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.)

2016 Convention Schedule updated

Well, looks like it’s not quite going to be as busy as 2015 was, but I’ll be doing conventions in the local area as well as away from home this year.  I’ll be going to shows partially to represent myself and also doing work for Writer Beware(R) for SFWA.

I will be attending a show I’ve always wanted to go to ever since I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons back in 1979—GenCon, in Indianapolis, IN in July 2016. I’ll be a member of the Writer Symposium, doing panels and visiting with new (and not so new) writers to talk about writing for games as well as books.

My current schedule (subject to change, of course) is:

Farpoint February 12-14, 2016 (Baltimore, MD)

Mysticon February 26-28, 2016 (Roanoke, VA)

Origins Game Fair June 15-19, 2016 (Columbus, OH)

SoonerCon June 24-26, 2016 (Midwestern City, OK)

Shore Leave July 15-17, 2016 (Baltimore, MD) – possible

GenCon August 4-7, 2016 (Indianapolis, IN)


Hopefully, I’ll add one or two fall shows, but that looks like a full year of traveling for me.  If you know of a convention I should attend, feel free to drop me a line with your suggestions.

Interview with Tracy Hickman (excerpt)

I was incredibly fortunate to get to interview Tracy Hickman for Terra Incognito. He was gracious with his time and his advice for new authors. Our Skype interview went over two hours and we probably could have kept going, but what was initially going to be one column wound up sprawling over into two issues.  When we put Terra together as a book, unfortunately, we simply couldn’t fit all of his interview into it, so we decided to take a snippet of the interview and save it for the readers of this blog.

So, without further ado:  Tracy Hickman

Tracy Hickman with newest book


RW: You have a new book coming out called Wayne of Gotham. Is this your first time doing work with DC Comics? (Note: Wayne of Gotham was released on June 26, 2012, a few weeks after this interview was conducted.)

TH: Yes, this is my first foray into doing work with DC Comics.

RW: Two questions come to mind. One, can you give us a quick synopsis of the book? And two, since we’re talking about world building, Batman is a pretty iconic character. How much research did you have to do into Gotham City and the whole Batman mythos to be true to the character? Admittedly Batman has been through several reboots since the 1930s, but how do you stay true to the feel of Batman?

TH: Wayne of Gotham is a hugely exciting thing for me. Wayne of Gotham is a book about Batman, and Bruce Wayne coming to grips with the reality of his own father. We’re reopening and reinvestigating the deaths of his parents. Mostly, when we think of Thomas Wayne, we think of him being dead. We think of how he died. But we really haven’t examined who he was and what he did in his life. I think this is a journey all men have to take to come to grips with the reality of their father. Especially in the case of Bruce Wayne, where his father was such an enormous catalyst for his life. I felt it was important for us to take a look at who Thomas Wayne was and more importantly, that Bruce Wayne take a look at who his father was, aside from the marbled figure who’s up on the pedestal.

The story actually opens with his grandfather Patrick Wayne, who’s drunk, dragging Thomas into the caverns underneath Wayne Manor with a shotgun and forcing him to kill bats. We see that Patrick was an abusive and violent father to Thomas and bullied his son—trying to make a man out of him. That is the start of this journey for us.

The story takes place in two periods. In the modern day, Batman is confronted with a series of crimes in the city that mirror events from the late 1950s involving his father. Then we jump back in time and visit Gotham in the late 1950s and we see Thomas and what made him tick, how he met Martha Kane and how Thomas may have been the foundation of many of Bruce problems and many of the problems that confront Gotham City in the time of the Batman. It’s a thrilling journey and one I’m just so excited to tell.

Plus, I got to write characters I’ve always wanted to write. I got to write some obscure characters, but I also got a chance to write iconic characters. I loved writing Harley Quinn. Harley was a delight to write and yes, the Joker was a thrill. But all these characters are caught up in the investigation into Thomas Wayne and why he really died. That’s basically the story we’re telling in Wayne of Gotham.

RW: I think this one is definitely going to have to go on my “to buy” list.

TH: I cannot recommend this book enough. This is a joy to read. I have a copy of it here with me—one copy of it. I wish I could share it.

RW: It’s obvious to do the old Gotham versus the new Gotham; a lot of research had to go on. Did you get a chance to go through some of the Golden- and Silver-Age Batman material to help with your research?

TH: DC sent me a copy of The Essential Batman Encyclopedia, which is now so used, the spine is broken. I’m going to have to go take it in to have it rebound. When approaching an iconic character like Batman, you walk a really fine line. My first reaction after we proposed this story and they accepted it was, “Oh man, I get to write Batman.” And then the second reaction was, “What have I done? I have to write Batman!” Because everyone has an idea of who Batman is.

RW: And everyone loves to tell you about it if it’s not quite right in their eyes.

TH: It’s going to be an interesting [San Diego] Comic Con, this year to see how the fans react to what I’ve done.(Laughter) [DC] actually said to me, early on, “you can do anything you want to with Batman. If you want to redesign the suit, redesign the suit. If you want to redesign the Batmobile, redesign the Batmobile. You want to put Batman in a leather jacket, let’s do that.”

Now, my first thoughts were, “Cool, I can redesign the suit and the Batmobile.” The second thought I had immediately after that was, “Don’t! Don’t do it.”

RW: I think you made a wise choice.

TH: You gotta have the cape. You gotta have the cowl. He’s Batman. The Batsuit has to be the Batsuit. Batman has to be Batman. It has to be iconic. So, what I had to do then was provide something original, something that’s new, but I have to do it in such a way it feels like Batman or what we already know he is. Plus, it has to pay homage to every previous iteration. He has to be a part of what everyone believes Batman to be. So, it was a very difficult line to walk because you need to do something new and interesting, but at the same time, it has to be familiar. It has to ring true organically as Batman.

So, I had to do a tremendous amount of research on the history of Batman. I had to go through the multiverses and the multiple iterations of the Batman down through the years. Everything from who was Batman in the 1930s to who Batman is today. For example, Vicky Vale is so many different people, depending on which series you’re dealing with. Which Robin are we talking about? So, it was really important, to me. I need to be able to touch on the iconic moments that are Batman and to weave all these pieces into a single cloth to pay homage and honor the vision of everyone who’d come before me. That was the biggest challenge I had in this book—to produce something that rang true to what everyone wanted Batman to be.

 RW: The very first time I ever did media tie-in work, the basic advice I got was you can do whatever you want as long as you put all the toys back on the shelf where you got them from. In other words, I could have the character do X, they could do Y, but in the end, I couldn’t change the fundamentals.

TH: I’m really excited then, because in this book we do make some fundamental changes here. But I think they’re very satisfying in terms of defining who the character is. My hope is when people read the book is they’ll say, “Yeah, that makes sense.” I’m really anxious to get some people out there reading it so I can get some feedback and see what people think of my take on the Batman.


To read the rest of my interview with Tracy, which includes his insights on world building, you’ll have to purchase a copy of Terra Incognito: A Guide to Building the Worlds of Your Imagination, available from StarWarp Concepts.

Terra Incognito

Shore Leave 2015

All right, along with trying to write and trying to coordinate a book release and trying to coordinate a Kickstarter campaign, I’m also still doing conventions this year. Soooo . . .

Here’s my current schedule for Shore Leave 2015:


10pm-12am Meet the Pros (mass signing by the authors in attendance. I will have my latest books if you haven’t picked them up by now.)


10 am Steampunk and Alternate History Salon A
11 am Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors Derby
1pm Show Me the Money Derby
3pm Writer Beware Derby


12pm Writing Historical Fiction Workshop* Concierge
1pm Writing Short Stories Salon B

*Unfortunately, there was a scheduling conflict, so I will not be attending the Etiquette and Netiquette panel at 12pm. Also, I will have to leave the workshop early to make it to my 1pm panel. However, I have no doubt in my mind that Howie Weinstein, Steve Wilson, and (I believe) Robert Greenberger can handle the last half of the workshop without me.

Also, if I can get a good wireless signal, (Hey, you! Stop snickering!), I will do my shift as a DJ for at Shore Leave Saturday evening from 7-10pm and with any luck, I’m going to try and get a few of the authors or guests to swing by and say “Hi” and talk a bit about their latest work with my listening audience and me. If worse comes to worst, I’ll just have to zip home after my last panel on Saturday to pull my shift for the station. Ah, the sacrifices one makes for the adoring fans. (Look, you. I said, stop snickering.)

Editing, planning, and a little art for the soul

Continued working on my edits today. I made it through the first pass of edits, made a number of changes the more I reviewed things – it’s amazing how stuff you wrote three years ago seems clunky now. It took most of today to get through the edits. Steve is nothing if not thorough, which is exactly what I look for in an editor.

I’m going to make another pass on the manuscript tomorrow and then I have two new sections to write for this book, based on his advice. Then it’ll be back for editing round number two.

I’m taking the rest of the evening off to recharge and watch some Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible and continue planning a few short stories I’m going to pitch to a new market for me.

What? You thought I wouldn’t have more irons in the fire?

I thought I’d share a little more art with you. I was working on a story several years ago – still need to dust it off and rework it one of these days – and I had Eliseu Gouveia do some concept art for the two main characters.

Zeu has done a lot of work for Steve Roman, my editor, and I thought it would be good to throw some attention to his Deviant Art page too, Go check out his work at


Promotional Stuff

Had fun this evening. Did an interview for the Pro Se Podcast with Tommy Hancock this evening. We discussed some of my work with Pro Se as well as some upcoming projects and also the joys (and brickbats) that come from writing genre.

I’ll let you know when it comes out and hopefully, you’ll enjoy listening to Tommy and me talking about old-time radio, pulp fiction, historical research and all things Pro Se.

And, while you’re waiting for that, why not check out some of the podcasts with other authors on that site. There are some great discussions to be discovered there.

Now, back to the writing.

Building the worlds of your imagination

OK, I spent a good chunk of tonight going through Terra Incognito, trying to get it ready to send to a friend of mine who happens to be a freelance editor.

The good news, it holds together pretty well, but I’m sure Steve’s going to have plenty to say about it. After all, these were fourteen magazine columns that I’m trying to reorganize into a non-fiction book. What works for a magazine might not work for a bound book, so I’m definitely going to be leaning on him for his advice. Luckily, he’s been editing both fiction and non-fiction these past few years.

The good news for the readers, but not for me, is I’m going to have to add more sessions to the book. There are a few areas where I said, “And we’ll talk about that in a later column”, but due to my decision to curtail the column after eighteen months, those columns never were written.

So, I had a choice. Either I could simply excise those sentences from the manuscript, which would have been the cheap and easy way to deal with it . . . or, I could buckle down and write those extra sessions.

The more I thought about it, I decided I owed the readers of this book the most complete guide to world building I could create. Plus, having some new material in the book is also a good selling point. *grin* So, I need to reread the manuscript and note every place where I said I’d get to it and decide which of them merit their own sessions or which could be combined into a session or maybe they really weren’t that important.

Also, some of my columns started with a small story to emphasize what I was going to be talking about that session, but not all of them. I need to decide whether or not to add that blurb to all of them. Again, it wasn’t a big deal with a monthly column, but in a book, it might be jarring if I didn’t do it. (If anyone has an opinion here, I’m open for suggestions.)

So, that’s my night tonight. Tomorrow, we start creating a new chapter (or two) for Terra Incognito.

In which I pontificate to my heart’s content

The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG) has just posted an interview I did with Phil Guinta for “The Write Stuff Writer Conference” which is coming up on March 26, 27 and 28, in Bethlehem, PA

Phil had some very interesting questions covering my experiences as a sword fighter (I’ve done fencing, fought in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and Kendo); the inspiration for my For a Few Gold Pieces More collection, how I got involved with Writer Beware; and what I’ll be talking about at the conference.

They also have interviews with my fellow presenters, which are pretty darn interesting too.


On the writing front, I received two stories back from their first passes with the editors (Flashpoint and Mouse Trap), so I’m going over them and hope to get them turned around soon.  Also, I need to get stuff off to another editor this weekend.

Oh yeah, and write. That would be good too.



Another exciting evening with a red pen

OK, what have we been up to today? Filled out a questionnaire for an upcoming convention appearance, edited a story due by the end of the week, and . . . wow, I guess that about covers it.

The questionnaire wasn’t too bad. I’m certain I probably gave the convention a LOT more information than they really wanted, but they didn’t give me a word count limit (heh, heh, heh). I got to not only talk about new and recent projects, but they let me ramble on about my sword fighting days.

Yes, I fenced in college, did SCA sword and board in college and in the Army, and now I participate in Kendo. I have no real interest in fighting hand-to-hand, but let me pick up a cane, large stick or something pointy, and I’m all over that.

I like to think my fighting experiences, as well as my military training, help me write reasonably realistic fight scenes. Of course, there has to be a little Hollywood in them, mainly because most real fights only go a few seconds if one of the participants knows what they’re doing or they go on forever if they don’t. The writer’s job is to find the sweet spot where you keep the reader’s interest, but you don’t just have Joe sucker punch Bill and then walk off . . . unless that’s what the story needs.

I’m almost done with the edits. (Huzzah) I’ll spend some time tomorrow typing them in and then have Joni go over the document to find all the stuff I missed – because I do miss stuff. Yes, believe it or not, a second set of eyes is a good thing BEFORE you send it to your editor. Make their life happier by getting it as clean as you can first.

(This PSA is brought to you by editors and aspirin makers everywhere.)

And now, to bed!