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.

GenCon 2016

Editing away on my steampunk novel, On Wings of Steel. Five more chapters edited and more printed out for editing this evening.

But, wait, there’s more!

I’m also going to be attending GenCon this next week for the first time ever and the coolest thing is I’m attending as a member of the Writer’s Symposium.

So, with that said, here’s where you can find me at the show:

Thursday, Aug 4
12PM – Short Fiction: Story vs. Vignette – Chamber
3PM – Business of Writing: Writer Beware – Capital I

Friday, August 5
10AM – Character Craft – Hearing the Character’s Thoughts – Cabinet
2PM – Signing – Exhibit Hall
5PM – Worldbuilding 101 – Capital I
7PM – Reading: Jody Lynn Nye and me (natch) – Congress I

Saturday, August 6
12PM – Business of Writing: Knowing When to Quit – Congress I
4PM – Signing – Exhibit Hall

Sunday, August 7
11AM – Read and Critique: Session G – Congress I
12PM – Read and Critique: Session G (cont.)

Not a bad first schedule. I should be reasonably busy but still have plenty of time to wander the dealers room (which means I probably should leave my wallet at home). I’ll be talking to gaming companies about trying to get some freelance work, checking out all the cool new things coming out, hunting down artists for possible future collaborations, and in general just having a heck of a good time.

Not a bad first schedule. I should be reasonably busy but still have plenty of time to wander the dealers room (which means I probably should leave my wallet at home). I’ll be talking to gaming companies about trying to get some freelance work, checking out all the cool new things coming out, hunting down artists for possible future collaborations, and in general just having a heck of a good time. Plus there are some author events scheduled which means more hanging out with a really cool bunch of people.

So, if you’re coming to GenCon, I look forward to bumping into you there. If not, hopefuly I’ll see you at one of my other shows (Archon/PhilCon). And if worse comes to worst, there’s always 2017.

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.

Terra Incognito – The Darkside Codex (part two)

In the first part of this article, I was talking about how I was approached to create a series bible that would be used my multiple authors to create The Darkside Codex, Musa Publishing’s shared world.  I’ve discussed where the germ of the idea came from and also where I got the ideas for the city of Southwatch. But that’s only the first part. I used all the various techniques I discuss in my new book, Terra Incognito: Building the Worlds of Your Imagination, to flesh out the city once I had built its basic structure. So, let’s return to that idea and see how Southwatch grew from just a few buildings on a small island into something people could incorporate into their stories—


Continuing on, I started identifying people who were needed in the town. I decided Southwatch was a city-state run by a baron. However, he handles the major issues with the Empire that controls Southwatch. There is a Lord Mayor and a city council running the day-to-day operations and then each city district has its own council also. However, beyond that, I began developing personalities any of the writers could use. Some of them are simply names and positions like the Lord Mayor’s secretary, the bartender at a specific bar, two second-story men, etc. Just something a writer could use as a hook for a story or as a background character their protagonist could meet in passing.

Then I started thinking of specific people to populate Southwatch. Here’s where I started adding in the mad scientists, the baron’s secret police, sky pirates, a couple of industrial spies, the military leaders who were stationed by the Empire to protect Southwatch and the southern coast; all of these had more details so they could be potential protagonists or even antagonists for the writers. For my good friend and fellow author, Myke Cole, I created the Imperial Coast Guard and stationed one of the Coast Guard Squadrons in Southwatch.

Another area I provided a bare bone sketch was in the Southwatch Underworld. I came up with the names and areas of interest for several of Southwatch’s seediest characters. However, I left it at that. I am hoping some of the writers will explore these characters. Now if I was writing about one or all of them, it would be safe to say, I wouldn’t want to be on any of their bad sides. I suspect if you dig deep into their characters, you’re not going to like what you see. However, another author may decide one of them is really not a bad person, but they’re as much a victim of circumstances as the people they terrorize. Another person might decide even I wasn’t depraved enough with their story. That’s why I left some of the characters wide open. I want the writers to bring the story each character has hidden away to life.


Concept Sketch of Southwatch

While most steampunk is set in a variation of Victorian or Edwardian England, we decided this would not be just an alternate Earth but a new world with its own history and religions. We already had the city map, but if this was a new world, I was going to need to start with the macro and work toward the micro. So, first we created the world of Thalia by creating the continents and the oceans. From that, I was able to identify which continent held Southwatch, and I did a larger version of this map, identifying the current Empire of Dalriada and its neighboring lands. Then, we did an expanded map of the Empire of Dalriada and identified the various duchies, kingdoms, and imperial city-states allied with Southwatch.

I decided since Southwatch was an independent city-state inside an empire, the Empire of Dalriada would be similar to the Holy Roman Empire and Southwatch would be one of the imperial electors. Given its industrial power and being a major port city, it allowed Southwatch to have quite a bit of influence within the empire without controlling large tracts of land. This would help the authors concentrate on the city, but give them the ability to include imperial intrigue, foreign spies, or even do a story involving traveling around the globe if they wanted to investigate the entire world.

If you’re going to have a world, it can’t just exist in a vacuum. So, I wrote the history of the lands around Southwatch and wove the history of the city into the over-all history. This helped identify the old lines of nobility as well as introducing events reflected in ancient documents that might be discovered in the bowels of the city or even a potential pretender for the imperial throne who might be living in Southwatch completely unaware of their noble bloodline. Would the current nobles welcome him into their midst or would they dispatch forces to ensure the permanent extinction of the threat?

In conjunction with my work, Celina helped design the major religions in the Empire. She came up with the major religion as well as three minor cults. By designing the religions, she then created the holidays in Southwatch as well as deigning the calendar. It’s an unusual one: twelve months with thirty days per month (five weeks of six days each) and then a short five-day month which is dedicated to the major holy days.

Along with developing the religions, she also designed the most commonly seen fashions in Southwatch. After all, what is the local noble supposed to wear when out and about on the town? What are the latest fashions in filter masks for slumming below the cloud? After all, once can’t be expected to wear just any old filter mask.

Angel of Steel_1_wings

Seriously, Celina put a great effort in developing and refining what is standard wear in Southwatch. She helped design not only the clothing for the aristocrats, but helped design the standard uniforms for the police and Sky Rangers as well as identifying the styles of clothing worn by everyday people both at work and at play. Even though a lot of steampunk focuses on the gentleman adventurer or the lady daredevil, even they will be encountering people of all ages and social classes. By determining what the fashions of Southwatch (and by extension, the Empire and beyond), this helps ensure continuity in the various stories to come.

The advantage of having this be a near-Earth-but-not-quite is we can introduce almost anything into the story and make it work. Glass as strong as steel? A rare element that assists in personal flight devices? Androids possessing human souls? Is it magic? Is it super-science? Is it a combination of both? Or is it Clarke’s Law (“Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic”) in action?

Well, the fae might have something to say about that.

The fae?

Oh, hadn’t I mentioned them yet? Yes, they are the ones who decided to make Southwatch pay for all the pollution they’d been pumping into the sky for hundreds of years. They maintain the winds keeping the cloud perfectly centered above the city. They figure the humans will figure it out eventually. As I point out in the series bible, the fae may be playful or they may be malevolent, but they always have their own reasons for doing things. Always.

Southwatch has been built and destroyed at least three times in its history. There are things that lurk within the bowels of the city and on the outskirts and within the cloud. Some might call them the undead. Some might call them shadows of the past. Some might claim they’re creatures from a different reality summoned by a mad genius and then released into the world for an unfathomable purpose. All of them could be right. However, there are no friendly undead. They do not fall in love with humans. Humans are cattle to be used and discarded. Humans can be agents to accomplish tasks the undead cannot do during daylight. Humans can be toys (sexual or other), but they are not love interests. Remember, some of what we would call undead are not former humans. They think very differently and see humans very differently from the way humans see themselves. This could be fertile ground for Steampunk Horror, especially if the otherworldliness is played up.

In a nutshell, these are the steps I went through to build the city of Southwatch, which was going to be the crown jewel for what I called The Darkside Chronicles. Unfortunately, Musa Publishing closed its doors in March 2015. Still it was a great project to be involved in and it was great seeing how all the different things I talk about in Terra Incognito came together for this project.  And this might not necessarily be the final end of Southwatch, but that will have to wait for another telling.

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.


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 . . .

Shore Leave 2015 is in the books

Back and (semi-)recovered from Shore Leave this past weekend. It was a fantastic time and it was good to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while as well as making new ones.

Wound up getting there late Friday but still plenty of time to set up before the Meet the Pros. Had fun talking to the people coming by about my stuff (both old and new), but they were showing Guardians of the Galaxy in the ballroom, so the crowd for the Pros was a lot lighter than usual. Unfortunate, but I guess tight schedules are tight. *sigh*

Enjoyed visiting with everyone after the gathering (even if they do close the bar at the Hunt Valley Wyndham way too darn early. *sigh*). Hung around the lobby until almost 2:30 and then drove home just in time for the alarm to go off to start the next day.

(Well, it felt like I had just laid down before the alarm yelled at me.)

The Saturday panels were well worth dragging myself out of bed for. I was on the Alternate History panel where we discussed steampunk, gaslight, secret history, alternative history, dieselpunk and why the heck we write in any of those genres, where we get info, and how do we choose what we want to warp.

That was followed by Writing Tips for Aspiring Writers. We had a varied group on the panel. If the audience got anything out of that panel (and there was a LOT of good advice given out) is that there is no magical button. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. You have to experiment to see what you’re most comfortable with. Also, you must “write” to be a writer. Thinking about writing doesn’t count. Research doesn’t count (although it’s fun), Plotting doesn’t count. Only writing counts, so get your computer/tablet/pen and paper/papyrus/stone and chisel and get to work!

The Crowdfunding panel was VERY useful for me (and hopefully for the audience too *grin*). Everyone on the panel, but me, had run one or multiple successful Kickstarters or Indygogo’s. I felt like I was in the Shark Tank because all of them started asking me about my planning, how I was going to advertise, etc., etc., etc.. Yikes! However, I now think I’m ready to start moving on this once I get finished getting Terra Incognito out there and can concentrate on For a Few Gold Pieces More.

Last panel of the day was the Writer Beware panel. Good audience with good questions. I have to thank Kathleen David for helping me out on that panel. Her experience as a former editor really helped the new(ish) authors in the audience see how the “other side” of the business sees things.

I didn’t go to the masquerade because I was doing my radio broadcast for the Gaming World Entertainment Network. It was amazing. People would come by and talk to me, but as soon as I asked if they wanted to talk about SF or the con to my audience … poof. It was like watching the Roadrunner vanishing with just that little puff of smoke left behind. Still, the show went well and I had fun visiting with all the off-air people.

Sunday didn’t quite go as planned, but the Writing Short Stories panel was well attended for a Sunday and I hope we answered most of the questions people had. I had hoped to get to do the Historical Fiction Writing Workshop, but it was scheduled against the Short Story panel. *sigh again*

Still, all in all, it was a a fun convention. Of course, the best part about Shore Leave is it’s a fantastic chance to catch up with everyone. Had a fantastic visit with Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, David Mack, Scott Pearson, Allyn Gibson, William Leisner, Jim Johnson before the panels got going on Sunday. Also enjoyed speaking with Rigel Ailur, Glenn Hauman, Christopher Bennett, Peter and Kathleen David at breakfast that morning. Got to hang out with Kelly Meding, Phil Giunta, Steven H. Wilson, Steve Lesnik and Renfield at Meet the Pros, and Dave Galanter, Keith DeCandido, Mark MacDicken, Howard Weinstein, Marco Palmieri Aaron Rosenberg, Danielle Ackley-Mcphail and Mike McPhail, John Jackson Miller, Russ Colchamiro, Michael Jan Friedman, Joshua B. Palmatier, Amy Griswold, and a host of others to whom I apologize for not remembering your names.

Can’t wait to do this again next year.

SoonerCon Day 2:

First panel of the day was the Writer Beware presentation. We had twelve people show up at 10am on a Saturday and more drifted in as the presentation went along. I think we had a max of twenty people at one time. It felt like the presentation went well and there were a number of good questions from the audience, lots of note taking, and several people hunted me down afterward to ask questions they didn’t necessarily want to ask in a group setting. All in all, probably the best single session I’ve had this year so far. So, go team!

The second panel of the day was “Military Service and it’s Role in SF”. We had two Vietnam Veterans (to include Elizabeth Moon), two Desert Shield/Storm vets, and one Gulf War vet. We talked about different things like “do you really have to have been in combat to write a good fight scene?” “Can having been in combat inhibit your writing?” One of our vets replied he couldn’t write combat for the longest time, even for a magazine article, because of the flashbacks at night. However, when you get five veterans together, there was a lot of “No, kidding, there I was . . . ” stories, which the audience really seemed to enjoy. We had a huge crowd – room filled to capacity which was a fantastic sight, because I’ve done a panel like this before at other cons where we only had two to three people in attendance.

My last panel was “Kaiju, Unicorns, Bigfoot, and Dragons”. While the proposed topic was plausibility (either in actual existence or in design), we deviated a bit to discuss pet peeves about monsters, the two artists on the panel brought up while a monster might make sense in writing, it was tough to make them look real visually, esp. for movies/TV, and yes, we even talked about the actual topic about which cryptids could actually exist, whether or not they really do. Fun panel and some good questions/comments from the audience.

Had a good time talking with Rachel Acks, (she had the reading right before mine). I found out she was a fellow former Musa author, so we spent some time talking about steampunk, how tanks work (she’s doing a screenplay for a class about a tank crew), and general writing stuff. I had a ball visiting with her and if you like steampunk fiction, I recommend tracking down her stories.

Also, after the show, SoonerCon arranged for some food trucks to come out to the show. I hit one called St. Paddy’s Cakes (they specialize in Irish-style meals served atop a huge potato cake). I had their con special which was chocolate rubbed pork with shitake mushrooms and cauliflower atop a white Cheddar potato cake and served with German Mustard. Holy kraut was that good!

And, after my last panel, I went outside to find a gentleman who was restoring an old Model T. He was also giving rides in it, which I certainly took advantage of. I went back out to get some pictures, but he’d left, which was rather disappointing, but I walked by there just as things were wrapping up for the day and he’d returned, so I was able to snag some shots of his vehicle.

So, all in all, it was a fantastic day yesterday, and I look forward to wrapping everything up today and getting home.

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Sure, why work on the projects you’ve already got going when you can add even more . . . *sigh*

Gah, stuff just eating away at my time.

Still working on Operation Komodo. Behind schedule *sigh*, but getting a better handle on how I want to wrap this all up. Already tossed out two endings because . . . well, because I wasn’t happy with them.

Sekrit project is still sekrit for the moment. Been doing lots of paperwork for that though.

Still trying to hammer everything down for Awesome Con at the end of May.

Kicking around the idea of doing a Kickstarter for “For a Few Gold Pieces More”. Worked up a script for the video, been working on ideas for levels and stretch goals. Been going over the Kickstarter site with a fine-toothed comb seeing why projects seem to work and/or not work. Trying to come up with a reasonable budget for the project. Trying to talk to people who’ve done successful Kickstarters to see what advice they can give me (besides “Flee, you fool!”). And so on. That has sucked up a big chunk of time.

Outlined a new novel for sometime off in the future.

Oh, yeah, and also just today, came up with some new characters I’m going to have to find a story for just because they’re that cool.

Thanks, mind. Like I wasn’t already behind on everything?

Oh yeah, an old project appeared out of the evening mist and may be resurrected in the future. More to follow there too.

Maybe I need a new muse. How about one with wings and a rocket pack?

Steampunk Rocket FairySteampunk Rocket Fairy 2

Spare time? What is this spare time you speak of?

See, this is what happens when you start to think, “Wow, I’m almost caught up on stuff, maybe I can start working on X now.”

So, I continued working on Operation Komodo tonight, and added about 1700 more words (and eliminated about 300). Good progress, I’m well over the halfway point. Time to start pushing toward the finish line with this story.

Then in the space of about two hours, I receive a galley to proof for the Origins Game Fair anthology Space, where my story “Moonshadows” will be appearing. So, need to carve out some time for that. Along with receiving the galley, I was approached by a publisher I’ve worked with to possibly contribute a short story for a new anthology he’s putting together. So, I’ll need to do some research, but it sounds like a fun project and well, I’m a sucker for the topic.

Oh, did I mention, I got an idea for a possible new comic script to start pitching around. So, eventually, I’ll have to finish writing up at least a synopsis of the characters and their powers and what the hell will I do with the characters since I created them before having a story to go with them and is it something I can put in a universe I already have or is it a stand alone project?

Oh yeah, and there is a new “sekrit” project on the horizon too.

Hey, Hermione! Pass me the time turner. I’m gonna need it.