Last Stop on the Road to WorldCon 2012

(by M. Todd Gallowglas)

I’m sitting here writing this on my flight into Chicago for the 70th Annual World Science Fiction Convention. This will be my fifth World Con, my first as a recognized “pro.” I love conventions. I remember going to them when I was younger, back before being even remotely into geeky/nerdy anything was anything but cool.

I’ve loved conventions ever since I went to my first one as a wide-eyed seventeen year old. Conventions were a place where I could go and be among a community where being into that Sci-Fi wasn’t just okay, it was actively encouraged. As a hopeful writer, conventions were a place I could get away from the “don’t quit your day job” naysayers, and where professional, working writers I read and admired became my personal cheerleading squad. In hindsight, I realize they weren’t cheering me on personally, but any young writer who showed up to be a part of the community. Still, it felt good.

So here I am years later, one of those writers myself, attending my first World Con. I’m going to be on the other side of that table at the panels. I’m going to be the one doing the reading. And I’ve gotten here via a road I never even dreamed of until last year. In the Science Fiction/Fantasy literary community, the Indie/self-publishing thing is in a strange place. I’ve gotten a whole lot of encouragement from some of my favorite writers, and then, a few minutes later, other writers who I count as friends have asked, “Why would you want to do that?” Even on a panel where I’ve discussed my bestseller status, two other panelists have said, “Whatever you do, don’t go Indie.” It’s an interesting experience being an Indie writer at a convention; I’m sure it’s going to be even more interesting being an Indie writer at the World Science Fiction convention.

Some might be asking, “If you get so much negativity, why go?” Well, I also get a lot of people cheering me on. At Westercon, Robin Hobb displayed my books in front of a packed panel, and David Brin told me he was proud of me. Talk about awesome! But even the approval is not the point.

We who write in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror come from a rich community. With the Indie book revolution, I think many up-and-coming genre writers are publishing without any knowledge of that community, much less the desire to be part of it. That’s as shame. I think one of the biggest things we Indie writers can do for our success is show up to conventions and become as active as we can in that awesome community. This is not about selling books (though that’s a nice fringe benefit.) This is about gaining credibility with the community that reads the kind of stuff we write. It’s also about acknowledging the fan base, all across the gambits of mediums that make up our fandom, that has worked so hard for so long for us to gain the strong foothold we have now in mainstream culture.

Please, fellow Indie writers, I implore you to start attending conventions proudly as an indie writer. Don’t just make plans to go to World Con next year, also look into your local and regional conventions – even if you can’t get onto any panels, show up and be part of the community. Remember, if we’re writing books in these genres, it’s a good chance that we’re fans of these genres. Go hang out with the other fans, both professional and amateurs and enjoy being among like-minded friends for a weekend.

Interview with Jennifer Brozek

(Interview by M. Todd Gallowglas)

I’ve known Jennifer Brozek for about a year, having met her at last year’s World Science Fiction convention. We’ve maintained a correspondence over that time and chatted similar interests and business at the occasional convention. She is one dedicated and hard-working lady, attending multiple conventions per year while and always has at least two or three projects in the wings waiting for her to wrap up work on the two, or three, or dozen she’s currently working on. I’ve found her especially welcoming to both fans and up-and-coming professionals. And with all this, she can turn that all off in a moment’s notice and scare you sheet white without even half trying, which is why she’s on her way to becoming the new first lady of horror.

The Genre Underground is pleased to have her on board for the Road to World Con event.

GU: When did you attend your first convention? Did you start as a fan or a pro?

JLB: The first convention I remember regularly going to was DunDraCon in San Ramon, CA. It is the largest west coast gaming convention. I think I started going back in 1994. I went as a fan. All my friends are gamers and we all went together as a group. I didn’t start going to conventions as a pro until August 2006. My first pro convention was GenCon.

GU: With the amount of conventions you attend per year, I think it’s safe to assume that you feel it’s important for pros and semi-pros in our community to attend conventions. Why do you feel it is so important for writers to attend conventions?

JLB: Editors and publishers are looking for new talent and new ideas. Authors are looking for someone to publish them. I’ve discovered that one good face-to-face meeting with the right person will open up doors like you would not believe.

I met author/editor John Helfers at GenCon in 2006. I pitched an anthology to him. He thought it was a great idea but it wasn’t quite there yet. Over time, I got to know John and he watched me work my ass off on other projects until in 2010 – after only meeting him and his editor wife, Kerrie, at conventions – he had me meet him for a business meeting. It was there he asked me to pitch him anthologies for DAW. Out of that meeting came the DAW anthology HUMAN FOR A DAY.

Not soon enough for you? Here’s me on the other end of the story. As an editor for my own magazine, I looked for new authors. In 2007, I met an author whom I invited to write for the magazine. As it turned out, he already had and been rejected—twice. We talked and I remembered both stories. I told him what was wrong with each and what was the next year’s theme and asked him to try again. He did and he got it.

That author is Dylan Birtolo. From there, Dylan and I ended up writing an RPG supplement for Colonial Gothic together, THE ROSS-ALLEN LETTERS. I have also published him in the semi-pro anthologies: THE BEAST WITHIN 2 and SPACE TRAMPS as well as the pro anthology HUMAN FOR A DAY. He is also in a forthcoming anthology, COINS OF CHAOS, and will always be one of my “go to” authors because of how easy he is to work with.

If I had not met Dylan in 2007, I don’t know if any of these other publications would have happened.

GU: What is your favorite part of going to conventions?

I think sitting down and talking with industry friends I only know online as well as meeting new industry friends. I love the social aspect of conventions and meeting people. Conventions are part of my job. They aren’t all fun and games. So, I take joy where I can and I learn what I can about the people I have worked with or will work with.

GU: What one piece of advice would you give to the neo-pro attending a convention for the first time with “PRO” on their membership badge?

Believe it or not, it is not all about you. It is very exciting to be a PRO and you want everyone to know about your books but if you only talk about you, your books, your stuff, no one is going to be interested. You want to demonstrate a depth and breadth of knowledge—other authors, other works, other editors you admire and try to emulate. When you are on a panel, illustrate your talking points with examples from other authors as well as your own work.

When you are at a party or in the green room or just in the hallway, just be you. Be a real person and not someone trying to sell your book. Eventually, the conversation will come around to you and what you do. That’s when you talk about you and your stuff. That’s when your conversation partner is interested.

GU: What one piece of advice would you give to the hopeful writer attending the convention hoping to make contacts and network?

Writing is a job. So is publishing and editing. If you are looking to network, in essence, you are looking to have an informal job interview. You need to look the part: clean and presentable. Personally, for men and women, I say no t-shirts because it makes you stand out. Men: polo shirts, bowling shirts, button downs. Women: casual nice, boat neck, blouse, tunic.

You also need to have good timing – bathrooms and, unless you are having lunch/dinner with your networking target, mealtimes are not good times. If they are at a dealer’s table, you need to know when to step to the side to allow them to do the job of selling their wares. No one appreciates having their tables blocked by someone who wants to sell them something.

I go into a whole lot of detail on this in my book, INDUSTRY TALK, because I’ve been pitched to in some of the most inconvenient places.

So, the short thought is: Writing is a job. Treat is and all contacts like a business with proper etiquette.

GU: With the rise of Indie and self-published writers leaping so easily in the market creating some controversy within the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror community, what place do you feel those writers have within the community of Fandom?

Considering I’m doing it all: self-publishing, semi-pro publishing, and pro publishing, I think there is a place. I think that self-published authors have a lot more work to do on the business side of things than they first imagine. They will have a smaller market share of the audience in general but if they do good work, get a good editor, treat their book with the respect and care it deserves, they will have a home in their chosen fandom.

I do think self-published authors have a hard road to travel. Especially if they don’t have a good reputation already to rely on. Those self-published authors who do not do their due diligence will reap the reward of a resounding silence.

There will always be pro authors who say self-published authors aren’t professional and there will always be self-published authors who say that pro authors are slaves to the big publishing houses. For me, I say find your niche and find your comfort zone and then write the crap out of it—figuratively and literally.

GU: Within your personal work, which project did you enjoy working on the most? Which do you think best defines you as a writer? What do you have in the works that readers can look forward to?

This is hard to answer. I really enjoyed writing INDUSTRY TALK: AN INSIDER’S LOOK AT WRITING RPGS AND EDITING ANTHOLOGIES because it encapsulated so much of what I have learned and wanted to pass on to other people. I get a lot of the same questions asked over and over and over again. So, I answered them in a book. I’m pleased with the book and think it’s pretty smashing.

But, at the heart of me, I am a writer. I love writing. I’ve got a number of things coming out in late 2012 that will be my new favorite thing. But, in the meantime, if you want to see the world how I see it, my favorite book is IN A GILDED LIGHT: 105 TALES OF THE MACABRE. Every story is under a thousand words and lasts all day.  I warn you, though. A bunch of reviewers had nightmares while reading this book.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ll see you at World Con.

Thank you for your interview. I’ll see you all at WorldCon.

Interview with Paul Genesse

(Interview by M. Todd Gallowglas)

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Genesse years ago at the World Fantasy Convention in Austin Texas, and I’ve bumped into him at many conventions since. The thing that impressed me most when I first met him, and continues to impress me when we chat at conventions or we interact online, is that Mr. Genesse is a consummate professional, at all times, cordial, pleasant, and fully attentive in every conversation I’ve seen him a part of. He is both a writer and a fan, and one of the strongest examples of why the symbiotic relationship between science fiction and fantasy professionals and fans is not only really cool but a necessity for our mutual growth.

The Genre Underground is pleased to have him take time out of his insanely busy schedule to speak with us on the Road to World Con event.

GU: Your convention schedule seems daunting to the point of insanity. On average, how many conventions to you attend per year?

Paul Genesse: Six at the most. Usually about five.

GU: Most writers, especially those hungry and hopefuls who dream of making it big, can likely see the benefits of attending big conventions like World Con. Why do you think it’s important for pros, or those hoping to be pros, to attend regional and local conventions as well?

Paul Genesse: It’s all about who you know, when you’re trying to sell fiction. You have to meet editors, publishers and agents. There are a few people who don’t follow this model, but very few. Once you’ve attained a certain level of skill in writing, personal contacts come into play big time. I believe that meeting the editors and other writers at various conventions, like World Con and World Fantasy are invaluable. Once you’re serious about selling something in the science fiction or fantasy genre, go to World Fantasy or World Con.

GU: What is your favorite part of going to conventions?

Paul Genesse: Seeing my fans, friends, fellow writers and editors who share so much in common with me. We all get to reconnect and support each other. I’ve been going to conventions regularly since 1997, and the people who have helped me along the way are like family, but family of my choosing, and without them I literally could not go on.

GU: As I said when introducing you, you are always the consummate professional. How important is it for neo-pros and hopeful pros to have this quality of interaction while at conventions?

Paul Genesse: It’s very important. Just be polite and treat the people you meet with respect. Don’t say anything negative, and behave in a very civil manner. Writers are normal people and we’re at the convention to meet people, so be cool and don’t stress too badly about saying hello. You can ask for advice, but don’t pitch your novel for five minutes. Don’t pitch your novel period, unless it makes perfect sense to do so. If they’re an editor, you can ask if they’re taking unsolicited submissions, and go from there. If they’re not, don’t pitch your novel. Coming up with an elevator pitch is crucial. Thirty words or less.

GU: You’ve been fairly active in the small-press world of publishing with last year’s release of The Crimson Pact Volume 1 (Volumes 2-4 are also out now) and, if I understand correctly, you are breaking into the Indie Scene a you’ve retrieved the rights to your Iron Dragon Series. With the rise of Indie and self-published writers leaping so easily in the market creating some controversy within the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror community, what place do you feel those writers have within the Fandom community?

Paul Genesse: We’re all writers. We all have something to say, and we all have a place in the community. My advice is that you don’t self-publish until you’ve reached a professional level. That’s hard to define sometimes, but if you find the right people, they can tell you if you’re ready yet or need more practice. Independent/self-published writers can be just as good as those who have sold to major publishers, but be careful, and don’t rush things out into the market.

In the Fandom community, self-published authors can take whatever role they want. There are awards in fan categories at World Con. The fans keep this business going and if you want to write fan fiction or whatever, enjoy yourself. Perhaps you don’t put your real name on it, but that’s your call. If your goal is to do something else and sell to a bigger publisher, it might be better for you to work on your own material.

GU: When can we expect to see the Crimson Pact Vol. 5? Do you have any other exciting projects in the works that you’d care to share with the Genre Underground’s followers?

Paul Genesse: I just met with the publisher of The Crimson Pact series, Steven Saus of Alliteration Ink at Gen Con 2012 in Indianapolis and we’ve decided that The Crimson Pact Volume 5 is going to happen. The deadline will be around February 2013. Stay tuned for news about it on and the possibility of submitting. The Crimson Pact Volume 3 just came out as a trade paperback, and Volume 4 followed as an eBook—and will soon be a trade paperback. Currently I’m working on a rewrite of my novel, Medusa’s Daughter, a love story set in ancient Greece about Medusa and the daughter I think she had. Also, I just had an essay come out in 8th Day Genesis, a World Building Guide for Writers and Creatives.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ll see you at World Con.

Paul Genesse: I’ll see you there and drop by my website, for more information.


Paul Genesse (juh-NESS—like finesse) spends endless hours in his basement writing fantasy novels, adding to his list of published short stories available from DAW Books and various other publishers, and editing the four volumes of the demon themedCrimson Pact anthology series. His first novel, The Golden Cord, book one of his Iron Dragon Series became the bestselling fantasy his publisher has ever had. Book two, The Dragon Hunters, and book three, The Secret Empire, all set in the treacherous plateau world of Ae’leron, are out now and available as trade paperbacks and eBooks. Learn secrets of the world, download the first ten chapters of The Golden Cord for free, and view maps by visiting


This blog post is by Genre Underground writer M.D Kenning, author of The Fall of House Nemeni and the newly released, Mandatory ParadiseThis stop on the Road To World Con takes us on a slight detour to another huge yearly convention: GenCon.


I am still recovering from what is labeled “The Best Four Days in Gaming” and I will probably be recovering my sanity (and restoring my sleep meter) sometime this week.  Although there are authors there (Brandon Sanderson was the guest of Honor) this is not a Con as primarily literature focused as other conventions.  I can, however, highly recommend it to those that read or write e books for the same reason as many other conventions: connections.

Whereas other cons focus on panels or meeting authors or other celebrities, Gencon focuses on events that you interact in.  Be it RPG’s, LARP’s, CCG’s, or board games for four days you are at a table with other people.  Although you are gaming during this time there are plenty of down times when you are just chatting with your fellow gamers, both old friends and new ones.  This is the perfect time to grab some twitter handles of people who have actually met you, and have some of the same interests as you!

As a writer, I did an experiment.  I did a promo day on amazon but I did not promote it at all on blog, twitter, facebook on any of the normal avenues.  Instead, I mentioned it in passing after games, said something to people cosplaying as Mistcloaks, even talked about it to a GM after a great Doctor Who game was run.  I wanted to see how it did with word of mouth alone.  That was strong enough to make it launch in the top 40 of Epic Fantasy before the night was done and I find that very interesting.  It also seemed to have gotten people to give the book a chance after the sale was done too.

As a reader it’s a great way to not only connect with the author’s or panels there, but to find out small published and self-published books.  Chances are if you enjoyed gaming with someone at the table you might like their perspective enough to try one of their books.  It’s also a great place to get recommendations from other readers if you like genre’s like fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.  That person dressed up as the Predator or the cast of Firefly might have some great ideas for books of the genre they cared enough about to make a costume for it.

Another good time to connect with people is an activity that in other circumstances is not very social … when shopping!  Gencon is renowned for people only buying passes to go into the dealer rooms, and spending the whole time buying stuff or playing demos.  When your friends are picking up goggles or pocket watches for their next steam punk costume that might be a time to talk to other people about that small press steam punk book you like, or finding out what novels others are reading now.

My personal time there involved many sit down RPG sessions (which have plenty of times to talk to people and connect with them), a LARP (lots of down time at the beginning and end and a brief conversation with Will Wheaton in the lobby), a huge fancy dinner with 400 close friends for a CCG and many trips to the dealer room.  Almost as much time was catching up with people I have met all over the country for a decade from gaming.  Those connections are what I love most about Gencon, and why even after I move to the Pacific Northwest later this year I will still make as many trips out to Gencon to renew those connections.

At it’s heart, that’s the best things about conventions – the people you spend time with there.

Road To WorldCon 2012 – Part 1

Here’s our first blog post on the Genre Underground’s “Road to World Con” event. Thanks to Genre Underground member, A.E. Marling for his unique and creative insight insight into the world of Science Fiction Conventions.

Conventions have the shared purpose of a Council of Elrond, a control room blinking with lights where the Rebellion discusses how to take down the Death Star. Those who journey to a convention will find an enclave of the like-minded. Conversations spark over eccentric interests, over discussion panels, over geeky merchandise and sci-fi art. On a typical day of a typical week you may not encounter a single other person who shares your fascination for, say, alternate histories featuring talking dragons, but at a con, you’ll find such fans are legion. At most dinner parties you may hesitate to mention a comic book collection that may or may not have a greater total mass than you do; at a con party, such things are known as credentials. The experience is both exhilarating and exonerating. The con is the Gay Pride Parade of fandom.

Though some enjoy cons without feeling the need to attend a single panel, I hoard the information gleaned from them, intent on improving my craft as a writer. I’ll share one jewel from a lecture by Brandon Sanderson. He was actually discussing how aspiring authors might approach editors at con parties. Brandon Sanderson suggested talking about books you both loved and specifically what the editor liked best about their own projects. Refrain from attacking them with your own manuscripts or ideas at that point but ask if you may send them material if you end up writing something similar.

Brandon Sanderson is a walking pressure cooker full of concentrated enthusiasm, making him an excellent teacher. You can find his writing lectures on youtube on the channel WriteAboutDragons. I delight in meeting the authors of my favorite works. At the same con I pitted my strategy against Brandon Sanderson in a game of Magic cards. He effected the accent of a British evil genius while attacking me and two other unsuspecting fans with Cthulhu-sized monstrosities.

At another con, meeting Gail Carriger was an equal pleasure. A paragon of style, she quipped over tea while letting us in on a secret (at the time), the anime version of her steampunk-fantasy novel Soulless. Gail Carriger’s lavish retro outfit contrasted gleefully with the low-key cool of Patrick Rothfuss, whose dwarven beard stuck out from above a t-shirt that read: “Think. It’s not illegal. Yet.”

I urge everyone to consider signing up for a con this year. Find a 2012 list here. Consider not only these gargantuan conventions but also the local ones, where you’ll have more time to speak with the guests of honor and a better chance of meeting people who live close by.