A tri-weekly blog about gaming, entertainement, and food.

Harry Dresden, Books, Talks, and Creative Motivation

Back in 2008 while I was still living on the East Coast, I was lucky enough to play a part in the student-run SciFi convention known as MadiCon.  That spring we were proud to play host to Jim Butcher, New York Times Bestselling author of the Dresden Files.  At the time, he had just published the ninth book in his contemporary fantasy/mystery series… and I hadn’t read a single one of them.  Not that I wasn’t interested, of course, but I was more along the lines of not-on-the-up-and-up when it came to new(er) books and movies.  As a courtesy to our guest of honor, and so that the Con-Chair didn’t have to, I bit the bullet and buckled down to read a book or two before the con.

Harry and Sue

Harry and Sue

Apparently the taste of lead sat well with me because I read the first six books in a week.  Between school, two jobs, and helping run a con, I managed to squeeze the other two books in just in time for the Butchers to arrive.  They were wonderful guests!  Very amiable, fan oriented, and seemed to (hopefully!) enjoy themselves as well.  As fun as it was to spend a couple of meals over the weekend with them, it admittedly was a bit daunting to sit across from an author whose books had just been crammed into my head over the prior two weeks.  It was a fun con, I got hooked on some new book series, and got a number of them signed in the process.  Huzzah!

Something about conventions with guests and panels really gets the creative gears turning in me, and Madicon was no different.  I finally put ideas that I had had for a long time to paper (or computer), made outlines, sketches, and added notes.  After the infusion of creative heroine wore off, the notes sat around for a bit and began to collect dust.  I soon discovered that after each scifi con I went to I had this amazing burst of ideas, and surprisingly none of them were ripping off the authors who had just inspired me! Double bonus!

A year or so passed, things changed, and I made my way to the West Coast, books in tow.  Sometime after the move however, my signed books ran off with an ex-boyfriend.  To this day I don’t know what he’s doing with books signed by Jim that say “To Lauren” on them… Needless to say, I was irked that I no longer had them, and had no way to replace them.  In the meantime I read one or two of the new books right when they came out, and some of the others had to wait not only until they had made it to paperback, but the most recent one had not even been purchased.  Ghost Story, the 13th book in the series, was one that had been left neglected on the bookstore shelf.  Hey, I said I wasn’t on the up-and-up with books, so shoot me!

That’s when vacation hit.  Sweet sweet vacation. I guess I should really call it Stay-cation because I had no plans of going anywhere… that is, until I saw on Shannon K. Butcher’s Facebook page that Jim would be doing a signing about four hours south of where I live!  On a Wednesday.  During a workweek.  Good for me and replacing my lost books, not so good for everyone else with a normal workweek. Luckily for me that’s when one of my friends who has been named the King of Irrelevant Travel came to the rescue and agreed to carpool with me… aka let me ride shotgun down to the signing.  I called it “Impromptu DresdenFest 2012.”

I didn’t really know what to expect when we got there.  I wasn’t expecting it to be anything like Madicon, nor was I even expecting Jim to even remember who I was.  Hell, I had lost a bunch of weight, cut my hair, and had been prescribed glasses all since 2008 (shut up, you’ll start to get older too soon).  Aside from all that, I had never actually been to a book signing outside of a convention hall.  I was surprised to find that the start of the signing was more like the talks and panels that I was used to at conventions.  It was definitely a lot of fun and good insight to be able to listen to Jim talk about Cold Days, his latest book that had just been published (and no one there had had a chance to read yet), as well as his story building processes, projects in the works, and a question and answer session with the fans.  I’m neither tall nor loud and I couldn’t think of a good question so I was content to just listen.

Impromptu Butcherfest 2012 - The Fans

Impromptu DresdenFest 2012 – The Fans

After the question and answer session, Jim retreated into the staff-only area so that the bookstore could be turned into a signing line.  Since the King of Irrelevant Travel and I had purchased our books later than most of the other people, we knew we would be waiting for a bit until it was our turn to have our books signed.  During line setup we were told that we could only get two books signed per visit. Crap.  If we had more than two books to sign we had to get in line again after everyone had a chance to go.  I had three books with me that I really wanted to to get signed: Cold Days (that had just come out), Storm Front (part of the original publishing), and The Dresden Files RPG,  I had a couple of others too, but if I was going to push it, I had to narrow it down to the most important ones and stick to it.

Priscilla as Molly Carpenter

Priscilla as Molly Carpenter

We had plenty of time to wait as well, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  A couple of things helped bide our time, one of which was Priscilla Spencer aka Priscellie, Jim’s site manager, videographer, cartographer, and seemingly jack-of-all-trades.  She was kind enough to mingle with some of the stir-crazy fans, myself included, and not only did so with patience and enthusiasm, but with a fantastic Molly Carpenter costume as well!  She also showed us where in The Dresden Files RPG her artwork is featured (Our World pg 46) and signed it for us.

After an unknown amount of time (mainly because we didn’t want to face the four-hour drive quite yet), it was our turn to go up to the signing line!  Books: check, camera:check, correct name spelling: check.  We were ready.  Before we knew it we were finally up there with the man himself… and all I could think about was that I didn’t want to hold up the line for everyone else.  Goddamn it why did I have to be considerate?  I pushed the worry aside for a short moment so that I could actually talk to the guy.

He (thankfully) remembered Madicon, asked how I liked it out in CA, and actually made some surprising small talk.  I have to say after the tone of the bookstore I was expecting “hello,” books signed, “thank you so much for coming out,” but I was pleasantly surprised.  After the short pleasantries I pleaded my case to get the third book signed.  My friend calls it the woman card, but I prefer to think of it as the D.I.D. card.  Damsel in distress?  Come on, you’ve seen it used plenty of times.  Some guys even have a terminal case of D.I.D syndrome…

Jim signing

Jim signing

Regardless, Jim was nice enough to sympathize with my dire situation consisting of stolen books and agreed to sign one last book for me.  For fear of holding up the line longer than we already had, we said our thank you’s and went on our way.  It was definitely a good trip, a good time, and a good experience, but a vastly different dynamic than the weekend the he and his wife attended Madicon.  Not necessarily in a bad way, I mean it was a book signing, not a weekend long geekfest, but I do have to say I missed some of the more intimate (no, not like that you perv) time that you can get with authors during a convention.  Time to talk, pick their brains, let them dangle spoilers just out of your reach.

All-in-all a good trip down south and The King of Irrelevant Travel and I made it there and back in one night, and one piece.  If there’s one thing I can say about author’s talks and new books, is that it really puts a fire under my butt to get (creative) shit done.  Not only did I go home and submit a new LARP proposal (see To Boldly Go), but I also started adding more flesh to the skeleton of my fictional world, revisited some story outlines that had been laying about for oh 3 years or so, and the very next day I plopped down, read and finished the much neglected Ghost Story!  Judging by the length of this post already, I won’t add in a book review as well, but suffice it to say that it was a nice twist to the normal shenanigans of Mr. Dresden.

Alas, after Ghost Story my stay-cation was over and it was back to the grindstone so reading Cold Days was also put on hold.  It wasn’t until this past week that I was able to pick it up while I had a day off of work and Joe was home with the stomach flu.  As fate would have it I too caught the same nasty bug (hence no Friday Food Porn post), so made the best of it and finished the book in a total of about eight hours.  I know, I know, it’s not a race, but when I get into a story it just naturally moves that fast!  Much like Ghost Story, I will spare you (and myself) a synopsis and review at this time, but reading the two newest books in the Dresden Files has brought a couple of things glaringly to the forefront of my attention.  It’s not quite as monumental as an epiphany… well, maybe a baby epiphany, but that will have to be saved for another post…

In the meantime, ask yourself: what motivates you to create something?  Is it reading? Listening to others? Going to conventions?  Meeting favorite authors?  Dressing up? F: None of the above?  Whatever it is, grab it by the horns and hold on for the ride!  You’ll definitely regret it if you miss out on the train.  Myself?  When I see what others have done and hear how they got there it gets my wheels turning and stokes the fire… Maybe one day I’ll get to tell you how I finished my slow-growing beast of a story.


One response

  1. Pingback: Harry Dresden, Books, Talks, and Creative Motivation | SLOCalifornia.com Magazine

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