Monday, May 27, 2013

ConQuest44, some thoughts...

ConQuest 44, another memory of Kansas City...

Mark here, folks, with a few thoughts about ConQuest44.

For those who read or view this blog and were there, well done! Having the amazing GRRM show up and basically dominate the proceedings, but in such a postive, almost unobtrusive way, really made the whole weekend special.

And it was so very special. I got to spend some more quality time with my other extended family, and it really felt that way, too, even when we tried to find our way downtown in three cars over three or four different highways.  Hey, we only missed two exits...

I really enjoyed being in the back seat of the Frank-Mobile. So much for clarity, but this is partly my blog, and I'm allowed an inside joke once in awhile.

The Tolkien night at Eve Brackenbury's wonderful bookstore was a blast. Readings, food, fun and instruction were had by all. The HRB family got to meet a new group of fans, and we had a ripping good time interacting.  Frankly, I think we might have found our 'voice' should we ever decide to branch our brand into audio books. I'm not joking, Micah!

The Con was MUCH better attended this year, for obvious reasons (see above) but also because "we" were there.  HRB is growing nicely and had many authors, friends and contributors attending. We tended to move in a wave of IQ and casual cool through the hallways and meeting rooms. We coulda been a contenda' in Westside Story, jus' sayin'!

I was gratified that all the panels Karin, Terri and I moderated or served on were so well-attended. There seemed to be a steady stream of interested folks full of interesting comments and questions. I look forward to getting on more panels next year.  This was my second Con of the year (see that earlier, tortured post about Norwescon) and third over-all, and it felt great. Conquest has its own relaxed vibe that makes it easy to interact. And that is as it should be, obviously. Folks in our genre of the shelf need to stick together for the good of the order. It felt great to recognize people by name and share a quick word, beverage (cue THE James Burke and his flask of slivovitz-something-or-other) or greeting (cue Selina Rosen about a dozen times!).  I found myself at the end of the weekend hugging my dear friends goodbye and reflecting on just how cool this experience was. And, hey, we get to do it again next year, and it will feel like next week because that is just how we do things.

Of course, one of the highlights for me was the launch party for my second novel, King's Gambit (artwork by the dynamic and riveting Tom Vandeberg, the man who can talk to ANYBODY--and he does killer cover art, too! The guy should have his own talk show. Be afraid, Chelsea Handler, be very afraid). Eric and his lovely wife Nancy brought books and cake and we had a two hour HRB showcase and ME! I have to admit, it felt pretty good being the center of attention for part of the proceedings. The words came easily and the applause at least sounded genuine. But what struck me most about the experience was the collective power of the other writers from the HRB family who attended. The brain power in that room sent off undulating waves of talent and empathy that actually raised the temperature in the room to near comfortable (another inside joke, roll with it). All the readings were well-received by the audience--and that was AFTER they got cake!

Good times. No,GREAT times...

I realize this post has trended to the silly--especially when compared to the tone my posts usually take, but I feel it is appropriate this time. People came to the Con. They flocked to hear Martin read in that wonderful voice of his--the rumble of a man who dreams in rhythm. Really. I have my opinions about the over-wrought thing that has become the GoT saga, but the fact is the man is having an absolutely wonderful time spinning this thing out for his audience. He is creating the most viable franchise in the genre since Tolkien's Middle Earth, and that can't hurt. I took tons of notes during the times I heard him speak/read, but I think I will save them for another post. For me, this weekend was all about connecting with friends and books and words and thoughts and the wonderful qualities one can find in Denny's coffee if one adds enough cream and sugar to the brew.

King's Gambit is officially out now and available. Thank you to those who grabbed copies and graciously asked me to sign them; I hope the words were legible. Tom Vandenberg will be up soon with another blog post about the evolution of the cover. He is also doing Karin Rita Gastreich's sequal to Eolyn, High Maga. If what I heard this weekend is any indication, that book is going to rock its audience. Count on it.

Suffice it to say that for me ConQuest44 was an unqualified success. The Con-staff worked through some glitches, the hotel had its issues, but none of them seemed to dampen the mood. I heard a lot of laughter this weekend, and only part of it was mine! But most importantly, I am really happy I was able to spend so much quality time with Karin and Terri, two of the most amazing women I have ever had the privilege to know, and with Eric Reynolds, the coolest publisher this side of the Mississippi.

I'm done for now. I realize there isn't much room here for responses, sorry, but I really wanted to update you all about how things went. And, boy, did they went...


Monday, May 20, 2013

ConQuesT 44

Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and with it Kansas City's own science fiction and fantasy convention, ConQuesT.

Hadley Rille Books traditionally has a strong presence at ConQuest.  This year, several of our editors, authors, and artists will attend, including everyone's favorite editor Eric T. Reynolds, as well as Heroines of Fantasy contributors, Terri-Lynne DeFino, Karin Rita Gastreich, and Mark Nelson. 

On Saturday, May 25th, from 1pm to 3pm, Mark will be hosting a launch party for KING'S GAMBIT, the critically acclaimed companion novel to POETS OF PEVANA.  Hadley Rille editors, authors, and artists will be in attendance.  Come join us for the fun and take advantage of great discounts on all Hadley Rille titles. 

Here's a little bit of ConQuesT trivia: the first sci-fi con George R.R. Martin ever attended was ConQuesT in Kansas City, and this little con is still one of his favorites.  Every few years GRRM returns to Kansas City for ConQuesT, coming in as just another member to banter with fans and followers about the genre, and to hang out with old friends.  I had the great privilege of meeting him the last time he attended, in 2010.

This year's guests of honor at ConQuesT include author Patrick Rothfuss, artist John Picacio, and editor Teresa Nielson Hayden.  For more information about the con, including the program schedule, visit ConQuesT's web page

If you'd like to meet Terri, Karin, and Mark at the con, here's where to find them:

Thursday, May 24th from 4pm to 9pm:  Join us for TolkienQuest, an evening of fun and frivolity dedicated to the master himself at Prospero's Parkside Books.  There will be a food contest and a verse contest, as well as other games, activities, and prizes.  For more information, visit the TolkienQuesT event page.


Friday, May 25th

1:00pm ~ Gendered Magick (Karin Rita Gastreich)
2:00pm ~ How to build realistic science fiction and fantasy worlds (Karin Rita Gastreich)
5:00pm ~ The truth about rejection letters (Terri-Lynne DeFino)
5:00pm ~ Reading, Q&A, and signing with Mark Nelson
8:00pm ~ Dark vs. Light&Funny (Mark Nelson)

Saturday, May 26th

10:00am ~ Reading, Q&A, and signing with Karin Rita Gastreich
1:00pm ~ LAUNCH PARTY for Mark Nelson's King's Gambit and Hadley Rille Books Showcase with editors, authors, and artists.  The party will continue until 3:00pm; feel free to join us anytime.
4:00pm ~ Wondrous Strange (Terri-Lynne DeFino)

Sunday, May 27th
4:00pm ~ Game of Thrones: What makes it so good (Terri-Lynne DeFino)

For up-to-date information on panels and activities, please refer to the ConQuesT program. 

Can't wait to see you there! 

posted by Karin Rita Gastreich

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Magic in the Library of the Mind

             Hello folks, Mark here. During my first three month stint as 'first up' on the blog, I have had several topics that surprised me a little in how they came about. As of Friday I did not have a clue what I might write about, but as many of you already know ideas and nuances have a way of percolating in the hind-brain until needed. A nudge here, an oblique reference there, and suddenly the idea blossoms like a fully realized poem. I have to tell you, such moments have ALWAYS been where I find the most joy in writing and in life: at times it is all about the surprise.

Several days ago I commented on a FB thread about The Great Gatsby. I don't normally get involved too deeply in things I read on FB. In the past, the few entries I made resulted in some flame-war type comments that put me off enough to prefer lurking and checking up on friends. But this time something struck me from an odd angle. The original poster, a writer for whom I have enormous respect, used the term magic in a criticism of the novel, as in it totally lacked any for her whatsoever. Her reasoning was sound, although I disagreed with the context, but what stuck with me was the term 'magic'. And that got me thinking about the magic of those first books, those big-person books where as readers we began to put together our personal definitions of the truth. And THAT got me thinking about Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind and the library of lost books where his main character goes to find the tome that sets his life on a twisted path of trial, revelation, mystery and malign. It is truly an awesome read. But that is the means not the end of this post.

I like to think we all have libraries of lost books; those volumes that gave us some of the magic--at whatever time in our lives--that set us on the way to becoming the writers and readers we are today. I have written previously on books from my past, but this time the context is a little different. One man's wine is another man's poison. Where some find magic in the Fitzgerald sentence, others find social pandering and misogyny. I get it. Not every revelation need be an affirmation. I have read most of my conscious life and have read a slew of good and not so good, and occasionally, really, really BAD books (usually for some ridiculous college course, but that is another post altogether...). While I do not treasure all of them, I have forgotten none of them. They make up the shelves of my library of lost books and their good and bad elements weave themselves in and out of my sensibilities constantly. Some I revisit like old friends, others lurk as shadows of lessons well-learned about mistakes and easily avoided.

Even as I type this my mind is traveling back along the shelves to those first efforts: Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, The Wind in the Willows, The Bat-Poet, Freddie the Detective (a whole series about a talking pig and a slew of barnyard mysteries--ripping stuff to my 7-8 year old brain.)

The pic shown here is the actual cover of the book I read so many years ago. I recall loitering over the last few pages of that book--a practice I have continued since for those works that take me, hold me, wrap me up in story and immerse me in the magic of words.

So, friends, I would like to know what are your particular magic books and why? What do you have on the shelves of your personal collections? Note that I use are rather than were because, let's face it, everything is always current in the library of the mind.

Happy reading and remembering,


ps: a small plug, if I may. I have a Goodreads giveaway going on for King's Gambit. The novel is due out later this month. For those interested, expect another post from my cover-artist, Tom Vandenberg on the evolution of the artwork. Good stuff coming.