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.

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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

Year of the Cat’s Eye

Meow! Pole-to-Pole Publishing just launched a new anthology, In a Cat’s Eye. And one of my own stories is in it!

catseye_final-72dpiEditors Kelly A. Harmon and Vonnie Winslow Crist have done it again, following up on the success of their previous editorial collaboration, Hides the Dark Tower. This time the theme is cats, those mysterious and independent mammals who recognize no master, but who sometimes permit human contact.

I’m pleased and honored that my story will appear amid those of authors like Jody Lynn Nye, Gail Z. Martin, A.L. Sirois, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Doug C. Souza, Oliver Smith, Jeremy M. Gottwig, K.L. Borrowman, Gregory Norris, Christine Lucas, R.S. Pyne, Joanna Hoyt, Elektra Hammond, A.L. Kaplan, and Alex Shvartsman.

My story is called “The Cats of Nerio-3.” Space outpost Nerio-3 was abandoned fifty years ago after a cosmic ray storm killed all occupants, other than some cats and mice. Now the outpost’s owners have hired Lani Koamalu and PAIGE-8 to reclaim the station. Lani is human, and Paige is an artificially intelligent super-computer who far exceeds people in intelligence…and arrogance. When Paige sends her drones into the outpost and discovers what the mice and cats have been up to, it’s time to find out if humans are so inferior after all.

For back-stories on some of the other tales in this antho, check out this post by Gregory L. Norris.

You can get your copy of In a Cat’s Eye at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes&Noble, Scribd, and other outlets. Get your paws on one now!

This is truly the Year of the Cat. I think songwriter Al Stewart would have to agree with—

Poseidon’s Scribe

October 23, 2016Permalink

A Great Time at BALTICON 50

BALTICON50_banner_1The major science fiction and fantasy convention in Baltimore turned fifty this year, and the organizers went all out. With George R. R. Martin as the Guest of Honor, and some seventeen previous GoH being there as well, this was a star-studded event.

I’m told attendance more than doubled the usual number, and from the way folks crowded the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, I can believe it.

Nobody would describe this convention as a well-oiled machine that ran like clockwork. Still, what impressed me was the good attitude of the attendees. Most people accepted the chaos as a given; they went with the flow.

I shared a book-signing table with author Paul Cooley, an engaging and entertaining guy. One fan, a pregnant woman, asked him to sign a book she intended to give to “Jude.” When Paul asked who Jude was, she patted her bulge. He told me it was the first time he’d signed a book for someone who hadn’t been born yet.

KellyAHarmon at Balticon50
Kelly A. Harmon

I managed to grab a pic of fellow author Kelly A. Harmon during the Broad Universe rapid-fire reading session. She captivated the room while reading from her latest novel, A Blue Collar Proposition, third in her Charm City Darkness series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At a later reading session, I had the pleasure to join authors Ming Diaz (left), Michelle Sonnier (second from right), and Goldeen Ogawa (far right). Ming is a natural storyteller, with a melodious voice that mesmerizes. Both Michelle and Goldeen read from unpublished manuscripts of theirs—sections from novels in progress. (I’m not brave enough to do that.) I read from “After the Martians.”

Reading at Balticon50 (2)
Ming Diaz, me, Michelle Sonnier, and Goldeen Ogawa
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Goldeen Ogawa’s sketch inspired by “After the Martians”

Goldeen Ogawa served as our moderator and kept things lively and fun. She’s a graphic designer as well as a writer, and creates her own book covers. While Ming, Michelle, and I were reading our selections, Goldeen drew little sketches based on what she saw in her artist’s mind while we spoke. The sketch she drew for me is a great rendering of a Martian tripod fighting machine battling in a desolate landscape. Thanks, Goldeen!

After every convention, I come away charged up and full of story ideas. I get a vivid reminder of the devotion of science fiction and fantasy fans, their hunger for good stories, and their willingness to learn about undiscovered authors. BALTICON 50 will be long remembered by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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

Upcoming Anthology – Hides the Dark Tower

My short story, “Ancient Spin,” will appear in the anthology Hides the Dark Tower, scheduled to appear in October. It’s a new publisher, Pole-to-Pole Publishing, and I think this is their first anthology.

Hides the Dark Tower-Purchased_Artwork_72pxThe anthology’s editors, Kelly A. Harmon and Vonnie Winslow Crist, have been great to work with. They’ve selected a stunning piece of artwork for the cover, don’t you think?

The anthology features stories involving towers. There’s just something about towers. They represent man’s attempt to reach the heavens. Viewed from the ground, they’re mysterious and imposing. From the top, they provide a view that makes you feel commanding and godlike.

By now, you’re wondering where that title, Hides the Dark Tower, comes from. Glad you asked. It’s from the poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” by Robert Browning. Here are two of the 34 verses (italics are mine):

What else should he be set for, with his staff?
What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare
All travellers who might find him posted there,
And ask the road? I guess’d what skull-like laugh
Would break, what crutch ’gin write my epitaph
For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare,

If at his counsel I should turn aside
Into that ominous tract which, all agree,
Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly
I did turn as he pointed: neither pride
Nor hope rekindling at the end descried,
So much as gladness that some end might be.

Browning, in turn, spun off his poem from Shakespeare’s King Lear, so maybe all literature just builds on other works, like bricks upon bricks. Like a tower.

As I mentioned, the anthology comes out this fall, and I’ll provide more details and reminders as the date nears. Looking down upon you all from the newly constructed, sky-scraping, world-record-holding tower here at Poseidon’s Scribe Enterprises, I’m—

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

Author Interview — Kelly A. Harmon

KellyAHarmon03172010eI’m pleased to welcome author Kelly A. Harmon to the world of Poseidon’s Scribe.   Kelly writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction.

A former newspaper reporter, Kelly says she “used to write truthful, honest stories about authors and thespians, senators and statesmen, movie stars and murderers. Now she writes lies, which is infinitely more satisfying, but lacks the convenience of doorstep delivery, especially on rainy days.”

Among her many enjoyable stories are “The Dragon’s Clause” and “Blood Soup.”

cover_dragonsClause2The Dragon’s Clause:” For hundreds of years, the city-state of San Marino has paid tribute to the dragon living beneath their mountain city. But humans are forgetful, and no one alive has ever seen the dragon. Though a contract exists, the people feel they are just throwing their money away. Find out what happens when the city residents renege on their contract with the dragon.

cover_BloodSoup2012_Final_250Blood Soup:” Danger awaits the Kingdom of Borgund if a woman fails to take the throne. When the pregnant Queen finally gives birth, the king faces a terrible choice. Will he choose wisely or doom the kingdom to ruin?

I read and loved both these stories, and posted reviews here and here.  And now for the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe:  When and why did you begin writing fiction?

Kelly A. Harmon:  I’ve been writing all my life. Seriously. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing a story.

As for the why of it: because I can’t not.  I’ve taken little vacations from writing, but, like some crazy illness, I can’t get away from it.  There’s actually a Latin phrase for this: Cacoethes Scribendi.  The phrase comes from the Juvenal’s Satires, wherein he states, “Tenet insanabile multos scribendi cacoethes.” “The incurable desire for writing affects many.”  My first Web site was called Cacoethes Scribendi.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

K.H.:  It’s all easy…and it’s all hard. Some days are just easier than others.  Writing is easier when I know where the story is going: words just seem to flow. The difficulties come when I want to write about something, but don’t have a clear picture in my mind. When that happens, I put the story away and work on something else until I have time to think about it.

P.S.:  What inspired you to write “Blood Soup” and “The Dragon’s Clause?”

K.H.:  “Blood Soup” is the product of the 3-day novel contest. I wanted to see if I could write a story in three days.  The rules allowed you to plot the novel before you started, so I had a little cribsheet—a postcard actually—with a series of scenes I wanted to write. I got all the way to the last day, when you’re supposed to mail it off to the judges…and a thunderstorm rolled through the area and blacked out my power for over an hour. I was devastated!  But it came back on before the deadline and I was able to submit.  I submitted a finished novel, but it didn’t win one of the big-three prizes. However, “Blood Soup” did go on to win first place in the Fantasy Gazetteers contest and was published later than year by an unaffiliated publisher.

“The Dragon’s Clause” is one of my favorite short stories! I wrote it on spec for an anthology, and was tickled pink when it was accepted.  It was clearly a case of, “I want to be published there…what can I write?”

P.S.: What is the audience you’re trying to reach in your stories?

K.H.:  Honestly, I write for myself. I strive to write well, and I’m always looking to improve, but I’d write whether or not there was an audience. (See: Cacoethes Scribendi). However, I hope my novels appeal to anyone who enjoys escape. I’d like to entertain more than anything.

P.S.:  What are your favorite genres to write in?

K.H.:  Six months ago I would have said epic fantasy unequivocally. However, I’m starting to write some contemporary urban fantasy, and it’s a lot of fun.  Look for a book or maybe two by the end of the year.

P.S.:  In your opinion, why does the fantasy genre seem to have such staying power?

K.H.:  I think there are a lot of reasons people like fantasy: most of the tropes are familiar—old English settings, for example, though a lot of really good fantasy breaks out of that mold—and people are comfortable with it. It’s easily relatable with a lot of magic and excitement tossed in.  It’s definitely escapist.

P.S.: Every Friday, your blog features prompts for fiction writers; do you find you need a prompt to get going with a story?

K.H.: I find that I don’t need a prompt to write, but I sometimes like to use one.  I have enough story ideas to write for a lifetime, but a prompt is very useful in sidetracking my brain to think in a different way. I might use a prompt or two to see where it might lead me in my current work in progress or to start a short story. I find prompts especially useful for creating short story plots.

P.S.: What is your current writing project?

K.H.: I’m busy, busy, busy!  I’m in the process of getting all my previously published short stories back into print and electronic—including a collection or two which will contain some stories not yet published. I’m finalizing edits on a novel—which I’ve received an offer on. If I decide to sign the contract, you’ll see it in early 2015.  I’m also working on the third book of a sexy urban fantasy.  The first in the series is on the desk of an editor right now, and I’m working on edits of the 2nd.

P.S.: What advice can you offer to aspiring writers?

K.H.: Write every day. Don’t wait for inspiration. Listen to criticism, but be true to your voice.

Thank you very much, Kelly!  The entire staff at Poseidon’s Scribe wishes you every success.  My readers can find out more about Kelly A. Harmon at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.  Her author site at Amazon.com is here.

                                                                         Poseidon’s Scribe

September 29, 2013Permalink