Tag Archives: conventions

Monday Musings: Missing DragonCon

Like so many of you, like so many of my fans, my colleagues, my friends, I was supposed to be in Atlanta for DragonCon this Labor Day weekend. Yes, I have taken part in several online panels and visited with a writing workshop group – all through Zoom – and those appearances have been enjoyable. Let’s be honest, though: Even the best Zoom panels – and all of those I participated in were well run – cannot replace a live DragonCon. Missing the con has left me frustrated and sad, and I know I’m not the only one.

To state the obvious, the tragedy of this pandemic can be measured in lives lost, in lingering medical issues, in economic dislocation at a level not seen since the Great Depression. People have suffered and are suffering still. And in that context, the cancellation of a science fiction/fantasy convention is a tiny thing, barely worthy of mention.

And yet, it is indicative of so much that the Covid crisis has cost us on several levels.

For those of you who don’t know about DragonCon, it is, as I say, a SF/Fantasy convention that takes place every Labor Day weekend in the Peachtree section of Atlanta. It draws anywhere from 75,000 to 90,000 fans and professionals to the city, including artists, writers, editors, agents, actors, directors, costumers, make-up specialists, and others connected to science fiction and fantasy and horror in all their manifestations. The convention is particularly famous for its costumes which are on display during a well-known and much-anticipated parade along Peachtree Street on the Saturday morning of that weekend. DragonCon is, for lack of a better analogy, Mardi Gras for geeks.

For me personally, and, I know, for many friends as well, the absence of the convention leaves a hole in our emotional lives. Most writers work in relative isolation. We spend our work hours researching and writing on our own, communing with the characters who inhabit our imaginations. In normal years, interactions on Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms supplement the personal experiences with colleagues and fans we expect from workshops and conventions and signings. This year, of course, social media is all we have.

And while the cancellation of each convention this year has been a disappointment, DragonCon is more than just another convention. For me, and for countless others, it is THE convention. It is the centerpiece of my professional year. Everything else I do builds to DragonCon. I reach more of my audience in those four days in Atlanta – through well-attended panels and readings, through signings, through the simple act of walking from one venue to another with so many people – than I do at all my other events combined. More important, I get to see a great number of my writing friends and associates. Every meal is a chance to catch up with an old friend. Every evening in one of the many hotel bars (usually the Westin) my friends and I gather to talk shop and laugh and share news good and bad. It’s very much like a family reunion.

DragonCon also offers countless opportunities for making new professional connections and finding opportunities for work, for collaboration, for broadening our careers in any number of ways. I’ve been attending the convention regularly for the better part of a decade, and over that period I have met with my agent many times; I have had discussions with lots and lots of editors – both those I had worked with already and those I hoped to work with in the future; I have been invited into anthologies; I have worked through plotting problems or character issues or world building conundrums with fellow professionals; I have sold a TON of books. Missing out on those sorts of professional openings, particularly this year, when business is especially tough, serves only to deepen my sense of loss.

DragonCon is famous as well for its dealers’ exhibits, which fill three or more warehouse-sized floors in the America’s Mart in downtown Atlanta. Book sellers, gamers, jewelers, knitters, woodworkers, metalworkers, costumers, and artists in so many other crafts build their years around the convention, just as we writers do. I can hardly imagine what a blow the con’s cancellation must be for them.

As I mentioned before, the convention fills bars and restaurants throughout that part of the city, not to mention all the hotels. I have no doubt that with this event, and ones like it, called off, service industry workers are suffering. It must be harder to find work. Few if any will be earning overtime pay. Cancel an event that brings 80,000 extra people to the city, and it HAS to have a devastating impact, and that impact will be felt most by those who can afford it least.

Exacerbating personal isolation, limiting professional opportunities, deepening economic dislocation – the cancellation of DragonCon offers a view in microcosm of what the pandemic has done to our society. We miss our friends. We begrudge the loss of professional interaction and book sales. We worry for those who need the con’s economic benefits even more than we do personally.

I hope to be back in Atlanta at this time next year. I say that for selfish reasons, for professional ones, and, yes, out of concern for those who depend on the convention for their livelihoods. DragonCon’s cancellation may be a small matter in the constellation of concerns brought on by the pandemic. But as with so much else that has happened this crazy year, its impact is more widely felt than one might expect.

Wishing you a great week.

Monday Musings: The Social Side of Cons

At the end of this week, I will drive to Charlotte for the Saga Professional Development Conference, where I will be speaking over the weekend. It should be a fun event and I hope to see many of you there.

As I prepare for it, though, I realize that I left something out of my recent Monday Musings post on attending conventions. Clearly, we all want to glean from our conventions and conferences all that we can professionally. But there is another reason we attend these gatherings. I am looking forward to my panels and my workshop, but mostly I’m excited to spend time with my friends and colleagues, to reconnect with fellow writers who I don’t get to see nearly enough.

I live in a tiny town in the rural south. It’s a college town – good places to eat, lots of cultural opportunities, and a wonderful community of smart, interesting, socially-aware people. But I’m pretty much the only speculative fiction writer in the area. There are plenty of writers in town – and I spend time with several of them – but our genre is not well represented.

Moreover, writing is a solitary act (if you don’t count the clamor of voices in our heads). It’s easy to feel isolated in this profession, especially early in one’s career, when we haven’t yet had the chance to build a writing community.

And so when we attend conventions, conferences, and the like, of course we want to sell our books and stories, of course we want to connect with agents and editors who can help us further our careers. But we also want to build that community of colleagues and friends. I’ve been in the business for a quarter century, and I still find new friends at nearly every event I attend. I’m not particularly good at small talk, at being “social” on demand. To some degree I have to force myself. There is a part of me – almost always – that wants to retreat to my hotel room and watch TV, or read, or work, or take a nap. Any of those would be easier than making myself into Socialize Guy. And I did make a point in that previous post I mentioned about building in alone time when attending a convention. I believe that’s important.

The danger lies in retreating completely. As I said, writing is a solitary act. Many of us are drawn to it for just that reason. I love my work time, I enjoy being alone with my ideas, my creativity. That element of my job comes naturally to me. It’s the hobnobbing I struggle with.

Yet, I’m fortunate. I’ve been doing this for long enough that I have lots of friends in the business. I already know many of the people I’ll be seeing this weekend, and I couldn’t be more excited to catch up with them. Whatever social anxiety I have is helped by those long-standing friendships. I know that what I’m describing here is difficult, and even downright terrifying, for many people. And all I can say is, we’re really a friendly bunch, and we are more like you than you might think. Make the effort to step outside of your comfort zone, even if it’s just to introduce yourself to one person.

Because as much as we all want to connect with an agent or get invited into an anthology, it is every bit as important to start building your community. And the truth is, I wouldn’t trade a single one of my dear friends for all the book contracts and anthology invites in the world.

Although, if you happen to be a movie agent, you should ignore that last line. Really. Call me!

Have a great week!

Monday Musings: Getting the Most Out of a Convention

I am just finishing up a very nice weekend at Boskone, a terrific regional convention in Boston. This was my second Boskone, and I feel that I am starting to know people at the con, and also to be known. I hope to be back again next year.

The truth is, this was the first convention in some time that I have truly enjoyed. I am frustrated by elements of the business right now, and I’m struggling with my creative process. Over the past year or so, those frustrations have kept me from getting as much out of my convention appearances as I would have liked.

I have read plenty of “How To Approach a Convention” advice posts. I’ve even written a few. There is lots of helpful advice out there on how to network at conventions, how to comport oneself on panels and at readings, how to approach the entire con experience in a way that will maximize its impact on career growth. This is not one of those posts.

Rather, I am thinking about what I did this weekend to ensure that I had a positive emotional experience, to make certain that I didn’t come away with deepening frustration or the sense that I had wasted my time. So here is my $.02 on making the most of the convention experience on a more personal level.

Go into a convention weekend with realistic expectations. The best conventions I’ve attended are not necessarily the ones that result in book deals or anthology invitations or even new relationships with Movers and Shakers. No, the best weekends are the ones that simply leave me energized. You don’t need to have a huge breakthrough or a career changing moment for the weekend to be worth your time and money.

Along similar lines, be aware of the smaller moments and look to harness them. That energizing experience can come from something as simple as a stimulating panel discussion or a late night conversation in the hotel bar or a reading that helps you see beyond a plot point that has held up your WIP. Don’t overlook these encounters and experiences; don’t take them for granted. Try to recognize them as they happen, even if it’s on the very first afternoon of the convention, and make note of the moment. “What a great conversation! [For instance.] Even if nothing else happens this weekend, that justifies my being here.”

Take some time away from the convention. This is a big one for me. I love to travel and explore, and since conventions often take us to new places, I take the opportunity to see the city or landscape beyond the convention hotel. As an example, last year, the first time I attended Boskone, I walked part of the Boston Freedom Trail, seeing historical spots I’d written about in the Thieftaker books. This year it was too cold and windy for that, but on Thursday night, just after my arrival, I went out to dinner on my own, enjoying some good food and the ambiance of a fun restaurant. The next morning, I met a dear relative for lunch in Quincy Market.

The corollary to taking time away from the convention is don’t be afraid to be alone for a while. When we attend conventions, we often feel that we have to be social every minute of every day. That’s not only unrealistic, for many of us it’s a recipe for burnout. Alone time is healthy, it allows us to take stock of the experience we’re having and perhaps make some adjustments in attitude and approach. That dinner I had alone was great fun. So was the one I had the next night with several friends. We need a blend of experiences.

And since I mentioned attitude… Go into the weekend with as positive an attitude as possible. This doesn’t mean that you should be annoyingly peppy or anything like that. But do try to approach the convention with the expectation that it will be a positive experience. This year I was dreading Boskone a little bit. Not because it isn’t a great con, but because my recent conventions had left me so disappointed. But the day I flew up to Boston I tried to force myself out of my own head, as it were. I knew that if I approached the weekend expecting the worst, that would be what I got. Instead, I went in open to whatever might happen. The con wasn’t perfect, but I managed to laugh off those moments that didn’t go so well, and embrace those that did.

A lot of this is pretty basic stuff — and a lot of it can be applied to experiences other than conventions — but now and then it helps to be reminded of even the most simple notions. I needed the reminder before this weekend. And if you find yourself heading to a convention with feelings of trepidation or even dread, maybe this post will help. I hope so.

Enjoy your week!

A Quick-Tip Tuesday Post on Writing Communities

Writing can be a lonely profession. We often work on our own, toiling alone for hours at a time, sending our work into what can feel like a marketplace vacuum, and waiting for feedback that can be hurtful, even brutal. It’s hard, and our solitude makes it harder. Yes, we have loved ones on whom we can lean for support, but there’s no substitute for talking these things out with people who understand the process and the pain, the toil and the isolation.

Today’s Quick-Tip Tuesday post at Magical Words is about writing communities — conventions, retreats, crit groups — and the benefits they bring to writers of all levels. I’m recently back from ConCarolinas and the Roaring Writers 2016 Retreat, where I led critiques and taught, and I have a new writing group in my town, so this topic has been on my mind lately. I hope you enjoy the post, which you can find here.

Keep writing!

My Schedule For DragonCon!

I am delighted to present my schedule for DragonCon, which begins on Friday in Atlanta. I will be appearing as D.B. Jackson (and that’s how I’m listed in the program), but will be talking about work written under both of my pen names. I have lots of panels, a reading, and a couple of signings. And if you can’t find me at one of those events, I will also be in a dealers’ room booth — Tairen’s Lair/Author/s Lair — selling and signing books. Can’t find me even in the booth? Check the Westin Bar. I’m probably there. So come by and say hello. Details below:

First off, my panels:

Title: Race and Gender Issues in Alternate History
Description: The treatment of race and gender in the Alternate History genre.
Time: Fri 11:30 am Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: The Plot Thickens: Mystery & Suspense in UF
Description: How mystery & suspense characterize Urban Fantasy.
Time: Fri 02:30 pm Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow
Description: Readings, music, & more from a motley band of costumed authors, plus swag!
Time: Fri 07:00 pm Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Blending History & the Fantastic
Description: Challenges & advantages of using historical settings & events in speculative fiction.
Time: Fri 08:30 pm Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: World Building—Part 1: Building Alternate Eras
Description: Alt-world creators tell secrets of building brave new worlds, from research to history deviations.
Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Magepunk: Sorcery as Technology
Description: Alchemical rules or arcane industrial revolution? We focus on media depictions of magic as technology.
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Spellbound: Magic Systems in UF
Description: Authors in the genre describe the characteristics of the magic that serves as the underpinnings of their worlds
Time: Sun 08:30 pm Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Realms of the Dead: Ghosts and Spirits in UF
Description: Panelists discuss the various types of ghosts and spirits found in the genre
Time: Mon 10:00 am Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

My reading:

Title: Reading: D.B Jackson/David B. Coe
Time: Mon 11:30 am Location: Marietta – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

My Booth Appearances:

Once again this year I will be in the Tairen’s Lair/Author’s Lair booth in the dealer’s room. That is booth # 1223-25 on the first floor of the American’s Mart, Building 2, West Wing

I will be in the booth . . .

Friday from 4:00pm-6:30pm

Saturday, 10:00am-12:00pm, and 1:30-pm-3:00pm

Sunday, 10:00am-12:00pm, and 4:00pm-5:30pm

Monday, 1:00pm-3:00pm, and 4:00pm-5:00pm

Finally, I will also having signings at The Missing Volume, also in the America’s Mart, booth 1301-03, 1400-02.

My signings at The Missing Volume:

Sunday, 6:00pm-7:00pm

Monday, 3:00pm-4:00pm

DragonCon, Here I Come . . . Again

This is one of those announcements that I just love to make: I am very pleased to say that I have been invited back to DragonCon as a guest (as D.B. Jackson, but I’ll be there promoting work under both my writing names). I will be speaking on panels, (perhaps) reading from my latest work, and selling books in the exhibitor’s hall in the Tairen’s Lair/Author’s Lair booth.

DragonCon is one of my favorite conventions, and each year a centerpiece of my event calendar. I am grateful to the folks at the con for having me back again this year. It offers me a chance to catch up with friends, interact with fans, and see all sorts of stuff I don’t see anywhere else — the weird, the impressive, and the unexpected. (As in the Chick-Fil-A zombie cows in this photo from a few years ago. . .)

DragonCowZombies

So, I’ll be in Atlanta the weekend of September 4-7, Labor Day weekend. Hope to see many of you there. For more information about my 2015 appearances, please go to this page.

Jiggity Jig

Yes, that’s right: Jiggity jig. As in “Home again, home again/Jiggity jig.”

I am back home, after a ten-day road trip that included a couple of successful book signing events, a Guest of Honor appearance at MarsCon 25, at least ten stock signings at bookstores in Virginia and North Carolina, and visits with some of my favorite people in the world. It was a great trip.

The only thing greater, is getting back to my wife and daughters, and settling back in to my home.

I am grateful to the folks at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond and the BooKnack in Rock Hill for hosting the signings. I had a great time hanging out with Bishop O’Connell at the Richmond signing and my wonderful friend Faith Hunter at the BooKnack. I’m also grateful to the store managers in Charlottesville and Norfolk, Cary and Durham, Raleigh and Hampton Roads, and all the other places I stopped in along the way, for carrying my books and allowing me to sign stock.  I loved being at MarsCon, and can’t thank enough the great folks who run and attend the convention.

And finally, I am so grateful to my friends who hosted me during the trip — Amy and Paul, Elizabeth and Trip, Faith and Rod.  Thank you all so much. It was so much fun to see you.

Moving on From MarsCon

I’m exhausted after a great weekend at MarsCon. Tomorrow I leave Williamsburg to do a few stock signings in North Carolina and then two bookstore events later in the week: a signing at the Books-A-Million in Gastonia, North Carolina on Tuesday (4-6) and then a signing at the BooKnack in Rock Hill, South Carolina with Faith Hunter on Wednesday (5:30-8:00). I’ll be signing copies of Spell Blind, the first book in my new series from Baen, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, and also copies of my Thieftaker books (Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, and A Plunder of Souls) which I write as D.B. Jackson.  Hope to see many of you along the way.

Today at MarsCon 25

Panels on the best genre books of the past quarter century and overcoming writing blocks in our novels, readings and signings with the wonderful Alethea Kontis, David Weber, and Katherine Kurtz, countless conversations both serious and fun: Just another day at MarsCon 25.  Still more to come this evening, including the masquerade and the charity auction, and right now I’m trying to grab a bit of down time. But it’s been a terrific convention so far.

Exploring During My Down Time

One of my favorite things to do at any convention is take advantage of my down time by exploring the area in which the con is held. While in San Jose for a World Fantasy Convention several years ago I took an epic hike through one of the open space preserves in the foothills above the South Bay. When I was at EerieCon last year, Amy Lass Kauderer was kind enough to take me to a lovely natural area near the convention, and Kim Greyson has twice done the same for me during my previous visits to Calgary. (Kim be ready: I’m coming back in 2015!)

Well today, after a fun breakfast with the MarsCon staff, I drove out to the Colonial National Parkway, a gorgeous road that follows the course of the York River for a stretch. I did some birdwatching along the way, seeing eagles, ducks, loons, cormorants, and grebes, had a terrific lunch of clam chowder and fried oysters at the Yorktown Pub, walked around the Yorktown waterfront for a bit, and then headed back to the hotel. I have plenty to do the rest of the weekend, and I know that the folks here at MarsCon will take good care of me. But for a few hours this morning, I got away from work and experienced a small part of what makes this part of Virginia such a special place.