Small Touches – Guest Author Daniel Link

I met Daniel at the DFWcon mixer, and hit it off right away. I had the pleasure of listening to him do a reading during a read and critique and was blown away so I knew I had to introduce myself to him. A month later, I’m still in touch and am very pleased to have him featured on my blog. Enjoy!

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Small Touches

by Daniel Link

 

DFWCon was not my first conference, so I thought I knew what to expect.

There were some pleasant surprises, things I hadn’t seen before. For instance, the sign-up slots for the Read and Critique, or Fix My Manuscript. Then there’s the ten-minute agent sit downs. The laid-back Texas vibe made talking to people easy, and that was most evident at Saturday night’s gala, which may have been the biggest surprise of them all.

First, the special sign-up opportunities. Fix My Problem was great, but my favorite was the Read and Critique. Those were fantastic, and I hate to say, underattended. I sat in on a Read and Critique Sunday with only five people there to read their work.

I get it, we’re introverts. We don’t like people all that much, and the idea of reading to them is terrifying. What we do love, however, is words. You have a chance to read your words to other people. How many chances to do that do we get? To walk into that room and see it empty, with two hundred and however many authors outside, some of them spending their whole conference in the lobby talking about getting to work on their book instead of doing it, that got to me.  If we won’t champion our own words, who will?

Sure, it’s important to touch base with people. It’s important to build that platform. It’s good to have a social media presence and a website and all that cart-before-the-horse nonsense.  Don’t get me wrong. When you’ve got your book in hand and you’re ready to promote it, when your baby is as polished as you can make it and it’s time to find an agent—that’s when it’s time to put on your business hat. Before that, though, there’s the all-too-important business of writing your best work. Don’t overlook that.

Another surprising aspect of DFWCon was the ten-minute sit down with an agent. I’ve attended conferences where the whole weekend is centered around pitch writing, pitch polishing, then group pitch practice, until you’re so pitched out you don’t even like the premise of your book anymore. The whole experience funnels you toward a fifty-minute speed dating session, three minutes to pitch an agent. It’s a whirlwind of shoving and flying elbows and an overall vibe of competition that I never felt at DFWCon.

The luxury of talking to an agent for ten minutes was a strange experience. I got to shake his hand and tell him my name, and I didn’t have to boil a year of my life into a ninety-second commercial or use cross-comps like Game of Thrones meets When Harry Met Sally, or Flashdance meets the Godfather. The downside, of course, was that I only got to talk with one agent. Then I got my biggest surprise—the gala.

The idea of the gala is nothing new. Another conference, one I will not name but takes place in a city in California by a bay, has a gala. Meet the agents and editors, the program said, so I put on my shiny shoes and got ready to mingle. It was in the bookstore downstairs, and the place was packed. A quick scan of the badges revealed that everyone in attendance was either a writer or a conference volunteer. The agents were all tucked into bed or out on the town laughing at everyone fooled into attending the gala. When I asked a volunteer where the agents and editors we were supposed to meet were, she disappeared in a puff of smoke like an 80’s movie ninja. When word spread that people were looking for the agents, the rest of the volunteers fled, leaving a hundred or so writers holding plastic cups of wine while tumbleweeds rolled through the bookstore.

The gala at DFWCon this year was the opposite. I arrived as it was starting, and the first person I ran into was Marisa Corvisiero. We talked for a few and she never used a smoke bomb to escape. Then I met Uwe Stender in the corner by the bar, where I talked with him for ten minutes or so. I moved on and mingled with other writers and geeked out properly for a while, then ran into Kevin O’Conner and Patty Carothers, both of whom I talked to at length. By the end of Saturday night I’d spent more time talking to agents than I had in two years at Unnamed City by the Bay Con combined. It was a great environment to try on that business hat—a pressure-free place to practice pitching and see what others think of your ideas.

As well as things went for me at DFWCon, I didn’t get everything right. I didn’t take enough pictures, didn’t post a single one to social media. I didn’t exchange numbers and business cards with all the wonderful people I met. The weekend got away from me, as it’s sure to do. If I’d been more on the ball, I’d have recorded my ten-minute sit-down with my agent. He gave me a lot of advice that I sort of remember. They wouldn’t let me take note paper in, but I did have my cell phone. We’ll try that again next year. And as for the people I didn’t connect with on social media, I hope they signed up, too.

My experience was a positive on a number of levels, enough so that I took advantage of the early enrollment for DFWCon 2019. The people were so pleasant and the price so reasonable that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Next year, I’m going to try to sit in on as many of the special classes that I can. These small touches are what set the conference apart.

There’s no better place to share your ideas, make contacts, and learn about trends in book marketing than writer’s conferences. Everyone should go to one. Then after you’ve been to one, been overwhelmed by the constant information and handshaking and notetaking, you need to do another one, then maybe one or two more for good measure. Do one of the Read and Critiques. No matter how scared you are, you’ll be glad you did. Then, once you’ve gotten over your fear of reading your words to strangers, you need to do it again. You’ll get better at it. Things will slow down. Until then, keep writing, keep championing your work, and getting it ready for next year.

 

 

Want to learn more about Daniel Link? Check out his website!

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JK Rowling is Wrong (and so are a lot of other people) – Guest Author Rebecca Paddock

Today’s guest post is continuing my theme of writer’s conferences but I decided to host a few other writers’ opinions. Rebecca Paddock attended the 2018 DFW Con and wanted to share her experience. Enjoy! 

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JK Rowling is Wrong (and so are a lot of other people)

By Rebecca Paddock

 

JK Rowling is wrong. That’s my takeaway from DFWcon 2018. Not on everything, she’s undoubtedly right about a great many things. Maybe even most. But she’s definitely wrong about one of them. During an interview, she described writers as “observers.” I disagree. Writers are engagers. Or maybe questioners.

Other people are wrong too. That’s part two of my takeaway. Prior to the conference, I heard (and, via Facebook, saw) a whole lot of noise about writers being introverts. No way. No how. Not at DFWcon. At least, not from what I experienced.

You want to experience introverts at a conference? Go to one of the International Council of Systems Engineering events and use your ears. They’re half the volume for twice the people.

One step into the venue and the overall lack of introverts was apparent. Before I even made it to the credentials table, I’d been greeted (with smiles, no less!) by every person I passed. Anything from a simple “Hey, there” to a hearty “Howdy!” People were talking everywhere. If these folks were introverts, they were really loud, really animated introverts. People stood in small groups, twos and threes. Maybe a group of four, here and there. If these were introverts, they were introverts with a lot of very deeply established cliques.

Only people moved from one place to another. Which isn’t very cliquish at all. It’s not very introverted either.

No one had their face buried in a cell phone, laptop, or any other form of electronic distraction. No one was standing alone. No one had that wide-eyed get-me-out-of-here look. No one.

Might as well have been a cocktail party.

I would have done some more research on the phenomena, tested a theory or two, but I was waylaid by the person next to me.

“This is my first conference. I’m so excited,” she said, practically bubbling over. “What do you write?”

That was the common refrain: what do you write. Kind of like being in college and folks beginning every conversation with: “what’s your major?”

What do you write? And, the thing is, these folks really meant it. They really wanted to know. It wasn’t a polite lob into a conversation they’d rather not be having. It wasn’t an excuse to fill an uncomfortable void. It wasn’t trying to eek through a stressful situation before finding solace in some alone time. Each word was filled with interest.

“Satire. I write political satire,” I’d respond.

Then the questions came in earnest.

Which is not usually the case. If I tell the average Joe that I write political satire, they usually get that deer-in-the-headlights terrified look, take two steps back, and do their best to change the subject post haste – preferably before limbs are lost. Not these folks. They’re writers. Writers dig in.

Is there much of a market for that?

How do you handle the biting humor?

Is there a specific format (or set of rules) for satire?

What’s the expected word count for that genre?

Questions. Lots and lots of questions. Even when the person wrote Romance. Or Thrillers. Or Suspense. Or even Westerns. No matter their genre, people were interested. Even better, they were fascinating in their own right.

No one word answers to be found. Everyone was happy to share, explain, and provide insight into their perspective. I ran into a couple folks who write Science Fiction. Asking questions about how they develop their backdrop netted me some great tips for worldbuilding. Asking questions of Romance writers got me a neat little trick on establishing the closeness of an emotional connection without ever having to talk about it directly. And one of the Suspense guys was a hoot. He gave me some interesting insight into how he weaves comedy into suspense. Which means I could use the same technique to weave suspense into comedy.

That’s just the attendees. The classes were much the same. People breaking things down. Not spending an hour talking about why something was important. They spent five minutes on the why, maybe another five on the what, and the remaining time was spent on the how. Giving specific techniques for actually making a manuscript come to life. Practical. Expedient. And, even better, something for everyone. Even experienced/published authors came away with useful techniques to tackle their tantalizing terrors.

The instructors didn’t go away and hide either. They talked to anyone who came up and asked a question. Or they tracked you down and ask a question themselves. (I heard you write political satire…) They  attended classes. They participated, offered advice, listened, asked questions … you know, do stuff that non-introverted people do. Only … drum roll please … they’re writers.

There were even translation classes. Where knowledgeable agents and authors got together to translate rejection speak into actionable bullet points. Not something the average introvert would sign up to do especially since there was no way to prepare. The best part was, the non-observers did more than translate, they gave tips on how to approach the modifications. A couple of which helped solve an issue or two in my current manuscript.

And so, in spite of all the hype prior to the conference, I found that writers aren’t different. Writers are like any other group of passionate people. They engage. They might not engage by stepping up to a mic, kicking a soccer ball, or screaming at a ref, but they engage nonetheless. They ask questions. They pursue information. They search for cause/effect. And they consider.

Writers are always considering. Is there a better way? Can I be more succinct? How do I make this passage come alive? What’s the best way to increase the tempo, change the cadence, or create a flow? What would happen if…

Writers aren’t introverts. And they aren’t observers.

Sorry, Ms. Rowling. You’re wrong. You didn’t observe, you engaged. You tested. You pursued knowledge, built a world, played with the tension in relationships, explored cause/effect, questioned humanity, and discovered unplumbed decency in someone thought to be irredeemable. You, Ms. Rowling, are an engager. A questioner. Maybe even an explorer.

And so are the people who attend DFWcon.

What I Wish I Knew About Writing Conferences

Back in 2016, I made a shift. I decided if I was ever going to become a writer, I needed stop buying “how to” writing books, fancy pens, and themed journals and actually write. I know. Revolutionary idea.

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Don’t get me wrong, “writing swag” is great, but at the end of the day, the supplies gave me the illusion of productivity. I needed to write to become a writer.

Now in 2018, with one completed novel under my belt and a net of query letters out to a sea of agents, I decided writing wasn’t enough. I needed to learn more about the craft of writing that books couldn’t teach me.

That’s where the Dallas Fort Worth Writer’s Conference came in.

Now, I thought I was pretty prepared for my first conference. I picked out what classes I wanted to go to, signed up for special discussions, and headed out at 5:30 in the morning to be there by the time the doors opened. But here’s what I wish I knew, that I didn’t see anywhere online.

Writing conferences are less about the classes and more about the connections.

Maybe this isn’t true for all people, but it was extremely true in my case. While the classes were amazing, I realized I was woefully unprepared for the amount of networking I was going to be doing.

How do you make the most out of your networking and socializing experience? 

 Get a hotel near the conference center. Mine was 30 minutes away, to save money, and I missed out on so many fun get togethers.

If someone’s planning to do a dinner, go eat with a group.

If you find one group, don’t be afraid to go and hang out with other people, but know you might feel left out if your first group you hit it off with goes and does something else.

Order business cards and keep in touch with people after the conference is over. I’ll talk more about this in my “making friends” portion of this conference series I’m doing, but definitely do this.

Reach out to people before the conference. I met some wonderful writers online through facebook and online contests so when I got there, I already knew who to touch base with. In fact, if I hadn’t had so much fun talking to D.L. Hammons I probably would’ve been lost for the first hour.

And lastly, if you can pitch to agents or editors, DO. I was only going to use my free agent pitch but decided to buy two, and I learned more in those 20 minutes about the pitching/agent process than I did reading any book. Both people I pitched to eased me into the situation and asked me to email them my work. Come to find out, one of them was only accepting work through that conference, so trying to pitch to her online would’ve been impossible (or at the very least rude).

 

These are just a few things I wish I knew about the whole networking deal. I’ll go over what I learned about classes, making friends and the downsides to conferences (there are some, albeit small ones) in other up coming posts, so keep an eye out.

 

Is there something you want to know about writing conferences? This was my first one, so I’m not all knowing but I can definitely give you tips if you’re a newbie! Comment below and let me know.

Book Review #6 – The Voice of the Night

After realizing I’ve been buying way more books than I’ve been reading, I decided to start doing reviews for older books on my shelf to encourage me to clear some space. I wanted to start with something easy to get through that would still be enjoyable, and since I like Dean Koontz for the most part, I started with The Voice of the Night.

Oh boy. This book. Let me tell you. This freaking book.

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I know this was one of Koontz’s earlier works, but he’s always been a little hit and miss with me. This one was a big miss. In fact, have you ever read an author and thought, wow, they are trying REALLY hard to be like another author? Well that was The Voice of the Night for me.

What happened. . . .

Colin is a shy kid who befriends another boy name Roy. Roy happens to be a sociopath who encourages a darker side in Colin. We learn about Colin’s messed up home life, Roy’s obsession with death, and a murder suicide that happened in the town they live in. A girl named Heather gets involved, Roy tries to kill Colin, and Colin and Heather finally take Roy out by luring him to the murder suicide house. Colin has the chance to kill Roy, but decides to show mercy, and winds up calling the cops instead.

All pretty formulaic for Koontz, but that wasn’t what bothered me the most about this book. I can handle an author who writes by a formula, and sometimes you need something like that just to tune out the world for a while. The problem was the psychological horror.

Now, I’m all for psychological horror. In fact it’s one of my favorite types of horror, right after science fiction horror, but the way he tried using it in this book just left me bored. I found myself skipping the chunks of conversations, tuning out, and I even put it down with no intention of picking it back up again.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I liked the characters, but I didn’t. Colin was one dimensional, and Roy talks about raping women, torturing animals, and killing other kids. Even when you find out why he is the way he is, at that point, I just didn’t care. It felt lazy, like I was reading the script to a thrown out idea of a Criminal Minds episode.

The worse part is, it was like he was trying to mimic Stephen King. I know this is some people’s problem with some of Koontz’s work, but this time it really showed. It was lazy story telling, and at the end of the day, he’s told better stories than this one.

If, by some off chance, you’ve never read anything by him, don’t start with this book.

As for the rating, I wouldn’t even check  it out from the library.

 

Have you read The Voice of the Night? What were your thoughts? Disagree with my review? Comment below and let me know!