I’d written off doing WorldCon, for various reasons related to professional decisions — us new writer folk still gotta try to get the most bang for our convention bucks — but I’ve been talked into going by my (soon to be announced) collaborator. A venerable name in science fiction, and a man I absolutely trust to know what he is talking about. So, I shall be appearing at both World Science Fiction Convention and World Fantasy Convention. Money? Time off from work? Trivialities! I shall live on Top Ramen and bunk at the Motel 6! I can float the trips on my Diner’s Club card! Insanity! (smirk) Seriously, this is a 180-degree decision for me, but it feels like the right thing to do. WorldCon won’t ever be this close to Utah again — not for many years. And I’ve got too many good reasons to go.
It’s my pleasure to announce that the six bestselling authors who co-operate the Superstars Writing Seminar — Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, David Farland (Wolverton), Brandon Sanderson, and Sherrilyn Kenyon — have re-launched their web site, in preparation for their third annual event in Las Vegas, April 2012.
I’ve previously blogged here on this page about the workshops and classes I’ve done in the past. Twice I’ve been out to Lincoln City to participate in the wonderful professional short fiction and novel workshops run by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I’ve also been to Los Angeles for the excellent Writers of the Future workshop. I’ve been to Life, The Universe & Everything, both as a fan and want-to-be-writer, and then again as a published panelist.
Each time I go to one of these learning nexuses — because that’s what they are — I wind up having an entirely new experience that illuminates for me some hidden or unexpected reality about the business of professional fiction. Which is why I’ve chosen to keep pursuing these opportunities, sometimes at significant cost. Because for many years I refused to do such workshops, figuring I’d do them when I’d earned enough from writing to have “extra” in my pocket, with which I could afford such “luxuries.”
That was pure foolishness on my part. I was trying to sail my ship in a sealed bottled. You can’t navigate the seas of professional fiction writing without solid information to guide you in your craft as well as your business. And while you could spend hundreds of dollars on “how to be a writer” books, you’d not get even half the value you can get from even a few hours spent sitting and listening to bestselling professionals tell you about how they did it — and how they still keep doing it. Their lessons learned, their mistakes, their cautionary tales. And of course their encouragement.
When I did the “Kris and Dean Show” two-day weekend workshop in 2009, it really knocked me for a loop — sent me far outside my comfort zone. I had a lot of myths debunked, and I started to look at my writing and the whole enterprise of fiction in an entirely new light. I still credit Kris Rusch and Dean Smith for being the people who got me back on track after years of futility.
Superstars promised to be a “next level” workshop — something I could sink my teeth into as a published new guy. Beyond craft, it was purposely designed to be a 100% business and lifestyle-focused seminar. No round-robin critiques. No ripping apart manuscripts. Just hours and hours of brass-tacks data and conversation about what it takes to not just be a writer, but a bestselling professional writer. The kind of writer who consistently hits the New York Times list and makes lots of money while doing what most of us still consider to be a dream job: writing for a living.
I was not disappointed. It was exactly as Kevin J. Anderson had said it would be, when he brought it up with me at Writers of the Future in 2010. It was like all the best parts of the WOTF workshop, but blown up and expanded to an entire three-day table-running marathon of information: contracts, royalties, sales pitches, self-promotion, e-publishing vs. paper publishing, the pitfalls of same, and so much more.
And of course, as is almost always the case with these kinds of things, some of the best learning was the learning that didn’t happen during the structured time. If ever you’ve been to a convention or sat and listened to an author speak, but were too afraid to go up and introduce yourself and ask questions or say hello, Superstars gives you every opportunity to meet and mingle with all of the panelists. All of whom have been doing what they’re doing for years and years, and are able to give a variety of valuable perspectives on practically any kind of writing-business question you might be able to come up with.
Before I left the 2011 Superstars Seminar, I bought the MP3 for the 2010 seminar, so that I could re-listen to everything that had been part of the structured portions of the event — and let the information re-circulate in my brain. I’ve done this for the last week now, re-listening to at least two hours of the workshop per day. Remembering all the in-between-panels discussions I had with the authors and the other attendees. And being reminded again that to make it in the business you really do have to dedicate yourself to it as a lifetime project. It’s not a game for dilettantes. Nobody becomes a bestseller by being a hobbyist. At some point you have to push other things in your life aside and determine for yourself that you’re going to do it and make it. Whatever else happens. Let nothing get in your way. Log the hours. Never give up. Ever.
If you feel like you’re needing that level of kick-in-the-butt professional wisdom, I highly, highly recommend Superstars Writing Seminar. It measured up admirably against the previous experiences I’d had in Lincoln City and Los Angeles, and in fact complimented them so nicely that I felt like Superstars was a magnificent addition to — not a re-hashing of — my existing knowledge. Many thanks to everyone who helped make 2011 possible, and I hope everyone reading this — who want to be professional writers — will click the link and look at the seminar. Even if you can’t attend — it is an investment, no question — they sell the DVDs from the previous seminars, and MP3 as I have purchased. It’s a great way to reboot your brain if you’ve been stuck in the doldrums with your writing, or are feeling otherwise confused or baffled about how it’s all supposed to work.
This will be my third time attending Brigham Young University’s Life, The Universe & Everything symposium in February, 2011. It will also be my second time as a panelist. For this year, I’m on four panels:
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17 – 3:00 PM
– Slush Piles and what not to do when submitting your writing.
(Ami Chopine, Lisa Mangum, Brad R. Torgersen, James Dashner)
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18 – 2:00 PM
– Characters’ morals/theology vs. authors’ morals/theology.
(Aleta Clegg, Dan Wells, Tracy Hickman, Brad R. Torgersen, James Dashner)
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19 – 9:00 AM
– What I wish I had done, if I could do it all over again – A Guide to New Writers.
(Lisa Mangum, L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Brad R. Torgersen, Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury)
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20 – 12:00 PM (noon)
– Military on Military SF.
(Lee Allred, L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Roger White, Brad R. Torgersen)
Wow, I’ll be sitting with some very experienced, bestselling company on some of those panels. I am glad they’re doing the Military panel again, as I think there is a ton of curiosity on the part of writers about how to write about the military, military people, or military scenarios when doing science fiction. All four of us on that panel are either current or prior service, so please drop in if you want to ask questions. Last year’s panel was very well attended, and I hope to see more of the same for this year.
For details about the symposium, please see the LTUE web site. They’re doing it in a new building this year, with better parking. I believe students — of any sort, from any school — still get free admission. Otherwise, weekend price for all three days is $20. Having done numerous workshops, conventions, seminars, and so forth, I think LTUE is outstanding for writers and artists interested in getting into the industry — not to mention fans who want to come out and meet the (many, many) writers and artists working at various levels in the Utah creative community.
ETA, new data from Marny Parkin of LTUE:
There have been some questions about the rates and who qualifies.
The deadline for the pre-registration rate is January 28.
Student rates (free) are available to ANY student with a current ID card–UVU, UofU, SUU, high school, jr. high, etc. (not just BYU students). If you home school, bring in the signed documentation from your school district to qualify.
Banquet tickets are limited, so if you want to attend the banquet get your order in quickly. We hope to have the Web site adjusted to allow banquet-only purchases soon (or you can just call).
Single day rates are $10. If you would like to purchase more than one single-day membership, go back through the check-out page and order another.
Visit ltue.org for general information, or you can go directly to the registration page.
We hope to see you there!
Second administrative note for everyone who attended Friday’s 1:00 PM panel: on the worksheet where it says, “NEVER say ‘thank you’ to an editor,” it should have said, “NEVER say anything but ‘thank you!’ to an editor. Whoops! And here I thought I’d meticulously proofed that two-pager. Just goes to show you that the writing mind often inserts words mentally where there aren’t really words. Crap, now there is probably someone who will NEVER say ‘thank you’ to an editor, it will doom their writing career, and in 10 years they’ll show up at a con I’m attending, with a shotgun and a suicide note…
Meanwhile, I got some news via Facebook that makes me smile mighty big. Someone I know through the InterToob who has been working very hard at his writing for many years, finally had a terrific win. Big-time stuff. The sort of stuff that makes you want to stand up and do the Bill Cosby Boogie. We’ve butted heads once or twice — you know how the InterToob is — but I’ve always hoped (as a fellow traveler) that this gentleman would have the satisfaction of a certain significant publication victory.
Now he has it. I’ll let him crow when he’s got official clearance to crow, but for now I want to remind EVERYBODY — especially people who came to panels at CONduit — that this really is a persistence game. No magic tricks. No secret passwords. No luck involved. Because luck is MADE through diligence and unrelenting effort. You keep writing and you keep working hard and using your time to do what Dean Wesley Smith calls ‘focused learning’ and you will succeed. Might take years. Heck, for the above-mentioned fellow, it did take years. It took me years too. But it can be done, if you have even a smidgen of talent. Hard work and never giving up are 90% of it. Really.
ADMIN EDIT: Apologies to everyone who got the worksheet for Friday’s 1:00 PM panel. There is a line on there in the ‘never’ category that says, “NEVER say ‘thank you’ to an editor!” It should actually read, “Never say anything but ‘thank you!’ to an editor!” A small — but potentially big — error. Because I know aspirant writers and how slavishly aspirant writers follow advice. I was an aspirant, don’t try and tell me we aren’t like that. So please, be sure to ALWAYS THANK AN EDITOR any time they take time to look at your work! Got it? ALWAYS THANK AN EDITOR! (click here for a corrected version of the two-page worksheet)
I had a good time at the 20th iteration of Salt Lake City’s largest yearly Science Fiction & Fantasy convention, CONduit. This was only my third time attending, and my second time attending as a panelist. Last time I sat on a panel at CONduit was for CONduit 3 in 1993, and there were more panelists than guests in the audience.
This time, the two panels I did were VERY well attended.
First panel was on Friday at 1 PM and covered how to submit for publication. Most con panels hit the usual topics of world creation and character development, but I’d wanted to do something covering the pragmatics of submission — a topic about which there can be no end of confusion for new writers. Thankfully the con committee agreed, and by my count we got something like 70 people in the audience. So obviously there were a lot of writers wanting to get information — makes me glad I made as many copies as I did of the two-page “tips and links” worksheet I handed out to all the attendees.
My co-panelists (I was moderator) were: Larry Correia of Monster Hunter International fame; Bob Defendi of Writers of the Future and role-playing writing fame; Dan Willis of Dungeons & Dragons novel writing fame; and Eric James Stone of Writers of the Future, Analog Science Fiction, and IGMS fame. Speaking as the junior-most author on the panel, I was hugely gratified to be sitting alongside such folk, and I hope I acquitted myself well in my role as forum “driver” for the hour. Won’t bore you with a play-by-play, but we ran the table on short fiction and novel submission methods, modes, practices, as well as a healthy dose of how-to advice on agents, editors, and numerous cautionary tales. Much obliged to Dan, Eric, Larry and Bob for providing the crowd with a ton of good advice.
Second panel was Friday at 5 PM, and like the first, covered aspects important to aspirants. The panel was called, “A Writer’s Life,” and we spieled about topics related to what it’s like to be a writer, or perhaps more importantly, what it takes to be a writer. Panelists were myself, Julie Wright of YA lit fame, again Dan Willis, John Brown of Servant of a Dark God fame, and Nathan Shumate who has sold short fiction and is currently doing work as a reviewer.
Nobody seemed to know who was moderating, and we didn’t have a list of topics to cover, but it didn’t really matter because a panel like that had plenty to talk about. Pretty much all of us agreed that if you can walk away from writing and be fine with it, then that’s your signal probably that writing isn’t your passion. But if you can’t walk away from writing — no matter how much it drives you nuts, no matter how many rejections you get — then probably there is more going on that meets the eye, and maybe you owe it to yourself to spend the time necessary to get a little — or a lot — serious about it.
Most of my comments were along the lines of, “Don’t goof off for the better part of two decades like I did!” I hammered on people not letting rejection slow down or stop their production, as well as the need to treat all rejection as just part of the business. We as a whole panel hammered the idea that all writing is practice and you can’t avoid it, and you damned well better not send your “practice” to market because sooner or later, it will find a home. Other items I think we agreed on as a whole: send to the top markets first, then work down; give yourself goals and don’t flake out on doing the daily or weekly wordcount; and absolutely don’t take anything in a rejection letter personally. The last part was especially important for me, because I’ve let rejections get to me before, and if I only knew ten years ago what I know now… Well, you get the idea.
As with the first panel, I felt very gratified to be sitting at the same table as these authors, all of whom have been publishing longer than I have and who told the audience a tremendous amount of good advice — the kind of “trenches” wisdom I am not sure you can get anywhere else, besides a good panel at a good conference or convention.
Beyond Friday and the two panels I did, I sat in the audience for a number of good panels, with some of the people named above, but also many people I did not name.
L.E. Modesitt, Jr., is arguably one of the most astute, experienced, and worthwhile authors in the substantial Utah SF & F author pool. I always try to see as many of his panels I can, regardless of topic, because I have found his brand of wisdom to be articulate, insightful, incisive, and worthy of further contemplation. Lee sports an impressive resume above and beyond his writing career — which is arguably the most lettered and impressive of anyone attending this year’s CONduit — and it was a pleasure to hear him speak.
Barbara Hambly was author Guest of Honor and had some pithy commentary of her own. Like L.E. she’s got an impressive resume both in and out of writing, though some of her prognostication about the future of the industry was a little on the cloudy site — especially for Fantasy writers. Her opinion that games such as World of Warcraft had obliterated the Fantasy consumer market — because everyone is out playing their own fantasy adventures instead of reading about them in someone’s book — was disturbingly plausible. Still, I have to hope that not everyone doing MMORPG these days is so “lifeless” (hat tip: South Park) as to be utterly out of the book-buying pool.
Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells were on hand for their Writing Excuses podcast, which featured Dan’s brother Rob Wells — also an author, and also with books on the way — as well as James Dashner of The Maze Runner fame. Howard Tayler (who does the Schlock Mercenary web comic) was out of town, attending BaltiCon, so guests like James and Julie (above) and L.E. (also above) were on hand to fill two hours and many ‘casts worth of time. If you’re one of the three aspiring authors on the planet who still haven’t gone to the Writing Excuses web site and listened to a podcast, go now — run, do not walk — to the web site and give it a listen. Brandon, Dan, Howard, and their guests always do a good job of providing insightful and valuable info — while also being entertaining in the process.
I stole a tidbit of Brandon’s time at the end to ask him about his editor and agent. Brandon was a little cagey about his answers — understandable, given his very rapid rise up the writing food chain, since taking over the Wheel of Time series from Robert Jordan — but he still gave good information. If ever I do decided to approach an agent, Joshua Bilmes’s agency is probably one of the few I will look at, mostly because the word-of-mouth is generally positive, and with the world run over with crap agents, word-of-mouth seems like the best kind of vetting. Especially from someone like Brandon.
I also chatted with Rob Wells, for whom I am very happy that he’s got his own series coming out in the not too distant future. Rob is also proof again that there is a very substantial amount of authorial oomph in the Beehive State. Some of us Mormons, some of us not. Everybody writing away like mad, and some of us having a very good go of it. For myself, I look at Rob, and his brother, and Brandon, and Larry Correia, and everybody else who is further up the ladder from me, as inspiration to work just that much harder, produce just that much more new material, and — as Dean Wesley Smith advises — “make” my own good luck through persistent effort.
Saturday early evening was spent having dinner with Larry Correia, Paul Genesse, Eric Swedin, Julie Frost, and several other friends of same. I’d say Larry dominated the conversation in the humorous stories department, but I was especially touched to learn that Eric Swedin is a very recent survivor of a very dreadful and dangerous brain aneurism. Had he not showed us the scarring, I’d have never noticed, but the fact that he survived a) mentally intact and b) with such a swift recovery, is nothing if not miraculous. Which of course took the entire dinner conversation down some very serious roads, which is OK by me because as one of my compatriots at WOBC once said, I am a “two mile deep” kind of guy, and small talk — while comfortable for the first minute or two — is just the aperture to the REAL conversation, where you find out who people really are and what they’re about. Sobering, and heartwarming, I am glad I went and I am glad for the experience and the good company.
Saturday late evening I stuck around long enough to offer AM 630 radio’s Sector 5 talk show a few minutes of verbal gesticulation on the matter of breaking into publication, and not quitting or letting rejection tell you to quit. Having done quite a bit of community radio — my writing really began with the community radio serial Searcher & Stallion in its first iteration — it was nice to be back in front of a mic. Hopefully what I said proved valuable to listeners, as I tried not to speak on anything about which I didn’t feel authorized to speak. As the newbiest newb author at the con, I stuck with what I know: stubborn persistence in spite of the odds, and a penchant for total slackertivity.
Sunday was an enlarged version of Saturday’s dinner conversation, with almost 20 of us(??) crammed into the Radisson’s main floor restaurant. Got to gab with Eric James Stone and Utah paranormal hunter Tom Carr. Eric is always good company, and Tom was a very funny fellow in his own right. I think we had the best time discussing what it had been like growing up as role-playing gamer Mormon kids in the 80’s, when religious parents of all stripes tended to equate role gaming of any description with “devil worship” and worse. We all agreed: the joke is full circle, and many a role-playing gamer is now sitting in some type of authority position in Wards and Stakes across Utah, to the point that Tom has been asked to fireside about his paranormal investigatory antics.
What was it the Muhatma said? “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” Hah! 80’s parents, your spawn have risen! I’ll take a d20 roll for double damage, Alex!
Sunday afternoon I hit panels featuring Barbara Hambly, Eric Swedin, Amy Chopine, and Lesli Muir Lytle. Lesli’s panel on romance — beyond bodice-rippers and heaving bosoms — was interesting for me because I am eyeing out a romance project — yes, I am serious — for the end of the summer when I get back from Writers of the Future. Lesli had a ton of after-panel advice for me in the hallway, and I was grateful to have her insight, as well as Barbara’s. (Though why heaving bosoms could be a problem in any way, shape, or form is beyond me — something I’ve discussed before on this blog; hah!)
Somewhere in the three days — I can’t recall when — I also got to talk to Carolyn Nicita and Darren Eggett. Carolyn has been known to me since Conduit 3 when she and her audio troupe were on the same audio SF panel as myself and the Searcher & Stallion guys. Carolyn and Co. did a wonderful half-hour audio story called, “The Saboteur,” which got a lot of air-play by myself and the S&S guys, so much so that my cassette of “Saboteur” eventually croaked. Darren was interesting to talk to because he’d done the Masters Class that Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch run out in Oregon. I’ve done three of their workshops — though not the dreaded Masters marathon — and was curious to find out what Darren thought of it. I must make sure to nab him for a better conversation next time.
I went home from the con feeling both energized — my badge is ORANGE and it says SPECIAL GUEST and I got to BE ON PANELS — and daunted. I still have so much work to do. Having climbed from the top of the aspirant mountain onto the bottom rung of the professional ladder, I am suddenly looking up at everyone else above me and going, oh wow, there is so much I haven’t done yet, so much I still have to do, and so many ways it can all go so wrong even if I am trying my best. Sobering. But also invigorating. Those people on that ladder, they are some Good People! They inspire me. And I like a good challenge too.
Dramatis Personae (click to open new pages)
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
John D. Brown
Lesli Muir Lytle
Eric James Stone
Many thanks to one and all, who helped me feel like part of the ‘scene!’ It was a lot of fun, it was a reminder of how much work I have ahead of me, and it was the kind of experience I don’t think I will ever forget.
Overall, it was a great time for me. For those local Utahns who are writing, I highly recommend this conference. Life, The Universe & Everything is 100% free of charge, is held annually at the Brigham Young University campus, and no, you don’t have to be a Mormon to attend. Most of those who do attend, are, but nobody cares if you’re not, and there is a significant writing track populated with established and up-and-coming pro authors.
For example, Brandon Sanderson — now finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and doing a damned good job of it by most counts — was the 2010 guest of honor. Brandon is the kind of ‘big’ author who is still close enough to his aspirant roots that he doesn’t put on airs and he will happily talk to anyone after panels, on panels, in the halls, and so forth. He and his close friends Dan Wells — the David Hasselhoff of horror fiction in Europe — and Howard Tayler — excellent humorist and creator and artist of Schlock Mercenary, are LTUE fixtures. I had a chance to speak with all three of them at various points during the 3-day event, and Howard especially was fascinating to speak with, since he and Eric James Stone and I spent a fair amount of time gabbing in the Green Room on Saturday. Thanks, Eric and Howard!
I also spent a fair amount of time gabbing with Larry Correia and John Brown. Larry is, of course, the author of Baen’s latest, very-explosive hot property, Monster Hunter International. MHI is selling like hotcakes and Larry is already onboard for numerous sequels, in addition to the recently-sold Grimnoir Chronicles. John meanwhile is one of Tor Books’ latest entities, and his Servant of a Dark God is out in hardback and available nationwide. As with Sanderson & Co., Larry and John are super-friendly fellows and will happily talk with and entertain anybody. John and Larry did a 2-hour class on Thursday that was a hoot, and it’s clear John is passionate about helping aspirants and other writers succeed with their fiction. I had copies of both their books and got to play fanboy, in addition to baby author.
Speaking of playing fanboy, I also got L.E. Modesitt, Jr., to sign one of his books for me, in addition to answering questions about the editorial process at novel houses vs. magazines. L.E. (aka “Lee”) is a terrifically smart person who has lived a lot of life and learned a lot of lessons and is a magnificent addition to any panel he is on. He’s generally only at LTUE for the Saturday session, and this year he was only there for the morning, which is why I knew I had to nab him early. Unassuming, intelligent, immaculately dressed, L.E. has been publishing longer than some of the aspirants in the crowd have been alive. Insightful, patient, yet not willing to suffer fools or foolishness gladly, Lee is sort of the Honored Patriarch of both the LTUE and CONduit writing tracks, and I consider myself fortunate that Lee is willing to come out and share knowledge with newbies, aspirants, and established writers alike.
Other notables I was able to meet and speak with are…..
Robert Defendi, who has quite a funny rep among Utah’s SF&F writing scene and has done a lot of work in the role-playing industry for many years. His track record in that regard is extensive, and he’s quite the character in person.
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury, a self-described ‘cat herder’ at Orson Scott Card’s Hatrack River writers’ forum, as well as being a published author, Writers of the Future winner — along with Eric James Stone, myself, Robert Defendi, Lee Allred, etc.
Dan Willis, who has written some Dungeons & Dragons novels and is now poised to strike out on his own, most recently with a Steampunk series.
The previously-mentioned Lee Allred, a fellow servicemember and published author who — I found out in conversation — is quite friendly with Kris Rusch and Dean Smith, so I will be sure to say hello to both Kris and Dean for him when I go out there next week.
Dave Wolverton, wasn’t able to attend this year due to a movie commitment in China(!) but like L.E. Modesitt, Jr., he’s something of an Honored Patriarch at LTUE and CONduit and has more wonderful insight and writing wisdom in him than half a dozen other authors combined. Dave, you were missed.
I don’t know if James Dashner is a regular at LTUE, but he was this year’s ‘victim’ for the live Writing Excuses podcast, wherein James declared that Brandon Sanderson smells like poo, and much hilarity was had by the packed-room audience who did all they could to derail the podcast from its serious intent. Oh, and Dan Wells is a bacon afficianado. I shall have to remember that.
And this list doesn’t contain even half the names of wonderful and talented people who attended — and attend — the LTUE symposium. Makes me wonder how it is that so much professional talent has managed to collect itself here, in the reddest of the ‘red’ flyover states. Especially when the bigger regional cons like NorwesCon sometimes don’t have a writing track even half as strong as that offered by LTUE.
My deep thanks to all the established writers and especially the Patriarchs and the Name pros who took the time to shake my hand, listen to my questions, answer at length, and then ask a few questions of their own. Also thanks to all the aspirants who asked me questions — about Writers of the Future and much else. I hope I was able to provide useful information and I hope I was able to make the time you spent attending my panels worthwhile. Both the Friday panel on Military SF and the Saturday panel on short stories were well attended, and for next year I’m hoping to get LTUE to expand the military panel to two hours, and possibly add a one-hour panel dedicated specifically to Writers of the Future — LTUE has winners falling out of its ears — or maybe a ‘boot camp’ type panel that discusses the writing life: how to set and keep goals, how to prioritize, common mythbusting about submissions and format, etc.
Sat on my first panel as a professionally-sold author today, at LTUE 2010.
Last time I sat on a panel — for any reason — was in 1994 when myself and Scott Howard and the other Searcher & Stallion guys were at CONduit 4 doing a panel on SF audio.
Then, there were more panelists than people come to listen to the panel. Yikes!
Today, not so. The room was very large and very well attended. My three partners on the panel were Colonel Meeks (ret) from the Marine Corps JAG, Steve Harmon who is a former Marine Corps NCO and Desert Storm veteran, and Lee Allred, multi-published SF author and Writers of the Future winner who also happens to be an E-7 in the USAF Reserve who has spent a fair amount of time overseas in various capacities.
Our topic (as if you needed to guess) was putting more real military in Military Science Fiction.
Colonel Meeks had an outstanding presentation yesterday, so today’s panel felt sort of like a follow-up to what he covered. I wish we’d had two hours (or more) because there were so many hands raised and there was so much to talk about, we ran out of time before any of us — panelists or attendees — were even halfway through with what we wanted to talk about.
I must say, Lee Allred was particularly pleasant and unassuming, given his experience as a writer. He could have wiped the floor with the rest of us — in terms of writer clout — but he was very self-depricating (we luv yah Air Force!) and it was fun to sit next to him; though I was sorry to hear about his larynx problems that made it difficult for him to speak up.
I do forget sometimes how much an alien, otherworldly experience the military can be. It’s been seven years since I ‘crossed over’ and for me it’s kind of become no big whoop. But for lifetime civilians, it’s this fascinating, confusing, exciting, and often closed universe about which much folklore and misinformation is spun. Allred, myself, Meeks and Harmon had a good time trying to myth-bust, as it were, and I think the crowd got a lot out of it.
Next year — assuming I am not deployed, knock knock — I am tempted to ask LTUE if they can somehow give us two hours for a similar panel, because we literally only had time to scratch the surface on many topics, and I wish we’d had a bigger window with which to work, for those who had questions and comments and weren’t able to be heard.
I was also reminded — during the after-panel questioning that always happens between attendees and panelists — that I am now officially on the ‘Other Side’ of the equation. Ergo, I am a blue badge, not a white, and this carries Meaning for the white badges. I remember what that was like, since I was a white badge last year. I hope I was able to answer questions sufficiently for those who wanted me to talk post-panel. If not, maybe they can grab me to tomorrow?
Thanks to everyone who attended. It was a terrific introduction — for me — to the experience of being an author panelist.
I’ll be at BYU’s annual “Life, The Universe & Everything” conference this coming weekend.
I’m on two panels:
Friday, February 12 @ 2:00 PM
Military on Military SF: How to make your SF&F military feel more realistic and still stay family-friendly & how to make your military SF seem more like real military.
Saturday, February 13 @ 6:00 PM
How to write a good short story: You have to be concise, clear, articulate, and still keep the reader’s interest. What does a short story writer need to know/do to write a great short story?
The LTUE conference is somewhat unique in my experience, in that it’s an absolutely FREE con that is attended by a (usually) terrific brew of fans, new authors, established authors, and other industry professionals. Notables include Brandon Sanderson, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., Larry Correia, John Brown, Eric James Stone, and many more. Dave Wolverton (aka: Farland) can’t attend this year because he’s in China working on a movie, otherwise he’s a frequent attendee too.
BYU is, of course, Brigham Young University, located in Utah County, Utah. If you’re a Utah science fiction and fantasy writer (of any description) I invite you to drop in during the three-day conference and enjoy the fun. If you’re a reader or a fan, it’s a terrific chance to see and/or meet some significant Names working in the SF and F fields.
EDIT TO ADD: John Brown is doing a two-hour workshop on Thursday at 5:00 PM and going until 7:00 PM. He’s got Larry Correia in the mix for that, and I’ll be in the crowd as well. Among others. Sounds like it’s going to be a very good workshop for all involved.