In case you missed the block of text on the home page (www.royhudson.com, for those reading this on Goodreads, or linked from twitter or Facebook), my sister Ashleah, our friend Russell, and I went to Dragon Con in Atlanta last weekend. We didn't do a lot of the events, as Marta had us limiting our time out to 11 pm, and we had scheduled a workshop for the same time as the parade, but I still enjoyed myself. Let's see if I can call to memory the best events...
We got there Thursday. If you go to Dragon Con next year, I recommend the Quality Inn NE off I-85. It's nowhere near the host hotels, but it has a Marta bus station right in front, and it takes you to the terminal to ride the train to Peachtree Center, which is across the street from America's Mart 1 and just down from the Hyatt, one of the host hotels. If you want to do the late night stuff, Marta has its limits, but if you're the early-to-bed type, it's perfect. The only time we had a problem with Marta was last Saturday, around 8 pm. The UGA football game had just let out, so sports fans took up about five northbound trains in a row. Being big people, my sister and I could not squeeze in, so we had to wait about 45 minutes to catch a train to the station nearest our hotel. When we got to the station, around 11, we learned that the bus we would usually take back to the hotel, the 47, had stopped running. We took the 33, which stopped on a dark and scary spot on I-85, so we had to walk around the corner to the hotel instead of simply crossing the street. Had I known we wouldn't have caught the train back until later, I would have suggested that we stay at the (overpriced) aquarium longer!
I digress. I started by talking about Thursday, got to the hotel and went off on a tangent. The trip Thursday was stressful, so we stayed in that night. Why was it stressful? We blew a tire just outside of Conyers. Fortunately, we had Russell with us, and he has AAA coverage. Ashleah does not, so we would have been screwed. He called AAA, they sent a man to replace the damaged tire with the spare, and then he told us where the nearest tire store was. Again, we were lucky, because it was just off the next exit, at a Walmart Super Center. Our dad told us to get a new tire because he was afraid the spare wouldn't survive the return trip. So, for $71, we got a new tire AND a warranty. Again, lucky. Thursday night was fairly uneventful. We ordered Chinese delivery and turned in early.
Friday, the first official day of Dragon Con! We had to go to the Sheraton for registration. As I previously mentioned, the Hyatt is down the street from Peachtree Center, and is connected to two other host hotels by a Skybridge. So, basically, all but one of the Dragon Con host hotels are side-by-side. The Sheraton is not, and they FORCE you to go there for your badge, which you need to do anything Con-related. It's an uphill hike, and I wasn't expecting a lot of walking, so I only took one pair of shoes, which I wore up there: sandals. Yikes. Once we left the Sheraton with our badges and programs, we never went back, the whole weekend.
We had two writing workshops Friday, but not until 1 pm. We just took pics of cosplayers and stood in line at the Dragon Con store while we waited. By 12:30, we were halfway to the store... and had to leave for the workshop. We used Russell SO many times last weekend, we really felt guilty. He's such a nice guy, though, so he said he didn't mind. We gave him some money, told him what we wanted, and left him to buy our stuff. Later, I found out that the store had sold out of the 4X shirts... and I hadn't told him to get me a 3X, which I can wear despite their being snug, in the event of my preferred size being sold out. So, I didn't get a Dragon Con shirt Friday.
The first workshop, Friday at 1, was "Characterization" with Michael A. Stackpole. I hadn't brought a notebook (Yes, a writer in a new place without a notebook... Oh, the shame!), but my sister took a lot of notes in a sketch book she'd bought for $4.50 at Walmart before we left. Saturday, she found a Dragon journal for $15, so she gave me her sketch book and copied her notes into the dragon notebook. Anyway... Characterization! It was fun, and Mike Stackpole has a very likable, approachable personality. He was informative, but entertaining. His jokes were funny, and he talked about the different kinds of character building. I really enjoyed that workshop. After that workshop, we had a little while before the second one... which I've forgotten. It happens. Fortunately, my sister took notes!
Waiting between workshops, we went outside near the entrance to the art show, which was just across from Hanover Hall in the Hyatt. I met a nice guy named Phil, who was waiting for his wife. Ashleah had gone outside to smoke and call Russell (Remember, we'd abandoned him at the gift shop, so he was out and about by himself!), so Phil and I talked. He and his wife, Vicky, had come from Orlando. He'd confided in me that he was five beers into a six-pack... several times. When I told him about the workshops and that I was a "professional" writer, his face lit up. Vicky and Ashleah showed up at the same time, and he told Vicky that I was a published writer. He pulled out his smart phone and asked for my name and book titles, and said they'd buy them, as they were big readers. He typed the info into his phone, then we said our farewells and parted. I don't know if he kept his word. I have no reason to doubt him, but he was tipsy... He might have drunk-typed my info and later found something completely incomprehensible. Either way, I'll probably never know... unless he or Vicky leaves a review on Amazon or Goodreads. That would be good!
We went to the art show after Phil and Vicky left. Remember how I said I spent about $300 on art and signed books? Well, the art show took most of that... just not on the first day. I wasn't planning to go back Saturday, and the entrance and exit are away from the print gallery, so we didn't see ANY of that until Saturday... But where was I? FRIDAY.
I got Tom Fleming's Robin, top right, in watercolors (I have since hung it on my Batman wall with Batman, Bat-Mite, and the Scarecrow), plus some buttons and bookmarks. I spent maybe $25 at the art show Friday, and I was satisfied with that. After the art show came the since-forgotten second workshop, then a meal at Great Wraps, and then around 7, back to the hotel. Not a lot happened that day, but I was exhausted from all the walking. End of Dragon Con Day One.
Saturday... though I've already covered much of Saturday: our return to the art show, the overpriced aquarium, and the bat-shit train schedule after the UGA game. We got up early for a 10 am workshop: "World Building 101!" Sadly, it was the same time as the parade. Russell went to the parade, then joined us for the 1 pm workshop. World Building was fun... but not as fun as the other workshops we took that day: "Okay, I've Got My Idea; Now What?" hosted by Timothy Zahn, "Unraveling the Mystery of Mysteries" with the lovely Chantelle Osman, and "Plotting," also with Mike Stackpole.
During the first workshop, I noticed that the presenters were selling notebooks and pens at the front of the room. Since this was before Ashleah bought the dragon journal, and I wanted to take my own notes, I paid $1 for a notebook and $1 for two pens. Then I found out they'd bought a stack of notebooks at Walmart for 17 cents each and felt like a jackass. Oh well... I took some good notes. ;-)
After the first workshop, it was time for the one with Timothy Zahn. It wasn't exactly the type of workshop one can take notes for. He basically asked the class for ideas to build on. A room full of writers with that prompt, what could go wrong? =P Well... he didn't get a lot of his presentation in... but it was still fun. Timothy Zahn is much quieter than Mike Stackpole, but he still gets in a joke here and there. The coolest thing about him, in my opinion, was that he's more than just a Star Wars Universe creator. He's a big Star Wars fan. I don't know why I expected otherwise. I guess I felt a lot of the SWEU authors were in it to make a name for themselves with an existing property... but he was a total geek. His messenger bag had the Imperial symbol on it, and when a fan asked him to sign one of his Thrawn books, he pulled out an animation cell from Rebels Season 3, in which Thrawn is the main villain. He was ecstatic that one of his creations who was labeled non-canon... is now being made canon again. I can only imagine how that felt! Also... the ONLY note I made in the entire workshop? "Timothy Zahn's ringtone is 'The Imperial March.' His phone went off at the beginning, even though he said he'd thought he had silenced it. I'm glad he didn't silence it, or else I'd never know. And I've been telling EVERYONE that. So even if he didn't get his lesson laid out, I learned some awesome things from that workshop. ;-)
After the second workshop, I went off on my own, and Ashleah was going to do another workshop without me... but, even though it was on our confirmation list, we weren't down as having paid for the romance workshop, so she couldn't stay. By this time, I was already on my way to the Hilton's blood donor station. See, I found out that Life South was giving away 2016 Dragon Con ("blood donor") t-shirts with donation. I asked the first person what the largest size was. 3X. I thought, "Free shirt in 3X for some blood? I haven't donated in about a year, and I just ate, so I should be good... Why not?"
When they tested me, they asked if I wanted to donate double-reds, which takes longer than regular blood, but not as long as platelets. At this point, I did't realize Ashleah was ready to meet back up, so I agreed to double-reds. It took a while, and I was FREEZING by the time we were done, but I got my free shirt, so it was worth it. hehe
I also got a picture of myself in GRRM's Iron Throne, which I was supposed to post on twitter by Sunday night for a chance to win two passes to Dragon Con 2017. Had I thought to get the picture taken on my Kindle Fire (which I did have with me) instead of my camera, I could've entered. But... I missed my chance because I was freezing and my brain wasn't working correctly. Here's the picture, below Robin at right.
After my blood donation, we had the "Mysteries" workshop. We hadn't paid for that one in advance, and it was $10 day-of (the others were $8 each, in advance), but we took it anyway so that we'd be near the Hanover Hall at 5:30 for "Plotting." We couldn't stay for that last one. We caught about half of it before we had to head to the Marriott parking lot for the bus to the Dragon Con Night at the Aquarium, which I paid for with birthday money the month before.
Back to "Unraveling the Mystery of Mysteries." Had I known the presenter was selling her text books on flash drives (three classes, parts one and two each... so, basically six books on three flash drives for $50), I wouldn't have taken notes, because I wound up buying them.... But I'm glad I did take notes, because I learned about the Humpty Dumpty rule. This was Chantelle Osman's term for telling the difference between mysteries and suspense/thrillers.
Mysteries: Humpty Dumpty fell off a wall. Was he pushed? By whom? Why?
Suspense/thrillers: Humpty Dumpty is about to be pushed, and we have to stop it!
In between Mysteries and Plotting, we went back to the art show... Now, I'd already spent $25 the day before on art, and I had just spent $50 on text book flash drives, but we went back to the art show anyway. This time, we found the print gallery. I got a $20 abstract with a cool quote, plus "Vincent" and "Tesla." The artist of Tesla had also done macabre portraits of Lovecraft and Poe... and it was hard to say no to the Poe. But Tesla's electric eyes... That portrait is very hypnotic. I think that one was also $20. You can see all three of those at right, beneath my Iron Throne pic.
Russell got sick after the parade and second workshop, she he hopped a train back to the hotel room around 2 pm. It sucks that he didn't get to do more Saturday, but he was unable to get a ticket to the aquarium, so I guess it's just as well.
The aquarium was nuts! The line to get in was ridiculous, but we got a free Dragon Con/Georgia Aquarium pin for being among the first 1500 inside. =) Other than using their bathroom and eating their overpriced food, the only thing we did there (other than look at the cosplay) was see the sea lion show. It was AMAZING. They did a movie theme. They took turns spoofing Jurassic Park, Jaws, Star Wars, and finally, Harry Potter, all featuring the music of John Williams. =)
As awesome as the sea lion act was, one of the funniest things to happen in that little auditorium was when three elderly Smurfs entered. Brainy, Smurfette, and Papa Smurf. For some reason, Papa Smurf was carrying a selfie stick, and he used it as a baton. He got the entire place singing the Smurfs theme! hehe It was awesome!
Because of the crowds, the overpriced food, and the long wait for the bus, we were exhausted around 8 pm. We went back to Peachtree Center, and you know the rest. It was midnight when we finally got back to the room.
Sunday, we slept in. We had no plans until 1 pm, so we hung out in the room until my sister pointed out that continental breakfast ends in one hour. We went and found the place PACKED. There was barely anywhere to sit! But, we got our meal in, then went back to the room for showers and everything.
The Sunday workshop was.... Hmm. Oh yeah! "Social Media 101 for Creative People!" We got some more good notes/advice. That's when the presenter, Alison Sky Richards, said not to post our writing on our own sites/social media, because it's out there for anyone to claim, and if we don't get the traffic that other sites and publishing blogs do, we're probably setting ourselves up for failure. This, after I've spent the past five years sharing my work on my own website/blog/Facebook/twitter....
After the workshop, I found a 4X tie-dyed Dragon Con 2016 shirt! ...For $31. But, since I'd gotten a free blood donor shirt the day before, I rationalized that it was really like getting two shirts for $15.50 each. hehe
Once I had my shirt, we agreed to meet up with Russell for the America's Mart. That's where the comic/pop art gallery was, and I'd been wanting to go to that for days. Of course, by the time we got there, I was down to $35... I knew I'd have to play it smart. But... I didn't.
I got mad at the DragonCon.org organizers for not letting me know everyone who was going to be there. I could have saved a LOT of money by taking stuff I already owned. I had to buy something for Jai Nitz to sign... and wound up spending $25 on a mini-El Diablo figure, a double-signed Legion of Superheroes TPB, and with purchase, he was giving out free, signed Suicide Squad movie posters. Had I taken my copy of Suicide Squad's Most Wanted: El Diablo & Boomerang, I could have gotten his autograph and saved at least $15. (I wanted that little Diablo figure.)
So that was $25, leaving me with $10. I found out that Brendan Fletcher, writer of Gotham Academy, was also there without my knowledge. I got a limited-edition back-to-school binder kit with the Gotham Academy logo on it... even though I'm no longer a student. I WANTED IT. That was $5.
I got an awesome MLK quote button from the creator of March, for $1. The other $4 went to artists who either charged for autographs (Mike Grell) or accepted tips (Peter David). Unfortunately, I didn't have enough cash left to tip Amanda Conner/Jimmy Palmiotti or Mike S. Miller. But I appreciate their signatures all the same.
There was other stuff I WANTED, but had to do without. The creator of the MG GN series The Creeps was there, with vol. 2... which he said, in his opinion, was vastly superior to vol. 1. Now, I have an ARC of vol. 1, so had I known he'd be there, I could've made it more valuable. Also, I REALLY wanted vol. 2... but it was $10, and by the time I saw him, I was down to $5. =(
Also... Bob Camp, co-creator of Ren & Stimpy, was there. He had all kinds of Ren & Stimpy merch, but none of it was cheap. I could've gotten a mini-button for $5, but I didn't feel it was worth it. They were TINY!
Oh! I just remembered one other thing I got at the Comic/Pop Art Gallery. Ashleah bought me a $5 Mr. Freeze print signed by Grumbles creator James Burns. I hung it up with Robin, Suicide Squad, Batman, Bat-Mite, and Scarecrow. I may have to spread them out some.
After the gallery, it was only about 4:30 pm, but without money, we were all satisfied enough to go back to the room. I ate my leftover Chinese, they ordered pizza. We went to bed early Sunday night. Spending money is exhausting! ;-)
Monday, we got up relatively early so that we could eat breakfast before hitting the road. There wasn't much going on at Dragon Con Monday, and we were supposed to check out by 11 am, so we just packed up the car, ate breakfast, checked out, and we were home by 11:30 that morning. It was fun, exhausting, and expensive... but I can't wait to do it again, maybe next year!
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