Tag Archives: Lee French

Conventions: Hawking your books vs attending the convention

Lee French at Norwescon 2015 in NIWA Booth

Lee French at Norwescon 2015 in NIWA Booth

Going Indie means going it alone, and doing it the hard way. However–there are now small bands of indies coming together to help each other, and in the process, help themselves.

One such organization is Northwest Independent Writers Association, an organization of indie and small-press authors based in Western Oregon and Western Washington. We seem to be situated along the I-5 corridor from south of the Portland area north through the Seattle area.

This last week I attended Norwescon, carpooling the first day with fellow Myrddin Publishing Group author, Lee French. She is an awesome person, as well as a wonderful, creative author.

My book, Huw the Bard, was in the rack at the NIWA table, and I met some of the most wonderful people: Angela Korra’ti, Madison Keller, Jake Elliot, and Luna Lindsey were all there, manning the table and helping each person who stopped to find a book that fit them, regardless of if it was their own book or not–we were selling each others’ books as well as our own.

I ran into my good friend, fellow NIWA  member, Thomas Gondolfi , who was working his own booth.

Saturday night, Lee, Jake, Angela and I had dinner with fellow NIWA member, steampunk author, Jeffrey Cook.

Huw the Bard at NorwesconMy feet are killing me–today, I am not sure I will do it again, but I am glad I did this time.  My view will likely change as I begin to feel rested again.

Huw the Bard was not a good fit for that venue–they were more into fairies and steampunk, which Huw is obviously not. However, I think he would do well at a ren-fair, as the people who were interested in him were all ren-fair people.  Most likely my best books for a gaming venue will be my World of Neveyah series, as it is RPG game-based, and gaming of all varieties is what Norwescon is all about.

Standing in the booth for most of 4 days did me in, I do confess.  I also was somewhat of a 5th wheel, in that the booth was too small for the number of authors who were there and willing to contribute their time and energy to the project. There was only room for 1 chair, and so we stood. I felt a bit unnecessary, at times, which is not a good way to feel, but they very kindly tolerated me.

Angela Korra’ti has a knack for selling her books, and I tried to learn as much as I could from her. Jake Elliot and Lee French seemed to know what they were doing too–there is definitely a learning curve to pitching your book live and in person.

norwesconBeing an indie author, or being published by a small press means you are on your own as far as getting the word out about your books.  This means if you want your books seen at a convention, you have to pay for the table, buy your stock, and get the word out, because no one else will.

It also means you must spend the convention in the dealers’ room at your booth, pitching your product to strangers, rather than taking in the panels and hearing speakers like George R. R.  Martin. But I did see him in the lobby while I was getting coffee, and I saw many, many people who really love his work, far more than I do–and they stood for hours to get to see him.

I would have loved to hear George speak, but I had books of my own to hawk. I never thought I would live long enough to be able to say that.

This is where you discover that going indie means honing an elevator pitch that will sell your book in thirty seconds. That will be my next trick.

cashbox 3This is also where you discover that the Sparco cash-box you bought, and  that was not cheap, is nearly impossible to unlock, but it makes an awesome weapon if you are ever mugged on the way back to your hotel. Which I wasn’t, but I’m an author, and that’s how I think.

It’s also where you discover that your target audience was not at that convention.

Most importantly, this is where you realize that your poor old feet are  just not up to you spending 10 hours a day standing on them.

I understand there is some controversy regarding the Hugo award nominations–but I didn’t hear them announced, as I was trying to sell books. I suppose a shakeup is inevitable, and I will have to do some reading to find out for myself what the problem is, in the eyes of the reading world.  That will be interesting–accusations of blocks of special interest groups gaming the outcome and such intrigue me, and I will definitely want to get to the bottom of that!

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Filed under Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Dark, Gothic, and hurtling toward disaster

Steampunks  by Kyle Cassidy

Steampunks by Kyle Cassidy

Well…apparently my current scifi work-in-progress, a short story, is steampunk. Who knew? My good friend, author Lee French, figured it out yesterday at our regular Tuesday morning brainstorming session at Panera. After she pointed it out, I could see it clearly, despite my original thought that because I had set it on a mining-colony world, it was a scifi tale.

I was a little surprised I hadn’t seen it earlier, and once it was pointed out, I could see why I was struggling with the tale–I didn’t know what I was writing.

It began as an exercise in writing from the point of view of the flâneur–the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street. Click here for Scott Driscoll‘s great blogpost on the flâneur. In short, he tells us that: “With a flâneur narrating, you can remove the noticing consciousness from your point of view character to accomplish other purposes.”  

The flâneur  is frequently found in literature from the 19th century.  The story is filtered through his eyes and perceptions–it distances the reader from the immediacy of the scene, so be forewarned: genre-nazis and arm-chair editors who want the material delivered in 60 second sound-bytes of action won’t love it. Literary fantasy explores the meaning of life or looks at real issues, and I tend to write from that aspect. Often, the fantastic setting is just a means to posing a series of questions. Sometimes the quest the hero faces is in fact an allegory for something else. I read good literary fantasy–it tends to be written by men and women who can actually write. Not only are the words and sentences pregnant with meaning, but they are often beautifully constructed, and I learn the craft of writing from reading it.

The Rainy Day, Gustave Caillebotte

The Rainy Day, Gustave Caillebotte

My flâneur is Martin Daniels, a young, wealthy, retired crystallographer. He spends his time roaming his city’s streets and sitting in sidewalk cafés observing his fellow citizens, and making social and aesthetic observations. He regularly finds himself crossing paths with one man in particular, Jenner: a self-made man who came up through the mines.

Jenner is battering against the prevailing social barriers which stand in the way of his achieving a political office that he covets, using whatever means at his disposal. He is uncouth, a barely civilized rough-neck with a bad reputation, but something about him draws Martin’s attention, and so he finds himself both observing Jenner, and listening to the whispered gossip that surrounds the man.

One day, as Jenner is passing Martin’s table,  his hat blows off and Martin catches it, returning it to him. Jenner then introduces himself, and admits that he has been watching Martin for some time. He has a task for Martin, one that intrigues him enough to bring him out of retirement. Thus begins an odd relationship.

Thus my flâneur ceases to be merely an observer, and becomes my protagonist, yet he is reporting the events from the distance of his memory, so he is still the observer.

aesthetic definitionSo what is Steampunk?  Mike Perschon, in his dissertation, The Steampunk Aesthetic: Technofantasies in a Neo-Victorian Retrofuture, has described it as “…an aesthetic that mixes three features: technofantasy, neo-Victorianism, and Retrofuturism.” The key word here is aesthetic.

So how does that relate to my short story? When I looked at it with a critical eye, I realized it incorporates all three of those devices:

Technofantasy: Technology that lacks plausibility, or utilizes fantasy elements as the force or motive behind an action or process. No explanations will be given. The technology exists within the story, not the real world.

Neo-Victorianism: A setting that evokes the nineteenth century, whether it is set there or  not. In my tale, the use of the flâneur evokes a 19th century atmosphere, as do the other constraints I had inadvertently written into it.

Retrofuturism: How we think the past viewed the future. It is set in the distant future, but it is a future I think Victor Hugo would have recognized.

I have always perceived steampunk as cogs and diodes, dark atmosphere, rather Gothic, and with a plot that has the protagonists hurtling toward disaster. Now I know it is all that and more. They hurtle toward disaster, with a nineteenth century flair.

Thus my sci-fi flâneur is now the protagonist in a steampunk mystery. This short story, which had sort of stalled, is now back on track and fun to write. Through writing short stories we have the opportunity to write in different genres, and stretch our writing-wings.

I learn more about the craft of writing with each tale, and that fires me up, helping me see my longer works with fresh eyes.

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Filed under Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, Steampunk, Uncategorized, writer, writing