Authors and Industry Professionals Descend on The Beach

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The eighth annual EPICon is coming to Surfside Inn, just in time for Read An e-Book Week, March 4-10. Public events include two e-Fiestas and a gala signing of more than three dozen authors, complete with keynote Sherrilyn Kenyon.

It may be too cold for a dip in the ocean, but that's not dampening the spirits of more than a hundred and fifteen authors, editors and publishers attending EPICon in Virginia Beach. Sponsored by EPIC (The Electronically Published Internet Connection), the yearly convention moves around the country, and it's come east for the first time since Tampa in 2003.

The 2007 convention chair, Lisa Brennan-Webb, confides that this is going to be a "let your hair down kind of year." They've passed on the typical five-star hotel and opted for the quirky little beach hotel, instead...complete with a beach theme to many of their convention events.

That quirky little hotel is the Surfside Inn on Atlantic Ave, and the president of EPIC, Brenna Lyons, comments that one of the selling points was the massive 7000 sq. ft. Calypso Ballroom, the perfect backdrop for the gala EPPIE banquet and the Phaze Rad 80s Party to be held afterward.

"This is a shift for us," Lyons imparts. "We'd decided to go all-out with public appearances this year, before we learned that Read An e-Book Week coincides with the conference. Now, it's all the more appropriate."

The public events include two e-Fiestas, combination educational and party events that are free to the public and safe family venues. "You can learn how to use a PDA, talk to the authors, enter for door prizes, pick up promo gear and listen to readings," Brennan-Webb explains. "Last year, in San Antonio, we hadn't even finished setting up the tables, when we had people at them, asking for promo. We're hoping for a repeat of that."

With two e-Fiestas this year, they might have their chance. The first will be held Thursday night, March 8th, 6-9 pm at Pembroke Mall's food court. The second will be held in the hotel lobby from 2-4 pm on Saturday, March 10th.

The highlight of the latter is the New Voices awards, the culmination of EPIC's world-wide middle school and high school writing contest. Any of the winners who attend the e-Fiesta will receive their prizes in person then will have a signing of the winning anthology, free copies of which will be given to the crowd on CD.

As if these industry types don't have enough to keep them busy on Thursday evening, a second group will be camped out at Barnes and Noble, across the Blvd from Pembroke Mall, doing their gala signing. There will be rapid-fire readings from 6-7 pm, promo packs, a second demo area...and that's before NYT Bestseller Sherrilyn Kenyon/Kinley MacGregor joins in on the fun at 7 pm.

Local residents are also invited into the convention bookstore at the Surfside Inn, which will be open 8 am-noon and 1:30 pm to 5 pm on Friday and Saturday. Lyons comments, "This isn't like walking into your corner bookstore. You'll find a lot of fresh new faces and storylines, both in e-book and print formats."

But, it's not all readings, signings and demos with this crowd. Lyons smiles. "This is a working convention, for most of the people who attend. We have agent and editor appointments, class tracks in everything from world building and characterization to genre and marketing. We have meet and greets for our attendees, and last but not least, we have our Saturday night events."

Starting with a meet and greet mixer, the attendees will be dressed to kill and posing for professional portraits. Then they'll enjoy a banquet feast, followed by the yearly EPPIE awards.

The EPPIE and its sister award, the Ariana/Quasar, are given yearly to celebrate excellence in e-books and e-book cover art. The EPPIE itself is the longest-standing (at 8 years) and most inclusive (with 23 categories) award of its type.

The awards are hosted by Jeff Strand, emcee for life. A word with the crowd reveals that many consider Mr. Strand's performance worth the convention fee, on its own. This Oscar-style event comes complete with trophies and medallions, glittering dresses and the tearing of stylized envelopes to the tune of "and the winner is."

This year, the EPPIE awards will be capped off with a final public event, the Phaze Rad 80s party. Local residents are invited out to the hotel ballroom to mix and mingle with the con attendees in a retro-80s party. There will be a cash bar, as well as non-alcoholic refreshments, provided by Mundania/Phaze. Letting their hair down goes one step further, with the unveiling of the Phaze Phenom and Phaze Fox, the new cover model icons of the publishing house, both of whom are Tidewater natives.

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BRENNA LYONS/Lisa Brennan-Webb
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