Midsouthcon, Part IV


Oh, the morning-after regret. Sara was bemoaning her sprained groove thing. I'm not entirely sure where her groove thing is located on her body, but apparently she sprained it and we're not close enough that I'm gonna go looking. Me, I was regretting the lack of sleep. I am too old for this shit.

Still, we meandered downstairs to have breakfast, all four of us Memphis Belles. As always, the food in the Holiday Inn restaurant was a sad disappointment for the price, but in this particular case, the price was "free." Ah, the value of being a Priority Club member.

My anxiety was building again, so I volunteered to be the one to leave breakfast early and go open the booth. It was the Day of Holy Commerce, as everyone realizes they have twenty bucks left from the boozing and paying off the sucker who put the hotel room on his credit card, so why not blow it in the dealers' room?

My Belles relieved me in time to make my reading, which was maybe the highlight of the convention after the Darrell.

Upon arrival, only Sabrina was there. I've read to a crowd of one before, but it's depressing. So I held off for a minute, setting out my Dove dark chocolates on the seats. A few minutes later, three people came in, including one who had a plate of breakfast stuff. So I began to read.

I hadn't looked at THE COLD ONES in months, as it's currently sitting on an editor's desk awaiting approval or rejection. I'd forgotten that it starts with an exceptionally gory scene. Okay, it didn't seem that gory when I started, not when you compare it to goremasters like Brian Keene or Bryan Smith. But when I read the line about shreds of armflesh hanging out of Parish's mouth, the poor woman on the left stopped eating her breakfast. I felt like apologizing.

THE COLD ONES, I found, is excellent for verbal reading. Some pieces work very, very well verbally, like "Sisyphus" and A MORE PERFECT UNION. Other pieces only work on paper, like "Wonderland" and, I'm afraid, much of ABADDON.

THE COLD ONES has snappy dialogue, is extremely fast-paced and has a high action quotient. It might just be the perfect piece for readings, except that it's about twice as long as a standard one-hour reading.

People began to drift in, and for a wonder, they stayed. In fact, they were frozen. I was reading extra fast, because I wanted to get at least through the redcap fight before I had to stop, and still they hung in there. At one point, people came in and hesitated.

"Come in, we're fighting zombies," I said.

"And you don't wanna be eating," said Breakfast Woman. I laughed and apologized. Mmm, armflesh. But she didn't leave.

At the five-minute mark, I saw Beverly Hale, the next author, standing at the back. So when my timer-person told me the hour was up, I stopped. It was halfway through the redcap scene. Immediately they mobbed me.

"It's gonna be zombie Vaughn and Stover in a smackdown at the end, right?" one of them asked.

"Wouldn't YOU like to know," I snarked. They all wanted to know where they could read it, and damn, I wished I could have said, "Coming soon as a novella from Mumblety Press." Instead, I told them it's on an editor's desk right now, and I'll be announcing it on the web site.

The funny thing was, I fell back in love with THE COLD ONES at that reading, even though Tyree Campbell cracked that it sounded like it was about beer. Thanks, Tyree. I forgot how much I loved that story, and I'd have given anything to be able to say, "Hey, anyone wanna go to the empty room next door and finish it?" Or better yet, to have a stack of copies beside me, ready to sell.

It's a dynamic thing, reading your story with an audience in the room. You hear them snickering when you said something funny, you feel them getting caught up in your world, and you want nothing more than to go all the way to the end and see what they think. Writing is often an isolated occupation, which is why Eric Flint is absolutely right: you gotta get out in the world and be with people you didn't invent, or you'll just end up talking to yourself.

Back to the dealers' room, where we grabbed a random stranger to take our picture at the booth. Ian had joined us, and hovered over us in an amusing suspension of gravity. We sold many books, and annoyed everyone in the dealers' room with our raffle drawing. When the room shut down, we packed out the stuff with all swiftness and bid our farewells.

Of course, it was hours before I left Memphis. I visited my friend Patrick Stubblefield, whose family had just increased by one. Baby Joshua was adorableness incarnate, and I got my baby fix while Ian managed to break a knickknack in five seconds. I console myself that it's likely a good warm-up act for when little Joshua is running amok.

Then to the airport, to say goodbye to my mother and stepfather, about to fly back to California. She was meeting some old friends for dinner at the airport, and I got to hug some folks I haven't seen since before I was married. Which meant another hour and a half before beginning the six-hour drive home that would put me in bed after midnight. Old home week.

You see, home isn't just a concept about where you rest your head, or even where your heart is. My heart is wherever my son is. But "home" is the place you see in your mind's eye, the place where you know every street and sidewalk no matter how many years have passed. "Home" is where, when you go there, they gather around the table and talk over old times and call you by nicknames you've protested since you were a teenager.

And you wonder why they don't gather when you're not there, why your annual visits are their only excuse for getting together. Whether they realize what a dear and precious gift it is to have a family of choice, people who mean the world to you to matter how many years have gone by.

A gift that should never be wasted or taken for granted, because life is just too fucking short.


  1. I just finished reading all four Midsouthcon posts. Almost as good as being there. Not really close, but as close as possible. (I guess. I've never been.) It makes me want to go to one of these cons and also kinda makes me feel old and out of it because, well, I am oldish and definitely out of it. I'm rambling. Anyway, it sounds like it was a lot of fun.


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