News and Notes

Greetings all

Time to clear the decks for a number of small notes.

My big news of the last week is the creation of a mailing list. If you are interested in joining it, please go to my website: www.robhowell.org and fill in the blanks in the upper left corner. Or, if you prefer, you can email me at rob@robhowell.org and I will add you manually.

I will be doing a reading at the District 2 Kansas Author’s Club at the Corinth Library, 8100 Prairie Village, Kansas from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 10th. If you’re local, come on by. I’ll be reading a portion of A Lake Most Deep.

On the weekend following, I’ll be at a small con in Columbia, MO called Dodecacon. I have no clue what I’ll be doing there other than talking about writing and meeting people.

On the final weekend of September / first of October, I will be at the Kansas Author’s Club convention in Lawrence, KS. This will be a much different crowd, I suspect, than at other conventions. Very curious how this will go.

I talked to two different producers of audiobooks at WorldCon. I’ve gotten no solid numbers back nor are there any details to pass on, only that progress is getting made on that front.

I have a bunch of other irons in the fire, so many that I can’t really recall what all of them are off the top of my head. Lots of things happening, especially with regards to upcoming cons and independent bookstores.

I think that’s all for now except to mention that the above post is the sort of thing I’m including in my mailing list. I’ll be sending out an email to that list every Monday or so, detailing works in progress, upcoming events, news and notes, and a quote of the week. Again, to join the list either go to my website www.robhowell.org and fill in the two fields of the form or send me an email.

Have a great day.

Sunday Scroll Text – Chiara’s Cross

I’m going to start putting some of the texts I write for SCA scrolls here on the blog. We’ll call it Scroll Text Sunday because why not.

For those who are not in the SCA, scrolls are provided whenever a person is granted an award. Many are written based on the time and place the recipient chooses to focus upon. From my perspective as a writer, I am constantly challenged to write in a different style to match that time and place, giving me a great chance to expand my skills.

Today we’ll start with one that was presented yesterday. The Cross of Calontir is an award representing years of service to the kingdom.

Cross – Chiara di Paxiti

Chiara’s persona is of a 15th-century Florentine, hence I looked to Lorenzo di Medici for inspiration. He was not only the ruler of Florence from 1469 to 1492, he was also a patron of the arts and a poet himself. I wrote the text in ottava rima style, which originated in Italy and was used for heroic poems. It uses iambic pentameter and ABABABCC rhyming scheme. Medici used this style in some of his works, and I also used some of his other poetry as inspiration for some of the word choices.

The falcon soars across the shining sky
with swiftest wings to claim a northern breeze
Zephyr that lifts him is the softest sigh
as he circles over towers and trees
and to the wind he sends a searing cry                                  5
when thus with eyes aware a prize he sees
below him is a sweet daughter of peace
performing deeds that seem to never cease

Oft she appears when giants make their wars
as fierce as brinded cats with flashing swords                 10
for golden crowns the reddest blood they pour
their greatest joys and deeds she right records
then she to those with deepest wounds succors
with water sweet relieving wounded hordes.
When she completes such deeds, what spies his eye? 15
why tis but sweetest purple butterfly

The falcon’s eyes not only ones that see
for Logan king and Ylva queen are wise
so Chiara di Paxiti must be
for deeds so collected clearly comprise                                20
a Cross of Calontir now must decree
and title given not her only prize
from Pontmerci bestowed ten saccato
and her sworn lady’s love now all shall know

Line 7: di Paxiti means daughter of peace

Line 9: she is a fan of the New York Giants, and I’m combining that love with the fact she is often helping out at tournaments and battles

Line 10: she is also a fan of the K-State Wildcats, and Shakespeare uses “brinded cats” in Macbeth as a reference to wild cats

Line 11-4: this is intended to cover both her job as listmistress and scroll text writing

Line 16: her device includes a purple butterfly

Line 23-4: Issabell wanted to make sure that Chiara, her protege, got land from Pontmerci, her own holding. A saccato is a Tuscan unit of area that is about 1.389 acres

WorldCon AAR

What a tiring week. WorldCon stretched from noon on Tuesday for dealer setup to Sunday evening. I’m ready for a beer. In this case, my last Nickelbrook Headstock from Pennsic.

I got to the South Dock at Bartle Hall on time. There really was no organization for checking in dealers, but I found my table easily. And setup was a dream. They provided pallets and forklifted the pallets by our tables. I was arranged and nested by 2pm.

The rest of Tuesday was helping Kate Paulk set up. We went running hither and you and back to hither. Then we organized the room just as Jonathan and Betsy Lightfoot joined us. I’d never met them before, but they’re a wonderful couple I enjoyed chatting with throughout the con. We then went to Jack Stack’s for food and soon dropped Kate back off because she was “stick-a-fork-in-her-done-done-done.”

As a side note, Jonathan has Rhodri as his RenFest stage name, which caused a double-take when I saw his badge 🙂

In general, I spent the entire con at my booth. I had one quick pass mostly to look at how other people were doing their booth to learn how I can improve mine. I saw a few things I can improve upon, mostly notably something I’d already seen and that’s the creation of a mailing list. I don’t know why I had not thought about this two years ago, but I didn’t. Better late than never. Expect to hear about that this week.

Overall sales were slow. I heard that from a number of vendors that it was much slower than they expected. I attribute my own slower than hoped for sales to two main factors. One, WorldCon consisted of a high percentage of people who flew to the event and did not want to carry books back. I should have anticipated this and expected to have higher e-book requests. I handed out a ton of bookmarks and I’ve already seen increased e-book numbers. I’ll know more in the next few weeks.

The second reason is the expense of the con. Depending upon when you bought entry, it was something like $200 to get in. I think that hurt sales for two reasons. One, it reduced the number of attendees. Two, it reduced the ready cash for the attendees. From a financial perspective, I doubt I’ll ever sell at WorldCon again, unless by some chance I’m living in the same city it is being held at again or someone else pays for it.

From a publicizing perspective, I think it was worth the $420 I spent for table and entry fee. I made a large number of connections concerning a variety of topics. I also think I got my name out to quite a few fans who may not have bought anything now, but will remember me. We’ll see. It’s hard to tell, of course.

Overall, I’m glad I went, even though I barely saw the con. I did one pass prior to opening with Nic on Saturday. I never had any energy after the day’s work at the booth to do much with the things scheduled afterwards. Because of that, I’ll leave it to others to discuss the events of the WorldCon. I really only can tell you about the vendors around me 🙂

I will say I wish they had been more welcoming of indie authors on panels. They rejected my application to be on panels, so I had no other responsibilities besides the booth. I suppose I can understand their hesitation if only because none of the decision makers had ever heard of me. However, organizers at other cons have not known who I was and given me a chance. I’m actually really good on panels because of my stage training and herald experience in the SCA. If we want to grow SF/F as a genre, that means supporting new authors. LibertyCon people understand this. Ad Astra people understand this. Many other cons understand this. It’s disappointing that WorldCon decided to reject my application completely. Seems short-sighted to me, as I’m sure there were others much like me that they did not use.

Nevertheless, I got my name out. Handed out a bunch of bookmarks. Met a lot of people. Sold a few books. Ran myself ragged. I’ll take it. Now for bed.

 

 

Pennsic 2016 AAR

On June 14 I left for SCA 50 Year. Exactly 2 months later, 61 days, I’ve returned from Pennsic. In the intervening time I have been home for 8 days. It’s so nice to be in *my* chair.

I took some extra time on the trip to do something important, and that was have a wonderful picnic with my apprentice Judith. Between my schedule and her health we haven’t had much time since she accepted a belt from me last November. We went to a park and watched ducks and talked about all sorts of things. She’s been working on lacework. Beautiful, intricate, and something I could never do. She’s amazing.

Also, by traveling slower I can stop and work along the way. If I schedule an extra day or two I really don’t suffer much loss of productivity.

It’s important to get to Pennsic early for me because of the bardic circle I sponsor on the first Monday at Pennsic. I can’t remember if it’s been five or six years since I decided to do it, but it’s been something I very much look forward to. Apparently, I’m not the only one, as this year the circle was huge. Lots of great performers. Lots of great people.  So many people I ran out of chairs. Many thanks to His Highness Atlantia for sending his people for spare benches. So many people I ran out of water. Many thanks to Her Excellency Belanna for loaning me a flat of water.

Really pleased so many people showed up, though, and I’ll have more of both next year.

On Tuesday the 2nd, we opened Drix’s booth. From Wednesday through Friday the 12th I spent most of my time there, arriving 10ish each day and leaving 6ish most days.

Overall, my time there was extremely productive, though I did not reach my sales goal. There is context, however, last year was Drix’s largest year ever and this was towards the slow end so I probably had much more traffic last year. Also, last year had significantly better weather, and book sales at events are affected dramatically by the weather.

I got a lot done when I wasn’t selling, though. I worked through what I’m discovering is the hardest part of writing books, the 5-20k word range. This part involves a lot of writing – cutting – rewriting – cutting – and so on. I’m taking the basic idea and forming the exact pattern with all of this rewriting. I think I have the structure for Where Now the Rider going.

I have to take this moment to thank Nicolaa. She reviewed The Eyes of a Doll in the Pennsic Independent. Last year, she gave me a great review on ALMD in the Independent right when I needed the emotional boost. I was pleased to receive another good review from her, and I had at least one person buy a book because of it. Thanks much, Nicolaa.

As traffic increased in the second week, I shifted to retrofitting  ALMD and TEOAD to include links to wiki entries for all the people, places, and weird stuff on the e-book versions. I completed ALMD and it is now live in updated form. I also made progress on TEOAD. The feedback I’ve had both from people who have already bought I Am a Wondrous Thing and those looking at it has been, without exception, positive. I’ve been really anxious to get these done, and editing wiki entries is great for higher traffic days as I can step away at a moment’s notice.

A side note. My new package through Verizon is expensive, but I now have a ton of data and the wifi hotspot feature allowed me fast wifi even at Pennsic. I’m excited about some of the possibilities that this freedom will give me.

As for Pennsic as Pennsic, I had a reasonably good time. I’m really glad I’ve lost some weight, as between my job, my responsibilities to help around the shop, and the things I contribute to the party, I was swamped. I did not have energy to go out and seek parties after working, but I did have the energy to hang out in the Royal Pavilion most nights. That’s perhaps my favorite part, anyway.

My big highlight of the war was the opportunity to herald TRMs Logan and Ylva into opening court. As we chatted beforehand, I made a whimsical comment, and Logan said, “I like that.” and so I heralded them into court as “Logan the well-beloved and Ylva the one we actually like!”

Prior to court, in the waiting for things to start, was another highlight when Ealdormere and Calontir sang songs back and forth at each other. Really good time, especially since Garraed made a cameo.

Wednesday through Friday was still extremely hard. I was in the shop for 14 hours on Wednesday because of Midnight Madness (We’re MAAAAADDDD!). I really like Midnight Madness, but it *is* exhausting. Thursday I tried to work, but barely had an hour and a half there. I came back in time to see Dongal beg the boon for Gavin, which is wonderful.

The Calontir Party is usually a lot of work for me, and this year was no exception. I cleaned the lamps, organized the incinetrons, and set up the bar. There’s no way I could have done all of this if I had not had help. Jack brought me lamps. Ian put them back. Tim Leatherhand helped move the heavy stuff. Emma, the baby huscarl, got the alcohol on Wednesday so I didn’t have to. But my big hero was Demetrios, who volunteered to do the town run to refill the propane bottles we use and get ice. This gave me the chance to get a nap before court.

I needed the nap as I was also TRM’s herald for court. Really happy to see Halvgrimr get created a Laurel in a drive-by ceremony. The best part, I have to admit, is watching Sibilla’s face the moment she realized Fionnuala was begging her boon to make her a Laurel. One of the highlights of being a herald is getting to know what is coming so you can know where and when to look.

After court was the Calontir party. We think it wasn’t as well-attended as some, and the potential for rain might have been a reason, but we still had a great time. Wohlgemut got there fairly early and, as usual, were awesome. We had a good singing circle later on. Really liked Gwen’s new drink, which consisted of lingenberry juice, vodka, and tonic water. I’m calling it the Ikea. Next time we need to garnish it with a meatball stuck on an Allen wrench.

Friday was tough. I was still tired from Wednesday, and I had gotten to bed at 3am after closing the party. I was hoping for a lot of traffic of people following up on their plan to buy books later in the war. However, I only got a few doing so. Ah, well.

I knew I was going to pack down on Saturday morning, so I went to bed fairly early. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sleep and barely got two hours of sleep before waking up 7ish. I was packed and ready to go by 10ish, but I was exhausted. I never once had the idea I would make the drive in one day, though I have done so in the past. I took a nap in Mansfield and I got to Terre Haute at 7:50, just in time to get a hotel so I could watch the Cowboys v. Rams pre-season game. Perfect timing.

Today, I drove the last 7 hours and now my car is completely unpacked. I’ve a ton to do to clean up after a wet, humid Pennsic, including a boatload of laundry, but progress is being made.

Overall, I would call Pennsic another moderate success. I’m definitely making progress in sales, but it’s still tough sledding. I can’t thank Drix enough for giving me the space.

Looking forward, WorldCon is this week. I’m hoping for some sales there, though I don’t anticipate much. I can still hope. After that, I’ve got a few events scheduled, but I’m going to plan out my schedule for the next year. I need to get west of the Rockies to both SCA events and cons, and I need to do so as cheaply as possible.

So I had a good time when I could, worked as much as I could, and got to see cool things happen to good people. I’ll take it.