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Thursday, October 20, 2011

My 2011 New York Comic Con Experience

Signing books at the Tor booth.

I and many fellow comic book and sci-fi/fantasy fans, made our yearly pilgrimage to the Javitz Center on October 14th to partake in New York Comic Con’s 2011 opening. What made this year different for me is that this year I was there as a published author promoting my first fantasy novel Awakenings.

Right away I noticed that Friday afternoon was as packed as Saturdays had traditionally been in the past. It was mayhem and madness with fans having come from all over the country to delve into all things sci-fi/fantasy. The costumes were more numerous than previous years and quite ambitious. You can see many of them at my friend Steve Bunche's blog, The Vault Of Buncheness.

I arrived at the Tor booth in aisle 800 just in time to settle in and start my 2:00 p.m. book signing. We went through a case of books in about 20 minutes. The fans were friendly and conveyed their eagerness to start on my tome. I met some friends of my cover artist Chris McGrath who tried to pair us up so that I could convey my thanks for his excellent cover. But that never happened. I think we missed each other by one aisle. I got to meet Twitter follower Sally (@QQwil on Twitter) who runs the Qwillery blog. This is one of the sweetest parts of the job—meeting fans whose love for the genre matches my own. I’m a proud geek. Once done at the Tor booth, I had about six hours to kill before my first author's panel, "DEMONICHOTSPOTS, INFERNAL PIT STOPS AND THE BADLANDS: THE GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP TOHELL."

The Marvel and D.C. promotions, were, as usual, among the largest ones at the con. D.C. had a vibrant energy and was constantly packed with excited fans, probably because of the debut of the new 52. It's strange, so many of the editors that I worked with at Marvel during their second golden age in the early 90s are now at D.C.; Bob Harras, Bobbie Chase, Joey Cavalieri, Mike Martz... these people know a thing or two about putting out a great comic book. It's not a coincidence that D.C.'s relaunch was a complete success.
Demonic Hotspots panel. (Click for video of discussion)
Star Wars had an unusually large presence this year as well, setting up a corner exclusively for their vendors. Tucked between some monster vendors hocking video games and other Star Wars fare was my friend Erich, who produces Star Wars novels and activity books for Random House. Erich is wise in the ways of publishing and has advised me along the path to getting my book done. Though he works for my publisher’s competition, he's in the Awakenings acknowledgements. The con gave me the opportunity to give him his signed copy.

It was time to grab a bite, especially if I didn't want to pass out during my first author’s panel ever. As luck would have it, I ran into two old friends, Ed Murr and the Bunche-man, at the cafeteria. True to past years, the Javitz center cafeteria was still run with the clockwork efficiency of a late-era Soviet bureaucracy. We chowed down on reasonably passable food and soon after made our way to one of the convention’s favorite segments—Artist’s Alley. Much like Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series, this is where magic happens at the comic cons.

With amazing TOR publicist Alexis
Where as the rest of the con is devoted to selling wares and bringing attention to brands, Artist’s alley is a place of actual production. Some creators might say it bears resemblance to a sweat shot, but that’s only because their work is in demand, and artists are loathed to turn down commission from their fans. They really do care about the people who make their careers possible, and nothing makes them happier than a commission. Fan’s gets to take home a piece of original art of their favorite characters by their favorite artists. Among some of the creators I said hello to this weekend: Tom Raney, Mark Texeira, Scott Hanna, Kevin MacGuire, Fabian Nicieza, and Jimmy Palmiotti. I tried to say hello to Amanda Connor and Walt Simonson, but they were completely surrounded by people and working on their commissions.

I spent much of the rest of the day browsing with my friend Evan. At 7:00, they closed the main exhibit halls, and we had two hours before my panel so it was off to an Irish Pub to kill time a few blocks away. He had beer, I had coffee--I didn't want to risk screwing up my first panel appearance with off-the-cuff remarks courtesy of Mr. Guiness and Mr. Jameson. I was there to work. The panel was rich with experience and talent: New York Times Best sellers Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, and Rachel Caine, as well as Anton Strout and Christina Henry. As 9:00 p.m. fast approached, it was time to make our way down to the basement were the conference rooms dwelt.

Our moderator Diana Gill, had an easy going style, and the group and audience seemed to share the same positive vibe. It was surprisingly energetic for a late Friday conversation. Diana asked us about the cities we placed our stories in, and which were the spookiest towns in America. She then opened the floor to questions from the audience. One woman asked about how realistic it was that so many vampires, werewolves, and other monsters could get away with not being caught in the worlds of our books. My response was simple, if real life monsters, like Philip Garrido, the man who kidnapped Jaycee Dugard, and had her live in a tent in the back yard for 10 years, and the father in Austria who kept his daughter in the basement for 24 years could get away with it as long as they did, why couldn't vampires and werewolves when their very lives were on the line.

The panel (minus Kim H.) at the end.

I mostly listened and learned from the more seasoned writers, but threw my opinions out there on occasion with some success. I managed to be funny at the appropriate times. It was a great experience. My friend Evan and Tor publicist Alexis said I did well. Evan and I shared a late dinner after that. Then it was home, only to come back again the next day. But this time, I was there strictly as a fan and to meet old friends that I had worked with at Marvel years ago. To emphasize this, I wore my Fantastic Four shirt under my sports coat. This was a great year.

Thanks to everyone who helped make it so memorable. 
#NYCC  2011

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