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Friday, October 10, 2008

FenCon is a lot of FunCon

As some of you know—and if you don't, well, now I'm telling you—I attended FenCon 2008 on Oct. 3-5. This is the first sci-fi/fantasy fiction convention I've attended. About a month ago, my publisher put out a call for anyone within range of Dallas, TX to come and help him at the convention. He had purchased a book table spot in the dealer room.

I thought about it (for less than a minute) and decided I could give that a go. Next thing you know, I'm signed up for FenCon. But not only signed up, I was encouraged to offer my services as a writer, editor, podcaster, and all around good guy, to sit in on any panels they might have need of. Low and behold, I'm classified as a guest, put on a panel for audio books, and my mug shot gets thrown on the list of guests.

So, Oct. 3rd rolls around, and I'm off to Dallas, about a 3.5 hour drive to the north side of Dallas. Nice trip except for the traffic once I came into Dallas. But a thankfully uneventful drive other than the nice scenery I took in on the back roads.

I found the hotel without any trouble, and figured I had better see if Bill, my publisher, had arrived yet or not. The first great thing of my convention was finally getting to meet Bill Snodgrass face to face. We've been working together for two years now via phone and email. And you know what the crazy thing is? Though I brought my camera, I didn't take any pictures, nor did I get any of Bill. All the pictures you see here are ones he took, and he never took any of himself! Sneaky. I was just so caught up in the uniqueness of the event it never crossed my mind to get my camera out and get a snapshot of him.

When I arrived, Bill already had the book table set up. For a publisher who has only five fiction, two anthologies, and about four non-fiction books, he made the table look fairly full. We had some consigned books from other people there as well, about four or five. And you can tell each of his books had about three to four facings. Throw in the candy and the tee-shirts, and we had ourselves a cozy corner to trap passer-by into our book-buying lair.

And that we did do. Between Bill and I, we chatted with several people. Made some friends, and hopefully some fans. The book table is where I spent most of my time, and I have the sales to prove it. Between Bill and I, we sold six copies of my book, Infinite Realities—the most out of the DEP table sales that weekend. Of course, it helps to have the author there to ask questions and sign the book for you!







But one of the coolest sales was to an English teacher of a charter high school. He mentioned that his class has been studying allegory, metaphor, and similes. They had just finished a section on the C. S. Lewis Narnia series. I mentioned my book was allegorical. He read the back where it mentions it has similarities to Everyman, and became interested because that was next on their list to study. He bought the book, and if he decides to use it, around 100 students could be studying my book! Awesome!

Another interesting development is I found out how enticing my cover really is. Most all the other DEP books have artist work for cover art, mostly depicting the characters in the book. We had an artist lined up to do my cover, and he was working on a scene where Sisko and Gabrielle are being pulled apart as Sisko is lead to his execution. That would have been pretty cool. But, the artist had some personal issues which derailed his attempts to do the cover art, and had to back out at the last minute. That left Bill and I without a cover and no time left to go find another artist short of waiting for a few months.

So, I had a photo of a gnarled tree by the water, and a picture of my wedding ring. Gave those to Bill, and he did the rest of the magic. Since the inscription written on the ring is in Hebrew, he had the idea of putting the Hebrew infinitive forms of "to give" and "to receive" above and below the ring. The result was pretty good, I thought. Mysterious, ancient feel, and probably some people wondering if some unknown author could pull off a book about a "magical" ring without being cliché. (So far, everyone's said it was originally good!)

But whether the artsy yet dark gnarled tree photo, the sharp lettering (one person commented on that), or the Hebrew words, among all the great artwork covers at the table, about five times at least people were drawn to look closer at my book. One person was just scanning, but upon seeing my book walked over to it and picked it up. So something there catches the eye and makes people want to see what it is. Bill did an excellent job with that one!

Our table was just two tables down from the author signing table. I didn't know there would be such a thing, or that little o' me would even qualify for it. But Saturday Bill commented that I should do a signing. I knew I wouldn't have a line or a lot to sign, but how cool would that be? So after a quick talk to the program director, next thing you know, I'm scheduled to sit for an hour at the signing table.

When my time came around, I sat next to Rachel Caine, a science fiction/horror writer who has written several books. Now, she had a line. Some people with a box or stack of her books. We chatted a bit when she wasn't busy signing. But another lady came and sat on my left. Found out she was Doris Egan, the executive producer of the hit TV series, "House." We talked a bit, as she wasn't as busy signing. I signed one book for a new friend we made while there. Her name is Michelle. We had a nice conversation for a while about writing and stories she's working on. Very bubbly personality.

So that was a cool new experience I wasn't expecting, to sit with such a crowd and do my best to act like I belonged. It was fun and enjoyable.

We did, however, do other things. One activity I participated in was the "Buzz Blaster" radio play. I saw the try-outs listed on the program for Friday evening, and thought I would give it a shot. As it happened, Bill and I went out to eat and came back too late to make it. So I figured that was out.

Saturday morning, I sat on my one and only panel, called "Reading with Your Ears," the similarities and differences between print books and audio book. My experience working with stories for Ray Gun Radio Podcast earned me a spot there, and I had a chance to share my vast store of knowledge with everyone. Well, okay, maybe not vast. More like a nice little storage closet full than a warehouse. But enough to fill my time on the panel. Everyone seemed to enjoy the panel and the members of the panel all had adequate time to speak their mind.

As it turned out, the writer and producer of the "Buzz Blaster" radio plays was also the moderator of this panel. When I mentioned in my introduction that I hosted the Ray Gun Radio podcast, his wife who sat on the front row, her face lit up. I didn't see his face, but based on how quickly he cornered me when the panel was over, they had obviously heard the show. Come to find out, they did need one more part for the "Buzz Blaster" radio play. Oddly enough, it was the biggest part of the whole show. Not Buzz himself, who ends up out of the show one third of the way in, but Buzz's sidekick Lefty. Ironically, the sidekick gets the girl and ends up being the "hero" of the show. Dave, the writer and producer, said in this tenth episode he wanted to kill Buzz off, but due to fan demand, didn't fully go through with it. But for practical purposes, it appears he's dead.

So I show up for the rehearsal, and directly after that we tape the performance with an audience watching. The hardest thing was to get your mouth to the one microphone everyone shared, without bumping into the mic, and keeping your eyes on the script while turning pages quietly. In case you're wondering, the paper cup was to produce the effect of talking over the radio. And, the tall one in the picture is me. The other is Dave, writer and producer, who had one part in the play.

One note: we are hoping to work out putting these into the Ray Gun Radio Podcast. Stay tuned!

Aside from eating, sleeping, working the book table, we also had a little fun. Saturday night was costume night, and there were plenty of very interesting people walking around. I would throw up a lot of pictures, but I don't want to put people's faces who I don' t know up on the web. So the one's selected here I figured was innocent enough.

There was a cross between Scotty and a storm trooper.



































And one lady who had more than once face. It was freaky when she walked away from you.




















And here is a whole group of costumed folks. This gives you an idea the lengths some go to dress up for this event.


Another item of interest was the guest of honor, Gregory Benford, a hard science fiction writer with some awards and books to his name. He stopped by the book table and chatted with me for a while, mostly about the demise of "Enterprise" since he was hired to work up a story arc, but couldn't get the cooperation of the producers for it. A fun guy to chat with, down to earth and very knowledgeable.

One last cool note. Had a chance to talk with Andrew McKee, one of the The Brobdingnagian Bards while they were waiting in the hall for their turn to go sing. Aside from other pieces of info, I had a chance to tell him about a song I had written for my up and coming book, "Transitional Realties." I told him when I had written it, they came to mind as someone who had the right sound I had in mind for it.

He said I could send it to him, and told me a few things it needed to be to work. More than likely he'll read it and say it's not for him, but I'm glad for the invitation and you never know, it just might strike a chord for him. We'll see.

So, left Dallas feeling pretty good about all that had happened. Met a lot of people, made some new friends, and hopefully some fans. Met Bill Snodgrass in person, and rubbed shoulders with some folks further along in the field than I. All in all a great weekend. And guess what? I'm already making plans to be at the next one in September 2009. Hope to see some of you there.

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