Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015

As if being over near Cape Canaveral where rockets frequently blast off into space (how cool is it to know that still happens regularly?) wasn’t cool enough, where miles of Atlantic beaches await the sunworshippers, the area is going to have a geek convention this weekend…and YOU should be there.

Space Coast Nerd Fest in in Melbourne, Florida and is happening tomorrow and Sunday (that’s May 23 and 24, for those of you who are checking in late on this blog). The website tells me that tickets are $10 for one day and $15 for both days. That’s a steal! And I gotta tell you, in my experience, shows that charge less at the door are generally going to offer you more of a personal experience inside.

SCNerdFestIf you’re coming out to see me—and I hope you do!—I’m only able to be there on Sunday (12-5). But there will be some pretty cool guests there, including Michael Winslow, the guy who makes all those cool/whacky/funny sounds in the movies. Michael Koske, from The Walking Dead will be there. Met him up at the Geek Gathering in Alabama and he’s one heck of a nice guy. So if you’re a WD fan, go meet him and get his autograph. Tell him I sent you and to leave your brains intact!

I’m supposed to be participating in a panel on Sunday, but I’m not sure what time that takes place. A full report will be coming next week—maybe I’ll have a new tan, too, you never know! Meanwhile, head on over to their facebook page and give them some Rolo-love and “like” them. See you there!

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Free Comic Book Day 2015

Saturday, May 2, was Free Comic Book Day all over these United States. Hopefully all of you reading my blog already know that. If not…well, I’ve failed you.

FCBD300WFree Comic Book Day (FCBD) is the brainchild of comic store owner, Joe Field. I’m fortunate enough to have met Joe during the 90s and enjoyed talking to him about his take on how to run a store. A short history of the day is written here by John Jackson Miller much better than I could attempt. This is the fourteenth year for the annual event. If you’ve never been to one, shame on you. It’s your opportunity to snag free comics and check out new material.

Interestingly, I told everyone I saw on Saturday that it was the second time I’d participated, the last time was two years ago. That’s part true. It was the second time I’d been at one of the cool local stores to promote comics (and myself), but the last time I did it was actually 2011. Wow, that was FOUR years ago. My how time flies. (and I just learned that the store where I signed books is no longer open. Very sad, because Heroes and Dreams was a very good store!).

Me manning the table during FCBD 2015 at Coliseum of Comics Fashion Square Mall. You can see my pal Barry off to my right.

Me manning the table during FCBD 2015 at Coliseum of Comics Fashion Square Mall. You can see my pal Barry off to my right.

This year I was honored to be a part of the creative assemblage put together by Aaron and his crew at Coliseum of Comics in the Fashion Square Mall in Orlando. To help matters, Avengers: Age of Ultron was playing in the theater right above us. Hundreds of folks turned out there, so I can only guess what it was like all over the US.

The day was also made fun because I got to sit right next to my old pal Barry Gregory (and son, Fox). Barry was there pushing his new comic John Aman: Amazing Man. He’s also got a kickstarter going on to support the next issues, so you should consider going to support it!

Speaking of kickstarters, Chuck Bordell’s Victor’s Horror Compendium was a success, so be looking for it. It contains a short Civil War ghost comic based on a short story I wrote. Chuck will be illustrating it and I’m very excited to see it! If he lets me, I’ll post some sneak peeks here, and also let you know where to go grab it if you didn’t pledge (shame on you!).

Events up next for me are Space Coast Nerd Fest on May 24th (I’ll only be there the one day, but all day); Daytona Comic Con on June 7; and Leesburg Public Library Comic Con on June 13th. If you’re in the area then, come see me!

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25

Twenty-five years ago today, I married the love of my life. Fortunately for me, she’s been able to put up with me for 25 years. Well, plus a little more.

Roland and BJ posing after the wedding

Roland and BJ posing after the wedding

BJ is fond of telling folks that we should really add seven years to the number of years we’ve been married, because that’s how long we dated. Usually, when she tells folks—especially the ladies—she gets all sorts of sympathy in the form of “wow, you really waited on him a long time.” It works for her. But you can read more about that in this post seven years ago (the one I wrote for my 18th anniversary).

Had you told me twenty-five years ago that I’d be living in Florida, I’d have told you that you were nuts. Florida was never on my radar as a place to live…never. Alas here we are…

Way back when BJ and I were still just talking about getting married, she once told me she didn’t care where we lived as long as she was with me, all was good. She even said she’d live in a tent! Well, we’ve not had to live in a tent thus far, but there’s been a time or two I had to ask her if she was serious about the tent thing.

But what’s more important impressive is that she’s put up with me these years. Even through all the moves: Mississippi-California-Mississippi-Alabama-Tennessee-Arkansas… She’s let me keep my 10k comics (which have actually dwindled down to about 7.5k these days because I’ve gotten very tired of moving them!), puts up with me going to silly comic conventions (and have pretty successfully gotten my kids hooked on them), actually encourages me to play war games with my son (how cool is that? “Yes, I guess I should spend some quality father/son time and play some war game.”), and will stand in line to watch a superhero movie when it’s released, even if she’s not that excited about it.

Roland and BJ wedding reception 1990

Roland and BJ wedding reception 1990

So while I’m taking the time to say it aloud (and to the world, so y’all listen up!), I say it privately (mostly to myself) pretty much every day: I’m doggone lucky that she’s put up with me for so long.

BJ, you are the love of my life. Don’t ever forget that.

Happy 25th anniversary!

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MegaCon2015 = MegaCool!

Me, Brittany and Brett (attempting--but failing to hide behind us) at the booth!

Me, Brittany and Brett (attempting–but failing to hide behind us) at the booth!

As has been my habit the last few years, today’s entry will be a report on MegaCon 2015, which was held last week (Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 10-12). This was the third year sequentially for me to be at MegaCon since moving to Florida, and my fourth MegaCon overall (the first time I went to MegaCon was in the late 90s—I wasn’t blogging then). Some of you recall my post from last year when I talked about the clogged aisles. It seems all that was resolved this year with the move back to the west arena. While there were still massive crowds (I never saw a final count), the aisles had been expanded allowing for greater foot traffic and stopping for cosplayers. It was still crowded, but with lots of elbow room.

So my move to Indy Press was an interesting experiment as well. There are pros and cons about the location. Pro: I was on the end of the row, a corner, so lots of traffic passed by on two sides. Con: the show would only let us open the booth to one direction, kinda negating the corner aspect. The other—and this was the far bigger issue, I think—is that I signed up to be in “Indy Press,” an area where I thought I’d be surrounded by other small press publishers. There was one. The people to the booth right beside me were selling…get this…pillows. Uh. What? How is that “Indy Press?”

I'm making the face because the young fan (to the right) said I didn't look like my caricature. After I smiled, she agreed I was indeed Roland Mann.

I’m making the face because the young fan (to the right) said I didn’t look like my caricature. After I smiled, she agreed I was indeed Roland Mann.

Sigh.

I shared the booth space with writer Wes Locher (who is also a former student of mine) because the price tag was higher than I really thought I could make. That was a good decision because a)I got to spend time in the booth talking with him when there were occasional lulls (and they were occasional); b)it cut the cost in half…which ultimately meant I covered my portion of the table—which is always nice. We did a give-away together and gave away $50 worth of books to Matt de Simone and Lucas Loman.

I got to take the annual photo with Robert McGinty…but I can’t seem to locate it. Had great dinners both nights; Friday night with the aqua-talented Paul Pelletier and Saturday night with Barry Gregory (and son!). Missed this year was old pal Bill Sawyer.

Autographs are always FREE!

Autographs are always FREE!

I didn’t do a panel this year. There seemed to be confusion about the Mega-folks the last part of the year—at least in their communication with me. They announced they’d sold the show a few days before the start, so I’m guessing that’s where all the confusion came from. The previous two years were smooth sailing.

As with good shows, I’m already anticipating next years. It’ll be moved to May (Memorial Day) next year…which I’m skeptical of (but note that I already said I was anticipating next year!) only because there are so many other shows in the summer, I’d rather see them move it the other way on the calendar. Part of the reason I think the April show worked is this is Florida. It’s not cold in the winter, regardless of what the locals say!

And for you Orlando-local people, don’t forget to mark May 2 on your calendars. It’s FREE COMIC BOOK DAY and I’ll be signing books at the COLISEUM OF COMICS in the Fashion Square Mall—all day long! Come see me!

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MegaCon this weekend—be there!

MegaCon 2015 starts tomorrow and I’ll be set up this year in Indy Press booth #574. I’m sharing space with writer Wes Locher, a rising newcomer in the industry. Take my word for it, you’re going to be seeing Wes’s work pop up regularly—and you can say you heard it here first! And have I ever steered you wrong?

booth574WandRThis’ll be my third straight year since we’ve been down Orlando way, but my first with an Indy Press booth; the other two years I was in artists alley. It’s a step for me in that it’s considerably pricier to get out of the alley. Truthfully, I’m not sure that it’ll make a difference, but I wanted to try it one year and see if it did. Artist alley seems to have become a place where anyone with a pencil and pad can set up. Additionally, artist alley no longer means “comic artist.” When I first started doing comic cons back in the late 80s, the only people in artist alley were people with published work of some sort. Before you think I’m slamming indy comics, I’m not—I’m a huge fan and supporter of them. But I seem to find a lot these days that a great many artists in artist alley have nothing—and I mean nothing—in comic print. Some of them don’t even have “art,” but they have trinkety stuff. Like handmade jewelry, buttons, etc. I always thought the people who did that were traditional vendors…and at one time, they probably were.

On top of that, many of the artists are selling illegal prints. The casual fan doesn’t know the difference, of course, and these artists end up making a lot of money illegally from unknowing fans.

Eh—but I ramble because this post is not about whining. I wanted to move to the indy press area to mainly see if the traffic I get there is different. Obviously, as a comic writer, I don’t have any “prints” to sell (though I’m considering talking to the artists I collaborate with about that), so it takes a lot of $3-$10 comics to make back the expense. I’m hoping the traffic in the indy area are fans actually looking to buy comic books and not just browsing for cool art or trinkets.

Cosplay (which is just costuming by fans) has become a huge deal over the last several years. There’s some hubbub about it in circles higher than mine, but in general, I don’t mind cosplay and think it’s kinda cool (most of the times). The issue to some seems to be they are rude and block the aisles. I’ve only had that happen once, and I asked them nicely to step around the side (I was on a corner), which they politely and immediately did. I’m planning to steal a page out of my friend John Metych’s playbook this year—I’ll tell you if it works next week.

MegaCon caught some flak last year because of the traffic on Saturday. And it was bad, but it was bad because so many people came to the show—which in my mind is a good thing. More people at the show means more money on the floor. They moved back across the street to their old location this year, so hopefully that will solve the traffic issues.

So, come out and see me and Wes. We’ll be at booth #574 in Indy Press!

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Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy

The last book I re-read was accidental. Re-reading Robert Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy was intentional. My enjoyment of it this time was probably greater than the first time. I don’t remember liking it that much when I read it back during college, but I really enjoyed this one.

Citizen of the Galaxy is the story of Thorby, a young slave purchased by a beggar on some far off planet because no one else would bid on him. The beggar, Baslim, takes Thorby in and treats him like his son. He teaches him the lowly job of “begging,” (an official job on their world) and of doing so with integrity. One thing Thorby comes to learn is that Baslim has a mad hatred for slavery. It’s his life’s passion and work to destroy it.

As Thorby grows, Baslim teaches him foreign languages and other really cool non-traditional-beggar stuff. He also gives him specific instructions on what to do if anything should ever happen to him.

CitizenofthegalaxyOf course, something does happen to him and suddenly Thorby is off to space. He ultimately learns Baslim was a high ranking officer in Earth’s military and thought he knew Thorby’s lineage. >Spoiler < Turns out, he did, and Thorby is actually the kidnapped son of a rich family from Earth. Thorby, equally hates slavery and sets out to use his newfound riches and power to put an end to it. And that’s where the book ends.

CotG is a whirlwind adventure from the seedy underbelly of the homeless, to a commune-style community of space-faring traders, to the ritzy life of the affluent on earth. Thorby’s frustration is that many on earth refuse to believe slavery is an issue, even though he clearly was one for several years.

Heinlein’s writing, like always, is easy to read and takes you fully into the world around Thorby. And while my old creative writing college professor might call it genre fiction, I liked it better than most of the li-fi I’ve read. It is what it is.

My final note is on the cover. I often don’t scan the covers of the stuff I’ve read—it’s so easy to find it elsewhere and of the same version that I read. But I can’t find the cover to the version I own…and it’s just a paperback, so I don’t think it’s that valuable…it was just odd.

If you’ve got this one sitting on your shelf, pick it up again and read it. It’s fast. It’s fun.

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AT&T irritates me

Before I dive in to my tirade, I should tell you up front that—in general—I like AT&T. I used their long distance service back during the calling card days, have had cell service with them, and even now have my internet with them.

And yet, with all of that, they still bombard me continually with advertising. I wish they’d give me a credit for all the money they spend advertising just to ME. In fact, I really wish that was an option on my statements; It would cut my monthly bills in half.

But you know, I get that big companies like that have to advertise. I get it…and in general, I don’t even care. But let me just give you an example of the waste in money from AT&T. In a recent week, on a single day I got mail, a phone call and even a knock on the door sales visit. Granted the personal knock on the door is rare, but it’s about the third one since the family moved to Florida.

The problem is two-fold: 1)we’re in 2015. We live in the most technologically advanced period in our history (is that statement EVER not true? Think about it for a minute). I can send an email and in less than 60 seconds, it can be read on the other side of the globe! Computers are so powerful now, they could easily spit out a list to their sales force so they’d know: hey! Roland Mann is already a customer. Spend time and energy trying to get someone NEW.

2)they’re mostly trying to sell me AT&T television, which I will never buy (they didn’t read my earlier blog, did they?)—or at least I won’t until I can choose channels and not “packages.”

I tell you no lie when I tell you I get a minimum of one mailer per week. Think about that: I get 52 pieces of mail per year trying to get me to buy a service I don’t have and will never have. I’ve told them as much both live (on those rare personal sales visits) and on the phone. If you add in the periodic phone calls I get, that’s a lot of time and effort spent on one person, who is already an AT&T customer anyway.

The wife says I shouldn’t mess with them when they call, but I always do. They tend to ask me if the deal they’re offering is a good one. I tell them it sounds that way and then they try to get me to order. Which I refuse. They want to remind me what a great deal it is, to which I again agree…but still refuse. It isn’t unusual they get frustrated and hang up.

The mail I can throw away (and do, filling up landfills in New Jersey somewhere! Thanks AT&T!), but the doorbells and phones I answer.

And it just irritates me every time!

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