Tag Archives: Sam Sykes

Treat Yoself to a Dragon*Con

First, if you haven’t seen Parks and Recreation, do that. Do it. All of it.

Next, go to Dragon*Con.

This year was my first Dragon*Con, and can I just say “wow”? Wow. While it has a reputation as being a party Con, I found Dragon*Con to be one of the best. There’s something about being in a place with thousands of other people, taking up a lot of space, and being there for the same reason: to geek out together! I especially loved that I could look at anyone and smile. I felt the excitement and camaraderie almost immediately.

Dragon*Con has a few unique aspects. The panels and events are held in six hotels and buildings in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Also, because it’s such a big Con, the organizers put the events and panels along a number of tracks. You can access the schedule and information about these panels via the Dragon*Con app. For example, if you are particularly interested in Anime/Manga, the organizers have a proposed schedule for you for each day. Some of the tracks include: Animation, BritTrack, Comics and Pop Art, Costuming, Fantasy Literature, High Fantasy, Horror, Military Sci-Fi Media, Paranormal, Podcasting, Sci-Fi Literature, Star Wars, Table Top Gaming, Urban Fantasy, Writer’s Track, Young Adult Literature, and many more.

But what’s in it for you as a writer? Lots.

I attended about 13 panels at Dragon*Con this year, most along the Writer’s Track. I loved the YA panels – it felt like we were all there together, laughing and geeking out over YA literature instead of an audience watching writers talk about writing.

I especially liked two panels over the weekend. The Magical Mavens of Fantasy/SF panel included Laurell K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Mercedes Lackey, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Jane Yolen (I’ll save you the play-by-play of my geek-out over Jane Yolen). Hearing these women talk about the industry, the people who told them they wouldn’t make it, and how they paved the way for the rest of us really made an impact on me. The sister (brother?) panel to Magical Mavens of Fantasy/SF I attended was Magnificent Men of Fantasy/SF with Kevin J. Anderson, Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, Peter David, and Larry Niven. I wasn’t expecting to laugh that hard, nor come near tears when they told touching stories.

Each night, the Westin hotel hosted a Writer’s Bar where professional writers could go to meet fans and fellow writers. I spotted and/or talked with Myke Cole, Sam Sykes, Jim Butcher, and Delilah Dawson. The cast of Wynonna Earp also showed up to hang out, which blew a lot of our minds. The accessibility of writing professionals at this convention seems abnormal, especially compared to other bigger Cons like San Diego. But nothing will light a fire under your ass to get published more than talking with professional writers and wanting to be on panels with them.

I’ve attended smaller conventions and a few huge conventions. Dragon*Con was my favorite. The Writer’s Track, High Fantasy Track, Sci-Fi Track, Urban Fantasy Track, and the Young Adult Literature Track provided multiple choices of panels each hour, and I didn’t attend one panel that I didn’t love. The access to professional writers was unlike any other convention I’ve been to. You’ll find that price of admission is well worth it to attend Dragon*Con. Oh yeah, and you’ll have a blast, too.

Cultivating Fanaticism

A guest post by Sam Sykes.

The first rule of being a successful writer, as any author will tell you, is to write a good book.

Indeed, if you felt so inclined, you could call this the sole rule of being a successful writer.  For if your book is even just pretty good, it will sell and your needs will be largely taken care of.  And if your book is very good, it will likely sell very well and you’ll find yourself doing what all successful writers do, which is largely hiding in a dark room and weeping into a glass of whiskey as you struggle with the desperate self-conviction that you are a fraud.

While this is still technically possible, it’s much rarer than it used to be.  Because it used to be quite common, with a fantasy author’s readership largely pre-defined as small, humble geeks who would buy whatever you put out because they were immensely starved for entertainment.

But it’s not quite the same anymore.  There’s no 02_finalshortage of absolutely thrilling fantasy authors these days and the audience is much, much broader.  The geeks are louder, more outspoken, more eager to be open with their passions.  You see this scrawled out in events such as Comicon, where movie geeks, comic geeks and video game geeks all brush shoulders with your readership, the book geek.

This is frequently the source of bemoaning the end to Comicon’s purity, but I view it as a good thing.  To find a niche-specialized nerd these days is increasingly uncommon, as the more we brush against each other, the more our passions are shared.  Suddenly, gamers are comparing the stories they play against the stories they read and comic book readers are keen to devour any story they can, be it illustrated or not.

This is the future.  This is your audience.  They are massive, they are multitalented and they are hungry.

And with a new, varied audience comes a new opportunity to draw in potential readers.  While your book (undoubtedly very good) will be the thing to hold their attention and make them a fan, there are a number of ways you can draw people in.

One such means I found was in creating a comic book with the help of the tremendously talented artist, Ashley Cope, creator of the webcomic, Unsounded.

Set as a prologue to my newest book, The City Stained Red, due out in 2014 by Orbit Books, it’s a means of quickly and vividly conveying what my book is all about to an audience increasingly focused on absorbing information quickly through visual stimuli.

05_finalThat all sounds dreadfully scientific, perhaps even a little coldly mercenary.  I assure you, though, that any thought and study as to the practical effects of this were an afterthought.

Because I am one of the new nerds.  And my first thought was for the simple fact that I freaking love comics and wanted to see my characters, my stories made into one.

Now, it’s certainly a good idea, from a business standpoint.  It stretches across the medium to reach a new audience and it’s quick to be digested to hook new readers.  So, if this sort of thing appeals to you, as an aspiring author, I’d like to offer you three tips as to how to make it work for you.

Let Enthusiasm Guide You

One of the big things you’ll learn about geeks is that they can smell crass corporate dictation.  A lifetime on the internet has left them cynical and suspicious of anyone pretending to be like them.  But this also means they are more easily infected by enthusiasm and passion.

Hence, be enthusiastic in all your side projects.  Never do anything unless you’re excited about it.  Never let yourself be dictated solely by business.

If you don’t understand comics and aren’t interested in them, it’ll seep through and alienate people.  Likewise, if you’re absolutely mad about directing and cinematography, then putting together book trailers or short web videos to act as supplement to your books will draw people in.

 Always Be a Professional

One of the biggest joys of this sort of thing is the creative collaboration between artists that occurs.  I, for one, can’t draw with any great skill, and thus I sought out Ashley Cope (who can write with incredible vigor, how unfair is that).  It was a tremendous joy working with her and learning how to let my thoughts be made into something illustrated.

I have an immense respect for artists.  I’ve worked with several of them and I know, as I implore you now, that you must treat them well.

Always be respectful of their time; good artists are always in demand and have busy schedules.  Always be prompt with payment; they work hard for you, you owe them the courtesy and the payment.  Never be afraid to offer feedback; they’re interested in making the work come alive, not in having their butts kissed.

And never, ever, ever offer to “pay them in exposure.”

I will seriously kill you if you do.

Remember Rule One

Supplemental side projects are just that.  They are only as strong as the story you’re going to write and it’s always going to be the story that holds the attention of your readers.

You can have the finest comic, the best trailers, the coolest web series around, but if it’s based on a crappy book, it’s not going to mean much.

Don’t get caught up in the excitement.  Finish the book.  Then make plans.

Good luck, and keep writing!

Sam Sykes Bio: Sam Sykes
Sam Sykes is the author of The Aeons’ Gate trilogy, a vast and sprawling story of adventure, demons, madness and carnage.  Suspected by many to be at least tangentially related to most causes of human suffering, Sam Sykes is also a force to be reckoned with beyond literature.At 25, Sykes is one of the younger authors to have arrived on the stage of literary fantasy.  Tome of the Undergates and Black Halo are currently published in nine countries.  He currently resides in the United States and is probably watching you read this right now.

Sam Sykes and Japanese Role Playing Games

Final Fantasy 7A guest post by Sam Sykes

You know, for the longest time I was uber sensitive about being accused of writing D&D fiction. I mean, yes, I write about adventurers going into dark places, stabbing monsters and swiping loot, but god damn it I was serious about it god damn it (yes, I was so incensed, I used the same curse twice).

As I get on in years, I’m much more all right with the idea of that. It’s not true (seriously, I was so unpopular I couldn’t even get anyone to play D&D with me), but that’s fine if people reminisce through me. And it’s definitely no secret I take a lot of inspiration from video games. JRPGs were one of my very most fundamental understandings of a story. I grew out of it, as you can tell by the distinct lack of doe-eyed, spiky-haired men with colossal swords fighting sweaty women with oni masks for breasts for the affections of a magical maid who can turn into a cat, but I think it’s fair to say that a lot of the younger writers out there probably got one of their earlier understandings of how stories work from video games.

I think the first time I realized games could have stories was when I played FF7 for the first time. I literally had no idea what it was about except that there was a dude with a huge sword and let’s not dwell on what that might mean. But I scrimped and saved everything I had so I could buy a Playstation to play it on. Then I scrimped and saved a little more to buy it. Then I played it.

And holy shit.

Within the first few minutes, my mind was blown. What was this guy doing here? Fuck, we’re rebels? Awesome! Yeah, let’s fight some robots! Now guys with swords! Bringin’ down the man! We’re freedom fighters, busting a corrupt corporation that’s killing a planet. I’m wearing a purple turtleneck sweater, but that’s okay! I’ve got backstory! And angst! And swords ‘n shit! Fuck yeah! FUCK YES!

And so on.

I suppose you could cry that the world has failed us when our youth learn storytelling from video games, rather than books. And in truth, video games can only take you so far. But they can teach you how to think visually, how to paint things in prose, how to establish something vividly in the reader’s mind. And they can teach you how to think mechanically, how to display on the page how movement works, how to keep an idea of where everyone is and make it clear to the reader. And, most importantly, they can teach you to understand when someone’s bored and how to prevent it.

The trickier stuff (character depth, plot, motivation, etc.) comes from mostly reading books, but you absorb it anywhere. Creatives of all ages, but especially kids, are gluttons for creative input. And like any diet, diversity is healthy.

I guess it’s kind of gauche to suggest that one of your influences might have been Squaresoft (it wasn’t Square-Enix in my day!) instead of, say, Tolkien or another dead guy, but I’d be earnestly surprised if there weren’t more authors who had some of their earliest storytelling wonders come from video games.

A surefire way to tell? Ask them if they were interested in the love triangle between Cloud, Tifa and Aerith (Aeris, if you’re nasty). If they say no, they are definitely an FF7 fan because they are fucking lying.

author-pic[1]Guest Writer Bio: Sam Sykes currently lives in the United States with his two hounds and, at any given time, is probably yelling at something inanimate. Tome of the Undergates is his first book, but far from his last. At 25, Sam Sykes is in an excellent position to provide entertainment while other authors are dying from various infections and stress-related illnesses. Sam Sykes looks forward to being one of the sole providers of fantasy entertainment, assuming no other authors are actually discovered in the next forty years. You can find out more from his website.