Writing a Character Part 5: Creating a Character

I’m not sure I’ve ever really talked about how I create characters for my stories or for my roleplaying games. Sometimes the process is similar, but usually it’s very different.

With a game, I’m looking at rules and balance, and how I will be able to act as the character so that everyone at the table has a good time. Some meta gaming may be involved, but not always. Can I speak in an Irish accent? Do I want to be the guy that supports the group from the back, the meat shield that protects the group from the front, or maybe a sneaky and spry fellow that strikes from the shadows?

This isn’t generally how I think of characters for stories. I bring it up because many of you know that I’m a gamer, and some of you know that Mel Walker started as a character in a roleplaying game.

Some writers create character sheets and build characters just like they’re about to take them into a game. If that approach works for you, keep at it! It’s not my way, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a way.

When I’m thinking about characters in a story, I build them up in my mind one layer at a time. The first layer is all about tone. Is this person happy, sad, angry, bitter, jealous… you get the idea. When I decide on the emotion they’re going to exert on the scene, I ask why they’re feeling that way. Sometimes the answer is obvious. Sometimes the angry receptionist is just an angry receptionist, but I always consider what sort of breadcrumbs I might leave for allowing the reader to figure out what’s going on in their head. If you’re familiar with “show, don’t tell,” this is a place where showing really shines.

Next I ask what myself what they sound like. This gives me hints on how to write their dialog. Sometimes, the character’s voice will remind me of someone I know, and I might tease out some quality of that other person to give the character something real.

Somewhere in this process, I consider what they’re purpose is for the scene I’m about to write. Once I’ve figured out some details about the character, I might determine that I don’t want them for my next scene at all. I’ll put them on the back burner and pull them out when it’s their time to contribute.

A scene has a starting point and an ending point, and it involves one or more characters trying to overcome an obstacle. Sometimes the obstacle is another character. Is the character I’m adding to the scene trying to help or hinder the main character? Why are they on the side they’re on?

Imagine our hero is at the bottom of a pit trap. Before the scene began, they fell in, miraculously avoiding a broken ankle at the bottom. But the walls of the trap are slick mud, and there is someone at the top of the trap with a spear. I probably already know quite a bit about the hero, but who is this other guy? Is he there to stab the hero when the hero tries to climb out, or is going to lower his weapon to give the hero something to grab onto, and help them out? Who is this guy, and why are they doing whatever it is they’re about to do? Is it personal? Is it a paycheck?

When creating characters like this, I try to consider how much time they’re going to spend in the story. Are they a waitress that’s only there for one scene? If so, I don’t need to do that much with them. They probably don’t even need a name. However, if they’re going to have any screen time at all, I’m going to give them something that implies character.

If this character is going to show up a bit more in the story, I’ll look at where they fit into the bigger picture. I’ll get to their motivation, and I’ll see if there is some kind of arc I can give them. It doesn’t have to be major. They don’t need to steal attention from the main character. But imagine a cop that shows up early on, and they seem like a nice enough guy, but there is something in their past that is getting in their way, and by the end of the story, they find the courage to overcome their trauma. Are you thinking of the first Die Hard movie now, because I am.

If I’m working on a major character, I’m going to consider them more and flesh out smaller details. Then I’ll either try them out in the scene, or if I’m struggling with their voice, I’ll write some throw away stuff that gives me the opportunity to play with their personality and voice. Once I’ve got it locked in, I can return to the main story and continue.

These are a few thoughts on characterization. We’ll do some more with that this week.


A Long, Quiet Week

Last weekend was 3 days, and I thought it’d be great for recovering and getting my feet back under me. Then the fire nation attacked.

Well, not that. Maybe that would have been preferable.

I spent most of Saturday in bed, not feeling great. Sunday, I got up and tried to work, but I still felt like garbage. I didn’t get much done. Monday, same thing. Tuesday, I was supposed to get back to work, but I could not get out of bed.

Was it Covid? Probably not. Flu? Some kind of virus? Maybe. I was exhausted. Throughout the week and even still, I struggle to get enough sleep. On top of that, I didn’t complete my sprint for work. Worse, some of the things I thought I accomplished caused problems in the production environment.

In a nutshell, things are rough at work, I’m not getting enough sleep, my depression hit another low, and there was nothing I could do to help with any of it.

Something had to give, so I excused myself from the daily blog posting for a week in order to try and get back on top of things.

Did it work? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’m still not doing great, but I hung out with Michael Gallowglas and attended both of his shows yesterday. Today, I’m downtown with Mike Baltar. We’re at the Sunday Shut Up & Write, and we’ll probably hang out some more afterwards.

I’m trying to stay positive and productive and be my “normal” self, but I mostly feel old, tired, and pessimistic about the future.

What about the writing? Does that not still sustain me?

It’s complicated.

Part of the reason I let the blog posts go for a week is because every time I approach a story, I do so with fear and respect. Respect, in that I appreciate the story for what it is, and I appreciate my ability to compose it out of words and imagination. There is power in creation, and it is not hard to use that power irresponsibly and create something that is harmful to others.

The fear is just a manifestation of self-doubt. Do I have the skill necessary to tell the tale? Is it a story that I should write? Am I going to finish it, or will it be another project that goes onto my shelf, waiting for me to find the time and energy to bring it to life?

When I’m depressed, the bitter voice inside my head becomes more believable. The voice that suggests that no one likes me, that my writing isn’t as good as I think it is, and that I’m out of touch and can’t write something that will appeal to anyone other than myself.

When that voice reigns, I try and do things that drown out everything. This last week, I played a bunch of solitaire while listening to old episodes of Dimension 20. I finished all of Tiny Heist, and I’m now most of the way through A Crown of Candy.

There is another fear I have not mentioned yet. Writing a story publicly, demonstrating what I do and taking away all of the magic, leaves me feeling exposed. I’m still going to do it. I’m going to see the story through. But it doesn’t feel as good.

That’s all, for now. I’ll get back into the daily writing again. It’s a good thing this wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution, because otherwise this whole thing would be busted, right?


Let’s Talk About Madam Web

Yesterday I talked about thin characters, which is a perfect segue for talking about Madam Web! Hey-oh!!

That was a joke, but not too far off the mark, actually. Melissa and I went and saw Madam Web earlier today, and since it’s on my mind, I want to talk about the movie as well as the negative buzz around it. I will do my best to do so without spoilers.

The trailer offered us a flat reading from Dakota Johnson that made me nervous going in, but Dakota herself took the movie seriously. She did fine! She didn’t phone it in, and the line from the trailer is nowhere to be heard in the movie itself.

I found the very bad ADR on the villain to be distracting. I think the Internet is abuzz over that, but I didn’t know about it until I was sitting in the theater, watching the actor’s lips move out of synch with his words. It was not a very pleasant surprise, and it’s probably the bad thing that sticks out the most in my memory.

Based on the trailer, I thought there would be bad acting. Sydney Sweeney’s performance was the only one that stood out as not great, but that could be because the actors around her were doing more with what they were given.

Was this a clever movie? No. Was this a good movie? Again, no.

Did I hate it? I did not, actually. I thought the movie was okay. If I had to give it a letter grade, I’d give it a C+.

Looking around at the hellscape that is The Internet, it seems like this movie should be as bad as The Room. It really isn’t.

Without going into spoilers, I will say that there was an emotional core revealed in the third act that I did not expect to be in this movie. It made me feel a feeling. Therefore, I can’t bring myself to hate this movie.

I think the bandwagon hate this movie is receiving funny and dishonest at the same time. I enjoy the memes. I can laugh at the jokes made at this movie’s expense. At the same time, I feel like people are either bashing on it without having watched it themselves, or they are letting The Internet Hate cloud their vision.

No one asked for this movie, but it’s out, and thought it’s not awesome, it’s not the trash fire people are saying it is. It’s better than Ultraviolet and The Rise of Skywalker. It was good enough that I don’t regret seeing it at matinee prices, and it’s not good enough for me to keep thinking about days later.

Have you seen it? What did you think about it? Let me know if I’m being too generous.


Writing a Story Part 4: Our Main Character

I woke up feeling not great. I stayed in bed most of the day, getting up only long enough to connect with my writing group and let them know I wasn’t going to make our monthly meeting today. Then I went back to bed.

After getting up, showering, and putting a little bit of sugar in me, I’m feeling okay. Not great. The headache is still there, but I think I’m well enough to work on this story before I lose too much interest.

Let’s begin. Free indirect writing, activated.

What kind of person do we want to hang out with for a while? This is a short story, so their journey from a normal, everyday person to a hero has to be relatively straight forward. We won’t have time to take them through a lot of changes.

Mary Robinette has a formula where you can plug in the number of characters, settings, and plot points, and determine roughly how many words that story is. I have had a similar formula for a long time, and mine isn’t quite so precise. Generally speaking, if I want a story to be around 6,000 words, I need to limit it to no more than 3 settings, 4 “real” characters, and 2 plot points.

Why am I talking about this when I should be working on the character?

Characters generate plot. They are plot machines. When you make a believable character, with motivations, voice, and agency, they will upset the plans you laid out before said character became fully realized. So, when developing the character at the beginning like this, I try to anticipate how complicated they’re going to make the plot.

Very clever characters tend to like very clever plots. If you don’t give a clever character enough problems to solve, they come across flat and boring.

For this story, I want things to be relatively simple. So, our main point of view character should also be a little bit simple.

What do I mean about characters being simple? Let’s look at characters from our comp titles, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Supernatural.

Aang is a young man that was not ready for the weight of the world to be placed in his shoulders, so he ran away before the story even began. He’s an upbeat pacificist that deeply loves his new friends while also deeply missing the people he left behind to die when the Fire Nation attacked. He wrestles with his powers, his responsibility, his love, and by the end, his pacificism. Aang is definitely simpler than Zuko, but Aang has depth and layers, and it would take more than a short story to get a character like that right.

I think the simplest main character in Avatar: The Last Airbender is probably Sokka. He’s mostly loyal and goofy, until later in the series when he deals with learning to be responsible and leading people. He is the normal guy running around with demigods.

Flipping to Supernatural, Sam and Dean have their own complexities. We can simplify them, but I’m not going to bother. Instead, I’ll focus on a character from that show that would be great for a short story: Bobby. Bobby is made of two things: his love for The Winchesters, and his deep, practical knowledge of the supernatural world.

Our story about a firefighter that becomes an elementalist is not going to star either Sokka or Bobby. However, we can look at those two characters and figure some things out.

Both Bobby and Sokka are loyal. They’re good, decent folk trying to do what they think is right. They are cinnamon rolls.

Our main character will be a cinnamon roll, which is someone that is sweet, optimistic, and tends to put others above themselves. Why did they become a firefighter? Because they wanted to help people without having to carry a gun.

They are healthy, strong enough to carry a person while wearing a bunch of heavy gear, and they’re brave enough to run into a burning building.

How do they feel about fire? We might as well ask the question, since that’s going to be a big part of the story.

I think they respect it, but they neither love nor fear it overly much. Fire is useful and good when it is controlled.

I think I’m going to stop here for tonight. We haven’t made that much progress, but we’ve made some. We need to get into their wants and needs and motivations soon. After that, they’ll start to seem more like a person, and we can go on to other parts of the story.


Another Rough Day

It’s nearly midnight, and I don’t want to post too late so today’s will be brief.

The Day Job really, really sucked today. A coworker I really respect retired today. Changes I made in production went badly, even though it was thoroughly tested before it went out. The work has piled up, and in spite this being a 3 day weekend, I’m going to need to work quite a bit of it.

I’ll get back to working on the elemental firefighter story soon.

Some days you get the bear. Then there’s days like today.


Writing a Story Part 3: Knowing When Not to Write

Writing can be like any other job, where it doesn’t matter how you’re feeling or what you’re going through. You show up, and you do the work. That’s it.

On the other hand, writing can and should be joyful. If you’re under deadline, you find ways to get the words flowing. Sometimes you can find the joy during those times. Sometimes you can’t. The deadline is still a thing, though, and if you want to act as a professional, you get the job finished on time. There is a stereotype around artists being flaky, and you do not need to embrace it. Focus on what the job means to you, what the money or the opportunity means to you, and get to the other side.

You’re not always going to be on deadline. When there is no pressure to turn out a story at a specific time, be gentle with yourself. You can try to push through. Sometimes that’s the right thing to do. Are you being needlessly lazy? Be honest with yourself. If you’re being lazy, or pulled into a video game, or you don’t have the interest at the moment, it’s perfectly fine to trick yourself into being productive.

On the other hand, if you’re running on very little sleep, and your day job has drained you, and your emotional state is not super great, and pushing yourself is going to lead to more harm than good… don’t push. Take the time off. Rest, relax, and do the things you need to do to recharge. The story will still be there tomorrow.

Yesterday, I said we were going to work on characters tonight. That was my plan, but then I spent several hours beating my head against a SQL server that does not want to cooperate.

I’m in a foul mood. I’m tired. There is no joy in the writing tonight, and I’m not sure that whatever work I try to attempt on this fledgling story will be useful or helpful. Tonight, I need to take a break and let it sit.

I’m not under deadline. There is no demand for this story. It’s not going anywhere, except here.

So, here is another lesson in Brian C. E. Buhl’s writing process: know when to call off. I’ll sleep tonight, thinking about the characters. Tomorrow when I sit down to work on them, I expect the process to go smoothly.


Writing a Story Part 2: Brainstorming

Happy Valentine’s! Let’s jump right into this.

Yesterday, we worked on coming up with an idea. An idea doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or well developed. It’s a starting place. It’s a seed you plant in the hopes of growing a story. Our idea we came up with wasn’t much: a firefighter that has elemental powers, in a modern setting.

Just like with the generation of the idea, we’ll be asking questions and using our answers to fill the void. This time, we’ll be working on refinement of the idea. And again, I’ll use free indirect writing in order to bring you along for the ride.

What do I think about this idea? I slept on it and I’m thinking that this is somehow Avatar the Last Airbender meets… Supernatural? Now we’re talking.

I’m saying Supernatural here rather than Dresden Files because I think this will be written in 3rd person, rather than 1st. I don’t know why. We can pivot on that, if we want to. I write a little bit faster in 1st person, but it doesn’t make that much of a difference and we’re not necessarily in a race.

We should make this a short story, though. Writing a full length novel via my blog sounds like it would take a long time, and probably be a little bit painful for everyone involved. A tight short story should be fine, and when I don’t submit it anywhere, I won’t feel bad. I have many, many short stories that no one else has seen.

Let’s figure out our tone. Avatar the Last Airbender is a bit more epic in its telling, and it can go between comedy and drama fairly well. Supernatural had comedy episodes as well, but the overall tone of Supernatural was dark and suspenseful. Our main character is a firefighter. We’ll have at least one scene — action scenes — in which our character is in a tense fight against a building fire. I don’t think this will be a comedic story, but we can probably find some places for humor to shine through. A good story should have contrast, and humor and horror utilize similar techniques to achieve their goals. I don’t think we’re going for horror as much as adventure, mystery, and suspense. But we’ll want to find the places to inject contrast.

Our character is discovering things about their world and themselves. We want our readers to be swept up in those feelings.

Do we want the elements to influence the personality of the characters with elemental powers? Hmm. I’m not sure about that. Maybe we can do that a little bit, but I don’t want to march into the world of cliche with too much gusto.

Should we talk about magic systems? How hard do we want to make it? Probably a little bit hard, since I’m having some thoughts about how the main character will solve the plot with elemental gifts.

We can poke some fun at astrology. Water signs, Earth signs. Things like that.

Let’s lean into the Avatar idea. Our main character, the firefighter, could be one of those rare sorts that has affinity with multiple elements. They spend so much time around fire, though, that their other affinities are masked until a pivotal point towards the end. We can leave signs and hints that this may be the case. We can be subtle and reward the reader for guessing our not-too-difficult twist.

Maybe we should watch Elementals before writing this? I don’t know. It might be a bit on the nose with what we’re going for.

What does the plot look like at this point?

  • We start in a burning building and our protagonist is in the middle of fighting a fire
  • They rescue someone, using their elemental gift without realizing that’s what they’re doing. The person they rescue recognizes it for what it is, though.
  • The rescued shows up at the fire station and it seems they’re going to be a nuisance trying to thank our hero, but they’re really there to talk to them about the elemental world
  • We need something to set the stakes
  • We need to push our hero out of their comfort zone
  • We need to put our hero in peril
  • Our hero needs to learn something/embrace who they are to overcome the peril and save themselves/save the day
  • We close with the hero taking a larger step into the world they’ve just become part of

That’s fuzzy, but we’re starting to get a general shape for the story. This isn’t an outline yet, but some rough ideas, with more general ideas taking the place of specifics in order to give this the shape of a potential story.

Antagonist? Who actually is our protagonist?

I like the idea that our antagonist is an arsonist. They match our hero in that they both have an affinity for fire, but they’re opposite our hero in their stance on how to use or control the fire.

We need more motivation and personality for both our hero and our villain. We can work on that. In fact, if we develop the characters more, they will inform us about the plot.

So let’s stop here. Tomorrow, we’ll work on our characters.


Writing a Story Part 1: The Idea

I’m not sure how many parts there will be to this series. The outcome is uncertain. Maybe that’s the point at this stage. We’ll talk about that in a moment.

Personal News

Not much to report tonight. Tomorrow is Valentine’s and I don’t know what I’ll be doing with Melissa, but it’ll have to be something. Work is busy. I haven’t played a video game in what feels like weeks. I’m still very tired, but there’s no time to take a break.

Upcoming Events and Such

Let’s start with “and Such.” The Water Dragon square site was recently updated. If you’re haven’t ordered The Repossessed Ghost or One for the Road yet, and you’d like to do so and have them signed, you can find the titles at this link. One for the Road will be signed by both Melissa and me.

If you’re in the Sacramento area around March 9th or 10th, you can go to Sac Comic-Con at the Sacramento convention center and skip on the shipping. I’ll have both books available there all weekend, as well as a bunch of other cool stories from Water Dragon.

The Topic: Writing a Story: The Idea

It’s time for me to let some free indirect writing take the wheel, so that you can join me at the very beginning of my writing process. This is the blank page, as it were, and I’m coming to it without any preconceptions or plan. This is the writing process. We start with an idea.

I’m intimidated. I respect this, and I don’t take it for granted. There is nothing in front of me yet. I’m not coming at this with an epiphany like I did when I wrote Synthetic Dreams. I’m not bringing with me a character from an old roleplaying game, like I did with The Repossessed Ghost. I’ve done this kind of writing before, where I sit down with the keyboard in front of me and my imagination firing, but not yet coalescing into any sort of shape. The page is blank. I don’t know if I’ll find the words when I reach for them.

But that’s not too unlike the blog writing. With One for the Road, I had a few sentences of an idea that were not my own, and I was able to writing something very sweet and original.

The idea is not the important part of the writing process. It’s a starting place, but it’s not precious. When you have a story written and you go back and start editing, you might find that your original starting place doesn’t fit anymore. You might rewrite the beginning, or move the beginning forward and write a new starting place. It doesn’t matter. It’s all fluid. The true artistry happens in the edit. The first draft only has to exist.

Before you can launch into your first draft, you have to start somewhere. Where do we want to start this story? What idea do we want to develop? What’s on our mind?

I just finished watching Deadpool 2. Do I want to write a superhero story? Do I want to write about an unlikely hero? Do I want to write a story about a weird, fucked up family that somehow works, even though on paper it looks like it should fall apart?

What kind of characters do I want to spend a bunch of time with? What do I know? Is there some truth I’ve been grappling with lately?

Questions are good. When you ask a question, there is an impulse to try and provide an answer. When the question is coming from nothing and nowhere, then the answers you provide fill the void. It’s like starting a fire with flint and steel. The question draws an answer out of the air, which is the spark, ready to ignite the flames of your imagination.

I like that metaphor. Maybe this story will have something to do with fire, or firefighting. I don’t know much about firefighters, but I can look things up. A firefighter is a good profession to play around with. It’s one that involves bravery and responsibility. We could have a character that exemplifies those qualities, a hero from the start. Or maybe we can have someone that struggles with those, and their journey through the story is them overcoming fear and learning to lead. That’s some fertile ground.

I’m drawn towards some kind of firefighter for our story. Firefighter with horses, in a fantasy setting? Firefighter on a space ship, in a SciFi story? It would be nice to have some fun with this. Maybe this can be another urban fantasy story, like The Repossessed Ghost or One for the Road.

One for the Road doesn’t hit any of the urban fantasy tropes. This new story doesn’t have to, either. I might be tempted to attach this to one of those worlds, but let’s keep it separate, at least for now.

As an exercise for creating a story, on a blog where I’m frequently promoting my stories that are out in the wild, it makes sense that this story should be in a similar genre. So, let’s make this an urban fantasy that involves a firefighter.

We have fire already. Maybe we can have other elements involved. I feel an idea starting to form.

What if our hero has some elemental gift. It could be fire, air, or water, but it’s an undeveloped gift that they’ve used from time to time to help put out or control fires. They could stumble into the supernatural world, or be drawn into it when another elementalist witnesses our hero use their latent and untrained gift to put out a supernatural fire.

This is enough, for now. We don’t really have a plot or characters yet, but we have an idea. We have enough that we can start something.

Tomorrow, we’ll develop this idea a little bit more. Tomorrow, we start brainstorming.


Closing Thoughts on Boskone 2024

Post number 43 in a row! Keeping the dream alive.

Personal News

It’s good to be back and get to sleep in my own bed. We didn’t get home until around 1:30AM, and neither one of us really had enough vacation time to take a recovery day, so we both zombied our way through another work day. It was challenging. By the afternoon, I paused my work day to take a nap. Melissa is hourly and has to a punch a clock, so even though she needed a rest, too, she had to soldier on. I’m making up the lost work hours tonight.

Upcoming Events and Such

The next event is Sac Comic-Con. I believe Water Dragon will have one (1) table, and there will be 3 or 4 of us there, ready to sell books. Stephen Brewer will ship The Water Dragon inventory to me in the coming days. I will go to the convention center and be present, but I’m not sure how excited I am for the event itself. I’ll talk more about that later.

The Topic: Closing Thoughts on Boskone 2024

Did I have a good time? Yes, though as I told one of my coworkers today, this was not a vacation.

I spent almost the entire time in the dealer’s room, and I met some cool people. There was the person that told me they read an editor’s copy of Spin City, which I’m sure is impossible, and I’m not sure what their motivation would be for lying. It was an interesting conversation, though.

We had a great dinner with David Gerrold, and everyone had a really good time. That’s probably the highlight of the event, just as it was the highlight of Worldcon 2022 in Chicago. The conversations were great. Everyone felt like they received a real treat.

While trying to sign up for the Kaffeeklatsch which featured John Berlyne, I ran into John and had a chance to catch up with him for a little bit. I reminded him of who I am, which is partially necessary because all of the other times we met, I had short hair and weighted about 40 pounds less. I was able to tell him how highly I think of him without making it awkward, because the truth is, he is the agent I’d most like to work with. He introduced me to Stevie, an agent that works with him at Xeno, and I think the implication was that I should look up Stevie and send her a query letter. Maybe I’ll work on that this week, while the memories are still fresh. First I’ll have to see what kinds of stories Stevie likes.

As I talked with John Berlyne, the Kaffeeklatsch filled up. It might have filled up before then. I don’t know. It was one of the few con-hosted events I tried to join, and it fell through. So in the end, just like Arisia, I didn’t really participate in the con itself. I didn’t even make it up to the con suite.

I enjoyed interviewing people for the podcast. I enjoyed meeting people in the dealer’s room. There was a lot for me to enjoy, but it was all a different kind of work. In fact, the hours were longer than my regular work day. Only with this job, I had to do a lot of standing, so by the end of the weekend, I had sore legs and feet.

Boskone 2024 was a good time, but not a relaxing time. While talking with people, I have to be “on” and mindful not to say something stupid or off-putting. People generally enjoyed talking with me. I follow the advice Mary Robinette gave on the subject, in that I remember that the one I’m conversing with is the more interesting, so I try to get them to talk about themselves and the topics they enjoy. They wind up walking away feeling really good about the conversation. Sometimes before they go, they reward my conversation skills by buying One for the Road or The Repossessed Ghost.

Having two titles to choose from, they most often went for One for the Road because at $5, it’s the cheaper way to check out an unknown author. I believe that’s why I basically sold out of The Repossessed Ghost at Arisia, but only sold about 4 copies at Boskone. I also think it’s one of the reasons we sold about a dozen copies of One for the Road. It was a slow weekend for purchases, for everyone in the dealer’s room, but we sold more copies of One for the Road than any other single title on our tables. Steven Brewer sold more books with his name on the cover, but a lot of that is a single story serialized across 7 books, and the bundle has a good discount.

Steven also had a reading, participated on panels, and had two posters and a quarter of the total table space. I’m not saying this to say it’s a fault or a bad thing. I’m pointing out that if I had similar representation at the event, I might have done even better. As an unknown with virtually no presence at the convention, I’d say I did pretty well.

Does doing well matter?

Financially… no. Even if I’d completely sold out of the books I authored, it would not be enough to pay for the food, travel, or lodging. Going to Arisia and Boskone cost me thousands of dollars, almost a week of vacation time, and required me to work extremely long hours in my day job for several weeks in a row. When I say I’m tired after this weekend, I’m falling short in describing the soul-numbing weariness that resonates through my being. I feel heavy and slow and a touch of melancholy, and recovery is going to take days.

I don’t look at this in financial terms. Not yet. What I did at Boskone was plant more seeds. I talked to people. I created memories. I’m practicing all of the skills I will require as my professional writing career advances. I can manage a table. I can sell books. I can conduct interviews. I can talk the talk and walk the walk.

Will I do this again next year? I don’t know. I have my doubts. Maybe by the time I need to make a decision on such things, I will have forgotten how much work I did these last two events. Or, maybe I’ll be more economical with my time and money. Time will tell.

Those are my closing thoughts on Boskone. Very soon, I’m going to start writing a story in this space, and invite you all along for the ride.


Boskone 2024: The Finale

I’m writing this from the airport. We weren’t sure how long it would take for us to flag down our Uber, or get through security, so we wound up getting to our gate way earlier than expected. Better to be early than late, right?

Whether we’re interested in the super bowl or the superb owl, it’s going to be finished before we land in San Francisco tonight. Just in case it becomes impossible for me to finish this post before midnight, I’ll post it now, before we get on the 7 hour flight.

This morning, I discovered one possible reason Melissa and I struggled to get rest this weekend. At 3AM, I woke up to what sounded like an alarm. The refrigerator kept buzzing, with no easy way to silence it. It went off again around 4AM and 5AM. When we finally got up a little after 7AM, the appliance was silent as a shadow. It could have been singing the song of its people every night for our entire stay. At least it wasn’t a cat in heat, right?

We ate greasy breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks to change things up, then went packed our bags down to the dealer’s room. While Melissa setup the tables, I went to the lobby and interviewed Colin Alexander for the SPBU podcast.

With the third recording in the can, I went back to the Water Dragon table right before the dealer’s room opened. We experienced no mad rush to buy our books, but some people I spoke to on previous days appeared to buy one or both of my books.

I did my best to sell other people’s books. I asked people what they liked to read and, based on their answers, directed them towards titles that best matched their desires. Many times, people enjoyed talking with me and would say, “No, show me your book.” Many times, that translated into a sale of One for the Road.

I think this was happening at Arisia, too, but since I only had The Repossessed Ghost on the table, it wasn’t as obvious that was what was going on. People enjoyed talking with me and based on that, they were ready to take a chance on one of my stories. Since the $5 option was available, they went with that.

We sold more One for the Road than any other book on the table. At one point today, a young woman was eyeing it and I said, “You should that book.” And she did. I felt like I hit her with a Jedi mind trick, the greatest “BUY MY BOOK” I will ever pull off.

At 1PM, it was time for me to interview David Gerrold for the Live from Boskone edition of the SPBU podcast. I was nervous about this one. He was doing me a favor, and we both knew it. But he was gracious and wise, and didn’t even give me a hard time when I got tongue-twisted. This was important for SPBU, and the words left me a couple times.

With the last interview completed and saved, I went back to the table and finished out the day. Melissa and I handled the final inventory and packing of the boxes, which took a little longer than we expected or wanted. We finished packing the boxes, but there were still table clothes and banners to contend with. We needed to board our plane a little after 5, so when the dealer’s room shutdown at 3PM, Melissa and I grabbed our stuff and ran, leaving the final bits for Steven Brewer and Daniel Fliederbaum to deal with.

That pretty much brings us to now. The plane just pulled up. Boarding will begin in about 5 minutes.

Wish us luck!