FantaSci, once again, was a blast to attend.
First off, let’s congratulate Joel Lyons and his staff for a smooth-running weekend. Any problems which arose with programming was handled swiftly and promptly, and the dining out experience was something I’ll definitely never forget (if you were there, you know what I’m talking about…). I know I enjoyed myself, and I’m pretty sure just about everyone else did as well. Now, on to the after action review!
For me, the convention started in Friday morning, early. I’ve been a little quiet about my career shift from full-time writer to full-time writer and part-time Baen Books employee. Since I wear two hats at most conventions now, I have a different set of responsibilities on top of my usual writer-ish ones. This was the first time I got to go full-tilt. In my opinion? It went well.
Friday morning we had a few Baen authors, as well as Chris Kennedy Publishing authors and their families, arrive at Baen HQ to receive tours of the office. Now, this is something we don’t do very often. Having that many people in the office at one time is… strange. I’m used to it being myself and Sean CW Korsgaard, our PR/Media Relations guy. So 20+ people walking around, enjoying the tour and having a grand old time, was strange. However, things went very well and everyone got to pick up a few books (or in the case of a few authors, a box of books for reference and “light reading”) before heading back across town to enjoy FantaSci. Sean and I were planning on heading over later once we were done. And head over we did.
Checking into the convention went smoothly. They had my badge prepared along with my schedule of panels. There was a slight scheduling issue I’d warned them about in advance which slipped through the cracks but was taken care of immediately by Dave Cleric, who was running programming for the weekend. However, checking into my hotel room was not smooth at all. The room wasn’t ready for me quite yet so I sat in the lobby for over at hour with all of my things, as well as the stuff for the Baen Road Show, before I finally managed to get into my room.
That finally squared away (I got my favorite room again, so I guess I shouldn’t whine too much), I was able to mingle and see all my friends and fellow authors. Right off the bat I found Mia Kleve (editor for CKP and WordFire Press), Nick Steverson and his wife, Jolie, as well as his parents, Kevin and Stacey Steverson. I also found Chris Kennedy, my publisher, as well as his charming wife Sheellah. I spotted Joy Wandrey (didn’t find her husband Mark until the following day — he had a busy weekend) and quite a few others in the first few hours. Oh, can’t forget Marisa Wolf and her husband, Jeremy!
That’s one of the things I love about smaller conventions. You find everyone rather quickly. FantaSci is still small but growing fast. They also bring in guests who the fans want to see. It allows for the fans to get close to the authors and spend some time with them, instead of simply ten seconds for an autograph before said author disappears to somewhere private. Granted, it also helps that the guests were more than accommodating to speak with the fans (One example? Faith Hunter (Faith Hunter!!!!) was parked by the fireplace almost all day Saturday, reading a book and enjoying the festivities in between panels).
Another thing that FantaSci does (a lot of southern cons do this, I’ve noticed) is to raise money for a local charity. This year it was Saving Grace K9s, who work to bring disabled veterans and rescue dogs together. Originally I’d planned to offer a simple Tuckerization in an upcoming novel but after speaking with my MONSTER HUNTER MEMOIRS: FEVER coauthor Larry Correia, we decided to go ahead and offer a Tuckerization in that novel instead. I don’t know what the final tally was for the charity auction as a whole was, but I do know that our Tuckerization brought in $300 alone, so that was pretty freaking awesome.
(A Tuckerization is when you use a person’s name and some description in a guest appearance in a novel… a special nod to the fans, as it were)
Friday night was the Baen dinner with their authors. It’s a thing where Toni Weisskopf, Editor in Chief at Baen, takes authors and their families (as well as Baen employees… whee!) out to dinner. It was great and I got to sit next to bestselling author Jacob Holo, as well as WITCHY EYE author D.J. Butler. Both men are extremely intelligent and fascinating. It’s no wonder I like their books.
Once back at the con hotel, I made my way to the bar, where everyone was watching the NCAA tournament in TV. I stopped paying attention to college basketball years ago so I didn’t really have a vested interest. However, watching the underdog take down another highly-ranked seen was pleasing. After a few drinks with some of the authors, it was time for me to head to bed. I’d been up for almost 22 hours at that point and I was ready for sleep.
Up early (per the usual) and had breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant. I do enjoy a good breakfast buffet. Afterwards I grabbed my stuff and headed to my first panel, Chris Kennedy Publishing: The Year Ahead. This was a cool one because CKP has been steadily pumping out almost 60 original titles a year for the past five years. I also got to see the upcoming cover for THE EXECUTIONERS, coauthored by myself and Matt Novotny. It’s coming out April 29 and I am super stoked about this one. It is one hell of a ride. I don’t have cover art to show off just yet, but I’ll have it soon. In the meantime, MARKETING!
Right after the CKP Year Ahead, we had the Baen Traveling Road Show, hosted by Toni Weisskopf. This was my first road show as a Baen employee and it allowed me to see first hand just how much hard work goes into this. The laptop we brought wasn’t compatible with the projector but fortunately I had my writing laptop with me, so we were able to get things going smoothly and without a hitch. Afterwards it was out to Indian food with D.J. Butler and Sean while we talked work stuff.
Once back, it was immediately off to my first “real” panel of the weekend. To be fair, I was told I would be Moderator of the “A Law Unto Themselves” panel in advance. In my defense, I told them I was a horrible Moderator and not the person one would want in charge of anything, much less a panel. However, I had some quality panelists on there with me, even though I had no idea what I was doing. They pretty much pulled my butt out of the fire. Butler, Bill Mulligan, and Julie Frost really carried that panel. I was just sort of… there.
From there it was straight into “Miscreant E-4s” where someone decided Kevin Steverson (retired Army NCO) was the perfect fit for moderating a panel like this. Joining me and Kevin were Kal Spriggs (Army), Casey Moores (Air Force), and Scott “Hillbilly” Tackett (Air Force).This panel was about the supposed existence of the “E-4 Mafia” which, any E-4 will tell you, simply does not exist. It’s a myth officers and senior NCOs talk about when they lose crap or an enterprising young E-4 finds a way to get the impossible done in less-than-normal ways. There is not such thing as the E-4 Mafia.
I had a brief break before I was off to my final panel of the weekend. This one, “Building An Alternate History World”, was probably my favorite because a book idea sprung from it. Rob Howell, Charles E. Gannon, Chris Kennedy, D.J. Butler and I pretty much discussed everything you can about alternate history and how one tiny little change can alter majors events. Probably my favorite panel of the weekend due to the fact that I definitely have at least a novel out of this.
The 4HU Dining out event was next. It was my first time going and I didn’t really know what to expect. It was hosted by Marisa Wolf and Kevin Steverson, and had an actual script. I was surprised but I figured as long as I didn’t do anything egregious, I would avoid the grog.
What is the grog, you ask? It’s vile and disgusting. There’s historical lessons behind the origins of the grog that I’m not going in to. Suffice to say, I was on my best behavior (unlike Nick Steverson, the poor bastard… never pick a fight with the hostess) and thought I’d escaped the grog unscathed…
…until Sheellah Kennedy (betrayed by my publisher’s wife!) spotted a chicken bone which had mysteriously managed to fall perfectly under my chair during the festivities. Wasting food is a gross violation of the rules. Punishment? The grog.
I can smell a setup. This? This reeked of setup but hey, who am I to stop other people from having a good time at my expense? After some half-hearted protests (I had to protest some, since I didn’t even have chicken for dinner) I went ahead and accepted my portion of the grog.
Truth be told, it wasn’t bad. The entire bottle of hot sauce they’d poured in was what got you. The booze itself was actually quite tasty.
Chris Kennedy was a gentleman and a scholar and believed me when I said I wasn’t at fault for the random chicken bone under my chair, so he went up there and had the grog with me. Neither of us screwed up the toast, nor did we allow a single drop of the grog to go undrunk.
Blood sacrifice Requirements satisfied, the dining out soon ended. I had a lot of fun.
Afterwards it was time for karaoke. Nick Steverson and I might have continued drinking after the dining out event and were feeling pretty confident in our abilities to not go to the karaoke. Nick’s mom Stacey, however, thought otherwise and tried to chase us down and make us go. Nick and I, believing we were younger than we actually were, decided to run. And run we did, with an angry southern woman hot on our heels and yelling at us to get back here so we could go to karaoke. Giggling like a couple of drunken idiots (…well, I mean, you know how it goes…) we managed to ditch her by fleeing down the hall and cutting through a doorway out onto the veranda.
Here is where Nick and I proved we were a couple of drunken idiots. Instead of using the stairs like a normal person would, Nick leapt off the landing to the pavement below. It didn’t look too high so I followed suit, still laughing. If he could do it, so could I. Right?
As I flew through there air, I reassessed many things. Gravity. Beer. Velocity multiplied by force squared. My squishy self. My age. My horrible knees.
It was at this moment we both realized that we fucked up.
The stairs apparently were higher than we’d been led to believe by the alcohol. Alcohol lies to you. Who knew, right? Makes you think you can kick that giant dude’s ass, makes you believe you can sing when you really sound like a turkey being murdered on Thanksgiving… makes you think you are younger and spryer than you really are. So instead of two or three steps leapt, it was over half a dozen. Nick landed first and “ninja rolled” (i.e., he face planted and his knee took the brunt of it while he partially landed in some mulch, which saved him a lot of pain) and I followed suit, though I had no mulch to protect my precious face. Fortunately I have good reflexes and managed to get my hands up to catch myself on the pavement so I would not rip my new Hawaiian shirt. Instead of damaging my shirt, I jacked up my palms. But the shirt is fine!
Bloodied, battered, and still giggling like a couple of twelve year old who think they got one over on momma, we bolted. We managed to lose her and snuck into my room, where we assessed the damage and tried to stop laughing.
…ow? That was more blood of mine than I wanted to see. Nick (lucky bastard) only scraped his knee. My palms still hurt two days later.
Eventually we cleaned up and triumphantly… made our way into karaoke.
We go to our deaths on our own terms, and not others. This is the way.
Eventually (0300?) I finally called it a night. My hands hurt like hell and I knew I’d be up early (my body refuses to let me sleep past 0700), so I went to sleep.
Had breakfast with superfan and first reader Collyn on Sunday morning. We were joined by Jacob Holo and his wife, Heather. We chatted for a bit before I went back to my room and packed up. Lunch with the CKP crowd at a local Mexican restaurant capped off a fun weekend, and I was home half an hour after leaving the convention. It’s good to live close!
Congratulations to my good friend Nathan Balyeat for getting his first professional short story sold. He was a finalist for the FantaSci fantasy writing contest this year and, due to this, was featured in the KEEN EDGE OF VALOR anthology edited by Rob Howell. I know he’s been working hard getting his foot in the door. Now I just need to bug him about that novel…
FantaSci was awesome. I can’t wait until next year. I know I missed people in this AAR who I interacted with, but it’s not intentional and I really was happy to see you. Special thanks to the Storm Breakers Mercenary Unit for unwittingly agreeing to be redshirted in my upcoming 4HU novel, ON A CLOUDY DAY. Theme? EVERYONE DIES, BUT NOBODY QUITS.
Every merc knows they need to read the fine print of their contract. 😀
**edit — I completely forgot to mention hanging out with author Kevin Ikenberry a bunch this weekend. Total failure on my part. Kevin, for those of you who might not know, has been one of my biggest professional influences over the past few years as well as supporter. He celebrated a new book release at FantaSci (REDACTED WEAPON, coauthored with the aforementioned Kevin Steverson) and will have a new book released by Baen this coming August called THE CROSSING. Plus, I finally got to meet his family. It was great seeing him and meeting all of the Ikenberry crew.