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Category: Conventions


Superstars Writing Seminars 2020 After-Action Report:
This report can only hit the high points of what was an incredible week, spent with some of the most talented writers in all of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. The conference is held at The Antlers hotel in Colorado Springs, CO, and it runs like a well-oiled machine. For any writer who is interested, I can only say this advanced my career in a way few things could. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Anyone interested in attending can contact me for a discount code.
I was a first time attendee to Superstars, so it was hard not to go all fanboy at the sight of so many literary heroes.
Tuesday, Feb. 4 – This was a travel day. Arrival in Colorado Springs was about 8 pm. Superstars has an amazing group of volunteers who picked up attendees at both the Springs airport, and Denver. We flew into COS and immediately met three fellow writers who shared a car with me. I gave the amazing Monique Bucheger money for gas, and I encourage everyone to do this, too. It’s still far less than a cab, Uber or Lyft, and they are doing it without any compensation.
Dinner was a burger in the bar at the Antler’s Hotel, where I saw some friends, including Mark W. Stallings, and met Editor Extraordinaire Mia Kleve. Mia does a lot of work in the Four Horsemen Universe, where I have some upcoming stories, including one anthology she is editing. I love you Mia! (Please don’t reject my story!)
Wednesday, Feb, 5 – Craft Day. Superstars is a conference about the business of writing, but an option is to sign up for Craft Day, where you have deep sessions with the best of the best about some aspect of your writing. I chose a course on starting novels, with Eric Flint, and world-building with Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta.
For the course with Eric, I submitted 8,600 words of a new novel in a new universe. He read it and had two very specific points on how to improve it. Right off the bat he said the writing was fine, very professional and found no issues there. Given that it was only a second draft, I was happy with that, although he did have two suggestions. Both of them I will incorporate, both are simple fixes and both will focus the books even better than before.
Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press would be a great home for these…we talked about that at my consultation with him later that day. Turns out, he wants a trilogy from this book for Ring of Fire. Alternate World War II history, you say? Yes, please! I offered to write up a proposal so we would be on the same page, and he agreed, but at this point it’s more or less a formality. One way or another, the books are going to be written and published.
At various times during the seminar I had the pleasure of speaking with Lt. Col. Kevin Ikenberry, US Army (Ret.), and one helluva good SF novelist. Kevin writes in the Four Horsemen Universe and has branched out into stories of the Peacemaker Guild.
The second part of craft day was world-building with Rebecca Moesta and Kevin Anderson. How much I learned here blew me away. I thought I had a pretty good handle of how to world-build, but once we took a deep dive into the subject I learned how much I didn’t know. Or, rather, I knew most of it, but had forgotten it or had not placed my emphasis in the right places. This is going to help immensely.
At dinner in the hotel, we ran into none other than Colonel Jonathan Brazee, with his wife and one year old twins. We had a long, in-depth conversation about many aspects of publishing. For those who don’t know, Colonel Brazee has more than 100 Indie titles and has been both a Nebula and a Dragon Awards finalist. Plus, he’s a genuinely nice guy.
Thursday, February 6 – The day started great, having breakfast with James Hunter and his brilliant wife, Jeanette Strode. We had a far-ranging conversation on many topics. THIS is why you attend Superstars, because moments like this only come once in a lifetime. James and Jeanette are having unprecedented success with Shadow Alley Press, and are a big part of the re-shaping of publishing currently underway.
After that I attended Jonathan Mayberry’s session on writing short stories. As a 5-time Stoker Award winner, when someone like Mayberry speaks, I listen.
As an editor, he rejects unsolicited stories if the first line isn’t really good. If the story was solicited, then he might give the author until the end of the first page, which is 16 lines in standard format. The other very interesting thing I learned is that he writes the ending first, which I also sometimes do.
Another session I attended was with Eric Flint, as he discussed Ring of Fire Press. He went into detail about how to submit for the 1632 series, the Grantville Gazette, and Ring of Fire Press, plus the content they are looking for. 1632 has more than 200 books in the universe.
I also attended James Hunter and Jeanette Strodes’ first class on Understanding Amazon. The room was absolutely packed, and this helped clarify what I already knew about Amazon, and taught me a whole lot more.
Snow started falling in the afternoon and we ate dinner two blocks away at Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub, where we both got the Shepherd’s Pie. It was great!
Friday, February 7 – Breakfast was again a high point of the day, since I sat with Colonel Brazee, James Hunter (he’s probably sick of seeing me by this point), Aaron Michael Ritchey and the amazing Michael Anderle. I missed the first few sessions because…well, I was already having breakfast with Superstars, so why cut that short?
I then attended the Traditional v. Indie Publishing panel, where at least one major author said he is leaving Trad to go 100% Indie. The general conclusion is that how you publish depends on what you want from your book(s). Trad = visibility, Indie = money.
After that was Michael Anderle’s EYE-OPENING session on global marketing. Holy cow! And I got the contact I needed to start putting my stuff into other languages in a fast way that makes economic sense. This could be a game-changer.
Anderle also went detail about how to attend foreign book fairs, why you might consider doing so, and how to network if you do. That was pure gold.
Next was Brian Meeks, the Human Stat Machine. This was hard data about using both Amazon and Facebook ads, and how to write book descriptions to achieve your goals. Plus, a few little known details about how Amazon works when formatting those descriptions. He also gave us the five most powerful words, as proven by long and hard data crunching. I can honestly say that after listening to his talk, I am completely changing my approach to judging the success of ads on both platforms.
After Meeks came the 2nd part of James Hunter and Jeanette Strodes “Mastering Amazon”. There was SO much info it was hard to keep up, and even though I’ve studied this intently, most of it was new to me.
Friday night was the optional dinner with a guest. I chose Eric Flint, which gave a chance to reinforce our previous agreement for the trilogy. I sat next to Lou Agresta, who is both a novelist and a game designer.
Once back at the hotel, I was up well past midnight discussing a potential teamup with Mark W. Stallings for what would be a really cool project. Still some details to work out there.
Saturday February 8 – A 6:00 am wake up call was necessary because of a 7:00 am Eggs Benedict breakfast, hosted by James Artimus Owens. (Here, There Be Dragons). It was both delicious and inspiring.
The first full panel of the day that I attended was The Art of the Con, wherein Jonathan Mayberry, Jim Butcher and several others gave insight into their approaches to being guests at cons, and selling books there. I learned several concrete tips to improve both sales and visibility. When authors of this caliber speak, I listen.
Then came James Hunter and Jeanette Strodes third Understanding Amazon panel, and this one was absolutely loaded with insights and tips. I couldn’t write fast enough. Once again, what I learned will help refine ads and deliver much better results. You simply can’t overvalue such a session.
Things finally wrapped up with a session featuring all of the special guests doing a Q & A panel. Dinner that night was at Phantom Canyon Brewery across the street, where we’d had the VIP Dinner the night before. The Shepherd’s Pie was quite different from Jack Quinn’s, yet utterly delicious. Highly recommended. I know I’m going back next year.
Sunday February 9 –  A 3:00 am wakeup call for a 6:20 flight to Dallas seemed like torture at the time, but airport security was as fast as it can ever be and the plane was on time. No hiccups in Dallas, and home by 1:15 PM.
So what’s my verdict? Was it worth the money, time and effort? Oh hell yes. I was the third person to sign up for next year. I mean it when I say that SSWS advanced my career by years. Any SFF writer who is serious really needs to go, there’s not another conference like it. And if you are a writer and make that decision, don’t forget to ask me for a discount code, I’ll be glad to let you have it.

Cons, cons and John Donohoe

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

First of all, a big hello to the latest subscriber. I’ll do my best to keep you entertained and informed.

*** I haven’t mentioned Ebay for a while, despite a plethora of news about that failing company. As of this writing the stock is trading around $11.65. It’s 52 wk high is about $34. In other words, the stock has lost 2/3 of its value.

Now, John Donohoe can spin that any way he wants, he can blame the economy, he can blame the site itself, but the stock market has NOT lost 2/3 of its value in the last year. Ebay should be gaining strength in a bad economy as people sell stuff to makes ends meet, but instead it is sinking into the west. As in turns out Donohoe’s strategy of insulting loyal customers and overcharging the ones who stay did not result in more people using the site. Who’d a thunk it?

Anyway, I’ll post some nice general analysis articles as they appear, but none right now. Most of them are from financial talking heads who haven’t really got a clue what’s going on with ebay, but are reading press reports and financial statements, as if that says what people will do in the future. Ebay’s problem is really very simple: the site thought that it could abuse its best customers and found out that it couldn’t.

Okay, okay, I’ll post ONE informed article from the financial sector. This one is from the Motley Fool, who have consistently shown a better understanding of the forces at work in ebay’s demise.

What’s that smell, ebay?

*** Live in Florida and love mysteries? If so, do yourself a favor and check out Mystery Florida in Sarasota, June of this year. Looks like great fun, some A-list authors are already on board, even your friendly neighborhood bookseller would like to be there for this one, if he did not already have a commitment for that time.


Having attended a great number of cons in my life, I can tell you that if you’ve never been to one you don’t know what you’re missing. Very often you can sit with a favorite author and just shoot the breeze for hours on end, preferably over drinks in a bar. This would be an excellent in-country vacation for those living in the southeast.

*** Keeping with the con theme, another really nice looking book festival is the Southern Kentucky Festival of Books in April. Every year I think I would like to go, and every year I cannot, for one reason or another. This year’s author lineup is really impressive.


*** With brothers like this, who needs enemies? Mark McGwire’s younger brother, Jay, is shopping a book about his brother’s alleged steroid use. A 58 page proposal, no less. How hard up for money is this guy, anyway? Jeez. Supposedly he claims that he shot Mark up with the drugs, which, of course, makes him equally liable in terms of criminality. (Not that either would ever be prosecuted.)

Jay McGwire willing to betray his brother for the right price

Go somewhere or win something

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news.

*** Have you ever attended a convention for books and/or authors? If so, then you know how much fun they can be, both as a chance to discuss mutual likes (or dislikes) with other fans of the genre, or to listen to favorite authors answer questions on a panel, to be exposed to new ideas…just to be stimulated and given new enthusiasm for something you already love. If you have not been to a convention, make it a goal in 2009 to go and have some fun. I’ll try to keep you updated on some that I think might be fun. And to start off with:


You love mysteries, so there’s great writers to hob-nob with. It’s March, so most of the country is cold, what’s not to like about a Florida beach? The site only has the Guests of Honor currently but usually there is a contingent of Florida writers who show up, Florida having more than its share of great crime writers, and in the end who really cares, anyway. It’s probably a lot warmer in Florida than wherever you are going to be.

If you prefer something a bit more general than a crime convention, and maybe something a bit more northerly, than you might try the Southern Kentucky Festival of Books.


Or, if you are really looking for something big, there’s always the Virginia Festival of the book in Charlottesville.


*** The World Fantasy Awards were announced yesterday at the World Fantasy Convention in Alberta, Canada. I notice some old favorites of mine on the lists, authors I read during the heyday of my SFF reading some 30 years ago. Kim Newman is still around and I loved Anno Dracula and its sequels, real ground-breaking stuff. Good for him!


*** Marilyn Ferguson, a new age author, has died at age 70. The extremely influential 1980 book, The Aquarian Conspiracy, tied together disparate threads of research, such as biofeedback, seeking a comprehensive whole. This gradually coalesced into the New Age Movement.

MidSouthCon , the Beatles, the Booker, the hooker

Good morning, bookies! Stand by for news. This is the Blog for Saturday, October 11. I have no idea why Blogger is datelining this for Friday. Is time different in Googleland?

First, a request. If you like this blog, please send a link to anyone you think might be warped enough to find it entertaining and/or informative. If you are so inclined, subscribe. Your friendly neighborhood bookseller would certainly appreciate it. The content will grow as time goes by, but this past week has been tough because aged relatives have needed some attention.

*** MidSouthCon is slowly, but surely, filling out their guest roster for next year. Yesterday Stanton Friedman was added to the lineup. If you’ve ever watched a show on UFOs, Area 51, Roswell or Alien Abductions, you will probably recognize Friedman. The GOH is Mike Resnick and the Artist GOH is Vincent DiFate. A good lineup so far, I suppose. Let’s see who else gets added.

For Memphis and Mid-Southerners who are fans of SFF (Science Fiction Fantasy) and don’t know what MidSouthcon is…shame on you. Get ye hence to yonder website and put aside your errors!


*** Obituary- Peter Vansittart died October 4 at age 88, reports the Guardian. Known for his imaginative historical novels, Vansittart always seemed to stitch the most unlikely epochs separated by centuries into a cohesive whole. His last novel, Secret Protocols, was published in 2006.

*** Heresy or truth? Although not strictly book related, your friendly neighborhood bookseller finds the linked story below interesting. A Cambridge professor opines that the Beatles weren’t folk or youth heroes, they were just capitalists cashing in on the hysteria they generated.

I certainly hope so.

I was never a big Beatles fan. I had no ill feelings toward them, but there was always this vaguely uneasy feeling that something wasn’t on the up and up. This is why I preferred The Stones, there was never any doubt about their motivation. Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and money. The Beatles always implied they were somehow above all of that, and I never bought it. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. You’ll need to log in to read the link. If you don’t want to log in, ignore the link, the commentators’ name is David Fowler, he’s an historian at Cambridge University. The quote you need to know is this: “They did about as much to represent the interests of the nation’s young people as the Spice Girls did in the 1990s.” Perfect.


*** The Booker Prize will be awarded in London on Tuesday and there are dozens of articles to choose from previewing the event. I’ve picked one a bit off the beaten track, highlighting two Aussies who are up for the prize. My reasoning? I like Aussies.


Oh, and there is no hooker. That was just to jazz up the blog title for the day.

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