I-Con Report

Back from I-Con, my first experience with the Springfield, Ill. con and I can report the natives are friendly. While I must honestly say I didn't sell all that well, the people made the trip definitely worth my while.

Many thanks to John Beachem, E.E. Knight, Shane Moore, Glen Cook and Charles Embrey Jr., authors and gentlemen whose presence made the slow sales somewhat more bearable. Muchas gracias to guest coordinator Shane Beningfield, who ran his feet off taking care of us, and extra thanks to Shane Moore, who recruited the authors and coordinated between us and I-Con and Borders.

And a thousand thanks to my wonderful assistant, Katie. As regular con flunky, she is willing to strap herself into a corset and hawk my books with cleavage and savvy. She brought her son, which gave my boy someone to play with, and their presence made the trip seem less like work and more like a mini-vacation.

I do wish that we'd sold more books at the signing, as the number of books ordered outpaced the number sold by about 30 times. I felt bad for the bookstore, which really did a good job without much room to maneuver. They promoted us and upsold us to the walk-ins, but we were victims of triple-digit temperatures and the first weekend of the Illinois State Fair.

Or, perhaps, preconceptions. At one point, Shane approached a random passer-by with a card and said he was a fantasy author, and the passer-by skittered away as though he'd said, "Hi, I'm Shane Moore and I have a virulent contagious disease." What is with people? Poor Shane. He's braver than I - I still can't just walk around a mall handing out cards. I just can't. I really am an introvert who got over it.

So, anyone want a NOCTURNE? Please call the Borders on Wabash Drive in Springfield and they'll send you one before they ship the rest back. The number is 217-787-9076.

And while you're at it, consider the following fantasy novels in your end-of-summer reading: THE LOST KEEP OF KAYWALL by Charles Embrey Jr., STORMS OF VENGEANCE by John Beachem and A PRISONER'S WELCOME by Shane Moore. Give these gentlemen your business, folks.

The I-Con folk could not have been nicer, seeing to all our needs and feeding us dinner and doughnuts. The boys had a terrific time wandering around the room soaking in geekdom and suckering us into buying little D&D figurines. I think nothing will stop them from becoming conboys at this point.

Not that we would.

At one point I was chatting with a gentleman about raising kids in fandom. He had his infant daughter with him, and I said, "Take your pictures and write everything down, because you'll blink and suddenly she'll be eight years old and begging on her knees for you to buy her this really cool D&D figurine." He laughed.

And as if on cue, my son came running up at that very moment. He said with the excitement of a child entering Disneyland, "Mom! It's so cool! They're letting the kids practice with the lightsabers!"*

The gentleman and I met eyes and laughed ourselves silly.

I was hoping beyond hope that we might sell out of everything by noon Sunday, so we could go to the Museum of Funeral Customs or some Lincoln sites before everything closed Sunday afternoon. But commerce comes first. I sold a handful, and by 2 p.m. we gave up the ghost. We took the boys to the Illinois State Museum instead of the Museum of Funeral Customs - Katie and I have a similar taste for the macabre, but the boys enjoyed the mastodon skeletons more than they would have the embalming techniques of the nineteenth century.

My one real complaint? The hotel was probably the worst experience I've had at any chain hotel. We were a very short driving distance from the con hotel (Crowne Plaza), due to the fair eating every hotel room in Springfield. Now I know why the Super 8 was the only hotel with rooms still available that still had interior corridors.

The room smelled strongly of fish. The pillows greatly resembled pancakes. The hallways weren't air-conditioned. I killed bugs in the bathroom and the corner of the bedroom and ended up with multiple bites on my feet and ankles nonetheless. The "continental breakfast" consisted quite literally of cornflakes and stale English muffins. Not even day-old pastries and lackluster fruit to be found. Hell, the roadside motel in Union City, Tenn. even had make-your-own waffles.

And as of 5 p.m. on Saturday, the maids still hadn't found our room. On my way out after changing clothes - one does not wear the Cleavage Dress to a bookstore signing - I saw them in the hallway and reminded them about our room. "We're running behind," she said. I told her she didn't need to make up the beds - we just need new towels. "Can you put them in the hallway for us?" I blinked and said sorry, I'm on my way out and don't have time to go back up to the room, and she nodded and said they'd get to us.

But they never did find our room, and the next morning I sent Katie - who is far more capable of screaming fits than I - to the front desk to get us some towels. Katie is a master at demolishing the opposition with her ire. I usually back down and say, "I'm sorry, my mistake." She's my secret weapon.

P.S. Katie has coined a new word: "smishy." An adjective to be applied only to nasty hotel rooms, in "honor" of the Super 8 ickroom that smelled most strongly of salmon. Very old salmon.

Smishy hotel room aside, I can definitely recommend I-Con, particularly for gamers. Many thanks to them for hosting our traveling circus, and I hope to return next year. But we're staying at the Holiday Inn.

* Alas, it turned out that "kids" meant "fourteen and up." My junior Jedi was crushed.