Monday, April 21, 2014

Afterglow: RainbowCon 2014

A day later, and I'm still recovering from the hilarity and energy generated by this inaugural convention held here in Tampa. Before I say anything else, I need to thank Storm Moon Press (Roger and Saundra Armstrong, Kris Piet et al) for their invitation to be a guest. It's a gesture I won't soon forget. I had the fortune, and I mean that in the highest regard, of meeting some incredibly talented people, whether they be authors, artists, small presses, larger publishers, bloggers/reviewers, or readers, and each one left an indelible mark on my writer's soul.

So, I don't write erotic romance. Quite frankly, even if I weren't a school teacher (where I'd need to take on a nom de plume to do it), I don't think I'd have the skill to do that genre justice. But, the people who do have my everlasting respect. I could list everyone I met here, but I'd probably leave someone out, so I'll just say that the people I did meet blew me away. Friendly. Interested. Funny. A little naughty (okay, a lot naughty, but that's not for public consumption here). I had the opportunity to be on panels (hosting a few), and each one impressed the hell out of me. Not only did the panelists speak with such passion and experience, but the audience members also contributed rich content and appreciation for the LGBTQ literature out there.

Thursday, April 17, I was on the Roundtable Discussion: Plotters vs Pantsers panel (I'm a little bit of both, actually) hosted by Kris Piet with authors Cody Stanford, Geoff Knight, Jeff Adams, and Lexi Ander. Later in the day, I was hosting the Writing Diversity panel with authors Carole Cummings, K-lee Klein, Skylar M. Cates, Stephen del Mar, and Vicktor Alexander. At 4 p.m., I was part of an Author Q&A with Amelia C. Gormley, J.R. Loveless, Rory Ni Coileain, Sharita Lira, and Sui Lynn.

Friday morning, I was on the Trends in Young Adult Fiction panel with Allison Cassatta, Beau Schemery, Cody Stanford, and Gryvon. Our host was absent from the conference, I believe. Here, my teaching experience helped give a perspective that some hadn't considered, and we discussed that YA fiction really isn't being read by middle or high school students largely, but rather younger students (as well as some adults). Of course, my students read things like Solzhenitsyn as much as they read Suzanne Collins or Rick Riordan.

At 1:30 p.m., I did an author reading of Ch. 4 of Task Force: Gaea—Finding Balance and at 3:00 p.m., I attended a session with Storm Moon Press, mostly because there weren't other panels I wanted to attend. At 4:00 p.m., I attended Talking Shop: Reviews simply because I wanted to gain some more knowledge about what to do with them. I learned so much from the panelists. Trust me when I say, even when you think you know something, it's always a good idea to attend a panel on it because you just never know what you'll learn.

Saturday at 10:00 a.m., I was on the panel Fade to Black? Erotic Content in QUILTBAG Young Adult Fiction with Cody Stanford, Jackson Cordd, LE Franks, and hosted by Jamie Fessenden. I don't write erotic content into my books, but the idea of erotic content when it comes to teens (exploratory scenes with those learning about their sexuality was one of the talking points we discussed). Again, my teacher experience came into the discussion, and this prompted me to think about LGBTQ fiction that would be appropriate for our school's library. We definitely need to include more diversity in our reading material.

At 11:00 a.m., I was on the How to Be an Ally panel with Allison Cassatta, Brenda Cothern, S.L. Armstrong/Kris Piet, and Sharita Lira. I was happy to share my ALLYGator image that we proudly display in our classrooms where we show students every room is a safe space for diversity. This panel hit home with me being the GSA sponsor as well as being a gay educator.

I spent much of the afternoon with people hanging out in the convention suite (with all the snacks, largely enjoying fruit/veggies/cheese. I was tryyyying to observe Passover).

At 5:00 p.m., I attended the Handling Criticism panel with Jordan L. Hawk, Kassa, Sasha L. Miller, Susan Lee, Wade Kelly, and hosted by Shira Anthony. This helped me process a negative review I received and validated some of my feelings about it. If anything, it helped give me perspective.

After 8:00 p.m., while others enjoyed a "field trip" into Ybor City, I was in the convention suite with others celebrating Becky Condit's birthday (she's a book reviewer) for a while, and might have enjoyed a few Jell-O shots. Hilarity and camaraderie of the highest order.

Sunday, at 10:00 a.m., I hosted a panel on Religion in Genre Fiction with Angel Martinez, Cari Z, Rory Ni Coileain, Sui Lynn, and Wade Kelly. Our conversation included such topics as whether or not our own religious preferences enters our works, what types of religion in general we include or not, and I brought up the prospect of writing an anthology including stories of characters from Ukraine, Egypt, and other countries where being gay is a crime. This idea garnered GREAT interest, but it would be an intense job to write and compile such a work. It's something on the back burner for the moment. It's hard to remember all of the topics we discussed, but—needless to say—this panel had tremendous energy and a wealth of ideas.

At 11:00 a.m., I attended the panel Blog Tours: Love 'Em or Hate 'Em? with CR Guiliano, Lisa T., Scott Burkett, Sharita Lira, Susan Lee, and hosted by Beau Schemery. I must say, this panel opened my eyes to options for the future that I hadn't considered,  as well as ways to handle bloggers who don't do what they said they would do or how bloggers should be approached to deal with issues like not posting something on a set day or formatting posts to look professional.

My last activity of the day was to play Cards Against Humanity with Beau Schemery, Amanda Ching, Gryvon, Roger Armstrong, and an author whose name eludes me. If you've ever played this game, you know how irreverent it is (and that's putting it mildly).

Interspersed between these panels, I lunched with many authors, sat and chatted with others, forged friendships and future relationships for writing and publishing adventures. The power of being around so much creativity, love for the craft, and experience is hard to put into words. I am in awe of those authors who had fans in attendance just because these authors were there. People had read many works of their favorites and wanted to have the chance to chat with them. I can only imagine what that feels like, but perhaps someday I shall.

Whether you're an author or a reader, attending conferences and conventions should certainly be on your landscape for the future. I await Rainbow Con 2015 (where the content will be tripled!) where I can reconnect with these new friends, meet more people, and just learn as much as possible.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hi, I'm David, and I'm a Geek!

When I was a kid in the 80s, comic books cost about 50 cents, and that was one of my first experiences being an all-out geek. I used to buy them off the spinner racks (since comic book shops as I know them now were hard to find back then) in stationery stores (remember those?) and ride my bike home with them tucked safely under my arm. Back then, only Marvel and DC were the heavy hitters in the comic book industry, and I don't remember there being a huge rivalry between being a Spider-man fan or a Superman fan. I blame that on the comic book movies. I even went to a "comic book convention" of a sort in NY back then, too, but this was pre-New York Comic Con. Not sure where it was, but it was tiiiiiiny compared to the NY Comic Cons I've been to in the last few years.

Also in the early 80s, my step-brother introduced me to this role playing game called Dungeons & Dragons, and he had these small paper booklets that housed all of this magical information about clerics, paladins, etc., and I became intrigued (to put it mildly). I fell in love with dragon dice and even bought these tiny metal figures that I painted. Talk about empowering!

My transformation into a Geek was complete. Well, for that time, anyway.

I've been interested in all things fringe and odd since then, and I fully embrace that. I still read comic books (when I'm not disenchanted with the direction that DC Comics is going), digging into my long boxes once in a while for a taste of the books I came to love as a child. I've been included in two separate issues of Wonder Woman (the first, thanks to artist Yanick Paquette, who drew my face as a framed portrait in a museum scene, and second, thanks to Gail Simone, who included an idea of mine in her last issue of the series). I could go on and on about my love of all things Amazonian, but suffice to say, I have a "Wonder Shrine" in my home office, and it continues to grow one piece at a time.

When I was younger, I used to hear people talk about my Geekish kin, mostly guys, who were said to live in their parents' basement, be completely enmeshed in all things odd and alienating, and even speak their own version of Geek-lish (the English we speak when we're around others of our kind). Unfortunately, these guys had the reputation of being unhygienic and less than proficient in interpersonal relations. I think that stereotype is far from accurate: I bathe regularly, know how to speak with non-Geeks with great skill, and I own my own home (in Florida, we don't have basements anyway). It's safe to say that that version of a Geek isn't the predominant one, at least in my experience.

Having published a few fantasy novels, I go to my share of science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions all over the country to connect with my kindred spirits, selling and signing my books. I've had friends question me as to why I don't just find a traditional publisher (since I am an independent author who publishes through CreateSpace) and let them promote me so I don't have to go to the conventions. 

Here's the thing: I want to go.

I get a huge kick out of the Cosplayers who go, and I have tremendous respect for anyone who dresses up as a video game character or superhero or even the Starship Enterprise. These people aren't weird—they're heroes! They're brave souls who risk ridicule and shaming from others, but they don't care. They don their homemade costumes, many of which constructed to last for years, and parade through the aisles proudly. Not sure I could do that, but I give them kudos!

Then, there are the Vendors (basically those people who sell things I either can't afford or just don't have room in my house for), and I just become a 10 year old all over again (erasing 36 years ain't easy, trust me). Sometimes being a teacher has its advantages, especially when my income doesn't permit me to go home with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise. These people make me drool.

Having been to my fair share of Cons, I've also met some incredible People, some of whom I get to see each year I go. The networking that you can do with likeminded people is extraordinary—trust me. I trade books with fellow authors, or just get tips on merchandising my table. Regardless, it's worth the table fee just to see these people who are my family. And, through Facebook, I meet even more people who I will meet in person when I return to the conventions.

I get to break out all my comic book related T-shirts, wear my jeans and sneakers, and relax. Sitting at my table helps me come out of my shell. I'm actually quite a wallflower, believe it or not. In person, it takes a lot to get me to talk if I don't know you. When people come over to me, I do my best to engage them in a way that lets me get to know them, whether they buy a book from me or not. It's not always about the sale; it's about the connections.

Lastly, I get to bring stories back to my classroom (those I can repeat, anyway), and regale my students with the craziness of the convention. They're amused by my interest in Cthulhu and comic books. How many kids can say their AP English teacher has comic book posters on the wall (as well as posters of his own novel covers) and Con badges, too (one is signed by Stan Lee—thank you, Michael D'Alessio!).

I don't intend to rein in my Geek any time soon. So, if you want to chat comics, fantasy novels, or even just get to know me, stop on by when you see me at a Convention or find me on Facebook. I'm always looking to make new friends with whom I can speak Geeklish. :)

(By the way, I capitalized words to show how important I think they are.)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Task Force: Gaea Blog Tour & Giveaway!

Hey kids! For the next three weeks, you will find spotlights, guest posts, interviews, and reviews, all based on the Task Force: Gaea series and me. Giveaways will include gift cards and e-books! If you encounter a link that doesn't work, please email me.

Tour Schedule

Apr 1: Indie Hoopla Gala (Interview) 
Apr 2: Saintz Realm Spotlightz (Spotlight)
Apr 3: Siren Dreamscape (Guest Post) 
Apr 4: Mary's Cup of Tea (Review) / Njkinny's World of Books (Spotlight) 
Apr 7: My Fae-void Demon (Interview) 
Apr 8: My Inner Muse (Tens List) 
Apr 9: Nocturnal Predator Reviews (Spotlight) 
Apr 10: My Twisted & Kinky World (Interview) 
Apr 11: The Blood Flow (Spotlight) 
Apr 14: A Saintz Dream (Review) 
Apr 15: Carpe Diem (Spotlight) 
Apr 16: Laki Loves Indie (Spotlight) 
Apr 17: Fated Dimensions (Character Interview) 
Apr 21: Hell Fyre Risen (Tens List) 
Apr 22: Indie Author How-to (Guest Post)
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