World Fantasy Convention 2014

WFC2I have taken a few days to think about what happened last week at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington D.C., trying to gain a little perspective with some distance. With that said, I came away with a few highlights:

1) There is nothing like immersing yourself in that kind of atmosphere for several days to re-energize your enthusiasm for writing.

WFC12) The people from Ragnarok Publications were very nice and let me hang around them way too much. Their publisher party was also the talk of the convention, although that may have been in part to the infamous “swamp gas” incident. (Enough said – what happens at WFC, stays at WFC.)

3) It was terrific to finally meet in person some people that I have known in the industry for years.

4) I almost knocked down Peter Straub (Ghost Story, Koko, Black House) in the convention area one afternoon.

Meeting industry people was my biggest goal for this year’s con. With the release of Dreams earlier this year, I had a product that we could talk about but not necessarily to attempt to sell something new, although I did make a couple of pitches. The key for me this year was to begin to put faces with names.

To that end, I thought this was a tremendously successful convention for me. I talked with a handful of agents and some people from independent presses. I talked about the writing process with other authors – some still looking for their debut novel and some with tons more experience than myself. I met Tim Marquitz in person for the first time, something I was happy to have happen because we were introduced to each other online several years ago in the same critique group and have kept up the conversation despite never having met before. Joe Martin, Kenny Soward, Melanie Meadors, Django Wexler, Betsy Dornbusch, Eric Bakutis, James Moore – the list needs to stop here because I will never remember everybody but suffice it to say that everyone was very nice.

WFC3In addition, the book signing went great on Friday night. The scene was a little unbelievable. Imagine nearly 200 authors in one large convention/ball room with row upon row of tables, pens in hand and their books in front of them. Now insert a swirling mass of humanity, at times so thick the room appeared to be one convulsing organism, slowly rotating from spot to spot. The room jumped 20 degrees in 15 minutes and was extremely hot (except for those lucky few of us who were seated underneath the air conditioning) and loud.

That is the book signing at World Fantasy.

And Dreams sold out.

I had no idea what to expect so the fact all the copies of Dreams were gone by about halfway through the signing was amazing.

So now I am back home, negotiating my way through my day job and moving kids from event to event. But I am also still amped up about WFC and already looking forward to the next convention, probably World Horror in Atlanta next year unless I can find something smaller and closer to home in the meantime.

As for Peter Straub, someone should put a bell on him when he is turning corners in a busy convention center. Sheesh.

** One last note – I hope to have some news to announce that came out of WFC in the next few weeks. **

Off to WFC I go

A friend stopped me at a local business/social function a few days ago and asked me how “Dreams of Ivory and Gold” was doing. He had read the book so we talked for a few minutes about the story and some mutual favorite authors before he moved on. Before he walked away, however, he leaned in close and said, “I don’t know how you find time to do it all with your schedule.”

As he left, I considered what he had said and, yes, my schedule leaves a lot to be desired. I still work between 60-65 hours per week. I have four kids, all still in school, so that means clubs and meetings and horse shows and karate lessons/tournaments and weight room workouts and…. you get the idea.

That often does not leave a lot of time for my writing. But since my last post a month ago, a lot of has been happening despite the time constraints. Since October 4:

1) I have had three short stories accepted into anthologies/magazines for print.
2) I finished editing my latest novel.
3) I attended a question-and-answer at a book club in Columbus. One of the month’s selections for the club had been Dreams and the members asked me to come in and talk about the book and the process of writing.
4) I plotted out and researched the sequel to Dreams. In fact, as the plotting came together, it became obvious the overriding story arc needed to finish in a third book so the series will now be a trilogy.
5) Despite most of my writing needing to be accomplished sometime between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. (before getting up and starting the new day again), I now have a good start on the second book and plan on having a first draft done in the first couple of weeks in December.

WFC2My friend would probably only shake his head harder if he knew I was going to be attending the World Fantasy Convention in Washington D.C. later this week. But as I was reminded at ConText in Columbus a few weeks ago, attending these conventions are a necessary part of being a published (or trying to publish) author.

These conventions offer a multitude of discussion panels on a wide variety of writing and industry topics. You could walk into one room and find a best selling author talking about their process when they plot or world build. The next room may offer a view of where a certain genre is headed or what agents/publishers are currently searching for to sign.

But for me, the biggest opportunities at the conventions are the chances to meet people in person that I have “known” for years and to network with industry professionals. For instance, I found my current publisher through a writing group buddy that first read my work several years ago but all of our interaction has been digitally. He and I will meet in person for the first time this week.

I know other authors, editors, illustrators, and public relations people who I have exchanged ideas with or worked with for months, if not years. Many of them will be in Washington D.C. this week as well. There will also be people who I have only a passing acquaintance but who I want to get to know better because of their work.

Invariably, there will be at least one conversation that sticks out and remains in my memory forever from these conventions. At ConText in September, that conversation happened on Saturday night.

It had been a long day. I had been in panels or in the dealer room with the AKP crew all day. I had screwed around and missed lunch in the con suite and supper was pushed back so we could continue to talk to people. By the time we finally got out, it was later than normal so we just ended up eating at a nearby bar/grille. By the time we finished, the clock was pushing midnight on a long, long day.

But then we started talking about writing and the topic ended up on whether to plot novels or to just write in a free manner, going where the story takes you. That talk with a handful of other writers and a couple of publishing industry people turned out to be one of the best writing discussions I have ever had. My publisher definitively called it the best convention talk she had ever been a part of.

And that is why I am making time this week to go to the World Fantasy Convention. Hopefully I will shake the hands of some friends (new and old) and get into a late night discussion that will stay with me for years.

I will try to check in from the convention, either here or on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Hopefully I will have some good news about my future projects.

ConText 27 recap

Context1web ConText 27 took place last weekend in Columbus and it was a great experience.

You never know quite what to expect the first time you go to a new con but ConText held extra meaning for me since it was the first one I had attended as a published writer. It was also the first chance I had to meet face-to-face with the Angelic Knight crew. Stacey and Dani were great but it says a lot about the use of technology today in publishing when more than a year after signing the contract, months of editing, and months of the initial marketing, that we had accomplished all of that remotely.

I met Aaron Gudmundson for the first time as well. He is also an Angelic Knight author (“Snowglobe” is a great, scary read if anyone is looking for one around Halloweeen.). In addition I sat in on two terrific panels that included Jason Sanford, talked with Matt Betts, met the Giant Squid (trust me, that was worth the price of admission by itself) and Ken MacGregor, and many other authors and people in the industry. If I try to name them all, I will feel bad about forgetting someone.

Context2web I also met with the most important people, some of the avid readers that make the writing worthwhile. That included Linda Munn, who was one of the winners of an autographed copy of “Dreams of Ivory and Gold.” Her excitement at winning the book made everyone in the booth smile.

But most importantly, I came away from ConText with a lot of excitement and optimism. It had been several years since I had been at a convention. The last time I went to one, I was very early in the learning curve on my writing. Believe me, I shudder when I pull out any of my work from that time now.

That’s not to say I think I’m done crafting my writing. In fact, it is just the opposite. I came away excited because I still learned a lot when I was able to sneak away from the booth for a little while and sit in on some of the panels. And if you think you have seen an animated conversation before, try catching five authors in the hotel bar at 12:30 in the morning as they “discuss” their methods for plotting stories. I think we had the staff spinning around for a little while but it was great because we were sharing ideas.

My point is that my trip to ConText left me feeling reinvigorated. I am marketing two manuscripts, working on the sequel to “Dreams,” and recently pulled out the first three novels of my fantasy series to begin revisions and edits. I’ve got a lot of hard work – and learning – left in front of me but the load feels a little lighter after last weekend thanks to Stacey, Dani, Aaron, and the others.

And the best news of all is that World Fantasy Con is just around the corner during the first week of November in Washington D.C. I am getting excited already.