BoroughCon: Our new business, my new passion

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As you know, I’ve had a rough couple years, both personally and professionally. No need to go into detail about any of that because this isn’t a note about venting or sense-making or woe-is-me. This is a celebration of the event that has dug me out of the morass my life had become and has made me optimistic about the future.

It’s called BoroughCon.

At the beginning of the year, my friend Gary Port told me he had hired a couple law students to help him with his practice, and that these 20-somethings were just as geeky about pop culture as we are. In fact, they used to run an anime convention when they were students at University of Central Florida in Orlando. Now that they’re going to Hofstra Law, they’re exploring the idea of starting another one on Long Island. Gary wanted to be part of that, and thought I’d have something to bring as well. After all, I had a deep background in IT management, credentials as a project manager and a graduate degree in business — yet also long-term unemployed.

So I took a call from Matthew Goodison-Orr and we impressed each other with our knowledge of conrunning as well as general geekdom and agreed to meet. A week or so later, Matt and I sat down, along with his longtime friend and business partner Victor Lai, at The Greene Turtle Franklin Square where we shared a couple beers and appies and talked about “Suburbacon,” the code name for the new project which we all agreed was just an awful name for a convention.

The biggest problem with “Suburbacon” is that there was no place in suburban Long Island to hold it. Anywhere west of Route 110 would be too remote to draw from anywhere but Suffolk County, we reasoned, and I suggested the fate of I-Con supported that premise. And there was no venue in Nassau County or eastern Suffolk (or the rest of Suffolk for that matter) that had a big enough room for the vendors’ and artists’ booths and sufficient breakout rooms for panels, screenings, workshops, green rooms, con ops and so on. There’s a small annual event called EternalCon at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, but by all accounts that space is constraining and not optimally laid out for this purpose; unless and until EternalCon finds another venue, we believe it’s not likely to grow attendance significantly going forward. We didn’t want that for “Suburbacon”.

So we expanded our search to Brooklyn and Queens. Surely the Barclays Center has enough … no. It’s got all the booth space you could ever want, but no breakout rooms. How about the Brooklyn Marriott and all those other four-star hotels near the Bridge that … no again. They had ballrooms adequate — barely — for vendors and artists, but not nearly enough other meeting rooms.Then Matt and Victor had a brainstorm. They learned the craft on a college campus, so why not look for a campus instead of a hotel or convention facility? After a short search, they settled on St. Johns University Queens.

At this point Gary invited his law partner George S. Sava onto the leadership team. Unlike the rest of us, George isn’t a nerd. He’s a jock. He probably spent high school shoving guys like us into gym lockers. But George has more than proven his mettle. He’d eventually be our guy for lining up investors and high-end sponsors as well as our negotiator with outside stakeholders (including SJU), but his first contribution was to coin the name “BoroughCon” which we all agreed to on the spot. (Then we spent two weeks quibbling over capitalization, spelling and spacing.)

It forced our event into a defining personality. We weren’t “Suburbacon” anymore. It’s not going to be about Long Island. By the same token, it’s not going to be about “The City”. It’s about the Four Boroughs — the neighborhoods looked down upon by Islanders, Manhattanites and tourists alike. Have your sterile tract housing and chemically enhanced lawns. Keep the shiny object that is midtown Manhattan. Spend all the money you made in the last five years selling farm equipment and get your picture taken with that homeless guy in an Iron Man costume. We’re focused on where real New Yorkers live. And let’s be clear: Queens and Brooklyn have the populations of Houston and Chicago respectively.It turned out the only weekend St. John’s had available for us was Memorial Day. So not only were we forced to accept a four-day programming schedule when other first-year cons are confined to one or two, we just had to have it at one of the few spots on the calendar when so many people are heading out of town that there’s really nothing to do in New York for the rest of us. I’m pretty sure we can find, out of the millions of people still stuck in the boroughs over a long weekend, 20,000 people interested in stopping by BoroughCon.

This all started to gather steam around February and March. Ever since, I’ve been back to the kind of management consulting work I’ve been trained to do. I wrote a business plan to show BoroughCon’s potential investors. I crafted a project plan that decomposed the processes and illustrated progress along a Gantt chart. I developed a web and social media strategy and began executing it. I composed and curated web content ranging from reviews to blog posts to premium content of interest to other conrunners. Matthew Kressel, whose web development and genre credentials are both beyond reproach, agreed to craft our site. To see his outstanding work, please click http://boroughcon.com/.

This primed the pump for me professionally. I now had the confidence that I could get back to IT management consulting work, and have been growing my client list since.

I also took on the responsibility for BoroughCon publicity, which got me back into keyboard rhythm, and I’ve onboarded several new journalism clients concurrently.

Now, rather than being a victim of the gig economy, I’ve adapted to it and am now thriving.

So thank you, Gary, Matt(s), Victor, George and everyone else who has contributed to BoroughCon’s successful launch.I hope to see everyone reading this note at St. John’s in Jamaica, Queens, over Memorial Day weekend 2017. I’ll be the one with the biggest smile.

Thanks for letting me gush!

Bill Freedman

Web: http://boroughcon.com/

FB: BoroughCon

Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope: @borough_con

#xclocal

Appearances, writing, recording, general update, and … (shhh, it’s a secret)

So a lot has happened since Indianapolis.

First, I’ve video-blogged the entire trip, and you can see entries on my YouTube channel. I’ll be editing those down, so be patient. These will form the raw notes for the non-fiction book I intend to write about the Cross-Country Local. A Big Name Author Of Whom You Have Heard is helping me develop my pitch, so I’m guardedly optimistic I’ll be able to go the traditional editing route. Meantime, I’m being invited to speak in front of a number of transit advocacy groups, and I’ll be posting those on the Appearances page.

I’ll also be making appearances at Albacon, Lunacon, and who-knows-where-else. Keep checking back.

As I completed the Cross-Country Local, I crashed at the home of a friend from high school, Richard Gutierrez, who now lives in San Francisco. Rich is a multi-threat creative type — actor, director, video producer, designer, foley artist, drone operator … he’s got so much talent it makes me sick. Anyway, he had need for some voice talent that day, so I went back to my undergrad major in radio broadcasting and, well, here’s the results. I figured I’d get this out there before the blackmailers did.

Also, I’m feeling much better, thank you. Clinical depression is well-controlled since I’ve added meditation to medication. And my back, which just got worse and worse as I went along to the point of being crippling by the time I got to Reno, is all healed up now.

Further, it looks like my technology and business writing business has turned a corner and I’ll be returning to positive cashflow in short order. For more on this, you can view my clip site, Freedman Freelance.

Lastly, I can only whisper about this, but I have something “yooooodge” in mind for 2017. Hope to be able to share more soon.

Exposing myself throughout this hot summer

I’d do a striptease but, in my case, that would take too long. Much more efficient to just read my novels.

“Where,” you might ask, “can I hear William Freedman’s words while playing Candy Crush on my phone so I don’t have to look at his grotesque form, for he is quick of wit and sharp of tongue, yet resembles nothing so much as a pallet of white paper towels that just soaked up a hundred gallons of pink lemonade?”

I’m glad you asked. (Smartass.)

You can check the Appearances page for details, but the big picture is that I’ve got two venues where I’ll be appearing this month.

First is the coolest place in West Hempstead (feint praise as that may be), Creative Corner, the storefront gathering place for musicians, painters, writers, and the normal people who tolerate them. I’ll be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to emcee such talents as Michele Lang, Alex Shvartsman and Christopher DeFilippis, each of whom I respect immensely on a professional level and for whom I have an abiding affection on a personal level. We’ll be sharing the podium Wednesday night, July 29. Come along and bring a friend! (By the way, I often read between sets at Creative Corner’s ongoing open mics. If you play an instrument and you’re looking for an informal spot to try out new material — original compositions or spoken-word pieces — drop by any Monday night!)

Second is 9 Pi-Con outside Hartford, Conn., July 31-August 2. My New England-based convention friends have been trying to get me to go there for years, and I finally relented. Glad I did, as it turns out this is going to be the last in the series and I’m thrilled to have the chance to be part of the Pi-Con legacy. Not only do I get to read with my dear friend Justine Graykin, not only to I get to carpool up and back with legendary editor Gordon Linzer, I also get to sit on a panel with Tanya Huff! I expect to have a bunch new fodder for my Distilled Wisdom series.

I’ll be promoting Mighty Mighty, but I expect to read from some works in progress as well.

So if you live in the tri-state area and I don’t run into you that week, it’s not because I’m hiding. It’s because you’re an asshole.

Happy Pi-Day … See You at Pi-Con! ‘Distilled Wisdom’ Debuts

Long time since my last post. Sorry, real life got in the way.

I’m now a full-time, self-employed, entrepreneurial, 1099 magnet, so I’ve had to take care of business. I found a way of blending journalism with consulting, and squeezing 40 professional-rate hours a week out of it, but I do have to stay on top of things to keep the cash flowing.

But now that I’ve got things stabilized on career front, I can make time for my writerly pursuits. One odd confluence is that I’m now working out of a client’s office which is six blocks from KGB Bar, home of the Fantastic Fiction readings — and only a block and a half away from the Grand Sichuan restaurant to which the crowd adjourns afterwards. (Not much farther away from The Strand, which is dangerous.)

Anyway, I’m getting back to actual writing. Time to finish Augie, then get started on the next thing. My train reading these days is Paul Witcover’s The Emperor of All Things, which I highly recommend to my steampunky friends (it takes place about a hundred years before The Difference Engine, but what’s speculative fiction if it doesn’t push a little?), and there’s a phrase that’s oft-repeated in the last half of the book. This phrase — which I think Paul borrowed from William T. Vollmann — pried open a creative crevice in my head and I feel a story wriggling out. More on this some other time.

The news I was saving for Pi Day is that I’ll be a program participant at Pi-Con, July 31-August 2 near Hartford, Conn. Looking forward to hanging with GOH Tanya Huff, whose Torin Kerr could kick Honor Harrington’s ass halfway across the galaxy. Don’t know what panels I’ll be on yet, so watch this space. I’ll also be reading — and who knows what else? — at Jennifer Jesia’s relaxicon, this coming weekend (i.e., Lunacon weekend), March 20-21, at the Homewood Suites Long Island-Melville (which is actually in Plainview). The readings will be from Mighty Mighty and Pitch Ribbons.

Another update: I’m following through with my threat to vlog my notes on panel discussions I attend as an audience member. This series of short vids, In which I’ll be discussing the craft of genre literature while imbibing top-shelf spirits, is titled, “Distilled Wisdom”. I just posted the first: the Arisia 2015 panel, “So You Think You Can Write a Fight Scene” modded by Keith R.A. DeCandido and comprising Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, Catt Kingsgrave, James MacDonald, Mark Millman and Resa Nelson. It’s here on the Streaming Media page.

That’s it for now. See you this weekend here on Long Island, over the summer at Pi-Con, or who-knows-where-else!

Arisia: My favorite con keeps getting even better

The upside to the recent convention cancellations here in New York is that I’m free to honestly name my favorite fan convention. It’s Arisia. And I can say that loud and proud without worrying I’m the only Red Sox fan in a Yankees bar.

I really look forward to MLK weekend every year. I’ve been adopted by a tribe of 4,000 people with whom I’m totally at home. The guy you see at the Westin wearing my face (and my dad’s hair) is the legit me. It’s like all I do 361 days a year is roll-play, then I spend four days being myself. Considering the whole concept of Arisia is roll-playing, I understand just how fucked up that sounds, but I don’t care. I love the people I met at Arisia. I love reuniting with others on the East Coast con “circuit” with whom I’ll be hanging out at another hotel bar in another city in another month. I love the costumes. I love the cult movies. I love going to the dealers’ room and buying a book by an author who I know I’ll soon run into and be able to get his or her signature (I’ve recently retired the lipstick bit after acquiring an enviable collection). I love finding craft-made cufflinks or watches or bill clips which I can purchase for roughly the same price as corporate stooges pay for theirs at Men’s Wearhouse. But most of all, I love the panels.

I missed Arisia last year. Without going too deep into my tales of woe, I had a shitty year and a half, financially and otherwise, but mainly financially. That truest version of me who shows up at Arisia is an epicure and bon vivant, one who celebrates both vice and virtue as essential elements of living fully. That kind of free-spiritedness is an expensive hobby, and I just couldn’t keep up appearances. I might have been able to attend Arisia 2014, but I wouldn’t have actually been there.

It looked like 2015 was going to be another miss but, just this past Thursday, I got the call I’d been waiting for since two Julys ago. Nothing I can formally announce at the moment, but it looks like I’ll very soon be back in the chips. Considering the timing of the call, there was very little thought involved in how and where I was going to celebrate.

I have some small regret that I wasn’t able to commit to attending Arisia 2015 until the day of, because I had to decline the invitation to return as a program participant. But no tears. For the first time, I was able to attend Arisia in a completely unstructured manner. I didn’t have any panel or reading commitments. I didn’t have the luxury of the green room to hide out in. I didn’t have to get anything delivered or copied or signed for. I could just hang out. And so I did.

And this turned out to be the most productive Arisia ever for me. I even sold a couple copies of Mighty Mighty, but that’s almost beside the point. There were no scheduling conflicts between the panels I was assigned and the ones I wanted to attend. There was no jealousy about “I know more about this-or-that than so-and-so — the nerve of putting him on that panel instead of me!” I didn’t have to speak at all. So I got to listen.

There were at least three or four standout panels I had the privilege of sitting in the back and listening to. And I do mean “standout”. There was nary a wasted microphone. The people on the panels were all deserving of the honor and delivered sage advice which I hoarded in my notebook.

Going forward, instead of vlogging con reports, I’ll be drilling down into specific panel topics in occasional (monthly?) video segments which will be called “Distilled Wisdom”. The first, coming soon, will be on writing fight scenes. Watch this space.

Meantime, I’m going to get back to work on short stories that I hope to get placed in upcoming anthos and start the serious grind on Augie. Playing in the background, at least one publisher is taking a long look at Pitch Ribbons. I’ll let you know as that develops.

Wow. I went on a lot longer than I intended to (or had time for). I don’t tend toward introspection so sorry I got lost in the unfamiliar territory. Hope to see you at Arisia 2016 at the very latest!

Down the Stream, Mightily Mightily

You probably didn’t notice this, but I finally broke down and spent the money to buy and use the AuctorLanxSatura.com domain name. It was all for your sake, reader, to save you the time and trouble of having to press “.wordpress” every time you wanted to read this space.

Bullshit.

WordPress had me by the balls. If I wanted to upload streaming media, I had to upgrade. Oh well, at least I’m not getting sucked further into the Googleverse like Blogger would have me do.

So, yeah, I did it to add audio files, which you can find on Auctor Lanx Satura’s new page. You’ll hear my own disembodied voice reading from and discussing my works. You’ll also hear kind souls telling you of my awesome prose stylings. For example, an extract from a review blog called DeFlip Side describes why Mighty Mighty was the best read of 2014.

This new page also allows space to stream video. Once I’m back at play vlogging from conventions, I’ll be sure to cross-post my images here as well as to my occasional YouTube channel.

This also positions me to post video of TV interviews, of which there is at least one likely to be upcoming. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime,

(Mighty Mighty on Amazon)

Author Possessed! Lugh Speaks! Severin Draws the Badger! Mighty Mighty On Sale Now! (Wanna rep Pitch Ribbons?)

Hey, it’s been a long time since I posted, for which I deeply apologize to everyone who ever reads this blog. Sorry, both of you.

As you probably know, I got a new day job. It’s a responsible one, so I had to give it my full attention for at least a couple months, putting everything else on hold. But I’ve settled in nicely, and can now start thinking about promoting my writing again. Oh, yes, and actually writing again. The good news is that the new gig brings me into the City most days, so I can spend more time at Fantastic Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction readings, as well as other local events. So I’ll get to see more of a lot of people whom I admire and find fascinating. Yay, Life!

As you also probably know, the local speculative fiction scene lost one of its mainstays overnight, C.J. Henderson. I got to see him one last time at LI-Con, where he signed a couple of his outstanding Kolchak comics for me. Per his Facebook request, I inquired about visiting at his home over the past couple weeks, during the final round in his bout with cancer. I got no reply, and now I know the reason. A writer whose fortune never equaled his fame, and whose fame never equaled his talent, his jovial presence at conventions drew in hundreds if not thousands of new genre fans, and he taught us all how to work the vendors’ room. Like many others today, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to properly say goodbye to C.J., but I can imagine what he might have to say to me if I had:

“Why are you wasting your time talking to me? Go sell some books!”

So, with that imagined and blatantly self-serving advice in mind, I’d like to refer you to a web site that has kindly given Mighty Mighty a platform: fantasy/romance author Angela Korra’ti’s AngelaHighland.com. She agreed to let my character the Indomitable Lugh introduce the characters and plot of the superhero spoof he inhabits. Warning: Lugh has absolutely no internal filter, so don’t read this if you’re easily offended.

Thank you, Angela, for kindly sharing your space, and for calling to my attention the out-of-date links on this site, which have now been corrected.

Thanks also to Marvel Bullpen alumna Marie Severin, a longtime friend of my wife’s family, who once drew on the walls of the house I now live in. We (and our kids’ pediatrician, who’s an even bigger comics geek than me) visited Sev in her assisted living home, where she kindly agreed to pencil Lugh’s adversary, the chaotic force of nature known as the Badger. It’s very different from the authorized J.A. Fludd version, but Marie had the distinction of drawing in the presence of my wife Eileen, who inspired the character.

One last thing before signing off: Pitch Ribbons: A Cantata for Four Voices is finished and ready for submission. I always had ChiZine Publications in mind as a market for this work, a true story-inspired horror thriller that’s chalk-and-cheese different from anything else I’ve ever done or am ever likely to do again. But if Sandra and Brett take a pass, I’m open to representation. I know I could get it published through Rebel ePublishers, who have kindly and diligently distributed my prior work. But for this one, I want to see if I can go through an established press. Just to prove a point, I suppose. But still.

Hope you’re all enjoying this Fourth of July weekend, unless you’re English in which case, suck it. (Ditto for the World Cup quarterfinals.)