Friday, June 25, 2010

The Road Trip- Duckon, Des Moines, and back home again

Logged quite a few miles last week, as I headed out for my first Duckon in Chicago, followed by a trip to Des Moines for a book signing at Beaverdale Books.

I really like Chicago, and it serves as the inspiration for a certain city in the Rising Dawn Saga! This trip did not take me into the heart of the city, but rather to Naperville on the outskirts, which is where Duckon took place.

It is nice when the convention is located right on the interstate, though there were toll booths about every 3 miles. Even worse, they had some unattended ones, where if you didn't have exact coin change or the special pass you literally were forced to go through and have your picture taken, so you could go online later, inconveniently, to pay the whopping 80 cent toll. Government on display in all of its "excellence", if you ask me! LOL

Anyhow, be that as it may, I did get to Duckon just fine. It is a convention with a history of over 20 years, so it is well established. Excellent Green Room, for the panelist guests, and good hospitality in the dealer's room. The staff was very friendly, and I didn't have too many problems over the weekend except for a little difficulty in finding a few things due to the spread out nature of the Con through the large hotel complex.

I was part of a screenwriting panel on Friday with Matthew Duhan and Christopher Morgan. Matthew is a screenwriter, and also a game designer, and Christopher is a DP (cinematographer). They were great guys, and knew their stuff. We got off to a little bit of a hesitant start as none of us wanted to run rough-shod over the others on the panel, but once we got a sense of things, it flowed better.

I was also on a panel on screenplay adaptations, and then another on trends in Sci Fi Cinema. More great co-panelists, and good panels.

I met a few new readers, though things were a little subdued in the dealer's room. TammyJo Eckhart and her husband were sharing the space with me, so I had little to worry about. They are wonderful folks, and I was very glad that they were at the Con.

Another fine fellow I spent quite a bit of time with was Jon Klement, the man behind the Smerdiverse and DragonTalk Radio. Yes, the man with the purple ears. In fact, purple ears were beginning to infect the convention by the end of the weekend. Some day I will find myself at a Con surrounded by a sea of people wearing these long purple ears!

In addition to everything, Duckon offered me the position of head of the Writer's Track for 2011. I have accepted and look forward to working with them to make a great track. They have given me a second, Patt, who is local in Chicago and will be of great help in organizing the track and interfacing with the local meetings there. I really am looking forward to working with her as well.

After Chicago I headed on to Des Moines, where I was hosted by none other than fantasy author Lettie Prell and her husband, a literary author named John Domini. They were wonderful to me, and it was great to catch up on things. I got copies of two of John's books and am going to be diving into them right away.

Shirley Damsgaard, another good friend of mine, came into Des Moines and took me around during the day. Shirley, for those of you that don't know, is on Avon (an imprint of HarperCollins) and is the author of the Ophelia and Aby Mystery Series, which stands at an impressive seven books. Shirley is a rock star, and a blast to hang out with, and she really went out of her way to make my day a great one. She took me personally to meet the head of the Des Moines public library system, where I was able to make a donation of some of my books on behalf of my publisher.

Shirley also took me to visit the main Borders there, where I got to speak with the management regarding getting the books carried there as well. She took me to a great lunch at a place called The Machine Shed, where the servers dress in overalls, and it has a decidedly country-cooking flavor. She convinced me to go for the turkey rueben, which used cole slaw instead of sauer kraut, and it turned out to be excellent advice.

Shirley's got some amazing things on the near horizon. Keep a close eye on her, and visit her thursday posts at the Wicked Authors blog on blogspot, which features some other excellent major press authors such as Angie Fox.

That night I did my signing at Beaverdale Books, a bookstore that will always have a special place with me. They carried The Exodus Gate from when it was first released, and made it possible for this signing, which was a makeup visit as I had to cancel my appearance at DemiCon due to my mother's health emergency in early May.

Lettie and Shirley made it, as well as some new faces, and Rachelle, one of the staff at DemiCon. I did a reading and we had a great Q and A, and then finished things up. Very enjoyable, and someday I hope I can reach a point where I can bring Alice a huge turnout, as she is very kind, and runs a very good independent bookstore. It is bookstores like hers that help authors like myself get untracked. I don't forget about individuals like Alice or stores like hers.

I managed to squeeze in a breakfast with Steven L. Shrewsbury on the way back from Des Moines, in Bloomington IL. Steven, of course, is the newest author on Seventh Star Press, and his novel Thrall is going to be released this fall. Steven had some funny stories of his adventures at Cons, and we had a really good visit before I had to continue back to Lexington.

It was a really nice trip, and I managed to do a lot during the four days. Of course, there was no rest upon my return, as this week I had online events (which actually kicked off with a guest blog I did at Fantasy Book Critic), including a big one on Bitten By Books (who gave The Storm Guardians 5 tombstones, like 5 stars, in the first published review of the new book), and a podcast visit with Kim Smith on the great Introducing WRITERS! show. We also had a production meeting on the upcoming Swordbearer short film (the one based on a segment of H. David Blalock's novel Ascendant), and I had to gear up for the big Joseph-Beth Bookseller homecoming night here in Lexington, where we go all out. (exclusive print, door prizes, an after party, and more).

Busy, but I like to be busy. Still need to upload some pics, and hope to do that this weekend! LOL I'll be sure to report on the homecoming event as well!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The week has been a blur, 4 signings and Duckon!

Yes, the past week has been a blur. The previous Friday, it was Empire Books and News in Huntington, followed by Borders Bookstore on South 4th Street in Louisville, and then Borders on Eastgate Blvd in Cincinnati. A couple days then to cram a week's worth of work in the office, and then off to Duckon this weekend in Chicago, and a signing at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines on monday evening.

Not the easiest thing in the world to undertake, but I'm managing to hold up still as I get ready for the third day of the Duckon convention in Chicago!

The three day swing in Huntington, Louisville, and Cincinnati went fairly smoothly, except for a fire alarm that went off about 45 minutes into the Huntington signing. The staff at each store really made me feel welcome, a definite godsend when you are making your first bookstore appearance in each of these cities (I have previously attended conventions in Cincy and Louisville, but had not yet done a store signing).

I had some activity, met some new readers, and saw some familiar faces. I can't state it enough how much it matters when you are on the road at a store signing like this and you look up to see someone that you know. It doesn't matter if they buy a book, it is the visit that really makes the difference for an author on the road. I truly appreciate the individuals that took the time out of their day to come out and make me feel welcome.

I left each store with a pretty positive feeling that the ball is rolling in those stores, and I am going to work to do a bookstore visit in Louisville, Cincy, and Huntington once a year.

Duckon is going fairly well. It is my first time in the Chicago area, so I am a very new face to the area and attendees. I did conduct a screenwriting panel/workshop on the first night of the convention, and then a followup panel on screen adaptations the next day. I have an exhibition table in the dealer's room as well. I am sharing the table space with my friend, the talented author TammyJo Eckhart and her husband Tom. The two of them are definitely favorites of mine on the convention circuit by far. So is Jon Klement, the guy who is easy to find at conventions because he is usually wearing a set of big purple ears, referencing his wondrous Smerdiverse. He's been very busy here at the convention, both for his writing endeavors as well as his podcast show, DragonTalk Radio, which covers Cons and features all kinds of guests.

At the reading hour I was given I met a pair of very cool individuals, one a guy named John Nicoulakos, who has been conducting some workshops and panels here, and a friend of his, Nate Defensor, who is the founder and head of a Filipino-Indonesian martial arts system. I really enjoyed visiting with these two guys, and Nate is going to be getting me up to speed on his particular martial arts system, perhaps for inclusion in future film projects or even writing projects. Nate is really doing some big things with it, as he was selected to represent the system at a big worldwide convention in Beijing that is coming up.

John and I are going to be keeping in touch in terms of some developments for next year, involving a new role that I apparantly am taking on here at Duckon! More on that shortly, as I get a little more detail.

I will be finishing out here at Duckon, and then off to Des Moines, where I am going to be visiting with Lettie Prell and her husband (Lettie's a fantastic fantasy author, who wrote Dragon Ring), as well as Shirley Damsgaard (writer of the Ophelia and Aby Mystery series), before doing a signing at Beaverdale Books on monday night.

Then, I will make my way back to Lexington, probably stopping for a lunch with Steven Shrewsbury and his wife (he just came aboard Seventh Star Press with his novel Thrall).

Definitely putting in a few road miles, but it is all part of the journey of an author! Next Friday, though, I am looking forward to the hometown signing and afterparty...time to kick back a little, and then sleep in for the first time in what seems like eons!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hypericon, Memphis, and more!

This has been one tough week!

I'm a little late in posting about Hypericon and Memphis, but only because I had to compact a week's worth of work and then some into 3 days before I set out again for Huntington, Louisville, and Cincinnati signings this weekend.

The book launch weekend went very well! As always, Hypericon was wonderful. I am really impressed with this Con, as they faced a few daunting realities this year. One was that Con Carolinas in Charlotte was running the same weekend (which is a large, excellent that I enjoyed immensely in 2009 and hope to get back to next year.) Also, rumors had been flying around the internet that Hypericon was not taking place due to flood damage to the hotel site in Nashville. There were a few regular faces that I did not see this year, but the Con went on strongly and featured some incredible guests.

The author guest of honor was none other than horror legend Ramsey Campbell. He is an energetic and very friendly fellow, who has a great legacy of literary works. I found myself on a panel with him on day one (the mystery writers panel, where Con Chairman Fred Grimm grabs a few authors minutes before this panel takes place, and then asks them a variety of questions...some serious, and some not so serious). I was on another panel with Ramsey on day two, one focusing on bad writing advice that authors have received. I walked into the panel room before it began to find fantasy legend Glen Cook on one end of the table and Ramsey Campbell on the other. I had to sit between the two of these incredible guys, which was a little surreal. Two other outstanding panelists, Brian J. Hatcher and Jason Sizemore (the big man at Apex Publications) joined us shortly thereafter.

One attendee at the Con told me that the other evening panel I was on was the best panel they had ever seen. It was a panel dealing with writer's block and time management, and featured the inimitable Elizabeth Donald, the vivacious Sara M. Harvey, a New York Times best-selling author in Eric Wilson, and yours truly. Eric actually managed to captivate both Sara and Elizabeth (who usually put on a show when teamed together) with his marital erotic metaphors in relation to working through potential writer's block. It was fun to witness Elizabeth and Sara as they reacted to Eric's comparisons!

I did do a launch panel on the first evening of the panel, where I was joined by Matthew Perry, who did the cover art and illustrations for my novels. We had a nice audience, and got to talk about the scope of the series, Matthew's involvement with the art side of things, and it even featured a reading.

I spent a lot of time in the dealer's room, where I was exhibiting. Besides talking to readers and new readers alike, I spent a lot of time talking to Elizabeth and Angelia Sparrow, whose Literary Underworld table was to my right, as well as Kimberly Richardson and Allan Gilbreath of Kerlak Publications. Found out some really cool things about Allan, involving his knowledge of medieval weaponry. I had also found out the previous day that a new steampunk short story of mine made it into the upcoming Kerlak anthology Dreams of Steam. Some very cool writers are on this one, including Nick Valentino and H. David Blalock!

I got to visit a great deal with H. David Blalock, the eminent author of Ascendent, who was hanging out at Hypericon and graciously hosted me for my Memphis Davis-Kidd signing on the monday after the convention. David's abode is a perfect residence for a writer...rural, wood-shrouded, and tranquil!

David helped me navigate Memphis, which was very helpful as I had a live tv interview on the Memphis ABC affiliate, Eyewitness News. It was a several minute segment, and the host of the show, Terrance Bates, was simply fantastic. He made me welcome the moment I entered the studio, and is a lively, engaging interviewer. I hope to post the interview shortly, as I was able to get a video file of it.

The signing at Davis-Kidd went well. Many thanks to Christina Meeks, who is the hard-working PR and Events coordinator at Davis-Kidd. A nice group showed up, and we had a great discussion about my writing approaches and the books, followed by a reading that was delivered by Kirk Stevens, a friend of mine and talented Memphian writer. Kirk is a great reader, and I loved hearing him read the first segment of The Storm Guardians.

Following the signing, Kirk, David, and myself got to hang out with Dan and Jackie Gamber, and their daughter. Dan and Jackie have been very wonderful to me, and it was great to kick back and have dinner with them. I will always be a supporter of Gamber Nation! (as I sometimes refer to them! haha)

I then made the drive back starting early Tuesday morning, got back to Lexington, and pretty much dived back into things as all kinds of tasks were waiting for me. Always a million and one things to do when you are a small press author, as if you don't do it, nobody else is going to do it for you!

It is definitely a short week, as I am readying to head to Empire Books and News in Huntington on Friday, Borders on South 4th Street in Louisville on Saturday, and Borders on Eastgate Boulevard in Cincinnati on Sunday. Hopefully things will go somewhat smoothly, and a few folks will drop by. Always an iffy thing when you are an author like myself. I can definitely say that it is wonderful when you look up and see a familiar face at one of these events, or a reader of your work. I'll be sure to report on all three here when I get back.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Marcon is a Winner! Next Up, Hypericon!

This is going to be a short week, as with the Memorial Day holiday here in the US, I only have 3 business days until I head out for Hypericon. Lots to pack in, in a short time!

Marcon was excellent. The hospitality was first class. No trouble getting assistance with anything, which has a calming effect after getting turned around in downtown Columbus just prior to getting to the venue.

I shared space with TammyJo Eckhart, who is always a pleasure to be around and work with, in addition to being a hellacious writer. Her husband Tom was there as well. The guy is extremely intelligent, and also has a knack for making all kinds of amazing designs out of those tiny magnetic balls (the name escapes me).

My panel load wasn't too heavy. I had one film panel on making indie horror films, and the panelists that I joined, like Scott Spears, were outstanding and had a wealth of independent film experience. We covered a ton of ground over a short time, and I hope that I was able to give some real-world, practical insights that might be of use to the people that so kindly opted to come to our panel instead of the big Masquerade!

My literary panel focused on eBooks, print, and audio book formats. Again, a very experienced group of panelists (such as Steven Saus, a really cool guy and author), with some nice mixes of perspectives. I tried to get across how the print format is very important for a number of reasons, not the least of which are all the careers that are enabled for people who enjoy books, such as book sellers, bookstore managers, bookstore staff, librarians, and many, many more. Without the bookstores, it would make life hard for an author to engage readers face to face, and the loss of the auxilliary elements, like the reading clubs that gather at bookstores, the browsing/interaction that takes place in a store setting, and other similar dynamics life would be much harder for a new author to become known. There is a definite place for eBooks, audio books, and print, but each has their own set of pros and cons, and I think the best thing is for all three to continue to have their place.

I got to do a signing as well, though the author area was only a few hundred feet from the table in the dealer room where I spent much of the weekend. I did get to visit with a variety of individuals, such as the amazing Scott Sandridge, who once again did double figures in panels (10). Richard Hatch, the Battle Star Galactica actor, also came by our table, which was a big thrill for TammyJo as she's a big fan of his work.

One of my big highlights was getting to have a couple of visits with Maura Heaphy, who teaches at Ohio State University and is the author of 100 Most Popular Science Fiction Authors She's a wellspring of knowledge about science fiction and fantasy, and I had the honor of hearing about some of her upcoming work. Can't talk about it here, but it is going to be awesome! :) It is great to have people in the academic fields advocating science fiction and fantasy as good literature, and Maura is a wonderful person for this challenge!

The new readers that I met, who decided to give my books a chance, were simply great to talk to. Several had talked to me on Friday, and then came back late on Saturday or on Sunday to pick up books. I had encouraged them to look me up online, and to read the reviews that have been put out, so that they didn't take just my word for things. I'm glad they opted to come aboard my family of readers, who I am committed to working for as hard as possible to deliver some fun and exciting literary adventures (which will hopefully lead to some film ones someday too! LOL)

All in all, a great event, and one that I would love to return to.

This week, we'll be getting ready for a convention that is very personal to me in nature, Hypericon. I will be doing the book launch for The Storm Guardians, and hopefully it will go well! We're doing a Friday night full hour introduction to the Rising Dawn Saga. Matthew Perry, who did the cover art and illustrations, will be joining me for that presentation, and we'll be talking alot about the interaction between author and artist. I've got a couple of panels on Saturday and will be exhibiting in the dealer's room, so it will be a very active weekend.

On Monday, June 7th, I'll be shooting over to Memphis for a Davis-Kidd signing, including a stop on a noon-time news show in conjunction with the event. I'll post some more details on this before the weekend hits.

I'll be checking in again before I head out, but I probably need to get back to the million and two work tasks involved with being a small press author! LOL