Con or Truth: A Halo of Mushrooms at MarsCon—guest post by Andrew Hiller

Have you ever attended a science fiction convention? Andrew Hiller, whose urban fantasy novel A Halo of Mushrooms is getting rave reviews, shares his recent experience at Marscon.


Williamsburg, Yorktown, and neighboring Jamestown hold a place in our history. Everywhere you look, you see preserved buildings, artifacts, reenactments, period costumes, and an 18th century sense of being. You come here to churn butter, put your head in the stocks, and learn. Wide roads and narrow bridges take you there. The grass in winter leans and the trees are spare. The color is more gray than green, but that too fits with the narrative of colonial and revolutionary struggle. It’s a great setting. It’s just not the place you expect to find aliens traipsing around.

MarsCon ButtonI was invited to MarsCon to share my latest book, A Halo of Mushrooms, and host a couple of panels. It was my first time attending this Con, and to tell the truth, my first time at a Con as an author.

I found my table. It was the first one in Artist’s Alley, right next to the sign-up for the costume contest. As such, I got to witness super heroes, Jedis, wizards, and a hoard of favorites parade by.

Frankly, the skill, effort, and cost put forth by those who engage in cosplay amaze me. I really respect the craftsmanship! So, while I was there to meet my readers, I also got to get lost in the fandom. I think that’s good. It’s all about engagement. It’s all about sharing stories, excitement, and sharing in the moment. The conventioneers come for a good time, and so should the authors.

I talked about my book, A Halo of Mushrooms, of course, but I also chatted about my work in radio, the craft of writing, sports, and everything else that came up. More than one reader decided to give my book a shot because they said I was interesting. Truth is, so are they! Some of the lives and stories the fans gifted me with were amazing!

I was asked to speak in two panels: “Women in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” and “Plot Holes, Crutches, and How to Get the Clichés Out of Your Writing.” The latter was by far the most interesting.MarsCon Writer's Panel 1

Our panel consisted of a Hugo Award-winning novelist, an illustrator, a senior editor at a major publishing house, me, and a room full of aspiring writers. I wound up moderating, and we discussed everything from how you begin a project and the value of beta readers and editors to avoiding fads and whether it is ever a “dark and stormy night.”

Probably my favorite moment as an author, though, came on the last day. A reader who bought my book on Saturday approached my table. She told me she was on page fifty already and was loving it. The book was unlike any fantasy she’d read in years! We chatted for a few minutes about what she read, where she guessed it was going, and my philosophy of approaching a story.

That’s what it’s about! It’s about the reader. It’s about a chance to hear back. So often we sent our words into the ether and have no clue how people respond to them.

In the end, I packed up. MarsCon was a good experience and not really alien at all. In fact, based on the responses from readers, I can happily say that I was not a con at the Con. I took Charles de Lint’s advice. He said when you are at the Con to just be yourself, don’t try to act like you think a writer should. That, and be kind.

...don’t try to act like you think a writer should. #writers #authors #marscon Click To Tweet

Good advice for a Con and for life.

Andrew Hiller is the author of A Halo of Mushrooms; read a preview here. He continues his Con tour: next up, you can catch him at Farpoint Con near Baltimore, MD. He’ll be signing books there Feb. 12–14 before heading to Wilmington, NC in April.To learn more about Andrew, visit his website:


Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Contact her at, and learn more here.

2 thoughts on “Con or Truth: A Halo of Mushrooms at MarsCon—guest post by Andrew Hiller”

  1. Sounds like a wonderful experience. I love Sci-fi and fantasy and yet don’t write it…yet. I’ve done paranormal, but its soooo not the same. It was fun to hear about your feeling like a con at a con. I think in general many writers feel like cons. Its just now, two years of blogging, book on Amazon, (three more on the way) and various credits and contests that I don’t feel like a con when I tell people I’m a writer. I don’t even say struggling or budding. Now successful (writer), I’m still working on that one. But con? Nope, I’m for real.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ~ Tam Francis ~

  2. Thanks. I think one of the most wonderful revelations of that sort I had was a few years back when I was a flegling reporter with WAMU (DC NPR.) I was invited to join a panel at the National Press Club and accepted. I felt like a bit of a fraud. You see, I’d never taken a class in journalism and was stumbling around in it getting a few opportunities because listeners liked my commentaries. The topic was successful freelancing. I was sitting next to people I considered “very real” in the panel and worse, people I recognized and had followed for years in the audience. Here I was this ex-special education teacher, telling them my story and how to do it right?

    The truly shocking moment happened at the end. When the panel broke up, a few people approached me and told me that they had come specifically to hear me. They loved my work. The comment blew my mind. We put our work out into the ether, often killing ourselves to do so, and have no idea how people respond or if they do… that these legit people thought I was legit gave me a world of confidence.

    I doubt it changed how I approached a story or how I write, but it improved my posture.

    I’ll look out for your works, Tam. Thanks again for the note and feel free to take a peek at my work if you do like the genre.


    Andrew Hiller

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