Category Archives: Conventions

Posts related to conventions Rob’s attended.

Rob’s Ramblings: ChattaCon AAR

ChattaCon has come and gone for 2020. It was, as usual, a great time. I really enjoy the Chattanooga fan scene. It’s a bunch of smart, fun people and I’m glad I get to go there twice a year.

As usual, Lani gave me a nice busy schedule. Actually, it was brilliant this year because it was front-loaded, which I appreciate.

I’ll get to that in a moment, but one of the most important parts of cons these days is the Thursday before con networking. This time, I had a chance to sit down with Brian Cooksey and lay out some plans for getting the Shijuren RPG off the ground.

Side note: Brian will be a Special Guest next year at ChattaCon because of his game design skills. I’m honored he’s helping me out.

We spent a couple of hours agreeing upon overall goals, a general breakdown of responsibilities, and that sort of thing. I had given him some ideas I wanted to try and he gave me his opinion on them.

One thing I think is good about our partnership is that we have different perspectives. While I have a lot of gaming experience, it’s mostly in one tree, D&D/Pathfinder. Brian, on the other hand, knows a ton of game systems and he has a lot of different things to bring into the conversation.

Our basic philosophy is this: We want a game system that allows for a ton of flexibility and options in character design. I want players to play the character they want. At the same time, we want a game system that streamlines the process to minimize checking rules during the game because all the information a player needs is on his character sheet already.

I’ll expand on the game system plans as they get going. I’ll be posting process updates consistently both here and on the wiki when I get it updated.

Suffice to say I’m really excited as it starts to get off the ground. I’ve always wanted to be a part of an RPG and I think we can do some cool stuff here.

The actual convention started at 5pm on Friday with my Martin Koszta panel. As usual, people enjoyed it but I am more convinced now that I need to retire it for a few years. I’ll actually come back to it at some point, I’m sure, but I’ve presented it too much. What I really need to do is pick a new historical event, maybe run through bits and pieces of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle or go through Old English poetry.

That was at 5 on Friday. Immediately after was a world-building on the fly panel by Brian Cooksey that was a lot of fun. He structured it with 4-5 things that had to be in it and 4-5 things that had to *not* be in it, then let us riff off the combinations. That’s a process I might just try for the next Shijuren series as I come up with different characters and storylines.

At 8pm was a similar panel, and had I been thinking, I would have pulled from Brian’s.

Of course, had I been thinking, I would have noticed I was the listed moderator and been prepared to direct things. We muddled out some things, but it needed more direction and audience involvement. It could have been great, but I didn’t come prepared. Next time, I’ll fix that.

And yes, I had a 9pm Friday panel discussing how much violence and sex should we include in fantasy and SF. My answer is it depends on the story I’m trying to write. I tend to action/adventure stuff, so there’s lots of violence. I can change how graphic that is up and down the dial, but it tends toward violent.

On the other hand, I’ve been incorporating more romantic and sexual themes in my stuff. The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms is a riff off Romeo and Juliet (actually the Finnsburh stuff, but same thing). As for how graphic my sexual content will be, it will depend on if it pushes the story. I don’t like either violence or sex that’s just put in just to have it.

Then was the LibertyCon party, and I hung out there until it closed. I bounced around for a bit, but I was tired and went to bed. A good day, all around, though really, really busy.

That business on Friday meant, however, that Saturday was fairly light. I had a panel at 1pm on weaving historical events and real things in speculative fiction.

I actually checked to see if I was the moderator and did a much better job at coming up with questions. I thought it went really well, though I will say having Terry Maggert as a panelist is fantastic. All you need to do is stick a quarter in him and he’ll create a ton of things to talk about.

I had my author signing/sales session from 4-5pm. It went really well, highlighted by a couple of regular readers showing up right away. They’re a joy to have as fans, smart, nice, and pleasant.

Then I spent much of the evening talking with Terry Maggert and Mel Todd about writing and processes. I learned a ton. Terry’s done well from writing and he’s definitely someone to pay attention to. Mel has studied things from a different tack, and she’s got quite a bit to teach me on the business side especially. It’s nice to have smart friends.

Then I went and hung out at parties and such-like things. One con regular hosts her own party, and I spent a goodly amount of time there. Then I went and watched the burlesque for a bit. Then I joined in on Kat’s birthday party.

I went to bed late, but it was worth it.

I was moving slowly on Sunday morning (shocking, I know), but I really enjoyed the panel on using Culture, Mythology, and Spirituality to fill out speculative fiction moderated by Amanda Makepeace.

Side note: Amanda is an amazing artist and will be Artist Guest of Honor at MidSouthCon opposite FantaSci and then ChattaCon 2021.

Anyway, I wondered where this panel might go, because it’s such a broad topic. In the end, what I think I got was a codification of something I already knew I did, but had never said aloud. I chose to use real world religions in Shijuren because I wanted to get the immediate evocative response from a Zeus or a Woden instead of a made-up deity who was some analogue. I use gods and goddesses from a bunch of cultures because I find them all fun and interesting.

Researching other cultures is one of the best parts of writing in Shijuren.

At that point, my responsibilities were done. I emptied my room, made my goodbyes, and was on the road by 11:30.

I thought about staying for some of the closing stuff, but after staying up late on Saturday and with the way the weather has been around KC of late, I decided I wanted to get on the road as quickly as I could.

At LibertyCon, I’ll be staying for the Dead Dog Party, and maybe even for a couple of days after. However, on this trip, it was time to be home. The trip went well, I didn’t even need a nap, and I made it home at 9ish.

As usual, today is sort of slow day, and I’m not doing much other than writing my AAR and puttering around on some detail work here and there. Nothing huge or stressful, nor anything I’ll beat myself up for not doing except the AAR, which really is best done today anyway when I’m still basking in a great weekend. All part of learning how to manage myself better.

Anyway, the short version. The trip went well. I achieved the goals I had in mind. I had fun.

I’ll be there in 2021.

Rob’s Ramblings: ChattaCon and Stuff

Greetings all

This week is ChattaCon. It’s one of my favorite cons because Lani Brooks always gives me plenty to do. This year is no different.

Here’s my schedule:

  • Friday at 5pm (Vision A Ballroom): Martin Koszta Using History Panel (This might be the last time for a while. I’ve done it quite a few times, so I’ll stop suggesting it until I miss doing it.)
  • Friday at 8pm (Vision B Ballroom): Iron-Storyteller. This looks like a lot of fun and I wonder if we may end up wanting to run long because we’ll come up with so much stuff. However…
  • Friday at 9pm (Wisdom Boardroom: Beyond G-Rating. How much violence and sex should we include in fantasy and SF.
  • Saturday at 1pm (Vision A Ballroom): Blurring the Lines. We’ll discuss how to interweave real events in spec fiction.
  • Saturday at 4pm (Ballroom Hall): I believe this will be my author signing period. Yes, I’ll have books with me.
  • Sunday at 10am (Vision A Ballroom): Culture, Mythology, and Spirituality. Studying how cultures help fill out speculative fiction and RPGs.
  • There is also a game creation panels that I might attend, given the Shijuren RPG. It’s Principles of RPG Design run at 3pm in Vision C.

It’s going to be a great time. I love it that she keeps me hopping.

One thing that might be weird is this will be the first con I attend after Neil’s passing. His death is still reverberating among Rush fans and I’m not the only one not really over it.

I always wear Rush T-shirts at con. There are always a bunch of Rush fans at SF/F cons, of course, and I’ve always enjoyed interacting with them.

This time will be different and I’m not sure how it’ll go.

Anyway, on to other things.

Congratulations to the Chiefs and the 49ers for reaching the Super Bowl. I’m in a hard place here as a Cowboys fan living in the KC area. On the one hand, it’s the 49ers, and I never like it when they win. On the other, it’s one of the stepdaughter’s teams and if the Chiefs win, KC fans are going to be insufferable until they next get knocked out of the playoffs. And that couldn’t be any earlier than December 2020.

I guess I’ll root for the Chiefs. Andy Reid is a guy to admire, and I’d be really happy for him to win a Super Bowl with a team other than the Eagles. Yes, I’m petty. But the Eagles fans deserve all that and more.

Anyway, we’ll have a Super Bowl party here. I generally have had one. Last year was the exception because of moving about. Hopefully, the stepdaughter can have the night off from work, but if not, we’ll make a mini version of her and sit her right in front of the TV.

Also exciting is the result of the Dragon 9/Crew Dragon test. It looks like we’re almost to the point of crewed missions for that platform.

I’ve long believed, and circumstances are proving me right, than private industry would be the real path to space. NASA has certain uses, but commercial ventures can do things NASA can’t, and do them at a much faster rate.

I would really like to see humanity have a solid and stable presence in space before I pass along the mortal coil. Dragon could make that happen.

Well, enough of all that. Back to writing in None Call Me Mother. Making progress.

Rob’s Ramblings: ShadowCon 2020 AAR

Rob’s Note: I’m starting a Monday column for whatever I want to write about. This will include reviews, sports, other interests, and, obviously, AARs.

The first convention of 2020 is in the books! ShadowCon 2020 was fantastic. I had a great time, sold books, and learned a ton.

ShadowCon is a small Memphis convention run by an SCA household name Shadow Legion. Obviously, that means there is a huge SCA presence at the con. It’s not just the SCA, though, as Memphis has an active SF/F creator community.

In the past, I have actively tried to avoid having a dealer’s table *and* sitting on panels. However, a dealer’s table opened up at the last moment and I decided to pounce on it.

The reason to avoid doing both remained, but this would be my first con in a while and I thought I’d have the adrenaline to push me through the challenge of back-to-back 12+ hour days. Also, since ShadowCon is only on Friday and Saturday, I didn’t have to worry about doing too much on Sunday.

Whether I thought things through well or not, this turned out to be an excellent decision. I was, in fact, busy. I did, in fact, get exhausted. However, I also sold a bunch of books I would not have otherwise.

I did three panels as well. One was a panel on adding mystery elements to SF/F. This is the first time doing that panel. I don’t think I organized it well, but that happens the first time one does a panel. I like the core of the idea and I’ll do it again. Also, it’s a panel that would work better, I think, with more people than me on it. I was up against Opening Ceremonies, so many of the other authors were there instead. Nevertheless, it was a solid panel, with 5 people who got at least a little something out of it.

I also did my Martin Koszta panel again. Unfortunately, this was at 8pm on Saturday and I only got two people there. Worse, in one way, they were both experienced writers and that panel is aimed more at people starting to dabble in history as an inspiration. It may not have been terribly effective, but the story is so fun we all enjoyed it.

My favorite panel discussed specific methods one can use when you get stuck. I was joined by a couple of other writers and we had a decent sized audience. It went really well, and I think I’ll add that one to my list as well.

ShadowCon advertises itself as a “relaxacon,” which means the social aspects after the official events are important. Friday night I hung out and chatted until about midnight.

Saturday night, however, I was up and chatting until about 4am. Allan Gilbreath is a hoot! He’s also very smart. He and Robert Allsup talked about some of the specifics of writing screenplays, especially those for TV. Much to think about, and I do want to try my hand at that.

They also gave me an idea for my Mag Reviews, which I think I’ll play around with.

One of the anticipated highlights was spending time with Bill Webb. He’s in a couple of the Phases of Mars anthologies and I hadn’t really met him before. He’s a really sharp guy and I’m really glad I aimed to spend time with him. I suspect we’ll work together in the future.

Last year at ShadowCon I felt a little out of the loop. This isn’t really surprising as I often struggle the first time at a con to know where I fit in. It’s also not surprising, then, that the second time I’m at a con I’m much more aware of things, more confident, and therefore more productive.

I never stop learning these things, of course, but I realize I should factor this in my calculations more than I do. I shouldn’t necessarily discount a con where the first time doesn’t click a ton. I need to pay attention to why it doesn’t click, because if it’s just that I was feeling a bit out of the water it might be a great con, I just need to go a few times.

ShadowCon has now locked itself into my normal rotation because of this year. I’ll be doing more cons with a dealer’s table, even if no one else is there. It’s hard work. I just need to consider how many panels and how much other stuff is going on at the same time.

Thanks to Aubrey Stephens for handling the panels and Gunder Johanssen for handling the dealer’s room. Thanks to Bill Webb for introducing me into the Memphis creator scene.

And thanks to all who bought books, chatted with me, and helped me a have a great time.

I’ll be back next year.

LibertyCon 2019 AAR

Greetings all

I’m in Rocky Mount, NC visiting relatives after another fantastic LibertyCon. As always, so much happened that I’ll forget things. It’s the way of cons in general and LibertyCon in particular. I float from awesome thing to awesome thing without enough time to process stuff properly, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year, as I’ve mentioned, LibertyCon faced some of the greatest challenges any con has ever faced. Their hotel crapped out on them. The Read House in Chattanooga might be pretty, but they burned some bridges here. A hotel breaking a contract is no big thing, I had it happen to me, and NeoCon in Wichita ended because of it. I had to tell some relative unknown named David Weber that we had to cancel the con and not have him as Guest of Honor. The fact that LibertyCon rolled with it and made it work, especially in the time frame they had is amazing to me.

That is, of course, a credit to the incredible staff, both in their skill and stability. There will come a time when Brandy, Rich, Donnie, Matthew, Vonn, Fritz, and all the rest are not LibertyCon’s spark plugs, but it is not this day! It is one of my favorite aspects of LibertyCon that they are so competent at their jobs, which allowed them to handle this year so smoothly from the perspective of those attending the con. Thanks to all of them and their staff.

That staff is a testimony to the foundations laid by Uncle Timmy. I have talked about him before, but the best tribute is 32 years and going strong of the best SF/F con I’ve ever seen. Honestly, I was a lot less emotional at the con than I expected. I thought about him quite a bit, though I was never terribly close to him, but I was rarely sad. Sad he wasn’t there, of course, but the truth is I was reveling in his creation too much to be sad. Not a bad legacy to have.

I will note, I’m crying while writing this. When I cry at Brewbaker’s, the staff there isn’t surprised or worried. I’m usually killing a character that I like, so that’s alright then. The waitress here at this random bar is probably worried about me. Hopefully, she’s just remember me as a random weirdo.

Speaking of parents, my mom joined me on this trip. She loved LibertyCon too. At Closing Ceremonies, when Brandy announced the dates for membership sales, mom told me to get her one and that was before Linda Bolgeo, among others, taught her to play Yahtzee at the dead dog party and she lasted longer than I did. Yes, Fritz, you’re right: “Rob’s mom sucks less than he does.”

Side note: Fritz, you made me laugh with this, which is just as well as you made me cry for the other.

The weekend started with getting together on Thursday night. This will shock people, but we closed the bar. It’s always great to get together and catch up, especially after such a productive year for all of us.

Side note, we’re not the Inklings, but the writing crew Chris Kennedy has gathered into his orbit is talented and hard-working. We’re doing great stuff already, and the future looks bright. Tons of stuff planned, announced, and plotted at LibertyCon. I’m honored to be a part of this.

The con started with those of us in the Four Horsemen Universe talking about the future of the 4HU. The Omega War series concluded with Alabaster Noon, and there was concern that this meant the 4HU was slowing down. To the contrary, the Omega War, despite its name, is only the second of five main-line series being plotted right now. That does not include side novels like The Feeding of Sorrows and a slew of other projects. The 4HU ain’t going away now. I’d be shocked if the eventual corpus of the 4HU is less than 100 novels plus anthologies, games, and whatever else. We’re at 35 and growing now.

Next was a panel on the contact between history, historical fiction, and fantasy. The best part of this con was chatting with David P. Coe, who is a very smart man and excellent writer.

I mentioned there wasn’t as much emotion as I expected about Timmy at LibertyCon, but Opening Ceremonies was one of two places where it was greatest. Gray Rinehart sang a new filk about Timmy, making Brandy cry. Then, Christopher Woods, looking bewildered, was drug up on the stage by Toni Weisskopf to announce a new anthology tuckerizing all of LibertyCon in honor of Timmy that will include a bunch of big names. The proceeds will go to both LibertyCon and a scholarship to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop. Really cool, and it’s great to see good things happen to Chris.

My autograph session at 7pm went well, as I got a chance to chat with a few people and even sold a book or two. That’s what such a session is there for, and they are also one of the few times I can actually talk for a bit with a fan instead of the usual go-go-go. That’s so nice.

Then I did a reading with Theresa Howard at 9pm. Readings are fun, but sadly, 9pmm readings don’t tend to get many viewers. Probably just as well, because I don’t like the selection I made from The Feeding of Sorrows. Not enough action. I’ll pick a better choice next time.

I intended, at that point, to make it an early night. Narrator: “He did not make it an early night.” We got into a long discussion that turned into revelry at the bar. Closed it down again. I knew I wasn’t closing down the bar on Saturday, though…

Saturday started with a number of logistical things for the party, plus getting a bunch of old computer equipment to Gerry Martin. He has found ways to take all the old stuff, refurbish it, and provide it to a variety of users. Plus, it got boxes of stuff out of my house.

The banquet was the other moment of big emotion about Uncle Timmy, especially Arlen Andrews’ speech. It was also a great time for my mom, which I really enjoyed.

At 4pm, Chris Kennedy hosted his year ahead. He might have to do it in two hours next year, as he has so much going on. I got to announce the sequel to The Feeding of Sorrows, When Need Shall Arise. I’m aiming to have it out around FantaSci next year.

At 6pm, I had an Author’s Alley time. This, too, went really well I thought. I would have done really well if I could have had a solid block of three hours, but there simply wasn’t time this year.

And that’s because of the Rob Howell/Chris Kennedy Publishing Party. This was, again, a rollicking success. We lasted past 3:30am. We went late enough that the bartenders were able to close the bar and come join us for a bit. Technically, we did *not* close the bar. Technically.

It’s become such a success we’re looking at getting more square footage as we’re just doing too well. Plans are afoot to make it even more fun next year.

Sadly, that meant when 9:30am rolled around and I theoretically had to get down to Author’s Alley at 10, I simply rolled over and got another hour or so of sleep. Sorry, not sorry. Will plan better next year.

I concluded my panels with a fun one called: Pantsing for Beginners. If you’ve never heard the term, Pantsing is “writing by the seat of your pants.” In other words, not plotting ahead of time. This ended up as a pretty good two-hour panel including Rich Weyand and Stephanie Osborn.

We left that to get to Closing Ceremonies, where Brandy announced the 2020 dates, 12-14 June. Then we went to meat fest at Rodizio’s, which wasn’t as organized this year because the restaurant didn’t respond to Gerry. Ah well, we ate meat. Lots of meat.

Last year I checked out of the dead dog party early. I almost did so again, but I caught a second wind and lasted until 11:30. Mom lasted until midnight. I had a great time chatting with Bubba of Bubba Truck fame and a bunch of others.

LibertyCon was, as usual, fruitful in all the ways. I have a number of new irons in the fire. While I don’t have many details at this time, suffice to say, I’ve got a bunch of new projects to work on. And that means, at LibertyCon 2020, I’ll just have to make new plans.

So thanks to Brandy and everyone running the con. Thanks to Mark and Chris for the 4HU. Thanks to the fans that are keeping The Feeding of Sorrows at number two new release in Action and Adventure. Thanks to all I hung out with at LibertyCon. And thanks to all who’ve supported me over the past few years. I’ll keep trying to get better.

Now, to go work on None Call Me Mother.

 

LibertyCon 2019 Preview

Greetings all

It’s LibertyCon week, one of my favorite events ever thanks to the hard work of Uncle Timmy, Brandy Spraker, Fritz Ling, Rich Groller, Matthew Fanny, and a slew of others.

As usual, it’ll be a busy time for me. My full schedule is here: http://www.libertycon.org/programming/pros3.php?pid=326.

I start the weekend with a bang, the Four Horsemen Panel and Autograph Session. This will be on Friday from 1-3pm in Meeting Rooms 4 & 5. It will include a whole bunch of us 4HU writers.

Immediately afterwards, I join in on a fun panel I’m really excited about: The Bridges Between Fantasy and Historical Fiction. I’m joined on this panel by David B. Coe / D. B. Jackson, Robert S. Evans, Valerie Hampton, and Holly McClure. Should be lots of fun. It’s in Meeting Room 7.

Then it’s back to Meeting Rooms 4 &5 for Opening Ceremonies at 5pm.

At 7pm, I have an autograph session in the Dealer’s Room alongside Lou Antonelli, Karen Bogen, H.P. Holo, and Jacob Holo. I *will* have my books there for sale, if you don’t already have one.

I conclude Friday from 9-10pm with a reading in the Lookout Mountain Room. I’m not sure what I’ll read yet, but I might pull out something from None Call Me Mother or Amazon top new release (I really get to say that) The Feeding of Sorrows. Also, you can hear something from Teresa Howard.

What a day. You can probably find me in the bar or at a room party kicking back after that.

Saturday is a little slower. My first thing is the Banquet at noon. I’m really excited to get to do this with my mom. This will be in the Tennessee River Room.

Then a bit of a break to prepare for some madness. At 4pm, I’ll join Chris Kennedy Publishing as he talks about the year ahead. I believe this will be on Facebook Live for those who are interested.

Following that, I have an hour starting at 6pm in the Author’s Alley. You can come buy my books, get signatures, or just chat. Also in the Alley during that time are:
Jim Curtis
Teresa Howard
Tamara Lowery
Rich Weyand
Matt Wyers

Then, at 9pm, comes the epic adventure you’ve all been waiting for, the joint Seventh Seal Press / Rob Howell Room Party and Book Launch for Alabaster Noon. It’ll be a blast, with a bunch of authors, all my books, and some interesting beverages like Peepo’s Pitch and MAC rounds. It’ll be in my room on the 3rd Floor, but I won’t know exactly what room that is until Thursday.

Then comes Sunday morning. I may regret things, but at 10am I’ll have my second hour on the Author’s Alley. This time I’ll be joined by:
Nick Braker
Julie Frost
J.D. Jordan
Holly McClure

My last panel is another one I’m eagerly anticipating. This is the brainchild of Rich Weyand. We’ll be joined by Stephanie Osborn and we’ll talk about Pantsing for Beginners. Not sure what pantsing is, well, you can come join us and find out the pros and cons of this style of writing. This will be at 1pm in the Tennessee River Room and we’ll work on things for 2 hours.

That’s my official schedule. Should be fantastic. We’re also staying for the Dead Dog Party.

As I’ve mentioned, my Mom will be joining me. Can’t wait to introduce her to my LibertyCon family.

See a bunch of you there.

FantaSci AAR

I’m home. The overall trip was over 4000 miles. There were a bunch of highlights, and you can find my Gulf Wars AAR here.

The cap to it all was FantaSci. This was the first year of the con, but you really wouldn’t have known that if you weren’t told. They did have some advantages, like pulling from a former con (HonorCon) and having it be a major event for two different fan groups (The TRMN and the 4HU Mercenary Guild). However, that doesn’t ensure success, and it was a very successful con.

I’d like to stop for a moment to thank Lyons and his staff for doing a great job. If the name Lyons sounds familiar in the context of the 4HU, it’s because he has been tuckerized as the owner of the Lyon’s Den merc bar, which provided the impetus for three anthologies of short stories. He and his crew had things organized well. As I said, one could not tell it was the first time with this con, as the issues I saw are the issues one usually finds at any con, like issues with the hotel and its bar and restaurant.

Another side note, I rather enjoyed the hotel. The food was pretty good, not terribly expensive, and the bar had an IPA on tap. The rooms were also much cheaper than one normally finds at a con. I hope they stay there.

I was in a lot of panels, which is just the way I like it. On Friday I was in a fun panel sponsored by Ian J. Malone, which discussed sports in SF and fantasy writing, such as baseball in the Honor Harrington universe and the like. Sports has been a part of humanity since we became a species, and it will continue in space and exist in fantasy worlds, just like it did it in the Middle Ages.

My next panel was a discussion of writing in shared worlds. I’m getting a taste of this in the 4HU, and have plans to open up Shijuren for at least some anthologies, so this was a valuable one for me to listen and learn, as well as comment.

Saturday was a huge day for me. I started with a panel discussing Alternate History Change Points. This was actually a major treat for me, as one of my favorite authors, Steve White was on this panel. Also included were Kacey Ezell and Christopher Woods, so it was a lively panel.

Then I went into a stretch of four panels in five hours, starting with a panel on pantsing. Pantsing, if you’ve not heard the term, means writing from the seat of your pants. The other end of the spectrum is plotting. It was a huge thing for me to discover that pantsing was an accepted and normal form of writing, because that’s what came naturally to me. I tend to plot more than I used to, but generally only in vague terms. It still makes more sense to see what the characters do rather than forcing them into a certain path.

Immediately was the Chris Kennedy Publishing panel where Chris talked about all the things that are coming. I got to talk about the Feeding of Sorrows and see a bunch of things coming down the pike. Kennedy is amazing. He has done incredible stuff and made a bunch of opportunities for other writers.

After an hour break, I was in a panel on genre blending, which of course I talk about a goodly amount given the Edward novels.

Finally, I was on a whimsical panel about the messiest ways to kill undead. This panel was designed to go off the rails, and off the rails we went. Lots of fun.

Saturday night was the highlight of the event. It was perhaps the best single experience I’ve had in the con scene as a writer. The 4HU Mercenary Guild held a Dining Out. If you’re in the military, you know what this means. It is a ritual dinner, with a number of specific toasts and ceremonies. I was generally an observer, asking questions of the vets at my table and learning. I was also smart enough not to create a reason that I needed to drink the grog. A certain Minion, on the other hand, fought the grog and the grog won. Much hilarity has and will ensue on that.

After the Dining Out was a number of fun things. Saturday happened to be Kacey Ezell’s birthday, and also she and Marisa Wolf had a bestseller on Amazon to celebrate. Then there was floating to some parties, including going down to karaoke, which was a lot of fun. I even sang some Dropkick Murphys. Then we ended the night chatting in my room until late, even getting security to tell us to be quiet.

Sunday was much more laid back. I didn’t have any panels, though I did go to closing ceremonies. This was the first con where I was “featured” in any way, and I made sure I was at the ceremonies. Lyons paid me an incredible honor with that, and I can’t thank him enough.

Mostly what I did on Sunday, though, was get out my laptop and offer to update wiki entries. Many of the attendees to the con are redshirts in the 4HU, and I added fun things to a number of entries.

Then I was in a quandary. I had plans to eat with my aunt and uncle around 5pm. However, I *really* wanted to get home. I canceled and left around 2 to try and get past Nashville on a Sunday night. I made it to Clarksville, despite losing an hour to construction in Knoxville. It’s a good thing I did, because I was pushing through a bit of flu yesterday and I might have lost a day coming home. Given that in two days I set up at Planet Comicon, I really couldn’t spare the time. Side note, I feel much better this morning, even to the point of keeping food down.

FantaSci was an amazing con. Truly one of the best I have ever been to. LibertyCon level, even. I ticked off all the professional goals I had, enjoyed myself, and met a bunch of new friends.

It was also the launch of the 4HU Mercenary Guild fan group. You can find it here: www.mercenaryguild.org. I know I’m only a bit player in this universe, but it’s still cool to be a part of it. If you like the 4HU books, sign on up. I’ll be starting up a Foresters unit when the time comes.

I may not get to go next year because of timing, though. I think it’s on the second weekend of Gulf Wars next years, so I may have to make a choice.

However, I’ll go back every year I can. It’s on the list.

 

Gulf Wars 2019 AAR

Greetings all

I am at the Southern Charm Restaurant in Blue Ridge, GA on my way to FantaSci in Raleigh, NC next weekend. It’s a lovely day to drive around Appalachia, sunny and comfortable.

Gulf Wars 2019 booth
Gulf Wars 2019 booth

Comfortable is a good way to describe this year’s Gulf Wars weather. It was the best weather I’ve ever seen at Gulf Wars. We had major rain one night, but nothing huge during any day. It got warmish one day. There were a few days that got to the cool side of things, but nothing like the cold of the past few years. It was great.

For the first time, I had my own booth at a major war. I was located across from the Gode Bakery along a major road, so I had people coming by my booth constantly. I was a little worried that my traffic would drop off dramatically by not being in Calontir Trim, but the location worked out well.

The setup also worked well. I had my books and the CDs I carry on one side of the front. The other side held Lobster Rose Pottery. It was a nice combination, actually. Gwen’s stuff drew in some eyes my books didn’t, and vice versa.

Overall, sales for me continued the trend of rising each year. I did real well on A Lake Most Deep, which is nice because I get a lot of return readers, so hopefully that means even more business next year. I was actually surprised how few sales with multiple items happened. Usually, I have about a third of my total sales from people buying two or more at once. This year, I only had about one in five or so. I’m not at all sure what that means, only that it was striking.

CDs continue to add a touch extra. I broke even on CDs this year because I added Wolgemut’s latest and three of Vince Conaways. It’s a nice sideline that’s easy and continues to add a little here, a little there.

I managed to fulfill my responsibilities as Their Majesties’ herald, though it wasn’t always easy. I caught the cold/cough/allergies that seemed to be going around and it slowed me down. I made it through court, if only barely, on Thursday. Then I fell down, go boom. Friday, I felt much better, though.

I mentioned yesterday that I have a bunch of people to thank. I surely can’t remember everyone, because there’s so many, but here are some that come to mind.

  • I’ll start with Master Andrixos for helping me along the path of SCA merchanting. He also brought over Master Blackhawk, merchant-o-crat of Ragnarok, Dagorhir’s version of Pennsic. I may go this year. Drix has been a major boon to me, and I can’t thank him enough.
  • Seraphima, the Gulf Merchant coordinator, for putting up with my questions and helping me. I’ll also include her staff, who made things much easier. Thanks guys, I appreciate it.
  • Gwen for making the pottery in the first place, but more importantly, Ulf for handling the pottery setup and take down. Thanks very much. I didn’t break anything, which was a huge concern on my part.
  • I learned how hard it is to run a booth by oneself. Thanks to Kierstie and Catin for taking time out of their schedules to watch the booth. Also to Nest and Dissa, who dropped by a number of times to see if I needed anything. There were also a number of people who hung around for five minutes while I went to the bathroom or across the street to the Gode Bakery. Thanks guys, I couldn’t have made it through the war without you.
  • I want to thank Their Majesties for being patient and accommodating with my work schedule. They adapted and overcame when I wasn’t around as things changed and they needed a herald on the spur of the moment. Also, I really appreciate you allowing me to tag in Dawi to serve as stunt herald for opening ceremonies.
  • And guess what, I’d like to thank Dawi for handling opening ceremonies. It’s a fun gig, but it’s a lot of hurry up and wait, and by doing the job, it meant I had that much more time to work.
  • I had a ton of customers during the week. If I’m accounting correctly, I sold books, CDs, and pottery to over 60 different customers this past week. That seems like a lot to me. I don’t have most of your names, but thanks for coming by, I really appreciate it

To count off on the final results. I liked my location. I sold more than ever. Gwen liked the results. I learned a ton about what I need in my own booth, too. If they let me, I’ll be right there again next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Rob’s Update: ChattaCon 2019

Week 4 of 2019

Greetings all

I’m in Chattanooga at the Read House hotel for ChattaCon. It’s been a great week. I started the week with 50-some thousand words in a jumble. I ended the week with over 60k towards a book. I also cleaned up a bunch of things to match some of the universe standards.

In other words, I had a great writing retreat this week. I also made progress on re-editing The Eyes of a Doll.

Now it’s time for ChattaCon. Here’s my schedule

Friday
6pm: Revisionist History, Alternate History, and Historical Fantasy. Oh, my!

Saturday
12noon: Shaved Werewolves and Other Oddities
2pm: The Book was Better
7pm: Benefits and Drawbacks of Traditional versus Independent Publishing

Sunday
11am: Tudors with Machine Guns
1pm: Obscure Heroes

Lots of great stuff here, and I’m excited to be a part of it. I really want to thank Lani Brooks for letting me be a part of things here.

If you’re at ChattaCon, please join me. I’ll be giving away old SF magazines at my panel. This week’s phrase is: Anne Boleyn. You’ll see why in a moment. If you’re at one of my panels, I’ll give you a magazine if you’re the first person to tell me this phrase.

Current Playlist Song

Pellonpekko by Korpiklaani. These guys are a fantastic Finnish folk metal band and this is an amazing instrumental that I love.

Quote of the Week

Henry VIII secretly married Anne Boleyn on this day in 1533. She’s the first beheaded in this:

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived”

News and Works in Progress

  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 63,391)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Aaron Hollingsworth, a talented writer and game designer. You can find his interview at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1644.

Today’s Weight: Not sure

Updated Word Count: 13,870

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 518 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

ShadowCon AAR

Greetings all

I got back last night from the first con of 2019, ShadowCon in Memphis. I got invited to the convention a couple of years ago because it’s essentially an SCA household holiday party writ large. Schedules have prevented me from going previously, and that’s too bad because I had a very good time.

Given its origin and its billing as a Relaxacon, you would be correct to assume that it’s laid back. It has all the stuff. In fact it’s got a ton packed into Saturday, but it’s pretty laissez faire about structure. This is a virtue for a con of its size. I was able to get on three panels, play a round of Pathfinder Society, and socialize until 3pm on Friday. I’d have done more but, as a Cowboys fan, I essentially took Saturday evening off to watch them play the Seahawks.

The first panel I was on discussed books new readers should look for to get started in science fiction and fantasy. There was some confusion on where it was supposed to be, and I think it might have actually been done in two places. For me, I sat with four or five people and discussed where to go and some of the subgenres. In all honesty, this was probably the best way to have this sort of panel. It might be fun to schedule a session with a number of authors in a room with various tables and interact with new readers on this level as opposed to lining us up in front.

I intended to join the Indie Publishing Pros and Cons panels. Unfortunately, I wrote down 2pm Saturday on my notes instead of 12noon. Of all the panels, it was the one I wanted to be on and I missed it. Next time, I suppose, but I’m still frustrated with myself on that one.

The one panel the organizer wanted me to take was a comparison of Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. He had a scheduling conflict at the last minute and needed help on that panel. Humorously, I’ve never watched either, though Orville looks fun. The other person on the panel had only watched a few episodes of either, but was a major Trekkie with a ton of experience in that fandom. We ended up riffing on the kinds of characters that draw us into shows and the kinds of writing keep people watching. More than anything, we talked about how Babylon 5 did both of those things well, as did some other shows. All in all, it turned out OK, but I sure felt clueless walking in.

Immediately after was my favorite panel, Where Did It Go Wrong. We panelists all had slightly different viewpoints where we going with that, and we sort of settled on where movie adaptations of books go wrong. The first answer, which is fairly obvious, is that two hour long movies will always struggle with a novel. Short stories, like the ones that spawned Shawshank Redemption and Blade Runner, are much more likely to translate well to the big screen. Novels that do translate well will tend to be fluffy, short, or both. Other novels, like Lord of the Rings or Dune will need mini-series or seasons of a regular series to tell their complex stories well. The second answer is that the producer of the movie needs to know and love the ethos underlying the book. My personal pet peeve is the animated Beowulf, where they did not have any recognition of personal responsibility. Contrast this with 13th Warrior, which gets it. That’s what makes 13th Warrior a much, much better film and, in my opinion, the best retelling of Beowulf on the screen so far.

In general, it was a good schedule of panels. Had I made the Indie Publishing Panel, it would have been about the right number for Friday and Saturday. I could have done more, but about right.

Nothing was officially scheduled for Sunday, by the way. It’s a decision I’ve thought about on the drive home. On the one hand, scheduling stuff for Sunday allows time more panels and more things to do. On the other hand, Sunday panels and events, especially those at 10am, are inconsistently attended. In the case of ShadowCon, which is at its core a social gathering, setting it up that people can hang out until whatever Saturday night without any real need to be at a thing Sunday morning makes a lot of sense. At some other cons, where the basic foundation is different, Sunday scheduling is important, but not ShadowCon.

I really enjoyed myself, though I must mention the quality of the hotel. Or rather, lack thereof. It’s the first hotel I’ve dealt with that will not allow, under any circumstances, room entrance before 3pm. It’s a request I often make, and only a request, but every other hotel I’ve asked tries to accommodate it. Then, at 3pm, they had a shift change, but if the next shift is late, as this one was, there was literally nobody to check anyone in. That meant there was a ton of people in the lobby trying to check in, waiting for way too long. Panels and other events started at 4pm and I barely made it despite being one of the first in line.  For all this, I blame the manager, who was rude and clearly did not want to deal with anyone. How dare customers intrude upon her job? Oh, and as a side note, the posted hours for the breakfast aren’t actually true. Get there early, or you won’t get anything. It’s a decent con space, especially for a con the size of ShadowCon, but I’d suggest not going to the West Memphis Clarion for any other reason.

Despite the hotel, the con is worth it. The people were helpful and relaxed. Lots of good conversations. The gaming was good and there was lots of it. The con suite was one of the best I’ve seen. I didn’t go to any, but there were a number of SCA and Larping demos. The dealer’s room was bigger than most of a con its size. The panels all had attendees who were interested and had good questions. I am intending to go back every year that my schedule allows.

Pennsic AAR

Greetings all

This year’s Pennsic is approaching the end and I should be writing more on the short story I started tomorrow, but my brain is tired. Instead, I thought I’d go ahead and write my AAR.

Ever since Gulf Wars in March I have been almost continuously on the road between conventions and our move. It has been a wonderful time, and wonderful for my future given that I have (generally) met all my writing deadlines, made new customers, plotted new plots, and ended up in my wonderful house with my wonderful sweetie.

I am so happy to be at this point. I am also beat.

Nevertheless, this has been one of the best Pennsics I’ve had in many years.

The main reason is that my sweetie joined me. Not only was it fun to have her around, she did the vast majority of the camp chores and cooking so that I could focus on work. I ate better than I have in years and yet had less work than ever. Also, my apprentice was able to come. It was, basically, the first time my SCA household was together at a major event.

I’m a lucky man. Well, until they gang up on me 🙂

From the work side of things I would grade this a solid B+/A-. I was a little cramped for space in the trim shop, but even so this was my best-selling Pennsic. I went well past my basic sales goal, thanks to a very good Friday.

I have proof of concept that selling Ren Faire, Celtic, Traditional, and SCA CDs can make money. I’m ending up with about half the number of CDs that I brought, even though I bought 9 more from a couple of performers here on site, Emer nic Aiden of Ealdormere and Finnech inghain Labhrainn from Atlantia. I’ve got more artists coming, as well.

We are looking at ways to expand my portion of the trim shop so that my growing stock will be better displayed. I also have a number of fun ideas to increase traffic. There’s a lot of moving vectors, so it’s hard to say exactly how things will be arranged next Pennsic, but I am clearly leveling up.

Again, I have to thank Master Andrixos for giving me the opportunity to sell with him. I wouldn’t have had a chance to get off the ground without his help. He’s also been looking at ways to facilitate that leveling up. We’ve made a pretty good team so far and I look forward to continuing that partnership.

In other news, I did my first live interview as opposed to the form I send out. You can find my interview with Vincenzo here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1283. I think that went very well, so I will start planning on more face to face interviews at future events.

From a writing perspective, I finished a short story and sent it to an editor. I don’t know yet if it was accepted, but it’s always good to get things sent out. I also made good progress on a couple of other short stories.

I had more energy than in past years, mostly because I had help. That meant I was able to do more bardic than in past years, which was nice.

Tonight we will empty the shop and do the pre-packing. Tomorrow, we’ll finish packing and get on the road as early as possible. We’ll get as far as we can before getting a hotel and finish the drive on Sunday.

With that, I’ll start doing my prepacking in the shop. Catch you all when I get home.