The Obligatory Sequel (I wrote another book)

The sequel is complete.

In fact, it’s currently on sale here if you’re interested.

If you’re a new reader to the Unlucky Seven universe, let me welcome you and congratulate you on your good taste (or bad taste, as it may be). You have my personal thanks for buying/borrowing my stuff. I hope you enjoy and leave positive feedback on Amazon. Only positive, though. If you didn’t like the book, just pretend you never read it and go about your business. Or write me some hate mail. I’m honestly waiting with baited breath for hate mail.

Yeah, I wrote a second book. This one didn’t take me quite as long to complete. The first Unlucky Seven book took forever. Ten years to distill down to what is now available for reading. The Obligatory Sequel, from pen to published, took one year, one month, and one day from the release of the first book.

Honestly, I never thought I could write another complete book in such a short amount of time. Until the first Unlucky Seven was published, I had never ever actually finished a novel that I had started. There are notebooks full of prior attempts; tons of word files untouched for God knows how long with a few scatter-brained chapters thrown together and abandoned due to loss of interest or lack of motivation or both. I always wanted to be a writer but, to be honest, I never thought I would be able to finish a book properly. Now, here I stand – two titles to my name. I feel slightly accomplished.

The first one was much more difficult to write. It was always the plan to have U7 be a series of books. Beginnings are always the most difficult part of the writing process. Now that the world was built (at least, a large enough portion on which the characters could roam), I had a bit more room to breathe. I didn’t have to describe familiar settings (like the cave or Lisa’s front porch) or familiar characters. I could say, “Phalanx and Budda were in the cave” and readers of the first book can simply plug in the particular playset and action figures they devised while reading the long-winded descriptions in the first book. It’s freeing.

This is also why The Obligatory Sequel is shorter in the page count. In the interest of full disclosure, while designing my cover, I had a mini panic attack regarding the thickness of the sequel’s spine. I was freaking out that it wasn’t as long as the first and convinced myself that I would be looked at as a hack because I couldn’t keep up with the amount of words or pages of my first effort. It took some prodding from people I know to help me realize that regardless of page count, the story is solid and reads solid. I guess page count is an overrated statistic. People are more likely to pick up a nominally sized book rather than something that looks like a War and Peace style epic.

It may have taken less time and there may be a smaller page count/word count, but, please do not think this was an easy process. At times it was absolute agony. I blew up entire chapters and started from scratch after they were finished. I changed my outline in its entirety no less than three times. I had cheerleaders pushing for me to get through it. I set myself up for my own deadline because I kept telling people that I would have the sequel available at the next Steel City Con in August. Between those cheerleaders and my burgeoning fanbase, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I pushed hard to get this done and I turned in a damn good product, in my opinion. I am kinda proud of myself. I really do hope you enjoy it.

What’s next? I have some other projects I’m collaborating on with my editor/writing partner and I’m going to be devoting time to that before I really get around to writing the (tentatively titled) Inevitable Trilogy – U7 book three. I have a few ideas and, if you read the sequel, you’ll know that there was a big reveal in the end which will most definitely be addressed as soon as possible (I really really want to write her really bad).

Also, some interest has been shown in an Unlucky Seven prequel. It would focus on Agent Williams and his role in the early days of the Project during World War II. It would require a lot of research just because I don’t want the history to be wrong. Also, it might not be as much of a comedy (given the stoicism of the main character). When I started writing U7 and came up with Project XIII, I realized that XIII wouldn’t be an arbitrary number. There were twelve other incarnations of the Project leading up to it. I had a timeline somewhere. I had background. I wonder if there would be any additional interest in all that coming to light.

I ask you, U7 fans: What would you rather see first? The Inevitable Trilogy or Tales from the Project? Seriously, let me know, because I’ll start writing whichever one soon.

I’m not promising a deadline this time, though.

Again, thank you all for your support. Tell your friends about U7. Spread the word. You are in on the ground level of a fandom. You’ll get hipster cred for liking this before it was cool. Remember, too, there’s still a prize for the first U7 cosplay who comes to me at Con!

Speaking of, make sure to hit me up at Steel City Con August 7, 8, and 9! Come and get your print copies! Autographs! Pics! High fives!

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Events!

Just wanted to throw out that I’m going to be doing an Author Q&A on Wednesday June 10 at the Carnegie Library of Homestead.  Here’s the event page if you want to RSVP.

https://www.facebook.com/events/956567171041542/

Also, Spike and I will be returning to Steel City Con this August.  I will hopefully have copies of the sequel for sale by then.  I am working diligently, don’t worry.

Short post.  That is all.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

In My Absence…

You may have noticed that I’ve been away from the blog since February.  I’m not ignoring you.

I’ve been busy working on the Unlucky Seven Sequel (still as yet untitled).  You’ll be pleased to know that as I’m writing this I’m in the middle of chapter 17 out of an outlined 26.  I’m still looking at a mid-summer release (around July/August) if I can continue on this pace.  No joke, some of this stuff has been particularly difficult to write and I’ve had to blow up half the outline and retool the narrative at least twice already.  Rest assured, I have a plan.  I will not be GRRM or King and promise a series only to stall somewhere in the middle and not make good until years later.  Any of you who bought a book from me at the most recent cons should know that I meant what I said and it’s in process.

There are so many things I’d love to blog about.  I actually have a list but, by the time I get to any of the topics, they’ll likely be moot or out-dated.

I wanted to write more about Con life and how it’s been a serious blast, even though it is some pretty hard work.

I wanted to write about the straight-up anger from portions of the fanbase at the All-New, All-Different Avengers line-up in the comics and how the diversity of that new group is actually going to help to save comics rather than, as some fan-boy purists would have you think, destroy the legacy of great heroes.  I wanted to mention how much I love Miles Morales, Kamala Khan, Jane Foster Thor, Carol Danvers, Sam Wilson, Spider-Gwen, and all the other heroes of the evolving Marvel (616) Universe.  I also wanted to mention the morons who can’t accept that all their favorites aren’t boring muscly white men anymore.  That one may come up again later depending on the temperature of the internet.

I really want to talk about the writing process and everything I’ve discovered over the past few months.  I wanted to let people who have that nagging story idea or that manuscript they’re just not a hundred percent sure about that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I want to encourage more people to enter into the self-publishing game and put their stuff out there.  I actually spoke at a panel about this at Sci-Fi Valley Con and I also have an Author Q&A coming up at the Carnegie Library of Homestead on June 10th (so, if you’re local to Pittsburgh or you want to travel to see me, go here and let me know you’re coming).  I’m not usually one for self-aggrandizing (no, seriously, I’m not) but I’m going to do my best to get people to put their necks out there and take a chance on themselves.

Oh, and as far as the sequel goes…

If you’re one of my readers and you want to see the first three chapters of the new book, shoot me an e-mail through here.  I’ll get it out to you ASAP.  Subject to minor revisions/editing but they’re pretty solid in my opinion.  Always open to feedback.

I promise I’ll be back to a regular blog schedule as soon as the sequel is over.  Trust me it takes all of my effort to keep moving forward and I actually feel guilty talking time away from it to address you but I feel you deserve to know what is happening.

In the meantime, o my brothers and only friends…

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Color of Words

I am half-Indonesian.

Strangely, this isn’t something I normally talk about.  It has a lot to do with my repressed anger toward my Indonesian father for running away from my American mother the minute he found out she was pregnant, ‘lo those thirty-plus years ago.

My Uncle, my father’s brother, is one of the people I respect the most in my life.  He’s my only connection to my heritage on that side of the family and, over the years, he has done everything he can to keep me in touch with my roots.  This has been especially difficult for us because he lives on the other side of the country.  In more recent times, I’ve been looking up things about my heritage on my own which, I won’t lie, consists mostly of recipes and cooking tips because Indonesian food is absolutely amazing.  Food culture is just as important as any piece of history or tradition in my opinion.

My Indonesian roots have wound in and out of my life and have always remained a sort of side thing for me.  Not that I am ashamed in any way – in fact, I’m proud to be an Acehnese Indonesian – but growing up it was not something that was often discussed.  Quite honestly, when my Uncle would come around when I was younger, the cultural traditions he would attempt to pass on to me (especially in front of other people I knew) seemed embarrassing.  No one else in my life, black or white, had this kind of deep ethnic thing aside from Pittsburgh Hunky traditions (my mom’s half of my ethnicity) which were common place.

In the environment in which I was raised, I really never thought anything of my brown/olive colored skin.  I wasn’t raised to think I was different than anyone in my predominantly white school, church, neighborhood, etc.  To my mind I was just another kid.  To other kids (at least early on) I was just another kid.  To my few close friends now that I’m very much into adulthood, I am just me.  There was a long time, mostly during high school and part of college, where I most definitely felt like an outcast.  I thought it was because I was the stereotypical alterna-kid with, at first, a grunge fashion sense and super-long black hair that put me just outside the norm.  Eventually, that fashion sense evolved into a more metal/gothy thing which kicked me even further to the fringe.  I was the weird, nerdy, mostly unpopular guy who, in your adulthood, you friended on Facebook just to see if he had actually become the serial killer you always thought he would be.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized how many of those ostracized feels were likely because of the color of my skin.

I am a brown person who was raised in a white situation.  I am the large square peg to the small round holes of typical societal castes.  My interests were varied enough that I could slide up along side and associate with most of the cliques in my high school, but never truly fit.  Eventually, I found out (in a very hard way which I’d prefer not to discuss here ever) who my real friends were.  Some of them were people I grew up with from pre-school, some were fellow misfits in high school, and some of them came from me socially reaching beyond the typical teenaged experience and joining my current table-top gaming group (I’ve been there since I was fourteen – eighteen years – and we’re still playing the same game once a week).

The people who stuck with me have never seen me as anything but me.  They’ve taken me as I am and never asked a question nor looked at me sideways.  These people know who they are and know that they are family to me.  I state this because I don’t want you, dear reader, to think that I am some lonely sobbing societal outcast writing this to gain your pity.  I am anything but.  I am only using this first batch of words to qualify myself and show you where I’ve really come from to address a topic that has very recently become extremely important to me.

As you probably know if you read this blog on a regular basis (i.e., the once or so a month that I actually post new content), I wrote a book.  If you don’t know, it’s called Unlucky Seven and revolves around a group of twenty-something nerds who gain super powers, realize they’re in the middle of their own origin story, and make fun of all the tropes and clichés that go along with it.  They do all this while dealing with some of the more difficult aspects of having these abilities in a real-world setting and being pursued by a shadowy agency – Project XIII.

One thing you may not know about my book is that most of the characters are based on real people.  I won’t tell you who those people are but some names were changed and no specifics were given specifically because I recently discovered how fandom treats people in those types of situations and I didn’t want to feed the trolls.

One name that remains unchanged is Justin.  If you know me as nothing but J.P. Bidula, you should be able to connect the dots.  I’ll give you a moment.

While I understand it is typically a literary no-no to name one of your main protagonists after yourself let alone having it actually BE yourself, if you read the book, you’ll find that Justin is no Gary Stu (that’s a Mary Sue for dudes – look it up if you don’t know the term).  He is not an idealized version of me though most of his dialogue is based on things I would actually say in these situations.  One reader went so far as to tell me that he “hates Justin” because he’s “too bitchy and whiny”.  This was a friend of mine who knew the character was based on me and he wasn’t doing it just to bust my balls.

Like me, the character of Justin is over-analytical, overly-cynical, cautious near the point of cowardice, quick-witted, generally surly, intelligent, possessing of total-nerd-recall (able to reference pop-culture in a single bound), confused about his life, mostly unsure about the steps he takes, physically myopic, and overweight.

Also like me, he is a person of color.

This was something that had not come to my attention until another reader approached me, knowing the character was based on me, saying that they were so happy there was a person of color as one of the lead protagonists.  They enjoyed knowing this detail even though I was not very descriptive of race in the book.

I never considered until that moment the kind of impact that “revelation” would have.  I never considered it a “revelation” at all, to be honest.  The real revelation that happened at that moment occurred in my mind.

There are not many protagonists in any kind of fiction that fit to me.  I suddenly realized that by writing myself into this story and publishing it, my book now had a main protagonist who represented the nerdy, overweight, etc. etc. half-Indonesian people out there.  I feel that I am a very unique person but was rapidly introduced via conversation to the idea that this uniqueness carries over to the character of Justin and that uniqueness makes him a potential icon for other people of color.

My mind was blown.  What I, for a long time, had thought of as a just another middling sci-fi superhero story (albeit funny and brilliant, if I do say so myself – hurry up and buy) could be considered a rallying flag for people of color.  I realized that I am a writer of color and it means something that I’ve produced a novel where characters of color are not just horrible stereotypes.  I wrote a book where the dialogue is very natural, where everyone has a brain, where people – regardless of race or creed – are just people and aren’t defined by anything other than their desire to make sense out of and cope with an incredible situation.

This reader’s words touched me deeply.  They really reinvigorated me to the entire Unlucky Seven universe.  I spent most of my winter since Con (and some time prior) being burnt out and mulling around the first three chapters of the sequel, doing everything I could think of to market the first book and being very disinterested in putting hands to keyboard to meet my goal of a published Unlucky Seven Book 2 before the next Steel City Con in April.

When this topic was broached and I realized what an impact the diversity of my cast could have, I felt a sudden burst of energy.  If nothing else, my book meant something to that one reader.  If for no other reason, I would continue on for the sake of this wonderful reader who took something away from a brown/olive-skinned, (largely) imperfect and (apparently) relatable protagonist.  As long as that one person would keep reading with satisfaction, I would keep writing if only for them.

The same reader applauded my inclusion of the interracial relationship between Zoey and Chaucer.  They are some of the only characters in the book whose races were clearly defined.  These descriptors were not added for the visual benefit of the audience, necessarily.  Zoey and Chaucer are two purely fictional characters (as opposed to most of the U7’s group based on real people) and I defined them more for myself than anyone else.  I didn’t feel I needed many descriptors for the real people because I knew what they looked like (even if the reader doesn’t).  Chaucer and Zoey are visually defined, to me, by their descriptions in the book and the subsequent drawings that resulted from them.

I don’t use many color descriptors in my writing.  For the most part, unless clearly defined, I leave the depiction of a character mostly up to the reader’s imagination.  I do specify things like height, approximate age, hair color, eye color, mode of dress, etc. but never really skin tone.  In Chaucer’s case it’s mentioned that his skin turns from brown to pale green.  In Zoey’s case, it’s mentioned that she was pale and (somehow) got paler.  Budda’s skin goes from white flesh to blue-gray stone.  Other than these examples, not much else is mentioned in the book with any specificity.

Speaking of the walking rock garden, I was talking with the real-life Budda (a huge fan of the book) about how he pictured some of the fictional characters because I was curious if my visions of them came across in the writing.  We went from Zoey and Chaucer (who he pictured as I do, thanks to descriptors) and then we moved to everyone’s favorite psychotic Superman analogue, Agent Moorsblade.  I told Budda that I pictured him as a larger-than-life super muscular dude, kind of like a Joe Manganiello (a fellow Pittsburgher and good reference point). Budda said, “He can’t be Moorsblade.  He isn’t black.”

I cocked my head at him and said, “Where did you get the idea that Moorsblade was black?  He’s a giant white man with alopecia.”

Budda shrugged and said, “I always pictured him as black.  Specifically, I pictured him as Michael Clarke Duncan with the accent from The Green Mile.”

It was interesting.  I had never really thought of it, but I suppose it goes with the given descriptors.  Large man, extremely muscular, intimidating, bald, speaks with a super deep southern-accented voice.  Without re-reading again, I’m not sure I ever put a color descriptor on Moorsblade.  It might break more hearts than just Budda’s to set the record straight, but Moorsblade is white.

Another character who needs some clarity is Agent Joey Briggs.  She’s another of the fictionals on the Project team.  The best descriptors I gave to her also did not involve skin color directly.  I stated she had blue eyes, raven hair, and light skin.  Most people will pull an image of Zooey Deschanel or Katy Perry into their minds when these are the only things mentioned.  Joey’s light skin is, in fact, black.

To be honest, I’m not offended by anyone’s interpretation of my work.  I’m not going to complain on the internet should fandom ever really kick in that people are getting my characters races wrong.  If you want to picture someone who is white (either realistically or fictionally) as a different race, I will not judge you.  I wanted my story to be that way.  Characters are how they are in people’s imaginations, sometimes even with the proper “racial descriptors” in place in the canon.  Your particular version of Justin, if you don’t know what I really look like, may turn out white or black or brown or purple et al.  That’s ok by me.

The women of U7 have also been mentioned by more than one reader.  They are strong and, really, they were written to either dodge or actively fight/rail against the negative tropes against women in fiction, specifically, women in comic books.  While I know Marvel is taking some great strides towards breaking the mainstream glass ceiling for female heroes with books like Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and the canon female Thor and DC is slowly trailing behind with the new (old) Barb Gordon Batgirl (with whom I have problems once again being ambulatory, but I think I talked about that once), Harley Quinn’s role in Suicide Squad, and to some extent Wonder Woman, female characters in comics are typically support roles.

I like that my ladies kick some ass and do things on their own terms.  Nary a damsel to be found in the bunch.  Try that shit and they will END YOU.

In the end, my budding fandom, do not be upset at me should some kind of TV show or movie ever materialize because I WILL take an active role in the casting (if bureaucracy or whatever permits) and I WILL make sure that the choices fit my vision.  Justin is going to be played by an actor who can most closely resemble me and my God-given skin tone.  There is diversity in my cast.  I am proud of that and I will not let that be white-washed away.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

An Indie Author’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I don’t think you’re typically in it for middle-aged indie authors but I figured I had nothing to lose by trying.  I’ve been writing this sort of letter to bookstores and publishing houses and literary agents and they’re just as invisible and elusive as you are.  At least with you I can keep the format a bit more relaxed and I’m actually more assured of receiving a positive response (or, in fact, any response at all).

There are some things I want for Christmas this year that are a bit more intangible than I would be able to ask from my loved ones.  They’re also things that, I understand, won’t be available Christmas morning or any time in the very near future.  They are, however, achievable and will not exhaust your magic in granting them to me, should you feel they are deserved.

First and foremost, I would like a broader and more active reader base for Christmas.  I’m not asking for J.K. Rowling or GRRM numbers of devotees (certainly the same level of fanaticism would be nice) but if you could take my fans from the five I know are there and double them, please, that would be fantastic.  Give me the grassroots start I’ve been looking for.  Give me the people who won’t rest until they’ve shoved my book in the face of everyone they know in hopes that they will read it.  Give me peeps who will retweet, like, and share.  Give me someone who wants to ask questions about their favorite characters or wants to actually see the sequel released.  Give me people who will give me feedback.  Give me people who are shipping characters.  Give me the crazies.  Give me the random person on the street wearing a U7 logo pin.  Just give me something a little bit more.

Second, give me new readers.  Not the same as my first request.  I would also like people just to read and review my book.  Every reader is a potential five stars.  Every star means that my book has a chance to get featured on Amazon.  That means more readers and more stars.  It perpetuates.  In essence, this is the gift that keeps on giving.  At least, in theory.

Third, give me a bigger hammer.  I’ve been trying to hammer my way through the sequel but I’ve hit a wall and the current hammer I have is apparently not big enough to get me all the way to the end.  I would very much like to have this book done by the time the next Steel City Con rolls around in April.  Plus, they say that the more books you have on Amazon, the better your visibility as an author.  Don’t know how true this is but I would like to find out on my own.  If not a bigger hammer, then someone (see item one) to encourage me to fight it out and keep moving forward.

Fourth, more fan art.  A.C. Mickey is a great artist and is just the style I want.  Give me more of her stuff, please.  If anyone else is interested, poll them.  I’d like to see what they make of my characters.  This also relies heavily on item one.

Fifth, even though I like the grassroots thing, getting out there and pressing the flesh and making sales on my books, I would very much like some help with distribution or backing.  Give me a house/agent/something, doesn’t have to be super-major, that’s interested in picking up the book.  I’d still do as much grassroots as I could, but it would be nice to have someone to help with the heavy lifting.

Lastly, I would very much appreciate a little more self-confidence.  It’s hard out here but everyone knows that.  Give me something that will allow me to have the balls to actually buck up and preach from the mountains how awesome my book is without feeling like a pretentious scumbag and without thinking of the parts that I believe to be flawed.

I know that I’m not on the nice list because I’m a dick most of the year.  I’m a funny dick, at least, you have to give me that.

Unlucky Seven should be on the nice list, though.  It’s done nothing but good for me in just about every possible aspect.  If you don’t want to help me with any of these things, think of the book and do it for the book.  It’s a good little book and deserves to have a great first Christmas.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Keep fighting the good fight.

-JPB

—end transmission—

Con-Fluence: My Weekend as a “Real Writer” at Con

Originally, I had promised that I would try to live-blog from Steel City Con.

The reason this didn’t happen is that I was both too busy and having too much fun to do so.

This first Con with my fellow writer and partner in crime, Spike Bowan, was an absolute blast. On one hand, it was work. A lot of carnival barking – me shouting “Words for sale! Organic, locally-sourced, free-range words for sale!” among other fun lines – and a lot of something else I don’t typically do: selling myself.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a real problem with talking about myself or my book. The more I did it over the weekend, the easier it became and the more books I sold.

It has been something to the tune of seven years since I was last a salesman. With the help of the large crowds and lots of coffee, I was able to launch right back into the groove. I used to be a master salesman and have been told by some that I have the gift of gab. I was very proud of my sales skills back in the day when I had to memorize the specs on a cabinet full of camera equipment and fill other people’s needs. This was a bit different. It’s still all about filling a need but one for straight-up entertainment rather than the hobby/utility of the camera business.

I got a pretty good pitch down and was able to convince a lot of people to at least pick up the book and read the back cover, though fewer actually bought. Still, every sale is a reader. Every reader has the potential to spread the word.

We needed the carnival barker thing happening. Unlike the other artists in Artist Alley, we were not the visual sort. People didn’t see brightly colored rows of prints prominently displayed. In order to attract people, we had to call out to them. I was looking people in the eye asking, “Do you like words? Do you like many words arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner?”

This opening line reeled in a surprising amount of people. Everyone loves a smart-ass.

Aside from the sales, both Spike and I made good friends with the people around us. I found an artist in the lovely and talented A.C. Mickey who produced her renditions of both Zoey and Agent Moorsblade from U7, solely from descriptions I’d written up. Her version of Zoey is frighteningly close to mine. She told me to call it fan-art, but I’m calling it a commission. She might be a fan of me as a person, but she’s yet to read the book. I love her style and want her to draw her version of all of my characters. I think it fits very well with the playful attitude of the book. Anna-ZoeyAlso, she gave Zoey a pixie cut, which is something I’ve never been daring enough to do with her ever-changing hair. Love that drawing. I’ll have to post Agent Moorsblade once I get a shot of the original art.

Also, we made good friends with Brian Hagan and his family. His daughter, Lemony, became the mascot of the three-booth area and drew many a cosplayer to our tables with her genuine amazement, especially anyone dressed Thor or a Pony. Brian’s a writer, kind of like me. If you like U7, you’ll enjoy The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle which is a superhero novel where the hero tries to stop the villain from destroying mashed potatoes forever. Yes, you read that right. It’s very funny in the vein of Douglas Adams.

Spike and I had so much fun we’re going back for seconds this April. We made sure that our little three-booth family all signed up for the same tables so that we can be together again and we’ve also made many strides toward making IAM (Independent Authors of the Mon-Valley) a larger and more organized effort. These are good people and we want to continue working with them in any possible aspect. And, I’m not just saying that because they might be reading this. I absolutely mean it.

I collected many a business card of (and gave many a business card to) people wanting to work with us, wanting to join in on IAM if, for nothing else, the promise of mutually assured promotion which as I mentioned in my previous blog about self-publishing, is most of the battle. “It’s hard out here,” was the go-to line when fellow indie authors would ask about the self-publishing avenue. That’s no lie, it is. Most of the sales I made this weekend I worked hard for; pitching, hoping, handing out tiny spoilers. Having confidence (or the appearance thereof) is key, I found. The same as with any sales pitch.

In the end, this weekend was awesome. I met some truly great people and made good friends with whom I hope to work in the future. If I met you and left your name out, it’s only for the sake of brevity. I will openly pimp anyone’s stuff, especially if we talked or made any kind of connection.

One last cool thing: I loved the way some people’s faces lit up when I asked if they wanted me to sign their book. Like, they didn’t realize that I was the author pimping my own stuff. Not only that, but their reaction to my pitch about the book and the legitimate interest they showed when I explained what it was about. I’m very much looking forward to seeing some new likes on Facebook and new Twitter followers.

This was, all around, a most profitable weekend.

We will be back in April and I cannot wait. Still looking for that elusive U7 cosplayer, still have a prize in store. Get your costume ready and come see me in the spring!

Oh, and I inscribed almost every book with:

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Wrath of Con (a preamble)

This weekend is Steel City Con.

It’s my first big public outing as a self-published author. Yeah, I did the Too Groovy Toy Show as well, but that feels like just a warm-up compared to what I’m going to be facing this weekend.

Contrary to my nerdy archetype, I have only ever been to one Con prior to this one. Over the summer, my wife and I went to Fan Expo Toronto which happened to be going on during a weekend we decided to visit the Great White North. This was a totally on-the-fly decision. We only found out it was going on during the week leading up to our trip. We were walk-ins.

The place was busy but not as packed as I’ve seen in footage from San Diego. This was one of the bigger Cons in Canada from what I was told. It had the misfortune of being held the same weekend as DragonCon, which is ultimately bigger and drew more of just about everything than Fan Expo Toronto.

Based on what I saw in Toronto, I’m pretty excited for what I’ve got myself into at Steel City Con. While I understand that it will likely be markedly smaller (Toronto’s was held in their main urban convention center which is HUGE), I’m still very very excited about it.

It’s cool to think that I’m going to be on the other side of a booth. That I’m not going to be one of the browsing masses but that my product – the thing I’ve put so much of my life into – is going to be available for mass consumption directly to my main demographic. I’m excited to interact with the people some of whom, if I’m lucky, will have already read my book and will be there to see me, shake my hand, and tell me what they liked about my little story.

It’s likely that last part won’t happen but it won’t stop me from hoping. People think I’m joking when I say that I will give a special prize to the first ever Unlucky Seven cosplayer. I am not. I already have the prize in my possession. I’ll have it with me at Con just in case though I doubt anyone will step up to claim it. U7 isn’t that big… yet.

I still have trouble believing that Unlucky Seven is out there and being read by other people. When friends of mine are talking about it – which characters they like, their favorite moments, etc – it feels strange. The whole U7 world was something that was mine and mine alone for a very, very long time. Now, I have people discussing the intimate details with me; asking me questions about things that were alluded to in the book with certain characters or situations, specifically, things that were left unexplained to be revealed later. I know all the answers but am loathe to distribute spoilers, though I have been known to leak certain details to people I consider fans.

Having someone tell me that they love a character I’ve created is the most amazing feeling I’ve ever experienced. For someone else to talk with affection about a person who has only been in my head and on paper in front of me for over a decade makes me feel like I’ve done my job properly. The main compliments I get about the book usually involve the characters. It’s easy to put a lot of soul into them when I’ve known them in fiction for over a decade. It’s fun to see how their final (for better or worse) incarnations are received. Early conclusion: my next book should be entitled Everybody Loves Phalanx.

Also, I’ve been told that my naturalistic and flowing dialogue brings all the nerds to the yard. That was sort of the point. This is a book for geeks by a geek. This is the inner voice of the geek culture reacting to superhero origin stories. There’s still an expected suspension of disbelief between the reader and the story but not so much for the characters analyzing their own story. I like to think it’s a unique happy medium between pure superhero fantasy and the brutal reality of being a real-life vigilante.

I may come across a bit bold (read: egotistical) in my writings here but, believe me, it’s hard for me to see the merit in the things I do. I have very low self-confidence in this and most other things in my life. Mama didn’t raise no braggard. I was groomed to be humble. I find it tough to talk to most people about the merits of my book. I don’t know how to react to positive criticism most of the time. When people say: “You wrote a book?” with that happy sort-of surprised tone, I answer: “Yep, a whole book. Has words in it and everything.” They usually ask what it’s about. “Superheroes” is my default answer. Explaining the whole dust-jacket sizzle text makes me feel stupid. I know, I should be more confident and salesman-like but I’m sheepish about it for psychological reasons of which I’m mostly unclear.

Steel City Con will be an interesting experience because, for once, I’ll have to stand proudly and acknowledge my work. I’ll be forced to craft a sales pitch. I’m trying to get my words out there and into the hands of people who will appreciate them in hopes that they’ll pass word along if they like it. I have to remember that finishing a novel of any length and releasing it to the masses by any means is an achievement of hard work, perseverance, and most of all bravery. I feel like leaving U7 to be judged by the fickle and potentially volatile essence that is the Internet took some large pendulous brass ones to accomplish especially when I’m working with grassroots marketing. Amazon Reviews, Goodreads fans, Facebook and Twitter followers… these mean the world to me, especially when my followers work to help me out. Hint hint.

I’m nervous. I’m excited. Hopefully I’ll see you there.

I’ll likely be live-blogging when possible (if possible) this weekend. Stay tuned.

A special additional thanks to all of my GoFundMe donors. You helped me amass 125 books to sell at Con. My wife is worried I’ll run out. I’m looking forward to that, honestly.

Remember, there’s a prize in it if you are the first U7 cosplayer. And no, people on whom I based characters, showing up as yourself does not count. Showing up as another U7 character, however…

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—