Archon 40

OK, post-Archon hangover is done, so it’s back to the regular grind. Archon was a blast. My daughter came along this time and I had a hall table as well as doing the panel/schmooz thing. We had the best sales at a show that I’ve had in a couple of years and it’s interesting that my non-fiction book, Terra Incognito, was far and away my best-seller. Next best selling were my four pulp fiction books (fantasy noir, 40s super heroes, Musketeers, jazz musicians), then my graphic novel, and then my SF/F anthologies. If I’ve learned anything about signings/book selling is there is no rhyme or reason to what sells – stuff that does great at one show can’t be given away at the next and vice-versa. My daughter did yeoman’s work keeping the table running while I was off doing panels or fetching food (you didn’t think she was going to buy lunch for me, did you?), and seemed to enjoy herself at the show, even if there weren’t any panels that interested her (which surprised me).

I did five panels at Archon.

Advice for New Writers was fun – I had Ellen Datlow on that one along with three other acquiring editors. Outside of telling people to run while they still could, the advice was more on how to properly submit, how to research prospective places to submit, how not to annoy the acquiring editor within the first three words, etc. Very little about writing tips, but then again, I was the only one on the panel who was primarily a writer.

How to tell a Good Indie Publisher from a Bad Indie Publisher – Not quite as well organized as the advise panel. There was a lot of digression into self-publishing, which I thought took some of the strength out of the panel, but there was good advice for those interested in self-pubbing. I did manage to get a good plug in for Writer Beware, the Beware’s board at Absolute Write, and Preditors and Editors.

The Golden Age of Radio – A fantastic panel, plus I got to fanboy a bit because I was sitting next to Christopher Stasheff, (the Warlock Series). We discussed how not only specific radio programs (Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Dimension X, Lux Radio Theater, Jack Benny, Dragnet, Lone Ranger, Suspense, The Whistler, etc.), but the social effect of radio in the 40s and 50s. Plus, we discussed the “theater of the mind” effect of radio versus TV where you see everything that’s happening. Also, we discussed the classic radio sports play-by-play announcers (Mel Allen, Vin Scully, Harry Caray, Jack Buck) and how they made the games come alive as they described what was happening for the hometown audience. We easily could have gone on for hours about the subject and they’re hoping to do multiple radio panels next year (and maybe try to include some of the modern podcasts that feature doing performances).

The Marvel Cinematic Universe panel was probably the weakest one I was on, but it was no fault of the moderator. We had a huge crowd (probably sixty people), but certain elements kept wanting to try and drag the current comic story lines into the discussion and complain the movies weren’t following their (interpretation/favorite arc/insert complaint de jure here). I tried to explain that the movie audience was much larger than the current comic audience and most had not grown up with Marvel comics so of course, the stories were written adapted for newcomers, but that’s not what the “rabid fanboys” wanted to hear. So, there were some good discussions, but not as many as I’d hoped.

My final panel was Writing Realistic Combat, which went very well. We had all different levels of experience on the panel, but everyone had their own sources to go to for finding information (and I copied down several people to go check out on YouTube). However, we all agreed, if it comes down to doing a completely realistic combat scene and writing an entertaining one, always err on the side of entertaining. Let the pedants dissect every error Errol Flynn made with his duel with Basil Rathbone. Me? I’ll just enjoy watching it. Same with Westley and Inigo.

So, good panels, good sales, and a weekend hanging out with my daughter. Can’t ask for much more than that. (Well, I could have sold out of all my stock on Friday and had the rest of the weekend to just hang, but that’s being greedy.)

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.

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*)

MystiCon 2016 trip report

Officially recovering from MystiCon 2016. It was a whirlwind of a convention and came and went in a blur. It was fantastic catching up with so many friends and acquaintances and getting to meet several new people who I’d enjoy hanging out with in the future. It seemed like I was constantly running from panel to conversation with someone to another panel to yet another conversation and so on. I know I saw a whole lot of people that I really, really wish I could have spent more time visiting with and I apologize if it feels like I slighted any of you.

The World Building panel was a blast. All my fellow panelists brought some good thoughts that I’m going to have to steal … I mean consider when I’m working on my next columns for Black Gate.

The Comic Books to the Screen panel went very well also. Even though we didn’t cover all the topics the moderator hoped to get to, there was no question the panel (and the audience) had a passion for the topic about what’s been done right and what could be improved.

Got invited to a couple of new conventions and promoted my Kickstarter (politely), and have several people interested in buying books at my signing tonight. So, along with having fun, the business-side of the convention is going well also.

Saturday started with the Beginning Roleplaying panel which went incredibly well. All of the panelists were well versed in either tabletop or live-action roleplaying and we did briefly touch on on-line roleplaying. The best part was a young man who we let know about the game demos going on upstairs – his mother let me know later that evening that he’d basically planted himself at the demos and was loving every minute of it. Now, that’s a great con memory both for that kid and me.

After that, I caught up with a few friends and then did the Mr. Adventure Podcast, where I got to play Doctor Richards, who was a scientist helping out the superheroes. However, the gentleman playing Atomik Fist flat out stole the show! What a phenomenal performance. I apologize for not remembering your name, but my hat is off to you, sir. And Rich Sigfrit, thank you again for inviting me to contribute to this podcast. I can’t wait for it to be released (and I don’t envy your producer trying to splice all the asides and laughter out).

I went from that to “Them’s Fighting Words”. We talked about different styles of fighting, where to do research on weapons, fighting techniques, etc., how to make fight scenes believable, how much is too much detail and so on. It was really an interesting panel and we had a great audience who asked really good questions, so that always is a pleasure.

I went back to the room to collapse a bit and then did the How Much Worldbuilding Does an RPG Need? panel. For a panel going on against the Masquerade, we had quite a decent crowd – in fact, one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever had when I wasn’t on a panel with the GoH. I was the fill-in moderator, but we quickly opened the floor up to questions, which considering we’d already done a world-building panel the day before was probably wisest. There was well over 100 years of gaming experience among the panelists, so we could not only give good suggestions, but we all admitted a few times when things had gone wrong, so they could avoid our mistakes.

After that panel, I had my reading and read from Shades of Blue, part of my For a Few Gold Pieces More Kickstarter. Got a good reaction from the crowd and we talked about the Kickstarter more afterward. From there I went down and did my signing. It was in the hallway near the concert, but with the doors shut, the music was much more manageable for my poor ears. Since no one was following me, I just lounged out at the signing area and actually made more sales after my signing was over than during it. Go figure, right? I’ll attribute it to the music. *grin*

Finally had time to dump my gear and spend sometime visiting with friends and crawled into bed way too late. The Sunday morning alarm and i did not agree it was time for me to get up, but it eventually won.

My first Sunday panel was Writing a Successful Query Letter and the panelists talked about what had and hadn’t worked for us and then took more questions from the audience. I made sure to plug Query Letter Hell on Absolute Write, Writer Beware, Query Shark, Evil Editor and the Miss Snark archives. There were a lot of follow-up questions afterward with audience members who had more personalized questions, but I think (hope) we answered them as best we could.

I took a short break to sit in on the Valentine Wolfe concert. I met the members of Valentine Wolf Friday evening and had a blast visting with them. I heard them at the Saturday night concert, but their ambient performance on Sunday sealed the deal for me. Wow! What an experience.

I had to run from the concert to get to my last panel, Beyond Western Europe. I had hoped it would be more of a “here are some myths and legends that get overlooked and you should really check them out”, but there was a certain amount of “how to avoid cultural appropriation” that sidetracked the panel. Not that it is/wasn’t an important topic, but that’s not what I thought the panel was supposed to be about – I generally try to avoid panels that look like they’re going to get political one way or the other – but in the end, I was able to promote Folktexts at the University of Pittsburgh’s web site and “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” by Amos Tutuola as things the audience should definitely look into.

I’d love to list everyone I had a ball talking too and meeting for the first time (or maybe for the fortieth time), but I’m sure I’m going to miss someone. Still here goes – thanks to Mark Macdicken, April MacDicken, Meredith Lydia Thoroughman, Davey Beauchamp, Michael Ventrella, Gail Martin, Mike Allen, Podcasting’s Rich Sigfrit, The gang from Skeleton Key, Valentine Wolfe, Christopher Axlthem, Caroline Axlthem, Peter Prellwitz, Allen Wold, John L. French, Tiffany Trent, Ashley Chappell-Peeples, Steven Peeples, RS Belcher, John Watts, and a host of others that I blame a definite lack of coffee and a mind like a steel sieve on.

Believe me, after a great convention like this, it was tough to go back to the real world this morning.

Mysticon 2016 Schedule

Just got my schedule for MystiCon in Roanoke, VA, next weekend.

Fantasy Worldbuilding – Board Room 1 – Friday 5pm

Bringing the Comic Book World to the TV or Big Screen – Ballroom D – Friday 10pm

Beginning Roleplaying – Ballroom E – Saturday 12pm

Reading – Saturday 1:30pm

Podcast: Mr. Adventure – Ballroom C – Saturday 2pm

Them’s Fighting Words – Ballroom D – Saturday 3pm

How Much Worldbuilding Does an RPG Need? – Vista Room – Saturday 7pm

Writing a Query that Sells – Ballroom E – Sunday 11am

Beyond Western Europe – Other World Cultures for Fantasy – Ballroom D – Sunday 1pm

Plus, I’ll be doing a signing somewhere in there. I was supposed to be at my table at 2pm, but it’s Mr. Adventure! I’m not missing out on a chance to be on this podcast. And if you’re not listening to it, you really should be.

Yeah, I’m insane. *grin* But, I figure it’s my way to give back to the convention by helping out as much as possible.

 

And, they’re in the starting gate!

Been an interesting week so far. Just started a new assignment at work and waiting for all my IT support to be established–so I’ve taken advantage of the downtime to get some writing in. Almost 8 full pages of handwritten script for “The Sleeping Hero”. No clue how many words that translates into – my cursive tends to get bigger or smaller depending on my mood at the time. I’ll try and transcribe it this weekend.

And, I just fired off the “For a Few Gold Pieces More” Kickstarter page off to the Kickstarter team for approval. I

Preview to the cover of "For A Few Gold Pieces More"

Preview to the cover of “For A Few Gold Pieces More”

received an almost instantaneous “You can launch” from them, but I decided to take advantage of getting Community Manager feedback on the page, so we’ll be officially launching the KS on 09 Feb 2016 for 35 days.

So, we’ll need your help to push this thing over the goal. I’m not necessarily asking you to contribute (not that I’ll turn it down, mind you), but I am asking for help amping up the volume. Mention it to your friends who like fantasy books. Mention it to your writing groups and on your favorite social media. The only way this is going to succeed is word of mouth. I’m not someone who’s going to spam twitter or put out a FB update every hour – that’s not why you follow me here or there – but I will certainly be mentioning it on a fairly periodic basis.

But I can’t do it alone.

Every share, every comment, every link helps. Thanks in advance and with any luck, we’ll celebrate a victory lap on March 14, 2016.

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*

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*