Another Day, Another Con

Kingston, Ontario, is a charming city with a small-town feel, and Limestone Genre Expo 2017 reflected the host city’s character quite accurately. Apparently the convention is only a few years old but growing steadily despite Kingston’s lack of reputation for being a centre of speculative fiction, and it’s a great way to meet Canadian authors, booksellers, and publishers.

This was my first year at Limestone Genre Expo and the second time I’d been in Kingston. After learning from last year’s too-short experience at Can*Con in Ottawa, I booked myself an extra night in the city so I could look around a little and visit with a local editor friend I had met through Editors Canada (formerly the Editors’ Association of Canada). First things first, I checked in at the St. Lawrence College residence, had dinner at a cute little sushi restaurant, and wandered about the area taking pictures. Some of the locals at Portsmouth Tavern adopted me as a stray and convinced me to dance and sing karaoke (although not at the same time).

Kingston Penitentiary_small
The now-vacant Kingston Penitentiary, right off the waterfront at Olympic Harbour. No, that totally didn’t creep me out at all.

The next morning I was up and at ’em, but slowly because it was morning. I got my coffee and a light continental breakfast courtesy of the residence, registered for the convention, and headed over to a great panel on dystopian fiction, which included a discussion of how dystopian stories often represent marginalized groups in real life societies and the social divisions that may exist or develop over the course of the story.

I was on the next panel about genre, which made me really happy since I had written a blog series on the concept of genre for my editing blog a few years back. We all agreed that genre is a marketing tool and a necessary evil. However, one of the problems with genre is that authors can get pigeonholed as an author of one genre or another, which can make selling books of other genres a bit tricky. Additionally, since genre is a rather fluid thing, authors can get stuck on how to market books that fit into multiple genres or into a very niche genre.

At some point the question arose as to why there were so many subgenres. In response to this, one of the other panelists brought up a figure I had never heard before and that left me gobsmacked: approximately 45,000 new books are listed on Amazon EVERY MONTH. Well, with that much inventory, it was harder for readers to find books they liked, so creating a bazillion subgenres was a way to help people find the kinds of content they wanted was the best way to go. For self-publishing authors, this can be a boon, but one panelist suggested that publishers were not always very good at using keywords and such on Amazon.

crossing genres panel1_small
The Crossing Genres panel.
Back row, L-R: Eve Langlais, Nick Wilkshire, Bob Mackenzie, Eric Desmarais.
Front row, L-R: Caro Soles (moderator), Janet Kellough, me.

I attended two more panels that afternoon: a fantastic discussion on fantastic tales, which included the always hilarious Sandra Kasturi, publisher at ChiZine Publications, and a very thoughtful and enlightening discussion on the representation of disability in fiction.

My last panel of the day was about psychological horror where I got on another author’s bad side for making generalizations about portrayals of vampires in modern western literature. In her defense, she knows considerably more about vampire lore than I do, but in my defense, at least one other author agreed with my characterization of vampires as retaining a semblance of humanity while still being soulless monsters. Disagreements happen. We did take some time to discuss the horror of feeling unsafe and uncertain, especially in places where you’re supposed to feel secure, such as your own home.

Afterwards, I asked my co-panelist Sean Moreland where the Saturday night mix-n-mingle was supposed to be and apparently it was downtown. He was going to dinner with the other authors and publishers from Renaissance Press and said if he had room in his car he could give me a lift downtown. After a bit of passenger juggling, I hitched a ride with Eric Desmarais and his wife, and ended up having dinner with the Renaissance folks, even though I’d never met them before. After dinner, a few of us meandered over to the Merchant Tap House, where the other Limestone folks were already deep into conversations and beers.

On Sunday, I sat on my last panel, and we discussed the pros and cons of traditional publishers, small publishers, and self-publishing. A lot of it ended up being about marketing, but to be bloody honest, unless you’re Stephen King or Danielle Steele, even a large press is probably just going to hand you some bookmarks then tell you to haul arse and market your own book.

Sorry authors, you need to polish up that faux-extrovert demeanour and spend time with other humans.

I attended the next talk in which a Kingston police officer explained forensic investigation and police procedure, then decided to spend more time with the vendors. I bought a few books (because of course I did) and chatted up some authors and publishers. I talked to sci-fi author Matthew Bin and his co-host at the Bundoran Press table, and after a while the delightfully indigo-haired bookseller and author Pat Flewwelling poked her nose into the conversation.

Pat, of course, has plenty of information about Canadian publishers who might be interested in my work, and she very quickly gave me the run-down on a number of small presses to research in my quest for the perfect publisher for Black Wolf. She also pointed out two Limestone vendors in particular: Renaissance Press and Dark Dragon Publishing.

Perhaps my dinner with the Renaissance people was the Norns’ doing. At dinner, I’d had a good conversation with Caro, one of the executives at Renaissance, and now I was talking to her and her co-exec Marjolaine about my book. As it turns out, Caro has an interest in the Norse myths, and even though the press is not accepting general submissions at the moment, they were interested enough to accept an excerpt, which I finally submitted a week later, after doing a little extra cleanup on the first few chapters.

There are no guarantees, of course, but the philosophy at Renaissance is to give the book enough editorial guidance to make it shine and to give authors more say in the design of the book. On top of that, they seem to have really good relationships with their authors, so I will keep my fingers crossed and hope like hell they like the book.

[Update: Shortly before publishing this article, Renaissance contacted me and asked for the rest of the manuscript when the current round of revisions is complete.]

When Limestone ended later that afternoon, the post-con blues set in right away, but I was too burned out to do much, so I spent some time by the water, picked up some dinner, and got back to the residence just as the heavy rain hit. I spent the night writing, as the trip had inspired some serious poetry, and arranged to meet up with my local edibuddy, Adrienne Montgomery (aka @sciEditor) the next day.  We had coffee and a great chat, but she had work to do, so I wandered about the downtown taking pictures until it was time to go. Parting was such sweet sorrow, but I had a cat and some work waiting for me at home, so off I went. See y’all at Can*Con 2017.

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