Last weekend, I participated in Tampa Bay Comic Con in Tampa, Florida. I had a grand time, I met great people, and I even managed to sell a few books. To date, I’ve attended five conventions this year:

  • February: Fargo-Moorhead Comic Con (Fargo, ND)
  • March: Bismarck Fandom Alliance Vendor Show (Bismarck, ND)
  • April: iMagicon (Minot, ND)
  • July: O! Comic Con (Council Bluffs, IA)
  • July: Tampa Bay Comic Con (Tampa, FL)

And, in October, I’ll return to Fargo for Valley Con, which will likely be my sixth and final convention of 2017. The convention scene has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I hope to attend many more in 2018. One observation that has really resonated with me is that, though each show has its own unique personality, all share the same welcoming atmosphere. Everyone is simply happy to be there, united in celebration of popular culture. Our nation has certainly experienced divisive times of late, and it surely is a breath of fresh air to participate in something that unites, rather than divides, people. Heck, when Star Wars and Star Trek fans are standing side by side in line for a Serenity photo op, we know we’ve truly bridged some deep chasms.

To that end, while sitting at my booth during the weekend, I found myself reflecting on what motivates people to attend a fan convention. There’s a stereotype that geeks and nerds avoid social interaction at all costs; however, nothing could be farther from the truth. Humans have a fundamental need to connect with others, and fan conventions provide an opportunity for people of all ages, races, and genders to come together and celebrate our favorite books, films, and television shows.

This weekend, I experienced one interaction in particular that sticks out in my mind. I was sitting behind my table Saturday afternoon, and I’d hit a bit of a lull in sales. My head was nodding, my eyelids fluttering on the cusp of sleep, and then I saw a mom and her boy (probably seven or eight) making a straight beeline for my table. As I rustled myself into wakefulness, the mom approached and said to me, “Tell us about your book.”

“It’s a medieval fantasy,” I replied. “Kind of like Lord of the Rings.” And that was all that I needed to say, because the kid’s eyes grew large as dinner saucers and a grin hit his face from one ear to the next. “Do you like fantasy?” I asked, and in response, the boy showed me his necklace, from which the One Ring hung suspended.

“He loves The Lord of the Rings,” his mom said.

It made me think of something Kevin J. Anderson, author of Star Wars novels such as The Jedi Academy Trilogy, once mentioned. “When you’re a writer—especially when you write science fiction and fantasy—you sometimes take a beating from literary critics. But you know what? That doesn’t matter for squat when you’re holding a book signing and some parent tells you that one of your books changed their kids’ childhood. I’ve had moms and dads tell me that my books started a kid reading, turned his or her grades around in school, and helped them connect with other friends. The critics can slam me all they want, because nothing beats making a difference in a kid’s life.”

Well, to my new friend I met at Tampa Bay Comic Con, I hope you enjoy the read. To tell the truth, there’s a lesson or two for young men in Warrior of Light. Pay attention to what Tim’s father tells him. Learn from the examples Boblin sets. And have fun with the battles—personally, they were my favorite part. After all, the world could use a few more Warriors.

Thanks again, Tampa. With luck, I’ll see you next year.

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