Don’t Fear the Dark, or Support Indie Artists!

“Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.”
– Lao Tzu

Hey everyone! Thanks for checking out this latest episode of blogging from The Short Pale Writer in the Long Black Coat. It has been a busy weekend indeed.

Yesterday I attended the monthly meeting of the North Texas Dieselpunks which included a presentation on the art and architecture of ancient Egypt and its influence on the Art Deco style of the early to mid 20th century and its connection with the Dieselpunk movement. Larry and Tina Amyett did a wonderful and informative slide show presentation that included many excellent images and photographs.

Saturday night I had the honor of being interviewed by one of my biggest fans and supporters, Jenn M who writes a blog called Brewed Bohemian. We sat down at a little place called Roots Coffee House. She was kind enough to buy me a cup of tea and I chose the loose leaf Earl Grey which was excellent. It was the first time I have been interviewed in person and it was a wonderful experience. There were some great questions and I know I rambled on through a lot of my answers, but Jenn was very patient and attentive with me. She also bought a copy of the anthology Rogues in Hell that I signed  for her. Thanks for supporting the series! Kudos to her for asking me to do this interview. We are also going to work together presenting a couple of discussion panels at All-Con in March, so I look forward to collaborating with her on that.

Something I have been trying to help promote and lend a little support to lately is an independent short film called The Dark Man. From the website: “The Dark Man explores the metaphysical relationship between time and love. As the second hand ticks ever onward, Daniel sees the life he made for himself with his wife slipping from his grasp. From the shadows of Daniel’s ruin, a black figure, a Dark Man, bearing an enigmatic timepiece emerges.” It is being written and directed by Tim Stevens, who I met at FenCon last year through a mutual friend, Darwin Prophet, whose music video for the song Don’t Panic was directed and shot by Tim. The Dark Man is a project being done by students at the University of North Texas as part of their undergraduate degree. The film crew also includes producer Sarah Wagner, director of photography, Tyler Burns, and editor Joey McCleskey. They have a Kickstarter fundraiser going to raise much-needed money to pay for things the University can’t provide, like food for the cast and crew, equipment rental fees, and entry fees to film festivals once the movie is completed. Check out the Kickstarter page here for more information about the project and on contributing to the film. Every bit helps so if you can donate even as little as $10 it will go toward them reaching their goal. You will get behind the scenes updates on the making of the film and there are a lot more perks available based on the amount you contribute. If you can’t lend your monetary support, at least please help get the word out about the film, by sharing the page with your friends and family. I like to do what I can for Independent artists, film makers, musicians, and writers, because as a writer myself, I appreciate what it takes to undertake these creative endeavors. Taking a story and making a film out of it involves a whole other level of complexity and planning than anything I have myself attempted to date.

And In the area of indie musicians, Christopher Morris makes some awesome music . His Soundcloud webpage is here. You can listen to some of his wonderful music there, and you can buy the music from his album Everybody Knows, at Amazon. His blend of jazz, rock and fusion will leave you in seventh heaven. His silky smooth vocals and articulate guitar work are amazing.

I attended the bi-monthly meeting of the Writers Circle at the Bedford Public Library today and had one of my poems critiqued. I’ve been writing a lot of poetry lately, maybe because I’ve been trying to express myself with a lot of emotional things that have been going on in my life and the lives of friends. It feels good to pen lines of verse again. It has been years since I’ve written this many poems, and there was a time when I thought I might never write poetry again. It seems to act to free my mind and sooth my soul and opens up other doors of creativity. I’m still struggling a bit with getting prose stories completed, so I hope this will help get the flow of inspiration moving once more. Until next time, keep the creativity flowing and stay inspired friends.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is – infinite”

 -William Blake

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Fun at YuleCon

“When you’re a writer, you no longer see things with the freshness of the normal person.” – Brian Moore

This past weekend I attended YuleCon in Fort Worth, selling and signing copies of the book Lawyers in Hell, which includes my story “Remember, Remember, Hell in November” as well as 21 other hellishly great tales. My good friend and fellow author, John Manning arranged for us to have a table in the dealers’ room so we could meet and greet fans. His story “Disclaimer” also appears in Lawyers in Hell, and he has a horror novel published, Black Stump Ridge, that we were also selling, which he co-wrote with long-time friend, Forrest Hedrick. We sold quite a few copies of books, so it was a succesful weekend as far as sales go and we made a lot of new fans who will most likely buy the books online as well.

These fan conventions are a lot of fun, and YuleCon was no exception. There are hundreds of people in character costumes,  many of them hand-made and quite elaborate. A lot of them are from anime and manga, which I have never gotten into, so I have no idea who most of these characters are, but nevertheless, they are cool to look at. You can go to my Facebook page and look at the album YuleCon IV, 2011 and see some photos I took at the con.

I met a lot of really great  people at YuleCon, including a lot of fellow writers, artists, and gamers. At the table next to us in the Dealers’ Room were artists Renee and Shannon, who make dolls and jewelry, and also run charity auctions at conventions. I also met Kurt who owns an online anime and manga collectables store and who had an entire wall across from us and who was very busy all weekend. There was also The  Iceman, whose real name I forget now, who was running con operations and security, and James, who founded and runs the convention. Also Ray who designed the graphic art for the con badges. I also met up with Tiffany, a fan of our book, Lawyers in Hell, who I’d met at FenCon, and who owns the online games store Roll2Play. She had a big area set up in the corner of the lobby where she was selling games and game accesories with the help of some of her assistants. Chris, one of John’s friends who was running some games for YuleCon, and also two mutual friends of ours, Alaura and Meghan, joined John and I for dinner Friday night after the Dealers’ Room  was closed up.

Over in the gaming room I met Kenneth, who was running a series of role playing games by Palladium. I also met Brian, who ran the Doctor Who tabletop miniatures game that I played in, on Saturday night with Wil, Daniel, and a young woman whose name I forgot, (sorry) but who was on my team for the game. Brian had designed and built the scale buildings and painted the miniatures for the game which was set in the ruins of post-apocalyptic Las Vegas. My team was the Daleks who, if you’ve never seen the TV show, are basically intergalactic bad guys, robots that want to take over the universe by exterminating mankind. The Doctor’s job in this game, along with help from his team of soldiers, was to stop them from setting off a nuclear bomb. The game really got rolling when the woman on my team asked Brian if she can have one of her soldiers can use his grenade launcher to blow up one of the ruined remains of a building that eleven of our opponents are hiding inside. He said that no one had ever asked him if they could do that before, but he would check the rules. Sure enough, he said she could try. She rolls the dice, and succeeds in blowing up the building, collapsing it on the enemy and killing ten of their soldiers. We were off to a good start! Later in the game a mobile artillery piece overheats and explodes, stunning the Doctor, preventing him from interceding in our plan to detonate the bomb which we can attempt to do on our tenth turn. The rest of the game does not go well for us however, as our soldiers get picked off one by one until we are down to only two left, one dalek, and a mercenary, against a dozen or more opponents. It’s looking more and more like we will lose pretty soon. The tenth turn comes up, however, and we have a chance to detonate the bomb if we can just roll a six on the die. My team member rolls, and behold, a six!  The nuclear bomb was detonated, everything was destroyed in the blast, and we won the game! Viva Las Daleks! Ah the sweet taste of victory.

After the game I wandered around the convention hotel checking out the various events that were going on. They were showing anime films in some rooms, holding discussion panels in others, and there was a rave party going on. I walked into the rave amidst the sounds of fast techno music, flashing lights, and glowsticks being waved around. I thought to myself that everyone in this room is half my age or younger, and damn they were moving fast. I think I remember being able to move that fast. I hung out for awhile and watched all the kids have fun and then decided it really wasn’t my scene, so I left to see what else might be going on. It was almost midnight, and I should have headed home so I could get some sleep for attending the con on Sunday, but some intuition kept telling me to hang around.

Sure enough, I run into Renee and Shannon, from the Dealers’ Room.  They hadn’t slept much the night before because a fire sprinkler had been damaged by someone in the room above them which caused water to start pouring from the ceiling and walls of their room in the middle of the night. This led to them having to change rooms and move all of their belongings with them. They were both worn to a frazzle, I could tell. They had just gotten out of a discussion panel, but couldn’t get up to thier room on the second floor, because the elevators weren’t working due to some electrical problem. They both have  health issues that prevent them from being able to get up and down stairs safely, so this was a real problem. The hotel restaurant had already closed and they hadn’t eaten dinner yet because they had been so busy with the panels. There were no restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, and both of them had recently taken medication that kept them from being able to drive. So naturally I offered to take them in my SUV to Denny’s for a late dinner. We had a good meal, and talked about stuff like conventions we had been to, and other fun things, and later that night I dropped them off back at the hotel and headed home for the night.

The next day at YuleCon was a good one as well. One of our fans, Sherry, who bought John’s novel, Black Stump Ridge,  way back in March at All-Con,  stopped by our table and picked up a hardcover copy of Lawyers in Hell. We talked about all kinds of things from books to music, and writing, to funny and scary things we’ve had happen to us over the years. We sold a few more books, met a lot more cool people, and had a really good time.

All in all it was a really great weekend and a really fun convention. Sorry if I missed mentioning anyone, but there were so many great people it was hard to keep track, especially all the names. I’ve added a few email addresses and friends on Facebook though so I’m hoping I can keep in touch with at least some of you. I’ve decided I really need to have business cards made so I can hand out to people. Not only to promote myself as an author, but to maybe make it easier for people to connect with me in the social media and stay in touch. That’s my next project anyway, and I know there are some places like VistaPrint that will print cards for free if you pay the shipping & handling.

Thanks everyone for making it a fun, great YuleCon, and hope to see you all online and at the next Con!

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!