Tag Archives: ShadowCon

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.

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.

Rob’s Update: 2018 AAR

Welcome to 2019. I’m excited about the upcoming year as I have a bunch of opportunities. Before I get to that, though, it’s time to look back at 2018 and give myself a grade.

I didn’t write enough. My goal was 365,000 published words. I included blog posts with that in part to ensure that I would update the blog consistently. My final total was 245,900. Essentially, I was one novel away from my goal.

I should have, indeed, finished The Feeding of Sorrows. That would have put me around 350k and I would not be too disappointed. However, I did not, nor did I finish None Call Me Mother.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

The good news is that next year I won’t have to move, nor will I start it in a cramped house. Furthermore, I won’t have to replace the flooring in seven rooms of my house. There are still major projects to do, but we’ve made huge progress. It is not unreasonable to admit to myself that I put most of my spoons in late 2018 into getting the house under control.

Next year, however, I can’t allow that to happen again. I need to publish 3 novels. My plan is to finish The Feeding of Sorrows by the end of January. I think I can, though I still have some 60k to go.

Then I will return to Shijuren with None Call Me Mother. I will release that in May. After that, I plan for a new Edward novel in December. When I started Where Now the Rider I had a mystery in mind but went a different direction. It’s time to finish that. Edward has a long way to go.

I don’t know how many short stories I’ll do next year, but I have one scheduled already. I also have several that I’ve been playing with for a while that need to get finished.

I’ll also continue to count my blog words. Again, I do that to ensure I update the blog consistently. The three regular columns will continue. I’ll do a creator interview aiming for Tuesday, a magazine review aiming for Wednesday, and my update for Friday. That regular schedule will start next week.

My goal for 2019 is 400,000. A nice even number.

My other professional goals were to improve both the Shijuren and Four Horsemen wiki. I did well, but like with my writing, not as much as I’d hoped. The Shijuren wiki is up-to-date, but needs to be improved and cleaned up.

As for the Four Horsemen Wiki, I had hoped to do more. It stands at 479 entries. My goal for 2019 is to get that up to 1500 or so. That’s about 20 entries per week, which I was doing for a while in 2018 before things got too busy.

I’ll continue to travel as much as I can fit in during 2019. I will be at ShadowCon in Memphis this weekend and ChattaCon at the end of the month. In March, I’m excited to be one of the featured panelists at FantaSci, which is the first Four Horsemen Universe convention. There’ll be lots more, including LibertyCon, which of course I’ll announce here and on my mailing list.

My personal goal in 2019 is much like what it was in 2018, improve my health. I started 2018 at 384.8. I ended it at 387.2. In other words, I held steady. Give all the upheaval of 2018, I call that a win.

Along the way I also spent much of the fall getting myself a good relationship with a local doctor. I haven’t had a standard doctor in well over a decade, and it’s nice to get that relationship going. It meant I had about fifteen different medical visits during the fall, including a colonoscopy.

My next step is to consistently exercise. My basic daily goal is to get 1000 and one. That’s 1000 words and one mile of walking. That’s the minimum I aim for each day. Most weekdays, I’ll hope to do more, lots more when it comes to writing, but it’s an easy to remember daily goal. If I do that, then at least the day hasn’t been a waste. Can’t waste days in this business.

Overall, my professional grade for 2018 is C-. I didn’t write enough, nor did I do enough of the background stuff. Personally, I would give myself a B+. I’m in better shape, both physically and mentally than I was in 2017. I’m in a comfortable home, with a great sweetie, and things are going well. My final grade for myself in 2018 is a B-. I can do more, but it wasn’t awful.

Now to go do more.

Have a great year everyone. May we all do more and smile doing it.