Writer’s Conference in New Orleans

It so happens that from time to time this introverted writer leaves the dungeons of his own mind to interact and mingle with other writers. Who else could understand the urge to put words on paper, to create new worlds, or write dialog you wish you were witty and fast enough to say to a random snarky person? It’s more than just that though, it’s learning about changes in the industry and a sharing of knowledge that you can’t get from regular online interaction.

I can’t even begin to tell you guys how much I get out of these. Not only is it industry news, catching up with online friends in real life, but it’s also a sense of togetherness. Often, writing is a solitary and somewhat lonely job. I recently wrote about my new writing space in the bookstore, but before that, it was done upstairs in a small home office. Alone. Or with little Hemmy and the dog. But mostly alone. What readers can devour in a couple of days can take weeks and sometimes months for the author to create. Sometimes we need to refill the coffers in more than one way.

I think of writing conferences as a way to recharge my batteries. Sure, things like movies and video games refill my creative batteries (Far Cry – New Hope, Yo!), vacation or visiting with family recharges my social batteries, but a writer’s conference not only helps with both, I get a handle on what the market is doing, what readers are asking for and how I can create fiction to satisfy their wants.

I’m not speaking for all authors, but I constantly worry: Is this good enough? Is my concept stupid? Did I convey the message/meaning I wanted to? In real life, I often stick my foot in my mouth, and sometimes that happens on print as well. Did I do it again? Will torches and pitchforks be used to run me out of town? I mean, if I knew for certain somebody was going to hate what I was writing, I wouldn’t do it… So it’s nice to have an idea of what’s working and what readers want.

And I know you all want Still Surviving Book 3: Darkest Day. It’s in editing right now!

So now you’ve read my blather let me tell you about New Orleans. I would need a month here at least to experience things to do this place justice. I’ve taken a walking tour of haunted NOLA, I’ve walked by or been into many restaurants that were on my bucket list, had some of the finest coffee and three different types of Hurricanes (Think Rum Runner, but different).

There is so much here. I have made new bucket lists of food I want to try, places I want to eat, shops I want to visit, and a new to me southern culture to learn about. I’ll be honest, as much as I travel and as much as I write, I never thought I’d be here and it’s blown my expectations away. I had friends tell me they love it, it’s awesome. My friends on social media gave me tips and suggestions on where to go, where to eat. Thank you!

Monday I’ll return to my writing space at the bookstore. Gone will be the touristy outfits I wore in NOLA, but instead, I’ll be decked out in comfortable clothing, gripping my coffee cup tightly, queuing up my tunes, and starting a new book and maybe finishing off another trilogy. I’ve got until mid-April when I head to North Carolina for Heritage Life Skills April 12th-14th where I’ll be meeting readers and signing books.

That’ll give me three solid weeks to see if I can tie up loose ends, re-pack and finish a good portion of the next book. I wish the timing wasn’t so tight, but these events and you readers are what keep me going. So again, thank you!!!

Support Your Local Bookstore!

Without bookstores, I wouldn’t have my career as a full-time author and sole provider for my family. There, now my bias is out of the way, let me tell you a little story!

Growing up, I didn’t really enjoy reading at first. Sure, I loved writing stories, but they were the stories I wished I could read. My parents challenged me to go to the library and pick out a book in my age range and read it. The reward? I could read any book off of my Dad’s shelf. Now that had me interested because Stephen King was HUGE… and the movies I wasn’t allowed to watch… If the movies were too scary, how scary was the books? Couldn’t watch them, but I could read them? Hm…

Challenge Accepted.

I don’t even remember what book I got from the library the first time (and I had to get a library card), but I remember the first book off of my Dad’s bookshelf. Pet Sematary. Holy smokes! Reading a lot more fun and entertaining than watching the movies! I was soon back at the library reading more and more. My parents told the librarian I no longer had restrictions on material and I went wild.

Now listen, I grew up in a small town and our library was great, but it was small like the town was! They could order books in but it took time– And I found a great used book store just a little further away that I could go to. There I found entire shelves full of paperbacks, from the heights of early pulp fiction to the latest and greatest new releases. I was in heaven.

Until I discovered beer and girls later on in life, most of my disposable income went into buying books. Now I won’t get into how the black market of schools operated growing up, or how I used to sell fish at the small dam as a kid (I did), all of that money went into buying more books and my growing love of comics.

Fast forward some… oh… decades:

I decided to make writing my career and went full time, knowing three months in advance if I wasn’t going to be making enough to support my family, the way I had working for somebody else. I had a home office, two wonderful kids at home (Sometimes more!), but the summertimes really made writing difficult as the kids got older and wanted to hang out during my work time.

I tried writing at Starbucks (Sorry, blech), then at Tim Hortons (Yay!), restaurants, our local library, but unless they were open early, I got my work done from home. A mutual friend shared a post about a local writer’s group that was meeting up at a bookstore. Holy cow, I lived in this city for almost eight or nine years and hadn’t visited the local bookstore? Talk about feeling dumb (I was). I didn’t make that mistake again and became a regular.

That sparked a friendship with the owner, over our mutual love of a good story and books. Last week I stopped in to talk to her about some books she wanted to stock (Mine, mine all mine! Kidding. Sort of), and ended up getting my own out of the house writing spot. I’m off a back room in a secret spot. It’s a writer dude’s dream come true.

My little writing cubby is behind a bookshelf, hidden by a pocket door!

Amazing! I love it!

One thing I have noticed since I’ve become a full-time author and befriended the owner of R&B’s Used Books, reading for pleasure is still going strong. There is still a demand for paperback and hardback books, despite a lot of consumers going digital because of price points and availability.

Here’s a secret: If you don’t browse bookstores, you may never find a new author to STALK … er… find and read their books you might have never thought of before.

So for the love of reading, please go out and support your local bookstores! And who knows, you might make some new friends there like I did, and support local businesses.