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I thought I should give a brief round-up of the times I got up from my desk, left my house and met someone in the context of my writing. And I start out with one item already on the to-do list for next year: don’t finish your activities before the calendar ends! I do have some rather serious distractions and am still seeking a better routine with more events on it for the future. Here’s how I did this year.
Bear Library Author Day: April 1st (no, seriously)
How Far: like, thirty yards. How Often: many times before
One or two books. This was a panel for aspiring authors, where the ultra-prolific Liz Dejesus and the uber-poetic Shannon Connor Winward presented alongside myself for several hours.
I can’t lie, these panels are terrific fun because you get exposure to colleagues and how differently they feel as well as to aspiring writers from all angles. I could tell people walked out more energized from being around that atmosphere, and the staff at Bear Library really understand how to support the writing community.
How Far: one hour’s drive. How Often: my second fair
This is the haymaker of live events for selling. Nothing an indie author needs that a raucous, well-organized convention of several thousand happy people can’t help fix. Perfect mix of cosplay, interest in heroism, lots of other items for sale, food, the whole nine yards. It’s by far the biggest load-out, complete with tent, three chairs and oh yeah- a family! But all worth it, sweltering heat or no. I had even better sales than the year before (which was also a record setter for that year). No question, the ComicCon is irreplaceable.
Probably the number one memory of the year was the several customers who marched up and said “where are the sequels”. Repeat sales in person, yeah that will boost the old self-esteem you betcha’. I helped run a panel with the indomitable L.S. King for over a dozen participants, and they kept us after with all kinds of questions, clearly very energized by what we said. My daughter Genna made a great impression with her Kermit outfit, while I eased off the full-wool Solemn Judgement look and just went a tad Renaissance for the day.
No way I would miss ComicCon.
Bear Library Author Day: September 23rd
How Far: like, thirty yards. How Often: many times before
This time, bupkus.
A very cool day. I teamed once again with Liz Dejesus on a panel to a smaller group of very energized and interesting aspiring authors. I put up my bit on creating a killer first-line of a novel and I could see they enjoyed it a lot. This was one of those times I felt like we did some real good out there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a book or two come out in the next year or so from folks who attended (though we weren’t the only inspiration they had of course!)
Hockessin Art and Book Fair: November 4th
How Far: less than half an hour away. How Often: my third fair
I moved several titles to new folks this year, but overall I had the impression that the Art vendors did better than the book folks. But I knew my fortunes were assured because my good friend Bernie Schmidt came up all the way from Virginia, AGAIN (he did it in 2015) to patronize the Tales of Hope, hauling away so many copies for himself and his family, I probably should have given him one of my bins. Seems unfair to count them as sales, when the motivation was so obviously friendship. But there’s no reason friends can’t be Children of Hope, and Bernie certainly has that down.
Chatting with my table-mate LS King came easily: once she had coffee I could hardly get a word in edgewise. Fellow epic author Dan Ford was at the booth right next door and I got to chat him up about several networking-type topics. This was the first year they had reading stages, for us to give a little excerpt of our work to folks at the food vendor-end of the room. The acoustics of all gyms are exactly the same, but it wasn’t terrible- those who wanted to hear us could. I have a video of my reading from Bernie, the start of “The Eye of Kog”, and I heard Dan and several others read their bits as well. I hope they continue that idea next year, maybe with a nice stand for the mike so we can turn pages without cursing.
Dover Library Author Day: November 11th
How Far: one hour’s drive. How Often: first time event
I’m not gonna’ lie. Had some nice folks say hi, but that was about it.
Great chatting with the other authors, Liz and LS and several I had not met before from various walks of the writing universe. The library’s a good space with potential, but the traffic was all for the medical insurance sign-up they had going on at the same time, and people trying to get their kids on Obamacare weren’t terribly interested in laying down the green for an escape reading adventure. We did a panel that afternoon with about a half-dozen folks, mainly young people, and the questions were quite good.
Next Year, Gotta’ Do More
I’m targeting ComicCon, at least one round at the Bear Library, and I want to add First State ComicCon, CecilCon and Ocean City to the rounds if I can. That would be about as much as I think I could possibly take on as long as Genna’s in school and we have just the one car. I really love getting out to meet and chat with fellow authors and readers. Now if I could just score a radio appearance somehow…
:: COUGH-COUGH-aHACK-hack-hack :: Great Zook, what a disaster! Dust the entryway and the rack, leave the curtains and forge alone for now. Hurry, dolt, we have a guest. Look at these manacles! The thumb-screws have rusted solid, where on the green earth is that dratted oil can…
After a long hiatus I’m pleased to reopen my author interview dungeon, this time for a veteran of such treatment, Annie Lima. She knew what could happen, and yet she agreed to give me another crack at interrogation. I said, another crack… blast, the leather’s all rotted. Find me some wood blocks to slap together, and show her in. :: COUGH-COUGH-hack ::, drat this mess, I’ll get bronchitis for sure.
Q: Welcome, welcome Ms. Lima, just settle back there. Uncomfortable? Marvelous. Now then! We begin where we left off some time ago, on this completely heretical notion of yours of a modern world with what appears to be gladiatorial combat. And it continues in The Student and the Slave? Confess! Is this world of yours dystopian?
A: The setting is similar to that of a dystopian novel, but technically this world isn’t dystopian. It’s a whole different world that has never been connected to ours (even though it’s very similar in many ways).
Q: Not dystopian? But, but, slavery, young persons forced to do combat for entertainment. What else is this, Iron Chef Junior?
A: I think the problem at the heart of society is the basic idea that my needs and desires are more important and I matter more than they do. Without that basic mindset, slavery would never have been allowed to exist in the Krillonian Empire. Of course, thinking back through our own world’s history, you could argue that that same mindset has been at the root of every social injustice and societal conflict since the dawn of time.
Q: Aha! A classic case of whataboutism if I ever heard one.
A: And I don’t think I’d want to live in the Krillonian Empire. The prevalence of slavery would be too disturbing. Of course, it would be fun to watch an occasional cavvara shil match, or maybe even learn the martial art myself.
Q: I still say this is completely unorthodox: slavery has no place in society, only in the privacy of our own homes. And speaking of that, tell us now on your honor, how does the existence of slavery affect the role of the family?
A: Enslaved families can be ripped apart at any time when one of their members is sold. Free families have it much better, of course, but when they own slaves, their kids tend to grow up without learning much personal responsibility. Not having to do chores or pick up after themselves, and being able to order adults around, tends to produce some unpleasant characteristics (as we see in the character of Raymond).
Q: By the rules you just laid down I think my child may qualify an owner. Is your hero fighting for the same things classic fantasy heroes have fought for?
A: Classic fantasy heroes tend to fight for good to triumph over evil in one form or another. It’s the same in this book. My two heroes, Bensin and Steene, are both fighting for freedom from captivity and injustice (Steene for his own, Bensin for Steene’s). In addition, both struggle toward the goal of their family being reunited. Bensin also struggles to make the right choice when he is caught in an ongoing moral dilemma (raising the money needed for Steene’s rescue and to provide for his little sister, when the only paying job he can find involves providing combat training to members of a dangerous street gang).
Q: Ahh, now that’s more like it, a marvelously painful dilemma. How I wish I’d thought of that one. How do you get out of being a slave anyway? Is there any chance at all except through winning at the games?
A: Actually, winning at the games doesn’t set a gladiator free.
Q: Whaat? How cruel! Lady, you can be the substitute torturer around here, are you any good with dusting?
A: It just allows him to stay alive a little longer as an enslaved gladiator. Most slaves don’t have the combat skills to go anywhere near the arenas, though (luckily for them). The only way they can legally leave their life of slavery is if they are allowed to hire themselves out on their weekly day off and save their money until they can one day purchase their freedom – assuming their owner is inclined to sell them, of course. Kind owners do occasionally set their own slaves free, but that’s rare. In recent months, though, another possibility has opened up. Tarnestra has become the first province to outlaw slavery, meaning that if a slave anywhere in the Krillonian Empire manages to escape and get there, he or she won’t be sent back and cannot legally be recaptured. However, Tarnestra is now full of homeless and hungry former slaves looking for work, so freedom has not been quite the “happily-ever-after” that many people hoped. (This is the situation that Bensin now finds himself in.)
Q: I see, quite interesting. How hard would it be to pick up this book without reading the prequels?
A: Someone who hadn’t read the first two books in the trilogy would still be able to understand this one. Early on in the story, I do refer back to enough of what came before that things would make sense. However, I think readers would get the sense that they haven’t gotten the full story, so I would definitely recommend reading the trilogy in order if at all possible.
Q: We can facilitate that I think. Here are all the links you need to pick up this wonderful series, which has a new volume coming out now. And you can also contact Annie Lima (that is, once I get her hands out of this manacle- where’s that accursed oil!)
::COUGH, hack ::
Click here to order The Student and the Slave from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through November 31st!