Writer’s Toolbag: Attending Conventions Part 2

In part one I discussed a bit about attending a convention and some of the things to look for when selecting whether to attend or not.  Here in Part 2, I’ll discuss how to go about attending as a panelist.

Getting into a convention as a panelist is quite a bit more difficult than merely attending.  For some conventions (looking at you Dragon Con) they’re very selective and you may never hear back.  For others, as long as you present yourself as a benefit to their convention, they’ll be happy to have you.

The first part of that is to be professional.  For most of these conventions you can browse their websites and find out who will be running the panels or programming for the convention.  That’s the person you want to contact.

When you do email them, write a professional introduction.  Tell them who you are and what you write.  Tell them what you’ve heard about their convention and why you want to participate.  If you bring ideas to the table, that’s generally a good thing, especially if you have an idea for a panel that would be fun and won’t require any additional effort on their parts.

The second part of this is remembering that the people running conventions are volunteers and they volunteer their time and effort because they like conventions and they enjoy getting people together to enjoy their genre of fandom.  If you present them with ways make a convention more enjoyable, then generally the people running the convention will be happy to have you.

The next part of that is how you behave at the convention.  Remember, this is about presenting yourself in a good manner.  If you’re participating in a panel, be sure to give other people time to talk.  If you are moderating, try to keep the panelists roughly on track, try to have some topics of conversation prepared, and most importantly be friendly and personable to everyone you meet.   Having dealt with rude panelists and audience members, it’s the quickest way to alienate a potential reader or connection.

As far as what to say, generally if you’re an author you’re passionate about things in the genre.  Talk about the things you find interesting, but gauge your audience.  If people are yawning, checking their watches or phones, or worst of all filing out of the room… well, that’s a bit of a sign.  Try to be entertaining, intelligent, and charming.  Basically you’re trying to establish yourself as someone who has something interesting to say.  That way they’ll remember you and maybe look at what you have to write.

Lastly, remember that bad impressions are more likely to stay with people.  The unfortunate truth is that most of the people you encounter won’t remember you at a convention, especially not the other professionals.  They meet so many people at so many conventions, that everyone sort of blurs together.  What they will remember, though, is if you’re the jerk who snapped at people or said derogatory things about other authors.  Good behavior may not get you a book deal or gain you lots of readers, but bad behavior will gain you notoriety and not  in a good way.

The Shattered Empire Audiobook Available Now

shattered-empire-audio-cover-sq-v2The Shattered Empire is now available on Amazon and Audible.com and coming soon to iTunes.

This is the second book of the Shadow Space Chronicles, which follows Baron Lucius Giovanni as he sets out to save humanity from the threat of the Chxor Empire

Baron Lucius Giovanni has managed to buy the human race a brief reprieve from the two alien races which seek humanity’s extinction. In the process he has become the leader of a new nation and the commander of a powerful fleet. However, victory comes with consequences. Without an imminent threat, old feuds have sparked back to life and tenuous alliances falter. There are also old enemies who cannot forget that Lucius has what they wanted. He must find a way to hold off scheming rivals, sociopathic psychics, and even former friends. If he can’t do all that and take the fight to humanity’s true enemies, billions may die under alien servitude.

Get your copy from Audible.com or Amazon today!

Book Review: Swords of Exodus by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari

51tvoi5njtlSwords of Exodus picks up with the characters from Dead Six in dire straits.  If you haven’t read my earlier review for Dead Six, you can read it here.

This is my favorite book of the series.   In fact, this is the book I read first in the series, then I went back and read Dead Six.  From the first pages it reels you in.  You see the growth of Lorenzo as he becomes more than an assassin, you see the start of Michael Valentine becoming a leader… and you get a grasp of something bigger in the world, something possibly supernatural.

The various conspiracies and plots from the first book also take a bigger role.  In the first book, the main characters were on the edge of things, not even caring about the greater repercussions.  In Swords of Exodus, we get a chance to see them faced with those repercussions and we see them become heroes.

The other rewarding aspect is that we see Michael and Lorenzo fight on the same side.  They don’t really like one another, but that just makes it even more fun.  These are two of the most lethal people in the world and you can tell that while they respect one another, there’s a professional rivalry and a bit of wanting to see who’s the better killer.

All in all, Swords of Exodus is a fantastic book in a series that was great on its own.  I highly recommend it, particularly if you’re a fan of conspiracy-theory near-future thrillers.   I can’t recommend it enough.

Book Review: Dead Six by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari

51ttz7guinl It’s not often that I’ll say something like this, but Dead Six is a book that disturbed me on a lot of levels.

It’s not that it isn’t a fantastic book.  There’s plenty of action.  There’s drama, there’s brilliant characters.  Lorenzo, in particular, is simply amazing, the rogue with a heart of gold written in a way that you can’t help but love him… and know that he’s an evil bastard at the same time.

What disturbs me is that the near-future setting of this novel is a bit too close for comfort.  Destabilized nations, corrupt politicians, and terrorist organizations whose goals are the destruction of everything the main characters know and love.

To make matters worse, the main characters aren’t in the know.  At the start, they’re actually in opposition to one another, which makes things hard.  Both of them are caught up in the schemes of some very bad people… and unfortunately a lot of good people get killed in the process.

The cover has a motto: Abandon All Hope.  In some ways you really have to do that at the start.  Dead Six hits the deepest fears of many veterans: abandonment, betrayal, and isolation.  It doesn’t pull any punches, either.

That said, it’s still a fantastic book.  Great humor, excellent action, and a fast-paced plot that keeps you turning pages.  Even better, it isn’t a book that holds your hand and explains everything going on.  The characters don’t know or don’t care about some of the issues that the reader may want to know.  It is up to the reader to figure those things out.

All in all, Dead Six is the start of a dark masterpiece.  A modern military thriller with far more soul than you would expect.  Check it out, read it, enjoy it, and know that the sequels only get better.

The Sacred Stars is Now Live!

sacredstars-02The Sacred Stars, Book Four of the Shadow Space Chronicles is now live.  You can pick up a copy at Amazon today!

Alannis Giovanni has followed in her family’s footsteps and joined the United Colonies Fleet.  As a bare Ensign, she’s been assigned to the Fleet’s newest, most powerful cruiser, the Constellation, on it’s maiden voyage: a simple show-the-flag mission that should be good for her to learn what it is to be an officer.

But things are never simple.  At their most distant port, they come across allies in need.  The Ghornath species are in search of their origins and an array of enemies are trying to stop them.  The crew of the Constellation will have to face pirates, aliens, and uncover a ten thousand-year-old secret in order not just to save their allies, but to thwart a threat that might well catch the rest of the Fleet off-guard.
These battles will test Alannis, force her to grow and become the officer that her position and blood demand of her… yet the greatest threat may be one she is the least prepared to face.
You can read the snippets for The Sacred Stars here.

Kal’s September 2016 Forecast

September is here!  With it, I’m happy to announce that The Sacred Stars, the fourth book of the Shadow Space Chronicles series is also here!  It’ll be available in just two more days.  That’s right, exploding space ships in only two more days.

I’m also happy to announce that the audiobook narration for The Shattered Empire is done.  I’m doing the review now and I hope to have it approved and available for general purchase through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes sometime in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve begun outlining the third Renegades book and as soon as I finish my current work in progress, I’ll dig into it and hopefully that’ll be ready to publish at the end of October.

My current work in progress is an urban fantasy novel which, once I’ve finished it, I’ll be sending to a publisher.  It may be a while before anyone sees it, but it’ll be worth the wait, trust me, it’s tons of fun to write and the responses I’ve had back so far suggest it is even more fun to read.

Lastly, I’m doing a giveaway with this month’s newsletter.  Run’s Coffee Mug and a signed copy of The Sacred Stars.  Sign up by this weekend and you’ll be eligible.

That’s all for now.   Thanks for reading!

The Sacred Stars Snippet Three

Here’s the third snippet for The Sacred Stars.  You can find the first one here and the second here.  The Sacred Stars will be published September 9th, 2016.


“Well,” Captain Daniel Beeson said, “what do you think of the new officers?”

His Executive Officer sighed a bit as he sat back in his chair.  “Lieutenant Busch seems pretty solid.  I haven’t had much of a chance to take the measure of any of our new ensigns yet… though I can’t believe we got stuck with Giovanni.”

“What do you mean by that?” Daniel asked.  He’d served under Lucius Giovanni as his flag captain and in several other positions.  He’d actually been excited to see the Emperor’s little sister was going to join their crew, particularly after seeing her graduation scores from Faraday’s Military Academy.

“I’m certain we’ll have some officers who should know better sucking up to her and heaven help us if she’s the type to throw her civilian rank around,” Commander Bowder said.

Daniel gave his XO a look, “Have you seen any sign of that so far?”

“Well… no,” Commander Bowder responded.  “But that’s not to say it hasn’t happened.  I find it more than a little suspicious that she’s got the scores she does without at least some favoritism.  I mean, most officers can’t help but think of her political connections and adjust their behavior.”

Daniel considered his XO for a long moment.  The officer was one of the Dreyfus Fleet personnel, one who had survived Admiral Dreyfus’s attempted coup and who had been cleared of any involvement.

While Admiral Dreyfus and his cabal of officers had organized a coup, the vast majority of the Dreyfus Fleet personnel had been in the dark about the conspiracy.  The mutinous elements had thrown the entire fleet into disarray and left all too many good people dead.  The survivors had fallen into one of three types in Daniel’s experience.  A small majority had simply never recovered from the betrayal.  Most of them had left behind everything they knew in order to be a last defense for humanity.  Admiral Dreyfus’s betrayal had left them so bitter or disillusioned that many had simply left service.

Then there were a small percentage who had emerged with a new outlook.  They’d seen the cost of when ambition and selfishness became the motivation of leaders.  Many of them were some of the most dedicated and most enthusiastic people in uniform that Daniel had served with.   Lieutenant Michele Konetsky and others like her had truly come into their own during the Dreyfus Coup and the time afterward.

The last type were like Bowder.  They had come out of the Dreyfus Coup still with a desire to serve and protect humanity… but they’d had their idealism shaken to its core.  It had left Richard Bowder with cynicism as his defining characteristic.  Daniel Beeson had read Commander Bowder’s personnel file.  Commander Bowder’s captain had been a member of the cabal, but when he’d ordered his crew to fire on loyalist ships, they’d mutinied.  A quarter of Richard Bowder’s fellow officers and crew had sided with their captain in a fight that had left a third of the crew dead.  Commander Bowder had emerged as the senior surviving officer and he’d managed to lock down his ship and then use it to fire in support of other loyalist ships.

In many ways, Daniel understood the other man’s cynicism having lost so much himself.

Daniel Beeson had joined Lucius Giovanni’s crew as something of a lark, to thumb his nose at his father, the commander of Faraday Colony’s Military Defense Forces.  Yet when the Chxor had captured the planet, it meant Daniel was aboard the War Shrike and not on Faraday.  That was literally the reason that of his three brothers, two sisters, mother, father, assorted cousins, uncles and aunts who were all either in the military or closely affiliated, he was the only surviving member of his family.

Daniel had lost everything, but he had not given into despair.  The Baron had been such a symbol of optimism and hope.  Lucius Giovanni had never given up, never even faltered on his mission to liberate first Faraday, then Nova Roma and other worlds along the way.

In the face of that, both working as an officer under him and now as a commander entrusted by Lucius to lead, Daniel simply couldn’t contemplate giving in to cynicism or doubt.  And while he could understand that Commander Bowder had, somewhat, it was certainly something that he was determined to prevent from undermining the morale of the rest of the crew.

Daniel chose his words carefully, keeping Commander Bowder’s past in mind, “I don’t think that the Emperor would tolerate that kind of behavior, Commander.  For that matter, I don’t think that General Proscia would tolerate any favoritism at the Academy.”

His XO grunted noncommittally.  “Well, I certainly won’t treat her any differently and I’ll hammer anyone else who does, for that matter.”

“That’s what I’d expect of you,” Daniel said.   “Now, what do you think about initial personnel assignments?”

“Lieutenant Commander Voronkov already put claim to Ensign Medica,” Commander Bowder said.  The Nova Roma ensign had branch specified for engineering.  While they’d probably rotate him through some of the other departments for broadening, he was on the fast-track for engineering.  Daniel wouldn’t be surprised if the young man eventually transferred to Research and Development.

“Ensign Shan I’d recommend for assisting Lieutenant Cassat at sensors.  She’s a little weak on her sensor scores, but there’s no better way to improve than working at it every day,” Commander Bowder said.  “Lieutenant Busch is already slotted for communications.  I’d say we put Ensign Giovanni there.”


“She’s from high social status and it’s an area where we can monitor her actual skills before moving her on,” Commander Bowder said.  He shrugged, “If she can’t pull her weight, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later.”

“Seems like something of a waste given her skills,” Daniel said cautiously.  She had the highest rating of all their ensigns for weapons, telemetry, and already had her civilian certifications for navigation.  Still, he was willing to entertain the trial run if it meant his XO felt better about her proficiency.  “What about tactical department?”

“I think Ensign Yamahito,” Commander Bowder said.  “Lieutenant Commander Douglas has Lieutenant Perkins for fire control and Lieutenant Duchan on missile telemetry.   Yamahito has an acceptable rating for his telemetry, but I’d like to give him some real-world experience to go along with that.”

“Okay,” Daniel nodded.  “I can go with that.”  They had a nice long cruise ahead of them to rotate their new officers around with plenty of time to break them all in, so he wasn’t too concerned about finding just the right fit for everyone.  Breaking them in, finding their strengths and weaknesses was the key part… and it wasn’t something that would happen right away.

“Has Lieutenant Thomas signed aboard yet?” Daniel asked.  The Marine Lieutenant would fill out their officer component.  Thomas had requested a late report date, his mother had suffered a fatal accident just two days earlier.

“Not yet,” Commander Bowder said.  “Possibly sometime in the next few days.”

Daniel nodded.  In truth, he wouldn’t be surprised if the Marine didn’t show before they departed.  Daniel had lost his entire family during the Chxor occupation of Faraday, so he understood taking time for family.  The last thing he wanted was for one of his officers to have something like that hanging over his head during the entire cruise.

“Okay,” Daniel said.  “We’ll go with what you’ve suggested, for now.  The latest on our deployment date is still seventy-two hours.  Make certain Lieutenant Monteif has everything squared away as far as extra supplies and spares for the voyage.”  Their quartermaster had been tasked with stocking them up for the long journey to the Hachiman Gu system.  Since it would take them almost three months to get there, plus an indeterminate time there, and another three months on the return voyage, they would be gone at least seven months.

In a newly commissioned, first-of-her-line, ship integrating a number of new technologies, he thought wryly, and we still have civilian engineers aboard.  It would certainly be an interesting cruise.



Chapter II


UCS Constellation, Faraday System

United Colonies

June 22, 2407


“Alannis,” Ensign Scott Yamahito called out, “come commiserate with your fellow ensigns.”

Alanis shook her head as she saw him.  He and Ensign Ashtar Shan sat at a table in the officer’s wardroom.  She nodded at Ashtar and then Scott.  “Scott, I thought you were supposed to go to the Champion.”

“I was,” he replied, “I traded with Andrew Terrapin when I heard the Constellation was headed for Shogunate space.”

“Oh?” Alannis asked.

“Yeah, I have some cousins who live back there still, I might be able to meet them, depending on how long we’re there,” Scott said.  “Plus I’d kind of like to see where I come from, you know?”

She remembered then that Scott’s parents had been refugees from the Dai Yamato system, what was now part of the Shogunate.  As far as she knew, Scott hadn’t shown any preference to return, until now.  Beside him, Ashtar Shan rolled her eyes.

Sounds like he’s got another of his wild hares to chase, Alannis thought.  This wouldn’t be the first time that Scott had become incredibly excited about something odd.  In his time at the Faraday Military Academy he’d developed a number of odd hobbies ranging from Close Quarter Combat Competition to detailed historical military vehicle models to a variety of games.

Scott seemed to get interested, build up a serious skill level or proficiency, and then lose interest and move on. It didn’t exactly surprise her that he would have changed assignments just to look into one such interest.

“Well, it’s good to have you here,” Alannis said.  “How are you two settling in?”  She’d already talked with Ashtar since the two of them shared quarters.  The female officer from the Tehran System had been on an accelerated course of instruction at the Faraday Military Academy and they’d actually become good friends and Alannis had come to appreciate the woman’s abilities.

“They put me in the tactical department,” Scott said with his goofy grin.  “I’m in missile telemetry, working with the Interceptor Mark Nineteens and I’m secondary lead with the new Moljnir Mark Ones and the Arrow Mark Twelves.”

“Oh,” Alannis said and forced herself to smile, “that’s great.”

“Where did you end up?” Scott asked.

“She’s assigned to communications,” Ashtar said before Alannis could reply.

“Oh…” Scott’s face fell.  “Geez, wow… uh, why’d they do that?  I mean, I’m a technical type, but I thought you were on a fast-track for tactical.”

“It’s an assignment,” Alannis shrugged.  “It’s not my business and I’m sure they’ll move us around a bit.”  She tried to keep the disappointment she felt out of her voice.  She knew she wasn’t entirely successful from how Scott shook his head.

“That’s just crazy,” Scott said.  “I can’t believe they did that.  What kind of idiot would send you to communications…”

“Ensigns,” a calm voice interrupted.

All three of them looked up to see that Lieutenant Busch stood over their table.  Alannis’s face went pale as she recognized the head of the communication department.  “The Captain and the XO made the assignment determinations.   If you have any constructive criticism, I’m sure they would both like to hear your opinions and draw from the depths of your experience.”

Alannis winced.  This was hardly the way to look good for her new boss.

“Sorry, ma’am,” Scott said.

The Lieutenant ignored him and looked at Alannis.  “Ensign Giovanni, there’s a lot of message traffic to sort through since we’re heading out.  I just finished approvals for the next update packet.  You need to get down to the department and verify those approvals.”

Alannis winced.  She had just finished an eight hour shift already.  Every ship in the Fleet updated their communications packets on the hour and they uploaded and downloaded that information by priority.  Orders came through with the highest priority, personal communications with the lowest.  When they left, the ansible would have only so much bandwidth, especially as they drew further away from Faraday.

While some of those priorities were easy enough, others were a bit more complicated.  Maintenance reports from different departments, systems malfunctions, ammunition and fuel reserves, and dozens of other updates would wait in the queue until there was time.  Prioritizing different data points over others would take both attention to detail and a great deal of time.

And most of what I’ll be doing is double-checking what Lieutenant Busch already did.  “Yes ma’am, I’ll get right on it.”  She looked down at her tray.  She hadn’t eaten anything yet, but she didn’t want to look bad by finishing it.  She stood and gave her friends nods and then hurried out.

She just hoped this wasn’t an omen or something.


Writer’s Toolbag: Attending Conventions Part 1

It is possible to have a career in writing and never attend a convention.  That said, conventions provide a wealth of opportunities for an author.  Conventions are gatherings of like-minded people.  Genre conventions, especially science fiction and fantasy conventions, are where you’ll be able to find lots of potential readers in one spot.  They’re also excellent places to network, to build relationships with other authors, to pitch ideas to editors,  and in general, get your name out there.

So, what’s the key to going to a convention and being a success?  Well, there’s two parts of this.  Assuming you’re just getting started, I highly recommend going as an attendee just to get your feet wet.  Study what other people do, learn what’s acceptable and unacceptable con behavior.   This last one is a key part.  Nine times out of ten, most of the professionals won’t remember your name or face from one convention.  They see too many people, interact with too many people, at too many conventions.  But if you’re a jerk, or annoying, they’re probably going to remember that.  So, as I said, learn what’s acceptable.  Don’t go charging in.  Take the time to get a feel for the place.

The next part is selecting an appropriate convention.  Small cons are perfect for getting your feet wet, and there’s an important part on this in that you can get some time with authors and editors without having to get pushy.

Also, know what a convention is about.  Gaming and anime conventions aren’t the best place to go for trying to network as an author or to pitch your book to potential readers.  Read up on what a convention is about before you go.  Learn who will be there.  If you don’t recognize any of the names of the guests, it probably means you don’t read their stuff and therefore what you write may not be what the readers there will be interested in.

Lastly, panels.  Panels are the main content at a lot of conventions.  These are discussions by the panelists… so if you aren’t one, don’t interrupt.  They’ll have time at the end of the panel for questions.  One of the big irritations to panelists is when someone in the audience hijacks the panel.  Do some research here, too, and pick topics and panelists you want to learn more about.

Conventions are tons of fun.  Take a friend, meet people, and enjoy yourself.  Don’t forget to keep receipts because all of this is tax deductible as an author.  Next week I’ll talk a bit about strategies on how to participate in conventions rather than attending.