Next week is the biggest convention I attend as an author: Gen-Con. The show is celebrating its 50th anniversary. That’s an incredible run! The show gets bigger every year even without having huge celebrity guests all the time. They sold out of four-day badges a month ago!
As usual, though, the show snuck up on me. Yes, I paid for my table months ago, but since I have this crazy habit of keeping myself constantly busy, I don’t think about what else I could do at the show until it’s nearly upon me. I like to enjoy the cons I table at, so I try to attend some of the events at the show. The problem is Gen-Con is so huge, many of the events sell out months ahead of time. That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of other events to attend, but it is a bit disappointing to see some of the more interesting things sell out that far in advance.
Another bummer is the fact that I won’t be staying at one of the adjacent hotels to the Indiana Convention Center like I’ve been doing for several years. Let’s just say things didn’t work out for that to happen. So, I had to get a room at a hotel seven miles away, which means making a potentially long commute every day to the convention. I’m not looking forward to that.
I won’t have any “new” books with me, but not because I haven’t been writing. No, my next book, Zorsam and the God Who Devours, which I co-authored with Nick Hayden and Aaron Brosman, just won’t be published in time for the convention. It’s still a few months away. (More on that later).
On the bright side, I’m happy to announce that I’ve been invited to be on a panel! (G-Fest must’ve been the start of some good luck for me). Specifically, it’s the Christianity and Gaming panel put on by the Christian Gamers Guild. I’ve attended that panel most years I’ve gone to Gen-Con, so it was a surprise and an honor to be asked to be on it. I’m not sure what to expect. It’s only the third time I’ve ever been on a panel. I’m excited.
Other than that, I’m eager to meet all my Gen-Con friends in Authors Avenue again, and, of course, all of you wonderful readers!
Anyway, my annual Gen-Con video is an actual, episode of my regular show. I interviewed many of the authors who contributed to the “Missing Pieces” anthology, which is a collection of short stories by authors who sell books at Authors Avenue at Gen-Con.
You can buy the anthology at www.DragonRoots.net or on Amazon.
You get two posts today, True Believers! A new story and an announcement.
I currently have two book signings scheduled for 2016 (more will probably be on the way). The first will be at the North Webster Community Public Library in North Webster, Indiana. It’ll be held April 11 3:30pm-6:30pm. It’s part of their celebration of National Library Week, which starts that day. I’ll have most, if not all, of my books with me, but I’ll be focusing on my newest ones, Ninjas and Talking Treesand 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom. You can find out more on the library’s website.
The big one as usual, though, is Gen-Con. The “best four days in gaming” will be held at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium August 4-7 in Indianapolis, Indiana. I’ll be in Authors’ Avenue in the vendor’s hall, but you’ll probably also see me attending events and enjoying the con. I’ll hopefully have added one or two more titles to the long list of books I’ll be selling there. I can’t wait to see all my Gen-Con friends! You can find out more about the event on its website.
When I have other signings scheduled, I’ll be sure to let you know!
Finally! A new episode! It’s my 3rd anniversary special, which as usual is all about selling books at conventions (sorry–“Avengers: Age of Ultron” review will come later). In this episode, I give tips for crafting a great pitch to use to attract readers and sell your books to them.
While at Gen-Con last month, a woman said something that struck me during one of the Writers Symposium panels I attended. She said that when she first started attending conventions after getting published and meeting some of her writer heroes, she suffered from Imposter Syndrome and felt like she didn’t deserve to be there. While she only mentioned it briefly, I knew exactly how she felt.
Wikipedia defines Imposter Syndrome as “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”
I’ve sometimes mused that the only reason I’m considered intelligent (I took an online IQ test as a college freshman that said mine was 135) is because the standards for intelligence had been lowered. Ever seen the film Idiocracy? That’s what I’m talking about. Couple that with being around friends like Nick Hayden (who won’t admit he’s a literary genius) and family like my brother Jarod who is super-talented and imaginative, and I feel like a midget among giants.
For example, a fellow Children of the Wells collaborator once said Nick creates complex characters and I wrote thrilling action scenes. Externally I appreciated what she said, but internally I was reeling. I liked that my stories were exciting, but creating great characters was a skill I thought every good writer needed to master. Action scenes were just window-dressing. (It didn’t help that she also said the hero I created for the serial was boring unless playing off of other characters while Nick’s were strong enough to work on their own). It was like she was saying Nick was Francis Ford Coppola and I was Michael Bay. I suddenly felt like the least talented person in the room.
When I hear back from readers, I sometimes find myself thinking, I have fans?! like I don’t deserve them. They tell me they love my books, and I almost blush from embarrassment. Sure, I’m a better writer than, say, that hack E.L. James, but I still feel like my stories and talent don’t hold a candle to my peers or the “truly successful” professionals out there (Neal Gaiman and Orson Scott Card, to name a few). Heck, when I’ve pitched The Day After to readers, I tell them I think the best story in the collection is Nick’s and not mine. (Jarod disagrees and says mine is the best, but I write that off as familial bias).
The reality of my situation is a mixed bag. I hold a degree in professional writing from a respected university and was taught by some of the best in the writing business, but if I was to look at my books’ actual sales numbers (or even just the number of reviews they have online), some would say that’s evidence that I’m not that good. I even had an agent—a woman I went to college with—tell me the book I sent her was well-written but wasn’t “trendy.” Yet, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve had readers tell me they loved my stuff when they read it. Heck, I had a new reader buy a copy of Ninjas and Talking Trees the last day of Gen-Con, and no sooner do I get home does she message me on my professional Facebook page to say she’d read a few chapters and now wanted links to the rest of my books. I didn’t know what to do with myself (other than send her the links, of course).
All of that to say that even at this year’s Gen-Con, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. Last year I had terrible book sales. I saw myself as the least successful writer in Authors’ Avenue. Indeed, I even thought I was a rank amateur compared to most, if not all, of my peers there. They’re obviously more talented, marketed, and connected than I am, I thought. It took about a day-and-a-half of good sales at this year’s con for me to start putting that behind me, but even by Saturday, I was still a bit depressed. The kicker was getting a pep talk from a guy (sadly, his name escapes me at the moment) who saw me at the Christianity and Media Panel the day before to bring me out of it. He bought a copy of 42: Disovering Faith Through Fandom and after hearing a bit of my story, said he saw how I could strike up a conversation with any random passerby and use that to draw them to my booth. He was sure God would use me to glorify Him by building relationships, and that I had just as much of a right to be there as my peers did. I needed to hear that.
All of this to say that I have to remind myself that I’m not an imposter. I’m not the writer-ly equivalent of a Cylon masquerading as a human. I am a writer. I have been published. I have readers and fans. They may be a small number now, but they will grow. I have the respect and friendship of my fellow artists. I have all of these things for a reason, and not because I’ve deceived anyone or deluded myself.
To paraphrase Dr. Leonard McCoy, “I’m a writer, not an imposter!”
“As a Christian, a Hoosier, and a nerd, I am offended by this.”
That’s what I wrote on my Facebook page when I shared an article that said Gen-Con—among others—was threatening to relocate because Indiana Governor Mike Pence was going to sign the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. It ignited a flame war on my page and most especially in a Gen-Con Facebook group. It was a rare instance where my politics and nerdiness (and to a lesser extent, my writing) clashed. To make matters worse, I seemed to be in the minority in my support of this bill, even among my fellow Christians. It was one of those times when, as I posted on my page, “I feel like I’m the only one who gets it.”
After much thought, I’ve decided to write this blog as my succinct, focused view on this legislation. It will be the last time I talk about it, at least publicly.
I will not explain my views on homosexuality. I hate that the bill’s protesters have tried to make it about something it isn’t.
Here’s the official summary of the bill:
“Provides that a state or local government action may not substantially burden a person’s right to the exercise of religion unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to the person’s exercise of religion is: (1) essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest.”
In other words, it allows judges to look at a case and determine if someone violates someone else’s civil rights with the exercising of his religious rights, or vice versa. These have come up in the last few years because of cases like Hobby Lobby’s refusal to fund certain forms of birth control and the Iowa baker who didn’t want to make a cake for a lesbian wedding. Both resulted in high-profile lawsuits. This bill would protect business owners from such things.
However, protesters argue that this bill will legalize discrimination. The most common example I heard was a Christian restaurant owner could see two men walk in, assume they are homosexual, and refuse to serve them. In other words, this bill will turn Indiana into the pre-Civil Rights Movement south.
Ironically, some—including George Takei—seem or forget (or ignore) that a federal version of this law has been on the books for over 20 years. It was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and with a 97-3 vote in the Senate and then signed by President Bill Clinton (you know, a right wing nutcase :P). But the Supreme Court said the law didn’t apply to the states, so since then 19 other states besides Indiana have passed laws that reinforced this federal law and added it to their respective state constitutions. In other words, this law isn’t new.
It does not invalidate the civil rights homosexuals—or any other minority—already has in this country. Those are guaranteed to them by the Constitution. Why? Because they’re human beings and American citizens. A business owner can’t use this law to justify his prejudicial refusal to serve someone.
But it doesn’t just apply to Christians in conflict with homosexuals. It applies to Jews who want to run a kosher deli and not be sued because they refused to serve pork. It applies to Catholic organizations that object to certain forms of birth control. It applies to doctors who refuse to perform abortions because of their religious convictions. In other words, people shouldn’t be forced to do anything that violates their consciences. Businesses have the right to refuse service so long as it doesn’t violate someone’s civil rights.
I explained it like this. If a homosexual came to me and asked to buy a copy of one of my books (which has happened)—or better yet, offer me a book deal—I’d have no objections to it. We’re relating to each other as peers. But if he wanted to commission me to write the vows for his gay wedding, I’d say, “No.” Why? Because at that point I’d be endorsing a lifestyle I have religious objections to. I used examples like this on my Facebook page, and several commenters figured that debunking my so-called “extreme” examples and analogies would debunk my arguments. I’m sorry, but the principle still stands even if the illustration is faulty. Read C.S. Lewis. Even he says, “No doubt there is one point in which my analogy…breaks down” (The Weight of Glory).
There have been no instances where this law has been used to justify discrimination in those other 19 states. None. Zero. Nada. If somehow it does lead to such things here in Indiana, I will be one of the first people to support efforts to curtail it. I may have religious objections to homosexuality (not homosexuals—there’s a difference), but I don’t think anyone should be mistreated or discriminated against. If I have to be part of a minority of voices that supports this, so be it. I’m sick of hearing people berate me as a bigot because I support this bill. Eventually, all their voices collect into a cacophony that blares, “Conform!” I refuse.
Don’t think for a second that I don’t know what it’s like to be discriminated against. In fact, it happened to me at Gen-Con last year. A fella walked by my table and grimaced when he saw that I had business cards for Fans For Christ next to my books. I asked if he saw anything he liked, and he replied, “Let me put it politely: I don’t believe what you believe.” Then he walked away without looking at my books. He discriminated against me because I was a Christian. I didn’t berate him or threaten to sue him. I simply moved on to the next potential reader. If someone is refused service by a business because it would violate the owners’ religious beliefs, that person can go to a similar business that will cater to him. That’s what a free market does.
Why are people loudly objecting to it? I believe they’re either misguided or seizing an opportunity to make a political statement. I’ve heard Christians argue that this violates Jesus’ teachings about loving all people. Their hearts are in the right place, but they’re misunderstanding the situation. Most protesters—particularly the extremists in the LGBT community (FYI: I don’t think all members of that community are like this)—see what’s happening and are using it rile people up so they can advance their political agenda. They have no interest in helping anyone but themselves. I’ve seen it happen multiple times in multiple minority groups. They spout nothing but propaganda. It’s sickening, honestly. It doesn’t help anyone and only perpetuates the cycle of hatred. It must be broken.
I believe Adrian Swartout, the CEO of Gen-Con, is motivated by the former. He doesn’t want his event to be associated with a state that he believes is discriminatory toward certain groups. I can understand that. If he wants to move his event elsewhere, that’s his prerogative and he has every right to do so. However, I have every right to disagree with his reasons and be upset that Gen-Con could leave. I love that convention. It means more to me because I’m not just a con-goer. I made new friends there. I enlarged my writers network there. I expanded my audience there. I love their Writers Symposium. I cut my teeth as a self-promoter there. Now that might be taken from me. Heck, I wonder if Christians like me who attend this year will be persecuted because we’ll be labeled “the bigots who made Gen-Con leave.” I’d like to believe that convention will continue to be a place of acceptance.
There you go. I hope I’ve made myself clear. I believe in religious rights and civil rights. I think both should be protected. I support this bill because I think it does that. Feel free to discuss this with me in the comments, but be civil.
Finally, this video succinctly summarizes what this bill is about and what’s in it.
It’s been a week since Gen-Con 2014 ended, and as usual, I miss it. Not only does Gen-Con have a great Authors’ Avenue where I can sell books and a great Writers’ Symposium where I can attend seminars, it’s one of the few places I can be an unbridled nerd and nobody judges me.
If you follow me on Facebook (and if you don’t, you should), you saw my almost up-to-the-minute updates while my brother Jarod and I were at the four-day convention. There’s a lot I could write about, but for now I’ll focus on a few highlights not mentioned in those posts. UPDATE: More photos from Gen-Con have been posted on my Facebook page!
Want to see photographs from the convention? I recommend checking out my Facebook page. Until I figure out how the new photo gallery plug-in I downloaded works, that’s where I’ll be posting photos from signings and such. Sorry.
First, here are the fans/readers I met while I was at the con, both new and old.
This was Jarod’s first time at Gen-Con, though it wasn’t his first convention. He’s gone with me to several others this year as attendees. We made prints of the illustrations he’s done for my short stories and the titles cards he’s made for my YouTube show, “But I Digress…”. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we weren’t able to sell any of these. I was shocked. Conventions seemed like the places where people would eat up his artwork. Perhaps it was because we were in the authors’ section and not the art show area. Regardless, he did manage to get a pair of commissions: one for a steampunk pin-up girl a guy wanted for a restaurant he wants to start called Pandora’s Lunchbox (he told us about it because of the title of my novel), and another for a con-goer who wanted little pictures of Wile E. Coyote and a Digimon for a Magic: The Gathering card. Jarod also drew a few random sketches during our downtime, especially when things were slow on Thursday, including Maleficent, a ballerina Dalek (no joke), and a ninja Elsa. He gave the last one to a Jedi Elsa cosplayer, who inspired the artwork.
As for my book sales, they were slow again this year. I took fewer books with me assuming I’d sell out, but I didn’t. I got a few bits of advice from my fellow writers on how to improve that:
1) Get new signs. I’ve been using Jarod’s handmade sign for three years now. It’s time I upgraded. It’ll help me look more professional.
2) Have more books. For whatever reason, people will be more interested in buying books when they have more choices. I thought the opposite was true, but I think it would diversify my appeal and show people I’m still writing.
It didn’t help that the new books I wanted to take—Children of the Wells, Volume 1—didn’t arrive in time, so I wasn’t able to sell them until Saturday. Even so, that was a bit of tough sell since I wasn’t in that collection (but I’ll be in volume two).
However, I think my networking was much-improved this year. I talked with more of the writers there and shared my business cards with them. I think I even found a publisher interested in seeing Ninjas and Talking Trees. J Hopefully, in the coming year, that will all pay off.
As usual, while other vendors were too tired to enjoy the convention after the exhibitors’ hall closed, I was still running around with boundless energy like the Doctor. (In fact, I cosplayed as the 10th Doctor while I was there on Sunday).
I attended many writing seminars since many of the other events I wanted to attend were sold out. (I waited to sign up since I was on the waiting list for months and wasn’t sure I’d make it to the convention). Regardless, I was still able to participate in an “Ultra Street Fighter IV” tournament Friday night and see the Five Year Mission show Saturday night. I wasn’t able to play any board games, though.
Overall, I don’t think it was quite as good of an experience as last year’s convention, but I still want to return next year. That, sadly, is uncertain since the organizers didn’t allow writers and artists an early sign up at the end of the convention like they usually do. I have no idea when tables will be available. On the bright side, I could have as many as three new titles to sell at next year’s convention if all goes as planned (more on that later).
You may remember that I went to Gen-Con last year. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Well, I’ll be returning this year. The convention is this weekend, August 15-18, in Indianapolis, Indiana. It’s being held at the Indiana Convention Center, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Lucas Oil Stadium (where the Colts play). I’ll be selling copies of my books–including Pandora’s Box–and promoting Children of the Wellsin the vendors’ area all four days. The hours will 10am-6pm Thursday-Saturday (9am for VIGs Thursday) and 10am-4pm Sunday. I will be taking breaks to attend a few events and meet Walter Koenig (the original Chekhov!) and Peter Davison (the 5th Doctor!), but this year I’m bringing my friend Eric as an assistant, so he’ll be manning my table if I’m not there. (Thanks, Eric!)
By the way, I’ll be cosplaying as a different sci-fi/comic book hero each day of the convention. Who will they be? Come to Gen-Con to find out!
Gen Con Indy is the original, longest-running, best-attended, gaming convention in the world!
For more than 45 years, Gen Con Indy has set the trend in gaming and has broken attendance records. Last year, more than 134,775 turnstile and 41,000 unique attendees experienced Gen Con Indy.
Featuring game industry veterans, award-winning authors and artists, jaw-dropping costumes, thousands of events, a growing Family Fun Pavilion, and the newest games on the market, Gen Con truly is The Best Four Days in Gaming™!
Gen Con is more than just a convention, however. It’s a passion, a community, and a unique experience that keeps people coming back for decades.
Learn more about the convention at its website here.
See you there!
If I don’t, I’ll do my best to post daily updates!
After over a week of figuring out video editing programs (and finding the time to use them), my long-awaited first vlog is done!
In the first episode, I give eight tips on how to sell books at conventions to aspiring writers. These were based on my experiences at Gen-Con.
This is my first vlog and my first time using video editing programs, so it didn’t turn out as well as I would’ve liked. I expect they will improve as time goes on. I have to resist the urge to nitpick my own video and performance.
Please leave me comments, especially if you have ideas for topics for future episodes. I’d love to make this interactive.
After a day or two of rummaging through pictures and fighting with WordPress, I’ve posted a gallery of photos from my time at Gen-Con last month. I apologize for the poor quality of some of them. I had to use an old digital camera and my iPhone to snap pictures. The photos are also out of order. I haven’t yet figured out how to re-order them with my photos plug-in yet.
Regardless, they’ve been posted for your enjoyment. Click here to view the gallery.