But for the Grace

Well.

This is what it’s like: A big convention hall filled with booths, books and people everywhere. Thousands of them. It’s overwhelming sometimes and, eventually, all that I have left are little slices of memory and anecdote…

…stormtroopers in full regalia, posing for pictures with anyone who asked…

…the gorgeously plastic stepford drone handing out free books by L. Ron Hubbard, tempted to ask if he’s still writing…

…a familiar face from the night before, enviously listening as he tells me about the cheeseburger he picked up after all the parties; I’ve not eaten anything of real substance in 24 hours…

…stacks and stacks of free books, people dragging totes and crates on wheels full of them, weighed down with swag like something out of, well, Dante…

…the self-publishing ghetto — a sullen, heartbreaking ghost town; there but for the grace of God…

…the first-time author in the overstuffed chair at the Wizards of the Coast booth, probably half my age, giving me some much needed encouragement, good humor, and advice…

…Alec Baldwin, getting his coffee situated before signing a woman’s book…

…realizing that my left hand has been shaking for over three hours…

…weighed down with books thrust upon me, so glad when one or two of them look promising as something I might actually enjoy reading…

…reminding myself that I’m not here to browse, not here to stand in line with the fanboys — I’ve got more important things to do with my time…

…facing a room full of what should be agents but finding only empty tables, abandoned at the end of a long week…

…doing my best to not remind the exceptionally snotty and rude women from a UK publisher that we kicked their ass at Georgetown, once upon a time…

…calling my wife, listening to her answering machine message because her voice is all I have, all I need to make it over this…

…some very kind and friendly ladies from Chicago who keep handing me the various horror and fantasy titles they publish…

…a line of people wrapped around the center, Leonard Nimoy at a little table at the front…

…the semi-famous comedian and his wife and child, navigating the crowd and trying to ignore the people following them; again, there but for the grace…

…one last friendly, familiar face from the night before — a quick chat outside on the sidewalk, a welcome little flash of grace before the end of a long day.

There was more, but that’s the day in review.

My highest expectations were not met and I barely avoided my worst (all the way through Georgetown, ladies).

I made some good connections, I got some good leads, a few business cards.

I might have even made a friend.

Altogether, that’s more than I had when I started.

Once I get back, the real work begins.

But first . . . I need to eat something.

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