Hosted by Nathan Marchand
Hosted by Nathan Marchand
Hosted by Nathan Marchand
(Continued from Part 2).
Saturday at Gen-Con is always the busiest. Lots of people come in just for that day, so I decided I would minimize my time away from my table to maximize my presence. With 61,000 people attending the convention this year, Saturday, I thought, would be the best day to meet potential readers.
However, Eric and I did split on a ticket for one event the day before: meeting Summer Glau.Mrs. Glau is primarily a TV actress. She’s been in many things (which never seem to last long, sadly), but she’s best known for playing River Tam in the short-lived but much-beloved series Firefly and its film sequel Serenity. Admittedly, I hadn’t seen the show in years. I was more interested in meeting Marina Sirtis (more on that later) than her, but figured I’d take the opportunity to meet her anyway.
What’s crazy, though, is she walked past my table on her way to the autograph area, which wasn’t far from Authors Avenue. I kinda flipped out since I wasn’t sure if that really was her. She didn’t have an entourage; there was only one guy escorting her. I knew when I walked over to get in line that it was her who walked by. (Squee!)
Eric and I—cosplaying Obi-Wan Kenobi and the 10th Doctor, respectively—stood in line for a much shorter time than expected since we had a ticket. I tried looking Ms. Glau up on Twitter to see if she’d tweeted anything about the con or to find something I could ask her about that didn’t have to do with her work. I found at an account that I learned later was fake, but it said she was an avid reader. I told Eric to hold our place in line and ran back to my table to get a copy of my first novel, Pandora’s Box. I chose that because I figured she might enjoy that one the most out of the books I’ve published (though I wonder if she’d like Children of the Wells…). Now, you must understand: I’ve given books as gifts to celebrities at cons before, and I’d thought about giving her one, but I realized she might not necessarily want it. That’s why I didn’t want to miss this opportunity.
I always knew Summer Glau was beautiful, but what struck me as we got closer was how kind and happy she was. She was gracious with fans and always smiled. When Eric and I came up to take pictures, she said we were dressed nice and offered to put her hands on our backs. With that, I said it was an honor to meet her. Then I said I was an author from Authors Avenue and mentioned that she walked by my booth and that I’d heard she was an avid reader. So, as a thank you for coming to Gen-Con, I wanted to give her one of my books. She was ecstatic and said, “I’m honored!” I signed it for her, leaving a note that said, “To Summer Glau: Thanks for coming!”
Eric joked afterward that after reading it maybe she’ll want to make it into a movie and star as the heroine. I scoffed at the idea, but a guy can dream, right? (But only if Joss Whedon is involved!) :p
(I was a bit smitten with Mrs. Glau the rest of the day. I suddenly want to re-watch Firefly).
(EDIT: I just read on Wikipedia that Mrs. Glau was homeschooled! I wish I knew that at the con!)
The rest of the day was busy but typical in the vendors hall.
Afterward, I attended a live recording of the “Writing Excuses” podcast. I didn’t realize they were recording five episodes in two hours, so I had to leave early, but it was great to see the show since I listen to it frequently.
Then I went to the Five Year Mission concert, as is my Gen-Con tradition. I got to hear songs from their newest album, “Spock’s Brain.” Yes, these guys wrote 11 songs about arguably the worst episode of the original Star Trek! It was a great show, and I bought the album. (Expect a review soon!) Yes, I still had my 10th Doctor costume, so I wasn’t quite dressed right, but nobody said anything.
I went back to my hotel room and changed into some summer-y clothes to go to the annual Gen-Con dance since the theme was “summer bash.” It was a bit more night club/rave than I expected, but it was entertaining for a while.
I want to write about the last day of the convention, but this post has already gone long, so I’ll save it for tomorrow. Until then, feel free to leave comments!
Next Time in Part 4:
Marina Sirtis, the Geekpreacher, and lots of cosplay!
(Continued from Part 1).
One of my rules during the exhibitor hall hours is that I won’t be away from my table for more than two hours (and I must have someone at the table at all times). This is so I can slip away and go to one or two events during the day with minimal damage to sales.
I say this because on day two of Gen-Con, I attended the Christianity and Media Panel, an annual event held by the Christian Gamers Guild and Fans For Christ (two ministries Eric and I are part of). I’d always been curious about this panel. The organizers and attendees always spoke highly of it. Heck, in 2008, one panelist was Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons (it may shock many Christians to learn he was a man of faith). I was told I’d have a chance to do a short plug for one of my newest books, 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom. The panelists this year—whose names suddenly escape me, sadly—were representatives from Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, a Christian-run independent film studio, and Geekdom House, a “church” for geeks. It was a wonderful discussion moderated by Derek White (aka the Geek Preacher). Even a Captain America cosplayer I met on my way there attended. Ironically, as a joke, one of the panelists answered their last question by saying, “Forty-two,” since it that covered everything, to which Derek said something like that was coming up. Then I stepped up and gave a short spiel about the book.
That pitch worked. Eric and I donated ten copies of 42 to the CGG/FFC table, half of which they sold on day one. The rest flew off the shelves after the panel, so people had to come see me to buy them. Then they flew off my shelf! Seriously, this book was my hot seller for the weekend. If I include the donated books, Eric and I brought 30 copies of 42 with us. By the end of the weekend, I only had one left! (In which case, you should definitely buy yourself a copy on Amazon). 😉 😛
As the day came to a close, Eric joined me at the table, which was good because I needed someone to attend to customers while I had one of my most interesting and profound experiences at the convention. A young man who described himself as an “accidental hipster” came to my table and asked me to pitch one of his books. I told him about Ninjas and Talking Trees (which you should also buy on Amazon. Hehe!) Since I mentioned it was largely about subverting tropes, he started talking about a fantasy world he had been building for two months. We spent at least 45 minutes talking. This dude told me he’d been going around to all the writers and talking with them, but none of them gave him this much time. He wanted to become a writer, but he spent so much effort world-building, he didn’t know where to start. While he’d never read Tolkien (accidental hipster, remember?), I could tell this guy’s mind worked like his. He struggled with depression and wanted to use writing as an outlet for it. My prayers go out to him. He has loads of potential.
As the place closed down, I went over to the author signing area next door where I met Trace Beaulieu, a puppeteer who operated and voiced the original Crow T. Robot and played Dr. Forrester on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. He even had the original Crow puppet with him! I only got to see him for a few minutes since it was closing time, but it was worth it. I’d hoped to see him again later in the con at his booth, but I was super-busy on Saturday and he left Sunday morning. At least I had this time with him.
After dropping stuff off at the hotel, I returned to Nexus Gaming to participate in another fighting game tourney. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me pay the admission fee with cash. I had to get tickets. The problem was the line was so long, I wouldn’t be able to get them in time. I was upset. So, I ended up spectating. I was annoyed because, once again, I think I could’ve won if not for bad luck. This was the “Obscure Fighter Challenge.” Despite the name, Nexus made players play what they considered to be some of the worst fighting games ever—one of which I owned and had played since childhood! The first was Karate Champ, followed by Sonic Fighters (they played it on a PS3, but I’m sure it’s older than that), and finally Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters on the NES. The last one is the one I own. Argh. Lesson learned.
After perusing the program again, I decided to go demo Villains of the Multiverse again. It wasn’t quite as exciting as the night before, but I did learn that unlike in previous versions of the game, the villains were controlled by players, which took it from a cooperative game to a competitive game. I thought about playing a villain, but settled on playing Legacy, who’s my mainstay. He makes everything better. And we heroes did win. Huzzah!
I forgot to mention that the night before, Eric and I met Adam Rebottaro, the lead artist for the game, and took a photo with him. He even signed my copy of Sentinels!
Finally, Jarod and I went to the Circle Center Mall theatre to see their annual Throwback Feature. This year is was Mad Max 2 (better known as The Road Warrior). I hadn’t seen the film in its entirety for years, so I jumped at the opportunity. What’s crazy is it was only $5.50 a ticket (normally $12.50) and I got to pick our seats. I’d heard of theatres like that but had never been to one, even in Fort Wayne (which is “big city” to me). But then this theatre blew my mind—all the seats were recliners! As in full-sized La-Z-Boys! Complete with a button-operated footrest, a cup holder, and swiveling tray.
Best. Theatre. Ever!
Oh yeah, and the film was still great. In fact, it looked even better on the big screen.
Next Time in Part 3:
Summer Glau, my cosplay, and Five Year Mission!
Oh man…where do I even begin?
I’ve been going to Gen-Con since 2012, but this ranked as one of the best—if not the best—one I’ve attended. To summarize: 1) I went with some great friends. 2) Met up with all my Gen-Con writer buddies. 3) Had possibly the best book sales ever at the con. 4) Met some awesome celebrities. 5) Did some great networking. 6) Stayed at a hotel that across the street from the convention.
All this awesomeness despite a few snafus (like forgetting my digital camera and relying on my iPhone all week for photos) and my concern that Christians and the LGBT community would clash after Gen-Con got involved in the RFRA controversy several months ago.
I’ll do my best to write a decent run-down and include some photos. Here goes nothing!
Setup Day and Day One
I must confess, True Believers, that I went to the con feeling discouraged. Last year I had lousy book sales, and I’ve been wondering if my attempts at a writing career were for naught (I’ll write about that later). I’d been praying for good sales to keep me going.
Anyway, my brother Jarod and I drove the two-and-a-half hours to Indianapolis last Wednesday. To pass the time, I had Jarod read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee out loud (my car’s CD player needs repaired). We got through three chapters by the time we arrived.
Then we hit the snafus. I went to the wrong desk to get our badges, standing in line for at least 30 minutes, and was only able to pick up one event ticket since the Gen-Con website wouldn’t let me buy them for myself (but I could for Jarod). I’d forgotten I needed to go to exhibitor HQ for our badges. This involved lugging our heavy boxes of books to the other side of the Indiana Convention Center (after we’d already lugged them in from the hotel). But once there, I discovered I somehow didn’t have a badge for myself but there was one for Jarod. I figured there was a mix-up online since I had to have an inadvertently purchased badge refunded the month before when I should’ve gotten it for free. However, the convention workers gladly made me a badge on the spot. So, we entered the hall.
Or rather, the gigantic sauna. The air conditioning was off, so it was hot and humid. Couple that with carrying heavy boxes, and I felt like I was at boot camp. Jarod is particularly sensitive to heat, so he was miserable, but he was a trooper and made it through. We set-up quickly and got out of there.
We met up with my friend and co-author Eric Anderson at the Hyatt Regency, which was cattycorner from the convention center. We settled into our room—which was on the vertigo-inducing 12th floor—and then went to Steak ‘n’ Shake for dinner. After exploring downtown Indy for a little while, we turned in.
I got up early to buy some event tickets and then went to the now air-conditioned exhibitors’ hall since it opened at 9am for V.I.G.s (Very Important Gamers). I met up with some longtime Gen-Con friends like Ed Russel and my newer con friends like Jay Erickson. My “next-door” neighbor this year was Isaac Crowe. However, two tables from me was the infamous author who I can only describe as the lovechild of an auctioneer and a used car salesman. He’s the best pitch artist in Authors Avenue, so he’s difficult to compete with. He was good at getting attention. When I saw him get two sales in the first hour when I had none, I felt discouraged again, like last year would repeat itself despite me having two new books and better signage. But as the day wore on, I got a handle on things and made a decent amount of sales. I even attended a pair of writing seminars while Jarod watched my table.
Unlike some of my compatriots, I like to attend con events in the evening. So, I participated in Nexus Gaming’s “Double Blind Fighter Challenge,” a fighting game tourney where the games were chosen randomly each round and players played rock-paper-scissors to see if they got to choose their opponent’s character. One guy was so hardcore, he wore a luchador mask when playing! (He called it his “war face”). It actually did intimidate some people. Unfortunately for me, despite getting a bye thanks to having an odd number of players, I lost in the second round because of bad luck. Of the six games in rotation—which included Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter x Tekken, and Guilty Gear Xrd—I had to play one I’d only played twice: Mortal Kombat X. Ironically, my opponent was only marginally better than me. He ended up winning the whole tournament. The 2011 Mortal Kombat, was also in rotation, and I told him things would’ve been different if we’d played that. He wanted to see if that was true, so we played a few rounds after the tourney. He barely touched me. (I was prepared to eat my words, if needed). I honestly think I could’ve won that competition.
Wanting to kill some time, I perused Gen-Con’s thick program guide for any interesting events. I saw that the team who created Sentinels of the Multiverse—one of my favorite games—were demoing Sentinels Tactics for free, so I wandered over there. I’d played the game before, but figured it’d be fun. However, when I arrived, I saw they were also demoing Villains of the Multiverse, a new expansion for the card game that wasn’t out yet. Now, there was a bit of goofiness with getting in. While the event was free, priority was given to anyone who had two-dollar generic tickets, so a British fella with blue hair asked us to move to another table though we were in the middle of getting a game set up with game master (I don’t know what his official title is, so I’ll stick with this). He insisted it wasn’t because he hated us. However, after only sitting there for a minute, we were moved back to our original table to join ticketed players. It was five or six heroes against an equal number of villains, which was different than the original game where a team of heroes fight one powerful villain.
I had a blast with Villains. I played Knyfe, and she’s a beast with damage. It came down to the wire with only two or three heroes left, but by our powers combined (1,000 nerd points to anyone who gets that reference), we managed to eke our way to victory. I even scored the final blow thanks to a fellow Nate. I added him to “The Nate Collective” (an inside joke from college; I’ll explain later).
I returned to the hotel and settled in for the night while my laptop upgraded to Windows 10.
Next Time in Part 2:
Panels, Dr. Forrester, and Mad Max!
As I’ve stated before, I’ve been negligent on blogging for the last month. It wasn’t just this blog that suffered, though. Most, if not all, of my other projects were put on hiatus so I could finish editing my two latest books, 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom and Ninjas and Talking Trees, in time for Gen-Con 2015 next week. But it was only one of the many things I had to do.
One of the perils of being a self-published author (as I think I mentioned in an early episode of “But I Digress…”) is you have to do everything, or at least almost everything, yourself. Your work doesn’t stop with writing the book and making recommended changes. You have to become an entire publishing house. You write, you edit, you hire cover artists (assuming you don’t create the cover yourself), you do layout, you promote the book, etc., etc. Unless you’re an excellent project manager, this can be tiring, especially when you also work a day job and have a social life. In the last month, I’ve found myself thinking many times, I just want to write! I understand now why some authors forego self-publishing, despite its advantages, in favor of traditional publishing: they have much less to worry about. Their attention isn’t nearly as divided, so they can focus more on their craft.
Strange (or selfish) as it may sound, one of the reasons I want to get married is because I’d like to have a wife who could help me with some of this. Yes, I admit it: I’d like her to be my secretary. Here’s the thing: she wouldn’t be my subservient, but my partner. We’d work on things together as equals.
Regardless, I already practice this to some extent. I hired friends/professional editors to look over these books so it wasn’t just me. Fresh eyes can see things I don’t. The artist who created the cover for 42, Ruth Pike, also did the back cover and some promotional materials. My friend Nick Hayden then did the layout. Anthony Gangemi drew the artwork for Ninjas and Talking Trees, which required a bit of faith on my part because it was the most expensive cover I’ve commissioned. I was thinking back on a self-publishing seminar where the instructor insisted authors should invest money in our careers. But I had to add the text and do the layout myself because Nick was unavailable. Then I had to wait for CreateSpace to process everything. (Thankfully, their shipping department is awesome, and my orders arrived four or five days early).
Let this be a warning to you: if you want to be an indie author, expect to put in extra work.
It’s worth it, though. 😉
P.S. Please leave reviews for my books on Amazon and Goodreads!
I’m on a roll! (That was the correct “roll,” right?)
Actually, I just wanted to get another new book ready for Gen-Con 2015. Plus, this one has been sitting in my computer for a long time and needed to get into print.
So, without further ado, I present Ninjas and Talking Trees, which is book one of The (Mis)Adventures of George Francis.
George Francis is a normal accountant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who has it all: a disciplined routine, a great job, and a hot girlfriend named Destiny. Well, there are his uber-nerd college buddies, but they’re mostly harmless…until they met his Destiny. She dumps George immediately. They invite a heartbroken George to join them at a renaissance faire to make it up to him. But after entering a port-a-potty to soothe his aching stomach, George is transported to the world of Loconia and chased by ninjas.
Soon George meets Sensei, a Talking Tree who was once a samurai. He insists George is the “Hero of Legend,” and it’s his new destiny to liberate Loconia from the eccentric tyrant Marcus the Morally-Dubious in order to return home. George must survive Sensei’s grueling training (which includes dueling a samurai banzai tree) and then rescue Princess Pansy/Roze, who’s been cursed with a split personality—one good, one evil—that switches whenever someone snaps his fingers. To complicate matters, the good one is in love with George and the evil one plans to marry Marcus.
But George isn’t alone. He recruits Loconia’s bravest and finest to battle Marcus’ Legions of Terror: an unknowingly hapless pretty boy; an inarticulate Barbarian carrying a well-spoken ax; and a redneck wizard whose spells work better when he’s drunk.
Will George’s sanity survive? Will he become the Hero of Legend? Will you stop reading this back cover and open the book to find out? (Just don’t skip to the end, you cheater!)
This book has an origin that’s just as humorous. During my last semester at Taylor University Fort Wayne, I took a class on C.S. Lewis and George McDonald that was taught by Dr. Pam Jordan-Long. One of the books we read was Phantastes by McDonald. A classmate told me before class that he thought it was a bit slow in middle and joked that it would’ve been better if ninjas were in it. But he didn’t stop there—he said that in class, too! Since Phantastes featured talking trees, we concluded as a class that all good stories must include ninjas and talking trees. It quickly became a prominent inside joke in the class for the rest of the semester. Even the normally serious Dr. Jordan-Long enjoyed it so much she put it on the final exam.
I decided then that since I couldn’t find any stories that featured both, I would write one myself. Since I’d just written Pandora’s Box, I decided I would do something completely different to avoid being pigeonholed as a writer, so I decided to write a fantasy/comedy. As the years went on, I collected many ideas for the book. Too many, in fact, for one book, which is why I’ve decided to make I a series. Essentially, it’s become a repository for my eccentric, absurdist sense of humor. You’ll see shades of Monty Python, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and The Princess Bride, among other things, in it.
There’s more I could say about the book, but I’ll save that for another blog. This one’s long enough as it is.
Get your paperback copy of Ninjas and Talking Trees today on Amazon for $14.99! (EBook coming soon!)
Remember when I said I’d write two blogs in one week to make up for not writing? Yeah, that didn’t happen. In the words of the 10th Doctor, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
But I have a good reason for my unintended hiatus: I’ve been working on two new books! The first of which is now available on Amazon!
This little book is a devotional for geeks and nerds. It uses the stories, hobbies, and other interests nerds and geeks love to illustrate theological Truth.
Here’s the back cover copy:
Despite what many churchgoers say, God doesn’t think Dungeons & Dragons is “Satan’s game” or that cosplay is childish. In fact, God has imprinted Himself into nerd culture. Yes, all your favorite stories and games point to the LORD Himself. You may doubt, but you know your nerdy hobbies are more than just escapism. They resound with you for a reason. Perhaps you’re not sure why, but they do. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, there are profound truths to be mined from those tales.
Join us on a 42-day journey of discovery. Why 42? A famous “Guide” would have you believe that’s “the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.” The trouble is you have to know “the Question.” Maybe that question for you is, “How many days will it take me to learn the Truth?” Or maybe you already know the true “Answer” but want to deepen your faith. Either way, this book is for you! We promise it’ll be fun and challenging. You may never look at your favorite stories, characters, and/or hobbies the same again.
Don’t forget your towel!
It was co-authored by myself and my friend Eric Anderson, the founder of Nerd Chapel. We each took turns writing the 500-800 word devotions for each day. We both bring our unique voices and styles to the book. We mine Truth from things like Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, G.I.Joe, and even a strange scientific discovery about water crystals!
As I said, the book is available on Amazon for $7.99. Get your copy today!
Does it make me a bad writer (and a bad person) that I haven’t written a blog (or made a video) in nearly a month because of busyness and technology problems? I’d like to say, “No,” and attribute it to “life happens.” Regardless, my projects have slowed down a bit, and I’m writing this on my new laptop. But since I feel I owe it to you, “True Believers” (yes, I’m still stealing Stan Lee’s nickname for Marvel Comic readers until I can find a better name for my own fans), to make up for lost time, I plan to write two blogs this week: one today and one Thursday.
Recently, I saw Tomorrowland (which, despite what critics are saying, is a good film). It was a wonderful experience. I saw it at a locally-owned small town theatre with my siblings, Josiah, Jarod, and Sarah. This almost never happens because Josiah is married and recently had his first kid, and Sarah works in Florida for her alma mater, Word of Life Bible Institute. I can’t remember the last time the four of us had an outing like this.
Anyway, there’s much that can be mined from this film, but what struck me most was its idealism. (SPOILER WARNING!) Tomorrowland is a city hidden in another dimension. It is a place where scientists, thinkers, and artists can work without the limitations of governments, bureaucracy, and doubters. But only a select few are admitted to the city. Those chosen for admission are sent a pin that gives them an interactive glimpse of the city and invites them to join.
How is someone selected to enter Tomorrowland? He (or she) must be a dreamer. They must look at the world’s problems and ask, “How can we fix it?” They must believe that with imagination, ingenuity, and hard work, anything is possible. In other words, they must be optimistic and idealistic.
Casey, the film’s protagonist, exemplifies these. Several times when apocalyptic predictions are made, she refuses to believe they can’t be prevented, and her hope alters those projections, if only slightly. It’s revealed that a machine meant to show mankind the dangers that are coming—environmental disasters, nuclear war, etc.—instead made them cynical, so they rushed toward that apocalypse. They turned those warnings into pop culture, treating those dystopias and disasters as inevitable futures. Ultimately, it is hope that triumphs, reviving Tomorrowland and avoiding the oncoming apocalypse, and pins are sent out to new candidates for admission.
Watching this, I wondered, Would I be worthy of admission to Tomorrowland? I asked myself that because I’ve often battled cynicism and despair, especially since graduating college. I won’t go into the details, but my life hasn’t gone how I wanted it to. Just the week before seeing the film, I’d staved off a bout of depression. Yet whenever I’ve been like that, I didn’t feel like myself. It was like I was another person; it wasn’t the real Nathan. It reminded me that despite everything, in my heart of hearts, I’m an idealist. I’m also a dreamer. The cynicism and depression stem from not seeing many of those dreams become reality. There’s much I want to do and much I can contribute. Among them is telling stories to a wide audience that both entertain and enlighten. In fact, I want to craft stories that do for others what Tomorrowland did for me.
But hope is a tricky thing. It’s both powerful and fragile. Reality can crush it—and often does for many people—but it can also overcome and alter reality. It’s what spurs people to accomplish great things. They didn’t simply give up.
For centuries, people said man would never fly. The Wright Brothers didn’t listen.
America feared polio for decades. Dr. Jonas Sulk created a vaccine.
The Cold War raged for nearly five decades under the shadow of the Soviet Union. President Ronald Reagan defeated it.
I’m also reminded of Hebrews 11, which is often called “The Hall of Faith.” It lists figures from the Old Testament who accomplished great and often seemingly impossible things because of their faith in God.
These are the kinds of people who get admitted to Tomorrowland.
They’re the kind of people I want to be like.
“But I Digress…”
Hosted by Nathan Marchand
After an unintended hiatus, I, Nathan Marchand, return with a proper episode! I conclude my four-part series–finally–on writing speculative fiction. Part 3 detailed the major subgenres of fantasy, and this episode does the same for science fiction.
What’d you think? Leave comments below!
Title card by Jarod Marchand.
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