A couple of years ago I had the good fortune of sitting between Brandon Sanderson and Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland) during a booksigning. Throughout the evening I was able to pose questions which they graciously answered. Brandon advised me to attend the large scale science fiction and fantasy conventions in order to network with authors, agents, and editors. Last month I got my first taste of the pagan ritual that is the sci fi/fantasy convention at Mountain-Con 2008. This was a local convention, so there were no agents or editors in attendance, but there were plenty of local authors, both up-and-coming and breakthroughs like the Brandons Sanderson and Mull. I wanted to promote my book Orlando and Geoffrey, so I contacted the committee to find out if I could sell copies at the convention. They responded with two alternatives: I could purchase dealer space or I could try to be added to the guest list. I didn’t want to invest money in a dealer space and end up missing out on the writing workshops, but I didn’t feel like I belonged on a guest list with the likes of the two Brandons, either. So I plopped down the registration fee and went as a regular fan.
The first day I attended workshops led by Paul Genesse, Rebecca Shelley (published under the collective pseudonym R.D. Henham), Eric James Stone (whom I also met at the aforementioned signing), and Patrick Tracy. I spoke to them between workshops and swapped books with Rebecca. I felt like my place was on their side of the table, and I intend to see that happen next year.
A range of activities were going on all night long, so there weren’t that many people up and moving at 9 AM on Saturday when Brandon Mull gave his main address. That worked out nicely, because he went around the room and had us introduce ourselves and explain why we were there so that he could tailor his remarks accordingly. That gave me a chance to bring up Orlando and Geoffrey and talk about my experience as a book buyer as well. When I came back to his table at noon to get a couple of books signed he recognized me and we talked about having an event on campus for him. We have exchanged e-mails since then, but have not firmed up any plans yet.
I attended Brandon Sanderson’s afternoon workshop, then had him sign my copy of The Well of Ascension. After grabbing a bite to eat I went to Sanderson’s main address on how fantasy enthusiasts do themselves a disservice by trying to be assimilated into mainstream fiction on terms not of their choosing. That was followed by the recording of a podcast Sanderson does with Howard Tayler and Dan Wells for their website www.writingexcuses.com. They recorded four episodes featuring guest authors John Brown (whose book Servant of a Dark God is forthcoming), Brandon Mull, and Eric James Stone (who has a piece in the new seasonally apropos anthology Blood Lite). A two hour workshop conducted by John Brown with Sanderson’s assistance capped off the day. All in all, I got some writing tips from authors I respect and did some useful networking, so I consider it money and time well spent. Mountain-Con was a nice introduction into the convention circuit for me, and I think I’ll be coming back for more!