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Princess Alethea’s 7 Dragon Con Survival Tips

My Family Reunion has a logo. Does yours?There are many Rules of DragonCon that those of us who are perennials have adopted over the years. Most of them revolve around elevators (You have to go down to go up. Always make room for the handicapped. Always follow a Ghostbuster) or walkways (Don’t take photos in the walkways. Avoid the habitrails on Saturday night). But more of these have been silently adopted simply for our personal survival.

Here are my top seven (with bonus Pro Tips) – please feel free to add more in the comments!

1.) Plan out your wardrobe, including day-to-day costume/outfit changes. This is a hard-core necessity for the heavy cosplayer, but I highly recommend it even if your choices include what geeky t-shirt to wear on what day. Parade outfits become gross and are typically one-use only. If you’re planning to wear a corset most of the time, also plan a down-time outfit so that you can at least eat or drink one meal comfortably at the end of the day. (The same goes for your shoes!) This plan helps when you’re packing, sure, but in the chaos of the con, something as simple as knowing what you’re going be wearing on each day is a HUGE help.

2.) STAY HYDRATED. You will hear this a lot during the con, because it never stops being true. If you can, buy a flat of water for your room. Carry a bottle with you at all times, and when you finish it, REFILL IT. There are giant water dispensers outside most of the panel rooms, and there are always water fountains outside the bathrooms.

Parade (Dark-Hunters) 2014Pro Tip: Play the Dragon Con Drinking Game. When someone you’re with asks you if you need anything, have them get you some water. If you already have water, TAKE A DRINK (of water, guys, come on). Your friends will notice that you are fading before you do.

3.) Eat something. It’s up to you to know your personal food tolerances. It’s fine if you want to let go and eat overpriced heatlamp stuff from hotel food carts all weekend – at the very least, take a multivitamin every day, willya? My three big trouble areas are 1.) I’m always on the go 2.) I’m usually wearing a corset and 3.) I’m prone to migraines.

My saving graces are protein bars (no less than 10g protein per bar). I pack a variety—especially the Kind bars w/protein. I’m usually so busy I don’t take more than a few bites. But every time someone I’m with asks me if I need anything (See: “Dragon Con Drinking Game”, above), I take a couple of bites (and a swig of water). This way my blood sugar stays up without crashing, and I stay comfortable in my corset. (For about 12 hours anyway.)

Pro Tip: Keep some sort of food on your person at all times – if not for you, then maybe for the person beside you about to go into diabetic shock. I literally had this happen in front of me a couple years ago, and it scared me to death. NEVER AGAIN.

4.) Shower at night. I always take my shower before I go to bed, even if it’s 4am. It can be a struggle, but the mental decompression is SO worth it (as is waking up clean and ready for that next costume and makeup). I also make sure to have a variety of herbal teas on hand in my room (with honey, for when the voice starts to go) to help me calm down and get to sleep.

If you’re like me, you burn like a firework for four days straight – taking a sleeping pill in the middle of all that would absolutely throw me off. Late showers, herbal teas, and aromatherapy are some nice natural ways to come down off that high long enough to catch a few healthy zzzzzs.

No one remembers the Anarchy Cheerleader...5.) Diaper rash cream is your friend. There it is, my dark and dirty secret! Look, folks, Atlanta is HOT in September. You will sweat in places you have never sweat before (especially if you walk in the parade). You will chafe. You may experience heat rash. Happily, there’s help for that! Put some diaper rash cream over your problem areas after you take that shower. Reapply before putting on your costume for the day. YOU WILL THANK ME.

Pro Tip: If you have sensitive skin, check the ingredients on a variety of diaper rash creams. I am allergic to aloe, so I can not use Desitin…but I can use the high powered generic Wal-Mart brand, which is mostly just zinc.

6.) Icy Hot/Tiger Balm is your friend. Feels great on sore muscles and sore feet. (Just don’t put this on directly after that shower unless you really want to feel the burn.) An ace bandage or two is also handy to have, to secure cold towels or ice packs to sore feet. Which reminds me:

7.) Bring a First Aid kit. Include the basics: Headache medicine, multivitamins, Benadryl, band-aids. An ace bandage or two can be a great help. A safety pin can be a life saver. In fact, throw the whole mini-sewing kit in there. And a few temporary tattoos. Because when that giant mysterious bruise of unknown origin appears before your panel with Stan Lee, a temporary tattoo makes a GREAT coverup. If you have roommates, earplugs and an eyemask can also be lifesavers. As will a travel bottle of Febreeze.

There are a bunch of smaller ones that, again, come down to personal preference – bringing bath towels and bath soaps from home, buying all your liquor before you get there, what types of insoles to put in your shoes and even how (and how long) to wear wigs and “travel hair.”

Your turn. What else can I add to this list?

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Alethea Kontis is the author of the AlphaOops picture books, Sherirlyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter Companion, and the award-winning Books of Arilland fairytale series. She is the host of the all-star Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow every year at DragonCon. 

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HeroesCon 2013

Wait…you thought BEA was the end?  [insert maniacal laughter here]

This weekend I’ll be sitting pretty in Artists Alley at HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC. Kids 12 and under get in free!

Please stop by if you’re in the area, my table is AA-2004 (on the outside edge toward the back–click the link for a map).

I’m not scheduled on any panels (that I know of), so find me at the table! I’ll be sharing with my good friend & fellow Codexian Alex Wilson. We’d love to see you!

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[Edited to add: Have just been contacted by HeroesCon & told that, essentially, because I have AT&T my phone will be useless during the convention. I don’t mind uploading all my pictures afterwards…the part that stinks will be when I can’t accept credit cards. (GAH.) Joe and I will do our best to find a way to work around this, but if you’re planning to shop at HeroesCon this weekend, you’re going to want to make sure you have a decent amount of Cash On Hand. I’m not going to be the only table with this problem.]

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The Pros and Cons of Princesshood

Musician Jonah Knight and I met at this year’s Mysticon in Roanoke. I immediately fell in love with Jonah after finding out that he wrote a musical score for James Maxey’s novel Nobody Gets the Girl. Jonah reciprocated this awkward affection by offering me a feature spot on his “Pros & Cons” podcast with Mikey Mason.

“Pros & Cons” discusses topics specifically related to and concerning conventions in particular, so our conversation sticks to the topic of marketing and self-promotion within convention appearances. I say “conversation” lightly, since I feel like  talked WAY TOO FREAKING MUCH during this podcast. Only…I guess that’s the point, right?

And I suppose I didn’t do too badly, since Jonah called this week’s episode one of his favorite so far. SCORE!

Will it be your favorite too? Click here to have a listen. Enjoy!

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Misti-Con 2013 Registration Opens Today!

Are you a Harry Potter geek in the New England area? If so, this is the convention for you!!!

Registration for Misti-Con 2013 opens today!

Guest authors for the convention include:
Princess Alethea Kontis
Lady Leanna Renee Hieber (aka Narcissa Malfoy)
Zoraida Cordova
Cecilia Tan
Amanda Havard
John Granger
Janet Scott Batchler

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My Capclave 2011 Schedule

Here is my schedule for Capclave 2011. I’d also like to note that this is my very first Kaffeeklatsch. Which is just FUN TO SAY. And if no one shows up, I get to have coffee alone with Edmund. It’s a win-win situation!

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Kontis, Alethea
Saturday 10:00:00 AM Kontis/Schubert Kaffeeklatsch
Saturday 12:00:00 PM Kontis Reading
Saturday 3:00:00 PM Alethea Kontis/ Barbara Chepaitis Author Table (come buy fun stuff!)
Sunday 12:00:00 PM Writing Genre YA
Sunday 2:00:00 PM Stealing from the Best

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Pencil Me In?

Because I know some of you book your social calendars MONTHS in advance, here’s the heads up: I will be a guest (along with Sherrilyn Kenyon!) at Mysticon in Roanoke Feb 24-26th.

Holiday Inn – Tanglewood
4468 Starkey Road, SW
Roanoke, VA 24018
540-774-4400

You have been warned!

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Nebula Princess

The Prez & The Princess

Juggling is a precious talent. It’s so much fun to see so many things flying in the air over your head. You feel so giddy when they’re up there, so proud of yourself that you have come so far and are able to do so much. In that moment, you’re on top of the world.

God have mercy on your soul if you ever fall behind.

What with pushing myself to the edge and trying to be everything (and almost succeeding) I needed some time to recover that didn’t include new jobs and sick children and dusty to-do lists…but I don’t get to choose that part. Instead, I write notes to myself on the iPhone while I’m half-blind on the elliptical machine in the morning and I keep everyone hydrated and full of vitamins and I wash my new apron and stay until midnight to unload the truck if that’s what needs to be done. And if I don’t get to write about this past Nebula Awards weekend until Thursday (while I’m supposed to be recording another Fairy Tale Theatre podcast), that doesn’t make what happened there any less special.

I have this saying — I don’t remember when I came up with it, or to whom I said it first, but I’ve been saying it for a few months now: Strangers are just best friends I haven’t met yet. I do, in my heart, honestly believe that each one of us is special. Optimistic and crazy, oh yes, I am fully aware. But as a princess, that’s my prerogative.

It’s so easy to turn away from the stranger on the train, so easy to scream at the idiot driver in the car that just cut you off. We know fully well that inside each sack of flesh we encounter is a living, breathing soul full of life and love and complex beauty…and yet we do it anyway. It’s so much easier ignoring all that. It’s so much easier not to know. It’s so much easier managing a small group of friends. It’s so much easier to juggle fewer flaming batons. It’s so much more forgiving for someone with a lengthy, never-ending to-do list.

But I made a choice when Andre Norton died. When I got home Sunday night, I pulled Beauty & Dynamite off the shelf and read that essay again in the twilight to remind myself of the exact words.  I love having friends. I want as many as my heart can hold. I want them all. Even if it means that eventually and painfully I’ll have to lose every single one. The minutes and hours and years on the roller coaster of happiness and sadness with them are worth every second of gray numbness.’Cause when I get to heaven, I want there to be a heck of a lot more than five people waiting.

Friends are worth all the additional balls you have to juggle, and every bullet point on a never-ending to-do list.

Nebula nominee Barry Deutsch appropriately summed up the Nebula Weekend by saying that the convention was a very small group of people with a much higher ratio of really cool folks to the socially awkward off-putting variety. With that in mind, I took the opportunity to step way out of my box and introduce myself to people I didn’t know. I roomed the first night with a friend and a stranger. I threw myself into the one workshop I signed up for and the two that I audited. I sat down next to people I didn’t know and chatted with them until we stood up as friends. I was sure to gush compliments when compliments were due and asked to lend a hand if one was needed. I stayed up until way past my bedtime and I was babbling and incoherent. I took pictures whenever I remembered that I had a camera. And I wore the tiara, because Mary Rodgers reminded me that I wouldn’t be the same without it. She was right.

I would list all the new and wonderful friends I met this weekend, but I won’t — first, out of fear of forgetting someone, and second, because I need to email them all or add them on Twitter or tag them on Facebook, and I’ve spent far too much time on this blog post already. Suffice it to say that I have no idea why Kate Baker and I hadn’t met before, but I’m awfully glad we finally did. Michael Whelan is a fabulously nice guy, and far more approachable than I ever imagined. MK Hobson can seriously rock a dress, and Rachel Swirsky’s gorgeous jewelry brings out my dragonlike tendencies. Amal El-Mohtar can bring the shiny with me any day. Walter Cuirle needs to host his own radio show. Mike Zipser asks great questions. Bud Sparhawk tells great stories. Myke Cole is very good for my ego. Emily Whitten is a godsend from Geek Heaven. John Grace has great taste in comics, Eric Fullilove has great taste in t-shirts, and Shannon Rampe and Trodayne Northern have  impeccable taste in hats. Janice Shoults is a woman after my own heart. Kathy Morrow has great patience. Peggy Rae Sapienza and Bill Lawhorn can do anything, I am sure of it.

My Codex Homies

Possibly even more fun than making new friends was seeing the old ones–most especially, the Codex Writers. Every year that goes by I am so happy that the handful of us little kids with big ideas came up with that place. They are the family that gets reunited whenever there’s an event like this…even when we’ve never met in person. We still know each other. We have that much more in common. We can cheer like hell when one of us walks away with an award…and then stand up and do it all over again when one of us walks away with the next one, too.

Eric, I am so freaking proud of you. I’m still busting at the seams. When you shared your precious bag of Reese’s Sticks with me while my left leg was going numb in that hard plastic chair at Orson Scott Card’s boot camp–even after I’d threatened to slap your characters–who knew that we would be here right now? Who knew how far we would go? Who knows how far yet we still can? I hope that every time you see that shiny award you remember what it felt like…but right on the heels I hope is the memory of sitting at that lunch table with me and Scott Roberts while we each confessed to the fact that we were still freaking out inside at random intervals to the theme of “Holy crap, that’s Orson Scott Card right there!”

For me, watching Eric walk on stage and accept the Nebula Award this weekend was second only to watching Mary Robinette Kowal accept the John W. Campbell Award. It is so hard to believe that these people I love so dearly were strangers to me once. I can hardly remember a time before the Reese’s Sticks and the keys locked in the car running in my driveway (that was Mary). I know it’s true, though. We might have passed in an airport sometime in those first couple of decades, or waited in the same line at the World’s Fair. Back in those days, we were just best friends that hadn’t met yet.

Imagine what life would be like if we’d realized it then.

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In the Company of Writers — Part One

I woke up my car this morning.

It’s unique to those of is seasoned conventionistas, that grumbly sound your vehicle makes when you turn the key and politely ask it to dust off the cobwebs and rub the three-day sleep out of its gears. It’s a beautiful sound, full of shiny memories and the anticipation of seeing my own shower, my own bed, and my beloved’s face again.

I’ve been attending conventions since 1996. A decade and a half of seeing new places, shaking hands with my heroes, and making friends from all over the planet. I pretty much know what to expect of the continental breakfast, the bathroom amenities (Douglas Adams Rule: always bring a towel), and the occasional panel or meeting or talk. I’ve donated my fair share to book swaps and raffles and freebie tables worldwide. My head, feet, and stomach have withstood the most horrible of tortures, but never so heinous that I’m not raring to pull up my bootstraps and pin down my tiara and jump into the breach all over again.

And yet, all conventions and conferences are not the same. Like people, each one is special, from place to place and year to year. From the coordinators and the consuites to the guests and the opportunities, each is a bright star in the sky of an author’s life.

In many ways, this weekend’s Washington Romance Writers retreat was the most special of all.

[More tomorrow, when I’ve had a little sleep…xox]

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App Annoyances While Adventuring

Getting my iPhone was a huge technological leap that aided my presence on social networks and the intarwebs in general. One of the great things I had come to rely on while on the road was the WordPress app, from which I could moderate my blog comments, make posts, even include pictures.

I use the past tense, because I haven’t been able to make the WordPress app on my phone work for several months now. It crashes every time I try to sign in. I’ve sent crash reports, I’ve deleted it and added it again, I’ve written bad reviews and posted them on the app along with all the other people who can’t seem to sign in. It’s considerably annoying.

Does WordPress really not care about fixing this? Anybody have any other ideas about what I can do?

In the meantime, I’m still on Twitter while on the road (crossposting to Facebook), though I may be looking for a different app than TweetDeck in the near future as well. *sigh*

Aren’t we a bunch of spoiled children?

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Who’s The Princess?

That’s right. I’m the princess.

Maurice Broaddus just posted this teaser poster for next year’s Mo*Con along with his con report for this year. (Check out his snazzy new website!)  Credit goes to Bob Freeman for its creation.

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