Con Report: StokerCon 2019

StokerCon 2019 imageIf you’re here to find a copy of my alternate history presentation, you’re in the right place! Scroll, read, and enjoy.

I might not be a horror fan, but you won’t find a nicer group of creative people. I was immediately welcomed into the fold at StokerCon 2019, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I had a fantastic weekend.

Wednesday

Since my publishers, Jennifer Barnes and John Edward Lawson of Raw Dog Screaming Press, live fairly close to me, we traveled to the convention together. After an uneventful afternoon flight, we checked into the hotel and enjoyed dinner at a nearby brew pub. Then it was early to bed since we had some nonstop days ahead of us.

Thursday

A giant hotel room bed to myself and no hungry cats to feed in the morning? I slept in until 11 AM and it was glorious. In the afternoon, I helped set up the RDSP table in the dealer room and began my main purpose for attending the convention: chatting with people and hopefully selling them a book or two.

I slipped out later in the evening to moderate a panel on making your work stand out from the slush pile. The conversation meandered a bit, but I think I managed to wrangle the panelists into contributing some useful knowledge to the audience. The main take-away point? Read the submission guidelines. Follow the submission guidelines.

Afterward, I had a lovely dinner with some friends from the Seton Hill University In Your Write Mind program, then a quiet evening in the hotel room doing some reading.

StokerCon 2019 dealer room

With Jennifer Barnes at the RDSP table.

Friday

Coffee, then back in the dealer room! A quick break in the afternoon to attend my reading, where I shared a scene from Steel Blood. I already don’t particularly care for pistachios, but I’ll never look at them the same way again, thanks to author Jeff Strand, who read a hilarious short story.

Later that evening was the mass author book signing, then the RDSP room party! I met some people in person that I’d otherwise only interacted with online, which is always fun. I stayed up way too late, drank way too much wine, and regret nothing.

StokerCon 2019 alt historySaturday

Dealer room time again. I sold a lot of books at this convention, you guys. Seriously, it was awesome. This time, my mid-day break came in the form of my alternate history presentation. The audience was small, but intimate, and everyone joined in on creating some fun worlds. Our nexus point event centered around the Cuban Missile Crisis, and our true alternate history assumed that the Hollow Earth theory was real. Click the link below to download the PDF version of my presentation.

Creating Stories by Changing the Past StokerCon 2019

That evening, I attended the Bran Stoker Awards and got to cheer on Raw Dog Screaming Press as John and Jennifer accepted the Specialty Press Award. I’m so proud to be part of this amazing publishing company.

Sunday

Sold a few more books in the dealers room, then it was time to say goodbye and head to the airport again. By this time, I was completely wiped out and I needed some introvert time. Luckily, my husband had dinner ready at home after he picked me up and I got some cat snuggles during Game of Thrones.

Would I ever return to StokerCon? Absolutely. No guarantees on attending next year in the UK, but this is definitely a convention I’ll be keeping on my radar.


The final haul:

StokerCon 2019 haul

Purchases:

From the StokerCon 2019 swag bag:

March Wrap-Up & April Goals

backpack pins March 2019I’m feeling pretty positive about how this month turned out, even if (as usual, these days) I did not accomplish all my goals. I did get to spend lots of time with awesome people and read cool books, which also have to be priorities in life. A person cannot always “exhale” productivity; sometimes you have to breath in life to replenish the reservoir.

March Wrap-Up

  • The final copy-edit of Steel Shadows was completed and returned to my editor for layout! I’m so excited about this book. I say this about every project, but this one is completely different from anything I’ve written before.
  • I only wrote about 10k words for Steel Justice rather than 20k, but I did get to the scenes for the grand finale and figured out that I need to seriously beef up a subplot.
  • I had a great time at Cleveland Concoction at the beginning of the month! You can check out my full con report here.
  • I also had a fabulous weekend at Bethany Beach with a bunch of romance writer friends and a successful day job trip to Providence, Rhode Island, for an editing conference. I love how my network of writer friends is so expansive that I got to spend quality time with lovely ladies during each trip: Cara McKinnon and K. Parr.

March Book Reviews

March Speculative Chic Contributions

April Goals

  1. Write the back cover blurb for Steel Shadows.
  2. Make progress on Steel Justice. What does that mean? I don’t even know anymore. We can all be surprised.
  3. Catch up on book reviews! I’m currently almost 10 reviews behind, because I’ve been reading faster than I spend time at my computer.
  4. My travel this month includes a quick weekend trip to Atlanta, Georgia, for a good friend’s wedding.
  5. I’ll also be spending a few days in Washington DC for a very cool healthcare conference on behalf of the day job.

What are you up to this month? I’m definitely excited for warmer weather. I have too many adorable geeky t-shirts to hide them under sweaters.

Con Report: Cleveland Concoction 2019

Cleveland ConCoction logo 2019

March means a return to one of my favorite events of the year: Cleveland ConCoction! This year, I took the Tesla on her first official road trip, which involved stopping at multiple supercharger stations. We had a blast, and I am officially never taking a long trip without navigate on autopilot ever again.

supercharger selfie

My car has a moon roof. It is covered in snow.

FRIDAY

I left very early on a snowy Friday morning to accommodate the slightly longer time the trip would take for charging stops and any weather-related road issues. However, I was able to end the drive with a leisurely lunch at the requisite Steak n’ Shake visit while the car pulled a final charge to last through the weekend. After checking in to the hotel and setting up my books in Author’s Alley, I was just in time for my first panel of the weekend.

At this point I can probably do the panel on genres and genre-blending while half-asleep (and I’m pretty sure that I actually have), but it’s always fun to see what new insights my fellow panelists have and answer the often unique questions from the audience.

Afterward, I enjoyed a quiet dinner catching up with friends and excellent fellow authors Shannon Eichorn and K.M. Herkes. Once I delivered them to their evening panels, I also spent some quality time at the hotel bar with another fabulous author, Sara Dobie Bauer. The day finally caught up with me, and I crashed early.

SATURDAY

Despite my con report’s promise of getting three Dog Star Books authors together at one event, it was all a lie. Unfortunately, K.W. Taylor and Matt Betts both experienced health issues that prevented their attendance, which meant I was a poor replacement. In this case, it meant I moderated a panel on the mistakes beginning authors make on Saturday morning for Matt. We discussed issues authors face in both writing and the publishing industry, including sharing some of our own mistakes. My major take-away for that panel is always to tell the audience one thing: “Don’t be a jerk.”

I spent late morning and early afternoon hanging out in Author’s Alley, chatting with readers and writers alike. After a late lunch, it was time for my weekend reading! The audience enjoyed the first scene from Steel Time, and then it was back to Author’s Alley to sign books.

After a hasty dinner of cake in the con suite, it was time for the first highlight of my evening. Along with some of the other authors in attendance, I was invited to participate in a special episode of Prompt Joust, a web show that pushes storytelling to the limits. I dug deep for my improv comedy experience from college, and while I knew I wouldn’t make it to the final round based on the “king of the hill” competition style, I knew I had the opportunity to take out show host Marcus V. Calvert in the first round — so I did. /evil laugh

I closed out the night by moderating a panel on time travel in fiction and on screen, which was way too science-filled for my sleepy brain to handle, but I think we muddled through. Luckily, I caught my second wind in time for the late-night “author soiree,” in which I enjoyed homemade mead (compliments of the Very Vocal Viking) and lots of laughter with friends.

SUNDAY

I did not have anything official on the schedule for the last day of the convention, but due to a scheduling mix-up, I landed on a panel on urban fantasy! We had a lovely discussion about how romance, mystery, and horror can all be elements to the genre, and what reader expectations are (and how to break them).

Afterward, we wrangled a certain demographic of attending authors to take a photo. Gee, what did we all have in common?

blue hair authors

In what’s become a ConCoction tradition, I enjoyed a late lunch with a group of friends, and then I sent everyone on their way! Due to the long drive, I wasn’t heading home until Monday. Good thing, too, because the snow had started.

I closed out the evening enjoying a good book and watching the snow fall from my hotel room. It was a little creepy to realize that I was now one of very few guests in a giant conference hotel, but I passed out anyway loved my quiet time.

MONDAY

The snow was over by the morning, so I had a safe but COLD drive home to Maryland.

I can’t wait to do it all again next year!


ConCoction 2019 haul.JPG

Con Report: Farpoint 2019

Farpoint2

Growing up as a military brat, I always had this sense that once I left a place, I would never be back. While looking for a house in the Baltimore area before sixth grade, my family briefly stayed at a hotel, the Hunt Valley Inn. Therefor, it’s always a bit bizarre to be back there as an adult in a completely different context, such as for a convention.

That background aside, I had an amazing weekend at my second Farpoint. Continue reading

Con Report: ChessieCon 2018

chessielogoGoing to a convention after a major holiday would be pretty crazy, but luckily this convention is local, chill, and a chance to visit with friends. So it’s easy to treat it as an extension of the holiday, and I had a lovely time at ChessieCon this year.

FRIDAY

Friday started with how all days after Thanksgiving should start, with a massive lunch of leftovers. We ate at my mother-in-law’s house, where my parents also dropped by, so by the time I headed home to prepare for the convention, pretty much no NaNoWriMo writing got done. I was not super upset about that. Instead, I made sure my con bags were sorted and that I had questions prepared for the panel I was moderating on Saturday afternoon. Even though my first scheduled event was not until 9:15 that night, I headed up to Baltimore around 5 PM so that I had time to greet friends. Continue reading

October Wrap-Up & November Goals

SJ outlineAnother month has flown by in a fun and bewildering blur! I’m writing this post on Halloween, and my biggest dilemma right now is figuring out what to wear while I hand out candy tonight. Oh, and write two thousand words so that I can kick off NaNoWriMo at an even 10k. Yep, you read that right. More details below.

October Wrap-Up

  • I finally finished the detailed outline for book 6, tentatively titled Steel Justice and I’m really pleased with it! This will be a fun adventure.
  • Like I said above, I’m 8k words into the first draft already! I’m really enjoying writing from the POV of a character who has been around for a bit, but I hadn’t dipped into his head yet.
  • I had a blast at a writers retreat on the beach with a bunch of romance writers. Not my usual crowd, but they were all lovely ladies. The second retreat was cancelled last minute, so I spent a quiet weekend at home with the husband instead. No complaints there.
  • I started reading the final book of my Speculative Chic 2018 Resolution Project, but then I got distracted by an advanced copy of a fun fantasy novel. I’ll get back to that soon.

October Book Reviews

October Speculative Chic Contributions

November Goals

  1. I’m officially a crazy person. I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month for 2018, to write 50k words of Steel Justice in 30 days. Feel free to follow along and keep track of my word count at my NaNoWriMo page!
  2. And I’m doing all that writing during a month when I have two conventions! I’ll be at World Fantasy in Baltimore the first weekend of the month and ChessieCon on the last. (At least both of these events have minimal travel time.)
  3. Finish reading An Acceptable Time and write up the review to finish my Speculative Chic 2018 Resolution Project.

I feel like that’s a short list, but: FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS IN THIRTY DAYS.

I’d better start eating Halloween candy now.

beach writers

Seven romance writers at the beach plus one tall urban fantasy writer to take the selfie.

For Love the Bell Tolls: Author Interviews

Today, I’m pleased to spotlight a new anthology featuring some fabulous authors. These gothic romance short stories will have you quivering (in whichever way you choose to interpret the phrase) in your hot apple cider!


For Love the Bell TollsABOUT THE BOOK

Six haunting stories of love with a paranormal twist, including a traditional nineteenth century possessed house, lycanthropy and voodoo, zombies, a soul-stealing journal, a reaper for death, and a bargain with the fey folk. This book will tempt you to give in to your darkest desires.

Featuring Cara McKinnon, Sheri Queen, Serena Jayne, Read Gallo, Kylie Weisenborn, and Heather Sheldon.

Kindle | iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Google Play


I asked the For Love the Bell Tolls authors to tell us about the characters in their story, particularly their favorites and least favorites. I also asked them about coming up with the character’s names and the title for the story. That can be a difficult process sometimes.  Continue reading