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Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Sphinx's Day at DragonCon 2014

I've never been to DragonCon on a Saturday, and wooooooooooooooooo... what a day... quick breakdown of the day:

8:15 am: Arrived in Atlanta, parked at Peachtree Center (willing to pay the extra to park nearby than go hunting way off for a cheaper spot), made way to the registration line outside the Sheraton. Had to walk 3 or 4 blocks just to find the end of the line. Thankfully, the line moved quickly that time of day. Unfortunately lost my tail at some point in line.

8:45 am: Got attendee badge and looked over map of con. Realizing that not only was the con spread out among four hotels, the vendors were in a separate section this year at AmerisMart. Decided to head over to the Marriott which connects directly to the Hyatt and Hilton

10:00 am: Dave and I sat in on the filmmakers' meet-and-greet meeting, despite not having a film in the DragonCon film festival. But met some nice people and Dave got to pass around his info card.

11:00 am: Checked out the sword armory (I was asked by the young lady overseeing the room to stand in the middle of the room away from everything so my wings would not knock anything down.) Also checked out the historical guns/military weapons exhibit next door, where they did not mind my wings because, as they said, "Your wings are more likely to get messed up than the guns."

11:30 am: Brief snack-lunch at the Hyatt. Shocked to find line for the ladies' room was not a mile long.

12:00 pm: Checked out the Artists Alley/Art Show. Ran into the wonderful people at Mystic Reflections, who we met at Sci-fi Summer Con last June. Saw some awesome artwork, chatted with some comic book artists, hit more people with my wings.

1:30 pm: Visited the Walk of Fame, where many of the invited celebrity guests were stationed. Kind of made me sad to realize I didn't recognize half of them, but Dave and I got to meet and talk to two cast members from our all-time favorite TV show: Trace Beaulieu (Dr. Forrester/Crow T. Robot) and Frank Conniff ("TV's Frank") from Mystery Science Theater 3000! Nicest guys I have ever met. So super, they even accepted two copies of my book that I offered as a gift. They may not read it, but Frank asked me to sign his copy :) Naturally, got autographed pictures from both of them.

3:00 pm: I rested my barking feet while David waited in line to see Galaxy of the Guardian's director James Gann. Unfortunately, the line was so long, Dave ducked out before he could meet him to be sure he was at my author panel.*

*side note: We past by the line for folks to take pictures with Patrick Stewart, which had its own private area. The line snaked through literally four connected rooms, and that wasn't even to get his autograph. Just a photo with him. The line to see Cary Elwes to get a signed copy of his new book was also a massive line, probably a 1-1.5 hour wait.

4:00 pm: Author Panel "Kissing optional: Is Romance Necessary in YA?" Was well attended and went very well. Met authors Delilah S. Daweon, Shaun Hutchinson, and also DragonCon moderators Lil Watson and Alexa Donne. Got to share my book cards and left some for attendees to pick up at the info table. Thank you to Bev Kodak for allowing me to participate!

5:30 pm: After the panel went overtime, Dave and I both conceded to exhaustion and made our way home. Ordered pizza.

Good day overall. Picture time!

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Little Thought about Sci-fi Conventions...

With DragonCon coming up this weekend--which I have not attended in about four or five years, despite it being only about a hour away from where I live--it's got me thinking about the world of science-fiction conventions and the role of "fantasy" and "fiction" in our lives.

I used to go to sci-fi conventions more often. The Sci-fi Summer Con I promoted my book at last June was probably the first con I've attended since aforementioned 4-5 years ago. DragonCon, from my memory, is overwhelming--it is spread out between 4 adjacent hotels in Atlanta. It was a toss up between whether I would do an author panel at this one, or try to get a booth for the Decatur Book Festival since it is also this weekend. But I did Decatur last year, to lackluster results, although it's a great book fest if you can ever get out to it. Also, since DragonCon is a hub for filmmakers and movie people too, it's a networking opportunity for my husband as well.

Plus, it's free to do the DragonCon author panel, besides the cost of attending the con for a day. It's over $500 to get a booth at the Decatur Book Festival. So, minimal budget wins.

But DragonCon get me thinking about how the impact of fantasy on our lives. When people go to these cons, it is like stepping onto a whole other planet, or alternate reality. People tend to forget themselves, which is the point, probably...they transform into this other element, whether it's the characters they dress up as, or getting star-struck by the invited celebrity guests, or immersing themselves in the role-playing games.

On the one hand, it's a whole level of fun you don't normally get. It's like Halloween arrived early, only with more expensive but exotic loot. You can be someone else for a day, and unlike online RPG games, you actually interact with people face to face. It's a bizarre line between anonymity and identity, as it's really you instead of a pixelated version of you, but you can put whatever name you want on your attendee badge and explore this realm of fanatics without giving away who you really are.

On the other hand, it also makes it a little scary. I've seen some people become so enthralled with their fictional personas, so enamored with the temporary escape that these sorts of cons offer, that they can become desperate to keep the fantasy going. It starts to become a substitute for real life, because yes, real life sucks sometimes (or a lot, depending on what you're going through). But when you wake up in the morning, it's reality you wake up to, not the fantasy. For people who can't find the proper balance, it can become self-destructive. You hope people going to these cons can make the distinction between reality and fantasy, but you never know.

I guess I point this out because my writing in the fantasy genre ties into it, a little bit. Books are a temporary escape from real life as well, although I hope in the process the readers learn something from what they read. At least no one can go trolling the characters in a book.

So here's hoping to a good weekend, a short reprieve from reality into the jungles of fantasy, and maybe we'll all walk away with a little more knowledge and some fun memories.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Come See Me at DragonCon on Labor Day weekend!

This upcoming Labor Day weekend, come to the biggest sci-fi/fantasy convention on the East Coast: DragonCon!

Aside from being a huge pop-culture event in Atlanta, you can come visit me at the YA Literature panel: "Kissing Optional: Does YA Need Romance?" to be held on Saturday, August 30 at 4:00 p.m. in the Marriott Hotel. I will be joined by fellow YA authors Delilah S. Dawson (Wicked As They Come), Lil Watson, and Alexa Donne.

Bring a copy of my book with you and I'll happily sign it (and give you a hug...but only if you want it. It's free.)

See what else is brewing in the YA Lit panels at DragonCon here:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Passion vs. Livelihood: Can the Two Survive in Tandem?

I suppose it is commonplace for many artists, no matter what your medium: when you start creating with the sole purpose to sell your creation, the artistic passion leaves you.

You know that old saying: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” So when you discover your talent, the thing that gives you the greatest sense of “living,” the thing that others even tell you “hey, you’re really good at that!” you start to think that this should be the vehicle by which you make your living.

You start looking for opportunities to sell your work. You see some advertisements or postings online looking for what you have to offer. You say, “Finally, a paying opportunity!” So you do what you do, and 99% of the time your work does not get picked up, but hey, you’re still doing what you love, right?

Well, sort of.

Why, when suddenly there is the urgency of getting something back for the work you do, does the passion wither?

I have met others who went about writing, drawing, painting, what have you, with the primary purpose of earning money from it (whether or not they considered the product very marketable), and once upon a time silly, naive me would ask, “But, what about doing this for the sake of art?”

To which I received rounds of laughter in response.

Yes, we all must pay the bills. Yes, we’d all like to quit our 9 to 5’s and do what we love to do all day long. And when you go on social media sites and see other people doing just that (or giving the illusion of doing just that), you say to yourself, “Why not me?”

But why was it so much more fun when you were creating for, well, fun? Is it the pressure of feeling like you must sell something in order to have a livelihood that ruins it?

I ask because there was a time where if I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t happy. It was an addiction, my personal “high.” And that’s how I still am—writing is my escape, my chance to get away for a couple of hours into the jungle of my brain. But now, as deadlines loom on me, as the need to try to make a career out of this or else I’ll be nothing for the rest of my life, I am almost daunted by the keyboard and screen. Oftentimes I don’t even want to touch the laptop.  I am only writing this because this rant isn’t for the sake of anything other than getting it out there, getting it out of me.

So you say, “Then just write for fun. Don’t worry about the rest. It’ll come in time.”

Lack of time, money, self-preservation. The first two, we starve for and attempt to gather to the point of futility. The third, it becomes a sort of joke, and illusion, because in one’s attempt to gather the first two, it slowly eats away and decays the third thing, at least mentally and spiritually. You waste away while trying to keep the people you love and care for aloft above the rising tide.

So you say, “There will always be a way to find time and money when you need it. Your art is your self-preservation.”

 Is art the ultimate selfishness? Because it’s solely for you, after all is said and done—maybe even a cry for attention, hoping someone out there notices you? Or is it the ultimate altruism, because it’s giving yourself to the world, putting your truth on display in the hopes it teaches someone else, knowing that most of the time, nothing is to be personally gained?

Is that why passion and monetary gain cannot coexist? They stem from opposite needs? Does one have to be sacrificed in order to maintain the other?

Okay, I’m finished now. You may resume enjoying your lives.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Another nice little review...

It was made aware to me that a kind reader posted a review of "Scholar and Sphinx Book 1" on Barnes and Noble's website, which is the first for that particular site. It was very sweet, so please take a look (and maybe treat yourself to a copy of the book while you're there):