ConCarolinas 2016: good panels, good people, and 50 years of Star Trek

Nana and Me
We were color coordinated. Her people must have called my people.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by meeting an actor from the franchise (except maybe having a Klingon Bird-of-Prey tattooed someplace).

Kira Nerys is one of the strongest characters in the Trek universe. I am starting to suspect she has influenced my own writing a bit. As you can imagine, I was stoked to meet the actress responsible for her portrayal: Nana Visitor.

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My favorite cosplay was a father and daughter team dressed as classic Klingons.

I have a tendency to throw around words such as “distinct honor,” “privilege,” and “delightful,” when I’m sharing about my run-ins with science fiction celebrities. It’s not because I’m pretentious (I probably am). It’s because anything less doesn’t do these amazing people justice. So far, the ones I’ve met enjoy mixing with the fans and sharing a bit of their real-world personalities with us. Visitor was no exception.

So far I’ve met Colonel Tigh AND Major Kira (later colonel). Both were executive officers. I’m picking up on a pattern here. I need Commander Riker to complete the set. Sadly, Spock is no longer with us, or he would be the crowning achievement.

When you want to attend more panels than you can fit into your schedule, it means you’re at a really good convention. This year, ConCarolinas did not disappoint. I enjoyed such topics as post-apocalyptic medicine, paranormal research (sick of reality TV ghost hunting, I wanted to meet the real deal), steampunk writing, a celebration of Star Trek, and my favorite panel which focused on mental illness. I’ll have to write a post sometime expanding on that subject which is near and dear to my heart.

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It’s all fun and games until the Space Marines show up.

I spent some money on books and stuff, but not too terribly much. Nope.

(Next Post: Newsletter, Author Tour Update, Writing Progress, and More)


Events and Dark Solutions

I’ve been busy lining up events for 2016. Mostly they are conventions that I am attending, though it’s looking like I’ll be a guest author or panelist at a couple. I keep an updated list on my Events page and will be adding more venues soon.

Work is proceeding well on Dark Solutions, the second book in the FRThirdPlanet series. The back cover text is now ready. I find it to be quite spine-tingling, if I do say so myself.

DS Back Cover

A New Year, Another Con, and What’s Coming

I owe my readers an apology for neglecting my blog since before Christmas. What have I been up to?

BookCoverPreviewOn February 26th I published the second edition of Salvaging the Beast. It wasn’t easy coming to a decision on performing a heavy revision of my first book, but once I did there was no looking back. Beast is now a book I am entirely proud of with zero reservations. In my previous blog post from November, I explained more in depth why I felt this was a necessary step.

For those of you who read the first edition, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart. You took a step to try out a new author. If you purchased a hard copy, talk to me and I might just give you a free signed copy of the second edition. It’s only fair, in my opinion. I shall include an author’s note in the second book to explain the changes so everyone will be up to speed.

I got my author hat idea from someplace.

On the day I published the second edition of Beast, I drove up to Virginia for Mysticon. I purchased a pile of books by several authors and attended some excellent panels. The most thrilling accomplishment of the weekend was having George R.R. Martin sign a hardback copy of Game of Thrones.

Work is progressing on Book Two, Dark Solutions. I’m shooting for a late Spring release, however, my track record up to now suggests that meeting deadlines is not my strong suit. I shall endeavor to keep you all updated on my progress.

Lastly, I’ve got a new interview coming out real soon. More on that later. Until then, I appreciate your support and your feedback.

Second Edition of Salvaging the Beast

When I was preparing for my author reading at Atomacon this weekend, I decided to read several chapters out loud in advance to determine which would sound the best. While I was pleased with two of them, I quickly discovered that my lingering reservations about a particular chapter had merit. The narrative was uninteresting with much of the necessary exposition covered elsewhere.

Once I took scissors to my precious baby, the dam broke. Since its release in May, Salvaging the Beast has gotten a lot of praise, but the constructive criticism of an unknown reviewer has haunted me, in particular because I already knew, deep down, that certain things were mistakes. The most aggravating was that my first chapter did not really hook the reader, in my opinion. It slowly warmed up the story with background information, and did little else. Furthermore, my use of shifting timelines and flashbacks had proven to be confusing to some readers.

To be fair to myself, I published the first edition less than a month before my dad passed away. I can see how much my judgement was affected by the stress and grief of that time.

I have just finished a draft of this proposed second edition. The novella has been shaved down to 25,000 words from the 35,000 of the original release. Much was tossed away completely, with a lot more pulled out only to be used later in the series. The remaining material has been rearranged a little, with some lines altered to compensate for the modifications. I’m having a few readers look at it to see how this cut has turned out.

Those who have read the first edition, do not be alarmed. Nothing was added to the second edition. You won’t have to read the book again to proceed in the series. You will, however, be a little confused in later books when you find yourself reading certain passages and whole chapters you’ve read before. On the plus side, you are privy to some background material a little earlier than everyone else.

I feel great relief now that I’ve given myself permission to clean things up and fix what has been nagging at me. It is my firm belief that the book and the series as a whole will benefit from this radical and unorthodox decision.

Meeting Tom Servo: fanboy moments from ConCarolinas 2015, part two

Last week I recounted my experience meeting Michael Hogan of Battlestar Galactica fame at ConCarolinas this year. I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting Joel Hodgson, creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000. If you don’t know what that is, go find out and watch. It’s one of a kind.

Joel Hodgson
They say you should never meet your heroes, but so far I’m having a blast.

I found Hodgson to be one of the nicest people one could ever encounter. Much like Hogan, he refused to stay planted behind his table. In fact, as his guests were backing up between the vendor tables, he worked the line, making sure it was straight. He shook hands with us and chatted, keeping us company while we interacted with his assistant in sorting out our prepaid tickets. Finally I got to have a picture with him and his traveling Tom Servo. After paying the appropriate fee, I was initiated into a secret society that I am not at liberty to discuss with outsiders.

John ScalziLast but not least, I got a stack of books signed by John Scalzi, including a first edition hardback of Old Man’s War in excellent condition. As the nearby bookseller put it, Scalzi might be the next big thing in science fiction. He is certainly one of my favorite authors.

This was my second ConCarolinas, and the experience just gets better and better. I can’t wait until next year!

Meeting Colonel Tigh: fanboy moments from ConCarolinas 2015, part one

I didn’t go to ConCarolinas in 2015 with the idea of meeting Michael Hogan, the actor who portrayed Colonel Tigh in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series. At one time I thought BSG was a candidate for the title of Greatest Sci-Fi TV Show Ever. I’m not sure I’d want to hand that trophy out, but I like to grant nominations. Sadly, BSG let me down in the final season.

I think maybe the show had been pushed so far to the back of my mind that I just skimmed over Hogan’s guest announcement. I was more interested in seeing Joel Hodgson, creator of MST3K. He was really awesome and I will blog about him later.

Before I left town to travel to the con, I went shopping for a t-shirt appropriate to the occasion. I found a NASA shirt which I thought would be cool, but surely there would be tons of people wearing it there.

As it turns out, I was the only one, as far as I could tell. It paid off, because I entered the room scheduled for Hodgson early, and you can probably guess whose talk I interrupted with a door that managed to slam itself loudly. Why do all con doors do that?

“Speaking of NASA,” segued Hogan, who proceeded to discuss real astronauts who were fans of BSG. Woah. Did Colonel Tigh just alter his discussion because of me? Dang it, this is what I get for being someplace early for a change. His talk was great, what little I got to hear of it. On my way out, I was still thinking about my entrance and whether it all went down the way I thought it did.

Browsing the vendor room, I had a good view of Hogan standing out in front of his signing table. He was roping in passersby for chats and discussions. I could tell he was very personable. Finally, I worked up the nerve to go speak to him. I must have imagined my involvement in his talk, filling in the gaps with what I wanted to hear.

Nope. He immediately commented on my shirt. I can’t remember if I apologized or what. I do remember having a delightful conversation with the man. Holy frack, I was talking to Colonel Tigh. It was just then I realized something I had forgotten, or never really considered: Saul Tigh was my favorite character on Battlestar Galactica. I had to tell him. I explained why. I think it made sense. Another guy stopped by to enter the conversation. Hogan spoke his favorite line from the show. This was really happening.

I don’t recall too clearly the order of events, but at some point we got to talking about real space exploration. He wanted to give me a non-fiction book recommendation. He tore a piece of scratch paper and wrote on it. I had a space book recommendation from Colonel Tigh. I had his actual handwriting on paper. When I picked up a business card from the table for his booking agent, he offered to write his name on the back. “You know how it is at these conventions, you get home with cards and you have no idea what they’re for,” he said, or something to that effect.

I now had his handwritten name and I hadn’t even paid for a signed picture or anything. Well, his signature probably looked different. But this was better.

Best of all, I seized the opportunity that confronted me. I reciprocated, giving him my business card, all shiny and new. On the flip side was the cover of my first book, Salvaging the Beast, released on the Kindle that very day.

I gave my business card promoting my first science fiction book to Colonel Tigh! I’m still not sure that this has actually sunk in.

The next day I decided I wanted to get a picture with Michael Hogan. My business card was still on his table. That means he didn’t throw it away. Yay.

I’ve decided to go back and watch Battlestar Galactica again. When I reach that line from Colonel Tigh, I know I will smile.

Me: “I’d kick myself if I didn’t get a picture with you.” Hogan: “Well don’t go around kicking yourself, man.” Me: “I’ve done too much of that lately.” Hogan: [laughs]
Me: “I’d kick myself if I didn’t get a picture with you.”
Hogan: “Well don’t go around kicking yourself, man.”
Me: “I’ve done too much of that lately.”
Hogan: [laughs]

Don’t Read My Blog

…if you want to accomplish your dreams. You should be working on that instead.

But now that you’re here, allow me to discuss my idea in greater depth. I’m not actually saying you shouldn’t read my blog. That was just a catchy title to suck you in. Looks like it worked.

What I am saying is that if you want to make your goals a reality, you’ll need to take a scalpel to the lesser interests that pull you this way and that.

If you’re like me, you’ve dabbled in so many things, dreaming of becoming an expert on everything you try. This is not realistic. Sorry. It’s just that simple.

Having a wide knowledge of the world is healthy. Trying to do all the things is not. Perhaps I am being a bit heavy-handed applying my wisdom to every human being on the planet. But I don’t presume so much. Read my words and see if they resonate with you. I know the kind of person I am, and if I let myself wander too much, I never take anything far enough to make a difference.

Being more specific, let me state that I’ve been able to take my writing career more seriously by saying no to the things that are not as important to me. Once that was done, I felt good, not bad. What I want is closer, and the other things aren’t cluttering up my life.

What do you think?

September Book Tour

CO5FE-DWgAA2oMIMy September book tour was a success. I appeared in New Bern, NC for a local author symposium at the public library. We had eight authors total. If you know anything about writers, we are in good company with each other.

Turnout was low, very likely brought on by the Kiss of Death: torrential downpour a half hour before the show was slated to begin. However, I enjoyed meeting several residents of New Bern who braved the weather to support local talent.

So yeah… about that. Having me there as a guest stretched the “local author” thing a bit thin, but I consider all of NC my home, so that’s okay, right?

I had about ten minutes to speak. I thought I was doing okay until I noticed my hands were messing with my face and I kept leaning on the podium. This did not go unnoticed.

I was told by one author that I should take up acting. I’ll add that to my bucket list.

I sold a book! My first ever hard copy sale in person. I need to frame that five-dollar bill.

A week later, I held my first ever solo author visit at the public library in Albemarle, NC. I couldn’t hide amongst seven other writers this time. I was headlining.

One thing I knew for sure: I was keeping my hands away from my face. Flinging them out in the air, I let them gesture as I spoke, performing a vital duty to get my points across. At least that’s what I hope they were doing.

It was a great talk with great questions from the audience. I managed to ramble on and hold everyone’s attention for an hour. I didn’t even have time to read from my book. My guests were lucky and spared all that filler.

I sold five copies this time, but that’s not what excited me most. One of the audience told me that she had been uncertain about whether she ought to become a writer. Listening to me talk inspired her to take it seriously, and she was very grateful to me.

Could an author ask for anything more?

Locked Out

Last week, I drove down to Charlotte to purchase a car. Not just any car. My dream car. Everything went smoothly. The salesperson was friendly and we talked for hours, waiting on the only finance guy to become available. Looking back, that would be my only complaint. And then I drove home.

But this, my first ever blog entry, is not about the car. Not really. You see, when I was leaving the house, about to hitch a ride with my brother, I pondered whether I needed to bring my keys with me. I turned to look at my mother, whom I live with and take good care of. If she reads this, I think she would agree. In which case, she is the best mother ever. She was talking to someone else, either my brother or one of the guys working on the house. That means she probably didn’t hear me when I wondered aloud, “Should I bring my keys? Nah, you’ll be here when I get back.”

My mom selected that night to go to bed early for the first time in weeks. Lights were out, and none of my knocking, pounding, phone calling, or doorbell ringing got me where I wanted to go: inside the house.

I could enter the garage, and I figured I could sleep in the back seat of her car, which is leather and quite nice. The car was locked. It’s never locked while in the garage. No sweat, because there’s a decent couch in the garage.

The kink in that plan was that I needed to go to the bathroom. I figured I could drive to an all-night restaurant or Walmart to take care of business, and return. But, my poor dog had been up a long time and needed a walk. I needed a plan.

Mom broke into the house once using a shovel. I could find no shovel. The lock on that bathroom window was still lose from when she broke in. I decided it wouldn’t take much to break in that way again.

New tile was laid that day, and no one is supposed to walk on it until the next day. Scratching that plan, I checked a window on the porch. It was locked and solid. I needed something tough to bust the lock open. This just wasn’t working out.

Then I got it. A fantastic idea. I drove my newly acquired Mustang GT around to the front of the house, backing it up close to the porch. Gunning the engine for a while, I thought surely she would hear the 8 cylinders of pure American muscle car that had been carefully crafted by Ford Motor Company to resemble the 1960 models.

Nothing. No lights came on. No indication that she had heard.

It was around this time that I noticed the sounds of coyotes howling. You know, that high pitched kind of sound that dogs don’t quite reach. If coyotes are vocal, it usually means they are packing up to hunt.

I tore myself away from thoughts of becoming one with nature, and set about a new plan. This would surely do the trick. I knocked again, and called the house and cell phones once more. Still nothing. I started to suspect the new plan was the same as the old plan, as the results were similar.

All of out of ideas, I examined another window on the porch, as if somehow I’d acquire the ability to enter that one without a shovel.

My hopes were low, but it was just then I realized the window was not locked. Nor was the next two beside.

Being the intrepid man that I am, a quick slide of the window and a scurry over the porch chair, and I was inside. Success! Wait, why were those windows unlocked??!!!

This whole fiasco took an hour, at least. Sitting at my computer, relaxing and checking email, the door to my mom’s door opened. Emerging, she said, “I was waiting until you got home to go to sleep.”

Shaking my head, I decided I was done for the day.