FactoryCon 2021 AAR — Writer’s Retreat Edition

I just got back from FactoryCon 2021 yesterday and man, Chris Kennedy Publishing knows how to do a convention.

For those of you who don’t know, CKP is the overall publisher of imprints Bloodmoon Press, Theogony Books, Seventh Seal Press… it’s actually quite an impressive list. They’re always looking for authors and if you sign up for the newsletter at Chris Kennedy Publishing you’ll get notifications for open calls for anthologies and things of that nature.

Anyway, on to the After Action Review!

Addendum: there is a writer’s group I belong to called the Peacemaker Cantina. Most of the time we hang out on Zoom on Saturday night and shoot the breeze, with occasional “Hey, we should write something together” moments thrown in, as well as marketing tips from some of the members.

Tuesday morning, early. I’m at home and prepared for the arrival of Los Tres Amigos to pick me up for their final leg of the journey. Jamie Ibson, co-author extraordinaire and Canuck, had flown down from Canada (which, given the state of the border and WuFlu testing, was a pain in the ass) into Kansas City to journey to the Outer Banks, North Carolina. He joined Rob Howell, Senior Editor of New Mythology Press (another CKP imprint… I told you there was an impressive list), and Mark Stallings, who’d done an Ironman drive from Colorado Springs to journey together. Apparently their roundabout trip brought them through my neck of the woods, which was why they graciously extended an invitation to ride with. So Tuesday morning I was up early, prepared (or so I thought), and ready to roll…

…which means I forgot a few things, left the books I was going to bring with to sell at home, forgot to bring the really nice bottle of whisky for the aficionados of the group, and forgot to get Jamie’s signature for his latest novel, Myrmidons, Inc.: Urbicide. TWICE. Ugh. I crit-failed my Perception checks hard.

So after a quick bite to eat at my favorite local restaurant we were on our way. Since FactoryCon didn’t officially start until Friday, and we were planning on staying through to the following Wednesday (yesterday… damn, that was a long week), we started calling the time before and after the Cantina Writer’s Retreat. I’m thinking this should be a yearly thing, since we all got a lot of writing done (well, I got a lot of writing done… not sure about everyone else). Once we arrived (6 hour drive from my house) we checked out the cabin we’d be in for the next 8 days and… well, KOA campsites are a remarkable thing. The cabin was nice, clean, and was waterfront on the Currituck Sound. I could see Corolla, NC across the bay. I took some amazing photos while there as well.

First sunrise at the campsite

Wednesday was pretty much a writing day. I sat down and continued my work in progress, THE EXECUTIONERS, which I am writing with Matt Novotny. It’s almost halfway done and we were both hoping to get a large chunk of words down. Matt and his partner Mia joined us on Friday, so I was able to get a jump start on the process. That night we had dinner at the Coinjock Marina. I ordered the fried platter, which is normal for me at any seafood restaurant. The shrimp was amazing but everything else was average. The sweet tea was strong enough to stand a spoon up in it, though, so it balanced out. However, as much as we wanted to stay up late and hang out with Kevin Steverson, Nick Steverson, et al., we had to go to bed early because we had the 4th Annual CKP Fishing Trip to attend at the crack of dawn the following day.

Sunrise while fishing out in the Atlantic Ocean

The last fishing I’d done with the group had been a bust. We caught exactly 6 fish and none of them were edible. This time, though, we had enough people fishing that we got two boats and came back with almost 250 pounds of fish between us. I didn’t get a picture of the other boat’s haul, but we caught some fat albacore and trigger fish, which were absolutely delicious. I’ll be enjoying the albacore for a while. On my boat was the aforementioned Jamie Ibson, Quincy Allen, Kevin Steverson, Nick Steverson, and his wife, Jolie. Great group of people and I really wish I had a better shot of us all after the trip.

About half of what we caught on the day Spanish Mackerel is on top

Things are a bit of a blur on Thursday night during the fish fry. Yvonne Jacobs went ahead and fried almost all of the Spanish mackerel we caught, and we ended up feeding everyone with some left over. However, someone thought it would be amusing to feed the author beer before he’d eaten and, as a result, I sort of stumbled over to the cabin and passed out before midnight. The fish was excellent, though. The ragin’ Cajun knew how to fry up some fish.

Friday morning I was up bright and early. It’s what I do. Weird and unfair, according to my author friends. Needed to get some words done before FactoryCon really got going so I sat down and put words to processor. Then FactoryCon really got going as everyone started to arrive.

There were a lot of people who arrived late Thursday/early Friday, too many to list here. Plus, I’m horrible with remembering names and faces (as evidenced by the fan who was talking to me Thursday and me admitting I couldn’t remember my name half of the time). I do remember Marisa Wolf and her hubby arriving, so that’s a step in the right direction.

Friday night we had a pizza and hotdogs cookout. I brought mustard (yay, I contributed) and mostly hung out and listened to music. Since Saturday morning had the meet and greet at the meeting center, I called it a night around 0200.

Saturday morning we were over at the meeting center to sell our wares. Jamie Ibson was celebrating the release of AND THEN IT GOT WEIRD, an anthology which he edited and I have a short story in (The Haunting of Deep Eleven). If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, you should rectify this immediately. 13 great stories inside.

Edited by Jamie Ibson; from Blood Moon Press

Since I forgot to bring my books, I spent most of the time helping Nick Steverson sell his. I think we did a pretty good job and he helped me plot out a trilogy set in his dad’s (Kevin Steverson) bestselling Salvage Universe. I’d been reluctant in the past to write in it (I write in… 4 SF universes already) but since this trilogy will be a pure space Navy one, I think I should be fine. What few Marines I have on board are more for ship and dock security than anything else. I should have those turned in by next summer at the latest.

Side note: I hear rumor that the movie script for the original SALVAGE TITLE trilogy is almost complete and the movie execs are about to put out a casting call for it. I’m stupid excited for Kevin. He’s worked his butt off to get here.

The cornhole tourney was next, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, Team Steverson won it all. We then played Ultimate Frisbee and, shockingly, Kevin Ikenberry won the prize when he nailed the ringer. My shoulder prevents me from doing frisbee but I was able to cheer them on. After that it was back to the cabin to prepare my contribution to the CKP potluck dinner.

Protip: Zataran’s is magic. Red beans and rice, toss in some jambalaya sausage, a bit of ultra sharp cheddar cheese, and you’re good to go.

Afterwards we sat out around a massive bonfire or two and chilled. There was a firebreather there who happened to look a lot like Merlin from the Kingsmen (I called him Merlin and he didn’t get offended, so yay), and it was basically a rather calm evening. I was up late regaling tales from my Navy days (Rex stories never get old) with the Storm Breakers Merc Unit (part of the 4HU Fan Group) and I think I finally went to bed around 0430.

I was up again at 0700 because I wanted to see the sunrise. It was soon enough time for breakfast, hosted by the Kennedys (Chris and Sheellah) and the Wandreys (Mark and Joy). A lot of the people there were moving slowly. Not me, though. I planned on sleeping later. Everyone else gathered round for waffles.

Survivors at the FactoryCon 2021 Recovery Breakfast

Sadly, it was about time for FactoryCon 2021 to end. Many goodbyes were had and plans for next year made. Those of us who were remaining behind, though, continued on with the Cantina Writer’s Retreat and went back to the Coinjock Marina for dinner a second time.

Monday had most everyone else moving out. Our foursome, along with the Wandrey’s, and Marisa Wolf and her husband, remained behind. I got a lot of words down on paper and did some laundry (side note: those washer machine prices were highway robbery). Jamie, who’d been battling a migraine since Friday, was finally feeling better.

Tuesday was spent working on some scenes in THE EXECUTIONERS before we called it a week. I had an allergic reaction Tuesday night and took some benadryl before crashing. Can’t be allergic if you’re in a coma, right? Wednesday morning had us rolling out early before dawn, and I arrived home just before noon. Jamie, Rob, and Mark still had 14 hours to go until they were in Kansas City, so I bade them well on the next leg of their Cannonball Run. I got word earlier they made it just fine and Mark is well on his way home to Colorado.

All in all, it was a great week. It was nice to be able to get away. When authors get together and brainstorm, it’s amazing how many great ideas and plots come out of it. Writer retreats should be a more common thing. Not a writer’s retreat/workshop, mind you. Just a place where authors can get together, swap ideas, help each other, and not worry about critiques. It’s one of the reasons why I’m not a fan of writers groups.

That’s an entirely different rant for another day, though.

Thank you to Chris Kennedy and everyone who helped make FactoryCon a rousing success. Barring something I can’t foresee at the moment, I will definitely be returning in 2022.

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