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Superstars Writing Seminars (SSWS) 2022 was this past week. It ran from Wednesday, February 9th through Saturday, February 12th. I was there for all four days, and it was the best writing conference I’ve ever attended. That’s saying quite a bit. Between 8 years of Pikes Peak Writers Conferences, a couple of WorldCons, many MileHi Con attendances, 3 other SSWS events, and numerous other events, I’ve been to my fair share of writing class, events, conferences, and other goods. This year was, hands down, the best I’ve been to.

While the SSWS Tribe always looks forward to seeing each other in person, this year the eagerness to be with each other reached new heights. This was for several reasons, and most of them are downers… so I won’t go into those details. The exceptional energy everyone (staff, faculty, attendees, hotel staff, bartenders, random strangers we shared the hotel with) put into the conference into a frenetic state that couldn’t be matched. Typically, the word “frenetic” is associated with “out of control,” but that was far from the case here.

I used the phrase “symbiotic psychic vampirism” several times over the weekend. We were all feeding off the energy those around us put out, and doing so in a positive manner.

I went to numerous classes, took pages of notes on my iPad, gave loads of hugs, received many more hugs, shook some hands, and respected the boundaries of those folks that wanted to keep their distance. The core of SSWS was over-the-moon exceptional.

Highest of Highlights

I had arranged a pitch session with Rob Howell. He’s the head editor for New Mythology Press, which is an imprint of Chris Kennedy Publishing. Rob is the editor who acquired and worked with me to improve THE EMPTY HOUSE (a short story that appears in Talons and Talismans I). I figured my existing relationship with him would let me get my foot in the door for talking about the current sword & sorcery series that I’m working on.

It turned out that I didn’t need the official pitch session at all. While hanging out and being friends (true friends, not “relationship friendly”) with Mark Stallings, Chris Kennedy, Rob Howell, and a handful of other authors, I kept hearing Mark and Rob say my name. It was loud enough in the bar that I couldn’t quite make out their conversation. When the fellow who was sitting next to Rob vacated the seat to fetch another drink, Rob slapped the seat on the bench and proclaimed, “J.T.! You! Sit here!”

I finally figured out that Mark had been talking me up. (Thank you, Mark! You’re the best!) It was PITCH TIME AT THE BAR. I took a swallow of my beer, slid into the seat, and had a great conversation about my series, my city, my characters, and everything that goes into telling a good story.

Thirty minutes later, Rob nudged me with his elbow and asked me to send him the first three books of the series. Since I’m still currently writing book two (books one and three are done), we agreed that the end of April would be a reasonable deadline for both of us. I’ve since done the math, and I need to drop about 1,000 words a day into the novel to get done by early April. That’ll buy me time to do some refinement before sending it to Rob.

I’m so excited about this wonderful opportunity that I’m struggling for the proper words to express the fullness of the excitement. Let’s just say that I really haven’t stopped smiling since Thursday night.

Asking a Favor

The previously mentioned Mark Stallings is the fellow that sent me the information about the open call for Talons and Talismans. He also urged me to pitch to Rob. He also talked me up to Rob at the bar (and probably prior to that). He really set me up for success in this endeavor. He provided me the chance to grab the brass ring. Hell, he damn near handed the brass ring to me. I owe him. Lots. Big Time. If you have the inclination and time to visit his web site, check out his books, and maybe buy one or two of them, please do so. Thank you.

Another Bright Spot

While hanging out with another good friend, Quincy J. Allen, over beers, he turned to me and asked me to join the Eldros Legacy team as a Cohort. As one of the Founders of the Eldros Legacy, he (and the other four Founders) were on the search for people to join the team and contribute to a shared world effort. I remember diving into the Thieves’ World shared world anthologies starting in 1988, and I’ve always want to be part of something like that. Now I have the opportunity to do this. Quincy and I chatted for quite a while about everything involved, and I agreed to join the team effort. My heart is swelling with the trust Quincy has extended to me with the invite to work on the Eldros Legacy collection of books.

Other Highlights

  • I got to be present for James Artemis Owen’s engagement to his wonderful partner, Helen. Many tears of happiness filled the room.
  • I made tons of new friends. So many wonderful new folks are now in my life that I feel overwhelmed and extremely grateful.
  • I got to hang out with my “found family” of existing friends who reached out to me to let me know they love me and care for me.
  • I got to officially say “goodbye” to a friend and mentor, Dave Farland, who passed away shortly before SSWS 2022. The candlelight vigil was touching and poignant.