Monday, March 7, 2011

ConDFW, and how a fun-filled life precludes writing about said fun...

My life recently has been so epic I don't even have time to write about it. Seriously, I really need to take a day off now and then. Or hire a scribe. Something. I just have a hard time turning things down when they sound cool and don't cost much money... So, yeah, lots of stuff going on the last few weeks, so it may take a bit of time to catch up.


From a couple weeks back now, we have ConDFW. For those of you who aren't into the Dallas sci-fi/fantasy/horror literary scene, there are two really great conventions in the area that focus on those genres in fiction. FenCon in September, and ConDFW in February. Both have been running for several years and are very well-established and well-run conventions. ConDFW X maintained the fun, relaxed atmosphere that has always made it so enjoyable.

Part of the relaxed feel probably comes from the fact that ConDFW has always been centered around the bar, both physically and figuratively. All of the usual literary convention trappings are there as well - panels, readings, art show, dealers' room, etc. - but some of the best times to be had are found in the bar, just kicking back, having a drink or two with friends, and meeting a lot of new people with a shared interest in weird fiction.

Tracy S. Morris in costume for the Yard Dog Road Show
Tracy S. Morris in costume for the Yard Dog Road Show

The panels I attended this year were fun. To be honest, after years of attending these conventions, the panel discussions can all get to be a little familiar. By picking panels based on the people participating rather than the topic, though, I can usually guarantee that I will be entertained. I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of "audience member thinks their input is as valuable and interesting as the panelists" syndrome encountered this time around.

I kinda failed at my usual policy for readings at conventions. I generally try to attend a mix or readings - some authors I'm already familiar with, and some new ones. This year, though, every reading I attended was someone I had heard reading before. On the down side, that meant I didn't get any exposure to new authors. On the up side, that meant I actually enjoyed all of them. Thanks to Kristi Hutson (with an excerpt from an unpublished novel I really hope to see published), Angeline Hawkes, Christopher Fulbright, Julia Mandala, Selina Rosen, Linda Donahue, P.N. Elrod, Jaye Wells, and Shanna Swendson!

Kristi Hutson (K. Hutson Price) reading
K. Hutson Price reading

Of course, as always, my "to be read" pile has gotten even more precipitously huge following the con. Author Robert Stikmanz and editor Amanda Kimmerly sold me on the first volume of the Hidden Lands of Nod fantasy series (which I completely failed to get autographed). On the sci-fi end of the spectrum, I picked up Stranded by Scott Ayars and Dead or Alive by T. M. Hunter. And, for my compulsory Yard Dog Press purchase, I picked up Almost Human by Gary Moreau. Once I have some time to read them, I may post reviews here, so check back!

Me with editor Amanda Kimmerly
Me with editor Amanda Kimmerly

Anyway, if you live in the North Texas area, or don't mind driving there, and like sci-fi/fantasy/horror fiction, I highly recommend checking out ConDFW next year...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Steampunks and Hoopy Froods

I've been looking forward to the Clockwork Wonderland event for months, ever since my friend Becky pointed out its existence. The date finally arrived last Saturday, and I was not at all disappointed. This was by far the biggest steampunk event I have attended to date (admittedly, it is only my third in total). For those unfamiliar with steampunk, it is a genre typically involving a Victorian-era timeframe with anachronistic steam- and clockwork-powered technology. It has become popular with the costuming crowd, and events seem to be becoming more frequent.

The Clockwork Wonderland event, in particular, was anchored by a concert by local alternative band Marquis of Vaudeville. Supporting the concert, though, were circus sideshow performers, burlesque dancers, fire eaters, musicians, costume and prop vendors, and the amazing costumes of the attending crowd. Steampunk fandom groups (or "Airships") from all over Texas were in attendance. Massive thanks to Marquis of Vaudeville, Circus della Morte, Femme Vivre LaRouge, Jai L'Bait, The Steampunk Illumination Society, Amanda Terese, and everyone else who contributed toward putting this together.

And speaking of the "everyone else," after the event, I got an invite to attend a gathering of "Creative Motion," a group dedicated to learning, practicing, and teaching various "circus skills." Many of the members of this group had been performers, on- and off-stage, at the show as part of their performing troupe The Circus Freaks. My curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to check it out. Jugglers, poi-spinners, and hoopers were all represented, as well as enthusiasts of other "skill toys." After meeting a lot of the group, I tried out the poi spinning. Let's just say I won't be ready to run off and join the circus anytime soon. I repeatedly got them tangled up, hit myself in the face a couple times, and overall just had a fantastic time failing miserably at it. I can see a lot of practice in my future.

Hooping, surprisingly, went a little bit better. Given the larger, heavier hula hoops used by the group, I was actually able to keep the thing spinning for a while, both on my hands and my torso. I'm sure I looked ridiculous, but it was fun, and I can imagine it is good exercise for working my core and arms... I'm certainly feeling it today.

Anyway, if anyone out there would be interested in learning any of these "circus skills," the group meets every Tuesday in Richardson. For more details, you can visit I know I'll be going back.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll...

OK, so I think a little piece of me just died inside making that reference...

Anyway in continuing to pursue my goal of taking in more local, live music, I saw a few bands this past week... The music started off on Wednesday, purely by random happenstance. A good friend of mine moved to San Antonio, and we were having a farewell happy hour. One of her other friends there, Jason Horne, was doing an open mic night at the Last Chance Saloon in Plano, so we wandered over there. Jason performed shortly after we got there, along with Melissa Jones (who looked oddly familiar - turns out she was another friend of a friend). Good, laid back entertainment. I may end up there again this Wednesday.

Melissa recommended that I check out the Eric Beatty Band on Friday at Shuckers in Frisco, so that ended up being my next music stop for the week. They were good, albeit not quite my style of music (I prefer my country a little more folk). They did play a Tom Petty cover that I really enjoyed. Jason and Melissa got up and did a couple songs between sets, so that was cool...

After all the country music, I had to get my blood pumping again. Sunday at Reno's Chop Shop proved more than up to the task. Six black/death/stoner metal bands: Unto Acheron, Giant of the Mountain, Dei Aemeth, Betrayal by Truth, and headlined by Diskreet and Fallujah.

Giant of the Mountain

I went primarily to see Giant of the Mountain, after their great set on New Year's Eve, and they didn't disappoint me. I wish their set could have been longer, but I guess that's the downside of a six-band show. I hung out with them during the other bands' sets, and they are just cool people. I repeat my recommendation to try to catch them whenever you can. You can also download their 3-song EP for free from

The first band up, Unto Acheron, wasn't bad, but they had this really distracting habit of doing these synchronized squats a couple times per song. All I could think of every time they did that was the movie Zombieland: "Rule 1: Cardio."

The other band I was really impressed with was Dei Aemeth. It's a six-member band (OK, after looking them up, it's apparently a five-member band who had a guest guitarist), so I was really amazed that they weren't constantly tripping all over each other on Reno's fairly small stage. They all came together really well, though, for a very strong, complex sound.

The other bands were good, but nothing really jumped out at me and grabbed my attention, positively or negatively. The only other noteworthy bit was how sedate the crowd was. I don't know if it was because the bar was really freaking cold or what, but the bands had a hard time getting people going. The mosh pit lasted all of one song during Betrayal by Truth's set. It was kinda weird.

Anyway, that's all, musicwise, for this week... The next planned big event is a steampunk show on the 22nd. Who knows what might pop up before then, though...

Well you know my name is Simon...

It has been a very long time since I've had a pen and paper gaming group. Fortunately, this changed yesterday, as I played in the first session of a new Warhammer FRP game. I had played with some of the people before, in my last gaming group (Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG). Given the people involved, and the way the first session went, this is going to be a great campaign.

I love CRPGs... I really do. I wouldn't be spending as much time on World of Warcraft if I didn't. But they really can't hold a candle to a good pen and paper gaming group.

But yeah, with regard to the post subject line... We have three characters in the party who are siblings... My 16-year-old militiaman, his 17-year-old sister the warrior-priest, and 19-year-old sister the mage-type. The player of the priest rolled her character name randomly, and ended up with Theodora. At which point the mage took the name Aelwyn. So, to complete the joke, they wanted me to be Simon. I named my character Burk. Not to be denied, though, the other players decided that Burk was my middle name, and Simon was my first name, used only by my family... It's almost like I really do have two sisters in the gaming group!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bringing the New Year in loud!

On New Year’s Eve, I saw a lot of people posting about how awful 2010 was. I can’t disagree, as 2010 was a big kick in the teeth for me as well. But that’s not what this post is going to be about. 2010 did have several positive aspects as well. Back in July, I started to delve into the DFW music scene. The stress of the year was greatly relieved by bands like Rivethead, The Razorblade Dolls, Echelon High, Bit_Rot, The Broadsiders, Home Wrecker, A Theory of Disaster, and The Killdares.

Though I'm not one to make new year's resolutions, I do intend to make it to even more shows this year. I got a great start on that this past weekend, with two great shows in Deep Ellum. On New Year's Eve, at 2826 Arnetic, I saw Over Odds, Dälom, Bombing Ibiza, Echelon High, and Giant of the Mountain. New Year's Day, at the Liquid Lounge, I saw Etchmark, Ending the Vicious Cycle, and Dälom again. Both were great shows, and there wasn't a bad band among them.

There were standouts. As you might guess from the repeat between the two nights, I really liked Dälom. The first thing that grabs your attention is Krista Mendoza's powerful voice. Soon, though, you realize that the rest of the band has the talent to match. I really can't say enough good things about this band. Look them up on MySpace Music or Reverbnation and have a listen. Then go see them Jan 22 at The Cellar in Fort Worth or Jan 28 at The Prophet Bar in Deep Ellum.

I saw Echelon High somewhere around September at Skillman Street Bar... what a difference a few months can make. At that point, they were a good industrial metal act, but with just guitars and a synthesizer, it just didn't quite feel like a full band. Now, with bass and keyboards thrown into the mix, the sound has a lot more weight to it. While I'd still like to see them with a live drummer (they are looking for one), I was really impressed with them.

At the NYE show, most of the crowd left after the champagne toast. That's a damned shame, because the group that played after midnight, Giant of the Mountain, was an amazing metal band. The vocals are pretty much your standard death-metal gravel voices, but the music was great. If you like your music fast and loud, look them up on MySpace Music and check them out at Reno's Chop Shop in Deep Ellum on Sunday, January 9th.

I wish I had gotten to the New Year's Day show earlier. Etchmark sounded really good, but I only caught the last couple songs of their set. I'm going to have to track them down again. Ending the Vicious Cycle felt a bit like a throwback to the 80s. The vocals reminded me a bit of Peter Murphy, and overall it had a bit of a Joy Division feel. Definitely stood out from the other bands I heard over the weekend.

So, yeah, anyway, if your still reading at this point, the thing you should come away with is that you should check out the local music scene wherever you are. With the prices of shows with national headlining acts going through the roof, you're likely to find a lot of bands with just as much talent nearby, with a much more reasonable cost of entry. And if you find any bands you really like, let me know. I'm always looking for new music.