GEN CON – The Con That Doesn’t Sleep

I didn’t know what I had said yes to when my author friend, Christine Nielson, asked me to come to Gen Con. She had been going for a few years and I knew she always had a good time, so I said yes without thinking.

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#gencon19 Boothmates!

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I had done very little research on what this con really was, I just figured it was comparable to any comic con I had participated in. I mean, it’s a con, right? I was warned it was a gaming con, so I thought video games. I put some serious thought into how to make this con special. What I didn’t realize was that this con was already special.

Gen Con, in my own words, is a gamer’s pilgrimage to Mecca.

People flock to the center of the US, being seductively called by the river sirens, for the chance to play games, and ONLY games, for four continuous days. There was no celebrity draws, no movie releases, no photo ops (besides the cosplay girls- shielded from view might I add), only gamers EVERYWHERE. Rows and rows of tables and chairs cluttered with games: new ones, kickstarters, card games, board games, RPGs, dice games, you name it. JUST GAMES! There were tournaments happening in C Hall (a room the size of the room where they hid the arc of the covenant) for Magic the Gathering and Pokemon and who even knows what?! I was flabbergasted.

Being an author there felt rather special, but also really out-of-place. This con was not about books, but the celebration of creativity. And that’s what made the con special to me. Everyone I spoke to was so genuinely themselves.

This con let you be you without judgment. I tweeted snippets of what I saw and experienced (find on Twitter @cjtwrites). Many gamers are introverted, yet here they felt comfortable being with other introverts. The con sold out with a reported 70,000 attending (Indy Star Link). I was impressed.

Card stacking metropolis

And even though the Exhibition Hall closed at six, the con didn’t stop . . . at all. The arcade and retro console rooms didn’t close until midnight. The tourneys ran through the night. Hotel lobbies and even the Indiana Convention Center was continually packed with gamers playing until the morning.

So….. my brother happens to be one of the best players in the world at Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. He would kill it here.

As much as I love playing games, I’m not a gamer, not anymore. There are some things that I unintentionally gave up when I dedicated my time to being an author, and unfortunately, games was one of them. Here though, I got a chance to forget about story building and remember the seeds that started my epic journey. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was fourteen, playing with my older brother and his high school friends. This was a huge foundation for my character development, world building, and my imagination.

I just won Gen Con . . . I even blushed.

But honestly, I didn’t feel complete until I found the retro video game console room and completely flipped out when I saw the ColecoVision. I made a serious impression on the guys running the room. (Nick and Kyle – I’m looking at you!) Here I found my nerd and my people, and spent hours playing Coleco, NES, the PS2, and Sega Dreamcast, because sadly, their Genesis didn’t have a cord. Here is where I found my Gen Con heart.

It was good for me to get away from my bubble and experience a con away from those I know; to meet people I would never have met before; and have the freedom of being nerdy without reservation. It was rejuvenating to my soul and healthy for me to remember my roots, and that fun and refreshing it is to just play games.

Let’s Be Authors – 6 Reasons Authors Struggle With Blogging

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I feel ya kitty. #sundaynap #archerthecat

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So….. I haven’t blogged in a while

…and I’m pretty sure the world is still turning. The sun still creeps in my room every morning, reminding me of all the things that I have to do that are not “Blogging.” But before I get into my list of excuses, let me deeply say that I’m sorry if you have been anxiously awaiting my return. I have missed you too. I labeled this generally with “why authors struggle,” but it’s personal reasons, more “why I haven’t blogged.”

1. Little Things Become Big Things:

What is an author’s job? That’s right, writing. So, one would think that the first thing that keeps them from blogging would be writing, but it’s not. It’s all the other things that take over their time. When you are in, what I call, “WRITER MODE,” words are what you should be concentrating on. But Writer Mode is a small part of the big job of being an author. There are several “Modes” a writer can get into, much like wearing hats:

  • Editor
  • Publisher
  • Typographer
  • Publicist
  • Marketing Director
  • Plummer
  • Electrician
  • Cruise Director

I haven’t had a chance to actually BE in Writer Mode, because of all these other hats I have had to wear. It’s the little decisions that I have had to make involving being my own publisher. From design to logo to price to distribution to everything else – every decision is important. With my series slowly trickling out, I have been in Publicist and Marketing Director mode. The re-release of Vivatera happened on February. 22, with Conjectrix following on March 19th. Everstar will be released April 19th at Salt Lake’s FanX Conference. And preparing for all of that has also been challenging.

But saying all that, I don’t regret the releases, it’s been a focus, and I’m very proud with what is happening and the direction the books are heading. This experience has opened my eyes and is preparing me for the adventure ahead of me.

2. Learning Is Hard

I always wanted to be a writer, but when I was in college, it was a pipe dream, not a real career. And I tried a few different things, but the addiction to writing was not going away. It IS not going away. So, sometimes the dreams that you had when you were young do come true. And I feel very blessed with this very cool avenue of life that has opened up.

So, I decided to go back to school. I’ve been wanting to for a while, but the circumstances have never been right. The day job field is not writing based, but science based, and as much as I love the work I do… I don’t. It’s not the dream. I’m not a traditional student with my busy home and work life, so even though I work AT a university, the environment is not right for what I want to specialize in and how I need to learn more about the craft of writing.

So, I looked into online options and found one that I was very impressed with and it’s at UC San Diego. I’m working toward a Creative Writing and Copy Editing Certification. And so far, I think it’s fantastic. This will not only help my confidence as a writer, understanding my craft and helping teach more to others, It will help my editing business as well.

3. An Accidental Project

As many of you know, but not everyone, I took an editing job a few years ago called “Billy Blacksmith” written by my friend Ben Ireland. This is a series I absolutely love and have had a great time working on it. I figured my time was over with Billy, since book three came out in September and that closes Act 1. But Ben asked me to just beta-read a collection of Billy-based short stories called “Bleakwood Lore.” I jumped up and down at this invitation.

Beta-reading is no pressure, and I became super excited about this. If you don’t know much about Billy, the series has a deep mythological lore, with complicated characters that each bring a new level to the storytelling. What Bleakwood is about is eleven side stories about characters to help lay a platform for Act 2.

I had a great time doing this. As I suggested things or saw things in the stories, my tiny encouragements made a big impact, to the end that Ben is looking at a quick release date of May 2nd, 2019. The book just came together in the funnest way possible. There are also secrets, reveals, and really fun illustrations to elevate your experience. I can’t claim this as an edit, but I did have a great time helping.

4. Life-ing and Loss-ing

The year didn’t start well. I had a dear cousin pass from this world at the end of 2018 and I started this year wearing black. Since that chilly January burial, I have had three more people pass from my life. With each death, I have become more acutely aware of how fast things can happen. And though this selection doesn’t have much elaboration to it, because I think we have all felt the same emptiness to our own extent, it has affected my life, my drive and motivation, and mostly my creativity. It’s hard to be creative when you’re depressed. Everyone could agree with that.

5. Goodies

I am not one to claim housewifery. In fact, I may be the LAST person to claim any domestic inclination. But, when it got closer to my book release, I decided I really wanted to do something special for those that came to my book signing.

I don’t like spotlight. I don’t do well with reading. And though I have always liked parties, when it comes to the private nature of something I’ve created, like a book, I don’t exactly know how to party. This being a re-release was a special occasion. A lot of these people have supported me over and over. It’s like I am pulling a George Lucas and repackaging something that they already own and believe in. So, I really wanted to make sure they understood how much I appreciated them and their support over the years.

How else, but cookies. I don’t know why, but I thought maybe I would try to make sugar cookies that looked like stars. I have never made a good sugar cookie. I always burn them or make them too thin. And I needed an easy cookie to do, as well. It had to be super simple because I don’t want to cut a hundred or so cookies.

I stumbled upon a recipe from my own collection and tried it. And I’ve never been so in love with a recipe. It did need some tweaking, because I have never seen an extra large egg, so I add an egg and a half. 🙂 I used a sandwich cutter with a cute fox, bear, kitty, and heart, so I cut it way faster than regular cookies and sugar dusted it before jt bakes. And oh my freak! They are amazing. I’m so impressed with my non-domestic self. I have craved these nearly every day since. So, yes, this has kept me from blogging. 🙂

6. Finishing What You Start

And through all of this, there is still light in writing. I came up with an idea about five years ago about two people who meet in dreams. Dreams have always meant a lot to me. They are a fascination I will never get over. My sub-conscious is vivid and wild, and sometimes uses the dream time to connect the dots of my creative thinking. Several writing ideas came from dreams, and to have a book that has dreaming as its central point, has intrigued me.

I started to dabble in the characters last summer and they really came to life. In my quiet hours, I have let them tell me how to tell their story. This is a little different from my other books, it is written differently, using different voicing with the characters and the dream sequences. I find the telling clever and unique, and I am very, very intrigued with how this will be received.

I am minutes away from finishing it. The only thing stopping me is blogging to you all now. The book has yet to have a title, and I have yet to know exactly what to do with it. It would make an excellent screenplay, and I may look at adapting it. But as for now, I think I will just plan on finishing it and then editing as my usual habits. I haven’t finished a novel in two and a half years, so I am so proud of my efforts.

I wish I had better excuses for not blogging more but I hope this will give you a little depth in to how my real life and creative life are constantly butting heads. There’s still a life that goes on beyond words. And though you may not see it, it’s still here, heart beating, living and breathing. It may be some comfort that I carry my crafts with me always. I’m always ready to write at a moment’s notice. I hope with the spring I will get a chance to blog more, that is as long as I have something interesting to say. I hope you’ll be there with me.

Let’s Be Authors! – Making It at FanX 2018

My panel: The Rise and Fall of Sega. Had a good crowd and a great discussion.

I had a discussion years ago, actually on a road trip to Portland with my author gal pals, about when someone “Makes It” in this business of writing. What is the threshold? I mean, I’m sure that once you need a personal assistant or a publicist to do things for you, you have definitely “Made It” in some way or another. Just having enough to pay your car payment each month is a huge accomplishment. It’s a hard classification, because my internal view of being an author is not what is reflected in the external view to the reader.

So the idea of “Making It” is difficult. And as I really thought about it, it’s only important to one person. . . That’s me.

In all these years of being an author, I’ve never really felt that I “Made It.” I’ve taught classes and been on panels at different writing conferences, with really, really cool people too, by the way. But I didn’t feel successful, I kinda felt like I was a cool kid, but not a success. My audience is not my peers, so writing conferences are not the best place to sell books or engage with your audience. Online sales are difficult to judge, because I have no engagement what so ever. It’s all just numbers, not people. My books are very buried in the doldrums of Amazon, and only with promotion do my books get any attention.

Booth set up, Christine and Conor being cool.

But when I really feel like an author and really feel an impact of what I’m doing, is when I physically get to place a book in someone’s hands. I’m handing them an adventure, my adventure that I’ve created for them. And when I get to personalize it? It’s the best! Because I am offering a part of me in this book, a special message just for them. It’s a special feeling.

The Green Room offers the best view of dinosaurs.

FanX 2018 offers a great way to find your fan base and connect with readers one on one. It was a different experience this year than our other times at the Con Formally Known As Salt Lake Comic Con. In previous years, I had filled the booth with other authors – last year, we had NINE authors. My ideas were to give other people a chance to shine, and make back the cost of the booth, without thinking that I would profit anything. This made for a very crowded and stressful environment.

Me, with my boothmates, Ben and Christine.

This year, I decided to do things differently. I didn’t want to be stressed. I wanted to enjoy being at this con. It should be fun. So, I scaled it way down to working with only my closest and best friends in my writing circle: authors Christine Haggerty and Ben Ireland. Each of us write for a different audience, so no competition in sales, and also, we genuinely really want each other to succeed, so selling each other’s books was easy. It’s all about the reader. That is so important, the MOST important thing we did in the booth.

“Waiting for all my rabid fans to arrive.” – Christine

We got lucky booth 1203, a corner very close to the opening doors and main staircase. We set Christine and I on opposite sides of the corner and gave Ben the front corner spot (picture above), so every book had its own place to shine. We all had something new for our booth: Christine’s Middle Grade – Lucas and the House of Lies, Ben’s third in the Blacksmith Legacy – Billy Blacksmith: The Ironsoul, and my new poetry book – Wandering Beautiful.

“Uhura, from an alternate timeline, signing a Wandering Beautiful.” – Candace

Historically, we never sold very well on the first day. Most people were waiting to buy everything on the third day. I don’t know if it was the phase of the moon or something, but once those doors opened, people found us immediately and we started selling.

“FanX was an absolutely wonderful experience. Sharing with fans who really get a show generates an energy you can’t find anywhere else. And meeting Anna Graves was an incredible bonus. She struck me as a genuine fan, and she was wonderfully gracious.” – Ben (Photo by CB Lee)

Hands down, this was the BEST year at FanX. The crowd was amazing, we had exceptional stars (I witnessed Jason Momoa, he is real, we breathe the same air, and rotate around the same sun. . . ), but the panels were amazing. Both Ben and I got to participate on panels. My retrogaming panel went amazingly, but not as fabulously as Ben’s Voltron panel. And Christine cosplayed as her pocket pin-ups and drew quite the crowd, plus a free red top hat.

“Cute little Paige was the 60th Harley Quinn I counted at FanX and she got a free copy of Lucas and the House of Lies.” – Christine

We had fun. We were everywhere. But the best part was talking with fans, fellow creators, fellow readers, who were interested in getting to know us and know what our books were about. We were an impressive force. Many people asked about who we were, how we became a group in a booth, and other authors were anxious for a spot with us next year. I sold out of two titles as well, Ben sold out of his first title. We were not expecting to sell so much. I under-prepared for the crowd, because it’s hard to haul unsold books back. It’s discouraging. I have one, small box of books now sitting in my empty garage instead of several. I’m just still stunned and impressed.

Goofing off with Julie, who helped us Friday and Saturday.

I’ve had a few days to let things settle, but my glow has not faded. As I was driving in on Day 3 of FanX, it was a little cloudy, but the sun was peeking through little breaks, making gorgeous little spots of sun. I thought those lucky people may not even know they are in this spotlight right now.

Check out this guy, he bought Ben’s series and I totally stole a picture of it.

“Making it as an author is much like being in that spot of sun, not until it has passed can you see and recognize how truly beautiful it is.”

I felt the admiration from each person who purchased my books, and those buying my friends’ books. We all felt the energy, which brought us closer as a group. We were making a difference in their lives, even for a fraction of a moment, but it is imprinted on me forever.

“Me and the new Doctor. It was a great year.” – Candace

I feel invincible and ready for any challenge. I’m feeling creative and set to finish my book. To all my new friends that I met at this conference, thank you from ALL OF US! FanX has made me the author I had always felt I could be and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be in that spot of sun.

Let’s Be Authors – NaNoWriMo Explained

My current view

I know. I should be writing right now, with this being November, but I’m counting this in my word count. 😉

EVERYONE is doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, and it is thrilling. I think it runs in seasons, you know, like some years Halloween is freaking awesome and others you just aren’t feeling it. It’s the same with NaNoWriMo, some years it just seems like a hassle, but THIS year everyone is feeling it. I am feeling it and participating, as I have in previous years, with a new project and everything. My author profile explains my wishy-washy history with NaNoWriMo. I should have earned a badge for Quitter several times. But it’s been really fun to explore something completely new from what I usually write. NaNo is giving me that opportunity.

I’m writing this as a “Let’s Be Authors” post, because I am going to lay out some honesty about this yearly tradition that I find funny.

Anyone Can Write…Right?

I have been caught saying that all I did was finish a novel. But, you know, finishing is a BIG part of it. I didn’t go over the first five chapters again and again like we all have done, however, it did take me more than a month to do. (Try a few years.) NaNo gives newbies a chance to finally finish that novel, without looking back at what they’ve written. Just move on and get that damn novel out of their head and onto paper.

This year I’m not rereading what I wrote. The whole point is to spill out the bare bones of the story. For me, it’s nearly like outlining. I’m a discovery writer, but with direction. Maybe that makes me a hybrid, I don’t know. But the point is, I need to know the ending of the story in order to understand what I need to fix and that is what I try to do.

NaNo is an exercise in discipline and crunching for a deadline. But it also allows you to write crap. NONE of these novels are publish ready. Everything I’m writing right now is seriously… crap. Crap. Crap. CRAP. NaNo can get creativity flowing, and that is truly awesome, but nothing will ever be ready on December 1st.

Here’s the brightside: all three of my previous NaNos are now published, but I NEVER, that’s right, I have never won NaNoWriMo. Winning means you’ve achieved 50K words. The most I have written in one year is 23K and I feel that was pretty good. That novel turned into a 100K word number three capstone in my series, which took me two years to complete (and just won the LUW Silver Quill Award). So, yes, NaNo had a place, to get me motivated and writing, but it was never something I was proud of showing anyone. Not until it was ready.

An Exercise in Discipline

And really, I’m the worst at discipline. I do not like deadlines. I cave if there is chocolate around. I love to watch Jeopardy. And will accept any distraction when it comes to NaNo. Because, honestly, who cares? There is no one really pressuring you to finish. There is not a gun to your head. There is not a damsel tied to the train tracks. It’s only you (and your NaNo buddies) that care about this.

So, why do it?

It’s fun to say that I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, and people either say, what’s that? Or they say Nano-why-what? And a quick explanation makes them think you are crazy. But hammering out 50K in a month is not going to go on a resume. It’s impressive to the art community, and maybe that is all you need, but what is your real reason for doing it.

For me, the story needs to be my motivation. It always is. If I’m passionate about what I’m creating I’ll reach my goal, because it’s fun. F. U. N. There is always this moment I hit when writing that I NEED to know what happens next. And I love that moment, I’m swept away by it – where my fingers are flying and I just do not want to stop writing… and it’s really late at night, and I have to get my daughter up for school at 6, but I just do not want to stop, and I haven’t eaten and my tummy is so mad, and I snack on pistachios and then I’m fine. Does this sound familiar? You know this moment. Reaching THIS moment in NaNo makes or breaks me. If I don’t reach this moment, I’m very half-assed about the whole event. My goal is to get to that moment in my writing. If I can, NaNo is way more fun.

The Popularity Contest

Here is where I fail when it comes to NaNo. Online, yes, it is a great environment, I have lots of buddies. And you can see what your buddies are up to in word count. But I look at all the badges of what people have earned or what their word count is, and I start to worry.

There are badges for EVERYTHING! Some you earn just for creating a profile, some for logging in your process, but some you can achieve by being yourself. Just by drinking jugs of coffee you can earn a badge. Writing in a bathroom stall…  YEP! You got a badge! I’m totally going to do this one. It’s fun, but also, distracting for the serious WriMo.

I look at the badges of my buddies and it makes me worry that I am NOT drinking enough caffeine, or I am admitting that I write in the bathroom stall. I am definitely not the most popular girl on the site. I don’t have the flare, I guess.

But what makes you the most popular, the most envied of all your buddies, is your word count. Word count is EVERYTHING! Word count makes you king! And everyone is watching it. You can easily adjust your word count at the top. I usually keep the site up on a tab and add my score when I’m about to shut my computer. Why, this blog post is 1476 words and I’m counting it in my word count tonight. 😉

But let me ask you this? By a raise of hands, who fudges on the numbers? Come on. I know you do too. This should feel like cheating at Solitaire, because no one will know the truth but you. But your number is what makes other people crazy jealous of your mad typing skills. It’s good, but it really is bad of you. Shame shame…

The honesty of the project benefits you. It’s our exercise is discipline, and yet we are failing because of the natural jealousy that occurs when we value other peoples’ talents. It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry about what others are doing,” but it’s impossible to not. If the numbers mean anything to you, just be honest. It’s the best way to do NaNo. At the end of November, no one will really care at all. As I stated, I never finished, but all of my projects are published, and THAT, my friends is the goal, really.

A Month of Hell

I can always tell a WriMo by the state of their house, the condition of the laundry piling, the quick microwavables in the freezer, the stack of empty Dr. Pepper cans, the scribbled on trash heap next to the computer, the noise-canceling headphones in the jack, the crowded coffee houses, and the deep bags under each eye.

Why do we torture ourselves like this? We can naturally write every day and achieve the same goal. But why November? Why? When there is turkey that needs to be sliced, and family, and shopping, and plays, and everything else that comes in November. Why do we torture ourselves like this?

Because, NaNoWriMo is an experience. That’s why.

It really is something you can commemorate with others. I have twitter followers that are doing NaNo, and it feels like we are fighting the same war together. We are all climbing Everest, and it makes us comrades together. Every crappy word that bleeds out is stained by the experience. Every treasured Write-in is shared in memory. Every active-brain late night adds to one more badge, not just the ones earned online, but the ones you feel when achieving something incredible.

I know. I’ve yet to WIN, but I try, as WriMos do, to be part of that small percentage that says they finished a novel. And if you don’t, just fudge the numbers until you feel better. 🙂

That is the joy, and hell, that is NaNoWriMo. It’s silly, but it has its place.

And now I’m adding this blog to my total. Because, I need to be honest… right?

 

Let’s Be Authors! Experiment #2: Conning A Con – Pretending To Be Special

Experiment #2 involves Salt Lake Comic Con, though I think this would apply with any convention. I tried to make this post as funny as possible, but sometimes, the truth is just not funny. What you will feel is the embarrassing reality of a small time author selling their soul for a reader to believe.

Before

After

Salt Lake Comic Con is in its 5th year in the Beehive state. It’s in my home town, practically my backyard, and for this home-grown nerdity that infects this valley like a petri dish, it’s one of the best attended Cons in the nation. I’m still exhausted from experiencing the con for the 5th time, and each one has been different. In reflecting on past vs. present, I thought I would share tips on how to “con” the Con.

Con Virginity

Like all of our first times, there was a lot of excitement and anticipation, anxiety, sweating, embarrassment, and fear of performing poorly and being disappointing.

My first con had all the anticipation and inappropriate sweating to prepare me for every eventuality that came with subsequent Cons.

…and I did EVERYTHING WRONG.

My help for my first con. Look, crappy banner, fabric, shirts, and cute girl dresses as Minnie Mouse

Money Pit

September 2013 – My first book, Vivatera, had been out for three months. The newness and hype had cooled, replaced with… okay, so now what? I mean, I had a book, wasn’t that enough? Hardly. SLC had drummed up the idea of a comic con. It was seriously cool news. Why the Hell not?

My sister somehow talked me into seizing the day and I purchased a booth, a very hefty sum for a nobody author. I didn’t have a discount of any sort, so the booth cost was completely out of my depth – over $700, a sum that I could NEVER recover with my first novel, and something I didn’t realize until during the con. I only had this one book and no author friends whatsoever. How was I going to fill an entire 10 x 10 booth?

By spending a lot of money, of course. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Shirts that did not sell – that I still have in my garage, if anyone wants one. They even glow in the dark.
  • Hours, and frankly, days making necklaces that reflected my series. This handcraftory took the possession of my kitchen table and a handful of Saturdays to get done. I still have several in a box in my garage, waiting for me to recover (4 years later) and finish. In the end I sold them for $5, and they did better than my book.
  • Cheap, colored scarves I could sell for $10, but they hardly moved.
  • Sheer fabric, for a wispy, mysterious effect.
  • Buttons that said “Vivatera” on them.
  • Temporary tattoos with the cool “Star” pattern. And I really loved these, but I gave them away.
  • Some business type cards that had a QR code for the ebook, for those ereaders. There are always a few. And I ordered WAY too many.
  • And a fat, expensive banner that said “VIVATERA” in bold letters. (Note: if doing an expensive banner, make sure it is timeless, as in, don’t change your branding and don’t plan on having more than one book. Mine aged very quickly and is now covered with paint in my garage.)
  • …and more things that I thought were necessary and weren’t.

Are you seeing the $$? It was embarrassing how much I put into this booth to try and make my one book sell. The scale of this is ridiculous.

ADVICE:

Don’t spend a ton of money on your first con. Get with some experienced authors (more later) and learn from them.

Don’t attempt to sell t-shirts unless they are as cute and as universal as those Tee Turtle or Teefury shirts (not affiliated with either, I’m just a big fan of both). Don’t kill yourself on unnecessary crap. A good, professional bookmark can do a whole lot for you, one with just enough information so they remember who you are and how to find you. Or just a good business card would work and are rather inexpensive. Spend money where you know it will be useful.

And please… Don’t pretend to be bigger than you are. The one thing I hate more than anything is shameless self-promotion. The effrontery of it offends the art of creating. Simplicity is elegant and still professional. Remember what you love and what you do, and that carries over to those you are talking to at the con. Let the creation of it shine through.

Selling Your Soul

People seem to be impressed any time you say that you are an author. It’s a big accomplishment to, first, finish writing a book, and second, seek to get it published, exposing your creative heart to rejection. I can’t really tell if people are impressed or if they just think it’s strange and don’t know how to reply. “Oh, you’re an author? That’s cool…” slowly backs away… huddles children close and talks about college…

Writing is a solitary activity, for the most part. No one can get into your head and explain what you see. Sometimes when you share with non-creative types, it’s hard for them to relate with why this story is so cool and why you need to believe in it.

It’s hard to explain.

Me with a fan

Many creative types are also very private, shy, introverted, and for us to be placed in a situation around thousands (tens of thousands) of people, forced from our cocooned life out into air, and made to talk not just about ourselves, but about our stories, can be hard. I can’t claim to be introverted, I was once shy, but that didn’t last long. However, when placed in an awkward situation, with strangers, asking about my book, I fumble with my words.

“It’s about a girl who discovers she has magic.”

That’s every other book on the shelf. What makes my book special?

And authors don’t know how to talk about our books. It’s nerve-racking that someone wants to know about your words, your heart, your creative dragon that took over your life for six-months or longer. It’s hard for us to come up with an elevator pitch. We know everything about the story. What part would interest them?

Some authors get so desperate if they haven’t sold, people notice the panic. I call this “Killing the Puppy” and the reasons are obvious.

My secret to keeping my puppy alive, is not really a secret at all. I’m just nice and friendly. I KNOW! My big secret to success. I’m nice. People suck some times, but I think everyone has a decent side. That’s my “glass half full” side. I learned at my first con that being nice was what I was most comfortable with, my best way to talk about my books.

Me being a fan. – with V.E. Schwab

Comic Con is full of creative types. Many are introverts and don’t know how to respond when a pretty girl talks to them, which I find adorable. (And which totally happened last con. This poor guy couldn’t speak after he first asked me a question. I really did want to know about your story.) But a lot, and I mean, A LOT are there to show off their cosplay. And if I recognize something is cool, I tell them it’s cool.

My other secret is sincerity. I truly do want to be nice and friendly. I DO like their cosplay. I recognize it and because I recognize it, they think I’m cool. A commonality. And because I’m cool, they want to know about me.

We really are the worst sales people. It’s something that I didn’t know came with the job as an author. Learning to sell your books is hard, but it’s not impossible.

Be kind to your authors. It’s not easy for us.

Partners In Crime

I mentioned getting together with other, experienced authors. I have done this a few times, each time differently. By the time I had a few cons down, I became the experienced author and started helping others out.

SLCC17 Boothmates: Marion G. Harmon, me in my Skeletor shirt, C.K. Johnson, Jessica Parker, and Christine Haggerty Photo courtesy of Instagram: @haggertychristine

Finding a loyal crew to work with can be hard some times, there is a lot of talent and some times their stuff sells better than yours. It is also very rewarding. It’s not as lonely when I share the ledge with others who understand my anxiety, my awkwardness, my trepidation, my fear of rejection. But the ledge is not as thick as I would like, and sometimes other authors need space. Sometimes, I don’t sell by other authors, because I feel the competition in the same genre. I get jealous by other creative works. I get jealous of others’ brains and ideas. It hurts, sometimes.

Boothmates: Another picture – George, Quinn, Jess, C.K. and me as Delilah Bard Photo courtesy of Purple Monkey Photography

Because I am printed through a small press publisher, I can work with them on marketing, and sell my own books. Some bigger publishers require an author to be licensed with a bookstore or distributor in order to do signings. This limits who can be in the booth (sorry Michael 🙁 ). I have been in a booth with my publisher before and I have been with other indie authors as well. What I’ve learned from both experiences – work with those who believe in you just as much as you believe in them.

Author Ben Ireland, me and author Sarah Seeley. Ben was another boothmate. Photo courtesy of Twitter: @SarahESeeley

It’s hard to know what the reader likes or what they would like to read. So, running a booth like a bookstore and having the reader’s interest at heart, is the best (and most fun) way, in my opinion, to run a booth. I usually ask authors that have a similar readership to mine, but different enough to direct them to what the reader would like.

My biggest advocacy as an author – it’s not all about you. These words might shock other authors. It should never be about you, it’s about THEM. Not everyone is going to like my book. Fantasy is not everyone’s cup-o-tea. Some people need the fairy tale, some need the horror and darker bits. And that is why I like community so much, and that is what I try to do within the booth. I’ve found that people are very receptive to this. It’s the success of everyone that’s really at heart. Separating feelings of jealousy is so important to have a successful con. It’s hard, but I promise, it is worth it.

Pretending To Be Special

SLCC17 MST3K: The Return Panel

Being a “Special Guest” over the past few cons has been a very cool experience, but it was not lightly earned and never abused. Being marked “Special” means I get to enter through a different entrance than everyone else, and I get to stand in a long line, oogling other “Special Guests” and contemplating what makes them special. I eavesdrop a lot. These people know each other or know of each other, and talk about very nerdy things or complain about green room entrance. It’s a rainbow of conversation. It’s another show that I feel privileged to witness. 

What does it really mean to be called a “Special Guest?” I don’t really know. I’m always too busy with my booth to enjoy it.

One year, my daughter cosplayed as Lapis Lazuli’s “Bob” character from Steven Universe, and I told her she could not bring the aluminum bat from home, it’s a weapon. She didn’t listen, as is the usual. She brought it anyway, and of course, she was denied access. I came to the rescue. They saw I was a “Special Guest” and let me take in the bat, no questions asked. That was a really strange power to be granted.

Me, moderating the Dr. Demento Panel. Very cool.

But I don’t feel more special than usual. The reason why I keep being asked to be a special guest, is not because I am cool or know better than anyone else, they just like my creativity in the ideas I suggest, and they like ME. I fake knowing more than the audience, unless it’s Sherlock, Futurama, or Blood Science. I try to be engaging and charming, and most of all, funny. It’s me, amplified. But it all goes back to my books. I’m here! Get to know me! And go, read my books, please!

Truth is, being an author is special. It ROCKS! It’s the best freaking job in the world, to make stuff up and get people to believe in it. But I gotta tell ya, it’s a very interesting and different life than I thought it would be. It’s more than just writing a book, it’s branding yourself. Cons are not something that I thought would be such a big, important part of my author experience. But, being at a con gets me one-on-one time with the readers, and I feel like an author there. It gets me respect from big audiences and that connection can’t be replaced. I never know who I will influence or who will be in my path.

Cons have brought me closer to other authors, bigger names than I. It jump-started me becoming an editor. Introduced me to influential people. It has given me a chance to talk with publishers, agents, people I just can’t get to, but are present at these kind of things. It’s a funny, interesting juxtaposition – the quiet, simplistic author being placed in spotlights. It’s odd, but wonderful. And as much anxiety that it may cause, I find I need it. It rejuvenates me and ignites the creativity. It is part of me now, and I carry the beast.

I’m no longer Conning a Con.

If you are interested in any of my boothmates and their books, please click on my last blog: Salt Lake Comic Con 2017 – 1001 Author Tales!

Find them! Read them! Love them!