Four Days With My People (GENCON 2018)



Part of the reason I’ve taken so long to do this AAR is that I was having trouble trying to put the experience into words.  It’s been two weeks since I loaded out of Indianapolis and began the long trip home…and I still find myself having a goofy smile for no good reason.  If you crossed Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Walk on the Ocean with some goth synth metal fantasy power ballad all over a rolling dice track, that would probably be what my homage to “The Best Four Days in Gaming” would probably be.  Which is ironic, because I didn’t do a whole lot (read none) of gaming.

So what was so great about it? More on that later.

TL:DR for those here for the “Go or not go…” from the author’s perspective:  That hall is wait listed for a reason, and I did great fiscal murder there.  With only books, my books, as in I couldn’t even take any anthologies there.  No prints either.  So, if you want a chance to hand out your swag at a con that has (conservatively) to 75,000 rabid gamers and can get into the author alley, go.

NOTE: I was wait listed and got into Author’s Alley late.  

I will add this caveat, however:  Lodging is going to eat you alive.  If you are comfortable with Air BnB, several vendors had success with that.  However, if you’re not comfortable with Air BnB, expect to spend upwards of $600 on lodging, and that’s if you don’t stay downtown.  Which, for the love of God, stay downtown if you can.  Technically, according to the hotel I was staying at and Mapquest, it should have taken 25 minutes to get downtown.  Yeaaah, that’s not counting weekday rush hour my friends.  Time is money, and in this case it’s worth that extra $10-$15 a night to be able to walk back to your hotel if necessary.

The tables in Author’s Alley were your standard 6-foot con table.  As originally set up, the grey walls behind were angled in order to make them slightly more stable.  This…this was a problem, as it sharply constricted the back area space, meaning I had to empty two of my book crates:

“I think we’re going to need a bigger booth…”
“It’s also going to be super awkward if I don’t sell anything…”

Despite the booth shock, load in (and load out) went really well.  This was a con that took security seriously, and woe be unto you as a vendor or help if you did not have your badge during setup.  Park in Parking Lot A if you go–it’s not that much further than the “Marshalling Yard” behind the building, and you won’t have to wait for a pass to park.


All done!

The crowd, as to be expected from the gaming community, was mostly (high and epic) fantasy fans, then about 75% of those sci-fi as well.  The Butcher’s Blade print, as always, was a life saver.  As my neighbors all observed, it made people stop and look, I could engage them in conversation, and at that point the magic usually happened.  Again, if only I had apparently talked to the right person and been told “book related merchandise” was safe to sell.

Speaking of fantasy, it also helped that I had great neighbors.  To my right was fellow sci-fi author Hans Cummings:

Hans at GENCON.jpg

To my left was Fantasy Author J.J. Sherwood (here with your humble host and her hubs, Michael):


Good neighbors make any Con go well, and J.J. and Hans were awesome.  Since J.J. did not do sci-fi, she sent folks over to me.  As I lacked fantasy, I sent folks over to her.  It went really well.

So, again, if you have a chance to do GENCON as an author, do it.

If you have a chance to go to GENCON as a guest? Well, now we get to where I talk about “tribe.”  For those of you who don’t know, I’m a huge role playing game fan.  (“Wait, wait…you dropped DnD references and names throughout An Unproven Concept.”)  Being around 75,000 other people who shared the same passion was amazing.  I spent most of the weekend talking to people with whom I didn’t have to explain phrases like, “Oh, so you’re a World War II buff as well?  I shall now make my persuasion roll with advantage…” (and yes, she bought the alternate history anthology).  Even better when you see familiar faces from the Kansas City area and do a mutual “Wait, what?  Why are you here?!”  Plus, there were cool books like this:

And a truly impressive charity set up:


In addition, there’s Critical Role Live (if you get your tickets early enough):


I was in a theater with over 2,000 fellow crazies when this brought the house down:
Sam on Skates

Courtesy of Leigh 574

For those of you who don’t know who that is or why we were all ecstatic about a man in a pink suit on roller skates coming out with a headlight in his crotch, I can only point you here, then point you here, and say this has been one of the best stories I’ve ever consumed.

Finally, I got to see old friends after several years.  To include my friend Quiltoni (“Queen of the Quilts” as I’ve been known to call her) and her merry band of booth helpers.

(No, there’s not a quilter in there…we all forgot to take pics the whole weekend)

So to recap:  Go to GENCON for the sales, stay for the community.  It’ll probably be the best 4 days of your life, the people were awesome, and I have zero regrets about taking the plunge into Author’s Avenue (even with the spinning wheel of doom).  I don’t know if I’ll do it next year (I have my sights set on a couple of other shows that might eat the leave), but it was worth it this year.


Random Thoughts

On the transitory nature of things:  So I’ve mentioned Project Wonderful on here a couple of times.  Well, after over a decade of great adverts at low prices, they’re closing their doors.  It’s like going in to check on a great restaurant you used to frequent…only to find that they’ve been closed for several weeks.  Yes, feelings of guilt may be involved.  However, it sounds like the advertisement market is just going through some serious change.

On eternal arguments:  I work in a building with several other air enthusiasts.  This includes a gentleman who has been in the Commemorative Air Force almost as long as I’ve been alive.  Well, if there’s one discussion you can expect to have with a fellow flight fiend, it’s “What do you think is the best fighter of World War II?”

I think I threw him for a loop when I came back immediately with, “Where am I flying and what’s my mission?”

“That’s overcomplicating things, don’t you think?”

“Not really.  If I don’t have to go above 10,000 feet and ground fire isn’t that much of a problem…”

“Fine, what’s your favorite fighter of World War II.”

*without missing a beat*  “P-47, all day, every day.

“So you don’t think it’s the best fighter of World War II?”

“There I was over the Philippines when my only engine conked out.”

“Okay, good point.”

On nerves: No matter how many cons I do, I still have those moments where I’m afraid the whole thing is going to be like the scene from Carrie, i.e., “They’re all going to laugh at you!”  (Except, you know, hopefully I don’t get that homicidal surge to go with my previously largely nascent telekinesis.)  It’s silliness–I actually like going to cons and getting to meet new fans.  Plus the dealer room closes early at GENCON so vendors can game.

Speaking of gaming, I’ve been playing a lot of D&D 5th Edition.  While I grew up with 2nd Edition and played a bit of 3.5, I think 5e has hit the sweet spot between “Having a d20 system that keeps folks honest…” yet being simple enough that you can teach someone to play well in a matter of hours.  Even better:  The Better Half has started to apply her talents to preparing game sets:

Haunted House

Anyway, enough musing for the night.  Time to take Mama Shark her copy of Aries’ Red Sky in the AM.

Not able to offer Pre-Order

So the great thing about the Con circuit is you meet some amazing authors. A.D. Trosper is a fantasy writer who is out of southern Kansas, and I share this as a cautionary tale for folks looking for external companies. Bottom line: Contracts, contracts, contracts, written in such a manner that if someone ends up screwing up your work to this degree they don’t get paid.


I got my ebook files for Unveiled finished. Went to KDP and uploaded everything, but it wouldn’t let me set the pre-order option.  It said I was ineligible to use that function. So today I called Author Central and they put me through to KDP. And it was as I feared. The files for my last book weren’t uploaded in time (you have to have them uploaded in advance of the release date) and so my ability to set up pre-orders was suspended for a year.

As irritating as it is, I have to blame myself. I was using a design company and they consistently failed to get files to me in time for release. Every single time they got them to me just in time to upload with no time to proof them before release. This resulted in having to go back in and make corrections in both the…

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Quick Update

In the middle of Con / Book Signing season, as well as trying to get Collisions of the Damned, the sequel to Acts of War complete by 1 July.  I’ve managed to complete the first few drawings, with the winners being as follows:

Planet Comicon—Mr. James Webb was the winner for the Planet Comicon drawing. As he too indicated he would like to be surprised, he is the winner of a free T-shirt. I’ll shortly be in touch with Mr. Webb to see what his shirt size is, at which point I will provide him with a “Battle of Hawaii” T-shirt from the novel Acts of War.

Boom Comics—Mr. Enrique Ramirez was the winner at the Boom Comics drawing that celebrated the grand opening of the Manhattan Store.  As he indicated that he would like to be surprised, he is now the namesake of the C.S.S. Enrique Ramirez, a Rescorla-class destroyer that will be featured in the upcoming novel Though Our Hulls Burn. The background for the C.S.S. Enrique Ramirez is as follows:

C.S.S. Enrique Ramirez (3048)—Name for Confederation destroyer captain Enrique Ramirez (Fleet Academy Class of ’95). In 3025, Commander Ramirez and his vessel, the Edwin O’Hara (3010), encountered two larger pirate vessels assaulting an intrasystem ore carrier. With little regard for his or his own vessel’s safety, Commander Ramirez immediately attacked both hostile vessels. The O’Hara was able to destroy one pirate vessel and so damaged the other it was not able to execute FTL travel. This second vessel was subsequently destroyed by the heavy cruiser Puducherry when the latter came searching for the missing O’Hara three days after the initial combat. While the ore carrier managed to escape to a nearby asteroid belt, the O’Hara was fatally damaged with 95% crew casualties in this encounter. Commander Ramirez was not among the survivors.

Wichita Novel Experience (9 May)—Ms. Josephine Jacobs was the winner of the Wichita Novel Experience drawing. Ms. Jacobs opted to be characterized in an upcoming novel, and will be included in Though Our Hulls Burn, the next novel in the Vergassy Chronicles that will likely come out in December 2015. As there is already a character named Josephine in my alternate history novel Acts of War, it would likely confuse the reader if I introduce another one. While I may enjoy knocking off characters, I’m not so keen on befuddling readers. 😀

Boom Comics (16 May)—Mr. Benjiman Kowach is our winner. As he indicated that he would like to be a warship, he is now the namesake of the C.S.S. Benjiman Kowach, a Gago Coutinho-class destroyer that will be featured in the upcoming novel Though Our Hulls Burn. The background for the C.S.S. Beniman Kowach is as follows:

C.S.S. Benjiman Kowach (3037)—Name for Confederation navigational officer Vice Admiral Bejiman Kowach (2065-3033), Fleet Academy Class of ’87. Vice Admiral Kowach exited the Academy as a Navigational officer, and swiftly developed a reputation for getting his vessel or a task force to a given point in the shortest amount of time. As a commander, Benjiman Kowach was the navigation officer for the C.S.S. Atali when that vessel was called upon to deliver vaccines to the planet Bomani (Eurasian Sector) in response to a rare, but deadly plague. In the words of the Atali’s captain, “Commander Kowach’s navigational fixes and jump planning allowed us to save an estimated ten million lives by arriving a full week ahead of Fleet Command estimates.” As the head of the Bureau of Navigation from 2095-2099, Vice Admiral Kowach oversaw the integration of critical technology that doubled the number of light years that could be crossed by a single hyperspace jump. After retiring in 3005, Vice Admiral Kowach returned to his home planet of Lucille where he passed away from complications due to pneumonia at the age of 68.

Thanks for everyone’s continued support, and I’ll post more information on here shortly.