Convention Report & Analysis – Fayetteville Comic Con

Hey y’all!

I’m gonna try something new in an effort to tweak my social media and interwebs presence. I’m going to go back to blogging more and Twittering less, and maybe impart some actual information on folks instead of just screaming into the void. To that end, whenever I attend a convention, I’ll put up one of these blog posts with a convention report and analysis or whether or not it was a worthwhile trip financially, and if there are other reasons that will or will not draw me back to a con.

The first victim of this new idea is Fayetteville Comic Con, where I was last weekend. This was the second year for this convention, and by all anecdotal reports, last year was a rousing success. The show went from one day to two this year, and with attendance in the 8,000 range last year, people were looking for 10-12K going into October.

Then Hurricane Matthew hit. If you aren’t local to the Southeast, you might not be aware that Hurricane Matthew hit Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina like a motherfucker. There are parts of eastern NC that still aren’t open, and a friend at the show told me that his uncle still takes a boat to get to his house, and FEMA can’t even move in until the flood waters recede. So while there wasn’t a ton of actual wind and storm damage, the flooding in the eastern part of the state was intense.

Needless to say, I had some concerns leading up to the show. I didn’t know if anyone would show up, or if they did, if they’d have any money to spend. I wasn’t on any panels, which was fine, because I’m not accustomed to being on panels at comic book shows, and I was perfectly happy to sit at my table and sell books all day for two days. I was joined at the booth by Emily Lavin Leverett, one of the co-authors of the new Falstaff Books release Changeling’s Fall, and my co-editor on the Big Bad anthologies. She lives not too far from there, so she came down and promoted her book for a couple of days and sold anthologies. I wanted to get copies of Changeling’s Fall for the con, but weather and timing conspired against us.

So let’s start breaking things down as to good, bad, and ugly –


Attendance – for one thing, it was good that people were there at all. It seemed like the overall numbers were about the same as last year, and 8,000 people is certainly a great number for a very young convention, so there were people to see.


Revenue – for that many people, a lot of them weren’t spending, and a lot of vendors said they didn’t make anywhere near the money they made last year. This is to be expected in a region that just got hammered with a natural friggin’ disaster! the way I set expectations for what I call “Trade Show Cons,” which is what most comic cons are – big exhibit halls where people are selling stuff all day with maybe a few panels – is fairly simple. In an area that doesn’t have a lot of competition for convention dollars (basically anyplace that isn’t a major metropolitan area) there is probably only one convention of this type each year. That means that once it gets some traction with the local folk, it becomes an event. It’s something people plan for all year long, or at least they keep it in the back of their heads for months in advance. When I attended Heroes Con as my only con each year, I set aside $100-150 to spend at that con. And I expect that most people have a set budget that is their “con money.”

When your fucking house is flooded, that con money becomes “replace my entire home” money. Hell, just being without power for a full day or two is rough – you have to replace every piece of food in your fridge and freezer, and there goes your con money right down the drain.

So there were people, but they weren’t spending like some folks expected. I tempered my expectations to meet the conditions, and for the weekend, I walked away with right about what I expected to see.


Seeing old friends and other writers – Networking is one of the best things about going to conventions, and this time I got to spend time with James Maxey, Chris Kennedy, Kindra Sowder, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Edd Sowder. I always love hanging out with those guys and getting a chance to swap stories, exchange ideas, and trade information on what is working and what isn’t in our various lines of work.


Communication – This is a new con, and they’re still ironing some things out, but they’ve got to get better about updating the website and communicating with their guests and vendors. It was hard to get confirmation that I had a space, I didn’t know where my table was until I got there and wandered around looking for it (okay, Emily wandered around looking for it), and I just generally felt like I wasn’t very important to the people running the con. Admittedly, I’m not, but I did pay for the privilege of being there, and getting no communication from the show leading up to the event, not even a “Hey, we’re still happening and here are the road closures leading in to Fayetteville” was a little disconcerting.


Placement – This con boasted a “Authors Alley,” and I wasn’t part of it. I signed up late, and I needed a whole table, because I have too many titles to share a 6′ table with anyone, so those are the main reasons, but I was never told that I wasn’t going to be in Author’s Alley, which was disappointing. Goes back to the communication thing. It turned out to be a good thing, because the Author’s Alley was more of an Author’s Ghetto, where the writers were stuck out in an unsecured hallway out by the panel rooms, which were sparsely attended. I was in the exhibit hall, on one of the back rows, but I had great traffic all weekend and made decent money. I will happily attend the show again, but that is contingent on me NOT being in Author’s Alley. I want to be somewhere that I can leave my stuff on the table overnight in a secure area, and I want to be where the people are. So what initially appeared to be a negative for me turned out to be a positive for me and a negative for the other authors.

Minor Bonuses

Having a few celebrity guests, like my buddy Santiago Cirilo, was nice in boosting attendance. They had the original Flash Gordon there, and the Skullcrusher dude off Naked & Afraid, so that was kinda neat. It also breaks up the monotony of it being just rows and rows of Pop figurines and comic boxes. I like it when cons bring in a few actors to boost attendance. I wonder exactly how much it does boost attendance, but as long as folks are making their guarantees, I don’t care. As long as the focus of the show remains on the vendors and the fans, and it doesn’t become too much of an autograph hound con, I’m fine with it.

The tables in the vendor area were 8′ tables, which is great. I have a lot of books, and I fill up a 6′ table quick. Having the extra space was super-nice. Loading in wasn’t terrible, even though some of the parking guys were kinda douchey.

Minor Annoyances

The tables were so close together there was no room left to get out between them to go pee or get anything to eat. That’s actually a bigger pain in the ass than you’d expect, because every time somebody has to pee, you end up knocking shit over on either your table or somebody else’s. Cell reception (T-Mobile) wasn’t great, but it held up through the weekend. No power near the booths, but that’s really to be expected in a convention center. The bathrooms could have been cleaner, but that’s not on the con. I would have liked a tablecloth to be provided, or at least to know that it wasn’t. I think my new standard is going to be not to expect a tablecloth at a comic show, and only expect them at programming cons.


That’s what it all boils down to, right? Did I make any money? Will I go back? Well, here are the dirty details.

Let’s look at expenses –

Table Rental – $100 At a lot of cons, I pay for the table. This was one of them.

Hotel – $0 – even with traveling three hours across the state, I had no hotel expense. Thank You, Marriott Rewards points. The Fairfield Inn Fayetteville Cross Creek Mall wasn’t anything glamorous, but the rooms on the third floor have hallways, not just rooms opening to the outside, and the amenities were nice. Little white noise generators in the rooms, and USB charging stations by the bed. Bed sucked, though. Not horrible, but far from great.

Food – $90 (roughly) – I ate really pretty cheaply on this trip. Dinner in the truck on the way out there, then I carried Pop-Tarts and Clif Builder Bars for breakfast and lunch Saturday. Grabbed a slice of pizza, a few pretzels, and a couple sodas in the convention center over two days. Had one nice Mexican dinner with Emily, James, Cheryl, Chris, and Sheellah (I’m sure I butchered that spelling), but overall getting out for less than a hundred bucks in a two day con that involves travel before Day 1 is really good.

Gas – $40 – the truck was EMPTY, so I filled her up. Didn’t use the entire tank, so my guess is about $40 in gas.

Vendor Hall BS – I bought $20 worth of magic cards. Didn’t open anything good. Oh well.

Total Expenses – $250 This was a super-cheap con since I didn’t have a hotel room associated with it.

Gross Sales – $408 – I sold $408 in inventory over the weekend. Figure 50% of that is profit, by the time I buy the books and pay shipping on them. That’s about right overall, given the difference in discounts and pricing, and the royalties I have to pay the writers whose books I sold over the weekend. Net Revenue – $210 (est.)

End Results – $40 loss

Yep, lost money on the con. And it was worth it, because at $40 for a convention, it’s something I can afford in a marketing budget for the year. So this con is definitely worth it, especially next year when I’ll have even more books out for people to pick up, and hopefully there won’t be a devastating natural disaster less than ten days before the convention. If I have to have a room next year, we’ll have to see about either crashing with someone, splitting a room with someone, or staying somewhere on points or super-cheap. Gotta manage expenses, and if I’d paid even $75 per night in a hotel at this one, it wouldn’t have been worth it. That’s why everybody that does this circuit is always scrounging for hotel points and offers, they can really turn a show around for you. The last two comic cons I’ve done, I’ve stayed in hotels on points, so that’s been a huge savings.

The Verdict – I’ll give Fayetteville Comic Con a B+, and will definitely be back next year if at all possible.

If you think this was awesome, feel free to share a link! If you really think it’s awesome, you can go over to my Patreon and sign up! My newest release, Heaven’s Door, is the latest in the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter series, and is available now on Amazon

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Release Week – Quincy Harker Book #6 – Heaven’s Door

Shit gets real in the Harkerverse with this one, kiddos. Heaven’s Door is the real kickoff to The Cambion Cycle, which comprises Year Two of the Quincy Harker novellas. Heaven Sent was a nice preview of things to come, but Heaven’s Door is where the rubber really meets the road, so to speak. If you thought things in Quincy Harker’s life were complicated before, just wait until the end of this one.

Sharon from I Smell Sheep was kind enough to give the book an excellent 4.5 Sheep Advance Review, which you can read here. My favorite excerpt – There are lots of bloody fights, traitors unveiled and then Mr. Hartness goes all Games of Thrones on some characters…damn, no mercy. There are going to be some very powerful and pissed off people looking for revenge in the next book. Can’t wait to see them in action.

Thanks for the shoutout, Sharon!

If you want to be the first of the cool kids to read Heaven’s Door, click on the cover for the preorder!


He’s finally found something to care about after a century of searching, but will he lose it all at the hands of his most dangerous foe yet?

Seven years ago, Quincy Harker vanquished the demon Orobas and saved the city of Charlotte, NC from his evil plans. Or so he thought. Now the half-divine Nephilim are turning up dead in the Queen City, and it looks like Orobas is back to finish the job.

Can Harker stop Orobas, or will the bloodthirsty demon unleash Hell on Earth?

Who is behind these horrible murders, and why do they seem to be calling Harker out?

Will this be the battle that finally ends the long life of Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter?

Find out when Harker, his girlfriend Detective Rebecca Flynn, his guardian angel Glory, and his uncle, the legendary Count Dracula bring the battle of the diving and demonic right to HEAVEN’S DOOR.



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Writing Rants Episode 5 – Delays, Events, and Owning your Career

On this episode John talks about owning your career and taking over the things that writers need to handle themselves and not expecting their publisher to do for them, because it won’t happen.

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It Doesn’t Hurt to Bleed, a #HoldOnToTheLight Post

This is something I’ve never talked about. Not on this blog, not to my wife, not to a therapist, nothing. So if you don’t want to deal with shit getting real, this is the time where you should probably go be somewhere else. Go buy Midsummer, the new Bubba the Monster Hunter novella. It’s funny as fuck, and my favorite piece in the series by a mile.

You’re still here? Alright, you were warned. But here’s another caveat – I’m not going to discuss this post. Not at a con, not over drinks, not on the phone. I might respond to comments here or on Facebook, but don’t hold your breath. I’m throwing this out here because it might help somebody, not because I have any real desire to dredge it up and talk it out. Got it? Okay, I guess I’ve danced around it all I can, let’s rip the bandage off, shall we?

I was a cutter through the latter half of high school and the first half of college. There wasn’t a term for it then, and I never knew that it was even a thing until decades later, when I heard about teenagers cutting themselves, usually as a coping mechanism or a cry for help. I didn’t talk about it with anyone, didn’t want to kill myself, didn’t have any great desire to mark myself in any way that anyone would ever see.

It was just the only way I could feel anything. I sat in my bedroom on more than one evening and drew lines in my flesh, usually on my left shoulder, with my pocketknife. It made the most sense to cut there – nobody could see it, and I’m right-handed. I didn’t do it every day, not even every week or every month. But on multiple occasions over a period of four or five years, I felt so numb inside that I cut myself just to see if there was a physical pain that I could inflict upon myself to prove that I was still alive, at least physically.

A lot of people who know me have heard me talk about the fact that I’ve dealt with depression for almost thirty years, starting when I was fourteen or fifteen. Until recently, I’d never been diagnosed with anything, and never been medicated for it. It was only through watching a YouTube video that Wil Wheaton posted about his depression and anxiety, and reading a blog post by Jim Hines about his struggles with depression that I got up the courage to go see a psychologist and get tested for some things. The results weren’t terribly surprising; bipolar 2 disorder with some ADHD. Nothing I couldn’t have told the doc myself, other than the plan for treatment. And we’re still working on that – the first antidepressant they tried was completely unacceptable, turned me into a vegetable for a couple days. Can’t have that, I’ve got shit to do. So I go back to the doc in a week or so and we’ll try something different.

But that’s not the point of this rambling post. The point is that while I was graduating in the top ten of my class (fourth or sixth, I don’t remember), getting a college scholarship, taking Honors classes at college and generally doing all the things that a successful student should do, I was doing it all through a mask. The face I showed the world had very little connection to the face I saw in the mirror. Outwardly I was a bright young man, an excellent student with some minor theatrical talent. But inside, there was nothing. I had girlfriends, and I even fell in love for the first time, as much as I could at the time. I had friends, some of whom I’m still in contact with.

But there was an emptiness inside, and overwhelming lack of anything, that I was looking for a way to fill. I guess I knew at the time that I was suffering from depression, but I’ve always been pretty good at compartmentalizing. When I was in school, I could tuck away the parts of me that I didn’t like, bury them under schoolwork or after-school activities. But when I was alone in my room, there was nothing to hide behind, no projects to use to distract myself. There was just me, and my edged friend.

I never did any lasting harm, and even the scars faded after a few years. Looking at my arm now, I can’t see any evidence of my previous self-inflicted wounds. I never wanted to kill myself, and I never wanted to attract attention. I knew what I needed out of the blade – pain. I needed to feel something, anything, and because I was in such a dark place mentally that I never thought I would feel real joy, I thought that pain was the answer. And it helped, to be honest. I’m sure it wasn’t a terribly healthy coping mechanism, but it gave me just enough to get through the night and not do anything more serious to myself, so I’ll take it.

I’ve heard recently about the concept of high-functioning depressives, which I suppose is what I’ve always been. “Bullshit artist” is another very good term for that, by the way. So I guess what I want out of writing this is to put a couple of ideas out there for people who might be feeling that kind of overwhelming darkness, the kind of numbness that just starts in your chest and goes outward to every inch of yourself until you really feel numb inside and out.

One – Whatever method of coping you have is fine. I don’t give a shit if you get tattoos, listen to music too loud, lift weights, run, bike, or listen to B.B. King and play tic-tac-toe on your upper thigh with an X-Acto knife. If it keeps you from making the deep cut with the vein, or taking a whole bottle of sleeping pills with a Jim Beam chaser, or running a hose from the exhaust pipe to the driver’s window, then fine. Cope however you need to cope, because you’re stronger than you think, and it gets better.

Two – It does get better. I stopped cutting myself in college. I don’t remember the last time I hurt myself on purpose, outside of drinking with Drew Hayes. And there was no sudden realization of “hey, I’m fine now” to mark the end of that darkness. There was just a general lack of need to see my own blood to prove that I wasn’t empty inside. I just didn’t need to do it anymore. I still haven’t gotten the treatment I probably need, and there are still weeks and months when I just don’t have the bandwidth, the energy, or whatever metaphor you want to use for the ability to get shit done. I fight the monster every single day, but it’s been a long time since I let the monster make me bleed.

Three – There are people that care. There are people that can help, and there are people who want to help. If the monster gets to be too much, then go find one. That’s what this #HoldOnToTheLight campaign is about – helping people find the resources and get better. Because we all fight the beast from time to time, and sometimes we need backup. Find your backup, and don’t be afraid to call on them.

Thanks for reading. I hope there’s someone out there who can find this helpful, because to be brutally honest, sharing this sucked and I don’t ever want to do it again. But I will. Because if I can help one other person realize that it’s worth keeping going, then it’s worth my discomfort. Take care of yourselves.


About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment. 
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to and join us on Facebook

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Truth by Moonlight – a #HoldOnToTheLight post by Karen E. Taylor

Karen E. Taylor is a talented writer and a friend. When she wanted to participate in the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign but didn’t have a platform, I volunteered this space. This is her story. 

I wrote a story called Mexican Moon once. A lot of people really liked it, and it even received a nomination for a Bram Stoker award. I had no idea why. The story of the relationship between a sentient robot and the scientist who made her, it seemed to me to be nothing more than a toss away. And although it took me forever to finish it, I didn’t give much thought to the ending or what it might mean. A story is sometimes just a story, right?

As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. I used to go to a lot of conventions and I would read this story since it fit so many different genres. During its last reading, I finally got it. And I started to cry, when I realized what it meant. How it was really a call for help from the bottom of the well by an emotionally and physically abused person. I can’t read it out loud anymore. Sometimes I cry just thinking about it. The realization floored me, because I never once expected it.

The after-effect of domestic abuse can be like that. It can sneak up on you after months or years and all of a sudden you’re back in that relationship — back into the fears, the flinching at sudden movements, the wincing at angry words, the constant apologizing for things you could never possibly control. Suddenly you feel worthless, helpless, and hopeless, for no good reason other than that was what you used to feel, what you were taught to believe by the abuser(s) in your life — that everything bad that happens is exactly what you deserve.

Except, dammit, you don’t! It takes so very long to recognize abuse sometimes, and it even takes longer to get out from under that abuse. There are always reasons why you shouldn’t leave, reasons why you can’t. Numerous though they are, you can’t let those reasons stop you.  The sooner you get out of an abusive relationship, the sooner you can start to heal. And though that healing may seem like it takes forever, eventually there will come a day when you know that you have survived. That you’ve come out from under in one piece, not necessarily without scars or damage, but in one piece. You’ll need support for getting out of an abusive relationship and you’ll need support afterwards, to treat the damage. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.

You don’t heal overnight. I’ve been out of my abusive relationship for over 40 years, and I still have days when I wince and cringe, days when I feel worthless. But it really does get better and easier with time. Turn your back on the abuse and the past and allow yourself that time.

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to



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Writing Rants Episode 4 – Contraflow Recap, Con Expenses, “Indie” Publishing

This week on Writing Rants John should really rename it Writing Rambles, as he bounces from topic to topic and gets distracted by a surprise email from Amazon mid-recording!

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Writing Rants Episode 3 – How to Choose a Publisher and Not Get Screwed

On this episode of Writing Rants, John talks about what a publisher is, what a publisher should be, and what a publisher certainly is not. Check out his tips on what you should expect, what you should never do, and how not to get screwed when publishing your book.

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Writing Music

I like music. A lot. I like most types of music, at least a little bit, although I lean more towards the country/folk/bluegrass world, and sometimes I just need a little old-school rock n’ roll or hair metal to get a scene going. So today I’ll give you a little sample of some of the stuff I listen to when I write.

For example, Pentatonix’ version of “Starships” by Nicki Minaj just came on as I was starting up this blog post. Don’t hate, you know it’s fun. That’s on my “Driving Music” playlist that I run in the truck when I’m on a long road trip and don’t feel like listening to an audiobook. That playlist also includes Taylor Swift (because I’m not Tom Hiddleston), Reckless Kelly, a pile of Willie Nelson, some Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (who I have to thank Delilah Dawson for turning my on to way back at a JordanCon dinner with her, Seanan McGuire, James Tuck, Stuart Jaffe, and a pile of other people years ago), Blake Shelton, Turnpike Troubadours, and Tori Amos. I like to sing along with the radio, so I know most of the words on my Driving Music playlist. If you ever ride any distance with me, you’ve now officially been warned.

When I write, I keep a little more low-key, usually (he says after taking a break to make a futile attempt to blow all the cat hair off his keyboard). That means a lot of Lindsey Stirling, The Piano Guys, John Williams, Ray LaMontagne, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Guy Clark, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Darrel Scott, and Flogging Molly (they have some mellow stuff, just not a ton).

If I’m working on a fight scene and I need to get things rolling, Rob Zombie is my go-to. Dragula or More Human than Human are a good place to start for me, then I’ll move into some old mid-90s Nine Inch Nails or old Jay-Z. The Hamilton soundtrack has been a really good piece to write to lately, but sometimes I get lost in the words and don’t write much because I’m singing along too much. Occupational hazard, it’s for real.

There are a couple of reasons I play music while I write. One is that I love music. It transports me back to where I was when I first heard the song, it makes me feel more energetic, and it gives me a little more rhythm and speed to my writing and typing. Also, it gives my wife a signal as to when I’m actually working and I’m not just screwing around on the computer. It’s hard to tell sometimes when it’s okay to come into the office and chat with me, and when it’s a lot better not to interrupt me. I usually don’t play music when I’m surfing Facebook or CNN, because I watch a lot of videos linked off those sites, so she knows that if there’s music playing and I’m typing, then I’m probably working, and only to interrupt if it’s an emergency. If I’m just screwing around on the internet, then I don’t care if she comes in to chat about the weather. I also use music to drown out the TV in the next room, so it helps me focus, especially the instrumental stuff. I don’t really dig classical, but some of the newer, jazzier instrumental stuff is really good background noise, and I don’t find myself getting interested in the noises coming from elsewhere in the house, so I can focus on getting my words on the page.

What about you? Do you listen to music when you write? What helps you get words on the page?

Do you enjoy these blog posts? I enjoy making them, as well as my Writing Rants podcasts. Other writing advice tips are available as Patron-Only benefits on my Patreon Page and on Magical Words. So check me out there or become a patron and get all my stuff! 

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Freebies – This week only!

Hey there! This week (sorry I didn’t get the word out sooner, I was at Dragon Con) I’ve got three books running free promotions on Amazon!

First off, Knight (Un)Life – a collection  of Black Knight Chronicles short stories. This is a great intro to the series, and some good backstory if you want to see how the boys got started, and some holiday bonus content.










Next up we’ve got the Manly Wade Wellman Award-Winning kickoff novella to the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter series, Raising Hell. If you’ve been interested in checking out the Quincy Harker series, but didn’t want to spent any money, here’s your chance!










Last, but certainly not least, Queen of Kats Book I – Betrayal is free until Friday. With Queen of Kats Book 2 – Survival available now, I thought it might be a good idea to slap a little promo action onto the first book. So check it out!

Queen of Kats 1 cover

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Writing Rants Episode 2 – Convention Survival & Behavior

This week on Writing Rants, author John G. Hartness talks about the upcoming Dragon Con convention in Atlanta and gives some survival tips for Dragon Con specifically and conventions in general, and talks about how to make sure you have a great time, stay safe, and how to not be a jerk at conventions.

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