Lots of steel, but that doesn’t include my nerves.

Been busy this week putting the finsihing touches on two partials I’m sending out to an agent in the next few days as well as dealing with GenConCrud (yes, that is a thing), and trying to change offices at work (finishing up one contract and moving to a new one).

Got some last minute feedback from my wife and Steve Roman (of StarWarp Concepts fame), and now I’m rapidly applying their thoughts to On Wings of Steel (my steampunk fantasy novel) and Steel on Target (my Military SF story).

Now, if I could just get the damn butterflies from doing loop-de-loops in my stomach…

GenCon 2016 report

Back at work the Monday after GenCon. If I had been smart (and if things at work would have supported it), I would have just taken today off. So, I’ll give you the thumbnail from the show.

First panel was Short Stories vs. Vignettes. About 20 people in the audience. Since GenCon is a gaming convention, we discussed writing gaming short stories vice vingettes, which are usually used in gaming rule books to show the application of a rule without showing the dice being rolled. We also talked about how to write short (which is a skill I woefully lack), and how the shorter the piece can help a new author get published. When an anthology/magazine just needs one more piece to round out it’s word count, sometimes having a 1500-2000 word story might get you an acceptance over a 8-10K story.

Second panel was the Writer Beware presentation. Had one of the biggest crowds for this presentation that I’ve ever had – I know I had over 30 people there and it may have been more than that. It wasn’t the splendiforous presentation I’d anticipated, mainly because I swore it was scheduled for 5pm and at 3:05 the volunteers tracked me down wanting to know why I wasn’t at my solo panel — the one I have to set up A/V for. Yikes! Luckily, the room captain entertained the audience while I feverishly set up my computer and got the recalcitrant projector to work. Still managed to knock out a 50 minute presentation in 35 and had some time for questions, but I definitely was powering through a few of the slides. Still, got a lot of good questions, both before and after, and sent a few here to Absolute Write to check out the BB&R forum.

Third panel was Getting Inside Your Character’s Head. We discussed different ways to show inner dialogue as well as how to use body language to show emotions/reactions without having to constantly say, “X,” she thought. Also, we discussed techniques to show inner dialogue like the use of italics, using <<X>> to designate that the characters are speaking in a foreign language, even though it’s written in English. One of the panelists pointed out Mercedes Lackey used to use a colon at the front and back of a statement when her characters were speaking telepathically vice verbally. All in all, it became a techniques and tips panel about different things a writer can do, although the main point seemed to be “Be consistent whatever you decided to do”.

My first signing went about like I expected (no one), but I did get to spend a wonderful hour visiting with Eric Flynt, of the 1632 series of books from Baen. We talked about a number of subjects, like traveling to conventions (Eric once drove from Chicago to LA in one pull, but as he said, he was a LOT younger when he did that back in 1972), and publishing stuff in general. He gave me some tips for submitting stuff to the Grandville Gazette, which is a magazine dedicated to the 1632 series and he occasionally selects authors to co-author with from those submissions. Also caught up with Marie Brennan, whom I hadn’t seen in forever.

Fourth panel was Worldbuilding 101, with two game designers/authors and a video game designer/writer. We must have had about 60 people in the audience. Great panel, some good stories about applying world building to your story and your story to the world building (aka, you don’t need to build more of a world than your story is going to visit, but knowing a bit about what lies beyond the horizon helps make your story more realistic – if Character A has a throwaway line like “Oh, I see Joe just got in a new shipment of grapes from Ivanice,” you’ve just established the merchant’s name is Joe, there’s a country of Ivanice somewhere in this world and they export grapes. Even if your character never actually goes to Ivanice in your game/story, it still makes the world feel bigger.

Did my reading Friday evening. Not a huge crowd at 7pm, but good responses from the ones who showed up. I did a reading from “Shades of Blue”, one of the short stories from my For a Few Gold Pieces More collection, coming out this fall and I got a good feeling when Cat Rambo (president of SFWA) and Jody Lynn Nye (author of the continuing Myth-Adventure series) congratulated me on the story and asked when the book was coming out.

My last panel was “Knowing When to Quit”. Wow, what an open-ended topic. We discussed dealing with rejection, studying the market, knowing when to trunk something, knowing when to punt (but salvage good parts) and knowing when you just weren’t ready to tackle a specific story. We did not talk about knowing when to quit altogether. A couple of the panelist wanted to bring that up, but I thought we should keep the panel semi-optimistic. Maybe that’s sugar-coating it, but I didn’t feel people who’d paid to attend a panel should have their ambitions crushed before they even get started.

Did one last signing on Saturday and actually signed two of my books that had been bought over at the booksellers. Yay me! Also had a nice time visiting with Lawrence Schoen (who’s written a great book, Barsk. You should definitely check it out!) Jody Lynn Nye showed me an app I really should consider picking up for my iPhone (it lets you play the bagpipes on your phone … ah, dreams of the moors…ahem, where was I?)

Sunday I was assigned to do a read and critique session. We were supposed to have ten people read two minutes worth of their papers and then we would have three minutes to critique them each (3 critiquers). However, only three people of the ten who’d signed up made it. So, we did the initial critiques and then spend the rest of the two hours workshopping with the three brave souls (one of whom was a HS junior and her first time presenting out loud). It was a lot of fun and all of the stories were good, but not “great”, which I’m sure is why they signed up for the session. We had two editors and me on the panel, so each of us caught different things as the person read. Now, I fully admit, listening to a story instead of reading it takes a different skill and I’m not convinced it’s the most efficient way to do this since some people are good readers, some get carried away doing their voice acting, and some are just flat out nervous to read aloud, but that was the format I was given to work with, so we did what we could. Still, the presenters seemed to get a lot out of it and I think it was useful not only to them, but to me.

Oh, and the highlight of the convention, I had a pitch session with an agent. Now, luckily for me, the agent was a very patient man since I’d never done anything like this before. So, I pitched On Wings of Steel, my steampunk novel and when he asked if I had anything else, I told him I did have Steel on Target, my military science fiction story, but it was a few chapters short of being finished. He asked me to tell him about that and in the end, he asked for the first thirty pages of both manuscripts. Trying not to get too excited about this because I’ve had partials (and fulls) rejected before, but I have to admit, I may have done a fist-pump or two on the way back to the green room.

Also, talked to several gaming companies about doing some writing for them and may have accidentally gotten on the radar for a future anthology an editor is putting together. But, we’ll see about those.

So, all in all, had a great time, spent way too much money, had a less-than-stellar hotel, spent way too much money and time in cabs, and visited with a ton of writers, game designers, video-game designers, editors, and publishers over the five days I was in Indianapolis. Would I go back again next year? Oh, hell yeah.