Ten Things I Learned At Dragoncon

Complete with a list of Thank-Yous for what might be the best Dragoncon ever, despite insane crowds. Onward!

Lesson One: Thou Shalt Not Overestimate Even the TSA's Ability To Fuck Up Your Plans. Because then you end up waiting endless hours in airports for your plane. I arrived two hours too early for my outgoing flight and a brilliant three and a half hours early for the return flight, expecting that I'd be caught in the Line From Hell returning from Labor Day travel. Instead, I find myself paying $7.95 to some network called Boing for the privilege of catching up on my email as I wait. What can I say? The Starbucks is closed for construction. Airports are fun, but they're not THAT fun. Let's not be neurotic.

Lesson Two: In Atlanta, the American Luggage Concourse Is Beneath Mordor. Don't believe the flight attendant when she says you just have to go to carousel two. She means the carousel two in the American baggage claim area, which is not with the rest of the baggage claim carousels in the center of the terminal, a short walk from the MARTA station that will take you to your convention. No, she means "You have to walk all the way across the airport, take the escalator down, turn right at the caged dragons and left at the sign that reads 'Abandon all hope ye who enter here.' Then you'll find the American baggage." Then, of course, you'll have to turn around and haul your heavy-ass baggage back up the escalator and across the entire airport to get to the MARTA train, wondering all the while if you really needed a different outfit for each evening or would people notice if you wore the same dress Friday and Sunday nights because this shit is HEAVY.

Lesson Three: Men in Kilts Really Don't Mind If You Reach Under Their Skirts. Um, kilts. At least at Dragoncon. Elsewhere it might be grounds for a sexual-abuse charge. At Dragoncon, it's part of "kilt inspection." No, I didn't. I'm not that brave. Some of those guys were also wearing swords.

Lesson Four: The Way to a Writer's Heart is Through Her Books. A gentleman I know bought three copies of NOCTURNE, one of SETTING SUNS and a T-shirt. I kissed him. Later, I mentioned it while wisecracking in a panel, because when I have no caffeine in my bloodstream I survive panels by smartass alone. The moderator turned to my fellow panelist, Lawrence Barker, and suggested he try that marketing technique. Without missing a beat, Mr. Barker replied, "I'll turn it around: buy my book OR I'll kiss you." Hee.

Lesson Five: The Water Pitcher Is Not As Secure As You Think It Is. I was seriously desperate for water during the panel on post-apocalyptic literature. Apparently I drank all the water. Because when I reached for the water pitcher to refill my cup for the fourth time, nothing came out. My fellow panelist was making a point, so I tilted it a little further. All the ice came out in a glump, spraying across the table. Fortunately people laughed, and I made an "uh, oops" face as I scooped up the ice. I'm fairly sure the moderator was laughing at me too. Who can blame her? :) And for a wonder, nobody bought my book afterward! I think I may have shorted out the microphone.

Lesson Six: When an Elevator Arrives, Grab It. None of this silly, "It's going down and I need to go up, so I'll wait." If you can get your ass on an elevator, get on. What goes down must go up. Con physics. Only rookies "wait for the next one." The caveat to this? If someone using a wheelchair or crutches is waiting, let them on first. Don't be a fucking asshole, people. It's shameful the confolk even HAVE to put out pictures reminding us.

Lesson Seven: Those Are The Breasts You're Looking For. It never ceases to amaze me the number of mundanes who laugh their asses off at cons, expecting a roomful of thirtysomething virgins in black t-shirts. Okay, there's some of those. You know who you are. But if you shower and walk out of the gaming room *ducks* you're gonna see breasts. Women in corsets. Women in spandex. Women in elaborate duct-tape contraptions. Women in, um, nothing much at all. Personally, I may not have the appreciation for the female form that some of my drooling male friends have, but mundanes? You got no idea what you're missing. P.S. There are also some truly hot men, and thank God for the 300 costumes. Not as in "three hundred costumes," but "costumes from the movie 300, which may not have been historically accurate but certainly had skimpy togas." God bless 'em.

Lesson Eight: You Can't Be Professional If You're Drooling On Someone's Shoes. It's hard to meet the eyes of, say, Jamie Bamber and not drool. So walk by on the Gawk of Fame and get your furtive looks. Yes, James Marsters really does look like that in real life. Do not tell that actor that you had an enormous crush on him when you were twelve. After all, that was twenty fuckin' years ago, and who's gonna feel older when you say it out loud, him or you? Get your autograph and move on. That goes for the greenroom, too. Thou shalt not drool.

Lesson Nine: Buy Books. An optimistic estimate would put maybe 10 percent of the Dragoncon crowd actually interested in buying a book at con. Of those, maybe only half will actually do so. This is why you have sixteen sword and corset vendors and three booksellers. And those booksellers are crying. Now, I know that nearly all the writing tracks - SF Lit, Writing, Readings, Goth, everything but Apocalypse - were way the hell over in the Hyatt and you have to travel over the river, through the woods, past the gargoyles and play Frogger on two streets to get from the Hyatt to the Hilton. Do it anyway. Sooner or later the booksellers will give up and take their books to cons where it won't cost them $450 for the privilege of selling to you, and you'll be stuck with whatever Amazon.com recommends instead of the fascinating, brilliant and imaginative stuff the small-press booksellers have for you this weekend. Support small press. Support good writing. Haul your cookies over there and vote with your dollars.

Lesson Ten: Friends Are Good. And this is why I need a thank-you portion.

Thank you to Vernard Martin and his crew, who brought the best room party at Dragoncon to our room. I don't think we've ever had a smoother party, with lots of folks enjoying each other's company and having a good time with nothing demolished and no drama and nobody having sex in the bathroom.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who bought books. Dragoncon may be work, but there's something even more satisfying than OMG money when I sell a book. Because they're gonna take it home and presumably read it, and I hope they enjoy it, and after all, that's why I do this. I wanted to go to Dragoncon for years, but I could only justify it when it was work. Fortunately, it's the most fun work I do all year.

Thank you to the track directors for Gothic Shadows and Apocalypse Rising, who scheduled me on some great panels. Thanks to my fellow panelists for terrific, intelligent discourse and the ability to disagree with grace. I've always said I'd rather do panels than anything else at con, because I figure if they're giving me a badge, I need to work. But more than that, it's the reason we come to con. Only here do we actually get to discuss these subjects with people who've read the same books and watched the same movies, and the people in the audience know at least as much as we do. (I've often wished I could take notes when someone is expounding on this fantastic book we ought to read, because there were at least three this year I would buy if I could frakking remember the titles.... anyone?) Extra thanks to moderator genius Fred Grimm, who keeps a good panel going and has been sweetly mocking me for several years now. That's why I named a character after him.

Giant thanks to the Dragoncon staff, who are already getting hit in the head with "suggestions" over the clusterfucks of this year. Yeah, being in the Hyatt at any point Friday or Saturday pretty much sucked, from what I hear, but others know more about that than I because I was happily partying in the Marriott most of the con. I highly recommend the Marriott over any other choice, folks. But the VIP greenroom was top-notch, and I saw the same hardworking volunteers there every time I fought the elevators to grab some grub. The mad-scientist theme for Sunday night was hilarious - braaaains! - and at one point I think I spent four hours gabbing with other guests. Also: free massage is a win, even though I never got around to partaking. Don't think for a moment your work is unappreciated, by us guests, at least. (My only suggestion? Move the book-oriented tracks like Sci-Fi Lit, Writing and Readings to whatever hotel hosts the dealer's room. Please?)

Super-deluxe thanks to my roommates, all seven of them. Thank Zod we were bumped up to a king suite! Best hotel room ever, and a complete lack of drama to boot. Even though half of them hadn't met each other before this weekend, everyone got along great, everyone had fun and somehow we all fell asleep at about the same time each night. Rock on. P.S. Extra credit to the roomies for not even blinking when we suggested a Saturday-night party. My appreciation has no bounds.

Enormous thanks to Selina Rosen and the Yard Dog Books crew. As those who follow my work know, I was orphaned this year, with none of my publishers attending and no authors' or publishers' row to hawk my stuff. Selina made space for both books at the Yard Dog booth even though it couldn't help them at all, and that let me send people who wanted to buy my stuff to them. Being available in the dealer's room is often the difference between profit and loss for Dragoncon, and I owe Selina big-time for that. The Yard Dog crew is good people, folks, and they deserve your business. http://www.yarddogpress.com

Finally, a special non-silly thank you to Dana Franks, my flunky for the last several years and hopefully years to come. Dana earns her nonexistent salary with hard work, getting flyers out everywhere, throwing chocolate at people, seeing that I get to where I need to be, finding good pens for signings, getting change for people paying with twenties, seeing that people get their receipts, hauling duffels full of heavy-ass books and T-shirts up and down the glacial elevators and escalators of three hotels, even sitting through the same damn reading she's heard at two other cons this year. Dana (and local flunky Katie) hold it all together, folks, and if I show up half-prepared for what I need to do, it's because of them. Brava.

Now to unpack, and commence laundry. Down from the mountaintop yet once more, and already looking forward to next year.


  1. Hey, you forgot to thank your new friend, author Randy Richards. He talks just as much as you do, and he kept you company for endless hours in the VIP Green room. ;-)

  2. How could I forget! Good to see you. :)



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