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!
My blog this week is a simple one. First, I need to update this info. Second, I need time for my “real” writing. 😛
Convention season is in full swing, and if you’ve been following my social media, I’ve already been to several shows, though not as a vendor. Regardless, I’ll be attending several conventions as either a vendor or an attendee between now and the end of the year. What follows are my currently scheduled appearances. I will probably add and subtract appearances as time goes on.
Gen-Con 5 in Indianapolis, Indiana (Aug. 17-20) – I return to the “best four days in gaming” for the sixth year in a row. The show will be held at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium. I’ll be in the massive vendor hall in Authors Avenue, which next door to Artist Alley and near other literary-themed vendors and guests. I’ll hopefully have a preview chapter and cover art for my next book (that’s something I should blog about soon…). I’ll also have a new story in the annual anthology Missing Pieces, which compiles stories written by Gen-Con authors.
Fantasticon Fort Wayne in Fort Wayne, Indiana (Oct. 28-29) – Last year was so fun, I had to return to my new “hometown” comic-con. The traveling show will once again be held at the Grand Wayne Center. I’ll be joined by my writer friend/collaborator Nick Hayden and possibly my Kaijuvision Radio co-host Brian Scherschel. By then, my new book should be out, so this might be your first chance to get signed copies from me.
Stay tuned about possibly signings at a bookstore in Goshen, Indiana, and author fairs at libraries in Fort Wayne and Kendallville, Indiana!
G-Fest XXIV in Rosemont, Illinois (July 14-16) – I’ve been a Godzilla/kaiju fan for a long time, but this will be my first time attending this show, which is essentially the San Diego Comic-Con of the giant monster fandom. It’ll be at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare. Brian Scherschel and I will be there promoting Kaijuvision Radio, although we won’t be behind a table in the vendor hall. No, we’ll be mingling with our fellow fans and attending film screenings and events.
A few weeks ago, I attended Indiana Comic-Con in Indianapolis. It was nice to go to a convention as an attendee and not as a vendor (though I’d love to be a vendor there—I just need to produce my own comic book first). I had the privilege of meeting comic book writers Marv Wolfman and Chris Claremont, as well as the actors Ian McDiarmid, Ray Park, John Rhys Davies, and Brent Spiner.
But by far the most impressive celebrity I met at that con was comic book artist/writer George Perez. Ironically, trying to meet him was also the most frustrating part of my trip.
See, there was so much I wanted to do at this convention this year that I opted to attend for two days. My friends and I stayed in a nearby hotel. I’d met Mr. Perez before several years ago the first time I went to this convention. I had him autograph several graphic novels and paid him to make a sketch of Captain America for me. This year I was excited to meet him because I had Break-Thru #1, an obscure comic he drew in the ‘90s, for him to sign, and I planned to play “Stump Perez” by asking him to draw NightMan, one of the characters from that book.
The problem was the convention decided to sell tickets first thing in the morning each day of the convention to fans who wanted to meet him. These “golden ticket” holders would get first priority, even if they left and came back. Since most of them brought whole longboxes of comics for Mr. Perez to sign and asked for a sketch (which took 10-15 minutes to draw), the line moved slower than a snail. Myself, my friend Sergio, and many other fans stood in line for hours on end for two days waiting to see him. On one hand, we were frustrated as heck. On the other hand, we formed a strange bond. I called them “my line brothers.” We all became friends through this strange sort of adversity. Heck, we even came up with this meme as an expression of our frustration. 😛
I’m confident none of this stuff was Mr. Perez’s idea, though, because he came to our line twice on the last day of the con and apologized for what happened. Not only that, he took control of the situation and although he couldn’t make us sketches, he promised that he would get us all autographs on up to five items. I was quick to say, “I think I speak for all of us, George, when I say we all still love you!” Indeed, Mr. Perez’s only sin that convention was that he was too nice.
Closing time came, and after wrapping up a few things, Mr. Perez came to our line—which was at least 25-30 people long—and led us through the vendor hall full of people deconstructing booths. Someone joked that he was the Pied Piper, but I said that he was Moses leading us through the wilderness. “Part the Red Sea for us, George!” I called.
Finally, he led us to the hallway, where we re-formed our line. I was the third or fourth person down. One of Mr. Perez’s assistants came over carrying a chair and asked him if he wanted to sit. Then Mr. Perez said something that solidified my already growing respect for him: “They did not sit, so I will not sit!” Wow!
This is a man who knows how to treat his fans. He knows he wouldn’t be where he is without them. To know that they suffered and waited patiently when they could’ve done other things (and some did give up, by the way), he made sure to do right by them. I’m not sure how many other celebrities would’ve done that.
I hope someday, if I get that popular, to remember what I saw him do that day and emulate it.
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!
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!
I’m a writer, and I can’t find the words to express how fun Gen-Con was this year! Here’s a video compilation of the fun things I did and crazy/amazing people I met. Thanks Eric Anderson and Darrin Ball for joining me on this adventure!
After a three-hour trip, I arrived yesterday in Indianapolis at a Hampton Inn and met my friends Eric and Darrin, who were both attending Gen-Con. (I was glad I an audiobook of Moby Dick with me). Darrin was kind enough to get us a room. I must say, I’m not used to staying in a hotel. The last time I did, if I remember right, was in 2004 on a college-sponsored mission trip to New York City, and it was a barely passable motel. To be honest, I feel like I’m being treated like a king at this hotel!
Anyway, Eric and I went to the Indiana Convention Center to pick up tickets and set up. Like last year, hauling my boxes of books was a workout that left me with a sore lower back, albeit briefly. I met a few of my neighbors, although not as many as I did last year. The writer next to me is a gentleman I call “Captain Charisma” because he sells his books like an auctioneer who was once a used car salesman. He’s difficult to compete with.
After setting up, I met Eric and we wandered back to the parking garage, taking a little time to listen to a free Five Year Mission show in a beer tent (no, we didn’t drink, but I did contemplate getting a Tribble drunk. Yes, I’m a nerd, and I think about such things!.
We returned just in time to get the pizzas Darrin ordered. He got four because there was a special. It was way more than we needed, so we’ll be eating the leftovers all weekend. We played a few games of Space Alert, revised some HeroScape custom figures Eric and I created, and went to bed.
We were all so high on excitement, we could hardly sleep.
After eating a better breakfast than I’ve had in months, I dressed in my first cosplay, Capt. James T. Kirk, complete with communicator and phaser. We made excellent time getting to the ICC, though we did have a long walk.
The doors opened one hour early at 9pm. Sadly, I don’t have much to say about my sales today. Almost everyone today didn’t buy anything from anyone. They either didn’t have money or wanted to peruse before buying. I only made two sales and donated one novel to an auction a group is doing to raise money for a food pantry. I did, however, get many people interested in Children of the Wells, including a fellow author who was so intrigued by it, he kept asking me questions about it for 10-15 minutes.
My highlight today was meeting Walter Koenig, an actor best known for playing Pavel Chekhov in the original Star Trek and Bester in Babylon 5. I was surprised to see he was so soft-spoken, I could barely hear him, and he himself seemed to be a little hard of hearing. I got an autograph, but like last year, I wanted to give the celebrities free copies of my books. I asked him, “Do you accept gifts from fans?” He replied, “Yes, yes, yes!” while pretending to gobble up food. I gave him copies of my books, showing him where I had signed Pandora’s Box, saying, “Thanks for the memories! Keep going boldly where no man has gone before!” He saw that the book was dedicated to my mother, which he said was “very nice.” I took a picture with him, and he held my book up to the camera. Finally, I asked him, “Who’d win in a fight, Chekhov or Bester?” He said, “Bester has certain advantages.”
(I wish he had said what Nick Hayden said, “Bester. He is a nuclear wessel.”)
I went a writing seminar taught by Michael A. Stackpole on writing in the digital age. I realized I went to the same one last year, but the material was different. It was reassuring to hear things had changed for the better for indie writers like myself.
From 7pm-9pm, I played a game I used to play every Saturday with friends in college: Epic Duels. But instead of it being Star Wars-themed, it was a custom version made for the anime franchise Mobile Suit Gundam. I had a great time talking with the players about animes and Epic Duels variations.
I finished the day by briefly watching Eric kick butt at the board game Monsterpocalypse and playing in a card draw Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 tourney. In this game, our characters are selected by drawing names from a hat, essentially. I didn’t usually get characters I was good with, so I lost in the first round.
Meeting up with Darrin and Eric, we drove back to the hotel.
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 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.
Finally getting fed up with parking garages and their fees, I decided I would park closer to Lucas Oil Stadium. It meant walking a block to get to the Indiana Convention Center (I probably walked just as much getting out of the garage), but it was half the price. I also had to go in through a different entrance on the opposite end of the ICC, which left me a little confused, but I found my way around.
The first event I attended was an unusual one: a Christian worship service. It was put on by the Christian Gamers’ Guild, a ministry that works with people who play role-playing games. I’d say that about 200 people attended. There I learned more about the CGG and their sister ministry, Fans For Christ. I was excited to learn there were three (them and GameChurch) reaching out this the nerd/geek subculture, which has been ignored by the mainstream church for years. Anyway, we sang a few classic hymns and had communion using little packets of grape juice with wafers on top. Then we got to hear a sermon from Derek W. White the “geek preacher.” He began by showing everyone his new pair of dice, which he’d bought from one of the vendors. One was a 10-sided dye with the Ten Commandments, and the other was a 14-sided dye with the seven deadly sins and the seven great virtues. “So together, this is my random sermon generator,” he said, rolling the dice. “I can get 140 sermons out of this.” Someone in the audience added, “So, is humility a d10 or a d20?” He used Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as his illustration.
(I just realized watching the video that you can hear me because I sat next to the cameraman!)
With 10 a.m. fast approaching, I hurried to the exhibitors’ hall—and ran into this little punk:
This is the Dalek owned by Who North America. I’d seen it a few times during the convention, but I’d never seen it do anything. I walked by it and saw that its head was swiveling around, as if surveying the scene. I got my camera out to snap a picture—and it looked right at me. I stepped to the side—it followed me. Here’s what followed:
Me: It must have a motion sensor. It follows me. Dalek: This Dalek has a mutant detector!
Yes, True Believers, not only could it movie, it could talk! I don’t know if it has pre-programmed responses or if someone (Nick Briggs?) was hiding somewhere and improvising lines in response. So, I decided to mess with it.
Me: How’s the extermination business? Dalek: Humans are easy to exterminate!
I went to my table and went back about an hour later. This time, I decided I would really mess with the Dalek by insulting it. This was my best exchange with it.
Me: Why don’t you use that plunger to do something useful, like unplug a toilet? Dalek: Daleks do not make house calls!
I asked someone at the Who North America booth how they got the thing to talk, and he replied, “We tickle its chin.” “Good answer,” I said.
I returned to my table, and a few hours of slow book sales followed. It was easily the slowest day of the convention. I was chatting with someone, trying to make another sale, when what I guess you could call a band of traveling minstrels called Water Street Bridge entered my row and broke out into song in front of my booth! “Party at your table!” the patron said. Their music I would describe as folksy, although on their website they say they play even more. I’d post a video of their performance, but it’s too large to post on this site (lame!).
Their violinist seems to be the most talented. She is crazy! She broke her bow right as they finished. Regardless, their performance was a great surprise. Here’s a picture:
The convention officially ended at 4 p.m. I packed up, did some book exchanges, purchased a few things, said goodbye to my fellow writers, and headed out. Thankfully, my boxes were much lighter than they were when I arrived. I had around 80 books total, and left with less than half of them. This was good because I had to watch a bit farther to get to my car.
I miss the convention. It was invigorating going to something so fun and nerdy. Creativity saturated the air with all the cosplayers, gamers, writers, artists, and musicians. It was…intoxicating. If it’s possible to get drunk on creativity, I did. It was great fun being among thousands of like-minded people.
Regardless, I also realized how much this subculture needs Jesus Christ. While most of the people there were kind and considerate, there was still immorality. That’s why I was glad to learn about three ministries working in this subculture. I hope to somehow get involved with them in any way I can. Perhaps I have found my mission field.
::steps down from soapbox::
So, there you have it. Gen-Con. It was so much fun, I signed up to return to sell books next year! I’d like to take an assistant with me, so if any of you are interested, drop me a line and I’ll put you in contention.
COMING SOON: My first vlog! The topic: selling books at conventions.
A Man from Another Time Exploring Another Universe