I had a great time at Balticon and wanted to share a few high points. One of the best things about these sorts of events is getting to meet people face-to-face whom you “know” online. At Balticon, I had the pleasure of meeting people like Scott Sigler, Justin Macumber, and Myke Cole, whom I’ve “known” online but never met in person. I also had the chance to speak with people whose work I admire, including authors like Michael Sullivan and Nathan Lowell. (I met lots of cool people- apologies to all those who are remaining nameless.)
For its size, Balticon offers a surprisingly wide selection of panels, and I had the privilege of taking part in quite a few:
Swords and Sorcery- This one was fun because of all the discussion of the old pulps and the Conan stories that influenced this subgenre. A couple of people hated on George R.R. Martin, but I love his work. (Plus, he lives in Santa Fe. We’ve got to stick together.)
True Blood vs Sookie Stackhouse- I was the moderator and was worried about how this would go, as I knew very little prior to researching the topic. Thankfully I had two terrific panelists: fantasy author Gail Z. Martin and agent Joshua Bilmes, who represents Charlaine Harris. They, along with a terrific audience, kept the discussion going and I fed them a steady stream of controversial statements from readers and reviewers to spark the dialogue. It wound up being one of the most enjoyable panels of the weekend.
Good and Evil in Genre Literature- interesting discussion about the trend toward characters who are neither good nor evil but “shades of gray” (no pun intended), and is there still a place for the “white hats” and “black hats” in literature?
Self-Publishing- This was an excellent panel and a very balanced discussion. Michael Sullivan was the most notable success story among the group (check out his Riyria series if you haven’t). Afterward I got the chance to chat with his wife Robin, who is working wonders with Ridan Publishing.
Magical Systems in Fantasy Literature- Great topic and big audience, but there were about twelve panelists, so I kept my comments to a minimum. No one wants to hear from the action-adventure guy when you have writers like Jody Lynn Nye, Gail Martin, and Myke Cole on the panel.
*At this point, I found myself free for the rest of the day Saturday. So, being a baseball fan, I slipped away and caught an afternoon ballgame at Camden Yards. Beautiful ballpark! I did make it back in time to enjoy some evening programming, including a book launch party for Spells and Swashbucklers, a pirate-themed anthology and a follow-up to Rum and Runestones, which I enjoyed.
The Line Between Horror and Paranormal Fiction- Fun discussion and more people in attendance than I expected for 9:00am on a Sunday. Gave me a chance to discuss The Zombie Driven Life and You Suck. Also got to meet Paul Elard Cooley, who is a new co-host on Dead Robots’ Society- one of my favorite podcasts.
Reading- I read aloud from my forthcoming YA book, You Suck. It was a small crowd, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. (I guess we’ll find out when it’s released!)
Including “Real” People in Your Story- This was a fun one for me because I’ve done a great deal of this. In fact, Tam Broderick in Quest was supposed to be a brief cameo appearance of a friend of mine, but she grew into a solid secondary character, and one whom I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on.
Fight and Action Scenes- I moderated this one and, though the discussion was lively, I felt like I didn’t take us as in-depth in some areas as I would have liked. The panel was very diverse and I wanted to include everyone, but some topics felt glossed-over. Some subjects are difficult to explore in fifty minutes.
Which Comes First- Main Character or Supporting Cast? I was worried we couldn’t fill up fifty minutes on this subject, but we did, and even ran out of time. Lots of discussion about the process of crafting characters, and how the qualities of a main character determine the types of supporting characters you write and vice-versa.
Teachers’ Workshop- This took me back to my teaching days as we discussed ways to incorporate Science Fiction into various curricular areas, and how to foster a love of Sci-Fi in students.
Gryphonwood Press Presents- This panel was held in the last hour of the last day, and I was sure no on would attend. I was thrilled to have a very nice crowd and lots of interest in our books and our company. I had the chance to talk about all of Gryphonwood’s authors and do a big book giveaway.
Overall, it was a great experience! I have to admit, though, I’m glad to be back to the low humidity and light traffic of New Mexico! Now, back to work on Dane Maddock 5. (I really need to give this book a name.)