Tag Archives: Imagicopter

Mississippi has a writers’ conference…and you should know about it!

This past October (14th-16th to be exact), the Gulf Coast Writers Association hosted their annual Southern Expressions GCWA Authors Conference, and I was honored to be one of their speakers. Held at the IP Casino, Resort and Spa in Biloxi, and the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center in Ocean Springs, the conference is a nice little gem waiting to be discovered.

I’ll admit that I’d never heard of the conference before, and as a Mississippian, I was a bit embarrassed. However, that embarrassment faded when I learned the conference was only in either the 3rd for 4th year. I made the drive down on Friday from my home in Oxford. I was starting a new job as part of the faculty at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida the following Monday, so I would just drive there from the conference on Sunday.

I arrived, checked in, and took my stash of books with me to the check-in conference room. Curtis Wilkie, author of The Fall of the House of Zeus, was the speaker for the night—he was asked the usual questions when it was done. I found it funny when I learned he also lives in Oxford and yet I’d never met him (or heard of him, to be honest). Just goes to show you I’m not running the “literary” circles in Oxpatch.

On Saturday morning they bussed the lot of us over to Ocean Springs and we began the daylong string of sessions in the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center. I met some interesting folks, both speakers and writers, and did my two presentations: one on suping up your protagonist and the other on shameless self-promotion.

The conference provided live entertainment on the grounds that night, but I caught a ride back to the hotel with some new writer friends I’d made (Charles Sasser and Peggy Webb—Webb, a Mississippian from Tupelo!). I had dinner in the casino where I stumbled upon Jeanie Pantelakis, (Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency) one of the agents in attendance…she joined me and we had a nice chat—mostly about movies and comic books!

Sunday morning was a very laid-back signing session by any and all comers. The public was invited and several people made their way from the slot machines to our room full of authors. Of course, most of them claimed to have just lost all their money and assured us they would have bought a book if they’d had any cash… It wasn’t a total loss, though. As many authors are fond of doing when possible, I managed to trade a few books and still come home with new reading material. Though I went knowing no single other person, I left with a handful of new friends. Not a bad trip, if I do say so myself.

(I meant to post this back in December…but neglected to do so. A slightly different version of this was printed in IMAGYRO, the magazine of IMAGICOPTER)

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Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask

I haven’t had the chance to talk about many books here in recent posts primarily because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in school. Now that that is done, I’m hoping to get back to more regularity here with reviews, talking about writing and that sort of thing.

So it should probably come as no surprise to you that I feel like I have a lot of “catch-up” reading to do now. I’ve got a stack of books that I’ve gotten over the last two years that I’m anxious to get to—many of them by my Imagicopter pals.

Alas, Flyboy is not one of them, but instead is something I found because of my search for superhero novels and it stood out with the very cool title. And with such a cool title, you’d think this would be a rockin’ book, right?

Instead, it was ehh. Just ehh.

I must confess that my opinion might just be bothered by the idea that it is such a cool title…anyway, a synopsis would be something like this: dude who can turn into a fly develops a crush on a waitress who just so happens to be able to make things disappear. They band together with the intention of fighting social injustice and then do such awesome deeds as make mailboxes disappear. Flyboy gets depressed when his mother dies and become a bee instead, and lives with a bee colony until they kick him out.

The problem is that the characters as so interesting as presented and there are a lot of interesting things going on around them (background noise, really)…but they don’t do anything but sit around and whine a lot. I found myself stopping several times and examining the page number and then wondering why I don’t know where the story is going. There were so many ways this book could have gone, but I think the author dropped the ball several times by failing to have a real cohesive plot.

While I wouldn’t say the book is “chock-full,” it certainly has more than its fair share of R-rated language and the obligatory sex scene. Skip it. There are other books out there to read before this one.

AND, I’m excited to announce here the short video that I wrote and directed my final residency at Spalding. It is below and is about two and a half minutes. Enjoy!

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Promoting away!

These past several months I’ve been doing what I could to promote, sell and sign copies of Buying Time. Today’s economy mixed with ever changing technology creating fewer actual readers makes selling words printed on paper harder than ever. The fun thing about my efforts is the variety of venues I’ve tried.

I’ve already mentioned Imagicopter on this page and if you’ve read that blog, you know how hyped I am about it. I won’t repeat that blog except to say that Imagicopter is a loose conglomeration of independent authors, cartoonists and artists who join together for mutual promotional efforts. In general, Imagicopter events are at libraries and indy-minded bookstores (like DK Books in Memphis). Some events have been at comic and sci-fi conventions. Imagicopter has helped me to go places I probably wouldn’t have been able to get to do alone.

I’ve also done some local craft shows and community festivals. Those may be among some of my most interesting experiences as the people who attend these events run the full scale of characters. Truthfully, it was one such event which inspired this blog. In general, most of the people who attend this type of show didn’t come to see a writer or buy a book. Many of them are just out killing a Saturday afternoon (or morning). What’s funny, though, are the responses I get when I try to speak with them as they meander past my table. This is certainly not a scientific study, so don’t hold me to these numbers. But roughly half of the people walk by my table or booth without even stopping. Most of them with nod at me, say hello, or smile as they continue their trek. A few refuse to make eye contact. Of the ones who stop, a little more than half of them ask me what I’m doing. I accept that as an honest inquiry and tell them about my book. Of the ones who don’t speak (yes, I generally try to speak first!), some of them pick the book up and read the back cover copy. Some of them tap the book as they walk by. Most of them make some kind of comment about the title. Because of the book’s title, I get many many comments about “killing time” and the like. A few find out what I’m doing and then want to tell me about their own great idea for a book.

Some of my favorite comments are:

*I’ll have to tell my friend about this book. She likes to read.

*I had an idea like this once. I just never wrote it down.

*You should get this book into Books-A-Million (or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, etc).

*Do you believe in time travel?

*I traveled back in time once. Do you believe that?

*My son (or daughter or cousin or etc) is a great writer. I bet if they did this book they’d make millions. (my follow up is usually something like: “Really? That’s great. What have they written?” “Oh, nothing. But they’re a great writer.”)

*I’ve got an idea for a book…you want to hear it?

And, probably my favorite…

*If I have any money left at the end of the day, I’ll have to buy one.

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Imagicopter

One of the hardest things for a writer to do has nothing at all to do with writing. Actually, ask most writers and they’ll tell you writing is the easy part. It’s all the stuff that comes after that’s so hard! Even the most successful writers today who are blessed with hard-working marketing departments didn’t always have it that way. Many of them remember the day of doing all their own marketing.

At one of the sessions at this past Arkansas Writers Conference, I talked about the art of shameless self-promotion. The funny thing is that most writers aren’t the naturally super-social kind of folks. Most writers would prefer being stuck in a room full of books…alone. Just toss in some food every now and again. But in order to successfully promote, they gotta get past that and walk outside and see people…and the sun.

Writers have to aggressively do everything in their power to promote and sell their work. I could go on about that, but this blog isn’t about that. Maybe some other date, but in a nutshell writers have to do what they can to target newspapers, radio, television and the internet.

I’ve recently become associated with a loose conglomeration of writers (and a few artists) who have banded together in an effort to pool resources when it comes to marketing, especially for those in the small press. Imagicopter is the name of the group and is the brainchild of author H. David Blalock. Basically what happens is that authors join the group, supply bio material for the website (check out my page), and then participate in special “events.” The cool thing is that it can often be difficult for a single small press writer to have a signing as bookstores are often reluctant to put a lot of time and energy into a session for a single unknown or little-known writer. However, if they can promote 4-15 (depending on space available for them) authors at the same time, then that becomes an author “event” and they’re more likely to put time, energy and effort into it.

One of the neat things is the wide variety of authors there. One of my fellow BCW pals also participates in Imagicopter.

Over the course of the last near-year, I’ve participated in events in which Imagicopter was also there (that’s how I met them, after all) and I’ve participated in events with Imagicopter. I’m completely sold on this idea and wonder why this wasn’t done much before now. If you’re a writer in the southern area and your name isn’t John Grisham, I highly recommend you check out Imagicopter’s site and see what it’s all about.

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SouthernFriedComicCon 2010

This past weekend I had the great honor and pleasure of being one of a handful of guests at the 2nd Annual Mississippi SouthernFriedComicCon held in Jackson, Mississippi. I had a great time. I got to see some old friends, meet some new ones, sat on a few panels, promoted my new work and even sold and signed some of it.

This was one of those shows that word-of-mouth got to me immediately after last years. Jackson has had a wide variety of comic and sci-fi shows through the years. My first knowledge of them, of course, begins in the 80s. I will admit that as a teenager and student in my 20s, the shows were fantastic. They offered competition for the local store (which was run by a not-so-nice clerk) on both a volume and price level.

Looking back, however, I realize that the shows were often very poorly attended and must have been depressing for any of the exhibitors. I do remember setting up in the early 90s as a guest and wondering where all the attendees were.

SouthernFriedCC is run by a group of folks who not only want to see the show succeed, but have a genuine interest and love for the medium (we can discuss all the pros and cons of THAT later! Ha) and want to share it with others. SFCC makes a concentrated effort to maintain a family friendly atmosphere, something that not all sci-fi and comic shows do. I applaud that effort and hope that others will do the same.

I went down to Jackson a day early and spent some time with my former roommates Ashley Koostra and Steven Butler. Ash has been in Jackson, I think, just about since the time we graduated way back when. Steven’s still down in south Mississippi. It’s odd how when we get together, it sometimes seems so little time has passed when we talk about the “old days.” Gee, I’m beginning to sound more and more like my parents every day.

Steven was obviously at SFCC, but so was Mitch Byrd, the other artist that “broke in” to the comic industry same time as me and Steven. I hadn’t seen Mitch since early 90s. Like most of us, he looked the same…a little heavier and a little greyer.

Of course, the promotion machine Andy Childress was there. I give Andy credit for a resurgence in comic arts in Mississippi…okay, maybe not for the resurgence, but for the promotion. Andy, who does bubbaworldcomix.com, is quick to contact every single Mississippi artist and comic creator he knows and let them know about any event in the state. If it were up to him, every one of us would be there at every single event.

Kevin, Shane, and Chuck (me with Chuck Jett pictured above at SFCC) and a whole host of others were also there.

The folks from Imagicopter were there in full force. I should blog about them sometime…cool idea. If I didn’t see you there, then you missed out on a fun time!

I’ll be doing a signing and reading at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis on July 6. Be there!

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MidSouthCon 2010 report

I mentioned in this space several weeks ago that 2010 was shaping up to be a busy year. On March 12-14, I was a “comic industry guest” at MidSouthCon, held in Olive Branch, Mississippi. (Though I understand the Federal Government is requiring them to move back to Tennessee next year). While I attended ShadowCon in January, this was the first full Sci-Fi/Comics Convention I’d attended as a guest in nearly a decade. Yes, it feels weird to say that as it doesn’t feel like that much time has passed.

My stay was made possible by my sister Angie who lives nearby. She put me up and gave me a soft bed to sleep in, even if I wasn’t there to visit too terribly often. I was able, though, to talk her into coming out and visiting a real geek-convention for the first time ever. She has remained oddly silent about the entire experience. This was also Brittany’s first time to visit a convention—she even got the shirt!

I was seated next to a couple of guys I used to hire during my Malibu days. They happen to be some pretty talented artists, as well. Dean Zachary, Mitch Foust, Jim Hall, all shared a joint booth space and practically didn’t move the entire three days, steadily drawing whatever was requested by fans. And the Star Wars fans were out in droves. They came to see Star Wars comic writer John Jackson Miller, and Kevin J. Anderson, who was the Guest of Honor. Though I’ve known John for some 15+ years, I guess it’s been more peripherally than directly. To my knowledge (and his as well, he claimed), this was the first time I’d met him in person. John was just as nice as I expected, and novelist Anderson—of whom I had no expectations—was equally nice. Anderson sat to my left when he wasn’t on panels.

Some of my new acquaintances were there as well: Imagicopter founder David Blalock was there, but I regrettably didn’t get to speak much with him. Novelist Bryan Davis came for the banquet on Saturday. I spoke with him briefly and met his wife. I even had the chance to try to recruit him a little for Imagicopter (Yes, I’ll blog about that a little later).

I met some other new folks as well. Musician Chris Brown manned Anderson’s table most of the time while Anderson was away. An incredible guitarist, I anticipate he will be performing as the music guest at cons to come in the very near future. Lin Workman has been working in comics for a while, and I find it odd that he’s located so close in Memphis yet I’d never had the opportunity to meet him.

A surprise visit by Mississippi 4H leader (don’t know her official title) Linda Mitchell surprised me a bit. But I tell you, she is always on the lookout for events that her incredibly talented group of 4H kids might like. She and husband Dean were all smiles as they made their way around the convention. It’s highly likely she’ll bring a group of 4H kids there next year…and I suspect they’ll have the time of their lives!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention MidSouthCon Committee member Carlin Stuart. Carlin was my liaison and the entire reason I attended and was able to attend. He took good care of me! I’m hoping to hear from Carlin in the coming months with an invitation to do it all again next year!

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