Rose City Comic Con


Even though Rose City Comic Con is only four years old it’s one of the premier events in Portland, Oregon. It helps that a lot of comic book companies, artists, and game developers call the Pacific Northwest (and Portland in particular) home. There also isn’t a shortage of celebrities willing to come to Rose City. This year’s guests included Carrie Fisher, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Elizabeth Henstridge, Wil Wheaton, Robert Englund, and the legendary Caroll Spinney.

Last year I went as an attendee and had a blast! The heads of programming do a fantastic job of making sure there’s something for everyone. The celebrity guests have their Q&A panels, there’s cosplay tutorials, gaming, concerts, comic book writing panels, photo ops, and interviews with voice actors. Artist’s Alley and the dealer’s room are full of wonderful things that make me wish I didn’t have a budget.

This year I helped out at the Wordfire Press booth in the dealer room and that gave me a completely different view of the convention. The first difference is that I have a much deeper appreciation for the venders. They’re there ALL DAY. Yes, we get breaks so we can eat or pee but other than that we’re at the booth from open to close, standing on an unforgiving concrete floor, answering questions about the merchandise, shouting over the din of 30,000 people just so the person standing two feet away can hear you, and wearing our biggest smile for the attendees. IT’S EXHAUSTING! On top of that you’re hoping that your sales are enough to cover the cost of being there.

That aside it’s still a lot of fun. You get to know your booth neighbors, see all the awesome cosplayers, and watch fans burst into tears when they meet the author they idolize. I got to see a line of R2 and R4 units parade around the dealer hall before it opened to the public. I got to be a part of the marvelous organized chaos that is booth take down. Seriously, it’s fun! Everyone is so tired at that point it makes the jokes and double entendres twice as hilarious.

As much as I would have liked to go to panels with my friends I don’t regret spending the entire weekend at the booth. Instead of just attending the convention I got to be a part of it and that’s a higher level of awesome.

Anthologies, Editing, and Wrestling with Gods

T-18-Cover-110x170-100dpi-C8Liana K and Jerome Stueart are the editors of Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods and the people I have to thank for selecting my story “Burnt Offerings” for publication in the anthology. I’ve written previously (link) about my contribution, but recently I had a chance to ask a few questions of the editors themselves. I asked about how editors select stories out of the slush, what an editor’s job is like and what it means to Wrestle with Gods in speculative fiction stories.


Of all the possible themes for an anthology, why did you pick religion, faith and speculative fiction? What do you think speculative fiction can tell us about faith (and perhaps vice versa)?

LK: The great thing about speculative fiction is that it can create distance between our reality and a fictional one. This allows us to examine things like religion without everyone involved freaking out.

What can it tell us about faith? I think the book shows it can tell us many things. Too numerous to list here!

JS: Personal beliefs make great strong characters, and cultural beliefs that may clash with personal beliefs–that’s good prime tension. Religions ask big questions too— is there more than this life? Are there others out in the universe? How did we get here? What’s our purpose? Science Fiction asks those same big questions–and their answers are often just as profound and interesting–but I think there’s a special intersection that religion and science fiction has where you can stand and look down both streets. Spec fiction lets us talk about faith in a very non-confrontational way, too–certainly a more interesting way. We don’t have to get caught up in the trappings of our own faiths and religions here to talk about “belief” and about “faith”. We don’t have to say Rabbi or cross or bodhisattva–or Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism–but we can use a parable, of sorts, to talk about the ideas behind faith. Sneak behind our biases and prejudices. The alternate world allows us to examine faith in a way that doesn’t feel like we’re breaking any vows or betraying any of our gods.


Many of our readers at The Fictorians are hopeful authors or new authors. Could you tell us about your process for choosing which stories you want to select for an anthology such as Wrestling with Gods? I’m sure those readers would appreciate some advice as they edit their work for submission. What makes a story “stand out” to you?

LK: For this anthology, there had to be something about it that felt alive to me. We were really lucky in that there was a lot of overlap in what Jerome and I thought had that indescribable quality. Many authors haven’t found their unique voice yet, so they copy styles and concepts. That’s great for a spec script, but not for something like this.

In the case of this book, we were also looking for an insider perspective, not some outsiders saying “what a strange people”.

Some stories didn’t get selected just because they didn’t follow the guidelines. Simple things like word count, or the submission deadline. If you’re a hundred words over, no biggie. If you submit something that’s double the word count, that’s really pushing your luck.

JS: When I pick up a good story, I am with a great character doing something interesting immediately, absorbed in his or her world, seeing specific things that lead me to a dilemma quickly–usually within the first paragraph, certainly within the first page. Confident, vivid language and a unique character I can know and empathize with quickly are also telltale signs that I can sit back comfortably and go where the author wants me to go. On the other hand, characters that are not actors in their worlds, who make me have to follow long monologues in their heads, who give me nothing to see, who talk vaguely about their lives, or who drive endlessly while they think—these are stories that I can lay aside. That’s just me. But every one of the stories in Wrestling With Gods fought for their space and earned it with me.


I’ve had readers tell me that they were pleasantly surprised to discover that Wrestling with Gods wasn’t biased for or against religion, or favouring any one faith in particular. The previous question was about how to make an individual story stronger, so for this question, can you tell our readers more about how you “craft” an anthology–the skill set of being an editor and selecting the right stories from the slush? It’s something I’ve not yet done. What do you do to make an anthology the strongest it can possibly be?

LK: Well again, we had it easy in that there are so many religions that deserved representation. And the poetry was so strong!

Once we had our choices, I tried to divide the book into acts, using those poems as breaths. Long stories were separated by shorter ones for pace as well.

We started with the Christian stories because they’d be the most familiar faith to most people. And Mecha-Jesus is just so fun that we thought it was a good introduction, especially since it contained Shintoism as well. Rob Sawyer’s story then provided a balance, because it’s so haunting at the end.

That was our basic step. That pattern replicates throughout the book. I tried to arrange the stories so that there’s a journey for the reader with a crossover to something greater as the final act.

JS: Pick good stories first. I think we both made a pact to do that. I don’t think about “anthology” or “balance” or ANYTHING at the beginning. I’m in the greatest store on earth and I get to pick up anything I like–and so I choose what I enjoy and what I love first. (I’ll mark a maybe, or a “come-back-to-it-later”, but sometimes you go with the stories that grab you.) So, first Pick What You Love. If I fill an anthology with stories I feel passionate about, then I can defend my choices. I don’t add in a story for a fictionalized reader in my head who might like paranormal romances…. if I don’t like the story, I don’t feel like I can put it in.

Once you get the sixty or so short stories that are rockin’ this world, then you have to make some tough choices and, if you are working with a brilliant co-editor who is on your wave-length (and I was lucky, very lucky), she will validate your passions and will also help you discern the ones that are good stories but that may not be AS good as others.

Then when you get the 25-30 selections, you balance them in a readable pattern. I think Liana did a great job of creating for the anthology a reading experience where stories may have opposite effects on you, but have some link next to each other. Each story and poem was linked to the ones beside them so it would seem, perhaps, that you were deep in a conversation about faith (or about heavy metal tattoo artists, or about space exploration…)


Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers, either about writing in general or Wrestling with Gods in particular?

LK: Just because a story isn’t good for a particular book doesn’t mean it’s not good. Write to write. If you’re willing to constantly hone your craft, your time will come.

About Wrestling With Gods, obviously I want people to read the book!

JS: Don’t be shy about dealing with faith or religion in science fiction or fantasy. I think it leads to some greater character depth. You design characters with inner tension, right? Well, there’s no tension like cultural or societal tension rooted in a belief system that the character has either bought into and believes, or has felt abandoned by, or has abandoned. His/her worldview can emerge from this lost/deeply held belief system—and it is never, never, never a clunky cut-and-paste stereotype of “faith”. Faith is the amalgam of our experiences and our beliefs together–and we trim our memories of experiences to match our beliefs (Uncle John would never have done that–so I’m not going to think he did) or trim our faiths to match our experiences (Uncle John sold his son to the Traders. I thought our family had morals.) Every person is unique; every belief emphasizes a bit more of this and a bit less of this because that worked for me and this didn’t. So cool characters can emerge from turning points and disappointments and miracles in their spiritual journey that is lockstep with their physical journey. We craft our faiths, just as we are crafted by them.

You can get your own copy of Wrestling with Gods in digital or print format from Amazon or Indigo/Chapters.

Six Great Take-aways from When Words Collide (2015)

A con is only as good as what you take away from it. When Words Collide 2015 had a fantastic line up of guests and panels to serve it’s 600 attendees. The 2015 guests included Diana Gabaldon (historical), Daniel Abraham (fantasy), C.J. Carmichael (romance), Faith Hunter/Gwen Hunter (urban fantasy/thriller) and Brandon Mull (young adult) as well as literary agents and small/medium press publishers.

Between the workshops and the panels, it was a great weekend to boost the little grey cells. Here are six things I found interesting:

1) On using pen names
Writing is about meeting reader expectations and as a writer you need to be transparent when you set those expectations. So if you use your real name when you write urban romance, it’s best if you use a different name when you write in a different genre like science fiction. Why? Because each name tells the reader what to expect. If they buy a book expecting to read a romance and it’s science fiction, you’ll have one angry fan and you don’t want that. However, each name you use doesn’t need a separate website. Your readers will accept that you have different lines under different names. Beware though, that if you’re writing for vastly different genres, like children’s picture books and erotica, not only are different names appropriate but a different website would be too!

2) Subtext provides depth and foreshadowing
The best foreshadowing is done through subtext. Done well, subtext makes future events more believable, creates mood and adds resonance. Subtext is implied, not said or told. It is the implicit undertone that reinforces an unspoken idea. This whisper campaign plants the seeds of underlying emotions, plots, and things to come in the subconscious mind and gives us deeper levels of hidden meanings within a story. Objects, symbols, actions and character traits are a few ways in which to create subtext.

3) Agents are human!
Whether you’ve got five minutes or two to make your pitch, you still need to start with pleasantries and not simply barrel into the pitch. Make sure you’ve done your research on the agent or publisher you’re pitching to so you can say what’s special about that agency or publishing house and why you think you’d be a good fit with them. Above all, be aware that it’s not just the book they’re assessing, but also if you’d make an adequate partner. The book industry is a team sport but always, the writing has to be great.

4) The business of being published
There are three main areas: Writer (product creation); Marketing (distribution, sales, promotion, platform); and Business (financial, legal, taxes). The key being successful is to know who you are as an individual and to understand how much time you want to spend on each of the three areas. For example, how much strength does your personality have to market? Understand your weaknesses and get help in those areas. Neglect any one and your business suffers BUT above all else, your product is the priority because without a good product, the rest won’t work.

5) Tricks for a successful mystery
This list was long, but here are a few of my favorites: Limit the sleuth’s options by giving him a weaknesses such as emotional, relationship, or physical impairment; tighten the pace with imposed deadlines; raise the stakes, threaten characters; allow characters to make mistakes; understand that the victim is the key catalyst for the story happens because of that person and he is the solution to the crime; readers want to solve the crime with the sleuth so have fun placing and revealing those secrets, clues and red herrings to make the investigation interesting.

6) Those critical first pages
Whether the first page uses the dialogue, narrative style or action, every good opening must contain: an event that will prove pivotal later but isn’t finished; characters in conflict; a writing style that sets the tone of the story; strong, active verbs and words; immediacy or the tension of knowing that something is about to happen; and the bait of a great opening line. In the first five pages, start an event and then don’t finish it – that creates a story within a story such as an internal conflict hinted at and an external conflict implied. Offer a thread of information or evidence to the reader and force the reader to deduce its relevance. Above all else, you will never go wrong by opening with conflict.

Check this con out at:

When Words Collide

Confessions of a Con Novice

Cosplay Con

A few years ago at a writing seminar I was asked if I’d be attending a local upcoming “Con.” I wasn’t exactly sure what a Con was. My friend clarified that she was referring to “Comicon.”

This may come as a surprise to some, but I hadn’t ever heard of Comicon. Or Dragon Con or Worldcon except that it sounded like Worldcom. (No I promise that isn’t a knock at the Hugos. I really was this ignorant).

But I didn’t want to flaunt my ignorance so I googled, Comicon and sure enough there was one in Phoenix that summer.

Have you ever learned an exotic word that you could swear you’ve never heard before, but once you learn it, you hear it everywhere? All of the sudden, everyone I knew was talking about Comicon.

So I gathered the family and we ventured to the conference center. I was blown away at how popular it was. There were crowds upon crowds of people, most dressed up like it was Halloween. Someone asked me if I was into Cosplay. This was also a new word for me and it sounded, well, kinky, so I shook my head and ran away.

As far as the Con, My kids loved it. I loved it. My wife would have preferred about anything else but she obliged, allowing me to be amongst “my people” as she lovingly called the attendees.

So, I’m still a Con novice, but I’m gaining experience. I have attended a smaller con in Arizona and last year I went to Salt Lake Comic Con as a volunteer in the Word Fire Press exhibitor booth.

And today, I have returned one year later to that same Con of Cons to be amongst my Word Fire friends but this time I brought my son and I might even let him Cosplay. Because I’ve made it my mission as a dad to help my children have a better childhood than I had. That’s how we make the world a better place. My son knows what a Con is. He also knows that Salt Lake Comic Con is different (though it is of similar pronunciation) than Phoenix Comicon or San Diego Comic-Con. And there are a good many more Cons of comics and other great things.

Here’s a helpful list and for the sake of humanity, please take your children; after all they are our future.

Salt Lake Comic Con – August 31 – September 3, 2016

San Diego Comic-Con – July 21 – 24, 2016

Phoenix Comicon – June 2 – 5, 2016

Phoenix Comicon – Fan Fest Dec 4 – 6, 2015

Dragon Con (Atlanta) – September 2 – 5, 2016

2016 Worldcon hosted by MidAmeriCon II (Kansas City, MO) – August 17 – 21, 2016

Rose City Comic Con (Oregon) – September 10 – 11, 2016

World Fantasy Con 2015 (Saratoga Springs, NY) – November 5 – 8

World Fantasy Con 2016 (Columbus, OH) – October 27 – 30

Click here to see a bunch more


jace 1I live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I’ve got an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can visit my author website at, and you can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page.