Midsouthcon, Part III


Somehow I had managed to piss off Carlin Stuart, because he put me on a 9 a.m. panel. At 9 a.m. on Saturday I am not conscious enough to speak coherently. I have the sneaking suspicion that panel was about strong women characters in the Harry Potter universe and I kept trying to drag us to other universes as well because strong women characters are my favorite rant, but there was no caffeine in my system and therefore I have no clear memory of it.

Then off to commit commerce, huckstering folks in the dealers' room. I'm happy to say we had absolutely no rude patrons. I've worked booths at conventions without number now, and it floors me how rude people can be. I could never work retail again, it's just too hard not to punch some asshole's lights out.

We came up with the quasi-brilliant idea for a raffle – tickets were 50 cents each or three for a dollar, and we sold quite a few. We also let people get free raffle tickets at the party. Future reference: ixnay on the eefray. Cough up, you cheap bastards. We had free booze, cake, a shiny person-eating curtain and tarot readings, we didn't need anything else to draw people to our party. Also, next con the price goes up. The take was low enough that no one's going to break even on their donation, much less make a profit off it.

Also, somebody told me my raffle might have been illegal in the state of Tennessee. Mental note: Look that up before Hypericon in Nashville. I have an aversion to handcuffs.

Anyway. Now came the moment of the convention that I feared the most. Not the Darrell Award banquet. The Darrell Award READING. Someone had the great idea that maybe we shouldn't bog down the banquet with reading from each nominated work, but instead make it a separate panel. Because there were so many of us, we each got about five minutes.

I'd been killing myself trying to find five minutes of ABADDON that a) didn't require five minutes of explanation, b) wasn't so depressing people would be slitting their wrists in the aisles, and c) was funny. There is no funny in ABADDON. Okay, the Christmas party has snark, but that's about it. Seriously, from then on it's gut-wrenching agony and grief du jour, so I had to give up on the funny.

By that morning I had narrowed it down to a) the scene where Ryan wakes up in the hospital and is told Isabel is dead, b) the swordfight between Ryan and You-Know-Who*, or c) Parker's encounter with You-Know-Who* in the car.

The hospital scene violates the aforementioned wrist-slitting prohibition, as it's pretty much Grief 101 up close and with fangs. I wanted the swordfight, but it gives away damn near everything in the mystery, and if there's something that's been made clear, it's that the population of People Who've Read Abaddon is fucking small. So I settled for Parker's attack.

What I didn't realize, even as the panel was going on and others were reading their excellent works, is that I am a potty-mouth of the first order. Okay, all my books have a high level of profanity. You have to double that when you add in Parker, who actually THINKS in profanity. She's a cop who grew up on Memphis inner-city streets, whaddya want?

So I'm reading my bit, and Parker thinks the glorious line, "Oh fuck it's Diego he's back and Samantha didn't sense it fuck I'm fucked it's fucking DIEGO…" This is a perfectly understandable panic reaction given what happened to Parker in A MORE PERFECT UNION. It also made the entire room laugh, including Selina Rosen. And as the scene went on, the sense of "oh shit he's gonna break her neck" that seemed so taut, tense and fearful on the page was met with nervous giggles at the profanity.

Hey, I'll take a laugh over yawns and glancing at the watch any day. And it was hilarious afterward, as our moderator declared, "Elizabeth just won the Selina Rosen Award for profanity." Still, it clearly shows that some pieces work well verbally and some work well on paper, and the two don't always gibe. Even so, I was glad to have it over with.

Some commerce-time later, Angelia and I fled upstairs to change into our ballgowns. Okay, a simple low-cut black-lace cocktail dress for me, and a lovely 1920s-style turquoise-and-gold gown for her. We got ourselves all prettied and went downstairs, pretending we weren't nervous. I stopped by the booth one more time and bumped into Tim Gatewood, chairman of the Darrell Award jury, who was chatting with Sara.

ME: Give me a hint!
TIM: No!
ME: Give me a hint!
TIM: No!
ME: Give me a hint!
TIM: No!
ME: He just likes to torment me. He enjoys it.
TIM: I'm just glad this year it's Selina tormenting you.
ME: Yeah, I saw that she's the emcee. I'm afraid.

On to the banquet. Last year, I accidentally ended up sitting next to Terry Pratchett. This year I was across from Tim and Selina, with Loren Damewood. I was glad to have a moment with Loren, because I wanted to tell him a story.

ME: Do you remember the bracelet you wove on my wrist the first time I met you?
LOREN: I didn't weave it on your wrist, did I?
ME: Sure did. We were drinking Carlin Stuart's chocolate martinis and you were weaving a bracelet out of cotton on my wrist while we talked.
LOREN: That's dangerous. The last time I did that I almost wound up married.
ME: *grin* No offense, but not a chance.
ALL: *laughter*
ME: Anyway, I still have the bracelet. And a few months ago, my nine-year-old had a very rare attack of the night terrors. He's usually pretty steady, but he just could not get to sleep, very afraid of monsters. Nothing was working and I was desperate. So I went into my room and got the cotton bracelet. I told him, "This is a very special bracelet woven for me by a very special man. It'll keep you safe while you sleep."
ALL: *awwws*
ME: I put it on his wrist, and he was asleep ten minutes later.
LOREN: That is great.
ME: On occasion, if he has the night terrors, he'll even request the special bracelet of protection. It's magic.

And after all, what is magic but belief? What is the force that repels vampires from a cross around your neck, if not belief? If you believe a thing has power, it has that power. It doesn't matter if the monsters are real – my son believed the cotton bracelet would protect him, and thus he was able to sleep in safety. It is a far simpler, more comforting thing than trusting Mommy will protect him, the walls will protect him, the police and fire department and society itself will protect him… no, it's a magic bracelet, and it's all he needs. The blessing of childhood.

By now it was time for the banquet, and Selina was a hilarious choice as emcee. Not only can she entertain a room, but she managed to go almost to the end of the ceremony before letting slip a curse. That's a massive effort for her, and we applauded. She also stumbled on some of the truly impossible names and titles, which provided us with no small amusement. I wanted to tell her how the chancellor of a major university mangled the name of a future governor not once, not twice but three times in the course of introducing him, but I was too nervous.

So this is what you're waiting for, right? What happened when the novella category came up? I had utterly forgotten how many nominees there were, and Selina listed them all and I didn't count. So she read off the runner-ups, and the honorable mentions, and then Angelia grabbed my hand.

"She must be keeping count," I thought. "Does that mean I win?"

Sure enough, Selina turned with a smile and said, "Of course, that means the Darrell Award goes to Elizabeth Donald for ABADDON, which I've probably mangled."

I stepped up and told Selina, "Actually, a Hebrew scholar told me it can be ah-BAH-don or ah-bah-DON, so either way you're fine." After the laughs died down, I realized I really should have prepared a speech. "Wow," I said, looking at the plaque. "You know, I've been gone from Memphis so much longer than I lived here, and yet I have been so floored by the response to this series and your support for it. Thank you." Or something like that. It's funny, when you're up at a podium, your brain turns into a hissing white void and you don't realize what you're saying until you sit back down and think, "What did I say?"

At any rate, I'm pretty sure I forgot to thank anyone who was actually involved in the writing of the book. So a bit late, THANK YOU!!!!!

Afterward, I went over to Tim Gatewood to thank him. Before I could even get it out of my mouth, he said, "You didn't really think we'd make the same mistake we made two years ago, did you?"

Two years ago, my second book in the Nocturnal Urges series had been nominated and failed to win. "Well, that depends on whether you and the jury thought it WAS a mistake," I said, grinning.

"Well, I sure did," he said. It was like winning two awards. I thanked him and proceeded to text my parents and others who had requested immediate notification.

On to the partying. I shed the cocktail dress and was going to wear a simple black skirt and red silk shirt, but Sara declared it made me look like a secretary. This is why we're friends, folks. Ordinary humans would say, "Oh, you look nice." Sara says, "It makes you look all conservative, let's get you into something else." For the first time in my life, I underpacked for a con. I ended up back in the Vampira Cleavage Dress of Doom, and nobody noticed, I hope.

We dolled up and Jesse took pictures of us. Four women ready for fun, and he was our male escort. First we took our beverage tickets to the bar and ordered up. We drank and talked – I find I like amaretto sours – but unfortunately Angelia and I had to stay mostly sober, as we had been scheduled for 11 p.m. panels.

Surprisingly, people actually showed up for the panel, which was about comics for grownups. I was woefully underqualified to be on this panel, as everyone there a) actually worked in comics and b) had been reading comics for decades. I've been reading comics for five years and I just snark about them for money.

Still, it was a trip to meet Martheus Wade, creator of JETTA. I actually had the very very first JETTA comic from a con eons ago, before I was a reviewer or even an author. Mostly what I tried to do was contribute the point of view of the newbie, and the way the Big Two keep doing their level best to discourage new comic readers with their Crisis on Infinite Crossovers. I'm about to send this whole thing spinning into "fiction or comics, independents are where you find the good stuff," so I'll just head myself off at the pass.

The best moment for which I was not present: Sara, who had squeezed herself into a corset shirt and was nearly overflowing, was climbing the stairs with Sabrina and there were young men about. Sabrina was dawdling or something, and Sara called out, "So are we going to your room or what?"

A young man immediately shouted, "YES! OH GOD YES!" and began fumbling for his room key. Sara was allegedly thrown off-balance, a state I've never seen, and realized Sabrina was entirely hidden from the young man's point of view, therefore it seemed she had been propositioning him. "Oh! No.... uh, thank you! But... no." I have a hard time believing Miss Sara M. Harvey is ever thrown off her game, but ever since, "YES! OH GOD YES!" has become our catchphrase. You may all snicker now.

Finally done with the "work," I had a nice long chat with Jesse before he vanished into a puff of smoke. Then Sara and I hit the dance floor.

To be more specific, Sara hit the dance floor and I watched. My dancing is not an aesthetically pleasing event. Sara shook her groove and I clapped a lot. We both laughed our asses off as two young men gyrated around each other to "Total Eclipse of the Heart," and we all started waving our arms in the air as if we had lighters, and a half-dozen people turned on their cell-phone lights and waved those. Talk about something that didn't exist when I was a lass!

I love music and dancing, and I love soaking the atmosphere of people having a good time, and I can't dance to save my life. So I shifted my weight from one foot to the other in pretense of dancing so no one would notice I was just being near people.

Then a tall, dark-haired man danced out of the shadows and grabbed my hands. "Elizabeth?" he said.

Okay, not a crazy-ass stalkerboy, as I was not wearing my badge. "Do I know you?" I asked. The shadows were deep, and I couldn't quite see his face.

Being a smartass, he kept giving me hints as he "danced" me around the room. Mostly I just kept my feet moving and he twirled me a few times, which was fun. Finally I figured it out… okay, no, I didn't. He gave up and told me he was Jimmy James, who was part of my circle of friends from college a century ago. Once he said it, of course I recognized him. The whole trip had been like diving back into college.

Alas, it was nearly 4 a.m., and I hauled Sara back to the room by the scruff of the neck, since we had a wakeup call in three hours. Or fifteen minutes, as my mother texted me at 4:15 a.m. and woke us all up again. There may have been threats of violence.

Believe it or not, I was sober nearly the entire time. Except for that bit with the Southern Comfort.

Next: Day of Holy Commerce.

* Not Voldemort. And if you know whodunit, please don't ruin it for the 99.9999 percent of the population that hasn't read the damn book.


  1. There were threats of violence.

    I threatened to hunt down whoever called you and ram the cellphone in their ear then give the number to every telemarketing firm in the WHOLE WORLD!

    Or maybe I dreamed that part.

    I know there was something about "Who the fuck calls at 4:15, tell them we're asleep!"


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