Archive for May, 2010

Dear Newbie Con Networker

There’s a type of person I want to be and one I don’t want to become. It’s a fine tension we walk. On the one hand, going to cons is about business. You’re there to make connections, writers, agents, and editors. Schmoozing is part of the game, they know it, we know it.  However, there was a point at a dinner I attended when I had to leave because I thought I had crossed the line and became guilty of name-badging people. When I reduce people to “who are you?” “What can you do for me?” When I become strictly about the climb, strictly about my opportunities, then I’m one step from becoming one of those “stab them in the back, climb their corpse” sort of people.

Dear Newbie Con Networker,

I’m not here to tell you how to go about your business.  Okay, I am, but I mean well.

Look, we’ve all been the new person in the business.  We’ve all been the anxious fan, the first time con goer, the up and comer looking for a break/someone to notice us, the stranger in the room hoping someone takes interest in us to talk to us.  We’ve been there, we get it.  People ask favors and many writers want to pay it forward as few get to where they are without the help and support of those who came before them.

But be a human being:

-Hanging around outside a bathroom as you wait your chance to make your move, well, it’s a little creepy.  Admittedly, post-BM I am in an idyllic state comparable to Nirvana, however, it’s not the preferred way I’d like to begin a conversation.

-If you give me a book as a “gift” and then ask me for a blurb in the next breath, I’m going to assume the gesture to be what it is.  Don’t be surprised if I’m terribly busy whenever you ask me for something.

-For that matter, if you view people as potential transactions, that’s all the relationship you will have with them.

Writing’s a lonely enough pursuit only made moreso if you view colleagues strictly as business contacts and fans as objects to be spammed.  Relationships are important, but they should be pursued for their own sake.

Professional Writer Who Already Finds it Hard to Trust People

Kick Ass – A Review

“We see someone in trouble and we think we would help.  But we don’t.” –Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson)

One can’t help but notice how super hero movies have dominated our cultural landscape.  From Spider-Man to Batman, Superman to Iron Man, our comic book heroes have been landing on the silver screen in ever increasing numbers.  How many times have we fantasized about being super heroes?  About being the one who swoops in and rescues people?  About being the one who busts through the doors in the knick of time?  About just being extra-ordinary?

Adapting the comic book by Mark Millar and John S. Romita Jr., Kick Ass, begins with that desire.

“What does it take to make a superhero?  Optimism and naivete.” –Dave

Dave Lizewski is “the last person you’d expect to be a super hero.”  He’s ordinary, invisible, and puts on a green jumpsuit with yellow piping to become a masked crime-fighter.  His super-power?  His ability to get his ass kicked.  He has no special abilities or physical … anything.  Only a heart in the right place, the will to act where others don’t; to jump in and do something while everyone else watches.  So when he strolls down the street in full battle regalia, there is a certain nobility to his ridiculous appearance.

There’s not so much a plot as much as a collection of characters destined to eventually collide together, from a mobster’s son who tries to uncover Kick-Ass’ identity by becoming a superhero himself, the Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to Hit Girl/Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz), a gun-toting, purple-haired, prepubescent martial-arts expert.  The Punisher in a school girl outfit.

“How far would you go to help your fellow man?”

People don’t want to risk.  It’s as if we’ve bought into the belief that we’re called to be safe. Yet there’s no such thing as safety.  Evil happens. Evil people also have free wills and make their decision to inflict their brand of evil on others.  Boils down to whether we will have a life based in assurance or based in anxiety.  We can live in a state of freedom in life, having a state of peace, faith, and confidence stemming from the assurance that we have in Christ Jesus. OR, we can continue on our own way, left to our own devices, with fear, doubt, and insecurity, trapped in a cycle of spiritual death. This assurance springs from faith in God as the ultimate protector, that sense that He is the ultimate, faithful judge. It doesn’t mean that He will spare you from every bad thing that could happen to you, but it does mean that we trust in Him ultimately exposing evil for what it is, and avenging us.

“One individual can make a difference.” –Red Mist

We can’t live from a place of fear. We can’t be afraid to love out of fear. All we can do is love without taking one another for granted, pray for one another’s continued safety, and be there for one another when the bad times come.  We’re called to radical action.  We’re called to protect the “least of these”—the poor, the widows, the orphans, the powerless—and to lay down our lives for our neighbors.  Dave is a perfect picture of the Church in becoming a force unlike the world has ever seen. We each have our own gifts and an obligation to use them. We can say all we want, but is what we do with our gifts that define who we are.  We may not leap tall buildings, swing on super strong webbing, put on hefty suits of armor, or have expensive toys, but we have the desire and the opportunities.

“With no power comes no responsibility.” –Kick Ass

Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake), Kick Ass knows its audience expects a high octane and ultraviolent romp.  For that true “guy-gasm” moment, a movie like this has to be over the top (thankfully toning down some of the excess of the comic), winking at its audience to sit back and enjoy the ride (what separates the exuberant joy of a Wanted from the turgid clip of a Hitman).  And it delivers what it promises.

You’re Welcome, Mr. Gaiman



I first met Neil Gaiman at World Horror Convention in 2002.  Sure at the time, he was an obvious fanboy, but was sure in time he’d grow into a professional.  I let him present me with an award (for the short story contest) and took him under my wing, whether he realized it or not, with my prose.

There were plenty of times when I’m sure he suffered from writers block or was just looking for inspiration, so he picked up some of my work from his shelves and re-read them just to remind him 
why he writes in the first place.  To rekindle his love of story.  From time to time, I’m sure he recalled my words of wisdom and encouragement and obviously how much of an inspiration I’ve been to him.  Even check in on my blog and twitter just to feel connected.

Eight years later, I realized that he’s come a long way.  I’m so proud of Neil.  So when he found himself in Indianapolis a few weeks back, it was an opportunity to     once again remind me what an inspiration I am.  This time around, I even presented him with a copy of my new novel, King Maker.

Look how professional he looks now.

And that’s how I choose to remember things.

Lemonade Day Vote

So May 2nd was Lemonade Day in Indianapolis.  Kids around the city set up lemonade stands, including our own.  It was a pretty rainy day, but our kids were undeterred as they had a captive crown of potential customers as it was also the last day of Mo*Con.

Apparently there is a contest going on and my wife is hijacking my blog in order to make the following announcement:

Lemonade day stand contest is up and going, please vote for my son’s stand – Reese B. (do it once a day for 1 week) Please, please, please!! Just find his name and hit vote, it’s just that simple, no logging in or password, just vote. Thank you!!!  Go to

http://thinkforwardfoundation.org/indexindy.php

So come on, interwebz.  Do it for the children.

Best Voice Mail Message EVAH!

“You’ve reached the voice mail of ____ _____.  I should tell you that I’m making a lot of changes in my life.  Please leave a message, but if I don’t call you back, you’re one of those changes.”

Luckily he called me back.

Online Privacy Protection

One of the on-going conversations throughout Mo*Con weekend was that of how much of a writer’s life should be available for public consumption.  In this age of social media (Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, etc), online privacy becomes a matter of critical concern.  With that, a friend of mine has offered to fill in with some expertise.
Online Privacy Protection

Guest Blog by Jim Cobb

Eleven o’clock at night and you are just settling in for a few hours of quiet time in your home office.  Spouse is snoozing away, kids are in bed as well.  Deadlines are looming so it is time to get cracking.

Eh, who can be knocking on front door at this hour?  You peek out the window and there’s a young man standing there.  He’s smiling rather shyly and looks harmless enough.  Opening the door, you say, “Yes?  Can I help you?”

<SHRIEK!>  “Oh my God, ITS YOU!  I am like your biggest, bestest fan EVAH!  Omigod, omigod, breathe, breathe.  Dude, you are AWESOME!  Like the best writer ever and we’re gonna be BEST FRIENDS!  I have all sorts of ideas for you to write about!  You and I are gonna colla…cobal…confab…write a bunch of stuff together!  We’re like two peas in a pod now and we’regonnahavesomuchfuntogetherIcanhardlycontainmyself!”

That’s when you notice two things.  He has a hypo in his hand and there is what appears to be a tin foil beanie under his ball cap.

Now, if you’re Brian Keene, you have your Taurus and the zombie you keep in the back storage closet.  If you’re Wrath James White, um, well you’re Wrath.

For the rest of us mere mortals, such a situation might not be all that much fun.

How hard is it to track someone down online?  I’ve been specializing in online investigations for the last decade.  Way back when I was first starting out, I hung out on a message board hosted by the local ISP.  Just a bunch of folks jawing away about nothing.  One day, I made a post about how emails could be traced to their source.  A new guy responds to the thread and says it is *impossible* to track someone down online, everything is anonymous.  All I knew about the guy at that point was the username he was using on the message board.

Quite literally, and this is no joke, an hour later I knocked on his front door and introduced myself.  The sound of his ass slamming shut echoed off the trees near the driveway.

How did I find him so easily?  Well, first I searched his username through various search engines.  Quickly found a website he’d set up for his family.  On that website, he would post regular updates on what his family was up to.  Little Joey had made the track team at such-and-such school (giving me a general area where he lived).  His wife had recently obtained her real estate license and he linked to a site set up for her listings (now I had his wife’s first and last name).  He also mentioned he was selling his 1998 Buick and gave a link to an online ad for it.  That ad had his phone number but it was a cell, not a landline.  Did a search on the phone number and came up with a few other ads where he had been selling a truck and also advertising his llama farm (no BS, this isn’t a reference to Keene’s dream job).  Did a search on the name of the llama farm.  Got the address for it and drove over to say hi.

Notice anything?  I never once consulted any sort of sooper-seekrit database, driving record, credit report, or anything else that isn’t available to Joe Schlub online.  *Further, everything I found was posted by the target of the investigation or his family.* Had I not found the llama farm info, I still had his wife’s name and could have searched more on that, possibly even consulting a local analog switchboard database (aka the phone book).

And to be honest, I’m not all that good.  Not when compared to today’s 12 year old script kiddies.

So, what can you do to help prevent a charter member of the tin foil beanie brigade from knocking on your door?  Well, keep in mind that even a homeless meth addict living on the street could be located given enough time and budget.  But, here are some tips to at least give you a moderate degree of privacy.

First of all, get a PO Box and use it for EVERYTHING.  Preferably in a different county from the one in which you live.  Why?  Well, public records are a wonderful thing.  Did you know that your property tax bill (if you own your home) is a matter of public record?  Yep, sure is.  And many counties now have that information available online, searchable by the owner name.  If I know what county you’re in, with just a few mouse clicks I have not only your address but a plat map showing me your exact property lines.  Better to have your PO Box near where you work or something.

Keep your phone number unlisted or ditch the landline altogether.  Helpful tip – phone companies charge a premium to have your number unlisted.  You can avoid that charge by just having them list your number in the directory under a different name.  They don’t care what name you use in the listings, as long as they have the correct billing information.  Though they might balk at Elmer Fudd or Roland the Gunslinger, if you use your first name and your wife’s maiden name, shouldn’t be too much trouble.

When you get around to maintaining a website, register the domain using a service that will allow you to keep your registration info private.  There are many services out there, ask around for recommendations.  What you want is a company that will list themselves as the registrant, rather than you.  Otherwise, a quick search through a whois database will give the searcher all they need to find you.

Use nicknames for family members you blog about.  I have three kids – Ace, the Deuce, and Trey.  My wife is alternatively She Who Must Be Obeyed or The Love of My Life Who Somehow Still Puts Up With All My Crap.

If you decide to post pics of your family or your new ride, take a look at the background of the pic before you post it.  License plates, house numbers, street signs could all come back to haunt you.

Keep in mind that once you post something online, it could be there FOREVER.  Even if you delete it, the post might have already been archived somewhere and be available in some form until the end of time.  Tweets, Facebook posts, blog entries.  If you post it, they will read it.  Even that Tweet you send out by mistake when you meant it as a direct message and you deleted it almost immediately probably just got read by a couple hundred people.

When I’m tracing someone online, each and every little tidbit of information can and will be used.  If I have an email address to work with, I’ll not only use various major search engines, but I’ll search for the email addy on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and several other social networking sites.

I’ll check for an Amazon Wish List, which just might give me some insight into the subject’s personality as well as give me a general location.

I’ll read through as many blog entries as I can find, taking notes all along the way.

Every trace is different but the methodology is the same.  Every piece of information found is used to search for the next.  They build upon each other, not unlike a brick wall.  It is up to you how many of those bricks you lay around for folks to pick up.

Angry Robot Books to Join Osprey Publishing

Yeah, yeah, yeah:  the following press release would have been posted sooner but it took me a while to get my blog fixed.  Let me begin by saying that THIS WASN’T MY FAULT!  And I’ll also begin by giving you the upshot on what this means for the U.S. release of my novels.  Here are the new release dates:

King Maker – US: October 2010
King’s Justice – UK: February 2011; US: March 2011
King’s War – UK: November 2011; US – tbc but similar


Angry Robot Books to Join Osprey Publishing
Leading Non-Fiction Publisher Acquires Specialist Sci-Fi Fiction & Fantasy Imprint

Following an acclaimed first year of publishing, the revolutionary science fiction imprint Angry Robot Books has parted company with Harper Collins UK. It will now run as an independent publishing imprint, with the full backing of niche publishing experts, Osprey Publishing.
Angry Robot will continue to operate from its Nottingham office with its existing team under Marc Gascoigne, its founder and publisher. Marc said:

“With the support of Harper Collins UK, my team and I have worked very hard on Angry Robot since it was started in July 2009. We have a great publishing programme in place and a dedicated bunch of fans, the Robot Army, as well as some excellent sales of our first titles in the UK with an imminent launch into the USA. We are very pleased to have become part of the burgeoning Osprey empire. They understand our business and the enthusiasts who drive it.”

Chris Michaels, HarperCollins Digital Publisher, Fiction/Non-Fiction, who helped set-up Angry Robot, said:

“Having helped build the foundations for a successful future, we are delighted that the Angry Robot team has found a new publishing partner in Osprey. We believe this will help them develop their niche offering, supported by Osprey’s specialist sales and marketing teams.  We wish them good luck for the future.”

Marc Gascoigne added, “Our publishing programme for 2010/11 will be basically unaffected by these changes. There will be a short break while the transition is sorted out, but we will be re-launching in September 2010 and then it will be business as usual.”
Osprey’s move is a reflection of the company’s continuing strategic drive into niche communities that share a deep enthusiasm for their interest or hobby, whether it be military history (Osprey Publishing), heritage (Shire Books), or science fiction and fantasy. Richard Sullivan, Marketing Director at Osprey commented:

“We have a great deal of experience of serving specialist niches with a very tight product focus. Angry Robot is a great fit with our existing businesses. We are very excited about the opportunity to enter into a new market and we are looking forward to helping Angry Robot, its authors and its readers go to some exciting places.”

Osprey’s investors are also looking at this as a significant step in the overall plans for the company. Rebecca Smart, Managing Director of Osprey commented:

“We were very impressed with the Angry Robot business plan and forecast, and thought it was an excellent strategic fit for the Osprey group. We’re delighted to welcome the Angry Robot team.”

For Further Details Contact
At Angry Robot: Lee Harris, +44 (0) 792 635 493, lee.harris@angryrobotbooks.com
At Osprey: Richard Sullivan, +44 (0) 186 581 1304 ; richard.sullivan@ospreypublishing.com
At HarperCollins: Chris Michaels, +44 (0) 208 307 4114, chris.michaels@harpercollins.co.uk

About Angry Robot
Angry Robot Books is a global science fiction, fantasy and horror imprint dedicated to delivering innovative books in all formats everywhere. A strong online presence and an army of fans ensure that Angry Robot delivers the best in contemporary and cutting-edge fiction.  To find out more, visit the Angry Robot website www.angryrobotbooks.com

About Osprey Publishing and Shire Books
Osprey Publishing is the leading publisher of illustrated military history. Over 1,500 titles in print provide a definitive resource for both established military enthusiasts and a wider audience with a general interest in military history. In 2007 Osprey bought Shire Books, the leading publisher for an eclectic range of titles on all aspects of heritage and nostalgia.  To find out more, visit the Osprey website www.ospreypublishing.com and the Shire website www.shirebooks.co.uk

About HarperCollins
With a heritage stretching back nearly 200 years, HarperCollins is one of the world’s foremost English-language publishers, offering the best quality content right across the spectrum, from cutting-edge contemporary fiction to digital hymnbooks and pretty much everything in between.  Today we publish some of the world’s foremost authors, from Nobel prizewinners to worldwide bestsellers.
To find out more, visit the HarperCollins website www.harpercollins.co.uk

Mo*Con Report Part II

AKA “My rambling, sure to be maudlin recap of why it means so much to me”

Picking up from this year’s report, there are several reasons why I decided to start Mo*Con:  1) I wanted to create a space where we could have some of the conversations I inevitably get into at conventions (typically spiritual, but also any of a number of socially relevant topics from race to politics); 2) I wanted to throw a local convention for writers; and 3) I wanted to love on and spoil writers because I know how hard it is to be a writer.  Cons are often a collection of ego, fear, and insecurities.  But I know Mo*Con’s a different sort of convention experience, one often measured, as one person put it, by how much they feel loved.

The feeling is very much mutual.  To start, I need to go back to a few things about Mo*Con IV, which at the time I even said I wasn’t going to talk about.

A friend of mine asked me how I have seen God working in my life through all the stuff that had been going on last year.  I said that I had seen Him at work both through my wife and through Mo*Con.  My wife he could understand, but a convention of horror writers?  Not so much.  In some ways, Mo*Con functioned as a “church” for me, people exploring the idea of faith, walking into each other’s lives.  Last year’s Mo*Con was the first time many had a chance to let me know how they felt, including giving me what became known as the Mo*Con greeting by a couple of friends:  I was slapped (so that I understood just how pissed they were at me) and then embraced (to let me know that I was still loved).  But the sense of community didn’t stop there.   I watched as guest after guest rallied around Sally, literally forming a protective hedge around her, to support her through the time.

With our previous church pulling out of any involvement with Mo*Con, it bumped up against so many of our stories of the church dropping them after a sin or finding out what they write (which is why I was so grateful to Trinity Church for taking us in and welcoming us, so that it could be seen that “the church” was bigger than just one particular expression).  But even as I spoke last year, it was pretty obvious, that I was in a shaky place with my faith.  So much so that Wrath James White, not exactly know as a champion of Christianity, several times was half out of his seat to come stand next to me.  Afterwards, I asked him what he was doing.  He told me that it looked like I could use some support.  Though he didn’t believe what I believed, he didn’t want to see me fall from it.  So yeah, I saw God at work in Mo*Con and the people there already a part of His story even if they personally may reject the story.

The guest list for Mo*Con changes every year, though this year (our five year anniversary), I wanted to focus more on the sense of family.  Next year, getting back to some of our more controversial topics, there are a few social issues I want to have conversations on.  But that’s next year.  For now, I want to just bask in the memories of camaraderie and love from this year.  If folks can leave Mo*Con feeling welcomed, engaged, and loved, then we’ve done our jobs.

Mo*Con Report Part I: The Wrath of God

“Now how is it that conventions are not just big parties of you hanging out with your friends?  And how does this constitute ‘work’?” –Sally Broaddus

Okay, I can see the confusion to the untrained eye.

There’s a lot I can say about why and how I do Mo*Con.  It is a convention that I intentionally keep fairly small and built around two things:  being relational and food (with helps with the opportunity for folks to be around one another).  I started it with one goal:  I want to love on and spoil writers.

Each year I try to have a theme that the conversations/panels revolve around.  Spirituality is a constant theme, mixing in various social issues from race to gender to love.  This year’s theme was family.  I felt like we had a warm up to the convention the weekend before when I had the honor of performing the wedding of Bill Lindblad and Jenny Orosel.

It’s also why we had so much cake at Mo*Con.  Friday we celebrated the birthdays of me and John C. Hay (and Brian Knight).  Saturday we celebrated Wrath James White’s anniversary.  Sunday we celebrated the birthday of Lucy Snyder (and previous Mo*Conners, Mark Rainey and Douglass F. Warrick, in abstentia).

“Things happen here- that aren’t to be spoken of. But the pictures sure are fun!” –Gregory Hall

[Now go check out the pictures!]

Here’s the formal breakdown of a con:

Since nothing creates a sense of family like enjoying meals together—and since I had guests arriving Thursday, and since SOMEONE announced this on my blog—then you know that Mo*Con began unofficially with midnight (Jack Daniel’s) steaks.

Friday

I like to take the guests to an interesting local restaurant for lunch, in this case, Yats, a Cajun restaurant.  The cooking at 3:00 p.m. with the doors opening at 6:00 p.m. and our traditional opening meal (fettucine alfredo and chicken marsala) which we might as well call our tribute dinner to Alethea Kontis.  At 9:00 p.m. we had our open mic of poetry and flash fiction (we won’t speak of the appearance of the bionic cow pope).

Saturday

“I don’t twitter because I can’t punch you.” – Wrath James White

We jammed a lot into our day.  Because of how late folks stay up Friday night, it is at this point in the convention schedule that we fully function on an “ish” schedule, as in the doors opened at 10-ish. The first panel “blogging dos and don’ts” began a conversation that became a running one during the course of the convention about how much of an artist’s life is free game to write about vs. privacy issues.  At noon (ish) we brok for lunch (Sara Larson’s marvelous lasagna).  This was followed by Steve Gilberts’ art seminar for the kids who were present.  Brian Keene’s incredible reading of his story from Dark Faith, “I Sing a New Song” which led into our spirituality panel, a broad mix of atheists, Christians, agnostics, Jews, Odinists, and Hindu practitioners.  The stories shared were thoughtful, heart-breaking, and I know impacted several people.

“I sat down to make monsters and butterflies came out.” –Alethea Kontis

Next up, our art gallery celebrated the work of Emma Overman, Steve Gilberts, Kristin Fuller, Alethea Kontis, and Jim Leach.  Adding to the mix, the Funky Werepig did a live broadcast from amidst the chaos.  Then Alethea Kontis gave a reading of her book, H is for Halloween, for the kids (which included a rapt Gary Braunbeck).  And we debuted Dark Faith with a massive signing.

Lastly came dinner (chicken enchiladas and a taco bar) right before we had a panel conversation on sex and literature.

“I hate arguing with people who are obviously so wrong.” –Wrath James White

So yeah, Mo*Con has the feel of part family reunion and part convention.  As with any con report, we can’t help but leave out all of the magical moments that always seem to happen that make the event so special:

-the late night spiritual discussions
-watching the Moseley fight while Wrath broke it down with commentary
-my boys, in the throes of their entrepreneurial spirit, setting up a lemonade stand
-Alex McVey, who was unable to physically make it to the convention, managed to be there in spirit
-the Funky Werepig folks bringing me candy after they heard about Wrath stealing my Sweet Tarts last year.

But here are some other con reports:

Brian Keene – Weekend Update

Kelli Dunlap – Lemonade Stands and Vulvasaurs

Horror World – Mo*Con V

Bob Freeman – Mo*Con V: Saturday in the Dark

Jason Sizemore – The Mo*Con Experience

“It’s a story, but it’s a great f&*#@n’ story.” –Geoffrey Girard

Mo*Con is far from a one man show.  It couldn’t be done without the hard work of Sally Broaddus, the welcome of Trinity Church, and the efforts of the Indiana Horror Writers, especially the indefatigable Sara Larson.  Thanks so much to all those who helped.  And to our guests  who never fail to make it so memorable!  (This means you, Kelli Dunlap Owen!)

By the way, it’s never too early to start thinking about next year (Bob Freeman wins teh interwebz for today with this one):