Monday, June 17, 2013

Authors, Writing, and Games! Oh, My! (Origins 2013 Recap)

You’d think four days of standing around a convention hall, chatting with people about books, sitting on panels to discuss writing, and hanging out with other authors would be an enjoyable, somewhat relaxing way to spend a long weekend.

You’d be wrong.

Not about the enjoyable part, of course. All that stuff I just listed? Awesome.

But the relaxing part? Heh. Nope. By Sunday night, I was drained. But that’s okay, because the rest of it was—again—awesome.

Here’s the blow-by-blow accounting:


My 2013 Origins Setup
Set-up day. This is where everyone gets into the hall and puts together their display. Once I got my booth situated in The Library, I hung out with the other authors there already, reconnecting with people I only “see” virtually for much of the fall/winter/spring.

I met up with Michael Stackpole, Maxwell Alexander Drake, Janine Spendlove, Bryan Young, Dylan Birtolo, and Jennifer Brozek. Some of us grabbed dinner together then headed off to bed early for the convention’s Thursday start. 


I had one panel Thursday, “Military Tactics,” where we talked about what we as authors do prior to writing a big battle scene and our varying approaches as have the action plays out. Timothy Zahn was in audience (nifty, huh?) and lent his expertise.

Heroes and A Hero By Any Other Name
That evening, I had my half-hour reading in which I read my short story, Interview, from the Origins anthology, Heroes!

The story is a total departure from my epic fantasy roots and revolves around Alex, a young man who works at the local Sav-n-Shop bagging groceries. Alex shows up for an interview with Lawman, the city’s biggest superhero, thinking it is for an assistant's position, only to learn it’s to be Lawman’s new sidekick. There are syrup jokes, a couple SpongeBob references, and a line about having an accident in the bathroom. So, yeah…just like my epic fantasy stuff.

Mark Dos Santos' illustration. Nailed it.

A second anthology released at the con, A Hero by Any Other Name, included shorts from Michael Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Maxwell Alexander Drake, Bryan Young, Janine Spendlove, others, and me. I continued Alex’s story—he was too much fun to write—and got an awesome illustration to go along with it by Mark Dos Santos. All of the artwork in the anthology was great and Mark, whom I have never met, did a great job with all of it. Seriously. I provided an outline only and he absolutely nailed the scene as I described.


Friday was a slow day with a single panel, “The Myth of Writer's Block” but I got to meet a bunch of people, including one Batgirl. Had dinner with a couple authors, including Gregory A. Wilson and Aaron Rosenberg (who I met for the first time—nice guy, sharp wit). The evening was spent chilling out with a few folks, playing some games (Origins is a game convention, after all).

Then came Saturday. Busy, busy Saturday.


The convention sold day passes only for that day, meaning the hall’s crowd at least doubled from Friday’s attendance.  

Pat Rothfuss secretly using the Force while we're distracted
I had three panels, the first being “Writing the Trilogy” hosted by Timothy Zahn with Bradley P. Beaulieu, Patrick Rothfuss, Sheryl Nantus, and me. Of all the panels I did over the weekend, it was the best attended. I wonder why.

It was a lot of fun talking about how we all approach writing trilogies/series, the most difficult aspects of doing so, and our different writing approaches. It was interesting, and somewhat reassuring, to hear that Rothfuss, Zahn, and Beaulieu have all suffered through many of the same struggles I have regarding multi-book efforts.

After that, I had a panel with Michael Stackpole, Aaron Rosenberg, Dylan Birtolo, and Tracy Chowdhury on “A Rose By Any Other Name…” The point of the panel was to chat about book titles, but we spent a lot of time discussing our approaches to naming in general: characters, places, etc.

Later in the day, Bryan Young, Aaron Rosenberg, Ron Garner, and I put the fear of God into people regarding Self-Publishing. Fifteen minutes into the panel, we had to start talking people back off the ledge. It’s a lot—A LOT—of work, people. Just know what you are getting yourself into.

That night, I participated in Origins’ Upgraded Play event where convention organizers escort a group of gamers to a private room where they get to play with a “celebrity.” They got me. Heh.

For the first time in my life, I played Call of Cthulhu, an RPG game semi-based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft in which the characters try to accomplish some goal without going insane. My group was great, showing incredible patience with me as I learned the game. It was a lot of fun that resulted with my character—along with another player’s—sacrificing two of them to ‘win’ the scenario. My apologies to the merchant and the eunuch. It had to be done.


Sunday was laid-back. The crowds were smaller and in the afternoon, my family came to visit. Nikalys wore his Ironman costume (superhero theme, remember?) and Kennedy sat on my lap for a while, imploring passersby to “Buy my daddy’s book!”

All-in-all, it was a great weekend. I visited with old fans and professionals as well as met some new. Patrick Tomlinson and I chatted about motorcycles and I met Jaym Gates in person for the first time. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Good days ahead.


PS - I specifically want to thank Kelly Swails for both organizing everything for The Library and editing the Heroes! anthology. Wrangling twenty-plus authors is not easy to do. Thanks, Kelly!