An Eye-Opening Weekend at CTC GeekFest
This past weekend I was an author Guest at the 2016 CTC GeekFest in Killeen, Texas. This is the second year I have attended as a Guest and, once again, I had the absolute best time! For a fledgling convention located at a college campus near Fort Hood, it is one of the best attended and most diverse small cons I have been to in my entire career as an author. The organizers are kind and enthusiastic and take the absolute best care of their vendors and guests, and the patrons are wonderful as well. Their joy in simply attending the event is tangible and always leaves me feeling renewed and reinvigorated to return home and start work on my projects again.
In fact, it was one of the most successful cons I've done thus far with over 60 books sold in a little over two days!
This said, I had a rather eye-opening revelation from my experiences this year. I would like to write them here for your review and get your thoughts on my observations.
Now, for those of you who don't know, I have been battling some health problems over the last year and half or so that has made it very difficult for me to work out as insanely hard as I previously did in order to stay in "model shape". This has led to severe depression issues as I have led a life-long struggle with the eating disorder anorexia, which I, for the most part, got under control in my mid-twenties.
But as with all eating disorders, you never really "get over" it and continue to struggle with it daily throughout the duration of your life. Thus, any weight gain that the average normal person would think is acceptable becomes a hellish nightmare for me. In reality my body has changed from almost waifishly thin to a full-on Kim Kardashian curvy, which, when I stand back and think about it, I'm totally on board with. But getting my rational mind and my insecure anorexic mind to agree on that subject has been like hitting my head against a concrete wall.
Thus this, along with the health issues themselves, have kept me from attending as many conventions this year than I have in the past. Up until about a year ago I was known to do at least one to two public events and conventions per month. But, where I used to feel a tremendous strength and pride in my appearance, I was now incredibly insecure about people judging me. After all, I had built a brand around being a "sexy vamp" and had, I realize today, come to rely on that far too much for the promotion of my work as an author and artist. I had fully convinced myself that unless I was cinched into a corset, with my waist so small you could almost wrap your hands all the way around it, my boobs up to my chin, and my feet in 5" stilettos, that no one was going to come by my booth. No one would want a picture with me. I would be forgotten and all of my hard work would languish for the rest of eternity.
If that isn't fucked up, I don't know what is.
I know. It sounds ridiculous now that I type out these thoughts, but this is where my eating-disorder-body-dysmorphia-smothered mind was holding me hostage. And it was beyond painful and devastating mentally, emotionally, and physically. And to further amplify it we are bombarded by the "body positive" movement these days screaming at us that we should love our bodies no matter what their current condition might be. I'm sorry. I truly am, but I don't prescribe to that movement and probably never will. I REALLY wish I could. But as a child of the 80's and 90's, when being rail thin was the ultimate in beauty, coupled with a mother who fed me diet pills starting at the age of 13, my sense of my physical self is pretty warped. Perhaps my expectations of what I look like and who I am are unreasonably high. I can learn to love the little imperfections like the size of my nose or occasional zit, but my battle with "loving my curves" will probably always be a factor in my life, unfortunately.
That brings be me back to this past weekend. The monkeys in my head had me so anxious by the time of the convention that I was sweating. But, much to my surprise, the complete opposite of all of my fears happened. I was wearing simple black clothing and some elegant jewelry -- no over the top costumes and corsets. And I had more people not only approach my table and have conversations with me, but actually purchase my books. Was this because I was more approachable than before? Was the fact that I looked like a pinup vixen before perhaps a bit off-putting to some attendees, especially the shyer ones? I also noticed that the demographic of people who approached my table was different -- in the past it had largely consisted of men who bought my book about 50% of the time. However, this time it was about evenly split between the genders and nearly 100% of them purchased a book, if not multiple copies! Again, was this because I appeared more "normal" and "approachable"?
As a woman in the literary world, I have been criticized in the past for "using my sexuality to sell books". This was not the intention when I first started my author career, of that I can guarantee. I was far too shy to think that I could profit off of my looks. However, after my first professional PR photoshoot I found myself pushing my public persona a little further with each new shoot. A little less clothing, a little more makeup, etc. And my followers on social media ate it up. But I found myself backed into corner -- I'm not a model and portraying myself as such was never my career goal. People were beginning to pay less and less attention to my work as a writer than what my next set of photos would be. And for someone who has anorexia and suffers from body dysmorphia disorder, that constant scrutiny and push to be the most physically fit and "sexy" as I can be was beyond stressful.
Do I regret any of it -- no. Will I continue to strive to be the best possible version of myself I can attain -- absolutely!! However, what I'm realizing now is that I don't NEED the sexy photoshoots and the "vamp vixen" persona to sell my work. Will I still continue to have fun playing the "vamp vixen"? Of course! But it no longer has to define me as a creative individual. I blame a lot of my being swept up in the "image" I was creating on the first manager I had who convinced me that my appearance was as important, if not more so, than my work. I was young and impressionable and wholly unused to people telling me I was beautiful. It was exciting. But at the end of the day, being valued for how my ass looks in a pair of booty shorts is not how I want to be remembered. I'm an author. I'm an artist. I want people to see my work first and then the woman behind it. Because I believe wholeheartedly that I am a damn good writer. And I have a lot more to say before all is said and done.
So, where does that leave me now?
I am still facing surgery at some point between now and the end of the year. Hopefully, once I find a doctor and can raise the money necessary for the alternative treatment which, of course, my insurance is not covering, my recovery time will be swift and I'll be back to my old feisty self before Iong. I am working with a personal trainer to get my physical fitness back on track, as well as my diet. And by "diet" I mean nutrition, not starving myself as I did in days of old. I will continue to work on accepting my new curves and reinventing myself. But most of all I will focus on writing the best damn stories I am capable of. Because my readers deserve them and they have always been there to support me through all of my ups and downs over the course of my career. And for this I owe them everything.
I am currently working on my first young adult paranormal novel, which I hope the gods will give me the inspiration to finish before the end of the year. I am also conceptualizing the fifth novel in the ETERNAL VIGILANCE series. There are other small projects in the queue as well, but they are still gestating at this point...
Thank you to everyone who came out to GeekFest this past weekend and making me feel like a star again. I love you all VERY VERY much and hope you enjoy the books you purchased.