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<== Click to receive a free copy of my short story Crystal Servants and learn about some of the major players in Crystal Kings, my upcoming novel due out this September.

Adrian, a spy for the King, sees a nobleman murder a servant. His desire for truth is pitted against the dangers of a high-stakes political game. When his friend Draken insists on pursuing justice, Adrian must protect those he cares about as the political games of powerful men alter the lives of everyone around him.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

CONduit day two report

Day two of CONduit ws fun. There were more people, more costumes, and I spoke at a panel. I ended up missing the first set of panels at 10 due to a schedule conflict, so the first thing I attended was:

11:00
Scott Taylor, Tom Carr, John M Olsen
Geek Parenting


I had one of our attendees snap this picture of Scott, Tom and me. Funny thing, that. My brothers are named Scott and Tom. No relation to the guys in the picture though.

We had a lot of fun talking about the benefits of geek parenting, and good techniques to use. We talked about lots of access to books, art, music, board games, activities together, and general family building. Find the stuff kids are interested in by putting a large menu in front of them. They may surprise you, like Tom's son who is in a redneck pickup truck phase. :)

The most serious bit was when one of our attendees asked about bullying. That's a problem whether it's related to the geek aspect, or any other. You can tell the kids that the bully is just insecure and seeking attention, or that they'll end up in a dead end job at a fast food place while the geek kid becomes CEO of a high tech startup, but that doesn't fix the problem of being bullied NOW.


Here are some shots of our attendees as well. The Star Trek guy was the dad of the long haired Harry Potter fan. Another couple had their under-a-year kid along. The gal in green and the assassin in white were a couple as well.


12:00
Paul Genesse, Jane Lindskold, Aaron Lee Yeager
Frank Herbert's Dune

This was yet another panel with Jane Lindskold. They kept her busy as the guest of honor at the conference.

One thing they mentioned is how for most stories, the world building takes second place to the characters by a good margin. This isn't the case with Dune. It's not that the characters are week, it's that the world building is just that good. The world and environment can be seen as playing the part of a character in the story. This environment character has conflict with the other characters, and has its own story arc over the series.

1:00
Sarah Seeley's Book Reading

Scott Taylor and I stopped by to say hi to Sarah at her book reading. She read from her story coming out in the Steel & Bone steampunk anthology the end of next month (June 2015).


2:00
Jane Lindskold, Julie Bartel, Eddy Roberts
Judging a book by its cover


Sorry, I didn't get a picture at this one. This was a tour of book covers, describing the good, the bad and the ugly. What sells, what doesn't, and why in the world publishers feel the need to add "A Novel" to the cover of novels, as if it is hard to tell what it is. :)

They also talked about cover tropes, like having a female showing her bare back with a tramp stamp tattoo, or having a woman in a big fluffy evening gown. Or how about the woman on the cover with the top half of her face trimmed by the top edge of the cover so it's easier to use the main character as a Mary Sue? Ever seen a cover with a nearly monochrome picture, other than the text which tends to be brighter?

One thing they discussed is that the best covers tend to appeal to different audiences for different reasons. This increases the shelf appeal because it has a broader audience that will take a look to see what's inside.

3:00
Aaron Lee Yeager and Christopher Husberg
Villains

These are the same guys who did the romance panel on day one. Here's the same picture since I didn't bother taking a new one. :)


Give the bad guys a reason to be bad. They need a motivation.

A difference between heroes and villains is not the challenges they face, but their response. Heroes overcome challenges while villains succumb to them.

The less sympathetic your villain is, the more charismatic he needs to be for your reader to care.

There are some triggers which will instantly and eternally mark a guy as a villain. If he kills dogs, cats, or other domestic animals, he's marked by the reader. You can have someone cut a swath through a dozen innocent victims, then kill a cow, and people will be upset about the cow.

Killing monsters is an upbeat thing, but killing a sympathetic bad guy is a downbeat.

Friday, May 22, 2015

CONduit day one report

1:00
Larry Nemecek
Star Trek Voyager

Larry talked about his experience helping with Star Trek, particularly emphasizing Voyager. He's got a lot of fun stories and photos from sets, filming, and stuff like that. This wasn't a heavy notes-taking session since it was mostly Larry showing us cool stuff he's worked on and telling us stories about people.

2:00
Aaron Lee Yeager, Chris Husburg
Shot Through the Heart (Writing Romance)


I'm not a romance writer, but quite a few stories have some significant element that depends upon romance. With this being a Friday afternoon session, we started with only 4 attendees, and may have ended up around 6 or 8 at the end so it was lots of fun to have a back-and-forth conversation with Aaron and Chris.

They talked about how you can use friendship, loyalty or passion as lead-ins to a budding romance. They also discussed how to make a reader want them to be together, and how to make them complimentary characters who, when taken together, make a cohesive whole.

You also need to make those characters funny, sympathetic, or otherwise appealing, or readers just won't care what happens to them.

It's helpful to have characters who want one thing, and need another. This plays well into the relationship issues characters face.

3:00
Brook West, Ann Sharp, Aaron Lee Yeager
New Ways to Learn Everything Under the Sun

You hear the saying "Write what you know" a lot. This isn't meant to limit you, so long as you're willing to do your research. That way you know more, and can write about it. Just don't consider yourself an expert after five wiki pages.

There are ivy league schools and others with courses online. Brandon Sanderson's got a course he taught at BYU online, available for free. There are consultants ready, willing and able to help if you just take the time to ask. That way, you can get the finer details right, and not ruin a story for those who happen to have the expertise that gets faked when you write.

The trick it to use real, vetted experts. Don't use self-proclaimed experts or entry-level hobbyists because it will be clear that you took shortcuts to those who know better.

Aaron told us that he's got some stuff in the Amazon Kindle store free this weekend in honor of CONduit. I picked up "Heart of a Traitor" to see how I like his writing.


4:00
Jane Lindskold and the crew from HMS Jonas Adcock
Worlds of David Weber

There's a local costuming group for the Royal Navy of Manticore, and several of them showed up. Jane is a co-author and good friend of David Weber. Between them they talked a lot about what the draw is to the works they talked about. For some it is the military. For others it's politics. Some like the long-game machinations, or how characters interact with family. In some books, it's neat how David Weber thinks through to the possible conclusions of particular technologies.

Jane Lindskold handed out swag, and I picked up a copy of "A Call to Duty" by David Weber and Tmothy Zahn, which is book 1 of the Manticore Ascendant series.


5:00
Jane Lindskold, Jo Schneider, Jonny Worthen, Holli Anderson, Callie Stoker
YA Fantasy - We're Still 14 at Heart

This was a wide-ranging view of not just YA writing, but some of the things that differentiate various age targets, For mid-grade, you typically want the young kids to ahve some adult to turn to who can be their mentor. The early Harry Potter books show this mentor effect. For YA, the older kids have to fix their own problems. This is what the later Harry Potter books do.

Jane Lindskold referenced Diana Wynne Jones' book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel as a fun resource on some of the tropes involved with YA fantasy, and how fantasy in general is sometimes poorly written.


7:00
Ice Cream Social

I spent a while talking with Jane Lindskold, and with David Doering, which was fun. Sorry, I forgot to get pics at the social.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hugo Reading Assignment

I just got the email for downloading my Hugo voting packet. I've already been through the ballot and set my votes on about half of the items since I've read through a bunch of the shorter works. I've also perused pages of stuff related to editors, authors, artists, bloggers, e-zines, and all that fun stuff.

I've found some really good stuff so far. I've also found some disappointing stuff, but most of that isn't directly on the ballot, but is important because of the site it's on, it's on or who edited it.

As with all contests of opinion and taste, I don't expect what I like to match up exactly with what anyone else likes. That's why I'm not going to bother posting what I vote for. But I'm perfectly willing to tell everyone that I vote, and that my votes will reflect how I feel about the works based on their categories.

So for everyone else getting email from Sasquan, it's time to do your homework. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Steel and Bone

Here's a sneak peek written by Scott E. Tarbot for the anthology my story "Revolutionary" will be appearing in soon.



Steel and Bone Teaser

Publicity for it is in prep mode now, so you may start to see things firing up soon. We still have a few weeks to release, and I'm looking forward to having a print copy in my hands.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Hugo voting update

I got my voting credentials to vote for the Hugo candidates. It turns out that the reader packet won't be ready until late May. Until then, there are three different choices I know of for evaluating the various works and people.
  1. Lock in votes for things I've already read or watched or know about. There are a few.
  2. Find what I can on on the Internet.
  3. Buy some of the likely candidates. As if my night stand doesn't already have stacks a foot or two high. :)
As for number one, I've already started. The mechanics of voting are pretty easy. My votes will depend entirely upon my personal opinion of the various options. The Hugo award is, after all, a contest of opinions.

For number two, I've found links to all of the short story nominees on https://marsascendant.wordpress.com/ and http://www.philipsandifer.com/ but you have to wade through a minor war zone to get to them. Here are the direct story links:

“Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa 
"Totaled" by Kary English
“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright
“On a Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli
“Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet

You can also get a free ebook with all of John C. Wright's nominees in one package here:

The Nominated Short Fiction Works of John C. Wright

Beyond that, I'm not sure what's out there ahead of the may reader packet. I'll add links if any of you comment with more info.

For number three, I haven't decided what to buy yet, and haven't decided between ebook and dead tree version. I'll probably wait for the packet to come out first.