This past weekend I was honored to be invited to return to Cleveland ConCoction! I had such a great time in 2016 that I accepted eagerly. It’s one of my favorite conventions in terms of how authors are treated, by both the con and attendees. I had a great weekend of book sales, catching up with old friends, and meeting new people!
This was the first time I’ve ever flown to a convention, so it felt a bit weird lugging two suitcases and my laptop back for a three-day trip. But packing my books in suitcases was cheaper than shipping! Of course, I then felt even more ridiculous when there were 20 of us on the flight from Baltimore to Cleveland. I watched the luggage being loaded from my seat on the plane, and literally one-third of it was mine.
The flight was probably so empty because it was ridiculously early in the morning. I arrived to the convention hotel hours early, so acquired coffee and camped out in the lobby to continue reviewing the proof for book 3. Eventually, I was able to pick up my badge and set up my books in Authors Alley. The fun had commenced!
My first panel of the con was “Author Perspectives on Fan Fiction,” which was well-attended for being at noon on a Friday. We figured this might be an intense topic, so the panelists had strategized ahead of time how we might handle any unruly audience members. Luckily, everyone was polite — but also quiet. We managed to have an interesting discussion nonetheless, covering topics such as how fanfic can be a great way to start writing and how the panelists would view fanfic of our own work. (My answer to that one: I’d be honored but stay away from it because I’d never want to inadvertently steal any ideas.)
The best part of the panel was becoming quick friends with two of the panelists! Author Brent D. Seth started out writing Doctor Who fic before finding his niche with comedic science-fiction. Sara Dobie Bauer writes vampire rom-coms, with some Sherlock on the side. The three of us had a great time together, whether wandering the halls or holding up the bar.
One of the highlights of my weekend was meeting an amazing Professor Snape cosplayer — and getting to have a drink with him! For those curious, his potion of choice is an Italian margarita.
My late-night panel that night was “What is Urban Fantasy?” Many thanks to the audience and my fellow panelists for bearing with me as my brain slowly turned to mush (I had been up since 4 AM). The discussion was lively, and we discussed the tropes of the genre and recommended our favorites.
I totally meant to find a party afterward, but I’d reached my limit. I resolved to do better the next night and passed out promptly.
Despite bringing workout clothes to pad the books in my suitcases, I knew ahead of time that I was probably never stepping foot inside the gym. I slept in Saturday morning and felt much better. Then a new dilemma arose. This was the first time I had been at a con “alone.” While I knew people, I wasn’t quite comfortable harassing them to join me for breakfast. Luckily, I was perfectly comfortable attaching myself to a random group to sit with at the hotel buffet.
Afterward, it was time for another panel! This time, the topic was on “Vampires, Werewolves, and Gods: Rewriting Legends.” The room quickly fell into two camps: Either monsters are monsters, or monsters are humans, too. We had a lively debate that included the perks to both sides and excellent examples of both.
Then it was time for a quick lunch before my reading. I shared the author showcase with multiple authors who all read short selections and answered questions from the audience. I read one of my favorite scenes from Steel Magic (sassy Toria is sassy) and discussed how family has become one of the constant themes of my work.
The rest of the day was spent holding court with other cool writers in Authors Alley, then moving the show to the bar for dinner. Then it was back to work with my next late-night panel on “Why Villains Matter.” Darth Vader is always a handy example for that discussion, but we also explored other famous examples from the spectrum of speculative fiction and even touched on what makes a villain in other genres.
Afterward, Sara had to head home and would not be back the next day, so the trio had come to an end. I hope to see her and Brent at other conventions in the future!
It was time to drown my sorrows! To make up for the previous night, I headed for the parties. This was my first experience with the Barfleet scene, but it was a great time and everyone was lovely and welcoming.
I stayed up long enough to see the clock switch from 1:59 to 3 AM, which didn’t cause me quite as much pain the next morning as I thought it would (thanks mainly to a large latte and a quick bowl of cereal from the con suite). For being a morning panel on the Sunday after the time change, “Post-Apocalypse: How Will It End” was fairly well attended. We talked about the end of the world, both in fiction and in real life; the difference between apocalypse and post-apocalypse stories; and analyzed whether all such stories were automatically dystopias.
Since my flight out of Cleveland wasn’t until late, I spent the rest of the con hanging out in Authors Alley. I sold enough books (!!!) that I managed to condense two suitcases down to one (very heavy) suitcase, then left the hotel for the first time all weekend to grab a late lunch with some friends.
The best thing about cons is that anything can happen. Like having lunch at McDonalds with a fish. There was a method to the madness! A college student had attended the convention on the first weekend of her spring break, and it was too cold to leave the fish in the car.
Eventually, it was time to head home (which was good, because exhaustion had set in by that point). Despite my flight being delayed an hour, I made it home in one piece. I can’t wait to be back next year.