he World Fantasy Convention in Salt Lake City is over and done with, life returns to normal. Or as normal as we get these days.
I thought I’d share a few reflections.
First up, I found it really well organized. The web site was clear and easy to navigate, the portal or video conferencing system, was intuitive. I got the hang of it pretty quickly, and despite trepidation, navigated quite easily. I found what I wanted to find without difficulty, and the few times I struggled, the tech crew was understanding and helpful. Apparently they had technical glitches, as with the readings, but they coped, adapted and everything went smoothly.
Not everyone had my experience, a few of the more famous established writers seemed to struggle a little.
But personally, this was great. As far as I’m concerned, this could serve as a blueprint for online conventions.
Programming what I saw of it, was excellent. Programming started Wednesday and ran through Sunday. There was a mix of ‘professional development’ and ‘writing development’ panels. I especially appreciated the ones on finding an agent and on marketing. But all the panels were interesting and imaginative.
I was watching Super 8 last night. That’s the J.J. Abrams tribute to the 80’s, and Steven Spielberg movies. It has that same sort of feel of Stranger Things. Likely because they both have the same inspirations, ET, the Goonies, kids adventures and Steven King novels.
One of the cool things about Super 8, is the movie within the movie. The kids are using Super 8 cameras to make their own little epic. The connection is tangential, their Super 8 project means that they’re in the right place at the right time to see the train wreck which marks the alien escape and the main plot.
Oddly, that reminded me of a movie I hadn’t seen in a long time. The Mystery in Dracula’s Castle. This is an oldy, it aired way back in 1973, as a two parter, on the Wonderful World of Disney. Later on in the 1980’s, the two parts were stapled together and it floated around on cable channels.
Basically, the story is that a small group of kids get inspired, and decide to make their own version of Dracula on mom’s trusty Super 8. This intersects with the “A” plot which involves a jewelry heist, when the kids decide that the lighthouse the gang is hanging out with their ill gotten jewels turns out to be the perfect location for their Dracula movie.
Oh well. Boo hoo and all that.
The finals have been announced for the Booklife Contest. As per previous blog posts, my novel, The Princess of Asylum had made it to the quarter finals, and then the semi-finals. Really good review, really good score. Check it out here:
Alas, not quite good enough.
The Finalist, Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror for is E.M. Hamill’s Peacemaker. You can check it out here:
E.M. Hamill, according to her bio on Booklife is “a nurse by day, unabashed geek, chocoholic, sci fi and fantasy novelist by nights, weekends, and whenever she can steal quality time with her laptop. She lives with her family, a dog, and a cat in the wilds of eastern suburban Kansas, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse.”
I was recently on an alternate history panel for the World Fantasy Convention. Technically, it was about alternate history and fantasy, to wit…
“Alternate history has long been the domain of science-fiction writers, but it is now being enthusiastically colonized by writers of fantasy, who are bringing in magic, dragons, and the full panoply of the uncanny into what used to be an orderly and rational sub-genre. Who’s doing this and what’s going on?”
Actually, I don’t think it’s that big a deal. A lot of alternate history has had or assumes magical elements. It goes all the way back to Robert Heinlein and his story, Magic Inc. I’m not one of these guys who draws hard and fast lines between fantasy and science fiction, or fantasy and magical realism, or whatever. All of Speculative Fiction simply assumes that at least one thing, and sometimes many things, goes unnatural and you take it from there.
I just want to talk about one thing that struck me during the panel, that I never got a chance to talk about.
Steampunk. I find it interesting, but the entire steampunk genre seems to be in the process of being colonized by, or is entirely colonized by Fantasy. Blame it on Kim Newman and his Anno Dracula perhaps, or the novels Gail Carriger, or the Weird West subgenre. But as often as not, when you’re reading steampunk, there’s strong fantasy elements – ghosts, vampires, goblins, weird creatures, magic, etc.
I think part of that is that when you’re writing in this genre, you’re reaching back into the literary traditions of the ‘weird tales’ of the day, and it all starts to melt together.
But there’s another element to consider.
Victorian, England was a pretty horrific place.
The World Fantasy Convention is the great ‘Business Convention’ of the SF/F/H Literary World. It’s not a Comic-Con, it’s not a fan con. There’s dealers, but they’re just one room. Mostly, it’s Writers, Agents, Editors, Publishers and Artists, people in the trade, and people trying to get in the trade, hanging out, hobnobbing, socializing, enjoying each other’s company, and sometimes wheeling and dealing.
Go there, and odds are you’ll meet all your favourite writers. You can walk down a hallway, and see the writers you grew up with, the writers that helped form your identity, the people you passed time with, the writers who were guilty pleasures, and the ones you’re reading now. You can just go up and talk to them. It’s a business Con, the panels are about writing, serious writing, genres, where the industry is going, insider views.
It’s the place to be if you’re dedicated to the craft. This year, it’s in Salt Lake City, and due to Covid-19, it’s online.
I’m doing two panels and a reading! Wow! I feel like Pinochio when he turns into a real boy!
Check out the panels I’m on….
Word came in today, my novel, The Princess of Asylum, has breached the Quarter Finals, and has made it into the Semi-Finals!
That makes it one of the top five entries in the Sci Fi/Fantasy/Horror category!
Finalist will be the top entry in the category.
Grand Prize winner will be the best of all the categories.
I feel like I’m in Glen Garry Glen Ross, man oh man, one more win and those steak knives are almost in reach!
The review came in finally, with The Luck, my second entry into the Booklife Contest. Just to recap, it’s a legit contest. All the entries get a professional review, which you can use, or bury forever in a lead lined vault, depending on how the review turns out. Some of them are pretty scathing, I gather, looking at previous comments (complaints). After the initial round there’s the quarterly finals, the semi-finals, the finals and then a First prize of $5000.00. My first entry, The Princess of Asylum, has made it into the quarter finals.
Plot: Valdron’s The Luck is a sequel/prequel to The Mermaid’s Tale, but it succeeds as a stand-alone title. Valdron’s complex, well-woven work of fantasy immediately thrusts readers into a detailed world occupied by a menagerie of beings living at odds with, and in suspicion of, one another.
Prose: Valdron’s writing is immersive and colorful, providing a a fine blend of descriptive worldbuilding, exposition, and dialogue that lifts the storytelling.
Originality: The world of The Luck is filled by familiar beings, but provides freshness in the dynamics between these occupants and communities in conflict, as well as its mystery element. The journey of an orc and her unlikely gnome companion, is a rich and enjoyable one.
Character/Execution: Valdron’s protagonist is immensely intriguing. Her identity is slow to emerge and readers expecting a quick moving fantasy may grow frustrated. Those willing to invest in her and other creaturely characters’ story arcs, will be deeply rewarded.
- Plot/Idea: 8
- Originality: 8
- Prose: 8
- Character/Execution: 9
- Overall: 8.25
You are welcome to use this Critic’s Report as promotional copy or as a blurb to promote your book. Please note: When attributing quotes from this Critic’s Report, you must credit The BookLife Prize.
My unpublished novel, The Princess of Asylum, has officially made it into the Quarter Finals, for the Booklife Prize. Yay!!!
The BookLife Prize is an annual writing Contest sponsored by BookLife and Publishers Weekly. The Prize seeks to support independent authors and discover great written works in nine categories across the two Sections. The categories in the Fiction Contest are: Romance/Erotica; Mystery/Thriller; Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror; General Fiction; and Middle-Grade & YA Fiction.
It’s a multi stage process.
Quarter Finals: All novels submitted to the BookLife Prize will be initially judged by the professional book reviewers of Publishers Weekly. Each submission will receive an evaluation called a Critic’s Report. Each Critic’s Report consists of a brief written critical assessment of the novel, as well as a rating–on a one to 10 scale–of the book’s strengths and weaknesses in the following categories: Characterization, Plot, Prose/Style, Originality, and Overall Strength. The submissions with the 10 highest scores in each genre will move to the quarter-finals. THAT’S WHERE I AM.
Semi Finals: All submissions advancing to the quarter-finals will be critically assessed by the editorial staffs of Publishers Weekly and BookLife. Of the ten quarter-finalists in each category, five will be selected based on merit by PW and BookLife’s editors to advance to the semifinals in their categories. The semi-finalists will be announced on BookLife on October 22, 2020. TOMORROW
Finals: All semi-finalist submissions will be critically assessed by a guest judge–professional book editor or bestselling/award-winning author–in each of the five categories. The guest judges will select one submission from each category to advance to the finals round. These five submissions will be the winners in each of their respective categories. The finalists will be announced on November 15, 2020.
The Prize From the five finalists, the panel of guest judges will select one grand prize winner for the Fiction Contest with a grand cash prize of $5,000 going to the most outstanding finalist in each Contest.
So…. Today, I ride high. Tomorrow, I may end up as just another nobody. A has been, a second place contender. But right now, I’m a quarter finalist, with a shot at advancing to the Semi-Finals, and perhaps further.
Who knows? But it’s exciting, right?
Meanwhile, here’s the review, once again….
I might as well make hay while the sun shines.
Plot: D.G. Valdron’s bold, funny, fast-moving fantasy The Princess of Asylum follows quick-witted actress Dae Zea Lors after the destruction of her city. Dae survives in the wasteland by improvising a series of increasingly outlandish lies and personae, convincing bandits and orgus and more that she’s, variably, a princess, or an expert in jewel magic, and eventually a priestess. The story’s scope is epic, with airships and military sieges galore, but its tone is light and its perspective intimate, always tied to Dae. Inevitably, the hero’s lies make her a leader, and she’s surprised to discover herself caring about people beyond herself. The novel opens as a picaresque, with Dae bumbling from encounter to encounter, but by the end, as the plot takes shape, readers will actually care for Dae’s world and companions. The sense of urgency that powers the novel’s final third, though, is sometimes missing in the book’s middle, especially in the occasional cases when the balance between comedy and fantasy storytelling proves uncertain.
Prose/Style: Valdron excels at both the narrative perspective of his protagonist, a savvy actress who finds being on a fantasy adventure something of a comic imposition, and at the demands of epic fantasy storytelling. His worldbuilding is memorable and unique but communicated to readers in Dae’s offhand observations; his descriptions of the fantastic or terrifying are quick and powerful. Much of the novel is driven by dialogue, as Dae improvises new selves and lies to stay alive; at times, the characters she’s hoodwinking, such are written as if they’re willing participants in a comedy routine, such as the tyrant who apologizes for scheduling conflicts with her upcoming execution. The novel’s pleasures and occasional problems rise from the same source: the tricky balance between the comedy of Dae’s improvisations and the threatening reality around her. For the most part, though, Valdron aces that balance.
Originality: It is rare for a fantasy novel to center on such an exciting new character and idea. Besides the strength of the premise and Dae’s general delightfulness, the world of The Princess of Asylum is itself original, wrought with care, and revealed in tantalizing glimpses.
Character Development: There’s no doubt about it: Dae is a character readers will love, and her wit and sensibility drive the book. She faces hard choices, makes surprising sacrifices, and movingly comes to care about more than her own life. At times, especially in the novel’s middle, the complaints and patter of Dae’s inner monologue cut against the narrative urgency, especially when she’s joking or crabbing about the book’s cast as if they’re all in a play together rather than continually facing their own deaths. At such moments, she seems not to have grown during her adventures, reverting to being a comic type rather than a fully-shaped protagonist. That makes the novel feel long, even as it’s entertaining: If she’s not taking the situations seriously, readers will be tempted to join her. The saps, villains, monsters, and occasional upstanding folks she encounter also prove memorable, driven by their own coherent but interesting motivations.
Blurb: A fast-talking actress makes her scrappy way across the wasteland, surviving by her wits — and shaping empires with her lies. Imagine a vivid high fantasy, full of beasts and sieges and cults, narrated with the wit of Anita Loos.
Date Submitted: August 14, 2020
The one and only time, so far, that I met Daniel McMillan was last year in Brandon. I was giving a workshop on Copyright for the Brandon Public Library and he was one of the participants. Even in that brief session, Daniel distinguished himself with his focused, relentless approach. He wasn’t just there to learn, he was there to write, and he was voraciously interested in everything about the craft. Since then, I’ve been impressed by his dedication to his craft, and to his prodigious output. Now, on the eve of Daniel’s latest novel, the exotic and intriguing The Lost Temple of Phoketh, I’m happy to showcase him and his work…
I honestly don’t believe that not expressing one’s self creatively is even an option. Nor is it self-indulgent, and it is certainly not a luxury meant to be attempted by the creative elite. We all owe it to ourselves to unearth our passions and chase after them or, rather, allow them to come to us without being shoved away by irrational fears or feelings of ineptitude.
Writing, for me, has become like a disease for which there is no known cure. Not that I would want to be cured. I love my illness, and will never relinquish it to anyone under any circumstances. It has set a long-dormant part of me free.
I wasn’t always a writer, but at the same time, I was always a writer. I published my first book in 2017—a non-fiction book that I may someday dust off and polish, but until then will remain mine and mine alone. It doesn’t live up to my standards. Even though it would take some effort to make it into something that I would share now, the point is that I completed it and loved doing it. At the time, it didn’t matter if it was good or not. The goal was just to get it done.
Go figure. Despite Covid-19, I will be making appearances at a couple of conventions, thanks to the magic of Zoom and the intertubes.