Me and the amazingly talented Leigh Walls...before we ate all the candy.

New York Comic Con 2011 is over and done, leaving me as wiped out as Alderaan right after the Death Star became operational.  How could I possibly explain a comic book convention to the non-geek?  How would you describe air?  NYCC is a circus, parade, fireworks display, roller coaster, rock concert, and high school boys’ gym locker rolled into one.  If you’ve never even heard of a “con,” you’re likely to snicker and scoff, like one friend did, at the notion of a convention dedicated to comic, science fiction, and fantasy books. All I can say is that Saturday’s crowd topped 100,000. Who’s the freak now?

"I pity the fool who makes fun of Comic Con!"

And it’s not just books.  There’s gaming, movies, collectibles, artists, panel discussions, and cosplay (the term for dressing up in character costumes). It’s not uncommon to spot an 8-foot tall Wookie eating at the cafeteria or a fully-decked out Captain America in line for the men’s room.

Count Dracula likes dolls.

I counted at least two-dozen 11th Doctors, several Watchmen, tons of Avengers, and a cavalcade of Harley Quinns, among others. I even learned that, thanks to the New 52 from DC Comics, Superman’s new look is recession-friendly.  (I suppose jeans are more comfy than red undies, but still…)

He's singing the Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me."

The women’s costumes, on the other hand, make Halloween look downright Puritanical.  While I can completely conceive of a she-ro using her superpowers to fight evil, I don’t for a minute buy that she can do it in high heels and a thong.  (And when did Supergirl start showing her midriff??)  Nonetheless, it was a beggar’s feast for a fanboy.

Eyes up HERE, mister.

I opted for Soccer Mom Chic in a tunic, bootcuts, and heeled boots—my superpower was signing my name in a single stroke, which came in handy as I signed copies of The Gathering Vol. 4 from GrayHaven Comics. I must take a moment to say that the GrayHaven crew could not have been more welcoming, charming, enthusiastic, and just plain nice.  They are truly passionate about stories.  And, even though I sat surrounded by outrageously talented visual artists (I myself can ruin a stick figure), I felt right at home with them.

The awesome GrayHaven booth

Here’s the must-have at a book signing (according to friend and author Crystal Velasquez): Bring candy.  We’re not talking the Brach’s hard stuff your Great Aunt Ruth gave you whenever you came by her house.  If you want people to stop at your table and buy your book, only Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will do. No one will be able to resist, not even you, as attested by the empty foil wrappers that littered my tote.

Don't blink. Don't even blink. Blink and your dead.

After the signing, my senses were completely overwhelmed as I made my way up and down the aisles of vendors.  My feet have yet to forgive me.  Thankfully, I was able to take a load off at a discussion panel on Story Structure, on which one panelist offered, “It’s really just an intuitive process.”

And scene.

I mean, I agree with that 100%, but we still had 45 minutes to fill!  Luckily, another spoke up, saying writers should begin their stories with the ending in mind.  Preach!  How many of my ideas (or yours) have gone adrift simply because they led nowhere?  Having an ending in mind allows the arc of a story to take shape, scenes and people to have purposes.  You need only watch something like The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects to understand what a great lesson this is.

Nearly everyone packed into the room had at least a dozen stories in their brain and dreams of publication to boot.  Adding up the odds of who might make it and who might not could be disheartening. Yet one of the panelists quoted a friend of his: Yes, breaking into comics is difficult, but breaking into being a doctor is really hard.  Of course it is!  Suddenly, writing about aliens and vampires seemed like a piece of cake next to learning the mechanics of open heart surgery.  A rush of ideas flooded my brain and I’m eager to get to work.

Comic conventions might be a guy’s domain, but the SRO crowd at the “We’re No Angels” panel, which featured women Sci-Fi/Fantasy writers, proved the winds are shifting. So much about this panel inspired me and I’ve been riding on a high ever since. I took a ton of notes I could share, but you may as well click on the link and watch it for yourselves. http://theswivet.blogspot.com/2011/10/video-posted-for-were-no-angels-nycc.html

Kristen Painter, author of the upcoming Blood Rights, made everyone go “Hmm,” when she said, “There are two kinds of stories: In one, a stranger comes to town, in the other, someone goes on a journey, which is essentially the same thing, when you think about it.”  Another highlight was bestselling author Patricia Briggs’s advice that good writing comes when you “take a character you like and destroy them.”

So that’s the wrap-up.  Gotta get to work on destroying my characters.  Any other good writing advice you want to pass along?