As an author, I try to choose the conventions I attend wisely. I do as many as I can close to IMG_7138 (2)home (partly to save money), but branching out to new ones, or choosing to travel a good distance to one I like, takes some thought. I have to decide if books sales would be worth the hassle of driving, getting a hotel room, and other added expenses. Sometimes I have to ignore everything else if I can spend some time with publishing friends or meet new people.

Here’s the problem. My favorite hometown con, Context, has closed up shop. That’s a con I used to attended religiously. It was my first con, it was just a few miles from home, and I met tons of wonderful people. So that’s one less, easy con to attend. I also learned (after ConCoction) that one of my other favorite cons, Millenicon in Cincinnati, has called it quits as well. This is another that I’ve attended for years and it was close to home.

So, trying out a new con is scary. I’d heard of ConCoction as it was just getting started a few years ago, and I’d meant to look into it earlier, but I finally decided to attend this year, its third. The fact that it was still a new con was a strike against it. I didn’t know enough people that had attended previous years to get a good read on it, and they didn’t have much in the way of stats on their site about attendance and such.

Pulling up to the con, I was ready to turn around. It was at an airport hotel and the place looked a little run down. The parking attendant concoctionwas surly and wildly unpleasant, and made everyone turn their cars around, go check in and then come back before they could park. I realize this was their policy, but it wasn’t telegraphed anywhere, and it made for a bad end to a long drive. I met a few other people on the way in complaining about the same thing. Let me say here that the con has/had no control over this, it’s a hotel thing.IMG_7124

Luckily, the rest of the weekend kicked ass. First, the hotel seemed like it had been remodeled, so the concern I had about the outside was completely unfounded. The interior was wonderful, and the rooms looked to be recently renovated. I know this is something totally out of the con’s control, but you have no idea how much atmosphere goes toward making a con enjoyable.

Our Dog Star Books launch party took place on Friday night. Again, a little frightening IMG_7122going into it because we didn’t know what to expect as far as attendence and so forth. It turned out great! Our 2 hour meet-and-greet turned into a 4 hour disussion of publishing, writing and all things Dog Star. We couldn’t have hoped for more. There was a huge, boisterous party happening up and down the hall next to us, and we were worried it would detract from ours. Not so. That party directed people our way all night long, and checked in with us to see if all was well. It was pretty cool. DSB and RDSP authors at the con and the party were: Lucy Snyder, Albert Wendland, J.L. Gribble, and K.W. Taylor. I launched my new poetry collection Underwater Fistfight, and Taylor got to IMG_7136show off early copies of her upcoming DSB book The Curiosity Killers! Originally, the party was also to feature Heidi Ruby Miller’s new book, Starrie, but unfortunately, Heidi was unable to attend. We partied on without her, but we missed her!

Programming was great. Every panel I was on, or attended, had a great audience. They participated in the discussions, asked questions and hung around for the whole thing. Occasionally at other cons you have audience members who suddenly decide they wanted to go somewhere else in the middle of a panel and got up and left. Sometimes that means they’re bored, or that they had so many choices of panels to attend signingthat they wanted to sample each of them, staying in one for half, then going to another for the second half. I didn’t see much of that here. Everyone was in for the long haul for each panel.

And, as an author and bookseller, I was impressed with their Author’s Alley. The con had a room set up specifically to sell only books from the attending authors. If someone came to that room, they could be assured the book they wanted would be by an attendee. That meant they wouldn’t have to wander through a dealer’s room, hoping to find something by an author that just gave a panel, or they wouldn’t have to track the author down and hope that author had a copy with them for sale. It means a lot for both the author and the reader. They also provided a signing area in the same room. There were designated times for authors to be there for signings, but if a table was open an author could sit FullSizeRender (1)down and set up shop to autograph books on the fly. The people attending the room also asked for brief descriptions our books, so they could knowledgeably sell books to readers when the authors weren’t around.

It was a fun weekend. Talking to the staff and organizers, it sounds like they’re working on plans to make it bigger and better in the future. I will certainly attend ConCoction again, and not just because a couple of my local favorites have disappeared, but because Cleveland ConCoction is doing things right.

A big shout out to two people who made the weekend great for me and the rest of the Dog Star Books/RDSP gang: Literary Department head Weston Kincade and Hotel Liaison Eric Hogg.  Both were eager to make our experience a good one, happy to help whenever they could, and actively sought feedback. I know they both helped us immensely, and I can only imagine they made the con awesome for everyone. Thanks!