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 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.

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.

Inch by inch, step by step, progress is made.

Sent the first set of revisions for a short story back to the editor. Took me a bit to get into the revisions, partly for personal reasons, partly because I’ve been busy with other projects. Still, I think all in all it’s going to turn out OK.

Also found out that another anthology I’d submitted for several months ago seems to be coming to fruition. This is the one I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing the other stories (along with mine) and seeing how various authors treat this franchise.

Still haven’t heard back from one anthology that I submitted to back in July. *sigh* Not sure what’s going on with that one, but I understand the editor is swamped under at the moment, so I’m still keeping my fingers crossed until I either get the contract or the rejection letter.

Also, got some work done on the Theron Chase novel I’ve been kicking around as well as The Sleeping Hero, my novel follow-up to For a Few Gold Pieces More.

Short stories, novellas, novels. Writing and revising. I guess Anne Lennox said it best, “Sweet dreams are made of these.”

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:

Friday

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.)

Saturday

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

Sunday

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 gw-en.com 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.)

And we inch ever closer to this project

OK, didn’t get as much writing done this evening as I had hoped, but that was because I was doing other writerly things – like talking to editors, talking to publishers, talking to artists, talking to convention organizers . . .

Sometimes the electrononic age is a great thing, but sometimes I can also be a time suck. Still, progress was made on multiple fronts and I did get some work done on  The Dark Leopard – Freeze Frame

earlier in the day so it’s not a complete wash on the writing front.

However, what stirred all this conversation?

Getting the art for my Kickstarter project – the cover of For a Few Gold Pieces More from Shane Braithwaite.

OK, see, I’m a writer because I can’t draw. So, I tend to gush when I work with a fantastic, (and highly reliable) artist.

So, without further ado, a snippet of the cover. The entire cover will be revealed with the start of the Kickstarter, but the few people I’ve shared this with agree with me that Shane’s art ought to move some books.

Hopefully my writing is up to snuff to match this gorgeous art. *grin*

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

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

And the week’s off to a good start

Spent some time working on my new Dark Leopard story today. Calling this one Freeze Frame and it’s set a few months from the end of Mouse Trap. Really enjoy developing this character and her supporting cast. While it did start out as an homage to another character, it’s definitely taking on a life of its own. Can’t wait to see the revamped costume for her by Rock Baker either.

Also, spent some time today working on refining the outline for the next Theron Chase story. Yes, I know Pearls of Darkness hasn’t been released yet, but that doesn’t mean I should just sit around and wait for it before starting the next one. I’ve gotten some really good feedback, both from readers and authors I look up to, on this one and I can’t wait to open up the shades and see what the streets of Calisia have in store for my intrepid private investigator.

Finally, I worked on “Operation Komodo” this evening. Finally got the final scene ready to write – had to go back and do some work to get the beats right to get all the players where I needed them to be for Strikeforce Falcon’s latest mission. Now, hopefully, I can finish this over the next few days and get it en route to the editor.

Plus, over the weekend, I was talking with April MacDee. We’ve been working on a YA Urban Fantasy for some time, but grad school got in the way (first for her, than me). Now, it’s time we dusted it off, updated a few things and got this darn thing written.

And I’m sure there’s more lurking in the shadows. There always is . . .

Just another writer’s day

Work is moving ahead on the secret project. Hope to have the first draft done by the end of this week so I have time for editing/rewriting before it has to go to the real editor. *nervous twitch*

Also, started on the second Dark Leopard story today. 1900+ words there and I think it’s going to be a pretty good story. We’re going to spend some time talking about how she got into crime-fighting to begin with and how her origin relates to a case she’s getting involved with, whether she wants to or not.

Received an invite to a new (to me) convention for Dec 11-13, 2015. Geekonomicon in Biloxi, Mississippi. Did a quick check – airfare is not bad (if you don’t mind the two-hour layover in Atlanta), the hotel is very reasonably priced, and I’ve already got an offer to pick me up at the airport. Plus a table to sell stuff at. Can’t hardly shake a stick at all that, now can I?

Also, I’m going to be attending the Brooklyn Book Festival in August with my friend, Steve Roman. I’ll be helping him with his StarWarp Concepts booth at the show as well as touring around the Big Apple. It’s always fun to visit with Steve and he’s a damn good writer, so I’m happy to help hawk his books.

And speaking of books, I have the first rough sketch for the “For a Few Gold Pieces More” cover from Shane Braithwaite. I sent back my first impressions and I think we’re going to have another winner from him, folks. I consider myself very lucky to have hooked up with a talented artist like Shane.

Big thing is now to start updating the web site for when Terra Incognito and For a Few Gold Pieces More go live. I want to separate my “publishing” side from the author page based on some suggestions/feedback I’ve gotten from other people, especially if I’m going to be running a Kickstarter. Definitely want to show a good professional side to my publishing endeavors.

So, all in all, an outstanding day today.

They like me! They really like me! ;)

Well, someone must be liking The Dark Leopard. Just glanced over at Amazon and saw it was #663 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Superheroes.

Hey, I know as well as anyone, you can slice the Amazon rankings enough to make anything look good. Still, it’s nice to get into triple digits with the book.

And speaking of liking things, I’m making progress on the secret project. I’m pleased with the tone I’m capturing with this story and hope to get at least the first draft finished by the end of the week. Definitely need to take advantage of the Friday holiday (one of the advantages of being a defense contractor is getting the Federal holidays off). Added another 1300+ words to the story and really getting into the swing of where I want this to go.

But, given the lack of sleep the past couple of days, I really should call it an early night. Nodding off at home is one thing, nodding off in the client space is quite another. *eeps!*

Besides, my cat just fell asleep on top of my mouse. I’m going to take that as a sign.