Tag Archives: conventions

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: http://www.whenwordscollide.org/

When Words Collide

Tampa Bay Comic Con – If We Build It, They Will Come


Ahhh, Tampa in August. Where lightning-quick geckos scurry across the sun-baked pavement and the heat makes you wilt, there you will find this sparkling gem of a comic convention. Does it have media guests? Yes. Is the Vendor room chock full of sparklies representing most any branch of fandom? Yes. Are there panels? Yes. So, what makes it different?

Lemme ‘splain. No, wait, that would take too long. Lemme sum up.

In the grand scheme of growing Cons, TBCC is relatively young. It has grown from the back rooms of small hotels into taking over the Tampa Bay Convention Center. Overall attendance is nearing the 40k mark. The torrential storms kept some of the crowds away this year, but we still sold a ton of books at our table in the Vendor room. Excited murmurs from the other purveyors of cool goodies proved they had a successful weekend too.

What really excites me about this Con is the growing writers’ community. We saw that growth clearly from last year to this one. As a writer and panel attending/moderating/participating enthusiast, the sheer number of panel attendees increased dramatically. Last year, my author partners (Tracy Akers, Maria DeVivo, and Dora Machado) and I submitted the first writing panel topics ever to the TBCC organizers. They gave us a chance, allowing us to hold four panels in small rooms. All were well attended, maybe 50-60 folks in each, and the feedback was stellar.

Four more panels were approved this year, only this time they booked us in a room that seated 200 people. And we needed it. One panel, “So you want to be a writer?” was a standing-room only extravaganza of Awesome. Sweet! The questions ranged from craft, to how to get published, to various aspects of the business of being a professional writer. We ran out of time, but could have gone on for another hour or two. The atmosphere in that room crackled with creative power. Man, what a day, what a Con. I can’t wait for next year.

We noticed more writers with tables in the Vendor room and several new writing panels on the schedule. But there’s always room for more. Atlanta’s DragonCon has its writing track buried in the basement of one of its monstrous hotels. Orlando’s MegaCon sports several writing panels. And Tampa, well, let’s see how many we can get approved for next year. We are growing the writing community and want you to help us out.

So, to all my writer friends out there, come to Tampa Bay Comic Con. Get a table. Sell your books. Participate on panels. Soak up the creative atmosphere. And sweat. Yeah, it’s hot. The high-powered AC will keep you cool and comfy inside, but the summer swelter will mug you when you step outside. Still, what’s a little sweat when you get the chance to talk writing with thousands of your closest new friends?

Here are the deets for Tampa Bay Comic Con:

When: August 5-7

Where: Tampa Bay Convention Center

Cost: Attendee – 60$ for all three days

Not sure about the cost of a table in Artist Alley or a booth.

Link: Tampa Bay Comic Con

LTUE – Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium

A Guest Post by Gama Martinez


There are writer conventions and conferences all over the country. Most are small with one or two big guests. Others are large with many more guests, but these often have so many attendees that it’s nearly impossible to have a meaningful conversation with anyone. There are a few conferences where the attendee is low and the number of big names is high. The cost to attend these, however, can be hundreds of dollars. Add to that the cost of travel and lodging if it’s not local, and it becomes unfeasible for many to attend these. In this kind of environment, Life, The Universe, and Everything stands out.

LTUE is a relatively small convention in Provo, Utah, an hour south of Salt Lake City. Largely because of the high concentration of scifi and fantasy authors in Utah, many big name authors attend. Brandon Sanderson, Dave Wolverton, Dan Wells, Larry Correia, and Howard Tayler are regular attendees. Previous keynote speakers have included Orson Scott Card and James Artimus Owen. Additionally, the even draws a number of agents and editors, enough that pitch sessions are a regular feature, something that normally only happens at larger, more expensive conventions. It’s more a writing convention than anything else, and as a result, you get to hear some of the top names in the industry talk about topics that they specialize in.

This being a writer’s convention, there are plenty of writers of all skill levels so not only does it provide the opportunity to learn from more experience writers by also to network with writers at a similar skill level as you. The convention ends on Saturday with a banquet which, by itself, provides fantastic networking opportunities as well as a speech by the keynote speaker.

I’ve mentioned cost. In spite of having so many well-known authors, the price of LTUE is comparable to many smaller local conventions with the price ranging from $55 at the door to only $40 for early bird registration. The convention hotel is relatively affordable as well, only $99. There are other, less expensive hotels in the area as well if that one doesn’t suit. With a little careful budgeting, you can get your hotel, registration, and most of your meals for less than the cost of registration at conventions like WorldCon. In fact, when I lived in Dallas, there was a conference that provided a similar worth, but the cost was so high that it was about the same price as flying to Utah and paying for my hotel. Given with the amount of information and networking opportunities makes LTUE have one of the highest cost to benefit ratios of any convention I’ve been to.

The next Life, the Universe, and Everything takes place February 11-13th in Provo, Utah. It’s one of my favorite conventions, and if you can make it there, you should.

Guest Bio:

Gama Martinez lives near Dallas and collects weapons in case he ever needs to supply a medieval battalion. He greatly resents when work or other real life things get in the way of writing. Other than writing, he does normal things like run from bulls and attempt to leave the Earth to be a Martian colonist. His trilogy, The Oracles of Kurnugi, is available now. Shadowguard, the first book in a seven book series, will be released September 22.


The Savviest Thing I Could Have Done


I’ve been negligent. I like to blame it on the fact that I’m a recluse at heart. But that’s not an excuse—or at least, not a very good one. In the writing game, we authors are frequently called upon to step outside our comfort zones.

Well, for me, attending a convention is about as far outside my comfort zone as it’s possible to get. It’s not that I’m afraid of people—or strangers—but I’m not a good socializer, and an even worse self-promoter. As this month’s posts are so far making pretty clear, conventions are largely about socializing and self-promotion!

Three years ago, I stepped out for the first time and bought my ticket to attend the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto. I didn’t know what to expect… and I was intimidated. It helped that a few of my good writing friends were also going to be there.

I turned out to be woefully unprepared. I didn’t have any elevator pitches worked out, nor had I familiarized myself with the list of attendees. I hadn’t scouted out any editors or agents to approach either. This sort of homework is second nature to seasoned convention goers.

Fortunately, I got some much-needed assists from my friends and fellow Fictorians, particularly Ace Jordyn and Nancy DiMauro. Upon arrival, I went out for lunch with Ace, and she quickly set me at ease. As a WFC newbie, it was helpful to have someone to tag along with and make introductions on my behalf.

On the second night of the conference, I found myself wandering the Tor Books party in a suite on the top floor of the hotel. The room was packed to the gills. This is precisely the kind of scene that usually makes me uncomfortable, but Nancy pulled me through the crowd like an expert.

At some point, I found myself at the bar—an awkward place to be, seeing as I barely drink. The bartender made eye contact with me and said hello. Before I had a chance to reply, I glanced at his nametag—and instantly recognized the name. This was no regular bartender, but one of those big-time editors I knew I was supposed to be watching out for.

All things being equal, my most likely impulse would have been to clam up and back away slowly.

I surprised myself. “Hey there, it’s good to meet you. I’m a huge fan of the line of Star Trek books you edited.”

Caught flat-footed? Certainly. But this had the virtue of being honest. I knew this editor had worked on Pocketbook’s line of Star Trek novels for many years. While in high school, I had collected hundreds of those books.

As it turned out, we didn’t get the chance to talk about my own books—or even the fact that I was a writer. He was a big Star Trek fan, I was a big Star Trek fan, and we found all sorts of things to talk about between poured drinks.

Before I knew it, I’d said goodbye and wandered off, pleased with myself and happy to have made a connection.

Nancy intercepted me a short time later and asked all the practical questions I had neglected. Had I given him my pitch? Had I gotten his card? Had I given him mine? Had I asked for an opportunity to submit my completed novel for him to take a look at? No, no, no, and no. Good grief, I hadn’t even thought to bring business cards. As I’ve said, I didn’t know what I was doing.

It turns out that using this fleeting connection to talk about Star Trek was absolutely the savviest thing I could have done. The convention was packed with writers clamoring to get the editors’ attention. Instead I treated the editor like a person and got the chance to casually talk about our shared interests. And I think I made an impression.

Nancy insisted that I go back later in the evening. I did, and I walked away having given my pitch, gotten his card, and been rewarded with the opportunity to submit my completed novel. Not bad for a newbie!

Evan BraunEvan Braun is an author and editor who has been writing books for more than ten years. He is the author of The Watchers Chronicle, whose third volume, The Law of Radiance, was released earlier this year. In addition to specializing in both hard and soft science fiction, he is the managing editor of The Niverville Citizen. He lives in Niverville, Manitoba.