When and Where to Find Me at Chessiecon

You say you’ll be in the Baltimore, MD area during Thanksgiving weekend and you’re up for some SciFi excitement? Lucky you; you can meet lil’ ol’ me, Poseidon’s Scribe, at Chessiecon, a great science fiction convention running from November 24-26 at the Radisson North Baltimore Hotel.

  • On Friday at 3:00, I’ll moderate a panel titled “Is it Easier to Teach an English Major Science, or Teach a Science Major English?” about combating the fears people have about writing science fiction. I’ll be joined by panelists Michelle Markey Butler, Leslie Roy Carter, Nicole Jamison, and Valerie Mikles.
  • At 10:00 on Saturday, I’ll serve as a panelist for “Join the Mod Squad: Enhance Your Moderation Skills,” about how to serve as a moderator for panels at cons. The moderator will be Carl Cipra, and other panelists will be Don Sakers, Heather Rose Jones, and Annalee Flower Horne.
  • Saturday at 8:00 pm, I’ll participate in an Author Meet & Greet where we can chat; I’ll answer your questions and sign books. I’ll be there with other authors J.L. Gribble, Martin Wilsey, Steve Kozeniewski, Michelle D. Sonnier, and Andrew Hiller.
  • Finishing out the weekend, on Sunday at 11:15, I’ll read an excerpt from my science fiction artificial intelligence story “The Cats of Nerio-3” which appears in the anthology In a Cat’s Eye.

Go ahead—try to imagine a better weekend. I knew you couldn’t. I’ll see you at Chessiecon. In addition to super panels, workshops, art, and music, you can even meet—

Poseidon’s Scribe

My Weekend at Chessiecon ‘16

What a great weekend! I was at Chessiecon, a science fiction/fantasy conference near Baltimore. In case you missed it, here’s the recap:

I moderated a panel on “Gadgets in Fiction.” We discussed how it’s easy to get too passionate about your faster-than-light drive or the workings of your hand-held ray gun, but your audience doesn’t want a textbook. How do you share your geeky idea without straying into too much? When does over-reliance on gadgetry start to take away from the plot and characterization?

The talented and knowledgeable panel members were Martin Wilsey, Nicole “Nickie” Jamison, and Steve Kozeniewski. They had some great ideas about how to discuss and describe gadgets in your fiction without boring readers.

chessiecon16-gadget-panel-2-2
Martin Wilsey, Steve Southard, Nicole “Nickie” Jamison, and Steve Kozeniewski

 

Later, I moderated another panel called “Care and Feeding of Critique Groups.” The blurb for that panel was—participating in a critique group can be a great way to improve your writing. Not all such groups work out well, though. The panel will discuss ways to keep a critique group helpful, vibrant, and long-lived.

My willing and able panel members were Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jay Smith, Margaret Carter, and J.L. Gribble. It became obvious to me that critique groups come in all sizes, shapes, rules, forms, etc. The keys to success appear to be setting expectations, actively participating, being fair in providing critiques, and being thick-skinned in receiving them.

chessiecon16-crit-panel-5-2
Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jay Smith, Margaret Carter, J.L. Gribble, Steven R. Southard

 

All that was Friday. On Saturday, I moderated yet another panel, this one called “Dive! Dive! Submarines in Science Fiction.” The idea of this one is that not all SF takes place in outer space. Panelists will discuss their favorite undersea fiction and undersea vehicles.

I called myself the Captain of this panel, and my crew was D.H. Aire, Leslie Roy Carter, Kelly A. Harmon, and Martin Wilsey. Sorry, no picture of this one. We had a great time discussing favorite science fiction submarines, and what sets submarines apart from other story settings.

catseye_final-72dpiAt my book reading, I read the entirety of “The Cats of Nerio-3,” my story from the recently published anthology In a Cat’s Eye. I hope the audience enjoyed the story at least half as much as I loved reading it.

chessiecon-16-book-signing-4I had a fine time at the book signing later Saturday night. For one of the copies of In a Cat’s Eye, the woman asked me to sign it to her two cats. First time I’ve done that! I hope her cats enjoy the story. I sold another copy to a young girl who just loves cats. I forgot to tell her and her mother that the stories in that anthology are a bit on the dark side. Oh, well…

All in all, a delightful weekend! It’s fun to gather with fellow authors who write, and with readers who love, science fiction. It just warms the heart of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

December 1, 2016Permalink

Remembrances of Hallowread 2015

Several authors whose stories appear in Hides the Dark Tower, participated in Hallowread this year.

Here’s yours truly, Hallowread 1Poseidon’s Scribe himself, signing a book for an adoring fan. Either that, or I’m defacing somebody’s copy of the book.

 

 

 

 

Fellow author Hallowread 4M. J. Ritchie spooks the attendees with a section of her story “Soul for Sale.”

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Hallowread 3Gudgel reads from his story “The Long Road Home,” with Poe’s raven gauging the audience’s reaction.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s beret-topped JHallowread 5eremy M. Gottwig reading his tale “Who Abandon Themselves.”

 

 

 

 

 

Co-editor VHallowread 2onnie Winslow Crist, behind a row of some of her books, entices the audience with a short blurb about every story in Hides the Dark Tower. I don’t have a pic of co-editor Kelly A. Harmon, since she wielded the camera.

 

 

 

 

In the end, it turned out everyone really came for tHallowread 6his:

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s the tastiest book I ever ate,” proclaimed—

Poseidon’s Scribe

November 1, 2015Permalink

After the Writer’s Conference

You returned home energized after attending a writer’s conference and you know that feeling will fade, but you wish it wouldn’t. Are there any techniques for maintaining your enthusiasm level?

Of course there are, and you happened onto the very blog post that reveals them.

Post-Conference ElixerLet’s backtrack. After months of laboring in solitude, coming up with ideas all by yourself, and typing away at manuscripts alone, you go to a writer’s conference.

While there, you attend panels and hear published authors discuss tricks of the trade. You hear editors and publishers talk about current trends in your genre. You hobnob with writers and readers, bounce book ideas off other people, discover websites and software that might help you with your next story.

Heady stuff! Your mind is abuzz with plans and notions. You can’t wait to put all that information to use. This conference has revealed to you the hidden secret of getting published, and you’re convinced that this time, at this moment, and armed with this knowledge, you have finally cracked the cypher and will write your masterpiece and the world will stand in awe of the miracle that is you.

Back at home now. Sitting at the computer, your fingers are hovering over the keyboard. You’re ready for greatness.

Really ready.

Any moment now.

But something happened. Someone opened a mental drain valve and the fervor has flowed away. The passion has ebbed and leaked out.

It isn’t fair! One moment you held the key to immortality in your hands, and the next it’s gone, and there’s only you and an unhelpful blinking cursor again. Along with a hungry cat, or a dog that wants its walk, perhaps.

Sadly, there’s no concoction you can drink to restore the zeal you had at the conference. There’s no Excitement Elixir, no Talent Tonic, no Passion Potion. Top scientists are at work on the problem and may someday achieve a breakthrough, but for now you’re pretty much out of luck.

Except…

I have some ideas for—at least partially—restoring that feeling:

  • Review your conference literature and notes.
  • Write descriptions of your favorite conference moments, and what you learned.
  • Using those descriptions, notes, and brochures to write down an action plan of things you’d like to try out.
  • Whenever you get stuck, blocked, or depressed about your writing, review your conference notes and descriptions.
  • E-mail any contacts you met at the conference, and engage with them.
  • Join a critique group.
  • Join a writer’s group.
  • Take a course in creative writing.
  • Read a book about writing.

If all of those fail, well, you can always register for the next writer’s conference. That will at least restart the cycle, beginning with the thrill of anticipation.

It was a great conference, though, wasn’t it? We can’t bottle the feeling, but we can at least recall it and relive it in our minds, and try other things to rekindle it. Though I’m no Snake Oil salesman, I hope you derive some benefit from the ideas you get from—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Pictures from BALTICON

During my book launch at BALTICON, friend and writer Kelly Harmon took some pictures of Steven R. Southard, my alter ego.

SteveReadingSteve2At the book launch of “Ripper’s Ring,” I described the story, passed around my 3D-printed version of the Ring of Gyges, and read an excerpt from the story.

It was the first time I had conducted a book launch at a con, and I learned some things about how to do it better next time.

My thanks to Kelly Harmon for taking the pictures. It’s much appreciated by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

What a Great Time at BALTICON!

Although I’ve attended the major science fiction and fantasy convention in Baltimore for many years, this year marked the first time I spoke as a participant. It’s been a wonderful experience!

b49_banner_1First, I spoke on a panel called “Being Out in Fandom.” It was about the issues faced by the LGBTQ community as fans at cons. My thanks to fellow panelists Stephanie “Flashcat” Burke and Hugh J. O’Donnell, and to moderator Jennifer R. Povey for helping me through that unfamiliar territory. I think I learned more than the audience!

I felt more conversant about being on the panel called “Engineers Can’t Write—Some Known Counter-Examples.” I had suggested that idea to the BALTICON staff, after all! I greatly enjoyed the experience with the other panelists Karen Burnham, Gary Ehrlich, and Walt Boyes. Jack Clemmons did a superb job as the moderator.

The next panel was part of the weekend-long tribute to the late C.J Henderson, who was the con’s Ghost of Honor. It was titled “Do You Want Pulp With That?” and we talked about what pulp fiction is, and Henderson’s forays into that realm. It was the first panel I’d ever moderated. I’m grateful to panelists John L. French, Michael Black, and Michael Underwood for keeping things interesting and informative for the audience (and for me).

On Sunday morning, I was honored to be in a reading session with Melissa Scott and Ada Palmer. (Despite the ‘ladies first’ adage, I should have gone first. I see that now.) After they read wonderful excerpts from upcoming works, I read a passage from “A Clouded Affair” in the anthology Avast, Ye Airships!

That afternoon, I sat at an autograph table with Jack McDevitt. Yes, the Jack McDevitt, winner of the Nebula Award, and recent winner of the Heinlein Award. He was wonderful to talk to, and a few of the fans who’d lined up for his autograph spent some time at my end of the table.

We had a packed session for a panel I moderated called “Bars, Inns, and Taverns: Fiction and Reality.” Panelists Katie Bryski, Ada Palmer, John Skylar, and Nathan Lowell kept it fun and instructive. BALTICON’s Guest of Honor, Jo Walton (Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell Award winner!), also attended and shared her knowledge of the history of English pubs.

Among those who attended the launching of my story “Ripper’s Ring” were friends Kelly A. Harmon and Trisha Wooldridge. I thank them both.

Late Sunday night, I moderated a panel called “Knowing That I Know That You Know: Xanatos Gambits and Chessmasters.” The only panelist was Grig Larson, who was both funny and knowledgeable about this rather arcane topic.

On Monday I moderated the “Long YA, Short YA” panel discussing the explosion in long novels for young adults. Panelist Michael Underwood and Compton Crook Award Winner Alexandra Duncan kept the audience engaged.

Lastly, I moderated one more panel on “Tropes in Young Adult SF/F.” The lone panelist, Alexandra Duncan, was marvelous in this one too. I’m learning how to be a panel moderator, and it’s nice when a skilled and expert panelist makes up for any shortcomings in the moderator, (like when he runs out of questions).

All in all, a spectacular weekend! My sincere thanks go to the BALTICON programming coordinators for giving me a chance. I’m grateful, as well, to all the more experienced authors I met who told me, and showed by example, how to have a successful convention.

This BALTICON will linger long and fondly in the memory of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Join Me at BALTICON this Weekend

b49_banner_1

All right, Poseidon’s Scribe fans, here’s an opportunity for you. I’ll be speaking, and generally causing trouble, at BALTICON this weekend. BALTICON is the major science fiction and fantasy convention near Baltimore, Maryland.

Here’s my schedule (subject to change):

Date Time Topic
Friday 10:00 PM Being Out in Fandom
Saturday 10:00 AM Engineers Can’t Write? Some Known Counter-Examples
Saturday 1:00 PM Do You Want Pulp with That?
Sunday 11:00 AM Readings
Sunday 4:00 PM Autograph session
Sunday 8:00 PM Bars, Inns, and Taverns: Fiction and Reality
Sunday 9:15 PM Book Launch: Ripper’s Ring
Sunday 10:00 PM Knowing That I Know That You Know: Xanatos Gambits and Chessmasters
Monday 12:00 PM Long YA, Short YA
Monday 1:00 PM Tropes In Young Adult SF/F

For some of the panels I’m the moderator and for others a panelist. After years of sitting in the audience at these events, now I’ll be one of the authors doing the yakking. A new experience for me.

Stop by, say hi, and listen to the wit and wisdom of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

10 Reasons You Really Are Good Enough to Write Fiction

Perhaps you have a story inside you, but you feel too scared or intimidated or inadequate to believe you could ever write fiction.  Here are some ways to banish those feelings.

First, there are at least three levels of fiction-writing.  (1) These days you can write and publish something yourself without an editor, at near zero cost.  (2) You can get your writing accepted by a publisher, but not make enough money to live on.  (3) You can write fiction as your sole means of support.  I’ll limit myself to discussing level (2) today.

Never be a writerTrue, some people aren’t cut out to be writers at all.  My purpose today is to keep you from cutting yourself out of the running at the start.  Let’s look at ways you might think you’re not fit to be a writer:

  1. I just know I could never be a writer.  Where is your resistance to writing coming from?  Do you immediately think “I could never do that” when presented with other opportunities in life?  Maybe this isn’t about writing at all, but your general negativity toward trying new activities.  How many amazing human initiatives haven’t happened because somebody said, “I could never do that,” hmm?
  2. I don’t know anything about writing.  Don’t let this stop you.  That’s the part you can get help with, through critique groups, writing courses, books about writing, writing conferences, etc.
  3. I’d never write as well as [insert your favorite famous author’s name here].  Stop comparing yourself to the great authors.  You can’t know today how you’ll stack up against them one day.  So what if you’re not quite as good?  You can still get published and win over some readers.
  4. I’m unknown, and people only read books by known authors.  Think about it; all published authors started off unknown.  What if your favorite author had talked herself or himself out of writing?
  5. No editor will read my stories because I’m unpublished.  Not true.  Consider that latching on to a new, undiscovered top talent is every publisher’s dream.  All they need is one (you?) to make their career.
  6. Novels seem so hard to write.  No need to begin with a novel.  Try a novella, a short story, flash fiction.  Do blog posts for a while.
  7. My teacher told me I’d never be a writer.  Is one long-ago English or Language Arts teacher still in your head criticizing you?  Keep that teacher in your mind, but dedicate yourself to showing how wrong he or she was; sweet revenge will be yours one day.
  8. My story idea seems trite, or already used, etc.  At this point your idea is just a story concept; it might match hundreds of already-published stories.  Once you flesh it out and write it down, it becomes uniquely yours, different from all others, and possibly publishable.
  9. It takes too long to write a story.  True, writing takes time.  But, of all the skills and abilities you’ve developed in life, how many did you master in a day?  Let the strength of your story idea sustain you.  If it’s truly grabbed you, you’ll persevere until you write it all down.
  10. I couldn’t stand being rejected or getting a bad review.  That does stink, no denying it.  Any creative endeavor requires a thick skin.  Look at editor’s rejections as permissions to send your story elsewhere.  As for bad reviews, remember it’s far easier to be the critic.  At the worst, the reviewer may actually have a valid point you can use to improve your writing for the next story.

See?  You are good enough to at least try being a writer.  Shake off those negative emotions.  Let your imagination soar.  Allow yourself to try it out.  Someday, when you’re a famous author, be sure and give partial credit to—

                                                Poseidon’s Scribe

November 17, 2013Permalink

Captain Nemo sighted at Darkovercon

Those who attended Darkovercon this year on November 24th and 25th got a chance to see me, dressed as Captain Nemo.

I’m the one on the right, by the way.  Why, yes, that is an electric pistol I’m holding; very observant of you to notice.  Not visible in this photo is the Captain Nemo motto “Mobilis in Mobile” on my chest.  My Nemo costume is based on the original illustrations, unlike the movie versions where Nemo appears either as a Navy Captain or an Indian Prince.  Jules Verne’s Nemo had abandoned connections with the land.  He was no military man, nor did he consider himself Indian any longer.  He was part engineer and part pirate, and his clothing reflected that.

 

Here’s my electric pistol.  Very steampunk!  The golden, jagged sights on top are reminiscent of the Nautilus submarine from the Disney film of 1954.  True, Nemo didn’t go around carrying a pistol.  The electric rifles mentioned in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea were only for underwater use, and the original illustrations show them to be similar in appearance to standard rifles.  I just took a little creative license.

 

And there’s the motto.  The Latin translates as “moving in a moving thing” or, more metaphorically, “free in a free world.”  Yes, you can find versions of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where it’s rendered as “Mobilis in Mobili” where that last word ends in ‘i,’ but I’m told that’s plural, and singular was most likely intended.

Feel free to send me a comment if you (a) think I looked like Captain Nemo should look, or (b) think I looked too silly for words.  While I wait for you to type your comment, I’ll enjoy recalling how a childhood fantasy came real for–

                                                            Poseidon’s Scribe

 

 

December 2, 2012Permalink

When Authors Speak

When you’ve had a few stories published, you may be asked to speak at a conference.  It may be a chance to speak alone about a topic, to speak on a panel, or to read some samples of your writing.

I’ve had that honor twice.  In February 2010, I read a portion of my story “Within Victorian Mists” to an audience at the Crossroads Writing Conference in Macon, GA.  I was with a group of other steampunk writers (Emilie P. Bush, Kathryn Hinds, Alexander White, Lainey Welsch, Dwayne DeBardelaben, and Austin Sirkin), and here’s a picture from that event.  In November 2011, I served on a panel with some steampunk experts (Mark P. Donnelly, Elektra Hammond, and Kevin Houghton) at the DarkoverCon in Timonium, MD.

For both conference speaker and conference attender, there are likely to be some unmet expectations.  I fear that conference attenders who hope to be authors someday think they will learn the hidden secrets of great writing and be handed the golden keys to fortune and fame.  In some cases, conference speakers may expect to earn flocks of new fans, all captivated by the speaker’s charm or wit and eager to part with their cash in exchange for the author’s books.

So if you’re the writer who’s given a chance to speak, what should you expect?  Perhaps one or more audience members will feel moved to purchase something on the spot.  Others may think about it and investigate your presence online later, before deciding to buy and read one of your books.

Those attending your panel, or lecture, or reading, must lower their expectations as well.  After all, it’s not like you have surplus fortune-and-fame keys to hand out.  The most they’ll receive are a few nuggets of wisdom about becoming an author, or reminders and reinforcements of previously learned knowledge.

As the speaker, then, your purposes are clear.  (1) Present yourself as an engaging, interesting personality.  (2) Convey some useable advice or recommendations about getting published. (3) Inform the audience about your books without being pushy.  In this way both speaker and audience can leave knowing they’ve received something of value.

Trouble is, the skills you developed while becoming a published author differ from those needed for speaking at a conference.  Public speaking scares most people at first, and only practice and experience lessen that fear.

If you’re the sole speaker during your session, I suggest you come prepared with an outline, so your talk doesn’t ramble.  Remember too, even a lecture is an interactive event, never the same twice.  Watch your audience members for their body language and facial reactions; you’ll know when you’ve said something controversial or provocative, etc.  Be gracious and attentive during the question-and-answer period.

When serving on a discussion panel, now group dynamics enter the picture.  Don’t monopolize the panel; that turns audiences off.  Don’t sit there saying little; you won’t entice future readers that way either.  If you must disagree with another panelist, do so with respect and consideration.  Never get drawn into an argument; that runs counter to your purposes.

If reading from one of your stories, select an engaging passage.  Project your voice.  Enunciate your words.  Modulate as you speak, stressing for emphasis and altering your timbre or accent for different characters in dialogue.

Was this advice helpful?  Let me know with a comment.  Remember, readers love to meet and engage with authors, especially those they find intriguing.  So get out there and be intriguing.  Soon you’ll be winning fans, including–

                                                         Poseidon’s Scribe