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After Action Report: River Reads 2017

Gloomy skies and humid summer temperatures did little to diminish our spirits at the second annual River Reads Book Fair at Prallsville Mill in Stockton, NJ this past Sunday.

Over 40 writers were on hand, selling and singing copies of their books including organizer Brandi Megan Granett and returning participants Kathryn Craft, Kelly Simmons, Kerry Gans, and others. Among the new faces this year were Aaron Rosenberg and Russ Colchamiro from Crazy 8 Press, Heather Hutsell, Carol L. Wright from the Bethlehem Writers Group, and fellow Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group member, Christopher Ochs.

While the crowd was a bit thinner than the previous year’s event—and I sold only one book—the time spent with friends and fellow writers was absolutely worth the trip!

My Table at River Reads

Russ, Aaron, and Heather at River Reads 2017

Carol L. Wright & Christopher Ochs at River Reads 2017

Russ, Aaron, Phil, and Heather at River Reads 2017

Russ Colchamiro & Aaron Rosenberg at River Reads 2017

 

 

Finally, A Place of Honor…

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was just finishing the final home renovation project for the year which entailed removing the last of my home’s wallpaper and repainting. The room in question is one that houses my SF collection, and when I began putting the room back in order, I decided it was finally time to display a piece of artwork that absolutely deserves a place of honor on the wall.

Illustration for There Be In Dreams No War

ReDeus: Divine Tales

The fabulous illustration you see above was created in 2012 by renown Spanish comic book artist Carmen Nuñez Carnero for my story “There Be In Dreams No War” published in ReDeus: Divine Tales (left), book one of the ReDeus series by Crazy 8 Press. It was a privilege to be published alongside writer pals Aaron Rosenberg, Bob Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg, Dayton Ward, Steven H. Wilson, Lawrence M. Schoen, and so many other fantastic writers in this series.

Illustration for There Be In Dreams No War

 

What? No more cons for the rest of 2017?!

Sorry for the delay since my last post.  Once spring arrives, my workload around house and yard often becomes all-consuming. I was also a writer guest at the Great Philadelphia Comic Con for two days and had a great time with writer pals Bob Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Peter David, Russ Colchamiro, and new friend, Heather Hutsell.

Phil's Table at Great Philly Comic Con

Crazy 8 Press at Great Philly Comic Con

It was great to see some excellent celebrity guests as well including Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5, TRON, and more) and Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark, and more). There were many others, but those were the only two gents from whom I sought autographs. I had met Mr. Boxleitner about 15 years ago at Shore Leave where I had a Babylon 5 photo signed, but this time around, I wanted to get a few TRON items autographed.  As an Indiana Jones fan, it was fantastic to meet the gracious and genial Paul Freeman (Belloq).

Bruce Boxleitner (TRON, Babylon 5) Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

One lesson I learned at this con is that I’ve reached a point where I’m starting to run out of room to display all of my books. I know, that’s a good problem for a writer to have!  So, the display is going vertical, ladies and gents. I ordered a six-shelf book rack, which just arrived today.

Book Rack

Although I’ll rearrange the books for better visibility. I was just toying with ideas when I set up the above picture.

Even though I’m not doing any more cons for the remainder of 2017, I do have three or four single-day library events and book fairs lined up where I can use this and of course, when I’m back on the con scene next year.

My reasons for taking a hiatus from the convention scene are many. First, I’m doing two fairly expensive home renovations this summer. Secondly, the sheer number and complexity of upcoming projects at my full-time job are daunting and will require some weekend and after-hours work. Thirdly, my writing time has been significantly drained by the editing work on the third volume in the Middle of Eternity series. Finally, I’m just burned out and I simply cannot do everything and be everywhere.

The first draft of my science fiction novel was supposed to be completed last year, but again, home projects and prepping the second anthology for publication consumed the first half of 2016. I managed to complete only the first four chapters in the novel. Disappointing.

Even after Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity was released in July 2016, I ended up spending a large portion of my writing time recording two of my three stories from that book on audio for podcast, which turned out to be an utter waste of about three weeks since a decision was made not to podcast anything unless ALL of the stories would be recorded. Well, most of the other writers either had no time, no interest, or no resources to record their stories. Thus, the podcast was cancelled.

I did manage to complete four short stories for various publications and contests between August and December. Then, as now, my novel saw only a modicum of progress, but two more chapters have since been finished. Still, the paltry progress is frustrating.

On the bright side, I shall be stepping down as editor of the Middle of Eternity series after book three is submitted to the publisher, which should permit me to fully focus on the SF novel.

What else have I been up to in my writing life? Well, one of those four short stories that I wrote in the latter half of 2016, “Once More, With Feeling,” was just published in a mixed genre anthology titled, The Write Connections, published by the Greater Lehigh Valley Publishing Group.

Two more of those stories have each been submitted to separate contests, the first (“So Hungry…”) to the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable paranormal fiction contest, and the second (“The Celestials”) to the annual Rehoboth Beach Reads short story contest sponsored by Delaware publisher, Cat & Mouse Press. I took second place in the 2016 Rehoboth contest and my story was published in the anthology, Beach Nights. Even if I don’t win one of the top three monetary awards this time around, I hope to at least see my story published in this year’s anthology, Beach Life.

The fourth story (“The Forest for the Trees”) will be included in the upcoming Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity, tentatively slated for release in July 2018. That tale is an 11,000-word fantasy piece set in late 17th century Finland. So much research was involved in the great famine of the time as well as Finnish mythology.

Speaking of Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity, I am off to edit a few more submissions this evening. The good news is that I have a three-day weekend ahead of me and maybe—just maybe—I can make some time to write…

Lastly, there is a good chance that my paranormal mystery novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters (written and submitted to the publisher in 2014), will finally be released in October as an ebook and audio book! Many of my readers have asked when the next story starring psychic-medium Miranda Lorensen will be released. Well, this is it, folks! It’s Miranda’s origin story and also involves her daughter, Andrea, who has a paranormal adventure of her own. Catch more of Miranda in my first two novels, Testing the Prisoner and By Your Side.

 

The Power of Presentation

The Write Stuff writers conference this weekend proved my point yet again about the power of presenting. After delivering a fun and engaging session first thing Saturday morning on “Writing the Compelling Short Story,” I proceeded to sell 10 books at the afternoon book fair. Compare that to last year where I worked only as a volunteer and sold one book.
Going back further in the time to 2014 when I last presented at the Write Stuff, my sales at the book fair were higher than one year later, when I was the conference chairman. 
 
With one exception, it never fails that delivering a quality solo presentation—or participating in a discussion panel—and connecting with an audience will generate books sales for an up and coming writer. Whereas merely showing up and sitting at a table with your books without first building a rapport with the attendees will almost always fail to generate decent sales unless you’re already a well-established name/best-selling author. 
 
After decades of attending conventions like Shore Leave and Farpoint and becoming a regular participant in discussion panels there, I can always count on selling at least a few books at these conventions. Whereas at Philcon or Balticon, where I am a relatively fresh face, sales are few or nonexistent right now. These things take time. 
 
The aforementioned exception to my rule was last year’s Great Philadelphia Comic Con in April in Oaks, PA. There, I had no presentations or discussion panels. I merely set up a table and proceeded to sell about a dozen books. It was an amazing weekend and I will be returning to the Great Philly Comic Con again in two weeks along with writer pals Steven H. Wilson of Firebringer Press and Bob Greenberger, Peter David, Aaron Rosenberg, and Russ Colchamiro of Crazy 8 Press.
All told, the Write Stuff conference was a fantastic three days filled with brilliant presentations, excellent information, and most of all, camaraderie with generous and supportive writers. Keynote speaker Michael Hauge was outstanding.
Kudos to two-time Conference Chairman Charles Kiernan and the entire Write Stuff committee for their herculean efforts!
Michael Hauge at Write Stuff 2017
Michael Hauge at Write Stuff 2017
Write Stuff Book Fair 2017
Write Stuff Book Fair 2017

Farpoint 2017 After-Action Report

We’re home from yet another fantastic Farpoint where I finally had the honor of meeting someone I consider an inspiration as a writer and storyteller—Nicholas Meyer. Mr. Meyer’s directing and/or screenwriting credits include Time After Time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryThe Day After (TV movie), and much more including the new CBS series, Star Trek: Discovery. He also wrote the Sherlock Holmes novel and screenplay, The Seven-Percent Solution.

I wanna be THAT guy when I grow up! 😀

After a thoroughly enjoyable dinner at La Tolteca with Aaron Rosenberg, David Mack, Chris Kennedy, Glenn Hauman, and Eric Bakutis, it was time for the Friday night book fair, where I would have the opportunity to meet Nick Meyer.

Earlier in the day, I had purchased a replacement copy of The Seven-Percent Solution from a dealer. From my personal collection, I brought copies of the scripts for the aforementioned Star Trek movies while my wife, Evon, brought her hardback copy of A View from the Bridge, Mr. Meyer’s memoir of his time working on the Star Trek films.

As Mr. Meyer signed my items, I told him that he was one of my writing heroes, which actually brought him to a complete stop. He became momentarily verklempt, as did I.  He thanked me as he continued signing. Before having our photo taken together, I presented him with a copy of By Your Side, one of my paranormal mystery novels. He seemed genuinely grateful.

Phil with Nicholas Meyer

After that, I returned to my table where shenanigans ensued as Bob Greenberger began swapping name placards amongst nearby writers including myself, Aaron Rosenberg, Kelly Meding, Steve Wilson, and Lance Woods. Cameras, bottles, cans, even Steve Wilson’s  flask were not spared from the hide-and-seek hilarity. This added even more magic to the evening. You just can’t find a group of silly scribes like this anywhere else!

Phil and Evon at Farpoint 2017 Lance Woods and Steve Wilson at Farpoint 2017 Kelly Meding, Bob Greenberger, and Aaron Rosenberg Kelly Meding at Farpoint 2017 Bob Greenberger and Aaron Rosenberg at Farpoint 2017

My table was part of the Firebringer Press row that included Steven H. Wilson, Lance Woods, and debut author Diane Lee Baron with her novel, Gal WonderClick here for more info on Diane’s book!  By the end of the night, I sold a few books and signed one that a reader bought elsewhere (which is always a good feeling).

Gal Wonder by Diane Lee Baron

Saturday morning began with my wife and I taking our Star Trek II posters to Nicholas Meyer for yet more autographs and photo ops.

Evon with Nicholas Meyer Phil with Nicholas Meyer

My first panel of the day was Firebringer Press Presents at 11AM.  Diane Lee Baron chatted up Gal Wonder, which had a “soft” launch at Farpoint’s book fair, but will have a full premiere at Shore Leave in July along with the mass-market paperback collection of Steve Wilson’s Arbiter Chronicles SF novellas.

Firebringer Press Presents

I spoke about Like Mother, Like Daughters, my paranormal novella slated for release in October, as well as my second-place winning Rehoboth Beach contest story, “Tower Sixteen,” which was recently submitted (with its original ending) to a paranormal anthology slated for next year. If accepted, it would be my first story to be published in two different anthologies and with two different endings!

Firebringer Press Presents discussion panel

Michael Critzer chatted briefly about his upcoming non-fiction book, Heroic Inspirations, debuting this summer. Michael has taught courses on the mythology of superheroes and this book will represent a extension of that.

Afterward, Steve Wilson and I made our way to our scheduled readings at noon. Our audience consisted of Michael Critzer and my wife. Writer David Mack then arrived to finish the hour with his reading, but with such a small gathering, we simply yammered instead.

I was then free until 3PM when I shared a table with Peter David for our autograph hour. It was wonderful to spend time talking with him about his own work as well as the legendary Harlan Ellison, another writer who inspired me and has been close friends with Peter for decades. With no sales, and with Nick Meyer speaking at 4PM on the main stage, I packed up my books early, dropped them off in my room, and joined my wife who was saving a seat for me in the ballroom.

Mr. Meyer regaled an appreciative audience with stories of his first meeting with producer Harve Bennett about writing Star Trek II. A few drafts of the script (each a completely different story) had been written, from which Bennett and Meyer created a list of the best parts. From that list, Meyer wrote an entirely new script, but waived credit for it. This was after he had already signed on to direct.

Nick Meyer at Farpoint 2017 Nick Meyer at Farpoint 2017 Nick Meyer at Farpoint 2017

He also spoke about working with Ricardo Montalban (whose much-debated chest was actually his own, not a prosthetic), his vituperative relationship with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry (who balked at the story for Wrath of Khan), and touched on the film adaptation for The Seven-Percent Solution.

Mr. Meyer’s presentation ended with a skit in which linguist and Farpoint regular, Marc Okrand—who developed the Klingon language for the Star Trek movies—read a “communique” from the Klingon Empire, translated into English by Nick Meyer,  honoring Gene Roddenberry and all of the main Star Trek actors that we’ve lost over the past 25+ years including DeForest Kelley, Mark Lenard, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, James Doohan, Leonard Nimoy,  and Grace Lee Whitney.

At 6PM, I had the honor of moderating (somewhat nervously and perhaps ineptly) a discussion panel called “Avoiding Cliches in Your Writing” with panelists Lauren Harris, Peter David, and the reason for my jitters…Nicholas Meyer. However, the panel was entertaining and informative, but not without each of us veering off into tangents once in a while. Yet even as moderator, I would never have the temerity to interrupt Nicholas Meyer!

Avoiding Cliche in Your Writing discussion panel Avoiding Cliche in Your Writing discussion panel

My wife and I ended our evening with dinner at the Silver Spring Mining Company (love that place!) before calling it a night. Normally,  I would have stayed up late and joined my fellow con attendees at the Ten-Forward Dance Party in the atrium, but I was exhausted and wanted to get a few things done online.

Of course, in between the book fair, discussion panels, and autograph sessions, my wife and I caught up with old friends that we only see at the cons. This is an important reason why many of us attend. In fact, for some it is the only reason.

Since I was not scheduled for anything on Sunday, my wife and I departed by 9AM and made it home before noon to enjoy our first taste of spring weather. Sunshine and 65F degrees!

It should be noted that there was still a full day of programming on Sunday at Farpoint including a 2PM showing of Time After Time hosted by Nick Meyer.

Hold On To the Light Inside of You

This morning, I learned about a brilliant initiative called Hold On To The Light, spearheaded by SFF author Gail Z. Martin. 

Beginning on September 20, hundreds of science fiction and fantasy authors began an online conversation across blogs and socialHold Onto The Light media about mental illness, domestic violence, suicide, depression, PTSD, and related issues that are often extremely upsetting
and difficult to discuss for so many.

Click here to read the first blog post from Hold Onto The Light

Over the past five years, I’ve opened up about my nearly 40-year battle with depression both on social media and at personal appearances. I sometimes discuss how depression has affected my writing and I never cease to be surprised at how willing others are to reveal their own struggles. My, times have changed. Society is finally opening up a dialogue about mental illness and that’s wonderful. The old stigmas are rapidly disintegrating.

My first novel, Testing the Prisoner, is a paranormal mystery that deals with the brutality of child abuse and the trauma that stays with the victims for the rest of their livesTesting the Prisoner by Phil Giunta. This was intimately familiar territory, but that made it no less challenging to write. I had to confront my own pain, my own memories, my own struggles with a darkness that pushed me toward a desire to take my own life at least a half dozen times during my younger days and even a few times in recent years.

Still, I knew the story had to be told for a number of reasons. First, I wanted to let others who have been victims of child abuse to know that they are not alone. Secondly, and perhaps more selfishly, I wanted to turn the tables on a demon that has persistently robbed me of happiness and instead, use it as a storytelling tool to launch my writing career.

As for surviving depression, perhaps it was faith, willpower, or a hope for a brighter future that dissuaded me from any “permanent solutions” to my problem. Much of the credit should also be given to SFF fandom and my growing interest in writing. Watching Star Trek and seeing Star Wars at the tender age of six inspired me. Later, the media tie-in novels became a gateway to speculative fiction and hard SF in my teen years. I began reading Asimov, Clarke, Ellison, Bradbury, and many others. Like many SF films and TV shows, books became my anti-depressant and while they were not an instant panacea, they helped pull me through countless dark and terrible times. They still do today.

Most importantly, the friendship and community that I found in SFF fandom has been the most enriching experience I could ask for. The best and most supportive friends in my life came from my three decades attending SF conventions such as Farpoint, Shore Leave, Balticon, and others.

More, I wouldn’t be published today were it not for the mentorship of august writers like Steven H. Wilson, Howard Weinstein, Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, and Aaron Rosenberg, all of whom I met at the aforementioned cons. I am honored to call these chaps my friends, and in the case of Steve, Bob, and Aaron, my publishers!

If you are suffering from depression, I encourage you to reach out and find the help you so richly deserve. You are not alone. You have a right to happiness and health. You have a right to achieve your potential without being hagridden by a demon that wants to convince you of the lie that you’re inadequate, unworthy, or that life is not worth living. I beg you to find the light and hold on to it.

About Hold On To The Light

September/October are the months for Depression Awareness, Suicide Prevention, Bullying Prevention, Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness, World Mental Health Day and Domestic Violence Awareness.

What’s our end game? We want to bring the issues, struggle and treatment out of the shadows and make it clear that no one is alone in the journey. We want to demonstrate fandom taking care of its own. And we want fandom to be a safe space for everyone.

The steering group behind #HoldOnTotheLight is made up of John Hartness, Jaym Gates, Jean Marie Ward, Emily Leverett, Mindy Mymudes and Gail Z. Martin.

How can you help? Share, retweet and engage with the blog posts and social media outreach about the campaign and by the participating authors to spread the word. Encourage the conventions you participate in to add or expand panels on mental wellness. Learn more about the issues, so you can be an educated participant in the discussion.

If you want to get even more hands-on, please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Together, we can #HoldOnToTheLight because #FandomTakesCareOfItsOwn.

You can find updates with links to author blog posts and updates about related news here, and on the HoldOnToTheLight Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/ and on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight (note the ‘we’)

Media: Contact Gail Z. Martin via www.AscendantKingdoms.com