The Distance of Dreams

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If you are lucky enough to have a dream in life you realize that eventually you must let that dream go. It doesn’t mean that you failed or that the dream failed but that you must move forward from that dream. The hope is that you got to live it, to some degree, and can move on with a feeling of some satisfaction. The truth though is that you never quite fulfill any dream fully because that’s just the nature of dreams.

Perfection does not exist and a dream usually demands perfection, or darn close to it or it wouldn’t be a dream, it’d be a goal.

The difference?

I will be President.

I will run for President.

Dream.

Goal.

You can get darn close to attaining your dream, so close that it’s more than just a goal, but we don’t really get them fully, and that’s OK. If we attained our dreams, then what would we have to strive towards? What would we stretch ourselves towards? Goals are the stepping stones towards dreams and if we keep achieving our goals then we get close to our dreams and can find a way forward from there.

Over my forty-two years I have had a lot of dreams, many which came and went with the wind but some which stuck with me. As an adult my dreams changed, they evolved as I did. I have had two dreams as an adult which stuck with me –

The dream of having a horror convention in Flint, Michigan, my home city.

The dream of owning a performance space and gallery.

Both are attainable and both are ’goalable’, though I slot them in the category of dreams because they are both very distant to the life I lead.

Mostly.

In 2011, as I have talked about time and again, I started a small horror convention here in Flint. Dream achieved? Sorta. As close as you can get, to be honest. Zoom in though and the distance between dream and reality is pretty vast. Dream is to have a horror convention. Reality is the work to do it and the struggles to get there and the disappointment when all of it falls short.

I no more regret dreams that didn’t come together than I do relationships that didn’t last.

Dreams are a part of us, they shape who we are and what we strive towards, and even if we don’t come close to them we can become better people because of them.

With the horror convention it was something I never thought could have happened. To think that we created it with just $800 of seed money is mind-blowing. I was blessed with some friends that believed in me, with some people who believed in what we were doing, and we put it together and created the improbable – a horror convention in Flint, Michigan. Over our six years and five conventions we brought celebrities into our city, we showed films from around the world, we brought vendors and artists in from all around our region, and we did an affordable show that was by fans and for fans and didn’t sell out on that. Best of all was that we raised money for organizations that needed it and deserved it and we never took a dollar of that money for our own uses. We did things the right way and never betrayed our fans. I try not to be prideful but I am proud of that. I am proud of what we achieved. It wasn’t my dream but I think it was better, maybe, because it was real.

But all things pass and all things fade.

With each successive year the hill we had to climb to do the convention got higher. We needed more money to put it on and it required more from us to put it together. It was worth it, it was always worth it, but the longer we existed the harder it became. We changed venues, which seemed like a blessing but became a curse when that venue was essentially given to another entity bent on raising prices and focusing internally. In a city full of non-profits and churches it fell more and more to us to fund a convention that was ready to grow but which we couldn’t afford. We wouldn’t raise the cost for vendors and guests because we knew what we were – a small, one-day convention – and we didn’t want to be another show that bled people for money. My philosophy was always that if the vendors didn’t do well, i.e. make money, then they stop doing our show and let others know not to do our show. Vendors are the backbone of conventions and if you don’t treat them right you will pay. Guests wanted to do our show but without funding we couldn’t and were at a point where I was putting my own money into the show and a simple fact of business it this – if the business cannot sustain itself then it’s no longer a business and is a hobby.

This was a hobby.

And we loved it.

I loved it.

But it was too much.

Dealing with the money, the logistics, the occasional asinine and selfish vendor, the randomly rude guest, the unreasonable fan expectations, dealing with the venue, searching for funding, reaching out to make partnerships, all of it was a weight that grew heavier and heavier and heavier with each year.

After our 2014 show my heart was broken. I had lost a friend that year and had dealt with a memorial project for him that was to culminate at the con and during that same show I had an ex-vendor’s girlfriend calling me to allege we had a bootlegger selling this person’s wares at the show. I absolutely hated that show and the toll it took on me. At the end of the night I had to stay two hours after everyone left as I tried to find ways to secure the space after realizing that the venue’s doors weren’t locking and no one was answering their phones. We had a priceless movie prop in the venue and I didn’t want some drunk college student or curious weirdo to come destroy it. It was a nightmare. We’d lost so much money on what had been our biggest show and the simple fact was that while people came out to the show, we never really had a breakthrough attendance year. We did OK but every year there was an event, or football game, or party, or something else that prevented people from getting to the show. There was also the sheer fact that we had limited resources with which to advertise. Fans loved the concept of what we were doing but most people that followed us never came out. So with diminishing crowds, no real funding, and growing pressures in our day to day lives it was time to re-evaluate things.

I was ready to call it quits.

I loved doing the shows but the stress had gotten to be so great that it outweighed the fun. It was hard finding time to get us all together for meetings let alone to put the show together. We all had jobs, and families, and lives and passions outside of our shows and the weight of the convention became too great. As much fun as things were, the needless stress seemed to grow exponentially, down to people thinking that the Green Room was their personal buffet. We even had the joy of booking a guest that spent most of his day away from the show with some girl he was something-or-other with. We pulled down the tent, took a year to think, and in the fall of 2015 we met and decided we’d try one more show. A smaller, simpler, less expensive show. From the ashes of the Flint Horror Convention came the Monster Marketplace. Another day of low cost, family fun, with more regional guests. It was a step back but we hoped people would still come out. Interest had diminished in the ‘brand’ and by the time the convention came around you could see pretty quickly that we were not going to do very well. We had had to press the venue for three months to let us know if we might be able to grow the show, having a little more money than we expected, and didn’t learn we could until the week before, which kept us from adding vendors or anything else. The venue was so mismanaged that it became a pain just to try to work with them. The contact person was sweet but we always felt we were a burden and this year we had the added bonus of having to deal with dozens of college students wandering around the outside of the con and some inside as they went to a Saturday business class housed in the same facility. During the show we had one of the guests, who we paid and paid for them to have a hotel room for two nights, decide that they were done and pack up, get out of their convention outfit, and wander off to their hotel two and a half hours before the show closed. This after we had planned to have an announcement to honor a milestone for the person. But such is life.

Such are cons.

You are spinning so many plates that you hope that you can keep them spinning while the earth shakes around you.

Our 2016 show as fun but full of more stress than necessary and it was the final sign for me that the time to move on had come. I mourn that decision but know it was the right one. We had a lower turn out than ever before and it just feels like the interest in our shows have passed. We’ll still do smaller horror events but our days of conventions are gone. What makes me saddest is that we did have people that supported us and what we did and we filled a space that is quickly vanishing, and that’s of the small convention. So many shows are super-conventions that are all about the egos of the people behind the scenes and of the brand and not about the fan. Sure, they offer a lot to do and see but at a high price that hurts vendors and fans alike. The super-shows will eat one another and the fans will suffer for it. We need the small shows where you can meet guests and talk to them and learn from them. Where you can make friends and discover things. We need them because like indie horror is the backbone of the genre, indie cons are the backbone of fandom.

I wish things hadn’t come to what they did but it is time to move on.

I am tired and need to focus back on my writing and my books. I have tried to do both and in doing that my books have gotten the short shrift. What comes next I can’t say. As I mentioned, we’ll do other events, but never something so grand as we did before. I am sad to see it go but have no real regrets.

We were blessed.

I was blessed.

I still am.

I made new friends, met amazing people, saw amazing films, and lived as much of a dream as is possible.

Now is a time for rest and to regroup and to see what my heart tells me is next.

Because something will be next.

It’s just a matter of what that will be.

Dreams are never as far away as we imagine, and they are closer than we dare believe and they can drive us, and push us, but they do not chain us, they do not own us, and they do not define us. Dreams change as we do, and once in a while it’s good to let a dream go to move on to the next because if you let a dream define you then it becomes no longer a dream but a burden, and there is little good in that. Little good at all.

…c…

The Con Game 2016

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Convention life is a very strange thing. For the time you are there – three-ish days usually – it is as if there is no world outside of the con. You don’t see the news until the show is over for the day. You don’t know the weather unless you go outside. And the usual day to day things that you normally keep up on with your friends is lost in the blur of the convention. For that time you are living in a sort of bubble where you are always thinking about the next day’s show, the sales, how your space is set up, and on and on and on. For that time you are living the world of cosplayers and celebrities and travel and hotels and blah, blah, blah. It’s one of those things that until you sorta dip into that world it’s hard to really appreciate the craziness that comes with it.

But it’s wonderful craziness.

And awful craziness.

Conventions crowds are a lot like the crowds you find at any fan-centric event, be it a sporting event or concert or something else. You have all of these people who come from different walks of life, from different world and they all come together at one spot because they all have that fandom in common. Such is the world of the convention. With comic conventions you get more variety because they are catering to not just one genre but all of pop culture now as well as comics. These worlds become safe places for everyone to come together under one umbrella, where you can fly your freak flag and enjoy yourself without the judgmental eyes of society on you. For that short time you can be you, be into what you’re into, and it’s celebrated.

Mostly.

Geeks and nerds and weirdos can still be judgmental jerks, let’s face it. Worse than that, they can be sleazy jerks. As much as we all love to be in a place where we can embrace one another’s weirdness and passions we also are still pack animals at heart and still feel the need to shun the ‘outsider’. Not geeky enough? You shouldn’t be at the con. Too mainstream? Why are you even here? That’s the crappy thing is that conventions are supposed to be safe places for fans and we are taking that safety away, and it’s not just the casual condescension and ownership some fans feel but the vile sense of entitlement and objectification of cosplaying. Once upon a time people who dressed up like characters from movies, games, anime, television shows, or whatever, were looked at as the geekiest of geeks and the biggest of losers. Over time we have finally embraced this subculture and are starting to recognize and appreciate it. As well we should. It takes a lot of time, dedication, and money to create some of the costumes people put together. Alas, just as we are putting the spotlight on cosplay the lowest and most vile of fandom has decided that sexy attire is tantamount to an invitation to ogling, coveting, and molesting. It’s thankfully not rampant but it’s too casually accepted. The random stranger that stops the sexy cosplayers to take their picture as the same photog passes up a dozen other costumed fans. Maybe they like those characters…but probably they just like the skin. And heck, sleaze is nothing new and it’s sadly something that most of the fans dressing up expect. It’s when it goes further. The fan that wants to pose with the sexy cosplayer and then ‘accidentally’ touches the person on the butt, or chest, or anywhere. Oops! Hahahaha! No harm, no foul! Right? Yeah…right? Except we’re better than that. A sexy outfit, out of context, is ‘just’ a sexy outfit, but at a con we should at least appreciate the context and understand that it’s representative of a character. We don’t have to like cosplay, and some don’t, but we need to protect it. We need to protect the cosplayers. We need to let them and the sleazebags know that the old ‘they shouldn’t dress like that then’ chestnut doesn’t fly now and it never did. If we can’t respect ourselves and our fellow fans then why the heck are we even bothering with conventions in the first place?

Respect is a big thing though that really is lacking at too many shows.

A lack of respect of fans, of guests, of cosplayers, of vendors, and of artists.

Vendors and artists too often are at shows for themselves, are about themselves, and anything else is a distraction from them. Too many treat the space like a dorm room and leave a gnarly mess, or they will pack up well before a show is over – because they are bored and wanna leave – or you get the great ones that have displays that are so big they trap you into your area so you have to exit and enter your space by ducking under your table, which looks great to people you are trying to pitch your wares to. Heck though, I saw a female fan run up behind an actor that was in a hugely popular show and she grabbed and hugged him. Not cool. Too many will shrug that off but if it was a male fan doing it to a female guest it would be a much bigger, much scarier moment. Fans need to respect the guests. Again, you don’t have to like them, or their prices, or their attitudes, but they still deserve to be treated like a human being, not as property. I don’t know if it’s the prices that celebs charge these days or just a general comfortableness with them but man alive we really have come to treat these people like cattle. We love them…until they annoy us and then they are trash to us and we’ll make sure everyone around knows it. Yeah, they’re paid to be at these shows but it’s gotta be weird to sit in one spot for hours at a time having to be consistently excited and happy to meet everyone, whether you are tired, sad, bored, frustrated, or anything else. You’re performing, live, and you better be good, darn it. It ain’t brain rocketry, sure, but unless you’ve worked as a receptionist or retail you don’t quite appreciate what these folks are going through.

I’d love to blame all of this on big shows, and I am sure it’s more rampant there as the whole atmosphere is more impersonal, but sadly, it’s becoming regular practice at all the shows. Fans are getting rude and selfish. Celebs and guests are getting more expensive and impersonal. Vendors and artists can waver between cold indifference and carny barker schtick. Sometimes I wonder if the fans attending and people building these shows know what a convention is. The celebrity and costumer ogling is nothing new but it’s the anger people go to shows with that is disconcerting. The ‘been there, done that’ attitude affected by teenagers who are bored by everything. It’s like – go to shows that have something for you and just avoid those that don’t. Simple, right? Not for some. Instead they go to the show and grumble, and complain, and act like spoiled children even though they knew going in that there wasn’t much to offer them at the show to begin with. These were meant to be places where we could all get together and share our fandom and while they still are, they are also becoming too much about business and too little about the ‘scene’. And that hasn’t helped things.

There’s room for shows both large and small.

Room for fans both passionate and casual.

And there is room for all of us if we can remember why we’re all at the shows in the first place – to have fun.

To be in a safe place where we can have fun, preferably with our fellow fans.

A place where we can show off all of the work we did on that costume, or drawing, or book, or movie, or props.

A place where we can make new friends, meet our favorite stars, fall in love with artwork, get that collectible we’d had our eyes on, and just be a part of a world that understands why you’re fandom is so passionate.

We don’t have to all like the same things, or have the same intensity of our fandom, we just have to respect one another, a thing that’s very basic, but so darn hard for so many of us to remember.

…c…

http://www.meepsheep.com

Why I Do It

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In talking to someone at work today I mentioned that I was going to a big comic convention this weekend to sell my books.

They said that sounded like fun and hoped I sold some books.

I told them – well, I don’t. I never do. (This is writer hyperbole – I DO sell books, just not many, so take that statement with about a handful of salt).

They asked a very good, and pointed question – then why do it?

And sometimes I don’t know.

I do cons because I need to get out there, to get my books out there, and to keep trying. I need to do shows because my books won’t just find their audience, I have to help the audience find them.

I can’t afford to be an optimist when it comes to my books. I have to be a realist and I have to keep pushing.

I have to hope that some people will take a chance on my work, that some people will want to know what I am about, and that someone will become a fan. I accept that most people won’t care but some people may. I have to hope for that.

And that’s why I do these shows – hope.

The reality is that I am one little writer in a hall full of hundreds of talented people selling their own wares and no one is there looking for me. My odds are not great to make an impact. But I will try. I have been doing this show in particular for over twenty years, off and on. I never sell much at all but it’s fun to go and it’s an opportunity to promote my writing and our convention that some friends and I run.

But there is the pragmatic side. I am currently sick. It’s an expensive show to do. It’s long hours and little sleep. It’s more of a job than my own job.

But that’s the path I chose.

If you are gonna write, or do any art, then you have to understand that you are the main promoter, cheerleader, and sales person for your stuff. If you aren’t willing to go out and bang the drum a little for your own work then you are for sure doomed. And there’s something to be said about selling your work to someone in person, who makes the choice to buy it. People who don’t know you and have no connection to you.

That’s great.

Connecting with someone over your work, that’s pretty amazing.

It’s rare, but amazing.

So why do I do this?

Well, to a degree I have no choice. The market is saturated, any advertising I could afford would be tuned out, and I just don’t have the time to become infamous right now.

So I have to do shows to promote my work.

And I like them. When you are at the shows you make friends, you see friends, and you have strange experiences that only happen at the shows. And you learn. You learn to sell and to promote.

So off I go, to sell, sell, sell…in the least obnoxious way I am able to.

Wish me luck.

…c…

http://www.meepsheep.com

The Circle

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I went to my first convention when I was just a kid. Two friends and I went to a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors show in Dearborn, Michigan and spent the weekend there. This was in 1990. We went back in 1991 and those were the only two times that Fango visited the Mighty Mitten. Those two conventions have stayed with me and are still a part of me.

I have been going to conventions on and off since that time and it inspired me to create a convention here in Flint. All of this is an old song that I have sung before. I have learned a lot of things over the course of these many years in going to these shows and putting them on. I have been behind in the lines, behind the tables, and behind the scenes. The one thing that stands truer than all things, the one thing that it seems that gets forgotten more times than most is that we’re all in it together.  We are all part of a circle that needs each piece to be complete.

From the fans, to the vendors, to the talent, and to the people running the shows we all got in this because of our passion for something, be it horror, science fiction, comics, pop culture, or something else. We got involved because of a genuine love of these things. Sure, there are people, far too many, that get involved, got involved, out of a desire for money. They are business people first and foremost and if they are good business people they have made these shows work. I tell you what though, you can tell the difference between a show that is run as a corporation and a show that is run as a passion. Sure, we’d all love to make some money doing what we love, at every level. As a fan I want my fandom to lead to something bigger. As a creator I want my creations to pay my bills. As talent I want that talent to solidify my future and broaden it. As someone behind the scenes I want to be able to pay everyone working the show, appearing at the show, and have money enough to create future shows. We’d all love to do make a living doing what we love but some things just don’t allow that and…well, maybe they shouldn’t. Who am I to say? What I WILL say is that it is passion for the things we are honoring with our conventions that makes those shows special.

And we are forgetting that.

We are forgetting that once upon a time we were all just fans falling in love with worlds, characters, and ideas that we had never experienced before.

The fans have started monetizing their fandom. They are flipping autographs and because of that the cost of those things has gone up, up, and up. Just going to meet a celebrity has become an expensive proposition and one that isn’t nearly as impactful but is often impersonal and quick. The fans, and how ‘true’ these fans are is debatable, have gotten very demanding and rude. We are forgetting that these people are just folks like us who have been able to turn their talents and hard work into careers. We are forgetting that while they should appreciate our fandom, they don’t owe us anything. We never hired them, we never directly paid them for their work, and we don’t support them directly once the conventions are over.

The creators have begun ripping off not just the fandom but the fan culture itself with mimics of what is possible and imitations of existing things. Oftentimes we don’t create new worlds and new work, no, we lean on what is popular, what is making money, and what others have done before us and we forego new work. We are not creating the worlds that will inspire this generation of fans and the next and the next after that. We are simply assessing what will make us money and leaning on that. And as creators we need to be aware of what is out there, and need to work in worlds that are often familiar will earn us a check. That’s the job. But in doing JUST that we are selling our artistic souls. If you are an artist you cannot just do fan art of other characters. If you are a writer you cannot just write stories about what others are writing about. If you are a singer you can’t just sing covers. If you do that then you sell your soul for a check and some things you can’t buy, and integrity is one of those things. We are here to be dreamers, paid or unpaid, or desperate to BE paid. We are here to inspire others to dream. And whether those are dark dreams or sweet dreams matters not, but we are here to inspire dreams. We cannot forget that. Just as we cannot forget that when we do find people that connect with what we do we cannot take that for granted. We cannot abuse that. We cannot forget that we were fans once too.

The creative people, the talent, must remember too that they were once fans. They must remember that fans, the core fans, the true fans, just want that one moment with them. They want that memory. Sure, some will get out of line, some will get out of hand, and some will want you just because you have something they can sell, but not all of them. The core of them want to have a moment with you. You owe them nothing but thankfulness. Thankfulness for their support of your work, thankfulness for their support of your projects, and thankfulness for sharing their support with others. The sad fact is that some fans will always be there to try to make a dollar off or your work and many are only fans of the money itself. There’s no real escaping that. All you can do is be true to yourself, to your fans, and to be fair to them, and yourself, in what you charge and what you offer. If you don’t want to touch fans or take photos then don’t. Be clear. If you don’t want to sign autographs then be clear. Fans don’t have to like everything you do, but if you are not interested in those things then don’t don conventions. Save everyone some trouble. These are your fans, they are there to see you. Don’t forget that. Don’t take advantage of that. Make some money, that’s fair. Don’t rip them off though. Even if you feel like you may be taken for granted by the non-fans don’t let that jade you. Please. Remember the fan you once were and never forget that. If you can do that then sure, you will have bad days, bad shows, but overall you will love what you do and be shown time and again that what you do matters.

There is a problem with the people behind a lot of shows and that is their cold indifference to fandom. They follow the market to see what is popular but the fans that they are supposed to be serving get left behind in the drive for profits. And sure, without the profits there are no more shows but there can be a profit without ripping people off. And it isn’t just the show runners but it is the eco-system of conventions where it is about sales over experience. Even cosplayers, fans who loved something so much they wanted to create costumes to honor them, even they are being used as ways to draw more people to the shows so they can make more profits. Agents get involved. Creators get involved. More people than need to have a say in how a show is put together shout out how they want it done and you get a giant mess of a beast that is hard to manage and harder to connect to. This isn’t a bang on the walls of the larger shows but is a bang on the notion of higher and higher and higher prices that limit fans and what they can experience. No, not everyone can do every thing, nor should they, nor can they but they should have the opportunities to do things and experience them. We cannot make fandom for the rich and connected. We cannot let conventions lose their personality. Lose their fun. We fill them with so much to do distract the fan from noticing how impersonal the shows are. The fact is that a convention can only be so much. It cannot be all things. It should not be all things. Fans will get bored. That boredom can be an indictment of that show but it can also be a part of the expectations of those fans. Fans can expect too much. They can demand too much. Give them some fun, give them opportunities to make some memories. Let them interact with fans and creators and stars. Don’t charge them every last dime they have. If you can do that then it’s on them if they don’t have any fun. Conventions are a business and need to be handled like one but it’s more than just that. It’s more than dollars and numbers. Conventions are opportunities for fans to step behind the scenes of their dreams, to meet the people that inspire them, and to meet other fans and share their excitement. Cons have gotten impersonal though, and expensive, and can inspire as much apathy as they do excitement. You can never please everyone. You can never be everything to everyone. But you can be something special. Something unique. And something fun. Cons and their creators are forgetting that. They are forgetting that fans may make all manner of demands but in the end what they want is to have some fun and escape the world for a little bit. That’s it.

The thing with all of this, with fandom and conventions is that it’s all part of a circle and each part feeds into the others and everyone needs one another. Without the fans there are no cons and without the cons the fans have no place to meet the people that inspire them. The world doesn’t NEED cons. Fandom doesn’t need them. Conventions are special though. Are magical. And we can’t forget that. We can’t let them become about money and greed and mimicry. We can’t let them become places that are not safe for other fans or for the creators or talent. We can’t let apathy ruin something that fans, that WE fans, have loved for decades. We take so much for granted and that can be dangerous with the things we love. If we are not careful we will price the fans away from the shows. We will get so greedy and demanding that the talent won’t come out anymore. We’ll pen creators into cages where they are not allowed to do anything but copy the works of others. And if we can’t start respecting one another, respecting the people who inspire us, and the people behind the scenes then we’ll lose cons altogether.

We all started out as fans.

We are still all fans.

We are all part of the same family, the same ecosystem, and if we don’t start acting in concert, with one another instead of against one another, we’ll be throwing it all away. So many of us spent years feeling disconnected from the rest of our peers, lost in our imaginations, finally, with conventions, we have a place where we can all get together and meet. We are pricing ourselves into oblivion. We are becoming so greedy, so crass, and so nasty that places that should be seen as safe havens are becoming too stressful and too dangerous. We are at a tipping point and unless we work together we’ll lose these precious spaces where all of us fans can get together, safely, and share our fandoms. It’s an exciting time to be a fan but the hard work we all put in to get here can be destroyed a lot more easily than we realize and if we’re not careful, we’ll deserve it when it finally falls apart.

…c…

www.meepsheep.com

The Lies We Tell Tomorrow

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When I said I would publish no more books I meant it. I still wrote, I still write, and that won’t change. I am a writer. I write. Kinda goes together. But the notion of being one those people that has a library of their own books that don’t sell doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t want to become a joke. A clown. A parody. I don’t want to be another example of why self publishing is bad.

But…

There’s a thing also where I still have stories to tell, to those that want to hear/read them. And I don’t like the notion of doing what I am supposed to do. I don’t want to behave. I want to do what the heck I want to do. A big part of the fun for publishing these books for me is the experimentation. The playfulness of it. I control everything, essentially, so I get to make the rules.

I like that.

So I wrote a kid’s book.

I love that book.

I don’t know that anyone else does. It certainly isn’t selling.

But I love it

It deserves to be in the world.

As a book.

And this year I was thinking about how fun it would be to have something I would only sell at shows. Sort of that DIY ethic that informed life as a zine maker, art show creator, and, well, me. I like that. It doesn’t mean people care. It doesn’t mean that people will buy it.

But I care.

It’s a quick, mean little thing that is like a grabbing the wrong end of a razor.

It will hurt.

You will bleed.

 

So I introduce you to The Lies We Tell Tomorrow. My new book. It’s only going to be available as a physical book at events I am doing. That’s it.

In the darkest parts of our hearts hide our every secret, our every fear, and our every horror just waiting to be unleashed. We are but doors to Hell waiting for the right key to open us. We can lie to ourselves, we can lie to our friends, but you can never fool tomorrow. You can never fool Hell.
I welcome you to a house of mirrors that will show you the worst in all of us, the monsters that live in each of us, but even in Hell there is the dimmest glimmer of hope, an undying light that even the abyss cannot snuff out.
Witness, traveler, the lies we tell tomorrow.

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My other work is available on Amazon.com – just look up Chris Ringler.

Or – http://www.meepsheep.com

 

The Show Must Go On

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I have been doing conventions for a long time. A long, long time. Both comic and horror with some art and book festivals thrown in for good measure. This past weekend I went to what was easily the biggest horror con I have ever done – Days of the Dead, Indy. I was so fired up for the show I even booked a room in the host hotel. I know, CRAZY!

It was an interesting weekend. I don’t really have a huge interest in writing a ‘review’ of the con per se because it was a good show, a big show, and there was a ton to do. If you were a fan and wanted to go to a show that gave you the best bang for you buck I am betting this is one of the ones you’d want to hit. I never want to go to shows as a fan just because I figure I’d get bored but man, there were events going late into the night on Friday and Saturday and you’d be hard pressed to be bored if you were looking for some fun. As far as I could tell it was very professionally run, the traffic flow was as good as you could have expected, and people were having a good time. Any issues were the kind of things you have with every show – it’s too cold, I didn’t sell enough, this happened, or that happened, or whatever. That’s the sort of stuff that falls under the ‘annoyances’ category but which I can’t really slam the con for – it wouldn’t be fair. No show is perfect. None.

That was one of the big takeaways for me this weekend was that, as big as this show is and as small as our Flint show was our little show got a heck of a lot ‘right’ in regards to how we ran things. Our experience came from doing community and arts events, not large scale conventions, so we did pretty darn well. We had our hiccups like every show, and limitations, but with what we had…we did pretty darn well. I was always disappointed we didn’t get more folks out to the show but I forget that we were a one day show, which limits attendance. And let’s face it, whatever it is, people will always tell you they are going and not show up. It’s not you, it’s them. It’s life. It makes me happy though to know that we did things right. We always felt like we did but it’s nice to see that, compared to big shows, we were right in thinking that.

I love, love, love the atmosphere of these shows. The ‘freak show’ nature where everyone is doing their thing and flying their particular flag. It was great to see the sheer enthusiasm people have for horror, for the guests, and for everything in between. It’s great. It really is what pure fandom is about, the fun of it all. Fans get painted in a negative light pretty often, especially horror fans, but when you see the fun these folks are having, and talk to them and see how passionate they are you see them not as a stereotype or idea but as PEOPLE. Fans. It’s silly that horror fans are seen as freaks and weirdos because we love things on the dark side, as if watching two people beat the crap out of one another in the name of money and sport is an innocent way to pass the time. Sheesh. And I tell you what, you rarely find more welcoming, friendly, and generous celebrities than you do with the genre films. Not everyone is great but man, most of these folks understand that without the fans they might not be working and they appreciate that. It’s nice to be appreciated!

It does make me sad, I have to say, when it comes to celebrities because I wonder who the next generation will be that will do these shows. There just aren’t the personalities or career horror people that we used to have. Many actors look down on genre work and would never ‘stoop’ to do a convention. It makes me wonder who the next generation will be then to populate these shows. They will find folks but I am not sure if they’ll be as compelling and fun as the generation we have now though.

I had one of those weird things happen to me that happens from time to time that I just…I just don’t get. Once in a while at shows you get the Know It All, the person that feels compelled to tell you what you’re doing wrong, that they don’t like your stuff, that you’re a hack, any number of things that are just nasty and childish to say. Giving unsolicited opinions is something a child does, not an adult with any common sense. Ah, but these people don’t have common sense. There was a woman at the show, a fellow author selling vampire books, who kept wandering around the show being three shades of obnoxious. She came up to me as I was just standing behind my table and proceeded to tell me how well she was doing, incredibly well. Great, I told her, genuinely happy for her because to me, I am not in competition with other writers. I do what I do, they do what they do, whatever. People read what they want. Well she had said this, literally, in passing, and turned to start a conversation with me. She spoke in the most condescending tone I think I have heard in many years and started quizzing me – so you’re the author, so you’re self-pub, oh… She looked my table over, then picked up one of my novels, flipped through it, got a very upset look on her face then said ‘ooooooh, do you have many copies of this?’. I was freaked out because I thought that there was some obvious typo that she’d found. I told her ‘yeah’, because I had a few copies for the show but it’s not like a keep a vast stock on hand. ‘Well, black words on white paper burn reader’s eyes. That’s why they print on off white’ she said matter-of-factly. I was at a loss for words. I had been growing angrier and angrier with her but that was the topper but I kept my cool because I am too old for games and I didn’t really wanna get into some silly vendor war at a convention. I thanked her for that ‘sizzling hot tip’ – something an ex-manager would say, which always made me laugh – and she spun around again, satisfied she had imparted her wisdom on me and heading off, and she gave me a crap eating grin and told me something like ‘any time’ and wandered off. I assume she was drunk. Both times I ran across her she seemed terribly drunk. If not, she’s got issues to deal with. I was not the only author she did this to. She made sure to go by another author I know to pull the same sort of nonsense with him, telling him all about how great she was doing and taking down to him about his work.

She doesn’t know us.

She doesn’t know what we do.

She can be the world’s bestselling author of books about vampire knights but baby, if you got no class, you got no class. She has no class.  I do this because I love it. I wish, wish, WISH I could make a living with my writing but I don’t. It is what it is. I get that some people look down there nose at me for being self-published and I deal with it. I wish I had other options. I don’t. Unless someone wants to read all of my work and prove to me that my work is lesser than much of the garbage dropped into the mainstream market then they can eff off all day and night. It’s funny to me that musicians, poets, and artists are ‘allowed’ to self-publish and produce things themselves but authors can’t. We’re trash if we do. That’s ridiculous. Don’t tell me it’s about ‘saturating the market’ and ‘watering down the talented writing with bad writing’. That doesn’t wash. People choose what they want to read. If I read something I don’t like I don’t punish the world of writing by not reading anymore. I doubt anyone does that. It’s the old guard being afraid of the new wave. Sure, a lot of crap is getting published, but BIG SURPRISE! Look at the bookshelves and you’ll see a lot of crap, but someone reads it so it is what it is.

Back to our friend.

I just don’t get the mentality of talking crap to people, especially people doing something they love. It’s petty, childish, and pathetic.

We ran into her later that night and she said ‘hello author’ as if she had told me to screw myself with a wrench.

The thing too is that her ‘tip’ doesn’t hold a ton of weight. Sure, black on white CAN hurt the eyes, but that tends to fall on the lighting more than anything else. You know why paperbacks were printed on ‘off white’/news print style paper? Because it was inexpensive. There may not be a lot of books printed on white paper but, really? Magazines? White paper. Computer screens? White. Many books? WHITE! If I fail as a writer because of the color of the paper in my books then I am in bad shape.

I wish her well in her writing, I hope she’s successful, but more than anything I hope she wakes up one day and gains a little humility and some better people skills.

It was definitely not a show where I did well though with the books. I don’t feel terribly bad because a lot of the vendors and my author friend didn’t do well either. A lot of the fans were either spending their money elsewhere or not at all. It is what it is. It sucks for me, but fans know what they wanna buy and buy it. I had some sales. I had some nibbles. I got a couple people who were unimpressed I was self-published and some that were surprised at my book output – to which I answer that for ten years all I had to do was write with no publishing outlet so work piles up, as well as ideas. I get the impression that, for whatever reason, my books just won’t do well at shows, at least not horror cons. Again, maybe it’s me. Maybe the books stink. All I can do is promote and sell what I have. It is what it is.

I did realize on this trip that yeah, I am too old for the loud, late-night drunken shenanigans. I sorta always knew this but the trip definitely pressed the issue.

If there was one thing that upset me about the show it was that vendors, our writer friend among the very first, started shutting down at 3PM on Sunday. That really bothers me, as a vendor, as a fan, and as someone who put shows on. It’s unprofessional and it cheats the show and the fans. Things die around then at a three day con, I get it. You start to get antsy, you get bored, and you wanna go home. I even packed up and left at 4:30 because EVERYONE was packing up save two or three vendors by then. There were no fans. It was so bad that the hotel had a scissor lift out removing things that were hung up. If we didn’t have a four and a half hour drive we would have stayed ‘til five, but I still feel bad. I feel worse though for the fans that came for that one day and come to find vendors and guets coming in very late, some hungover. Then to have the vendors shut down early too. Why get a weekend pass? Why bother?

This is why I wish, wish, wish conventions would just move to two days shows. When you take how mediocre Fridays are, and how mediocre Sundays are and put them together you have another solid day, making two solid days. I get that venues, and guests have better prices if you book three days. I get it. But it just makes way more sense. It makes a weekend pass more exciting because you won’t get bored as easily. For vendors and guests it means you don’t have to waste Thursday to get to the show or get ready for it, you can just head out on Friday. Have two, solid days where people may miss stuff but miss it because they were so busy with awesome stuff. I’d rather that than run out of things I wanted to do.

It will never happen, but it’s my dream.

The way vendors treat Sundays it’s basically a non-day anyway right now.

Overall though I had a great time. We saw a lot of friends, bought a lot of awesome stuff, got some photos with celebs, and I don’t regret the trip at all. I am sad that it feels as if another market for my books is gone but it is what it is. I don’t blame a show for that, and I don’t blame the fans, and I don’t blame me. It just is what it is.

If there was a lesson to be learned it’s to have fun, no matter what have fun, then the rest doesn’t sting as much. I also learned that I miss doing our show, but that’s another story.

meepsheep.com

-c

The Professionals – more rambling about conventions

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The Professionals

I have written a lot about conventions and I will keep writing more because I have been attending and involved in them since 1994. I am certainly not the biggest flag bearer for cons out there because I don’t attend that many, but I have vended, attended, and put one together for four years so I figure I have pretty strong opinions which I spout often.

This time around I wanted to write about professionalism. The word means a lot of things to a lot of people and with each job and career and situation it’s different and so it is in the world of conventions, a place where too often professionalism is left by the wayside.

Professionalism at a convention is a two way street – you have to act professional to have people treat you like a professional. Like respect, you just don’t magically attain it.

I went to a comic convention here in Michigan yesterday and got the chance to catch up with some vendor friends, which was awesome but while there I was reminded of something that has always bothered me about conventions. Love them though I do the notion of a three day show seems like you’re asking a lot. I know, I know, I know – the gains are better than the losses, I get it. It’s more cost efficient to book guests, space, and everything else if you book three days, and so long as you still get people through the door that’s all that matters. And that makes sense for the large shows. I used to not like three day show, and still don’t, but my view has softened. For a show like Motorcity Comic Con it has to be three days so families can make it, so people who work can make it, and so folks that want to soak it all in can do that. It’s a huge show. Shows like that make sense that they are three days. They have probably 50+ guests, well over a hundred vendors, and a ton to see. The problem is more with the medium and small shows that don’t have that much to offer but they still stretch it over three days. It works for some because it’s basically a three day party but for too many shows it becomes a drag on everyone as you watch the attendance plummet, the money stop flowing, and boredom sets in. Here’s the thing though, and this is where we get to professionalism – to me, if you sign on for a show and whether it’s a one day show, a three day show, or whatever you need to be there. If you’re someone listed as an attraction you need to be there and need to be engaged and engaging. Yeah, it gets boring, it gets repetitive, and it gets weird but YOU signed on for this. I was really impressed and respected the hell out of the guests I saw yesterday who were at their booths on time and signing as soon as the doors opened. That’s professionalism. And there’s a window of acceptability to me, I mean, heck, if you’re a half an hour late then I can live with that because many of them leave from the show to head home and have to get ready. That makes sense. Too many though are bored by Sunday, were out partying the night before, or just don’t feel the need to rush out there. The thing is – people paid you to be there. And even if your deal is structured in a way that has you making your money via tables sales or whatever people are still paying to see you. Heck, even if someone just wants to say – OH MY GOSH I SAW SO-AND-SO – that’s why you are there. I have vended, and just that can be a huge drag so being nice and happy and outgoing as much as celebrities have to at a show has to be hard, I don’t doubt that at all but I also know that they are the ones that to some degree are being paid to be there.

To me it’s just one of those things – be a professional.

Last year at our Flint Horror Con we had a guest who was booked well in advance and all was hunky dory until they found out they had to shoot the day they were coming into town. Crap. We talked a lot, they were willing to still come out but it was going to be a different flight, the day of our show. This cost us a lot of money, and a lot of stress but the fact was that this person was going to get next to no sleep to take an early flight to our show to do it for not a lot of dough to be there for about four hours to turn around and have to fly back home Sunday to go back to work on Monday. THAT is professionalism. They were so loathe to cancel on us and on the fans that they made it work because that was what they agreed to. Did it cause us a lot of discomfort? Absolutely, but we got over it because the person came out, was great with us and with the fans, had a good time, and did everything possible to make sure we felt like it had been worth all we’d gone through. Again, that’s a professional.

And once more I don’t blame the celebrities for getting worn out and worn down because many fans act as far from professional as you can get, taking pictures when asked not to, being too aggressive with them, trying too hard to be their buddy, and overall acting like dopey kids even if they are decades past that. These fans are in the minority but they’re there. The fans that want to talk crap about guests because they can. I can’t imagine how draining that would be.

Still.

Be a professional.

You signed on for it so be there when you are contracted to be there, make the best of it, and remember that the fans coming to see you, the fans that can be a little weird and awkward, the fans that get nervous being around you, the fan that has everything you have ever done, and the fan that acts aloof but still wanted to just say hello, those are the people that you touched in some way with your work. Those are the people you supposedly do the work for. THOSE are the people that, complain as they may, have put money down on your career because they believed in you and what you were doing. That’s powerful. Don’t screw with them. And when the day comes when it’s too much, when you just can’t do it anymore get out of that side of the business. It does no one any good when you are not into it and faking it and have more interest in your phone than in them. If that’s the case, get out of the convention business, focus on your career, your hobbies, your friends, or your family, and just leave cons to people who still enjoy them.

Because if you can’t enjoy it then don’t bother. Fans pay a lot of money to attend these things these days and they deserve guests that won’t treat them as a nuisance.

The other side of professionalism comes from the vendors themselves, the backbone of conventions. Were it not for the vendors conventions wouldn’t survive. They promote the show, their friends and fans attend the shows, and they are more than willing to help when asked. If you treat your vendors well you will do OK. They will have your back. The thing is though that as great as most vendors are you are bound to get more than a few that need a class in manners. These are the louts that pack up early on Sunday and leave before the show is over. These are the jerks that treat their weekend areas like a bachelor pad, who don’t feel the need to look up when fans come by their tables, who act rudely and loudly during the show, and who generally act like jackasses. I have seen this WAY too often and it has never ceased to grate on me. The thing is that vending is fun, even when it’s not it’s sorta fun. It’s long hours, sore feet and legs, a lot of disappointment, some jerky fans, and a lot of monetary investment. But you are hanging out with like-minded folks for a day to days on end. You are around a scene that, I would hope, you love. You are promoting and selling YOUR work or work you had a hand in creating. It’s fun. People should HAVE fun vending. They should be treated well by the con, and by everyone else because without them these shows have little to offer and less to do. The vending areas – your artist alley, your movie sellers, and your retail merch dealer – are where you find things that will just blow your mind and become cherished items. But you don’t want to buy from a jerk.

Too many times I have seen people who sign up for a weekend show only to pack up and bail on Saturday night, or early Sunday. The thing here is that YOU are part of the attraction. YOU are part of the show. When they list your name or promote you as being there you’re a part of the deal. Unless there was an emergency you signed on to be there for the weekend so be a professional and be there. If you’re more of an artist and can’t do the sales, cool, then don’t do the show or have a proxy there to help. Don’t just leave and don’t act like you’re too busy or too good to talk to people. Oh, and hey, don’t always be selling. Maybe if you actually act like you give a crap about the person talking to you beyond a sale they will be inspired to give your work and maybe a buy. You never know. For a couple years I got stuck by The Really Loud Young Woman Who Likes To Be Overbearing And Pushy And Rude who yelled at people to buy her work and The Vendor Who Takes Up ALL The Space And Wants More who seems to think that the show is about them and what they are doing. It was beyond annoying. I was tempted to kill but instead reigned it in to shoot mind bullets at them instead.

For me, if you are at a show and representing your ‘brand’ (the new buzzword these days) and your work then you need to act like you are somewhat professional. Have fun, be silly, be kitschy, but let people know you aren’t a child and aren’t a jerk. I dunno about you but I don’t tend to buy a lot of art or merch from someone who acts like a jerk. Maybe it’s me. Remember that there are families at these shows, that there are people with special needs, and people not used to being out in large gatherings like this. Remember that you’re, by virtue of choosing to vend there, a spokesperson and representative of that show. If you’re a jerk, and treat someone like crap then you may well sour someone on not just you but that show. If enough vendors are jerks then why bother with going to that show?

Professionalism baby, that’s what it’s about.

Conventions are tremendously fun. They are strange, overwhelming, obnoxious, scary, and filled with more things you need to own than you imagine. They are filled with friends you have yet to meet and may never meet. They are filled with the people and things that remind you of how great life can be sometimes. They are filled with inspiration, challenge, and awe. And if they are don’t well a convention is the place where dreams can come true and hope in an oft-times dark world can be restored. It’s a place that remind you that you’re not alone in your fandom or your weirdness. Nothing cracks the illusion that these shows weave though faster than rude and unprofessional people. Sure, the celebs and vendors are why the people come out to the show but without the fan attendance…there are no shows to do. Lose the fans and you lose it all. People would be wise to remember that.

…c…

meepsheep.com