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Authoring Cons & Appearances Whimsy

Belated Gen Con Report

In a lot of ways this year’s con was Bizarro Gen Con, where everything was inverted, unconventional, outlandish and unexpected. There was an oddly nostalgic, retro feel, with attendance rocking like it was 1999, but the look was futuristic dystopian, what with the facemasks, prominent health reminders & heightened security presence. And, oh, the luxurious ELBOW ROOM, wowza.

TL;DR edition: the con was phenomenal. It was a triumph. I loved it. But also. The experience was utterly freaking WEIRD.

The big worry going in was (of course) was it safe? Well. The con and the convention center did a remarkable job of communicating the safety measures & safety improvements being implemented–which went way beyond sanitizer stations & reliance on participant mask compliance. And the mask compliance was at or nearly at 100%.

So for me me, with my working immune system, at peak protection interval on my vaccination, and masked to boot? It was a marvelous. I felt as safe as I’ve ever felt in a indoor space packed with strangers. I was especially impressed since Indiana is not known for its enthusiastic support of pandemic protections. Big kudos to the organizers who made a lot of new things happen.

My other big worry going in, of course, was “Will I sell any books this time?” It’s been a hard time for many people financially. Would people be buying? Short answer: Yes. Longer answer, HELL. YEAH.

Sales were phenomenal. I broke my all-time dollar sales record before midday Saturday. By the end of Saturday I’d broken my all-time books sold record, too. Even though Sunday was dead slow, I still hit 3x my 2019 sales. I’ve been musing about causes and differences, and how it all came together.

Numbers. Attendance at cons like Gen Con, has gone from huge to humongous in the past 10 years. The signal to noise ratio in Exhibitor Spaces jam-packed with attendees AND exhibitors skews in favor of larger vendors. And putting all the authors & artists in one big corral really aggravates this problem.

Now, I understand why cons puts all the authors together, and the camaraderie is great, but a basic rule of retail is that there’s a sweet spot for choice. Present too many options of the same type in a row and people won’t choose anything from that selection. I think there were 40 authors on Authors Avenue in 2019. I watched people nope out of entire rows because they Just Couldn’t Even. And I know some people never ever got to Authors Avenue with any money left in their wallets. The Exhibit Hall is just too huge.

Bookselling isn’t a competition, there’s a right book for everyone, but interacting with folks who are swamped by sensory input puts some vendors at a larger handicap than others. I refuse to hard-sell, *period* but if you ever wondered, it’s a popular technique because it is dramatically effective at breaking through Option Overwhelm and choice paralysis.

This year’s Gen Con only had around 20(ish) thousand people, compared to something like 60k in the past. (That’s a TOTALLY UNOFFICIAL PERSONAL GUESS) But for certain there were only about 20 authors stretched out over 2/3 of the 2019 space. That gave every one of us writers a much better than usuall chance to reach attendees who were still engaged & actively shopping. I hope it boosted everyone’s sales.

Artwork. My glorious Daniel Govar character art banners drew people in. For last-minute brainstorm rush jobs, they did AMAZING. Both banners need refining (Swapping out the slogan and the header for Camp Liberty, more obvious series and/or book cover tie-ins for both banners) but the imagery dazzled & intrigued people & started conversations, and that is bookselling platinum. It is PRICELESS. And Weaving In the Ends did its usual great job of tempting crafters to the table. The color palette needs a punch-up, & the cover design needs retooling to fit with the series brand, but I sold every copy I brought, so no complaints.

Variety & discounts. This year I had not only a completed series & a stand-alone to sell, but also a new novel that works as a series-entry book in a whole different genre. That more than doubled my potential audience. And I celebrated the return of convention-going with some pretty enticing bundle-discount pricing. That definitely encouraged people to take a chance on a whole stack of books instead of just one.

Blurbs & pitches. I’ve always known catchy one-breath descriptions were a sales fundamental. But knowing is only 10% of the battle of coming UP with a pitch. This is the first con where I’ve had a proper sales patter for the Restoration series, and damn, what a difference it made! I still need to work on my patter, but I finally have a solid foundation. And I have blurbs that WORK. Finally.

Introvert Corner: This was a fun improvisation I want to remember for future cons. I had an extra chair, and I was on an aisle end, so I used the space to create a zero-interaction shopping zone: the chair, a shelf with a mini-version of my table display and a big sign promising browsers I would not interact in any way unless they came around to the front of the table.

It made people happy. People took pictures of Introvert Corner. Several folks visited multiple times to take a break in the chair & initiated chatting with me, and that was lovely. Did it lead to any sales? Well, yes. But more importantly, it let me give a safe shopping opportunity to folks who might have otherwise felt pressured. And that made ME happy.

There was a lot more to Gen Con, but my experience of it really began and ended with the Exhibit Hall. So I’m going to end this post here, except for a last digressional musing that’s only semi-related. And a cat pic. Because everything is better with cats, and also I didn’t take many pics at Gen Con.


The phrase “year of the asterisk” has been bouncing around the interwebz when people get to discussing the times we live in. It doesn’t work for me. All the current nicknames I’ve seen—The Year Everything Changed, the Pandemic Year(s), The Great Pause, carry a sense of transience that’s been rubbing me wrong for AGES.

The refrain of “this too shall pass, we’ll put this behind us, it’s only temporary” is the song of denial.

2020-2021 will not be relegated to the sidelines as aberrant. These years are not producing outlier statistics that will be set aside because they skew averages and make for untidy graphs.

There never was any going back to normal. Normal is little more than an emotional snapshot of Now. It’s built on what came before, it rests on what we know from our past experiences, yes, but there’s never any “going back.”

Time only goes one way for us linear-living beings.

We aren’t living in Asterisk Times. We have been on the future’s two-year-long nightmare shakedown cruise.

This is The Way Things Are and Will Be. The faster people accept that, the faster we can focus on making normal better.


Mr. Pip’s first walk on the leash. We went all the way around the house and back up the steps before he got spooked by a passing car.

Categories
Authoring Cons & Appearances Whimsy Writing Life

Gen Con 2021: ready to rock & roll

I’m ready to hit the road in the early AM.

  • Suitcase & car loaded except for last-pack items.
  • Electronics updated & charged.
  • Clothes laid out.
  • All prep lists checked off.
  • “Don’t forget” list of last-pack items updated & ready.

And because a super-kind coworker took my shift tonight, I get to enjoy a restful evening before the hectic rush & excitement of tomorow’s drive, check-in & set-up. Huzzah. TV & comfort food, here I come.

Now I digress.

If it seems like I’m overplanning a 3-hr road trip to a 4 day event I’ve attended a dozen times, let me share this gem: I once left behind my wallet on a 2-hr road trip I’d done dozens of times. True story. I would lose track of my own head if it wasn’t firmly attached.

Left to myself, I am a happily absentminded scatterbrain.

This takes some people by surprise. “But you’re so organized!” they exclaim. Every job evaluation I’ve gotten has praised my organizational skills. I’m one of Those People with a clean desk.
Paradox? Not really. Life is a puzzle, I love solving puzzles. I am INCAPABLE of being organized, but my life is easier when I’m not always losing things, forgetting things, or having to live without. So little by little, I’ve been figuring shit out.

Now I have a huge collection of quirky workarounds that keep me from getting buried by life puzzle pieces. Most of the time.

Many quirky workarounds have become habits–easy homey mental routines that run in the life background and don’t take much monitoring. (Designated zones for chaos & clutter & every Items ALWAYS go back in their spot even if that means having 1 per floor of the house, etc etc)

But travel routines are different. No trip is ever exactly the same as the last one, and that means I can’t trust myself not to lose a piece or five. (Like, say, UNDERWEAR)

I’ve done it enough that I’m good at it, I have lots of SUB-routines to deploy — but the process still sucks up mental energy like an old smartphone sucks up battery power.


So I have to do a lot more planning than some people do, but it’s the right amount for me. I have to put in extra time to make sure I don’t arrive without, oh, say, the ID I need to get into an event, or my phone, or something else that would make the trip a misery.

ANYway. Gen Con prep is officially done. Tomorrow, the fun part begins.

Except for Spouseman, who is holding down the home fort while I’m gone. Poor him, he gets to deal with the kitten. Gonna be ineresting to see if Mr. Pips remembers who I am when I get home on Sunday night.

That’s all for now. Until later!

Categories
Authoring Cons & Appearances Writing Life

Gen Con Nerves & Other Musings

I’ve been pretty quiet online this last little while. Mostly because I’ve been busy offline, also avoiding 9/11 anniversary overload, also-also trying not to stress myself into a funk over Gen Con.

Because seriously. I’m staring down four solid days of cold-selling quirky, slow-burn, defiantly progressive SF adventures to gaming con attendees who are looking to be dazzled & have plenty of places to lay down their dollars.

It could go well. Sure. I know how to engage people without being a hard-selling pestilence. And I do love talking about my books. I mean, they are excellent, original, emotionally-intense stories about imperfect, ordinary heroes who do extraordinary things. What’s not to get excited about?!

I try to remind myself that I mainly go to cons to meet other SFF nerds and rejoice in sharing; to find new shiny books to read, games to play, art to cherish, and to talk about SFF & gaming & TV & movies. Bookselling makes it possible, because I would freak out too much if I didn’t have a table to hide behind & a reason to be talking to strangers, but I’ve loved Gen Con since my first one several decades ago.

But, um. This con also be 4 days of my beloved books being ignored or passed over, and there’s no way I can ignore how much that will hurt if it happens. Not when I’m in prep-for-travel Stress Mode. So I’ve been feeling pretty raw, and that’s why I’ve been defensively avoiding the oversaturated emotions of the online world.

The closer I get to the con, the better I’ll do. Once I’m safely there, badged up, set to sell, and checked into my hotel room haven, a lot of the loser-mopey anxiety will evaporate.

I hope I’ll have happy things to share about Gen Con.

I’d really love to sell out. If I sell out of my existing stock, I can commission a series-matching cover for Weaving In the Ends AND start questing after a series design for the middle-age onset supers books.

As long as I get to see friends & family buy a geeky thing or two, and sell at least ONE copy of every title every day, I’ll consider the whole con a whopping success. (But I’d love to sell out.)

There might be con updates. Might not. Either way, that’s all for now.

Until later!

Categories
Authoring Cons & Appearances other things Writing Life

Learning by doing: my latest project

I only did 2 virtual conventions during Our First Pandemic Year because Discord became the default interaction platform, and it was not only a New And Scary Thing, it was a complex new social one. I was already two social media programs past coping, so navigating Discord servers was overwhelming, bewildering. It was impossible for me to get bast anxiety blocks to process how Things Worked. Not the technical side, that was refreshingly clear, but in a basic, human “how do people use this thing?” way.

Learning to drive is the best analogy I can think of. Complex, multi-channel learning. It’s so difficult there are CLASSES and people have to CERTIFY, right? The difficulty has less to do with mastering the pedals, levers, and buttons to make things stop & go, and a lot more to do with learning the rules of the road, and MOST to do with learning to apply those rules to physical experience in real time so you don’t hit the wrong pedal at the wrong time and crash.

Social interaction is like that for me. ALL social interaction. But each new environment isn’t like a new car. It’s like a whole new kind of driving, period. Think car vs airplane, or electric scooter vs sailboat. New mechanics, new rules, new integration. Some elements transfer, but you don’t know which until you’ve put in the time in the new system.

With Discord, the mechanical part was simple, but there were so many different types of interactions that the patterns weren’t readily visible (To me. Things that are as clear as glass to many people are opaque to me, and vice versa. But I digress.)

Imagine trying to avoid a crash when you couldn’t learn the rules first because you’re already driving, so you can only learn the rules of the road only by watching other drivers while also learning your pedals and lever mechanics. Pretty dangerous, huh?

On social media, crashes translate as mortifying humiliation with the potential to drive me into solitude for, oh, years. That made Discord a no-go zone for me for ages. But that bugged me. Things I can’t do always bug me.

So I made Discord this year’s Hibernation Project.

Late winter is the best time for me to tackle Scary New Things. Once my energy starts to build up after the mid-winter crash, I find something shiny and carry them into my nest and get to know them better by combing & petting & squeezing the stuffing out of them.

Almost everyone learns better “by doing,” but it’s the only way I learn multi-channel processes. When I first wanted to understand website design, way back in the day, I bemused my friends who worked in web design by teaching myself to code sites from scratch using HTML & CSS. Why didn’t I focus on learning the web design programs, they wondered. But see, those programs didn’t make sense to me At All until I mastered the underlying language structure.

This year, I dragged Discord into the nest and made it my own. I built my own little server, nice and tidy, with all the usual parts & pieces, then brushed and polished it up to Discord’s Community Guidelines so eventually I can make it public.

That was a long read to get to the news that there now exists a Dawnrigger Discord server, huh? But there it is!

Right now it’s private, invitation only. If you’re a reader and/or fan of my books, if you have room in your Discord for a quiet little server where there’s not much clutter or content yet, you’re welcome to join Dawnrigger’s Den and share the fun.

This also means that when the day I flee Facebook inevitably arrives, I’ll still have an interactive space online, and I’m a LOT more comfortable surfing my way around other servers & occasionally even posting comments & engaging in conversations.

Not comfortable, but not as uncomfortable. And that’s progress. Wins all around.

That’s all for now. Some heavy shit happened online this week. I’m still processing, but there will be blog on ot eventually.

Until then, have a random cat with a book.

Photo by Heather McKeen on Pexels.com
Categories
Authoring Cons & Appearances Writing Life

Accomplished: first convention of 2021!

Capricon 41 took place over the weekend. I was going to pass on it this year. I’ve been running on fumes for ages and saving my small energies for Finishing The Book. The deadlines for submitting panel ideas and for interest in programming came & went while I was still fully mired in the midwinter mental mire. I planned to buy a membership to support the incredible, generous, hard-working people who were making the con happen despite stick-in-the-muds like me, but I was going to steer VERY clear of the chaos created in my brain by attempting online interaction over multiple, simultaneous channels.

Meh, I thought, and blergh. I don’t have it in me to deal with All The Virtual Things.

Then I found out at the last minute that Michi Trota was going to be one of the Guests of Honor. C’mon, self, you canNOT miss out on that, I told myself, and I asked myself in my most persuasive inner voice, How hard could it be to simply attend the virtual con? No responsibilities. Zero expectations. Nothing to panic over.

My argument was simple but convincing. I boxed up all my freakout fears & scraped up all my post-hibernation energy and registered, bullied my tech into cooperating, and got online.

…nd promptly freaked out and panicked and had a Really Bad Day over the ordeal of dealing, but! BUT! I collected some support (THANK YOU ALL MY SUPPORTIVE ONLINE FRENZ) applied warm fuzzies to the anxiety prickle wounds, and in the end it was an amazing good time.

I learned a ton of new things. How one person’s utopia can be another’s dystopia, what makes space opera space opera, the need for shaping society with hopeful, inclusive, personal narratives that go beyond reflecting and amplifying existing systems, and much more. My TBR list has exploded with new titles both fiction & research-related. The affirmation of hearing Real Experts validate the importance of stories like the ones I write–ones with complex, flawed characters, with resolutions based on cooperation & collective action, where erasing a villain doesn’t fix systemic ills, but determination and hope make improvements that are framed as worthy, achievable goals–well! That alone was worth the emotional price of admission. (and that was just the start!)

It’s post-con now, so of course I’m wrestling with residual weasel-whispers of, “You weren’t really freaking out, you just want attention, you’re a weak, whiny, lazy little coward who has all the privileges in the world but can’t be bothered to work hard, so you’re making excuses and posturing and claiming victimhood, you should be ashamed of yourself, other people who have it much worse than you do and manage to do so much more.” Stupid weasels. Good thing I have on my big, spiky weasel-stomping boots.

One extra-grand thing about the con being virtual was that I could bake bread, make oatcakes, and also get a lot of words written in the same weekend I was attending panels and engaging in inspiring discussions. I streamed the filk circles & performances while I was working on Ghost Town more than once, and that was particularly enjoyable.

And now, have pictures of the bread I baked. Because stress baking is a thing in this house.

apricot toaster bread is not pretty when it’s in the process of becoming.
it looks much more appetizing after baking
Glamour shot of the final result with gratuitous bacon
Still here? Here’s a peek at my office dragon’s current hoard.