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CoKoCon 2018: Authors, Readers, and Fandom

There are two things a bookstore needs, authors to write the books and readers to buy them. CoKoCon 2018 brought these two groups together in a unique way, so that as a bookstore we could interact with both in one space. As a bookstore without a physical space, our events are critical and this one was even more integral for the positive engagement and loyal support from both groups. I’m going to share some of the best moments and highlights of the convention.

The event began with working, getting the store set up. Part of our space included the ever supportive Terry Smith who brought her books, her jewelry, and her artwork. She and Duncan brought the area together, highlighting Harry Turtledove and Beth Cato’s books. While they worked on helping the other vendors in Duncan’s capacity as the dealer room liaison, I was off getting more inventory for the store and getting us checked into the hotel. It was a busy first night but everything got accomplished, leaving me time very the next few days to represent the bookstore at panels and spotlights.

My first panel of the convention was Surviving Social Media with Gary W. Babb, local guest of honor Beth Cato, Thomas Watson and Stephanie Weippert. While a lot of it was not new to me, having learned from Romance Writers of America about Social Media, I liked hearing the different takes about how to deal with Social Media, including Beth’s baking blog and Stephanie talking about limiting your time.

I started with the Punked Panel Saturday morning. I totally forgot to take pictures but it was talking about the different punks out there, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Dieselpunk, all the of them. On the panel was David Lee Summers, Cynthia Ward, Rhonda Parrish, and Jenn Czep. While not all of them write the same kind of punk, they all had varying levels. David and Cynthia write Steampunk of differing types, Jenn writes pirates and Rhonda writes and edits in the genre. She also introduced us to Sunpunk which basically is shiny, set in the future where money is no longer an issue but pits individuals against the corporation. Fascinating learning of the types of punk and insight into how to write them better which basically comes to read the genre and research.

Sadly, I couldn’t spend my entire day in panels as much as I wanted to. I spent the convention as a member of staff and part of WesternSFA so part of my afternoon was spent helping at registration. I learned how to use the machine to print badges and input data into the system for members registering. I also got to meet Mark Greenawalt and take him to OPS to pick up his packet. Very down to earth but I’ve seen his work and he is an amazing artist! I also got the chance, while I was in the dealer’s room to meet Harry Turtledove’s spouse, Laura Frankos, a writer in her own right and a lovely lady who works as a librarian. We chatted for a bit and I loved meeting her.

Then it was time for Meet the Guests. Edward Pulley was the moderator or MC. He kept both the guests and the attendees of the event laughing. At the event was Harry Turtledove, our Author Guest of Honor, Beth Cato, our Local Author Guest of Honor, Steve Rude, our Artist Guest of Honor and Cheshire Moon, our Filk Guest of Honor which is comprised of Eric Coleman and Lizzie Crowe. We got to hear about their start into their various pursuits and lots of cool details about each of them. Edward even managed to slip in a sly reference to Gini Koch and her infamous Erotica Event that had author Jamie Wyman Ready and I snickering in our seats. Pretty sure we were the only two in the audience who got the joke but several people on various panels mentioned Gini Koch and we are plotting to figure out how to get her back in town for her special event. Fun was had by all, though, because Edward kept the show lively and focused on our guests.

Later that evening, I got the fun of going to the Filk Concert by Cheshire Moon. I love singing and Filk music so it was a treat for me but totally not author related. It still was a highlight as Lizzie Crowe is one of the most talented singers I’ve heard, with a fantastic range and one of the best fiddler’s I’ve heard. Eric Coleman is no slouch either, playing several stringed instruments. Their original geeky originated music was a thrill to listen to and if you like music that is both gritty and lyrical, with a strong feminist aspect, I highly recommend checking them out.

The final part of the evening, I headed out to a panel, Strong Female Characters which please do not confuse with Strong Female Characters @™, put on film by so many and which miss the point of a good character. Our panelists were Beth Cato, Jamie Wyman Ready, Jenn Czep and Ashley R. Carlson or as they became dubbed in order, Bread, Fire, Water and Sugar. The authors got along incredibly well, we discovered we need to make sure Ashley eats before late night events. Otherwise the moderator needs to feed her veggie sticks. We also learned that characters need to be well balanced and strong can mean more than just kicking ass. We also learned that Jamie has a lot of insight into treating female characters the right way, making them three dimensional and crucial to the story rather than fridging female characters.

Sunday were author Spotlights, Beth Cato’s and Harry Turtledove. I loved learning about Beth’s fascination with horses and how that led to her writing fantasy. One of her influences was Dragonlance.

Slipping out early, I attended the Not Dead Yet panel where authors talked about print and e-books and how both were thriving. One important aspect is that most of the authors suggested beginning with traditional publishers and knowing how much work you want to do. All of them said self-publishing can take a lot more work for the author but if you can have the interest and willingness, it can be worth the time if you make sure the writing is good.

Later was Harry Turtledove, in which he made most of us jealous about the authors he’s worked with and known. One of his influences is Theodore Sturgeon. We also found out his most unique World Con experience was the Con where his wife gave birth the day the Con began. She is one tough lady and totally supportive of his career but not unusual, considering she writes as well. He also has a very sly sense of humor and I loved listening to him. He is one charming, engaging author.

Magic and Mayhem-Trickster Stories was the last panel of Sunday. It was a fave four again, Beth Cato, Jamie Wyman Ready, Ashley R. Carlson and Jenn Czep. Jamie and Jenn were the tricksters while Beth and Ashley are both paladin/clerics but all of them gave some interesting insight into trickster characters. Plus Ashley makes the best expressions when she is at a loss for words. The key is to keep characters authentic, research legends from their original source and remember to keep in mind the schemes of your trickster characters. Plus remember, that they are chaotic neutral, not usually a villain.

Monday, Duncan got the opportunity to go to the Making Monsters panels while I sat in the dealer’s room for him. We sold out of Beth Cato’s Clockwork Dagger and both short story anthologies. While the dealer’s room was freezing, it was worth it to get the sales.
Afterwards, I headed to the Steamy Hair Clip Workshop. I was able make my own hair clip, helping by Countess Chaos (Dee Astell).

It was a blast putting it together and while I was gone, Duncan was able to sell some of the board games we had available by Magic Meeple Games. I even got to collect a bunch of ribbons for my badge!

The last panel of the con for me was Childhood Favorites. The authors on the panel were Marsheila Rockwell, Jeff Mariotte, Beth Cato and Tom Leveen. We got off track a few times but I really enjoyed hearing about some of the favorite books of each author. I loved that one of Beth Cato’s favorites is Lloyd Alexander and his Prydain Chronicles, a long time favorite of mine as well. Marsheila Rockwell said she loved the Narnia series when she was younger. Jeff loved cowboy stories and they were influential on his writing. All four totally grew up on the Scholastic Book Club. It was a fun way to end my time at CoKoCon 2018 and I loved listening to all four.

One of the best parts was selling a fan more of Gini Koch’s books as well as seeing readers pick up books by their favorite authors. Every author made sure that their fans knew Duncan had their books. We also had some great supportive and loyal customers, like Ben Ragunton, Keith Lane, and Jan Robinson. Hal Astell and Gary Swaty picked out books by several authors at the convention and it was a delight to see fans coming back from previous events.

One of my favorite parts, though, was seeing authors who had never been to a convention together meet for the first time and bond. Duncan and I have worked with, for example, Ashley R. Carlson before but she was new to some of the other authors. I’d met Avily Jerome but we hadn’t gotten to work with her at a previous event. All of them were a blast to work with, professional and awesome but most of all, I loved the warmth they had for each other, even newer authors and how inclusive the group as a whole was to everyone. Overall, this was one of the most inclusive group of convention goers I’ve met and it was a pleasure to not only attend but work the convention. It was well run and the panels were engaging. We sold lots of books and can’t wait until CoKoCon 2019.

Until then, check out our other events, Tempe Book Festival 2018 November 3, 2018 at 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM and Mesa Book Festival December 8, 2018 at 2:00 PM – 8:00 PM Main St & MacDonald, Mesa, AZ 85201, USA. See you among the stacks!

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