THE WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION in Kansas City is coming up. Kansas City is actually in Missouri, a fact which provides me with no end of bemusement. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been to several World Fantasy Conventions over the years, but too irregularly to do much good. I’m trying to make it a steady thing. This should be a good Conference, good people, and maybe I’ll make a mark. I’m actually part of the programming, I have three items:
* Mythology & Fantasy of the Fox; 4PM Friday – with Alyc Helms, Kij Johnson, Rena Mason and Gillian Pollack. Hopefully this has nothing to do with what the Fox says. The Fox in literature and myth is one of the classic tricksters – a powerless, marginalized underdog who manages to triumph and overcome, not through power or strength or even courage, but through sheer cleverness. For the powers that be, for the establishment and social order, the Fox is a subversive, a deceiver, a persecutor and a thief. For the marginalized and underdogs, the fox is a hero. Everyone admits the fox is a clever beast, anti-social, revolutionary, and damned sexy. In my writing, many of my characters are ‘foxes’ – tricksters who survive by being smart. I’m really looking forward to this panel, and a discussion about ‘trickster’ characters in folklore, modern culture and writing. Oh, and I’ll give away a book to an audience member as part of the panel.
* Reading; 5PM Saturday – I have half an hour to do a reading. I’m going to regale the audience with tales from Twilight of Echelon, short stories and vignettes based on the retro hallucinogenic works of artist Robert Pastern. Echelon is a world, or perhaps a reality, or perhaps something completely different, right next to our own, where everything familiar is recast and distorted as surreal and mysterious, and where the lost members of a human colony struggle to maintain their identity, unsure if the Earth they remember still exists, or if it ever existed. Again, I’ll give away a book.
* Autographs – I’m also doing the Autograph session, along with everyone else. Honestly, in terms of fame, I’m a Z-list kind of guy, but I’m always startled to discover someone out there has heard of me and actually brings a book to sign. Typically, what I do, is just set up a display of a dozen of my books, relax and chat with anyone who stops by. If someone wants to buy something, I’ll sell it to them. If I like them, it’s free. I usually bring up a handful of books and make sure they find good homes before the convention starts.
This is actually my fourth major Writers Conference/Convention this year, and honestly, I’m glad I’m coming to the end. I’m starting to get worn out. For the record, this is what I’ve been up to.
CAN-CON SPECULATIVE LITERARY FESTIVAL 2023 in Ottawa was barely two weeks ago. Honestly, I attended the convention with a feeling of dread. But it was all right. I attended a lot of panels, met a lot of people, did a little programming, specifically:
* These Violent Delights – with Ashley Deng, Chirstian Baines and Melissa Blair. A panel on violence in literature, a subject I’m well versed in. It was my only full panel. It didn’t feel like the best panel I’ve ever done. You can tell when you’re on a really good panel where everyone is jumping and jiving, there’s an electricity to it, we’re bubbling over with ideas and enthusiasm. This one felt awkward with stops and starts, but we all contributed and we were all respectful to each other. Afterwards, several people told me they enjoyed the panel a lot, so I guess we did something right.
* Autograph Session – Held in the the dealers room, shared a table with Eli K.P. Williams who I knew from NASFIC. Can-Con had an excellent dealers room, lots of wonderful book sellers. I spent too much money there.
* Two Pitch Sessions – ECW Press and Renaissance Press
* Office hourswith J.F. Garrand, publisher of Dark Helix Press from Ontario.
* Kaffeklatchwith Nivia Evans, a senior Editor with one of the New York big five publishers.
* Podcast Interviewwith Warren Frey for my Doctor Who books.
WHEN WORDS COLLIDE WRITERS CONVENTION 2023 in Calgary. This was the first time attending live. I volunteered for a lot of programming, I mean, a lot. In summary:
* A Quick and Dirty Guide to Publishing Contracts – a presentation, a one man show. I’d done similar presentations for Manitoba Writers Guild and Canadian Authors Association.
* A Reading – Echelon stories
* Legacy of Science Fiction – a panel with Susan Forest, Allen Weiss and Patrick Swenson
* Alternate Histories – a panel with Alan Weiss, Susan Forest and Allison McBain
* Writing Realistic Characters – a panel with James Allen Gardner, Krista Wallace and Susan Calder
* World Building 101 – a panel with Tanya Huff, Ann Marston, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm and Zanne Raby
* Writing Through Trauma – a panel with Rena Joy, Andrew Totten, Beth Wagner and Rebekah Raymond.
* Measuring Success – a panel with Katie O’Connor, Patrick Swenson and Jessica L. Jackson
* Writing Violence – a panel with Alex McGillivary and Steve Swanson
* Four Pitch Sessions – A practice with Robert Runte, a publishers with J.M. Landres, and a pair with the Rights House Agents.
* A Blue Pencil Session – Madonna Skaff Koren, very nice lady.
*Autograph Session – group session. Met people, sold books, what’s not to like.
It was exhausting, and terrific. I was practically a whirlwind, running from panel to panel, room to room. My presentation went an hour and a half, I finished drenched with sweat, physically exhausted, but people loved it. I was lively and charismatic all the way. Best convention ever.
NORTH AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION 2023 (aka PEMMI-CON) (aka DUMPSTERFIRECON) in Winnipeg. Wow, pretty much everything that could go wrong with a Convention went wrong here, it drove right past outrage into high and then low comedy. I don’t hold it against the organizers, sometimes everything lines up and it turns out great, sometimes the dominos fall the other way and everything blows up. This was one of the latter, they did their best. Despite this, people generally chose to have a good time, and they did.
* Generative Artificial Intelligence and Copyright – Funny story here. This was my only panel, and oddly, it was a panel I’d specifically asked to not to be on. I said “I think this is interesting and important, and I would love to attend and learn, but I don’t actually know anything about it. So do it, but don’t put me on it.” They assigned me to it. I looked at the roster for the panel – A NASA technician, a Cyber-Security Specialist, and a cutting edge book marketer, and thought “oh my god, I’m going to be the brain damaged mascot on this panel.” Terrified of looking like an idiot, I spent two weeks frantically researching, and wrote twenty pages of organized notes so I could at least hold my own. When the panel rolled around, no one else showed up, and so it turned into a presentation by yours truly – for seventy-five minutes I lectured about AI the technical and legal issues, how it worked, the likely economic and political consequences, the ethical issues, everything, in an organized, coherent and informative way, and I got an ovation. Afterwards, it felt like I’d run a marathon.
* Reading – the first introduction of the Echelon stories. At Bay Press and Robert Pasternak were both at the Dealers room,
* Autograph Session – solo – but I sold some books.
* Dealers Table – I volunteered to spend an hour of table time with IFA, a collective of Alberta Fantasy writers, shared my time at the table with Eli P.K. Williams. Sold some of my books, some other peoples books.
*Kaffeeklatch – I had no idea what that was, I’m still not sure, but I signed up for a couple.
OTHER STUFF Well, if you read the blog, you know about my quest to regain Ron Hore’s rights back for him and to republish him. We’ve got a Book Launch coming up in November for the Toltec Conquests Trilogy.
There’s another prominent author from Montreal who has seven books and a bad relationship with a publisher, and I’m working on getting her rights back as well.
Speaking of Book Launches, I did a book launch for Scott Ellis and his two short story collections – Benny the Antichrist and Crawling to the Moon, in March. Between Scott Ellis, Ron Hore and myself, Fossil Cove has three authors and twenty-four books. We’re almost a real publishing company.
And a Book Launch in April for my own books – Drunk Slutty Elf and Other Stories and Drunk Slutty Elf and Zombies.
For the Manitoba Writers Guild I did a five part Self Publishing workshop series, three hours per session, in which we basically took a completed manuscript and walked through every step of self publishing, from ISBNs, to getting registered on online platforms, book design, cover design, uploading ebooks and print books. Four very talented authors took the journey to bring their books into the world, and I’m proud of them. i donated my workshop fees back to the Guild. It was a great series, I’d love to do it again if the Guild has enough people at the right stage of development. In the meantime, I’m volunteering to do a lot of workshops (single session and less intense) for them next year.
Also re-published The Mermaid’s Tale, long out of print. Edited my sections of Echelon but unfortunately, it’s been pushed off to next year, 2024.
Queries and manuscripts for several different books to three agents and two publishers. These actually have a decent chance since it’s not a blind email query, but arising from really good pitch sessions, or personal recommendations. We’ll see how it turns out.
On the downside, did four grant applications for Manitoba Arts and Canada Council. Struck out on all of them. Ah well, nothing ventured nothing gained.
There’s probably more, but I’m losing track.
REFLECTIONS I was frustrated this year in that I felt I couldn’t really find time to write. I did one 40,000 word story, a handful of others between 20,000 and 2,000, a large number of essays posted to medium and facebook. Probably at least a couple of hundred thousand words this year. But it felt incomplete and unsatisfactory.
There were two novels I wanted to tackle, didn’t come near either of them. There were six books of my own I wanted to see published – two horror novels, an erotic novel, two erotic collections, an alt history collection, but none of them came out. I wanted to start sending short stories out systematically and regularly. Post a lot to medium and build a presence.
All of the big projects that I planned for just didn’t happen. It feels like I have nothing much to show for this year. Just a lot of work that feels like spinning my wheels without traction.
I just kept getting bogged down and distracted. The day job was partially responsible – I wanted to go half time this year, and just work on my writing. Instead, it insisted on being full time.
I think that my mistake was spending way too much time “being a writer” and not nearly enough time “actually writing.” I dunno. I suppose I got distracted, took my eye off the ball, yadda yadda. I need to focus more next year.
I dunno. Who knows though? Maybe some of the work this year will pay off next year. I’ve got my manuscripts floating around with a half decent shot, I’ve got a lot of projects in the hamper and at least some of them are guaranteed to come out next year, hopefully I’ve made contacts and connections and started to build a presence and reputation. I like to joke that as far as recognition goes, I’m a Z-List author. Maybe I can work my way to the middle of the alphabet.
I guess we’ll see how things turn out. I’m looking forward to World Fantasy Convention, and then the Toltec Conquests Book Launch, and after that… maybe I can just focus on my own stuff.