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Archon (St. Louis) Science Fiction/Fantasy Convention 2010

Hello Ghouls and Boils,

Guest Minion Doni Alexx Miller (or Alexx as I know her) iis back with a very interesting look at a Con through “virgin” eyes.  Alexx has kindly agreed to share her experience at Archon in St. Louis. It sounds like a phantastic SciFi/Fantasy Convention. But I will just let her tell you about that… Enjoy, my fiends!

Sarah L. Covert

Friday, October 1, 2010

Yes, I was actually called a “CON VIRGIN” by someone who has been doing Archon in St. Louis for 30 years. But that was on Saturday. More on that later.

Friday at Archon was short. BCC (a.k.a. “Bruce Miller” according to his press badge) and I went to pick up our Press Passes. We talked to a person named Byron. He was very nice, very friendly and helpful. He gave us his cell phone number in case we had any questions, or if we needed suggestions on what to do to have fun at Archon 34. Unfortunately for me, the first day of Archon 34 had to be short due to other considerations. You see this here reporter has a “day job”. A job that pays the bills so I can afford to have fun with the reporting thing, and not worry about getting paid. But I did have an hour and change to see what I could see. As I was saying, when we picked up our press passes from Byron, I saw a familiar face. St. Louis author, M.R. Sellars, was in the house!

Now for those of you who do not know who M.R. Sellars is, he is an active member of the HWA (Horror Writers Association). He is a relatively unassuming homebody who, in his own words, considers himself just a “guy with a lot of nightmares and a word processing program.” Legend has it, he started making up stories to entertain a stuffed bear during his single digit years, then began writing them down sometime around his early teens when the growing catologue of fiction started causing him to experience migraines. Although he had several short stories and newspaper articles published during his early adult life, it wasn’t until 2000 that his first full-length novel, Harm None: A Rowan Gant Investigation, hit bookstore shelves, officially launching the acclaimed paranormal thriller series about Rowan Gant a practicing Wiccan who consults with police on strange cases.. You can find out more about M.R. Sellars at  or his blog or website. His series, has a total of ten books (of which I own all ten, and all are signed by the author).

Before I had to go to the day job, we went to find the author in his lair. We found him in the Geneva Room (situated in another building, about as far from the registration desk as one could get at Archon). We decided to stop in and say “Hi”. We had met M.R. at a couple of other locations (book signings here in St. Louis-see reference to the ten signed books above). He remembered us. I asked him if I could take a “truth in advertising” photo so that people on Facebook would know he followed through with his blog promise to wear his “Castle” T-shirt. He said “yes”, and we chatted for a few more minutes as two other authors came in for the writing seminars they were doing. By the way, his books are awesome. If you have not read them, you should.

Bruce Cohen, M.R. Sellars, and D. Alexx Miller

The second author we met that day was Monette Draper. She also writes under the names Monette Michaels and Rae Morgan. After Monette obtained her law degree, she worked in a small general practice attempting, in her own way, to right wrongs and fight the good fight. Little did she realize that all those clients, opposing counsel and the problems she handled would jump start the need to write fiction. But after twenty years in law, she did just that — started writing. First, romantic suspense, then adding paranormal, then adding a sexier side (as Rae Morgan). I found that she was a friendly person, and she let us take a picture with me as well. I got to know a little more about her on Saturday.

D. Alexx Miller and Monette Draper

The third author that I met that day was Sandy Lender. Fantasy enthusiasts will recognize Sandy Lender as the author of the breakout novel Choices Meant for Gods, and a leader of workshops on world-building and characterization. Her four-year degree in English and seventeen-year career in magazine publishing augment her book publishing experience for a variety of presentations. Find out more about Sandy at her website! Sandy is a very nice person, and I learned some things from her on Saturday.

D. Alexx Miller and Sany Lender

So ended my Friday at Archon. It was a short day for me, but I made up for it on Saturday. I will write more on that later.

Saturday October 2nd

Saturday at Archon was, to say the least, busy. It was also a hell of a lot of fun. There were, it seemed, at least ten times the number of people there, many of whom were in costume. Bruce and I got there a bit after the first panel discussions of the day started.

Let me just state for the record, it is darn hard to decide what you are going to do at a convention like this. Why? Because so many interesting things start at the same time Like This…

Balancing Writing With The Job That Pays The Bills
You were born to write, but you just haven’t sold that bestseller…yet!
Haley Elizabeth Garwood, Joy Ward Alpine 2 10:00 AM

Humor in Speculative Fiction
A wonder (sic) addition humor is to your story.
Julia S. Mandala, Angie Fox Geneva 10:00 AM

Japanese Street Fashion Show
Katrina & Mikhail Lynn Versailles Foyer 10:00 AM

Sagging Middles!
Hitting the wall.
Monette Draper Zurich 10:00 AM

Steampunk Adventure Theatre Presents: All’s Wells That Ends Well
Steampunk Adventure Theatre Presents A Preview Of Its Upcoming Shows And Offers A Chance To Encounter Some Of The Unusual And Exciting Characters From The Show.
Dan McGee Matterhorn 10:00 AM

We (I) wanted to attend all of these things, but as you can see they all started at 10:00 AM. So We (I) chose Humor in Speculative Fiction.

Part of the reason I chose this panel discussion is that I love Angie Fox‘s books. If you aren’t familiar with Angie Fox, she is the bestselling author of the Accidental Demon Slayer series. The discussion covered many authors. Some of the discussion speculated how with some book genres, sales figures were down, but light paranormal romance (para with humor) sales were either up or stable. One theory that was discussed – with the economy and the general climate being somewhat sluggish, people were looking for happy cheerier things to read. Perhaps with the combination of the paranormal and humor, people are reading for pure escapism. It was a great panel with a lot of interaction on the part of the audience. Angie seemed to be the moderator and kept the hour fresh and lively.

Angie Fox, D. Alexx Miller, Julia S. Mandala

The next session was even harder to choose from. There were no fewer than six panels, shows or classes that we (I) wanted to attend. We (I) chose CHICKS DIG TIMELORDS – A Doctor Who discussion of the 11th Doctor (for those of you who do not know, Matt Smith is the current actor who portrays Doctor Who). Discussion varied between who was the best doctor, best companion, etc. Also discussed was that Torchwood was returning. BCC (aka as “Bruce Miller”) told me that in 1984, he was at a convention here at the same hotel, and met my favorite Doctor Who, Tom Baker. After some minor research I found that Tom Baker was here during the weekend of March 30-April 1, 1984, for the NADWAS annual convention. BCC said that a crowd in the hotel was pushing forward as Tom Baker was coming out a door, and he got pushed into the corner with him and actually had a chance to shake his hand.

After we left this panel, there was an empty spot on the list because it was nearing lunch time. I (we) walked over to the far side of the world of Archon to visit the Dealers Rooms. We found a variety of fascinating things and people to talk to. We met Glen Cook. Glen Cook’s love of writing began in grade school, and in high school he wrote the occasional article for his school’s newspaper. After high school, Cook spent time in the United States Navy and later worked his way through college, leaving little time for his writing endeavors. Cook began to write in earnest while working for General Motors at an auto assembly plant in a job which was “hard to learn, but [involved] almost no mental effort”, writing as many as three books per year… Glen is quite a prolific writer, and he was nice enough to sign my book of Autographs. He is an old world author and seems like a gentleman to me.

Kevin J. Anderson was also in attendance. He was a Guest of Honor this year at Archon. Kevin and his equally talented wife Rebecca Moesta were both in the Dealers Room when not doing panels. They were both charming and friendly. Author Rachel Neumeier was found in the second Dealers Room. She was very friendly (are you detecting a theme yet?) and helpful even suggesting an author for my stepdaughter Rachael to read as well. Rachel also loves dogs, and her books have been added to my “to be read” list.

Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta

Lunch was a run to McDonalds for BCC, while I sat on the patio after our walk back to the other side of the hotel again. People watching is fun. I took several pictures of people in costumes as they relaxed and enjoyed themselves. Some of the costumes I could figure out right away. There was several Stormtroopers and villains from the Star Wars saga along with an itty bitty jedi (This Reporter’s Best Costume Award, but I did not take any pictures of children because they cannot give consent-Sorry). There was Darth Maul, and the make up job this person did was fantastic. There were anime costumes and Steampunk costumes. There are at least 100,000 web pages when I plugged in the term. Some of the costumes were great, but by the look of the cost of individual pieces, it is an expensive costume to put together.

After lunch I sat in on a writer’s workshop on Dialogue with M.R. Sellars (BCC had to run home to get something.) There were other authors in the room as well with their own discussions going on including Selina Rosen, Monette Draper, Haley Elizabeth Garwood, and Rachel Neumeier. I wish I could have had a chance to listen to everything everyone had to say. There just was not enough time in the day. M.R. talked about the importance of believable dialogue. He stressed that you need to write what you know. He also talked about consistency in voice unless there is a valid reason shown in the narrative. As a book reviewer, he made the importance of dialogue in a book clearer. He also stated though that there are other authors that would disagree on the distribution of dialogue versus narrative in a book.

We took a break shortly after the writer’s workshop. We went back upstairs to people watch. It was actually kind of humorous, as it had started turning colder and some of the costumes were kind of skimpy. This is when I met a lady who had been going to Archon and other conventions for 30 years. I mentioned that this was the first CON I had ever been to. She shouted to a crowded hallway of CON attendees, “We have a CON Virgin here!” Many of the costumed attendees turned and smiled, but no one laughed. I took more pictures of the costumes and people around me. I met one of the Archon committee members dressed as a witch. She loves the convention, and has fun every year.

Panelists were Cindy Mathews, Sara M. Harvey, Monette Draper, and Kathryn Meyer Griffith.

Sara was hysterical. I loved her bits of youthful enthusiasm. Her views were so different and fresh. What is it to love a non-human? The opinions varied from yuck “vampires are dead; how can you have sex with a vampire?” to the “because vampires are portrayed as very sexy in most paranormal romance these days”. Everyone had something to add. Cindy talked about the non-human non-corporeal character in her book. Kathryn said all her vamps and demons were bad, so there was no love of vamps there. Sara was talking about Seraphim in her book, and how one was dead so there was definitely relationship issues there. And Monete, who writes shifters, asked if they were human to begin with and only shifted to another form, did that mean loving them was wrong? The jury is still out it seems, though the general consensus seemed to be it depended on your age.

Sarah M. Harvey and Cindy Matthews

Kathryn Meyer Griffith, Cindy Matthews, and Monette Draper

The final panel of the evening was THE EVOLUTION OF THE VAMPIRE: WHEN DID HE GO FROM MONSTER TO ROMEO? Panelists were Angie Fox and Kathryn Meyer Griffith.

This really was an interesting subject. Some said that the vampire has always been sexy. Others said that no way was that true if you look at the portrayal of Dracula by Bela Lugosi. There is no way that was sexy. So then the question became why are women so attracted to the tortured soul type that is in Paranormal romance novels? Some said the Alpha male qualities in the characters, because today women do not want to be seen as weak, yet in the books they can become the character who is taken care of and protected. Someone else suggested that it was the fact that they do come across as tortured souls, and that they bring out the nurturing qualities we as women have.

In closing, the authors and panelists were gracious and generous with their time and talents. They shared a bit of themselves with us. I enjoyed the interactions I had with each and every author I spoke to or listened to. There are many authors listed in this report that I will go out and find their books, and read and perhaps review. Most exceeded my expectations, and would take the time to sign an autograph or let someone take a picture. For those that went the extra mile, thank you.

The hotel was wonderful and roomy though BCC said an alternate name could have been Aerobicon due to the amount of walking involved in getting from one place to another.The Archon Staff was great. There was always someone around to answer questions, and/or point you in the right direction. Keep up the good work. I can’t wait till next year.

This is for all the attendees. Thank you. Everyone was friendly and polite. You let me take your pictures. I realized from all the people watching that everyone was accepted. It was, for a short time, a place where all species, and races, colors and creeds coexisted. Perhaps a bit of paradise, for the weekend. Thanks everyone for the use of your photos.

Doni (the former Con-virgin)Alexx Miller – Guest Minion (Reviewer)

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