Today, I’m reflecting on my past experiences as I get ready for another FanX.
My first FanX was an experiment. It was only me and my family and friends helping out. I was NOBODY – a fledgling author with one book and a BIG award. I coughed up the money (YIKES!) for a booth without any special discount beyond being a repeat vendor. (I think they were nervous it would suck.) Along with my book VIVATERA, and a short story in an anthology, I was eves away from my second book CONJECTRIX, being published. I met my editor for the first time – Lissa – and I was placed on the end RIGHT in front of Patrick Stewart’s and Karen Gillan’s line. It was hard, HARD work. I filled it with other Xchyler’s (my publisher) books, those who could participate, and did my best at selling them.
Last year, we collaborated as Xchyler authors, plus having our sponsor Kelly Olsen, in a booth together. We were generating some buzz at other conventions. Still hard work, but completely worth it. I got the chance to grow in friendship with some of these amazing people. The experience also set me in a new direction as an editor.
This year for FanX, I’m helping other authors get the chance to let their books shine by hosting a booth for Local Fantasy Authors. With both FanX and Salt Lake Comic Con, I have established relationships and respect within the community, something I feel very humble and honored to have. I get to participate again as a panelist and special guest at this convention. The idea still blows me away. But with that, I can help others make their mark in the community. Attending these conventions can be expensive, but the exposure is VITAL. And WOW I’ve got a great crew with me for this con.
I’m incredibly impressed with the talent in our little booth. We have Amazon top sellers and award-winning talent, among some stunning new fiction. If you are in Salt Lake City attending FanX, we are in booth 721. If you don’t get the chance, check out the links and look at these wonderful authors.
FanX is so much fun – hard work, but so worth it. I can’t wait to be an author again.
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
I think out of all the words that I have ever encountered (that being a LOT) Serendipity is a special word that I have always admired. I remember reading the little Serendipity picture books like Morgan and Me, Bangalee, and The Muffin Muncher (all my favorites as a kid), so I grew a subconscious association with the word that, to me, embodied magic and imagination.
In this quick definition, it doesn’t express the feeling of Serendipity. Many times a person doesn’t know that a moment is serendipitous, only on reflection can it be seen. This is very true in my personal experience with this strange cosmic event called “Serendipity.” Though, as it was happening, there was a certain feeling pulling me along, alerting me of how special this was. I wouldn’t call it fate or kismet, that makes it imply that I didn’t have a choice. But in this case, I clearly did have a choice, and this is how my choice led me here…
Ben Ireland, fellow Xchyler author and Moments In Millennia contributor, had just moved to Utah. He had contacted me back in December about getting more involved in events here. I was the right person to contact about that, I have my fingers in all sorts of pies. Truth: Xchyler is much like a family, so adding another member was very exciting, plus I felt a strange kind of kinship with him after working on MIM. And me, being very active in the writing community here, felt a specific need to befriend him, a need I did not understand at the time. I invited him to LTUE, and got him to take part of the large author signing event.
I had been very busy, as I said, and hadn’t noticed him come in and set up at a table close by. I was rather struck by my great fortune being positioned directly across from Brandon Sanderson. It took me a good while to notice that he was sitting kitty-corner from my seat. I could only see the back of his head, but I knew it was him. I grew very nervous – people online can be very different in person, but I couldn’t just sit there. I got up, casually went over, and tapped him on the back. He was excited to see me and glad I was there. We immediately hit it off and my friend Mike from the media team nabbed a picture.
My 12 year old daughter and I had a casual lunch with him the next day during the conference, where he asked her, nearly in passing, if she would be interested in reading a YA fantasy he had been developing. I was curious about it, but he didn’t say much, just that he wanted her opinion. He sent it to me, and I in turn sent it to my girl.
Development of Events
My daughter is rather flaky. I love the guts out of her, but she starts things then gets distracted by squirrels. She read about 50 pages before she started doing something else. I was curious about the story, but I had so many other things to do, like finishing writing a few books, one being the final book in my series. I couldn’t justify time in reading it. And at this point, Ben had not asked me to read it.
About a good seven weeks later, Ben and I met up yet again in the Xchyler Booth at FanX, a geek convention in Salt Lake City. He kept mentioning this YA story. And here I was, a YA fantasy author. I knew he was dying to talk about it. So, I simply asked him to tell me about Billy Blacksmith…
…and the flood opened and he shared with me so much. He was so excited to talk with another author who understood creation and world building. I mean, Ben completely lit up. I tried to catch everything as he filled my ears with this world of Billy Blacksmith, all while walking the wide convention floor eating overly priced chocolate ice cream.
This is what I caught:
Billy is a big kid, out of shape, lover of cupcakes, amazing at baseball
Has ultra cool friends, Greyson Ash and Ash-lea Gray, very cool
He has demonblood
But it wasn’t until…
Giant demonic spiders and a little girl that this giant spider had to protect
…did I wonder how complex this story really was.
And then he killed it by saying that part was actually in the second book. But, after everything, and me as a YA fantasy author, he really wanted my opinion. Now, know I have a hard time reading books from my friends. I don’t want my author friendships to become delicate if I don’t like it, you know? But, there was something, I’d nearly call it a magic charm, calling me to read this story. I started reading and told myself that I would try and keep my personal friendship out, remove my writer self, and just enjoy the story.
By chapter three I had a problem – I really liked the story. It surprised me. It was funny, funny, funny. The characters were super engaging, especially poor, larger-than-life Billy. But, my stupid author brain would not shut up. The story had great potential, but I could tell it was more complex than what Ben had original told me. A boy that swings a bat really well did not scratch the surface.
So, lucky as I am, I went to the author with questions. And there Ben blew my mind with a creative
world constructed of three realms: Humans, Demons, and Angels, and the wars that befell them. About the different demonic races and classes, about a different kind of hero story, filling me with mystery and admiration, the kind that makes me wish I had created it. This manuscript screamed at me, and it wasn’t even mine.
And then I read a chapter called, “The Demon Who Loved a Maid and Saved Mankind,” and I feel in love with the story. It talked about the sweet beginnings and love story that started everything. I couldn’t help myself. This was good – really good, but there were problems that I could see and Ben couldn’t. Ben writes thrillers, not YA fantasy. YA sometimes needs a gentler hand, or something that appeals to that age. And YA is something I write and I knew I could help. This is what Ben wanted when he first talked to me, someone within the writing world to believe in Billy–and I, in some strange cosmic serendipitous way, was there.
In A Happy or Beneficial Way
At this point I warned Ben, “I can’t shut off my writer brain, so if I see something that could be improved, can I add a comment?” He was so excited that I offered, he said “Yes, please.” And thus, started a back and forth writing process that soon developed a trusting friendship and partnership as author and editor.
That’s right… Editor. New hat, but I like how it fits.
Over the past months working on this, I’ve learn how important it is to have creative people. Though ideas may be different, artistic types, and especially writers, speak the same language of art. It was this language of writing, world building, and creative storytelling that spoke to me. Writers need writers to speak to, bounce off ideas, learn from, and share with. We all have loved ones who believe in us and in our abilities, but having other creative minds believe in it too is validation that you are doing something right, something worth while. The imaginative beauty of this project wrapped around me, and instead of simply encouraging the idea, I got involved, because I believed in it and desperately wanted it to succeed.
I love writing. I love storytelling. I love making a difference. I love being a small part of Billy Blacksmith.
Serendipity only works when you act on it.
Billy Blacksmith: The Demonslayer
Billy has spent his whole life keeping his head down in school and trying to survive the endless parade of foster homes. When a three hundred pound spider emerges from under his bed intent on drinking his blood, Billy discovers he is the main player in an ancient war between demons and humans. With his best friends Ash-lea and Greyson, and a reformed demon as his ally, Billy prepares to face an invasion of demonic spiders and the General that leads them.
Last year at Salt Lake Comic Con 2015, I had the privilege of attending a panel with some talented authors like Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, R.A. Salvatore and James Owens. And I was so excited to hear, with my own ears, what one of my writing influences, me being a small time author, had to say… that’s right… Terry Brooks!!!
But seeing Terry is cool, but what about these other authors? I knew of them, and I really liked what they had to say during the panel. I walked back on the con floor and saw the signing line wrap all the way down the aisle for this Jim Butcher guy. Of course, I’d HEARD of Harry Dresden, but figured it’s a guy read. Right? Probably a “Richard Castle” type of read that really doesn’t interest a fantasy girl like me.
A year past – A FULL YEAR – a very busy, hard year of writing, editing, and growing as an author. Finally, the moment I turned in the FINAL edit of my FINAL book in my fantasy series, I thought it was time to start reading again. But, oh, what a dry spell. I feel like I haven’t read in ages. The pile of books had grown so high I felt overwhelmed with where to start.
This is when friends and recommendations come in. An author friend of mine, Ben Ireland, listed Harry Dresden as one of his biggest influences. I knew this already, so when I asked him if he had recommendations for something to read, he nearly screamed, “READ HARRY DRESDEN!”
Okay, universe, I guess I should have listened last year, when my curiosity piqued. So, I went into this blind, not really knowing anything about the stories, only with recommendations and word of mouth.
My answer to the universe, “I wish I would have read this sooner.”
“My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. I’m a wizard. I work out of an office in midtown Chicago. As far as I know, I’m the only openly practicing professional wizard in the country. You can find me in the yellow pages, under “Wizards.” Believe it or not, I’m the only one there. My ad looks like this:
HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment
I must fall for wizards, because Harry Dresden is as bad-ass wizard as you can get. I’ve grown up with Potter, but I’m an adult now and I’m so glad I found Dresden.
Fiction for me needs to have elements of the fantastical. Take Harry Dresden – unabashed wizard, barely scraping by on solving unexplained cases for the Chicago Police. Me, a fan of Castle and Limitless, caught on rather quickly to the story’s energy and format. Intrigued by the supernatural quality and charmed by Dresden himself, I slowly found I was falling in love with this book. It’s witty, smart, visual, laugh out-loud funny, and an all-around great read.
But the thing I picked up the most, and this is the writer in me, is the wordplay in which Butcher used to explain the world and its characters. His eyes were the green of well-worn dollar bills. This line struck me, a clever wordplay and simple description that completely encapsulating everything I needed to know about this baddie. The language was fresh and easy, and the magic wrapped around me, sweeping me away in this fun nod to a detective noir.
Some of my favorite quotes:
“Tequila?” I asked him, skeptically. “Are you sure on that one? I thought the base for a love potion was supposed to be champagne.” “Champagne, tequila, what’s the difference, so long as it’ll lower her inhibitions?” Bob said. “Uh. I’m thinking it’s going to get us a, um, sleazier result.”
Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.
Santa is a much bigger and more powerful faery than Toot, and I don’t know his true name anyway. You’d never see me trying to nab Saint Nick in a magic circle even if I did. I don’t think anyone has stones that big.
This book is fun. Plain and simple. It was the little things that delighted me. The sweats and the cowboy boots, the situational comedy with the love potion and the demon and Harry not wearing a stitch, the beloved Toot Toot the fairy, and my favorite – naughty, inappropriate Bob the skull. This book did not pretend to be anything other than a good time. And, though I tend to lean toward YA, it was refreshing to read something Adult, something with legs and arms and confidence, something without angst, and to say this, something with a little spice.
Now I understand the line that wrapped around the aisle at Comic Con. I wished I would have paid more attention to Butcher’s advice.
In one glorious week I have the tremendous opportunity to do something I’ve waited ALL YEAR to do – Spring Into Books.
A little history – Spring Into Books started in 2014 as a small book fair by my localLeague of Utah Writers chapter, the Oquirrh Writers. The THEN president of the chapter, Lauri Schoenfeld, was a dynamo and pulled off a fun, family event. It was the seed of a very promising event.
I sat in the corner next to the classy fantasy writer Paul Genesse, fresh with my second book still drying from the press. At the time I wasn’t much in the writing community, still pushing forward, excited and wide-eyed. It was lightly attended, because no one knew how to get the word out. And I was useless as a resource, with only being at this author gig a year.
In 2015, there was a push to get more people there. The West Jordan Arts Council got involved, some local media covered it, and would you know it… cosplayers! The event was a buzzing windstorm of activity the whole time. The kids carnival kept the kiddos entertained, the author workshops treated the budding novice writers with fabulous instruction, and the book readings packed the lobby, filling the ears of readers of all ages. And seriously, I was chased down by a giant Olaf until I got a picture with him.
When asked to participate this year, I jumped at the chance. I also volunteered to help manage the poetry contest, something new this year. Three different LUW chapters have joined forces to make this great – Sandy Genre (Infinite Monkeys) Chapter, Herriman, and Oquirrh, spearheaded by Jodi Milner, and LUW Pres. Elect Jared Quan.
This year will be the best yet. All my favorite people will be there and I’m excited to share a table with my good friend and fellow Xchyler author Ben Ireland.
And if you come find me, I’ll give you a free poster. Whoohoo!
Awesome stuff to do:
Meet and greet award winning authors including: Lisa Mangum, Johnny Worthen, Brian C. Hailes, Michael Jensen, Tristi Pinkston, and Adam Sidwell.
Children’s Superhero Carnival including games, prizes, and photo ops with your favorite characters!
Hands on workshops and presentations about the creative process
Book readings from local authors
Poetry Slam – watch as school teams go head to head in this lively competition
Food Trucks – Stay for dinner or grab a yummy snack!
Support local authors and artists at our huge book sale and signing
It’s a really great event and promises to deliver. Here is the Oquirrh Chapters webpage with more information. See you there!
Back in February, I had the privilege of eating waffles and frites with Ben Ireland at the LTUE Writers Symposium. As a friend, I wanted to know more about his writing style and complicated mind. We share space in the Fantasy Anthology MOMENTS IN MILLENNIA, but his gentle story FAIRYKIN did not prepare me for the action-packed adrenaline high I would receive with KINGDOM CITY: RESURRECTION.
This book is a lot of fun! It read like anime, like I was reading Miyazaki or binge-watching Full Metal Alchemist – so visual in description I could see it when I closed my eyes. It’s Urban, Dystopian, Super-Hero Action, Horror, Zombie lit – all packed into one series. But at its core, it is tender – about love and trust amid a world in chaos.
A terrorist attack buries most of the police force, including the Chief of Police, killing them all – six months later they all return with no memory of what happened. Now the mystery of what happens begins to be reveals in intense layered action.
Awesome. And the sequence of events after kept me awake at night, effecting my dreams, until I got up and finished the book.
Characters rule RESURRECTION. Plenty of rich, complex characters, sub-cultured within their surrounding mountain city, where no one leaves or questions, just co-exist.
I love that the main character is a bad-ass chick, Autumn Stevens, Kingdom City’s Whisper, which makes her the toughest ninja assassin on the planet – total Linda Hamilton type from Terminator 2. I’m all in for tough women leads. Her hollowness at the beginning grasps me with both hands. I was immediately drawn to her. She only bugged me when she was too motherly. Me, “Stop worrying about their veggies and go kill some bad guys.” But, how can she help it? She’s there to protect her family in every way – EVERY WAY.
Really enjoyed the pace. It’s sliced into scenes, revealing like a graphic novel, so the reader gets more of the plot than the players. I love reads like this. When the story wound back to the planning in the gymnasium, I thought of screaming at the characters, blowing the whole plot… “Listen, guys, stop talking about it. The city is in riots. There are hostages. Stop being so smart and go ninja kick them in the face!”
The tone and emotion is vital to the story. Through out there is a crafted balance of emotion is every scene, playing delicately with the environment, so to not overwhelm the reader, which is not easy for a writer to do.
RESURRECTION is really fun. If you like high-intensity thrillers, this won’t disappoint you.
And I want to thank Ben for introducing me to his intense style of writing, helping me understand a little more of how he thinks. And a gentle reminder that he still owes me that Hot Cocoa.