It’s Con Time!

Misty MasseyMisty Massey

They’re expensive and time-consuming.  You generally have to travel a long way to get to them. You’ll spend your weekend surrounded by people, some of whom you like, others not so much.  You’ll ruin the healthy eating pattern you’ve spent months turning into a habit by eating in restaurants for every meal. And you know what?  It’s worth it.


Yes, that’s right, this coming weekend is ConCarolinas 2015, my home con and an event I look forward to all year long.  Authors, cosplayers, actors, scientists, gamers and all manner of fandom come together in Charlotte NC to celebrate the geek life.  It’s sometimes one of the only chances I get to see certain people I’m fond of.  I’m absolutely thrilled about it!

Some of you may be shaking your heads right now, and saying, “It’s a waste of good writing time.  Why don’t you stay home and put more words on paper instead of running off to party for two days?”  Ah, there’s the thing.  While no, I probably won’t do much writing while at the hotel, I’ll nevertheless be working.  For example…

kestrelsvoyages31. You meet other people who like what you like.
Think about it.  Writing is generally an activity done alone, in your house.  You don’t have coworkers sticking their heads into your cubicle to invite you out to lunch, or to share the latest elephant joke they heard.  Most of the time you interact with people via email and social media, which is nowhere near the same as physically being in a room together.  And these aren’t just coworkers – these are people who understand your love of Babylon Five and Game of Thrones. The easiest way to meet those people is to show up somewhere they’ll be.  Like a con.

2. You get to make friends with other writers.
So you’re here among your tribe, but you’ve been working on a novel idea and can’t quite get it together.  It would be helpful if you could talk to other writers, see if they’ve run into the same kind of narrative problem and maybe found a way out.  At a con, you’re surrounded by people who’ve suffered the way you are now, and who are in a position to talk with you.  Some of my favorite people are writers I met at cons.

3. You’ll have the chance to meet editors and agents.
You’ve finished a novel.  It’s incredibly good (if you do say so yourself.)  You’ve created your elevator pitch, and you’re ready to start querying agents and editors in the hope of selling your work.  Some people have an easier time querying in person than on paper.  At a con, not only are there editors and agents wandering the halls right next to you, but they are usually there hoping to meet someone whose work they can sell.  But you won’t meet them if you don’t put on your shoes and come to the con.

4. You might get in on cool projects people are planning.
At the first con I attended after Mad Kestrel came out, I met a charming woman at a party.  She was an editor, and was planning an anthology of pirates and magic.  I told her about my new novel, and minutes later, I’d received an invitation to write a story for her anthology.  Simple as that.  If I hadn’t gone to that con, I’d never have met her and probably not have found out about that opportunity.

So there you go, four good reasons to brush your teeth, put on your shoes and come out to the fun!  Need more?  Maybe our good readers will chime in with a few I’ve forgotten.

In the meantime, I hope to see many of you at ConCarolinas!  If you want to find me, here’s where I’ll be:

8:00 pm Fantasy the World Over
10:00 pm Gender and Racial Issues in Alternative Fiction
11:30 pm Beers, Bars, Whiskey and Wine

10:30 am Secret Squirrels and Danger GirlsTWWW final
12:00 pm Magical Objects
1:00 pm Live Action Slush
5:30 pm What’s An Award Worth?
11:30 pm The Problem of the Controversial

10:00 am Live Action Slush Round Two
11:30 am Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
1:30 pm Real People In An Unreal World

See you next weekend!

Con-Prep (aka organized chaos)

Tamsin Silver

As a writer, sometimes your plate is full, and sometimes its overflowing. Today, mine is the latter, and three of the items are all happening in the next two weeks! Thus, I thought I’d let them influence my blog.

First is the Read Or Write Anywhere Campaign! I’m lucky enough to be involved with the YA Chicks on this event, where we encourage kids to read/write anytime and anywhere even when school is on hiatus! It starts in TWO DAYS and kids can win books and much more! So go check it out and get kids you know involved! There is no downside here! :)

The second and third things go together! On May 28th I head to  Con Carolinas and this is where I will release my new short story, The Curse of Scáthach. Thus, today I’m going to talk about my prep advice for authors going to a convention…but at the end, you’ll get a link to the very first sneak peek of my new story!

So, without further ado, here are the eight things I feel a new con-going writer should know:


If you’ve never sold at the con you are prepping for, I recommend reaching out to friends (writers or attendees) who have gone and find out the answer to the #1 question: What do attendees of this convention tend to buy? Knowing this up front will help you plan your stock accordingly. Yes, it’s also good to know if the con is well run, if its fun, and what the cost is. But since we’re coming at this as if you are already going, paid for “all the things,” and getting your butt on a plane soon, I’m focusing on what effects your planning process.

***Side Note: A GREAT list of conventions/conferences can be found HERE, written by David B. Coe here on MW. (Yay, David!)


Other than your plane ticket and hotel costs, you must budget for stock. About a month out, you need to order books. Count the books you already have, decide how many you want for the particular con, and then order the difference. The answer to the question in, KNOW THY CON, will largely determine this process. For example, if a con tends to do more sales for comics/art (like NYCC) and books are hard to move (unless they are free ARC’s), don’t bring a ton of them.

You might think, “But what if this is the year I sell well and I don’t have enough?” GREAT! Then give out your free swag that will direct them to where they can buy your stuff on line. Because honestly, over stocking is downright horrible. There is nothing worse than bringing 50 books and taking 48 of them home…to then put on a shelf to stare at you. I’d not even be bringing as many books as I am to CC, but I have 5 books in my series, so an average of 5 books of each adds up.


If you are ordering books, make sure you leave enough time for them to print, ship, and travel to where you need them, be it your hands OR to the con location. Especially if you are, like me, without a car to your name and fly to most of your conventions. You are paying for shipping if it comes to you or if you send them to the hotel you’re staying at OR to a friend who lives near the convention (or is driving to it). So save your back and shoulders from the weight of carrying it all…ask a friend or the hotel you’re staying at if you can mail books there.

For example, for Con Carolinas, I’m bringing half of the books with me in my carry-on and I shipped those I needed to order to a friend in South Carolina (because she’s awesome!). For Dragon Con, I’ll ship all of it (books, swag, short stories, etc.) ahead of time. This simplifies my con process AND lowers my stress. So think ahead on this and plan accordingly.


VERY IMPORTANT! Do not forget this stuff! For every person who buys from you, twenty more will not, but they’ll take some free swag and maybe, if you’re lucky, they’ll buy your stuff from home later on. So have those business cards, postcards, bookmarks, stickers, buttons, pens, posters, shirts, or whatever it is that fits you and your book(s), and make sure you put it out on your table for people to take with them if they do OR do not purchase from you.

***Side Note: I find this stuff so important, that I  had a nightmare once that I left it at home and I flew back to get it. Not kidding. What sucked was that when I ended up on that return flight to the con, I realized I still didn’t have the items. I woke up really upset! I was so VERY relieved it was a dream…but realized I have issues. ;-)


You cannot be at your booth/table every moment at the convention. Not possible. Even if you’re not speaking on panels, you will, at some point, need to use the bathroom or eat or God forbid, run to an area where your damn phone can get a signal so you can take a charge payment (*cough cough* New York Comic Con *cough cough*). That means you need to ask a friend to help you. Hell, if you can, get a few friends and you can rotate them. Best way to get them to do this for you? Free entrance to the convention! :) Pay for their badge to the con and make sure they get time to go wander the event and see a lot of panels they want. (Yes, Niki will be at Con Carolinas for me again this year! Yay! I couldn’t do this without her!)


There are things you’d never think of needing until you get to the con. For instance:

  • A box cutter (huge props to John Hartness who always has one on him)
  • Antacids
  • Tape
  • Book holders
  • Pens and/or Sharpie markers
  • Sign with prices & a sign holder
  • Bed sheets (one to lay on your table under your stock & one to cover your table when you leave at night)
  • SQUARE (for Credit Card payments)
  • A container of some sort to put money/change in
  • An envelope for receipts (tax purposes)
  • A small book (or use an app on your smartphone) to tally sales as they happen
  • A few plastic bags for those who buy a lot from you
  • Some anti-bacterial gel (vitamins too) to help protect you from getting “Con Crud” (the struggle is real, folks)

Also…I recommend a tin of some kind to put cards in. You will be networking your butt off and be given business cards from people you wish to reach out to when you get home and the dust clears. Have a spot to save them. This is a really important thing since these conventions are as much about networking as they are about selling, if not more.


This originally was part of #6, but I wrote so much on it that it qualified for it’s own number.

A) Snacks: Here’s the thing, you think you’ll have time to get food between selling, talking to people, and speaking on a panels…yeah, not always. So unless you bring a minion to fetch food for you (which I recommend if you can swing it), bring snacks that work for you/your diet. Things I recommend:  Nuts, fruit (regular or dried), trail mix, granola bars, protein bars (Quest brand is the best I’ve found), crackers, cookies, etc.

B) Water: You are going to be talking A LOT and the A/C in these places usually is insane! So now you have a super dry climate on top of it all. So plan ahead and stay hydrated. Bring water or a bottle that is easy to refill at a water fountain. Soda does not count toward hydrating you, by the way (sorry). See it for what it is and why it’s important: CAFFEINE with carbonation and sugar that makes your sore throat feel better. Just try to drink a bottle of water for each can of soda you down.

***Side Note: If you have vocal nodes like me, you’ll probably lose your voice no matter what you do after four days of talking. I have found that lemonade (if made with real lemons) is wickedly helpful. If that’s not around, bring a lemon cut into 4 wedges with you each day and add them to your water all day.


Yeah…even guys should think about this. You are your best marketing tool so put some thought into what you wear each day of the con. No, I don’t mean you have to dress up. However, wear something you are either comfortable in or that you love to wear (cause you like how you look in it OR you feel like your best you in it). Plus, bring a sweater or hoodie with you, cause that A/C in panel rooms is a pain in the behind! (ladies, if you wear sandals, bring socks for the panel…trust me).

You also can wear what you feel embodies your “brand” (for example Leanna Renee Hieber dresses in the time period of her books. When people compliment her, she says, “If you like this, you’ll love my books. I write like I dress!” This is SO SMART!). Me personally? I work with Vampire Freaks on SKYE and my characters in the Windfire and Moon Over Manhattan series are in the goth/industrial scene, so I tend to dress accordingly.

And that’s the end of my list! Have I done all this for Con Carolinas? I have! Well, everything except the clothes…’cause I’ll do that last minute. HA! Anyway, here is my inventory for CC:

  • 30 books (8 Windfire, 7 LDG, 5 Metamorphosis, 5 Cydonia, 5 Identity)
  • 20 Heroes Square (short story)
  • 20 The Curse of Scáthach (short story) – *NEW!*
  • 2 Audiobook CD’s (Windfire)
  • 20 DVD’s of episodes 1-3 of Skye of the Damned – *NEW!*
  • Promo Poster of SKYE
  • FREE Sample Chapters of TWO NEW BOOKS coming out soon (Mark of the Necromancer and Moon Over Manhattan) – *NEW!*
  • Bookmarks, business cards, SKYE postcards, SKYE stickers, and VF Stickers
  • Book holders, sheets, price sign, sign holder, cards tin, and money bag
  • SKYE T-shirt to give away on Sunday! (Unisex Size Medium)

This seems like a lot, I’m sure (and it’s nothing compared to what I take to Dragon*Con) but I LOVE going to Con Carolinas! Between seeing my writer and non-writer friends, and getting to talk to people who LOVE to write as much as I do, it’s something I look forward to every year. Plus, I’m excited to release my new short story, which is the basis for my trip to New Mexico in July and the Historical Fantasy book I start writing in the fall.

Speaking of, I promised you all a link to read the begining of that story. Below is the synopsis for it and the title itself will take you to my blog where I’ve posted that snippet today for you! I hope you like it!

That’s it for me this time around… write hard, bathe in imagination, and here’s to a GREAT con this year!

xo Tamsin :)

The Curse of Scáthach Synopsis

Will McCarty has returned to New Mexico for the first time since he “died” in 1881. While in town for a job, memories come flooding back and the murder of his boss, John Tunstall, still plagues him.

The death of The Englishman ignited the Lincoln County War of 1878. This story of revenge and greed has been told many different ways, but Will knows the truth, and it’s time others did too.

Go back to when crooked politicians, mafia mentality, and dirty lawmen were the demons that ran the Wild West, and walk alongside the reluctant hero who decided it was time their reign ended.

Modifiers of the Verb Part Four: Clauses

Emily Leverett

So far we’ve seen three different grammatical ways to modify the verb: single word adverbs; prepositional phrases; and verb phrases. Now, we’ll look at clauses.

A clause is a group of words with a subject and a predicate.[1]

So, a sentence is a clause.

However, not all clauses are sentences.

There are two main types of clauses: independent clauses, also known as main clauses, and dependent clauses, also known as subordinate clauses. An independent clause stands on its own as a sentence. A dependent clause does not. A dependent clause is marked by a subordinating conjunction: a word that signals for the reader that the coming clause depends on the main clause.

An example: Everyone cheered for Bob when he won the award.

The subject of the sentence is everyone.

The main verb is cheered.

Everyone cheered for Bob is an independent clause. So is he won the award. But when we put when in there, the second clause becomes dependent.

Notice how that phrase when he won the award is adverbial. It tells us about the verb cheered. It answers the question when. (It also sort of answers the question why, too.)

So a subordinating conjunction is a word that establishes a relationship between two clauses, making one the main clause (independent) and the other subordinate (dependent).

Like our other adverbials, subordinate clauses are movable. The sentence could easily read “When he won the award, everyone cheered for Bob.” (Here you’d probably want to swap Bob in the subordinate clause with the pronoun in main clause, for clarity).

The most common subordinating conjunctions include when, while, until, because, before, after, since, if, and as, but of course there are several more.

An example of the difference between using a both an independent and dependent clause and using two separate independent clauses:

He rounded the corner. A shot rang out.

Okay, because these are two independent clauses, we assume that these are sequential events. However, if we use a subordinating conjunction, the meaning becomes far more specific.

Because he rounded the corner, a shot rang out.

  • Because makes the first action the cause of the second

After he rounded the corner, a shot rang out.

  • After solidifies that sequence of events.

When he rounded the corner, a shot rang out.

  • When tells us the events were concurrent.

As he rounded the corner, a shot rang out.

  • As also tells us that the events were concurrent.


So, there you go! As you write, go boldly forth and use all four kinds of adverbials to your advantage to modify your verbs!



[1] Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, Understanding English Grammar, 9th edition. New York: Pearson, 2012. 121.

Literate Liquors Episode 20 – Matthew Saunders

John G. Hartness

Check out this audio interview from my mobile studio (okay, the cab of my truck) with Matthew Saunders, contributor to The Big Bad, The Big Bad 2 and author of Daughters of Shadow and Blood Book 1: Yasmin, available everywhere!

Literate Liquors 20 – Matthew Saunders


The Creative Flexibility of…Plotting & Outlining?


Please welcome back our special guest, Josh Vogt! Writer. Freelancer. Unashamed geek. Josh splits his time between dreaming up new worlds and forms of magic and providing marketing/sales copy for clients. And best of all, author of Enter the Janitor!


Enter the Janitor - CoverWhen I’m doing panels or workshops for writers, I always like to ask how many in the room are plotters or pantsers. The response often varies from a bunch of raised hands and eager nods to totally blank stares. Plotters, of course, being those who like outlines and character sheets and maybe even making up a whole new language complete with alien grammar (no, I haven’t…yet). And pantsers refusing to write while wearing any pants, of course.


I quickly learned in my early years as an aspiring writer that I was bent to be a hardcore plotter and outliner. If I tried to wing a story from the first blank page, I’d soon be tearing my hair out and inventing curse words that’d make an orc blush. Now, I certainly know that every writer has to find their own path…their own tools and techniques that make the process work for them. But for me, I found that if I spend a few weeks or a couple months pinning down a plot from A to Z, getting my main cast detailed, and worldbuilding to a certain level, I can then sit down and have a first draft pretty darn quickly.

When I’ve told some other writers this, a few commented that this seemed too restrictive. That their joy in writing came from discovering things as they went and they’d feel stressed out by having to stick to a story outline.

Here’s the thing: I still discover a lot along the way. For instance, I may have a scene plotted with the a single line, like “Person A gets snippy with Person B and all hell breaks loose, which leads to Person C getting stabbed.”

I still don’t know who all three of those people might be yet, where they’re arguing, how they got there, or what they’re fighting about. However, by setting down some bold strokes, I give myself enough of a focus that I can better lead up to that scene in prior chapters—and maybe even get in some foreshadowing!

So, yes, the outline is still there. The plot has been paved. But I haven’t taken this particular journey yet in all its glorious (or gory) detail. There’s still plenty of the joy of discovery for me. Plenty of flex in how it all plays out, but also the knowledge that when I reach that next blank page, I don’t have to say, “I’ve absolutely no clue what comes next.”

Which has been quite helpful for my hair as well.

Have Vampires Lost Their Mojo?

Gail Z. Martin

Vampire stories have been around a long time, especially if you count folklore in addition to stories like Dracula.  Recently, we’ve had a vampire-palooza in fiction, movies and TV, where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a bloodsucker. If a crowd of vampires is a scourge (personally, I like “murder” as in crows), then have vampires become the scourge of fiction, and have they worn out their welcome?

Personally, I don’t think the undead are going to ride off into the sunrise any time soon. The vampire mythos is just too compelling, too primal, too tragically human. But I do think that how we portray vampires will continue to shift, and we’ll cycle through various popular depictions with new twists.

I’ve loved vampires since I was a kid, watching the old Dark Shadows TV show before I was old enough to go to school. The very first story I made up, when I was five years old, was about a vampire. Vampires, witches and ghosts were my preferred story elements in anything I read all the time I was growing up–and if I could get all three in one, that was a happy day.

Vampires appear in all of my fiction, but I’ve tried to put my own mark on them, reinterpreting them for the setting and culture of the story. In my Chronicles of the Necromancer books, the vayash moru are not hidden–everyone knows they exist, although they are welcome in some places and persecuted in others. Most want to stay on with their families after they are turned, so that gramp the vamp keeps working on the family farm, just doing his chores at night, watching over generations of descendants.  When a few ambitious vampires try to change the balance of power, it adds another destabilizing element to kingdoms already on the brink of descending into dynastic war.

For my Ascendant Kingdoms books, including Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and the new War of Shadows, the talishte are content to be silent partners in the power structure, kept in line by an oligarchy of their elders, working behind the thrones under long-established rules. For them, reading the blood of a human servant imparts that person’s memories, and creates a two-way bond, the kruvgaldur, between the talishte and either the mortal servant or the fledgling. When war destroys the ability to control magic and plunges the kingdoms into anarchy, the talishte decide that they cannot afford to remain behind the scenes any longer.

Modern-day Charleston, SC is the setting for Deadly Curiosities, my urban fantasy series, and Sorren is a nearly 600 year-old vampire who works with his mortal partners to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. Once again, I’ve drawn on the idea of vampires as oligarchs, many of whom have amassed power and wealth over their long lifetimes, choosing to act from the shadows to direct the fate of history.

The vampire-as-oligarch theme is also part of my world-building in the new Jack Desmet Adventures steampunk novels with Iron & Blood. Our alternative-history Pittsburgh just has too many old cemeteries and forgotten tunnels to not be thick with vampires. Wealth, power and control remain seductive, even for–or especially for–the undead.

I’m much more interested in the tragedy of the vampire myth than the romance. I’ve heard that the vampire-as-dark-lover may be a trope that’s due for a rest, but I suspect that good examples will continue to be written, since the shadow lover appeal is long established.  But I do think we are seeing more of the vampire-as-monster story, and more stories that focus more on vampire’s supernatural abilities than their come-hither seductive power.

The storytelling pendulum had to swing back toward the monster side of things eventually.  I won’t say that vampires had lost credibility, per se, but there have been so many undead Lotharios of late that to my thinking, vampires had begun to lose their edginess, their danger, their predator status–their otherness.  It’s fun to be reminded, even shocked, into seeing that vampires aren’t just the bad boys your mother warned you about. And for humans used to believing themselves to be the top of the food chain and the apex predator, vampires are and should be a good reason to worry about things that go bump in the night.

Dash It All!

Melissa Gilbert

OK, I admit it. I was working on my second master’s degree before I realized there was more than one kind of dash. I only took one grammar class as an undergraduate, and I can’t for the life of me remember if we covered it or not. We probably did, but that was fourteen years ago, and the memory gets a little fuzzy as we get older. (I’ll be 34 on Monday! *GASP*) Alas, my wonderful Shakespeare professor in grad school showed me the error of my ways, and I will never, ever, forget it.

Today, I’ll be talking about the different uses for the hyphen (-) the en dash (–) and the em (—) dash. I use both the hyphen and the en dash, but the em dash is one of my favorite punctuation marks! It’s right up there with the semicolon.

First of all, the major difference between these marks is the length of the line. The hyphen is the shortest, the en dash is the width of a typed letter n, and the em dash is the width of the typed letter m. Creative naming, huh?

I like to think of their uses in terms of relationships: the closer the relationship, the shorter the line.


The hyphen is used to connect two very closely related things, generally things that function together.

Examples: brother-in-law, tie-in, close-talker, this-n-that

Those could be separate words on their own, but they don’t quite mean the same thing. With the hyphen, they tie together to create something new. It’s a little different than a portmanteau word though. (Ah, the spork…)

They’re also used with compound modifiers, which Edmund Schubert discussed here.

En Dash

The en dash connects things that are related and are often thought of in terms of range or distance. If you can put the word “to” in it’s place, you’re probably on the right track with the en dash.

Examples: January–May, Monday–Friday, pages 3–5, Victorian–Post-Modern (see what I did there?)

To create the en dash in MS Word, do the following: word + space + hyphen + space + word

Basically, write your words (or numbers), space once, put in your hyphen, space again, and the other word (or number). MS Word should automatically convert it. Trust me, it’s a whole lot easier than going to find the special character to insert! 

**I’m using Word for Mac, but it should work on PC too!**

Em Dash

The em dash is the best of them all, at least in my opinion. It works as an interruptor, much like parentheses or commas. It’s a way to insert information without including a separate sentence. Some people prefer parentheses for that, but others prefer the em dash.

Example: Jack waited by the table—the one where he and Mary sat just before their separation—and hoped that she would come back.

The example sentence could certainly be written in other ways—Jack waited by the table where he and Mary sat just before their separation and hoped that she would come back—but using the em dash makes that important information jump out to the reader a little more.

The em dash can also be used to indicate that something is omitted. If you are omitting a whole word or phrase, you could use two or three em dashes instead of just one. That is often a matter of personal preference.

Example: “He’s behind—” Jack fell with a thump before Mary could finish her warning.

One last use for the em dash is to take the place of a colon when emphasizing the end of a sentence. A colon often feels very formal in casual writing, so the em dash can be used instead.

Example: The whole restaurant waited to hear the menu for the main course—prime rib!

A question that I often ask when I am editing is, “Which style guide do you follow?” The reason for that is very well illustrated through the em dash.

Associated Press (AP) style, which is common for newspapers and other media, often uses a space on either side of the em dash; however, Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS), which is used by many publishers and editors, doesn’t add that additional space.

Example AP style: Words and such — stuff in the middle — more words and such.

Example CMoS style: Words and such—stuff in the middle—more words and such.

To create the em dash in MS Word, do the following: word + hyphen + hyphen + word

So, type the word you want, don’t add a space, hit the – key twice, don’t space, and then type the next word. You should see it merge into one long line! How awesome is that?

Any questions? Post in the comments and I will check throughout the day to answer them!

If not…dash away, dash away, dash away all!