HeatFest 2011

Everyone else has already blogged about the sweatfest that was Fandom Fest. At this point, complaining about the heat seems like kicking a dead dog. I think it's clear the Fern Valley Hotel of Louisville, Ky. has significant problems, and any convention considering it as a venue should reconsider.

That said, on Sunday I told the beleaguered Stephen Zimmer that I thought the literary track could have been spun off into a small convention of its own, preferably at a hotel with air conditioning. This is the second ZimmerCon I've attended this year, and that man knows how to do a panel schedule. We authors privately said that Zimmer's involvement makes us more likely to do a show; some shows we'd ordinarily pass by, unless someone says, "No, Zimmer's doing it." Then we're there, because we know the panels will have smart topics and there will be good people doing them.

Everyone shouted about it being a divided con. Maybe it's just being an eight-year veteran of DragonCon (oh my zod it's only a month away), but I wasn't bothered by the bulk of the celebrities being on the other hotel. After all, we got Boba Fett and Lois Lane. (I cracked up Margot Kidder! Geeksquee.) I didn't mind that all the book people were in one place; after all, I know everybody.

The heat, I minded. Me and everybody else. The hotel was passing out free water bottles to those of us standing in line to check in, but I hear that's the only time water was free, in a hotel crammed with thousands of people without air conditioning. I requested a nonsmoking room and ended up with a smoking room, so it's good I don't have asthma. The room itself left a great deal to be desired, with mold and broken curtain rings in the shower and a less-than-comfortable bed, plus half the lamps didn't work. I spend more than 30 nights a year in hotels, and this wasn't the worst... by a fairly small margin.

Celebrity moment: the Young Boba Fett walked into the party late Friday as we were shutting down, and it wasn't until after he left that Kiddo realized he had been talking to a Real Star Wars Actor. Geeksquee all over the place.

We had a good setup, sharing space with New Babel Books. Finally got to meet Frank Fradella's bride-to-be, and she is awesome. (And makes kickass cookies.) Everyone was there, including about seven members of the Literary Underworld. We officially assimilated Terry Sofian and his steampunk RPG, much backstage business was discussed, deals were made, plans were formed, evil was hatched.

To me, there are three sides to any convention experience. One: Sales. We can't do a show if we don't make money. Two: Business. Most of my work comes from contacts made at conventions. Three: Fun. There is value in the socialization with other writers and publishers. Writing is a solitary occupation.

Sales were at best anemic. We needed a big show badly, and we didn't get it. It was a combination of the heat, being tied to a media con where most of those fabled 5,000 were saving their twenties for autographs instead of books, and sheer competition. Hey, I love being in a room with Apex, Kerlak, Sam's Dot and Seventh Star. But I sell better when I'm the only book babe in the room. :)

Business, however, was very good. I had important sit-downs with both my main publishers and got details straightened out for upcoming projects. The LitUnd panel went well and an idea was born that will likely complicate my life in a delightful manner. I've been pitched on several more ideas and a cooperation that may resolve several problems we've had with our business model. Yes, I'm being intentionally vague. Stay tuned.

Fun, of course, was awesome. As expected when this many awesome people are together, but really, it was our best two-day room party ever. Shorty Bergman did his award-winning walking tacos, Dani Burke provided yummies and Angelia Sparrow delivered on her mixed-drink extravaganza and spiked watermelon. It was terrific to just throw our doors open and have Instant Room Party.

Everyone was there: D.A. Adams, Eric Wilson, H. David Blalock, Frank Fradella, Shirley Damsgaard, Shane Moore, J.L. Mulvihill, Maurice Broaddus, Allan Gilbreath, Jason Sizemore, Bobby Nash, Herika Raymer, Jackie and Dan Gamber, Steven Shrewsbury, Sean Taylor, Brady Allen, Mari Adkins, Jon Klement, Kimberly Richardson, a bunch of readers and nice people who brought more booze, plus  dozens more I didn't get to see or have forgotten to mention. At any moment I expected to be shut down by security, but our winning streak continues.

This is the part I really love. I talked about writing production and work-ethic discipline with Shrews, the man of 400 short stories. I talked about the changes in the bookselling industry with Gilbreath and Sizemore. I traded snark with Sean Taylor. I finally got to have more than six words with Maurice Broaddus, whose work I have enjoyed for many years and yet we rarely get to speak at conventions (and I STILL forgot to bring my copy of Orgy of Souls for him to autograph!).

I always come back from con with renewed enthusiasm for the craft, but this one was more invigorating than most. Frank spun an analogy in the LitUnd panel about the pre-Raphaelite artists that I found fascinating: they were not necessarily better artists than those working in any other period, but they worked together, they learned from each other and they became known as a group as well as individuals. Just like the Rat Pack singing in Vegas, individual artists that work together can achieve much greater things in concert than in solitude. I joke about how the specfic small-press world keeps getting more and more incestuous, but there is strength in our cooperation, in the way we work together and improve each other's craft. Or maybe I just like to drool on Maurice's shoes.

We always do a Friday-night party, and yet we end up throwing our doors open Saturday night as well. It's the "drink up the leftovers" party, and somehow ends up being even more well-supplied than night one. It's like the loaves and fishes, as everyone shares what they brought and still we end up with extra Bloody Marys.

The only flaw was that apparently we were visited by a troll late Saturday night who started spouting stuff that drove out half the room. I didn't find out about it until much later; I was buried on the far side of the room. If I'd known what was happening I would have put a stop to it. I guess I don't have the room party dynamic down just right yet.

Regardless, I am not unhappy with the show. Zimmer and his cadre of minions did their damndest with no help from the hotel or whomever was supposed to be planning this thing. If sales were not what I hoped, they were also not the worst of the year. I don't know if we'll be back next year, but I am glad we went.

Extra credit goes to Jon Klement and his flunky for transporting our racks and some of the books across the country to spare the load on my poor Toyota; to Frank, Shrews, Angel, Klement, Adams and Dani for helping to work the table; to Shorty for his yummy catering; to Jimmy, my awesome partner who built the monkey cage by himself and as usual was my right hand the whole weekend; and of course to Zimmer, who worked his ass off and didn't even get to drink at the party.

Zimmer, we're all buying you a drink at the next show.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said, Elizabeth. I hate that we missed all the parties, as we were so busy trying to find air conditioning that we barely had time to communicate with anyone else. It was great to meet you and be on that first panel with yas! I know we'll meet again soon!

  2. Much agreed about the hotel. That was just a horrible mess and they acted as if nothing was wrong with 90 temps in the rooms. That said I was thrilled with the panels and the people that I got to meet (You included) And I cannot wait until the next con that I get to go to, when and wherever that might be.


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