Con Report: Confluence 2018

Confluence 2018I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since my first visit to Confluence as a professional writer. In 2013, I was promoting a speculative fiction anthology I had edited and announcing my contract with Dog Star Books to publish my first novel the next year. Now, my fourth novel comes out next month, and Confluence has become one of my favorite conventions. A weekend where I can relax, have fun with friends, and meet awesome new authors.

FRIDAY

Got a later start than usual because I had to get some day-job work done in the morning, but I hit the road by 11 AM. Considering I drive to western Pennsylvania a few times a year now, I have my routine down to a science. I arrived at the convention hotel in mid-afternoon, immediately got to hug some friends, and had plenty of time to check into my room before my first programming event. 

Big shout-out to the lovely people who run the “con suite” at Confluence. They always have fantastic food, and they were happy to feed me a snack when I popped in looking for emergency sustenance even though they weren’t totally set up for the weekend yet.

A 6 PM, I participated in a panel that explored villains in pop culture (books, movies, and television). We had a great discussion about the difference between a villain and an antagonist and touched on some of the classics in the genre. I’ve participated in this panel topic before, and it’s really not complete without mentioning Sauron and Darth Vader.

I was in desperate need of real food afterward, despite the aforementioned snack. I snagged a new friend and we headed for a nearby bagel place. But they were closed! Primanti Bros. it was then, and I managed to satisfy my need for carbs and cheese in the form of flatbread pizza instead.

Back at the hotel, I closed out the rest of the evening celebrating a book launch with the fun folks from Fortress Publishing.

SATURDAY

I’ve been trying to do new things at conventions lately to avoid falling into a rut, so this year I made a point to attend two “kaffeklatsches” with successful authors to listen to them speak. A kaffeklatsche is when a small group of people (usually by signing up for available slots at the beginning of a convention) get to have an interactive discussion with the host that is more casual than a formal Q&A or panel session with a larger audience. On Saturday morning, I had the privilege to hear author Catherynne M. Valente talk about her publishing journey, the hilarious origins of her recent book Space Opera (including a short lecture on why Eurovision is apparently the most amazing thing ever), and fun stories from life as a writer. She was very lovely and very pregnant, and I wish her success and health in the near future.

I ran from there to my other panel of the weekend, where I discussed genre-blending with authors Brian Koscienski, Larry Ivkovich, and A.M. Rycroft. Doing panels when you’ve become friends with everyone else behind the head table is always a blast, especially when you’re all able to mock and heckle each other in a way that is loving (and doesn’t exclude the audience members by relying too much on in-jokes).

Directly after that, I had the opportunity to read from my upcoming novel, Steel Time, for a fabulous audience. This is the first time I’ve read from that, so I was glad they laughed in all the right places during a very intense scene!

Confluence 2018 Mike ArnzenFinally — freedom for the rest of the day. The first thing I did was go get the bagel I was deprived of the day before. Thus fortified, I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the con, chatting with people, harassing my favorite horror author Mike Arnzen, making an excursion for ice cream, and enjoying mead at a book launch (where I won a book in a raffle!). I joined some friends from dinner, during which we discovered that Shannon had never been to an IKEA. Luckily, there was one right across the street, and we treated her to a whirlwind tour.

Back at the hotel, I had a lovely evening chatting with fellow writers in the hotel bar (as we do), then closing out the evening by searching for chocolate in the con suite with publisher Ian Randal Strock.

SUNDAY

The first thing I did was hit the con suite for coffee. Ian Randal Strock was there, so I’m convinced he spent the whole night in the con suite. He was wearing a different shirt, but I see through his claims otherwise.

Then, I attended my second kaffeklatsch of the weekend with author J.D. Barker, who gave an impromptu lecture on ways to market books. I got some great ideas that I’m excited to speak to my publishers about.

After a last round through the dealers room, where I of course bought more books than I meant to, I had a chance to sign books in the lobby. I love chatting with potential readers, and it amuses me that they’re always so surprised when I’m totally cool with them taking a postcard with the link to the ebook version. As someone who was recently excited to expand the number of shelves dedicated to my “to be read” pile, I’m the last person to demand people buy a physical copy of a book over digital.

The highlight of my weekend was spending time with my friend Shannon Eichorn. I’ve known her through the convention scene for a few years now, and I love that she’s turned into a real friend rather than just a casual acquaintance that I see a few times a year. I’m excited that her first book is coming out next month — look for my spotlight and review of Rights of Use on the blog soon.

Confluence 2018 Shannon Eichorn

And that was it! The one thing I hadn’t done so far that weekend was a trip to Steak n Shake, so I enjoyed a quiet lunch to recover from a weekend of extroversion. After the 4-hour drive home, it was nice to climb into bed and watch Netflix with kitty snuggles.

As usual, I can’t wait to do it all again next year.


The final haul:

Confluence 2018 final haul

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2 thoughts on “Con Report: Confluence 2018

  1. I was fortunate enough to hear Catherynne Valente speak back when she published Habitation of the Blessed. I found her to be incredibly engaging at the time. Sounds like that hasn’t changed.

    Like

  2. Pingback: July Wrap-Up & August Goals | J.L. Gribble Online

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