the things you order from them).

I hit my next panel, the Structure of Scenes, around 1. And here is something about the Writers' Symposium that I noticed this year: a lot of the panels I attended had the same panelists as last year, and several were on the same subjects I saw last year. I really like the authors, so no quarrel there, but I didn't feel this year like I was learning much that I didn't learn last year. Not all the panels were the same, of course, and I enjoyed them regardless, but much of the advice given is aimed at new authors. I certainly don't believe I can't learn anything new; as a writer I am always learning and improving. But 'new author advice' is something I've already heard quite a bit. Next year I would like to see more panels aimed at specific genres: horror writing, taboos in various genres, the use of folklore in fantasy etc. But that's a suggestion to send to the Symposium director...

I grabbed lunch at Subway, knowing I wouldn't have another chance to eat that day, ate in on a bench next to a man who kept checking his phone (and didn't smile at my owl. Strange). Also ran into a Deadpool in the dealers' room. Luckily he didn't talk nearly as much as the real one.

I spent more time people-watching, and skipped a panel called Ghost Ships (a shame as I love ghost ships!) because it was in a hotel I had never even heard of before- later I found it was the Crowne Plaza, about a block from the ICC. I will know for next year!

My last Friday panel was another Read & Critique. It was run by the same crew who ran my Friday R&C last year- all friends (two are even married) who have no problem squabbling over their opinions. Luckily, they are always entertaining. I ended up being the last to read, was not quite ripped apart, and got some very good publishing advice from the group, which I really appreciated as at this point it was nearly 10:30 p.m. and we were all running on fumes.

I met up with the Husband, realized I was hungry, realized further that nothing was open (Husband had eaten out with some friends and regaled me with stories of a motorcycle rally that was happening on the same weekend, including ladies serving at a bar in their undies to a crowd of bikers- sorry I missed that). I settled for a hot chocolate from the Starbucks in the JW Marriott. We also checked the progress of Cardhalla.

I watched part of a Law & Order episode (told you- ALWAYS ON) and crashed my aching, corset-marked body into the comfy Courtyard bed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gen Con Report: Day One: Safety Razor My Ass

This year's Gen Con really fucking hurt. Well, most of it was my own damn fault, but not what happened Thursday. And it wasn't just me, either. The Husband had his share of Gen Con agony.

So we get to our hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott, around 3. It's about a block or two from the convention center where the bulk of Gen Con events are held. It's pretty swanky (see picture below) with a couch and a tiny fridge and everything. Sadly we weren't in there very much to appreciate the selection of cable channels, but they were probably all playing Law & Order reruns anyway.

Once there I reached into my suitcase front pocket to grab my lipstick. And you know what? The cover thing on my safety razor, which was also in that pocket, had somehow come off. OWOWOWOWOWOW. There was a great deal of blood and a great deal of stinging pain. I wrapped my poor index finger (on my right hand...and I'm right-handed) in a tissue and managed to button my dress one-left-handed, which takes mad skills. It seems I took a sizable chunk of skin off my finger (which makes me wonder what happened to the gouged-out flesh. Is it still in my suitcase pocket? I am afraid to look), so it was still bleeding when we went downstairs...and still bleeding when I asked the guy at the front desk for a band-aid. He provided one promptly and I put it on, preventing me from bleeding all over their lobby and leaving a trail to the convention center. Because neither rain nor snow nor hail nor gruesome hand injury will keep me from my Gen Con.

We arrived at the convention center about 4 p.m. and picked up our badges and tickets with no wait. There was a slight hitch because my husband uses his middle name, so what I put on his tickets didn't match up with his license, but they let us go...this time. What? I forget he has a real name sometimes since he never uses it.

We wandered about to refresh our memories from last year of where everything was, then met up with my friend Kimberly Goldstein (proprietor of Smoldering Wick designs). We headed to the food court in the attached mall for dinner- the last time that weekend I was able to find a vacant table there, and even on Thursday we had to sit back in the corner.

My first panel of the weekend was 6 p.m. Thursday, Read and Critique. How this works: a group of writers gather in front of a panel of authors/editors. They have 3-5 minutes to read a piece they've written, and then the authors/editors tear them to shreds. It's awesome.

No, seriously. As a writer, you have to crave criticism. It's the only way to get better. Last year and this year I signed up for two Read & Critique sessions at Gen Con. Last year they were free; this year they were $4 apiece, which I didn't mind. The only problem was that at the Thursday session, one of the four panelists was a no-show, and one of the remaining three had been double-booked and had to leave only an hour or so in. So by the time they got to me, they were down two critics. I really like having a variety of opinions and suggestions and it was a little disappointing to lose two from the get-go. It wasn't the fault of the panelists or the Writers' Symposium but some sort of general scheduling glitch.

I brought a short story I have been having a LOT of trouble with. It's been revised half a dozen times and I'm still not happy with it, but at the Read & Critique I got some fresh perspective and solid advice. Since that was what I was after, I consider it a success. The session ended unusually early (while the program claims Read & Critiques run from 6-8:30, last year I didn't get out of either of mine before 10)- winding up right around 8:30. Certainly the small panel and their relentlessly keeping things on track helped a lot!

Shortly after meeting up with the Husband, we ran into Ed and Steph McWalters, who invited us out to dinner, and were shortly joined by Alex Mayo and Greg Harris. On the way to Buca di Beppo we came across some more friends of Alex, who also joined us for late munchies.

Buca di Beppo is a family-style restaurant, which means you order a bunch of crap and every passes it around. Thanks to this policy, and to everyone ordering large portions to share, we ended up with what can only be referred to as a metric fuckton of Italian food. And since I had eaten earlier, I didn't partake...much (except the garlic bread, bruschetta, carbonera-type pasta, and pizza). During dinner I was charmed by a conversation about the variety of ways hemorraghic viruses can kill you (Ebola FTW in that case). Even with such a large group, we ended up with pounds of leftovers, which we packed up and sent home with the only local, Greg. Hope his family enjoys Italian food.
The Husband and paused to check out the progress of Cardhalla- very impressive even on Day One- and staggered back to our swank hotel room where we watched a rerun of Law & Order and rested up for the next day.

Well, the Husband ended up waking with a pinched nerve in his neck, so he definitely didn't sleep, and I didn't much. But it didn't really impact Day Two. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Maze!

E-books are all fine and good, but I quite literally feel nauseous at the thought of ever getting rid of my physical books. After all, they are good for all kinds of things besides reading:

1) Doorstops
2) Makeshift coffee table
3) Lash them together for a raft in case of flood
4) Build a fort
5) Maze


I can see it now.

Me: "Oh, this title near the bottom looks interesting, maybe I can angle it out realllllll slow and-WAAAAH!"  >CRASH<

Book mazes: not for bookworms.