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Friday, March 28, 2014

Guest Post: First Convention by @HCPlaya

I want to welcome HC Playa to my blog today! She just attended her first convention as an author guest and I am lucky to have her write about it and share it with my readers!

Last weekend I attended my first convention as an author guest and I already have three more engagements tentatively marked on my calendar. For the last four years of MidSouthCon, I volunteered as a moderator on panels as I learned the business of writing in addition to improving my craft. I suppose I became so familiar to the regional authors who were repeat guests that I grew to be part of the group even though I was still trying my darndest to get published. This time last year I had enough positive feedback to hope that 2013 would be my year. Even though only a single short story made it to print last year, it was.

A publisher, Pro Se Productions, after chatting with me at the 2012 MidSouthCon had asked to see Daughter of Destiny, but they published pulp fiction. I wasn’t certain what that was exactly, so I didn’t submit. After another round of annoyingly positive rejections I went ahead and sent it to him during 2013 MidSouthCon when asked yet again. He tracked me down the next day while I assisted authors on ProRow and told me he wanted my series. A few months later I got another acceptance, and then another. I had finally crossed those first milestones on my journey to publication, a journey which started in 2005 when I sat down and hammered out that first rough draft. Estimates of release were all that year, so I was hyped. I’ve learned since then that if a publisher says six months, it likely means a year, but I can’t complain because the final products were awesome. There are a ton of factors which can delay a release, and Murphy’s Law dictates they’ll probably all happen at the same time.

A short story, What Autumn Leaves, got published first, then the third book I’ve written, Fated Bonds, followed on its heels, another short story, Pirates of Happenstance, and then finally my very first novel released this past weekend. A lot of hours went into Daughter of Destiny. While the story remained essentially the same, I hacked at it for seven years, to the point when I received my galley edits, my gut reaction was, “Jeeze, not again.” Despite not wanting to slog through yet more edits, all that work paid off. Aside from some typos and formatting mistakes, reading it felt like reading a book—a book I really didn’t want to put down. After so many years, to see it in its final form brought tears to my eyes.

While Fated Bonds was a fun, paranormal romance/urban fantasy, Daughter of Destiny and the series it begins are something far more complex. I purposely set out to weave together science fiction, fantasy, romance, and action. Of course, doing so made it really hard to sell, but what I’ve been told turned out to be exactly the case: all it takes is the right person to read your story. I think my editor is almost as excited about my story as I am. Given how many books come across his desk, it makes me feel both proud and humble at the same time.

While I had a good time at the convention, the 2014 MidSouthCon was a bit anticlimactic in some ways. It reminded me that I’ve been an author for a while, even if I’ve only recently been published. Whether one book sat on the table, or a dozen, all of us authors shared a camaraderie, that joint commiseration of rejections and grueling rewrites. While conventions serve as a wonderful chance to meet readers, it is just as much an opportunity to bond with fellow writers and recall that we are not alone in what can feel like a very solitary journey.

So even though I joked that I was official this year, rather than a wannabe, getting published is not what defines an author. As all of the authors I’ve met seem to recognize, it is the writing that bonds us in common. So whether there’s a line of fans, or a big fat empty space in front of you, it doesn’t really matter.

To the writers out there, keep writing. To the readers, thank you.

I’m a writer, a mad scientist in training, a mother, and an animal wrangler. Come to think of it, maybe I’m the one being wrangled. I’m pretty certain those cats and dogs have me right where they want me; waiting on them paw and tail.

Rumor has it if I’m not elbow deep in fantastical worlds, I’m likely to be found delving into the mysteries of life, pulling weeds from my garden, creating mouth-watering meals, tending to my children, herding various critters, or exploring the wonderful worlds of fellow authors.

I share my realm of adventure with five cats, three dogs, several fish, four hens, and three children.

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“Leave it to me to make this even more challenging,” Tala muttered as she skirted sticks and twigs scattered on the forest floor. She already passed two traps, and suspected her wolf nemesis couldn’t be far off. She skulked through brush, careful to mask her scent with that of a jaguar. She stayed off the paths and more open terrain, as that seemed to be where the wolves laid their traps. The moon began to rise over the tops of the trees and Tala debated the odds of finding Victor at this pace. Damn it! I’m running out of time. She eased across an open space, cautious not to move too swiftly, eying the ground for any signs of disturbance, searching the air for the residual charge left by magic. Her head snapped up as the jaguar senses she used caught the familiar coppery scent of blood. She edged to the right, following the scent and stumbled over a leg.

“Shit,” she whispered.

Three iron shafts protruded from Victor’s chest. A glint of moonlight shone on a piece of wire. Damn. No doubt in a hurry to get back to his wife, he set off a trap meant for her. A conducting metal, the iron disrupted the flow of energy needed for Victor to heal. Tala knelt beside him and checked his pulse. A beat fluttered against her fingertip, weak, and thready. She considered the risk of trying to rouse him. In his state, his bloodlust might overwhelm him and he could attack her. On the other hand, dragging him through the forest could not be done in stealth.

Likely death or possible death? Joy



Katarina closed her eyes and did something she never dared with anyone before. She sent her mind into Zane’s. His mental barriers were gone. Either he didn’t know how to maintain while sleeping, or the nightmare destroyed them.
She sought his unconscious mind and joined him in the dream. Ka­tarina planned to wake him and then get the hell out, but she forgot that strategy when her mental avatar melded with Zane’s subconscious mind in the midst of his nightmare.
Mist gave way to a scene painted in dark shadows.
“He’s surrendering? He’s not even supposed to know we’re out here,” Zane said. Through his eyes she stared at the man in front of her.
She wondered who he was and Zane’s mind supplied the information.
Captain Jandori, of the local enforcer squad, shrugged. “One of his spies probably spotted us. Who cares? Command wants him, and I’m in charge. I’m giving the order to go in.”
Zane rolled his shoulders and looked up at the unimposing three-story residential compound. “Captain, allow my men to sweep the place with a deep sensor first.”
“And let the Goloth Emperor escape while we’re sitting out here like cowards? I don’t think so.” Captain Jandori tapped the control on his comm unit. “All units; proceed with caution into the structure.” Jandori left cover and led his troops across the deserted street to the compound. He didn’t wait to see if Zane followed him.
Zane tapped his own comm unit. “Lieutenant, please tell me you’ve got something on those scans.”
“Sorry, sir, but he’s got the place protected with layers of sensor scramblers, jammers, and an EM shield. It’s taking time to get through it all.”
“Can’t you just cut the blasted power?”
“Already done. He’s got power generators in there.”
Kraghak!” Zane cursed.
“Nothing, Plaswer. Just get me the readings as fast as you can. Jan­dori is moving in.” Zane broke off when he saw Rhea’s distinctive form following the local Enforcers. “And my troops are going in as well.” Zane tapped the comm off and cursed again. He double checked his laser rifle before joining the surge of troops. He hated joint ops like this because the locals always insisted on being in charge, even if it was an IGCF matter.
Zane flicked the safety off and the power cell let out a high pitched whine as it charged the lasers. He scowled as he moved his rifle to a ready position. No matter what protocol dictated, Rhea should have awaited his command. And she wonders why I refuse to promote her.
Just as Zane stepped forward to join his troops, a deafening explo­sion buckled the ground beneath his feet. He fell to his knees, which saved him from the fury of flying debris that blasted past and rained down. His ears rang and he coughed as dust and smoke filled the air. Zane scrambled to his feet and steadied himself by placing one hand on the building that protected him from most of the blast.
At first the dust and smoke shrouded his view, but he moved ahead despite it, squinting as his eyes watered and stung from the smoke. Small debris fires burned here and there, but the fire retardant chemicals impregnated in the building materials prevented a full-blown conflagra­tion. Zane moved into the blast zone and came upon bodies. He checked one after another, even when logic told him no one could survive the blast which left nothing but a crater twice the diameter of the building which stood in its place moments before.
When the bright light of search beams cut through the haze, he real­ized the high pitched wail wasn’t ringing in his ears, but sirens. Emer­gency workers rushed passed him as he turned his back on the disaster. Not until the emergency response vehicles cut their sirens did he realize his comm was beeping. He tapped the device.
“I’m here, Coran.”
“What happened? Sensors recorded a huge energy surge just as I got through the last jammer.”
“He blew the place. I don’t think anyone survived.”
“No one? Rhea?”
“I’m sorry, Coran.”
The comm remained silent for a minute. “Are you all right?”
“I’ll be fine. Do whatever scans you can from orbit. See if this was something he might have had in place for some time or a last minute ‘Kraghak ti’.”
“Yes, sir.”
Zane deactivated his comm and then hunted down the local in charge so he could give a report. A wiry Ardacian female at the center of a cluster of vehicles shouted orders to personnel. He headed toward her. She spotted him and said something in a rapid flow of language that he didn’t comprehend. He opened his mouth to ask her to use a computer translator, but stopped mid-breath. Fear washed through him accompanied by a flash of phantom pain in his midsection. He doubled over as the pain stole his breath. An image came to life in his mind. A heavily muscled Goloth in battle armor held a bloody xaraq and wore a malicious grin.
At the same time his brother whispered his name, “Zane.” The thought reached him and ended almost like a breath. Then the connec­tion snapped.