The much belated con report. It’s a bit long, so bear with me.
Thursday: Took off early from work to catch the train to NYC. Settled into the quiet car and popped open Capes and Clockwork, a superhero steampunk anthology from Dark Oak Press. It was a rather enjoyable read.
Like any anthology, it has its stronger and weaker stories, but this one had a number of them that were very enjoyable. Unfortunately, one of the stronger entries would have been much better if it wasn’t so blatantly a D&D rip-off. I don’t mind mixing magic and steam in a story, but if you’re going to riff on a game system, try not to use their most recognizable creation. *sigh*
But, beyond that, this was a very strong anthology. I’d have to say my most favorite stories from the anthology were “Keely” by D. Allen Lewis, “Captain Amy and the Steam-Driven Kittens of Doom” by Azreal Wolf, and “Lost Child’s Little Protector” by Herika R. Raymer. All in all, it was certainly worth downloading this book for my Nook and made the trip from Baltimore to NYC go a lot faster. (4 stars)
Friday: Took off from my friend’s house in Queens and headed toward the Javits Center where Book Expo America was held. Here is where relying on one’s memory from a year ago is probably not a good idea. Instead of riding the 7 to 42nd and Times Square, I mistakenly got off at 42nd and Grand Central. Well, let me verify, there’s a big difference getting off on the east side of Manhatten versus getting off the subway near the center of Manhattan. However, once I got my bearings, it was a rather enjoyable walk and I was only slightly disheveled by the time I reached BEA.
Once I arrived, had a chance to catch up with some old friends at the show, to include Aleathea Kontis, and Chuck Gannon, as well as meeting a bunch of SFWA authors I’d never had the chance to visit with before. It was fun getting to visit with the Mystery Writers of America who had the booth to our right and the Horror Writers of America who had the booth just across from us. I’ve met some of these people before at other shows and it was great renewing acquaintances as well as meeting new people.
Really enjoyed visting with Ted Hertel, Jr. from the Mystery Writers of America. We discussed past conventions and getting to meet some of the greats from writing and comics who’re no longer with us. It’s amazing how much comic history is being lost daily. Too many young people, especially those who’re wanting to get into the business, don’t know who the trailblazers were who helped create this medium. It’s kind of sad when you see the Golden Age writers and artists completely ignored at a convention while everyone flocks around the flavor du’ jure. *sigh*
Also ran into Joshua Blimes and Lisa Rogers from Jabberwocky Agency and had a great conversation with them.
While BEA was a lot of fun, there were two personal highlights from BEA I want to mention. One was visiting with a gentleman who worked at one of the libraries from the Jersey side of the city. It turns out he was a big fan of my Gauntlet Dark Legacy book and promised to bring it next year for me to sign. I was surprised anyone remembered the book since it came out ten years ago, but it was a neat feeling just the same. Also, Margery Flax, the Administrative Director for the Mystery Writers of America have asked to see my thesis on Poe when the final version is approved. They want to add it to their Poe collection. Yeah, so now not only do I have to get this thesis past my committee, I have to write it in a way the MWA won’t fall asleep reading it. No pressure.
After the show, Victoria Strauss, Michael Capabianco, and me went out for dinner uptown and discussed the future of Writer Beware and started discussing some new ways to get the word out there. We also need to figure out how to reach the self-publishers out there and keep our message relevant in this very fluid publishing market.
Saturday: Woke up entirely too early to help Steve Roman with his booth at BookCon. BookCon took over part of the BEA floor (rows 2400-end) and the StarWarp Concepts booth was 3064. Steve and I arrived at 7:20 and Jose Calderon, writer of Tall Tales and the Oswald Chronicles, arrived to give us a hand with the final set-up before the show kicked off at 9:00.
Steve Roman and Jose Calderon at the StarWarp Concepts booth – BEA 2014
I think the people putting on Book Con got surprised. I know they were trying to temper the expectations of the exhibitors, but apparently all 10,000 fans who bought tickets showed up. It was a great time for me, but I understand some of the publishers who aren’t used to doing SF/F cons or comic conventions, were overwhelmed by the fan experience.
Steve did a brisk business most of the day and a number of people seemed enchanted by his story about Pandora Zwieback, the heroine of his novel Blood Feud. The fans had a bevy of questions about the series—how he came to write the story, what the reaction had been so far and so on. He also did a good business with some of the ancillary products that StarWarp puts out. To my surprise, he also did a brisk business on Troubleshooters Incorporated, my old comic series that he has collected and turned into a graphic novel. I think it was the second-best selling item on his table at Book Con.
It seemed that almost a quarter of the people walking past the table caught the fact I was wearing my Jon Pertwee shirt underneath my sports jacket. Who realized there were so many Doctor Who fans who’d show up at a regular book convention? It got people who might have passed the booth to stop, though, and we made a few sales that way, so I’m definitely keeping it up. A number of passer-bys gave me props for going “old school” by wearing a shirt with the Third Doctor on it.
Steve Roman introducing Pandora Zwiebeck to a new fan – BEA 2014
Book Con was rather short though, only going from 9-3 on Saturday. Considering most Saturdays at conventions are either 9 or 10 until 7, it really felt like we could have done even more sales if we’d have had a full day at the show. Still, for a small press, StarWarp did well and I suspect will do even better at next year’s show when Blood Rain and Blood and Iron will both be out (Pandora Zwiebeck #2 and #3).
Sunday: Headed back for Baltimore on Amtrak. Thanks to an hour delay in Philidelphia due to a police emergency on the track ahead, I had plenty of time to read my Nook. Finished reading “Capes and Clockwork” and then read Black Fedora by Pro Se Productions. Black Fedora was three novellas collected under one cover, focusing on Pulp told by those on the wrong side of the law. I enjoyed the first and last story of the trilogy, but the middle story wasn’t really my cup of tea. It felt a bit contrived and I don’t care for villians or heroes who always seem one step ahead of their competition and “can’t be beat”. There’s no dramatic tension in a story like that—after a while my reaction was, “Let’s get this over with”. It’s not badly written, but it didn’t engage me the way the other two stories did. (3.5 stars)
And that’s Book Expo America/Book Con in a nutshell.