OryCon31, and I must say I've been spoiled for life. This was largely due to the efforts of DeeAnn Sole, my guest liaison, and her husband Curtis Chen. DeeAnn was remarkable from before I even arrived, working very hard to find me a flight that would allow me to eat Thanksgiving Day lunch with my family and still arrive in Portland on Thursday night. She and Curtis picked me up at the airport, and surprised me with a gift basket that included a selection of dark ales and lagers (all microbreweries and local beers), copious amounts of chocolate, and everything from hand sanitizer to Tylenol. Ah, to be so well understood...
The convention itself was marvelous, the organizers very friendly. I got another gift basket with more beer and chocolate and hand sanitizer... I was told it was in a new hotel for them (the Portland DoubleTree, and that this year only, they'd had to move up two weeks to the Thanksgiving Weekend in order to get into the space, so they were expecting a smaller-than-usual show and were very happy with their 750 preregistered attendees, (and I'm sure they pulled in quite a bit above that over the course of the weekend. UPDATE: Con reports attendance around 1400.)
Before it even began, on Friday morning, I used "technology" to find a Starbucks at the nearby Lloyd Center, and then, a Barnes & Noble. I couldn't resist checking our books (tons face out!), and was thrilled to see a guy pull Mark Chadbourn's The Silver Skull off the shelf, read the back cover, nod, and tuck it under his arm. I left him alone for as long as I could, but eventually had to engage him in conversation. We ended up talking about 40 minutes about all things SF&Fnal, and exchanged emails, Twitter handles, and Facebook contacts at the end. Thus empowered by technology and caffeine, I hit the con in an already wonderful mood.
An Aside: It was only on the way out of Lloyd Center, reflecting on the skating rink there and wishing my family had been able to come with me, that I found myself signing "Standard Bitter Love Song # 8" by the Mountain Goats, and realized the connection that my brain had already made. The song in question begins, "I went down to Lloyd center looking for you. / but a mouth full of anger blocked my view. / He took your hand there in the skating the rink. / God will give him blood to drink."
Lubov, and our liaisons. Then I had a fun superhero panel with Michael Ehart and Carl Cook, a good publishing panel with Doug Odell and Patricia Briggs (wonderful to meet her, wish I'd had more time to chat), and got to give David D. Levine his Endeavor Award before he shot me with a ray gun during the opening ceremonies skit, ostensibly for rejecting his manuscript. Awkward, yes, but David co-wrote the performance, so...
Then Friday night: The bar looked like a Mexican Cantina (or maybe a Hobbit Hole), and was built with its own outdoor wall facade, complete with windows, as if someone had erected on building inside another (strange but made for a great way to get away without getting away, and had all the little nooks and plenty of space a good con bar needs). I got to spend some real time with Mary Robinette Kowal (my new favorite person) and Ken Scholes (a fellow refugee from fundamentalism with whom I rapidly bonded). Then my good friend Lee Moyer (fabulous artist) came and brought me doughnuts. Greater love hath no man than this.
Aside #2: I finished my 50,000 words of NaNoWriMo Friday night around 1:20am. I'll have thoughts on that experience at a later time, but choosing to do NaNoWriMo for the first time in a month when I was a guest of two separate cons, and thus, on the road for 10 of the 30 days, is perhaps not the wisest thing I've ever done...
Saturday they worked me hard. Five panels, including their first ever kaffeeklatsch (Apparently, I introduced them to the idea), and the last four panels in a block from Noon to Four PM. DeeAnn was amazing, meeting me in the morning with a Starbucks Skinny Vanilla Latte Venti in one hand and a clipboard with my itinerary in the other. I didn't have to think about where I was supposed to be at all, just concentrate on being "on." During that four hour block, she was there to hand me power-bars, bottled water, and hand sanitizer as we raced between rooms. I felt like a combination of a celebrity rock star and Mr. Monk. I'm not kidding about that spoiled for life bit. I'm Editor Guest of Honor at MidSouthCon next March. When they email to ask me if I have any special needs, I'm pretty sure I'll say "DeeAnn."
Chuck Lukacs, who does the interiors on our two James Enge books, Blood of Ambrose and This Crooked Way. Really great guys both, as I'm sure bleeds through from this photo. And everybody exchanging contact info at the end of the evening only made me sorry I don't live in Portland. Odd coincidence of the evening: Both Mary and Garrett were reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond - Mary for world-building and Garrett for culinary school!
Sunday was more of the same - greeted with coffee, a marvelous kaffeeklatsch (I think those are my favorite programming items always), etc... Sadly, the brand new "behind the scenes on book covers" Powerpoint presentation I worked on all last week was poorly attended, but my three audience members were deeply appreciated. (I later found out the con had 13 items all scheduled at the same time, and the time was noon on Sunday, so I'm not taking it personally). But "Gravity Defying Bosoms" with Blake Hutchins, Deb Taber, Kristin Landon and Mary Robinette Kowal, was more fun (and more relevant) than that panel had a right to be.
I had to race out of my last panel to make the SF Authorfest III Booksigning at the Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing. Thanks to SF Section Head, Peter Honigstock, for a wonderful time. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sold an impressive amount of Diving into the Wreck, and I got to meet Brent Weeks and Timothy Zahn. The store was huge and very nice, and with over 20 authors there, it was quite a well-attended event. Successful too, I'm told.
Afterwards, Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch took me to Hunan Restaurant, where Garrett and his girlfriend Helen joined us. Great dinner, followed by a trip to the main Powell's so I could see it in all its glorious enormity. There were an impressive number of Pyr titles there (could always be more!), and I'm glad I've seen one of the world's largest bookstores firsthand. Then home, to one final beer waiting in the refrigerator, a few final bits of chocolate, and a quiet evening before a very long day traveling back. It was hard to be away from my family on Thanksgiving weekend, very hard, but the staff, attendees, guests, and friends old and new made this a weekend I'll never forget. Meanwhile, I am still suffering DeeAnn withdrawal. Where's my latte?