Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Cryptopedia Review

Cryptopedia: A Dictionary of the Weird, Strange, and Downright Bizarre
Buy it @ Barnes & Noble
I'm a resource book junkie. Back in the day, my parents had a set of Encyclopedia Britannica and I loved just looking through them and seeing everything the world had to offer. Since then though, my tastes have changed. While I can still sit down and thumb through a normal encyclopedia, I'm much happier checking out the world of myth and legend.

I'm a huge Jonathan Maberry fan, so I decided to pick up, The Cryptopedia: A Dictionary of the Weird, Strange & Downright Bizarre.

The Good
Jonathan Maberry and David Kramer did a lot of research and organized an amazing amount of help in compiling this dictionary of the more bizarre myths and lore.

Researchers included members from:
  • HWA (Horror Writers Association)
  • MWA (Mystery Writers Association)
  • ITW (International Thriller Writers)
  • GSHW (Garden State Horror Writers)
  • SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
And their research is fairly comprehensive. From cryptozoology to modern New Age philosophy and everything in between. Beasts of every kind and the lore that spawned them. The mythology section alone is worth the price of admission because of the large listing of various culture's pantheon of gods.

The Bad
There is a LOT of nudity in this book (a lot being four or five pictures). Maberry & Kramer include artwork from almost twenty artists. And some are pretty good.

Now I don't know about you, but when I think about angels, I never picture them naked. Some artists on the other hand... Don't get me wrong, I understand the succubus' (succubi?) and nymphs are one with nature and their raw desires. But angels nude? Please...

And I did find one glaring mistake. The artwork on the cover, which is also used inside, is labelled as the Angel of Fertility despite the text indicating that it is clearly the Angel of Prostitution.

Either way, the artwork and some of the content makes this book one I wouldn't let my kids pick up until they're much older, which is sad because it's such a great resource. But if a kid accepted a tenth of this book as fact, their heads would be spinning.

The Spin
The Cryptopedia is a great resource for those rare bits of information on myth and the mythical world. You won't spend a ton of time reading it, but it's a great reference book.

Still, be aware that some of the images are not suitable for younger readers.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Networking: It's Why You're There

You just flew into town and put your bags in your hotel room. Your fee into the writer's conference was paid months ago, so now that you're on the conference floor, it's time to relax and enjoy the conference. Right?  


Networking: It's Why You're There
Networking... the real-life Game of Thrones
As I discussed in an earlier blog, regardless of whether you're attending a conference, workshop or retreat, the networking opportunities are high at all three. But an amazing amount of work takes place before you even get there. You have to do your homework first, so let's go over exactly what needs to have done before you arrive. Then I'll cover what you should do once you get there and afterwards.

Before The Conference
Before the conference is where you do your homework and make your battle plan. I recommend that you have the following networking preparation done before the conference.
  • Research attendees & plan interactions
  • Order business cards
  • Prepare your log line & elevator pitch
  • Plan 'must-see' presentations
  • Set conference goals
Research Attendees & Plan Interactions
On the conference website, they'll provide a list of the publishers, editors, agents, and authors that are attending the conference. Make a prioritized list of who is from where and what you want to talk with them about.

Order Business Cards
Business cards are critical because this is how everyone you meet will remember you. You want a professional looking card with multiple ways to contact you.
  • Mailing address
  • Home & cell phone numbers
  • e-mail
  • Website
  • Social networking sites
Your card says a lot about you, make sure it says what it should. You can go with a specialty design, just be sure it doesn't hurt your cards readability. Check out the following sites for design suggestions:
How To Design Your Business Card
11 Tutorials for Business Card Design
Business Card Design
Prepare Your Log Line & Elevator Pitch
Preparing your log line and pitch is information I'm not sure I'm the one to teach. But if you're going to network, you need to have these ready. Learn how and be prepared!

Plan 'Must-See' Presentations
Meeting Author J. Scott Savage
Your main task at a conference is to network, not joy ride. That said, there may be some very good information being presented at the conference, especially by authors and publishers you want to schmooze. Pick which presentations you need (like that one on blood spatter) from the conference schedule and let the others slide.

Set Conference Goals
I recommend prioritizing your goals by setting nine: three 'A' goals, three 'B' goals, and three 'C' goals. Nine is only a suggestion and you could have more or less depending on your needs. The 'A' goals take precedence over 'B' and 'B' over 'C.'
A #1 - Pitch to Susan Chang, YA Editor for TOR Books
A #2 - Pitch Lou Anders, Editorial Director - Pyr Books
A #3 - Sign up for Kaffeeklatch with Susan Chang
B #1 - Invite J. Scott Savage to lunch with writing group
B #2 - Pitch to Lee Harris, Angry Robot Editor
B #3 - Host meet & greet with other aspiring authors
C #1 - Attend blood splatter workshop, Sat. 4pm, room A204
C #2 - Talk to Shaun Ferrell about advertising on Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing
C #3 - Attend TOR room party
At The Conference
Now that you're at the conference it's time to attack! You know who you're there to meet and who you want to pitch your book to. You've got your goals (task list), so get going and make it happen!

The morning walk, next to Pyr, Editor, Lou Anders
I know it seems pretty intimidating, but remember that the people you want to talk to are there to talk to you too. To find the next big thing, they have to talk to a LOT of people. Just don't make yourself a nuisance to the nice folks. Remember that there are a hundred other aspiring authors who set the same networking goals you did. Don't monopolize the nice people's time, they won't respect you for it. If you ask an editor to listen to your pitch and he says to give him your elevator pitch, you have thirty seconds, no more. If you take two minutes, he'll stop listening to you at thirty seconds and ignore you after forty-five.

While you're at the conference, look for additional opportunities. You may meet a comic artist that has a great lead on a cover artist. Or maybe that elusive podcaster you've been looking for will be at the conference's morning walk across town.

LOOK for opportunities.

After The Conference
Now is the time to refresh the contacts you just made and show how gracious you are. But, again, don't make yourself a nuisance.
  • Send a quick e-mail or card thanking the individual for their time
  • If someone requested something (like your first five chapters), get it to them quickly
  • Take all your writer buddy's business cards and link-up with them through social networking and blogs
After that, there's only one thing left to do...
Get ready for the next conference!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Edenbrooke: A Guy's Perspective
Buy it @ Barnes & Noble
Lemme give you a little history first. I'm a guy. I burp, fart (just ask my wife), and say the wrong things at the wrong times. That said, I'm a writer and love romantic story lines in novels. That would make some guys doubt my 'man credentials,' but you don't have to watch Ice Capades to accept that guys have a soft side.

Well my wife likes these Regency period romances. Not the real bodice rippers, the ones with actual romance and maybe a little passionate... romancing. I spend a fair amount of time making the kids giggle as I put on English accents and openly mock my wife's choice in literature and film.

Note: I'm actually just glad she enjoys reading as much as I do.

Then she ends up running into Edenbrooke at the local library.

And reads it twice in a row...

And won't stop talking about it...

And reads me the hilarious first chapter...

And starts calling me SIR Anthony...

Then she insists we go to a local book signing so she can get an autographed copy and meet Julianne Donaldson. It took awhile for my English cockney to die down, but I finally decided to get closer to my wife by reading Edenbrooke.

The Good
First, Edenbrooke has an amazing first chapter. It was what encouraged me to continue on with the rest of the book. Pick it up and read it if ONLY for the first chapter. But believe me, the story gets better from there.

Second, I'm a died in the wool thespian, so I love audiobooks. They're even better when you find one with a talented narrator. The Publisher, Shadow Mountain, made a wise choice when they tapped Emily Elizabeth Hamilton. Her narration style adds so much emotion to the already beautiful text, that it was a treat to listen to and pulled me into the characters.

Third, Julianne Donaldson's story is beautifully written. She sets up scenes masterfully and packs them with raw emotion. So much of the Regency period was filled with proper etiquette, that you can imagine their feelings had to be fairly bursting to get out. I laughed and I cried. The story was so engaging that it completely turned off my writer's mind, which try's to guess where the plot is going. After the first third of the book I was completely hooked and immersed in life at Edenbrooke.

Fourth and last, Edenbrooke doesn't work on the premise that sex equals intimacy. Julianne Donaldson understands that the touch of a hand can sometimes mean more than a week long roll in the hay. Sex can be raw emotion too, but building up to it with the romance of a touch or stolen glances pays off more (for me anyway) then some muscle-bound stud pushing over some poor girl's skirt hoops.

The Bad
Did I mention I cried?

And not just once, but several times.

And I was at work! Any idea how embarrassing that is?! Well... I was forced to duck my head and blink a lot.

The Spin
So... am I going to read more Victorian romances? Probably not. Don't get me wrong, I like Jane Austen. But I'm happier with sci-fi and fantasy. Sometimes a good thriller is what I need and life is just too short to be stuck in Regency.

But you can bet I'll read anything by Julianne Donaldson. She's just that good.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Planning Your Conference Expences

No doubt about it, attending conferences is an important aspect of a successful writing career. It's important to jump in early (i.e. you're not ready to submit anything yet), and keep going. That's because networking is king at writing conferences.

But that's next week's blog. Today we're covering the nickles and dimes of conferences.

Essentially, when you're planning which conferences you're attending, you'll need to find out how much the following cost:
  • Conference Cost
  • Hotel / Lodging
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Spending/Souvenirs

Conference Costs
Dave Wolverton giving a reading @ CONduit 2012
The cost of the conference varies depending on the conference. For instance, conferences can run from $25ish - $3,600ish depending on the conference. This cost is only for the actual entrance into the conference. However, my experience is that the better ones cost more money... sometimes. That's not saying you can't find some excellent deals, but $40 for a weekend may only net four good presentations and a couple networkable moments. Conversely, the $40 conference may be the biggest hit of the year, depending on the organizers.

When you're shelling out hard earned money, this can sometimes feel like a crap-shoot. But no matter which conference you attend, look for ways to make it work for you. For instance, I attended Worldcon one year. I won't say which one, but let's just say I was a little disappointed. What I failed to understand, is that Worldcon is like any local con, but bigger. Fandom was out to party, but so were the publishers. I had to throw myself out of my comfort zone and look for opportunities to learn something. If you're going to this type of conference, have a networking plan ready before you get to the conference. Just remember to accomplish your goals before you go home or you'll be wasting time and money.

Hotel Costs
Sometimes you just don't want to drive anywhere once you get to the conference. Even with local conferences, I have friends who stay at the hotel where the conference is while I'm driving 45 minutes home. The first day, I congratulated myself on my thrift. The second day, I was exceptionally jealous.

If you're going to get a hotel for the conference, check three things:
  • Proximity of the hotel to conference
  • Parking costs at hotel or conference center
  • Complimentary breakfast
First, the closer to the conference the better, but don't forget that some of the room parties may be in nearby hotels. You only need a clean room/bathroom to grab some shuteye before you hose off and jump back into the networking fray. Okay... and maybe squeeze in a little writing time.

Second, if you're driving and have to drive between your hotel and the conference center, where are you going to park your car? Does the conference center have free parking for attendees? Is there a daily fee?

Lastly, one thing to check when you're booking your hotel is a complimentary breakfast. A hotel that offers a complementary breakfast (Note: NOT continental breakfast, but a full meal) will lighten your food budget significantly. Just get there early if you want the blueberry bagels.

Another way to save costs on hotels is to book a room with two twin beds and split the cost with a buddy. If you don't have a friend attending the conference you want to go to, check the conference Facebook page or ask around. Usually you can find someone that is looking for a cheaper alternative.

Transportation Costs
As they say, this is where the rubber meets the road. Sadly, there's not much you can do about the cost of transportation. Shop around for airfare to find better deals. If you're driving, consider carpooling. In addition to saving a bundle on gas, planning out writing games and research for the trip can make the downtime fun.

One thing I've always wanted to do, but have never had the money, is take a train to a writing conference. Spending a couple days typing while the world fly's by. Romantic, no? Hmmm... I need to add that one to my bucket list.

Food Costs
Dining expenses is where you can really watch your pennies. I have four suggestions for winning this game:
  • Choose a hotel that offers a complimentary breakfast
  • Find the ConSuite for free snacks and drinks
  • Scout out the cheapest dining spots
  • Ask other attendees what deals they've found
Tracy & Laura Hickman signing in the ConSuite, CONduit 2012
I've already discussed the complimentary breakfast, but what's a ConSuite? Well, I found a good definition on the Omaha Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival site. "A Con Suite is a Hospitality or party room hosted by the staff of a convention where the members of that convention can sit down, relax and just enjoy themselves." Essentially, it's a relaxed room with free snacks and drinks! Availability may vary. Check your con for details.

But don't forget to take a walk and find the nearby cheap places to eat when you get to the conference. While attending one of the Worldcons, I was a little distressed to see that the casino's buffets were running around $15 and up, per meal. Fortunately, my writing group and I were glad to find a great little food place in the casino's arcade. Food prices ran from $4 to $10, depending on what you ordered. We ended up eating lunch there every day.

This is the only other aspect of your conference budget that you can skimp on. Most conferences and conventions have Dealers Rooms, where authors and geeks sell their various wares. And if you've been gone from home for several days, the kids may expect you to bring home some booty. From autographed copies of your favorite authors to Victorian corsets, sometimes you can find almost anything. Just be prepared to pay for it.

Before you go, have an idea how much you're willing/wanting to spend on souvenirs from the conference. It'll save you from acting like a drunken sailor with your Visa, and a protracted grovel at your spouse's feet once you get home. 

Conference Pricing Samples
Below I've included sample costs to some of the conferences/conventions I've attended. I've also run the numbers on how much it would cost for me to attend a couple that I've dreamed of attending. But as you can see from their prices, I'll only be able to attend these once in a blue moon.

Don't be afraid to ask your writing buddies and people you meet at conferences for recommendations on other conferences. Word of mouth could lead you into a little known conference that you'll enjoy.

Worldcon Sample - 5 days
Conference Cost:
     Worldcon - $200
     Shared $200
     Carpool $50
     Hotel: Breakfast free
     Lunch: Casino Arcade - $5 - 10 per meal / 5 days
     Dinner: $10 / 5 days
     Snacks: ConSuite (free)
     Average: $80
Total Cost:

LTUE Sample - 3 days
Conference Cost:
     LTUE: $30 - $45
     N/A - local
     45 min. drive/2X per day/3 days - $50 gas
     $20 per day/3 days - $60
Spending/Souvenirs:       $25 - $50
Total Cost: $165 - $205

LDStorymakers Sample - 2 days + Boot Camp
Conference Cost:
     LDStorymakers $185 - $235
     N/A - local
     45 min. drive/2X per day/3 days - $50 gas
     Lunch & Snacks included - $0
     $25 - $50
Total Cost: $260 - $335
Projected Thrillerfest - 4 Days
Conference Cost:
     ThrillerFest - $328-$1,220
     Grand Hyatt, NYC - 4 nights - $1,296+
     Air: $416-$605
     Taxi: $100-$200
     $60 per day / $240 - four days
Spending/Souvenirs:       $100
Total Cost: $2,480 - $3,661

Projected Clarion-West - 6 Weeks
Conference Cost:
     Clarion-West - $3,600
     N/A - Included
     Air: $284-$549
     Breakfast and most weekday meals included - $40 per week/6 weeks - $240
Spending/Souvenirs:       $100
Total Cost: $4,224 - $4,489

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Girl of Fire and Thorns Review

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Buy it at Barnes & Noble
It's always a real treat when I find a YA book that clicks with my interests. Particularly ones that are great, not just in the beginning, but all the way through. So when I read, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, it easily became one of my 'must-read' series. I can't remember who recommended this one to me, (something tells me it was somebody in my writing group) but I'm glad they did.

The Good
First off, the protagonist is an overweight sixteen-year old girl. At first I wondered if she was an unreliable narrator and was just curvy. But as the story progresses, you realize that she really is overweight. The final nail in that coffin being a very humiliating social event.

But rising from this unlikable characteristic (Hey... I'm overweight, but how many heroes have fifty extra pounds outside of the man with the elves and a red suit?), Rae Carson gives her protagonist the very likable features of being intelligent and kind. You like her, especially since the opening dilemma has her in a real pickle. But her intelligence is hobbled by... um... that's a bit of a spoiler.

Throughout the whole book, Rae Carson has believable characters and throws in a host of plot twists that keep the reader guessing. I was really surprised with the whole plot and delighted in each twist and turn.

The Bad
It was really hard for me to find something I didn't like about The Girl of Fire and Thorns. And for a debut novel, that's saying something.

If I had to pick something I didn't like, I guess it would have to be the bait Rae Carson drops that hints at a sci-fi thread, a la Orson Scott Card's, Memory of Earth. If she hoped to avoid the sci-fi aspects, she did it perfectly, since there was enough bait to pique my interest. But it made me VERY curious and didn't deliver. If she answers it in a later book, it'll be a big payoff.

And that's not bad. 

Wait... I did have one other gripe. They throw bird seed at the weddings.

We know the disastrous effects of throwing rice at weddings now, but would a fantasy culture go to the extreme of collecting weed seeds for birds? As a YA book, it was a nice little education for kids, but for an adult, it made me wonder.

Either way, it wasn't a serious detractor from the book. I still loved it.

The Spin
If you're looking for a good YA fantasy, you'll love The Girl of Fire and Thorns. With it's great characters, food, and scenery, the story fairly leaps out of the book.

Rae Carson is definitely one to watch.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hunting the Wild Writing Conferences

Tracy Hickman's Killer Breakfast @ CONduit 2011
So you wanna bag a writing conference, but don't know where to start. Fortunately, writing conferences are everywhere. You can find them online and, I'd wager, in every major city. Most will present usable information, but it's up to you to sift through all the offerings to decide which ones right for you. Remember, these conferences are to help you perfect your craft and network in the industry.

Note: The conferences I discuss are the ones I'm aware of at the current time. I'm sure there are a host of others that are just as great that I'm not aware of. Basically... do your research.

I'll talk more about conference expenses next week, just know that a conference, workshop, or retreat can run anywhere from $25 to $1500. And that's not including airfare or accommodations. But more on that next week...

Recognize the Big Fish
There are a handful of conferences that are considered the staple of the conference scene. Depending on your writing, some will pertain to you while the others won't. If you go to these, be prepared to network your socks off (i.e. Have your business cards, logline, & pitch, ready--do NOT take manuscripts).
As I mentioned in last weeks blog, some of these conferences have varying degrees of fandom. Be sure to research the right one for you.

Applications Only
In addition to the big conferences, there are several instructional retreats that you have to submit applications to attend. These are the ones I know of:
I Recommend: LTUE
There are many smaller workshops that can provide excellent writing instruction in addition to a host of networking opportunities. One of my favorites is the Life, The Universe, and Everything (LTUE), symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy. It's hosted annually in Utah and cashes in on the bevy of local writers including: David Farland, John Brown, Bree Despain, James Dashner, Jessica Day George, Tracy & Laura Hickman, Blake Casselman, Jeff Scott Savage, Michael R. Collings, Michaelbrent Collings, Larry Correia, Robison Wells, Brad R. Torgersen, Tristi Pinkston, Dan Wells, Howard Taylor, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Brandon Sanderson. And that's not even the whole list! Some writers won't be available to attend based on their commitments, and some big names come in from out of state, but LTUE has the most writers I've ever seen in one place.

The best thing about LTUE? The price! Registration for LTUE is currently running at $30 for all three days. And if you have a student i.d. it's completely FREE! This makes LTUE an incredible deal for those that have to travel to the conference, because all you have to pay for is your living expenses (hotel, food, transportation). If you have a writing buddy who lives close to the Provo area, you can even cut your cost down more.

Meals are NOT provided at LTUE and there are no slotted 'meal' times. What that means is that you can attend presentations from 9am to 9pm. Usually I find a time slot where none of the presentations grab my interest, and I slip off to grab a bite.

Want some samples?
Lessons On Story From The Hunger Games - John Brown
Story Stucture [1 of 5] - Dan Wells
Hunting the Spectrum
There are a LOT more conferences out there. Watch for ads in writing magazines for ones you might be interested in. I have a short list of conferences on a blog page here, but the links below will point you in the direction of some of the more obscure offerings.
Good hunting!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Case File 13: Zombie Kid Review

This copy of Zombie Kid was an early Christmas
Case File 13: Zombie Kid, is J. Scott Savage's new mid-grade series. I was fortunate enough to win an advanced reader copy before its December 26th release date. Being a big fan of Jeff's Farworld series, I eagerly jumped into it.

The Good
Lots of people that are looking for a great middle-grade series for boys. There are plenty of books that draw girls in, but not many that can do the same with boys. Well, look no further! All the classic hooks for boys are here: best buds, bicycles, Halloween pranks, zombies, voodoo, pestering girls, and gross goo.

Jeff's writing is some of the best you'll see and his humor is laugh out loud funny. My co-workers kept giving me funny looks as I read and I would have to stop and tell them the story.

What's more, this book was made to be read out loud. I read this to my kids and we had a blast with all the different characters. Each has a distinct voice and personality and their antics make for a fun read.

The Bad
It's too bad Zombie Kid didn't have an earlier release date during October. For... you know... Halloween. It's not necessary for the story, but...


That's pretty much my biggest complaint.

The Spin
If you're looking for a fun read, or want to pick up something your kids would enjoy, then pick up Case File 13: Zombie Kid. Its book one in a new 13 book series and a quick read you don't want to miss.

Check out the Harper-Collins site for more juicy tidbits on Case File 13: Zombie Kid.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Cue Up For Conference Season

Dave Farland's Writers Death Camp - November 2010
It's time to get ready for this years round of writing conferences. Like the man said, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." And, honestly, if you already haven't been looking at the 2013 season, you're already missing out.

So as you take a moment to sit down and consider which writing conferences you're interested in (check out some of the ones listed on my conference page), I'm going to blog this month about elements you'll need to keep in mind.

What Do You Need?
First off, lets talk about what your needs are for choosing a conference. If you're just starting out in your writing career, you're going to be bumping around the conference scene for a bit, but let me help you cut through some of the clutter and point you in the right direction.

You will attend conferences and workshops that make you feel lost. Sometimes presenters will say things that seem irrelevant to you. Just take it all in and let your mind chew on it. Some presenters may suck, but when you're looking for knowledge, look for what you can take away from each presentation. At some point you'll be able to skip the lessons on story structure and move on to the editing and submitting ones. But recognize where you are in your writing and don't push yourself into a presentation you won't need anytime soon.

So for starters:
  • Pick reliable conferences that have good track records with lectures on writing
  • Pick lectures/classes that are pertinent to your level of writing
  • Avoid conference activities that don't improve your writing

A Special Note on Fandom
"Fandom (consisting of fan [fanatic] plus the suffix -dom, as in kingdom, freedom, etc.) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as a part of a social network with particular practices (a fandom); this is what differentiates "fannish" (fandom-affiliated) fans from those with only a casual interest." ~ Wikipedia
Admit it. We're all fans to some degree. And when you become a hotshot author, fans are going to be your bread and butter. But your purpose in attending conferences and workshops is to better your writing. If you're geeking out in the game or dealers room, you're not improving yourself as a writer.

Conference, Workshops, and Retreats
Each of these have different features and may even be considered synonymous to each other. Generally though, I've found these differences:

Conferences tend to be held at hotel conference centers and have hundreds (if not thousands) of people. The bigger ones will have multiple authors from every genre in addition to publishers, editors and agents. Throw in a horde of fans that only want to meet their favorite authors and... well... With the smorgasbord of people, presentations, and awards, conferences can be confusing and intimidating. You HAVE to do your homework to make conferences successful.

Target the visiting guests on the list BEFORE you arrive and know what questions you would like to ask them. Just remember, a couple hundred other people want to chat them up too, so don't monopolize their time.
Fandom Level: High - Astronomical
Vendors: High
Writing Opportunities: None - Low
Writing Presentations: Low - High
Networking Opportunities: High
Workshops can still have hundreds of people, but they're more focused on the writing craft. Most people attending workshops are there to work at becoming better writers. Fandom may be present, but they better be serious about the craft or they'll be ostracized quickly. Vendors tend to be of the 'author selling their works' variety.
Fandom Level: None - Low
Vendors: Low - Medium
Writing Opportunities: Medium
Writing Presentations: High
Networking Opportunities: High
Retreats let writers get away from their daily lives to put some serious focus on their work. Usually they're held in a hotel, writer's home, or some scenic location. Presentations and review sessions are the only things that will usually distract you from putting some serious ink to paper.
Fandom Level: None - Low
Vendors: None - Low
Writing Opportunities: Medium - High
Writing Presentations: Medium
Networking Opportunities: High
Get excited!
Writing conferences are exciting, and if you have the right attitude they can be very productive. Just know what you're signing up for and go prepared. You'll be glad you did.

Check back on the following dates for these conference related blog posts:
Jan. 14, 2013 - Hunting the Wild Writing Conferences
Jan. 21, 2013 - Planning Your Conference Expenses
Jan. 28, 2013 - Making the Most Out of Conference Networking

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