Archives: Business of Writing

NanoCon Mark IV Report

I’ve returned from NanoCon Mark IV and my stint as GOH. How about that?

It was a fun little con, held at the Longview Community College, just across the river from Rainier. I’d guess attendance came in at about two hundred. I’d consider it a success. I sold out of Under Strange Suns. I cut my inventory of Reunion in half. I met a number of intelligent and interesting people.

Among these I’d count James Wells, the great grandson of H.G. Wells (or the great man himself with a time machine and a convincing American accent.) We exchanged novels, so I have The Great Symmetry on my to-read pile now.

I had an engaging chat with James Omelina who runs several escape rooms in the southwest Washington area. I’m intrigued to check one out. I hear good things about the entertainment value of well-designed escape room, and James appears to have the design aspect dialed in.

I even managed lunch at the Ashtown brewery, a few blocks away from the convention. Well worth it.

The organizers were kind enough to invite me to return next year. I do hope my schedule allows it.

Orycon 2016

And that wraps up another Orycon. Technically, as I write these words, the con is still ongoing in the sleepy manner of a con winding down on a Sunday. But it is over for me. I finished my last panel and drove home to help host the joint birthday party for My Beautiful Wife and the Heir Apparent. (Happy birthday, girls!) Before the guests arrive I’m going to write down some impressions of the convention.

Orycon 38 on the Horizon

Orycon beckons once again. The Portland science-fiction convention has asked me back as a panelist for the 2016 con, the 38th.

Looks like I’ll be given a reading. I wonder what I should read. Something from my next novel, perhaps? An older short story? Any suggestions?

I see I’m scheduled for an autograph session. If you find yourself at Orycon this year, drop by and say hello at Autograph Alley. I’ll be the one looking bemused and lonely behind a stack of books.

Seriously, if you are interested in meeting me at the convention, here’s my schedule for the weekend. I hope to see you there.


Autograph Session 2 Autograph Area (LL1) Sat Nov 19 1:00pm – 2:00pm   Cait Spivey, Jeffrey Cook, Ken Lizzi


Underpinnings of World Building Salon A (LL1) Sat Nov 19 2:00pm – 3:00pmJennifer Brozek, John Ark, Ken Lizzi, Mark Ezell, Vannessa McClelland


Ken Lizzi Reading Hawthorne (2) Sat Nov 19 3:30pm – 4:00pm Ken Lizzi


Why Fantasy Matters Salon C (LL1) Sun Nov 20 12:00pm – 1:00pm Ken Lizzi, Lindsay Schopfer, Rhiannon Louve, Shawna Reppert, Shoshana Glick

Views on Reviews

I’m considering reviews today, from the perspective of both a reader and a writer. What value is there in a review?

On-line we find two prominent sources of reviews: Goodreads and Amazon. There are a plethora of other sources on the web for reviews, but the two aforementioned are the big dogs, the Siskel and Ebert, the Statler and Waldorf. Is there any value to us as readers in these reviews? I don’t recall being swayed by a review on either site to either purchase or bypass a book. What about you? Does either site influence your decision making?

Goodreads seems primarily a collator of numerical evaluations, readers moved enough to provide a rating on a scale of one to five, but not sufficiently motivated to describe their reactions. There is the virtue of simplicity in that. A large enough aggregate can provide a snapshot of the general reaction to a book. But as a reader that fails to move my needle one way or the other. And as a writer, I question whether Goodreads reviews drive book purchases. Have any of you seen the average review numbers for one of my books and said to yourself “The reaction to this is overall favorable. Based on this trend I will download a copy of this book to my Kindle.”

Amazon strikes me as similar to Goodreads. But since it requires some sort of written response in addition to the facile assignment of a number, any given book will have fewer reviews than on Goodreads. As a reader, in theory a collection of arguments pro and con should help guide me. But I don’t think that in practice I’ve ever read a book because of Amazon reviews. As a writer, Amazon reviews can provide a positive influence on sales. Not because the reviews influence readers, but because the reviews influence Amazon. Once a threshold of positive reviews is reached, the Amazon algorithms decide that customers are really purchasing this, triggering a ramping up of advertising. So, yay Amazon reviews, I guess.

The reviews that have convinced me to pick up a book come from independent sites, sites that aren’t primarily review sites, or that cover more territory than simply book reviews. Blackgate, for example. Or a personal web log, written by someone whose taste in literature appears to largely overlap with mne.

Is mine a common experience? Or am I an outlier on this?

Westercon 69, Dude

I received an invitation to serve as a panelist at Westercon 69. Westercon is a regional science fiction convention, held in a different city west of the Rockies each year. For 2016 Portland took the honors. How convenient.

Once again I will dilute the quality of the pool of con-guests, and diminish the level of panel repartee with my ill-conceived opinions and half-baked witticisms. It should be fun. The convention occurs July 1-4. If you live in Portland, pick up a membership and join in. If you don’t live in Portland, well July is one of the best times to visit. Early summer is gorgeous here. The scenery, weather, bookstores, food, and beer will make you want to stay. Resist the temptation. Portlandia is a documentary.

I hope to see you at the con.

The Push Continues


And thus I continue pounding the drum and tooting the horn.

The Portland Things From Another World store generously hosted a signing for “Under Strange Suns” last Wednesday.  I sold books, signed my name, chatted with customers. That I can do.

Last Tuesday I sat for an interview with Simon Rose of Fantasy Fiction Focus. That I’m less comfortable with. Public speaking, stages, cameras: don’t like them. Nonetheless, the interview proceeded. Simon is a personable fellow and is used to dealing with skittery, shy writers.

How did I do? Decide for yourself.


Orycon 37 in the Rearview Mirror

That’s another Orycon is in the books. Another weekend a half step out of pace with the ordinary. I had a marvelous time. With the exception of my ill-fated attempt to watch a football game in the Fan Lounge, no one seemed to object to my presence. So that’s nice.

The panels I sat on appeared to have been well received. My theory is that if the panel is receiving questions from many of the auditors instead of just that one guy (you know the one, there’s always one) then you’ve held a successful discussion.

The dealers’ room once again provided bargains. You can’t always find a wide selection of quality paperbacks for a buck. But I always do at Orycon. The art show, as usual, provided clever, evocative, or downright beautiful treats for the eye.

I saw some friends, met several new people, enjoyed some amiable chats, and mingled my way through a variety of room parties.

Oh, yeah, I also sold a couple of books.

I’m calling it a success. I’ll be ready to do it all again next year.

Orycon 37

I will be lowering the panelist quality of Orycon once again this year. I’m happy to do it, let me tell you. Enough with the qualified, entertaining, and successful authors hogging the panels. Someone has to draw a line in the sand. And that line is me.

Orycon begins this Friday, November 20 and runs through Sunday, the 22nd at the Portland Marriott, on the waterfront. I’ve been selected to sit on three panels this year. In case you want to listen in to discussions among qualified experts (and me) or simply want to know which panels to avoid, here’s my schedule.

Friday at 4PM in the Salem room: I’ll Be Watching You.

From vampire assassins to wizard private eyes to undead thugs, crime has been mixing it up with fantasy for years. What is it about crime, noir, and the paranormal that’s so appealing? Also – what are some really good titles?
Ken Lizzi, Annie Bellet, (*)Sharon Joss, Alex C Renwick, Kristi Charish


Saturday at 11AM in the Douglas Fir room: Loving Your Villains.

Villains are never evil. From where they stand, they’re the heroes of their own story. How to keep that in mind as you write that horrible, horrible person your readers will love to hate.
SD Perry, Lori Ann White, Ken Lizzi, Tanya Huff, Scott Alan Woodard

Saturday at 3PM in the Salmon room: Law 2050.

Legal dilemmas in the not so distant future
Katie Lane, Ken Lizzi, Rob McMonigal, (*)Shane Sauby, Manny Frishberg

I hope to see you at the con.

Pounding the Pavement and Knocking on Doors

Taking a look at the calendar, I noticed that the next couple of months will call frequently on my woefully lacking marketing skills. Oh, joy. Promotion. What’s that rising up within? Heartburn? Acid reflux? Incipient panic?

Some of us prefer to remain unnoticed, to blend, chameleon-like, in the crowd. Deliberately drawing multiple pairs of eyeballs to our existence can be a trifle uncomfortable. But, that’s the gig. I knew it was part of the deal when I signed up.