Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Hypericon Saturday - Breaking the Laws of Physics

SATURDAY

I love Hypericon for many reasons, but one of the top reasons is that His Fredness never schedules anyone before 10 a.m. This is one of the many reasons we love Fred. But I was hunting Fred, because there was a zombie panel at 1 p.m. and I wasn't on it. Now, it wasn't Fred's fault, per se - he couldn't know that I had a zombie novella coming out because nobody knew it - I was announcing it at the con. But I wanted on that panel.

Keep in mind, Fred likes to give me shit. I'm noticing this trend among my closest friends and certainly my family. Those who like me the best give me the most shit. I'm all sweet and gentle to them, and this is what I get? I swear, I don't know what the world is coming to. *ducks*

Because I know the best way to find Fred is to find his wife Stephania, I went to the con suite. Stephania dashed my hopes, said she can't keep track of Fred at con without a bell around his neck. So I grabbed a diet soda instead and who should show up but Fred! He sat down with us as I drank my soda and Stephania glued a costuming trophy together.

ME: Oh great Fredness, will you put me on the zombie panel please please please?
FRED: Do you have a zombie book?
ME: Yes! It comes out this fall.
FRED: *smartass grin* I dunno, it's kind of an all-guys thing...
ME: *LOOK OF EVIL*
STEPHANIA: Oh, you did not just go there.
FRED: *chortle*
STEPHANIA: You will put her on that panel or I will superglue your head to this table.
FRED: See, I can't now, because Steph told me I have to. She ruined it for you.
ME: Oh Fred. Fred Fred Fred. Don't make me name a character after you.*

* Point of disclosure: I already have. The fire chief of Jericho, Illinois is a cranky fellow named Fred Grimm. He is about as un-Fred as can be. Much as Major Sara Harvey, principal character of THE COLD ONES, is the antithesis of Sara Harvey the Glitter Lady: harsh, cold, all-business, shoots people in the head. Still.

I got on the panel. I may have been kidding in my threats, but Stephania looked deadly with that glue. This meant, of course, that Fred had to give me shit during the panel as well. He is so going to be monster chow someday.

Still, it was a great panel. Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, Jonathan Maberry, David Jack Bell and me. Yeah, I was the little fish in THAT ocean, but that's okay. We had a good chat. Brian Keene cracked me up with his intro: "I've written 26 novels, four of which were zombie books, and nobody every remembers the other 22."

I laughed about twice as hard at that as anyone else, because it's exactly how I feel about the goddamn vampires. Hey, I loved writing the vamps, I still think they've got a lot more to say, but I was so very tired of being introduced as, "Elizabeth Donald, she writes vampires." Among other things! I always insist. And with the whole TRUE BLOOD and TWILIGHT craze going on, it's like I can't escape the damn vamps.

Quasi-seriously, perception is everything. I wrote exactly three vampire books, only two of which had any sex whatsoever. But half my reputation is STILL as a vamporn author. Someone happening by the booth saw me setting out my books, Sara Harvey's steampunk fantasy CONVENT OF THE PURE and a handful of other books on the non-smut rack. I can't remember who it was, but he looked at it, snickered and said, "You've got all this girl stuff, and there in the middle is Shrews."

Which is true, Shrews writes raw, testosterone-y horror**. But I wouldn't call the eyeball-squishing scene in CONVENT particularly girly, nor the murder in NOCTURNE that so eviscerated the victim that the cops are calling him Hamburger Boy, or the grisly lynch-murder of a black vampire on the steps of the Memphis cathedral in the opening to ABADDON. And while it's not out yet, the Evile in THE DREADMIRE CHRONICLES should scare the bejesus out of you... or at least make you look at your dinner in a whole new way.

You want sex? Try the scene where Samantha fucks Cristoval to keep him from going ballistic, and Diego is locked in the closet listening, and when they're done he says, "My turn?" I described that scene in another panel and Jason Sizemore muttered, "You're twisted." Yes, I am. I write horror. Women write horror, and some of the stuff we're writing is pretty damn twisted. Somewhere we got the reputation of being fluffy angst, and it's not accurate (TWILIGHT aside), and if Literary Underworld does nothing else, I want to get rid of that impression. End of rant.

I got to talk about THE COLD ONES, which is funny because it's just a novella, but I seem to be talking about that more than DREADMIRE, which comes out next month. There might be a flaw in my plan. But the zombies are strong at Hypericon, and we had a lot of fun talking about the appeal of the apocalypse and fun things to do with your neighbors' remains. What, you want sanity? Don't talk to writers.

I worked the booth for a bit - the boy had been picked up by his dad by now, and I'm kidless for a few weeks, SNIFF! Then it was on to the short story panel. I joked earlier that if they wanted to talk about writing short stories, I'd speak, but when it came to selling short stories, I was going to shut up and listen to the others. Short stories are hard for me, and selling them is fucking nightmarish. I think I must do something fundamentally wrong in my approach, because the rejections are constant.

It was Scott Nicholson, Alethea Kontis, David Jack Bell, Shrews and me again. I swear, Fred scheduled me and Shrews like Velcro. At previous shows this year, just about every panel digressed into a discussion of the state of the industry. This was really the only panel I was on that did so, and it's not like we can help it. The short story market is inextricably tied to the state of the industry. Harlan Ellison himself said if he was getting started today, he has no idea where he'd go to get his stories published.

Toward the end, we were asked how many short stories we'd published. Everyone was in single to double digits. I felt all impressive with my twenty-odd stories, preen and gleam. Then fuckin' Shrews pops up with his bio, and I nearly choked him with his own book. That man has published more than 350 short stories. Granted, he's been published since 1989 and I started in 2004. Still, you better believe I cornered him at the parties later and started asking him stupid questions like, "How the fuck do you have time to work a day job, raise kids, write books AND crank out that many short stories?"

That's the best and worst thing about connecting with fellow authors at cons. You are at once intimidated by the accomplishments of your peers, and inspired by them to strive for more. I think Shrews might be my new hero. People ask me how I can stay on top of all the shit I do - he makes me look fuckin' lazy.

Another panel on making characters real, and that led into a fun discussion of character-driven stories vs. plot-driven stories. I have to say, in all honesty, my work is much more plot-driven. I rarely think of a character and then a story suggests itself around him. I often think of a story and the character grows into the person the story requires instead. But I wasn't about to admit that, sitting between publishers Jason Sizemore of Apex Books and Dan Gamber of Meadowhawk Press on either side of me, having just stated they prefer character-driven stories. This explains much of my publication record.

Still, it was a fun panel, particularly since we had no designated moderator and so we made Sizemore do it because he was the last to arrive and the middle seat was open. Heh.

I missed the costume contest and Fred Lookalike competition because I was getting compressed into the black leather corset, duly altered by Sara. I love the corset, though it does mean I can't sit down or bend over. How did women live every day in those damn things?

Dressed in our finery, we wandered the halls, where the parties were in full swing. I also missed the presentation of Bryan Smith's birthday present - we authors all pitched in our money to buy him a print of his first book cover painting. Brian Keene was the mastermind and I wished I'd had more money to toss in. Bryan's a good guy, and I don't get to see him and Rachael enough.

Rachael was in an evil streak - she lobbed several eyeball candies into my cleavage. See, I've been giving Bryan shit on Twitter because of the eyeball violence in his books. Someone's always gouging eyeballs, eating eyeballs, forcing someone else to eat eyeballs ... like Shrews with ripping off testicles, is Bryan with the ocular violence. I can read Shrews all day, but eyeballs are my particular squick. Bryan therefore stated his next book will be titled EYES and it will be all eyeballs. So Rachael special-ordered eyeball candy for their party JUST FOR ME, and took great delight in biting one in half before me... displaying the bloody interior to my horrified eyes.

It's good to have friends.

Meanwhile, we were attempting to break the laws of physics. See, someone had Twittered last week that people should "Come to Hypericon! Meet Brian Keene, Wrath James White, Mari Adkins and Elizabeth Donald! Not all at once, though, that would break the laws of physics."

Now, I know Brian and Mari, but I'd never met Wrath. And all weekend, it seemed three of the four of us would be present. It was mostly Wrath and me that were the problem - in the dealer's room, the three of them were present and I was in a panel. I showed up and Wrath had vanished. I asked Mari once what Wrath looked like and she gave me The Look. I found out later that Wrath is hard to miss - a damn-near seven-foot-tall, hawt black man, unfortunately married. Dangit.

There in the hallway, I saw Brian and what could only be Wrath, but no Mari. I told Brian to sit still for once and ducked into parties until I found Mari. I dragged her back to the elevators and Brian hid behind the soda machine. Smartass. We hauled Wrath away from his conversation and he about killed me with this: "Oh, hello, I don't think we've met but you have large breasts, so I like you." When I finishing choke-laughing my ass off, I said, "You're funny, you can stay."

We took a picture, the four of us, and broke the laws of physics.

The rest of the evening was a series of parties, mostly the kind I really like - sitting in a room, drinking an adult beverage and talking shop. Much of it was in Bryan Smith's Soultaker party, which was nifty with gross stuff (besides the eyeballs). I drank some concoction in another party that tasted like Crystal Light but made me woozy. I dropped by the Hookah Picnic and ate baklava with Angelia among the strawberry-flavored smoke.

At one point, I was walking down a hallway and a young woman in a cat costume said to her friend, "That's Elizabeth Donald, the zombie author."

I stopped dead.

I turned around and went back to her.

I said, "THANK YOU."

The poor girl was totally confuzzled. She had seen me in the zombie panel, therefore I was a zombie author... I nearly wept, folks. I was a ZOMBIE AUTHOR and not "that chick who writes vamporn, you know, like TWILIGHT?" If she were a man I'd have kissed her.

Best of all, Stephen and his crew showed up - and Stephen was wearing ALL BLACK. I dragged him kicking and screaming out of the British TV room so I could get a picture with him. I told his crew they need to help me get his pants size, because my next goal will be to get him to wear jeans. I forgot to snoop around his closet when I was in his house and find out his sizes.

Late Saturday the parties started to die down, most of my crew had called it quits. I wasn't tired, but I needed air and the balconies overseeing the lovely Nashville cityscape (and cool-weird BatBuilding) were crowded. So I went outside the hotel *gasp* and walked around the neighborhood for a bit.

Sometimes it's good to get a little perspective.

3 Comments:

OpenID ravenskye8 said...

1 - Plot-based vs Character-based... I find myself always coming up with these really great character studies... very "real" people who would make any story pop... but... then I never figure out any kind of plot to put them in... so - I have always thought that starting from character building was the "wrong way"... The only stories I've ever finished that have turned out as anything worthwhile have been ones that I came up with the plot, and then had to develop the characters... so - IMO - I don't think they're saying that plot-based writing is bad as much as "if you don't have well-developed characters, the best plot in the world is still going to suck"...

2 - photo that breaks the laws of physics: Corset = WOW... and yeah Wrath is hawt...

3 - THE COLD ONES... OMG! SQUEE! *hugs you* *throws confetti* *does the happy dance in your honor*

9:40 PM  
Blogger Jason Sizemore said...

Yeah, we all know what law of physics were broken by that corset.

8:34 AM  
Anonymous blkstarsapphire said...

So that's why my hot chocolate started floating up out of my cup on Saturday...

Next time you plan on breaking the laws of physics let me know - I had a hell of a time cleaning the chocolate off the ceiling :P

10:06 AM  

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