The (Late) SpoCon Report!

Hello again, dear readers! Can you believe it’s almost October? “Corpses and Cognac” nears completion, this blog is now a year old, and…I’ve been so busy that I forgot to post for two months. Woops.

So, with the adage of better late than never, time to finally talk about SpoCon! Which was…all the way back in August, wow. Not only is SpoCon the primary fantasy/scifi convention for Spokane and the surrounding area, but most of its proceeds go toward supporting local libraries and schools. I was already heading up to Washington that month anyway to visit family, so I figured I’d swing by!

SpoCon took place from August 10th through 12th, at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel. The art show and dealer’s room was on the first floor, while the panels were split between the first and third floor. My table was located in a hallway right outside of the dealer’s room, which brought us some nice traffic (and later, a great view of all the cosplayers heading to the costume contest). I brought my romantic partner with me this time, who helped run the table whenever I had to speak on a panel. A chainmail jewelry artist was on one side of our table, and the other was for Oneshi Press, a small group of wonderfully creative comic artists and authors.

I’ll be brief with discussing numbers, because I’d rather talk about the panels. I sold 19 books at the convention itself, each with 8.8% sales tax included. While me and my partner’s admission was free thanks to being a panelist, I did have to pay $100 to get my own table to sell books at. Otherwise, I could’ve left some books at the “Marmot Market” and let them sell it at a 20% commission. My personal sales did end up covering the table fee, but since I was a little late getting my hotel room, it didn’t quite offset that cost.

However, even if I didn’t make as much sales-wise, I did get to speak on seven different panels! I got to cover a wide variety of topics, so let me discuss each of them in detail…

  1. The Magical Menagerie

If there’s one thing I love to write about, it’s weird creatures, so it was a great topic to kick the convention off with! We discussed everything from researching monsters from different cultures, helping people figure out how to utilize certain creatures in their plots, and what the most useless creature we’d ever heard of was—which, if anyone was wondering, mine is the Squonk.
Also, kudos to the Thor and Loki cosplayers who interacted with the panel in-character almost the entire time. You two were hilarious.

  1. Ideas: Where Do They Come From?
    This was a fun panel about the different ways authors plot their books. Half the panelists were pantsers, the others were plotters, and I seemed to be the halfway point (I try to plot, and then meander a bit from there). We also discussed our inspirations, how we get ourselves unstuck, and so on.

  2. Terribly Funny
    This panel was specifically about the use of humor in horror fiction. Unfortunately, one of the panelists wasn’t able to make it, so we just had two new-to-panel authors with no direction. It became a discussion on different kinds of humor and theories on plot pacing in general, plus forays into improv theater.

  3. Creating Memorable NPCs
    One of my two panels on tabletop RPGs. While the point of this was about what makes NPCs stand out, it also became about different styles of running a game, which became a pantsers/plotters debate like in the (outlining) panel earlier. Our general consensus was that there are a number of factors that can make a character stand out, but sometimes, the strangest things—like a random radio DJ or a nut-throwing squirrel—will stand out to the players.

  4. Building a Campaign
    This was one of the two panels I suggested for the convention, and I was joined by two members of the RPG Research team. We discussed different techniques to keep players interested in a tabletop RPG campaign, from the planning stages to in-between sessions.
    This panel has actually been recorded for the RPG Research’s talk show; it should be available for the general public soon, or now for those who want to support them on Patreon.

  5. See You, Space Cowboy
    Here’s the other panel I suggested for the convention, which was about colonization in science fiction. My original idea had been to discuss how often colonization is forced into scifi narratives, from shows like Star Trek to games like Mass Effect Andromeda. However, the panel instead became a discussion on the viability of actually colonizing planets in our near future, with me focusing on the moral and societal aspects and my fellow panelist covering what we’d need for supplies and staffing. We also covered how corporations may come to lead the space race, different ways to get people to survive the trip to new planets, and so on.

  6. The Writing Habit
    This one was specifically about staying dedicated to writing. This was a bit of an odd panel for me, seeing as I haven’t worked with deadlines until this year, and I had far less time as an author compared to the other authors. Perhaps the only panel where I didn’t talk that much, but it was interesting hearing everyone’s different routes to authorhood.

There was also some miscommunication involving a writing workshop, but that was the only hiccup I experienced the entire convention. Everything else was run rather smoothly, and both staff and con-goers alike were all in friendly spirits.

All in all, while SpoCon wasn’t the most lucrative convention, I garnered a lot of interest by participating in panels—and learned quite a bit myself. I was also able to finally meet Dawn Vogel and Jeremy Zimmerman, the masterminds behind Defcon One Publishing (who’ve published a few of my short stories over the years) in the flesh. I actually learned about SpoCon from one of their blog posts, so thanks for inspiring this adventure in the first place!

Now that I’ve confirmed that I survived the convention, I’m going to burrow back into my writing again (as well as preparing the upcoming writing comic, slowly but surely). “Corpses and Cognac” is coming together nicely, and seeing all the support for Bones and Bourbon helps inspire me to make this the best sequel I can.

Also, since it turns out today is the one year anniversary of this website…here’s to a great start, and to even better (and maybe more consistent) blog posts next year. Thank you all for your support so far~!

~Dorian

A Handful of Announcements

Life is rife with novel deadlines and other projects, but today, I have some exciting announcements to share with you readers!

First off, an upcoming publication! “Warp Gate Concerto,” that space fantasy novella I wrote for NineStar Press’s LOST collection, has officially been accepted! That’s right: the polyamorous, alien space pirates will soon be here for everyone to read about. I hope you all have as much fun reading it as I did writing it~

Second: In a week and a half, I shall be in Spokane, Washington for SpoCon! Not only will I have copies of Bones and Bourbon with me to sell and sign, but I’ll also be speaking on panels, ranging on every topic from weird creatures to running tabletop RPGs. Check out the full itinerary here!

Finally, there are some upcoming changes in regards to this blog. I’ve been thinking about restructuring it for some time, so after some thought (and a twitter poll), I have plans to turn this blog into a new project: a webcomic about writing!

Worry not: there will still be announcements on new projects, rambles about worldbuilding, and even some more advice on writing in general. There will just also be an artistic component, in the style of a newspaper strip where I, my various fictional characters, and even a few non-fictional people and cats, explore the trials of tribulations of writing.

Having attempted webcomics before, I know better than to start posting comics as soon as I finish drawing them, however. I’m going to build up a backlog first, which should also give me time to settle on a format and style. (And maybe even some actual punchlines.) Between that and trying to hit the tentative deadline for the current draft of “Corpses and Cognac,” the sequel to Bones and Bourbon, this blog may be sparsely updated for awhile. But when it begins again, it shall be stronger! Artsier! Maybe even updated multiple times a week with new comics! We’ll see how it all turns out.

In the meantime, keep busy and creative, dear readers.

~Dorian

From the Ashes of Old Tales: on Recycling Characters

Sometimes, a story doesn’t work out. Not enough time, plot doesn’t make sense, the list goes on for reasons why a book idea might get scrapped. But does that mean all that plotting need to go waste? Not at all, which is why this post, I’m going to talk about about recycling…recycling old characters, that is.

I’ve been creating new worlds and stories for years, from fanfiction in my youth to college tabletop campaigns and my published original works nowadays. It’s no surprise that I’ve built up a steady stock of characters over this time…as in, enough to populate at least a small town. Some are newer; most of the characters in my short stories, for example, are made specifically for that story. But others, I’ve been writing and re-writing for years. In Bones and Bourbon alone, I’ve had Retz around since Christmas of 2009, Jarrod was created a few months later, and Nalem was created before either of them in 2007.

(Meaning Nalem’s been around as long as a pre-teen, which explains a lot about what it’s like writing him, now that I think about it.)

Of course, these long-time characters have changed quite a lot since their inception. Retz is ace instead of a cowardly womanizer, Nalem is no longer a benevolent demi-god of darkness (much as he may claim to be), and Jarrod…is still a monster-fighting alcoholic, but now with a boatload of identity issues and a steady boyfriend. Heck, said boyfriend Farris was meant to be a one-time character in my first-ever tabletop campaign, but the players attached to him so much that I kept him around and snuck him into a book, where the readers then attached to him, and now he’s one of the main characters.

So, how does one recycle and reinvent characters? If their details and storylines get changed so much, are they even the same person—and if the answer is no, does that matter?

To explain how this process works, I’m going to explain one of my more extreme examples. I’m going to talk about Nalem.

For those who haven’t read Bones and Bourbon yet—first, please do so if dark fantasy action with bad puns is your thing. Second, Nalem is the main antagonist of the story, an ancient spirit who controls bones and experiences the world through a vessel whose body he steals, that currently being protagonist Retz Gallows. Yet as I mentioned above, I first made him as a benevolent deity, despite him being a demi-god of darkness. What changed, and how much of the old Nalem has stuck around over the past eleven years?

We begin with college, when I’m first working on the Deadly Drinks series and trying to figure out how Retz’s powers work. He’d had the bizarre bone-controlling powers since the moment I made him, but I’d decided I wanted there to be a drawback. (I was super invested in magic having equivalently powerful drawbacks in those days; probably from watching too much Full Metal Alchemist.) I had just finished the first draft of Bones and Bourbon, a draft so early it holds no similarity to the finished product, and Retz spent it all alone in his head…save for a key moment in the climax when he was rescued from possession by a sinister voice in his head whispering “Mine” as the spell was broken.

I wanted to know who that voice belonged to. I tried to make a new antagonist, but all I found were stereotypical creepy necromancers. I wanted someone new. I turned to my roster of characters with no stories of their own, which held an already sizable lineup by the time I turned eighteen.

It didn’t take long to stumble upon Nalem. He already had the design in place; back when he was a character with a body, his trademarks were flowing pale hair, thick sunglasses, and a visible spine that descended into a tail with spiked vertebrae. Even without his body, Nalem was a smooth talking immortal who thought he was better at hiding his temper than he was, insisted he was a hero even when others called him a villain, and already had a history of meddling in the lives of other characters for reasons he believed benevolent.

I still had a lot of work to do in turning him from benevolent demi-god to a wicked body-snatching spirit. The toughest thing about recycling characters is deciding what elements to keep and what to throw away; it’s far too easy to force details in just because it’s supposedly integral to the character. I scrapped a tragic love for a goddess of light, deciding there’d be no true deities appearing in the Deadly Drinks books, and set aside his right-hand soldier for a more high fantasy venture (though somehow, this character ended up in the scifi novella instead…) Nalem always had a musical focus for his powers, but his original castanets didn’t seem quite as fitting for Retz, hence the switch to a far more menacing viola. He lost his family, his backstory, and even his body—but that core identity remained.

Could this Nalem still be called the same character as the original demi-god? In terms of design and backstory, there’s almost no similarity past the skeletal theme. But personality wise? New Nalem was a twist on the old, a musing on what would’ve happened if a kind deity was accused of wickedness too many times, even by his own followers. To quote a certain Blue Öyster Cult song, “If he really thinks we’re the devil, then let’s send him to Hell.”

Thus, we had an antagonist, a counterpoint to Retz who stands in his way from within his own head. And from this twist in his original concept, I found a theme for the Deadly Drinks series in exploring what happens when one’s noble purpose becomes corrupted, plus some commentaries on the pitfalls of immortality. Readers loved to hate him so much that instead of making a one-word debut in the climax, he’s right there in Chapter 1 and keeps up his arrogant sarcasm for the whole book. Not bad for a character born from doodling edgy designs in my notebook during class.

And sometimes, characters are like notebooks. They acquire notes and scribbles and odd extra tidbits in the margins. Sometimes, all that paper gets recycled into a brand new notebook. It’s usually not 100% recycled material, says right there on the sticker; some bits are old, some are new, but all the paper’s still blank and waiting for you to spill ink upon.

~Dorian

Once More, With Feeling

Hello dear readers, I hope you are all well! Things are busy here in Gravesworld, so I figure I’d best give you all an update before starting this week’s blog post.

First off, events! For those near Cottage Grove, I’ll be selling and signing books at Books on Main during the Art Walk, starting at 6 PM. If enough people show up, I may even do a small reading!

Then, come August, you can find me at SpoCon up in Spokane, Washington! Not only will I have my books available, but I’ll also be appearing on a number of panels, discussing everything from fantasy creatures to tabletop games and colonization in sci-fi. If you’re in the area August 10th through 12th, I’d love to see you there.

In other news, not only has Bones and Bourbon continued to do well, but its sequel “Corpses and Cognac” is in the works. We have a tentative release month for it over at NineStar, so long as I am able to complete a workable draft by the end of summer. I’m currently three chapters (out of twenty-one) into Draft 2, and for various reasons, I’m rewriting most of the book.

Sound scary? On the surface, but in this part of the process for me, it’s business as usual. Now that I have a couple books (well, a novel and a novella) under my belt, I have a better idea of what to expect for the jump from Draft 1 to Draft 2. Thus, today’s blog is about the refining process of later book drafts, as we slowly lurch from writing to editing.

In reality, the draft numbers are arbitrary for me; when it comes to the Deadly Drinks books, I’ve actually written them numerous times before Draft 1 is completed. These “Draft 0” stories are the preliminary runs deemed unfinished or unsuitable for publication. Bones and Bourbon’s Draft 0 was only the same in title and protagonists; it didn’t even have Nalem or Farris, much less anything even resembling the same plot. Corpses and Cognac had much of the same characters, but its various early drafts kept wandering in strange directions, ending too early or getting lost in weird concepts that didn’t fit the rest of the book.

Draft 1 is what I call the completed draft I decide I want to refine into a book. The overall characters are in place, the plot hits most of the moments I want, and I have an idea of the book’s themes. If I already have so much in place, why am I still rewriting the entire book for Draft 2? Well, there are a number of reasons…

  • Updating the writing style. I finished Draft 1 back in early 2016, after a couple years of false starts and Draft 0’s. It wasn’t an easy book to develop, so after my beta reader gave it a look, I let it sit for awhile as I started the third book and edited Bones and Bourbon. As such, I’ve written quite a bit since then, and my skills have improved quite a bit. It’s time to bring “Corpses and Cognac” up to that level.

  • Strengthening story elements. All the prior drafts were about figuring out where I wanted the plot and character arcs to go. Now that I have an idea of what I want to keep, I can cut out the extraneous details and build up what works best. This is the draft where most of the foreshadowing comes into the story, new concepts are fine-tooled to fit the story (while making sure they remain consistent with the series as a whole), and the cool descriptions come in.

  • Reworking an antagonist. Because I realized, in the middle of writing Chapter 2 of this draft, that elements of one antagonist were perhaps a bit too similar to Lady Delight’s in the first book. Even if it was just me being paranoid, I still figured it better to change things now than hope no one notice later. Hence, changing how that antagonist works—and fiddling with my outline in the process.

  • Finding the humor. “Corpses and Cognac” began as a rather bleak story, all things considered. Then again, so did Bones and Bourbon. I have to know the story first before figuring what makes elements of it funny. Humor and the darker elements of a story are delicate to balance; they best work together when they ebb and flow, so readers are eased out of the deep stuff by a moment of light and brevity.

  • Letting the characters speak. Draft 1 is a journey in what needs to be said. Draft 2 concerns how that’s spoken. Retz and Jarrod alone sound quite different from each other, from their word choices to their sentence structure. Now that I’ve worked with both old characters and new, it’s time to make sure each of them sound distinct (and for the reoccurring characters, that they sound familiar too). By the end, the goal is that readers should be able to tell who’s who even if they ignore all dialogue tags.

In the end, is that a lot? Well…perhaps it is. As it turns out, that’s the nice thing about giving the draft time to sit while working on other parts of the series in the meantime. After months (er, years) of thinking on it, the words are flowing like a fine wine. Even if the words and some of the story elements are new to me, I’ve lived with this story so long that I know where it needs to go as I write it. Armed with the first draft and a rocking playlist, I’m ready to polish this draft into the novel it needs to be.

Right now, my main goal is to treat this like an extended NaNoWriMo; write every day that I can, and try to hit a higher word count when possible. However, it’s also important not to burn out, so I’m making a concentrated effort to take time to relax, be social, and plot out other projects. Through a balance of dedication and recharging, this draft of “Corpses and Cognac” should finish up by summer’s end, maybe even with time for a pass by my beta reader and some literary polish for Draft 3 before it hits my editor’s inbox.

I’m excited. Are you, dear readers?

~Dorian

Books at BayCon!

The other night, I finally stumbled home from BayCon. I was gone for a week, traveling down familiar highways to see old friends and spread the Bones and Bourbon love to California. I loved every second of it, though it is nice to be home again.

Now, I promised a lot of you that I would share my experiences at BayCon, including how viable it is to sell books at it or similar conventions. I’ve written up as much as I can recall, including sales and costs. Keep in mind that this was my first convention, and these numbers may not hold up for others—I’ll find out how accurate this is later in the year, when I try out SpoCon in August and hopefully make it to either OryCon or EuCon this November.

BayCon is a smaller convention in terms of attendees, and takes place over Memorial Day Weekend, making it a four day convention instead of three like most cons. It is a fantasy/scifi convention, meaning it celebrates those genre as a whole instead of focusing on a particular fandom, medium, etc. It is listed as the longest running convention in the Bay Area, and in recent years has taken place at the San Mateo Marriott Hotel (known amongst congoers as the “Escher Marriott” for its confusing layout; certain spots qualify as the 2nd and 3rd floor of the hotel simultaneously, and it only gets more convoluted from there). There’s a sense of friendship and familiarity amongst this convention; a lot of folks discussed how much the comradery and support of their fellow nerds meant to them, which was wonderful to experience.

BayconPic-SteampunkExplorer

At the Convention (photo taken by the Steampunk Explorer)

I spent most of my time in the Dealer’s Room on the second floor, and was conveniently located right next to a door, so I was the first thing many people saw. My table was sparsely decorated—a placard with my name, a straightened pile of books, one book propped up on a stand (with a figure of Dorian Gray from Penny Dreadful sitting on it, which drew folks in) and arranged piles of bookmarks and a sign denoting them as free. I had a fellow author with her portal fantasy universe to my left, a scarf and soap maker to my right, and opposite me across the aisle, a number of jewelry makers. Most of the authors were on the far ends of the room or right behind me.

 

Time for some numbers! I brought 61 copies of my book to BayCon with me, and I ended up selling 34 of those copies, and also donated a copy to a charity auction. Each book runs for $14.99, plus I added sales tax into the price, which for San Mateo was about 9%, making each book $16.34. Most people were happy to use their cards once they saw that I had a scanner and a chip reader—I use Square, which works wonders once set up—but a fair amount of folks also opted to use cash, meaning I had to grab a lot of extra change.

For all the physical copies sold at the convention, I made about $523, with a sales tax payment of around $46 after the fact. Plus, a fair amount of people decided instead to order ebook copies—I don’t have the numbers for how many, but hey, I’m just happy for more readers.

Question is, did this cover how much I spent on the convention? Well, this is where things get complicated.

20180525_111422.jpg

Photo from setting up the table.

Acquiring a table at BayCon was $150, which included my registration, and I was able to bring an assistant for a reduced price of an extra $50. I stayed at my assistant’s place instead of at the hotel, so I didn’t have that fee to worry about. Food at conventions tends to be expensive, so I brought along my own breakfast, lunch, and snacks each day, and split meal costs with others whenever possible for dinner (or just ran to Trader Joe’s and got some cheap but tasty chicken wraps).

I also opted to drive down, instead of flying. It’s about a nine hour drive from Eugene to the Bay Area, and after years of driving this route, I’ve nailed down that my car can make the trip with only two stops for gas each way. A special family connection gets me gas at a reduced rate at specific stations, so that cost is lower for me than it is most others, which meant it was cheaper for me to drive. This also allowed me to transport all my books and supplies (such as clothing and food) myself, instead of having to ship everything to the convention itself or running everything through baggage claim.

Plus, for cost, I acquire my stock for 40% off the listed price, so I do pay $8.99 for each book, plus a little extra for shipping. I also brought bookmarks, which was around $60 on UPrinting for 500 bookmarks.

(A note I forgot to mention when I first posted this: Do remember that you can write most of these things off on your taxes as business expenses, since being an author IS a business!)

David Price Shoot - TorsoShot (SMSized)

Fancy photo taken by David Price

Once all these numbers are crunched, it becomes clear that I didn’t make profit off of just the physical book sales, though I was quite close. However, there are also the digital sales to consider from a profit standpoint, and also sales that will happen later if those who bought the book at BayCon like it and spread the word. Plus, one can’t discount the exposure brought in; I had a couple of interviews, rubbed shoulders with fellow authors and some influential voices in my field, and was even invited back to next year’s BayCon, with offers of speaking on panels and readings.

But most of all? BayCon was FUN. Everyone there was so friendly, happy to stop by the table and talk about their favorite books or past nerdy encounters they’d had. Old friends reunited in the aisles—one couple was even celebrating their anniversary, having met at the convention 26 years ago. We swapped stories and ribbons, talked about what we loved in stories and what our fandoms meant to us, or even just laughed at the confusing layout of the hotel. There was unique artwork, fun and informative panels, cool cosplays, and more. I even made it to a LARP based off Steven Brust’s Dragarea universe, where we played as assassins and crime lords and somehow didn’t murder each other (or even draw a weapon the entire game); it was amazing how much fun political scheming and assassination plotting can be. I got to see many old friends of mine, and make new ones along the way—there isn’t a price you can put on that.

With all this said, selling at genre conventions isn’t for everyone. You need to be willing to talk to people, and without cutting costs where you can, it may cost more than it brings in. If you do give it a try, you may be pleasantly surprised by how well it works and the connections it opens up. Plenty of the other vendors there make their living by traveling the convention circuit throughout each year—perhaps the same will work for you!

 

Now, if you feel like selling your book (or other nerdy products) at a convention, here are some tips:

  • Say hello! Sometimes, a greeting and a smile is enough to turn heads and get folks to look at your book. Make a little small talk; ask how they’re enjoying the convention, if they’ve seen any cool panels, or even just comment on their outfit. At conventions, a lot of folks wear clothing that references a fandom or interest, which is a great starting point to talk—and if you can connect it to your book, so much the better.

  • Make sure you have a pitch prepared. Explain what it’s about in a way that’s clear and concise, but also interesting—having a twist in it helps (in my case, mentioning the carnivorous unicorns). It’s engaging, and interested readers can use it as a starting point to ask you more about your book.

  • A trick I picked up from retail: hand things to people. Offer your book and a chance to read the back or flip through its pages. Give them a bookmark or business card as a reminder to stop by and check out the book again. Physical contact with a product stimulates feelings of interest and even ownership, and if they flip through the book, they might decide they like your writing style and buy it right there.

  • Don’t forget to bring change! $1 bills go a long way, especially if your book is a funky price thanks to sales tax.

  • Connected to above: make sure to research tax laws if you go outside of state. Figure out if you need to adjust your prices (some programs like Square can calculate this for you) and if you need to acquire any permits. For BayCon, I had to grab a Temporary Seller’s Permit for California, plus fill out a form specifically for sales in San Mateo, and I grabbed a Federal Employer’s Identification Number for good measure. Acquiring these permits are often free—just remember to report and pay any taxes required afterwards!

  • Seriously, bring snacks. Convention food is either expensive or prone to long lines, and while there are sometimes rooms set aside with food for dealers and other staff, they may have specific hours if volunteer-run. Plus, other vendors often bring their own snacks, so everyone can trade snacks for a spot of variance. I recommend bringing energizing protein snacks, like power bars and peanut butter cracker packs. Water is also essential, especially if you talk a lot with the con-goers visiting your table.

  • Remember that, at least for smaller conventions, they are primarily run by volunteers. This does mean they are sometimes light on staffing, and BayCon is no exception. One of the few downsides I noticed with BayCon was that the communications were a bit spotty between the staff and dealers (such as when getting information on tables and such), though there were already discussions at the convention on how to make this smoother next year. The key to this is patience, punctuated by the occasional friendly check-in or reminder. Or, if you have some extra free time, see if you can lend a hand and volunteer!

    20180603_094204.jpg

    Ribbons I collected at BayCon

     

  • When it comes to genre conventions (at least along the West Coast), ribbons are a huge thing. These colorful pieces of fabric can be ordered in a variety of colors with any phrase you’d like, with adhesive strips that allow you to stick them together and onto your badge. Many con-goers love to collect ribbons (and may even bring their own to share), and are known to visit tables and events for sake of finding ribbons they don’t already have. Why not find a witty phrase from your book and place it on a ribbon, luring folks to your table for the shiny fabric and a reason to look at your wares?

  • Befriend your fellow vendors, especially those neighboring you. Find out about their products, and cross-sell when you can. Maybe someone visiting your table isn’t as interested in your genre, but might be interested in your neighbor’s book. Go ahead and mention it, cross-sell a bit. Your fellow vendors will appreciate it, and they may return the favor!

  • Speaking of which, it’s a common tactic for multiple authors to share a table, and you can do the same. Not only can it help by splitting the cost of said table, but you can draw more interest—perhaps someone who normally doesn’t read your genre will be drawn into looking at your book because they stopped to look at your fellow author’s books in their preferred genre.

That is all the information I can remember off the top of my head, though feel free to ask further questions in the comments if you’d like.

All in all, I found BayCon to be a wonderful experience, and even if it was not the most lucrative in sales, the connections made more than made up for it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to return next year—and maybe see some of you there too, dear readers!

~Dorian

PS: To those in and around Eugene, OR! Remember to catch me and fellow authors J.S. Fields and Taylor Brooke at our Gender Odyssey panel this Wednesday. Listen to us talk about gender and sexuality in speculative fiction, and then say hi and get your books signed!

All in the Family

First off, a near-last minute announcement: I will be attending BayCon in San Mateo this Memorial Day weekend! If you’re anywhere in the Bay Area during that time, feel free to stop by my table to say hi and get your copy of Bones and Bourbon signed! (And if you don’t already have a copy, don’t worry—I’m bringing plenty to sell~)

Before I busy myself with travel preparations though, it’s time I return to form around here and resume ranting about storytelling and worldbuilding! Considering that it was Mother’s Day last Sunday, I’d like to dwell to a favorite topic of mine: families. Specifically, how to NOT kill off your protagonist(s)’s families and leave them all to be sad little orphans.

By now, we all know the main appeal of making characters orphans. It removes an authority that would normally look out for them, so young characters can get into dangerous adventures and schemes without worrying about what their parents will think. Introducing a family and then killing them off establishes a call to action, signifying that our heroes can never fully return home. As a bonus, it means less characters to juggle, and we won’t be asked by our relatives if they’re the real-life counterparts to these fictional family members.

Except now it’s so common, it’s almost a joke. Doubly so if it’s a fantasy story, young adult characters are involved, or the protagonist is from an idyllic village. If the parents aren’t already ~mysteriously absent~ in the beginning, expect for either their tragic death to be the catalyst for the plot, or for the protagonist to chase after any clue that hints at where they’ve gone.

But what if…we don’t kill off the parents (or the adopted mentors/guardians who stand in for them)?

In Bones and Bourbon, I not only keep Retz and Jarrod’s parents alive (or at least conscious and not entirely dead), but our antagonist Nalem’s family also plays into the plot. In most of my other planned stories, I’ve also plotted to keep as many protagonist parents alive as possible. What started as a challenge in avoiding sad orphan characters has become an exercise in the different ways mothers and fathers (and other non-gendered parental figures) can influence a character’s story.

Parents can add a slew of exciting complications for our characters. They can bring years of experience that the protagonists lack, though conflict may arise if this experience clashes with what the protagonists discover (such as in Danny Phantom, where the titular character has to hide his ghostly powers from ghost-hunting parents). How they treat their children can reveal backstory without necessitating a break in the narrative for a flashback. They may have their own struggles that can factor nicely into a subplot; if your chosen one is still alive and trying to be a hero, what if we also see their parents trying to survive or stand tall against the encroaching threats? And this isn’t even going into parents who actively work against protagonists, or other such possible drama.

Plus, from a worldbuilding perspective, allowing parents to live in your unique speculative land also gives you room to examine how families exist in your setting. Does a household contain only immediate family such as children and parents, or does it include extended relatives as well? Who raises the children, and how do they interact when the child becomes an adult? How many parents even are there, in settings with normalized polyamory and/or additional genders?

This isn’t to say that every parental character has to occupy a major role. In Bones and Bourbon, Erika Gallows only features in a few phonecalls and flashbacks in her sons’ story, but her presence still shapes not only how they grew up, but ups the stakes for her sons. If they don’t survive to reunite with their mother, it’ll break her heart…or, since she’s a huldra, she’ll go on a vengeful rampage. Even that small influence has a huge impact on the story, to say nothing of the chaos of facing one’s father or realizing the wicked immortal’s parents have had an equally long time to look after him and scheme.

A number of novels I’ve read recently have utilized parents to wonderful effect in their plots. An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows includes multiple parents in its cast, including a family with three generations of matriarchs who help each other and ruin each others’ schemes in equal measure. Uprooted by Naomi Novak has a young woman whisked away from her family to assist a wizard—but it is her connection to her parents and hometown that allows her to grasp the implications of all the sorcery and conflicts around her. The various protagonists of Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series have their parents and their grandparents to contact for advice when their supernatural research and adventures goes pear-shaped—and those family members even get their own spin-off stories!

This isn’t to say that there are no stories for orphans, for characters who grow up with no one but themselves or the families they make for themselves. However, there are ways for heroes to be born despite—or even because of—having parents survive to rear them. It’s like the difference between Batman and Superman; one fights to avenge the parents he lost, and the other, to make his surviving parents proud. I’ve seen plenty of Batmen in my fiction; I’m yearning to find a few more stories starring Supermen.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a trip to pack for. And when I’m done? I’m going to call my mother to make sure I didn’t forget anything.

~Dorian

New Release: Bones and Bourbon

BonesandBourbon-f500

The cover art for Bones and Bourbon

(Before we begin: In all the release excitement, I wrote this post and then forgot to…actually post it. So the book’s been out for a week and a half, not just yesterday, and the space novella edits are done. But let’s rejoice and pretend this came out in a timely manner, yes?)

It’s finally here! As of yesterday, Bones and Bourbon has officially released! (Which also means I can now italicize it instead of marking it with quotations!…yes, I’m even excited by little things like this.)

Release day was busy, preparing for upcoming events (hopefully to be announced later this week) and spreading the word about the release. Not only has there been a lot of buzz already, but the book is currently sitting at over 4/5 stars on Goodreads, AND the paperback is already sold out on Amazon (though it seems to still be available through Barnes & Noble. I’d say that’s pretty good for an opening day!

On top of that, the bookmarks I ordered for Bones and Bourbon have arrived!

Bookmarks, front and back

I’d considered business cards, but decided on bookmarks because they’re more useful and memorable. I don’t know about you, but I tend to recycle business cards after a time unless it’s for someone I particularly want the contact information for. But bookmarks? Everyone needs bookmarks, seeing as they disappear all the time. I ordered plenty, so expect to see me handing them out at any events I attend.

Exciting as publication is, it’s just the first step in the exciting world of being an author. There are still events to set up, interviews to conduct, and of course more writing to be done. The rest of my free time this week will be spent polishing the space novella for submission; the content is ready, I’m just adjusting word usage and such due to what I’ve learned from the copyediting phase of Bones and Bourbon. After that?

It’ll be time to start the next draft of book two. You know, just in case Bones and Bourbon continues to do well and readers want the next book in the series.

I’m glad we’ve been able to start the next step in this journey together, dear readers.

~Dorian