Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Leveling Up at Life, the Universe, and Everything

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 12, 2016

I was driving home this evening with Golden Earring’s Radar Love playing on the stereo. I resisted the urge – only barely – to crank it up to eardrum-bleeding levels. I’m not even sure my car stereo goes that high, but it’s the thought that counts, right? It’s the perfect music for driving alone on the freeway late at night. And a dang good way to finish off one helluva day at Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE) 2016.

LTUE2016_MarketingPanel2This symposium is very different from, say, Comic Con. I heard people refer to it as a writer’s conference, which it really isn’t, but it probably shares more in common with something like that than a big fan spectacle like Comic Con. The symposium is all about the panels, and while meeting the big famous authors is of course a thing, it’s more about learning from them. At least that seemed to be the case in the panels I attended.

Compared to similar panels at events like Comic Con, these felt different. Events like Comic Con were more like… the real authors talking to total newbs and “aspiring” writers. Still great information, but more geared towards very inexperienced audience. While the content wasn’t very different, and maybe it was more of my own perception, but it did feel like the panelists were willing to get a little less basic, and a little more “down to earth.”

LTUE2016_ShortStoryPanel1I attended panels on managing a large game project, defining and measuring success, marketing on a minimal budget, selling short stories, and writing action scenes. All of these were pretty dense with useful information, and I filled lots of pages with notes. Panelists at these sessions included Howard and Sandra Tayler, Rachel Ann Nunes, Michael R. Collings, Michaelbrent Collings, Kevin J. Anderson, Alan Bahr, Alexi Vandenberg, Larry Correia, K.B. Rylander, Julie Frost, Eric James Stone, Angela Hartley, Robert Defendi, Michael Glassford, Alyson Peterson, C. Michelle Jefferies, Rebecca Rode, Michelle Argyle,  and Peter Orullian. Some of the names may be familiar to you. Others – maybe not. But suffice to say, lots of sharp people who either really know their stuff, or are veterans enough to have learned some hard lessons and were willing to share this information with the rest of the community.

It was amazing. I left not only with a feeling that I’d learned a lot, but with a lot of ideas. Both on the writing side of things, and on the video game development side of things. And all this doesn’t come close to the awesomeness of talking to people between sessions. There are a lot of people at various stages of their geek-awesome careers and pursuits, and some great shared experiences and ideas to capitalize on. Oh, and as per-registered attendees, my wife and I got swag bags including a DVD of the awesome local movie Mythica: A Quest for Heroes. Yeah. That one. I think we have a half-dozen copies of it now, one of them signed by the cast.

As just one note of the coolness of dealing with this local author community: Some time ago I reviewed Craig Nybo’s book, Small Town Monsters. In a nutshell – there were some flaws that had been missed in editing that marred what was an otherwise (and still) a very enjoyable story. The best thing about the book is that it makes werewolves freaking scary. As in, force-of-nature, go-ahead-and-erase-the-town-off-the-map scary. It was unique (at least in my experience) and fun. Today I spoke with him for a few minutes and he mentioned the review and remembered I was the one who gave it (yikes!).  He wanted to thank me for the review, and told me that he’d recently revised the book based on my criticisms, fixing as many of those issues that he could find. Not that he wanted me to change my review, only that my comments helped him turn it into a better book, and how awesome was it that as an indie he could actually do that?

Indie. Local. It’s all kinda cool.

After that, my family and I found a burger and “pie shake” (like, dump a slice of pie into a milkshake in the blender) place around the corner for dinner. They were having trouble keeping up with the convention crowds, but the food was good. And I had a milkshake. Because, duh. I couldn’t finish it, though. It was delicious, but it was very rich, and just too much.

Sibyls2016_keynote1Then came the Sibyl’s Scriptorium awards ceremony. As I understand it, this used to be just an LTUE event, but three years ago they turned it over to Sibyl’s Scriptorium to manage and focus on the event (including – awesomely – releasing a book each year of the final entries). I’d been notified that I’d been a finalist and that I’d placed, but not how I’d placed.

The awards were for poetry, art, and short stories, including adult and school-age categories. The ceremony was presented by some of the “Space Balrogs,” with Peter Orullian giving a keynote address. His address was one a encouragement, engaging the audience and finalists with questions and soliciting their comments and ideas.

My submission had been an idea that had been bouncing around my head for years about a modern-day genie dealing with… well, modern-day problems, and a magical power that was a bit more subtle than traditionally represented. I’d originally written it for an open anthology submission, and its rejection disappointed me. After all, I’d had this idea for years! However, I’d received some notes on its rejection, and figured I could use these to take a few hours to revise the story. The few turned into many, and the revised story was much stronger than its original incarnation.

It won first place in the adult short story competition.

No, it’s not the Writers of the Future contest or anything. But in spite of convincing myself all month that it was no big deal – readying myself for disappointment again, I guess – in the end, it felt like a real accomplishment. As I was leaving, I ran into Rachelle Funk, the chief editor, and she told me how much she loved my story, “Best Wishes.” Talk about feeling ten feet tall! And talk about the value of persistence, a factor that was repeated by the vets many times during multiple panels today.

FH_Party1Afterwards, a bunch of people went to an “LTUE After Party” held in the offices of a local publisher (Future House). It was also a launch party for their novel just released today, Guardians, second in the Caretaker Chronicles. They had root beer floats which I couldn’t handle after the milkshake earlier that night, but it was a packed space with lots of great conversation. I bought a copy of the original book, Caretaker, and had the author, Josi Russell, sign it and spoke with her for a while. I spoke with a lot of people. The big news throughout the evening were the sales of the original book and the sequel on Amazon with the big launch event and sale. And honestly, the sales numbers for a single day were probably more than any of the anthologies I’m in ever sold in total. But it was impossible not to share the excitement of a fellow local author having a really good day.

After all, I was too. It had been a really, really good day.

Now, as I’m getting ready to start day 2, I feel like I’ve “leveled up” a little. I feel like I’m understanding things a little better. I gained some new ideas for not only improving my writing, but also my game development. I won an award. I was published in another anthology. I made some new contacts. I feel a little less like a rank amateur and… well, more like something slightly less rank. I feel more of a part of the speculative fiction writing community – which, from what I can tell and what I’ve heard – is pretty dang awesome and supportive here in Utah.

It’s just been a pretty dang good day.

Filed Under: Books, Events - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

  • Charles said,

    What spells did you learn? 🙂


  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Thanks. I’m still having an incredible time, and there’s another full day of it tomorrow.

    Part of today’s fun involved a shopping spree to a used book store with a gift certificate won at last night’s competition. You know, those gift certificates go REALLY FAR at a used book store. Wow. Now I need to go on a shopping spree to Ikea to get new bookshelves.

  • Charles said,

    You didn’t get an Ikea gift certificate? It was a plot by the Swedes all along!