Last weekend at Confluence, I experienced a first. This was my first con as a panelist, vendor, reader, kaffeklatsch co-leader, and even contest coordinator. There was so, so much for me to do, and I was mad with anticipation. Then, just as I arrived at the con with my friends Jerome Stueart and Brandon McNulty, the unthinkable happened: I lost my voice. Those who know me know what a presence I am, my size and booming voice combining to create a force of nature. With my voice reduced to a squeak, I felt helpless. How could I possibly take on everything I wanted to do at Confluence without a voice? Through the support of wonderful people, that’s how!
First mention has to go to Jerome, who did yeoman’s work reading my unpublished story “Under the Dark Moon” on Sunday. I’m so sorry for all the difficult pronunciations, Jerome! Brandon McNulty, otherwise known as the Elder or the Slender, supported me in accepting less sleep so I could go to Giant Eagle for necessities like Throat Coat and cough drops. Karen Yun-Lutz and Kevin Hayes kept checking on me all weekend, with Kevin even giving me a throat massage. It didn’t get my voice back, but felt amazing! Cat Rambo gets honorable mention just for being her awesome self, and for running an amazing First 500 workshop. Shannon Eichorn’s help cannot be understated either; she provided moral support and ran an awesome kaffeklatsch with me. And Thunderchild…oh, you always make me laugh, Thunderchild! So, so many more wonderful folks at Confluence were patient with me, helped me when I needed it, and came together to create a truly memorable con experience.
Then there were the new voices at Confluence. The aforementioned Shannon Eichorn had her new novel “Rights of Use,” book 1 in the Project Black Book series. She did such robust sales the first day she had to call in her husband to ferry more books all the way from Cleveland! Also, a friend and fantastic writer made his debut at Confluence: Alfred “AJ” Smith. He won the 2019 PARSEC Short Story Contest, which I coordinated, with his story “Graveyard’s Whistle” appearing in the Confluence Program. He also had the experience of giving his first public reading. Now, AJ is humble and self-effacing about his works, and doesn’t like when I brag about his writing. He scoffed when I told him I cried the first time I read it. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and his reading made someone else cry, in the very best of ways. So, it wasn’t just my lost voice, but some new and newer voices, that highlighted Confluence for me.
And, you know what? I think I lost my voice for a reason. Cat Rambo agreed with many others who have already given me feedback that my novel’s title needed changed. While my friends bantered over dinner about what the new title should be, someone came up with “Nomad’s Blade.” I loved it, and said (or tried to say) “Nomad’s Blade” would be perfect. Except Jerome didn’t hear “nomad,” and said “No Man’s Blade” is indeed perfect. And, right there, a title was born. A title which, if you know the book at all, fits perfectly.