This makes my fourth Imaginarium Convention (because that’s how many there have been), a terrific readers and writers con in Louisville, KY, started by Seventh Star Press partly in response to some odd and disappointing trends at other conventions in the area (which this year became all too apparent, but never mind). From the start, it’s been a great con to surround myself with people of immense talent, to mingle, gossip, and just generally pretend I belong there. Catch up with friends, hang out with buddies, and stand in the corner in amazement at being in the same room with still others.
Without breaking it down into those sub-categories, some of the authors I’m particularly excited to see are: John F. Allen, E. Chris Garrison, Matthew Barron, Kat French, Sela Carsen, Selah Janel, Elizabeth Donald, Lucy Snyder, Gary Braunbeck, Mchael Knost, Michael West, Dan Jolley, Dave Creek, Arlan Andrews, Ericka Kahler, Armand Rosamilia, Stephen Zimmer, Demetrius Witherspoon, Bishop Stevens, Jason Sizemore, Janet Hariett, Tony Acree,and many, many, many more. (No, I am not linking these names because I want to have this done before the event itself, but you should Google them all).
I may have name-dropped a bit in that last paragraph. It’s all good.
Now, since I know a lot of you will be taking the trip specifically to see me (or let’s just pretend that’s the case, okay? We authors have gigantic but fragile egos), here is my panel schedule:
Sat, 5 PM in the Cumberland Room: Exploring Today’s Universe of Science Fiction
With Dave Creek (Moderator), Bethany DJ Kesler, Eri Nelson, Gerald L. Coleman, Sarena Ulibarri, and Dr. Arlan Andrews.
Sat, 6 PM in the Goldenrod Room: Paranormal Literature
With Lori Roberts (Moderator) Barb Jones, Jacob Floyd, Monica Corwin, and Lorena Reith Jr.
Sun, 11 AM in the Derby Room: Finding the Right Critique Groups
With Carma Haley Shoemaker (Moderator) Kristi Bradley, Juanita D. Houston, Marian Allen, and Geoffrey Mandragora.
And did I mention, the vendor room is completely free to visitors all weekend long! That’s right, there’s no charge to show up and shop a room chock full of talented Speculative Fiction authors and their books. I’ll be there in the Seventh Star section not too far from John and Chris most of the time. So come find us and say hi. I’ll be fully stocked with my catalog of titles, and as always, autographs are FREE and worth every penny you pay.
Imaginarium is an awesome author and reader con that continues to grow every year. From Indy, it’s an easy day trip. If you’ve never been, you need to check it out. I hope to see some of you there!
Effective immediately, all my titles are available at a new local brick-and-mortar store!
You can now purchase all books RJ at The Eclective, a consignment gift shop on Indy’s south side dedicated to handmade,vintage, artsy, and …well…. eclectic gifts, products and art by local vend0rs of all sorts. My work is featured as part of a bookshelf display alongside my local author co-op peeps at the Speculative Fiction Guild, a shelf we are creatively calling the SFG Store.
The Eclective is located at 2915 S. Meridian St.Indianapolis, IN 46225. You can check out their website and Facebook page by clicking the links. But none of this will help you experience the Eclective. To truly appreciate its unique vibe, you need to visit the store for yourself. The Eclective is divided into booths and rooms, loosely organized into kids and teens, health and beauty products, handcrafted and re-purposed items, and The Geekery. SFG’s books are part of The Geekery (he said, surprising no one). There are original paintings, handmade soap (including Mother Nature’s Bath and Body by my good friend Sharilee Gray who clued me in about the store) and a stage for exhibits, demonstrations and special events (more on that later).
The SFG Store features all of my titles, priced to sell and competitive to Amazon. You’ll find my paranormal trilogy:
I have pre-autographed each book at the SFG Store, and as always, signatures are totally FREE and worth every penny you pay. Stock will vary week to week, but the store is close enough that I should be able to keep all titles in stock most of the time. And if you’ve already read my books, the SFG Store also features books by my talented friends and peeps J0hn F Allen, Matthew Barron, E. Chris Garrison, and Maurice McKiernan. And there’s plenty of vendors to shop besides us (not that we want to discourage you from spending all your time at the SFG shelf).
And to launch things properly, SFG is holding a grand opening kickoff event Friday, March 24 @ 6 PM. SFG is partnering with the Eclective resident artist Sarah Rae Cote for a fun evening of readings and paintings …the authors do the readings, and you do the painting! Whether you’re directly inspired by our images-in-words or your imagination takes you somewhere else, it’s just you, the canvas, the brushes and a couple of h0urs to paint whatever pops into wonderfully warped brain, and we can’t wait to see what that might be.
Guests can listen to readings and shop until the store closes, and we’ll all be around to personalize those signatures; participation in the painting activity costs $25 for supplies, which includes the canvas and access to brushes and paints. You get to keep your creation when you are done. The store closes at 7 PM but will remain open for painters only. Click here to sign up via the event page, or just stop in the night of the show. This is the first of many special nights in the planning stages. Hope to see you there!
I’m a proud author with Seventh Star Press, and Imaginarium is, in great part, the brainchild of SSP Editor-In-Chief Stephen Zimmer. And so, I was there for Imaginarium’s first and second year and saw the convention grow from a great idea to an expanding community where readers and writers meet, joke, party, and exchange ideas in a nurturing environment all weekend long. Imaginarium 2016, year three, looks to be the best year yet, and you can be sure I’m not missing out on this one.
Imaginarium is the weekend of Oct 7-9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Louisville, KY (near the airport). It’s about a two hour drive from Indianapolis, perfect for a day trip or for staying the weekend. The programming requires a membership badge, but the vending room is free and open to the public. Genres include but are not limited to science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, and graphic novels.
If seeing me isn’t enough reason to go (and that’s fine, just don’t tell me to my face, we writers have tender egos), there’s a film festival, masquerade ball, panels, and workshops for readers and writers of all levels and interests.
The larger world shared by E. Chris Garrison and R.J. Sullivan (they even co-wrote this blog post)
E. Chris Garrison and R.J. Sullivan: two great tastes that taste great…
Let’s start over.
Chris and R.J. met at an author’s retreat in 2011. At the time, Chris had released her first editions of the Road Ghosts Trilogy and Blue Spirit, and RJ had released the first edition of Haunting Blue. Through discussion and the group readings that happen during author retreats, they found that they tend to think in similar ways on such topics as character archetypes and styles, which made them fast friends.
Chris’ skills as a brewmaster may have also had something to do with this.
Their first venture into “crossing their universes” was a character to character fictional interview blog that proved a lot of fun. Eventually, they decided that using each other’s characters and settings in a shared universe made sense dramatically in certain instances. Over time, they found that telling tales that affected a larger world also made for a fun marketing ploy to coax sales. They drafted a simple agreement between themselves to work it out, and they have been trading characters and building upon a shared universe ever since.
Having set the stage, let’s look at how Restless Spirit, Chris’ latest release and the reason you’re here, is part of that world.
This second book in Garrison’s Road Ghosts Trilogy (written under a previous byline) marks the debut of Skye MacLeod, a cheerfully drunken gamer girl involved in a vampire live-action roleplaying game. The main cast encounters her as they attempt to save a poor little lost tween ghoul from a greedy opportunist who’s in league with a demon. Skye literally stumbles into trouble as she is possessed by the demon and forced to do its bidding. While this possession is temporary, Skye’s life and destiny are changed forever.
When the Trilogy ended, Garrison wanted to do something different. Skye was the first character she thought of to star in a spin-off series.
Set in 2010, the first novel by R.J. introduces flamboyant punk girl “Blue” Shaefer, her computer savvy boyfriend “Chip” Farren, and Chip’s best friend Phil Jenson. Against the backdrop of a creepy Indiana small town with a legendary secret, Blue and Chip meet, fall in love, and try to solve that legendary secret. Their efforts end up releasing a ghost and dark hi-jinx ensue.
The aforementioned spin-off of Garrison’s Road Ghosts Trilogy, this first book in the Tipsy Fairy Tales features Skye telling the story from her own point of view. She tells us a tale of her misadventures as a transplanted gamer girl whose life is permeated with the supernatural fairy world only she can see. Having grown up in Chicago, Skye never needed to learn to drive, so she takes the IndyGo buses or bums rides to get everywhere she needs to go. On one such bus, on an especially bad day, Skye meets a short, scruffy, gnome-like person who calls himself the Transit King. Skye sees past his sketchy appearance and recognizes him as a fairy lord. He proceeds to offer his assistance (in return for a promised favor) that further tangles Skye in high stakes supernatural politics.
In many ways, this first encounter not only drives the rest of the Tipsy Fairy Tales and provides Skye with a mentor, but introduces the Transit King as an unlikely favorite character from this book among readers and author peers. Chris was surprised and honored when later asked by R.J. if he could “borrow” the mysterious character for his own books.
In this sexy ghost story, frustrated geek girl Loretta Stevens boards a bus while fuming over how rudely she’s been treated by her boyfriend. She and Daryl had come to the local mall to shop for a birthday present and possible engagement ring for her, only to watch as Daryl instead buys a piece of overpriced Hollywood memorabilia connected to the long-dead gorgeous 50’s icon Maxine Marie. Disgusted, Loretta leaves him standing in the store, and she must now rely on public transportation to get back to her car.
On the bus, as she reflects on their relationship, a strange, creepy fellow with a thick accent advises her to wait for Daryl at his apartment. “Normally, I just…get travelers to their destinations…I’m just the Transit King, after all. …Follow yer instincts, not yer pride.” Yes, this is the same Transit King who plays such an important role in Garrison’s Tipsy Fairy Tales, making his “debut” in the R.J. verse.
Loretta ignores this good advice, to her regret. She learns that her boyfriend has been ensnared by the ghost of Maxine Marie herself. Maxine, now a sort of super-specter, is strengthened by the energy generated by her millions of fans, especially Daryl. The ghost is feeding off him, and he’s fading fast. Desperate, Loretta seeks aid from Rebecca Burton, an investigator of paranormal phenomenon who wields mysterious powers. Loretta learns that Rebecca’s role as a government agent is a cover that allows her to move about freely as she prepares to play a major role in an upcoming battle with the forces of evil.
The year is 2013, and Chip Farren and Phil Jenson are now students at I.U., roommates living off campus and ambitious game programmers. They’ve released a beta of Fantasy Free-Form, their multi-player heroic fantasy computer game. Blue travels to Bloomington over Thanksgiving weekend to sort out her complicated feelings with Chip about their relationship.
The three of them are unaware that the game has been targeted by a cult of demon worshipers who think they can use the game’s virtual environment as a focal-point to summon a demon, creating a portal from their dimensional prison in hell to the video realm and then from there into the real world. Fortunately, Rebecca Burton is already aware of the situation, and she’s employed a talented young woman to assist her–Skye McLeod. Before the night is over, Blue will nearly lose her life and her sanity, and Skye will have to find the inner strength to confront Rebecca and force her to do the right thing. Phil and Skye will also begin an unusual friendship that continues in…
In the following summer of 2014, Skye finds herself still underemployed and dependent on her girlfriend, Annabelle. Phil Jenson has taken the step of promoting Fantasy Free-Form at Big Con, an enormous gamer convention in Indianapolis, and has hired Skye on to use her charm to draw con-goers to try out the game. She’s delighted at her apparent good luck when Rebecca Burton calls her. Rebecca has heard rumors of supernatural activity at the convention, and she wants to hire Skye to watch out and report on anything suspicious. Trouble soon finds her, in the form of one of her gamer friends somehow amassing a zombie army, some meddling trolls, and an ancient horror lurking underneath the center of Indianapolis. She goes to visit her old mentor, The Transit King, who has become far more powerful after the events of Blue Spirit, and he gives her some cryptic direction and magical aid–with his usual price tag. Unfortunately, Skye gets pulled into the supernatural events more than any of her employers care for, and when one problem crashes into another, she feels forced to set them against each other, unleashing a type of hell into downtown Indianapolis in the process. She loses the support of Rebecca and the Transit King, and puts other relationships at risk, but Phil sticks with her to the very end, helping her make slightly more sober choices to undo what she’s done.
The story doesn’t end there. Garrison reports that Phil, Blue, and Rebecca return for the climactic third book in the Tipsy Fairy Tales series, Mean Spirit! So stay tuned for future Garrison/Sullivan character crossover fun!
About the author: E. Chris Garrison writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories. She used to publish as Eric Garrison, but has since upgraded.
So ends my fifth InConJunction in the last six years. So what are my thoughts?
Looking back, I sold plenty of books this year, though I may have sold more in past years. I photographed plenty of costumes, though I may have photographed more in past years. I talked to many authors, but I may have talked to more in past years. All that said, this was the easily the most relaxed, best “all around” con I’ve ever been a part of. InConJunction has been sliding into place as the most easygoing “hangout” con weekend on my calendar, and this time it solidified itself as such.
I’ve done a number of these weekends by now and I’ve gotten pretty good at them. If there is one thing you can count on, it’s that something is gonna go wrong. Every time. Sometimes it’s a goof on the part of the organization that throws the event, sometimes it’s confusion among the peers I partner with, sometimes it’s traffic, sometimes it’s just fraying nerves from a long weekend (“What?” you say. “Writers can be moody and emotional? I’m shocked, SHOCKED!”). The point is, there’s always something.
But not this time.
Everything went off exactly as planned and better than I had any reason to hope. We all showed up where we needed to be, when we needed to be there. We had each other’s backs. I can’t recall a cross word between us all weekend. And look, some straight talk–when we spend most of 72 hours together, it’s NORMAL to exchange a cross word or two. It just happens.
But not this time.
My very highest praise to everyone on the Inconjunction staff (with special shout-outs to Mike and Lynette Cowper for being the keepers of the vendor registrations, setting up a vendor soda cooler, and checking in with us frequently to make sure all was well–and it was!) Again, just some straight talk without laying any blame–there’s always something amiss at every con. It may be a layout that goes awry. A disorganized con suite. Badges get misplaced. A cross word can cause misunderstandings. Most cons are run by volunteers and as such, it’s perfectly normal that Things Go Wrong, even if, in the end, they’re hardly worth mentioning later.
This year marks my fifth consecutive year at one of my favorite science fiction conventions, InConJunction, on the east side of Indianapolis, and I’m super-excited! For one thing, this will be the first time I’m bringing a science fiction book to a science fiction convention!!
Yes, that’s right, I’ve been doing just fine all these years selling ghost story and scary stories to a crowd that’s much more in tune with spaceships and laser guns, so now for the first time I’m bringing those, too. I’ll have plenty of copies of Commanding the Red Lotus on hand along with my back titles of ghost stories and my short story collection. I’ll be there with my Speculative Fiction Guild buddies as well, mingling, talking SF, dancing badly, and taking pictures of great costumes. Joining me in our space will be John F. Allen, Matthew Barron, E. Chris Garrison, and convention newcomer Maurice McKeirnan.
Last Wednesday, horror author and good buddy Armand Rosamilia posted a guest blog I’d created some weeks earlier and while I was busy attending to other things. And what I mean to say is, I’m posting it several days later completely on purpose in to maximize exposure over a period of time.
Yeah, we’ll go with that.
So did you know that being a modern author is a lot like being in a garage band? Its true! Here’s what I posted.
The Bass Player Quit Again
Or, the Chemistry of Author Co-Ops
“She wants to be an author when she grows up!” I looked down into the wide eyes of a tween girl. Her parents pulled her over to my booth so they could tell me this, apparently in hope that I could grant some words of wisdom on the spot. So I tell her half the truth. The good half. The encouraging half.
Thanks to modern technology, specifically ebooks and digital publishing, this little girl is growing up in a time when anyone who wants to chase their dream of being an author will have more choices before them than any era before. She can choose to avoid the lifelong frustration of rejections and never getting that break. Her destiny will be in her own hands, and success or failure will be more in her control than ever. The parents smiled and the girl glowed and my duty to inspire future generations was done for the day.
I had, of course, only told her the good news. What I didn’t tell her was that her destiny will be in her own hands, and success or failure will be more in her control than ever.
After months of preparation and weeks of teasing, I can finally share the big news about the NEW ORIGINAL collection of holiday stories co-edited with my good friends John F. Allen, E. Chris Garrison and me.
The anthology is called Gifts of the Magi: A Speculative Holiday Collection and features new tales by our friends and ourselves, most of whom have series’ in progress, and feature a story set in the world of that series. And yes, I have a new story in this collection.
That’s right, Blue Shaefer and Rebecca Burton are returning in a brand-new short story that takes place on Christmas Eve! In it, Rebecca gets word that someone is trying to cause trouble for Blue, so she crashes in on Blue and Chip’s celebration, and they’re off on another paranormal adventure. I think it strikes a great balance between addressing her past and setting her up for an exciting future. The title, of course, could only be Blue Christmas. I hope you all love it as much as I do.
Besides featuring a new story for Christmas, Gifts of the Magi offers a number of other firsts. It’s my first attempt at co-editing an anthology (a stressful endeavor that can test the strongest bonds and make them even more strong afterwards) and my first venture into indie publishing under a new brand, in a co-partnership between John, Chris and me, SFG Publishing. It’s our first attempt at supporting a local charity. In this case, every cent raised goes toward Indy Reads Books and the good work they do.
Clutching a bright blue trade paperback book in her hands, the punkish teenage girl steps through the door of the Café Expresso in Broad Ripple and looks around.
Her gaze falls on the willowy young woman already seated and waving a dark green book back at her. Breaking into a grin, Fiona “Blue” Shaefer heads over to the table and shakes hands with Skye MacLeod before taking a seat across from her.
Blue: Hi there, Skye! [Blue points to the Blue Spirit paperback in her hands] Thanks for answering my email.
Skye: How could I refuse? I mean, I get to talk about myself, right? [laughs]
Waitress: What can I get you?
Blue: Medium Mocha, please, extra syrup.
Skye: [nods at her cup on the table] I’m good, thanks.
Blue: [to Skye] So, it’s been so long since I moved away, I wasn’t sure if you still remembered waiting on me all those times at the Starbucks. It’s been almost a year!
Skye: It’s good to see you again, without a counter between us this time. Wow, you’re not a kid anymore, are you?
Blue: N-no… [nods at copy of Haunting Blue in Skye’s hands] I guess you could say I’ve grown up a bit. I’ve been through a lot since the last time I was in ‘The Ripple’. I always think of you at Starbucks, it’s weird to see you here in the Café Expresso.
Skye: Well, I still go to the Broad Ripple Starbucks sometimes, but after they fired me up in Nora, I just kind of prefer independent coffee shops.
Blue: And the coffee you have there…is that…uh…just coffee?
Skye: [rolls her eyes] You know, I’m not always boozing it up, kiddo. Just unleaded coffee today for me! I, uh, kinda had to promise Annabelle I’d cut back. Being a Vampire Noble in the game is awesome, but it doesn’t, like, pay the bills, you know?
Blue: Yeah, I hear you there. So… [looks around the room] If I understood what you wrote, you have a little guardian fairy named Minnie you have to be tipsy to interact with. Is she around now? Or can you tell?
Skye: [shrugs] I see her more without alcohol these days, but she’s also more independent of me, too. I haven’t seen her today. She’s becoming much more her own person. It’s good for her, but kind of sad, since I’d gotten used to always having her around, watching out for me. So, I’m going through two separate types of withdrawal, sort of. Three, really… [sighs] But I have Annabelle and my gamer friends to help me get by.
Blue: Oh, yes, Annabelle. [fans herself with paperback] I read all about you two. Only boy I can attract is the small town computer nerd but you…you land a firefighter. Every girl’s dream. Well…sorta.
Skye: [smiles and sighs] Actually, I adore nerdy guys. Stuart was the biggest nerd. Annabelle… well, she’s a bit like you, kiddo; adorable but a lot tougher than she looks.
[Waitress deposits Blue’s coffee, looks back and forth between Blue and Skye, winks at Blue, and returns to the counter]
Blue: (turning pink) Well, uh, thank you, Skye. And I’m not a prude, but it is a little weird. For months, all you used to talk about was Stuart this and Stuart that. Then he goes off with another woman, so you turn around bring in your own other woman. I’d call that sweet revenge if I thought you did it on purpose.
Skye: Stuart really betrayed me, Blue. He was the love of my life, then he sold me out. Blamed me for the fire in our apartment. Meanwhile, Annabelle saved my life. She was there for me when I’d lost everything. And, well… we can’t help who we fall for, right?
Blue: Don’t I know it? I would never thought I’d fall for a guy who plays Dungeons and Dragons. Speaking of roleplaying, tell me more about the Live Action Roleplaying game you’re into. I never played myself. Never really wanted to, then when I moved to Perionne and of course Chip talked me into it. But that was paper and dice. The live action vampire roleplaying thing seems like a whole other level, with costumes and the improv in character thing. Do players really take staying “in character” as seriously as you say in your book?
Skye: Oh definitely! Some people hate to break character, like, ever. I have a lot of fun with it, it’s good to get to be someone else for a while. And, for most of us, our pretend lives are a lot more glamorous than our actual lives. It’s like living in a story, and some days, you just don’t want the fantasy to end. Which, I know is funny coming from a girl who sees fairies. [laughs]
Blue: So… speaking of Fairies, I guess Indy has its own gnome-like Scottish Fairy who calls himself the “Transit King”? What’s up with that?
Skye: [laughs] I know, right? He’s actually pretty formidable, even if he seems to be a batty little old bum on the surface. He’s older than dirt and claims dominion over the bus system. I wonder if IndyGo knows about him? He’s mostly friendly, though I get the feeling you wouldn’t to tick him off!
Blue: Well, I didn’t see him on the bus on the way up, but then again, I try not to look very closely at the other passengers. It can get you in trouble. Speaking of colorful characters, tell me about this fella Leslie? The huge costume designer guy with the great vampire fashion sense—does he just make people look great for roleplaying vampires or can he work similar miracles for a prom or something?
Skye: [laughs] Oh yes, he’s larger than life! He wouldn’t turn you away, doll, not if I introduced you first. He specializes in costumes, nothing all that durable. But I guess a prom’s all about costumes, isn’t it? So… does this mean prom is close for you? So, I’m guessing you’re going with Chip?
Blue: No, I just meant any kind of party. [trails off] I don’t know, a big costume party would be great about now. Just dress up like someone else and…forget about everything for a few hours. Yeah, that would be nice.