Fun at FenCon VIII for The Short Pale Writer in the Long Black Coat

Last weekend I attended FenCon VIII, a fan-operated science fiction and fantasy literary and filk convention in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas Metroplex. They were hosting DeepSouthCon 49 this year, which added to the attendance and guest appearances. Guests of Honor included: Gail Carriger, Joe Bethancourt, Steven H. Silver, Les Johnson, Vincent Di Fate (who actually had to attend via video conference due to other commitments). Also there were Bradley Denton as Toastmaster, and Special Guests Lou Anders, who held a writers workshop during FenCon, and Stephan Martiniere.

My friend and fellow author, John Manning, had reserved space at a table in the main hallway right outside the dealer’s room, for us to sell and sign copies of the shared world anthology Lawyers in Hell, in which we both have stories published. He was also selling his novel Black Stump Ridge, that he co-wrote with Forrest Hedrick, who couldn’t attend FenCon, but who I had met at AllCon earlier this year. We had a lot of fun promoting the books, selling a few, and meeting fans and potential fans who we hope will buy the books later. We handed out a lot of promotional cards for both books, which are available online at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com and Lawyers in Hell is also available from our printing publisher Kerlak Enterprises.

I only started attending literary fan conventions earlier this year, but so far my experiences have been very favorable. FenCon was no exception. There were a lot of really interesting discussion panels. Some of my favorites were the Small Press Roundtable, and Still Not Panicking: Douglas Adams Remembered. I have been reading Douglas Adams’ books since I was about 13, and I have everything he has written. I brought along a rare book,The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts, to show the panelists and audience. Hearing other fans talk about his work was really enjoyable, and brought back a lot of memories, as he is one of my favorite authors. He died in 2001 and his wit and humour is sorely missed but his work in books, radio, television, and video games, will not be forgotten.

Another fun thing that I got to do was audition and rehearsal panel for a radio play that Generic Radio Workshop was performing live on stage Saturday night after the awards ceremony. I was selected to play Richard Hammond, in an 1899 steampunk version of the BBC show Top Gear. Myself and the other three performers had a great time reading our lines before the packed room at the convention. Afterwards, I had a lot of people, who I don’t even know, come up to me and say that I and the others had done a great job! Being able to perform in front of an audience, and actually pulling it off pretty well, really made my day special. And it wasn’t any old ordinary day either. Saturday was my 40th birthday, and I had a wonderful time!

I got to meet with friends I’d made at previous conventions and through online networking. Great folks like fellow Lawyers in Hell author Brad Sinor, and his wife and author, Sue Sinor, both who I had met in person earlier this year at ConDFW. Also Amanda Green, author and Senior Executive Editor at Naked Reader Press, who was in the Small Press Roundtable panel, who I know from being a member of her Bedford Library Friends Writers Circle critique group. Author Sarah Hoyt, who I met last year when I attended her writers workshop, which I will be attending again, this weekend. Matt Sims, who ran the Gaming Room at FenCon, who I had met at another convention earlier this year. 

I also made a lot of new friends, like Stacey Irish-Keffer who was in the radio play with me, Tiffany Franzoni, owner and founder of online game store Roll2Play,  author Ric Locke, and author Michele Bardsley. If I met you and you didn’t get a mention here in my blog, please don’t hold it against me. I met many, many great people, most of whom I’m sorry to say I either didn’t get their names or can’t remember what their names were. I’m sure I’ll see most of you at the next convention, and hopefully take down names better next time.

I also met some editors in the Small Press Roundtable  panel, like Kevin Hosey, author and editor at Cliffhanger Books, Maggie Bonham, with Sky Warrior Book Publishing, and Elizabeth Burton, with Zumaya Publications. One of the most important things a writer can do at literary conventions is meet with editors and publishers, to develop a relationship with them, and potentially open the door to being able to publish your work with them in the future. Maggie Bonham went as far as to declare that she wouldn’t take an unsolicited story submission from a writer she hadn’t first met in person. Even in this digital age of online social networking, person to person contact is still very important in the publishing industry.

Another goal I had in mind while at FenCon was to talk to the organizers of other local area literary conventions and try to get on the roster as a guest and be included in discussion panels at their next events. This is not only to become more officially involved with the conventions but also a great way to promote myself as an author, and my published works. I made some good  contacts with a couple of Texas conventions, ConDFW and AggieCon, so we;ll see if they decide they want me or not as a guest. Otherwise I’ll just attend as a patron and promote myself as best as I can. One of the cool things about conventions is the promotions tables set up in high traffic areas. These include cards, posters, flyers, and even free magazines, and books. It’s a great place to find out about authors, publishers, conventions, and events. This year there was a copy of Realms of Fantasy magazine’s 100th issue that published in March this year on the table for the taking. I had bought this magazine’s first issue back sometime around 1994, when I was working in an independently owned bookstore. I used to subscribe to it back in the 1990’s, but hadn’t read one in years. I was glad to see it was still in publication and had hit its century issue mark. As soon as I have a full-time job again, other than writing, bringing in regular income, I will subscribe to it once more.

Another cool event at FenCon VIII was a viewing of the Japanese live action movie Space Battleship Yamato which was released in 2010. For those of you not familiar with, or too young to know about it, this movie is based on the anime show, Starblazers which aired in the early to mid 1980’s. It was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. The movie was pretty awesome, and although the character names had changed, the premise of the story hadn’t. Even watching the movie in Japanese with English subtitles didn’t deter me from liking this movie. I watch a fair amount of independent foreign films so subtitles don’t really bother me.

The whole FenCon experience was fun, energizing and tiring all at the same time. There was always plenty of good food and drinks in the Con Suite available free of charge, to patrons and guests alike. All the organizers and volunteer staff were friendly and helpful. The art room was amazing and the dealer’s room with all the books, t-shirts, pins, costumes games, and other stuff was great. The gaming room was incredible, with  a lot of games running almost the whole time. There was a really cool table-top strategy war game of Axis & Allies that was set up with beautiful maps and miniatures. There were all kinds of board games and role-playing games, and card games going on all weekend. The gaming room ran pretty much 24 hours a day during the three days of the convention.  I didn’t get to spend much time in there unfortunately, because of attending panels, selling and signing books, meeting with people, listening to the bands play filk music (fantasy/sci-fi fan folk music), and wandering in and out of the many party rooms Saturday night. Meeting so many new people and walking around the convention all day for pretty much three days straight, staying late Saturday night for the parties.  It wore me out and by Sunday afternoon I was ready for some rest at home, even though I hated to see it all come to an end.

Well there is always FenCon IX to look forward to next year, and I will definitely not miss it for anything. I hope I will see the same friends next year, and meet a lot of new ones. I hope all of you reading this blog will be there too, to share in the fun! I’ll be the short pale writer wearing my long black coat again, so look for me and say hello!

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