Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Do's and Don'ts of Conventions (The "Pro" Edition)

So I recently attended Con Nooga to help work the table of professional author and dear friend John Hartness. He is being kind enough to let me go out with him to sci-fi and fantasy conventions this year, both to learn a different side of the business and improve my skills as a salesperson. In return I help keep his ledgers, book things, pump gas, buy food, etc. Basically it is an internship in hyperspace.

One of the things I notice about conventions is that they often bring out people that want to get into the business of publishing, gaming, film, etc., but another thing I notice is that a good number of people completely shoot themselves in the foot. Previously I wrote an entry on the Do's and Don'ts of Writer Networking, which received some really good reviews and a few nods from pros in the business. However, after going to Con Nooga and being exposed to a variety of new people, I wanted to write a follow-up to it because were are a bunch of other things I never considered until I actually ran into them. Two of them are actually a minor fuck-ups on my part, but I am choosing to own it and make it a teachable moment. So here we go!

DO present yourself as a professional!

One very startling memory I remember from Dragon*Con 2014 was attending a writing panel, which usually are pretty good at that convention. Being the person I am, I arrived ten minutes before the room was even available and waited outside. The panel was sponsored by Bell Bridge Books and hosted by Deb Dixon, a super-talented bestselling romance author and Senior Editor at Bell Bridge. The topic for her one-woman panel was "voice," and while I could go on forever about what she talked about, this isn't the time for that. What I do want to talk about is what happened beforehand.

As I was waiting in my seat for the panel to start people filed in. A few of these individuals came in and started speaking to each other across the room, talking about how awesome it was to be at Dragon*Con and how everyone in the room, especially them, were all going to be "famous authors" one day. Beyond being slightly disingenuous and panicky, one thing they did not take into account is that there were actual authors and editors in the room, and those people were turned off.

You have to understand that the publishing business is very small, and with it being so small there is a lot of room to make yourself look like an ass. Someone shouting to each other about how awesome they are/will be is a deterrent to actual professionals in the field--first, because your worth is in your work, not in your mouth. Second, it has lot to do with how your present yourself. Speaking as someone who will be taking on their first editorial project later in 2015, I want to work with people that understand how this business works, and to me those people won't be shouting at each other before a panel at Dragon*Con. Some of you may be turned off and go "I'll never submit something to him," but you'd be surprised how many other people feel the same way.

DON'T undersell yourself!

This one kinda hits home for me because I used to do this a lot in private, and looking back on it I could have created some bigger opportunities for myself if I had just stopped self-sabotaging with doubt. Anxiety is a real thing people in my family deal with, and while I am not the worst, it still rears its head from time to time. A person wanting to work in this business needs to get over that, because if they don't they can really stop themselves from being something and making money (let's be honest about what the goal of the business is.) Case in point and without naming names and pointing to specific individuals, I met someone at Con Nooga who was taking an art class with a really well known cover artist who I adored, and I had the opportunity to see a project they were working on. It was amazing to the point I told them they were just as good as their teacher (and they were.) However, this young artist immediately started downplaying themselves before everyone, stating that they could never do cover art professionally because of reason A, B, C...

People know the stink of timidity, and for me, the moment this young artist started doing that I kinda knew I would probably never see them again, let alone work with them (I was actually really close to throwing down some money for a cover, believe it or not. Real money, too.) If you want to be in the business you have to believe that you belong there, but if you don't think belong then you don't belong. This person, for all of their talents, may never rise out of their excuses. Of course I could be wrong, and I will be happy to be so if that happens, but the important thing to realize is that if you want people to believe in your worth then you have to believe in your own worth first.

DO pace yourself!

Having now sat on the other side of a convention table, it is so amazing how quickly working an event like that can wear you out, even when you aren't up and moving around. I sat behind a table selling John's books (I did okay) for THREE HOURS, and those three hours were miserable because I made them miserable. I discovered quickly that sitting for three hours thinking that I constantly needed to be at the table led to me being a poorer salesman for it. I should have taken the time to get up and go eat, go to the bathroom, and in general just calm down. It is really easy to go to one of these conventions and work yourself into believing that you have to do everything at ALL TIMES, and that's impossible.

John really showed me how to do it, as he had three back-to-back panels that day, and even he was tired after all of it. Yet he made time to go to the bathroom. He made time to walk around the convention hall. He made to eat. He still sold a good amount stock, but watching him not kill himself over it like I was really showed me how do it better. Pacing, just like in storytelling, is integral to making the journey fun instead of actual labor. Remember to take your time.

DON'T be a fanboy/girl/appropriately-gendered-"fan"-term

This is the spot where I messed up until, again, John Hartness came to my rescue. One thing that young creative professionals often face when they get in this business is that they do not feel like they can consider themselves equals. That can be very daunting to deal with, and perhaps more than a bit annoying. I made that a mistake a few times, and the best thing you can do is just remember: these people are just like you. They are all grinding towards something. They don't have time to spot and pay attention to your fangasm. However, they will give you time if they know you are serious about the craft you are pursuing. It is better to just be calm, relaxed, friendly, and professional as you can be. If you want to be an equal, act like an equal.

In conclusion, conventions can be a daunting place to be if you are trying to break into this creative business, but if you stay calm, remember your worth, and act like you are deserving respect by giving respect, you will do fine.

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Beer and What It Means To Me by Jay Requard

Recently I announced that I had sold a Sword & Sorcery short story called "Stout" to Swords and Sorcery Magazine for their February 2015 issue. Here is the link to the piece:

Read "Stout" here!

In reflection of this story's publication, I wanted to take some time this week and talk a little bit about it. I wrote Stout because I wanted to do a few different things:

1. I wanted to give Jishnu another story.
2. I wanted to get away from the grimdark aspects of "Paper Demons," which appeared in Thunder on the Battlefield. The goal was to go in the opposite direction with it, playing with a sense of humor that was very simple while still maintaining the "heightened" sense I enjoy about Sword & Sorcery.
3. I wanted to write about beer.

I've spoke previously about why "God's Proof That He Loves Us" is such an important beverage in my life. I don't drink a lot anymore, but I still enjoy beer for its aesthetic. Like spirits, wine, and mead, it is one of the few tethers we have to the idea of alchemy in the real world, where someone can take something given by the earth and transform it into "gold." Beer is a positive thing when used correctly, both to soothe the soul and feed the mind. Civilizations rose and prospered because of their ability to make beer, and in many ways beer in itself tells the story of the place where it created.

Brewing itself is a people-first activity, requiring thought, cooperation, business, hard work, and most importantly, love. People make and drink beer because they love beer. In every possible way brewers are just like writers--they are there for the craft and the wonders it produces. And beer is "hereditary", in a sense, as it always comes from another brew before it. In many ways the main character of the story, Stout, came from something from my past.

Stout the Sirtya, the brewer and "hero of the story" (I made Jishnu the "sidekick", in a way), was inspired by character named Pikel Bouldershoulder, a dwarven druid who was created by my favorite author R.A. Salvatore.

Here's Pikel:

I took a lot from Pikel to make Stout, especially when it comes to the club and his speech patterns. I loved Pikel growing up because it was the first time I could read about a character with speech-and-language problems, a huge hurdle that I had to deal with growing up. Salvatore never diminished Pikel for it, however, leaving him very intelligent, wise, and so powerful that he is a powerful druid, something most dwarves never become. He was different, and he was kind, and sweet, and more importantly, he was able to do things on his own. Just like I wanted to be a bit like Pikel, I wanted Stout to be a bit like him as well. Stout's sweetness, dedication to his friends, and willingness to stand up against enemies bigger than him made the character special for me, because I really believe that even the most common among us can be a hero.

I hope if you take the time to read Stout you will love him like I do. I think we need more "dwarves", "hobbits", and "little folk" in our stories because they remind of our innocence. They let us know that we can still be strong, brave, and kind, even when we live in a world that doesn't seem to value those things anymore.

But more importantly, I hope you enjoy this story with a good beer. A sweet stout, if you can.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Good News Everyone!

So previously I announced that my story, "Ghosts and Sands", would be appearing in The Big Bad II by Dark Oak Press, and I am happy to say that being part of a really wonderful list of authors has been a really big success all around. If you want to check out my story and other great stories from such heavyweights like Gail Martin, Emily Leverett, Eden Royce, David B. Coe, James R. Tuck, and many many more wonderful writers, you can pick it up here:

The Big Bad II

But I have more great news! I am proud to say that I have recently signed a contract to have my story, The Gem of Acitus, published by Mocha Memoirs Press! I will be posting more content soon talking about that, but I wanted to share this big success!

And that's not all, but I have sold another story! Swords and Sorcery Magazine, now into its fourth year, has decided to accept my short Sword & Sorcery story, Stout, for publication in their February Issue. I will post a link as soon as it is up!

I'll see you all soon, and hopefully with pictures from Connooga! Remember, if you like what you see on this blog, check out my Twitter or press that "G+" button to the left. Either helps get the word out about this blog and shows me that you like the content you find here every week.

Thanks and stay safe!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Big Bad II!

Hey all! (Sorry I've been MIA. There have been some real technical issues that had to be resolved.)

I am proud to say that my story, "Ghosts and Sands", will be appearing in Dark Oak Press' The Big Bad II.


I talked previously about writing the sequel for "The Chase", the story in the first Big Bad that featured the revenant Conjer battling a cadre of vampire gangsters. While I loved and still love that story, I got to work writing the follow-up. And it's going to be available in the Big Bad II, coming tomorrow on February 24th, 2015!

Here is the cover:

This amazing anthology features stories by David B. Coe/DB Jackson, Gail Martin, Misty Massey, Emily Leverett, James R. Tuck, Selah Janel, Eden Royce, Matthew Saunders, and some of the best up-and-coming names in Fantasy and Horror!

If you'd like to help us get more eyes on the prize, please share this blogpost or the Amazon link on your social media. Boosting the signal, even if it is only one or two people that do it, makes a big difference.

Thanks for visiting and your support!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: Raising Hell by John Hartness

Hello and welcome to another hellacious review here at Sit. Write. Bleed.! Today I am review John Hartness' brand new novella, Raising Hell:

While Sit. Write. Bleed. is indeed a blog devoted to Epic and Heroic Fantasy, as well as Sword & Sorcery, sometimes something comes along that really wows me. Raising Hell is that kind of novella, an urban fantasy from the hands of a well-established author who knows what the hell he is doing.

Quincy Harker is the son of Jonathan Harker and Mina Harker, two survivors of the dreaded incident which left Mina giving birth to a child with the powers of their old enemy, Dracula. A talented exorcist and sorcerer, Quincy sets out one night to find a dead girl's rapist, a horrid crime involving a demon and a bloody end for the girl. He races throughout Charlotte, North Carolina, following a trail of blood that leads to the highest heights of corporate America and one of its devilish masters.

What makes John Hartness such an electric author is his ability to blend humor and gravity in the right doses, taking the reader on a ride as Quincy delves deep into what is a really disturbing crime when one stops and thinks about it. Written in First Person Past Tense, a truly cultivate voice comes through, oozing with confidence while at the same time bludgeoning the reader with its break-neck place. Never once goes Quincy make the reader feel lost, giving ample time to the "small-enough" details that really help build the setting into a living, breathing behemoth. It may only be Charlotte, North Carolina, but that voice of this piece makes you think Charlotte is New York, and not in a contrived way.

The points where it lacks are small. There are places where the action is a tad muted, a place where the sequencing isn't clear, but for someone who reads and writes battles the latter is incredibly forgivable. Where Hartness never fails is in his ability to keep you there in the story, his hand clutched around your neck as Quincy hunts down the things that need to be hunted.

Overall, this is a great read for those who are looking for something not too long, but not that short either. Novellas have a rich tradition in fantasy literature, and thankfully Raising Hell brings it forward with a dose of real fresheness. You would be an idiot not to pick this up!


Check out these links to John Hartness and his work:


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Until next time!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Heroic Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, SFWA, and Short Stories

So one thing that has been really beneficial to my career as a writer has been developing my skills in both the novel and short fiction formats. I believe having experience in both leads to success in both venues, especially when one considers how digitized the book market is today. Short stories are in the middle of a resurgence thanks to digital publishing, allow both traditional and self-published authors to stretch their legs with a sprint instead of a marathon, and believe me, some really great things come out of cross-training.

However, it would be foolish to dismiss the difficulties that come with this new era in short fiction, and that can be none clearer than Science Fiction and Fantasy's largest representative organization for genre authors (if you leave out Romance,) the Science Fiction Writers of America. This is a good site for all genre fiction authors not writing exclusively in the Romance category, as you can get a sense of where the industry is, how to become SFWA-eligible by selling stories to their list of qualifying markets, or by taking part in a really well-run forum.

But for all the nice things I say about SFWA, there is a truth for me that somewhat dissuades me from ever worrying about getting SFWA certified through short stories.

Here is that truth: I write Heroic Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery, with the latter being the primary genre I write for short fiction. I dabble in some magical realism these days, but I haven't gotten to a point where I feel like I can go out there and sell. Yet.

Now, far from accusing any publication of being anti-traditional fantasy, the main thing that bars my way is what the current markets are looking for. We are in the middle of a Speculative Fantasy boom, where genres cross, story elements reduce to more pure forms, and the line between gets very hazy.

And one thing I constantly run into is "we don't want stories resolved with swords and bloodshed. We want literary."

Which puts me in a hell of a bind in two ways: most S&S revolves itself around blood being spilled, and the definition of literary is undefinable (my opinion.)

Yet I also look at it as an opportunity.

First and foremost, to get S&S into these pro-markets forces me to think about the genre outside of the box. This is good.

Second, there are still pro-markets out there that are looking for great S&S, which I constantly strive to produce. The problem is finding them, but it is only problem if you have the mindset that only SFWA and pro-markets are worthy of your "time."

All of us start out nowhere at the bottom, and learning and mastering The Craft of Writing means getting your butt out there and submitting, getting rejected and getting feedback, and hopefully selling your work. I think in the mind of today's writer, we should all look at a credit as a credit, and nothing more. And we should all be striving to increase our list of credits.

For many of us, that leaves us to submit our work elsewhere, to places where they don't pay $0.06 per word, and places where nobody has gone before. Today there are so many new and emerging markets that want great genre fiction.

So where do you find these markets?

The easy way to do it is by visiting sites like Duotrope or Ralan's, both sites that have great oversight and are consistently updated with new submission calls. However, there is one site I go to when I want to find the newest markets available:

The Grinder

Besides an obvious affinity to the name, I really find this site to be well-ordered, organized, and dependable in really searching out the markets that are right for you. Check them out, as you can find everything here.

In closing, remember--you don't have to follow a winding path to publishing short fiction. The medium is more alive now than it ever has been, and we have both big and small outfits to thank for that. Give them your best. Publishing credits are publishing credits--go get them and get yourself a name.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Review: The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy

A girl goes missing, a community left in shambles, and from the mind of a little boy emerges chaos…

Enter Mira Tejedor.

A gifted psychic still reeling from her last case, Mira comes to the rescue of Anthony Faircloth, a young boy left in a catatonic state by a secret so dark it lays buried within an unimaginable world constructed by his mind.  Entering a realm where the rules don’t apply and danger draws itself on every wall, she must contend with The Exhibition if she is to save this child’s life.

Based on Modest Mussorgsky’s classical Russian suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, The Mussorgsky Riddle is a wonderful debut and a great entry into the paranormal mystery genre. What really drew me to this story was the ability on Kennedy’s part to really delve into his wealth of ability when it comes to writing strong First Person POV. Now, I know some of you might be going:

“Well, Jay, there’s a bunch of work out there in the first person. Why is this different?”

It’s different because Kennedy wows us with vivid imagery, well-developed dialogue, and brushes of introspective genius in some of the story’s pivotal moments. His characters are varied and fleshed out so that they aren’t just tropes moving around on the page—they are real people, with real frailties and sense, something that I think often gets lost in First Person.

More importantly, however, Kennedy goes out of his way to make his main actors human in the truest sense. Mira rarely has an off-note, nor do her gallery of rogues. Without being too spoiler-y, this version of Baba Yaga is probably the best I have ever come across, and I like Hellboy. That’s how good this Baba Yaga is.

That’s not to say there aren’t imperfections. The book drags at times trying to figure out a way for the characters to go after all the plot points in a natural fashion, and sometimes it is done so ham-fistedly. Mystery as a rule is built on the three “C’s”: Creative Characters, Constant Suspense, and Connecting the Dots. In this case one may argue that there are spots where The Mussorgsky Riddle suffers from not maintaining a constant feeling that something can happen at any time, relying instead on a few cliches we've seen before like jealous lovers and attractive partners.

These small missteps are made up for with Kennedy’s ability to offer surprises in ways that aren’t forced or stayed, and they engage the reader enough that you want to keep reading, even when the story is a bit ho-hum. Kennedy is good at connecting the dots to keep us going.

Overall, this is a damned final novel. With its lush setting, a cast of unique characters, and a well written story, The Mussorgsky Riddle is a book we should all pick up and give a serious read. It will be available on January 12, 2015 from Curiosity Quills Press.

Check out more of Darin's work at these links!

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