Michael Hicks Self-Publishing Seminar in San Antonio
Friend and fellow author Michael R. Hicks has been on the road traveling with his wife Jan in their RV for the past week or so and recently made a stop in San Antonio where Mike was invited to give a self-publishing seminar at the Forest Hills Branch of the San Antonio Public Library. I met Michael Hicks on Twitter a couple of years ago when he was in the transitioning process from working full-time for the government at the NSA to becoming a full-time writer. For those who don’t know who Michael Hicks is, he is best-selling author of Season of the Harvest and the very popular sci-fi/fantasy In Her Name series. Heck, Amazon even “stole” the cover art from his books to promote the Science Fiction and Fantasy category for the Kindle. Turns out they had the legal right to use his cover art under their publishing terms of service.
Anyway, Mike informed me of his trip to San Antonio a couple of months ago, so I made plans to attend the self-publishing seminar and then have dinner with Mike and Jan afterwards. Mike also happens to be one of my PS3 gaming buddies when we can coordinate our schedules to do so, which is hard to do since I’m typically a night owl and he’s an early bird. When we do manage to hit the Black Ops 2 battlefield it’s like the blind leading the blind. Needless to say, we don’t win very often. :-)
I made it to San Antonio a bit earlier than expected due to the traffic on I-10 being much less congested on a Saturday afternoon than I had expected. So, I breezed through San Antonio fairly quickly. So, with about an hour to spare before the self-publishing seminar I browsed through the aisles in the Forest Hills Branch library, grabbed a book and read while I waited for Mike and Jan to arrive. They weren’t as fortunate as I was coming into San Antonio from San Marcos due to an accident on the loop, but people were just starting to trickle in for the seminar, so it was all good.
The seminar itself was very informative. Michael covered everything from writing his first book and sending it out the traditional way, receiving rejection letter after another, throwing that book under a desk for several years and then finally publishing it himself in 2008. He talked about his experience with trial and error and gave some tips regarding writing in general, editing (and pointing out that authors editing their own work is not editing), the importance of an eye-catching professional looking cover, the various options for publishing (and avoiding vanity presses, such as AuthorHouse, at all costs), book reviews, and finally marketing. It was a lot to cover in about ninety minutes, but it was good information nonetheless.
Post-Seminar Dinner at the River Walk
After a brief Q&A, Mike and I exchanged books (okay, I gave him one and he gave me two), signed them and then synched our GPS units to guide us downtown to the River Walk for lunch. We stashed our vehicles on the fifth floor of the Rivercenter Mall parking garage and searched for the elevator down to the mall. After the elevator door opened and then immediately closed, almost taking my hand with it, we decided we should probably just take the stairs. As soon as we found the exit Mike, Jan and I studied the information map to find our chosen destination for lunch, Boudro’s Texas Bistro. The map wasn’t the most user-friendly guide I had ever seen to say the least. We looked for the big red dot that supposedly indicated where we stood, but instead (after doing a little eavesdropping) someone else pointed at a screw at the bottom of the map that represented us. Mike, the clever guy that he is, pulled out his smart phone and opened up his Google Maps app and activated the pedestrian GPS which pointed us in the right direction.
It was about six-thirty in the evening by the time we found Boudro’s Texas Bistro, but there was a forty-five minute wait and I still had over a two-hour drive back home to think about. So, we backtracked towards another restaurant, passing a Mexican restaurant and a pair of singing mariachis along the way. With no wait time we chose the Republic of Texas restaurant for our post self-publishing seminar meal. I had heard so much about how lean and tasty bison burgers were so I decided to try one along with some sweet potato fries. On the same token Mike had been pressed by someone on Twitter to try fried catfish for the first time and apparently enjoyed the very large portion. This catfish must have been huge! It reminded me of those chicken fried steaks that hang over the side of the plate. He only ate half of it. Mike’s wife ordered the Akaushi Burger which is a beef originally from Japan and only bred in Yoakum, Texas (very near my hometown of Victoria) and guarded by the Texas Rangers (that’s the law enforcement division, not the baseball team). :-)
Mariachis and a Very Energetic Waiter
We had a great time socializing while eating our dinner outside on the River Walk, but we could have done without the pushy mariachis who wanted to serenade us when we were browsing the menu. After a couple of “No thank you” responses they finally disappeared into the crowd in search of other patrons to bother—I mean entertain. While the mariachis were kind of an annoyance, it wasn’t too big of a deal to me since I’m used to them. Our waiter, on the other hand, was a different story altogether. He was probably the highlight of the evening! We all agreed we wanted what he was having. I have never had such a high-strung waiter in my life. This guy was so hyper and full of energy that he could probably benefit from laying off the caffeine a bit. As Mike pointed out he must have been pumped full of Red Bull or something. The waiter did give us good service and the food was great too!
After dinner we hiked around the River Walk for about another half hour or so. We made a quick stop in one of the gift shops so Mike could grab a t-shirt; he’s buying one in each city he is making a stop at during his summer RV trip. No gifts for the two monster cats waiting for him at the RV park in San Marcos though, but they probably ended up eating the leftover catfish and burger.
Vehicle Hunting and Surviving the Man-Eating Elevator
Back inside the Rivercenter Mall (and back in air conditioning) we hunted for the elevators to the parking garage. It took a few minutes but we eventually found what we thought was the correct one. We had to pay our parking fees first using the little kiosk before venturing off to our vehicles. I hesitated before stepping inside the elevator after the first experience I had earlier in the evening, but this one played nice and didn’t try to eat me. After a short ride to Level E the doors opened . . . to the roof of another parking garage. D’OH! Wrong elevator! The kicker is you have 30 minutes from the time you pay your parking fee on the kiosk to the time you actually leave the parking garage. So, time was of the essence. Fortunately, we found the correct elevator and our cars were still parked safely where we hid them. The Rivercenter Mall gods hadn’t zapped them yet.
All-in-all, my trip to San Antonio and time spent with Michael Hicks and his wife was relatively flawless and very enjoyable. It’s always nice to be able to physically meet friends you have communicated with over the past couple of years via social media. It’s a day and age we live in now where friendships can be built online and carried over into the real world. This brings me to a point I would like to make. As much as we enjoy chatting it up on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or whatever favorite social media site you hang out at, there’s nothing like hanging out with your friends in person. So, step away from the computer, smart phone or tablet every once in a while and go spend some face-to-face time with friends and family.
A Few More Pics From My Day Trip to San Antonio
Below are a few more pictures from my trip to San Antonio. Jan Hicks took the photo of the star, which was a decoration on the table at Republic of Texas Restaurant on the River Walk. She also took the photo of Mike and me. The only good photo I managed to take with my phone was the one with the Tower of the Americas in the background.