Tag Archives: Pennsic

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.

 

 

Pre-Madness Post

Midnight Madness at Pennsic is almost upon us.

I must be MAD! because I love these kinds of sales. It will be a night of constantly being on stage and talking to people. Tomorrow, I’ll be exhausted, but hopefully with fewer books and more money.

Pennsic so far has been extremely productive. It’s hard to judge sales compared to last year, because I did such a poor job of tracking sales. My processes are getting better every time I do a show. I haven’t sold what I did last year, but I seem to recall sales picking up the last 2 days. Which will start soon.

Mostly, I’m writing this post to talk about Where Now the Rider and A Lake Most Deep. I’ve made good progress on Where Now the Rider, especially since I’ve gotten past the hard initial steps of a book. I like where it’s going, though I need to add more action. Six chapters in and only one murder? What am I thinking?

As we’ve gotten busier and writing has become more challenging, I’ve switched to adding the wiki links to A Lake Most Deep. It’s now complete and the new electronic version is available.

If you have already purchased A Lake Most Deep and want to be able to go to the wiki entries while you are reading the books, you can get the new version downloaded to your Kindle by asking Amazon to send it to you.

To contact via phone:
http://www.amazon.com/clicktocall

To contact via chat:
http://www.amazon.com/clicktochat

Be warned, however, that if you have Amazon update to the latest copy, it will erase your bookmarks and notes. This, by the way, is why Amazon will not force feed the updated version.

Remember, the only change I made is in the electronic version of A Lake Most Deep. This change adds links to the wiki at www.robhowell.org/shijuren the first time a name or place or new word is mentioned. If you will never use the wiki, don’t worry about the update.

In the coming week, I’ll have finished adding these links to The Eyes of a Doll.

I’m adding these links because the response to the links in the electronic version of I Am a Wondrous Thing has been overwhelmingly positive. These links will be standard for all of my e-books in Shijuren.

With that, it’s time to prepare for MADNESS!!!

New Castle, PA

For the last 17 years, with one exception, I have come to New Castle, PA in early August. My reason is, of course, Pennsic War. Over the years I’ve gotten to know this town, and the surrounding area, pretty well.

Yes, Beer4Less is programmed into my phone. I often arrange for kegs for Calontir’s party. That’s my reason and I’m sticking to it. I’ll be going there in about an hour and filling up the nooks and crannies of my van with cider. It’s a yearly pilgrimage to get “all the beer I’ll need for the rest of the war.”

But New Castle is more than simply a place to buy beer, ice, and groceries, it’s one of any number of Pennsic friends that I have. There are any number of people that I see only during these two weeks, and we catch up, note the changes in the past year, and enjoy hanging out when the swirling Pennsic schedule allows. It’s like that with New Castle, too.

Each year I try to find new places. Now, I’m eating at a nice small town diner, Hazel’s Restaurant. It’s nothing terribly innovative, but it is well executed. The Super Hazel omelet does not include the kitchen sink, I’d know because it would have been so crunchy, but just about everything else. Tasty. Also inexpensive.

It’s one of the joys of being on the road that I get from my dad. He always wanted to try small town restaurants, and every once in a while you’d find a gem. You never knew, like you’d never know if the cat is dead until you open the box. Call it the Howell Uncertainty Principle: “A small town diner exists as both an epicurean delight and a purveyor of wretched garbage at the same time until the door is opened.”

I’ve gotten lucky a couple of times this trip, having enjoyed the Yellow Brook Inn last night. I’ll probably try the Iron Bridge Inn, which several locals recommend, for dinner tonight.

I really enjoy this part of Pennsylvania. It’s lovely country, and there are all sorts of hidden gems off of the interstates. It’s not in fantastic shape, economically, like most of the Rust Belt, but people seem to make do.

I got in another Amish traffic jam this morning, by the way.

Now, I think my parking meter is about to expire. Plus I need to buy cider. Have a great day, I’m going to go get in line for troll.

More Than Three Toes

I’ve been a sloth since I got back from the trip. I’ve written hardly at all, though I’ve puttered through a number of projects for Pennsic. I think it’s a normal neap tide after a 25-day trip, though I know there are other factors.

My birthday was last week. I turned 48. I survived the day. That might sound sarcastic, but a good friend of mine turned 48 on June 22nd and did not survive the day. I also had a guy I’ve looked up to for over 30 years also pass away recently. The last day of LibertyCon held both of their memorials. What a strange day. Exciting in many ways, but hard. It might be that my sadness from their deaths has stripped me of motivation, but if so, that’s a horrible tribute to both of them.

The truth is that while there’s no major news in my world, things have been going generally well. I have some irons in the fire that might or might not pan out, but we’ll see. Just having these ideas is a great start.

I am starting to get excited about Pennsic. I’ll do a pre-Pennsic post next week. I am upgrading my SCA furniture, which has needed some refurbishing. In particular, I’m replacing a couple of 6-board chests that have seen better days.  At Trillium War I was pleased with how smoothly my setup went, and it will be getting better. I also have a couple of cool ceremonial things happening at Pennsic.

Football season is also on the horizon, as training camps start in about a week. I’ll review my predictions from last year and make my predictions for this year. Injuries killed my Cowboys last year, more than most of you know about, and if they return to simply average luck, the Cowboys will be better than many people think.

I’m also excited about some of my ideas for Where Now the Rider, which while I’ve not been writing it, I have been letting it percolate in my mind. By the end of this novel Edward will be settled in Achrida fully, but it won’t be easy.

I’ve got some SCA things happening, too. I’ve a project that I’ve wanted to start for some time that will commence after Pennsic. I’m sure I’ll talk about it more later on.

The other good news is that I see myself flowing back up from the ebb. Writing this blog post is a definite sign of that. When I’m down I tend to become a hermit crab. In fact, it’s time to get working on something else. Have a great day everyone.

 

 

More Catching Up

I was going to post a bunch of stuff about SCA 50 Year, and I realized I myself wanted to find a TL:DR version, so clearly it wasn’t worth a whole blog post. Here it is:

I got the book done. I sold some. Met some new people. As land agent, everyone had a spot. We did have a few noise complaints. We warned them. Quite a bit of cool stuff, but there could have been more. Equestrians were definitely the star of the show.

Ok, enough of 50 Year, on to Trillium War. I’m looking forward to a bit of a break, as I probably won’t have a chance to write and won’t have much opportunity to sell, but I need a little down time because next week is very exciting for me.

I’ll be at LibertyCon with a book release party of I Am a Wondrous Thing. I’ll also be on a panel, a reading, and several shots at Author’s Alley. A big weekend for me.

As I say, I’m really excited. This is my third LibertyCon, along with a ChattaCon, and I’m starting to know and be known. Now I go there with 3 books instead of 1, and next year intend to have 5. Making progress.

I hope to maybe have some opportunities to take some of the small stories in my head and find some anthologies that match, and there’s one person in particular I want to chat with. I’ll be stalking him.

This has already been a long, tiring trip, but I have a week of friends and smiling and singing.

In terms of what’s next for me as a writer after LibertyCon. I will spend much of the time between then and Pennsic planning my fall and spring. I will also be doing Pennsic prep, of course. I will throw a few words at Where Now the Rider, and I plan on writing a lot of that at Pennsic. I’ll be sitting in Drix’s booth, writing, waiting for people to come by. By the end of Pennsic, I suspect I’ll be in the 30k range, with a goal to complete a draft by the end of September.

After Pennsic comes WorldCon. I’ll talk about that more later. For now, it’s time to order some bookmarks.

Planet Comicon AAR

What an exhausting weekend. Many thanks to Bill Wilks for serving as the muscle, my sweetie Nik Deplazes for assisting, and Rachel Ost for serving as the Byzantine on the bench. Without their help, I’d have never made it.

Was it worth the money to do? Obviously that has to be the first question and the answer is yes, even though I did not quite break even in sales of paperbacks compared to all of my expenses. While I would have loved to have sold more copies, I still gained quite a bit of exposure and I won’t know for at least a couple of weeks what the impact to online sales will be.

I spent today editing a large chunk of I Am a Wondrous Thing and I am starting to get the same feeling I got when I turned the corner on A Lake Most Deep and The Eyes of a Doll. The corner where I think I’ve got a good story. If I’m as correct with IAAWT as I was with the first two, given the response I’ve gotten, then it will be a good story. That means that what I need is exposure, and there’s no doubt Planet Comicon gave me quite a bit.

I was pleased to see most of my plans worked pretty well. My experience at National Computer and Atronex watching Dave Williamson two decades ago definitely helped.

I really like the banner my friend Timothy Jones printed out for me. You probably saw it in the pictures on Facebook. I liked it so much I think I’ll have another banner, this one based on the TEOAD cover, because I noticed people’s eyes looked both above the table and at the base where I had the banner. I think it will be good to have both places covered whenever possible.

One unqualified success was my “Wandering Signature Chart.” I don’t like just signing my name to books. I want to write something else, something fun. For people I know, I can write something personal directed at them, but I knew that most of my signatures would be to people I had never met before.

At Pennsic, I whimsically signed a book to a friend of a friend who I knew was a gamer with, “Congratulations, you’ve rolled a 17 on the Wandering Signature Chart.” We all laughed and I forgot about it until two weeks ago, when I thought that might be a fun thing, so I made the chart.

It includes things like the above saying, plus a bunch of book and movie references like “I love the smell of paragraphs in the morning” and “I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing printer ink.” Some people chose one, and “By my pretty, floral bonnet, I will sign this for you” was a definite favorite, but many enjoyed the whimsy of rolling a d20 for the result.

Either way, it was another way to engage the passers-by and have fun with my new readers. I had one sale solely because he wanted one of the signatures. I’ll definitely take it. The chart, and a d20, has been added to my basic display unit.

I also learned a number of things during the weekend. I’ve streamlined my accounting, and now have a good process for that. I figured out a pretty good arrangement on the table, and planned for an arrangement that will adjust to at least six different books. When I get more than six things might get crowded, but I’ll take that problem. I need to improve my signage a bit, but that’s tweaking. My signs were clear and readable.

As a side note, I want to mention Patrick McEvoy of www.megaflowgraphics.com again. He did a fantastic job on my covers, and they drew in a bunch of people, The Eyes of a Doll cover especially.

Speaking of noticing things, one of the best parts of Planet Comicon for me was people-watching. Usually , at such cons, I notice some things, but I’m too busy walking or looking at the next thing in the program or some such to catch a lot of little details in the cosplay. At a booth, I’m watching people to see if they might have any interest in my books, so I’m paying attention to stuff. Saw lots of cool, little touches.

I also saw some wonderful t-shirts and paying attention to them got me a number of opportunities to talk to people I would not have had otherwise. I got at least two sales simply because I engaged people with a reference many others might not have gotten.

I had a great time meeting people, of course. It was good to see a number of people like Doug Kempton, Jenna Tomlin, and Beth Moscato, who I don’t talk to enough. The highlight of this was meeting Samanta and Kyrstin Zuo Cai who I had met years ago. They’re the daughters of an old friend of mine, John Cook, who passed away four years ago. We had many a battle in our fantasy sports leagues. He should still be around so I can still kick his butt.

Anyway, I made some contacts that might prove fruitful. A couple of podcasts approached me about appearing on their shows, and I’m hoping that in the fall I can set that up, especially as Where Now the Rider is getting close to being done.

In general, lots of exciting stuff. I met a lot of cool people and learned a ton. Assuming they keep the price reasonable, I’ll go back to Planet Comicon every year. As I get a bigger name, I suspect I’ll do better each time. Honestly, if all I do is break even in the future it will be worth it. I’m sure I did get some new longtime customers. Plus, though exhausting, it was simply fun.