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After Action Report: Farpoint 26

Farpoint 2019Although I woke up to a gray, soggy morning, the skies cleared an hour before I began my trek to Farpoint’s 26th annual SF convention in Hunt Valley, MD.

 

After collecting my registration materials and checking into my room at the Hunt Valley Marriott Delta, I opened the program book directly to my second place winning story from last year’s Farpoint Writer’s Contest!  Click here to read “All That Matters is What You Believe.”

Farpoint 2018 Story

In between reuniting with several friends, I scored a set of Stranger Things trading cards from friend and artist Laura Inglis, dealer room coordinator for Farpoint, Laura also created the cover art for all three of my paranormal mystery novels.

Stranger Things Cards

After my wife arrived later in the evening, we enjoyed dinner at the Nally Fresh in Timonium and returned to the hotel in time for the 10PM book fair. I shared a table with fellow writer pals Steven H. Wilson and Michael Critzer. Sitting in one place for two hours allows for plenty of quality time for catching up with friends in addition to selling books and happily, I did both!

Afterward, I spent some quality time at the bar with two glasses of Pepsi and fellow writers Kelli Fitzpatrick, Erik Bakutis, Heather Hutsell, Aaron Rosenberg, Russ Colchamiro, Keith DeCandido, Derek Tyler Attico, and David Mack. It was a fun end to a long day.

Saturday began with the Firebringer Press Presents panel at 11AM in Salon C hosted by Steve Wilson, Michael Critzer, and yours truly. Although our audience was small, we chatted about our current releases and upcoming projects.

At 1PM, Steve and I hosted the second stop on our book tour for Firebringer Take Two, the double horror novel consisting of Steve’s vampire tale, Freedom’s Blood and my paranormal mystery, Like Mother, Like Daughters. The launch was held in the con suite complete with lunch and dessert. Steve and I both read excerpts from our respective stories and sold several copies of the new book as well as a few backlist titles.

Farpoint 26 Book Launch
June Swords and I after setting up for the Firebringer Take Two book launch. Ethan and Christian Wilson in the background.

My next panel was supposed to be Fandom in Miniature, a discussion of SF toy collecting, at 3PM with Ethan Wilson, Thomas Atkinson, and Cindy Woods. Unfortunately,  I found myself stuck in the endurance test known as Wallace Shawn’s autograph line. He was friendly and loquacious, engaging everyone in conversation. It was a true pleasure to meet him.

Meeting Wallace Shawn
Meeting Wallace Shawn
Grand Nagus - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Grand Nagus Zek – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

After sharing a wonderful dinner with Steve Wilson, June Swords, and Renfield, Evon and I decided to call it a night.

After packing up my car on Sunday morning, I dared one more pass through the Wallace Shawn autograph line. Thankfully, it was a bit shorter this time and I made it out in time to chat with writer pals Aaron Rosenberg, Russ Colchamiro, Heather Hutsell, and Michael Jan Friedman before my next event.

Vizzini - Princess Bride
Vizzini – Princess Bride

At 1PM,  I joined Peter David in the ballroom to co-host the screening of Dreams with Sharp Teeth, the 90-minute documentary about legendary writer Harlan Ellison, who passed away in June 2018. It was a wonderful tribute and, judging by their reactions, the audience seemed to enjoy it.

Dreams with Sharp Teeth Harlan Ellison

The final event of the con was Wallace Shawn’s 3PM stage talk during which he answered questions about his career as an actor and playwright. In addition to Deep Space Nine and Princess Bride, he spoke about working with Woody Allen on Radio Days and spending a year in India as a young man. Some of his responses were intentionally cryptic. For example, when it came to playing Grand Nagus Zek on DS9, Shawn said that he had channeled someone he knew personally, but would not reveal any further details. Similarly, when asked about his favorite books, he preferred to keep that a secret.

Wallace Shawn at Farpoint Wallace Shawn at Farpoint

On my way out, I finally had the chance to take a brief tour of the dealer room and found a few vintage Star Trek items at incredibly low prices from a dealer who was selling off his personal collection.

Vintage Star Trek
Star Trek candy boxes from 1976 and Star Trek: The Motion Picture plastic cup (1979)

Of course, no SF convention would be complete without a vast array of talented cosplayers and those pictured below are only a small sampling from the weekend.

Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman (photo credit: Blair Learn)

 

Xena and Gabrielle
Xena and Gabrielle (photo credit: Shore Leave)

 

Romulan
Romulan (photo credit: Shore Leave)

 

Iron Man
Iron Man (photo credit: Shore Leave)
Catwoman
Catwoman (photo credit: Shore Leave)
Bender from Futurama
Bender from Futurama (photo credit: Frank J. Hernandez)

My Farpoint Schedule

For those of you attending Farpoint next weekend, here’s my schedule in case you want to stop by, say hi, pick up a book, or sit in on a discussion panel.

Lookin’ forward to seein’ ya there!

FRIDAY

Farpoint Book Fair – Fri. 10:00 PM – Hunt Valley Hallway – All of the writers guests will be gathered in one place for two hours, selling and signing copies of their books. A few of the writers will be debuting new titles, including Steven H. Wilson and myself. We’ll have copies of our double horror novel, Freedom’s Blood and Like Mother, Like Daughters and I will have copies of A Plague of Shadows, the latest paranormal anthology by Smart Rhino Publications.

SATURDAY

Reading (Kozeniewski; Sakers; Giunta) – Sat. 10:00 AM – Salon E

Firebringer Press Presents Sat. 11:00 AM – Salon C – Along with Steven H. Wilson (publisher), Diane Baron, and possibly a few other fellow scribes, we’ll discuss recent book releases and projects in the pipeline.

Firebringer Take Two Book Launch – Sat. 1:00 PM – Garden Room/Con Suite – Join Steven H. Wilson and me as we launch our double horror novel, Freedom’s Blood and Like Mother, Like DaughtersFirebringer Take Two Cover Layout

Fandom In Miniature – Sat 3:00 PM – Belmont – A discussion on SF toy collecting and model kit building moderated by yours truly.

Autograph Session (Giunta; DeCandido) Sat. 5:00 PM – Autograph Table 1

SUNDAY

Autograph (Giunta; Ransom) – Sun 11:00 AM – Autograph Table 2

Reading (Hutsell; Giunta; G. Wilson) – Sun 12:00 PM – Salon E

Film: Dreams With Sharp Teeth – Sun 1:00 PM – Valley Ballroom – Peter David and I will be presenting a screening of Dreams with Sharp Teeth, the 2008 documentary about the life and career of Harlan Ellison (1934-2018), one of the most awarded writers in history. The film stars Harlan, Robin Williams, Neil Gaiman, Ronald Moore, Peter David, and others.

Dreams with Sharp Teeth

At Farpoint 26 SF Con next month, it will be my honor to co-host, with Peter David, a screening of Dreams with Sharp Teeth, the 2008 documentary about one of the most awarded writers in history, Harlan Ellison (1934-2018).

The film stars Harlan, Neil Gaiman, Robin Williams, Ron Moore, Peter David, and others. Harlan was one of my inspirations to become a writer, and he was best friends with Peter. I was grateful  when producer and director, Erik Nelson, granted permission.

Harlan Ellison_Phil Giunta ICON 1999

 

Keeping Up Appearances…

Over the next six months, I’ll be attending the following conventions, conferences, and book signings. I hope to see you at some of these events!

Farpoint SF Con – Feb. 8-10. Hunt Valley, MD. Participating in the book fair and various discussion panels. Also co-hosting, with Peter David, a Sunday afternoon screening of Dreams with Sharp Teeth, the documentary film about Harlan Ellison.

The Write Stuff Conference – Mar. 23. Bethlehem, PA. I’m not presenting at this one, but I will have a table at the book fair. The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group will also launch their latest anthology, Rewriting the Past, in which I have a story.

The Great Philly Comic Con – Apr. 12-14. Oaks, PA. Will have a table for the weekend.

Battle of the Books – Apr. ?? Whitehall Library. Whitehall, PA. Exact date TBA. Sponsored by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. Three writers

Shore Leave 41 SF Con – July 12-14. Hunt Valley, MD. Participating in the Meet the Pros book fair and various discussion panels.

Also, sometime in the spring I hope to attend the Delaware book launch for Beach Pulp, the next anthology from Cat & Mouse Press in which I will have two stories.

 

Five Weeks until Farpoint…

The 26th annual Farpoint SF Convention is only five weeks away! As always, I look forward to reuniting with so many wonderful friends and fellow writers and fending off the winter doldrums, at least for a weekend.

Celebrity guests include Wallace Shawn, Rob Paulsen, and Maurice Lamarche. Writer guests include Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, Howard Weinstein, Marc Okrand, Aaron Rosenberg, David Mack, Keith RA DeCandido, Russ Colchamiro, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Derek Tyler Attico, Heather E. Hutsell, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Steven H. Wilson, Phil Giunta, and many more.

I will also have two new titles available at the con:

LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTERS, one-half of the double horror novel from Firebringer Press that also includes Steven H. Wilson’s vampire tale, FREEDOM’S BLOOD.

A PLAGUE OF SHADOWS, the latest paranormal fiction anthology from Smart Rhino Publications. This collection offers twenty unique ghost stories including my haunted car tale “Bottom of the Hour,” about a man who can hear death coming.

Firebringer Take Two Cover Layout

A Plague of Shadows

What Happened and What’s Ahead…

I debated whether to even bother adding my voice to the requisite “year in review” posts that always sprout like weeds during this last week in December. As does every year, 2018 delivered a melange of relief, joy, and misery.

January began with the completion of a short story, “Burn After Writing.” It was my tribute to the irascible Harlan Ellison, one of my favorite writers of all time. Little did I know it was also a portent of a tragedy to come just five months later.

Second Place Trophy-Farpoint 25 Short Story ContestIn February, I was elated to win second place in the Farpoint 25 short story contest in Maryland. In addition to receiving a handsome trophy, my story, “All That Matters Is What You Believe” will be published in the program book at the upcoming Farpoint 26 convention. After that, publication rights revert to me and the story might appear on my website shortly after. Stay tuned!

March brought with it the Write Stuff writers conference in Bethlehem, PA. I was off the hook as a presenter this year, but attended for two days and enjoyed the full day fiction writing class led by NYT bestseller Bob Mayer and the various 50-minute presentations on topics ranging from Wattpad to world building, from editing to marketing, from time management to building suspense, and more.  Check out details for the next Write Stuff in March! 

The Write Stuff is organized by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and 2019 will see the publication of our fourth anthology, Rewriting the Past. As usual, the book will showcase stories, essays, and poems written by members of the group, including my lighthearted tale of nostalgia, “Memory Lane Ain’t What It Used To Be.”

My wife and I also attended our last Monster Mania and Chiller Theatre conventions in March and April. We’ve been attending both cons twice a year for over a decade, but we made the decision to trim them from the budget this year. Still, it was a grand exit, meeting celebs like Kathleen Turner, Ally Sheedy, Sean Astin, Steven Weber, John Schuck, Ed Begley, Jr., Nicholas Lea, and Raj Singh.

The rest of spring proceeded without much excitement, other than the usual bouts of anxiety and depression that ebb and flow. I learned that Cat & Mouse Press—a publisher I had worked with in 2016— was preparing a new anthology called Beach Pulp and seeking submissions of retro “pulp” stories in the speculative fiction, mystery, and romance genres and set along the Delmarva coast. I happened to have a piece called “The Celestials” ready to go and sent it in as soon as soon as the submission window opened.

Harlan Ellison_Phil Giunta ICON 1999The second paragraph of this retrospective alluded to a tragedy in the middle of the year. On June 27, Harlan Ellison, one of the most awarded writers in history, died in his home in LA at the age of 84. Harlan was one of my literary heroes and while his cantankerous, intractable personality offended some, I found it entertaining. To commemorate him, I watched his documentary, Dreams with Sharp Teeth, for what was probably the 25th time. Fortunately, I still have much of his work yet to read.

Early July brought the 40th anniversary of the Shore Leave SF convention  in Hunt Valley, Maryland with such celebs as William Shatner, Ming-Na, Allison Scagliotti, and more. It was a wonderful weekend spent with my fandom family, selling and signing books, and participating in a variety of discussion panels on writing and publishing.

Phil with William Shatner Phil with Ming-Na Wen and Allison Scagliotti

From Hunt Valley I drove straight to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for another kind of shore leave. The Delaware coast is one of my favorite vacation spots. My wife and I always look forward to renting a house there for a week every July with friends, and for the past four years, my friend Renee Wilson and I have made parasailing a must-do tradition.

Parasailing with Renee Parasailing with Renee

As soon as I returned from vacation, I was laid off from my job of 17 years. It was not entirely unexpected. My team and I knew changes were coming as our parent company had been assuming increasing control of our IT systems for months. My manager’s position was eliminated while I was in Rehoboth. Fortunately, the company was kind enough to offer an equitable severance package.

August saw me applying for jobs on a daily basis and also writing a new SF short story called “Tapestry,” which I submitted to Cat & Mouse Press for their aforementioned Beach Pulp anthology. Also, my 2017 story “Bottom of the Hour” was soon on its way to publication in a paranormal fiction anthology called A Plague of Shadows by Smart Rhino Publications.

One month later, my wife and I celebrated our fifth anniversary with a long weekend in Indiana, PA visiting the Jimmy Stewart Museum, followed by an afternoon in the Amish farmlands of Smicksburg, PA which also offers a quaint village of antique and craft shops.

Unfortunately, four days later I landed in the ER due to a mounting health issue that had become unbearably painful. I’ll spare you the details, but within a day, I was back to 100% just in time for two job interviews with local companies.

Also in September, I worked with writer pal and Firebringer Press owner, Steven H. Wilson, to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for our latest publication.

Firebringer Take Two is a double horror novel in the format of the vintage ACE double novels. The book combines Steve’s vampire tale, Freedom’s Blood with my paranormal mystery novel, Like Mother, Like Daughters. At the same time, I arranged a book launch at the Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention (Philcon) for November. Busy month!

Firebringer Take Two Cover Layout

October brought better news including a job offer and the release of the anthology, A Plague of Shadows, containing my haunted car story “Bottom of the Hour.”  My wife and I attended a delightful book launch party in Newark, Delaware organized by Weldon Burge of Smart Rhino Publications and Joanne M. Reinbold of the Written Remains Writers Guild. Ten of the contributing writers were on hand to sign copies and read excerpts from their stories… and there was cake!

Plague of Shadows Cover

Two weeks later, I trekked back across PA to the Ligonier Camp and Conference Center nestled in the Allegheny Mountains for the weeklong Mindful Writers Retreat organized by Larry Schardt and Kathie Shoop. Blessed with gorgeous autumn weather, 21 writers gathered for four days to focus solely on our projects for 8 to 12 hours per day and share meals in between. I made excellent progress on my SF novel (4,500 words) and outlined a new short story.

While I was there, I received a call from Cat & Mouse Press announcing that they accepted not just one but both of my submissions to Beach Pulp. I enjoyed every minute of the retreat and look forward to returning next October provided I have enough vacation time to cover it.

Speaking of which, I started the new job on October 29 as the sole IT tech for a medium-sized beverage bottling company with a site in the Lehigh Valley, PA and another, smaller facility in southeastern New Jersey. One of my colleagues flew in from Texas to provide about three days of training on the environment. It was hardly sufficient, but enough to get me started. Since then, daily stress has ranged from high to extreme as I struggle to acclimate while providing tech support and catching up on the two-month backlog since my predecessor left.

Phil & Steve at Philcon Book LaunchThe first two weeks in November were a blur. While I became accustomed to my FT position, I prepared for the launch of Firebringer Take Two at Philcon by having cover posters made at Staples and designing postcards through Vistaprint. Meanwhile, the book itself went to press and Steve ordered enough copies for the book launch and to fulfill rewards for our Kickstarter backers. The launch was modest but fun and after the con, I packed and shipped all paperback copies to our backers and to those who had kindly volunteered as advance readers during the summer.

From there, we rolled into the holiday season and here we are, about ready to bid farewell to 2018. While I’m grateful for all of the year’s blessings—and for another trip around the sun with my amazing wife and people I’m honored to call friends—I’m still recovering from the abrupt changes, health issues, and the hectic pace of the past five months. Stress is high and my depression draws power from the gloom of winter, but I glean hope and strength from all the opportunities awaiting us in the coming year.

As trite as it may seem, I hope that 2019 brings long overdue peace, joy, love, and prosperity to all of us.