Attacking Cons (aka See me at Context)

On the “Writer’s Support” panel at GenCon, I was asked where one can find a writer’s support group.  I told them to look around the room and shared the story of my circle of friends.  We’d gotten to know each other over a couple of World Horror Conventions, realized we clicked with one another and we were all equally serious about getting ahead in this publishing biz.  So we banded together to pool our meager resources.

One strategy we employed was to coordinate our efforts at conventions.  For example, when the World Fantasy Convention came around, we divvied up the list of folks slated to appear (cause, seriously, who wants to Google 500 – 1000 folks) among ourselves and made a spreadsheet of who was going to be attending the con that listed who they were, where they worked, what they had published.  Then we each made wish lists of who we’d like to meet and we let each other know who was on our wish list.  Look, not to burst any myth bubbles, but writers aren’t always the most socially adept of God’s creatures.  So that became another way we looked out for one another:  if ever one of us found ourselves talking to someone we knew one of our friends was wishing to meet, we’d introduce them.  Just a few newbies scrabbling along trying to make our way in the scary world of publishing.

Ah, memories.

I wonder if anyone is Googling me with Context fast approaching.  Context is one of my favorite conventions.  It falls into that category of part relaxacon, almost as much a family reunion as con, much like Necon or Mo*Con.  Plus it’s one of the few cons I can take the whole family to.  As I’m continuing to do more panels at cons, you can catch me on these:

Saturday 10:00 a.m. – Blogging – Creativity and Publicity*

Sanford, Martino, Pendergrass, Harris, Broaddus, Greene, Harriett

Saturday 1:00 p.m. – How Did I Get Here?

Buckell, Broaddus, Valerie, Heaphy, Kemp, Tiedemann, Rotchey, Allen

*In the event that I am not fully cognizant at ten in the morning on the Saturday of a convention, I’ll leave a few posts here on the topic of blogging:

Blogging about blogging

Bob Freeman is Nuts

Writers Blogs

GenCon 2010 Seen Through Twitter

Sure, I could give you a thorough recap of GenCon.  It was the first time I REALLY dug into the convention as opposed to dropping by to say “hi” to some friends and then taking off.  I could go on about having a great time with Matt Forbeck, Monica Valentinelli, Anton Strout, Tobias Buckell, Jesse Scoble, Lucien Soulban, Lawrence Connolly, Christina Stitt, Jenn Brozek and many other new friends, but I won’t.  I could go on and on about how The Broaddus Clan ran ourselves ragged between GenCon, the Broaddus Family Reunion, First Friday, old friends dropping into town, and about a half dozen other things this city decided it had to throw THIS WEEKEND.  Instead, I’m going to summarize the convention as seen through my twitter feed:

I love that the usual downtown street musicians are playing super hero theme songs.

Wow, the morning came early. This will be an interesting panel…

So I’m on the “crafting the love scene” panel. because I speak of the pompatus of love.

“I write my sex scenes like I do my fight scenes.” * “You’re married, aren’t you?”

Filking. NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

“That’s not a costume. That’s a cry for help.”

Ha! There’s a booth here for “gamer’s soap”. Oddly enough, there’s no line there. KEEP HOPE ALIVE!

and then i stabbed @antonstrout with a pen …

Nerds gone wild!

Dear Spartan, no one from 300 had man boobs. MOOBS! #genconfail

It is too early in the morning for larping…

The Ram Brewery knows its market: I’m eating the “Dire Troll Bomber”. (although … Cthuhlu Tar Tar …)

“I speak Klingon.” * “By strange coincidence, I’m fluent in douchbaggery.”

My chick bad, my chick hood (@supersjbroaddus) … though my chick loses hood points for making the boys costumes for gencon

Spending my time photobombing this dude in the Jack Sparrow costume

Day 3 of the Magic tournament. I refuse to enter the room because I know none of them have been by the gamer soap booth.

QOTD: “That booth is like the cast of Twilight walking into a gay bar.”

It’s too bad my kids want little things like a college education, because GeekChic would have a lot of my money right now.

Apparently 1K of the 60K of my fellow nerds have decided to crop-dust the Apex Books table because of my gamer soap jokes…

Hmm…the Apex Books minions get younger & younger. And the dress code is now out of Super Mario Brothers…

Dear TGIFridays, no one in the Caribbean eats anything called “reggae ribs.” You might as well serve it with “rasta pasta”.

Seriously, I’m networking. Don’t ask me to explain the women dancing in cages behind me. I blame @apexjason.

“What kind of girl says ‘! know he has french fries on his head, but he’s hot.'” #InDenialOfLivingInHisMomsBasement

Uh oh. @apexjason just yelled “do you think you’re better than me?” to the french fry guy. #RedneckBattleCry.

The full photo album can be seen here.

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):

Being “Maurice Broaddus”

Okay, I’ve just wrapped up Bouchercon (the World Mystery Convention that puts the other conventions I attend into perspective: 21 New York Times best sellers, over a dozen attending writers who are millionaires, sheesh), marking the end of convention season for the year. As a friend pointed out, cons are 72 hours of a bunch of introverts pretending to be extroverts. And I’m exhausted. (I’m sure coming off of a great time at Killercon and a fantastic time at Context has nothing to do with it).

Like many writers, I’m not as social a creature as some may imagine and find it rather exhausting to be “on”. Yet at conventions, difficult though it may be, we hit that switch, ignore the cries of our inner introverts, and push through. In this case, being on means constantly being aware of our professional image, courteous, witty, entertaining and, you know, being nice!

Knowing that each encounter has repercussions—an angry encounter with a waitress, an ugly confrontation with an editor, the snubbing of a fan—can create ripple effects and the stories spread to define who we are. It’s not so different for other folks. It’s funny how we always seem to be nicer to strangers.

So it almost begs the question “Why can’t we always be “on”?” Wishing our public personas were more in line with who are default settings are. Just like there are times when I wish I bore the image of Christian(ity) a lot better than I do: being conscious of who I am, how I come across, what I represent, how I carry myself.

Each encounter is an opportunity, a God moment, to be gracious, to be loving, to be healing, to listen, to simply be there for one another. I need to go through more of life as “Maurice Broaddus”.

This is probably the existential crash that comes after being completely worn out at the end of the convention. Luckily, we’re also about to prepare to go into our Fall/Winter cocoons so that we can re-charge our system. Gearing up for next year’s gauntlet and the rush of being on.

But it’s so exhausting to think about. I’m going to bed.

KillerCon 2009 Report

For folks who don’t know, Wrath James White and I are basically like brothers. Overly competitive brothers who like to one up one another. Orgy of Souls was written that way. In what constitutes the rest of our real life, I do a chili, he has to do a chili. He gets a book deal, I have to get a book deal. I do a convention, he has to do a convention. And par for course, KillerCon was Mo*Con on steroids.

As he didn’t learn any lessons after so often mocking me during my Mo*Con prep, I watched he and his co-chair, Monica O’Rourke, ran around madly seeing to everyone’s needs. (The lesson to have remembered: you don’t have to worry about programming gaffs because when in doubt, you have food, booze, and, well, Vegas. The conversations will take care of themselves.) The short and clearly sanitized summary, for those who didn’t just follow my twitter, work got done, new friends were made,
old friends were hung out with.
Plus it’s always good to meet with your agent in the flesh for a change.
This con had a series of firsts for me. I did a reading of some of my fiction (“Night of the Living Baseheads” the story that became the basis/a sub-plot in the first book of The Knights of Breton Court: Kingmaker). Don’t get me wrong, I’d been building up to it, having done some non-fiction readings (“Man-O-Gram”) and a few poems, but never a story. Though I could live without Wrath and Monica bragging about popping my reading cherry …

Also, though I’m use to doing a couple of panels, my wife Sally sat on a panel, the “what the hell was Wrath thinking putting his wife and mine on the” Seven Deadly Sins of Living With a Writer panel. That experience will require a separate blog post.

And the convention was in Las Vegas. With most cons, we rarely leave the hotel so the city hardly matters as long as there are bars/restaurants nearby. This time, we were rarely in the hotel. Of course, the Broaddus’ were personally hosted by Wrath and Christie, for which we are very grateful (and they were the consummate hosts).
With only two tracks of programming, one would think that the con would be more of a relaxicon. Yet between running back and forth to the Strip and trying to take in so much while there, KillerCon needed a few days to recover from (read: I can’t wait til the next one).

And “teh wife” has a more complete album of the event on her FaceBook.

Barbara Vey was live blogging the convention. You may want to check it out.

Context 2009 Report (Much Belated Due to Deadline Constraints)

I make no bones about it: I love ConText. It’s one of my favorite cons to go to, not just because it’s a convenient drive for me to go to, but because they have great guests of honor such as Chris Golden, Jason Sizemore (you’ll note that Geoff Girard considers himself a Guest of Honor wherever he goes), and Steve Gilberts

which draw some great folks (Gene O’Neil, Gord Rollo, and the Brothers Grin aka Doug Warrick and Kyle Johnson).

and it’s a great atmosphere. This year they changed hotels and this new one was AMAZING (of course, the free breakfast buffet helps. Open Letter to All Con Organizers: you want to keep writers happy, it’s pretty easy. Supply free food and drink. We’ll always consider it a successful con after that).

Plus, this is one of those cons (read: affordable) where I can take the family. Now, teh wife gets that cons—despite the pics of schmoozing and the occasional drink—are still work for me, but as she’s not much of a reader has felt left out of this part of my life. Because of Mo*Con she now knows a lot of the folks who also make it a point to make it out to ConText. So I can do my thing, she and the boys can do their thing, and we can do our thing. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work on paper. The reality woks out more like the tale of two cons.

While I’m hard at work being interviewed by the Funky Werepig crew (who I was previously interviewed by)

Let’s check in on teh family

While I’m hard at work networking
let’s check in on teh wife, who had teamed up with her friend/co-conspirator/fellow author’s widow, Jill Gordon (wife of my co-editor of Dark Faith).

The advantage to family is that Sally could do her own networking (though I told them I’d quit referring to them as the “Artist Widows”), Reese could help out at my author’s signing, and I’m not above pimping out my sons in the name of marketing.

In short, this was the best ConText ever (which is doubly surprising considering how great the previous ones have been). But be warned, those not built for con life: it takes out even the best of us and leaves us spent.

Gen Con 2009

As my regular readers know (and note, I refrained from calling you all “my Precious”), my blog will be fairly erratic as I put my nose to the grindstone to finish the second novel in my trilogy. Occasionally, I will find a way to procrastinate. This weekend it was Gen Con. Allow me to share a few picture highlights from the con. Two are hanging with John C. Hay and, well, what I’m calling the dorkcycle.


Though I was at the convention the entire time, on Saturday, the family joined me. My sons came appropriately dressed as Batman (Reese) and the Hulk (Malcolm – and as to not make Wrath James White upset, note that it’s the green Hulk, not the gray one). Since we were babysitting my nephew at the time, he was indoctrinated into the typical Broaddus family events. Turns out, Scooby was the hugest hit.

All the boys were constantly having their pictures taken (though the Hulk proved to be quite shy, so I ended up bribing him with candy to cooperate with the photographers). And they were invited to join in the Gen Con costume parade.


We wrapped up the afternoon building a house of cards which was added to the city of cards. We even returned to Gen Con late at night in order to participate in the charity destruction of the city of cards (oddly enough: boys + chance to destroy buildings of cards = WIN!)

We wrapped up our evening by checking in on a Magic the Gathering tournament. Notice that we have opted to pose for a picture of just us rather than show a picture of Mr. Hay’s ignominious and brutally quick defeat.

The rest of the pictures are available on teh wife’s Facebook albums:


I’ll post some actual reporting from the con in a few days. At some point I have to earn my press pass.

I’m Not Talking About Mo*Con IV … (5/22/09 update)

Once again, there’s no easy way to describe Mo*Con so go read Kelli Dunlap’s blog summary.

or

Bob Freeman’s summary

Tom Piccirilli’s The Brotherhood of Inspiration

Brian Hatcher’s summary

Kevin Lucia’s reflections

or from a fan perspective:

Sheryl Hugill’s summary

Tony Tremblay’s summary (through which you can almost entirely relive the con. wow.)

I have posted:
A sample of what Mo*Con looked like on Twitter
Wrath’s sermon on atheism
The Story of My Christianity
The awards given in absentia (including a feature story on Mo*Con)

And if you want to see some pictures, we have:

My FaceBook Album

or my wife’s facebook albums
05-14-2009 Arrival of Mo Con Guests
05-15-2009 Pre-Mo Con Brunch at “The Journey”
05-15-2009 Pre-Mo Con – Getting the church ready
05-15-2009 Mo Con – Day one
05-15-2009 Mo Con – Day One – Poetry reading
05-16-2009 Mo Con – Day 2
05-16-2009 Mo Con – Day 2 – Art Gallery
05-16-2009 Mo Con After Party
05-17-2009 Mo Con Day 3 – Just Brunch today

Alethea’s Pics

[Two things on a personal note: 1) I can’t state strongly enough how great it was to host our guests. They were truly epic; 2) It’s great to have friends who speak truth into your life–even when it’s painful to hear–and who support you during times of trouble; 3) there are a few folks I especially can’t thank enough for the help and support in making Mo*Con possible: Sally Broaddus (whose patience and support continue to amaze me); Sara Larson (without whom, this con would not have happened); Ro Griffin, Jenn Baumgartner, and Larissa Johnson (Team Broaddus); brunch chef, Rob Rolfingsmeyer; and Michelle Pendergrass, Jerry Gordon, Bob Freeman (yay! all the IHW).]

UPDATE:

Oy, I’ve been re-mixed…

BIB – Networking

When I talk to some newbie writers about networking, they seem to hear it as butt-kissing or something they shouldn’t have to do in order to get published. They want no part of the politics of writing/publishing. Typically I hear this from the self-published crowd who tend to show little interest in the business aspect of writing. (Ironic since if you are going to go the self-publishing route, you should know the business side of things even better). So this isn’t for them.

One of the reasons we go to conventions is to network. It’s why we spend so much time on message boards, blogs, and social networking sites. While publishing largely boils down to what you write, the business side of things is eased by who you know. Friends make things easier. I know that as my career has slowly blossomed (I figure I’m in year eight on my road to overnight success), friends are there to encourage me, be first readers of my stories, edit me, and blurb me as needed.

This is not a call to be an unrepentant climber. Name-badging people and ignoring them if they “can’t be of use to you” isn’t going to win you any friends (and people know when they have been snubbed). This mercenary way of going through life will be quickly recognized. It’s about the relationship first. I know when someone is using me to raid my connections, hanging around with me just because of who I hang out with, or talking with me in order to talk to who I’m talking to. I know it’s a part of the game, but if you’re going to so transparently use me, at least buy me dinner first. Networking isn’t about using or ass-kissing people, it’s simply about building relationships, for their own sake.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things can make a Big Difference, described these people as connectors, people who “link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together.” Connectors are people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. A connector is essentially the social equivalent of a computer network hub. Connectors usually know people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles.

Some people are natural networkers. Some people have to work at it.

Writers in general aren’t the most socially comfortable people. The bulk of what we do is done in solitude and the business side of art, networking, glad-handing, and nurturing/being with fans doesn’t necessarily come easily. So I offer a few simple tips to proper networking:

-Be genuine. Be true to yourself and your personality. Don’t try to mimic someone else. For example, I can’t do other people’s material. They’re likely funny in ways that I’m not and vice versa. Personality-wise, I can only be me. I’ll never be a Fran Friel, a Kelli Dunlap, a Chesya Burke, a Brian Keene or any of the other budding rock stars of the horror community. Their acts are their own. But that’s the secret: be your own act.

-Be naturally interested in people, for their own sake, without an agenda. You don’t make friends by first asking what they can do for you. You don’t make friends based on who they are or where they are in their careers. If for no other reason that you don’t know what twists fate may have in store for them or you, don’t burn bridges before they’ve formed.

-Be friendly. You are with your peers, people who get what you do and how you do it. You get to cut loose (within reason), and solidify working relationships with fellow writers, editors, agents, and fans. As JA Konrath said, “When we writers go anywhere, we become ambassadors for our writing.”

Sometimes it is difficult getting spouse to see networking as something other than goofing off (I don’t understand my own wife’s confusion on the issue). Regardless, networking is an important part of any industry. Honestly, it’s part of the fun for me since basically I get to build a network of connections through conversation. And I love running my mouth.

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.