We’re back from a most excellent Shore Leave 42. Shore Leave has always been one of my absolute favorite conventions, and I’ve really missed it. They went virtual for both 2020 and 2021, and it was so wonderful to be able to see the regulars there, and folks I haven’t seen in ages, or at least not as much as I’d like to have.
The drive down was blisfully uneventful, which is more than can be said for our arrival. The Hunt Valley Inn is currently privately owned but considered a Marriott hotel, which means they get to use the Marriott name but they’re way down on the totem pole when it comes to Marriott services. The hotel was in need of a facelift even before the apocalypse two years ago, and now it’s even worse. A storm earlier in the week also knocked out their computer system, so everything was incredibly slow. As a result, it took hours to check into the hotel and hours more before rooms were ready because, on top of everything else they — like every hotel — is having a hard time staffing.
Once we got checked in, everything was much better. We put out my books and Wrenn’s stuffies at the eSpec Books table, which Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Mike McPhail provided in exchange for crash space (we like rooming with them anyhow, so it works out nicely). At 4pm, I did a panel with a bunch of other authors where we pimped our upcoming work, which included Christopher D. Abbott, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Christopher L. Bennett, Russ Colchamiro, Heather E. Hutsell, David Mack, and Sherri Cook Woosley.
After the panel, our room was finally ready, so we could put stuff in the car. The good news was that it was right near a back entrance which led to a less-well-used part of the parking lot, so unpacking (and later repacking) the car was incredibly easy….
At 8pm, I did a panel on kick-ass heroes who don’t actually kick asses. Rigel Ailur moderated, and Christopher L. Bennett, Susan Stanislaw Olesen, TJ Perkins, and I all threw out all kinds of folks who were awesome without actually beating people up. Among those mentioned were The Doctor, Odo, my own Sonek Pran, and Columbo.
As always Friday at Shore Leave, Meet the Pros was at 10pm. Running from then until midnight, the authors are all set up at tables in the hallway outside the main ballroom where we autograph books (and often sell them). I sold a bunch of books, signed a bunch more books, saw lots of wonderful people, and had fun bantering with Hildy Silverman (and her kid, Winter) and Glenn Hauman, whom I was between. (The picture above was taken by Bob Greenberger at that event.)
I declined to go to the bar Friday night because Saturday was a very very very full day. It began with a 10am concert. Normally the Boogie Knights play at 11am Saturday morning, following the movie trailers, but there were too many actor guests who needed the main stage, so they moved the trailers to Salon F, and put us on at 10am. To that end, I put up a dozen or so flyers around the hotel Friday night saying that our concert was an hour early.
It seems to have worked, since we got a very good crowd for the show that was also our 40th anniversary gig. The BKs started — with Dave Keefer, John Scheeler, Lance Woods, the late great Bob Ahrens, and Barb Helfer — at Shore Leave in 1982. The band has gone through many permutations since. It’s older than one of its current members — Kate Greenberger — and it’s outlived one of its founders — Bob, who sadly died in 2019. Sadly, Lynn Cunningham was unable to join us, but John, Dave, Kate, Sharon Palmer, Linda Swann, and I were all present and accounted for. I was a bit nervous, as I hadn’t really touched my percussion since our February 2020 gig at Farpoint….
For our 40th anniversary we did a new version of one of our standards, “Polymorph Your Mother,” and did some classics — “Dragon Feeds Tonight,” “Jousting,” “Beware the Highwayman” — and some newer ones — “Sailin’ with Captain Morgan,” “One Little Trip,” “Wanted: Harem Guard.” Later that night, we also performed masquerade halftime, opening with “Earth Magic Girls,” reprising the new version of “Polymorph,” and ending with “Arthurian Pie.” I’m pleased to say that I remembered how to percuss, and we sounded pretty dang good, despite the usual sabotage by the tech crew of our sound system. (They’ll get it perfect one of these days….)
Video of the Saturday morning concert should be up on the Tube of You soon.
In between those two concerts, I did a very well attended practical self-defense workshop and a panel on assembling anthologies with Michael Jan Friedman, Joshua Palmatier, Mike McPhail, and Robert Greenberger, which was very wide-ranging and fun — we talked about crowdfunding a lot, as well as the art of story flow — and then I had to help Wrenn set up the author dinner.
So for years, several authors would make a dinner pilgrimage Saturday night to Andy Nelson’s Barbecue, which is a fabulous BBQ place on York Road about a mile and a half from the hotel. The problem was that the place isn’t that large, and more and more people kept wanting to go, plus at 7pm or so on a Saturday night, they’re often out of things.
In 2019, Wrenn and I decided to make a big order off the catering menu and have a buffet in the McCormick Suite for all the author guests to participate in. This had the dual effect of everyone getting the food they want from Andy Nelson’s and also enables dinner to be on-site (so if someone has a panel or event, they don’t have to drive back). Plus, it’s one time when the authors — who are generally kept pretty busy — to just sit and chat with each other.
It was a huge success in 2019, and was even more so this year, as we learned from our mistakes (for starters, way fewer baked beans and way more mac and cheese….) and everyone had a wonderful time. As an added bonus, Wrenn ordered two cakes from Wegman’s, as well as a birthday candle, to surprise Christopher D. Abbot’s husband Jeffrey, whose birthday was over the weekend.
We also had the Dave Galanter memorial right after dinner, which was a lovely remembrance of a fellow word-slinger and fantastic human whom we miss very much.
The Masquerade, scheduled to start at 8pm, finally started at 8.45pm (sigh), and then after the entries, we found out that we weren’t the only half-time act (providing entertainment for the crowd while the judges deliberate on who would win prizes), so we had to wait for two stand-up comics to do their bits before we went out.
After our set, I put the percussion back in the car, stopped by the bar in my garb — which included a kilt that Wrenn got for me last fall and which made its public debut Saturday night — and then went back to the room to change into less sweaty clothes (a few people requested to see the kilt) and hung out at the bar for a while in the Authors’ Corner. The authors always take over one of the three corners of the bar at the hotel, and — just as happened in 2019 with Anson Mount and Ethan Peck — one of the actor guests joined us to hang out, in this case the lovely John Billingsley, who joined me, Wrenn, Meredith Peruzzi, David Mack, Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, Greg Cox, Amy Imhoff (and her friend Thomas), Scott Pearson (and his daughter Ella), Kelli Fitzpatrick, Kathleen David, Rigel Ailur, Hildy Silverman, John Coffren, Rich White, Morgan Binnix, Karen Roberson, Sue Kisenwhether, as well as possibly other people I’ve forgotten because I was drinking. A good time was had by all until the bar closed.
Sunday was crazypants — I had four panels, all in the Belmont room. Two two-hour blocks, between which I helped Wrenn pack the car and close out the hotel room. I did panels on writer’s accessories with David Mack, Greg Cox, Christopher D. Ochs, and Scott Pearson (Greg kept extolling the virtues of notepads and index cards); crowdfunding your novel with Joshua Palmatier, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, and Glenn Hauman; and recurring characters with Michael Jan Friedman, Russ Colchamiro, and Rich White. In addition, there was an improv thing Andrew Hiller led with me and Hildy Silverman where we on the spot created a monster. That was lots of fun.
After another hour or two of doing the dealer room and saying goodbye to people, Wrenn and I headed down to Columbia, Maryland to visit with her uncle Jack, a retired Christian Brother, whom we hadn’t seen since before the recent apocalypse. Wrenn talks to him on the phone all the time, but it was good to catch up in person.
And then we went home, stopping at a Popeye’s for dinner in Delaware near where Wrenn lived when she was married the first time, so I got an impromptu tour of her old neighborhood, which was fun.
We finally got in at midnight to two cats who were very glad to see us………
It was a great show, as always, but this year’s was special because of the induced hiatus. Shore Leave is always as much family reunion as it is a convention, and that was especially true this year. So great to see so many people, and I wish I’d gotten to spend more time with folks than I did (including some dear friends I barely even saw).