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.

Shore Leave 2016

Shore Leave 2016 has come and gone and in my (not so) humble opinion, it was quite the success.

Had a great afternoon on Friday visiting with Greg Cox, Christopher L. Bennett, Keith DeCandido, Nick Mamatas, Robert Greenberger, and Dayton Ward before the show started. Also caught up with a ton of other authors at Meet the Pros Friday night. Saw quite a few familiar faces in the fans who were attending the show also, which is always a great time and even sold a few books, which is a nice bonus. Ran into Andrew Hiller and Mary Fan at BarCon afterwards, whom I’d met at Farpoint earlier this year.

Saturday was the big panel day. I somehow managed to stumble back to Hunt Valley in time to make my 10am panel which was actually better attended than I thought it would be.

I was the moderator for the 12:00 panel which was titled, “The Whole Package”. It turns out it was about book design and covers for books. Luckily, I had some very knowledgeable panelist, so I just asked questions and hung back to watch.

The 2:00 panel was on World Building, a subject near and dear to my heart. Along with my own work onĀ  Terra IncognitoTerra Incognito, I was able to talk about world building for On Wings of Steel, Full Moon Affair, and For a Few Gold Pieces More, both during the panel and afterward. It was interesting to hear how world building differs between fantasy, urban fantasy, space opera, and hard SF. Lots of good questions from the audience and I sold out of all the copies of Terra Incognito I had on hand after the panel was over.

The 3:00 IAMTW panel was a little lightly attended, but from talking to people before hand, there was some confusion what the panel was going to be about. (It stands for the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, fyi. *grin*) However, even with the light turnout, we had some really good questions and told a few war stories about doing tie-ins.

We had our writer’s dinner at Andy Nelson’s Southern BBQ after panels were over and a great time (not to mention delicious) was had by all. That was followed by the second BarCon of the show. We had a great crowd at our table and Dayton and I swapped war stories along with writing and work stories. I did manage to get home a tad earlier (2:30 instead of 3:15am, this time).

Sunday was a slow day. I only had one panel at noon, “e-books and e-novellas”. We had a great crowd for a Sunday afternoon and talked about both sides of e-books (commercial publishers doing e-books as well as small press/self-publishing e-books). There were good questions and I had to put my Writer Beware hat on a few times to remind people to do their homework before making any decisions for ANY press.

I sat in on a few panels on Sunday and cruised the dealer’s room. Unfortunately, my wallet was still in shock from SoonerCon, but there was a great Steampunk dealer, “A Steampunked Life”, and I had a ball visiting with them about steampunk (natch), Doctor Who, costuming, and anime. Also, got to hang out with Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Mike McPhail at their booth which is always fun.

All in all, the show ended way too soon and I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s show already.

Breaking Radio Silence

I’ll be catching you all up on some of the stuff going on here, but the quick highlights:

“No Rest for the Wicked” was published by Battlecorps on their website and will be released in their “Slack Tide” anthology later.

Just finished the first draft of “The Enemy You Know” tonight. That’s a bit over 10,000 words since Saturday (and given how slowly I type, that’s saying something – unlike my friend Keith who probably types that many in-between innings at a Yankees game.)

“Paladin” will be coming out in the Origins Game Fair limited-edition anthology titled “Robots”.

Just got notification about two more stories about to be released in the near future. More to come there.

And, “For a Few Gold Pieces More” is being edited as we speak. Hopeful for a July/August release. More to follow on that also.

And possibly releasing another book through StarWarp Concepts in 2017. More to come there, mainly dependent on finding the right cover artist.

And it’s convention season. I’ll be appearing at Origins Game Fair, SoonerCon, Shore Leave, GenCon, and Archon and possibly one more convention to be named later (depends on how many draft picks they want. *grin*)

From the snow trenches

So far, we have survived Snowzilla 2016. I’ve managed to not completely fritter away my days off buried under the snow. Well, mostly, but not completely.

I heard back from my editor on Paladin who liked the edits I made to the story. Always good news. So, I suspect the next time I see it, it’ll be the galley proofs. *yay!*

I also worked on my Gale Allen story this weekend. Added 1387 words to it tonight as well as selecting specific events from the old Fiction House Planet Comics to base my story around. I’m enjoying the interaction between Gale and one of her nemeses that she’s forced to cooperate with for the good of Vanam. *evil writer grin – I love putting my characters in these kind of situations*

I spent part of this evening visiting with a fellow author/publisher who ran a very successful Kickstarter. He looked over my page and gave me some good feedback as well as highlighting what worked and what didn’t work for his campaign. I’ll be taking that advice to heart.

Also, I managed to get my badge and hotel for Gen Con, where I’ll be a part of the Writer’s Symposium later this summer. Not exactly the easiest of tasks – Gen Con seriously underbooks the number of hotel rooms they need for the show, but whatcha gonna do?

Oh yeah, and several hours of shoveling snow this weekend. Can’t forget that – or at least my back can’t quite yet. Not quite as young as I used to be back in Missouri where this might be considered a normal snow storm. Then again, Missouri actually has a good number of snow plows and drivers who know how to drive in this stuff. Maryland seems to be somewhat short on both. *sigh*

And Monday was productive too

Submitted a proposal for a new short story last night and continued refining my Kickstarter site. Spent some time visiting with a couple of friends who’ve run successful campaigns -they had very different approaches, but I see things in both that I think I can adapt to my campaign.

What I need to do now is start coordinating with people to advertise this beyond just my personal circle of friends, social media acquaintances, and convention buddies.

If anyone else out there, besides those I’ve already approached, has any suggestions/comments/brickbats they want to launch my way, (besides, “Flee, you fools”), they’ll be gratefully accepted.

Where did I leave that time-turner?

Another busy evening here. Proofed a short story that’ll be released soon. Silence in the Library is re-releasing the stories that originally appeared in the 2014 Origins Game Fair anthology, Monsters to the general public. I’m excited to see this release and hope you enjoy all the stories.

Also, I am submitting a pitch/synopsis/50 pages to a publisher for a novel I’ve got a lot of hopes for. Normally, I don’t mention submissions – especially if I have to come back months later and go, “Nope, not this time”. Still, I think it’s good for people who’re trying to get started in this business to see people like me still get butterflies when we submit and sometimes things we have the most confidence in just don’t seem to resonate with an editor/agent, while the story we did a fire and forget on is the one that gets picked up.

Go figure.

And then, tomorrow, I need to get to work on a short story coming due here pretty soon as well as my next Black Gate blog post.

I need a few 60-hour days in the near future…aarrgh.

Finishing one project to start another

Spent the past three days doing research on a possible new project. Yeah, having to read Golden Age Comics is a real tragedy, isn’t it? More to come on this once I get the proposal written up and sent in to the publisher.

Worked on my Kickstarter page for For a Few Gold Pieces More. I think it’s about as ready as it’s going to get, but I’m looking for a few volunteers who’ve done a Kickstarter before to review the site and see if I’m overlooking something before the launch later this month. I’m so pleased with the video that Joshua Orozco at Atomic Canary did for me.

I believe in this project, but I’ve still got some butterflies about how it’s going to do. I’m just hoping we can generate enough word of mouth to carry it over the top.

Now, if the Chiefs will just win tomorrow, this will have turned out to be a pretty good week. *sigh*

Vacation Editing Blues

Yep, even when I’m on vacation visiting my Mom and getting ready to take my daughter to Disney World, there’s still writing that needs to be done and conventions that need to be coordinated with.

My current project is to get my weregild for Origins Game Fair finished. Those of us who’re in the Origins Library contribute a short story that is collected in an anthology which is sold as an exclusive at the show.

The problem is, I’m not a real short story writer. My idea of a short story is really more often a novelette or a novella. The idea of writing 5000 words or less is pretty foreign to my normal writing style.

So, of course, my first complete draft for this year’s story came in at 6712 words for a 5000 word story. I let it sit and marinate for a while and tonight I started in first with the chainsaw, then the butcher knife and now we’re down to the scalpel.

Now, I’m sitting on 5329 words out of a 5000 word story. I’m going to call it a night, then enjoy Disney tomorrow, and then on Thursday, it’s time to get out the laser scalpel and find the last bits that can be excised from this manuscript without removing what makes it a good story.

(Of course, what makes it a good story may be different for me than the editor, but hey, that’s why Kelly gets paid the big bucks, right?)

Deadlines! Deadlines!

Looks like December is going to be a busy, busy month.

First of all, I have Geekonomicon coming up on the 11-13th, so I need to start figuring out what I’m going to take with me to the show.

Then, I have to finish and submit my story “Paladin” to Kelly Swails for the 2016 Origins Game Fair anthology.

And tonight, I got an invite to submit an 8,000 word story for another anthology – oh, and that’s due by the 21st of December.

And, along with that, I’m working on two novels – The Sleeping Hero and The Black Ice Affair (a follow-up novel for the Full Moon Affair short novel from Pro Se Productions).

Also, I’m still out beating the bushes for Terra Incognito, looking for some reviewers and some other places to plug my first non-fiction book – which is still doing remarkably well over on Drive-Thru Fiction as well as Amazon and other fine purveyors of literature. *subtle plug, no?*

Oh yeah, I’m also trying to put the final touches on my Kickstarter project so I can launch it in early 2016.

Sleep? *pffft* Who needs it?