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LibertyCon 31

LibertyCon 31

In search of coffee, Paul and I left Charlotte at 6 am bound for Chattanooga TN and LibertyCon 31.

On the way – clearly the coffee had already kicked in. For those of you who don’t know, that’s Paul on the right and the long haired, fat old guy is Steve.

This was our first appearance at LibertyCon and it did not disappoint. As first timers, we were only on a few panels, but that allowed us to take full opportunity of the variety of content put on by this convention. But I digress: We arrived at LibertyCon set in Chattanooga TN on Friday around 1 pm. Our first event was a book reading at 2:00; the plan was a quick run to our hotel to check-in, freshen up after 6+ hours on the road and then off to the event. Unfortunately our room wasn’t ready yet, but the staff gave us a key to the parking garage so we could park our car and make it to our event in a timely manner.

I should mention here that we stayed at the Chattanoogan Hotel, I would highly recommend this hotel if you are ever in the area. The staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful, the rooms were large and clean, the beds comfortable and most importantly, complimentary coffee in the lobby. Be warned, they don’t believe in decaf on days of the week that end in “Y”. And yes, the fire pit was burning every night…I’ll let that sink in – For those of you not familiar with the South during the summer, “hot and sticky” are not just quaint descriptors in novels and movies.

I must be an Author – it says so on my badge.

Now off to the Con. Paul and I made it to check in in plenty of time to collect our bona fides and get to our reading in the Mountain Lookout Room. Paul chose to read chapter one from his newest book Malaise Falchion and then we took turns reading from Knight Errant Chapter ten and part of eleven. We had five people present for our reading (clearly not knowing who we were) but seemed to enjoy it anyway. Our most asked question is always how do two people with such a creative bent, write together without killing each other. I would refer you to an earlier blog post we did on that very topic, but I can’t seem to find it – so, no link here.  As Paul and I were together at the reading, and not yet thinking clearly enough about blog posts and such, we didn’t take a picture of our reading – insert sad face emoji here – sorry Catherine. (Catherine is one of our editors at Fiery Seas Publishing.)

After our reading we grabbed lunch at the Marriott Hotel – which was the host hotel and attached to the convention center. I only mention our lunch because they had a fried bologna sandwich on the menu. Now, here in the South that isn’t too out of the ordinary, but it is usually reserved for a locale a little less refined with a descriptor bearing the name: dive or greasy spoon. I should know, those are some of my favorite places to eat. See the above photo for proof. Therefore, as a self-proclaimed expert on the subject, I was pleasantly surprised “at how darned good” that sandwich was. As this blog post isn’t about food, I will simply say that if you are inclined for a fried bologna sandwich in Chattanooga TN…

On to the opening ceremonies: as opening ceremonies go, this one was well above average. The MC was Peter Gannon who was outstanding and put on an excellent presentation. He is well spoken, humorous and knows his audience. Gary Reinhart did a very cool version of the song Brandy about the family that puts on the event every year.

Before my panel at 7pm Paul and I decided to attend a workshop on Scrivener for writers. Paul is already a fan of the program but I still do everything in Word. After the presentation I was convinced to at least give it a try. There is a 30 day free trial that you can download. I should mention that the presenter is an author and in no way connected with Scrivener. After giving it a try, I will follow up with a review.

At 7pm I was one of the panelists on a presentation aptly called, “No sh**!!! There I was Minding my own business…” Again, they must not have known who I was, because the participants are all heavy hitters in the military and law enforcement realm. The panel was in one of the ballrooms and, as panels go, was a full house.

When we first heard that the panel lasted for two hours, we were a little worried, however after it got going, it was clearly not enough time. Apparently, people in those particular professions can spin a pretty good yarn – or are full of it, I’ll let you be the judge. Either way, the audience stayed the entire time, so there must have been something entertaining going on. Most of the stories either involved alcohol or folks in various states of undress, so I guess there is a certain staying power.

Here I am trying to set up my books before the panel started.

Keeping with the alcohol theme, after the panel, several of us continued the sea story session back at the bar where I met some fellow bloggers that I like to follow. Some of us even exchanged our newest books with each other. Very cool night and end to the first day.

After breakfast the next morning Paul and I had a private session for new writers with Bill Fawcett, who is a game designer and writer. He is also married to Jody Lyn Nye, so their credentials alone are worth listening to what they have to say. He answered our questions and offered seasoned advice on some of the pit falls of writing and some next steps we might want to consider. All in all an excellent meeting.

Next up was Author’s Alley, which is an area just outside of the dealers room where authors and artists can set up and promote their materials. Our session was from 1 pm to 3pm and we got to meet some new fans and interact with most everyone coming and going from the dealers room. Here was our table:


The lighting was such that we had to take this at an angle, but you get the idea.  That’s Mary, one of our new fans – at least until she actually reads our book.

Oh, I should mention that you know you are in a hotel when you spend $12 on a bowl of oatmeal. Not unexpected and yes, it was as good as it looks.

Not only is Paul an author with Fiery Seas Publishing, but he is also with Copper Dog Publishing in their Sha’Daa anthology. They had their reading and new book release shortly after we finished selling our wares in Author Alley. Each writer in the anthology took a turn reading 5 minutes from their piece. After they were done they took questions from the audience. Sorry, again no pictures, I was busy during that panel enjoying a cold adult beverage with another writer I met on my earlier panel. But, continuing on the theme that there is more to Paul than just being an author, his day job is in the film industry. Here he is on a panel on the art of film making.

Ignore the face he is making; let me just say that Paul has been in the business since he was 14 years old and has forgotten more than most people know about the making of film. He has done it all, from producer to grip but his current jobs are props and script supervisor. He also leads a panel on the unsung heroes of film making. If you ever get an opportunity to attend one of his panels, you won’t be disappointed.

LibertyCon had the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company (ARTC) attend and do a performance. This is a group that puts on live event like the radio shows of old. They did Terrific Park by George Alec Effinger and The Man Who Traveled in Elephants by Robert A. Heinlein. They were excellent and a great way to finish up a very busy day. Here is a promo picture from their web site to give you an idea of the setup.

Sunday morning there is an event called Kaffeeklatsch where everyone who is an invited guest gets an opportunity to meet everyone else. Basically a big meet and greet with coffee and nabs. I got pulled in to a table with Paul full of movie makers. Not my forte but had a good time listening to them and had an opportunity to impart some knowledge on police and SWAT operations to an interested party currently working on a film involving just that.

After the Kaffeeklatsch, we headed to the dealer room for our final book signing. In theory, this is where people who bought your books earlier, can come to get you to sign them. In reality, most of the books had already been signed, but it was another opportunity to sell some product which we did. One patron came through and bought one of each. Apparently, he is a collector and does that every year. He said he just built a 20 by 40 room addition in his house to hold more books. Now that is a fan of the written word and I wish there were many more like him. I wish we could have gotten a picture with him at our table, but it didn’t work out. Here we are at the Sunday signing.

All in all an excellent Con and I hope we are invited back again next year. We hope to have two more books by then and Paul might have some of his movies to sell also. This particular convention sells out early as they only allow a limited amount of participants, this year it was limited to 750 people, but the entire event is for charity. This year all proceeds went to Room at the Inn.

Thanks to all who read this far in – and as always – support small pub and indi authors and buy our stuff!

OutlantaCon – Day 2

OutlantaCon – Day 2

After a reasonable night’s sleep in the hotel, I was up at 8:30 to jump back into it. (My sleep was as good as could be expected. I never sleep great in hotels, but I have my pillow from home and a noise app on my phone). Had some breakfast and attended a panel about how to write transgender characters. Not sure if I’ll ever have one in my/our books, but it never hurts to learn. The big takeaway is to treat transgender like any other person, and make them being transgender a facet of their character, not their whole character. Pretty sound advice.

Then is was time to do my panel on the unsung heroes of movies, the positions you see in the credits but have no idea what they do. Had a few folks show up to listen and me and the other filmmakers told some good stories and gave a little education on the difference between a grip and gaffer, and several other things.

Then it was time to sell and sign some books. So I set up my table, put on my friendly face, and starting hawking some “hot, fresh literature.” I found a receptive audience and, although I’m still not going to retire a rich man, some exchanges of goods and cash were made, So, mission accomplished.

After that was dinner and beer. Dinner was salt and pepper fried calamari, which, unfortunately, was way too greasy. The only bad meal I’ve had at the hotel, but definitely not one I would get again. I ended up eating only half of it.

The next panel was dishing about behind the scenes stories of projects I’ve worked on, which I did with four other people in the film industry. Again, only a few people showed up (have I mentioned it’s a small convention) but it was still fun hearing from other crew members about their experiences on set and the people they’ve worked with. The worst times on set make the best stories.

My last panel was The Best And Worst Gay Characters of 2017/18. Another intimate discussion with a small group where it was determined that, although gay characters are better than they have been, there’s still a lot of work to do.

Finally, I attended a fun panel on “Disrobing the Victorian Woman/Gentlemen” where two delightfully funny hosts taught about the Victorian style of dress while slowly working down to their underwear. It was an informative, amusing, and delightful event that the entire audience seemed to enjoy. I even learned a few things, like the historical reason of why it’s called a “pair” of panties. (Look it up, it’s pretty interesting).

By this time it was 1:00AM. Time for this con warrior to go to bed. Thus ended Day 2 of my OutlantaCon experience.

OutlantaCon Day 1

OutlantaCon Day 1

The first day of OutlantaCon is completed. It started when I left home around 10:30 to head to Atlanta. I had considered leaving earlier, but having worked the load out to a concert until 3AM Friday morning meant some sleep was in order, so sleep it was. Then I had to pick up some books from Steve to take with me, and I was on the way by 11AM. The GPS said I would be there by 3:18PM. Well, that sounds great.


Oh, silly me. Silly GPS. Neither of us counted on the suckitude that is Friday afternoon Atlanta traffic. I mean, I know traffic there is bad, but Friday bumps it up by a factor of 5. So I sat, and I fumed, and I sat some more. And eventually, at 5:20PM, I arrived at the Renaissance Marriott Hotel at the Airport.

First impressions: Nice hotel, but wow, there’s an airplane outside the window so close I can touch it. I could climb the fence and be at the airport (not that I would climb the fence, so no FBI agents, please.) It’s going to be loud. Turns out, not at all. I can only assume all the runways are at the other end, because I haven’t heard one takeoff.

Check-in was a breeze, and that was after I added a night to the room. I was going to stay with a friend, but after braving all that traffic, I didn’t want to leave again. So, checked in and registered, it was time to grab a beer. I am a writer after all. Blue Moon on draft, good stuff. While sitting there I struck up a conversation with Mary, a filmmaker from LA who was considering moving to Atlanta. She mentioned she has a movie that was picked up by Amazon called Carved. So I must check that out.

Then it was time for the panel, which was an author’s version of “Whose Line is it Anyway.” We have a group of about 12 people who came to watch myself and three other authors make fools of ourselves doing improv. I have to say, the skills came back pretty quickly and it was a great deal of fun. Although I can only blame the beer for my doing a forward roll during a skit about daredevils doing stunts on the forest moon of Endor while hunting Ewoks. (Yeah, it was that kind of panel). Everybody seems to have a great time and I scored the most points, which of course means nothing except I get to brag about it. My favorite skit was when I played Count Fuckula, a nemesis to Mike Pence who I confronted at the White House and demand he have sex with Donald Trump. Never saw that on ABC, did you?

Then it was one more beer at the bar and time to go to bed, since it had been a long day. All in all, a good first fun at the con. But I have to say, if I’m invited back next year, I’ll definitely come down Thursday night to avoid the worst of the traffic.

Gaming Review

Gaming Review

This past Saturday (April 28) was International Tabletop Gaming Day. So I celebrated by, what else, gaming. I played a few new games with my regular gaming group, and here are my thoughts about them.

Vengeance – In this 2018 game, you play a hero who has been beaten up and tortured by a gang (or several gangs. Apparently, you aren’t well liked by lots of bad guys.) Now you are out to get your revenge, and you’re going to do revenge better than any other hero. The game starts with “The Wronging” in which you draft cards with a gang on it, and what sort of hurt they’ve done to you. You can play these cards (up to three) to determine the gangs you are going after. More gangs, or more cards with the same gang, score you more points, but you also start with a lot more damage you have to heal. Damage reduces your abilities, so the more hurt you are, the less effective you are. After “The Wronging” there is the first Montage, where every player rules a number of dice based on their Mind skill. These dice form a pool, which starts another draft where you pick dice instead of cards. These dice can help you with various things, from doing recon to hunt down the boss of the gang you want, to being able to heal. Coupled with these dice, you play with a hand of cards (each hero has their own deck, which indicates their specialty.) After you play three cards and combine them with the dice to resolve the effects, it’s then time for a fight. Using a number of fight dice based on your skill, you go to a location with a gang and start beating up the gang members. The gangs don’t use dice, but each different type of member has a different ability, and the bosses and henchmen have unique skills. Success scores you points, failure means you flee with your tail between your legs and get nothing. At the end of two montages and five fights, the player with the most points is the badass and winner.

That’s an overview. There’s a bit more to it, but this link will tell you more if you’re curious. I quite enjoyed this game. It combines several standard mechanics (card draft, dice draft, deck manipulation) into a unique flow which gives you a lot of decisions without being overwhelming. The bosses are unique, and recon is a must if you want to maximize your turn and score points. Just going in and fighting blind is useless if you discover the gang you’re going up against hasn’t done anything wrong to you. (thus scoring you no points). The game flows well and is fairly short. I think it took us about 90 minutes with rules explanation. The only complaint I would have is that the downtime for a 4-player game is long. There are some things you do simultaneously, but most of it is individual players, and since the gangs don’t roll dice, and you don’t interact directly against other players, your opponents have nothing to do while you take your turn. This flaw stops it from being as fun as it could be. Still, it might work really well with 2 or 3 players. I definitely look forward to playing again. Score: 7/10

Next up was The Others, by Cool Mini or Not. This is a one against many game. One player takes the role of one of the Seven Deadly Sins. (The base game comes with Pride and Sloth, and expansions allow you to get the other five). The other players take the role of agents of FAITH, an organization dedicated to saving the world from the evil that has infested it. You have multiple goals, played out in stages. Completing one goal open a simple flowchart where you choose your next goal from two options. Completing that goal brings you to the final goal. The object is for the good guys to complete all their goals before the bad guy kills all the FAITH agents. There is an Apocalypse Track that ticks down every turn, making things worse for the heroes the longer the game goes on. If the bag guy kills all seven of the heroes, they win. The bad guy can damage the heroes in two ways, either through physical damage or corruption. If the corruption reaches a certain level, it begins to convert to physical damage. Take 5 points of damage, and that hero is dead. There is also gear the heroes can get to enhance their abilities, and there are multiple scenarios for each sin.

This game is a lot of fun. The mechanics are all fairly standard stuff and its really nothing more than a slugfest when you come right down to it. But there’s never been anything wrong with a good beat down game. One of the more interesting mechanics is that a hero can voluntarily corrupt himself, which makes him more in danger of being killed, but gives him special abilities above what he normally has. There are ways to heal corruption and damage, but they are few and far between, and you might have to fight your way through a lot of bad guys to get to them. All in all, this one is a winner and I can’t wait to get into it again, maybe next time as the bad guy 8/10.

The third game was The 7th Continent published by Serious Poulp. This is a cooperative game of exploration on a new continent populated by gothic characters. (Two of the characters in our game were Victor Frankenstein and H.P. Lovecraft). This is basically an advanced “choose your own adventure” style game with a timer mechanic where you draw cards, which indicates the passage of time, the number of successes in completing an action,  and also gives you the skills and items you need to succeed. Terrain cards show you the island. On each card are several actions, each with an associated number. You choose your action, then draw a card that corresponds with the number on the terrain card. You then draw from the skill deck the number of cards indicated (or more if you wish, to ensure success). Run out of cards in the deck, then you shuffle the discard pile,  flip it over, and start running through it again. The tension is that there are curse cards in the deck and once you start going through the deck a second time; if a curse comes up, you’ve lost.

This game is getting a lot of love from gamers, and I can kind of see it. I think I need to try it again since a glitch in understanding part of the mechanics made it impossible for us to complete the first mission, or even get close. (Hint: the game comes with a magnifier lens. You want to use this to examine the terrain cards.) The way the game utilizes the choosing method is clever, and a lot of thought was put into making the game fun, unique, and keeping things moving. It almost feels like a solo game that just happens to allow multiple players. There are no turns per-se, and everyone can discuss what should be done, even if the characters aren’t technically together. And the card timer, a mechanic from the Pathfinder Card Games, works well. All in all, an okay game that might be fun with one or two players, but having four doesn’t really add anything to it. 6/10

Last up was The Arrival by Cryptozoic. In this game, each player is a tribe leader looking to both gain control of the island where the game takes place (a pre-history Ireland) , while also keeping the Fomori (demon goblins) from taking over the island. The game starts with the Earning Phase. Each player draws four cards, each showing three rows of different resources. You play the cards and have to ultimately choose two of the rows to “block” thus making those resources unavailable. The upper section of the cards offers many resources, but also Corruption Points. The middle and the lower sections offer fewer resources, but also less Corruption. After that, you use the resources to both expand your lands, fortify your holdings, and also bring our Fomori to harass your opponents, or even set them up to slaughter yourself, as doing so scores you Fame Points, and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins. Unless the Fomori control the majority of the island, in which case the player with the lowest corruption wins.

This is one of those games I like to play but don’t play well. I came in third out of four in this one. The choices are few but deep, and you have to have a strategy early to have a chance to win. The theme could be almost anything, but it works well enough for the game as is. There are many other games along this line, and while this one was enjoyable, nothing made it stand out as anything spectacular. I would play it again, but I’m not going to clamor for it to hit the table. 6/10

So there you have it. My International Tabletop Day. Not the best games, and The Others was the definite winner of the day. But as always, I had a great time with my group.

Until the next game day.

Writer’s Nook

Writer’s Nook

I’ve been thinking more and more about this writer thing and how to be more productive. Disclosure – the above picture is not my writing space, more of what I envision. My current “nook” is way too crowded and disorganized. It also has multiple uses, the most prominent being where I conduct all of my business for a small company my wife and I run, but that is for another post.

Paul and I seem to do some of our best writing out and about, usually at a coffee shop or restaurant. Currently that is a small locally owned shop near by called The Daily Grind. The owner, Tyler, is very forgiving of our long hours and makes an excellent, well, anything you could want from a coffee house. But I digress. Back to my current office. Every time I look up or over, I see work for the business that is not getting done. Several people have already “complained” that our second book is not further along and I couldn’t agree more. We are 53000 words into the first draft on a 120000 word novel. Not even half way. It seems like we have been stuck at this number for awhile now. One of the reasons is that after writing a chapter or section, you go back and delete your notes. It seems like taking two steps forward and then one step back. My solution is to move all of the business materials into a corner of my wife’s office and do any work associated with the business in there. Before getting your skivvies in a wad, this was at her suggestion. She wants to read book two as much everybody. For those who don’t know, I married up.

My “nook” will certainly not look like the one above – for now at least, but I will hopefully be able to get the feng shui right for optimal wordsmithing. “Shaking the tree boss.” Back to work.

Steve’s RavenCon After Action Report (AAR)

Steve’s RavenCon After Action Report (AAR)

Paul and I attended RavenCon13 or RavenCon 2018 depending on who you ask. It was the 13th Con held in 2018 if you are wondering. Had a great time and learned a lot from the gathering of misfits and geeks that are the SciFi writers and readers of the world – Rock On! or should that be Geek On? Either way we had a great time. I will follow Paul’s lead and bullet point my takeaways from the convention; with the exception of the first bullet point, they will be in no particular order.

  • I got to meet Chuck Wendig this weekend. If you don’t know his work you should get to know it and buy his books. I’m telling you, he has something for everyone. He is a voracious writer with over 20 novels to choose from. As Chuck says, “Trust me, you really need some Miriam Black in your life.” He is also just a great guy, down to earth, funny, and good to be around. He made himself available to con goers all weekend – either sitting on panels or while walking the halls, he had time for fans and authors alike. We even talked him in to taking a bite out of our novel.

Like I said, get to know him, you will not be disappointed.

  • All of the panels I attended were excellent. All but one I should say – some people take themselves way too seriously and just like to hear themselves talk, but all of the others were well thought out and the panelists were knowledgeable of the information being presented. I will submit to you that if Chuck Wendig, John Hartness and Michael A. Ventrella hosted a panel on the air velocity of a coconut laden swallow, it would be worth attending.

I will take a moment to mention a few of the panels that I thought were excellent. This is not to say that others weren’t, but these stood out in my mind.

  1. Packaging your book to sell – this panel covered everything from software for publishing to Fonts.
  2. Promoting yourself as a writer – covered social media, trends, meta data, all the way to person to person marketing. But first and foremost – WRITE BOOKS! Don’t worry about promoting what you don’t have.
  3. Editing – Yes, you need an editor! At the end of the day, it is your name on the book. Covered story editing, copy editing and line editing.
  • Paul is getting too old to drink a lot at Con’s. 😉
  • This is a small Con so there is a lot of opportunity to engage in a meaningful way with other authors, publishers and fans.
  • The hotel – The Double Tree by Hilton – is an excellent venue; close to several restaurants within walking distance and several more just a short drive away. The hotel food was average and somewhat pricey, but the staff, to a person, was excellent, friendly and helpful at every turn.

Here we are at our book signing.


Hopefully next year we will have two more books to sell on the table. Paul’s next book in his Necromancer series will be out and hopefully the next book in The Knights series will also be out by then. Three books look a little thin on the table.

Our next convention will be LibertyCon in Chattanooga, Tn. on the weekend of June 29th. When we receive our itinerary, the panels we will be on and the times of our book signings, we will let you know.

Ravencon 2018

Ravencon 2018

Paul and Steve at Ravencon 2018

So Steve and I attended Ravencon this past weekend (the 20th-22nd) in Williamsburg, VA, at the Doubletree by Hilton. We had a great time overall and here are a few of my takeaways from the event.

1 – I met Chuck Wendig about 8 years ago. He was a generous, funny, sharing human being then, and success has not changed him. He was the Guest of Honor at the con and was always around to talk with people and offer support, encouragement, and a friendly word. The panels on which he was a guest he attended with amusing stories, useful advice, and a generous dose of laughter. He is a truly wonderful human being who deserves all his success.
2 – On the flipside, there are some people who take both themselves and our little corner of the world (that being sci-fi fantasy geekdom) way too seriously. We attended one panel and left after ten minutes when the panelists took what was essentially a nonsense subject and tried to imbue it with all the gravitas of a discussion on global warming or a seminar on childhood cancer. It’s all make-believe, folks. Treat it as such and have fun with it.
3 – Overall, the con continues to be a small, friendly affair. The one panel aside, everyone was there for a good time and to learn and celebrate their fandom. We picked up several good tips with regards to writing, editing, and promotion. So from that standpoint, it was well worth it.
4 – If you’re a panelist, you’re always going to be on a panel that conflicts with one you wanted to attend. This happened only once this time because I wasn’t on many panels, but it happened. Fortunately, Steve was able to go and take notes, so all was well.
5 – Having a Starbucks and several good restaurants near the hotel is a great thing.
6 – The Misbehavin’ Maidens seem like a good group of ladies and I hate that I couldn’t make it to their concert (again, a panel interfered)
7 – I’m getting too old to drink a lot at cons.
8 – For the most part, sci-fi and fantasy authors are a great group of people who are happy to pay it forward by offering advice, encouragement, and general goodwill toward their fellow writers.
9 – I wish I could have been on more panels and I wish my reading hadn’t been on a Sunday afternoon. That’s when everybody is pretty much ready to leave.
10 – A special shout out to Edward McKeown, Michael Hanson, and Michael A Ventrella for being cool people who are a lot of fun to converse with.
11 – I definitely hope I’m invited back again next year and that I get a chance to do more.

So there you go. Ravencon 2018 in a 500-word nutshell. Next up for me is OutlantaCon in Atlanta. Steve won’t be attending, but I’ll be there with bells on, things to say, and books to sell. Hope to see some of you there.