Tag Archives: Planet Comicon

Rob’s Update: Tall and Mighty Towers

Week 18 of 2019

Greetings all

I’d like to begin this update by welcoming a bunch of people who signed up for the list at Planet Comicon. You might wonder why it took so long for you to start getting these emails.

The answer is simple. I put that page in a safe place. Yes, the dreaded safe place! A place I could never forget. This just in: I forgot. Sorry about that.

However, welcome and thanks for joining us.

It’s been a good week around the house. Lots of tidying up and fixing small projects. I’ve already started some new projects in the shop, with the goal to improve my displays especially at SCA events.

However, the main thing I’ve done this week is hammered at None Call Me Mother. I’m doing better than the word count suggests, actually, though I’m over 27,000 words and that’s nothing to sneeze at. I’ve quite a few notes waiting for me to put into the story and flesh out.

I’m getting more and more comfortable with Robert B. Parker’s writing style. He would write a chunk. Then the next day, he’d rewrite that chunk and write another. It’s helped me put out 10,000 words in the last 3 days. It’s good to get in that kind of a groove, and there’s lots more to come.

One thing that might be happening, to foreshadow things, the concluding battle and epilogue of The Feeding of Sorrows clocked in at about 20,000 words. I have a sneaking suspicion None Call Me Mother will be up in the 25-30,000 range. I keep having cool ideas for portions of the battle. Don’t worry, I’m taking notes (see the comments above).

Unfortunately, there’s sad tidings today. A friend of mine who has helped many a fledgling author and artist has been admitted to hospice care. I don’t entirely know how public the announcement is, so I’ll withhold the name for now, but I’m very grateful to him.

Current Playlist Song

Oddly, I’m not listening to any music now. I’m writing this in a restaurant in Bolivar, MO, and they don’t have anything playing. It’s kind of weird to be in a public place anymore without music. I don’t actually like it.

Quote of the Week

Speaking of songs, I used a song lyric in None Call Me Mother today (with permission of course). The song is Cursing the Normans, which was written by Hyrim de Guillon in the SCA. Here’s the lyric, one of many I love in this song:

“Tall and mighty towers by the coast of the sea,
Raise their dark empty spires in forlorn misery.
Crumbling grain by grain to the cold ocean spray,
And cursing the Normans as they wither away.”
– Hyrim de Guillon, Cursing the Normans

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (approx. 27,080)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • None this week. If you’re an author, artist, musician, or other creator and you want to be interviewed, connect with me and I’ll send you the new and improved 2019 version.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on me writing stuff

Today’s Weight: 388.4

Updated Word Count: 1057

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 543 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

Interview: Thaddeus Nowak

Thaddeus Nowak is another KC-area writer. He and I had tables near each other at Planet Comicon and we got a chance to chat with each other about writing philosophies and styles. You’ll find some similarities in the way we like to write.

Interview: Thaddeus Nowak

What is your quest?

To be a lumberjack? Or maybe to get funding for my walk?  Not decided yet.

Thaddeus Nowak
Thaddeus Nowak

As a writer, my aim has always been to write what I like to read and that tends toward realistic fantasy. I want a somewhat gritty world that has echoes of our own world’s conflicts and struggles mixed with a magic system that obeys balanced rules. I want to feel the character’s struggles and know they have to use their minds to overcome what they face.

Some of my favorite books include The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, The Firekeeper Saga by Jane Lindskold, and many of the books by Barbara Hambly. In those series, the magic remained subdued, few people in the worlds mastered the power, and most did not fully understand how it worked. To me, that helped to keep the world in balance and forced the characters to be deeper and more well-rounded.

I do enjoy other genres, including scifi and urban / high fantasy. I even made a trip to England to buy the English copy of Harry Potter (okay, I was there for other reasons, but I bought the whole set and shipped it home when I was there).

A theme across all the genres I read is a desire for stories with strong female protagonists. I grew up in a neighborhood where my family had the only boys and all my friends at an early age were girls. That has greatly influenced what I like to read and write. The key here is to make the protagonist someone who makes decisions and who inspires others to follow her. I really get turned off by indecision.

What is your favorite color?

Heirs of Cothel
Heirs of Cothel

I like subtlety. I want to be nudged in the correct direction and allowed to make the connection before it is revealed—if it is ever fully revealed at all. It is a hard thing to do because you have no way of knowing just how much a reader does or does not know, and therefore, some hints might miss the mark. You don’t want to leave the reader wondering why something came out of seemingly nowhere, but you also don’t want to hit them over the head with facts that they feel are obvious.  The needed understanding must gradually show up as the story progresses.

I also love Easter Eggs. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was a fun story filled with little bits of geekdom that simply resonated with me. I enjoyed both the book and the movie, and while that story was specifically about paying homage to countless parts of my childhood, I like other books that slide in one or two items for the geek in all of us.  It is a good way to share a common bond.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Failure is such a friend of mine. I remarked the other day that the best way to learn is to pound your head on the keyboard for a few hours until you find the very obvious mistake you made. Granted, that was in reference to some C# code I was working on, but the same applies to writing. Failure is the greatest of teachers, as long as you can step back and take a clinical look at why you failed and how you were able to overcome it. You cannot wallow in it, even if you want to.

Another challenge I continue to face is one of perfectionism. My first manuscript got eaten up the edit loop and bloomed into more than 200k words and was only a third of the way done. I made a few calls and put a hit out on my internal editor. It wasn’t cheap, but it helped.

Another change I made while the editor’s body was dragged off was that I moved from being a discovery writer to being more of an architect (just at a high-level outline). I won’t advocate one form over the other for anyone, but if you are struggling, try changing your writing style from one to the other. Give it an honest attempt and see if it works. When I did, I finished writing Mother’s Curse in two months.

 (Rob’s note: There’s one true way of writing, and it’s whatever helps *you* get words on the page. Thaddeus is absolutely right. If you’re stuck, change something. It could be your style, environment, chair, music, food, medium, whatever, just change something.) 

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I am excellent at counting to five—three.

When I moved to the architect style of writing, I found that I was able to very accurately judge the word count I wanted for a given scene. I would get a reasonably idea of what I wanted the scene to do from my outline and based on how I wanted the pacing to go (fast, slow, or in between) I would come up with an estimate on the number of words / pages it would take me to write the scene. When I plotted out Mother’s Curse, I was aiming for 100k words. The final word count came in at 96.5k and I was proud to have been so close (as well as under my estimate).

Another realization I had when writing my series is that when you have royalty or powerful people involved in the story, you suddenly have another major character to keep track of: the general populace. When a normal person does something publicly, few people will notice or care, but when a person of influence is seen in public, word will spread, and as a result, the citizens of the world will have a reaction, quite often a mixed one depending on their personal perspective. This means I had to calculate societies responses, how fast the information would travel, and look at the political agendas of everyone who would learn of any given event or statement.

 Lightning Round

Pip
Pip
  • Favorite Muppet? The old grumpy guys. (Rob’s note: Statler and Waldorf)
  • Crunchy or Creamy? No peanut butter for me.  Caramel instead.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Sporting KC
  • Cake or Pie? Tea and cake, not death.
  • Lime or Lemon? Mostly lemon, but lime on certain things.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Don’t laugh, but I like sweet pickle relish on chips.
  • Wet or Dry? Wet.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? The Rogues (best pipe and drum music around)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? You want me to choose between the Scots and the Irish?
  • Favorite Superhero? Hard one. I’ll go with Hit Girl
  • Steak Temperature? Medium well
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Monty Python’s Flying Circus of course … though I watched more WKRP in Cincinnati
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Favorite Pet?  (Right now, Pip (named after Chiana in Farscape)
  • Best Game Ever? 1990, Risk, six people, New Year’s Eve
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Fantasy

What question(s) would you like to ask me? 

What is your favorite obscure event in history?

My Answer: The easy answer here is the Martin Koszta Affair which many of you have seen me discuss in panels at conventions. I had a to do a project in grad school based on the letterbook of the USS St. Louis during the time of the Koszta Affair and I became perhaps the world’s leading authority on this particular event. That’s not actually hyperbole, oddly enough.

However, I have so many other ones I could choose. I modeled Edward to an extent on Imma from Chapter XXII of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Imma gets knocked unconscious in a battle and wakes up in a pile of dead including his lord and all his brother warriors. He is sworn to die before the lord, which does not happen. However, he is limited in what he can do after the fact because of the oaths he has sworn as a Christian. I love when characters have competing oaths that cannot be reconciled.

In all honesty, I get curious about everything. There are too many fun and wonderful moments in history to limit myself to just one.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Usually at Planet Comicon.  My schedule this year is light because of some local moves I am making.  Next year I plan to be back on the convention train.

Map of Cothel
Map of Cothel

Do you have a creator biography?

Thaddeus has always been interested in fantasy and science fiction. Early on, when just starting high school, his avid reading grew into a desire to write. A desire which has turned into a lifelong pursuit.

When not reading or writing, he enjoys hiking in the mountains, landscape photography, drawing, and spending time with his wife and two demanding cats.

He has degrees in Chemistry, Computer Information Systems, and Business Management and has held a handful of jobs: some in retail, some in healthcare, but primarily in the technology fields.

Thaddeus currently lives in Kansas with his wife and two cats, but wishes there were more mountains visible on the horizon.

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

What are your current and/or upcoming project?

Life events have delayed me about a year, but I am working on two different pieces. The first is another series set in the same world as The Heirs of Cothel Series, but with new characters living in the far north. I am borrowing bits from Norwegian and Scottish history and culture and the main character is living in an occupied country and she has to figure out what she wants to do about that.

The second item is an urban fantasy that involves a young woman who has been living off the grid with her parents deep in the Rocky Mountains. However, both of her parents die and she has to discover the modern world and why her parents isolated her from everyone.


Finally, let me know any suggestions or comments you have about this interview format so I can keep tweaking it.

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

 

Planet Comicon AAR

Greetings all

I’m home from my best Planet Comicon yet. As usual, I sold some books, met lots of people, chatted with other authors and artists, learned some stuff, and saw some great cosplays.

I should start by saying that my sales were significantly up from previous years. The big increase came from copies of For a Few Credits More. I think that this is a great sign, actually. Not everyone likes medieval fantasy, but my spiel might still be effective enough to get them interested in something by me, hence buying the military science fiction. When I add the superhero noir in the Pussy Katnip world, I’ll have another option available that ought to do real well at cons.

I saw on some of the lists that many other vendors thought the weekend was light on sales. It certainly seemed light for a Saturday, but it was my best Friday and Sunday yet for me. It might be that my sales were up with overall less traffic because I’m now a traditional regular with a larger variety of stuff, so both experiences might be valid. However, I was encouraged.

Once again, I was not on panels here. I’ve been waffling on that. On the one hand, it’s a good way to get in front of a bunch of people. On the other, I have almost no sales unless I’m the one at the booth. Next year, I think I’ll try it, though, if only to experiment.

In general, things went very smoothly in terms of setting up and tear down. My helper, the proto-incipient stepdaughter, did a great job. She doe snot shy away from work, that one.

She does the work so she can go be a total fangirl, and she got some loot, including a signed picture of Mark Sheppard, a photo with Alan Tudyk, a signed hat from Alan Tudyk, and some other stuff. She also got a signed picture of Alan from Tucker and Dale vs. Evil for her mom. I got her mom a coffee mug of Grumpy Cat as Darth Vader. It seemed appropriate for her.

Part of the fun for me is seeing all of my friends come by, many of whom came by in great costumes. I like that I get to be a bit of a base for several of them.

Probably the most fun part of the weekend came from the daughter of some SCA friends. Somehow, when they were in the line for Alice Cooper, the topic of Girl Scout cookies came up. So she brought Thin Mints and Caramel Delights for him and got a selfie, which he never does.

One thing that Comicon is good for is to let me know of other con opportunities. I have already applied for one here in Omaha I didn’t know about, and have several I’ll join in on this week. My summer’s going to be busy, I think.

So, in conclusion, I’ll see you all at Planet Comicon 2019.

Rob’s Update: The Steaks Are High

Week 7 of 2018

Greetings all

I’m making my preparations for Planet Comicon. I hope to see all of you in the KC area there to join us. I’ll be at booth 2444, and it should be a great time. This is my third year there, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

There’s been a lot of navigating government websites this past week as I deal with state sales tax stuff. It always feels like a major accomplishment when I actually manage to get something tax related done. The behind the scenes stuff of being a writer is probably the worst thing.

Aside from imposter syndrome, which is endemic to us, I think.

Anyway, I got lots of stuff done on that side of things, as well as a goodly amount of writing. The breakthrough in Brief Is My Flame is coming, as I have my characters in places where things are bursting to happen.

I have also found out that I think I was a Jewish mother in a past life. I do most of the cooking around here, since I’m home writing during the day while my sweetie goes off to her 9 to 5 job. The only real problem is that I make too much food for her.

We didn’t do anything tonight for Valentine’s because she has a work project she is focused on and we decided to do something fun and whimsical when it’s complete. Still, I bought flowers and made steaks. However, I bought about three times the amount of steak she, I, and her daughter can eat. Yes, the steaks were high.

There are, I suppose, worse problems.

Current Playlist Song: This week’s song is the Olympic Theme, which is a fantastic song, actually.

Quote of the Week

Of course, the Winter Olympics are going on. I have them on in the background pretty much all the time. There are always great scenes of raw emotion as athletes give everything they got. Chloe Kim and Shaun White have been my favorites so far, as has the Matt Hamilton, the curler with the great mustache. Yeah, I love curling. It’s such a fun game to figure out the angles.

But the Winter Olympics are always defined for me by these words, from one of the most powerful moments in my life.

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
– Al Michaels

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (1144)
  • AFS (2681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (38567)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

As I inch closer to Brief Is My Flame, I have to start thinking cover art. Fortunately, Patrick McEvoy of http://www.megaflowgraphics.com/ has been a master at deciphering what I want from my strange clues.

Today’s Weight: 386.8

Updated Word Count: 13,335

Shijuren Wiki: 738 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 133 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
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

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

Preproduction Thoughts

The last few days, I’ve been in final preproduction mode for Where Now the Rider. Right now, I’m close to complete because I had a very productive weekend.

At Comicon I mentioned that was my plan and someone I talked to asked what I meant, so I thought I’d write a blog post for what I do. It’s easy to say that preproduction is doing all the things that turn a manuscript into a publishable novel, but what does that entail. Here’s a sort of checklist for me.

  1. Create a title page and colophon. This is the basic stuff that says who is involved in the copyright, like the artists and editors, and the normal copyright disclaimers. This page is in every book, so this part is easy for me as I have one written already and I cut and paste, changing the relevant information.
  2. ISBN Numbers: I assign an ISBN three numbers to each book, one for the electronic version, paperback version, and audiobook version. I don’t necessarily have to assign one to the electronic version, but I think there’s an advantage and since I buy the numbers in bulk, it costs me very little. In any case, this is generally a tedious but fairly quick process. I then add these numbers to the colophon.
  3. Dedication and Foreword. I often do these ahead of time when I feel motivated. They need editing, after all, though I’ll admit I don’t worry about editing these as much as I do the text.
  4. Double-check the map. Make sure it’s only 300dpi and fits in the space. At this point, it’s a standard thing and all I’m doing is making sure nothing’s gone wrong.
  5. Adding the people, places, and glossary. This is the longest part of preproduction. I could cut a bunch of hours if I didn’t do this, however, I think it’s important to make things easier for my readers. Also, I find it extremely helpful to me to keep the online wiki at www.shijuren.org updated. I’ve done many of the entries while I’m writing the book, but this makes sure I haven’t missed any. I’ll discuss this section more in a moment.
  6. Adding the world-building appendices: the calendar, magic, and religion of Shijuren. These are written and I think they’re pretty good as the stand, so this is just cut and paste right now.
  7. Adding extra pages. I’ve discovered that if I need to make an edit, I want to have some extra pages at the end. Not many, say 5-6. However, when Patrick McEvoy makes the cover, he has to know how many pages wide to make the spine. This is tricky. If I add any pages, he has to make the spine wider. Rather than risk this, I add some ahead of time so if I need to make an addition to the book at the next printing, I can do so without bothering him. What if, for example, I want to put a snippet of Edward, Book IV in the end? I’ve started adding a snippet of the book immediately following to A Lake Most Deep and The Eyes of a Doll, by the way.
  8. Cover blurb. I hate this part. How can it be so hard to write a cover blurb when you have written a 100k-word novel? For whatever reason, this is incredibly difficult to me. I suppose I’m getting better, but it’s still tough.
  9. Double-check all the other cover items. this really isn’t much, actually, since we’ve done this before. I like my author description so I’m not changing it right now.
  10. Look for orphans. Theoretically, Word is supposed to do that, however, I’ve seen a few of them appear. It’s less of a problem since I started writing in the format I end up printing in (6×9, half-inch margins plus an extra half in for gutter, Garamond 12pt font). If I find any, I see if I can cut a line or two somewhere in the chapter. Usually I can.
  11. The last, absolute last, thing is creating a Table of Contents. Fortunately, Word does most of the work for me however if you make any changes to the text that might add or subtract a page messes things up. I do it last, then clean it up a little to look like how I want it.

That’s basically it. There’s probably more I’m not thinking of right now, but that’ll do except for more on the people, places, glossary, and wiki.

I enjoy working on the wiki. It’s usually a relaxing way to spend time because worldbuilding is my favorite part of this. Part of the adding the list of people and places is to add links to the main copy of the text. I always work with what will be the electronic copy as shifting to a print version is much easier than vice versa. Thank you, CTRL-SHIFT-F9, which removes every hyperlink in a selection, when combined with CTRL-A, I can eliminate all the hyperlinks in two keystrokes. The print version does not need them, after all.

Anyway, I get the electronic version done and updated, mashing every mistake I can find. I then upload it to Amazon. Only then do I convert to the print version and send to CreateSpace.

And that’s it. It’s a lot of detail work that takes me days because I need to be focused for it to work, and of course I still make mistakes. Fewer now than when I started, though.

Now it’s time for me to go write that blurb.

Rob’s Update: The 4th Will Be With You

Week of 30 April – 6 May

Greetings all

What a great weekend at Planet Comicon. I’d like to thank all of you who joined this list at KCPC. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Looking forward to next year.

Of course, I’m watching Return of the Jedi as I type this out. I also hope everyone had a great May the 4th.

There’s another reason I titled this update. I finished my 4th book, Where Now the Rider (3rd in the Edward series), on Tuesday. My editor is working on it as we speak. I’ll be doing most of the preproduction next week and you’ll see it soon.

By the way, for those who read last week’s update, that announcement might be familiar. I told you all last week that it was done, except for a few edits. Well, funny story that. I did those edits and in so doing I realized I had a much better ending. So I threw about 4000 words on the page on Thursday at Comicon and then spent the entire weekend waiting to get back to it. Writer problems.

But I like this ending better, it’s stronger, with more action, and with more to bring my overall plan forward. I think you all will like it as much as I do. As a side note, it ended up being around 120,000 words, my longest story in the Edward world.

Quote of the Week

And what else could this week’s quote be?

“It’s a trap!”
– Admiral Ackbar

News and Works in Progress
  • Plotting for Brief Is My Flame, the next Irina novel
  • Plotting for a couple of short stories

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Anita C. Young. You can find her books here: https://www.amazon.com/Anita-C.-Young/e/B00HI6MD3G/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1493952386&sr=1-2-ent

She’s also a fantastic artist and you can find some of her work here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/clanyoung and on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AnitaCYoungCreations/

 

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
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works
  • A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Book 1)
  • The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Book 2)
  • Where Now the Rider (Edward, Book 3) Forthcoming 2017
  • I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Book 1)
  • Brief Is My Flame (The Kreisens, Book 2) Forthcoming 2017
  • None Call Me Mother (The Kreisens, Book 3) Forthcoming 2018

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

NFL Christmas Presents Opened

I meant to get to this sooner, but with finishing Where Now the Rider and Planet Comicon, I just haven’t had a chance. I also didn’t have a chance to the the Comicon AAR out earlier, so look at me, double-posting in a day. Go me!

Anyway, as a Dallas Cowboys fan I’ve been very happy with our drafting over the last few years. Much of that success can be given to Will McClay, who has proven himself an excellent talent evaluator.

Getting Dak Prescott in the 4th and having him turn out to be as good as he has been is a stroke of great fortune, but even so last year’s draft was excellent. Ezekiel Elliot looks all that was hoped, and both Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown look like quality starters from the 3rd and 6th rounds respectively. If Jaylen Smith and Charles Tapper can return from injury, than the 2016 draft will be one of the best ever in the NFL. That’s not hyperbole, actually. If one can get three quality starters in a draft, then you’ve had a good draft. This one currently has four, with a chance at more.

So I wasn’t expecting anything like that this year. However, this draft lined up with Dallas’s needs, defensive linemen and defensive backs and I am very pleased with the result because we came out of the draft with 7 players from those two areas.

For my whimsical write up, check my post on the best Dallas Cowboys website, Blogging the Boys: http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2017/5/2/15525582/rhodris-2112-pack-2017-draft. There I have an occasional series of 2112-packs, where I give out 12 aptly named beers to whoever strikes my fancy.

Overall, the draft is getting bigger and bigger, and for me, lots more fun. The more data there is out there, the more I research. Lots of fun stuff, especially when I see more of the moves getting played out.

For example, I mentioned that the Cowboys needed DLine and DBs and that this draft is deep in both positions. It’s very clear that the Cowboys anticipated this depth and engineered their team to need those things most right at the time when they were most available. Excellent job, especially since in so doing they will have more draft choices next year to find whatever positions are deep in 2018.

Don’t ask me what they are. I’m not a professional and I haven’t started to research that draft class yet. I’m hoping it will be deep in offensive tackles (a premium position that was extremely weak this year), linebackers (where Dallas has some young players looking for their next contract), and receiver (because Dez is getting old and we need an heir).

As a spectacle, it’s getting more fun too. The NFL and the Make-a-Wish Foundation arranged for a kid to announce the Baltimore Ravens pick. Awesome thing.

The announcers in general are getting more fun. In the 2nd and 3rd rounds, former players or people affiliated with the teams announce the picks. The draft was held in Philadelphia this year, home of one of Dallas’s greatest rivals, so when retired Cowboy great Drew Pearson took the stage to announce the pick, he was soundly booed. He gave it back in spades by epicly trolling them. Brilliant stuff.

Sports are entertainment. One of my biggest problems with the NFL is that sometimes it takes itself too seriously. It’s great to see the draft changing, and perhaps that will cause some other changes, like getting rid of stupid overcelebration penalties.

It’s only 358 days to the 2018 NFL Draft, but who’s counting?

 

Planet Comicon AAR

Greetings all

I’m mostly recovered from a great weekend at KC Planet Comicon. It’s an exhausting weekend, of course, but it’s a great chance to meet people and see all sorts of cool stuff.

The con does a number of things well. First, they’re not overpriced. It *is* possible for Artist Alley types to break even and make money. There are lots of cons where that’s not the case. I like the time we have to set up. The big vendors and exhibits can start setting up on Wednesday. I personally went in early on Thursday. The con actually starts on Friday at noon, and smaller vendors like myself can even set up on Friday morning, if needed. Also, I like that they had so many volunteers and they did a good job of making those volunteers available to us.

The only truly bad experience I had was the parking, and I was fortunate. Parking around Bartle Hall is tough, and I’m happy to pay $75 for one of the dock spots. I parked on the West Dock, which is really convenient for me. The problem was their system of purchasing. When I got there Thursday morning, I was told specifically that if I wanted a West Dock spot they would go on sale at 5pm. Fair enough. Except they went on sale earlier than that. I got mine at 4:30pm, and I think mine was the last one. I bet there were a number of livid people who followed the rules and got screwed. I know I almost was. I passed that upchannel because that’s an awful yet avoidable customer fail.

Comicon was bigger than ever, I think. I know I spent an hour before hand on Saturday walking around and I did not see it all. Food choices were also better than ever. They didn’t simply have the normal hot dog and nacho choices, but several food trucks parked in one end. Also, there was a service that would deliver food to our booths for vendors, however, they only offered carb-heavy choices so I didn’t have anything. I almost tempted Giulia into the 96-ounce Roasterie coffee, though.

They also offered a number of perks to those with exhibitor badges. Apparently, they also worked as fast pass badges in lines for celebrities or food. In general, I would have to say Planet Comicons are great for vendors.

I had a goodly amount of traffic throughout the weekend. Friday afternoon was slow, but that’s to be expected. Saturday and Sunday were hopping, though, and I got lots of names for my mailing list as well as enough sales to break even. More than good enough.

My aisle also benefited from having Timothy Zahn across from me. He was very gracious and patient. I actually brought my first edition Blackcollar and Backlash Mission books which Dad bought used a loooong time ago. He enjoyed seeing the copies, and we both had a chuckle at the combined $3.50 Dad paid for those. I also got a chance to reminisce about the Green Dragon, which was such an important place for me growing up.

I tried something new this year. Last year, a number of people admired my cover art so I printed off 12 each 8x10s of the covers from A Lake Most Deep, The Eyes of a Doll, and Where Now the Rider. As a side note, I ordered Monday night, they were shipped on Tuesday, and I got them on Wednesday. MPix did a great job. Anyway, I only sold 3 prints, though I gave away another to a good customer.

I think I marketed them incorrectly. First, I think people would have paid more than $12 if they were larger, like 11×17. Second, I offered the same kind of deal as I do with my books: Buy one, get a discounted price for any others. I think a better way to market them will be $12, $9 if you show me your Kindle where you purchased one of my ebooks. That could be a good way to offer the 8x10s. I’m still contemplating the postcard idea, but this will do for now, I think.

I really wish I had had Where Now the Rider done. Selling a set of 3 would have been a great option for me. It’ll be there next time, though and I’m discovering that books happen on their own schedule, to a certain extent.

My other regret is not getting on panels again this year. Totally slipped my mind. I’ll not let that happen next year.

All in all, though, it was a great weekend and I look forward to doing it again next year.

 

NFL Christmas

This is one crazy weekend for me. I will be at Planet Comicon talking to as many of the 60,000 or so attendees as I can starting 11ish tomorrow.

But I’ll also have an eye on one of my favorite weekends of the sports year, the NFL Draft.

Now, this isn’t like the full Opening Day of baseball or the Super Bowl, which are national holidays to me. No, this is sort of like a combination of final exams and kiln Christmas, the term my potter friends for the moment when the open the kiln after a firing and see what their final results are.

I love thinking about sports from a GM’s perspective. In other words, how they create rosters, even to the point of considering how I would adjust to fit under salary caps. I probably know more about NFL salary cap structures than nearly all non-accountants.

It’s a complicated dance, sort of like a multi-faceted Sudoku game. The numbers have to line up, and I love the challenge of playing armchair GM.

For people like me, the NFL draft is a lot of fun. Other drafts are interesting, but the NBA draft is tooooo short (2 rounds). The baseball draft is tooooo long (30+ rounds). The NFL draft, however, is juuuuust right. 7 rounds, 32 teams, which would be 224 picks, but we also add a number of compensatory picks awarded to teams who lost some free agents the previous year. This year, all told, there are 253 picks.

I watch enough college football and absorb enough research, mock drafts, and scouting reports, that I have some idea about 300 players going into the draft.

I then spend the draft seeing if what I’ve judged matches what the true experts judged.

And then it keeps giving, because you really can’t judge a draft until its 3rd year, so yes, I pay attention to NFL players that I thought were interesting, or would be busts, from many years past.

How do I do, you may ask? Pretty good, actually. I’ve learned some things that generally make more of a difference than one might think.

For example, speed is important for a wide receiver, as one would guess, but past a certain point (around 4.6 40-yard dash), the physical attribute most correlated with success for receivers is height. All else being equal, a receiver with 4.59 speed who’s 6ft 3in will do better in the NFL than a receiver with 4.39 speed who’s 5ft 10in. The reason for this is that the people who defend receivers need exceptional quickness, but few taller players have exceptional quickness.

Pass rushers need long arms more than anything else, but of course if they don’t have a certain baseline of strength they can’t do much. Still, 36in arms are a huge leg up, so to speak, for a defensive lineman. The reason, by the way, is that if an offensive linemen gets his hands on a defensive lineman, it’s difficult for the defender to get to the ballcarrier.

Lots of stuff like this. Fascinating for me.

And the players often have interesting stories. One of the sad stories this year is that of Jake Butt. Yes, that’s his name. And yes, he’s a tight end. The jokes write themselves. The sad part of the story is that he got hurt in his final college game and he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, he’s definitely got a sense of humor. Charmin has hired him as one of their spokesbutts… er… spokesmen.

The first round of the draft is tonight. The second and third tomorrow night. The final four rounds on Saturday.

I’ll be watching every pick when I can, more curious than any cat about the trades that shape the draft.

And yes, you can expect a draft review next week. Once I’ve recovered.

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.