Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Epic San Diego ComicCon recap

What follows is a diary of sorts.  If you're interested in what it's like for a debut author to have a book launched at San Diego ComicCon, I guess you've come to the right place!

Technically last year was my first ComicCon as a professional, but it was really just a tag on my badge back then. Other than meeting my editor, 2012 didn't really feel much different than any other year.

This year, that all changed. Months of agonizing wait led to five whirlwind days in Downtown San Diego. I arrived early on Wednesday (preview day), checked-in to my hotel room and immediately went to work on writing a guest blog post for Scalzi's "Big Idea" (coming soon!). This was a huge challenge. Not only was I a bundle of nerves, but I had this view tugging at my brain:

Luckily Kevin Hearne saved me from doing work when he sent me a text that he was alone at the bar and that being alone at the bar was lonely. There was drinks to be drank!

He introduced me to Diana Rowland, we all had beverages (much grief given to me for ordering an Arnold Palmer), and by 4pm I found myself sitting with Ty Franck (half of the duo known as James S. A. Corey) and George R.R. Martin, talking football and Hollywood.  A wonderful chat, and although it was an honor to sit with Mr. Martin for a while, meeting Ty and later his cohort Daniel Abraham was a highlight for me this year. Both great guys and extraordinarily talented.

Next stop was preview night. I think most of us had intended to walk the show floor together, but as soon as we got in with the crowds everyone scattered to the winds. I have to admit I went straight to the Del Rey booth to see what Darwin stuff they'd brought along, and what I found blew me away:

Consider me floored. This panel was the centerpiece of Del Rey's booth. And throughout there was more to be found:

Slackjawed, I somehow managed to say hi to everyone before continuing to wander the floor. As always the costumes, even on Wednesday night, were a wonder to behold.

Time slips by at an incredible speed when you're immersed in that kind of sensory overload, and before I knew it it was time to meet up with my agent Sara Megibow for dinner.  We went to Searsucker, and despite nightclub-loud music we managed to have a great chat over some excellent food. She surprised me at the end of the evening by pulling 10 copies of Darwin out of her bag for me to autograph. That's when I learned they were on sale at Mysterious Galaxy's booth.  She'd bought all 10 there immediately upon arrival.

My schedule on Thursday was largely empty, so I went back to the floor and wandered some more.  Mostly I wanted to get a picture of my book on a store shelf, and of course buy it just because I could.

After lunch I met up with Sara again and we walked across the street to find the Geek & Sundry lounge, where she had some business to conduct.

We stayed for snacks and watched people play the Star Trek Settlers of Katan before parting ways to get ready for the Random House party that evening.
My wife had arrived by then, and was waiting at the hotel when I returned. We met up with The Hearne again and were whisked away in a black town car to the party at Bootlegger.

Mike Braff, my editor, on the left
Walking in we were greeted to the cover of The Darwin Elevator on every TV screen in the place. For a second I was mortified that this image would be there all evening, but luckily two seconds later the picture changed to another novel. All of the books coming out this year were featured in the video, and as someone not used to spotlights of any kind I felt immense relief.
We clinked glasses with my editors Mike Braff and Sarah Peed, chatted with Diana Rowland some more, and ran into Eldon Thompson who I'd paneled with at WorldCon last August.

My wife, backed by some liquid courage, asked George R. R. if she could get her picture with him (a repeat request from last year's party), and he happily agreed:

Friday I went to some panels, ate bad convention center nachos, and wandered the floor some more. I bought some retro Star Wars action figures for my son (geek dad moment), and a set of Stephan Martiniere's art books in hardcover. I promptly went to Stephan's booth and had him sign them.  Then I dropped by Image Comics and picked up the first omnibus of Chew, based on Kevin Hearne's recommendation.

At 5:30 I found my way back to the Del Rey booth and sat "backstage" in their little waiting area until my signing. Had a great conversation with Tricia and April from Del Rey that eased my nerves a bit.  That didn't last. To my surprise a big line had formed, and by the time I went out to sit at the autograph table they wrapped around into the next aisle. 
The hour flew by. I signed almost two hundred books, all given out for free, and by the end my hand was cramped. I'd been so nervous and focused on signing that I only realized afterwards I hadn't really been chatting with the people who'd come to get a book signed. If you were one of them, please accept my apology! It was my first ever signing and I was overwhelmed.
After that my editor took me and the family out to dinner, after which we turned in early.
Saturday was for the kids.  We took them to the show floor, where our oldest (age 3) got to meet Iron Man and Thor.  He gave them both fist-bumps and was all smiles until the fatigue set in. By 1pm the kids were exhausted, so my kind and wonderful wife offered to take them back to the room and get them down for a nap while I headed off to my second signing event.
Shameless use of my kids to garner awwwwws
ROUND 2: CHAT! This time I was over my freshman jitters and actually said hello to the people who waited to get a book signed. Duh! Shock of all shocks, they seemed genuinely happy about this, and were a wonderful bunch. I met a gentlemen from Darwin, Australia who accepted my apology for turning his hometown into a megaslum.  Then one of the first sci-fi authors I ever read, David Brin, turned up in line. Surreal to sign a book for him, and in exchange he gave me a signed postcard. We agreed to meet again during WorldCon in San Antonio, where we'll be on a panel together. The encounter left me a bit speechless, but luckily the hour was almost up. I stuck around to sign a stack of books for the fine folks at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, then headed back to the hotel for a nap before dinner.

We went out again with The Hearne, this time for an "authors dinner" where we were joined by Greg van Eekhout and Max Gladstone. The restaurant, Kelvin, was completely empty. Typically this would be a sign to turn and flee, especially given the crowds outside, but after an appetizer of gourmet tater tots it was clear the food would be excellent and the quiet space a welcome perk.  The conversation ranged from scorpion stings to near-death experiences in Amsterdam and everything in between.  A delightful bunch of people to hang out with!

Sunday finally rolled around. My panel was at 12pm, and again my wife came to the rescue by offering to take the kids for a walk after breakfast so I could relax.  Around 11am I walked over to the convention hall, went to the room where the panel would be, and asked the woman at the door if there was a "special room" where a panelist could go to relax before showtime. I was trying to ask where the mythical green room was. The place where all the stars hang out. The place where I could play rock-paper-scissors with Nathan Fillion and enjoy gourmet snacks with Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage. "Sure," the woman said.  "Come with me."
I was freakin' IN, man.  This was it.  The big time!  The--

So now you know the glamorous life of a debut author.  At least there was water. Cold, even!  I grew quickly bored in there, went back to the room where my panel would be, and sat in the audience for the session in-progress.  The topic was YA, and like pretty much every panel I've ever been to, it was interesting and fun.

That panel ended and I made my way up front as my co-panelists came in en-masse from outside. Moment of horror: They were all carrying name cards. I didn't have a name card. Did I miss some pre-panel meeting? Was it in that registration bag that I never opened? WILL I ASSERT MY NEWB STATUS SO QUICKLY?

Daniel Abraham took pity on me and said, "Your editor has it. He's outside."

Crisis resolved, we took the stage and settled into seats.  The moderator, Margaret Stohl, asked us all to stand back up again so pictures could be taken.
Left to Right: D.J. MacHale, Daniel Wilson, Mira Grant, David Wellington, me, Daniel Abraham, and Ty Franck
(photo by Kurt Habetler)

If nothing else we can all agree that I had a height advantage on every one of them.

On the whole the panel went fine. I didn't contract foot-in-mouth disease at any time, and although it was hard to get a word in edgewise sometimes, that was okay by me. I was among pretty illustrious company and more than a little nervous.  In the end we all got to say a few things and the whole event was over too fast.

Afterwards we shuffled over to the autograph pavilion and signed books for a while.  I got the chance to fanboy out on Daniel H. Wilson a bit (he sat next to me... no escape!), and had a respectable stream of people seeking autographs. Given my book isn't even out yet, it was gratifying to see such interest.

In all Del Rey gave away roughly 1000 copies of the book.  They treated me like a rockstar and I couldn't be more grateful!

Next up, WorldCon San Antonio!


Beacon80 said...

It was awesome (and inspiring) to see you up there.

Beacon80 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken Brucker said...

I'm one of those that stood in line with my grandson to get a copy of your book at the booth signing. Just finished reading it and, wow! What a page turner! I'm looking forward to picking the next couple volumes to see where this story goes!

Jason M. Hough said...

Thanks Ken! Glad you enjoyed it, and also glad you won't have to wait long to read the follow-ups!