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.

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.

Boring meetings – 0, Author – 1!

Let’s here it for boring meetings. Thanks to getting trapped in a meeting I had no business being in today, I got a great start on the revised Steel on Target. I’ve written over 2300 words on it as well as completely plotting out what I want to do differently with this version from the earlier one as well as designing the world this story will take place on and mapping out the path of my heavily put-upon cav troopers.

It mostly follows the design of the earlier versions, but I think we found a better place to start rather than in media res, which is how the first two versions kicked off. Also, this allows me to introduce the new technology instead of having to cram it into the first couple of chapters and overwhelming the readers with geek-speech.

So, all things look pretty good and I should be able to salvage a lot of stuff from the earlier versions with some judicious editing (read – show no mercy).

Also doing the coordination thing to ensure Terra Incognito is going to hit its deadlines so I can do a limited release at Brooklyn Book Festival and then the big release of it at Rocket City Lit Fest.

But, now, it’s time to call it a night.

One project down, a gazillion more to go. *grin*

OK. Strikeforce Falcon #2 – “Operation Komodo” is off to the editor. *cues the band*

What next? Well, along with finishing the work on Terra Incognito and For a Few Gold Pieces More, I just fired up the ol’ computer on Steel on Target. Been a while since I worked on this story, so I really need to review where I was, what I want to keep, and how best to get this thing moving on a regular basis.

Steel on Target, you ask? Yes, this is the Military SF story I’ve been working on for quite a while. Got put aside when I was doing all those short stories/novellas for Musa and Pro Se. Now, it’s time to dust it off and get to hammering it out.

Plus, I have a few other irons in the fire. You knew I would. *grin*