Category Archives: World Fantasy Con

The Late One – World Fantasy Convention

For most, convention season is winding down. While you can find cons at any time of year really, the bulk of the major cons take place during the summer months. But one major con is different, choosing to fight the power and place itself in late October or early November. And since I won’t be making it to any conventions this calendar year, that makes the 2014 World Fantasy Convention (which I did attend) the perfect one to write about.

I call WFC a major con, but that’s really misleading. While it’s a very venerable con with (it will be putting on its 40th convention this year in Saratoga Springs, NY) and it has a major genre award attached, WFC numbers in the hundreds rather than the thousands of attendees (to say nothing of tens or hundreds of thousands).

As opposed to broader media cons, it’s also almost entirely focused on books, and is almost entirely focused on business rather than fandom. WFC is a work con. It’s a place to go and network, to meet people serious about the business of writing and publishing. As such, if you’re someone like me, who doesn’t have a lot of time for con attendance, it offers a strong “bang for your buck” factor if your main goal is networking.

But I don’t want to make it sound boring, because it’s anything but. Sure, the focus may be on business, but this is still a place to meet up with friends in the industry and a gathering of some of the world’s biggest genre geeks. While it’s true that cosplayers are generally nowhere to be seen, there is still plenty to enjoy. Both times I’ve been (2014 and 2012 near Toronto) I had a great time. And frankly, as a pretty strong introvert, WFC’s smaller size is appealing to me (and I suspect I’m not the only introvert to whom that would be true).

As a Virginia native, when I learned that WFC 2014 would be in “Washington, D.C.” (and I say that in quotes because it was really in Crystal City, Virginia, just over the Potomac River from D.C.), I knew it would be criminal not to attend. Having a major con show up within driving distance really gives you no excuse to do otherwise.

As with many cons of this sort, while the panels provide a lot of quality programming, the real action happens in and around the hotel bar. You’ll find convention goers there at all times of day, their only concession to the rising sun switching to coffee instead of harder stuff. It’s always surreal to roam around the bar area, noticing various writers and publishing giants just sitting around, talking business or just shooting the breeze. I even got to discuss the 2014 NCAA College Football season with literary agent extraordinaire (and Michigan Wolverines fan) Joshua Bilmes after he noticed my Virginia Tech shirt.

As I alluded to above, WFC is also the keeper of the World Fantasy Awards, in the past won by such luminaries as George R.R. Martin, China Mieville, Susanna Clarke, Madeline L’Engle, Gene Wolfe and Ursula K. Le Guin. The award winners are selected by a committee from a pool of nominees supplied by conference goers. There is a banquet to announce the winners at the end of the convention, which any attendee (provided they paid the extra fee) may attend. I attended in 2012 but didn’t feel the need to do so again in 2014, preferring instead to get home a little earlier.

I came back from last year’s convention with a bunch of new friends, a submission request from an editor, some great loot (a print of the A Memory of Light cover art signed by Brandon Sanderson and MIchael Whelan and a early-release signed copy of the Jeff VanderMeer Area X Omnibus), massive sleep deprivation and a whole lot of fun memories. If I had to do it over again, my only change would be to determine that our hotel wouldn’t allow more than two beds due to fire code restrictions. It made for a difficult sleep situation for our third roommate. At some point, I am fated by karma to sleep on the floor of a hotel room in Martin’s name.

So if, like me, you have to carefully pick your conventions and maximize your limited opportunities to attend, give World Fantasy Convention a try.

 

About the Author: Gregory D. LittleHeadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (sometimes during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, will be available later this year. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens and the upcoming Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

Growing Community

Evan’s 1000th post yesterday made me nostalgic. When my son showed me the Superstars Seminar advert, I never imagined how much that event would affect my life. But, of course, that could be said of quite a few events I’ve attended over the years. And it all started by submitting a story.

Intrigued by the concept of FTL travel and the suspension of time, I wrote a short story about a planet with aliens who travel from one end of their speed-of-light-rotation planet to the other, in opposite directions. It was terrible. I submitted to the only short story market I’d heard of, Writers of the Future. The rejection letter from Joni Labaqui, though I’m sure it was a form rejection, is still the nicest rejection I’ve ever received. Somehow, WotF has managed to put together a letter that says no while still telling writers, “you’re great, what you’re doing is great, keep at it and you will get there.” That was my community seed.

If my piece could be rejected and me still feel good about writing then I should be able to handle the rejection of my local peers. Thus, I joined the local writer’s group. If they enjoyed my writing and supported me then I could find the courage to attend my first convention. Thus, I attended World Fantasy Convention. There, I met a wonderful published author and I realized that if she saw promise in my work and was willing to take time on me then I should take the opportunity to learn from other well-published authors. Thus, I ended up at Superstars Writing Seminar and we eventually formed The Fictorians.

With my Superstars/Fictorians support I branched out further, attending more seminars, workshops, conventions and eventually I started having my own launch parties and signing events. Recently, I released the third book, Mwalgi Justice, in my “Mankind’s Redemption” series. I’ve had the series compared to Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon’s work. I also released the first book, Fourteen, in “The Number Prophecy. “I couldn’t have done it without the wonderful community that has encouraged and helped me move forward. Of course, not every interaction has been good, but most have, and the journey has been worth it. I have fabulous friends.

I encourage all writers to take the time to reach out and grow their community. Even if you’re published and attending conventions, do you spend time with people or hole up in your room. People remember how you treat others and your community can grow or shrink and it’s not all about the quality of your work. Get brave or get humble, whichever is necessary, and reach out a hand. Because a community holding hands can create miracles.

Just another reminder: There are a lot of great books waiting to be taken to a loving home. Just click on the buttons in the right sidebar and enter. Tomorrow, come back and enter again. If you’d like to try out my new series, “The Number Prophecy,” Fourteen will be one of the prizes next week. Happy Reading!

My Last Thought

A Guest Post by Darin Calhoun

April 2002, I was driving to work on the 210 Freeway, just passing Irwindale, when I glanced at my rear view mirror and saw a white, Scully, Semi-Truck. My Last thought was, “Wow, he’s going fast.” I have no memory of the collision, only fragmented flashes of the aftermath. One such brief moment, I was staring at the instrument panel of my Geo Metro, and someone was holding a wad of cloth on my head. They placed my hand on it so that I could hold it myself. Someone talked to me, but I don’t remember their words or my own. A flash later, I was in a helicopter on a stretcher freezing my ass off because someone had cut up my clothes, and the doors were open. I yelled at them to close the doors. They ignored me. I remember coming around as they wheeled into the emergency room.

The doctor told me that he was going to put staples into my scalp. The skin made a squishing sound as he inspected it. I chuckled. It was like something from a bad movie. He told me there wouldn’t be much pain because there weren’t a lot of nerves back there.

“So what are your hobbies?” asked the doctor.

“I belong to the Society for Creative Anachronism, and I do medieval combat in armor with rattan weapons.”

“So, like jousting?”

“We have equestrian arts but not with heavy armored fighting. Physics works. If we use horses we would hurt each other, and it’s not cool to break your friends.”

The doctor put in the first staple. Everything faded, and a string of curse words that sounds like my voice comes from somewhere distant.

“Just two more.” said the doctor.

I hear the staple gun click, and my world faded even more. Machines chirped and beeped in alarm.

The doctor shakes me. “Hey, hey buddy. Tell me more about that jousting.”

That pissed me off. “I…to…ld…you, it’s, not jousting!”

The doctor gave me a shot of local anesthetic and stitched up the rest of my scalp. A nice four-inch crescent scar between the parietal and occipital area of my brain, the lowest part was about an inch or so above my brain stem.

After some x-rays to make sure my brains weren’t leaking out, they sent me to the recovery room to fill up my diminished blood with saline. Supposedly, I was two quarts low. Then after making a statement to the police that, I don’t recall the details of, my wife, then girlfriend, took me to her work. I nearly passed out in the car. It seemed that the saline in my blood wasn’t really helping and that I was still a few quarts low. So after twenty-four hours of observation I was clear to start my recovery.

At first, I did not realize how much I had lost. What was bad before became worse. It was a challenge just to remain awake. At first, I’d be awake for an hour or two, and then I would fade out. For two weeks, I struggled to be awake for eight hours, so I could return to work. But I was on autopilot. The hours on the bus and at work were a blur. I changed jobs, and I still don’t remember the details. I was in limbo.

Gulf War One hit and I was laid off. I was without a job for the first time in my life. I was collecting unemployment, and in a bad place, but my girlfriend was there to help me. She took me in and I pitched in with money from my disability check while I waited on my settlement from the trucking company that ran me over.

But I was just existing, a bad place for an artist. After the crash, I lost the ability to draw. I had spent twelve years in developing a career in comics, and now that was suddenly gone. To keep my sanity, I turned to writing. I took out three pages I had written five years before as a challenge, a story about a world that had neither magic nor digital technology. I worked at it. I struggled to write a single page a day. I failed more than I succeeded. I still went to the doctors, but they just wanted to give me pills and I wanted rehabilitation–a purpose for my life.

I went to a social security judge for my federal disability and he said, “Mr. Calhoun, you are impaired not disabled.”

“Yes sir, your honor.” I replied.

“If you apply to five jobs and are fired. Then I’ll reconsider your case.”

I was appalled. “Thank you, your honor, but I can’t do that. I will find another way.”

That is when I decided to become a professional writer.

Life had other plans. I received a panicked call from my ex-wife that my daughter had been taken into protective custody by Child Protective Services. After enduring, a hellish bureaucratic quagmire of jumping through hoops my girlfriend and I got custody of my daughter, and I became a househusband and a PTA dad.

My daughter loved my stories. She just hated it when I was writing. So I wrote when she was at school and when she was asleep. It took me seven years to finish my first book and I was shocked to find out why. I had undiagnosed diabetes for seven years due to the accident.

It was in 2009 when I found out. My energy and focus was crap, and my temper had a hair trigger. Although, most of the time I was angry with myself due to frustration. When I talked about it with my mom, I found out she had hypoglycemia. I never knew that about my mom. She suggested that I eat five small meals a day. I did and I felt worse. I felt that I might be diabetic so I bought a blood sugar tester at a drugstore–467.

Oh, crap!

So now, I knew. After a doctors trip, and a diabetic training session, I found out diabetes is a package deal. You get the bonus of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Triple crap!
But I felt better, and now I made the big jump, perusing a career as a writer. I read a half dozen how-to-write books. I also listened to writing podcasts (Yay, Writing Excuses!), went to writing conventions: LtUE in Provo, and World Fantasy Con. But most importantly, I took the Superstars Writing Seminar. Which was not about craft and how to write, but giving the writer tools on how to have a successful writing career, how to set yourself up so you’re not just going from failure to failure.

In the years, after I have found out whom I am as a writer. What my voice was, and where I belong in the wild world of publishing. The Superstar members are on the cutting edge of the industry. They were surfing the e-book revolution while the big 6 (now 5) publishers were in denial of the importance of Amazon.

And just when I thought I had learned all that I could from the Superstars, I volunteered to help run the Word Fire Press booth for Wondercon. I have not worked that hard since I was holding a waterlogged, ice cold, eight-inch line during an underway replenishment in the North Atlantic when I was in the Navy. Everyone was an author, who I swear had a secret contest on who could sell the most books. I struggled to keep up with these hard working writers putting themselves out there. I learned the importance of how to set up a booth for maximum exposure, the Feng Shui of stacking books, and the art of the soft sell, and most importantly, how much stories affect our lives. From when a young man brought dog-eared books, his father had passed on to him and how that son thanked the author for the wonderful childhood memories as the author signed with ink and tears. To the veteran thanking the author for helping him through the hell of war and its aftermath–not a dry eye in the house with that one.

That is why I write. I wish to be a ray of hope in a dark world. And that is my last thought.

About the Author:Author
Darin Calhoun is an author adrift on the genre seas, with the island of Action and Adventure as his home. Be warned, as he tends to write about strong women and flawed heroes. You may see him posting on Twitter or Facebook at 3AM but this isn’t unusual. He has an abusive muse. Some writers’ muses give them a gentile tap on the shoulder, his uses a sledgehammer to the head.

From Plane to Progress

wfclogoWhen too many helpful incidences come together for a protagonist, we call it contrived. Sometimes, however, they happen in real life. Is it coincidence, divine intervention, karma? I know where I stand on the subject, since I’m a devout LDS Christian who believes in inspiration, but I’ll let you decide for yourselves.

After listening to some of the Writing Excuses podcasts by Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells, I decided that I should try to go to the next World Fantasy Convention (WFC). This was about six years ago, and the convention was happening in San Jose. I calculated plane trip, hotel, and food and realized there was absolutely no way. Then, I remembered…my step-father-in-law had a daughter, whom I’d met once, who lived in San Jose. I felt like a mooch, but I was desperate and determined. I contacted her and asked if I could stay. She not only agreed, she was a spectacular hostess, drove me around, and thanked me for coming. I know, that’s not strange, it’s sweet. This is the unusual part:

While getting my tickets, I felt like I should go with a different airline than I usually do even though I had to pay more. With the upgrade came the option to pick my seat. I chose one at random, trying to get close to the windows, but then thought, “No, I should sit in this one.” and picked an aisle seat (which I don’t like), way too close to the engines. Months later, while sitting in said seat, I couldn’t help but pick up my companions’ conversation. After a few minutes, I put away my laptop and the book I was working on and got up the guts to ask if they were attending WFC. Not only were Gini Koch and Glen Glenn an absolute delight to talk with, Gini told me to find her at the con. With the numbers of people, I didn’t think I was likely to actually see her again, and I probably wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for the subsequent events.

Dinnertime the next evening found me by myself, deciding between a tasty sandwich shop (which I love), and Jimmy John’s (which I’m not crazy about). I grabbed the door handle of the sandwich shop and yet felt compelled to go to hamburger-joint Jimmy John’s instead. So I did. Inside, a group of Tad Williams fans saw the WFC bag, initiated conversation, and invited me to join them. Through them, I discovered the after-parties that go on in the hotels and the opportunities there to meet agents, publishers, and fellow authors.

Of course, I went to one and through the stifling crowds and multiple floors, Gini Koch happened to walk by and we met up again. Gini is a wonderful person who loves to encourage aspiring authors, and Glen is a fellow writer who has traded a number of works with me for critique and helped me grow more than I ever could have on my own. Gini introduced me to her agent, other agents, publishers, and took me under her wing. She has given me writing tips, done invaluable author workshops with my local writing group, and has helped me develop my craft until I felt confident in my abilities. I’m not sure I would have made it to publication without her belief in my potential.

Did blind luck, divine guidance, or something else bring me the friend I needed in my life at just the right time? Personally, I believe I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, but I’m also happy to leave my story to my readers’ interpretations. Maybe it will seem like fiction to you, but I know my story is too coincidental to be made-up.