I love MileHiCon!
MileHiCon started at “OctoCon,” November 15, 1969, changing its name to its present incarnation in 1972. But it has become the primo Colorado science fiction (SF), fantasy (F), and horror (H) convention of the state. Well, okay, there’s also a COSine, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is also SF/F.
My first experience with MileHiCon started several years ago, when I’d actually gotten a billet to be on a self-publishing panel…but had gotten sick and had to bow out. I then declined over the next several years because of work travel during the month of October, etc., but since last year (a great “Time of Change” for me with a new job and new novels being released), I decided time to put myself back out there.
I was assigned to three panels that also included an “Autograph Alley”:
- Friday, 6 p.m., Self-Pub Part 1
- Friday, 7 p.m., Self-Pub Part 2
- Friday, 8 p.m., Autograph Alley
- Saturday, 3 p.m., Threat From Above
- Sunday, 11 a.m., What If: Alternate Worlds/Readings
It has been a few years since I’d been on any panels, and I kinda forgot how freakin’ fun they are! You can prepare as much as you want, but I love the questions, the interaction from not only the fellow panel members, but the audience! You just never know where a line of questioning will take you!
And where else can you seriously discuss such topics as (as one audience member put it, and pardon me if I butcher the actual question—I’m not known for my memory): “What would be the differences between aliens [the extraterrestrial kind, here] taking over our government and subjugating us from how our own government is currently doing that?“, and have everyone not roll their eyes and leave the room! This was from the “Threat From Above” panel. I am not a fan of the whole ETs coming to Earth to kill/eat us storyline, but it was fun being part of the whole “fantastic” conversation.
I severely enjoyed everything I was a part of—all my panels, taking in the whole Con thing, and even having my own “Frank Fan Club” (aka “FFC”) come up to see me (they know all-to-well who they are…)! Thanks for attending my Self-Pub panels and for your support, and for buying me free iced tea and water! You’re the best.
Friday, October 24th
I arrived Friday afternoon, after dropping off my consignment books at the Colfax Tattered Cover Books Store (yes, I actually have my books in a bookstore! So, Denver area people, feel free to check out actual copies of Psychic, ERO, and The Uninvited at any Tattered Cover location!). I also sent bookmarks (just this past Friday, actually), so they should get out whenever the staff can get to them. Anyway, it was hot for October–85 degrees! I mention this because my 9th floor room’s (with a [great] view!) a/c was not working. I later got maintenance to work it, but even then, it wasn’t a major cold air flowing forth like an Arctic blast out of Canada. It was a light flow of air, even with the high fan. Again, I mention this because I was hot the rest of the day and night. And not the good kind of “hot,” either…but “hot” as in I never really cooled off the entire rest of the day or night, my face flushed and warm, heat rash (and I don’t get heat rashes…), that kinda “hot.”
But enough about how hot I was.
Okay, I got settled in, ate, and scoped out the evening’s itinerary. My first panel was at 6 p.m., a Self-Publishing panel that actually spanned two sessions, with another at 7. I then was to be part of an en masse autograph session, called “Autograph Alley,” up on the second-floor Atrium. I straightened out a few details about how to peddle my books and bided my time checking the hotel and MileHiCon’s setup, then…
The Self-Publishing panel’s room was full! I hadn’t spoken before a crowd like this in a few years, and I was really looking forward to it! My fellow panel members and I had quite the lively discussion of Indie publishing, why we all did it, and how dissatisfied everyone was with the world of traditional publishing. Though I’ve been writing since I’d been six years old, and released my first novel, Sleepwalkers, back in 2001, I was the relative newcomer to the whole Indie thing, since I didn’t jump full-bore into this until last year. Everyone else had been doing this for some time. The reasons for dissatisfaction are nothing new. While most of the panel members seemed to keep a close eye on their sales records, I’m one of those writers who puts out a book and immediately goes to the next one. I try to promote and market as much as I can, but I don’t obsess over my rankings, don’t even track em. I have more than a full-time day job and don’t like sitting down for 25 hours a day. I’m more Zen about all this. I figure my work will find it’s audience.
Good questions were asked by the audience, and about half way through the session, my FFC showed, there, standing in the rear of the room like stalkers. Well, stalkers with smiles. And good intent. They attended the second session, and sidled up near the front. Hiding behind a row of others. But I saw them. Kept an eye on them. Even have pictures. Restraining orders.
Next was Autograph Alley!
The setup was on the second-floor’s Atrium, and here’s where this post takes a perverted turn. I could sit at any available opening at the Autograph Alley table that was not already, uh, “saved,” to borrow a so-High School term, so found a spot by…
Hint: if you ever get a chance to sit in a hole next to Aaron Michael Ritchey—grab it. You’ll never be cooler in your entire life!
Aaron is a trip.
And he’s so much taller in person.
No, really, he’s, like, eight feet tall.
Now, I know how my cat feels. From now, on, I’ll get down on all fours when addressing her. I’ve shrunk one-and-a-half inches the past couple years, but as you can see, those inches wouldn’t have made any difference.
Aaron is peddling his newest work, Long Live The Suicide King. On the other side of me was Jeanne C. Stein (don’t ask her what the “C” stands for, there was a whole article in the program about that), and she’d told me it was a great book, that I should get it, so I did. I began reading part of it, and was blown away by his writing. The guy is good. So, not only is Aaron freaky crazy tall, charming, an excellent conversationalist, handsome, and a close personal friend of all Saints and all furry creatures great and small, but he’s also a talented writer.
Damn Aaron Michael Ritchey.
Damn him and his chocolate!
Oh, and did I mention he gave away chocolate?
I think he was also mitigating Global Warming and helping homeless people while he was sitting there. I distinctly heard “Ebola” and “Mr. President.” Twice.
There was no hope for my books. Me.
So, I did my best to ingratiate and inject myself into his (Aaron Michael Ritchey’s) conversations with his throngs of admirers, hoping to endear myself to his admirers—admirers who buy books—since I had no chance in hell of selling any books while sitting next to this freaking Charm Magnet.
Aaron Michael Ritchey.
Charming his fans with wit and wisdom. Sweets.
Sitting all by my lonesome, I’d cast longing glares “over there,” hoping Aaron Michael Ritchey would cast me even a sidelong glance, acknowledge my pitiful existence, and give me entry into a conversation before he’d cut me off to interact with yet another fan. I looked for any opening into any of his conversations.
“Yeah…,” I’d say from my corner perch, with a short chuckle, or “Yeah!” I’d inject, if the timing was just right.
I think somebody sneezed in my direction. Open-mouthed.
Charming bastard and his chocolate. So unfair.
I can’t seem to just write “Aaron” in this blog—even that was hard to do, just there—because the way Aaron Michael Ritchey sez “Aaron Michael Ritchey” when he introduces himself on a panel, or sticks out his massive Giant Hands to introduce himself to you, just has a flow to it, a certain je ne sais qoui that just rolls off the lips and makes you stare at him in childlike wonder.
He has pancakes. Or, I guess, panache, is the word. But I’m sure he also has pancakes.
Yes, I’m firmly hetero, but (damn him!) Aaron Michael Ritchey (did I mention he’s freakishly tall?) is also sexy. That boyish grin, that devilish charm. The engaging manner. How he brings The Party with him wherever he goes. Absolutely kills it.
I, really, had no chance at this Con with him there.
So, I ate his chocolate.
Uttered another “Yeah!” across the three-foot gulf that separated myself from His Greatness. I pleasantly chatted with those who openly took pity on my choice of seating….then one guy in a cool T-shirt came by and let me take a picture of his shirt. He graciously moved his beard to allow a better shot. Thanks, Guy With Long Beard!
Then, my FFC showed!
Someone actually came over to see me! Here!
They were the coolest. There was a lot of chatting and smiles and laughter shamelessly and loudly tossed about once my FFC arrived, and I finally felt like a real author (see Aaron Michael Ritchey). Fit in with the rest of the Cool Authors.
My founding FFC member laid out the MileHiCon program before me…and asked me to SIGN it!
Wow. My first program!
Not once…but twice!
Yes, she had me sign the Self-Publishing panel write-ups (of which there were two) in the program. But, there wasn’t much room to write near the second paragraph, so I hope “Ditto” worked for her.
But, I signed my first program!
You see, any fool can publish a book and autograph it these days…but when you get a program thrown before you, like Jeanne C. Stein did, multiple times beside me that night, where I secretly pined away with my sidelongs glances at her casual celebrity, I hoped I could one day attain such stature.
And I did!
So, after the hour of sitting and pining for Jeanne C.Stein’s celebrity and Aaron Michael Ritchey’s Über Coolness, we all packed up, and Aaron Michael Ritchey and I found ourselves in conversation before the grand staircase. I remember it well….
He wore black.
I wore humility.
In his giant shadow.
We talked about our current and future projects, about those projects stretching our writerly abilities—and chocolate. Specifically, how he got his name on the chocolate packaging. We talked about “being your authentic self.” Or your “vanilla self.” Just being “a self.” We talked about the manuscript I’m working on now that involves voices in one’s head. Writing what’s inside you and expressing it in various ways. Aaron Michael Ritchey is a good person. Write on, dude!
After our private conversation, Aaron Michael Ritchey and I parted ways for the same bar. I think he was thinking I was getting stalkery at this point, so I dropped my gear in my room, and retreated into the dark interior of the bar…where I was to meet my FFC!
In the interests of not using “FFC” the whole time, I will call my FFC “Darla” and “Morgan.”
The three of us discussed all-things writing and even comic-stripy. They asked me the hard, penetrating questions, like would I like a drink or something? Was I hungry? And where am I with the whole “character” versus “story” thing? I watched them eat cheesecake (I wasn’t hungry). Then out of nowhere, from within the dark bowels of the inner bar, comes a man. He stops before me while my FFC and I are engaged in (once again) shamelessly and extra loud tossed about raucous laughter, because we’re pretending to be inebriated and firmly ensconced into “The Literary Set.” In public. I turn to this Tall Man of Mystery Who Has Specifically Sought Me Out (what is it with all these tall dudes around me?)…and find he’s a friend of mine. Or, more to the point the best friend of one of my bros-in-law. And I’m out at a Denver bar with some lady friends. Laughing it up, free iced tea and cheesecake everywhere.
Well, this gentlemen (I will resist using his real name—or even a facsimile—since he’s a “civilian,” and not of “The Literary Set,” so as to avoid any legal complications in this or any other life…) is on a business trip staying at a nearby hotel and was hanging with some of his peeps at this hotel. We all had a good laugh, he had a shit-eating grin on his face (well, truth be told, he always has a shit-eating grin on his face…), and we talked about the MileHiCon and showed him the program. Explained what I was doing here at near-midnight. In a bar. With women. Cheesecake.
We laughed, he looked at me like I was an alien or something (which, really, this was the perfect place and time to look at me like that), and he left.
Well, come midnight or so, my FFC had to make their trip home, and I was callin’ it a night! But, by the gods, what a glorious night it had been!
Saturday, October 25th
Okay, back to MileHiCon reality.
My Saturday panel of “Threat From Above: Alien Invasion Stories” wasn’t until 3 p.m., so I had a full day to kill, so I’d signed up for a solo book signing in the Atrium. Long story short, I sold one novel (that makes a total of two!), and a friend stopped by, so we chatted. But while I’d was standing there all by my lonesome, I realized how cool all this was. Being a part of something that has been a part of the SF/F/H community for years. And as I pondered this, there was this really neat pantomiming “snow beast” of some kind I’m sure others will recognize, playing around with people in the open area before me. So I motioned the beast over and it posed for me as I snapped a picture.
At 3 p.m. I attended my panel, and we had really fun discussions about aliens and government and the two clashing. My novel, ERO, isn’t so much about “alien invasions” as it is about aliens in more of a Whitley Strieber sense (check out his Communion books). So, I tried to inject that into the conversation, but, as one member of the panel reminded me, yeah, the panel’s title was alien invasion….
Heh-heh. Where’s your phaser when you need it?
After that panel I roamed the Con checking out the vendor and artists’ rooms. There was a lot of fascinating “eye candy” to look at. Cool and strange stuff for sale you won’t find in your normal IKEA. Cthulhu busts to sword-and-sorcery jewelry-to-art of all kinds: space ships and alien landscapes to muscular and barely clothed warriors. I also popped in on a room that had Roomba-sized robots dueling each other, called the “Critter Crunch.”
Sunday, October 26th
My final panel was at 11 a.m., titled, “What If: Alternate Worlds Discussion and Readings.” Turns out this was more of a “themed reading” session than an all-out discussion, so we all read a chosen piece for our audience, and in the remaining time had brief discussions on the topic-at-hand. I read from my August release, Psychic, the first appearance of JFK in my novel. Chapter Six, Section 1. I read it because it gives a good “alternate history” feel to what I was trying to do. There was another, earlier section that actually hit the same topic, but it was more exposition and I really wanted to be in Kennedy’s head for this reading—which this Chapter Six section was. Like the other panels, we had some interesting discussion in the few minutes of remaining time we had, from actual alternate-and-current historical facts to how badly stuff like this can go wrong, because of alternate history fans who know their current history. But this last topic (to me) is no different than than the basic topic of releasing novels: there’s always someone out there waiting (desperately panting, I might add) and wanting to prove you wrong about something in your work. You just can’t escape that kind of thing. All you can do is what you can do—your best, your research. If errors are actually pointed out in your work, note them, thank the person for pointing them out, then correct them and re-release when you can.
I spent the rest of the Con checking out other panels, like a 1) NaNoWriMo “support group,” 2) one about if books are always better than movies, and 3) whether or not there is such a thing called “privacy” anymore with social media. 1) No, I don’t do NaNoWriMo; I’m always working on something else and don’t get into too many “groups things,” but wish the rest of you all the best!, 2) not always, but Aaron Michael Ritchey on caffeine is simple more Aaron Michael Ritchey!, and 3) In today’s world there really is no more “privacy” on anything electronic. There are things companies do that totally skirt laws that, when combined with other methods that are “legal,” can put together a scary profile of who each of us are, what we’re looking at, buying, and even thinking. I’m not in the least naïve about electronic-anything, but after listening to these Supreme Nerd Geeks who have their hands in this stuff, I just wanted to pull the plug on everything and go Stone Age. Mainly just on principle. I despise the ill intent with individuals and companies who do this, intentionally skirting laws—not even “just” laws, but inherent personal rights and freedoms—to get what they want. Just because you can do it does not mean you should.
But, such is life.
Earlier, I also sat in on a painting demo, by Mario Acevedo. Mario is a cool dude of many talents (he used to detail more specifics in his bio, but seems to have severely truncated all that). An ex-military helicopter pilot-turned novelist, with books that involve “x-rated bloodsuckers,” he also (apparently, I found out for the first time, here) paints.
Of course he does.
Initially I wondered what the heck I was getting into, walking into a room that had plastic all over the floor and Mario in the middle of it with a knife in his hand…but—whew!—it was actually a paintbrush.
So the few of us there sat in chairs that ringed the Master in his white Captain’s hat as he worked from a picture of a steampunk chick. I always love to see the opening brushstrokes of artists…to try to see what they see when they begin a work. To see how they’re thinking ahead to what colors will go underneath others, and therefore go to “canvas” first. It was fascinating! I didn’t get to hang around and see the final result, though, dang it.
But, while there, as I watched Mario work his magic, a voice entered my head…God, was that You, trying to tell me something? What is it, God, what do You need to tell me—
It wasn’t God, but it was close: it was…Aaron Michael Ritchey.
Wow—bonus! He was now in my head!
I now had Aaron Michael Ritchey with me wherever I went! How cool was that?
Well…as it turns out…waaaay down the open area outside these sessions…was Aaron Michael Ritchey, carrying on a conversation with some fans. The acoustics were such that Aaron Michael Ritchey’s voice carried really well, so much so that it was actually louder in the “Dexter Room,” where Mario was painting, than where Aaron Michael Ritchey was actually talking.
Dang it, no Aaron Michael Ritchey in my head.
I bring this up, by the way, not to embarrass Aaron Michael Ritchey, but because it totally ties into the manuscript I mentioned about on Friday, with my private conversation with Aaron Michael Ritchey after the Author Alley gig (one can never say “Aaron Michael Ritchey” too much…). The one I’m working on that involves voices in one’s head.
Aaron Michael Ritchey is synchronicity.
Damn Aaron Michael Ritchey.
Here is Mario Acevedo’s final version of the steampunk chic—I love the whole steampunk feel! Thanks for allowing me to post, Mario!
Some final observations:
Writers: yes, you can sell your books, but it’s all on you. You can carry your books around with you (like I did) like some homeless troll—preferably in a roller suitcase, but I recommend the low roller “totes,” not the typical carry-on ones. Regular suitcases are tall, and when you remove books from them for a signing, etc., and lift the bag, the books remaining inside will fall and could damage each other. If you use the low roller tote that is less likely to happen. And, yes, you can carry those all over the Con with you. And will repeatedly get asked: a) Just checked in? or b) Checking out?
You can sign up for booksignings. Ask and look for the list. You can also (pre-MileHiCon) sign up for an Author’s Row table where you have to sit at the whole Con, for a fee. I believe this was a first-time experiment, so we’ll see if that carries over into next year. I personally would not want to be so tied to one place. Sitting down for three days, cool snow-beast-thing-or-no-snow-beast-thing.
For Autograph Alley, the program said “Purchase food tickets…for $5.” Well, if you’re an author sitting in the Autograph Alley (and maybe kissing up to Aaron Michael Ritchey) you need not buy one! That wasn’t made clear so I spent $5 for nothing. It’s for attendees…well, you could use it if you want, but then you could miss potential customers/fans….
I was surprised at how much writing was at MileHiCon! It is quite writer friendly! It’s not all about writing and publishing, there is so much more to this gig, but it is quite writer and publishing friendly…as well as Indie (Self-) Publishing friendly!
Overall the staff and volunteers were extremely helpful and friendly! I had a blast at MileHiCon46 and am grateful for Rose Beetem, program chair, for not only having me, but having me on so many panels and Autograph Alley my first time! I highly recommend MileHiCon!
And I got to hang with Aaron Michael Ritchey.
As I wrote this post, it seems I gained yet another new fan. No doubt because I talked so much about Aaron Michael Ritchey. Welcome to the fold, Ungainly Praying Mantis Creature!
Fine Print: No Aaron Michael Ritcheys were harmed in the filming, creation, editing, nor publishing of this post. No Aaron Michael Ritcheys were bribed to use their name in the post. Aaron Michael Ritchey was contacted before I wrote all this up and he graciously rolled with the punches when I explained what I was doing with his name and that I now have an Aaron Michael Ritchey fan site and creepy shrine set up in a dark, damp place only he could warm up….