Harrisburg Comic Con 2023 Report

By Teresa Peschel: The Harrisburg Comic Con on August 26-27, 2023 was our second comics convention and it was overwhelming. Our first was purely by happenstance. We were visiting my mother and that weekend, the Dover DE comic con took place. I’d enjoyed what I’d seen there and so here we are.

Harrisburg Comic Con takes place in part of the immense Farm Show complex in north Harrisburg. Despite its size, it was still dwarfed by the building we were in.

We arrived soon after they opened at 11:00 a.m. We’d tried to buy tickets online — before the Thursday 9:00 p.m. deadline — but were unable to. So we stood in line with everyone else.

Inside, we were greeted by row upon row of booths. It was crowded with regular people and an amazing array of cosplayers. Despite this being a comics convention, I recognized very few of the cosplayers as being Marvel or DC characters. Dear Daughter, a dedicated gamer and manga and anime fan, identified about one third of the cosplayers. Maybe. I recognized maybe five percent. Ghostbusters, Stormtroopers, Princess Peach, and The Penguin and so forth. You know. Characters everyone can recognize.

Not being up on popular culture, I didn’t recognize any of the headliners either. But other people did!

As you’d expect there were multiple booths dedicated to comic books. There was also every possible ancillary product, including marshmallows, a chance to get filmed in three dimensions, dragon statuary, get service with a smile, and a chance to upgrade your game room. At one booth, you didn’t have to talk to the author if you felt shy.

We spoke with Jarred and Matt of “You Have to Watch This” podcast about a possible interview about Agatha Christie films. Maybe they’ll email me. It could happen.

Meet Jared and Matt

I also got to cross light sabers with Sarah B. of Life of Cosplay.

Meet Sarah B.

None of this sounds like it has anything to do with science fiction, fantasy, or genre-adjacent horror, but it was there. We always attend an event like this looking for indie authors and we found plenty. They’re all genre or genre-adjacent and willing to stand on their feet all day Saturday and Sunday. For you indie authors looking to build your fanbase, shows like this can give you a feel for whether or not the buying public will take a chance on your writing.

Let’s meet the authors and one artist. [Photo gallery and conclusion of report follow the jump.]

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Murder As You Like It Conreport

By Teresa Peschel: This year Murder As You Like It returned after a three-year hiatus. It’s a small, one-day mystery convention sponsored by the Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop, one of the few mystery-focused bookshops in the country. This convention was the ninth one.

Deb Beamer, the owner, is a long-time mystery fan. She hosts numerous authors along with a wide variety of programs. I’ve spoken there on 13 Poirots and 7 Miss Marples.

Fifteen authors participated: Nicole Asselin, R.G. Belsky, Matty Dalrymple, Annette Dashofy, John DeDakis, Peter W.J. Hayes, Sarah Ickes, Con Lehane, Liz Milliron, Sandy Nork, Tj O’Connor, Lissa Marie Redmond, Dennis Royer, Karen Shugart, and Greg Stone. Bill Peschel emceed the event.

The authors are a varied bunch with some very diverse backgrounds. R.G. Belsky in particular is someone you already know in a roundabout way: he worked for the New York Post and helped develop the most famous headline in the world: Headless Body Found in Topless Bar. The authors’ books range from cozies to police procedurals, historicals to thrillers, suspense to insurance fraud, soft-boiled and hardboiled.

There were three panels: “Why research is important”; “Cops, crimes, and the blurred lines”; and “Country vs. city crimes”.

The panels were interspersed with author roundabouts, where each author moved from table to table, giving about five minutes to chat with the mystery fans.

There was time to buy books and get them signed.

It’s a friendly group. It’s small enough you can talk to the authors and other fans but just large enough that you’ll run out of time before you talk to everyone, whetting your appetite for next year.

Malice Domestic #35 Report

Guest of Honor Hank Phillipi Ryan (right) being interviewed

By Teresa Peschel: Bill and I are Peschel Press. This was our third Malice Domestic. If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries and looking for your tribe, Malice is the place to be.

Officially, it runs Friday morning through Sunday afternoon at the end of April. This year’s dates were April 28-30. Unofficially, Malice gets started on Thursday evening when Maureen Jennings hosts a showing of a current Murdoch Mysteries episode. In this case, she wrote the episode we saw but I don’t know if that’s always true. Afterwards, Maureen Jennings answers questions from the audience about the episode, how TV adapts her books, and similar topics.

Maureen Jennings (right) at one of the many, many panels

Malice runs about 600 people attending, roughly divided between true-blue fans and authors. The authors range wildly from debut authors (including indies) to longtime stalwarts in the mystery world. There’s always a guest of honor, lifetime achievement guest, international guest of honor, fan guest of honor, toastmaster, Poirot award (sometimes), Amelia award, toastmaster, and of course, the Agatha awards in five categories.

Events start promptly Friday at 9 a.m. with the first round of panels on dozens of subjects. At the same time, the Dealer Room, Hospitality Suite, and Silent Auction Room open for the day.

Silent Auction room

Other programs include introducing Malice to first-time attendees, volunteer information, speed-dating with authors, and Kensington handing out armloads of free books. During the day, a rotating cast of authors show up in the Dealers’ Room to sign books.

Having the authors sign in the Dealers’ Room means more traffic and a better chance of sales.

Author signings

Saturday and Sunday have a similar, fully-packed schedule with panels, interviews, signings, speed-dating, and swag galore.

Friday’s evening events include Opening Ceremonies, Dinner on your own, a memorial program for Elizabeth Peters, and the live charity auction with an exquisite array of fancy pastries on each table. Many people attend for the auction. Others of us attend to scarf up the pastries.

Live auction pastry tray

Saturday morning started with a fancy breakfast (The Last Croissant Disappears at Nine). The evening events started with cocktails in the grand foyer, followed by the Agatha Awards Banquet including awarding the prize teapots to the winners, followed by the Agatha Afterward party.

Saturday evening events had a musical background courtesy of Georgetown Prep’s prom going on in the ballroom next door. You could really tell the difference between the Malice crowd and Georgetown Prep. Our average age was 60. Theirs was 18.

Sunday began with a free breakfast sponsored by Kensington to promote all the debut authors. The day ended on Sunday afternoon with the Agatha tea and closing ceremonies.

There are Malice attendees who’ve been to all 35 conventions. It’s a fun crowd, full of old friends meeting each other again. Attendees come from across the U.S., along with Canada and a few from further away.

You never know who you will meet. I got a picture of myself with noted local author, Misty Simon (aka Gabby Allan). We took the picture with me holding The Sun, ensuring we’ll get our picture in The Sun (circulation is about 7,000+).

Misty Simon (aka Gabby Allan), left, The Sun, and Teresa Peschel, right.

Will we go next year? Yes, we will. It’s fun and we sell books. We debuted Agatha Christie, She Watched: One Woman’s Plot to Watch 201 Agatha Christie Movies Without Murdering the Director, Screenwriter, Cast, or Her Husband and it did well.

Should you go? If you like mysteries and you’re in the area, you can dip your toe in the water by buying a day pass on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and getting a feel for the convention.

Visit Malice’s website for more details covering everything from registration to advertising.

The Peschel Press Cat Report on Sheba Salmon Sticks

As dictated by Dimitri, speaking for himself, Sasha, Lulu, and Madeline.

By Dimitri: Mom called us to the kitchen using her voice that means “treats!” So we showed up, all except Madeline who refuses to admit she lives with the rest of us even after nearly two years. She has to get a special invitation. I guess she was downstairs on the couch, pretending she doesn’t know us.

Mom waved this stick at me and it smelled delicious! I love carbs. I’ll jump on the counter and rip open a bag of bread to eat it all up. Maybe it’s because I was found starving under a dumpster.

Anyway. The stick was delicious! Mom tore off bits for me and I gobbled them up. Wow. I’ll eat this again and after what my sisters did, I’ll get to eat that entire box!

Lulu showed up. She’s slim but you should see her eat. She sniffed the stick. She even got up on her hind legs like she does when mom gives us sliced roast beef. But she snubbed it. I know she’ll eat fish treats. Maybe this had too many carbs. Lulu doesn’t like carbs. That’s why she’s so scrawny. Even when mom broke off little bites and put them on the floor — pushing me away! — she wouldn’t eat the salmon stick bits. So I ate them.

Lulu is the slim tortoiseshell

Sasha usually hogs the treats. That’s why she’s so fat. She was feral once. That’s how she got the tipped ear, when someone rescued her and she ended up with us. She has no shame when it comes to begging for treats. She sniffed the stick and recoiled like it smelled like it had been sitting in a dumpster for weeks. Mom broke the stick into little bites and skittered them across the kitchen floor. Sasha played with the bites but she wouldn’t eat them, like she’ll wolf down our other treats. So I ate them.

Then mom went downstairs to find Madeline. She’s super-fluffy and I guess that’s why she thinks she’s better than us shorthairs. She sniffed the treat stick. I know because I followed mom downstairs hoping for another bite. You never know with Madeline. Sometimes she’ll accept a treat, like she’s doing you a favor. When mom broke the treat stick into bites, she liked it enough to get up and eat them. But only three. So I ate the rest.

Madeline, the fluffy tortoiseshell

I loved the Sheba salmon sticks. I’ll eat them again. Lucky for me, I’ll get the entire box to myself because Madeline probably will have to be coaxed, and Lulu and Sasha both thought they were icky.

Lulu who eats freeze-dried minnows and Sasha who’ll beg for anything. Go figure.

But that means more for me!