I just had my 11th and final convention of the year. Salt Lake City ComicCon was nuts (in a good way). I haven’t seen official numbers yet, but people were talking about at least 130,000 people. I can believe that. I’m totally fried. I did DragonCon, Rose City ComicCon, and SLCCC back to back. Plus, I picked up some form of con crud at Rose City, so I started Salt Lake under the weather. I still had a great time.
The con staff did a great job managing such a huge event. The volunteers were fantastic. Blake Casselman had the impossible job of managing a zillion panelists and herding cats, and he still pulled it off. This was a very smoothly run con. The guest list was impressive. The panels were fun. And the fans were having a great time.
However, my adventure with late flights and missing luggage after DragonCon, I am reminded that the single best thing about Salt Lake ComicCon is that I can drive an hour home every night and SLEEP IN MY OWN BED.
For the first couple of SLCC’s I didn’t have a booth. I was offered one, but turned it down. For writers it sucks to sell your own books at a convention. That means you are trapped, and you have to have help to run it or you can’t ever leave to be on panels, and then you’ve got to mess around with all that pesky inventory/sales stuff. Basically it is a huge pain.
Luckily, Kevin J. Anderson started the Wordfire Press booth that travels around from convention to convention. Kevin invites in a bunch of other authors, and his people take care of all that pesky business stuff for us. It’s a life saver. Over the last couple of years, the Wordfire booth has turned into a sort of Author Super Booth. For example, this year he had authors like Jim Butcher, Terry Brooks, and Bob Salvatore signing there. Plus, having so many authors in one spot makes it a destination location, where otherwise your solo author booth might get overlooked in the sea of humanity.
I started with a full size table, stacked full of books, and boxes underneath. By day 2 I was raiding my personal home book stash to replenish sold out titles, and by day 3 I was sold out of the first book in three different series and only had a handful of books left. I don’t know if this is the most books I’ve ever sold at one event (it is hard as the author to tell, because you don’t always know which books the fans bought there versus what they brought in with them) but if it wasn’t, it was damned close.
I was next to a bunch of cool authors like Dave Butler, Steve Diamond, Julie Frost, Peter Orullian, and Chuck Gannon. Steve and Julie are both on their first novels and they sold out. (actually the three closest to me had been, or are scheduled to be Book Bombed, and I’m the cover blurb for two of them). One nice thing about the Super Booth is that you’ll get a better known author next to somebody starting out. As one of the established types, it is a lot of fun because as you’re making conversation with a fan who already has all your stuff, you can refer them to other things that they might like. It works really good for the newer authors. Oh, you like the noir detective aspect of Grimnoir, check out Quincy Allen’s Chemical Burn. Urban Fantasy, check out Josh Voght’s Enter the Janitor (great title by the way). Oh, you like the TV show Supernatural? Ramon Terrell was one of the authors in our booth and his other job is being an actor and he got murdered on that show. Boom. Hooking up new readers with authors they might like is a really fun part of my job.
Basically, I shook hands for three straight days. I’d take a break to go be on a panel, then I’d come back and meet more fans. It very rarely let up. I was talking to fans continually.
Speaking of the fans, I’ve got the absolute best fans ever. I’ve just got to say that. I truly do love you guys. You’re freaking awesome. And this weekend I got to speak to hundreds of you. I got letters, fan art, and people were in cosplay from my books.
I had a Green Beret’s wife come by to pick up signed copies of everything. Her husband is a huge fan, and was currently deployed to an undisclosed location doing badass stuff to bad people. He recorded a video for her to play for me, and gave me a unit hat. That was neat, but even cooler, while I was signing her stack of books, somebody else standing in line had heard her story, and paid for all of her books while she wasn’t looking. Just to say thanks for her husband’s service, and then he walked away, anonymous. I didn’t even know until I got done signing, and Steve Diamond leaned over and said, yep, these are all already taken care of. She teared up. Because fans are awesome people like that.
No matter how busy I was, if I am ever in danger of pride, all I had to do was look at Butcher or Brooks’ signing lines, that literally stretched across ten aisles, to be put in my place. Holy crap. I’m a pretty successful author, but Jim does what I do, with another zero on the end of everything.
Speaking of Jim, several of us writers put together a game night. We played Fiasco, which is a perfect, silly, stand-alone RPG for one-off events. Think of it like a Cohen brothers movie, where everything is odd and goes sideways. Ours was like the movie Fargo. Poor Jim ended up as the only decent human being in the cast (a Mexican Catholic priest and champion of SOCIAL JUSTICE I kid you not, thank you so much Fiasco’s random complication tables). But don’t worry, after Jim was horribly injured when Steve and Allen blew up the meth supplies hidden in the basement of his church, Peter and I burned down the local Walmart to avenge him. Yes. It was that sort of game.
I was Krasnov! Russian mafia boss turned witness protection Subway manager, who teamed up with Kitty Krell’s Maria the Social Justice Warrior to rob my drug dealing business associate, Paco Kerplanskly. Chuck Gannon was Danny DeVito, mob enforcer, who had his junk eaten by a rabid racoon. Steve Diamond was Paco the drug dealer, and when my attempt to murder him with Foamy the Racoon accidently targeted local farm supply salesman, Jim Kerplanskly–no relation to Paco–(played by Alan Bahr) who turned vigilante, to get revenge on Peter Orullian’s New Jersey arsonist Rocko, who stole the show, because Peter played Rocko as a sort of brain damaged Rocky Balboa spray tanned Guido pyromaniac ‘CAUSE THAT’S HOW WINNIN’ GETS DONE!
Yeah. I laughed until I cried. I can’t repeat 90% of Peter’s lines because my mother reads this blog. But for the rest of the con anytime two or more of us from that game ended up on the same panel it was only a matter of time before one of us slipped in the line ‘CAUSE THAT’S HOW WINNIN’ GETS DONE! Which is sort of like the theme for Salt Lake ComicCon in my brain forever now.
I was on a bunch of panels. One of the really funny ones was the late night Choose Your Own Apocalypse panel. This is a recurring panel which I was unfamiliar with, but apparently I have a rep for being fearlessly stupid at improv (I’m so glad that DragonCon first contact improve panel wasn’t recorded) I got drafted. Holly gave me the rules that morning, where three panelists represent three different factions, using audience participation to advocate for one particular type of apocalypse, and then I did absolutely zero preparation. 🙂
The three competing factions were the Buggers from Ender’s Game (represented by Dave Butler, who used all of his calm, logical, lawyer skills to make being bred like farm animals by giant mantis monsters not sound half bad), the Borg from Star Trek (represented by Jason King, who went in a surprisingly bible thumping religious revival direction with them… oh, you cunning cyborgs) and I got the Reavers from Firefly.
Apparently, I was born to play a Reaver, because for the next hour I used my Randy Macho Man Savage voice to explain the joys of being a cannibalistic heavy metal redneck. I may have also brought in Mad Max, Borderlands, and President Hector Mountain Dew Camacho for backup. “I think Reavers are having too much fun.” “I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE WORDS COMING OUT OF YOUR FACE MOUTH!” Anyways, I got to sing Bohemian Rhapsody, the audience had a lot of fun, and Reavers won the apocalypse, so that was pretty sweet.
Another panel that was really neat was the big Urban Fantasy panel. There were a bunch of super stars (and me!) on it. On the way in I ended up in the waiting room with the Neon Trees (because that is just how ComicCon is) and then I sat next to Terry Brooks.
Look at that goofy look on my face. You can see the fan boy glee in my eyes. At one point I had to tell Terry that he’d written the very first fantasy novel I’d ever read, and introduced me to the genre. He was so cool that his response was “that’s what I get for being the oldest guy on the panel.” Then to make my already giant ego completely unbearable, when somebody in the audience asked something about how to make unlikable characters still sympathetic, Jim Butcher talked up Monster Hunter Nemesis and used Agent Franks as the example of how to do it. Groovy. So yeah, that was a fun panel.
I really recommend Salt Lake City ComicCon.