Tag Archives: fantasy

MileHiCon: A Denver Gem

A Guest Post by Kevin Ikenberry


After I seriously took up writing, the very first con I attended was MileHiCon in 2012.  I’d moved to Colorado a couple of years before and while I’d attended the local Pikes Peak Writers Conference, my first foray into science fiction fandom couldn’t have been more wonderful.  Billed as “the largest science fiction and fantasy literary convention in Colorado,” MileHiCon did not disappoint.  My memories of that first con are great.  I found the panels I crutched in and out of inspiring and the people pleasant and approachable.  (Yes, I was on crutches, and no it was not fun!)  I knew from the first day that I wanted to be involved in any way that I could.  At MileHiCon, I knew I’d found a home.

A year later, I had an invitation to be a program participant.  Unfortunately, a second foot surgery put me on my rear end that weekend, so I had to delay my MileHiCon debut until 2014.  As it turns out, MileHiCon was my very first convention as a program participant.  Can you say nervous?  Well, that nervousness did not last long.  Many of the friends I’ve made in the Denver area were there as well as a ton of new friends.  From the moment I walked into the lobby and ran into my good friend Patrick Hester (SFSignal / Functional Nerds), I felt even more at home than I did the first year.

Now that I’ve been to WorldCon and several other local/regional cons, I can honestly say that MileHiCon is in my top three cons, maybe even top two.  Over the past few years, the con has increased in membership and offerings to include costuming, gaming, art, and media tracks.  What makes this con special are the people.  Last year, a group of us aptly named “The Handsome Authors Society” sponsored a networking event.  There were more than a hundred folks who dropped by and had a drink with other authors and editors.  Making new friends has never been easier.

The MileHiCon committee are a group of wonderful and hardworking volunteers who have always made me feel like I was part of the family.  And from my very first panel, the audiences were fun and engaging.  Mentioning my first novel sale, that had happened less than a week before the 2014 con, earned very nice rounds of applause and several “Good luck!” or “Let us know when it’s released!” calls that left me beaming.

(NOTE: Sleeper  Protocol is slated for release by Red Adept Publishing in winter 2015-16)

What’s more?  Last year, I took my wife to MileHiCon, her very first con experience.  We decided that MileHiCon was a perfect con to bring our kids to.  There were a lot of young fans and cosplayers in the crowd last year, and a great time was had by all.  For our young superheroes-to-be, it will be a perfect place to start.  I can’t wait to share MileHiCon with them.

MileHiCon 47 takes place October 23-25, 2015 at the Denver Tech Center Hyatt.  For more information on the convention, please check out www.milehicon.org.  This year’s Guests of Honor include authors Kevin Hearne and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, artist Ursula Vernon, and toastmaster James Van Pelt.  The list of confirmed participants is fantastic with over ninety confirmed authors.

In short, MileHiCon is a wonderful convention put on by amazing folks.  It’s growing every year and is family friendly.  Most importantly, it’s a great chance for fans to get to know their favorite authors and meet emerging authors, too.  There is something for everyone at MileHiCon.  Hope to see you there.

Guest Bio

Kevin Ikenberry is a Colorado based science fiction and horror author.  His debut novel, Sleeper Protocol, will be released from Red Adept Publishing tentatively in January 2016.  A lifelong space fanatic, Kevin continues to work with space every day.  He can be found online at www.kevinikenberry.com and on Twitter (at)TheWriter Ike.

DragonCon – A Mardis Gras for Geeks

Guest Post by Wayland Smith


DragonCon was roughly a week ago, and I’m still elatedly exhausted. It is a truly amazing experience on many levels. DragonCon offers a lot of unique opportunities for writers, from the obvious to ones you need to work at a little. While it has a reputation as “Mardi Gras for geeks,” there’s so much going on there that’s really a matter of what you make of it.

There is a Writer’s Track at DragonCon. This means that there are panels about writing from 10 AM to 11:30 PM from Friday through Sunday, and a few more panels on Monday until about 2. That, in and of itself, is enough to make it worth-while for writers to come in my opinion. But there’s a lot more.

Jody Lynn Nye runs a two day intensive writer’s workshop. There’s an extra fee for it, but you get a lot of attention from someone who is a best-selling writer and very good at what she does. Michael Stackpoole runs a series of hour-long seminars. The topics are listed, and you can go to and pay for the ones of interest.

There’s an entirely separate track for Urban Fantasy. These panels let you hear about different aspects of various writers’ processes, and there’s almost always a chance to ask them questions at the end of the presentations. It’s a great way to potentially meet fellow writers and make contacts.

But it’s not just writers that speak at the panels. There are presentations that include agents, editors, and publishers. This year, an anthology called “Legends of the Dragon” debuted at the Con. I had a story in it, and I got that chance because of a panel I went to two years ago on the Writers’ Track.

The next DragonCon is September 2-5, 2016. It’s in Atlanta, Georgia, spread out over five different host hotels. For more information on the Con itself, check it out at  www.dragoncon.org . The site has a lot of information about how to get memberships for next year, and the application process if you want to try to go as a guest. Another option is applying with the individual track directors to speak on the various panels. And, if you want to try going as a vendor, there are applications for that, too.

DragonCon is the high point of my year. In addition to a lot of fun, it’s a unique chance to learn from many different writers and get to speak with them. Among the many writers I’ve spoken with or gone to listen to are Kevin J Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Laurell K Hamilton, Jim Butcher, Diana Gabaldon, Sherilyn Kenyon, Jody Lynn Nye, Michael Stackpoole, Timothy Zahn,, Myke Cole, Faith Hunter, Gail Martin, and Jean Marie Ward,  the late Aaron Allston as well as so many others.

Guest Bio

Wayland Smith is the pen name for a native Texan who has lived in Massachusetts, New York, Washington DC, and presently makes his home in Virginia. His rather unlikely list of jobs includes private investigator, comic book shop owner, ring crew for a circus (then he ran away from the circus and joined home), deputy sheriff, writer, and freelance stagehand. Wayland has one novel out so far, In My Brother’s Name, about a terrorist attack on Washington DC, and appears in various anthologies including HeroNet Files Book 1, SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror, and Legends of the Dragon, as well as several others. A black belt in shao lin kung fu, he is also a fan of comic books, reading, writing, and various computer games (“I’ll shut Civ down in more turn. Really!”)

Make Friends, Be Useful, Get Noticed!

A guest post by K.J. Russell.

KJRussell_TheDustyManThe best assets a writer will ever have are their colleagues. Fellow writers, editors, proofreaders and organizers are going to help your writing reach readers in a way that social media presence, author platforms and clever selling tactics can’t match (plus, colleagues can help you master those). The first piece of advice I always give writers is to get extroverted, attend workshops and critique circles, network and make friends. That can be a hard sell for a lot of writers and it took me a few years to work my way into it.

Whether you’re still working up the courage to send your first email to a fellow writer, or maybe you’re already a networking guru, it’s easy (and tempting) to think of all things that other writers can do for you. From simply reviewing your work to helping you get reviews, teaching you the ropes of Goodreads, plugging your work on their blog or hooking you up with publication opportunities and event appearances, the ways others can help you are pretty much innumerable. It’s tempting to think about that. But that’s not where you start (even though I just started that. My bad.)

A lot of the people you’re going to meet are going to try to skip the part where they help you and go straight to the part where they ask you for help. Everyone is out there looking for people to help them get a leg up, but how often do you think a new writer walks up to someone with the goal of starting as a helper? You’re going to meet a lot of people who promise they’re going to review your book, or look over your pages and get you feedback, or say they’re going to come to an event and support you, but they’ll forget or won’t have time or something will come up at the last minute. And this will happen with them every time.

So here’s my second piece of advice, and it’s important: don’t be the person who doesn’t do things. Don’t be the person who asks for help without having helped others.

The goal in a relationship with other writers is to be valuable. If you’re in a guild, make yourself an indispensable part of it. If you’re in a critique circle, be the person who works to give the best feedback they can on every writer’s work. Be the person who says they’ll help and then actually does it.

Don’t even wait to be asked for help. You’re a writer; you know what writers need. You know how important it is to get Amazon and Goodreads reviews, so give Amazon and Goodreads reviews. Keep track of what your colleagues are doing and notice when they have new books coming out. Preorder the books, read them, leave reviews. Plug their work on facebook and twitter without being asked to. Feature their cover art on your blog. Go out looking for ways to help writers that you know, and use some of your energy to build them up.

You will be the most successful when you make it your business to help others succeed.

There are a lot of reasons this is true, not the least of which is that they’ll notice what you’re doing and a lot of them will be grateful. Maybe they’ll even repay the favor. At the very least, when your book is done and the time comes that you need help, they’ll be much more likely to respond when you ask them to give you a hand. In my experience it pays back in unexpected ways. I didn’t expect that by steadfastly attending a critique circle I’d get my first editing job, and I didn’t expect that helping my colleagues manage a book fair would get me on my first convention panel. But those things happened.

Yeah, sometimes it’s about knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time. But you can game the system by being important and helpful to as many people as possible — there’s not one right person to know; most people are the right people — and being in the right place as often as you can manage. It’s all about being indispensable, engaged and active. It’s about doing everything you can to help those in the boat with you, and then one day they’ll help you.

And here’s another important bit of advice: when you do need the help, remember who you’ve helped in the past and actually send emails asking for help. Not everyone will respond as well as you’ve hoped, but some people will, and there’s going to be mutual appreciation there. One great thing about helping a friend reach more readers, is they’ll have more people to tell about your work when it’s time for them to plug it.

Network, make friends. Learn faces and names, exchange cards, exchange emails, keep in touch. Respond to emails quickly. Offer help, and then deliver help. Bolster someone without waiting for them to ask you to. Leave reviews and plug other writers’ work. Be the person others can count on. Make it part of your routine to help others be more successful. Help them reach more readers and then, later, they can help you reach those readers. Ask them for help when the time comes that you need it. Appreciate the help they give and repay it. Help them more. Then get helped more.

You win when they win. They win when you win. Make it a part of your plan that your success is part of someone else’s success. You’re not in this alone. You don’t want to be.

KJRK.J. Russell Bio:
K.J. Russell is a writer of dark fantasy and science fiction, and a workshop leader for the Writespace studio in downtown Houston. He frequently speaks about the writing process and perspectives on science fiction at venues as varied as comic cons and universities. He has also edited anthologies of short genre fiction on behalf of the Houston Writers Guild. His most recent book is The Dusty Man, a post-apocalyptic genre mash-up of dark sci-fi and fantasy, told with the voice of a wild west novel. Find him at kjrussell.com, on twitter @kjrussell_write, or at facebook.com/kjrussell.write.

Close Conflicts of the Romantic Kind

Here on The Fictorians, we’ve been talking conflict all month—internal, external, character vs …, writer vs…, but we haven’t yet talked about romance. Time to change that. Now, I’m a Fantasy guy, both as a reader and a writer. The reading came first, of course. I started with Tolkien, Brooks, Hickman, McKiernan, and Eddings back in the day, gobbling up epic tales of elves and dwarves and dragons, magic and mysticism, and good versus evil on a planetary scale. Man, I loved that stuff. Still do, actually.

Over the years I’ve read a gazillion books, but the stories that stick with me, the ones that hold a piece of my soul, are those that not only satisfied my need for the magic, but also spoke to my heart. I love stories that explore the spark, the attraction, between two characters. A strong romantic storyline, carefully fed and nurtured, can turn a good story into a magnificent tale that brushes against the reader’s soul.

And what writer doesn’t strive for that each and every time he puts words to paper?

I’m not talking about writing a Romance novel, but a sci-fi/fantasy story with romantic elements. There’s a big difference between the two. A novel classified as romance is subject to what I call the “Three Laws of Romance”:

  1. The Law of the HEA – the story must have a “happily ever after” ending.
  2. The Law of Astronomical Odds – the odds against the characters realizingtheir HEA must be so astronomical, the reader cannot possibly foresee how they could ever get together.
  3. The Law of Forever Apart – keep the budding lovers apart for as long as possible. Once they get together, the story is over.

These three laws constitute an emotional contract between the Romance writer and the reader. Before reading the first word, a reader has their story-level expectations set. She buys into the formula and looks to lose herself in the unique twists and turns the author takes to reach that HEA.

Once a writer drops the “big R”, introducing a romantic subplot off the main sword and sorcery epic, the laws vanish. Anything goes. As a writer, this is where I live. I’m a lawbreaker, a rebel.

Badges? I don’t need no stinkin’ badges.

Let’s talk about developing the romantic conflict. For writers who consider planning/outlining a four-letter word, the romantic storyline is something that develops organically, something that the characters “feel” while the words flow from the writer’s brain to his fingertips.

But I’m a hard-core plotter. I have to know what to do when or I’ll leave something out. In the early stages, while developing each primary character’s internal and external conflicts, I consider a third type—the romantic conflict. Which characters will fall in love, or like, or lust, depending on the needs of the story? How will it happen? Will it have a HEA? When will it happen? Writing in a land with no “Big R” laws, I can do whatever I want. I can string the reader along, plying her with stolen goblin kisses behind the ale casks and furtive cyclopean smiles from the high window in the wizard’s tower, only to have one of the characters turned into a coconut in the last chapter. While that might add a kick to a refreshing adult beverage, being turned into a fuzzy, hard-shelled fruit wreaks havoc upon a budding relationship.

That’s a mean example, but makes my point. Being a romantic, I would never do that to my readers without a significant amount of foreshadowing to cushion the blow. I want the guy to get the girl, or the elf to get the elf maid, or the whatever creature to get the blue whatsit. The key here is to consider adding that dash of romantic conflict to any plot.

Romance, love, attraction, they are all inherent in the human, or quasi human, condition. Fully resolved characters will encounter this at some point in their existence. Embrace it. Develop it. Write it. Give the story the added spark.