Back from my first writer’s conference (EVER!) and had a complete and thorough BLAST! Before I say anything else, if you’ve never been to a conference before SIGN. UP. FOR. ONE. NOW!
(Actually, registration for C3 2014 is available now)
My enthusiasm should be reaching through your computer screen and getting in your face and shouting, “DO IT! DO IT!” If not, go back to the beginning and read it over again.
So now that you can fathom my sheer elation for everything I gained at this conference, let’s talk about a few of the MANY things I learned.
Go even if you’re shy!
While those of you who have met me via Twitter or Wattpad may find it hard to believe, I’m actually a fairly shy guy. I stutter whenever I get nervous or excited (it happens a lot and it’s very annoying). I gave my pitch for Communion a couple of times and it sounded horrible! “T-the v-vampires are ext-t-tinct…” But everyone I talked to was really cool about it and listened and even seemed impressed by the story.
A conference is a networking event and, like any networking event, you need a convenient way to exchange information. Some writers will make a lasting impression on you (and vice versa), but it still may be hard to remember their name on Monday when you return to the 9-to-5.
Make sure to budget for buying books
Actually, I did this one. I originally set aside $50 to purchase books that appealed to me or books of authors whose panels I attended or of those I happened to chat with and liked. I went over-budget at the conference and still didn’t buy ALL of the books I wanted. But that’s ok because I collected business cards– which you’re gonna do, right?
The Conference Continues at the Bar
So I don’t know if you’ve ever had a drink with an 11-time NYT Bestseller or an author who’s written for both Marvel and DC, but I did. Because I went to a conference! (See how this works?) Every topic is on the table while at the bar. Writing tips, what writers REALLY think of their publishers, and even life advice.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll definitely be attending the Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity conference next year. Actually, I was asked (read: politely told) to be a panelist. So, if you want to see me speak (read: stutter) my way through a session on first-time authors, SIGN UP!
Below is the first chapter of my debut novel, Communion, available in full on October 1st. Enjoy.
“I’d say my teacher forcing me to attend this assembly counts as bullying. What about you?”
Guinevere Daniels rolled her eyes. “Yeah. I’ve got an in-class nap to catch up on.”
The random seating by grades at school assemblies had brought us together for the first time since middle school. Otherwise, hot thin blondes like Guinevere didn’t talk to guys like me.
“Oh, late night?”
She smiled mischievously. “Late, but uneventful.”
There were two prominent rumors about Guinevere- the first was that her sister worked as a stripper, which added to her sex appeal. The second was that she broke up with her boyfriend so she could sleep with him and his best friend. This added to her slut appeal.
The loud, reverberating noise from a handheld microphone ruined my chance for an innuendo. I cursed our school’s frugality.
“Good morning students,” greeted Mr. Johnston, our assistant principal.
He repeated himself, as he wasn’t satisfied with the initial level of feedback from the crowd.
I leaned closer to Guinevere to whisper, my dark brown arm grazing her white one.
“Gwynn. I’m expecting this to get really exciting, so try not to talk my head off.”
I accepted her sarcasm as an invitation. While I doubted the rumor as fact, Gwynn’s ex-boyfriend, Brent, and his best friend, Roman, were the only people she hung out with. Most of us switched crowds throughout our first year and blended into a new one sophomore year. Gwynn hadn’t. I didn’t consider their group intentionally exclusive, but anyone who tried to enter later complained they just didn’t fit.
“Everyone, please give a warm welcome to Dr. Camellia Rosario.”
Gwynn stopped being the object of my eye for a few moments as a posh Hispanic woman in a pant suit walked from the double doors. Mr. Johnston must have made a mistake when he called her a doctor. She couldn’t possibly be out of her early twenties.
Dr. Rosario reintroduced herself and went through her credentials, but I was lost in other details, like her full lips and athletic yet curvy body. Her shoulder-length, wavy, nearly frizzy hair bounced as she paraded around the gym, her amber eyes winnowing the crowd. She demonstrated presence like the power-executive types, which made me think of my dad, and which likely meant her display was just an attempt to smother the evidence of a depreciating life.
“You may not believe this by my success now, but I used to be bullied, too.”
“She’s right. I don’t believe her.”
Gwynn shot me a smile.
Dr. Rosario went on talking and I went on not listening. Until I heard the word “volunteer.”
Her eyes fell right on me. I’m sure my physical features screamed victim: tall with lanky arms, horn-rimmed glasses, and an unkempt afro. But it would cost a lot more than her outfit to get me to open up to my peers.
Dr. Rosario spun around in a circle, still searching.
A hand shot up in the air over where the juniors sat. “I’ll go.”
“Excellent. Come on down.”
The volunteer’s short dreadlocks bobbed as he stepped down the bleachers. The grin plastered on his face was as dark as his complexion. A few students snickered when they saw who it was.
“Thank you,” Dr. Rosario said when he reached her. “Everyone clap your hands for—”
She held out the microphone to him.
Applause and knowing laughter went off around me. I sat still, the only motion coming from the corners of my mouth sinking further.
“Jay’s never been bullied,” Gwynn murmured. “Lester, you’re shaking.”
“I’m not,” I snapped.
No, of course Jay hadn’t been bullied. Six-foot-four with a bulky physique that turned away challengers, Jay was usually on the giving end.
Dr. Rosario passed Jay the microphone.
He suppressed his usual crocodile smile. “Let me reiterate that bullying is no joke. It is cruel and insensitive and— oh, before I continue, shout out to the wrestling team. Good win last Saturday, boys.”
The crowd loosened up with a few more laughs, mixed with shouts and cheers.
A guy a few rows above me cupped his hands around his lips and shouted: “I see you, Jay!”
“I see you, Nicholas,” Jadarius said, pointing to him. “Be careful of that man. He’s a bully on the mat.”
He cleared his throat. “But my favorite—or rather, most tragic—example of bullying comes from last spring. At the end of P.E. class one day, I returned to the locker room to change into my normal clothes. But my clothes, and a bunch of other freshman’s, had been put into the toilet.”
Jay was full of crap. He’d been a sophomore last year and he wasn’t the victim of the story he told. I raised my hand to get the attention of a teacher. The closest, a group of three, stood together talking. I tried making eye contact with Ms. Lane, the only teacher I trusted, but she was on the other side of the gym.
“Swirling around in those yellow, pissy waters was the new leather jacket I’d got for Christmas. It was the last thing my mom bought me before she left me and my dad.”
I jumped up. As I stepped between students to get to the bottom of the bleachers, Mr. Taiffer caught sight of me and walked over.
“And the worst part was I knew who did it. I stepped to him, expecting the other freshman to join me. Especially since my best friends had the class with me.”
“Stop him,” I said to Mr. Taiffer, my voice somewhere between a shout and a whisper. “He’s lying.”
“What do you mean? I heard about something like that happening last year.”
“Yeah, stupid, it happened to me.”
Jay continued, “He gave me the biggest beat down in the history of Concord Hills High. It was so bad, my friends watched in amazement.”
Mr. Taiffer didn’t take too well to being insulted. And my own anger only grew when I heard the taunting laughter of the crowd rise again.
Dr. Rosario reached for the microphone, but Jay dodged her.
“Oh, one more part, one more part,” he told her. “And this classic tale is brought to you all by the one and only, Lester Fuller.”
My body became as stiff as the unnatural hush. My heartbeat was absent, along with every other sound. My brain tried to register this as how a thousand jeering eyes staring at me felt, but it couldn’t quite comprehend it.
“Have a seat, please,” Dr. Rosario said, breaking the silence.
Jay took a bow and then returned to his seat. The sound from the microphone reverberated again.
“This is exactly the kind of behavior—”
I stopped listening. Mr. Taiffer had his hand on my shoulders and whispered something about handling this as he tried to lead me back to my seat. Finally, I pushed his hands off of me and made a bee-line for Jay.
“You wanna fuck with me in front of everyone,” I growled.
I got less than half-way there before Mr. Taiffer and another teacher got in front of me. They made more requests for proper behavior that never worked and never got anyone anywhere. While Jay broke the rules as he pleased and was loved by hundreds.
“We’ll take care of this.”
“Yeah, because you did a great job before,” I said to neither one in particular.
Other students watched, even as our speaker tried to draw their attention. Several of them were on their feet, calling for a fight. My intense focus on Jay, who waited at the bottom of the bleachers he’d previously sat in, dulled their volume. I wanted to wipe the smug grin right off his face. I was nearly oblivious to the teacher’s arms wrapped around me. While I wasn’t as muscular as Jay, I was only a few inches shorter and formidable in my own ways.
“Don’t let him get the best of you,” Dr. Rosario said, now closer to me.
“Screw you lady, I don’t even know you.”
I bet she’d relish the publicity if she actually stopped me.
“Lester, Lester, come with me.” The new voice whispering in my ear belonged to Ms. Lane, and rather than trying to force me, she kept her hands off.
“No, not this time. I’ll put an end to this myself. I’ll fucking kill Jadarius,” I murmured.
Mr. Taiffer’s hands dropped off me. “What was that?”
I stopped pushing against them when I realized what I had said. Mr. Taiffer and the other teacher’s reactions were enough to sober me from my rage.
“No, I heard you. You’re coming with me to the office.”
“For the love of god, Rod. He’s upset.”
Ms. Lane left my side and appeared right in front of me.
“Let’s go into the hallway, Lester.” Her tone made it clear it was a command, not a suggestion.
I didn’t say anything, only turned around to lead the way. I kept my gaze on the ground ahead.
I was oblivious to Dr. Rosario’s words and the hot stares of at least half of the other students. Ms. Lane and I walked past our school rent-a-cop and towards the double doors.
“He’s fine,” Ms. Lane assured him.
Once in the hallway, I kept walking until I got close enough to a locker to punch it. Not even a dent. Another example of how pathetic I was. I put my back against the same locker and slumped to the floor involuntarily.
Ms. Lane quietly watched me. I covered half of my face with my hand, as if that would hide my shame from both of us. The silence of the hallway tried to calm me, but my heart raced with the last bit of my resistance.
“I fuckin’ hate him.”
The silence had gone from soothing to maddening in an instant. And, even though I didn’t see it, I couldn’t stand the way Ms. Lane looked at me.
“You have every right to.”
She got down to my level and sat with her legs crossed.
“And don’t think he’s going to get away with it. That little show counts as bullying. Even though it wasn’t physical, it’ll still be enough to get Jadarius suspended.”
So I get used to fulfill the anti-bullying rhetoric. Hurray for me.
Ms. Lane continued. “Something to keep in mind for the future: if Jadarius knows he can get to you, he’ll keep coming after you.”
“Why, though? Why does he do it?”
“I have a couple of theories. For one thing, you actually stood up to him. That doesn’t happen to him often. Another one, a little more petty: he’s jealous.”
“Jealous of what? He’s the popular one.”
“Popularity doesn’t equate to happiness, Lester,” Ms. Lane said.
I was willing to bet that, on any given day, Jay was happier with his life than I was with mine.
My gaze was off the hideously patterned floor and on Ms. Lane. The petite brunette gave a half-smile as if she could read my cynical thoughts. She wasn’t hot like Gwynn, but she was easily pretty by any standard. Certainly enough to be desired wherever she went. That and her youth—she was only twenty-six—gave her credibility on the topic of popularity, as I knew nothing about it.
“You calm enough to go back inside?”
“If I’m gonna be sent to the office, I’d rather go now instead of listening to Dr. Rosario.”
“I’m sure the assistant principal will want to talk to you later so he can document the incident. Don’t worry about what you said. I’ll talk Rod— er, Mr. Taiffer and Mr. Morton into forgetting they heard it. But come inside. Who knows, maybe there’ll be some helpful tips.”
I doubted that, but stood up anyway. Despite the fact I towered over Ms. Lane, who was only a few inches over five feet, I never thought of her as a small person.
She halted once she placed her hands on the double doors.
“One anti-bullying tip I can offer that works, Lester, would be for you to get some friends. We all need some.”
I frowned. “But when it comes down to it, you can’t rely on anyone else. That’s what my fight with Jay last year showed me.”
I no longer spoke to the friends who had watched while Jay pounded me into Concord Hills High School history, as he alluded to earlier. They ignored my pleas for help while I was being pulverized, so I ignored their requests to remain friends.
“Just remember, we’re all weaker in isolation.”
With Communion in the hands of Beta-readers and my most recent project Sparkle ready to be published on Wattpad later this week, I’m not sure what I should write next. Although, it will likely involve vampires.
To give a little bit of background about myself, I always told myself I would NEVER write a vampire story. Then I worked on a story called Lamia’s Dream, which uses succubi. My succubi drain a person’s emotional energy, kind of like a psychic vampire. While on break from that story, I wrote Communion, which centers around creatures called dhampir.
Now I can’t get enough of the blood suckers and I’m thirsty for another vampire story. To figure out where I should go with vampires next, it’d be helpful to know what’s been done with the night time terrors before.
Here are some common vampire storylines:
Romance: A female (usually human) and a male (usually vampire). In Lamia’s Dream, I tried to switch it up by having a human male and female succubus pairing.
Love slave: This falls under romance, except the human (usually female) is a slave to the vampire.
Revenge: Vampires killed the protagonist’s family. Now the protag is gonna make those fang faces pay!
Vamp/Human Hybrid: Protag is has a vampire parent and human parent. Is often a vampire hunter.
Rebellion: The vampires are the reigning authority and someone has the stop them.
Horror: In the spirit of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the humans have no special abilities but have to fight a supernatural foe.
Comedy/Parody: Some vamps just wanna stay out of trouble, but trouble has a way of finding them!
Coming of age: This one also isn’t vampire specific. But a younger vampire “grows up” (so to speak) to become a more mature vampire.
Fledgling: This is like the coming of age story. But it usually focuses on the human who was first turned into a vampire and they’re struggle to adapt. Communion would fall under this category.
This list isn’t meant to be all-inconclusive. In fact, I might be missing some. Can you think of any other examples of the vampire storylines?