Battle of the Cons

I love sci-fi/comic conventions. I have probably been to more than 50 of them over the years. As they have become more popular and mainstream, there have been many more choices of events to attend. Overall, I prefer a larger con experience to the smaller, more thematically focused gatherings. That led to attending Dragon Con in Atlanta for 15 years. But I was getting bored and weary with that, and wanted to try something new.

This post will compare DragonCon, which I last attended in 2016, to Raleigh Supercon 2018. For those of you who don’t have a ton of time to read an article, here’s a great video by iShinobi that will show you the highlights of Raleigh Supercon.

And now, on to the comparison. This is arranged alphabetically by topic. If I didn’t cover an area of interest, leave a comment and I will respond there. TL;DR Summary: I loved Raleigh Supercon and would be happy to go back.

Dragon Con vs. Raleigh Supercon Comparison

Art Show – DC

There is no separate art show room at Raleigh Supercon, so DC wins this one by forfeit. Artists Alley in Raleigh is incorporated into the Exhibition Hall with the dealers, fan group tables, and guest autograph tables.

Booze Availability – slight edge to DC

DC gets the edge here only because I couldn’t find a liquor store within walking distance of my hotel. However, it was super easy to find adult drinks – there were even several bars inside the Exhibition Hall where the dealers were set up. There were other places to get boozy drinks scattered around the Convention Center, and of course there’s always the hotel bars.

Branded Merchandise – DC

DC and Raleigh Supercon both have branded merch. I judged DC’s to be of higher quality, and though Raleigh Supercon did have pins, they were not customized by date/location and were not as nice as those that the Hard Rock Café sells during DC.

Charity Auction – Raleigh Supercon

Raleigh Supercon wins this category because the auction was extremely easy to find, you could place your bids online, and you did not have to show up to collect any items you won. They could be mailed to you. What could be more convenient than that?

Cosplay – edge to DC

There were wonderful costumes at Raleigh Supercon, but in scale and craziness they did not approach those of DC. Raleigh Supercon is family friendly so the costuming is more conservative and mainstream. Still, there are multiple costume contests at Raleigh Supercon just as there are at DC and the majority of fans in attendance were wearing at least some costuming flair.

Cost – Raleigh Supercon

I gave Raleigh Supercon the win in this category because my 3-day weekend membership only cost me $45. I also appreciated that this con offers different levels of memberships (if you are all in for autographs, for instance, you can pay more for VIP status which puts you front of line). AND Raleigh Supercon’s memberships are transferable if you can’t go at the last minute, so you can sell your ticket if you wish.

Crowds – Raleigh Supercon

Raleigh Supercon caps membership at the level that the Convention Center can accommodate. This made the con very easy to navigate and pleasant to experience.

Dealers/Exhibition Hall – Raleigh Supercon

Convention centers have greater hall space. There was plenty of room to walk the aisles and shop. I spent more at one Raleigh Supercon than at 15 DCs mainly because I had room and time to look for cool stuff without being squished and pushed along in a mob.

Downtown Area – Raleigh Supercon

Downtown Raleigh around the convention center is clean with lots of new construction going up. There were far fewer panhandlers than in Atlanta and the streets are not nearly as busy with traffic, either car or foot. It felt much safer and we roamed day and night without seeing any sketchy stuff.

Food – DC

There are lots of places to eat in and around the Raleigh Convention Center, but they weren’t really to my taste. I definitely missed the choices in the Peachtree Center Food Court.

Gaming – DC

The tabletop gaming area at DC is probably 10x the size of Raleigh Supercon’s. The video gaming room and arcade machine spaces were about equal. There wasn’t any miniature gaming happening, so DC wins this category.

Guests – Tie

There is a lot of overlap between the guest lists of these two cons. Raleigh Supercon has more wrestling, voice actor, and anime guests than DC.

Heat – Tie

Atlanta and Raleigh are both hot and humid in the summer. No winner here. Bring sunscreen and stay hydrated.

Hotel – Raleigh Supercon

We stayed at the Raleigh City Center Marriott, on points. There was no land rush for booking, and no legacy system keeping us out. The longest elevator wait I had was 12 seconds. The newly remodeled rooms had hardwood floors, 56” Internet ready TVs, and refrigerators. The staff was absolutely wonderful. CAVEAT – I heard many bad things about the Sheraton next door, which I totally believe because we ate breakfast there one day and they couldn’t even get that right.

Music – DC

Raleigh Supercon doesn’t book bands, so that gives the win to DC. There were DJs spinning all day and night long at Raleigh Supercon, however, so there was that level of music.

Official Parties – Tie

Both cons have “theme” parties which are essentially dark rooms with really loud music and nothing interesting going on. Ergo the dead heat.

Panels – Raleigh Supercon

Because of the attendance cap, you can actually get in to see panels of interest, and there are no ridiculous lines strung out into the street where you have to wait for hours. I went to two different panels and both had open seats. Also, panels started as late as midnight, in contrast to DC where there are very few panels in the evening hours.

Parking – Tie

Both cons take place in downtown areas where finding parking is a challenge.

Phone App – Raleigh Supercon

Raleigh Supercon’s phone app is cleaner, simpler and better organized than DC’s. It also doesn’t crash and update constantly. Even though it lacks schedule/social sharing and other DC app features, I still give it the edge for usability.

Photoshoots – Raleigh Supercon

The space for photoshoots at DC has continually shrunk and DC has made no official effort to support this popular activity. Raleigh Supercon, by contrast, puts photoshoots on the programming schedule and provides a con photographer for them. There are also plenty of open places around the Convention Center that are group photo friendly.

Registration – Raleigh Supercon

We had a very short wait to pick up our badges on Thursday. Our QR codes were scanned by staff with iPads. Badges are not personalized so the lines weren’t slowed by ID checks and name matching. Show a code, get a badge. Super simple, Supercon! For those who arrived later during the weekend. Badges were issued at the convention center and from what I could see, those lines moved fairly well too.

Safety Concerns – Raleigh Supercon

At DC, there is danger of assault, injury from thrown objects, as well as a high level of theft. None of that is a problem at Raleigh Supercon. Everyday awareness is all you need to stay safe there.

Shuttle Bus – Raleigh Supercon

In contrast to the DC buses that never run on time, the city of Raleigh has its own FREE electric bus that runs a constant loop around downtown that can take you to attractions and restaurants that are a little too far away to visit on foot. The bus also runs right by another of the con hotels and stops right in front of the Convention Center.

Special Events – DC

Both cons have Wrestling, Burlesque, RHPS, Karaoke, Kid’s Activities, Speed Friending, etc. I’ll give DC this category by factoring in Night at the Aquarium, Robot Battles and DragonCon TV.

Spectacle – DC

DC has 3x as many attendees, and is epic onthose numbers alone. Also, there is no parade at Raleigh Supercon. DC is the clear winner here.

Tracks – DC

There are far more panel tracks at DC. Raleigh Supercon has 7-10 activities happening at once, vs. DC’s multitude.

Venue & Vibe – Raleigh Supercon

The Convention Center was such a pleasant place. You could take photos anywhere, sit on the floor, loiter, etc. without being hassled. The staff were friendly and helpful, not the grumpy, aggressive types encountered at ATL’s America’s Mart. The center was kept clean all weekend. There were no high-strung hotel security guards on the prowl because there was nothing to police at the hotels. I saw no drunks, no fans being taken to the hospital, no one getting into fights, or having any kind of personal drama meltdown (you know, the type of behavior you see at DC every 15 minutes). It was truly chill.

Walking – Raleigh Supercon

Everything is in one place at the Raleigh Convention Center, so there is far less walking than between all the con venues of DC. And, Raleigh is flat, so you don’t have those tiring Atlanta hills to deal with.

Score:

DC – 10

Raleigh Supercon – 14

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Stop! Look! Listen!


Merry Christmas to all my Twitch viewers, book readers, and audiobook listeners! I hope you are having a wonderful holiday. Gifts are not a big part of my holiday experience, but here’s wishing that you received many treasures this month.

Year’s end is a time for reflection. I was unable to meet all my creative goals in 2017, but that’s okay. This past year felt like I was moving my pieces around a war game board to set up for a future attack. The time I did have free was dedicated mainly to my broadcasts on Twitch. They’re what I enjoy most at the moment and I hope that you will stop by, say hello, and become a follower. (On Twitch I go by the name TalkingTowhee – towhees are the birds shown in the Christmas card above!)

But there are newsworthy items I wanted to let you know about as 2017 draws to a close. First, STOP by Drivethrurpg.com .

Traps Bazaar, one of my gaming projects from way back in 1994 is available again as a digital download. Can your dungeon party survive this collection of devious traps specially curated by Grimtooth the troll and young Grimtina? I think not!

Next, take a LOOK at what’s coming in January at MarsCon in Williamsburg, VA. Here’s a sneak peek at the table of contents for Go Ahead and Howl, the werewolf anthology to benefit the Heritage Humane Society. Weather permitting, I will be at the convention on Saturday, January 13 for a signing, so look for me at the Dreampunk Press table.

Lastly, have a LISTEN to this interesting interview with my City of the Gods Universe creative partner Steve Crompton on The Susan Harmon Hour. Steve talks about the City of the Gods, mythology and more. You can hear this free at Soundcloud.com. Skip to the 31:37 mark to jump right to Steve’s interview.

I wish you all the best for 2018. My next update will come in late January with a look at what’s on the horizon for Spring.

A Writer’s Wild Life

A writer is a little like a wolf. Sometimes she’s “lone,” writing solo works. Other times she’s part of a pack, working on an anthology.

Not hard to guess what I’m promoting this month, is it? The werewolf short story anthology by Dreampunk Press now has an official title: Go Ahead and Howl. This project raises funds for Marscon 2018’s official charity, the Heritage Humane Society.

I previously shared a sneak peek to my Utopea tie-in story “Growlabouts.” I have since penned a second independent piece titled “A Chat with a Werewolf.” No spoilers here! Come to Marscon 2018 January 12-14th to get your signed copy. The ebook version will be available in February 2018.

News About Your Favorite Titles

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Welcome everyone! You might read this blog because you’re a City of the Gods Universe fan. Or, you may have heard me mention my work during my Twitch TV broadcasts and have dropped in to see what I’ve been up to. You might have met me at a convention, or played in one of my demo card games of Awkward Compliments. However you have found my website, enjoy these updates on all those projects and more!

City of the Gods: There will be something new released at Phoenix Comic Con, May 25 – 28, 2017. Come back to my blog monthly until that date for hints about what it will be!

City of the Gods, Planet Coaster Builds: Not everything in the realms is epic and huge. Here’s one of the crystal guardian stations manned by its hidden deity of discernment. Will you be judged worthy of entry to the City?

Utopea: The Arrow newspaper of the mysterious town of Utopea once published these intriguing lines. “A black wolf was spotted on the ridge over east hollow last full moon. Ben Moates said he couldn’t be sure if it was one of his kin or a regular beast.” I can confirm that there are indeed werewolves lurking in the forest, and in 2018 their story will be told. I have been invited to contribute a tale to a werewolf anthology which will debut at MarsCon 2018, January 12 – 14 in Williamsburg, VA. If you haven’t yet guessed, the convention’s theme is “Werewolves of MarsCon!”

Awkward Compliments Card Game: Our sales page at Gamecrafter has been updated to reflect our new packaging. Awkward Compliments now comes in a Large Pro Box which contains the three 108 card decks of the base game and allows room for storing future expansions. Rules now come printed on deck cards, so no more paper instructions. We have also been awarded the “Red Stone Seller” accolade.

Your next chance to meet the Awkward Compliments team will be at RavenCon, April 28 – 30, 2017 in Williamsburg, VA. Stop by the Dreampunk Press table, buy the game, and receive convention-only bonuses!

Happy Spring to all my readers and gaming friends. I’ll be back in April with more news on all these projects and more.

A Quick Orbit Around MarsCon

programMy first show of 2016 happened this past weekend at MarsCon in Williamsburg, VA. My kudos to the convention staff, especially Artist/Author Alley coordinator Amy Smith, for labeling all the tables for easy set-up. That’s a simple thing, but so many book fairs and conventions don’t do that. When they don’t, vendors need to chase someone down to find out which is their table!

I spent the weekend introducing new readers and gamers to the City of the Gods Universe, my historical supernatural book Utopea, and my new horror release Mother of Ghosts. Past customers from RavenCon stopped by to say hello, as well as other readers who had discovered my books through various Facebook and Twitter campaigns. The most popular item on my table this time was The Last Goddess. I received many positive comments about the quality of the comic.

Foreground: Ms. Knowitall and E.G. Gaddess. I'm lurking in the background.  Photo by Charlie Stayton

Foreground: Ms. Knowitall and E.G. Gaddess. I’m lurking in the background.
Photo by Charlie Stayton

One of the best things about tabling at an event (other than sales, of course!) is meeting other creators. Ms. Knowitall and E. G. Gaddess of DreamPunk Press were delightful next-door neighbors who went above and beyond the call of dealer duty by tripping to Party City for spinning mirror balls to light the rather dark hallway in which our tables sat. There was some discussion that this hallway was actually haunted. However, I saw no ghosts. I did see a rather “shroudy” character from The Force Awakens wander by. (Yes, it was someone cosplaying Rey. And yes, I had to Google this character’s name. Can we talk about Star Trek now?)

Gaming! Steampunk! Charlie Stayton! Sounds like an adventure to me . . .

Gaming! Steampunk! Charlie Stayton! Sounds like an adventure to me . . .

Just down the row from me was Charlie Stayton, a plucky adventurer who can tell you a thing or two about robbing airships. Charlie was showcasing the Tephra Steampunk Roleplaying Game. Check out the free Tephra stuff at crackedmonocle.com . Charlie was a congenial instigator and participant in all the hallway shenanigans around our tables. Don’t miss the chance to play in one of his demo games at a quality con near you!

Travis Sivart (shown here with optional minion) is the creative director and host of the Talk of the Tavern radio show.

Travis Sivart (shown here with optional minion) is the creative director and host
of the Talk of the Tavern radio show.

Whether you hang out at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest or a certain cigar lounge, you can find unlimited (and sometimes inappropriate) entertainment by storyteller Travis I. Sivart. My little corner of MarsCon was livened considerably by his wit and enthusiasm for creative collaboration. I’ve just started reading his book Journal of a Stranger and am happily intrigued by the dimension-crossing adventures within. Steampunk fans should definitely check out his books and short stories. Top hat fans should check out his snazzy headshot at his website!

While I didn’t get to see any panels, MarsCon did offer plenty to do. I managed to pop into the dealer’s room, see part of the costume contest, and enjoy some of the Splendid Teapot Racing — and it’s always fun to be crammed in an elevator with a couple of Daleks. It’s definitely a convention I would attend again. I opted to sneak out a bit early on Sunday as a fall of unexpected snow was gumming up the roads. As I post this, we’re anticipating another “snowstorm” to hit in a day or two. With weather forecasts ranging from a few inches to “historic blizzard!” I might be better served to consult the Oracle in the City of the Gods for more info.

Ghosts of Conventions Future

Mother of Ghosts has been released in paperback! You’ll find it a shorter work than what you’re used to seeing from me. The project evolved during its development from a single extremely long book outline into a series of novellas. I hope you like the concept and are intrigued by the horrifying mysteries that Gaius and his Roman friends must confront. Mother of Ghosts sets 18-year old Gaius on a strange path and future books will follow him well into his old age. I suppose that’s a mild spoiler, but if you prefer books where the main character doesn’t die, you will like this series. His adventures will continue in A Fall of Green Peaches (slated for 2017) and Sleep On, Lost Years (slated for 2018). For more details on the book, check out my press release.

Art canvas by Steve Crompton from City of the Gods: Guardian.

Art canvas by Steve Crompton from City of the Gods: Guardian.

If you’d like to get your copy of Mother of Ghosts (or any of my other books) signed, I’ll be at MarsCon in Williamsburg, VA January 15 – 17. You can ask me about the upcoming third novel in the City of the Gods series, Ambassador, and feast your eyes on a beautiful art canvas by Steve Crompton from the cover of City of the Gods: Guardian. I love to give out costume prizes, so if you happen to be dressed as anything supernatural, stop by my table in Author/Artist Alley for your swag.

MarsCon “Sweet 16” celebrates Women in Science Fiction this year, and features all the great programming you’d expect from a con along with unique extras like “Splendid Teapot Racing” – the “Cookie Conspiracy” cookie exchange – Doctor Who high tea party – and an amazing con suite. Since I’ll be at my author’s alley table I’ll miss most of that, but I’ll try to send one of my minions to take photos of all the fun.

As always, I’ll have lowered “convention only” pricing on many titles, so make sure to stop by my table for these special deals. See you in Williamsburg!