Friday, June 17, 2011

The Book Launch -- Ladies of Trade Town

Getting accepted to Lee Martindale's Ladies of Trade Town anthology was a huge high in itself. Lee's one of my pantheon of favorite sci-fi authors and editors.

Imagine my surprise when Lee told me there would be a huge book launch at A-Kon in June. I had to go.

For those of you who are not familiar with science fiction and fantasy fandom, A-Kon is fandom convention. Their primary interest is anime and gaming, but the convention covers a broad scope of fannish interests from anime to writing and probably some X,Y, and Z topics, too. In addition, A-Kon has Doll-A-Con beneath its wing. Doll-A-Con is a mini-convention for fans of BJDs (ball-jointed dolls).

What I didn't know at that moment was A-Kon would be the largest sci-fi convention I have ever attended. I'm a reasonably well-socialized introvert, but large crowds really exhaust me even if they are my kind of people.

Lee assured me I wouldn't be interacting with all 17,000+ fans. Most of our events would net about 100 people. My vision's getting worse. With a narrowing angle of view, people can pop up out of nowhere. I try to be careful in crowds, but A-Kon was a whole bunch of fans who had their shot to let their freak flag fly. Most weren't looking where they were going and some were costumed so heavily they could have used my help getting around.

By Friday, I felt as though I'd collided with half of the attendees. I normally do fine with public speaking, but I was getting nervous as a long-tailed cat in a rocking-chair contest.

The convention attendees were housed at the downtown Dallas Sheraton with art shows, panels, exhibits and gaming scattered between the convention center and the Marriott. Lines formed for everything from bathrooms to the elevators. Hey, we even saw a guy in a ghillie suit lying down in the elevator. I almost had to check for a pulse, but this was apparently part of a LARP (live action role play) going on somewhere in the con.

It didn't help to see that lines for the writing track panels were a hundred plus people who'd waited in crowded hallways for an hour or more. The two people I'd managed to see presenting, Peter S. Beagle and Mookie, were brilliant. Honestly, I've attended some great panels. These two gentlemen are right up there on the top.

The big moment arrived. I finally was going to be on a panel. I took my seat behind the table because that was as close to hiding as I could get. Elizabeth Moon walked in. I've seen her once in my life at a signing for Adventures in Crime and Space and I stammered how much I loved Paksenarrion and ran away with my signed copy of Remnant Population which turned out to be my new favorite of her work. Ms. Moon had a couple of options for seating and she sat by me. Better than a dream come true, sitting on a panel and next to me one of my pantheon of Writer Goddesses.

I honestly don't remember what I said. I hope it was something at least interesting instead of what I was thinking. (Holy shit, I can't believe I'm up here...LOL!)

Next, came the signing. That was better. Lee gave us a quick lesson since several of us were new to signing. She, as editor, signed beneath the inside title. We could sign on the inside cover, the index or on our own story as the fan preferred. I was behind a table and fans just came up and presented books to me. Smile, sign, and thank the fan then repeat. In case anyone wants to know, the general preference for those who have not signed a page in an anthology is for writers to sign the front page of their own story.

On a practical note, I realized I rarely sign my full name anymore. I don't write checks and my credit card is not my full name. I felt a little bit foolish writing Rebecca McFarland Kyle over and over again on pages of typewriter paper, but that paid off in having my signature more or less ready and legible because when you sign a book someone else has paid for, you want it perfect. My suggestion is to have several pens that are comfortable to write with at hand. Gel pens are great, but they don't dry quickly enough to close the book so the fan can get another autograph. I used ballpoint, which was also better for a lefty because they don't run on your hand.

After the signing we had a pause to grab something to eat, get back to our rooms and dress and make ready for the evening's festivities. I hate to shop for clothing, particularly in a size huge. One thing I noticed about the local formal offerings was that they were either "prom" or "Dolly." Neither look worked for me, so I took my own advice from years ago to a friend and went with something I could repurpose: a long black skirt and a red satin blouse. I was most happy with my black gladiator flats, thinking if I had to stand, I'd at least be comfortable. (Key the dramatic music....little did she know...)

Next, came our private toast. We met in the Presidential Suite for champagne and tuxedo strawberries. We were joined by special guests, Esther M. Friesner and her wonderful husband and Lynn Abbey.

I like bubbly in all its alcoholic glory, but I must find out somehow what was provided for this toast because the champagne was nose tickling tart and the most delectable I've ever had. I don't care much for strawberries or white chocolate, but the berry was plump and tart and the dark chocolate scrumptious enough to overcome my dislike of the light.

Next, we traversed the warren of secret inner-workings of the Sheraton to elevators that would take us all en masse to our launch party on the 38th floor. That march did a lot to ease my nerves and gave me a fascinating glimpse of the 'downstairs' of our upscale hotel.

Everyone's ears were popping as we ascended. While I've technically been higher at the Space Needle in Seattle and The Tower of Americas in San Antonio, I have only been to the 25th story of an actual building.

What an amazing sight. Our launch took place in the Chaparral Club, which is floor-to-ceiling windows. The room was lit subtly with candlelight on the scattered tables. Dallas was spread out at our feet like a black velvet carpet its lights like glittering gems.

We were promised cake and I already knew A-Kon does nothing in a small way. I'm not sure the photos will do this torso justice--the baker built us some mighty bazooms!!!! Better yet, the cake tasted as good as it looked.

We got to talk with each other and some fans. I even got a lovely pair of fanboys for a few minutes. Sweet guys and very flattering.

I cried when Lee, Esther Friesner, Elizabeth Moon and Lynn Abbey asked me to sign their books. That was a signal honor to have my humble story in their collections.

Thanks to Lee Martindale, A-Kon and Jamie Boughen, my fellow contributors, Esther M. Friesner and Lynn Abbey who were completely gracious, and, of course, Tony for one of the most spectacular evenings of my life.

Here's to many more book launches in the future for all of us.

If you're interested in purchasing Ladies of Trade Town, copies are available online here:

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