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The Gen Con 2018 haul August 7, 2018

Posted by thejinx in conventions, life.
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20180806_122042I shared a photo of our Gen Con haul this year in my previous post, but I wanted to go into a little more detail than that, since we picked up so much stuff that the photo is a little busy. So, here’s the breakdown:

Books

Games

Artwork

Miscellaneous gaming merchandise

  • Seven X-Wing Miniatures promo cards
  • One pack version 2.0 T-65 X-Wing damage deck for Star Wars: X-Wing
  • Four packs version 1.0 damage deck promo cards for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures
  • Four packs card protectors
  • Assorted dice

It was definitely a larger haul than usual, and certainly my own largest yet. Thanks again to Gen Con for providing a space and for all of the producers/creators for creating work I enjoyed so much.

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Gen Con 2018 games wrap-up part 1 August 6, 2018

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Another fantastic Gen Con has come to an end. I had a blast, as always, particularly since I took a cue from last year and scheduled my evenings full, rather than leaving myself to my own devices. I also came away from the convention feeling very inspired and actually have some time to do something about it, so hopefully I can get some work done on some of my projects this month.

20180806_122042

Our haul this year

Strangely, though, I didn’t find as many events in the evenings that interested me, so despite my desire to game until midnight this year, two nights ended (or at least were scheduled to end) at 11:00, one at 10:00, and Wednesday night I was done by 9:00. (I was glad for that early night, however, after getting up at 3:30 that morning to make the drive.) Then the other nights ended up finishing early as the games wrapped up before schedule. I didn’t mind going back to the hotel early, though; adding a few hours of gaming onto an eight-hour work day is pretty exhausting.

And I did play some great games I’d never discovered before. So, without further ado, here comes my 2018 games wrap-up post.

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Ad Astra schedule April 27, 2016

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I’ll be at Ad Astra this weekend, Toronto’s original scifi/fantasy/horror literary convention. I’ll be spending most of my time at the Brain Lag table in the dealers room, and I’ll also be involved with the following events:

Saturday

11:00
Creating Art on Commission
So someone has asked you to create a piece of art for them. And they’ve even said they’ll pay. How much do you charge them? How do you sell yourself as a commission artist, and what are the pros and cons of offering to create work on commission?
Thornhill room

1:00
Selling Your Art at Conventions and Festivals
So you’ve finally finished a beautiful set of paintings. Or maybe you’ve been selling your fan art on commission and want to think bigger with prints. Maybe you want to do commissions for money, or you fancraft and have an Etsy store and want to sell in person. You’ve got wares, and you’re ready to sell them and think that a convention or festival is your best bet. How do you do this? What’s the etiquette? How do you market yourself? Should you participate in an art show or just book a table? And is what you’re selling even allowed? In this panel, learn the dos and don’ts of being an artist on the convention or festival circuit.
Thornhill room

5:00
Tabletop Games You May Never Have Heard Of
Are you bored of playing Monopoly and Risk over and over? A fan of RPGs but unsure what the best party games are? Curious about which games are best for specific numbers or types of people? This panel is a great opportunity to learn about and share recommendations for tabletop games from those in the know!
Oakridge room

6:00
Brain Lag launch party
Brain Lag invites all Ad Astra attendees to join us at our spring book launch party celebrating the release of Why I Hunt Flying Saucers And Other Fantasticals by Hugh A. D. Spencer and Tinker’s Plague by Stephen B. Pearl! The authors will be on hand to give readings and sign autographs, there will be free snacks and drinks, and we’ll be featuring an exclusive sneak peek at the cover art for the upcoming sequel to Tinker’s Plague, Tinker’s Sea!
Room 1080 (penthouse suite)

Sunday

12:00
Setting Up Shop as an Indie Publisher
So you want to be an indie publisher. How do you bring other authors on board? How do you build your reputation within the literary community? In this panel, learn from those who have done it how to be a publishing entrepreneur, and get tips on start-up costs, marketing, and what it takes to get started.
Newmarket room

3:00
Sunday Afternoon Fantasy Reading
Join authors Catherine Fitzsimmons, Rob Howell, Cameron Currie and Brandon Draga as they read a fantastical selection from their work.
Oakridge room

I hope to see you there!

Ad Astra 2013 wrap-up April 9, 2013

Posted by thejinx in conventions, writing.
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I have been to numerous conventions now. I don’t just mean multiple visits to the same convention in different years, but I have been to at least half a dozen different conventions. The focus and topics of these conventions vary; some are geared toward comics, some toward anime, some toward science fiction. (All, of course, are based in some area of geekdom; I don’t try to pretend that’s not where my interest lies.)

Panels and workshops are a large part of these conventions, as anyone who has attended one will know. To tell the truth, however, largely I am not very interested in attending panels. I’m not overly interested in discussing or hearing discussions on pop culture or media, nor am I interested enough in things like sketch-offs or trivia games or other such events to want to spend time with them, and largely any panels that relate to writing or other interests of mine are either on very basic aspects of it that I don’t feel I need to spend an hour covering or otherwise just don’t quite match what I’m looking for. Part of it I think is the intimate nature of panels and workshops, being with a smaller group and therefore closer to and more directly involved with the people there, rather than the refreshing anonymity of the crowd of general attendees milling about. And, of course, these days I don’t simply attend conventions anymore; I’m there to sell, and even if I have assistance with doing so, I still usually don’t want to leave my table for a panel.

Ad Astra last year, however, was an entirely different matter. The sheer number of panels held at the convention that I would have loved to listen in on blew my mind, and I feel like I could have spent almost the entire convention going from one panel to another. It is, of course, a matter of focus. Ad Astra is a scifi/fantasy literary convention, so the entire event is largely centered around what interests me most. As a result, the panels went into more detail on aspects of writing than all other conventions I’ve attended, and offered a slew of very interesting topics. Alas, I was stuck behind my table with no one else to watch it for me for the weekend and didn’t have the opportunity to attend any of them.

This year, however, I had a second person manning my table and was talked into not just attending panels, but sitting on them. Having rarely even attended panels before, as well as for various personal reasons, I was quite nervous about the idea leading up to them. After having done it, however, I can say that it was a very positive experience. The panels were very thought-provoking and informative and it was an excellent opportunity to meet some very interesting people, both other panelists and attendees of the panel. I think they all went quite well and it seems that everyone there learned something new or got a new outlook on the topics covered.

I Love to Hate You: This was the first panel I sat on. This panel looked at villains and discussed both good and bad villains, as well as the difference between villains – the characters who command the basic conflict of the story – and antagonists – those characters who aren’t necessarily involved with the central conflict but still serve to get in the protagonists’ way. Examples of good villains included, of course, Darth Vader from Star Wars – though mention was made of diminishing his impact through overuse of the Force strangling technique in The Empire Strikes Back – as well as classic literature like Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello and Grendel from Beowulf. The idea of blurring the line between traditional notions of “good” and “evil” as well as not compartmentalizing characters and conflicts into such simplistic definitions was discussed, although some readers do prefer to have a clear idea of who the ‘good guy’ and the ‘bad guy’ are in fiction.

What to take away: Villains are an integral part to fantasy and scifi literature and they must be given as much care as the protagonists. An author must know everything about their villains, even if the details of their motives and history are never revealed in the text, and in fact that can be used to great effect when hints of the existence of those things are sprinkled throughout. When one does get into the reason why a villain is doing such evil deeds, however, one must be careful to avoid their actions becoming petty or obsessive as their backstory is revealed. Also, unscrupulous or villainous characters can be used as protagonists and keep readers from completely despising them as long as there is some nugget for them to like, even if it is something as simple as the character is nice to their pet cat.

Is the Stand Alone Novel an Endangered Format?: This panel addressed the place of standalone or one-shot novels in a genre dominated by trilogies and series. From an author’s standpoint, there is a clear advantage to writing or at least pitching series, both because readers want more of what they already know and like and because the sales teams for publishers are likely to sell far more books of an installment in a series to bookstores than a standalone novel, for the same reason. Publishers also put pressure on authors who write a successful standalone novel to extend it into a series, again to draw in those same readers who have already been sold with the first book. That said, authors should not feel obligated to extend a standalone book into a series for the sole reason of selling more books, and even discerning readers can be very satisfied with a really good standalone novel. Also, there was frustration on both sides of the table for the way publishers tend to handle series, in particular with how unclear it often is where a certain book takes place in a series.

What to take away: It is a tricky market to enter for authors with standalone novels, and ultimately publishers do not put out nearly as much effort to push standalone novels as series. But, there is still a place for standalone novels and one shouldn’t force a series. When writing a series, particularly a longer series, using the same words and terms to describe characters, while repetitive, can help keep consistency throughout the different books and allows new readers to understand the characters just as well as those who have been following the series from the beginning. Having a central outline for each character that one refers back to for each installment is also recommended, for while characters evolve throughout a series, one should not forget the basic roots of the character. Also, Robert J. Sawyer and Julie Czerneda have wonderful senses of humor.

Writing High Fantasy: This was such a fantastic panel that covered so many different areas of writing high fantasy that I’m not certain I can effectively sum it up. It began with a discussion of the definition of high fantasy and the various ways one can delineate high fantasy from other sub-genres. The “high” in high fantasy can refer to the stakes, which are often world-changing even if the events themselves are fairly small or the decisions made very personal; it can refer to the level of the fantastic in the story, e.g. the difference between a story like Lord of the Rings, rife with magic and dragons and other races and such, and a story like George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, which does have very fantastic elements but focuses far more on the politics of the world in a way that is much more like our own world; or it can even be a reference to the class of the main characters, as in “high” fantasy referring to high-born characters and the story concerning itself with kings and queens and nobility as opposed to the main characters being more common people.

The panelists were also asked to identify what one aspect of fantasy defines the genre to them, with answers ranging from the sense of wonder, otherness, and unknown that we all once held as children, to the world itself, a completely different place from Earth and distinguishes high fantasy from something like historical fantasy. Much discussion ensued on female characters and the often stereotypical way they are presented in fantasy literature, tough female characters either pretty much presented like a man with breasts or having very female-oriented motivations, i.e. rape or pregnancy/childbirth. There was also discussion on the diversity of setting and characters in fantasy – or, often, the lack thereof – along with some examples of recent titles that have explored different types of worlds or races of people, and by that I’m not referring to elves and dwarves. The panel concluded with some pet peeves in the fantasy genre by the panelists and a brief discussion on how a fantasy work originates.

What to take away: Fantasy is an immense canvas with which to explore the unknown but also to address the same issues that we ourselves face in our own world. As such, one should look to our own world to reflect the same level of diversity in an invented world and not be afraid to write stories based in other cultures aside from the much-used medieval Europe. However, when trying to create something new and fresh, one should not just flip an established trope on its head. A mirror image of a cliche is still a reflection of the cliche itself. Female characters should be given all the complex motivations that male characters, and actual human females, have. Ultimately, fantasy worlds, conflicts, and characters should all display the same level of complexity as our world does, and doing so makes one’s fantasy much more rich and believable. Also, when introducing a fundamentally different aspect of life into a fantasy world, careful thought must be given to the impact of that thing on the world in terms of technology and society.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the launch party for Brain Lag, my publishing company, and I want to thank everyone who came out to celebrate its opening. Overall, I had a really wonderful time at Ad Astra and I am certainly looking forward to returning next year.

Also, if anyone who attended these panels has anything to add that I forgot, please feel free to comment and add your input!

Ad Astra schedule March 25, 2013

Posted by thejinx in conventions, enduring chaos, writing.
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I’ve received my schedule for Ad Astra, Toronto’s original scifi/fantasy literary convention, happening April 5-7. I will be sitting on a few panels for the first time, and I am proud to announce that I’ll be hosting two panels alongside New York Times bestselling author and convention guest of honor Jim Butcher! For those who will be attending the convention, I hope to see you at any of my events that weekend:

Friday, April 5

10:00 p.m., Franklin – I Love to Hate You

Ed Greenwood (m),  Jim Butcher,  Fiona Patton, Gregory A. Wilson, Catherine Fitzsimmons

In this panel, examine what is involved in creating a truly great villain.  By discussing some examples of favourite well-written villains and what makes them memorable, you will gain a better understanding of how to make your antagonist someone that everyone loves to hate.

Saturday, April 6

11:00 a.m., Berczy A – Is the Stand-Alone Novel an Endangered Format?

Julie Czerneda (m), Robert J. Sawyer, Catherine Fitzsimmons, Jim Butcher

More and more books are coming out in series format. While this may be publisher driven, it is just as likely consumer driven.  In the face of this trend, it may become impossible to successfully pitch a stand-alone work, and the temptation to force a series may become irresistible.  Is there still a place in publishing for a stand-alone book?  This panel seeks an answer.

4:30 p.m., Berczy B – Autograph session

6:30 p.m., the penthouse (room 1401) – Brain Lag launch party

Come join us for the official launch of Brain Lag, the newest fantasy/scifi publisher in the GTA. Learn what we’re all about, meet the team, get a first sneak peek at an upcoming title, and celebrate our opening for submissions with OPEN PITCHES! Bring us your novel and you could be one of the first authors under Brain Lag. Prizes, refreshments, discounts, goodies, and more!

Sunday, April 7

10:00 a.m., Ellesmere East – Writing High Fantasy

Marie Bilodeau (m), Catherine Fitzsimmons, K.W. Ramsey, Gregory A. Wilson

Discover what makes a fantasy story epic, as well as the basic elements of high fantasy in this panel. Also, with fantasy TV going mainstream, now is the right time to focus on writing a fantasy novel, but the genre is littered with potential pitfalls and deadly clichés. Learn some should haves (and must avoids) when writing high fantasy.

2:00 p.m., floor 2 suite 2 – Author reading: Catherine Fitzsimmons

Come join me for an exclusive first look at my upcoming fantasy novel Enduring Chaos, the first book in the Sisters of Chaos trilogy, scheduled for release this fall.

Ad Astra looks to be an exciting convention for me this year. Hope to see you there!

Gen Con! August 14, 2012

Posted by thejinx in halcyon, writing.
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I’ll be with my publisher Brain Lag at Gen Con in Indianapolis, IN this weekend. We’ll be in Author’s Avenue in the exhibit hall with my first book Aurius and the very first appearance of my second book Halcyon! This is an exclusive world premiere, so come to Gen Con to get your copy before anyone else! Ever wondered what would happen if a computer virus infected cybernetic implants? Now you can find out…

Hope to see you there!

Gen Con! August 10, 2010

Posted by thejinx in aurius, writing.
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Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by my table at Gen Con!  I had a great time and it was wonderful meeting all of you.  Extra special thanks to Jeanette LeGault, the director of Author’s Avenue, for giving me a place to share my work, and to my fellow authors and table neighbours, who made me feel welcome.  I definitely hope to do this again!

Sale information for Aurius will go up later today, so please stay tuned!  For now, convention photos are available here.

Off to Gen Con! August 4, 2010

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New art:

A second poster I made for my table in Author’s Avenue at Gen Con Indianapolis this weekend.  We’re leaving in just a few minutes.  Hope to see you there!

Preparing for Gen Con! July 30, 2010

Posted by thejinx in art, aurius, writing.
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Gen Con Indianapolis, where I will be selling my novel Aurius, is next week!  In preparation, I made a poster to hang behind my table in Author’s Avenue:

Hope to see you there!

Falling behind September 3, 2009

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I’ve neglected to update this thing in a while.  Let’s start with new art:

A scratchboard I whipped out out of the blue a week and a half ago.

Also, I have some new photos from Marineland in Niagara Falls a few weeks ago:

And finally – for this post – I have some commission sketches from my artist’s alley table at Fan Expo last weekend.

P1000943

This image was a request by the commissioner to draw himself in a classic Star Trek uniform in a classic heavy metal poster style image, surrounded by alien women from Star Trek: The Original Series.  The word of the commission was “awesome.”

P1000940This Dragon Ball Z fanart was a request by the commissioner to reproduce this image, though I injected some of my own style into it.

I was also commissioned to draw two 12″ x 18″ pictures of Samus from the Metroid games.  These images contain full frontal nudity.  Click the “more” link to view these images. (more…)