Bad Decisions, Social Justice, and the ConCarolinas Kerfluffle

Yeah, so everyone has heard the nonsense going down over ConCarolinas, right? If not, let me catch you up in three sentences:

  1. The ConComm invited John Ringo to be a special guest and he accepted.
  2. THE WORLD EXPLODED – meaning the mostly-liberal, mostly-welcoming regular ConCarolinas crowd freaked the absolute fuck out over this guy’s historical behavior and some not-so-far-fetched hypotheticals stemming from it.
  3. Some people got pissed and others withdrew from the con.

That’s where we are right now. There’s a lot of contention in the air, a lot of angry statements floating around that people may come to regret later, and a whole bunch of speculation on what’s actually going to happen in a month and a half.

Let’s pause for a minute and remember something: We’re all writers. Being writers makes us the poster children for overactive imaginations, right? Right.

Chasing hypotheticals is kind of what we do.

[ASIDE: This is not a political post. This is not a post dedicated to righting the wrongs of the world or condemning anyone for what they may or may not have done, or what they may or may not do. It’s my opinion, for the whole two cents and bad headache that it’s worth.]

Now, let’s get back to that Special Guest.

Personally, I have no opinion of the guy. I don’t know him. I’ve not met him. I’ve read a couple of his books, and I’m “meh” at best, because I’m not a huge fan of big military sci-fi. Yes, I’ve read all the stuff on the internet about how he portrays his characters and how he doesn’t deny that his own beliefs line up with theirs. It’s more or less conjecture at this point. At least, for me it is, because I haven’t witnessed it firsthand. I honestly don’t give two shits about him being a republican. I choose to form my opinions of people once I’ve actually been in a room with them and witnessed their behavior for myself.

Is it possible he and his fans (who, according to credible human sources, tend to be loud, rude, and exhibit racist/misogynist behavior) could come in and raise unholy hell in the middle of a usually friendly and even-keel event? Absolutely. But that’s true of literally anyone.

I admit, I’ve played through a hundred different scenarios involving as-of-yet fictional people doing dumb shit which requires me to step up and verbally bitch-slap them. I’ve played out the hypotheticals that could potentially lead to someone ending up in jail or the hospital. Or both. Again…writer. It’s what I do.

Keeping this in mind, I’ll be going into ConCarolinas weekend wary, but professional. This is my career, damn it, and I refuse to give anyone enough power over me to make me walk away from a chance to further myself professionally and spend time with my friends. Neither this man nor his followers have any sort of pull or control over me. So what if there’s a chance there could be an altercation? I’m willing to take that chance, because to me, my presence and my ability to stand up for myself and the people I care about will be more effective than walking away. Why? Because I don’t have the same social pull as the man the con world is currently rallying against. Because my actual VOICE and my ACTIONS will speak louder than my absence.

Which brings me to my next point:

A very dear friend of mine felt so emotionally threatened over this announcement that she has withdrawn her attendance. I completely understand her decision, because this wouldn’t be her first racism rodeo, were it to happen.

Her action was based on previous personal experiences with this person. It’s not arbitrary or unjustified.

I support her decision, because she’s doing what she feels is best for her. I will always be there to support her, no matter what, because I love her. Do I wish the situation were different and she was still going to be there with me? Yes. Absolutely. I would love for any resolution which would guarantee her a seat beside me. But that isn’t the case, and it’s her decision to make.

Which brings me to my third point:

Someone else made the statement yesterday that basically amounted to “you can’t be everybody’s friend and if you’re not resigning in solidarity, then you’re not an ally.”

That pissed me right the hell off.

See, I’m usually pretty quiet on political and social issues. I’m not a political creature. If I were, I’d be in politics. I’m a freaking writer. I use words to entertain people. Well, mostly myself, but anyone else who happens to come along can enjoy them, too. I’m also not the type to use my books as a sociopolitical platform. That isn’t what I do.

Do I have opinions? Oh, yeah. Loads of ‘em. But I choose to conduct myself in a more or less professional manner because my opinions should have absolutely no bearing on my book sales.

So a fellow author piping up and telling me I’m suddenly not good enough because I’m not pissed off enough? Yeah, no. Bullshit.

Why am I required to be outraged just to satisfy the outrage of others? Why can’t I just be a good person? When did being a good person go out of style? Because let’s face it…some of these “allies” are just as horrible as the people they’re fighting against. I’ve seen truly deplorable behavior on both sides, and when you’re reduced to squabbling like pissed off children, you don’t get anywhere. I don’t play those silly drama-llama games. I’m an adult, and I intend to present myself as such. I’m going to fight for what’s right, but I’m going to do it rationally and reasonably.

Yeah, we could all resign in righteous fury, but you know what’s going to happen? The ConComm will invite new guests. Because here’s the secret, snowflakes… we are all replaceable. And if we aren’t there to defend our territory and our people against a potential attack, those who replace us might not be so quick to do it. While we might feel that the ConComm has made a bad decision by inviting someone who could potentially upset the balance we’ve spent years crafting, there isn’t much we can do about it besides follow the rules and behave ourselves as we always have.

So no, I will not be resigning in solidarity to appease someone else’s outrage. As I said, my words and actions will have more impact than my absence. I will defend myself and my friends with every breath I have, should the situation require it. I will always champion the person who needs one.

My friends come in all flavors [insert awful joke about licking people here], and if I spend all of my time being angry and upset over all of the injustices of the world, I wouldn’t have time to do anything else. I have to choose my battles and how I fight them. I have to decide what works best for me while still conveying my point and protecting others.

This is a battle I choose to fight head-on.


ConCarolinas Wrap-up Thinky Post

It’s Tuesday after ConCarolinas, and I’m finally out of the post-con coma. I’m almost human again, too. Conventions these days wear me out almost as much as the day after. Yesterday was spent buried beneath my little girls while they wallowed all over me. It was our first time away from the little one, and two years since we had an extended weekend away from the big one. I admit, I slept like the dead this weekend, but it didn’t really do much to make me not miss my babies.

So, ConCarolinas.

First of all, a huge shout-out and love-filled thank you to Carol Cowles, Jada Hope, and Misty Massey for being the most awesome con mistresses ever. You guys are my heroes.

I love this convention. Not only is it the closest one to home, but it’s also one of the best. It isn’t a huge con, but it’s got a good crowd full of great people. We’ve all been together for so many years that we really are a family now. It was huge fun getting to play with Alexandra, Crymsyn, Nicole, and Melissa at the table. In case there was ever any doubt, we ARE the party at a convention. We have a big old time, and we give people candy. I really enjoyed Mom-talk with Sarah and getting to meet her family. I didn’t realize how much I missed talking to Faith since our days in the CC dungeon behind the escalator. The extended family – John, Jay, Misty, Gail, Tamsin, Emily, and all the rest that I’m forgetting to name… I love these people. I’ve made so many friends in the eight or nine years I’ve been attending, both as fan and as guest, and that roster continues to grow every single year.

The panels were a blast, and I really enjoyed this year’s Writer’s Workshop. It’s nice to see so many talented people coming up through the ranks as compared to all the nonsense floating around the interwebs these days. I didn’t sell much, but then again that isn’t really why I go to ConCarolinas. I went for the reasons mentioned above. These are my people, my tribe. Even the readers are so freaking awesome it makes my heart sing. It was well worth the cost of the hotel room. And the food… OMG. There’s a blog post coming later on truck food. It makes me hungry just thinking about that lobster dog.

All in all, and despite the issues with the A/C, it was a good weekend.

This year’s shindig is particularly significant as it marks my return to the con circuit after a year off. My con-going ended abruptly after MidSouthCon last year, and did so on quite the sour note. Then I spent the last twelve months pregnant, sick, depressed, and all manner of other things which are not conducive to the creative lifestyle. Suffice it to say I approached this event with no small amount of trepidation.

Social anxiety has been a growing problem over the last few years. I started out on a high note, publishing my first book in May 2011 and following it up with multitudes more. Conventions were big fun and I was just really starting to get the hang of this being-a-writer thing when my world collapsed. We won’t get into the psychological trauma of losing my father again (we all know we’ve been over that too much), but it was the primary catalyst for my withdrawal from society and, almost completely, from writing. And the tragedy didn’t stop there. The last few years have been an onslaught of sadness coupled with the all-consuming NEW MOM tag. My girls take up most of my time, and between them and the why-bother feeling from the general state of the writing market, it’s been a tough trek getting my mojo back.

I have to say, though… ConCarolinas has done wonders for my writer’s soul. I came out of it renewed and inspired. And the September deadline I acquired Saturday night can only help. It’s ambitious for me since I’m a slow writer, but I think having that project and the expectations of a publisher waiting on it will help me to drag myself out of the dirt and get back to it.

Which brings me to my last, and probably most important, comment: I just wanted to say thank you to John Hartness for being a great friend, and for believing so strongly in me even when I don’t believe in myself. And for calling me out on it in public. I needed that kick in the ass.

So enough of this. I have a book to finish.

The Return! or, ConCarolinas on the Horizon

It’s been a minute, I know. I’ve been busy.

While the last month hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park, I’m still hanging on. We’ve suffered through a pair of devastating blows for my family (my grandmother passed away on April 30th after her long-standing journey into Dementia and we found by coincidence that my father’s oldest brother whom I never met passed away back in September after a battle with cancer), my husband got some not-so-good news from one of his doctors (nothing life threatening, but not the best news for us at this juncture), and my husband’s aunt has taken a nose-dive into the last days of her life. Suffice it to say, it’s not been fun.

But that hasn’t stopped me. I’ve been trucking right along to the beat of my weird little drum, and despite the pitfalls I’ve found a place where I can be happy with my world. I’m still writing, still holding on, and still being me. So here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. Devil’s Daughter has received a facelift and a fresh edit. Lydia will once again be in the hands of the world very soon. I’m excited. Cover reveal coming. Stay Tuned.

2. Armageddon Rising is waiting on artwork.  We were hoping to have a release party for it next week, but alas…artwork is not yet mine. [Insert dramatic sigh here.]

3. ConCarolinas is creeping up on us. Next weekend I’ll be in Charlotte, NC with my crazy schedule, my table, and a bunch of rabid George R.R. Martin fans. Aside from the small stint Saturday morning where I’ll be attending my step-daughter’s high school graduation, I’ll be in and out of panels and selling books. Come see me! Schedule is below:


2:30pm – Start To Finish
8:30pm – Romance in Genre Writing


9:00am – Breakfast and Books
12:00pm – Writing for Anthologies II
5:00pm – Spanish Moss and Magic Spells
9:30pm – The Monster in the Closet
11:00pm – The Art of the Sex Scene


10:00am – Spirituality, in my Sci-FI?
2:30pm – Blending Magic with History

Con Artists: The Art of Working a Convention

Comic Con

Mornin’, Creeps.

It’s con season!

After the seemingly wild success my friends had at conventions this past weekend (sadly, none of which I attended), there has been some discussion about how to make the most of a convention. In fact, my friend and publisher, Nicole Kurtz from Mocha Memoirs Press, has asked on behalf of the press for advice on how best to work a convention. I’ve been doing it for years, so when asked to offer my advice, I thought I’d do it this way.

I should pause here and say this: Conventions are when I make the most money on books. I order lots of books, and I sell them. The months following cons are usually when I have my best ebook sales as well, because I go all out. I make sure that every person who walks past my table knows I’m there.

I’ve been to events where sales are easy, and I’ve also been to ones where the sales suck. I’ve seen author-centric events where everyone is happy, but I’ve also been to events where authors are less than second-class citizens. One event last year was a complete bust, I realized, when someone actually had the nerve to say something along the lines of “This ain’t a readin’ convention.” NOT GOOD.

The best piece of advice I can give authors attempting to build a con presence is this: No matter the event, don’t let you frustration show through (because yes, you will be frustrated!). Keep smiling, because your smile and your good humor are going to go a long way.

Now, for your reading pleasure, I offer up a list of twenty rules I live by for public appearances:

  1. Imaginarium LogoGet a table. It showcases your work and gives you a base of operations.
  2. (Alexandra Christian will agree with me on this one because we’ve talked about it repeatedly.) Bathe. Dress appropriately. You’re selling yourself as much as you’re selling your books. Oh, and if you plan on cosplaying, don’t just slap on a dress and walk out the door. Fix your hair and makeup too.
  3. Overstock your books. Have lots under the table, but only keep three or so of each title on top. What you don’t sell at this show, you can sell at the next, or offer signed from your blog/website.
  4. Go to Wal-Mart and buy the $.97 photo stands. Having your book standing up means people will see it. It also means they’re going to stop and look. Make sure you have extras. You’ll want to take one or two to panels with you to stand your books up on the table.
  5. Have swag. People respond well to free stuff. Bookmarks, postcards, book plates…these are easy and fairly inexpensive options. People also enjoy stickers. Higher-end swag such as pens, keychains, armbands, etc… those things are very nice, but you want to reserve those things for people who actually stop to talk to you. If you plan to put things in people’s hands, use the paper products. If they stop and talk, offer your deluxe stuff. If you’re the crafty type, make something to give away. I crochet beaded bookmarks. People love them. I stick one (attached to a business card) in every book I sell. Your goal is to give out every piece of paper swag you bring with you.
  6. Take one of each book and bunches of swag to panels. Let people look at the books. Give them the swag. Don’t be afraid to sell that book on the spot and tell others if they want it that you’ll gladly take them to your table where you have more. If you do pick up a friend, talk to that person on the way back to the table. Be charming and they might buy more than one book.
  7. Stand up. If you have a booth rather than a table, get out from behind the table. Don’t be afraid to engage people. Say “good morning” and “good afternoon”. Ask people how they’re enjoying themselves.
    ConCarolinas Logo
  8. Talk to people who stop. Ask their names. Ask them questions about what they like to read. Find out their favorite books and make recommendations on your books based on what they say. If you don’t have anything they might like, point them in the direction of another author who does. This is called networking, and chances are the reader is going to remember you because you were helpful and friendly.
  9. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself and your accomplishments. If you’ve won awards for something, let people know it.
  10. Make sure you put a business card in that person’s hands before s/he leaves. Let people know how to find you and keep up with you.
  11. Have a booth babe. It can be your girlfriend, husband, neighbor, best friend, WHATEVER. Have someone there to keep your table open for business even if you aren’t there. Make sure this person can and will talk you up. It’s actually a lot of fun to have someone in the wings to tell people you’re the best thing since sliced Beatles while you aren’t there.
  12. Don’t overload yourself with panels. 8 panels should be sufficient- two on Friday, four on Saturday, and two on Sunday. That gives you time to eat and be at your table to sell books. You want to be accessible.
  13. Print up quick postcards with a book cover on one side and your panel schedule on the back. Give them out to everyone on Friday and Saturday. You want to run out of these first so people know where you are.
  14. Invest in a Square account. The card reader is free if you open the account and the rates are reasonable. You don’t have to turn people away just because they don’t have cash. Make a sign that declares your acceptance of credit cards.
  15. Embrace the QR codes. If you have eBooks, put QR codes with direct links to the books’ Amazon and B&N pages. Find out what your reader owns and give her the appropriate card. Make sure the cards have the cover, genre, title, blurb, and your web address. You also want to mark whether the code is for Amazon or B&N. I do them for iBookstore, Kobo, All Romance, and any other site that might have my books as well.MisSouthCon
  16. Make your display interesting. Bring a table cloth in case one isn’t provided. Have posters, banners, or other attention-getting media. If you’re selling eBooks, create a scrapbook of sorts that houses your book covers, your blurbs, your contact information, and buy links. Put QR codes on them in case people want to scan it and look them up. Make sure your table matches the theme of your writing. Dress up your set and create an atmosphere. Invest in literature stands. Stand your merchandise up so people can see it. It declutters your table and makes you look organized and professional.
  17. Be focused on the crowd. If you’re sitting behind the table (and I’ve learned this from experience) doing something else, people are going to blow right by you like you aren’t even there. It’s because THEY CAN’T SEE YOU. Con-goers are notoriously overwhelmed by the goings-on. It’s like a circus without the elephants.
  18. Keep a pen and a sharpie on your person at all times.
  19. Make sure your badge is where people can easily see it all the time. You want people to know you’re an author, not just another pretty face in the teeming mass of con slaves. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to other authors and make friends. They’re your competition, yes, but they’re also your allies. Us indie authors are all in this together.
  20. Attend a con as a person before you attend as an author. You need to understand convention energy from the front of the table so you know how to work it from the back.

AtomaCon Header

And just in case you’re interested, my next public appearance will be at ConCarolinas in Charlotte, NC this May. I’ll also be at Imaginarium in Louisville, KY and AtomaCon in Charleston, SC later in the year. Come out and see me in action!