Adventures in Atlanta: Eyecon 2012

First thought that comes to mind: the weekend is over. Seriously?! How is it already Sunday night?

Kyle & I last went to a convention together in May 2009, the day I graduated with my Masters degree, to be exact. I was knee-deep in my Twilight obsession, and he was a good husband who came along, wore a Twilight shirt (correction: a Twilight husband shirt that was so awesome the actual Twilight book hand-model asked to take her photo with him), and took a picture with celebrities with me. (He still swears that Jackson Rathbone’s hand dipped a little too low when they had their arms around each other’s backs.) Anyway, on a day when I received my degree for 3 years of graduate work, I think the best memory is still getting to meet the cast of Twilight. Yep, my name is Heather Dencker, & I am a celebriholic.

See? Pic with the hand model! First Eyecon convention ever, 2009

For the next couple of years, I left the hubby behind and took my mom to several more conventions, all Twilight, of course. They began to be an event that I looked forward to every year. Meeting celebrities, talking with other passionate fans, winning trivia contests– what’s not to love?

It seemed like the next natural step to attend a convention as a vendor once I published Winged Descent. My good friend (and ridiculously awesome publicist–yes, I’m officially giving her the title) Virginia Coe began volunteering for Eyecon as I continued attending, so I figured she could help me learn the ropes a bit about what goes on from the OTHER side of a convention. I signed up as a vendor, spent a week or so getting advertising materials together, & then this past Friday Kyle and I made the 7 hour trip up to Atlanta for Eyecon’s The Vampire Diaries convention.

My dear friend Virginia… who has been rooting for this story since she first read it in a 3-ring binder. Love you!

I really had no preconceived notions of what would happen once I got there. As you can guess by now from reading my blog, I’m really flying blind when it comes to this book. Everything is new, everything is unprecedented, and I have no yardstick to measure anything by. I’ve gotten into the habit of just saying a prayer (or a few hundred), giving it up to God, and jumping in feet first because what else can you do?!

Ready for whatever the weekend will bring!

We arrived to the convention at 3pm on Friday, me feeling like a complete fish out of water. The vendor room was slow, we did sell a couple books and a tshirt, but for the most part it was just an exercise in feeling out the event and trying to get our bearings. I met another author, Shayne Leighton, who published her fantasy novel through an independent company, and that was a very cool experience. Her novel is actually being made into a film with Michael Welch of Twilight. Check out her work at OfLightandDarknessSeries.com!

With Shayne Leighton. Great to meet another author!

Friday ended early, we went to the local mall for a delish food court dinner (topped off by an Orange Julius- score! Haven’t had one of those in years), and turned in relatively early to prepare for the next day.

Yay for a successful first day!

Saturday kicked off with meeting two fabulous women that I have gotten to know online through Winged Descent (& Virginia) but had yet to see in real life: Jennifer Balan & Susan Howell Hogan. Both were super nice & supportive, we took pictures together, and reveled in the anticipation of a fun weekend. It was very fun (& surreal, as it always is) to meet people who knew my book before they knew me. Thank you to both of you for the love & for welcoming me into your special Eyecon family!

with Jennifer!

With Susan! Of course, that’s Winged Descent on her Kindle.

On Saturday mid-morning the lovely Kat Graham (Bonnie from TVD) came into the vendor room to sign autographs, which was a blessing for everyone in the room because suddenly the space was filled with people. It was by far the best sales activity of the weekend. Plus she’s just gorgeous and fun to watch, even if all she’s doing is smiling & signing autographs. My publicist Virginia passed her first test with flying colors and got me a pic with Kat after she was done signing, which was awesome. Kat also graciously accepted a copy of Winged Descent, commenting, “you wrote this? That’s awesome! Would you sign it for me?” So cool.

with the “bewitching” Kat Graham

Throughout the rest of the day Saturday, I met Amy & the rest of the crew of VRO (Variety Radio Online), a website that does book/TV/movie commentaries, reviews, & interviews. Awesome people that I can’t wait to connect with more in the future. One of the women bought my book—looking forward to a forthcoming interview with her!  I met a young woman with cerebral palsy who loves to write about people with disabilities and asked me about the self-publishing process. Mothers and daughters came up to each buy a copy of my book, and it was fun to hear that they had the intention of reading it “together”. One highlight was meeting the two creators from HonestReviewsCorner.com, Hillary & Rachel, who bought Winged Descent and promised to set up a review/interview.

I went to bed Saturday night with the full intention of waking up the next day to An Ian-Filled Sunday. My one goal for Sunday was to meet Ian Somerhalder and give him a signed copy of my book. He IS, after all, the original Kendrick. My early readers who got the 3-ring-binder version of Winged Descent can attest that I gave out these silly little flyers with my ideal movie cast so people could see who I envisioned as each character. Thankfully, I did get to meet Ian & give him the book (he said it was awesome that I wrote it), but there was so much more to Sunday than this one encounter.

with Ian Somerhalder… aka, the original Kendrick.

Some of the actors were incredibly kind about coming into the vendor room and looking at what everyone had to offer. When Trent Ford from TVD came by my table, my guardian angel Virginia was by his side & made sure to point out that I got her started in Eyecon conventions (as well as being “the most amazing special needs teacher”… thanks, girl!  ). Trent stopped to say hi, Kyle & I introduced ourselves, then he started asking about the book. Turns out, he used to work for a publishing company and worked his way up to a publisher’s assistant. He examined Winged Descent closely, commented that it looked very clean & he liked the font, then read the dedication and said it was lovely. (shout-out to my momma!) We started talking about Greek mythology, and I confessed to being very interested but NOT well-versed in the topic, and he listened as I described the central conflict between the centaurs & Lapiths. Then, he treated me to a story about one of Apollo’s other sons, a human named Phaethon. Hmm…. a possible spin-off series?? As it were, Trent holds an MA in literature from Cambridge…. Impressive, no? And kind of intimidating, since he promised to read the book and email me his honest thoughts. It was a true pleasure to meet him. Oh! And he shocked the heck out of me when he wouldn’t let me give him a free book & instead insisted on paying. I stopped just short of asking him to sign the bills.

with Trent Ford

Another treat was meeting Nathaniel Buzolic, also from TVD. Earlier in Nathaniel’s Q&A session, he mentioned that he was a Christian (& actually invited the entire audience to church with him that night in Atlanta) and one of his goals in LA was to be a light for others in the business. He said that sometimes he gets the feedback that it’s hypocritical for a Christian to be in a paranormal show playing a vampire. However, he brought up the point that in his line of work, he can introduce others to Jesus who might have never otherwise known about Him. He reiterated several times that he is far from perfect, and that he would need the grace of God whether he was an actor, a mechanic, a plumber, or what have you. After his Q&A, he came into the vendor room, too, and I went up to him to tell him that I had listened to the session and was so impressed by how he infused Christianity into his acting career. I told him that as a fellow Christian, I understood the difficulty with diving into a paranormal world when church kind of teaches you to stay away from it. I told him that he was very inspiring and to keep doing what he was doing…. then I finally shut up and handed him my book. He, like the others, was very gracious & asked if I would sign it. After giving me a hug and taking a picture together, I retreated back to my table, feeling wholly uplifted by the experience.

with Nathaniel Buzolic… scary original vamp on TVD, super nice guy in real life!

Aside from the celebs, I had a woman stop by on Sunday and tell me that she had already started the book and was 35 pages in and she loved it so far. A young man who was one of the vendor’s sons told me he took his sister’s copy the night before and started reading it and thought it was great, and very different from other stories. A woman who bought my shirt on Friday came back to buy the novel, saying she read the free excerpt on Amazon and loved it. When I passed out business cards at the Q&A session, Susan was nearby and made sure to tell everyone in the nearby vicinity that it was an awesome book and that they should all get it.

Meeting new people & making new friends

Comments like these are worth more than a hundred sold copies, any day. It is such a damn GOOD FEELING when people say that they enjoyed the book, fell in love with Kendrick, or recommended it to their friend/sister/mom/boss. Writers don’t write for money or fame—we write for READERS. The highlight of the weekend by far was meeting people who were genuinely interested in reading Winged Descent, or had already read it and just wanted to share what it meant to them. A mere 4 months ago, this book only belonged to me. Now, it’s gotten to the point where I can barely keep track of it anymore. The range of people who have read it, downloaded it , and shared it with other people is exponentially growing.

And it blows my mind that not only did God put two celebrities who I never planned on meeting in my path this weekend, but that one of them is a Christian & the other had ties in the publishing business. As people are always saying to me, “you just never know!” It’s true. You can’t plan for life! So might as well just jump with both feet.

Finally, a huge thank you to my husband for being by my side throughout the entire weekend. His elevator speeches were spot on, he was a great support system, & he put on a good facade of never being bored though I made him sit for 10 hours a day all weekend long. It was a blessing to have a partner to rely on during one of the most exciting & intimidating experiences of my life. Thank you, babe!

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