Post Gen Con 2015 wrap up

I’m back in sultry South Florida from Gen Con, sitting outside while a cool morning breeze blows through. I’m covered in a sheen of sweat but all things considered, it’s still nice out before the midday sun makes everything undoable. I’m smoking from my new rosewood pipe that I picked up in the dealer hall at the con. It’s filled with filled with Mountain Rose Herbs Smoking Blend, which is a great replacement for tobacco. I’ve also got a nice cup of mint tea sitting next to me and two cats sleeping nearby. In other words, the perfect setup to ruminate on my experience with the 2015 Gen Con.

I’m going to try not to talk about everything I did and just stick to the things that stood out to me. First among them, the Writer’s Symposium. I love the symposium and feel a strong connection with it, being an aspiring fiction writer myself. I tried to take some more advanced courses this time around since I’ve attended a pretty large selection of them at this point. I think Marc Tassin does an excellent job organizing the chaos and keeping everything on track. Maybe it was a fault of mine this year, but I feel like I missed out on some things that were going on that I would have liked to attend. Patrick Rothfuss’s World Builders was a major sponsor this time around and there was a World Builders/Writers Symposium party too, which would have been great to attend and have the opportunity to talk to people. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about it until afterwards. I’d like to see a regular newsletter for the Writers Symposium that highlights events both during and around the Symposium… a little bit of marketing help could really push things to the next level and help attendees feel better informed. I’m also wondering if maybe the Symposium is growing larger than just the convention itself. I’m not suggesting that it split off or anything, but there may be opportunity for a year-round presence. It could be a central gathering place for writers in the community, a resource for those who want to take their writing to the next level, etc. It’s easy for me to say this I realize, having no responsibility in the matter, but just a couple of thoughts.

In general, most people whom I spoke with, had one or two events had they known about ahead of time, would have absolutely done. I guess it’s just the nature of the convention, which has grown dramatically in recent years. The volume of events is so huge that even the most fastidious eye scanning the program will miss things.

That being said, the two most enjoyable experiences I had at the con were events that I discovered through the recommendation of friends and word of mouth.

The National Security Decision Making Game folks hosted one of these events, called the Cuban Missile Crisis Game: At the Brink: Havana Paranoia. Thirteen players randomly selected roles of real-life Cuban and Soviet actors during the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I got Fidel Castro, which was an intimidating role to play, to say the least. All of the players have their own motivations they’re trying to fulfill and all game play is done by conversing, cajoling, scheming and arguing. That is to say, no dice involved. I’ve never thought much about games of historical recreation or alternate history, but after this experience, I may have to give it a second thought. NSDM does such a good job of keeping things moving without interjecting too much that even for an inexperienced player like myself, it was easy to get into and have a great time with.

The other event, similar in play in that it was more about interacting with people and figuring out their motives, was Two Rooms and a Boom. The premise is simple, there are two teams and two rooms. Players from each team are mixed in both rooms and no one knows immediately who is who. There’s a president, on the blue team and a bomber, on the red team. The red team is trying to make sure that the bomber is in the same room as the president at the end of the game, the blue team obviously, is trying to make sure that’s not the case. There are also other roles that take things to the next level, like a scenario where Romeo and Juliette first need to find one another and then need to find the bomber in order for them to win.

There were other events of course, but these were the real standouts for me. Some of the most fun I had came when I was just hanging out with friends that were there. I’m happy for the experience, it was another exciting con and I’m definitely struggling with some post-con blues. I hope all of you who went and are reading this enjoyed yourselves too, see you next time!

Post Gen Con Writer’s Symposium wrap-up

Last week, as I’m sure many of you who follow me on social media might know, I was at Gen Con. Don’t believe me? Fine. This is buddy Omar and I bringing the noise.Gen Con 2013 - We eat people.
Overall, I had a great con, but this year went faster than I can recall my previous experiences going.

Naturally, I spent a good chunk of my time at the Writer’s Symposium (big thanks to organizer Marc Tassin!), as I do each year (if you’re looking for some interviews with authors that were at this year’s symposium check out this blog post I wrote for Apex).

Some of the highlights for me:

Mike Stackpole‘s workshops. The man is a master of creating information-dense one hour sessions and I spend the next several weeks (or longer) just trying to process all of the notes that I’ve taken. The beautiful part is that, like any good teacher, after he says it you’re just like, ‘oh, crap, why didn’t I think of that?’

Example from his Knockout Novel worksop: find the most recent two novels from the top five writers in your niche area. Read them critically, take notes and at the end figure out why you liked and hated the things you did. This will help you immensely in tailoring your writing towards that market.

And this one from his Writing Careers in the Post Paper Era: In all of your social media (blogs, twitter, FB) don’t lament or complain, entertain. Entertainment is your product and you are your brand. Don’t forget that your product is not your brand.

From the Creating Memorable Characters seminar, Scott Lynch recommended that you, “give yourself permission to remove stuff from the plot.” And if you get stuck with where your plot is going, “create a scene where all the characters have a conversation.” He used the example of a dinner party where they sit around and talk to one another about the story, what their motivations are, even about you the author. Once you feel like that conversation has gotten you back on the right track, remove it and move forward.

In that same seminar, Kelly Swails said, “every character has something they want. The story happens where the intersections of those things play out.”

This year Brad Beaulieu gave Stackpole a run for his money with a very rich workshop on creating Tension on Every Page. He used the Hunger Games as an example where tension exists on literally every page. He pointed out that breakout novels and best-sellers manage to do this extremely well. We may not like them very much, but they are exceedingly good at keeping us flipping pages. One of the biggest take-aways from this workshop was that as soon as you give the reader what they want, the tension is gone. I know this is something I’ve struggled with in the novel that I’m still in the process of writing.

Naturally, there were countless more events that happened that I’m not getting into here. Readings, workshops, a fascinating panel with Mercedes Lackey, Jim Hines and Larry Dixon and moderated by Elizabeth Vaughan that was about Writing a Series and included a sort of walk-through of their careers. The worst part about the symposium is that my time is finite and that there are so many other great events happening within (and out of) it that I couldn’t attend them all. Thanks for another great year to all the folks who participated!


Morning Cuppa – 06/06/13 – Con season! New gigs! Amazon v Indie!


  • Sigh… networking. I’m not a completely socially awkward geek, however I do have my moments. And networking– I just have no idea how to make this happen in any natural sort of way. I’ve gone to business conventions, writer’s conventions, gaming conventions and still networking is one of my weakest elements. Since Gen Con is right around the corner, and they (almost covertly) have one of the largest SF writing workshops in the country, it’s a great opportunity to meet successful authors.
    It’s almost a crime that I get a two-for-one convention with Gen Con, combining my love of gaming and writing. So if, like me, you’re clueless on how to break the ice, and what proper etiquette is after the ice is broken, Tim Waggoner has some good advice for you.
  • In the last day, I’ve been invited to start writing for two different publications. I’m really excited for the opportunity, though they’re not paying gigs, it is still kind of cool. I’ve got nothing on either one yet, but they are Medium and Amazing Stories. I’ll link them up as I get some stuff up there. And just a reminder, this past month I also began blogging for Apex!
  • Following a de facto bailout by France for its independent bookshops, British shops want their government to start looking at Amazon and the damage it’s causing (British booksellers are closing up shop at a rate of about one a week). Considering that in the US there’s actually a reverse trend happening, with indie shops opening up, is there something else at work here? Amazon raises my hackles too but what if they’re not the reason (or the major reason) this is happening? Just a hypothetical.
  • Speaking of Amazon and indie bookstores, there’s a push going on right now by the retail giant to start getting their Kindles into indie bookstores.

Morning Cuppa – 05/23/13 – Matt Forbeck! Flight-length books! Elvish!


Morning Cuppa – 05/19/13 – Nebula Award winners! Gen Con event registration!


  • The 2012 Nebula Award winners have been announced by The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America in San Jose, California this weekend. 
  • Today is event registration day for Gen Con! I’m debating doing another year of heavy writer’s workshops or trying to intersperse some games in as well.