On a gorgeous Friday afternoon, I turned up in Maryland at the Hunt Valley Marriott Inn for BaltiCon 46. I had scarcely an hour to check in and collect my badge and program before my first panel at 4PM, “Symbology of Animals in Fantasy and Fairy Tales". Fellow panelists included writers DH Aire, Jean Marie Ward, Trisha J. Woodridge (moderator), and artist Ray Ridenour. It was a lively discussion covering everything from bears to cats to chimps to rabbits to wolves and many other creatures great and small in both books and movies. We discussed anthropomorphism and the use of animals as omens and portents of events to come in a story.
Immediately after, I headed straight for the local Chic-Fil-A. I felt no guilt. Chickens were not discussed in the panel. :)
I was able to catch up on some reading and rest until about 9PM when I joined friend and publisher, Steven H. Wilson, and Nebula Award winner Catherine Asaro for our shared 50 minute readings. Proving that chivalry is not entirely dead, we allowed the lady to read first from her SF novel, Carnelians. I then followed with a few scenes from my paranormal mystery, Testing the Prisoner, and Steven finished with a reading from his latest SF novel, Unfriendly Persuasion.
Saturday morning started at 10AM with "Good and Evil in Genre Literature". Author David Wood moderated. The panel was comprised of Robert Chase, Robert Katz, and Patrick Thomas. Audience participation was enthusiastic. Discussion topics included characters motivated by pure evil, those forced to perform unsavory acts against the few for the benefit of the many, and whether we preferred writing protagonists that were pure and heroic (i.e. Superman) vs. those with flaws (i.e. Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Peter Parker).
I then had a four hour break that allowed me to catch up with several friends including fellow Firebringer author Lance Woods. Lance's debut novel, Heroic Park, is set to launch in August. I then made my way to the Farpoint convention table to unwind a bit and catch up with friends Sharon Van Blarcom, Steven H. Wilson, his wife Renee, and their sons Ethan and Christian.
Before my 3PM autograph session, I hit the dealer room with Steve and Ethan. As you may know or could guess, the dealer room at BaltiCon consists mainly of new and used books, small presses, and self-pubbed writers. There are also two leather accessories dealers (belts, handbags, flask holders, etc) and a few toy dealers. It was at the latter where my sights landed on a mint-in-box 1976 Mego Star Trek phaser/reflector game at a very low price. This is a pre-"laser tag" era toy. It consists of a battery powered phaser that emits a simple beam of light. When the beam hits the reflector clipped to your opponent's belt, a buzzer in your phaser sounds off. So I reclaimed a piece of my childhood. :)
From there, it was to the used book dealers where I found a 1978 paperback edition of Heinlein's Have Space Suit Will Travel, and a 1969 paperback of Dangerous Visions 1 edited by Harlan Ellison. Before leaving the con on Monday, I went back and picked up a 1979 paperback edition of Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula. All in excellent shape.
Being a new writer, I expected little attention at the 3PM autograph session on Saturday and my expectations were met. However, I shared the table with the esteemed astronomer and astrophysicist Dr. Yoji Kondo. In his amazing career, Dr. Kondo has worked for NASA and the Johnson Space center, achieved 7th degree black belt in Aikido, and published numerous SF novels under the pen name Eric Kotani. It was also his birthday! In between us sat the lovely and gregarious paranormal romance author, Ash Krafton. Ash was giving away heart shaped cookies baked by her mom to promote her novel, Bleeding Hearts. As it turned out, all three of us at the table lived, worked, or studied in Philadelphia at one time in our lives.
Immediately after, it was time for Firebringer Press to shine. In addition to Steve, Lance, and myself, cover artists Laura Inglis, Todd Brugmans, and Ethan Wilson rounded out the panelists. Steven opened with introductions and a brief summary of current and upcoming projects from Firebringer. Steven then made the official announcement that my second novel, By Your Side, will see its launch at Farpoint's 20th anniversary convention in February. I then read aloud a haunting scene from the first chapter of that book before turning the floor over to Lance. He read a richly detailed scene describing his main character's first visit to an amusement park where attendees are granted superhuman powers for a day. Both readings were well received.
At 7PM, I attended "Gender Narration in Podcasting". Having recorded my first audiobook in 2010, and knowing that I will do so again for By Your Side, I was curious to see what advice I could glean from veteran audio narrators and podcasters including Jared Axelrod, Veronica Giguere, Tim Dodge, Chris Morse, and my publisher Steven H. Wilson who also served as moderator. It was very educational and left me with some ideas to try when the time comes.
The night ended with dinner and fun conversation at Basta Pasta with The Wilsons, Sharon Van Blarcom, and Paul Balze.
On Sunday morning, I sat in on two back to back sessions, "Choosing a Small Press or a Big Publishing House" again moderated by Steve Wilson and starring Emilie P. Bush, Trish Wilson, Ian Randal Strock, and Daniel Ackley-McPhail. While not a panelist, Joshua Bilmes of the JABberwocky Literary Agency sat in. Joshua's agency represents many top authors including Charlaine Harris. It was a lively discussion of the pros and cons of both methods of publishing as each panelist shared their experiences. Joshua chimed in with many valuable comments and was very honest on topics of eBook vs. hardback pricing and the DoJ's suit against NY publishing, accusing Amazon of predatory pricing by selling books below cost.
At 11AM, "Liberty and other Inalienable Rights" was moderated by Danny Birt and paneled by lawyer and fantasy writer Michael Ventrella, Steven H. Wilson, DH Aire, and two other gentlemen whose names escape me and were not listed in the pocket program. Of all the panels I attended at the con, this one garnered the highest attendance and the most vocal audience. Panelists debated and differentiated basic human rights, intrinsic rights, rights granted by law, how rights are determined, and how the idea of "rights" is changing and evolving along with our society and technology.
My final reading for the weekend was scheduled for 1PM and I was joined by David Wood and Steven Wilson. We outnumbered the audience by one but I'll take any chance to practice reading aloud.
After lunch at the Corner Stable, I killed the next seven hours reading, walking, perusing the dealers room again and chatting with the folks at the Farpoint before my final two panels, "New Fandoms and Online Communities" with Billy Flynn moderating and Zan Rosin, Lynn Adler-Golden and I as panelists. We had a small but very active audience as we chatted about emerging fandoms for new shows such as Sherlock, Alphas, Haven, Warehouse 13, Lost Girl, and older shows like Psych, Lost, Eureka, Stargate: Universe, Fringe, and more. Despite being two panelists short, it was a fast 50 minutes!
My final panel was at 10PM, "You Got Your Horror In My Fantasy!", moderated by Paul Elard Cooley. Andrew Fox, Richard Allen Leider, and I discussed psychological horror in other genres (fantasy, SF, even mystery) in books and films. We discussed everyone from Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, HP Lovecraft, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Tolkien. Either due to the lateness of the hour or natural human tendencies, the panel strayed from the main topics onto horror and paranormal films and personal experiences with the strange and unusual. Nevertheless, it was a blast.
I checked out on Monday and headed to the Wilsons for a few hours and enjoyed a relaxing cookout on what was the hottest day of the year. I was on the road home by 3:30 and despite a 10 minute delay on I-83N due to an RV fire, it was smooth sailing.
All told, BaltiCon was a wonderful, educational, and invigorating experience as always. Already looking forward to next year!
At the Firebringer Press Presents event. Pictured above from L to R: Artists Laura Inglis and Todd Brugmans, writers Lance Woods and Phil Giunta, artist Ethan Wilson.
Above: Laura Inglis (L), cover artist for Phil's upcoming novel, By Your Side, and Todd Brugmans (R)
Above: Lance Woods reads passionately from Heroic Park, or perhaps he was singing opera...
Above: And here I am prattling on about my upcoming novel,
By Your Side (cover art by Laura Inglis, layout by Chris Winner)
from which I also read a few scenes.
A huge thanks to Paul Balze for agreeing to be our photographer during the Firebringer Press panel at BaltiCon 46.