Category Archives: Conventions

Why Fandom is My Family, and Family Don’t End With Blood

I don’t usually write blog posts that are about someone else’s book. BUT–Lynn Zubernis asked for my ‘thinky thoughts’ about her new book, Family Don’t End With Blood, so here I go.

The story so far….Lynn runs the Fangasm Supernatural fan site and is @FangasmSPN on Twitter. She’s very active at SPN conventions and both she and Laurena Aker of the WinchesterFamilyBusiness site are pillars of the Supernatural fandom community. Family Don’t End With Blood is Lynn’s new book about how Supernatural–the show, the characters, the actors and the fandom–changed lives and helped people through depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, grief, physical challenges, self-harm and other issues. It includes interviews with actors, fans and others who are part of the SPNFamily.

IMG_0078I knew I was in trouble when I choked up on the introduction. Trust me when I say I’m not a big crier. I was teary before I was even into the first essay. Not sad tears, but that sense you get when you come home and know it.

I’ve talked candidly about how fandom saved my life when I was 15. And I’ve also talked about why, in these frightening and unstable times, we fans need each other and our fandoms more than ever. And I’ve also shared how Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles’ #AlwaysKeepFighting (#AKF) campaign via the Supernatural fandom inspired me to pull together 100 science fiction/fantasy authors for the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign.

Fandom has been part of my life since I was about 15. Now that I’m an author of epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk, I’m not only a fan, but I’m up on the stage on panels, talking about how we create the worlds readers escape into, as well as other fannish interests. Most of my friends are involved in fandom at some level or another, either as pros or fans–or both. I travel for about 15 sci-fi/fantasy conventions a year all over the U.S. and sometimes Canada. I am writing eight novels this year, plus some short stories and novellas. I spend most of my waking hours surrounded by the characters in my books. So I take fandom very seriously.

I came late to the party on Supernatural, diving into the show during late S11 and got completely caught up on all eleven seasons plus all the tie-in books (and reading more fan fiction than I will admit to sober) by the start of Season 12. I haven’t gone this deep into a fandom since the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977. And gradually, I came to understand why.

I knew about Supernatural because one of my daughters had watched it when the show first came out and she said I would like it. Then last April, all of a sudden it seemed like the right time to start in. I was hooked from the start, and we binge watched a couple of episodes each night. Little did I know that I was also just heading into a storm of personal upsets and set backs that still hasn’t fully worked its way out. I found myself getting immersed in the show–and then the books and the fan fiction–as a way to hang on.IMG_0347

One of the first ways Supernatural changed me happened when I saw how much good came out of the #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign. I was really impressed that Jared and Jensen and Misha would use their platform to do something so personal and important. That got me thinking. Writers aren’t famous like actors, but our books create the worlds that inspire TV shows and movies–we create the genre. I know a lot of writers, and I also knew that we all had our own demons. So I asked 100 of my author friends if they would be willing to write a post on their own blogs about how mental health issues like depression, suicide, PTSD, anxiety, self-harm, etc. had affected them, someone they loved, their characters and their writing. I called it #HoldOnToTheLight, and the goal was to decrease the stigma about mental health issues within fandom, to stand in solidarity with fans, and to encourage readers to seek help. You can find more about #HoldOnToTheLight and the master post of blogs at We also encouraged convention runners to add panels on mental health to con programming or to expand/promote panels they already offered. The list of cons with those panels is growing, and now includes GenCon (approx. 70K attendees) and Dragon*Con (approx 80K attendees).

But Supernatural wouldn’t let me go–and going through a personal rough patch, I dove in deeper. I found my way into online fandom, first by immersing myself in fan fiction, fan videos and art, and then gradually getting involved in the lively, ongoing conversation on Twitter.

That’s how I met Nightsky, and as we chatted–first with tweets, then direct messages, then emails–she asked me to do a guest blog post for Winchester Family Business based on some comments I’d made. Then I was heading to Chicago to a non-SPN convention, and we agreed to meet up between my panels. We ended up spending most of the day together and having a wonderful dinner, and then continuing the conversation via email afterwards. I’ve written another guest blog since then for WFB and might do so again. Along the way, I started to live tweet the new episodes, and met even more fans. Now going out on Twitter is a highlight and social point of my day, responding to conversations, posting photos and memes, and enjoying the SPNFamily’s online companionship. I’m still not through that rough patch, but the SPNFamily is helping me hang on–they mean more to me than I can express, and I hope I can pay the favor forward.

There’s one more reason Supernatural is so special to me, and I didn’t realize it until I was well into season six.

Sam and Dean faced down the specter that dominated my childhood and convinced me that I would never live long enough to become an adult: the Apocalypse.

Now maybe that sounds strange. But I grew up in a church that expected the literal Biblical Apocalypse/Rapture/Armageddon to happen any day. And simultaneously, my parents were involved in the far right’s conspiracy-fueled underground expecting a Communist take-over (a la the Chinese Cultural Revolution and Stalin’s purges) to happen at any time. (Note: I disavowed both these religious and political views decades ago, but they unquestionably warped my childhood and framed my world view as a child/adolescent.)

IMG_0106One of my favorite books as a child and pre-teen was Clarence Larkin’s The Greatest Book of Dispensational Truth. It was–I kid you not–an illustrated, fold-out guide to the Apocalypse that did not consider itself to be fiction. If you wonder where Supernatural got its horsemen, Leviathans, the Witnesses, the Seals, the Whore of Babylon, the Beast, the AntiChrist and so much more–it’s all in there, in pictures. Larkin and John Nelson Darby popularized the Rapture and Armageddon mythos by reading several prophetic books of the Bible (Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation as well as the apocryphal book of Enoch–yes, it’s where Enochian comes from) and interpreting them outside of generally accepted methods of textual criticism and archeological/cultural study. In other words, they in a sense wrote fan fiction of the Bible, and it stuck.

When these frightening images are part of what all the adults around you accept as real and inevitable, it is terrifying to a child–like finding out that the monster under the bed is real. It was too big to handle, and the only advice from adults was just to make sure my soul was ok when it came my time to die.

At the same time, my parents got pulled into a secretive network of conspiracy theorists who believed that Communists had infiltrated the world governments at every level and that–any day now–we were all either going to die or be imprisoned in gulags. One of my earliest memories is my mom coaching me on how to behave when the day came that we would be taken to a prison camp. I think I was around four or five.

My uncle got us into it. He had been in infantry and then tanks in World War II and saw combat in the Battle of the Bulge. I believe he returned with severe PTSD, which went untreated and unacknowledged, and I think it made him vulnerable to the nightmarish scenarios of the conspiracies. My uncle’s friends were also WWII vets. They passed information via short-wave radio (no internet back in the 1970s), through secret get-togethers, and by word of mouth–always wary that ‘They’ were watching.

IMG_0107So I grew up with people who stockpiled ammo and hid guns in the walls of their houses, who had bunkers and safe houses, who talked about keeping a stash of silver coins on hand so that when–not if–the banks collapsed and currency lost its value, we could run and go to ground. I grew up with caches of freeze-dried food–enough to last five years–and survivalist tactics and friends who trained their kids to strip a gun blindfolded. My uncle and his friends saw themselves as the thin gray line of sentries in a war against evil, willing to die for a cause kept secret because others would think it was crazy.

I don’t think John Winchester and Bobby Singer would have shared the political views of my uncle and his friends, but they could have walked into the room and had a drink with them and understood those guys. They were damaged men, trying to do the best they could, protecting the people they loved.

Shedding those two pervasive world views that had shaped my understanding of reality nearly destroyed me as a teenager in my college years. Fandom and my early attempts at writing the novel which would someday become The Summoner kept me alive. Back then, I discovered I could entertain and amuse my friends by writing fan fiction for Star Wars, Star Trek, Space: 1999 and other shows. We passed the typed or hand-written stories around at convention room parties in the early 1980s. For a short time, I even ran a fanzine.

I belonged in fandom the way I didn’t ever belong in my birth family, at my church, at my college or with most of the people I knew growing up. Inside fandom, I was safe. Inside fandom, people understood and liked the same things I did, they got the jokes and the catchphrases. They validated, affirmed and encouraged. We might have been freaks to the outside world, but we were freaks together.

When I started watching Supernatural, I didn’t realize the connection at first. Then one day, it hit me and I was poleaxed. Sam and Dean faced down my personal bogeyman–the Apocalypse–and survived. Scarred, yes, but still standing and stronger than before. True heroes.

So when I read Lynn’s awesome book and the essays by creators, actors and fans alike about the strength and healing of the fandom family, I totally understand. I cherish my time at conventions when I can be with my tribe–although the events at which I’m a panelist are general sci-fi/fantasy cons instead of the SPN cons (which do sound like a lot of fun). I’m so thrilled that because of Supernatural, a much larger group of people have come into fandom and found that refuge. We all find our corner of fandom, whether it’s books, movies, TV shows, cosplay, gaming, LARP, comics, filk music, art or a mix of all of those.

One of the most affirming thing you can hear as an author is that your book and characters got someone through a hard time. I have read books by favorite authors that got me through depression, loneliness, deaths in the family, and stressful circumstances. And my most cherished notes from readers are the ones who tell me that my books kept them company at the bedside of a dying loved one, got them through two tours of duty in Afghanistan, or otherwise helped them survive hard times.

As Lynn shares in her book, that two-way support is taken to a whole new level of special with the Supernatural fandom and its creators and actors. I’ve seen that kind of support in action, and I know how powerful it can be, and how wonderful it is to belong to a community that welcomes you and encourages you to be your real self.

I’ve felt that welcome myself as a newcomer to SPNFamily–take a look at my Twitter feed, It’s turned Twitter into one of my favorite activities. I look forward to seeing what new wonderful comments and photos my SPNFamily is going to share that day, and enjoy trying to return the favor. Getting adopted by this wonderful group of people has meant a lot to me.

So go buy Lynn’s book. Give it to a friend who needs encouragement. But even more importantly, continue being the wonderful fandom and SPNFamily you already are and be there for each other. Because family really doesn’t end with blood–in the end, our true families are the people we choose.


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Paranormally Speaking


Tina R. McSwain

Many paranormal research teams employ the use of a “psychic” on their investigations.  Why not check out a local Psychic Fair to see what this mystic is all about.  CAPS will be there too, so come by our table and meet the team, tell us your ghost story, or get information on CAPS (The Charlotte Area Paranormal Society) and what we do.

CAPS to Appear at The Traveling Psychic Fair

The first Traveling Psychic Fair of 2013 will be held at Muggs Coffee on Park Road (near Selwyn intersection) in Charlotte, NC on Sunday – January 13, 2013 from 12 NOON until 5PM.

The Fair features the following:

Gina Spriggs – Master Tarologist

Lisa Jenkins – Intuitive Readings

Karen Yoder – Tarot With a Twist

Jenn Vivian – Aura Readings

Linda Backes – Mystical Fochaadams

Azera – Intuitive Tarot Reading

Dawn Petalino – Personalized Chakra Readings

Iesha Hoffman – Messages from Spirit

Bea Gordon – Angel Readings

Tina Heckman – Animal Communicator/Intuitive

Sherrie Avitan – Channeled Psychometry

Andy Silver – Spiritual Mediator

All Readers will offer introductory 15 MINUTE sessions for $25.00. There will be vendors as well.

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After the Con


Crymsyn Hart

This past weekend I attended ConCarolina’s with my fellow bloggers, Tina McSwain, Gain Z. Martin, and J.F. Lewis. It was nice to see them and say hello since that doesn’t happen much. As much fun as I had hanging out with all the other authors and meeting such wonderful fans and new ones, I am still recovering. Who would think three days of talking would be tiring, but it is. Although it is exhausting, it also invigorated me to get back to writing.  I guess my muses got over eating their pot brownies and were tired of parting with the Kilingons and singing karaoke.

Once they recovered, they were at me like bears on honey and all they wanted to do was tell me their stories. Trying to slow them down these past couple of days has been rough, but I am managing. At the end of the month I’ll be at FandomFest in Louisville, KY and I’ll be doing the same and meeting new people. That is the glory of the conventions getting to meet wonderful people and hanging out with other who are of like minds and sometimes like muses.

Of course my muses are trying to tell me stories of what they did while I was at ConCarolinas, but I keep telling them, what happens at the Con stays at the Con.

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Which Comes First, the Author or the Muse?


Crymsyn Hart

Today I have spent most of the day stuffing goody bags with candies and other fun things for this upcoming weekend. I’ll be attending ConCarolinas to hang out with all the other awesome guests and some of my fellow blog members.

While stuffing the bags, plot badgers started rooting around in my brain and a new story bloomed. I hate it when that happens. I think my muses have been eating too many of those pot brownies that I’m not supposed to know about. My muses claim they get together and discuss plot ideas and are relieved when I finally start writing something. I don’t see how they are relieved. I finish writing a book and my brain goes on lock down for at least a week and I can’t even think about sitting at a keyboard. Although my muses end up banging at the bars and want out. So I think my muse’s perspective on things is a little skewed.

She claims they attend workshops to inform me on how to write better, but it’s really me doing all the leg work and researching to make sure I have the details correct if I’m writing on a subject I don’t know.  She thinks she can hide all the drunken parties with the werewolves and gnomes that live inside my mind. Well, she’s wrong. I know all about them. They can’t hide anything from me. *Evil Laugh*

So makes me ponder a question.

Which comes first, the author or the muse?

What do you think?


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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

The Traveling Psychic Fair — Coming May 6th!

Until recently, I did not know just how big the metaphysical community was here in Charlotte.  If you’re in the area on Sunday, come and check it out.

The Traveling Psychic Fair is Back! Join a growing community of talented Healers and Intuitives for a day of food, fun and fortune! Introductory 15 minute readings are being offered by several of Charlotte’s most talented individuals for only $25!! It is the perfect way to “try on” several psychics to see who most resonates with YOU! Date: Sunday May 6th Time: 12:00 – 5:00 Place: Amelie’s French Bakery 2424 N Davidson St Charlotte, NC 28205 There will be: •Aura Readings •Animal Communication •Rune Readings •Psychometry •Intuitive Tarot •Life Purpose Readings •Holistic Energy Readings •Spirit Communicators….and much more! CAPS will be there too with an Information Table. Stop by and Say Hi!!

There will be:

Messages From Spirit – Jonathan Harris Intuitive
Life Readings – Linda Thunberg
OverSoul Readings – Lynn Durbin
Aura Readings – Jennifer Vivian
Scrabble Tarot – Karen Yoder
Animal Communication – Tina Marie Heckman
Rune Readings – Jennifer Halls
Intuitive Body Work: John Mcbride
Psychometry – Sherry Avitan Intuitive
Tarot – Gina Spriggs
Life Purpose Readings – Marcela McBride
Holistic Energy Readings – Jennifer Thompson
Somatic Intuitive readings – Kimberly Beroset
EMF Balancing – Aleksandra Shumaker
How to Make Your Own Pendulum – Shari Claire
Learn More About CAPS – The Charlotte Area Paranormal Society – Tina R. McSwain
Date: Sunday May 6th
Time: 12:00 – 5:00
Place: Amelie’s French Bakery 2424 N Davidson St Charlotte, NC 28205

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

A Different Kind of Convention

We are so used to the various science fiction, gaming and horror fantasy conventions out there.  This weekend in Charlotte, there is a different kind of convention.  A metaphysical convention called Shift Charlotte.

This convention will still have its vendors, its programming, and its interested clientele, but what you will find here are those folks who are Reiki healers, psychics and readers, tarot readers, and other practitioners in the metaphysical arts.

Why not check it out.

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

Small Cons Are Conventions Too…

There are many conventions throughout the United States on any given weekend.  Some are very large and well known like DragonCon.  Others, not so much.

However, the small Cons offer the fan an intimate feel and still present the genres that fan-goers have come to expect.  The writers, the gamers, the fan groups, all are present, and may be a little easier to get to talk with. 

It is in this vein, we find StellarCon.  A small but feature packed Con this weekend in High Point, NC.  CAPS and I will be there and on the paranormal panels.

Come on out and see us!


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Geek Thanksgiving (Otherwise known as Philcon)

by Gail Z. Martin

It wouldn’t be Turkey Day without Philcon, at least not for me.  Philcon, the annual gathering of PSFS (and yes, people pronounce that phonetically—it stands for Philadelphia Science Fiction Society), is a fun con dedicated to Philadelphia but held in New Jersey.

Philcon is also the end of my con season for the year, a break before things start up again in January with Arisia.  Over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of the authors, vendors and fans who are Philcon regulars, so it’s a comfortable gathering of old friends along with the fun of cheeky panels and a good con suite.  And don’t forget the Meet the Pros party, which puts out a top notch spread.

This year’s Philcon will be bittersweet, since we’ll be missing one of Philadelphia’s own, L.A. Banks.  I met Leslie (L.A.) at Philcon a couple of years ago, and we chatted for a while at the Meet the Pros event as well as on and off throughout the con.  She was gracious, unassuming, and very kind.  We continued the conversation on my (see the archives, it’s still up), and she was generous in writing an author tip for my second Thrifty Author book (Selling and Promoting Your Book Online, which comes out in December).  I had looked forward to seeing her again and getting to know her better, but Leslie passed away over the summer, far too young.  This year, Philcon includes a panel remembering her work.

On a brighter note, my first time at CapClave outside of Washington, DC was a lot of fun.  Let it be said that CapClave knows how to throw a party, and a damn fine con.  Fun panels, a literary dealers room, and a surprise visit by Terry Pratchett were all part of the weekend.  Not to mention some fine conversations just chilling out in the lounge with other writers and readers.

I hope to see you at Philcon, but if not, perhaps at a con near you in 2012!

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Catch me at a con!

by Gail Z. Martin

Fall is just around the corner, and that means that I’ll be back on the convention circuit.  If you’re headed to one of these conventions, please stop by one of my panels/readings or catch me in the hall and say hello!

Dragon*Con—Labor Day Weekend

Here’s my official panel schedule:

My #DragonCon schedule: Title: Breaking In: How it’s Done Description: Trying to break into the SF/Fantasy/Dark Fantasy/Urban Fantasy markets? Fri 01:00 pm : Manila / Singapore / Hong Kong – Hyatt

My #DragonCon schedule: Title: Broad Universe Reading Description: Quick cuts read by some up and coming female authors; their own works or works they find influential. Time: Fri 10:00 pm Location: Greenbriar – Hyatt

My #DragonCon schedule: Title: 101 Fascinating/Gruesome Ways to Kill a Character Description: What’s the most fascinating way to kill a character? Time: Sat 10:00 pm Location: Manila / Singapore / Hong Kong – Hyatt

My #DragonCon schedule: Title: Podcasting Writers Roundtable Description: Join popular Podcast authors to discuss the changing face of books and online media. Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: 204 – Hilton

My #DragonCon schedule: Title: Broad Universe Reading Part 2 Description: Quick cuts read by some up and coming female authors; their own works or works they find influential. Sun 01:00 pm Location: Fairlie – Hyatt

My #DragonCon schedule: Title: Down and Dirty Internet Marketing Description: How to get your stuff noticed. How to interest potential readers, viewers, listeners, etc. Time: Sun 05:30 pm Location: 201 – Hilton

Then Oct 14-16 I’ll be at Capclave, Gaithersburg, MD.  The week of Halloween, Samhain, Dia De Los Muertos and All Hallow’s Eve is my Days of the Dead online blog event, Oct. 24 – 31.

Nov            18-20 I’ll be at Philcon in Cherry Hill, NJ, and then I hope to be in several Charlotte-area bookstores in early December.

Next year is already shaping up.  Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come:

I’ll be chillin’ in Boston for Arisia in January!

I’ve accepted invitations to SheVaCon and Mysticon (both in Roanoke) in February, and should be back in Charlotte book stores with the launch of The Dread, Book Two in The Fallen Kings Cycle.

In March I’ll be at Ravencon as well as at the Arizona Renaissance Festival outside of Phoenix.

I’ve also been invited to Book Expo (BEA) in June, although I don’t have a schedule of events yet.

That’s what’s solid so far—I’ll add dates as I get confirmations.  And if you just like to talk about the craft and business of writing, please join me in person for my monthly Meetup, the  Thrifty Author Publishing Success Network!



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Last Friday Night at Dragon*Con (with apologies to Katy Perry)

by Gail Z. Martin

There’s a Klingon in my bed
There’s a Vorlon in my head
Guinan’s serving in the bar
Reavers  passed out in the yard.
Con suite’s closing for the night
Is that a tattoo or a bite?

Photos of last night
Posted on the site
It’s a fandom blur
But I know for sure
It ruled.

Last Friday night.
Yeah we gamed on tabletops
Then we did some True Blood shots
Think we filked but I forgot
Last Friday night

We went LARPing in the park
Crashed the Green Room after dark
Had some panels jump the shark
Last Friday night
Do it all again…Do it all again

What can I say—it was Dragon*con!  Just got back from Atlanta, and it was wonderful, as usual.

I had a great panel schedule, because it also gave me time to wander the vendor rooms and art show and catch some live music, as well as the panels with the stars of True Blood, and appearances by William Shatner and Carrie Fisher.

Panels were a lot of fun and very well attended.  How can you not have fun when you’re on panels with folks like Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Carole Nelson Douglas, Brent Weeks, David B. Coe, Scott Sigler, and other fun guests!  And I saw lots of other friends, like my esteemed co-blogger J.F. Lewis, my Ravencon roomie Jean Marie Ward, and all the Broad Universe crew, plus folks from my Thrifty Author Meetup group, and many more friends, colleagues and con buddies.

Costumes were fantastic, as always.  Saw a lot of great Steampunk interpretations.  My favorites were the Steampunk Green Lanterns and Captain America.  Lots of anime-inspired costuming too, as well as characters from all the big hit summer movies and top video games.  I think my favorite con t-shirt was the one with a white anime cat dressed in camouflage with a big gun—Halo Kitty, of course.

Of course, it was a total mob scene, and the elevators can only be compared to the Japanese subway, but otherwise it wouldn’t be Dragon*Con.  So now you know where I was Last Friday Night.  And all I can say is—Do it all again!

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