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Con Report: Lone Star LesFic

Sunday, April 12, 2015 - 11:10
Lone Star LesFic is an extremely well-run event--still at that cusp where they're able to run it on donations and fundraising without needing to charge admission, but drawing a sizable crowd (I'd estimate maybe close to 100?) The hospitality is truly stunning and it's clear there's a strong, vibrant, and tight-knit literary community at its heart. Since I'd decided to spend this year trying some new book events and reaching out to more reading communities, I was delighted when LSLF accepted my application to be one of the authors on their program. (And it was even nicer when The Mystic Marriage was able to get a slight pre-release in time to have copies for the event.) The weekend kicked off with a group dinner Friday evening at a place featuring "good old-fashioned home cooking". (When I inquired about BBQ, thinking of the fame of said cuisine, it was pointed out to me that for BBQ you go to a BBQ joint -- it's taken too seriously to be a casual menu inclusion.) A number of the featured authors were included, as well as event staff and locals, although all the Bold Strokes Books authors were off at their own group dinner. The event itself was a one-day affair at a small conference center (that we shared with another group whose primary activity evidently involved sitting all day, given the number of butt-pillows I saw being carried into their function rooms!). There was a programming room that was spit in two for the panels and readings and combined for the opening and closing sessions, plus a general function room where the hospitality, dealers, fundraising displays, and book signings took place. It was a great use of space and gave a very "centered" feel to the event. (The two function rooms were accessible directly off the general-purpose room, which meant there wasn't any tendency for wandering off.) The programming consisted of three tracks (aside from the un-opposed opening and closing sessions): group readings, discussion panels, and signing sessions. With four time-slots (other than the opening/closing) this meant that authors who were participating in all the programing facets (which pretty much everyone did) only had one free slot to see what everyone else was doing. Lucky for me, my free period was opposite the "Lesbians in Historical Fiction" panel, so I got to hear Linda Crist, CF Frizzell, Del Robertson, and Justine Saracen talking about their research and how they incorporated it into their work. There were two other panels. (Not sure why they didn't fill the fourth available panel slot, but it may be that some authors declined to do panel discussions.) I don't know what went on in "Sexual Content in LesFic: How Much?" but I was on the panel for "LesFic SUper Powers: Vampires, Demons, Ghosts, and Psychics" along with Mavis Applewater, Therese Szymanski, Rebekah Weatherspoon, and Barbara Ann Wright. Given that the intent of the panel was to talk about these themes in our own work, I had a bit of creative tap-dancing to do since my work doesn't feature any of those! (I talked about magic in the world of Alpennia, which wasn't too far a stretch, but there was a certain amount of creative interpretation of the discussion prompts.) For my reading, I picked Chapter 3 from The Mystic Marriage, which is the best introduction to Antuniet and Jeanne and their interactions. (Chapter 1 in isolation gives a somewhat misleading notion of where the story is going, and chapter 2 is all Margerit and Barbara.) The reading went pretty smoothly (yay for rehearsals!) but I can't really tell whether people liked it. We had a group Q&A after all 4 readings, which I had suggested as a substitute for the planned individual Q&A after each reader, because we got started a little late and I pointed out that it gave better time management to avoid running over. I guess the added benefit is it avoided an awkward silence after my reading since no one had any questions for me in the Q&A. (I invited people to talk to me about it later, but nobody took me up on it.) I know the book vendor sold at least one copy of The Mystic Marriage because it showed up during my signing session. (That may be the only copy of my books they sold, alas, because I didn't see the stacks on the table change height during the day.) I also signed the pair of books (plus booklet of "Three Nights at the Opera") I'd donated to the fundraising table. Someone got a real deal because the set together went for the same price as other individual books! I did get my Texas BBQ fix, because evidently there's a traditional exodus to a local BBQ joint after the conference closes. (I didn't choose wisely on my menu selection: took the beef rib which turned out to be way too greasy and not particularly flavorful. Should have picked the pork ribs instead.) I had a couple of nice conversations over dinner, and then it was back to my motel with a stop at Walgreens to pick up some Sominex in hopes of avoiding the previous night's sleep debacle. (I don't know what set it off, but even with all my usual techniques, I didn't get to sleep until 4am. On the up side, this means that when the motel security guard was pounding on a door a couple rooms away for half an hour at 2am, I didn't get woken up because: still awake.) Would I recommend attending LSLF? Definitely, if you're local enough to make a one-day convention cost-effective. You get a fairly large author-bang for your donations-optional-buck, which is hard to beat. Would I attend again? Probably not. As far as I can tell from the evidence, the attendees simply aren't interested in the sort of books I write. Not that I got any directly negative feedback, but there was an echoing silence of positive engagement. Over dinner afterward, I apologized to the event organizer for not being a good fit for their attendees' interests (which isn't something I could have known going in). I feel bad for the unknown author who might otherwise have been offered my slot and whose work might have been more in the lesfic mainstream and of interest to the conference attendees. And I feel bad for the conference bookseller who went to some trouble to stock up on my books (especially the pre-release of the new one) and got so little return on it.