Midsouthcon Merriment, Pt. 3


Seriously, I was going to be on a panel or seven. For some reason, none of them were on Friday. You know how I always say I'd like to go to panels I'm not on and I never get the chance? I broke my streak at MSC.

Angel took the first shift on Saturday, which enabled me to be a lump. Not much of a lump, though, since I had to get the boy going. I then took over the booth for a while, and marveled at our sales. In 2009, MSC was my worst show for sales per capita. This year it was easily double, and I haven't even done the math yet. I heard the same from other vendors - it's becoming a writers' show, a book show, and sales were strong for just about everyone. It was terrific.

My first panel was supposed to be Allan Gilbreath of Kerlak Publishing, Sara Harvey and myself, talking about mutilation vs. mind-play in horror. Sara, of course, could not attend the show due to illness. So it was just me and Allan yukking it up for a respectable crowd of writers busily taking notes. Allan and I are both natural smartasses, so we danced pretty well and got some good points in about the structure of scares, the horror movies that are the exceptions to every rule, etc.

Meanwhile, back at the booth we had to break into a second box of NOCTURNE. Memphis, I love you so much.

Saturday was my crazy day. Panel at 2, signing at 3, panel at 4, reading at 6 and panel at 7. Good to know I wasn't going to be bored. The signing was the usual deal - sit in the dealer's room with my books and the tarot cards, smile at the passers-by and wait for the fans. All two of them. Okay, three. I'm not Sherrilyn Kenyon and I don't pretend to be, but I keep hoping someday I'll have a signing where there are, like, 20 people lined up to see me. They don't even have to buy, just have me sign their programs or something, and I'll feel all important. That would be a message from Elizabeth's Ego (tm).

The next panel was "Good vs. Evil and the Mercenaries They Hire." I committed the sin I try never to do: I was late. MSC doesn't give us transitional times, and somehow I ended up leaving the signing right at the end of the hour. Fortunately my fellow panelists were very gracious. We talked about how good and evil are really malleable concepts in good fiction, because absolute morality is boring as shit. I may be paraphrasing just a little.

Then I had a bit of a breath, just long enough to grab something from the greenroom. Then it was off to my reading. They had a great idea on paper, but in practice it was pretty much a failure. They were held on a "street corner" under an honest-to-God streetlamp in a major hallway intersection. Readings were 15 minutes long - which isn't long enough, you can't even get through a short story in that time. The short time period meant you had to start right on the button, and you can't wait the traditional five minutes for the stragglers to find you, so people kept missing half the readings they'd meant to hear.

Now, it still could've been cool. But there were numerous problems. One was that material like mine is really not appropriate for a public audience. No, I don't have to read a sex scene, but my work is brutal and violent and filled with curses. And I'm not nearly the most harsh they could have had - can you imagine Steven Shrewsbury performing in that environment? Shrews can blow the doors off the walls.

Another problem: noise. People were just goddamn rude, and I'm sorry to be that harsh, but there were large crowds just standing around talking at the top of their voices inside the reading space and totally oblivious to the poor author with a microphone desperately trying to be heard, to get some cadence and inflection in the reading, all the things that make a reading work. One of them is silence, so nothing interferes and the listeners can fall into the story. None of that was happening.

And then there were the go-go dancers. I don't know who they were, but they claimed that hallway for their dance floor and they were dancing some kind of coordinated choreography all freaking afternoon. They danced through about a half-dozen readings I personally witnessed and I heard about several more.

So imagine you're an author, and you're trying to read the opening segment of your zombie invasion, full of blood and guts and brains and cries of "Oh fuck!" You've got yahoos yammering not five feet away from you, music blaring, some kid behind you yelling to his mom about Oreos and a cadre of go-go dancers cavorting behind your audience of two. Pretty much your vision of hell. Every author I talked to echoed the same feelings.

Every con I've gone to the last three years has complained about author readings. They're a hassle to coordinate, authors love them and they say nobody comes to them. I've never really had a problem getting people to show up at my readings, and people like Selina Rosen pack them to standing-room-only. I think they're invaluable for people who come to cons to find new authors, to hear excerpts from coming events, for authors to try out new material.

MSC tried possibly the most creative solution to the problem I've seen yet, and I'm really quite sorry it was such a dismal failure. But I hope they don't give up on readings, because they're a good part of why people go to the shows, whether it seems that way or not. Please, tell them so, guys.

Next was a short break, just long enough to grab actual food of sorts and sit in on Jimmy's reading, since it was his first ever as a professional author. Then I was off to yet another panel, and to my horror I discovered that I was the moderator. If I may channel Daffy Duck for a minute... who is responsible for this?? I am no moderator. My job is to crack wise, not keep things on track.

If I'd known I was a moderator, I would have been prepared with actual questions and topics for discussion. I swear. I'd never been a moderator before, I barely knew how to do it. I tried to keep the panel rolling - it was about finding markets for your work, one of those times I wish I could be in the audience because I'm lousy at finding markets. Hello, "The Sheriff of Nottingham"? Still, the audience was lively and intelligent, my panelists were great, and nobody threw rotten fruit. All in all, a success.

Next I bribed Angel to lace me into the Victorian Lady corset, and Jimmy watched, because he's a perv. Angel got me nicely laced up with the beautiful floor-length skirt Karen DeGuire made custom for me because it would match the corset, which she also made. Have I plugged Curious Cat Clothing yet? Because I wouldn't buy a corset from anyone else. Karen made both my corsets, and let me tell you, it ain't easy to make a corset capable of giving me a waist again, folks.

Then we hung out in the room a bit, just authors chatting. We were pleased with the way the show was going, but poor Angel had lost the Darrell again - she's the Susan Lucci of the Darrells at this point - and I think Jimmy was down about the sales he's been having. It would've been a good time to drink, but alcohol and corsets don't always mix, I've found.

I checked in on the boy, who had spent the day cosplaying as the Ninth Doctor and then ensconced himself in the video game room. It wouldn't be my choice for the best way to spend the con, but he was having fun, so heck with it.

I wandered about for a bit, popping into a panel here and there. I wanted to hang out in the greenroom, but it had closed. However, a small cadre of miscreants - I mean authors - had gathered in the hallway outside. I chatted with Kim Richardson and Allan Gilbreath for a bit, and of course Selina Rosen made a beeline to bury her head in my breasts because she does that every time she sees me in a corset, and that's just Selina, a force of nature.

For that matter, I was hit on by nearly every woman passing along the hallway who registered more than a four on the Kinsey scale, and not one man. I tell you, I should switch orientations. Apparently I'd make a very successful lesbian. Alas, I rank a 1 on the Kinsey scale. Sorry, ladies.

We had a long and fun conversation in that hallway, ranging from Selina scaring people (because she's Selina) to the idiot racist who had disrupted yet another panel, to trials with publishers (always a favorite topic among authors). I had time to go retrieve the boy kicking and screaming, take him to the hotel room and order him to bed, return, and they were still there talking.

When I finally outlasted them, I wandered about for a bit, then happened upon Lou Anders of Prometheus Books (a Guest of Honor) and J.F. Lewis, whom I've known for years and have tormented on many panels. Jeremy is a good guy, and we had a nice talk. Lou told me a few things about upcoming Doctor Who that give me hope.

We got bored when the consuite ran out of beer, and we wandered aimlessly about the halls in search of actual food. We ran into one guy who had food, and asked him where he got it. "I got a ribbon!" he declared, and scampered away. "Hey, I got a ribbon!" Lou protested, waving his Guest of Honor ribbon. Jeremy and I looked at our Guest ribbons in shock. Since when don't we get fed?

We ended up commandeering the registration table and talking about the direction of animated film, the boneheadedness of Disney and the utter dreck of the SyFyLys network until we remembered it was Daylight Savings Night and that 2:30 a.m. really meant 3:30 a.m. Scamper to bed.