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 on  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.

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.

 

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?

Terra Incognito and World Building 101

Wow!Terra Incognito

Terra Incognito is like the gift that keeps on giving. Because I wrote the book, Black Gate gave me the opportunity to keep doing world-building articles for them.

I guess I did OK with my first one.

Apparently I had the #1 viewed blog post at Black Gate for the month of October. Thank you everyone who stopped by to check it out.

And now, time to buckle down on the next two posts I’m planning on doing there.

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My publisher just sent me the link showing Terra Incognito on the Waterstone’s web site. Kind of cool seeing the book available for my horde of British fans (all two of you).

Still, this begs the question – does this mean I’m now an internationally published author? *silly grin*

 

Another day, another story en route

Before we post part two to the Darkside Codex story, I have some general writing news.

Sunday was the first blog post I’ve published at Black Gate. It’s supplemental information for my book, Terra Incognito, about designing a fantasy or historical village for writers or gamers. After talking to my publisher, StarWarp Concepts, they’d like me to collect up these new world-building posts for a Terra Incognito II. I’m certainly not going to argue with that.

Be sure to check out the blog post and post a comment there or here, especially if there are any subjects you’d like to see me cover.

Also, I have finished the first draft of Paladin, at 7,000 words into The Sleeping Hero, the novel to continue the adventures from For a Few Gold Pieces More.  I also submitted “Extractor”  for an anthology with a new publisher for me. Keep your fingers crossed. I’d really, really like to get this one. *grin*

Also, I’ve seen the first draft of my Kickstarter video and Joshua Orozco at Atomic Canary Studios did a kick-ass job with it. Just waiting for him to add the music and smooth out a few rough spots and we’re hopefully going to be ready to rock and roll with this.

I’ll probably be reaching out to a number of people in the very near future re: my Kickstarter. While I’m not asking anyone specifically to contribute to it, (although I won’t turn you down if you decide to support me), but I am going to be asking many of you to help up the volume on this. Some of you are much, MUCH, more tied in via social media and just reader-bases already, so if you could just direct a few more eyes to the Kickstarter than I’ll be able to generate on my own, you’ll have my undying gratitude.

(Yeah, I know undying gratitude and $4.00 might by a Starbucks coffee, but hey, it’s something!)

Terra Incognito – The Darkside Codex (part one)

In my writing guide Terra Incognito: A Guide to Building the Worlds of Your Imagination (now on sale from StarWarp Concepts), I take readers through the process of constructing a fantasy world from a blank piece of paper. We build and populate the lands, determine the various ethnicities, divide them into countries and tribes, and determine their forms of government, religions, and monetary systems. We also create the cosmology of the world and its surrounding neighbors, and demonstrate how it influences the creation of the calendar in use on the island continent of Aviones.

Many of you may wonder how practical this advice is. Well, to give you a real-world example, let me tell you about the process I went through for Musa Publishing.


In June 2012, Celina Summers, the editor of Penumbra—the magazine in which the articles that comprise the majority of Terra Incognito first appeared—approached me with the concept of creating a shared steampunk-genre world that could be the basis for a new line of novels and novellas. At first, it seemed a little overwhelming—after all, it’s one thing to develop a world for my own personal vision, but it’s another to create a world that anyone could use to develop a story. After taking a few deep breaths, I sat down and began brainstorming some directions in which I could go.

While I’m no expert on steampunk, I know several people who are, and based on their feedback, I realized there are no absolute rules for the genre. It’s incredibly flexible, which is where I see the “punk” part coming from, thumbing its nose at the idea there’s any one way to do it. So, when I accepted the challenge, I decided to develop a wide-open concept. Yes, there would be some staples from steampunk—steam-powered machines, airships, strange science, and intrigue—but I didn’t want to tie this new series into just science fiction or just fantasy. I wanted to create something that could be Urban Steampunk, Steampunk Noir, Steampunk Horror, or even Steampunk Romance. Basically, if there’s a genre out there, I wanted an author to feel comfortable creating a story set in my new world. Heck, if someone wanted to do Steampunk Literary, I couldn’t wait to see it. But first I had to create the framework for all these potential stories.

robot_geisha-by_Alan_Gutierrez

The inspiration for Southwatch and the Angels of Steel – Artwork by Alan Gutierrez

I remembered a cover I had seen when I attended the convention Archon 30, back in 2006. Alan Gutierrez’s wraparound cover had a woman with steel wings and mechanical arms standing there in a modified kimono on the front and a scene of airships mounting cannons flying over a landscape launching small airplanes from underneath. So, using the cover as inspiration, I knew I wanted to use winged people. Then looking at the airships, I had another inspiration. Being a longtime Trekkie, I was reminded of an original series episode called “The Cloud Minders,” in which the wealthy lived in floating cities while the commoners worked in horrible conditions on the planet’s surface.

Suddenly, I had my idea for the storyline.

What if there was a city where the more powerful, more influential or wealthier you were, the higher up in the city you lived? Thus the city of Southwatch was born. I took two sheets of paper and began doodling. On one page, I built a city with a huge steam plant in the center of the town, dividing it up into various sections. On the other page, I began working on an elevation map, deciding which region was the tallest and which were the lowest. As I played with this idea, I came up with a second one—the Dark Cloud.

Playing the “what if” game of brainstorming, I decided Southwatch was a major industrial city with a pollution problem. However, in Southwatch, the pollution had been affected by strange winds. The cloud of pollution grew out to the city limits and stopped, swirling slowly over the town in a huge fifty-foot mass. So, literally, there was a separation between the middle and lower classes and the (literal) upper class.

The city has a huge fleet of airships stationed above it, moored to the tallest portions of the town. While discussing this idea with Celina, we decided there were two different types of airships hovering above the town. The outermost ring of ships consisted of the standard military style airships, which I decided were manned by the Sky Rangers, the city’s main defenders. The interior ships are made out of a Southwatch unique material called “bessum.” This is a special mixture of glass with the tensile strength of steel. It allows for the building of beautiful airships large enough for “noble” housing. Also, it creates a spectacular visual with a flock of stained-glass airships hovering high above a dark cloud below.

Another thought that came to me while I was envisioning a towering city of skyscrapers. I remember going to the old Chicago Con back at the Rosemont Center. The convention was connected to the four major hotels by these walkways above the highways. They were commonly referred to as the habitrails, since they were completely enclosed to protected conventioneers from the weather. So, since we’re talking about huge skyscrapers hundreds of floors high, no one is going to want to have to go down to the ground floor walk to the next building and then take a steam-powered elevator back up. So now imagine standing on the ground and looking up to see a spider work of enclosed and open walkways between buildings extending up toward a dark, slowly swirling cloud over your head, allowing workers, deliverymen, messengers, and families to travel between buildings, while on the street around you, steam and electric powered cars jockey with bicyclists and a strange contraption that appears to be half-wagon and half horse clops down the street. Under your feet, you can feel the throbbing of the factories and the heavy people-movers taking those who live down in the underground slums from their homes to the steel mills and the factories that build the items that keep Southwatch running.

Oh, did I mention the mechanicals? Yes, along with the mechanical horses that were seen on the street, there are mechanical workers in Southwatch. Designed by the finest scientists (mad or otherwise), there are four different types. There are the winders—simple mechanical devices custom built for their specific jobs and, true to their names, require winding every so often by their human minders. Slightly more advanced than the winders were the myrmidons, generally humanoid in shape, primarily designed to provide military and police support for the humans in Southwatch. Even more advanced are the cybernauts, who serve as personal servants in jobs where the winders or myrmidons would make regular humans nervous. A fourth type of mechanical does not exist officially, but some people claim there are self-aware mechanicals called androids. Most people say androids are a figment of a vivid imagination, but there are those who speak of them in hushed tones and swear they exist. What will the writers who visit Southwatch decide? To be quite honest, there could be one story that swears they do exist and one that says they’re nothing but an urban legend and they both could be right. After all, not ever character in Southwatch is going to have the same understanding of the city or the same point of reference. That’s going to be the great part about doing a shared universe.

And speaking of urban legends, I created seven of them. However, all I did was come up with the name. Who is the Lady in White? Does the White Cliffs Strangler really exist? Are there more than seven urban legends in Southwatch? I certainly hope so for a city that’s been around for over a thousand years. However, that’s left to the writer’s imagination. The writers who want to visit Southwatch can certainly create their own or flesh out the ones I introduce. This was a decision I made to give our authors as much latitude as possible to create their own stories. It was a fine line to walk. I wanted to provide enough details for writers to get a good feel for Southwatch but not put so much detail into it so that the writers can put their own personal spin on this world.

 (Of course I have my own opinions on what is what in Southwatch—it is my baby, after all—but that’s the joy of a shared world. I fully expect the writers to come up with ideas I never even considered and plots that will make me smack myself in the forehead, saying, “Why didn’t I think of that!” I’m really looking forward to that happening one day.)

All of this was a good start, but there’s more to tell in Part Two . . .

Post-convention thoughts and a writing day

Home from Rocket City Lit Fest. Actually got home Monday evening, but all I did was grab dinner, visit with some friends, and collapsed into bed.

I’ll have a more complete wrap-up soon, but, the BLUF* is “had a great time, met a lot of cool authors, the volunteers were fantastic, the con committee was outstanding, and the crowd was small but enthusiastic (typical for a first year show).

Lesson learned: Do not schedule a book launch against Alabama football. My launch and opening kickoff were both at 6pm. Guess which one won? (Hint, the one that features multiple National Championships.)

Wednesday was another good day on the writing front. Got a blog post that’s related to Terra Incognito off to review site, finished the first draft of a short story that’s due at the end of the month and wrote another 2800 words on “Paladin”, my story for Origins Game Fair.

Of course, if you’re playing along at home, that means I’m at 5200 words for a 5000 word story and I still have one scene left to write. However, as we say in the biz, that’s what editing’s for. Push on until you hit “the end” and THEN go back and trim that puppy down to size. I already see where I need to move a few scenes around to make the story flow better, but until I finish the first draft, I’m not going to go back and “edit”.

Still, I’m very pleased with the way Paladin is going.

 

*For the non-military reading this — BLUF = Bottom Line Up Front

Packing, and writing, and promoting . . . oh my!

Oh, and along with all the frantic last minute packing . . . note to self, try not to schedule a book launch and a convention at the same time again . . . I did actually do something useful.

I wrote 2800+ words on a new story for the Origins Game Fare anthology for next year. The theme is Robots and my story is tentatively titled “Paladin”.

I have to say, this is the most unlike me story I’ve ever written, but it draws heavily on an experience I had back in college. I usually don’t write something that draws from my own history this closely – but it just fit the theme of what I wanted to do with the story.

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Just got the floor plan for Rocket City Lit Fest in Huntsville, AL. I’m going to be in Booth 410 (2nd top cluster from the left, on the center horizontal aisle).

We’ll be holding the official book debut party for Terra Incognito at 6pm Saturday at the convention (and a little room party later that evening) to celebrate the book release.

So, if you’re coming to Rocket City, be sure to stop by and say “Hi”.

Copy of 2015 RCLF table layout V2