My Mysticon 2017 Schedule

I’ll be a guest at Mysticon next weekend (February 24-26) in Roanoke, with author Guest of Honor David Weber and media Guest of Honor Jason Carter (best known as Marcus on Babylon 5). carter(My wife, award-winning artist Heidi Hooper, is also a guest.)

Mysticon is a fun little convention. Here’s where you can find me!

Just the Basics: LARP (Friday 3:00): LARPing? What? Ooh, you mean Live Action Role Playing! Join our panelists for a glimpse into the world of Role Playing and what it means to bring it live! LARPing can be for anyone, and this is just the first step in what could be a wonderful journey! With Bob Flack

Surprisingly OK (Friday 4:00): A panel to discuss all things Sherlock (BBC, and any other incarnation). I’m the moderator. With Alexandria Christian, Jesse Knight, and Spencer Lovell

The Eye of Argon (Friday 10:00): The worst science fiction story ever written gets a reading by our brave panel as they compete to go the longest without tripping over a misspelled word or laughing uncontrollably. Audience members are also encouraged to take a chance. Can you keep a straight face, especially when the panel begins acting out the story? I’m the moderator.  With Gail Z. Martin, Peter Prellwitz, and Gray Rinehart 

Little Green Men (Friday 11:00): July 1947. Did a UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico? Have we already encountered extra-planetary aliens? If so, what happened to them and their spaceship? These questions have been on the minds of UFO hunters for many years. Our panelists take us back to that first week of July 1947 and dig into the truths and myths of Roswell. I’m the moderator. With Butch Allen, Spencer Lovell, and Christopher Weuve.

Writers Workshop (Saturday 9:00): How to structure your story and write a great opening plus other exercises With Peter Prellwitz, Allen Wold, and Darcy Wold.

Whose Line is it Anyway? (Saturday 8:30): The science fiction and fantasy version of the popular TV show where the points don’t matter. With Gail Z. Martin, Peter Prellwitz, and Gray Rinehart.

Writers Workshop (Sunday 10:00): More of how to structure your story and write a great opening plus other exercises With Peter Prellwitz, Allen Wold, and Darcy Wold

The Last Racebenders/Genderbenders (Sunday 11:00): Changing races, genders, etc. of established characters in movies, comics, and television. It’s been time and time again- how does this impact a series or film?  With James Beall, Madalyn McLeod Johnson, Andrew T. Macht, Amanda McGee, and Maya Preisler.

Do AIs Have a Soul? (Sunday 12:00): Artificial Intelligence has long been a topic in many books, movies, and games. Can uploaded personalities possibly have souls?  With Michael D. Pederson, Maya Preisler, Abigail Wallace and Christopher Weuve.

Collaborating in a Shared Universe (Sunday 2:00): Collaborating with others can be hard. Collaborating in a shared universe can also be hard. Learn how to do both in this panel! With Rodney Belcher, Tera Fulbright, Kim Headlee, and Christopher Kennedy.

(Schedule subject to change!)



Coming March 21st!

Bad Guys and Politics

“The antagonist is the hero of his own story.”

This piece of writing advice has been said over and over again, and it’s absolutely true. No matter how evil your Bad Guy, he or she still believes they’re doing the right thing for their own reason. As a writer, you need to get into your antagonist’s mind and know what that reason is in order to make them believable.

Too often, the Bad Guy is a cliche villain, who wants power and is taking the worst possible route to get there. They’re ugly, speak in menacing voices, have no sense of humor, and are in every way unlikable, which does not explain in the slightest how they got where they are in the world. And as such, they often aren’t scary — and instead of hating them like we should, we just shrug and go “Eh, it’s the Bad Guy.”

This is why Umbridge is a better Bad Guy than Voldemort. We know people like Umbridge. She’s believable. She has a goal that she thinks is right, and she is absolutely convinced she is on the side of Good. trump-voldemort

So let’s talk politics.

Those of you who read my political blog know my views. There are Bad Guys in the White House right now. Seriously, these people are evil. But I can use them to make the point that they think they’re doing the right thing. In their world, anyone who isn’t a straight white male Christian doesn’t deserve the same rights as them, and so every action they take furthers that goal.

“The ends justify the means” was a major theme in my last novel BLOODSUCKERS: A VAMPIRE RUNS FOR PRESIDENT. The conflict in that novel was that the Presidential candidate wanted to do very good things for the country and didn’t care if he had to kill a few people along the way to get there. The protagonist in that story was the reporter who discovered that the candidate was a vampire but had the moral dilemma whether to still support him when the candidate’s opponent had policies that were much worse and could lead to war and even more deaths.

If I were writing a novel about the Trump Presidency, it’s clear that they have a similar philosophy. They think their ultimate goal is good for the country and they have no problem with violating the Constitution, lying, and abusing our election system to get there, because they believe that these means are needed to get to their ends.

And someone else could just as easily write a book where they’re the good guys and we evil Democrats are destroying America with our insistence on things like, oh I don’t know, justice and equality. (We’re so damned unreasonable.)

Anyway, snarkiness aside, the point of this is to emphasize that you need to make your Bad Guys real. Think about politics as an example. Ultimately, both sides want a strong, prosperous America but have different paths they think will lead us to that goal. Both sides think they’re right and the other is wrong.

Get into the mind of your antagonist. Figure out your antagonist’s goal and what reasonable route the character would take to get there. Write a short story from that person’s point of view, and have it make sense, and your Bad Guy will be a lot more believable and much more threatening to your hero.

Reading from “Tales of Fortannis”

Author Tera Fulbright was a guest at a recent convention and gave a reading of an excerpt  from her story in the latest Tales of Fortannis collection, A Bard Act to Follow. (edited by me and featuring a story by me!) She then talked about the world of Fortannis and the series.

Someone recorded it and placed it on You Tube!

My Arisia 2017 schedule

I was at the very first Arisia convention in Boston way back when it started in the 80s, and started being a guest in the 90s. I haven’t attended in a few years for various reasons (such as attending my wife’s Niche Award ceremonies for art, where she won!), and it will be nice to get back to Boston, where we lived for a dozen years or so and made many friends.

Unfortunately, Arisia only scheduled me for three panels, only one of which is about writing. The other two are about animated films, which apply to me from my days as founder and editor of Animato! magazine.  They refused to allow me to do my normal “Eye of Argon” panel because it may be seen as insulting to the dead guy who wrote it. Go figure.

The convention is from January 13 – 16th.


I’ll spend the convention more as a vacation, visiting friends and having a good time, instead of as a programming guest like I usually do (especially since it is a three day convention). I’d like to tell you who they are but the Arisia web page doesn’t list any of us, apparently. We must not be very important.

In any event, if you are going to be there, be sure to say hi! Here’s where you can be sure to find me:

Moana (Sunday 10 am): Disney’s Moana, their latest release, is a huge hit. We’ll discuss what we loved and didn’t love about The Rock’s first major role anchoring a Disney animated flick, as well as their handling of native Hawaiian mythology (and casting), and the use of music by Tony Winner Lin-Manual Miranda. With panelists Hanna Lee Rubin Abramowitz, Konner Jebb, Kate Nepveu, Barbara M Pugliese. I’m the moderator of this one.

Movie Year in Review (Sunday 2:30): Our annual look back at the year in SF, horror, and fantasy film. Our panel of experts will cover every theatrical release of 2015. Find out which ones are worth catching up with. Note: Time for audience participation is reserved for the end of our panel’s high speed review. With panelists Bob Chipman, Deirdre Crimmins, Garen Daly, and me, with moderator Daniel M Kimmel.

Writing a Worthy Adversary (Sunday 8:30): Nothing brings a story to life like a worthy antagonist, but how do you figure out the yang for your protagonist’s yin? What is your villain’s backstory? What are some of the ways they can twist, torment, and temper your main character? And how can a good antagonist act as your protagonist’s mirror? Boo! Hiss! Come learn how to write bad guys your audience will love to hate. With panelists Michael Bailey, D. L. Carter, Alexander Danner, and Leigh Perry. I am moderating this one as well.

The 4th Pocono Writers Conference

It seems like just yesterday that I organized the first Pocono Writers Conference, and now we will soon have the 4th.

This year’s conference will be held on January 21, 2017, at the Hughes Library in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  Admission is free — however, as I write this, we are full!

But there is an exception.


Besides their regular lecture, each of the panelists will have a critique where you can send them a writing sample in advance by email and they will go over it with you there at the Conference. This is only $20. Come on, where else can you get a good critique from  established writers (including a New York Times bestselling author) as well as a New York literary agent? If you sign up for at least one of the critiques, we will find a space for you to attend the rest of the Conference.

Here’s the schedule:

9:00: Introductions

9:15: TEE MORRIS: The Physics of Fighting: Swords, Sidearms, and All-Too-Common Slip-Ups: Hollywood does two things for writers: They make fight scenes look incredibly cool, and make a writer’s job to capture that kind of excitement increasingly difficult. How do you get it right?

10:30: ALIA HANNA HABIB: Know Your Genre: Knowing the language of publishers’ book categories is essential in pitching your book to agents and editors. This workshop will teach you how to market your book by properly categorizing its genre and potential readers.

11:45: MEGAN HART: Point of View: Getting Inside the Right Character’s Head and Staying There. Figure out how to write in first or third person and which character needs to be telling the story by diving deep into point of view.

12:45: Lunch

1:45: PHILIPPA BALLANTINE: World Building: The basics of creating a world that lives and breathes around your characters, and how to use our world to inspire you

3:00: MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: Biggest Mistakes Made by New Authors: A short presentation of things to look out for

3:15: Panel Discussion and Question and Answer session with all panelists

Click here to read bios of all the participants and to sign up for the Conference. Don’t wait, because there are a limited number of critique spaces available and once they’re all filled, you won’t be able to attend.

The Writers Conference is sponsored by the Pocono Liars Club.


My 2016 Philcon Schedule

I’m looking forward to the Philcon science fiction convention the weekend of November 18th. It’s Philadelphia’s oldest literary convention. It’s in New Jersey.  (Look, it was cheaper, okay?)philcon_logo

I’ve been a guest at Philcon for years, and it’s always great to go back there and see so many of my friends. The Guest of Honor is C.J. Cherryh! Other guests include Philippa Ballentine, Keith DeCandido, Gregory Frost, Barry Longyear,  Lawrence Schoen, Tee Morris, and many more famous award-winning authors you’ve probably heard of (I didn’t want to list them all and take up the whole blog post).

Here’s my schedule:

Friday 11:00 PM: EYE OF ARGON INTERACTIVE: CHAPTER THREE [Panelists: Michael A. Ventrella (mod), Peter Prellwitz, Ian Randal Strock, Hildy Silverman, Bethlynne Prellwitz]: Since everyone is usually laughing too hard to get through reading what has been dubbed the worst piece of published SF of all time, we thought we’d start where we left off last year. We’ve got a roster of pros to get it going, but after that, audience participation is

Sat 5:00 PM: CAN INTERPLANETARY GOVERNMENTS ACTUALLY WORK? [Panelists: Michael A. Ventrella (moderator), Neil Clarke, James Beall, Ariel Cinii, Tom Purdom, John Skylar]: Empires, Federations, Alliances… there are many examples of various types of interplanetary, or interstellar, governments found in science fiction. But would any form of government actually work if it were extended between worlds, star systems, or even galaxies? We will examine how governing bodies might work over such long distances… or even if they can.

Sat 11:00 PM: WHOSE LINE IS IT, ANYWAY? [Panelists: Peter Prellwitz (mod), Hildy Silverman, Ian Randal Strock, Tee Morris, Michael A. Ventrella]: Come watch and wince as our hammy authors attempt to act out terrible improvisational skits based on audience suggestions and a devious MC.

Sun 1:00 PM: IMAGINING AN ATHEIST REALITY [Panelists: John Grant (mod), Kathleen Bragg, Lawrence Kramer, David Silverman, Gordon Linzner, Michael A. Ventrella]: Is atheism just another belief system like any other religion, or do atheism and secular humanism stand in the unique position of being unbiased government and social worldviews, able to make decisions free from religious bias? And if the latter is the case, what other biases and difficulties might be experienced by a culture that doesn’t recognize the existence of anything that can’t be counted and codified?

A Bard Act to Follow

Adventure! Drama! Mystery! Humor! It’s all here in the forth TALES OF FORTANNIS anthology, A BARD ACT TO FOLLOW.

“Michael Ventrella’s Fortannis setting has produced a lot of fine fantasy fiction, and the fourth collection maintains a high level of quality throughout,” says Ryk Spoor, author of the Balanced Swords trilogy.abardacttofollow-510

“Some of the stories are simply amusing (Curso and the Wizard’s Apprentice), some tragic (The Consistency of Small Minds), and others heartwarming (The Mutiny of Broken Things and Ventrella’s own Remembering the Future). Our protagonists range from courageous knights and cynical adventurers to an absolutely chilling, self-justifying sociopath. Taken together, they give us a picture of a living, immense world which can cover the span of human (and biata, dwarf, elf, ogre, and goblin…) endeavor and passion.

A BARD ACT TO FOLLOW does not merely continue the fine tradition of Fortannis; it elevates the written world to the next level, and indeed, as the title plays upon, will be a hard act to follow!”

I was thrilled with the great selection I was able to solicit for this edition. It contains the following stories:

Remembering the Future by Michael A. Ventrella: Terin and his fellow squires perform a task and then have their memories erased, only to face the consequences of what they had done — but what had they done?

The Consistency of Small Minds by Bernie Mojzes:  Maris risks everything to help goblins revenge a murder.

Garg the Good by Dominic Bowers-Mason: A lawful good sword falls into the hands of an ogre who doesn’t like being told what to do.

Thieves Among Honor by Mark Mensch:  In order to hunt down and find out who is plotting to kill him, Nigel needs to hunt down and talk to a man who has sworn to kill him. With a knight-errant looking over his shoulder, what could go wrong?

A Poet’s Heart by Derek Beebe:  An obsessive loner traces his descent from pathetic stalking into true super villainy — all for love (or so he says).

The Mutiny of Broken Things by Beth Patterson: A werewolf artist and a bat-kin discover untapped powers when faced with danger.

The Arrangement by Henry “The Mad” Hart: A squad of righteous warriors who hunt the undead are distracted by the oldest form of manipulation and evil –political ideals.

A Charming Encounter by Tera Fulbright:  Out of all the rat holes in the city, why did she have to pick Crites’? Then of course, she offered something he couldn’t resist … gold.

Something Happened on Old Troll Bridge by Jon Cory: Dangerous things can lie hidden in abandoned old fortresses…

Chatter by Shane Porteous:  After a disturbing act, a soldier capturing slaves learns just how cruel chains can really be.

Curso and the Wizard’s Apprentice by Roy C. Booth and Brian Woods: Curso the hobling  learns that sometimes it is best not to mess with spells you don’t understand…

Shapes of Destiny by Laurel Ann Hill: Sometimes one has to embrace and accept one’s destiny if it means you can help and protect loved ones.

The Chronicles of Duren Ironath and Vaeallan by Tom Haswell: Duren the quiet scholarly elf had been aiding the head-strong and slightly mad dwarf Vaellan for years when they discover an old enemy thought long dead has returned

Another Round for the Table by Mike Strauss: Events nearly seem to repeat themselves as throughout the decades a mercenary company celebrates victory in battles with good food, good company, and stories of heroism.

This book is available now in PaperbackE-BookKindle, and iBook formats. And Bernie Mojzes and I will be at Philcon in a few weeks with copies we can sign for you!

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