Reading and Imagination

Imagination is a fire.

No, think about it. Fires start small and can either peter out if they have insufficient fuel, or can catch and blaze away forever.

A log will burn for a good long while, but you can’t easily set a log on fire with a match. The match will burn out long before the log catches fire.

A recent article argued that the glut of YA fiction is turning off young readers and “robbing our teenagers of the change to become literate adults.” (I won’t link to the P.O.S. article because I don’t want to encourage page hits.)

Aside from the asinine assertion that reading can cause illiteracy (I know that’s not what the author meant, but it could have been worded in such a way as to NOT suggest that.), the article basically laments the fact that reading things like The Hunger Games and Twilight is keeping teens from reading “classics,” and thus, contributing to the illiteracy of society.

Oh noes! Western Civilization is going to collapse because little Timmy McGee is reading X-Men comics instead of Ulysses!

Now, I can go on and on about what constitutes a literary classic. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say if I had started reading Faulker or Joyce or Woolf when I was 12, I would be a very different person. I wouldn’t have developed a love of reading for one. Without a love of reading, I probably wouldn’t be a writer.

Elitists love to separate fiction into Literature and Pulp. All genre fiction is automatically shuffled into “pulp,” unless, by circumstance it becomes so ingrained into culture it becomes impossible to ignore it (and even then they’ll hold their noses when they speak of it).

All literature has value, however. It boggles my mind how someone can bitch about teens choosing to read instead of playing video games, watching TV, “hanging out” where ever teens hang out these days, etc. It’s crazy.

See, a good fire, needs to be started properly. If you want voracious, “literate” readers (and by literate, I assume the author of that despicable piece means “readers who like & appreciate what I consider to be Literary Fiction” rather than people who are able to read and comprehend), you have to get them hooked on reading.

So, start small. If you want that log to burn, you use kindling (yes, you can use an accelerant, but sometimes, an accelerant will burn too fast and not actually cause the log to catch fire). You lay a foundation of small sticks (or wadded paper), and gradually pile on larger and larger sticks and branches. Once the fire is good and burning, THEN you add on the logs.

Good fiction, whether it’s YA or not will make readers WANT more fiction. So what if it doesn’t have anything profound to say? Not everyone finds the same thing entertaining or enlightening. Fiction of 100 years ago was written in a totally different style and can often be impenetrable to today’s youth. Why would you want to force them to slog through that before they have a good foundation? That won’t make them lifelong readers. Instead, it will only teach them that reading is boring WORK and I don’t know anyone who will willingly spend their free time doing boring work when they could be doing literally anything else.

Reading should be fun. It should help you escape. Show you new worlds, new ideas. Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction should be the kindling we use to light the fires of imagination in our young people, not a data point to use while we rant about the decline of our youth.

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Gen Con 2016

Doing a day-by-day breakdown seems kind of silly when I essentially did the same thing every day. The only day where something markedly different occurred was Sunday after the traditional end-of-Gen Con annoucement.

But, that’s getting ahead of myself.

2016-08-03 11.44.04Set-up on Wednesday morning went smoothly. I got in and out of the Dealer Hall before the heat and humidity became too oppressive (they don’t turn on the A/C in there until Thursday). Unfortunately, I was missing a key piece of my display because Ix’s legs broke between ConQuesT 47 in May and TeenCon a few weekends ago, despite being in my basement the whole time. I suspect it has been going out on adventures without me or Zack Jackson.

Many of my long-time customers (i.e. friends) came by on Thursday to pick up my latest books. That’s to be expected. It’s always nice to see my first true fan (Hi Dani!) again and the Undergophers (listen to their podcast!). I’m also starting to see returning customers from previous years stopping by, as well, which is very encouraging. Building a fan base takes a long time, so it’s nice to see that foundation come together.

Supposedly, the anthology in which I participate with other Author’s Avenue authors was supposed to encourage people to stop by (at least for a signature on my story). However, I did not see a single customer who mentioned it. In fact, I only saw the book itself for the first time when someone came by my table with two cases of books and told me to sign my story on every copy. No reason was given. I eventually learned they were probably contributor copies. Since that information was not given to me at the beginning, I grumbled and hate-signed every book.

Communication is key. More on that anthology later.

2016-08-07 13.27.25Sales on Thursday generally seemed good. Friday was not as good, but that holds with trends I’ve noticed on previous years. Ix was returned to me on Friday with a temporary repair (you can’t even tell it was broken). It’s so nice that the sculptor is local. One thing that stood out was that Sunday was the biggest credit-card day and might have been the largest day of sales over all for me.

The four days of the convention really seemed to fly by. I didn’t have time to socialize with the various RPG publishers as much as I wanted to. Part of my duties as ENnie Awards Submissions Coordinator was to do that, but I felt like it was too difficult to step away from my table for extended periods of time this year. I’ll just have to rely on social media for that for now.

After it was all said and done, it felt like the number of sales was steady compared to previous years, or possibly increased. I had a few lower-priced items, so revenues felt like they were down. However, after making all the deposits, it turned out that revenue was slightly UP from last year. It wasn’t my best year ever, but it was a solid showing and I went away happy.

I also came away with opportunities to travel to up to six different Midwest schools and talk up my Zack Jackson series as it relates to science and creative writing. Since part of the whole point of making the ZJ series fairly hard science-fiction, it would seem that I am hitting my target.

Then, at 4PM, the great weekend turned, quite frankly, to shit.

I’m not going to call anyone out by name, as a few things are still pending (communication is always slow the week after Gen Con). Basically as soon as tear down started, a vendor got careless and knocked the wall panel behind my table over. My wheelchair-bound wife was standing there and would have been crushed under it had a friend not also been standing there and caught the wall.

Several pictures fell and broke apart. She jumped, shrieked and sat down HARD in her chair. Since there was debris around her chair now, she couldn’t move it out of the way when the wall wobbled again. This feeling of entrapment triggered her PTSD. Several of us yelled for the person to STOP hitting the wall. The culprit(s) high-tailed it out of there without so much as an apology.

Of course, this delayed my own tear down (and wrecked my evening plans as someone enduring a PTSD attack is no longer up for going out for a nice dinner after tear down). During tear down, a well-meaning, but annoying helper of another vendor came over, began to touch my wife on the arm in a misguided attempt to calm her and describe IN DETAIL how she managed to sneak in each of the four days of the convention.

This particular person had been a disruption to myself, my wife, and other authors the entire weekend, going around and butting into conversation while we were trying to sell our books. Mostly harmless, if annoying. I chalked it up to someone having social interaction issues. But the lack of a badge? Yeah, you can be sure I turned that over to Gen Con, LLC as soon as possible.

I don’t know what possessed this person to brag about not paying to get in for four days to fellow vendors who spent $350 on a table, $90 on a second exhibitor badge, and $92 on an extension cord, but you can be damn sure I am NOT the person who will be sympathetic to cheats.

Anyway, I finally got everything packed away and back to my car. Gen Con staff were extremely helpful and understanding. I made a list of people I intend to compliment to Gen Con management once things are settled and I can start a dialog with them about the incidents.

Then, when all the dust was settled, I looked at the anthology.

What a hot mess. The Table of Contents is inaccurate (let’s not mince words, in some place it’s just flat out WRONG). There are seemingly random blank pages (they’re not, I figured out exactly WHY they’re there, but the lay reader won’t understand). They should at least say “This page intentionally left blank” and be included in the page numbering, but they aren’t. The layout is confusing, and there are errors introduced into my story that weren’t there when I submitted it and there are other stories that appear to be completely unedited and un-proofread. In all, it feels very much like an amateur, vanity product and I am ashamed to have my name associated with it.

I sent out an e-mail listing many of the problems I found, conceding that certain things could be stylistic choices. Thus far, neither the editor nor publisher of the anthology has responded.

I submitted my story as a favor (i.e. I did not get compensated for it), to participate with the group who spend all four days of Gen Con sharing a space. Next year, I do not intend to participate for less than 8 cents a word. Giving a story away for free is one thing. To have my work treated in such a slipshod manner (not to mention the poor communication and marketing demands that were made with no mention of them in the “contract” I signed) is insulting.

I feel sad that detailing the tear-down on Sunday took up more space than describing all the good of the previous four days. Despite a generally good experience, that last hour or so really colored the whole weekend. Oh well, Gen Con wouldn’t be Gen Con if I didn’t learn something to make the next year even better.

I learned many valuable lessons this year. Gen Con 2017, AKA Gen Con 50 will be even better!

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Handicap Awareness at Gen Con

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Originally posted at my Doctor StrangeRoll gaming blog.


Gen Con is nigh! With less than a week to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there; there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. I am going to rehash what I’ve posted in previous years (they’re my most popular posts!). To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.
However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The handicapped, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. She has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

Be Aware of People Around You

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-sized. OK, that’s fine. I’ve been there; I lost nearly 50 pounds a few years ago. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds two to three feet to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I pushed her, I watched for this sort of thing. Now she drives herself, and I worry she’s going to get beat up.

Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes it’s because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack or catch a Pokémon. You’re not in a high school hallway; stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive. Also, if you’re pushing your kids in a stroller, you really need to watch where you’re pushing them. My wife almost got t-boned by a stroller a few years ago because the mother had her head turned one way, watching something, and was pushing and walking in a different direction… in a CROWDED hall way (not even the Dealer Hall). She also almost got run into by a guy walking very fast and not watching the direction he was walking. His friend yelled to get his attention, otherwise he would have tripped over my wife’s (in motion) wheelchair. She had no chance to take evasive action because he approached from an angle that was mostly behind her. Situational Awareness is a thing. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot to practice it. Seriously.

Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con, often for four to six hours at a time. Frequently, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. The A/Cs in the convention center will have trouble keeping up with a roomful of gamers when it’s hot and humid outside. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses.

Give wheelchairs a wide berth; don’t step over them.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs move a little slower than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving five seconds to you?

Don’t tie up handicapped accessible bathroom stalls unless you have a Potty Emergency.

A comedian once proclaimed the virtues of the handicapped rest room stall, saying it was “the Cadillac” [of the stalls]. While it is true these stalls are often very roomy, there is a reason for that. Here’s a hint: the reason is NOT SO YOU CAN USE IT TO CHANGE INTO OR OUT OF YOUR COSTUME. I respect cosplayers. What they do is AMAZING. But if you’re tying up the accessible stall chatting on the phone, changing clothes, having a quiet moment, you may be preventing people who need to use it for its intended purposes from using the facilities they require. From what I hear, because I don’t have first-hand experience with the ladies restrooms, for every ten to twenty standard stalls, there are one or two handicapped stalls and one or two “family” stalls (if you’re lucky). The family stalls are slightly smaller than the handicapped stalls, but larger than a standard stall so that a mom can stand and assist her toddler. Handicapped attendees don’t expect the handicapped stalls to only be used by handicapped people. With some 50,000 – 60,000 attendees anticipated, it is understood that sometimes there will be a line for the facilities. People expect to have to wait their turn. The main point is to use a non-handicapped stall if one is available and to be aware that people in wheelchairs cannot choose one of the smaller stalls.

Look, I get sometimes you need a quiet moment, or have to change clothes, but that stall is that big so that wheelchairs can get into it. My wife told me of an experience last year where she was in a line three wheelchairs deep waiting for the accessible stall while two young ladies were changing clothes and giggling and were pretty much oblivious to the fact that they were not the center of the universe.  Apparently, of the twenty or so other stalls, only two others were occupied at the time, so it’s not like these young ladies had no choice (and couldn’t wait). One woman had to get out of her wheelchair, crawl along the floor, and into a non-handicapped accessible stall because she could not wait any longer. My wife confronted them and politely made them aware they were holding up the line and they cried and accused her of being rude.

When people abuse the handicapped restroom, handicapped con goers risk wetting their pants. That shouldn’t have to be one’s main concern in a public restroom.

It’s a safe bet that most cosplayers are from out of town and have hotels. Perhaps they see the bathroom, the handicapped stall in particular, as a more convenient place to work on their costume than going back to their hotel. Well, tough. That stall is for handicapped people to pee and poop. You don’t get to act put out when one of them calls you on it. Besides, have you SEEN what’s on the floor in a public restroom? I certainly wouldn’t want to get that on my costume.

NX_senior_man_wheelchairDon’t be a Dick

This last thing actually is castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

Let’s work together to make sure the Best Four Days of Gaming are the best days for ALL attendees!

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Best of Indy Voting

boi_VoteForMe_800Once again, I am honored to be nominated for Nuvo’s Readers’ Choice Best of Indy – Best Local Author. You can vote daily through August. I’d appreciate your support for Best Local Author. Just click the link above to be taken to the voting page. I apologize that you need to sign in, but it’s easy enough to opt out of all mailings.

Remember: a vote for me is more than that dirty peasant Dennis gave to Arthur, King of the Britons!

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Scars of the Sundering, book 2: Lament – Now Available for Pre-Order!

After much pain and heartache, the second novel in my Scars of the Sundering series, Lament, is now available for pre-order for Kindle.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00040]“The quality of our legacy is measured in the lives we touch.”

Pancras and the drak twins reach Muncifer. The judgment of Archmage Vilkan Icebreaker was swift: Pancras is sent to the far side of the continent and Delilah remains the Arcane University. His penance takes him toward the far north, and is made only somewhat better by the companionship of The Golden Slayer and the fiendling Qaliah. Along the way, events drive Pancras to rekindle his faith in Aita.

Bound to the Arcane University, Delilah works to escape, while her brother uncovers an ancient Munciferian secret that will change the very nature of magic as they know it and shake the foundation upon which the Arcane University was built.

Pre-orders will be delivered on August 1st. The print version will be released at Gen Con (August 4th) and but if you can’t wait, is available on Amazon.com right now!

 

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New Page for Art

KaleDelilahFinal-CharReedFrequent visitors may notice a slight change to the site. I rearranged the options on the menu bar at the top of the page and added one: Visions of Art.

Visions of Art is the page on which the various pieces of character art, maps, and concept art will reside. I already posted everything on Pinterest (including logos and covers), but if you don’t have an account, using Pinterest can be kind of a pain.

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REVIEW – The History of the Commodore 64 in Pixels by Chris Wilkins

C64 in PixelsTonight’s review is a bit of a departure, as the book I’m reviewing is not sci-fi or fantasy. In fact, it’s non-fiction. While it’s not the first non-fiction book I’ve reviewed here, non-fiction is definitely not the focus of my reviews. While you can find The History of the Commodore 64 in Pixels on Amazon, getting a hold of it might be challenging; I don’t believe it’s in general distribution. I received this book as part of a Kickstarter to which I contributed last year. In short, this book recounts the history of an oft-forgotten member of the gaming scene, the Commodore 64 personal computer.

When you think of what they had to work with: a roughly 1 MHz processor and 64K of RAM, it’s really amazing what the programmers from around the world accomplished on the brown, breadbox-shaped machine.

There’s a common element in a lot of the stories told in this book: the SID chip, a powerhouse (for the time), 3-voice synthesizer widely recognized as a musical instrument in its own right. The music and sound-effect capabilities of the C64 were unparalleled in the home PC market.

All of this are told as a series of essays by the people who were captivated and inspired by this machine to try their hand at programming and composition and created some of the great games for which the C64 is remembered.

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Lament Cover art Revealed!

As Lament goes into the final round of proofreading, I now have the finished cover art!

Lily Yang once again lent her talents to my cover (you’ve seen her work before on Malediction), and did a fantastic job.

Lament cover final lowres

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ConQuesT 47 Wrap-Up

2016-05-27 11.48.41-2Sadly, ConQuesT 47 was not as successful as I had hoped. Last minute staff shake-ups, last year’s harassment scandal, plus the close proximity of Planet ComicCon and Mid-America Con II/WorldCon resulted in a fraction of the expected attendance. There was also a noticeable breakdown in communications between the con staff and the vendors (like a surprise 2-hour extension to Dealer Hall hours while we were packing up for the night on Saturday).

I sold between 14% and 25% of what I did last year, and that’s with two new titles at the show this year. The gulf in uncertainty is due to not being able to correlate several Kindle sales with Con activity (i.e. They could be coincidental).

I had high hopes for the first con of the season for VFF Publishing. Such a massive disappointment is difficult to deal with when you invest that much time and money into something that ends up being less than was promised.

I’ll stop short of saying the convention was abysmal, however. I felt the panels I was on went well, despite the reduced attendance. I would be reluctant to return as a vendor, but I might consider returning as a program participant/panelist. I made a few good connections, as well. The Undergophers did a great job in the gaming area. If I return next year without the commitments of the Dealer Hall, I will definitely spend more time in the gaming area and maybe even run some games.

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ConQuesT 47

Are you going to ConQuesT 47 in Kansas City, MO over Memorial Day weekend (May 27 – 29)? I will be there all three days selling & signing my novels and short stories. But that’s not all! I will also be on three panels on Saturday.

Success vs Accomplishment SAT 11 AM
A philosophical, and hopefully informational, discussion about what it
means to make it as a writer or an artist. What are your goals? How do you
measure yourself? What do you need to do next? How do you get there?

Dealing with Writer’s Block and Other Hurdles SAT 2 PM
With every book I write, I find there are more than a few periods of
internal conflict where the story is trying to break free but doesn’t
quite make it to my keyboard. Writer’s block is something many struggle
with. Join me as we discuss what works for me, for other writers, and for
you!

Independent Publishing 101 SAT 4 PM
A nuts-and-bolts primer in how to run a business as a 21st-century
creative entrepreneur — there’s more to independent publishing than just
“self-publishing”!

You won’t get these topics at the Gen Con Writer’s Symposium! At least, not from me. You also won’t hear what I have to say about these subjects here, at least, not before ConQuesT.

… mostly because I’m not sure what I’m going to say yet. I’ll try to make it profound and useful. I hope to see you there!

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