World Fantasy 2011 was terrific, as usual. The whole four-day experience seems like one continuous blur in retrospect. There never seems to be enough time to do everything you want to do, or enough time to hang out and chat with the people you only get to see once per year. However, I came away inspired, energized, and with a gaggle of new friends.

This week has been back-to-work and I haven’t really had time to decompress yet, but I thought I’d go ahead and post some of my “golden moments” from WFC 2011:

– Sitting on the “Villains” panel with Len Wein, Russell Blackford, Kay Kenyon, and F. Paul Wilson. We had a lively discussion on the nature and villainy and what defines a true villain as opposed to a “dark hero” or a simple antagonist. When asked to pick my favorite villain, I was totally unprepared, but I chose Azhrarn the Prince of Demons from Tanith Lee’s TALES FROM THE FLAT EARTH series. This panel worked so smoothly—kudos to moderator F. Paul Wilson—even without microphones we had a lively discussion and the audience really got into it as well. Discussing the psychology behind villainy was a particular high point of the panel. I had to bring up Mark Twain’s “The Lowest Animal” essay, where he explains that humans are the lowest form of life because we understand the difference between Wrong and Right, yet we still often choose Wrong. Bottom Line: The villain usually doesn’t think of himself/herself as a villain. And sometimes the antagonist isn’t really a “villain” at all—he’s simply a character with goals antithetical to those of the hero.

– Hanging out with the great Darrell Schweitzer—always a fascinating experience—and finding out that his YA novel THE DRAGON HOUSE is now being repped by my very own agent, the esteemed Bob Mecoy. Darrell’s book is going to tap into that Harry Potter vein and blow some young minds. Seriously.

– Hanging out with the BLACK GATE gang: John O’Neill, Howard Andrew Jones, and Scott Taylor. Some exciting developments with BG are in the works…the times they are a’ changin’. Howard’s sequel to THE DESERT OF SOULS is going to be a can’t-miss book.

– Meeting the very cool Nathan Long, known far and wide for his popular WARHAMMER novels. We had some interesting conversations about writing, and Nathan is going to be a huge part of where BLACK GATE is heading.

– Finally getting to meet Doug Cohen, assistant editor of REALMS OF FANTASY. Doug has been a supporter of my work for a few years now, and he’s made the leap from editor to writer of fantastic fiction. NOTE: I just found out today that REALMS has apparently bit the dust again. I’m sure Doug will be fine, but the magazine will be missed among fantasy readers.

– Joining several other writers at the WAY OF THE WIZARD reading. I particularly enjoyed Vylar Kaftan’s reading of her story “The Orange-Tree Sacrifice.” This short blast of raw imagination reminded me of Lord Dunsany meets Clive Barker; Vylar is one versatile writer. All the readings were great, and even the stories I had read already were seen in a new light when the actual author is reading them.

– Meeting the wonderful Wendy Wagner, skilled fantasist and part of the FANTASY MAGAZINE editorial team. Can’t wait to see more stories from her…

– Listening to Neil Gaiman chat with Connie Willis in a packed convention room. Neil is such a gracious and inspiring person. It’s no wonder he’s a superstar. His thoughts on the craft of writing and the power of fiction were enlightening and his well-told anecdotes were hilarious. I was also able to meet him briefly and shake his hand…I’ve got “Neil energy” radiating from my fingers. SHA-KOWW!!!

– The “Immortals” panel was probably the most thought-provoking panel I attended. There are so many aspects to immortality, and so many things to consider. One of the things I took away was how a race of supernatural immortals would most likely revert to childlike behavior (when we’re children, we believe we ARE immortal). This totally explains the irrational and fickle behaviors of the Greek Gods (as well as other pantheons). This panel got really “cosmic” really fast. My favorite moment: Someone brought up the Buddhist concept that we are all actually immortal—our bodies are ephemeral, yet our spirits are eternal. Every time we re-enter the physical world, we put on a new suit of flesh. Far-out, dude…

– Seeing the gorgeous copies of BROKEN TIME BLUES, a new anthology of fantastic fiction set in the 1920s edited by the awesome team of Jaym Gates and Erika Holt (who previously brought us the infamous RIGOR AMORTIS). Some great alternate-history tales in this volume, a collection I have personally dubbed “Weird History.”

– Hearing nothing but positive comments on Rich Anderson’s fantastic cover illustration for SEVEN PRINCES. His visual talent is making my book look incredible…and he’s already hard at work on the cover to the SEVEN KINGS, the Second Book of the Shaper.

Now that November has hit, I’m pleased to remind readers of this blog that SEVEN PRINCES will hit bookstores in exactly two months: January 3rd. (However, Amazon is already taking pre-orders.)

I’ll be starting on the SEVEN SORCERERS, the Third Book of the Shaper, at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, watch for my interview with artist extraordinaire Rich Anderson, coming soon to the BLACK GATE website.