Shore Leave 28 Trip Report
7-9 July 2006

Day 1
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Carpet

The day commenced with Terri and I running various last-minute errands, including buying cat food and picking up prescription refills. Then we picked up Dave Mack at his house and Marco Palmieri at the Pocket offices in midtown Manhattan. The latter was made more entertaining by the fact that the box of blowups Marco brought didn't actually fit in the back of my parents' minivan.

(Oh yeah, should explain that. My aunt is in Europe for two weeks, so she gave us use of her car for that fortnight. However, her car's too small to accommodate the four of us. My parents, though, didn't need a minivan-sized vehicle for this weekend, so we swapped, them using my aunt's car, giving us the more spacious minivan into which to pack Marco's stuff, my percussion, and four people's luggage.)

So off we go, armed with stuff and lunch (generously bought by Marco) and at 12.30pm, we hie across the Lincoln Tunnel to the Jersey Turnpike, through Delaware and Maryland on I-95, before finally arriving at the Hunt Valley Marriott (stopping at the Wal-Mart on the way to pick up a supply or two). The trip is filled with high hilarity, with the phrase of the day being, "FUCK THE KLINGONS!" Also Terri and I help Marco bully Dave into accepting Reap the Whirlwind as the title of the third Star Trek: Vanguard book.

There is no traffic, and we only make one stop on the way, arriving at the Shawan Road exit around four.

The Marriott is just as ugly as it was in February and May when I was here last. They remodelled over the winter, making the bar less comfortable and uglier and blanketing the place in carpeting full of colors not found in nature -- because nature is smarter than that. *shudder*

Located in Hunt Valley, this Marriott is a sprawling hotel. It never gets more than three stories above the ground, but is spread out over a wide area. This year, for reasons passing understanding, all the guests were put in the far reaches of the hotel, requiring all four of us (and, we later learned, all the other author/editor guests) to navigate the Cretan labyrinth in order to get to and from our rooms. In the past, they usually put us closer to the action. Bleah. Especially since I had to haul heavy percussion around.

Once we were settled and badged, we went to the bar. We saw various and sundry folks, some of whom -- like Ross and Geoff -- we were meeting in person for the first time. Indeed, it's impossible for us to walk ten feet at a Shore Leave without passing someone in the hall we know, which is one of the cool things about the show.

At about 6.30, Marco and I went back to the room to load the Pocket Books PowerPoint presentation onto my laptop and make sure it's working right. We also make some tweaks to the presentation (like putting Reap the Whirlwind in as the title of Vanguard Book 3).

I begged off the 7pm Editor/Author Smackdown panel because I figured there would be a Boogie Knights rehearsal. This turned out to be a wrong figuring. John and Heather Scheeler got to the show late, and there simply wasn't time before the 8pm presentation. I would live to regret this the following morning. *wry grin*

However, I did sit in the audience for the smackdown, providing occasional snide commentary while Marco, Dave, Terri, Margaret Clark, Elisa Kassin, Howie Weinstein, and a late-arriving Mike Friedman compared war stories on both sides of the editorial desk.

After that was the presentation. Marco narrated the upcoming schedule, covering much of what would be out in Trek fiction between now and fall 2007, with me keeping the PowerPoint running smoothly. After that was done, Marco, Margaret, Elisa, and I took questions. Unlike previous years, there was no dramatic reading, which was too bad, as those are fun. C'est la vie. People asked good questions, and we got to talk about all sorts of aspects of the publishing program, from David R. George III's Crucible trilogy to the similarities between what us editors do and what the show-runners of the TV shows do.

After that was Meet the Pros. WaldenBooks sets up a table where they sell books. The authors line the hallway outside the ballrooms and have people walk up to them with books to sign. I was between Terri and Marco (no rock and a hard place jokes, please), and got to sign all kindsa stuff. I think the single item I signed the most was Distant Shores. Whoever arranged the tables sensibly put all the DS contributors in a row. Marco was to my right, and to my left were, in sequence, Terri, Jeff Lang, Kim Sheard, Bob Jeschonek, Bob Greenberger, and Christopher Bennett. So lots of people just took their copy of the anthology and worked their way down. *grin*

Lunatic moment of the signing was Dayton Ward handed me a copy of Gargantua to sign -- in order, he said, to keep it in reserve whenever I need an ego check.

Due to extreme busy-ness, we never had a chance to have dinner. By the time we were done with Meet the Pros (which included the hike to and from our rooms), we arrived at the bar to be reminded that they stop serving food at midnight. There have been times in the past when they've kept the kitchen open to accommodate Shore Leave, but this year was not one of those times. (This was one of several instances over the weekend where the hotel acted like they'd never hosted a Shore Leave before. The bar was also criminally understaffed on Sunday.) Terri, Dave, and I hadn't eaten since lunch, and Dave was particularly peevish, since Marco had promised that if he could hold out until after MTP, he'd buy dinner. There we stood -- us, plus a ton of other authors -- wondering what to do about food.

Marco, bless his heart -- and after being on the receiving end of a David Mack Meltdown (pat. pending) -- ordered some pizza to be delivered, which we descended upon like vultures. In the meantime, we were treated to Geoff eating some mustard. (Later on, he ate a piece of the cardboard pizza box, also with mustard.)

We took over our usual corner, "we" being either authors, editors, or folks who hang out on TrekLit message boards, and a great time was had by all. Knowing I had an 8.30 breakfast meeting, to be followed by a very busy day, Terri and I called it a night earlier than many others.

Day 2
Authors in Tights

Woke up at 8, which is earlier than I ever get up during the week, to have a breakfast meeting with the attending authors of the Mere Anarchy miniseries: Dayton, Christopher, Howie, Kevin Dilmore, and Margaret Bonanno, as well as Dayton's wife Michi. Very little of the conversation actually related to the miniseries -- although I was able to put in a request to bring back one of Dayton & Kevin's characters from Book 1. This rather surprised Christopher, Howie, and Margaret, as they thought she was dead. (She was killed in the first draft, but I wasn't happy with her death scene, and asked them to change it. Somehow, that change didn't filter to the others. My bad.) We wound up spending more time being silly than talking business, plus we also gossiped about the Trek BBS (on which all at the table save Howie and Michi participate regularly).

After breakfast, I took the long day's journey into bug-fuck nowhere to go back to the room in order to change into my Ren-Fest outfit (well, the top, anyhow -- I stuck with black jeans and Rockports, which isn't exactly period, but whatthefuck...) and haul my percussion to the backstage area. Bob was doing his movie trailers from 10-11am, so I saw some of his trailers, including the one for a movie about Marie Antoinette that looks interesting -- plus, of course, Snakes on a Plane. There was some neurosis due to the late arrival of Dave Keefer and Linda Swann, but they made it in the nick of time. Dave, unfortunately, blew his knee out, so he was hobbling about on crutches.

The 11am Boogie Knights concert went decently. There were parts I wasn't happy with, but these are things I was likely the only person in the ballroom to notice. The most entertaining part for me was when we got to "Hunting Vampires Down by the Graveyard" in the set list, and Sharon Palmer walks over and says, "You know we changed that, right?" Uh, NO! Turns out it had been replaced by "Anarchy/Monarchy," a song I'd never played before. Luckily, it's a parody of John Mellencamp's "The Authority Song," which I know well. Unfortunately, that song has an a cappella bit that includes a heavy drum beat, which is the closest I ever come to a solo. (But no fucking pressure....)

It all worked out okay, and we sounded good. The hearing-impaired interpreter, Meredith, a.k.a. Etoile, got the biggest laugh of the show when, during "The Hobbit Hole," she threw up her hands in frustration. (The song picks up speed with each verse, and around verse five or so, it becomes too much. We always apologize to the interpreter before doing that song....)

We got tons of applause, then dashed off so T. Alan Chafin could do his Star Wars talk. I hastily changed out of my sweat-drenched poofy shirt and tunic, put my red shirt back on (yes, I wore a red shirt to a Trek convention), and dashed to the Mere Anarchy panel about 15 minutes late. I had warned the others that I would be late thanks to the concert, and they all started without me, each describing what they'd be doing in their books. We had fun talking about the miniseries, the rich history of the original series (one that none of the other Treks have to the same degree, really), and how silly we got (and still get) in our e-mail exchanges -- as well as the true spirit of collaboration and why I picked who I picked for this.

At 1pm, I picked up Terri at her Stargate panel, and she walked me to my workshop. Last year, when Ann Crispin pulled out of doing Shore Leave, her usual writers workshop was left flapping in the breeze, as it were. It was decided to have a bunch of us do workshops with a particular focus, and it worked so well that, even though Ann was back this year, they still did it. My workshop was on time management, and it was quite well attended (I had at least a dozen people).

I only had two breaks all day Saturday. One of them was from 2-3pm. I went to the room, ordered room service, and took a nap. Before I did any of that, Terri warned me that she had to pay cash for her room service lunch. We called the front desk to discover that Terri's credit card had disappeared from their computer. She went down to fix it, but it was too late for my lunch, and I had to pay cash for that, also. (However, the front desk's incompetence also meant we didn't actually pay for our wireless service, which would've been forty bucks -- $9.95/day for each of us -- so I'm not complaining overmuch.)

At 3pm, I met up with Sharon and Kate Greenberger and went to the Courtyard by Marriott where John and Heather were staying so we could rehearse for the Masquerade halftime. I had thought that we'd be going out as the pretend "last entry," doing our first number, and then kicking in with the concert, taking a short break to give the judges a chance to leave the room. It turned out more complicated than that. We were actually really and truly the final entry in the masquerade. We did a riff on "Circle of Life" from The Lion King, entitled "Jokers in Tights." Instead of the animals from the opening of the play, we had mythical creatures. Heather was a centaur, Sharon a phoenix, Linda a mermaid, Kate a faerie, Dave a wizard, and John a manticore (he played the lion role). I was the eponymous joker in tights -- and yes, I wore tights for the occasion, as well as the floppy hat (provided by Linda), and a garish multicolored top that started out life as a jacket owned by Sharon's aunt. Dave's wife and several kids, among them Ariel David, were a dragon, and we also had a giant. At the end, John mounted Pride Rock and I handed him his guitar. It was pretty cool, and we got two awards, First Prize in the Champions category and a Judges' Choice award (plus Sharon got a deserved workmanship prize for the elaborate beadwork on her corset).

Anyhow, we rehearsed the whole schmear from 3-5pm, then went back to the Marriott for the tech rehearsal, where we got to test out our spiffy new headset mics. They mostly worked, but the batteries on some were dead. John promised to go out and get new ones. I still like my own headset mic better, but I went with the group. (This would turn out to be a mistake.)

I then crashed in the room for a while, before heading to the Masquerade green room. This was my fifth time being involved in a Shore Leave Masquerade in some form (the other four were with Terri, including the Bleacher Creature, Aeryn Sun, the Stargate/Raiders of the Lost Ark/The Mummy crossover, and last year's Romana-and-K9), and this was the one that ran the best -- and also the one that had the least stifling green room. Not sure why that was, but props to Nea Dodson. There were some excellent entries, ranging from "Episode 7," which was Sith Lord Barney the Dinosaur fighting a Jedi Knight, who is revealed -- after he beheads the dinosaur, to the accompaniment of Queen's Highlander theme -- to be Barney Rubble; to "X-Side Story," which was selections from West Side Story translated into X-ese, with an eight-person group who had excellent re-creations of the comic-book costumes; to a Borg tribble (to the glee of Bill Leisner, who wrote "The Trouble with Borg Tribbles"); to a bunch of others I'm forgetting. Some entries went on a bit too long, and some cried out for more of a skit (like "Little Red Riding Buffy"), but c'est la vie.

The concert itself was excellent, if I do say so myself. The 11am show was a bit raw, but the halftime concert was firing on all thrusters. Six of the seven headset mics worked fine, and the seventh was mine, and I don't sing much (just some inessential backups), so it wasn't a loss, but it did make me wish I'd held onto my own damn headset...

When the judges came back, the crowd demanded one more song, so we did "Arthurian Pie" (which I really really really wanted to do, as did Kate -- and this was Kate's last concert before she goes to Cairo for a year to study abroad, so her desires carried even more weight). One or two people swung lighters back and forth, but most of the audience just held up their cell phones. In the thank-you-for-not-smoking age, I suspect that lit cell phones are the new lighters for audiences to swing back and forth. (During the slow final verse, I sit out, so I held up my own Treo, which got a good laugh from the audience.)

We then sat through the judging and took our prizes. Pocket Books sent a bunch of stuff to be used as part of the prizes, and I was amused to discover that the prize for First Place in the Champions category was a copy of Distant Shores. "Jokers in Tights" was all Heather's notion, so she got the trophy and the book, which I immediately signed to her.

After the awards were given out, I hauled the percussion back across the desert to Mecca, changed back into the red t-shirt, and hied to the bar. As usual, it was full of authors and cool online folks, and we hung out for hours on end. These are an amazingly fun bunch of people. In addition to the usual gang of idiots, I got to meet (or re-meet) folks from the Trek BBS, which was spiffy. There was also some bizarreness involving Terri and Elisa, of which I'm told Michael Schuster has photographic evidence.

Eventually, though, we called it a night, knowing we had to be up for the 8am author breakfast the next day.

Day 3
You Say Mugato, I Say Gumato

Got up at 7.30 (gak) for the 8am author's brunch, which was generously paid for by Pocket Books. Terri and I sat near Marco, Margaret, Peter David, Kath O. David, Dave, Susan Shwartz, and others, and a silly time was had by all. It was nice to just have everyone sit and break bread together without the craziness of the convention.

At 10am, we had the novel chronology panel. The Star Trek Novel Chronology was something that first came into being on the web site, and wound up going in the back of 1999's Adventures in Time and Space -- it puts all the Trek novels into the overall Trek timeline. It doesn't try to reconcile books that contradict each other, simply shows where the books go in the tapestry. Revisions were put in Gateways: What Lay Beyond in 2001, and there will be another in Voyages of the Imagination in November, which will be far more extensive than the previous two (and also easier to read). Since Bob and I helped the timeliners out, we were on the panel along with three of them who were at the convention, Alex Rosenzweig, Geoff Trowbridge, and Jim McCain.

After that, we went to get our stuff out of the room and check out, and also pack Dave's stuff in the minivan. This was when we discovered that a) the TV checkout wasn't working and b) we weren't charged for our wireless connections. B) more than made up for a).....

Then it was the Corps of Engineers panel, which included me, Terri, the Bobs Jeschonek and Greenberger, and Dayton & Kevin. Each of them talked about their upcoming eBooks, and we filled folks in on the new direction of the series, the relaunch as Corps of Engineers, and the move of the print compilations to trade paperback. Also a fun panel, as I really love the S.C.E. guys, and it was great to be in a room full of people who think they're just as nifty. (Several contributors were in the audience, including Bill Leisner, Allyn Gibson, Steve Mollmann, Michael Schuster, and others I'm sure I'm forgetting....) Then was my one-hour Q&A, which was remarkably well attended considering it was opposite the Future of Trek panel. In fact, that was one of the best pieces of evidence that SL, at least, is a very friendly con to the literature side of the Trek universe. (Of course, there were a bunch of people at my talk who had no interest in Trek -- they were there for the Buffy stuff. *grin*)

It started a bit late, as I was on after Peter, and he was running a bit overtime, signing books, talking to fans, and singing songs from Li'l Abner. (Seriously!) Kath leaned over to me at one point and whispered, "The problem with being the second coming of Peter David is that you have to wait for the first coming to leave." We both got a good laugh out of that, Peter eventually meandered out to the hall, and I did a reading from Blackout and then took questions for forty minutes or so. Lots of questions that covered the gamut of my work, which was nice.

There wasn't anything in the room after me, and I started late, so I went past 2pm. Eventually I went out, meeting up with Marco, saying goodbye to some folks that were departing, and putting Marco's stuff in the minivan.

After that, Marco, Terri, and I went to the dealer room, where I bought the Spike-on-the-subway action figure from "Fool for Love." I'd seen this figure at Farpoint, but couldn't afford it. The dealer remembered my interest, and this time I did have the cash, so I got it. I try to get action figures that relate to everything I do, and while I'm not 100% successful, I had to get the "Fool for Love" Spike one for Blackout. (Now if they'll just do a Nikki figure....)

I didn't have the chance to do a signing at the WaldenBooks table this year, but I did sign their stock and have a nice chat with the folks from the store, who are very friendly and remembered me as the cool guy from last year. *chuckle* Then it was off to the Klingon panel, which wound up being a solo act, as my co-panelist never showed. However, we got a good crowd (especially for a Sunday-at-4pm panel) and had a very intense talk about the Klingon culture, ranging from the importance of storytelling to Klingons in "Birthright" (an underappreciated episode, that) to the similarities between the Klingons John M. Ford provided us in The Final Reflection and how the Cardassians wound up developing to the differences between warriors and soldiers, and comparing the Cardassians to the Klingons to the Jem'Hadar.

Normally, Sunday morning is when they do Mystery Trekkie Theatre 3000. This is Peter David, Bob Greenberger, and Mike Friedman doing Mike-and-the-'bots for some awful Trek episode or other. (Last year, they broke with tradition and did the failed pilot for Alexander starring William Shatner and Adam West.) This year, they did "A Private Little War," which I thought was an odd choice, as that was actually a decent episode (though God knows not without its flaws). In fact, we wound up arguing over the relative merits of the episode in the car going home.

In any case, Shore Leave usually ends with a play of some sort. Last year it was Monty Sauron's Flying Nazgul, which was being sold on DVD to benefit Farpoint and an actor's charity at Shore Leave (ordering information here). This year, they decided to take a break and have MTT3K be the closing act this year. This wound up working out fine. The opening sketch is often entertaining (I've been involved in years past, but not in this one), and this year it was A Faerie Home Companion, airing on radio station WTF, which included Corin Nemec gamely performing as Gay Noir, faerie detective, and a riff on "Cotton-Eyed Joe" called "Rotten Old Q," lampooning the TNG character, and including some very scary line dancing by a bunch of fans including Peter's daughter Ariel, my fellow Boogie Knight John Scheeler, and T. Alan Chafin (who plays the mad scientist every year) in a mugato suit.

Which leads us to one of the running gags. Peter kept insisting it was the gumato, not the mugato, even though everyone on screen was saying "mugato." This actually was starting to get tiresome--

--until we got to the closing credits, where the creature (who was played by Janos Prohaska) was credited as the "gumato." (It was also spelled like that in James Blish's novelization of the episode. My guess is that was in the original script, and they thought it sounded funny said out loud, so they did a bit of metathesis on it.)

Terri and I were sitting with Dayton, Michi, Kevin, Dave, and Marco, which is the best group to see this with. Best line (which I won't explain) was "It's okay, I've got gas."

After that was over, we had some moments of entertainment (including the taking of this picture), said our goodbyes to various and sundry folk, and hit the road. After filling up the tank, we hied ourselves northward, a trip that included some rather evil plotting among the four of us that may bear fruit at Shore Leave next year. Hide the kids....

It was a most excellent Shore Leave this year. I wish I'd gotten to spend more time with some folks, as the convention was its usual whirlwind, but I'm happy with what I accomplished as an author, as an editor, and as a musician. (Oh, and we also sold a ton of CDs over the weekend, including a mess of preorders for the upcoming new one, Many a Sleepless Knight. We even sold some songbooks....)

Already looking forward to next year, especially since the big upcoming book next year will be Q&A......

[First posted on my LiveJournal on 11, 12, & 14 July 2006.]


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