Our first full day at All-Con Dallas 2018 was a rousing success. I sold a book.
A man picked up a copy of DAY OF THE DARK and asked if I had change. I was gobsmacked. Of course I didn’t have change. I hadn’t thought about needing change. I didn’t even have my purse.
David, standing behind me, pulled out his wallet and handed me two fives. I handed them to the customer in exchange for a twenty.
It was fun. I forgot to say, “Would you like me to autograph that for you?” But I’m new at this.
David, as usual, was more prepared than I. He came armed with Tootsie Pops and a bowl he’d bought at Walmart. Two Pops were taken, the first by a monster, and the second by me.
I’d forgotten how much trouble lollipops are. When you have one in your mouth, you can’t talk, and when you take it out of your mouth, you lose the use of one hand. David suggested I set it on a sticky note. Later, when I picked it up, I discovered something interesting: the stickum on the back of the sticky note was stickier than the stickum under the Tootsie Pop.
Most of the attendees were in costume, and we took a lot of pictures. David’s are good; he didn’t mind asking people to stop so he could get a shot. I was reluctant to ask anyone to do anything, so I snapped many of my subjects as they walked toward, by, and away from me. Moving targets, as it were. Fortunately, David shares.
Selling the book was the first Big Deal of the day.
The second also occurred while I was parked at the Aliens and Mysteries table. A man stopped to look at books and stayed to talk about crime fiction, and then about crime, and that led to his saying his grandfather was a Texas Ranger from 1928 into the 1950s. For over a year, I had looked without success for a certain piece of information about the Rangers in the ’50s. So I asked; he told me. I just love serendipity.
The second experience was also serendipitous, but it goes well beyond Big Deal. Tonight I had a sudden inspiration–an epiphany–that could change the course of my life as a writer.
And the credit goes to Lady Lola Lestrange of La Divina Burlesque.
I didn’t get a picture of her. But you can look her up.
Reporting from All-Con 2018 in Dallas, Texas. Tomorrow we’ll sit at a table outside the Lalique Ballroom and sell our wares–David has Alien Resort patches; I have copies of Lone Star Lawless, Day of the Dark, and Murder on Wheels.
I say we’ll sell, but that’s to be seen. I asked David if he plans to stand in front of the table and call to passersby, “Do you like aliens? I have some alien stuff here. And my wife has books for sale. She’s a writer.”
He said, “No.”
That’s not good. I expected him to hawk my merchandise. Like Jane Austen’s Lizzie, I don’t initiate conversations with people to whom I haven’t been introduced. Especially when I want them to buy something.
Years ago, a friend encouraged me to sell Mary Kay makeup. It could have been a lucrative career. I might have ended up with a pink Cadillac and a bulging bank account.
But my pitch would have gone like this: “Mary Kay makes excellent makeup, and reasonably priced, and you don’t have to go to Dillard’s and stand around waiting for the saleslady to notice you’re there; just call and I’ll deliver it to your door. But women don’t need really need makeup, they put all that goop on their faces and for what?, vanity, just vanity, and you know what the Bible says about that, and you can’t afford it anyway, save your money to buy something of lasting value.”
I liked the makeup, but I kept on teaching.
Our drive to Dallas was uneventful and as pleasant as a drive from Austin to Dallas can be. If you’ve ever taken that route, you know what I mean. I rode the train to Fort Worth several years ago. Boarding, I so looked forward to the scenery: trees and grass and farmhouses and cattle and horses and possibly a chicken or two.
Oh, silly me.
It was flat, barren plowed land, and scrubby fields lying fallow, pretending to be pasture, and the warehouse districts of a string of small towns. The most interesting sights were the water tower in Holland and a building with Macaroni painted on the side. A few cows grazed in the distance. No chickens.
No wi-fi, either, for writers who have to keep an online thesaurus running behind their digitized manuscripts.
Unlike IH-35 scenery, the hotel is attractive. The convention holds promise, too. On the way to our room, we met a bunny rabbit. She wore a G-rated costume of electric blue and black and had black ears, black fishnet stockings, and a reasonable amount of visible skin. She was cute. I didn’t want to be obvious, so I didn’t turn around to check for a powder puff tail.
Fortunately, David registered early enough to get a room on a lower floor. It’s near the elevators, so we don’t have to walk down a long hall to reach them. Also, our rides down will be brief.
At a hotel where we stayed last year, only one of the two elevators was in service, and therefore was always crowded. During each ride, I was sorely tempted to break into a chorus of “Getting to Know You.” We got to know one another quite well.
Elevator rides could be critical this weekend. David reported that on one of his recon missions, he saw people with swords. I don’t want to be in close quarters with a bunch of Game of Thrones wannabes, especially when they might have spent happy hour swilling mead.
Now I backtrack: As I wrote the preceding paragraph, I realized All-Con elevators pose no particular threat. Since last September, it’s been legal in Texas to carry blades over 5.5 inches.
Said Time Magazine shortly after Gov. Greg Abbot signed the bill into law,
“People could already carry knives with blades under the 5.5-inch limit, but they generally could not purchase or carry longer weapons. Now they will be able to take many more weapons with them when they run errands, for example, or when acting out their favorite scenes from Game of Thrones in the local park.”*
“Carrying a sword down the street, carrying a Bowie knife down the street… completely legal. Machetes if you want to,” said general manager at the House of Blades in Fort Worth, Ahnna Escobedo.
“I think it was more to give people more rights and to make sure they felt like they were free to carry what they wanted,” Escobedo said. “Texas move right there, sure.”
Time points out the law wasn’t pushed through without thought. “… [A]fter a man was accused of killing a University of Texas at Austin student and wounding three others with a hunting knife, debate on the legislation was delayed. And the bill’s author, State Rep. John Frullo, stated, “House Bill 1935 provides a common sense solution by prohibiting any knife with a blade over five-and-a-half inches in certain location restricted areas,…”
Frullo also said, he just wanted to simplify current laws: “‘What we wanted to do was make a law where citizens could understand it, law enforcement could understand it and the judicial system could understand it … It adds clarity. All we have to do is use a tape measure and we can tell whether or not a knife is legal to carry.'”
The law also prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from carrying swords, machetes, and other long, pointy weapons.
[I think law enforcement understood the original law–heck, I understood it. If a tape measure said a knife was longer than 5.5 inches, police should then haul the carrier to straight to the pokey. But that’s just me.]
Anyway. Forgive my whining about elevators and swords. We’re probably as safe here in the hotel with people dressed up as pirates and ogres and princesses as we are on the streets of Austin. Safer. Who can say? Not I.
Tomorrow I shall rise, breakfast, help David attach our banner to our table outside the Lalique Ballroom, and prepare to do battle with whoever and whatever comes at me.
I hope it’s nothing scarier than the bunny rabbit.
*Am I the only reader to detect a hint of laughter in this sentence? I’ll wager I’m not.
Did I say David also witnessed this scene:
A woman walked in carrying a long gun.
A man said, “Is that a deer rifle?”
“Yes,” said the woman. “I got it for twenty dollars. They were having a going-out-of-business sale.”
Just one more thing to think about in the elevator.
Ben has the good sense to never say, “I told you so,” no matter how many times we go through this. And we’ve gone through it a lot, because I am a serial quitter. Like an alcoholic, I need to put this statement in the present tense. I don’t think I’m cured. I could quit again when the going gets tough. I know I’ll feel the urge.
But quitting exacts a price, not just on my writing but also on my soul. When I can’t give my soul what it needs through writing, I go off in search of some other bright ball of yarn. And what I need to learn is that I don’t have to be so extreme. When my soul yearns for the tactile, it’s okay to weave. In fact it’s a good thing for a writer to be nonverbal for a while. It’s a big lesson for me to learn that being a writer shouldn’t mean that I’m chained to my desk twenty-four-seven.
Another big lesson is to finally understand that once I am a published writer I will always be a published writer, but that I will also always be an unpublished writer. I will get rejection slips, no matter what the New York Times said about my first novel. And hopefully I will always have material in need of some work, because if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love.
Nancy Peacock, A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning and Life
Harper Perennial (2008)
Two women are walking down the road and pass a frog sitting in the grass. “Hey,” says the frog.
“Wow. It’s a talking frog,” says one of the women. She picks the frog up and holds it in her hand.
The frog says, “Listen, I’m not really a frog. Actually, I’m a critically acclaimed writer. A spell was cast on me and I was turned into a frog. But if you kiss me I’ll turn back into a critically acclaimed writer.”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” says the woman, and puts the frog in her pocket.
Her friend asks, “Aren’t you going to kiss it?”
And she answers, “Hell, no. I’ll make a lot more money with a talking frog.”
Read my review of A Broom of One’s Ownhere. You may have already read the review–it’s been around for a while–but the book is so good, I can’t help mentioning it again. After you’ve read the review, read the book.
[P. S. Did you know that when you buy a used book, the author doesn’t receive any money from the sale?]
Nancy Peacock, A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning and Life
Harper Perennial (2008)
Want to know how I think up topics for blog posts?
Of course you do.
I use several techniques:
A topic comes to me about 9:00 p.m. and I write fast and then stay up all night fixing it (and hoping readers can tell it’s been fixed), finding pictures, and making pictures stay where I want them.
Sometimes I forget I have a post due on Writing Wranglers and Warriors until 9:00 p.m. the night before, and I stay up all night doing the tasks listed in #1.
Sometimes a topic comes to me at 9:00 p.m., and I write about it and then see what I’ve written is so horrid that I trash it and write about something else. Often the something else is a topic I’ve meandered into while writing the horrid part.