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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Last week I was at Heliosphere, a new convention arising from the ashes, more or less, of Lunacon, another convention in the same general area. It celebrated its last hurrah last year, with no clear plans to have any more such conventions. I heard a lot of explanations about how that all came about, but not being a Lunarian I have nothing to say on the matter. I had stopped going to Lunacon some years ago, but since I had released Ghostkiller I thought I would see if a new title or two would attract attention. Unfortunately this did not turn out to be the case, so I would not have returned to Lunacon even if there had been a Lunacon to return to.
I didn’t hear about Heliosphere until after Lunacon, and I was very interested to see if I would do better there, as a book seller. This was only the second convention for Heliosphere, so it’s hard to make comparisons. They did say that the membership was up by a decent percentage from the first one, so that’s good news. One former vendor from last year was quite impressed that our turnout was so much larger than his experience. I also had a large number of new titles, several of which were popular. Some of my older titles (some of them romances) also sold, to a new audience. I find myself hoping that they’ll have more panels, or that with enough time to ask I might find myself on some of them. I need to start presenting myself as an author, not just a dealer.
Some of the best events I saw weren’t panels, though. In the dining area outside the dealers room they had a number of events, such as a demonstration of sword-and-shield fighting techniques, or tables for authors to just chat about their books. The more popular authors held very large gatherings there. They were also floating the idea of hosting mini-cons within the con, as some of the more popular authors had their own tracks. I’m not sure how well that would work, but I don’t know how much crossover there was from the one track to any of the others.
We’ll see next year.

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Well, not my first first event, but the first event at which I was on a selling floor trying to promote my book. It was at I-Con, a SF/F media con that takes place not far from where I live on LI. Shortly after Unbinding the Stone came out I was allowed to participate in the con as an author in their literary track. Lots of authors gathered together to participate in a variety of panels on various topics in SF/F literature.

A sidelight of this was a space at the author table down in the Dealer’s Room of the con. I was scheduled for Sunday afternoon, which is pretty much death for a selling event. Most of the people in the dealer’s room had bought what they wanted, spent all their money, and had no interest in fitting in a last-minute purchase of a book they’d never heard of by an author they probably still haven’t heard of.

We had two tables, me and this other author scheduled for the same time. The tables had no covers and looked like portable folding tables usually look, i.e., gross. The other author put a small stack of her book, a MMP, on the table, with a small stack of postcards for it right in front. Total space covered, about a half a square foot out of 24. Then she sat down and started to chat with an author friend in the next chair.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I looked at this; thinking “Do you really expect to sell any books like this?” And she almost certainly didn’t. I had higher hopes. I put my poster of the book cover on the table, covering a good amount of space. I took my stack of bookmarks and smeared it across the table, covering more space. And I took my copies of the book and CD and spread those out too, covering half the table. Then I stood up behind my table and started calling out to the people passing by, attracting them to come and over and see what I had. I didn’t sell anything but I at least got my bookmark into their hands.

I see the same pattern at many of the events I do now. Ugly displays, displays that block off the seller from the customer. Vendors who just sit their, waiting for eager customers to swarm up, begging for the chance to buy their products.

I’ll tell you right now, It don’t work like that.

Well, you can’t say I didn’t try.

Last year I was pretty sure that Confluence as an event for Author Guy (the name of my little bookselling operation) had been played out. My publisher doesn’t produce that many books in a year, and the fantasy part of that is even smaller. I did get some decent sales of St. Martin’s Moon, which is the main reason I went. Unfortunately it seems like many of the people who go decided this year they couldn’t afford it and stayed home. The hard-core fans came, but they were attending panels and stuff like that rather than spending lots of time and money in the dealer room. Fortunately we had the new ebook coupons so we could sell a number of books that way. Unfortunately they don’t make a lot of money for Author Guy.

I got in a bit of chatting in the con suite, one of the other benefits to being at places like this. Somehow the guy I was talking to got the idea that I wanted to produce one of my short stories as a short film project and started giving me lots of advice on what I’d need for the project. A young lady listening insisted on giving me her name and email since she was an actress. I may try to get it produced, but only by finding someone else who produces such things and is looking for material. If you need a funny 20 minute short modeled on English farce, let me know.

At least the trip home didn’t cause us any problems. The last two years we got home at 2 AM due to road construction in PA and long lines at the toll booth for the GWB. This time there was none of that but we still got in at around midnight, which was the best we could expect. So you can imagine that I’m writing this post one sentence at a time.

Confluence is the end of my con schedule for the year. I still have the Collingswood book festival, but other than that I only have small craft/gift fairs on LI to look forward to. I was thinking of maybe Arisia and/or Boskone next year. I don’t know of too many other cons in the Northeast. Do you?

It’s not really possible to synopsize Readercon, there are just too many things going on, and not all of it is of interest to all participants. I was mostly interested in the panels on trans-genre subjects, much less so in the panels on colonialism, paranormal romance, or brain structure. I was lucky that the panels I wanted to see were so neatly arranged around my stint in the book room.

After the book review panel on Evaporating Genres ended, I went up to the author and asked him if the book was available at the event as I would love to get a signed copy. As I was talking to him one of the panelists came up and handed him a copy of the book, since it was his own. I asked, “Can I buy that one?” He gave it to me and said I could pay him when he came to the signing table. He appeared in the bookstore a few minutes later, not his scheduled signing time, and I made myself known to him. I had the money in one hand and a copy of St. Martin’s Moon in the other, and he decided to take the book in trade! One of the panelists appeared a few moments later, also a reviewer, and I put a copy in his hand as well. I only hope either of these gentlemen actually review it! On Sunday as the event was winding down I told Mr. Wolfe how much I had enjoyed the title essay of the collection, but I noted that there was nothing in it about SF crossed with Gothic, which was my own story. He got this faraway look in his eye…

Saturday in the bookstore was pretty busy, and we sold quite a few books. Sunday we sort of expected to be like Saturday, only more so, since most of the cons we do have the veteran shoppers doing a lot of comparison on the first two days but they don’t actually buy until Sunday on the way out the door. Many cons we sell as many books on Sunday as we sold on Saturday only in less time. That was unfortunately not the case this time. We did, however, have a remarkable success on Sunday with our set of ebook coupons. These are pieces of paper with the book cover on one side and instructions on the other. We put on a coupon code when you buy it so that the user can enter the coupon code at the website and get the story for free. This is a great way for us to sell something tangible that is still an ebook. We had many people come up who were much more interested in them than paper books. The only bad thing was that we didn’t have the coupons out the whole three days, just on Sunday. We won’t be making that mistake again! I can see stocking-stuffer and greeting card potential with these.

One important aspect of the con that got small attendance was the debrief at the end, when the con managers asked for feedback on how the con had performed this year. Not only did I pass on my pleasure at the panels that I’d attended, I also passed on some negative reports I’d received from people who were not present to make them. One negative I’d experienced for myself was the line to the signing table, which extended up the aisle and effectively cut off the vendors on the wall fro the customers. More than once I had to call them over, through the line. One of the signers was sitting right behind me and commented how unhappy he was, that he couldn’t talk to people as he signed their books, since the line was in everyone’s way and he felt rushed to trim it down.

There were also some children who could have used some parental supervision.

I had an idea for a panel, and will be suggesting it on the appropriate email line when they open in September. I would also be interested in participating in a panel or two. I’m actually not sure if going back as a vendor would be especially profitable, as I doubt we’ll have that many new books out by then and I don’t know if the turnover from one year to the next is very great. On the other hand, the most common answer I received when I asked people what they liked to read was “Yes”, so hopefully I can interest them in the mysteries and whatnot next time around.

Next weekend is Confluence!

Readercon started on Thursday, but it was fairly late in the day and there wasn’t much going on so I’m rolling Thursday and Friday into one. I mentioned on Twitter a long time ago that I wanted to go to Readercon, and my publisher enthusiastically jumped on board, along with her two top editors. When we were approved to be in the Bookstore here, they approved her and not me. But she allowed me to occupy her space so this is still an Author Guy event. The schedule allowed for lots of time to set up, since se could get in on Thursday but the bookstore didn’t open for business until Friday at 3 PM. This also allowed me to do something I don’t usually get to do at these cons, which is to go to the con.

Readercon is a convention about books, Spec Fic books in particular. There are lots of authors here, and reviewers, critics, and probably a few agents, editors, and publishers in disguise. There are not a lot of people walking around in costumes, although they tend to come out on Saturday anyway, but still I don’t think I’ll be seeing many. They love to talk about stories here, not too many particular stories, but Story. My own particular favorites are the philosophical topics, as I’m sure will surprise no one. I have attended three panels in the last two days, which were all on different subjects yet all talked about the same thing.

The first was called ‘Touching the Puppets’, a very odd title that still leaves me in a little doubt as to what the panel was actually about. It didn’t help that I got there late and missed the opening remarks. The question seemed to be about the extent to which the characters interact with the world they’re passing through, and therefore how believable that world becomes to us the reader. One negative example suggested in the program description was Star Wars, although they didn’t agree with that statement in the panel itself. In fact, the success of the first Star Wars series and the failure of the second was attributed in part to the extent to which the characters were apparently relating to their environment. The scene in the first movie, when Luke is given his father’s old lightsaber, was used as an example. It helped, I think, that in the first series the special effects were not rendered digitally, but the actors had things they were holding in their hands. They could see and react appropriately to, if not the blast itself (which should have been invisible in any case), the consequences of the blast: The puff of smoke, a little explosion. In the second series they were denied these aids, and as a result there is no sense of realism aout the story. The performance of Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit was also brought up, as it was credited with making the story seem as real as it did, since he had to be acting towards something that didn’t exist. It apparently helped that the actor who did the voice of Roger not only was on set but wore a Roger Rabbit costume all the time, to give him something to focus on.

On the second day the bookstore opened at 3 and closed at 7, so I could go to the three panels I wanted to attend that day. In the morning they discussed a book of essays called Evaporating Genres by Gary Wolfe, who is one of the main reviewers for Locus magazine, to which I am now thinking about subscribing. Since my novel St. Martin’s Moon is a combination of genres that are not normally combined I had a particular interest in the topic of ‘genre instability, or the blurring of boundaries.’ I have often said that one of the reasons they worked so hard in the beginning to distinguish SF from the Western was that the two types of story had so much in common. It is a common discussion topic on forums like Goodreads, how a person would distinguish SF from Fantasy, and the usual conclusion of these discussions is that you can’t, really, and it’s all a matter of taste.

After the bookstore closed I was able to sit in on a discussion called ‘The Quest and the Rest’, which focused on how much the adventure depends on the non-adventure. The domestic element, the homefire that we are supposed to keep burning against their return, or at least their hope of a return. These are the things that make the story more real, because we can relate them to our own lives. Not many or us wave lightsabers around, but we do beat out carpets, even if they do not turn out to be cloth-of-gold underneath. The domestic element is one of the things that makes the Addams Family so compelling, I think, despite their apparent weirdness they are more of a family than the normal folks who inhabit the story with them. If anything I would disregard the need for a quest, some of the best fiction I know is entirely domestic, such as The Thread That Binds the Bones, or Huff’s Enchantment Emporium, which is about establishing a new outpost rather than a quest per se.

The last panel was called Traditional Genres are Melting, and I think the title says it all.

Today is going to be a full work day at the con, with the book room open 10-6, so I don’t expect to get out much. But I’ve already gotten more out of this con than any of the others before it, so I’m not complaining. And we’re selling some books, too!

So last weekend was the biggest literary festival in the Northeast, the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago. I drove out as usual, but this time my son was not with me. He had summer classes, so my daughter went with me instead, which was useful as my daughter is much more sales-oriented than my son, so we were able to handle the crush of customers and keep track of what we were doing much better. That was important as we were experimenting with a new pitch and had more than usual to keep track of. Can you spell BOGO? Well, actually, you can since I just spelled it out for you. On the other hand the stuff we had to keep track of over there meant we had less to put out over here, so we were able to fit the rest of our books on the table in a much more pleasing display. Not crammed.

Friday was the long drive, a 14-hour trip through 6 states. NY and NJ are okay, about 2.5 hours total and done. Pennsylvania is a bit harder to take, a 4.5 hour trip that is enjoyable at first but you really can’t wait for it to be over by the time you’re done. It doesn’t help that parts of PA put up mile markers every tenth of a mile, so you’re forced to watch the pot boil and we all know watched pots take just forever to boil. (And I have that same trip to look forward to next month when I go to Pittsburgh for Confluence. Except that the roads will be worse and it’ll take me 7 hours to get out instead of 4.5. These last 2 years I’ve gotten home from Confluence at 2 in the morning, after leaving at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon. What the hell all those cars and trucks are doing on the road at that hour I don’t know.)

Anyway, I also realized that my first trip through Ohio years back I must have been diverted way the hell north through Cleveland, which explains why the trip that year took so much longer than any other year. There isn’t much to say about Ohio and Indiana except that they’re flat. And there was an accident at some point, a tandem trailer that tipped over and crushed some poor car. I hope there was no one in the passenger seat. I met a lady at the next rest stop who decided to buy a copy of St. Martin’s Moon because it isn’t every day you get to meet the author. That was nice.

We were at a Days Inn again this year, and my publisher and all of her authors gathered there as well.  We got into the hotel parking lot just as they were getting into their cars to go to a restaurant for a dinner together, so naturally we went along. It was more of Chicago then I’ve been able to see so far, since previous trips involved highways that took me to and from the event with little opportunity to see anything. Then we went back to the hotel and basically crashed until the next day. Thanks to some construction we were turned around but managed to get there right behind the rest of our group, who had, like, directions and stuff. Cheaters.

The weather was not cooperative. We’d been told it would be cool and rainy, only it was hot. We were all overdressed for that day. Like every other PR for the last few years it rained, but we had several tarps and some good notice, so when the skies opened up we had everything under cover and all the boxes off the ground. And the people of Chicago don’t let a little rain stop them. The following day was a lot cooler, and of course we were all underdressed for that weather, especially towards the evening when we were in the shade and Dearborn Ave became a wind tunnel off the lake. We sold about twice as many books on Sunday as we did on Saturday, so I’m not complaining at all.

There were several of us there, Echelon being the sort of publisher that really makes an effort to get its authors out and about. Sean Hayden, Gale Borger, Jen Wylie, Bob Goldsborough, Claudia Whitsitt, Luisa Buehler, Marlis Day, Jenny Turner, Sam Morton, Norm Cowie, and Martin Bartloff were on the other three sides of the tent (yes I remembered them all and yes they’re in order), along with a lady who wrote children’s books and seemed very nice, but whose name I never got. She’s identified in several of the photos everyone else managed to take. Usually when my back was turned.

The trip back was a bit longer than the trip out, since I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before and that really sucks for driving 800+ miles. But we survived. This post is the longest piece of writing I’ve done since then, so I must be feeling better now. We managed to sell over a hundred books, and gave away even more ducks! I also came up with a story idea. Martin and I had been talking about pantsing v. outlining at dinner, and I imagined (while driving home on Monday) him proposing a line to see if I could pants a story out of it. Which I did. But I really want to finish Ghostkiller.

How was your weekend?

Yeah, I know, but I go to South Carolina for the Book Festival they have in Columbia, and I don’t go to Alabama at all.

Speaking of the Book Festival, I just got back from there on Monday after spending four marvelous days in weather that wasn’t rainy and was warm. This time around they decided to hold the festival in May instead of February, and I was lucky that my local festival, Duck Pond Day, wasn’t the same weekend. Actually it was my publisher who was lucky since I wouldn’t have traveled 800 miles for the privilege of losing money if an event literally down the hill from my house was waiting for me. Duck Pond Day is next Sunday, so life is good.

It was also the weekend my new book came out. Yes, St. Martin’s Moon is officially released, although at this moment it only appears on OmniLit.com and the sister site All Romance Ebooks.  I also got a fabulous Triple Espresso review.

At I-Con last month I got to use my new handmade wooden bookshelf on wheels. At SC I was able to use both of them, although I think I’ll have to get some new wheels, the big ones I have don’t fit right and the shelves tilt. We had no room for anything else, there were lots of other authors sharing the space and space was at a premium. Having a lot of shelves was very handy. I even sold a few electronic copies of some of my short stories, that’s never happened before.

The other authors were Sam Morton and Connie Hullander, both of whom apparently live in Columbia or thereabouts. Everyone else had to travel a bit, Sean Hayden and his son Connor came up from Florida, Kieryn Nicolas came down from PA, Marlis Day came out East again and Gale Borger traveled the furthest of all. Even better, almost every one of them had a new book out, and this festival was where it was going to debut (at least the paper version)! I picked just so many new titles to read! And I have to read them, of course, otherwise how could I promote them to all the lucky patrons of my other bookselling events?

One thing we had no room for was a place to sit. I spent every hour of both days on my feet and moving around. You can imagine how stiff I was when I finally got a chance to sit down. If you’re lucky you can’t.

The trip home was less fortunate, in several respects. I left SC on Sunday night after the event ended, making it about halfway through North Carolina before stopping at a motel. After getting lost twice. The motel, a Best Western, was a little pricier than I would have liked but I wasn’t really motivate to try the non-name brands down the road. At least they had a decent complimentary breakfast, and a busload of friendly tourists who were no doubt occupying all the cheaper rooms. And Julia, my daughter who was doing the event with me, got to use the pool. Yay. Well, at least she was happy.

The next day I was supposed to stop in at my publisher’s warehouse and pick up my books, every copy of A Warrior Made I could find. I’m pretty sure most of them were buried, I never saw so many boxes of books in my life! People, you gotta get out there and start buying Echelon books. I mean, seriously.

Anyway, for the last part of the trip I had a thousand pounds more weight than I was used to, and of course that was when a serious accident on the NJ Turnpike closed the road and forced us to make a detour onto Rte. 1, at rush hour. I don’t think we made much better time than the parking lot we left behind. When we finally got back to LI we had to deal with the crappy paving job that I felt every pothole and crack of, thanks to the aforementioned extra thousand pounds. And I was too late to catch the season finale of Chuck. Thank God for VCRs, except of course something went wrong. Thank God for Hulu.com!

Next month, Chicago!

See you there?


Unbinding the Stone

A Warrior Made

A Warrior Made

Click here to BUY NOW!

St. Martin’s Moon

St. Martin's Moon

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Ghostkiller

Chasing His Own Tale

Click Here to Buy Now!

Struck By Inspiration

Struck By Inspiration

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Steampunk Santa

Click here to Buy Now!

Bite Deep

Christmas among the vampires!

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Click here to buy NOW!

Cyber-pirates. Sort of.

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Off the Map

Reality TV...without the Reality!

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