Packing and Planning For WorldCon — In Dublin!

Today, I’m taking a break from sharing all my writing panel notes, to talk about the fact I’m about to hit ANOTHER convention. At this rate, I’ll never finish sharing my notes with you.

By the time you see this, I’ll be about to land in Dublin with my mom! I’ve never been to Dublin and she’s never been overseas. It’s going to be an adventure!

We’re off to WorldCon. Specifically, the 77th WorldCon, in Dublin. WorldCon is where the Hugos — the biggest awards in science-fiction and fantasy writing are awarded. George RR Martin famously hosts his ‘losers’ party, for those who have been nominated, but lose. (Although, at this point, I don’t think he’s allowed to attend his own party.)

If you’ve been following me for a while, you might remember my FIRST overseas trip, two years ago, was also to WorldCon — in Helsinki! (I’ve got a lot of notes up from that one, too!)

So, in standard Morgan format, I’ve been preparing for my trip!

After reading the initial panel list, I marked down about 111 panels that looked interesting. A few days later, the Grenadine App for the event came out, so I uploaded all the panels I’d marked, and everything else that looked interesting, and culled my list of panels down to… 177.

Clearly, I don’t understand the concept of limits. Besides, there are only 52 time slots, I couldn’t see them all if I wanted to.

But. This might be supposed to actually be a vacation. Not just a working convention. I’ve been reminded that I might want to… oh, I don’t know… SEE DUBLIN.

So, I’ve been culling and looking and thinking. And I’m trying to see more and do less.

Some of the panels I have on my list are because of the content, some are on because of the panelists! It’s a work in progress, but I’m down to looking at only 80 program items.

Wish me luck! And I promise, I’ll share.

Author Spotlight: Robert E. Waters

  • game designer, game publisher, and writer!

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Robert E. Waters.

Robert E Waters is a game designer/producer by day, and moonlights as an author on nights and weekends. He’s been in the gaming industry since 1994 and currently works for BreakAway Games in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

Since 2003, he’s been a published author of over 60 stories seen in print and online magazines and anthologies. He is also a frequent contributor to Eric Flint’s alternate history series, 1632/Ring of Fire, and had just wrapped up a novel (1636: Calabar’s War) set in that universe with Charles E Gannon.

Robert, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

The jaguar. Pound for pound, it has the strongest bite of any big cat in the world, and its role in Mayan culture makes it a powerful mythological symbol. For the Maya, the jaguar was the ruler of the Underworld, and a symbol of the night sun. It represents power, aggressiveness. The jaguar gives us the power to face our fears, to confront our enemies. Plus, it has a damn beautiful coat of fur. The jaguar also plays prominently in many stories of one of my favorite science fiction authors: Lucius Shepard (may he rest in peace). I can’t think of a better pet/companion than the Night Sun.

Beautiful and powerful choice!

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write science fiction and fantasy mostly, though I have been known to dabble a bit in straight fiction (“Mekong Ghosts”) and poetry (“The Cassini 500”). To date, I have roughly 60 stories published in various online and print magazines and anthologies. I have more stories published than novels, but I’m working to bring better balance to the Force with at least two novels published later this year (see below). 

I’ve always been interested in writing stories. From the time I was 3-4 years old at least. But I guess the first legitimate try at writing something substantial came in Middle School, after reading The Lord of the Rings. You know you’ve stumbled on something great and rare when you begin to cry at the end, not wanting it to stop. LotRs was a big early influence, and so too the fiction of Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg, Clifford Simak, Alfred Bester, and the writers at the time publishing in Asimov’s and Analog Science Fiction magazines. I had subscriptions to both, and to this day, maintain my Asimov’s subscription. 

My first legit try at writing was a horrendously bad pastiche of LoTRs. Between seventh and eighth grade, I banged out 50 or so pages (front and pack, single-spaced) of an adventure that, thank the gods, I don’t remember at all today. About ten years ago I stumbled upon my old box of early writings, and that manuscript was still in there. But, praise Jesus, all the ink had faded away, leaving clean, blank pages that I could have used again. The words today would be much better. Small miracles…

My first real publication came in Weird Tales, 2003, with a story about an assassin facing retirement. A few years later, I published another, and then another, and in 2009, I hit the motherlode with three publications. It kind of steamrolled at that point and now I’m writing novels.

Congrats! What a great path, and I’m glad you made it.

What do you like to read?

Pretty much everything. Fiction mostly, though in my research for stories/novels, I read a lot of non-fiction. Most recently, I was reading Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm, which was an all-female concentration camp run by the Nazi’s north of Berlin during WWII. Not a fun read, but necessary for a story I’m considering writing. I’ve also been researching North Vietnamese fighter aces for an alternate history story that I finished recently. So, by virtue of the job, a writer winds up reading everything. I’ve learned more about the world and the human condition being a writer than I ever did in school.

Oh wow. What a powerful story to be working on. It’s always best when you can tell that the writers did their research, and bring their hearts to the subject.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write what you know.

It works for some; not for me. At least not yet. I’ve never been interested in writing mundane stories about my mundane life. Well, perhaps my life isn’t always so mundane, but I don’t need to write that story. I’ll let others write those stories. I need to write stories about people whose lives I want to emulate, even if they are living hundreds of years in the future, or are throwing fireballs at oncoming hordes in epic fantasy battles. Those are the stories I like to read. Those are the one I like to write

Especially in science-fiction and fantasy (and hopefully horror) writing, this is probably the most ignored advice. Of course, filtering it through a lens of your learned experiences gives it a level of realism.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Go for the visceral

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it pitched as a piece of advice, but I always go for the visceral, as defined “relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.” I like to think that my work has some intelligence about it, but I want you to feel something when you read my stories, good or bad. Sometimes, I’ve succeeded; sometimes, I’ve failed. But I always try.

That’s the ephemeral dream for me, when I write. To make the reader feel what I want them to: nostalgia, fear, excitement — whatever makes the connect and makes the story resonate long after they’ve put down the book.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

On November 1, I have a full collection of my Devil Dancers stories coming from e-Spec Books, DEVIL DANCERS.

I Am the Lightning Flashing and Streaking!

Beneath the stars or flying up among them, the Ga’an dance a deadly dance. Apache Devil Dancers take to the skies to defeat the ruthless Gulo, an alien race bent on the destruction of humanity. Led by Captain Victorio “Tomorrow’s Wind” Nantan, the 3rd Sol fighter Wing follows a long tradition, adapting the dance to make them an ace squadron, but will it be enough?

It is hard to hold faith in the face of a never-ending foe, when life and limb are sacrificed with no end anyone wants to see in sight. But Captain Victory comes from a long line of fierce warriors and he is more than ready to take the fight to the enemy.

Devil Dancers is a collection of seven action-packed tales, the culmination of 10 years of stories. I’m quite excited about this release. Love the cover!

So far this year, I’ve had a story (“Extraction”) published in Charles E Gannon’s LOST SIGNALS anthology, which is set in his very successful Tales of the Terran Republic series.

I’ve also had a story (“Medicine Man”) recently published in IN HARM’S WAY, Book 8 Mike and Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s mil-sf series, Defending the Future

And a little later this year, my story “The Cud Brigade,” will appear in NOT FAR FROM ROSWELL.

I have a couple novels to be released later this year, as well.

First up, THE LAST HURRAH, which is a media tie-in novel set in Mantic Games’ Dreadball Universe. It follows the attempted comeback of a famous Dreadball player who’s fallen on hard times, and the men and women he has to coach to glory… or defeat. It’s currently scheduled for a late September release. 

And finally, book 2 in my City of the Gods trilogy, THE SWORDS OF EL CID, scheduled for a late November release. This novel follows the adventures of Catherine of Aragon and her companion, Fymurip Azat, as they seek El Cid’s famous/infamous swords, Tizona and Colada.

Check him out at

Consent Violations and Bystander Intervention

With convention season in full swing, now is a good time to talk about consent violations and how you can help. With the upswing of the #meToo movement, people are feeling more and more comfortable at least calling out behavior that makes them uncomfortable — or worse.

On this panel, Lisa Adler-Golder, Bill Lawhorn, Jennifer Povey, and Stephanie Burke discussed ways to avoid inadvertently (or intentionally) “creeping”, how people and conventions can discourage violations from happening in the first place, ways to help someone escape harassment, how to educate a violator, and what the process is if you need to report an incident.

What Is A Creeper?

There’s a lot of worry out there about intentions being misunderstood and being accused of “creeper” behavior. Plus, there’s the assumption that people who don’t consider themselves conventionally attractive are going to be accused of “creeping” for doing the exact same thing that is welcome from conventionally attractive people.

Let’s start off by leveling the playing field. ANYONE can be creepy. No matter their gender or hotness-rating-level. Those “conventionally attractive people”? Are just more likely to be labeled “sleazes” than “creepers”, but the behaviors are in the exact same category.

Creeping is simply unwelcome and unwanted contact.

While it’s true that some people with poor social skills have issues, often they’ll find that people of the same gender aren’t getting “creeped out”. If you examine their interactions, you’ll find that their behavior around people of the opposite gender is decidedly different. Trying to treat all people the same can go a long way to reduce any perception of creeping.

Many people have been socialized that making a fuss or a scene is worse than putting up with unwanted and uncomfortable attention. And creepers take advantage of that.

Most creepers are pushing boundaries on purpose. They’re probably not some conniving villain, but they are trying to pressure the target into giving them their attention, their time, and maybe more.

Ways To Prevent Harassment

The best way to prevent consent violations is to be aware of boundaries and stop harassing behavior before it starts.

If you have trouble reading cues

Maybe you know you have a problem pushing boundaries, but finding the limits don’t come naturally to you. That’s when you should ask for help.

The panelists recommended:

  • Group dynamics therapy
  • Workshops/lectures on communication – especially mirroring

For conventions

  • Having a Code of Conduct
  • Badge ribbon activism – cosplay/kilts are not consent
  • Modeling good behavior
  • Penalize offenders – if they’re over the line or repeated offenders
    • kick people out of parties/panels/the convention as required.

Note: Legally, it’s hard to share information between events — although videos on YouTube and opinions from participants in good standing can help.

What Are Creeper Behaviors?

  • Sidling up
  • Staring
  • Overly intimate behavior
    • NOTE: Often when you meet a new group of people, you’ll see them being more casual about hugs/touch/etc. Remember that their comfort with that level of touch has been built up over their friendship and just because it’s okay for someone they know to do, doesn’t mean it’s fine for everyone.
  • Skirting the line of acceptable boundaries AND the subject is uncomfortable
  • Stealthing with cameras
  • Startling people, then snagging photos
  • Getting too close on the bed/sofa, during a room party
  • Talking to/at them, and not giving them an opportunity to leave
  • At vendor tables – monologuing at the vendor
    • often (in)advertently blocking sales because people won’t want to interrupt
    • the audience is captive and obligated to be nice

How You Can Help As A Bystander

First, determine if they need assistance. Evaluate their body language.

Watch for social cues

Often, the person being targeting will be:

  • Looking away
  • Crossing their arms and hunching forward
  • Stepping back
  • Looking cornered

Discrete Ways To Help

  • Stand between target and harasser in the conversation huddle
    • Not too close! They don’t need a NEW source of discomfort
  • If you’re helping someone at a vendor or signing table, call out, “I think it’s time for the next person
  • If you see them trapped at a vendor table, start up a conversation with the vendor yourself.
    • Once the harasser has moved on, move on yourself. Don’t replace them.
  • Invite the target to go somewhere else with you, even if it’s just across the room
  • Start up a conversation with the harasser and distract them, giving the target an opportunity to get away.
  • Model good behavior yourself
  • “Can I talk to [Target] for a minute?”

By Calling Out The Behavior

Sometimes, the time for subtly has passed. Or the behavior requires a more forceful intervention. In that case, do it loud and proud. Make sure the room or the people nearby know that this person has crossed the line and there is an issue. Once one person steps up, other people often feel comfortable helping — knowing that then help is needed and welcome.

NOTE: ONLY call out their behavior if you feel safe doing so. There is no shame in not feeling safe enough.

  • “Why are you messing with her/him/them?”
  • If they’re being touchy-feely? Grab the hand and ask loudly, “what are you doing?”
  • “Do you need help?” to the target. Or the harasser.
  • “Excuse me, what do you think you’re doing?”
  • “Excuse me, could you repeat that?”
  • While ignoring the harasser, “are you okay?”

What To Do When You Don’t Feel Safe Intervening

Especially if the harasser is larger and drunk, or otherwise not sober, it can be dangerous to intervene yourself. Sometimes, there’s a disparity in level of, or perceived level of authority.

Subtle interventions can be very handy here, but don’t always work.

  • Take pictures/video of the situation
  • Call for backup – a friend, staff, security
  • Call 911 (If you feel safe doing so, tell the harasser that’s what you’re doing)

What To Do If You’re Harassed

This is for harassment, for anything more egregious, do whatever you need to, to be safe.

While they’re harassing you

Here’s the standard escalation process.

  1. Ask them to stop
  2. Ask someone else/an authority to get them to stop.
  3. Get Security, or send someone.

Once you’re away

Should you file a report?

Assuming the incident did not require police intervention, this is 100% up to you and your comfort level. Most con staffs want to do the right thing. Things to consider if you’re not sure the incident warrants a report:

  1. Did they respond well when you asked them to stop?
  2. Did you have to escalate?
  3. Did they immediately find a new target?

Once you’ve decided to file a report

  1. Go to Con Ops to file an incident report (any staffer should be able to direct you)
    1. Who/description
    2. What the behavior was
    3. Your contact info

This way, the convention has a paper trail. They can penalize the offender as necessary. But also? The paper trail makes it harder for people to downplay the incident years later. (i.e. If someone is banned, con staff changes, and the harasser shows up again, asking to come back.)

Are They Educatable?

Especially for convention staff looking to minimize future incidents, you might want to try and educate the harasser. Sometimes, people make mistakes. But, not everyone is going to listen.

  • When you intervene, do they seem open to critique?
  • Are they doing active listening, or are they full of excuses/talking over you?
  • Ask their friends
    • is this is normal?
    • have they been warned before?
    • are there extenuating circumstances?
    • is this a pattern, a 1-off, or a specific personality clash?

Intervention Success Stories

Our panelists have been involved in the behind-the-scenes at conventions for years.

It’s just part of what Stephanie does. But she’s ashamed of her fellow con-goers when they just keep walking and don’t step up.

Lisa considers it her job, but likes when the harasser apologizes and doesn’t offend again.

At CapClave last year, the Guest of Honor told Bill that this was “Only the second convention I’ve been to, where I wasn’t harassed.” Result? They’re planning on coming to the reunion!

Author Spotlight: Lisanne Norman

  • writer of the 9-book Sholan Alliance series.

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Lisanne Norman!

A Scots writer living in California, she just completed a 9 book series for DAW Books Inc. called The Sholan Alliance, where Science Fiction meets Fantasy and Magic!

Lisanne, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

A dragon, I love dragons. Or a tiger. Or both! I’ve loved big cats since I visited a tiger rescue ranch in Berlin and was able to pet one of the tigers there thanks to his owner holding my hand. Tiger noses are dry, not wet like our domestic kitties, and their fur feels like that of a Corgi breed of dog – rough not smooth.

Excellent choices. And wow! I didn’t know that about tiger noses. So sweet.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write Science Fiction and Fantasy, and I began writing at 8 years old because I ran out of books to read.

How difficult could it be, I thought!

My parents encouraged me by buying me a child’s typewriter for Christmas that year. By the time I reached 12 I had graduated to the old fashioned Remington typewriter they bought for me. It was a beast of a machine! You needed a sledgehammer approach to it because of the few sticky keys.

My first job saw me getting a nice portable typewriter which was blissful after the Remington! But it was when I was 36 that the real breakthrough came with my friend Marsha offering to take my book home with her at Christmas to her sister in New York.

Why would your sister be interested in my book, I asked.

“She’s an editor with DAW Books.”

Once I picked myself off the floor where I had fallen in shock, we laid plans for me to send my book to her a chapter at a time so as to get it ready for her sister for Christmas. It was hard work, but we made it!

The rest is history as they say, with DAW buying the book and me learning so very much from my Editor in reworking the novel.

That had to be an amazing experience. Who you know can help, but you clearly still need to put in the work!

What do you like to read?

I love a good Science Fiction Book, but will read Fantasy that is different. I really don’t like books about yet another quest to find the magic sword/cup/lost princess/prince. Favorite authors include Lois McMasters Bujold, Julie Czernada, Gini Koch for her sense of humor. In fact most of my favorite authors are also with DAW I discovered when I examined my bookshelves.

Our tastes heavily overlap — not surprising since I enjoy your writing as well.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“If it comes easily to you when you are writing, it can’t be good”

This was told to me by a friend who helped me a lot when I was learning my craft, but he was wrong with this piece of advice. Everyone is different, and once I get into my story or novel, it just flows. Yes, I have the odd hiccup like anyone else, but then out comes my paper and pencil and I get down to writing it longhand.

Oh wow. I’m always a bit jealous of the writers whose stories just flow. 3,000 words in a day is a rare experience for me. But, I’m sure it helps to keep a nice flow to the story’s pacing.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Be aware that layout of your book can attract readers as well as put them off.

Don’t make your paragraphs too long, it looks like your book isn’t an easy read.

I knew that tip from all this time blogging, but I didn’t realize it translated so heavily to the novel itself. Although, out of blogging habit, I think I’ve been following your advice without intending to!

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

 If you like felines, and stories about telepaths, you will like my books. They have been likened to Babylon 5 for their scope and treatment of the characters.

Sholan Alliance

Book 1:

Cut off from Earth by alien conquerors, the human colony on Keiss was slowly building an underground resistance movement to stand against the Valtegan invaders. But for many of the colonists, it was already too late.

Her twin sister Elise captured by Valtegan soldiers, Carrie telepathically and empathically linked with Elise, experiencing all the pain and terror that her sister was suffering. Only Elise’s death freed Carrie from torment, though it also left her completely alone in her own mind for the first time in her life. 

But this mental void was unexpectedly filled when Kusac, a felinoid crewman of a crashed starship, touched her thoughts. Drawn to him by their shared Talent, Carrie hid the injured Kusac from the Valtegans and in so doing found a friend and an invaluable ally.

The series concluded with its ninth book: Circle’s End.

In Harm's Way (Defending The Future Book 8) by [Sparhawk, Bud, Greenberger, Robert]

As well as my 9 novel Sholan Alliance series, I have some 16 short stories in DAW anthologies. I am proud to say one of those is in Defending the Future: No Man’s Land. And just come out is a 2nd story in Defending the Future: In Harm’s Way – an anthology that looks at rescue and recovery missions.

It’s always nice to have a change of pace and write what I hope is a short story that you will like.

YouTube Survival Guide

I know, I know. I’m a writer blogger, but I’ve got this YouTube channel thing, as an #authorTuber. So, when I saw this panel at Balticon53, I had to pop in and take some notes. I’ve blogged about my approach before, but these notes come from the experts!

Thanks to Rebecca Davis, Devin Jackson Randall, and JP Beaubien, moderated by Melissa L Hayden, I’ve got some validation for things I do, and some new things to try out.

YouTube Basics

How do you even START a YouTube channel?

If you have a gmail account, you’re already there — at least for personal use.

Why you might want a separate email and channel for your YouTube Channel

  1. Prevents hackers or trolls from easily interferring with your day-to-day accounts.
  2. Helps with branding.
  3. Because you can’t keep your subscriptions entirely private from the one you’re subscribing TO — and not all the YouTube channels you follow are likely to be on-brand.

How Private Can Your Activity Be?

  1. You can hide/show a lot of things from your feed, but on the individual videos/channels that you’ve responded to, your name is still attached. Such as:
    • likes
    • subscriptions
    • comments

Why You Might Want Your Activity Public

Just like with blogging, a good comment on another user’s blog can drive traffic back to your channel.

Plus? People like to support people who support them — the reciprocal nature of YouTube can be strong, especially among smaller YouTubers.

The “Rules” of YouTube

Before you start putting everything out there, you’ve got to know the rules.


  1. Copyright infringement check is mostly automated — a single report of infringement is a lot less “weighty”. (Thank you, trolls)
  2. You can get hit months later with an infringement charge — that results in your video getting removed — for sharing a Picture.
    • Typically, in this case, you can successfully argue that it is:
      1. Fair use
      2. Parody
      3. Education
  3. To avoid charges — video clips from movies/etc need to be a small percentage of your video.
  4. If you get 3 strikes in one year, your site is DELETED.

Why are copyright claims important?

1. If a property doesn’t protect their copyright material, then it enters into common use and their copyright holds no weight.

2. If your channel is big enough to be monetized, there are more restrictions on what you can share from other sources.

How DOES One Get Monetized?

The big question that a lot of YouTubers want to know.

CAVEAT: the rules are ALWAYS changing.

The big things you need to know:

  1. Over 1,000 subscribers
  2. 4,000 hours of watch time in the last year
  3. You get no payout until you’ve earned $100

If your content is tagged with a yellow dollar sign, it means some ads may not be appropriate for this video. In other words, you get fewer ads and less money.

I.e. Some key words, that are not listed anywhere, can lead to less visibility and ads. Experience has shown YouTubers that “corpse” is one of those words.

How To Monetize A Post If You Can

  1. There will be a “Monetization” tab in the YouTube creator studio
  2. You get to select where in your video the ad is:
    1. Preview
    2. Mid-video, 30 second, unskippable ad
    3. Ads at the end
    4. Pop-up ads

Where Do The Ads Come From?

By the time you have 20-30,000 followers, you’ll start getting propositions, although it might not be ads that you want. These days? It usually starts off with:

  1. Russian Ads
  2. Phone mobile games.

Where Do YouTubers Make Their Money?

It’s not from the monetization. Yes, they get some money from there, but that’s not where the salary-level YouTubers get paid.

Sponsorships are where it’s at. After you have about 70,000 followers, sponsorship offers will be coming in. Make sure it’s something that matches your brand and something you’re not embarrassed to tie your name to.

How To Find A Sponsorship?

Wait for them to come to you, unless you have a great pitch, for a company that is an excellent match for your channel. Don’t accept a sponsor you don’t believe in.

  1. The recommended way to handle a sponsorship is through an agency like
  2. Typically, you’ll have a contract and a due date, with 2 business days for you to approve their ad. The contract is typically terms:
    1. Either X views in Y days
    2. Or you’ll have to show their ad again

YouTube is a Hussle

For people who aren’t monetized through YouTube or sponsors, there’s still ways to make money — if just to support your YouTube habit.

  1. Merchandise
  2. Patreon

Community Expectations

YouTube isn’t just screaming into the void. You want to have something to offer. You want to have a theme, so that subscribers know what to expect — not meeting expectations is the best way to lose followers and get down-voted.

  1. You need to have a personality! People watch videos because of the person, more than the information. They can probably get the information elsewhere.
  2. Building on that — you need to entertain the audience and have energy.
  3. Invest in a decent microphone (Audacity is a decent, free, voice editing software program)
  4. Manage the comments on your posts
    1. You can ban certain words
    2. You can shadow-ban: the user sees their comment, but no one else does.
  5. Watch and comment on other people’s videos. Especially in your niche:
    1. Your videos should appeal to their audience
    2. You can see what other people are doing in your niche
    3. You can see what’s overdone and what’s not covered
    4. And? If you’re posting on the topic, you’re probably interested in it
  6. CAVEAT: Don’t spam comments. “Nice post. Check out my site.” are obvious link spam and won’t get you far.

Clearly, this is a high-level conceptual approach to YouTube. Where to start, the big copyright worries, some of the details about how monetization works, and community expectations.

Is there anything the panelists missed? Anything I wrote down wrong?And… is there anything you’d like to share about YOUR approach? Let me know in the comments below.

And? If you’re an #authorTube blogger, this is a call out for you to share your links below! I’d love to connect.