News From the Con World

This mirrors what a lot of other vendors have said about the 2019 season and concerns about 2020. While I will be potentially doing as many shows, I’m definitely leaning towards new markets with proven performers.

This is also something to consider for the larger author community. One may have to take a deep breath when looking at overall sales numbers and also pay strict attention to marketing. Things may get bumpy for a bit.

Happy Veteran’s Day Potpourri Post

So it’s been a bit since I’ve updated the blog.  I figured I’d hit some of the high points of the last couple of weeks:

Attended the Ozark Book Con down in Fayetteville this past weekend as a vendor.  First year event with all that entails, but had good panels and talks with several good authors.  I recommend attending the event for the professional aspects if you’re in the area.  If you’re coming from out of the town, it’s definitely a “Hey rando friend I haven’t talked to in years, mind if I sleep on your couch?” until it grows some.  Which, given the professionalism and drive on display, I think it definitely will.

On the way back, finally got to meet Acts of War‘s editor, Mary, in person.  In addition to being long overdue, the fact it’s been 5+ years since that book went through her able hands made me marvel at what modern technology makes possible.  Although her current work with medical journals precludes her from working on anything else, I’m glad that a mutual acquaintance said “Hey, I know someone who might be able to help you…” many moons ago.

Speaking of the Usurper’s War series, Against the Tide Imperial continues to move along.  Unfortunately, after getting read the riot act by an author mentor, I’ve had to accept that the Phases of Mars anthologies are 100% my “books for the year.”  Combined with the new day job’s obligations (oh, yeah, I got promoted and changed positions), the process of putting out Those In PerilTo Slip the Surly Bonds, and Trouble in the Wind has pretty much sucked up a lot of available time.  So, rather than put out a substandard product or skimp on marketing, Against the Tide Imperial is slipping to the right again.  The manuscript will get done this year (which means preorders will be up), but the actual _book_ is probably going to be out in 1st Quarter 2020.  *angry author noises*

This dovetails to a professional lesson that I am learning again, but in a different dialect:  Projects are rarely as easy as they may initially seem.  At the beginning of the year, with Those In Peril shooting up the charts, “Suuuure, we can do two more of these this year…” seemed like a good plan.  What I now realize is one can do three books in a year, it just means one probably shouldn’t also do cons and other creative projects if there’s also a fourth book one would like done.  So, for 2020, the lesson will be, “No, I think that timeline doesn’t work for me, thank you…” as I get solo projects back in line.  (Feel free to remind me of this in the comments when my hair is on fire again this time next year.)

In addition, having now done editing three times, I cannot emphasize enough that you should always pay your damn editor.   It’s a whole different animal than writing, and I will issue a blanket, heartfelt mea culpa for some of my past sins to my editors.  In addition, as an author, understand that your editor’s job is to polish up your work.  “Polish” implies that you have done a grammatical read through, researched the technical aspects of the work, and are basically giving the editor a complete story that just needs a set of professional eyes to look upon it.  This goes doubly so for an anthology submission.  Indeed, I’m just going to let John G. Hartness take it away…(language alert…NO REALLY!):

Anyway, it’s Nano (and yes, I’m counting these words), and I’m going back to US CVs about to go to guns with an Italian Fleet.  (Yes, that’s a teaser.)

Metal Monday: The Return of Korn & More News

So I didn’t realize it’s been almost three years since Korn graced a Metal Monday.  (Man I wish the sound system had been better for the Topeka concerts.) So, without further ado, we’re going to go back…way back.  😀

Apparently Jonathan Davis wrote the song as an aid to fight against domestic abuse.  It’s lyrics are pretty raw, and I’ve had it on as background music for many scenes dealing with an oppressive boss or overlord.

Great Plain Ren Fest this weekend! If you’re in Wichita swing by to say hello!

 

Cincinnati Comic Con 20-22 September

So I’ll be doing Cincinnati Comic Con 20-22 September.  The general floor plan is below:

Cincy Convention Hall

Booth #520, my digs, is zoomed in on in the following pic:

Cincy Floor Location

 

I hope to see some of y’all there!  I love meeting fans in the wild, and this will be my first time in Ohio!  Provided Amazon doesn’t botch the shipping, I’ll have copies of all my own books and anthologies there, to include To Slip the Surly Bonds.  Which, btw, now has an “orange tag” signifying it was #1 in a category (no, that doesn’t get old typing it!):

ORANGE TAG 2

Hope to see you guys Friday, Saturday, or Sunday!

Music Monday: A Classic Gets the Epic Treatment and Some News

It’s the third Monday, and you know what that means–SCORE DAY!

A big trend in trailer music lately has been to update classic, recognizable songs and give them the “Epic” treatment (i.e., soaring instrumentals and drum tracks).  If you can hear the “Trailer Voice” guy narrating your book trailer to one of these songs, that’s kind of the point.  😀

Speaking of climatic scenes, two bits of info.  First, just a reminder, To Slip the Surly Bonds dropped last Friday (print cover shown to cover the additional cover art awesomeness!):

Print Cover

It has been climbing the charts and was #1 on the Historical Fiction New Release Chart last night (Sunday 15 September 2019 in case you’re reading this much later).

ORANGE TAG

Second, I’ll be at the Cincinnati Comic Expo this week!  I will (thanks to the Amazon gnomes getting it done early) have print copies of To Slip the Surly Bonds as well as the first copies of Anita C. Young’s State of Mind artbook!  Stay tuned during the week for location and maps!

The Write Up That Was Foretold…

So about a year ago, when I was talking to several of my fellow indie author friends, they mentioned a convention known as “LTUE.”  When I asked what the acronym stood for, I was told, “Life, The Universe, and Everything.”  Being familiar with conventions overselling and underperforming (and shamefully not recognizing the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quote), I merely nodded and made a note that the event existed.  I mean, surely a convention full of writers couldn’t be really that good.  Plus, as long-time readers of this blog know, I go to cons to fleece people, erm, I mean, give them products in exchange for money.

Hi, my name is James, and I’d like to talk about why you shouldn’t be as idiotic as I was.

 

BLUFLTUE isn’t a seller con, it’s a professional one. (Although, there was a dealer room and I did get my wife a really nice dice bag from Words & Geekery, a local small business.)  If you are an indie author, you should go expecting to have knowledge poured into your head by people who are quite knowledgeable in their field.  You should also go expecting to hear diverse points of view.  Finally, you should attend to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and quite possibly end up dragooned into moderating / guesting on multiple panels.  Like, oh, nine or so of them.

If you’re looking for a blow by blow AAR, friend and fellow indie Cedar Sanderson is starting a really good one here [EDIT: and the rest of it here]. I’ll simply give some background and hit the highlights of my attendance, but Cedar captures the nuts and bolts of what it was like day to day.  I will say that there were Belgian Waffles:

Belgian Waffles

Stores that made me wonder if the Mortal Kombat crew had fallen on hard times:

 

Subzero

And my favorite, traps, erm, I mean, hazards:

Tripping

LTUE used to be held at BYU, but outgrew the college and was held at the Provos Marriott.  Inprocessing was pretty easy, especially as originally I wasn’t planning on presenting.  Indeed, I specifically said to my friends that I was coming “as an innocent bystander,” i.e., just some rando guy who happened to know people until I got the feel of the convention.  This is standard for me (several of my friends are laughing right now), as it’s a lot easier to get a good feel for things if one grabs a seat in the corner of a room and just listens.  However, I greatly underestimated the number of Libertycon alumni who would not only be attending, but were quite happy to dime me out as knowledgeable history and military subjects.  When the head of the con walked up and said, “Oh, you’re Dr. James Young, I’ve heard so much about you”, I kind of knew my [albeit flimsy] cover had been blown.  Hilarity ensued from that point on, especially when I may or may not have heckled fellow author Kal Spriggs. I pretty much stood in for my friend and fellow indie Peter Grant (who ended up having to cancel at the last minute) as well as another author/presenter who just flat out didn’t show up.

This leads well to another discussion that is very pertinent not only to LTUE but conventions in general:  If you’re ever asked to present, moderate, or be a panelists at a conference, the most important thing to do is show up.  If unable to do the most important thing, it is incumbent that you let not only the convention organizers but your fellow panelists know that you will not make it.  I will merely say that missing three days of a panels with nary a word to folks who expected you to be on panels is a great way to get a reputation as a jerk.  Stiff people like that, you better be able to say, “Well, there was that little matter of me nearly dying…” or “Look, I didn’t know my first cousin owed the cartels money and they were going to kidnap me to make my grandma pay up.”

On the other hand, being able to discuss a topic coherently, even with no warning, is a good skill to cultivate as an author.  Furthermore, seizing the opportunity to either moderate or be on a panel will, apparently, get one kudos for an entire weekend as well as a reputation.  Finally, being on panels is a great way to meet other subject matter experts in your field.

 

Even more fun than being on panels, however, was attending several (list at the bottom of the post).  I learned a lot about prison guards, artist networking, The Cuban Missile Crisis, and various other sundry subjects than I had expected.  A panel on death and dying provided by a good friend who is also a hospice nurse not only gave me a story idea but also helped me reconsider my own blind spots and how I dealt with terminal disease in some books.  There was a panel in which I learned new ways to assess gender and power relationships in both reading and writing.  Lastly, I got to meet one of my favorite alternate history authors by total and complete accident.

That last one deserves its own paragraph.  When Angels Wept is an alternate history of the Cuban Missile Crisis done by Dr. Eric Swedin that won the 2010 Sidewise Award.  Having only met Eric the night before, I did not put his name and the book together when I started talking to another individual about the book.  That person pointed out that Eric had given him a copy, at which point I said, “You gave him a great book.”  To which Eric replied nonchalantly, “I know, I wrote it.”  After a moment of fanboying, I pointed out that at least he knew I honestly liked it and wasn’t just being polite.  (Why yes, next year I do intend to take my copy to have him sign it.  Why do you ask?)  However, bonus points: I was also able to recruit Eric for To Slip the Surly Bonds, the next Phases of Mars alternate history anthology which will focus on air combat.

In the end, it was this face-to-face interaction that was LTUE’s best aspect.  There are only a few cons where several New York Times bestselling authors and illustrators (to include Brett Helquist, who is simply amazing with his advice and knowledge) are not only in attendance, but also  happy to share their experiences at length.  This by itself makes LTUE worth its low price of admission ($55) and the trip out there.  Add in the fact you get to test new plot outlining technology and have a chance to talk with experienced editors looking for clients, and it’s almost stealing.  If you’re an indie author, especially west of the Rockies, LTUE should definitely be on the list of cons to attend at least once.

List of panels where I was either the moderator or a panelist (so you can find them if LTUE puts them on YouTube):

“Joining the Rebellion”—Moderated

“Chesney to Heinlein to Weber: The Evolution of Military SF”

“Rules of Engagement”

“Heinlein and the Battlefield: Starship Troopers’ Influence on the Military”—Moderated

“The Art of War 1 and 2”—This was a double panel

List of panels I attended:

“On Death and Dying: Watching Over the Terminally Ill”—As noted above, this was done by my friend, and hospice nurse, Amanda Fuesting.  Amanda rocked it, and if you’re ever around for her doing a repeat, go.  Not just as an author, but as someone who will likely end up with someone close to you being terminally ill.

“Book Cover Design and Layout”

“Prisoners and Prison Guards”

“Writing a Diverse Cast Without Stereotyping”

“Hacking in Fiction” –Henceforth known as the one in which I’m pretty sure the attendees watched a young woman embrace a path to super villainy because she “had student loans to pay.”)

“Making a Living Through Art”

“Feminism and Intersectionality in SFF”

“Networking for Artists”

“Realistic Self-Publishing: What It Takes to Make It in the World of Self-Publishing”—This is a must see if it makes it to the YouTube channel.  Ms. Keary Taylor did an excellent job of laying out the path to success for a new indie author.

“The Cuban Missile Crisis”

“Working With a Cover Artist”—This one was an interesting juxtaposition on how covers are approached by small press, indies, and traditional publishing.  There was one point where Cedar, seeing my gnashing my tongue to ribbons, tried to get me to say what I was thinking.  Ha ha ha…no.  😀

A note on getting there:  I chose to drive out to Provos from the Fortress of Despair due to the fact I hate flying and it’s kind of hard to bring books on an airplane.  [“Wait, I thought you said this wasn’t a selling con!”  It wasn’t—doesn’t mean I was going without product.  Please.]  A couple of my West Point classmates graciously let me crash at their place (Thanks Shannon and Joe!  Baby goats!) on the way out, so I decided to take I-80 across Wyoming and Utah.  It was a pretty scenic drive despite high winds in Utah and a snowstorm that went from “Oh, it will be a light dusting…”-forecast to “Yep, Frosty the Snowman found out about your affair with his wife and is coming for your soul…”-actuality.  Bonus?  Got to drop in and see the guys at Die Hard Dice, a regular supplier of accessories for my and Anita C. Young’s DnD habit.

On the way back east, I drove I-70, and that’s probably not happening again anytime soon.  *shudder*  Something about being higher than the majority of aerial combat over the Eastern Front in World War II was unsettling.

Vale Summit

The skiers returning to Denver from the slopes didn’t help my mood either.  Add in yet another snowstorm, and I think I’ll take the wide open spaces of Wyoming over choked mountain passes any day of the week.

I70 Traffic

Still, driving was definitely the way to go if you’re attending the con.  I came back with lots of goodies and business cards, plus stopped and saw friends along the way.

 

LTUE Snippet and Those In Peril

Hey Everyone!

So last week was pretty wild.  I attended Life, The Universe, and Everything (LTUE), a writer’s symposium based in Provo, UT.  Longer discussion coming soon, once I have a chance to collect all my thoughts and note from the weekend.  Suffice to say I had a blast, got to see lots of old friends and make new ones, plus network.  Highly recommend, especially if it’s a trip that won’t require a hotel stay.

While I was at LTUE, Those In Peril, the alternate history anthology I edited with Chris Kennedy, dropped.  To be clear, when I say “dropped,” I’m meaning out the bottom of a B-san on an unsuspecting civilian city.  Not only did Peril rocket to the top of the alternate history charts, at one point is was #513 on Amazon’s charts period.  As in, there were only 512 books that sold more copies than Those In Peril did on 15 February.  I remain totally blown away, and hope everyone reading this decides to go grab a copy.

For all the LTUE folks who were at my panels, feel free to poke around.  As I mentioned, I talk about cover art here, also here, and finally here.  History-wise, I have entire categories dedicated to air warfare and naval history.  Feel free to poke around a little bit, and I’ll probably be putting another short piece together again in the coming weeks.  Thanks for stopping by!