Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A tale of two conferences

Laura Hayden of Author Author, center
 Bookends. That’s how it worked out. Killer Nashville ran from Aug 24 to 26 and Dragon*Con was from Aug 30 to Sept 3. During my three days of down time I barely had time to empty the suitcase and reload it.

Not sure I’ll book back-to-back events again, but when the dates to things you want to attend are preset, sometimes you don’t have any choice. Killer Nashville is my favorite mystery conference and I don’t want to miss that. I have two science fiction books written so I needed to attend a conference in that genre. Dragon*Con is held in Atlanta, which is a five-hour drive, so it all seemed feasible.

Since the conferences were so different, I’ll talk about each one separately.

Beth Terrell, me, Robbie from B&N
What fun to hang out with Clay Stafford and Beth “Jaden” Terrell again! I met this conference producer and director duo at my first KN and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Beth was her Energizer Bunny self, keeping the train moving without ever losing her cool. Despite Clay’s recent accidents, he was on hand to welcome folks and that was much appreciated.

 The first night was a hoot with Mystery Bingo, created by Greg and Mary Bruss. They created clever cards with mysterious categories. In the “I” category were means of death. You wouldn’t believe how many times “gas” came up as the answer. After a dozen rounds of bingo and no gas at all on my card, I traded that loser in for one with gas on it, and three games later, came up a winner. The prizes were free mysteries from the Bruss’ store Mysteries and More. I selected Murder of a Sleeping Beauty by Denise Swanson, which I read in one night. (good book!)

me with Dr. Bill Bass
Friday, I helped with Registration, from 7:30 a.m. until nearly noon. I took a brief time-out to hear part of Dr. Bill Bass’ talk about forsenics at a fireworks factory explosion. While the slides were gruesome, the reality is that people aren’t whole after an explosion, and it takes a big effort to reassemble them. (What a job, right?) One interesting aside is that he said that shaved legs are common for women, so if they find a shaved leg, they automatically place it into a female pile of limbs.

My husband and I had lunch with Robert Spiller of Colorado and my agent, Holly McClure of Sullivan Maxx at the nearby brew pub. The food was great, the conversation even better.
I participated in the E-revolution panel on Friday. Peter Green, the moderator, did a good job of keeping the discussion on track, and I felt like I got my message across. E-publishing isn’t for wimps. It’s hard work, though the payoffs can be wonderful.

The crime scene dummy and an intrepid author
I shopped at the Barnes and Noble bookstore onsite as well as at the Mysteries and More site where I purchased crime scene bandaids. I can’t wait to use them! The Crime Scene was great, and though I thought the wife did it, I didn't have the patience to prove it.

For dinner, my husband and I met up with my editor Deni Dietz of Five Star and we drove to The Speckled Elephant for Thai food. Deni’s dish of Phad Thai (spelling?) was the best, we all agreed.

me with Jennie Bentley
 I caught up with old friends and made new ones including Ernie Lancaster, Glen Allison, and Stacy Allen. NYT bestseller Jennie Bentley was all smiles during the conference. And we had a great time catching up on news. Alana White, fellow Five Star author, and her husband sat at the banquet table with us on Saturday night, along with Outer Banks writer Joseph Terrell and Veronica. The food and the music at KN were outta sight.

During the conference, I met up with three unpublished writers for critique purposes. We talked about their works, and I hope my remarks will continue to move them along the road to publication. I also staffed the MWA booth with Stacy Allen and SEMWA president Rick Helms.

Maggie, Jay, Marsha, Addie, Terri Lynn
 On Sunday, I had the honor of moderating a panel on Murder and Mayhem which was staffed by four lawyers telling true tales from the courtroom. Jay Drescher, Terri Lynn Cooper, Marsha Lyons, and Addie King – you folks rock.

Doris and Steve Covey
 My posse of Stephen Covey (the live one, as he likes to say), Doris Covey, and Jean Osborn arrived in Atlanta a little after one on Thursday. We checked into our hotel, hopped on MARTA, and picked up our badges at the conference site. Downtown looked busy to a smalltown gal like me, but I  had NO IDEA of the crowds to come, about 30,000 strong.

Jean with the Ghostbuster mobile
 Jean had signed up for a special program which ran from 10 to 4 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so I didn’t hang with her much during the con, though she was the best roommate ever.

 I elected to attend the Writers Workshop track at Dragon*Con, which is chaired by Nancy Knight. She kindly offerred to place me on a panel of my choosing, so I selected “Creating Memorable Characters” on Sunday morning. We sat through a couple of excellent panels and then decided to stretch our legs.

costumed participant
My first thought was “where’d all these people come from?” The hallways were thronged with people between sessions from each of the 62 tracks spread over 4 downtown hotels. Skywalks and connectors were crammed with people and you couldn’t move without the whole group stepping forward. For a claustrophobic person, this was extremely challenging.

 Steve and I toured the marketplaces associated with the conference and the art show. Lots of weapons, costumes, comics, bustiers, books, space toys, masks, hoodwinks, fantasy toys, and more. I couldn’t take it all in. There was an excess of everything.

costumed folks took to the streets during the parade
Did I mention a lot of folks were in costume? You could be walking down the hall next to Princess Leia, a steampunk character, a comicbook character, and so much more. Words fail me even now. It’s as if a firehose of people were sprayed over my mind. Lots of rich color and texture.

 I resolved to only come out of the Writers Track for food, bathroom breaks, and to return to our hotel six metro stops to the north. I met some folks, even some who knew me, which is always a pleasant surprise. Mary Marvella, who I’ve run across online for years, saw my name on my badge and stood up and hugged me like a long-lost relative. We had a two-hour lunch where we talked about everything under the sun. Ran into Laura Hayden at DragonCon as well - what fun! She was dressed as Dr. Who.

periodic table elements in the parade
 My panel on Sunday went well, though I was one of half a dozen authors with such serious scifi credentials that I should have been too humbled to speak. But memorable characters are something I know a lot about, from personal experience and writing, so I said my piece. During Q&A, questions were directed at me, so I felt my presence had made an impact. Afterwards, I sat down with a rheumatologist and talked writing for nearly a half hour. What fun.

parade float
 All too soon it was time to head back to the hotel. Monday was a travel day, but Steve and Jean wanted to hit a few more sessions. Doris and I went to Lennox Center, shopped at Macy’s, and had lunch at Panera. The car ride home that afternoon was accented by thunderstorms, a bad accident on I-75 between Atlanta and Macon, and catnaps.

all tuckered out on Marta
 Again. Either experience would have exhausted me. But doing two so close together has me still reeling a bit. I hope you’ve enjoyed the pics. Remember to follow your dreams. And don’t forget to spend time with your friends. These are important!!!

 Maggie Toussaint