Geek*Kon and Processing Your Emotions Like a Pro Panel Recap

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Sitting in my office inhaling Pocky and relying a little too heavily on the Diet Mountain Dew this fine day, if only because this year’s Geek*Kon was a whirlwind of color and panels and friends. I continue to be in awe of the love, energy, and effort of anime fans and the work they put into their costumes, and use this weekend as a reminder that the future of reading is incredibly diverse. Plus, I want to give a shout out to the Lolita girls who put a lot of time and energy into their fashionable dresses to walk around the show. Also: Enrica Jang (Red Stylo Media) and Jennifer M. Smith are both awesome women in comics. Be sure to check out their work!

This weekend I was on several panels and presentations and noticed a lot of up-and-coming or inexperienced writers in the audience. Most of my advice about writing translates to this: I cannot give you any advice that will help you fix a manuscript I haven’t read, have the confidence to keep writing all the way through to The End, the best way to learn how to write and to keep internalizing processes is to Do The WorkTM, and lastly…if you’re having trouble balancing worldbuilding and story remember why you’re creating settings. If you’re writing a novel, then your story trumps the world you’ve built separately every time. Sometimes, there’s wonderful aspects of a world that make sense technically but might not translate well into fiction–and that’s totally okay! In the end, there’s no magical bit of advice I can give anyone other than to Do The WorkTM and be loyal to it. You’d be surprised how smart other people really and truly are; if you don’t Do The WorkTM others will figure that out, too.

Emotions and Professionalism

I also proposed a new panel this year about the connection between emotions and being a professional. Briana Lawrence joined me to talk about her experiences and offer nuggets of wisdom. I Tweeted a bunch during the panel, but I wanted to share with you some thoughts that came out of the panel because I feel they might be helpful for you.

Briana told the crowd that, “The first problem is that creatives are not taken seriously as having a real job. Cons are work.”

This, here, is where a lot of problems come into play because there’s an emotional journey artists take especially if they do not have a supportive environment either through close friends or immediate family. What artists do, regardless of which type of art we make, is not treated as work. When our efforts are not thought of that way, the work is then devalued and our time is taken for granted. Plus, many artists never get past this step to realize that a) yes, they are an artist and b) you can build a career even though that bit is hard, complicated, and draining at times due to the struggles we have with the financial component.

I mentioned, for example, that when I make friends or go to Bar Con I do not want to talk about work or think/worry about social commerce and “who” I’m talking to. I think about work enough as it is, and “picking my brain” is something that I will do on my terms. When I’m in my off-time, I value the ability to just hang out and be. I do not make friends based on whether or not they can help me or do things for me on a free basis, and that’s partly how I’ve gotten to know a lot of people. But, as I’ve said many times before, knowing people is not a replacement for Doing The WorkTM, either. While there are systemic issues that exist, especially when it comes to marketing/visibility, that’s all I have control over. Often, it’s never just “the one” person asking for advice, either. This is partly why I go to conventions in the first place; cons are a way of giving back, and many of them are on my own dime. Worse, however, is challenging the perception that artists are stuck up, arrogant, or bitchy for not “giving back” on someone else’s terms when what we do is not considered work. That’s partly why I said that: “When you are an artist, you don’t get paid for finding inspiration. But that matters, so have a life.” We don’t get paid for research or inspiration or downtime, but that’s part of the cycle of creativity, too.

Briana reinforced this by saying: “I used to call myself the Dream Crusher. No one wants to hear that there’s no easy path to the spotlight. You need to Do The WorkTM.”

We did spend some time talking about conventions, and we shared some tips for handling (most) situations. They are:

    1.) Know someone at con to be there if there’s a problem. e.g. Safety net. This also extends to knowing where/when to report a problem if it occurs ahead of time.
    2.) Pick an outfit/style you just wear at cons as a visual cue/mental reminder that you are working and presenting.
    3.) Give yourself permission to feel. It’s okay if you have to back outing a conversation/panel if it’s too much for you. This is especially important if you get bad news!
    4.) Plan downtime to rest/recharge and give yourself some personal time. (I use Google Calendar to plot out my free time.)
    5.) Buy something small for yourself as a reward to build new and positive memories from another author, artist, or while in the dealer room.

Then, the conversation flipped to dealing with online harassment and interactions. I mentioned that I manage the small things emotionally on a daily basis, because if I go broad I will get depressed from all the things I can’t change. I also advise to establish boundaries both online and off, to ensure your emotional health is maintained. It’s okay to say “No.” However, there were several nuggets of wisdom and observation from Briana due to her experiences online that I want to capture here:

  • There’s a perception that if you don’t comment you don’t care, or that awful behavior that doesn’t get outrage is okay. (e.g. blackface)
  • You do not need to tag people to be “the black voice” and fight your battles for you.
  • Remember that folks get tired of having the same conversations over and over again. Blackface was not okay in 2013, and it’s not okay now.
  • Consistent comments hurt. You do not need to engage to prove you can handle trolls or how strong you are.

So there you have it! Brand new panel, and I think that went pretty well. Thanks to Briana and her words of wisdom; she definitely added a lot to a touchy and sensitive topic.

Update on Summer Scheduling and an Invitation

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

As a full-time writer, one of the interesting things that happens is due to the nature of how I get work and when it’s due. Longer projects free up my brain space to tightly focus on that one thing, while shorter projects mean I need to be very intense about what I’m working on from day to day. Right now, I have a variety of both that I’m managing closely, because essentially spec work tends to get put off further and further in favor of what I know will pay. This may sound pretty technical, and it is, but this allows me to build a career similar to what my friend Matt Forbeck has done. I cannot physically afford to not be writing or designing, to just put out “a” game or “a” novel a year. That would kill me and kill my ability to work.

If you want to be a freelance game designer/writer, the big secret is that in order to get the work, focus on competency and completion. Online drama is a distraction, and there has been quite a bit of that the past couple of weeks in my spheres which I’m now walking away from.(2) I’ve talked to many writers over the years, and it always amazes me how many people would be satisfied being an internet celebrity–I am not one of them. However, even I have to focus on building awareness of myself and my work to let people know it exists and, most importantly, that it’ll be worth your time. Dreaming about the art of game design or fantasizing about a novel may sound wonderful and idyllic, but dreams have very little to do with actual production. A dream inspires you–and that’s fantastic–but what happens after that is what gets the game/novel/book on the shelf. This, in point of fact, is what I often talk about on panels: the pragmatic nature of producing games consistently. Or, as I often say: “In order to chase the rainbow, put your running shoes on first.” Developers know this all too well, and if you’re wondering what we do, I encourage you to check out my older post about gaming development for the multi-award winning Firefly RPG line(1). That turned out to be a shorter list of what I wound up doing, since I did do quite a bit in addition to that, but it’s a good primer.

Behind the scenes, this means that by the time a release comes out, that release has been in the works for anywhere between three months to two years or longer. When it’s a release completed for other people, it’s easy to see where to pick up and leave off. When it’s “on spec”, meaning I don’t see the immediate returns or they’re not guaranteed, then I set a lower priority to those. Certainly, for my own fiction I took a step back to refocus and see where (I felt) it was falling down before I started pursuing publication again this year.(3)(4) But, that old adage is true: writers are sharks. If we don’t keep swimming, we die. It does suck, though, that NDAs and professional courtesy often prevent me from talking about the specifics on projects(5), but I do have a little more flexibility to do that in person just because I can better respond to questions–similar to the Reddit AMAs I’ve done, like the Reddit AMA for the Firefly RPG, and the Reddit AMA for the Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling anthology.(6)

To that end, my next couple of weeks are packed! There will be two or three announcements coming up shortly (PLUS! Hopefully, something cool for the charity I’m involved with ( and quite a few conventions I’m going to this summer, too. I also had a fantastic meeting with my agent, too, and I am super pumped about that! All this means, is that I’m hyper-focused on work right now, so the blinders are going back on for a bit. There are a lot of really amazing things in the pipe, and while I continue to seek out new and even bigger profile opportunities for myself, I want to nail delivery on what I’ve got going on. Thus, if you’re ever curious about me or my work beyond the career bits, I invite you to come to my panels and interact with me at shows. I’ll be at GenCon: Indianapolis this year, but I’ll also be at CONvergence and WorldCon as well. Planning on lots of party games for WorldCon, so there will be some shenanigans, for sure.

(1) In case you didn’t know, the corebook was nominated for the Product of the Year and the Game of the Year in the 2015 ENnie Awards, nominated for Game of the Year in the 2015 Origins Awards, 2nd Runner Up for Game of the Year 2014 in the Golden Geek Awards, and The Escapist nominated it for Game of the Year 2014 as well. Plus, Echoes of War: Thrillin’ Heroics won a Judge’s Spotlight Award in the 2015 ENnie Awards, too!
(2) If it’s the drama llama, I don’t want to hear about it any longer. I got sucked in, and I’m pulling myself out of that nonsense.
(3) I’m of the mind that stagnation equals a terrible, horrible death for creative types, but not everything needs to be published as soon as it’s finished, nor can everything be for various reasons.
(4) Sometimes projects fall apart for completely different reasons. There are, on my hard drive for example, at least a dozen or so other small press games I’ve worked on that have never seen the light of day.
(5) My friends know that I don’t talk about work. That’s not why I’m friends with them, nor do I want them to be friends with me just to talk about work.
(6) I do need to give a warm and friendly shout out to Fox TV, because if it wasn’t for their belief in my work I wouldn’t have been able to work on Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the ‘Verse.

GenCon Industry Insider Featured Presenter

GenCon 2016

Today, I’m happy to share with you that I’ll be returning to GenCon: Indianapolis to speak on panels. I will be a GenCon Industry Insider, participating in a track of panels to share industry insights with attendees, along with several other storied individuals including Emily Care Boss, Eddy Webb, Kenneth Hite, and several others announced via the website. Huzzah!

Congrats to all of the announced speakers. I can’t wait to see you at GenCon 2016! Heck, I may even wear a suit this time around…IF the weather holds up, that is.

Writing 101 Advice from Geek*Kon 2015

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Geek*Kon 2015 was a mixture of seeing old friends and making new ones. I did have a great time and these fans are doing everything they can to put on a great show. I was thrilled to see folks like Emma Bull, Greg Weisman, Christopher Jones, Will Shetterly, and Alex Bledsoe speak to up-and-coming writers, fans, and all around great people.

Rather than give a recap of every panel and anime-related item I purchased (*coughs* Jiji rocks!), I’d like to highlight some of the wonderful advice given during my Writing 101 panel. The panel consisted of Alex Bledsoe, Will Shetterly, Emma Bull and myself. Here are some of the nuggets of advice given during the panel that I hope inspires you to write your heart out. Please note that I made every attempt to attribute said advice correctly, and some of the comments are sub-attributed to Steven Brust. Rather than rehash many of the tidbits I’ve mentioned here on my blog, today’s spotlight is on the other authors and their words of wisdom.

  • Point-of-view (P.O.V.) solves everything. Brust/Bull
  • Story starts with your P.O.V. character. Shetterly
  • Deal with the precipitating event as the first part of your story. Bledsoe
  • What serves the story is what you don’t tell. Shetterly
  • With respect to critiques and feedback from readers, “Worry about reader problems vs. reader solutions.” Shetterly
  • I write first drafts to create a skeleton. Bledsoe
  • With respect to revisions: “I pace around my house, reading the manuscript aloud.” Bledsoe
  • Figure out what drafts are supposed to do. e.g. They can be systematic or intuitive. Bull
  • Make the story more specific during revisions. Shetterly
  • What really matters, is the story itself. Shetterly
  • It’s better to write a bad first draft, than no draft at all. Shetterly

We also talked about info dumps and the Dread PrologueTM, and how many of the info dumps can be avoided by choosing the right character when selecting which character is telling the story. We also mentioned how it’s okay to suck (you’ve no doubt heard me say that before), and how the senses are crucial to add in layers of worldbuilding. For example, Bledsoe mentioned that a sense of smell can really make a big difference.

I hope today’s wrap-up inspires you to write, write, write! And remember, you’ll never internalize or finish what you start unless you sit down and simply…write. GOOD LUCK!

    Mood: Luxuriating in this damp, windy weather.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Mostly managed!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH.
    In My Ears: Tron Legacy soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Kingdom Rush
    Book Last Read: For research, not pleasure. Ergo…
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Frozen. Because in my house, it’s a horror movie.
    Latest Artistic Project: Sewing project that turned out to be a pescatarian oni. Don’t ask! Am planning Halloween-related crafts, however.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. A new one coming soon! SOON I SAY!

My Geek*Kon Schedule

Geek Kon

I’ll be a guest at Geek*Kon this weekend. Here’s my fabulous schedule! You’ll hear more about my upcoming book, The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the ‘Verse, and other stories in the pipe.

Friday, August 21
7:00 to 7:50 – Spooky Scary Awesome Action
8:00 to 10:00 – Gaming with the Guests

Saturday, August 22
1:00 to 1:50 – The Shiniest Things in the Gorramn ‘Verse
3:00 to 3:50 – Fiction Writing 101 – Mendota
5:00 to 5:50 – Vampires in Fiction – Green Bay/Milwaukee

Sunday, August 23
1:30 to 2:50 – Build-a-World Game Show

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