Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My CONtraflow Panel Schedule etc.

Just as a reminder, I'll be a guest at CONtraflow this weekend. Here's a list of the panels I'll be on:

How to Write Your First Novel, Friday, 1pm, Event 1
The Art of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Saturday, 11am, Panel Room 4
American South as a Setting in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Sunday, 10am Event 2
Skeptics vs. Believers, Sunday, 2pm, Panel Room 2

Or you could also find it here. I really like that feature, nice job by the con organizers.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Who the fuck am I to be giving writing advice? But you know what? I wrote two of 'em. Two and a half if you count the novella. I've run into so many people at these things who haven't even written one. And that's fine. Maybe I'm just trying to remind myself that these are actually achievements of a sort. I have a problem with that.

I also read a great face book post by Tim Powers on, of all things, going to conventions. He had some useful tips and thoughts:

  • "[C]onventions are social. If they have any benefit for one's writing career, that's accidental and uncertain."
  • "[P]ropping up your books in front of you is ... a bit amateur!"
  • "The main reason to write books is to show off, but you must never seem to be showing off."

Bam! It's all right there -- everything I had thought or had half-baked unformed thoughts about conventions since I've started doing them. I like these because they form kind of a sandwich -- two big thoughts with a little, very practical one in the middle. I always felt stupid putting up my book in front of me, but everyone else did it so I did as well. I was worried people wouldn't know who I was, that I had written a book, etc etc. and of course I wanted to show it off and sell some. I think I am going to leave that out this time. I'm right up there on the website, I'm in the program, I'm theoretically easy to remember visually. I'll try this and see how it feels.

Then again, I am an amateur. Tim Powers doesn't have to put up his books on the table when he does a panel because he's Tim "Fucking" Powers. You may look at him and say "oh, who's that guy" and then someone else is like "That's Tim Fucking Powers, dude" and you're like "OH SHIT". So maybe I need to know my role and set up my fucking book. I'll probably end up doing both this weekend.

As for the other two thoughts -- well this post is getting a bit long. I think they mainly speak for themselves.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

CONtraflow 2015 pre-game

Jim (35) and Chicken (9 mos.) at World Horror Con 2013 in New Orleans

Coincidentally I was going to make a post about the next convention I'll be going to. I'll be a guest at CONtraflow New Orleans the first weekend in October. The picture above is from the last one I went to. Bringing your tiny baby to a con is not such a great idea if your wife likes to co-sleep and breastfeed. Everyone slept like crap and as a result by day two I was already exhausted and feeling sick. I didn't do half of the things I wanted to do, like hang out in the famous Carousel Bar or have dinner with Norm or socialize with people more. At least we got some cute moments like this one.

Cons are very tough for me. I'm antisocial and have a really hard time just working up to meet people. I'm better behind a table for some reason. Maybe I feel like I have a reason to be there and talk to people, maybe that table is enough of a barrier for me to feel like I have some space, I don't know. My wife likes to rope people in for me so that will help / be embarrassing but what can I say? I have a problem. I may also try my theory of dressing differently. The above outfit (a vintage three-piece suit from the "Johnny Carson collection") is typically how I go to cons and would you believe that shit is like an invisibility cloak? I have this theory that if I dress to "blend in" people will notice me more. But I'm not 100% sure how scifi/fantasy authors dress. I have my horror author outfit down pat (black metal/rock/horror movie teeshirt, jeans, comfortable shoes, no hat) so the next time I have a horror book out you may see me dressed like that. I figure Tom Wolfe could do it for a story so what's so special about me?

I just need to aim for having better stories than my wife. The last con she really did, WHC '11, she had some great ones. The others she was with me but these were post-Chicken so she spent most of her time breast-feeding and sleeping and/or being sick.

But I still don't know anyone in the scifi/fantasy world and I need to make some contacts there. I think I'm getting better at this, but then I think that at every con and things just kind of go how they go. This time the Chicken will be staying with her grandma so it'll be just me and the wife again, like in the early days.

I don't know what panels I'll be on yet. Looks like the con people have decided to put a list of everyone's panels on the guest page so you can check there, you may know before I do since I'm not great about checking my email. 

Yes, I'll be bringing some paperback copies of SMARTASS. I just approved the proof, so if you want you can get it RAHT NAH in the Createspace store, and it'll show up on Amazon in a couple of days.  If you could, buy it from Createspace as I get paid more from them. No, I don't know why, Amazon owns them now. That's just how they do it. Sorry if it seems a bit pricey, remember that it's 400 fucking pages. You could really dope-slap someone with this book. Plus it's a trade paperback, not a cheapo one. I wanted to do a cheapo one but you can't do that with POD, you need to be able to print books by the thousands at a time. At least because of the larger format it'll be easier to read. I always hated trying to read one of those cheapo mass-market paperbacks of, say, a Unicorn book and the thing was so massive it gave my wrist a cramp trying to hold it.

I don't have an official time set up for signing/selling. Looks like the con will have a table open for authors to just grab a chair and sit there for a while. I don't think that'll work very well. I'll just try to pick a time that seems like a high-traffic time and see what I can do. I'll be staying at the con hotel so I can just run to my room and grab some books if you see me (or vaguely sense my presence) and want one.

I won't be doing any of my infamous panels. I wanted to see what the crowd was like before I busted out the steampunk panel on them or anything like that. For all I know everyone there could have a giant stick up their ass. Seems unlikely but then you never know. It's my first time with these people and I wanted to be nice.

I know 95% of you don't know what I'm talking about, I still need to do a post on that crazy con.

At least I know some people who'll be there and anyone in a position of importance I've already met and embarrassed myself so we got that out of the way. Everyone else either isn't interesting or isn't intimidating to me so that's a relief. I have this thing where, when I meet people who are obviously higher-status than me at these things, the first encounter I'll say something that in my head sounds suave and witty but either comes out terrible or I bumble it and just say something stupid. Fortunately I've crossed just about everyone who's everyone in horror that I want to meet off that list except for the one guy that I think might actually use physical violence depending on what comes out of my mouth, which would definitely be the capstone story. I'll wait until he's a little older and / or I've started lifting. Maybe. A punch in the mouth isn't so bad, I've taken a few. Quelle suprise, right?

So, in summation, my game-plan for the con is the following:

  • Meet cool people and make friends in this world (maybe they can help me, maybe not, you never know and it's a bad idea to just focus on that).
  • Sell some books. 
  • Have fun.

I can't really prioritize those. Por que no los tres? I think I can manage these. Hell, now that I think about it, I've done it at almost every con I've been to. 

Norm Rubenstein, Hollywood Editor -- RIP

This was originally going to be a different post about other shit. I can't really do that, though, until I do this.

Norm died Wednesday, 9/9/2015. He was a great guy, probably my biggest fan and I didn't really deserve him.

A proper obituary should be about the decedent, not the guy writing. The problem is that I don't really feel like the guy to do that. So I can only tell my story. Sorry, I guess that's pretty self-centered of me. Let me see how much I can talk about Norm without referring to myself:

He was an administrative law judge for many years, and didn't really like to talk about it. Upon retirement he finally got to live his dream -- discovering and helping great writers in the world of small-press horror publishing. Norm also was a writer himself but his main enthusiasm seemed to be in editing. And, of course, fandom. Norm was a true old-school fan, the kind they don't make anymore since the Internet was invented and everyone got too cool to just be a huge fucking nerd. Even nerds work too hard to be cool these days. He would no doubt have thought these ridiculous and wrong comparisons, but in his enthusiasm for the genre he was right up there with Gernsback, Ackerman, and Moskowitz.

And I'm tapped out. That's a pretty dry bone up there. Hopefully someone else can do better.

Norm was great to work with even though he didn't like Oxford commas. He helped me a lot and was exactly what I think an editor is supposed to be, what you see in the movies where the writer character is drinking whisky in Peru and calls his editor to discuss his hero's deeper motivations -- shit like that. A Hollywood Editor. Not usually how it works, folks, in my experience and from the stories I've heard. Norm gave it his all. Without Norm HBVK wouldn't have been halfway readable.

Ecch, I can't go on with this. Just associating this sweet man with myself and these lame books I wrote makes me feel cheap, like I'll make people think less of him.

Norm and I lost touch over time, mostly my fault. We reconnected at WHC '13 in New Orleans, or tried to. But I was sick, and tired, and frankly I blew him off. I was not my best self. I should've emailed him more. I should've apologized to him. I should've bought him dinner. So many excuses but they don't matter much.

This is all so goddamned wrong. I I I ME ME ME.

I have a dollar in a frame. I won't tell you why, but Norm gave it to me. Big dreams that went nowhere, but it meant more to me than just those stupid dreams I never really believed in anyway. More that this guy ... for some reason ... thought I deserved it.

Look, whatever you think of me, try to forget that, okay? I don't want you to think less of this guy, who suffered so much but was still so cheerful and friendly. But he was my biggest fan, my first fan, and I didn't deserve it but he made me believe I could do this and now he's gone, and I feel like I had this treasure that I put in the attic and went back to find only to see that it's rotting and moldy and ruined, and I should've taken better care of it but I didn't and now it's too late.

Think of all the lives he touched. I know it wasn't just me. His wall on Facebook is full of mourners. I didn't know he knew all these people, but I'm not surprised. So I'm just one of many who shared an experience with him. I'm the guy in the back standing behind the plastic plant, I'm nobody. I slip in, slip out and no one knows I'm there. I just had to pay my respects somehow. This is all I could do.

Somebody do better, please.