MileHiCon 50

I just updated my appearances page, but I figured I’d throw the information here on the front page in case people only look here or only follow my RSS feed.

I’ll be at MileHiCon 50 from October 19th through the 21st. Here’s my schedule as I’m aware of it at the moment:

  • All weekend: Author’s Row — Second Floor Lobby — I’ll have a table where you can swing by and get a copy of Griffin’s Feather or have me sign a copy you already have in hand or just chat with me for a bit.
  • Friday, 3PM: Mesa Verde A — Pantsing, Grid Paper, or the I-Ching: Many roads to plots
  • Friday, 9PM: Taphouse & Kitchen — Writers Night Mixer
  • Saturday, 2PM: Wind River A — Soundtracks That Soar
  • Saturday, 4PM: Bristlecone — Homebrewers, Vintners & Imbibers Meetup

I hope to see loads of familiar faces, plenty of new faces, and make lots of friends while there over the weekend. I’m really looking forward to this weekend as this is one of my “home cons” where travel is easy, the hotel is good, and the people are always fantastic!

Recommendations for Running Professional Conferences

Professional ConferenceThis blog post is coming out of several requests from several different angles on how to run a professional conference. Instead of delivering a custom response to each person (which would take a considerable amount of time), I’ve made things pretty generic here, and I hope each person out there that might need this information finds it useful. If you have your own experiences or advice others might find helpful, please drop a comment.

First off, a little about me. I’ve been involved in a volunteer capacity at seven different Pikes Peak Writers Conferences. I’ve assisted at a handful of other writing-based conferences. I’ve also attended roughly 30 different conferences for both writing and in my various Day Jobs. My volunteer positions ranged from lower-levels to keeping an eye on things and helping out in major ways. I’ve seen pitfalls, successes, great conferences, and rough ones.

The point of this information is to assist those people out there running conferences get a grasp on the big things, the minutia, the traps, and the easy parts. This is, by no means, the end-all, be-all guide to how to do everything. Every conference is different and each one has special needs. I’m going to try to keep things as generic as possible. This should allow the larger audience to benefit from what I’ve seen and learned.

Definitions

  • Staff: The people running the show. These can be paid staff or volunteers.
  • Faculty: The people presenting in sessions. This includes keynotes, guests of honor, industry specialists, area experts, agents, and editors.
  • Attendees: People that have given you money to be there.
  • Venue: Where everything happens.
  • Venue Staff: People responsible for the venue, but not the event. Typically, these are hotel employees.
  • Session: A classroom-style setting where attendees learn.
  • Presentation: A single faculty member. Maybe two, if it’s a “tag team” style presentation.
  • Panel: Multiple faculty members speaking in a single session about a topic.
  • Moderator: The person that gives announcements, introduces the faculty member(s) in a presentation, keeps track of time, and then steps aside other than to remind the faculty member(s) of how much time is left in the session.
    • In the case of a panel, the moderator asks questions, guides the conversations, but largely allows the faculty to speak in fair amounts of time.

Venue

The venue is the place (or places) where everything happens. Usually you pay for access to these locations, but sometimes you’ll get lucky and land a venue (like an outdoor park) for free. However, there may be permits you’ll need to get for these free venues. Check with the local municipality on these public resources.

  • Make sure all venues are available for planned events, and that those venues are informed about your plans to use their facilities. This is pretty easy with the paid venues because you know you have to give them money for the venue and they should put it on their schedule. However, if the venue lands in the free category, then make sure there’s not a curfew (if an outdoor venue), or a closing time (such as with a library) that will conflict with your plans.
  • For the free venues, don’t just show up and expect resources to be available. Call and arrange things before you put things in your schedule, on your map, or in your programming.
  • Make sure all areas of the venues you plan to use are accessible to those people with physical disabilities. If in a hotel, this is usually already taken care of because they have to be compliant with ADA laws. If your venue is in an older part of a city that predates escalators, elevators, required wheelchair ramps, and such, then make sure to mention that on your web site, in your registration form, and everywhere else possible. Don’t wait for attendees to give you money, show up, and then not be able to partake in what you have to offer. This will only lead to an upset attendee and a potential loss of revenue because you had to refund the registration fees.
  • Make sure each room for a session is large enough to hold your anticipated attendees. If you’re doing a “single track” set of sessions (meaning all attendees are in the same room at the same time), the room for the single track needs to be large enough for all attendees to be comfortable in. (More on handling multiple track scenarios in the “Programming” section below.)
  • You need a map of your venues in the program guide. If it’s a single venue, then a single map (or one per floor in use at the venue) is adequate. If it’s multiple locations, then a map of the pertinent parts of the city are needed.
    • Speaking of maps, make sure they are on the web site, in the program guide, and include nearby, local attractions and popular places to eat.

Staff Members

  • Conference Director
    • Buck stops here.
    • Ensures everyone else is on top of things.
    • Coordinates with venues.
    • Negotiates a “con rate” with local hotels.
    • Works with the city (if necessary) for any permits.
    • Puts out word in the local community about the event for the purpose of collecting coupons, tourist events, other local events, sites of interest, etc..
  • Programming Coordinator
    • Report to the Conference Director.
    • Recruits faculty, agents, editors, etc..
    • Coordinates who is teaching what session.
    • Coordinates what room sessions are in.
    • Creates the con schedule for sessions.
    • Collects bios and headshots for all speakers.
  • Faculty Coordinator
    • Reports to the Programming Coordinator.
    • Arranges for hotel, flights, travel for out of town faculty.
  • Transportation Coordinator
    • Reports to the Faculty Coordinator.
    • More specifically is responsible for getting faculty from the airport to the venue and back again. This person usually recruits a team of drivers as well as doing some driving themselves.
  • Program Coordinator
    • Reports to the Programming Coordinator.
    • Responsible for putting together the bios/headshots into the program.
    • Responsible for putting the schedule into the program.
    • Responsible for arranging/selling advertising space in the program.
  • Handout Coordinator
    • Reports to the Programming Director
    • Gathers all handouts from all faculty and compiles them into a single document.
    • This document can be made available for a free PDF download off the web site or be sold in printed version or both.
    • The front cover of the handout document should be branded with the conference logo and year.
  • Registrar
    • Reports to the Conference Director.
    • Handles all registration issues.
    • Handles printing and assembly of badges.
    • Should be in charge of getting the registration packets stuffed with the bonus goods, program, schedule, handouts, badges, etc..
  • Admin Director
    • Reports to the Conference Director.
    • Right-hand person to the Conference Director.
    • Keeps track of deadlines, responsibilities, tasks, and goals of all team members.
    • Ensures everything gets done on time.
  • Survey Coordinator
    • Reports to Programming Director.
    • Check the pulse of your attendees. Do this via session feedback forms (you don’t want a bad speaker back, and you definitely want the good ones to return via invite from you.)
    • Do this via overall conference feedback forms (they can go in the registration packets).
    • Do this via an online survey (Survey Monkey or others) to your attendees AND faculty. You’ll want a different survey for each type of person. They’ll have different perspectives and feedback to give.
    • If possible, do a survey for each session given. This will allow you to know what topics and faculty your current (and therefore, future) attendees want to see.
  • Bookstore Coordinator
    • Reports to the Conference Director.
    • Takes books in (via commission if you do that).
    • Recruits an assistant or three to assist with sales.
    • Arranges the bookstore.
    • Runs the bookstore.
    • Orders books for sale (if necessary).
    • Returns unsold books to distributors or those that did a commission.
    • Keeps track of all paperwork (commission sheets), finances, money in, money out, etc.
    • Give information and money to the Conference Director.
  • Pitch Coordinator (if necessary)
    • Reports to the Programming Director.
    • Ensures that venues are available for pitching.
    • Ensures agents/editors aren’t teaching at the same time as they are teaching a session.
    • Provides specific pitch times to attendees that have signed up for a pitch… or keeps track of the signup sheet.
    • Handles changes in pitch appointments when attendees give up their slots or desire something different.
  • You may have other positions crop up as you mature and grow, but these are the basics.
    • As you add new staff positions, document what their range of responsibilities are, who they report to, deadlines, and who they need to coordinate with. This should be added to the existing (you have one, right?) master SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) document.

Program

The program should contain the following sections:

  • Table of Contents
  • Brief history of the conference and/or Director’s Note
  • General Schedule (just list days/times, no specifics)
  • List of Staff w/ positions
  • Map
  • Special Events
  • Keynote (Guest of Honor) headshots and bios
  • Special Guests (such as agents/editors) headshots and bios
  • Faculty headshots and bios
  • Detailed Schedule
    • This will be the bulk of your program, especially if doing multi-track sessions.
    • Include date, time, location (building and room), title, faculty involved, and a brief summary of the expected content.
  • Sponsors/Supporters Page
  • Code of Conduct
  • Scattered throughout the program will be advertisements (if you do this)

Web Site / Social Media

You need a web site! Period. Full stop. Important sections of your web site should include:

  • Overall “about” page
  • News (preferable with an RSS option)
  • FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
  • Location and Directions
  • Faculty Listing (with headshots and bios)
  • Planned Workshops
  • Special Events
  • Policies
    • Code of Conduct
    • Non-Discrimination Policy
    • Refund Policy
    • Bookstore Consignment Policy
    • Age Limitations (if any)
  • History

You also need social media to get the word out. There are whole books written on this, so I’m just touching the basics. Unless you have a large social media staff or a marketing firm on your side, limit yourself to these three “big hitters” in the social media world:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

What should you post? Mostly announcements and deadlines and changes.

  • Announcements of newly signed faculty
  • Announcements of last-minute changes to faculty if the faculty was doing a special event like a pitch session or some other “one-on-one” mentoring of attendees.
  • Announcements of new sessions added.
  • Deadlines for registration fee increases
  • Deadlines for “last chance” to register
  • Regularly announce the date of the upcoming conference.
  • If this is a recurring (usually annual) conference, once the dates for NEXT YEAR are determined, drop those on your social media, but clearly mark it to avoid confusion.
  • Inspirational messages to keep readers’ attention.
  • Photos of the venue, faculty, staff, and key attendees.
  • Success stories of past attendees and what they’ve accomplished since the last event.
  • Announcements of special events when they are added and/or sold out.

Registration

My advice here is to outsource your registration process to a third party. Yes, it will cost you a percentage of your revenue, but it will save you hundreds of hours of creating your own process. There’s also security involved. Some people simply won’t put their credit card into an unknown web site.

Here are some resources for you:

While I’m on the topic of some people not wanting to do online credit card purchases, I want to warn you away from the “complex interactions” with attendees. In other words, make a simple system for payment and registration and everyone uses it. It’s not worth your time and trouble to meet someone at a coffee shop to pick up a money order and then attempt to tie that payment into your registration system. If a potential attendee only trusts their local grocery story with their credit card, then have them buy a pre-paid gift card (Visa or MasterCard) for the proper amount at the grocery store. Then they can use this card on your online site. If someone wants to be difficult, put the difficulty on them, but still be as helpful as you can.

Programming and Scheduling

This is probably the single item that will consume the most time. You need to know what faculty you’re going to have, what those individuals are comfortable talking about (solo or on a panel), what topics you’ll cover as a whole, and where each session is going to be. There’s also the consideration of not booking someone for 3 sessions in a day and zero for the other days of the conference. I also highly recommend not booking someone for back-to-back sessions. This makes things rough on the faculty. Incredibly rough.

You need software to assist with all of this. There are existing sites that can help you out. They’re not free, but they are worth every penny. These sites can help you track bios, headshots, contact information, scheduling, rooms, time slots, and so on. They’ll even help keep you from double booking a faculty member! Here are some sites that you can leverage in this area:

The key to this area is communication. When you’ve slated a faculty member for a session, let them know right away. If things change, let them know that as well. If they have desires for teaching a particular type of session or for having an informal “Koffee Klatch” style meeting with attendees, work with that as well. At the end of the day, the faculty must know what they are doing before they arrive.

Registration Packets (aka: Goodie Bags)

Registration packets come in two flavors: personalized and generic. The personalized packets go to the staff and faculty, so they have a separate schedule specific to them. This will let them know when they have to be somewhere and where to go. These personalized items are usually put into a brightly-colored envelope inside the generic packet that they also receive. When you hand someone a personalized packet, make sure to point out the bright envelope, so they know it’s in there.

Things that go in the goodie bag:

  • Program
  • Personalized schedule (if needed)
  • Badge
  • Meal tickets (if you feed people)
  • Special event tickets (if any)
  • Small goodies from sponsors. These can include:
    • Lip balm
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Coupons
    • Special offers
    • Fliers or Advertisements
  • Local attraction/restaurant fliers
  • Handouts (if printed copies were purchased or are provided for free)
  • Other freebies from sponsors
  • Separate map if the venue areas are large or located in different buildings
  • The bag itself, which is usually branded for the conference year and with a sponsor or three on it as well

Make sure to assemble the bags and registration packets the night before the conference. If you can do it earlier than this, that’s fine. However, you usually have so many last minute changes (including last-minute attendee registrations) rolling in, that doing this a week ahead of conference is nigh impossible. Do not assemble the bags in front of the attendees at the registration desk. This is the very first impression you’re making to the attendees, and it’s bad to see people scrambling for the various parts that go in the bag. This also applies a high level of pressure to the assembly process (you’re being watched!) and this will lead to mistakes and missed items.

Inter-Team Communication

This is the key factor in any successful conference. If your different teams and directors and coordinators don’t talk regularly, then you’re doomed. I would highly recommend online collaboration tools and regular meetings that are in-person.

Online collaboration tools come in lots of different flavors, but my two favorite ones are Google Groups (because it’s like a mailing list and gets into my inbox) and Slack (which is like a message board where different teams can have their own channels to reduce noise). I would recommend leveraging both, if you can.

The in-person meetings are usually done monthly, but then get on an accelerated schedule as you get closer to the conference. When you’re three months out, go to an every-other-week schedule. When you’re a month out, go to weekly meetings. Maybe throw in an extra meeting the week before the actual conference to make sure there aren’t any last-minute fires to put out.

Once the conference is done, you’ll be wiped out and exhausted, but don’t send everyone home just yet. Within two weeks of the last day of the conference, hold a post-con meeting to go over how things went, how to improve, and where to go the next year.

The last thing I want to throw out about communication. Work with your venues as well. Set up some form of token or icon that key staffers hold or wear to indicate to the venue staff that a room is too hot/cold or that more water is needed in a room or whatever. This will prevent your hundreds of attendees from swamping the desk with wild requests about the public space over which they should have no control.

Bumps in the Road

Speaking of putting out fires. You’re going to have them. Period. It’s just going to happen. The important thing to keep in mind is that if the attendees don’t notice the heat or the bump in the travel, then you’re doing things just fine. At the end of the day, the most important people at your event are your attendees. Keep them happy, and they’ll come back. They’ll also bring friends with them next time and allow you to grow and shine.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Control what you can. Focus on those items. If you can’t fix something right now make a good note that you won’t lose and preemptively make adjustments so that next time it simply won’t happen.

MileHiCon Wrap-Up and Griffin’s Feather IS LIVE!

Griffin's Feather CoverI’ve been all over the social medias with the news, but I’ve not had time to sit down with this post until just a few minutes ago. I don’t know how many people follow me ONLY on my RSS feed, but just in case there are a few….

MileHiCon 2017 (the 49th one!) went great! I said smart things on my panels (so others told me). I asked smart questions on the panel I moderated (so my fellow panelists told me). I got to hang out with some old friends (some of whom I only see at MileHiCon). I made a few new friends. I bought a few books. I generally hung out with folks and had a really great time.

The highlight of the weekend, however, was not MileHiCon. The con could have easily been the highlight of the weekend, but it got overshadowed by the release of GRIFFIN’S FEATHER on Saturday! The original publication date was supposed to be Wednesday, November 1st. However, things fell into line. The book was ready, and the amazing team at WordFire Press whipping things together and got the book out over the weekend. I’m immensely grateful to the whole team. I’d thank them personally here, but there are gobs of people “behind the scenes” that I don’t know the names of, so I’d be leaving some folks out. I don’t want to make that error of omission. If you’re one of those great folks that helped me get my words out into the world: Thank you!

I can’t wait to see how the world reacts to my novel. It’s surreal. It’s exciting. It’s new. It’s…. well… mind-blowing. I’ve been trying to conceptualize the fact that I now have a published novel, and the mere idea of “published novel” with “J.T. Evans” on the cover still escapes me even though I know it’s a real thing.

You can find Griffin’s Feather at these fine locations, or order it from your favorite local bookstore.

Amazon Paperback

Amazon Ebook

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

Thanks to everyone that’s supported me over the past 11 years of effort that it took to get to this point. Here, I’m going to throw out a few names because they’re important enough to me to acknowledge:

Granny and Papa — I wish you could still be around to see this happen. Thank you for all you did for me throughout my life.

Kimberly — Without you standing by my side, I wouldn’t have the confidence to attempt this. Love you so very much.

My son — I know I “stole” some of our father/son time away from you to work on my novels. You’ll probably never know how much I love you for this.

Mom — You’ve shown me support and love throughout everything. I don’t think you’ve seen all of the struggles of the past 11 years, but you’ve highlighted the successes that I’ve had. Thank you for that. Love you.

Hank and Hollie Snider — For started CSFWG and welcoming me into the group with open arms. Relaunching my passion for the written word through the CSFWG led to this day.

Pikes Peak Writers — There are way too many people here to thank that are involved in this organization. Without PPW, I wouldn’t have been able to learn and improve as much as I did.

Linda Houser — You taught “The Tools in Your Writing Toolbox” (or something of that nature) at my very first PPW Write Brain. I learned so much in that night. It set me on the right path with the right mindset. It also showed me that others loved words as much as I do. (PS: I still have the clock hanging over my desk.)

Patrick Hester — You’ve been my rock for quite a few years. You’ve called my bullshit. You’ve told me when I nailed it. You’ve kept an eye on me and let me know when I’m “off base” mentally. Thank you for your friendship, and I promise to never type “the two women” again, unless absolutely necessary.

Craig Barnes — You took me and my family in during the Black Forest Fire. You’ve been one of the most solid friends I’ve ever had. You’re very much like a brother to me. Love you for that.

Front Range Fiction Writers — While this critique group is now defunct, it was a great three years. Thanks to all of the members over the three wonderful years that pointed out where I did great and where I didn’t.

Dave Butler — For picking up where others left off and giving me an amazing opportunity. Thank you for believing in my work as much as I do and giving it a shot.

Manny Frishberg — For taking my slew of words and pushing me to do better throughout our editorial process. You rock!

Jeff Herndon — For giving me a cover that I fall in love with every time I see it.

Kevin J. Anderson — For giving my book a shot. I hope it does WordFire Press proud.

… and there are certainly others I’m forgetting to thank. I apologize if I spaced out on you and/or your name while typing this up. There are so many people who have helped me over the years. Thank you all.

MileHiCon 2017 Schedule

I’m a bit late in getting this up, but if you want to see me this upcoming weekend at MileHiCon, swing by the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Denver Tech Center. I figure I’ll be getting there right around noon-ish, and I’ll be around the hotel until mid-afternoon(-ish) on Sunday. Outside of the programming I’m on (see below), I’m not entirely sure exactly where you can find me.

I hope to cross paths with old friends, make some new friends, and have a good time at MileHiCon this weekend!

Here’s the programming that I’m scheduled for:

Friday, October 27 at 3 PM

Session: Author 201, Subtle Self Promotion

Room: Wind River B

Other Panelists: N. Lowell, E. Mah (moderator), C. Weaver, C. Winters

My Take: Why me?!!?! Anyone that’s met me in person knows that I’m anything but subtle. I hope to be able to give great advice to the attendees that won’t lead them astray. Maybe I’ll tell stories about what not to do. 🙂

Saturday, October 28 at 5 PM

Session: Panning for Gold in SF’s Golden Age

Room: Mesa Verde C

Other Panelists: V. Calisto, S. Jackson, K. Spriggs, J. Stith, (I’m the moderator)

My Take: I’m glad I’m the moderator. I get to ask questions about this era and make everyone else look smart by answering them. This is actually a topic I’ve had to research a bit just to not make my questions look foolish.

Sunday, October 29 at Noon

Session: Girls and Women Who Totally Compute

Room: Mesa Verde C

Other Panelists: C. Kay, S. McClune, C. Weaver (moderator), M. Ward

My Take: I’ve been in computing for 30 *cough* something years in pretty much every field imaginable. I feel qualified to talk about this based on my experiences, but since I’m not a woman….. I hope I can get up here and talk the talk without embarrassing myself too much. My angle is going to be how to encourage, support, and open door for women than other folks may be slamming in their face. In other words, “Don’t be that guy, be a better guy.” We’ll see how it goes.

Self-Imposed Stress

An interesting thing about stress, especially self-imposed stress.

I desperately wanted to get a new novel finished by Pikes Peak Writers Conference, so I’d have something fresh to pitch to the various agents/editors in attendance. To pull this off, I’d have to write about 1200 words a day, every day for almost 3 months. That’s almost NaNoWriMo pace. Yeah. I could probably pull it off, but the stress of writing quality words at that speed for that length of time stressed me out to the point that I couldn’t write at all. I’d open the document and just stare at what I’d written so far and just blank out.

I’d psyched myself out. Stupid brain.

About a month ago, I decided to pass on that opportunity and just attend PPWC to enjoy it and learn and network and such.

Stress gone. Almost immediately gone, to be honest. A few days after this decision, I managed to write several thousand words in a single sitting on this work-in-progress.

Since then, I’ve managed about 10,000 words on the novel. Since I’ll be attending the Ghost Town Writers Retreat in August, there’s another opportunity for me to meet some agents. I’ve decided to set August as my goal for finishing this fresh novel. Scrivener tells me that I need to do about 680 words a day, every day, until then to get things done. I don’t write every single day, so when I do write, I have to hit a higher target number. Most days, when I get a block of time to write, I produce 1k to 3k words. This means that August is much more attainable.

With the self-imposed stress gone, I won’t be letting myself down. It’s freed me to write. It’s opened up my mind and time to allow me to “fill the well” and expand on what I want to write. I’m in a much more comfortable mental space.

However, this makes me worry a bit. What if I get a tight deadline from a publisher? Will I stress to the point of missing the mark or seizing up?

Maybe. Probably not. I tend to do much better with external deadlines than internal ones. If someone needs something from me, I’m highly driven to get it to them by the time they need it. This provides me with energy and drive to accomplish something. I’m not sure why my brain treats my own deadlines differently. Perhaps this particular deadline was too ambitious? Not sure. Probably.

Here’s an example of a tight, external deadline that I managed to nail down.

A good friend of mine, Hank, was editing a horror anthology and needed one more story to round out the book. I knew about the anthology, but just couldn’t capture an idea that fit the theme the way I wanted it to. Then he called me up about 6:30 in the evening with an idea. Hank asked me if I could take the characters from a previous story and transplant them to a setting that fit the theme of the anthology.

It clicked. Hard. Yeah. I could do that.

Then I asked him when he needed the story. He was on a tight deadline from his publisher and passed that along to me. He said, “By midnight.”

Wow. A little over five hours to crank a short story, polish it up a wee bit, and submit it to him.

Here’s the deal: Hank and I can sit and bullshit for hours on end about lost of nothing if given the opportunity.

He opened that door by asking, “How’s things going?”

I responded, “Good, but I have a story to write. Gotta go.” I hung up on him. A little rude, but I’m pretty sure he was laughing on the other end.

I managed to crank out the story (4,600 words), print it, watch an episode of Fringe to clear my mind, edit the story on paper, and then transfer the edits back into the computer by deadline. I sent him an email with the story at 11:55PM. Five minutes to spare!

He called me the next afternoon and told me that I was in the anthology and that I had the anchor spot in the book.

See? I can hit tight deadlines. Just not my own, I guess.

Any tips for setting goals (sometimes crazy goals) for yourself and actually pulling it off?

MileHiCon 48

mhc48This is a bit last minute, but I’m finally stealing the time from something else to invite you to come out to MileHiCon 48.

I’ll be there.

Come say hi!

Here’s my schedule:

Friday

9 PM: Writer Meetup at the Bar

Pikes Peak Writers volunteers will be there (with deelie-boppers on!) to host a get-together for all writerly types. It’ll be just outside the bar area on the second floor. Come mingle! Come drink (if you want to, not required)! Come chat! We’re all nice folks and won’t bite.

Saturday

4 PM: Brewing/Vintning Round Table

Come join me and four others as we sit around in a quiet room and talk the ups, downs, messes, successes, and wonders of homebrewing your own beer and wine.

Sunday

11 AM: Open Mic

Instead of specific author readings this year, we’re doing an Open Mic session for 90 minutes. Come read a bit (about 5 minutes worth, so we can get to everyone) from your book, poetry, short story, flash fiction, or some other form of writing. Try to keep it PG-13 if you can.

Misc

When I’m not at one of the above things, you can either find me in the general area of the con, in a panel, or at the Pikes Peak Writers table selling tickets to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference at an early-bird rate!

Belated Worldcon Recap

Sasquan-logoThe 73rd annual World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) was named “Sasquan” this year and was held in Spokane, WA, USA from August 19th through the 23rd of 2015.

Patrick Hester bugged me back in February to ask if I was going and if I wanted to split a hotel room with him. I put numbers together, built a budget, and quickly decided that I could go if I could convince my wife to let me run away for a week or so. I put together great arguments in my head, and readied for the “verbal battle” that was to ensue. When I called her to ask if I could leave her and the kid alone for a week, she said, “Sure. Have fun.”

That was that. I was on my way to Worldcon. My first Worldcon!

Fast forward to August, and Patrick and I are off to Spokane to enjoy the convention. I should have written this blog post soon after returning, but it wasn’t in the books for me to have the spare time until now. This means I’ll bullet point some of the highlights and my thoughts at various points.

Here they are in no particular order:

  • Great panel of Violence in Writing with Rory Miller, Carol Berg, and a few other folks whose names are slipping my mind right now. All four on the panel did a wonderful job.
  • I ran into Dave and Teri Robison in the hallway. They had just arrived in town, and I got to welcome Dave and Teri to Worldcon before they even hit the reg desk! If you haven’t checked out Dave’s work, head over to the Round Table Podcast, or check out his other ventures at WonderThing Studios. Dave and Teri are incredibly energetic and enthusiastic about everything they do. Seeing them boosted me up from an energy slump just when I needed it.
  • I got to see Patrick read part of a novella (long short story?) he’d written a few years back. He did a good job of capturing the voice of the story during this reading.
  • I attended a reading for Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, and his playing around with prime numbers in his story captured my imagination.
  • I practically stalked Wesley Chu until he signed my books after his reading in which he more acted the parts rather than reading the prose. Of course, he has an acting background, so this did not surprise me as well. Wesley is an incredibly cool guy, and I’m overjoyed that he won the Campbell award (more on that later).
  • I got to meet Robert Silverberg and get him to sign my copy of The Man in the Maze. This was a great highlight of mine. I’ve loved the book since I was in junior high, and I’m pretty sure that one novel helped save me from myself back in the day.
  • I also landed (after some additional stalking) three autographs from Mike Resnick. I made sure to reach out to my old roommate (who introduced me to Mike’s writing) and let him know about the autographs to make him jealous. It worked.
  • I met so many great people who were incredibly gracious to me. Some I caught names of. Some I didn’t. If you remember my face/name from Worldcon, thank you for making it a wonderful experience!
  • I bought way too many books from some great authors and booksellers. I think I blew my budget on day #1.
  • I hung out with Alicia and Patrick at almost every meal, and the enthusiasm between the two kept me going.
  • Fantastic meals at the Saranac Public House! (Great gluten-free stuff, too!)
  • I ran into an acquisition editor with Edge Publishing while hanging out in the dealer room. I was trying to get a better look at some jewelry for my wife. She was waiting for someone to show up and give her the dealer badge she needed. While we did our respective waiting, I fired up a conversation with her (no, I’m not afraid to talk to strangers), and we chatted for a while about writing, publishing, reading, loving words, and so on. At some point during the conversation, she decided she liked what she heard about my writing and asked me to send her the first three chapters of both of my “first” novels (e.g.: the first book in two different series). Wow. I totally didn’t expect that! I’m still shocked at the request, but not so shocked that I didn’t follow-through.
  • I participated (as part of the audience shouting questions at the panel) in the live Ditch Diggers show.
  • I went to Worldcon with about 100 business cards. I came home with 4. My business cards mostly contain my information, but there is a bit on the side about Pikes Peak Writers since I’m the president of the organization. A vast majority of the cards were given away on behalf of PPW, not myself. Big names in writing, publishing, editing, and so on approached me (some of them even partially stalked me to track me done) to talk about coming to our conference in April to be on faculty. Me! I had people that are huge in the industry seeking little old me out. I’m still floored and flabbergasted by this. Even though the convention has been over for almost  month, I’m still trying to process this fact.
  • On one of the days (Friday?) there was a two-hour meetup with many of the Escape Artists crew. These are the fine folks that bring you stories from EscapePod, PseudoPod, and PodCastle. They also have big things coming soon, but I’m not going to post it here. They announced it (and recorded it) at the meetup, but I’m not sure they’re ready for the news to go public until they release it, so I’m sitting tight on the info. It was an immense pleasure to hang out with Dave, Teri, Wilson Fowlie, Alasdair Stuart, Marguerite Kenner, MK Hobson, Mur Lafferty, and so many more people that I’m forgetting names of right now. It was a blast. I had such a good time during those two hours looking up (short chair) at so many people that I look up (figuratively) to.
  • I took four decks of Magic: The Gathering cards with me. I played zero games. I had too much fun doing other things to pull them out. Next time, I take maybe one, probably zero decks with me.
  • Hanging out with the fellows from WordFire Press was a top-notch time. Thanks to Peter, Dave, Josh, Quincy, David, Alexi, and the others for the warmth and hospitality.
  • Congrats to Helsinki for winning the 2017 Worldcon bid.
  • I went to my very first Hugo award ceremony. It was a surreal experience because of the pre-drama, during drama, post-drama, five “No Award” awards given out in separate categories, and being in a room packed with literary madness. I’m not getting into the drama at all. I kind of wish my first live Hugo experience had been more normalized, but I was there for history. Let’s hope it’s history that doesn’t repeat itself, eh?
  • I got to hang out with Cat Rambo and “talk shop” for a brief bit about being president of a nonprofit organization. We swapped info with the promise to stay in touch and help each other out in times of needing advice or idea bouncing.

I’m certain I’m forgetting something. Something more. Someone else. I’m sorry if things have slipped my mind, but it’s been too long (my fault) since Worldcon for me to remember more details.

A final thanks goes out to Patrick for getting me to go to Worldcon and for making it such a fantastic experience.

I can’t wait for next year!

Turning Things Around

I’ve hesitated making this post for a while. I received some good news today that changed my mind about posting this, so here it is….

I’ve been down on myself for a good number of months now as far as my writing goes. I’ve faced some emotional challenges. I’ve battled doubts. I’ve run against my inner critic. Through it all, I continued writing, but with each word that hit the manuscript, I’ve had to ask myself, “Why am I still doing this?”

I see a vast amount of success around me. Some of it I’ve helped facilitate through critiques, organizing meetings where people can improve their writing, and working with the fantastic volunteers at Pikes Peak Writers to further the goals of everyone around me. I’ve been doing these volunteer efforts since June of 2008 with various organizations and since October of 2012 with Pikes Peak Writers.

The problem is that the success is not mine. I can’t take credit for it. My name’s not going to land on the cover of the book. The success is AROUND me, but not WITHIN me. This has led to my doubts in all areas, including the Day Job and things I enjoy outside writing.

When I’m not writing, I still ask myself, “Why am I still doing this?”

I’ve slowly been turning things around on the emotional front back to the positive. Then this morning happened to help push me further to a happier realm.

I found out that one the agents at the 2014 Pikes Peak Writers Conference met with one of our attendees (this is a regular thing, so no surprise there), and they hit it off. The agent signed the author on, and sold her first book (and a few others) within two month’s time. The books were signed on by a large publisher as well, so this is huge for the author and the agent. I heartily congratulate both of them are their current success, and I wish them all the best in the future.

While this is success that is still AROUND me, and I can take maybe 0.000000001% of credit for anything happening there because I helped organize the conference and helped run the organization that hosts the conference….. This made my day.

Seeing this author rise through the ranks and achieve such a phenomenal goal of hers has shed new light on why I do what I do.

I truly do enjoy my work for Pikes Peak Writers. I usually (probably 98% of the time) enjoy my writing work as well… even the editing process.

It’s taken this monumental success put before me to make me realize I have to continue on with what I do because it helps other people achieve their goals. Yes, it takes time and energy and effort away from me fulfilling my own dreams, but I’ve come to be okay with that. More than okay. I really don’t have a word for how deeply satisfied I am that I help other people. I’m sure there is a word in another language or in the Buddhist realm about how internalized this happiness is. I just don’t know what it is.

I guess to sum up. I’ve been in a rough spot lately. Thanks to all of you that have noticed and helped shore me up with your friendship and companionship. Things are getting better, and I’m going to keep on chasing that dream of publishing a novel. It might take me a bit longer than I want it to, but as long as that pot of gold is out there, I’m going to chase the end of the rainbow.

I’ll catch it someday.

Thanks for reading.

Obligatory 2014 Recap

new-years-day-2015Wow. What a year. Ups. Downs. Even some sideways curves thrown in. I’m not going to go through every, gritty little detail and bore you to death. Here are some highlights of the year for me!

  • The year started out with a bang as the government decided it wanted back taxes on my grandfather’s estate. I damn near blew a gasket as my dad had promised this wouldn’t happen again. The stress of this all damn near drove me to stroke-level blood pressure for a couple of months. In the end, we had to sell my grandparent’s house (the house I spent ages 12-19 living in) to pay the taxes and get some cash out of the deal.
  • While this ordeal was going on, I received the good news that Phobias: A Collection of True Stories had been released with one of my stories in it. It’s a non-fiction piece, but it’s a gripping tale of how my arm was mostly amputated in a car wreck, and what’s gone on with me (physically, mentally, and emotionally) since that dark night in 1988.
  • Then came April with the annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Yet another great conference was had by all, and I was extremely grateful to be able to meet and hang out with old friends and new friends alike. The highlights of my 2014 PPWC were meeting Chuck Wendig, Jim C. Hines, and Michelle Johnson. Michelle asked for my full manuscript while at conference, but ended up passing on it later in the year. More on that later.
  • The rest of the year passed as I cranked out short stories, submitted them to a variety of markets, and let the rejection slips pile up in my inbox. Such is the life of a writer. You keep at it. Write more. Become better. Submit stuff. Accept rejection. Rejoice in acceptance.
  • July found me at a new Day Job. I’m still doing software engineering duties, but simply for a different employer now.
  • August rolled around and another anthology I’m in was officially released. The road was long and arduous for this particular anthology, but it got pulled off and I’m quite happy to have a story in Carnival of the Damned.
  • September found me in Paris for ten days (including travel time) for work. It was nice to go back again (I went as part of a tour group when I was a teen), but able to go alone, do what I wanted, when I wanted, and all that good stuff. However, I did get sick right before the weekend. Horribly sick. I bounced back quick enough, though. I was still able to see some of the sights I wanted to visit, but not nearly as many. That’s ok. I guess I’ll save up some things to see for next time I make it there.
  • Then in October a few things hit nearly at the same time.
  • Early in the month a flash fiction piece I’d written called “Broken Violence” was featured on HorrorAddicts.net.
  • Then later in the month, MileHiCon rolled around. This is a near-local (just up in Denver) convention that’s very well-priced (less than 50 bucks) and is always a hoot to attend. Again, I got to meet up with old friends and make some new ones while I was at it. The convention was all-around great (again) even if the fire alarms went off a few times on Saturday night and forced us to move the midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show to another room.
  • When November rolled around, I received a very nice and thoughtful rejection letter from Michelle regarding Warmaiden. At this point, I’d been shopping the book around for an agent/editor for over five years. I decided it was time to move on from Laurin’s stories and write something fresh and new. The struggle to publish my first novel (and its sequels) was just becoming too much of a burden, and I needed to step away. It all, I trunked around 320,000 words from the trilogy. I still have them around, but they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
  • December rolled around, and I was writing more short stories, and decided to take a break from them to crank on a novel. I took two “short” (they’re short-to-novelette length tales) stories about the same character, merged them, added more material, amped up the grit and blood, and created (what I think is) a pretty decent urban fantasy tale. It’s a bit on the short side (about 44,000 words), so I’m going to run it past the critique group and get their input on places to improve/expand the story.
  • If you look to the right sidebar of my site, you’ll see that I came up one story short on my goal, and 10 submissions short of that particular goal. I’m okay with that. I now have one more publication from those submissions (Broken Violence), and eleven more stories to shop around once they get some polish on them.

I gotta say…. Except for the shitty start to the year, I’ve had a pretty good one so far.

Here’s to hoping 2014 was nice to you, and may 2015 bring you as much success as you can fit in your hot little hands!

PS: Resolution for 2015 will be posted tomorrow. I’m still mulling around a few ideas, and I’m not sure which one to jump on just yet.