Tag Archives: Geek Kon

Geek Kon!

A quick update, then on to the show!

I’m over 52,000 words, Matt (the serial killer) is dead, and Carter was the one that killed him. All of the kids were trying to get Cailin to do it using her telekinesis, so that it would look like an accident, but when she balked at the job, Carter stepped up. Now Andy is trying to convince the cops that it was self-defense. After this I’ll do a few scenes to wrap things up, and I’ll be done. Less than 60,000 words total, but it will be finished.

And now, Geek Kon!

If you haven’t heard about it, Geek Kon is a large convention held in Madison, Wisconsin, to celebrate all things geek. There are anime and science fiction shows running non-stop, guests include voice actors, authors, and game designers. There are three rooms set aside for gaming, including table-top and RPG games, console video games, and LAN computer games. The dealer’s room has offerings for all types of geeks, including things like Pocky (candy covered biscuit sticks), Doctor Who memorabilia and videos, boxes full of manga, cosplay clothes and accessories, as well as all sorts of books and games. At least half (actually probably closer to 80%) of the attendees dress in some form of costume.

I’m writing this post before I head off for the final day of the convention. Yesterday I bought a blue anime-style wig, and today I’m going to wear it. I’ll try to get someone to take my picture while I’m at the convention so I can post it later.  I shaved my mustache off so I would look more like one of the Japanese boys in the shows, and I’m wearing a white shirt with a tie hung loosely around my neck and the shirt tails hanging out. This is my mental image of the kids in those shows. I’m a bit heavier than they are, but I’m going to do it anyway. After all, one of the best things about life is that you can always have fun if you forget about what everyone else thinks. And that’s kind of what Geek Kon is all about.

That being said, however, although I have had my camera for the whole convention, I haven’t taken a single picture. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that while I really enjoy going there and the costumes are really cool, part of me feels like a dirty old man. After all, I’m almost twice the age of many of the kids attending, and a lot of the girls aren’t wearing much. The stereotypical girl in an anime show is wearing a short skirt and shows a lot of cleavage. And there are a lot of girls (and even a few guys) at Geek Kon that are modeling their costumes after their favorite anime characters. It’s kind of intimidating for a 43-year-old man.

But that’s my problem. And although I may feel weird about it, I may just have to screw up my courage today and ask some of the attendees if I can take their picture. We’ll see.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with another update. See you then!

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Filed under Conventions, ROW80, The Writing Experience

Putting Yourself Out There: Conventions

Today I thought I would write a little bit about conventions, and how they can help or hurt your writing career.

For the most part, conventions are great. They are a wonderful opportunity to meet other people who share your interests and struggles. As you might expect, writing conventions will have a lot of panels that revolve around writing. And even those conventions not specifically created for authors may still have activities that can either help you with your craft, or at least be a source of inspiration and ideas.

The local conventions that I have gotten hooked on here in Madison, Wisconsin, are Oddysey Con (OddCon), WisCon, and Geek Kon. All of them have panels for writers about the craft and the industry. Some more than others, but I think that all of them are worth my money.

OddCon starts the ball rolling in late April. It is a small science fiction/fantasy/gaming convention and costs $35 for three days. And when I say small, I mean less than 500 people. A lot of the panels are on writing, but there are also several on gaming and movies/television. They even have a video room where they are constantly playing movies and episodes of science fiction television shows.

WisCon is next, held on Memorial Day weekend. They proclaim themselves as the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention and have an upper limit to their registration of 1,000 people. Even though the convention has a strong female focus, they also welcome open-minded men into their ranks. The convention is also very friendly towards the LGBT community, so you can find all sorts of people walking the halls. This year was my second year attending. As a writer, I seem to be drawn to writing female characters, and the panels at this convention help me to tap into my feminine side and more fully understand the female perspective. WisCon is the most expensive of the conventions I attend, being $50 for four days, but it is worth every penny.

Geek Kon is the last hoorah of the summer for me. It is held in early September, and the cost is $25 for three days. While this large convention is mainly focused on movies, manga, and video games, they do have several writing panels to keep me connected to other authors. And sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the importance of play. Besides, a lot of the attendees come in costume, and just walking down the hall can be like stepping into another world. And the huge dealer’s room has everything a geek like me could want to celebrate all sorts of fandom. Definitely worth the price of admission.

So those are the conventions that I have experience with. As I said, they are all local for me, which makes it easy and cheap for me to attend. I don’t need to worry about a hotel room, as I can easily drive, bike, or bus to the hotels where they are held. And I can touch base with a lot of other local writers and editors, as well as authors from a little farther away.

This interaction with others is where things get a little dicey. As is true in all facets of life, no matter how friendly you are, there are certain people who will never be your friend. The way you interact with these people can either help your career, or hurt it. If you are trying to sell your novel or short story, a lot of times the deciding factor is who you know.

I have met a few editors and several authors over the last two years, and all of them have seemed very nice. A lot of them have been on the panels I attended, but some of them were simply enjoying the convention along with me. Either way, I tried my best to be polite and not intrude on their conversations with other people. Those are the most important things to remember when meeting someone who may be one of your heroes, like Larry Niven, who was the guest of honor at OddCon this year. Steven Barnes was the other guest of honor, and both of them turned out to be wonderful, really nice guys. Steven Barnes even led me (along with several others) through a short Tai Chi class on Saturday morning.

At WisCon last year I had the privilege of meeting Cassie Alexander, a newly published author who was leading a writer’s workshop, and helped me identify some problems with my first Valkyrie book. This year I met Kater Cheek, an independent author who did a tarot reading for me. Neither of them are local, but they are really cool women and I am happy to have had a chance to meet them. Two of the local authors I have met are Alex Bledsoe and Lori Devoti. Both of them are wonderful authors and have not only signed my copies of their books, but have become my friends on Twitter and Facebook. Lori in particular has taught me a lot about the current state of the publishing industry and has influenced my choice to self-publish once I finish a final draft of my books.

So, like I said at the start of this post, conventions can be a wonderful help to your writing career. Just remember to be polite and you should be all right. Tips I have heard for introducing yourself to someone are:

  • Don’t interrupt someone who is in the middle of a conversation with someone else. A better way would be to say hello if you pass them in the hall, or introduce yourself immediately before or after a panel, or at one of the parties.
  • Don’t immediately ask them if they would read your manuscript. Make a friend before you ask a favor.
  • Talk to them as people, not as superheroes. Believe it or not, most of them are not from Krypton, and have had some of the same life experiences you have had. Share something interesting about yourself, and maybe they will share something with you.

The last thing I wanted to say about conventions is about the inherent contradictions of being a writer. Writing is essentially a solitary undertaking, and yet the end result is a study of people and society, and is intended to be shared with others. So authors almost have to have a split personality to be good, being antisocial in order to work, but also being very perceptive of how other people both think and feel. Also, like actors, they have to be able to put themselves into the heads of their characters in order to allow their readers to share more fully in their world.

This is another of the things about attending a convention that may make things a little more difficult for you. Depending on your personality, you may find it difficult to make new friends at the conventions. Luckily, some of them have mixers or parties scheduled where you can introduce yourself in a more relaxed setting. For example, WisCon has an opening night dinner, where you can go out for a meal with a random selection of other attendees. The dinner conversation is always interesting, and you get to share some time with some potential new friends.

Writer’s workshops are also good opportunities to meet other writers. As I mentioned, Cassie Alexander led a workshop for me last year, and not only did she give me some excellent advice about improving my book, but we developed a friendship that I treasure. I look forward to seeing her at future WisCon events.

I hope this information has been helpful. My advice to you is to find out what kinds of conventions are in your area and see if you can work at least one into your budget. Despite my warnings, you shouldn’t be scared. Most of the people who go to conventions are looking for the same things you are. Namely friends that share your interest and the chance to meet others who have made the jump from aspiring writer to published author.

Good luck and have fun!

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September 12 – Geek Kon!

As promised, here is a report on the great weekend I had at Geek Kon!

The first thing I saw when I walked in the door of the hotel was the Tardis, and it just got better from there! I arrived early and managed to get through the registration line without too much hassle or delay. I expected people in costumes, but I was surprised at the sheer number of cosplay attendees. It seemed like every other person was dressed up as something. The costumes ranged from steampunk to anime to gaming. There was even a Pac-Man and a person with a Lego head.

The dealer room was focused more on anime than anything else, but there was also some steampunk and fantasy stuff around. And there was only one bookstore that participated. That was the biggest difference between Geek Kon and the other two conventions I attended this year (OddCon and WisCon). While there was a writing track, the attendance at each of the panels was minimal. Most of them had only four or five attendees (including yours truly). Speaking of panels….

My first panel was Creating a Steampunk Persona. I have been mildly intrigued by the steampunk movement and wanted to learn more about it. I got a few ideas, and learned about the local steampunk organization.

Next was Coolest Science Fiction of the 21st Century. Jim Frenkel was the panelist. He is an editor for Tor Books, and I met him earlier this year at both OddCon and WisCon. It was an interesting discussion, and I walked away with a few more books for my To Read list.

Jim was the panelist for the next panel as well. It was simply titled Steampunk, and actually had about 20 people attending. Jim pulled a couple of them from the audience to join him on the panel and talk about their feelings and experience with steampunk. It was interesting, but I had to leave early to go to….

Small/Indy Press Publishing. Monica Valentinelli and Matt McElroy were the panelists. I actually shared a couple of meals with Monica at WisCon, and it was great to see her again. We had a great discussion about the current small press market. I shared my experience with selling my first story to a small press, and got some advice on how I might better handle future sales.

After that I took a break for dinner, grabbing a ham sandwich and candy bar from the concessions booth. The last panel of the night was New Author/New World, and Monica was the sole panelist. That was okay, because there were only six of us in the room. The problem was that she was competing with the warmup of the rock band in the next room, and it was sometimes hard to hear. But she had lots of advice for new writers, and I think that we all had a good time.

Saturday was a lot of fun, and I actually got to sit with fellow local author Alex Bledsoe for several panels. Of course I had to start with a fanboy moment and tell him how much I enjoyed his Eddie LaCrosse books. You should pick them up if you get the chance. They are like a film noir detective in a medieval setting. Really cool!

It started early, with a panel on Creating Enduring Characters. Troy Denning had a lot of good tips on the subject of character creation, and I even took notes!

Following Troy was a panel on eBooks vs. Traditional Publishing. They discussed the trends in the market regarding eBook sales, and Jim Frenkel was there to represent the old school publishers. He told us that even the big boys are moving to ebooks, because the market is growing rapidly and they would be fools to ignore it. They also discussed some of the problems with ebooks, including Digital Rights Management (DRM) and piracy. A lot of information to consider if I decide to self-publish.

After that was a long break. I took the time to get some lunch and have some new pictures taken from a free photographer that was set up next to the cafe. I posted them on my Facebook and Google+ profiles, so feel free to check them out. The overcoat I was wearing belonged to my grandfather, so it is older than I am! It was really warm in most of the rooms, but it was worth it for the pictures.

Following lunch was a session on Writing for Shared Worlds. I went because I thought they might have some advice on working with another author, like for a collaboration. But it was mostly for contracted work for tie-in fiction, like if I was hired to write a Star Wars or Forgotten Realms novel.

After that was a panel on World Building. It was nice to hear some of the things I need to consider when I am working on my stories. It was also nice to hear that it isn’t necessary for me to do all the work before I start writing. Some parts of world building can be done during the creation process.

A Writing Panel followed, where I was able to hear comments and stories from published authors regarding their experiences. I went to a panel on Getting Published in the Gaming World after that, but I left early because it wasn’t quite what I expected. I was hoping that it would be about getting a contract for writing for a gaming magazine or tie-in fiction, but it was actually more about writing adventures and rules systems. So I went to have dinner instead.

After dinner I went to a panel titled Bak Desu Ne! (Being An Idiot In Japan). The plug for the panel was that I would learn what it was like to learn Japanese, live in Japan and then start an indie animation project to teach Japanese. So I was expecting something on how to learn Japanese, but it was more about the experiences of the panelist who had done these things. Even though it wasn’t what I expected, it was still probably the most fun panel of the day.

The last panel I attended Saturday night was Manly Women of Anime, where we discussed some of the women of anime, and how some of them are portrayed as masculine, where it is almost impossible to tell they are women. We also discussed how even the ones with more feminine appearances are given male personality traits. It was interesting, and it made me want to watch more anime.

Sunday I was planning on starting with The Horror and Wonder of NaNoWriMo. My other option was a Writing Workshop, but I didn’t have anything that was ready for critique. I ran into Alex again before it started and he said he was filling in for one of the workshop panelists that had to cancel, so I promised to go. There were four aspiring authors that came to the panel (including me), so we had plenty of time to discuss our work and we still finished early. The piece I shared was the short story that I submitted a couple of weeks ago. They told me that they thought I should change my opening back to the way I had it for the original draft, so now I’m thinking that if it gets rejected I’ll make the change before I send it out again.

After the workshop I went to a panel led by Jim Frenkel titled What is Science Fantasy Anyway? We had a good talk about the topic and named some books and authors that have dabbled in this hybrid genre.

I had an hour for lunch, and then my last panel of the con was Costuming 101. I have to admit that all the people walking around in costumes over the weekend made me feel like I was an outsider because I wasn’t wearing one. It wasn’t so bad on Saturday when I was wearing my mafia outfit, but I had started thinking about what I might be able to do in the future. I learned quite a bit, and got some information about the local costuming group, so who knows? If I can make up my mind what theme or character I want to portray I may be able to put something together for next year.

So that is my weekend in a nutshell. Geek Kon was a lot of fun, and I am already looking forward to going back next year.

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September 8 – Getting Ready for Another Convention

It’s going to be another long and exciting weekend. I’m taking the day off tomorrow and I’ll be attending Geek Kon (www.geekkon.net) here in the beautiful city of Madison. Unfortunately I didn’t learn about it until just this week, so I missed the registration deadline and I’ll have to buy my ticket at the door. But it will be worth it.

There are a lot of panels that I want to attend. Unfortunately there are also quite a few of them that are being held at the same time, so I will have to make some difficult choices. There are also some easy choices. It’s pretty much a no-brainer when it comes to choosing between going to see “FMA Unraveled”, a panel on Full Metal Alchemist, which I know nothing about, and “Life of a Freelancer”, about writing as your day job, with Monica Valentinelli on the panel, a woman I met at WisCon. She is a marketing expert and really impressed me with her advice. I can’t wait to see her again and learn more from the master.

I may even talk my wife into going to the Con with me. At least for Saturday. I may have to get a room at the hotel to convince her, but it will be worth it. She really should get a chance to see what all the fuss is about.

Things are moving slowly on the writing front. I’m still working on that short story, and I haven’t been able to get any plotting done for my new series idea either. Hopefully I will be able to steal some inspiration from the other writers at the convention. They’ll never miss it….

So expect a report about my Con experience on Monday. Have a great weekend!

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