My Lunacon panelist experience

I attended two days of Lunacon this past weekend, Friday and Saturday, and for a regional SF convention it was pretty good. Also, this was the first time I was a program participant, which meant talking on panels about my experience and opinions on different things.

I had been meaning to participate in panels for a long time, afterall, as a wandering editor I've been attending panels for years now, both at comics and science fiction & fantasy conventions. I figured, aside from being a lifelong fan, I also have years of professional editorial experience to back up my opinions.

Friday was easy enough for me, I wasn't on a panel, but went up with pal Peter Brett as he was a panelist and it was good to pick up my badge a day early as well as get the lay of the land within the hotel (anyone who knows me, knows I'm not the best with remembering directions, there's no internal map in my head).

Saturday started for me with a 10 AM panel called: Working Without a Net: Personal and Financial Planning for Creative Professionals. I was the rookie on this panel, but well steeped in what it is like to be a freelance editor as that is what I've been doing for the past almost 2 years. My comments added to the overall discussion as mainly things were discussed for writers, and I added to that from the prospective of an editor. The ice was officially broken, I was now a panel participant. There was a few hour break before my next panels so I roamed the con for a while.

My 2 PM panel was: The Year in Comics. As a lifelong comics fan and former comics buyer for SFBC, I held my own contributing to the fine panel. We covered lots from the mega-crossovers to the future of digital comics. I lastly brought up the recent trend of publishers putting out nice collections of classic comic strip material - and was pleasantly surprised to hear--on the panel--that a second volume of Fletcher Hanks material is being released by Fantagraphics, called, You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! by Fletcher Hanks and Paul Karasik. See, even I learned something new. It was a fun panel (it's always fun to talk comics).
Then at 3 PM I had to run to my next panel, affectionately named: What the *$&% Happened to M. Night Shyamalan? This sounded too good to pass up. I was on the panel with people who were more steeped in motion picture lore than I, but I could talk M. Night with the next guy. It was fun, and we all lamented on how difficult it was to follow up the pure genius that was The Sixth Sense. We finished with hopeful, if not fearful, anticipation of his next film, due in 2010, an adaptation of a fantasy-based Nick' TV series.

After a few more hours of wandering around and a lunch with some friends, I was gearing up for my last panel of the day at 7 PM, of which I was the moderator: Writing Combat Scenes in SF. Although I was nervous and started off as a low talker, the panel just took off with great conversation and audience participation talking about all the realistic details to focus on when writing combat scenes. We were all in the presence of greatness with Eric Flint telling stories, sharing conversations he had with David Drake, and making it quite easy for me and our other panelists to have a solid conversation about writing combat.

My other co-panelists, James D. Ross, writer of the Radiation Angels books, also got really involved in the discussion, and I got the chance to chat with him a few times over the weekend. Also, author Mike McPhail, rounded out our panel, and gave great examples of how the details make up such an integral part of describing the reality of warfare.

Overall it was a great weekend, and this Combat panel really made the weekend for me. Thanks to Lunacon for including me in the program participation. I'm sure I'll be back next year.


Review: WOLVERINE: Prodigal Son by Antony Johnston, art by Wilson Tortosa

The Del Rey manga program has grown significantly in the years since it began. When I was an acquiring editor for SFBC, I used to buy titles from Del Rey and saw the incredible growth of their manga division.

In time for the launch of Hugh Jackman's newest movie: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Del Rey developed an entirely new version of everyone's favorite scrappy warrior, manga-fied.

In, Wolverine: Prodigal Son, (Vol. 1) written by Antony Johnston with art by Wilson Tortosa, we see a completely new Wolverine story, as a troubled teen left in the Canadian wilderness (ok, that sounds familiar, but it ends there - trust me), and taken into the Quiet Earth training school where he develops his martial arts prowess.

An outstanding student with some abandonment issues, Logan longs for the outside world, and when he is taken there -- carnage ensues, as does that longing to find out about his mysterious past.

It is a fine new take on the Wolverine story, obviously aimed at a young manga readership, but as a long-time Wolverine comics reader I didn't mind the spin (or any recreationas long as it is done interestingly). And if it is able to snare a bunch of new young Wolverine fans, with its black & white manga art style, then that is excellent.

Due out in April, the manga trade paperback is set to retail for $12.99.


This just in...Dan Abnett signs with Angry Robot

Angry Robot, the shiny new sf&f imprint of HarperCollins-UK, has just announced in a press release that Dan Abnett has signed with them for a multiple book deal.

Abnett, best known for his prolific work in the Warhammer 40,000 universe for Games Workshop, as well as his recent Torchwood and Doctor Who novels, including scores of other amazing work such as writing comics for both Marvel and DC Comics as well as the UK's 2000 AD.

A clip from the press release:

The three novels for Angry Robot will allow Abnett to play to all his strengths as a writer. His
penchant for wildly imaginative world-building and lovable characters comes to the fore in
TRIUMPH, a ribald historical fantasy set in a warped version of our present day … only with
Elizabeth the First on the throne. This will be published by Angry Robot, in both the UK and US,
in October 2009.

Great news for a veteran author, known for his imaginative world building and character development. I especially liked a novel of his from the past, Riders of the Dead, which I picked up for use in the SFBC [way back when]. I loved that cover art too!

The folks over at Angry Robot seem to be really putting together an interesting list. I look forward to seeing what else they announce.

And I look forward to seeing material on the first few books as it comes rolling off the presses [or in digital samples of course].


A Balancing Act

I find myself escaping to my blog, my little controlled world of content; however little of it there is, however little I update regularly. Being an independent editor/writer/professional takes discipline, a discipline I learn a little more about every day. This is something I am not sure I'll ever have mastered. But I am making a go at it.

Right now, even as I write this, I'm working on two interesting but completely different projects. Both are due at the end of the month. And like a circus clown, I'm juggling them both, hoping neither hits the ground.

During the early parts of the day, I deal with lots of email correspondence, I check a bunch of blogs, websites, etc. I try to keep in touch with all of the people I've been working been working for, I pass along bits of news I read or hear, in the hopes of staying connected and leading to more work.

Remember, it is your responsibility as a freelancer to remind people that you're out there. They have day jobs, and are likely to forget -- and I don't blame them. They have meetings to attend and lots more email to respond to at the corporate level. At a home office there are distractions like Angel on TV at 9 A.M. -- I'm just saying. Like every good Jedi already knows... one must have balance in all things.

So, every day is a learning experience. I think I've found a good balance of working at home and hitting the pavement do do sales work or meet with friends and colleagues. I also find detailed work like editing comes easier at night, when there are less email and phone distractions. I guess every independent worker must find their own pace that works.

Here are the two things I'm currently working on. One is editing the content for the Book-of-the-Month Club's: 2010 Stephen King Library (R) Desk Calendar. This has been a lot of fun so far, writing essays and editing the work of others. King is a fun guy to write about. There is plenty of material -- he has so much work to reference.

I'm also editing a book on World War I aviation. Yes they are two very different projects. Then again, so is my experience working with fiction and nonfiction -- I welcome them equally. And when they are done, I'll move on to whatever comes next.

And here is to that prospect of future work coming in. Raise a glass. Happy St. Patrick's Day.


Review: GRENDEL: Devil's Reign TP by Matt Wagner & Tim Sale

I've been a Grendel fan for a long time. I buy every issue in periodical form whenever a new story comes out, and I usually buy the trade edition as well. This is one series I seriously collect.

When I read that the trade paperback edition of GRENDEL: Devil's Reign was coming out, I was very excited as I really liked this book. Orion Assante has been a character from the Grendel mythos that I wanted to read more about, and this story fed that hunger.

Two of my favorite creators were involved: Matt Wagner, the man behind the entire Grendel mythos, this time writing only, and Tim Sale, one of my favorite comics artists (and the artist whose work also appears in the hit show, HEROES). It was a match made in Hell.

The main thing I LOVE about this book is the way that Wagner's & Sale's work complimented each other. Also, aside from the black vs. white backgrounds for the two paralleling stories, there is also a separation of text and art panels that differs from many standard comic books.
I really enjoyed reading this in periodical form and am glad to have the collection to refer back to for re-reads. I even love the fonts chosen [OK, I know I'm a nerd].

The big disappointment of this trade paperback collection is the lack of any additional supplemental material. Aside from the terrific new painted cover by Wagner, there isn't any additional content aside from the reprint of the story itself. No introduction, sketches, behind the scenes, pin-up gallery...nothing. That is disappointing because I can refer to most of the other Grendel trades and hardcovers I own and there is a fair amount of additional material.

In a sense, I see the trades and hardcovers like buying a DVD of a movie you love. You probably supported it in the theater (just like buying the original comics) but you loved it so much that you want the story again, in a collected form and I've come to expect a bit more than just the story, in the collected edition. And I'm not trying to knock Dark Horse because they usually do an amazing job in their collected editions.

For example, a few months back I bought the anniversary edition of the BATMAN/GRENDEL crossover. Sure I own these books in their original editions, but to support all that is Grendel, I bought the new edition. And it was terrific. Aside from the wonderful original story; the original 4 covers were reprinted along with sketch and color illustration development pages narrated by the notes of Matt Wagner. This is an example of the wonderful extras I've come to expect.

I don't mean to go on and on, and maybe to first-time readers of the story it is not a big deal. But some of us are hardcore, reading the stories so many times they feel more like parts of our own memories than just stories.

These stories become part of our lives, so as much as I wanted to rave about the actual Devil's Reign story here, I'm left wondering if I should have flipped through the trade first, because I feel a bit robbed.

Yes, that is a real Grendel tattoo. It's an image of the mask of Grendel Prime from GRENDEL: War Child. The image is ghosted on the back of the limited edition leather-bound hardcover copy I have. A gift from an old friend at DH. A friend who knew I was hardcore.

Vivat Grendel!


Review: The Digital Plague by Jeff Somers

I finally got around to reading The Digital Plague, I had been meaning to, and after running into author Jeff Somers at NYCC, I knew I needed to sit down and put the gun in my mouth.
You see, when going on an adventure with thug-turned-crime lord, Avery Cates, you need to be ready for some pain. Because it hurts every time.
Somers' mix of noir-inspired narration and curse dialogue is as quick as Avery's draw, and his world is a ruthless future where destruction is everywhere, and the System Pigs rule with an iron fist. The only way to survive is to be tough as nails. Or rich as hell.

At this point, Avery is both. But that also means he has a big target painted on his back. Something he's used to, of course, and this time he needs to find the one techie that has given him a nasty bug. This second novel is a slog from the mean streets of New York City to the remnants of Paris, where Avery, accompanied by a few cops (not his favorite people, and vice versa) must find a very special someone.

The most addictive element of Somers' writing is his narrative voice, the way he brings Cates to life. No matter how bad or bad ass he is, you always want him to pull through. You feel like you're there, counting the last few rounds of ammo, wondering if he'll make it. I'm hooked, and can't wait for the next installment.

One thing I would have liked to see is a taste of perspective from another character. He builds up some interesting side characters, but we only get see them through one set of eyes. I sometimes found myself craving another voice, just to change it up.

Overall, I feel it's a solid series, and I've been recommending it to friends who might be looking for a writer with sharp teeth.


Quick hits from The Warded Launch Party

Last night in Brooklyn, at The Zombie Hut, I threw a small launch party for my friend, Peter Brett, in honor of the upcoming March 10th release of his new fantasy novel coming from Del Rey books, The Warded Man.

The cool folks at Del Rey were generous enough to donate a few books for me to give away at the event, and my lovely wife, Fotini, made awesome copper bookmarks stamped with the wards from the book.

I wanted to thank Joshua and Eddie, of Jabberwocky Agency, for helping me set up. I know how proud they are of their author... and I am too. And this was my first time throwing a book-related party of any kind. I was a bit nervous (who, me?)

The party scene filled out nicely. Family & friends of Pete, publishing industry people, and many who were involved with various parts of the book's development were in attendance. It was warm and cozy by the fireplace, and although some were tempted to throw the copper bookmarks into the fire and recreate the burning medallion scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark... we restrained ourselves.

A good time was had by all. I want to than all the friends who helped out in various ways. I also want to thank the Zombie Hut for hosting the party - they were awesome. And so was Savoia, who I got to cater the party (just two doors down from the Hut). The food was a hit.

It was really fun to throw this party, and I feel that we all need to stick together through these rough times and celebrate when and where we can.

FYI - I've also thrown up an album on facebook with a lot more photos. If you know me on there, check it out. And keep the Zombie drinks flowing. And, stay away from the demons... but when you can, fight the good fight!


"I got to tell you..."

"... I'm fairly excited to see what you're capable of, if Morpheus is right and all...We're not supposed to talk about this, but if you are...Damn, it's a very exciting time. We got a lot to do. Let's get to it....

I had to start off with one of my favorite lines, from one of my favorite science fiction movies, from our trusty operator, Tank. I often remember the optimism in this scene, and refer to it all the time.

Today is an exciting day. I have some editing to do, a few manuscripts to start reading, and then I'm throwing a little launch party for a good friend, who has a new book coming out next week.

I'll be sure to post pictures and details about the Launch Party soon. It has been an awesome thing to witness a friend get to this point with his writing. It has also been an educational experience for me, to be on the road with him, hitting conventions, meeting people, and getting to this point.

I'm looking forward to many years of this to come. Here's to you, pal.

DEAR CYBORGS by Eugene Lim, a little review

I had read a great little article on LitHub.com about this new novel from Eugene Lim and went to seek it out. Soon after I had acquired...