WorldCon Notes Posted!

I procrastinated, and I waited, and I floundered for a long time.  Finally, I’ve taken all of my handwritten notes from all of the panels I’ve attended since Reno, and I’ve organized them and posted them here.

There’s a new navigation section at the top called “Convention Notes.” Under that, there’s a section for every convention I’ve attended.  Within each of those sections are the notes.

I thought that I’d taken notes at a panel at Westercon, but I’m unable to find them.  It may be that I opened up my laptop, but never wrote anything down.

On a different note, I rearranged the way I’m doing my sample pages.  I’ve scrubbed away the remaining boiler plate language and added another piece of short fiction I wrote for a game several years ago called “The Diary of Jacob Descarte.”


A Week in Review

This last week has been a bit busy and hectic.

I did all the normal work stuff, which I won’t talk about too much here.  I’m a programmer.  I programmed.  That’s about all we need to say on that, other than this week, I did more documenting and experimenting than actual programming.

I taught the Computer Club at my kids’ school this week as well.  While Monday was only so-so, Wednesday was fantastic.  I gave the kids an extremely easy task, then added more complexity through the club time to the task until at the end, the kids were all able to make their own program that would accept input and display the input back to the user.  It doesn’t sound like much, but since this is basically the third week of the club, I’m pretty proud of the kids.  Even better, the kids stayed engaged the entire time, and seemed to have a lot of fun.  I’ll have to continue with that style of teaching.

Bryanna and I went to Band practice.  We turned in a bunch of music and site read a bunch more.  That was a lot of fun.  The only problem with band is that it’s Monday evening, which means that my Mondays are ridiculously long.

Tuesday evening, I went to my kids PTO meeting and presented the board with their new mailing list and website.  I’d been paying for the hosting of their domain for years, but no one ever really did anything with it, and it was expensive.  When it came time to pay them again, I kept my wallet closed and moved the domain to one of my servers, and I spent most of last weekend getting it all set up for them.  Tuesday evening was my chance to present it to them, and it received many ohs and ahs.

Wednesday evening, I went to Starbucks, met up with Michael, and did some writing.  I’m not fantastically happy with my book right now, so it was progress was very difficult.  I fixed a couple of things and added another 500 words or so.  It was a productive evening.

Friday, I attended a “Shut up and Write!” even at a different locale, hosted by a different individual.  It was at a restaurant near downtown that used to be called Crepeville.  It looks the same, and still offers the same food.  I couldn’t see the name of the place, and someone told me that it used to be called Crepeville, so I assume it’s under different management.  As a venue for sitting down with strangers and writing, it was only okay.  There was no free wifi, and the only long table available was sort of short, so I wound up sitting at a side table with someone else.  It was from 6PM to 7:30PM, so I wound up eating dinner while trying to write.  It meant that I only added about 400 more words to my book, which is a little disappointing.

After Crepeville, I walked across the street and visited my friend Dael.  I hadn’t seen Dael in ages, and it was really great sitting down with him for about an hour and a half, catching up.

If I stop at Friday, then I think it’s safe to say I had a really great week that was fully, busy, and productive.  I didn’t get as much writing done as I would have liked, and I didn’t get any blog posts up all week, but my well-rounded activities were edifying.  If I stop at Friday, I can say it was a really great week.

I have to include Saturday, though, which is the fly in the soup.  Maybe it’s the flaw in the diamond?  No, because it came at the end, and it didn’t make me value all the days that preceded it at all.

Saturday morning, I was supposed to go to another Shut up and Write event, which was a workshop on using the five senses and juxtaposition in description in fiction.  I was looking forward to the event, but the way they set it up made my teeth hurt.  In addition to signing up in advance (which is normal), you also had to pay in advance.  There was a strict no refund policy listed out, and to pay, you either had to show up to one of the previous Shut up and Write events and pay there, or send a check.

I don’t write checks.  I learned a long time ago that it’s not good for me to write checks.  I use my debit card or cash, and I use my bank’s online services for paying bills.  Most of the time, I don’t know where the checkbook is, and I don’t even have a checkbook for my personal account.  So writing a check and sending it by mail was out of the question in general, for me.

That meant that I needed to go to one of the other events.  Unfortunately, they’re mostly on Monday evenings and Wednesday evenings, which don’t work for me.  This week I wound up driving downtown to pay at the event on Wednesday evening.  I then immediately got back on the road and drove out to Roseville to meet up with Michael.  I didn’t appreciate fighting all the traffic, but I got them the money and secured a spot.

Saturday morning, I got to the event on time, and as I was putting down my laptop bag, I said, “Next time, you should put up a Paypal.” Two other attendees immediately said, “Yes!” The person hosting the event (not the presenter), decided to argue with me, and turned it into a confrontation.

She then took me aside and said “Every time you come to these events, you complain.”

I frowned, blinked, and tried to figure out what she was talking about.  I’d only been able to make it to one other event, and I told her that.  To which she said, “Yeah, and you complained about the scheduling.”

I recalled that I had mentioned my difficulties with the scheduling, but that was only in the context of answering the question, “How long have you been with the group, and why haven’t we seen more of you?”

I told her that I hadn’t been complaining before, but by that time, the damage was done.  My emotional response was going into cascade failure, and I had to leave.  I told her, “You know what?  Fine.  I’ll make it easier for you.  I’ll leave.” She tried to give me my money back and I said, “No.  Keep it.  Spend it on something nice.” And I left.

I wound up coming home.  I watched a bunch of Star Trek episodes on Netflix, played Solitaire, and brooded in my garage until 1AM.  At 1:30AM, I went to meetup.com and unsubscribed from the Shut Up and Write list.  Then I went to bed and tossed and turned for an hour.

I feel a little better, now.  I don’t need that group.  I wound up letting one person chase me out of it, which is bad, but I’ve got a good thing going with Michael that’s giving me what I needed from the group already.

I guess that’s enough rambling.  Today, I’m going to try and be productive.  That might mean doing some work for my job, or it might mean working on my book.  I really need to get to a place where I enjoy my story again, so I can finish.


Writers Group Woes

I appear to be on the mend.  I had some trouble sleeping last night, but it was only partially due to the coughing and sniffling.  The plague seems to be receding.  I may even be healthy by tomorrow morning, just in time for another woefully busy Monday.

Part of what kept me up last night was my thoughts, tumbling over and over thanks to the writers group I attended last night.  There weren’t that many people, and I felt unprepared.  I hadn’t received the other writers’ work until a couple of hours before we were to meet, so I didn’t have a chance to read and prepare a decent critique.  The other writers, on the other hand, had read the start of my novel, and had plenty to say.

They weren’t necessarily mean.  In fact, none of what they had to say was mean, and none of it was a surprise.  They were just shining a bright light onto my work, and I wasn’t quite prepared for the scrutiny.

I know that my novel is really rough right now.  I’ve been trying not to go back and edit it until the whole first draft is done.  On the plane back from San Antonio a few weeks ago, I tried a compromise where instead of editing stuff, I added comments into the document.

Much of what the writers in the group had to say I’d already said in my comments.  It really shouldn’t have bothered me.  It did, though, as much as I tried not to be bothered.  I know that it’s not done.  I know that I’m going to redo quite a bit of the beginning, once I get to the end.  In spite of that, I tossed and turned last night, unable to let it go and rest.

This is a big step for me.  My confidence in my work has been spotty at best.  One of the things I’m trying to learn with this writer’s group is how to maintain my confidence in spite of criticism.  I’m also trying to improve my craft in general while offering my own insights.  The real challenge, however, will be getting over the problems with my writing, so that I can keep going.  I don’t want to hit a point where I hate my work and stop writing again.

Maybe next time we meet, I’ll be in better health, and I’ll be better able to handle people looking at my writing under a microscope.


The Cold Grip of Contagion

I’m sick.

I’m sure there was a time when those two words were less ambiguous.  Because it amuses me, I will clarify.  I am not “sick” in the way of a sweet move pulled off by a skilled skateboarder.  I am not “sick” in the way of a gruesome murder.  I’m just feeling ill.  My body is host to some horrible, tiny creatures, and my natural response is to produce gallons of snot.

Yesterday, I stayed home.  I missed out on work, Computer Club, and writing with Michael.  I stayed in bed most of the day, then shuffled off to my computer in the garage in the afternoon to continue by Star Trek: TNG marathon.

Today, I’m still producing mucus valiantly, a True Champion of Phlegm.  I’m at work, though, coughing and sneezing and making my coworkers wish I’d stayed home another day.

That’s pretty much all I have to report, at the moment.  I’ve willfully left my short story alone.  I’ll try editing it later, if I’m feeling up to it.  I haven’t made any progress on my novel in about a week.  There’s some plotting I need to do before I can really continue.  This Saturday, I have a band concert which I probably won’t be able to attend, and a writer’s group meeting which I desperately want to attend.  We’ll see how I’m feeling in a few days.


Short Story Euphoria

It’s Monday.  It’s not exactly one of those Mondays, though.  There was a little bit of traffic coming in to work, but it wasn’t enough to distract me from Roy Dotrice’s voice as he’s reading Dance with Dragons.  I’m a little bit sick, but it’s not so much that I can’t do my day’s work, or go teach Computer Club, or go to band tonight.

Today is actually feeling like a really great day, mostly because it’s coming off of yesterday, in which I wrote a 4000 word Sci-Fi short story.

It feels so good to finish something!  All too often, I start projects, get somewhere in the middle, then stop.  The reasons I stop are varied, but it always feels like failure when I don’t finish something I set out to do.  Yesterday, I finished something.  I’m probably going to be floating a few inches off the ground for the rest of the week, buoyed up by this feeling of victory.

The story itself is about bag handlers in a world where travelers stow their bodies along with the rest of their baggage.  Rather than suffer through long lines in security, cramped, uncomfortable seating, and layovers, people plug into a virtual reality while their bodies are preserved and shipped efficiently to wherever it is they’re headed.

The idea came to me while traveling, obviously.  I was on my way to WorldCon when I thought about it.  While attending Sheila William‘s Kaffeeklatsch, it occurred to me that I might actually write this story and submit it to Asimov‘s.  Later, after looking at the Convolution website, it seemed like a good idea to me to finish it quickly and submit it so that I can attend the Writer’s Workshop.

I remembered the cut-off date for the Writer’s Workshop as being this coming weekend, so I thought I had a much shorter time to get the story done.  Melissa went with me to Starbuck’s yesterday, where she sat and drank some coffee and read some stories while I worked.  To my surprise, and to Melissa’s, I finished before we left.

It turns out that when I have an idea, I write at about 1000 words per hour.  That seems like a respectable pace.

So I have something finished, and I’ve been sharing it with friends and family.  Melissa didn’t care for it that much.  She was left with questions at the end, so I’m not sure I did a good enough job delivering the story.  It may be that I need more exposition, which is an atypical problem with these sorts of stories.

I’ve decided to let the story sit for a day or two, and revisit it once the excitement has worn down.  I know that there’s some places I’m going to want to edit.  I might discover that this isn’t the best I can do.  I might actually really hate my little story, which would be too bad.

For now, though… I’m just so happy to have something finished that I might be willing to share!


Back to School and Writing!

After the amazing week I had last week, it was difficult to get back into the normal schedule.  It was made especially challenging in that this is the week that the Computer Club I’m running just started back up yesterday.  I barely had time to recover from WorldCon before I was up in front of some kids again.

It didn’t go badly.  When I did this last year, it was my first time, and I really didn’t know what I was in for.  Yesterday, it was light and easy.  There weren’t that many kids, and two of them were my own children.  All but one of them were in the club last year, so we all knew what was going on.  It also helps that I made it High School only, rather than 6th grade and above.

I think the club is going to go really well.  I especially think that having the web site for it will make it easier, because I’m going to use it to keep notes as we go along.  It means I’ll be able to maintain a regular, steady pace, and if anyone is absent or falls behind for any reason, they’ll have a place they can go to catch up quickly and easily.  I’m excited about it, and the kids seemed excited about it, too.

After Computer Club, I went to Starbucks and met up with Michael and Cody.  Michael looked even more exhausted than I felt, which is understandable since he has the baby at home.  We talked for a bit, and we were slow to get at the writing.  We did get to it, though.  Cody seemed to be particularly prolific last night, in spite of the fact that he was writing everything by hand.

I only added about 600 words.  It was difficult for me to get that much.  I’m not huge into plotting things out in advance, but I do have a plan when going in, and I do establish milestones to write towards.  One of my problems last night was that I’d passed a milestone, and I haven’t really figured out the next one.

I have a ways to go.  It’s slow going, but I’m taking some comfort in that there is progress, in spite of all the other things going on in my life.  Tonight, I’m going to a Shut Up and Write event.  This weekend, my whole family is doing some kind of 3 mile walk.  I think it involves glow-in-the dark shirts.  And there is still the regular work, an upcoming band performance…

Honestly, 600 words is starting to sound pretty good right now.


WorldCon — LoneStarCon3 Finale

In retrospect, I wish that I had mentioned that all these WorldCon posts were about LoneStarCon3.  Someday, perhaps a year from now, I’ll do another series of posts about WorldCon, only it will be whatever the name of it is in London.  Or the year after that, whatever it’s called in Spokane.  It’s all WorldCon, but being more specific would be better, if I’m thinking of the future.

Let’s talk a little bit about my last day at WorldCon, while I’m sitting in the airport, waiting for my flight.

I woke up a little bit later than I had intended.  Though it was 7AM back in Sacramento, at the convention, it was 9AM when I rolled groggily out of bed.  I took my time getting myself together, and I headed down to the other hotel’s lobby to sit at a table and write yesterday’s post.

While sitting there, I saw lots of people that I had met with throughout the weekend.  For most, we only exchanged a few words.  One author, Marie Bilodeua, stopped and sat with me for a couple of hours.  It was absolutely fantastic.  We talked about writing, and our families.  We dabbled in religion and philosophy.  We had a fantastic conversation.  The time flew, and my blog post was mostly forgotten for hours.

Eventually, Marie needed to go do her shopping before she went for her signing, and I needed lunch.  I went to the food court once again, picked up enough burgers for myself, Michael, Greg, and Bill, then headed to the dealer’s room to share my lunch.  Greg wasn’t hungry, but Ian, Bill’s son, was there, so I didn’t wind up with too much food.

After lunch, I went off for a panel.  I’d met an author the previous day named Ransom who had just been picked up by 47North, and I thought I’d catch the “47North Presents” panel. Unfortunately, there were no panelists.  That gave me some time to head back to another wifi spot and finish my blog post.

I was in a different hotel lobby, but again, I kept seeing people I’d made friends or acquaintance with.  Nancy Kress’s daughter-in-law, Jaime(sp?) sat and talked with me for a little while.  We talked about writing and the challenges we’ve overcome.  She was then off to another Kaffeeklatsch, and I finally finished yesterday’s post.

With my blog post finished, I got up to try another panel and ran into Effe, Arley, and Rosey.  They were headed to the same panel I was, or at the very least, the same area, so we walked together and chatted amiably.  Rosey told us about one of her stories that had been picked up recently, after she’d taken a break from writing for 10 years.  Rosey went on to another panel, and Effe, Arley and I went to “As You Know, Jim” which was a panel about exposition.

The panel was okay.  There wasn’t a ton of good information from it, but I found it entertaining.  I took copious notes, as usual.

With the panel finished, I went off to make sure that Marie had at least one person in her autograph line.  She had a few people, and she seemed really happy.  I was going to buy the first book in her series from her and have her sign it, but Candace had picked up the last copy.

I checked in with Michael and Greg again before heading back to my room to take a nap.  We made a plan to go out to dinner together and get a steak dinner.  My phone told me that there was a place that was close, had received high marks, and I was able to check out the menu.  It seemed like we had a plan.

As we gathered together to make our journey for dinner, Meredith found us and tagged along.  We followed the map, headed down Alamo street, found the place easily enough… and then discovered that it was closed for the holiday weekend.  Fortunately, Michael had spotted an Irish pub along the way, so we went there and had a lovely dinner.

Then it was time to head to the Hugo awards.  There’s not a lot I can say about them, really.  There weren’t a ton of surprises.  Paul Cornell was hilarious.  Chris Garcia hugged all of the winners as they walked up to get their prize.  We didn’t have to remain standing the entire time like we did in Chicago.  It was a really great show, and I was glad to see it.

After the Hugos, I went with Michael to his room.  He shared some Scotch with me that was very special to him, both in its quality and its sentimental value.  It was a 26 year old whose name I don’t remember, but that he’d received at his graduation.  There wasn’t much left of it, and while I’m not much of a judge, I think it was pretty good.  Scotch has a lot going on.

It was nearly midnight, and it was once again party time.  We wound up battling the elevator and the stairs to get to the party floor.  One of the first places we went was the party for JordanCon.  Michael quickly moved on to the Helsinki room, and shortly after he left, Howard Tayler, Brandon Sanderson, and Mary Robinette Kowal came in to the room, carrying their freshly acquired Hugos.  I was standing not too far from the door, and I was the first one Mary offered her Hugo to.  I held it in my hands, and I studied the base.  It was a surreal moment, and my eyes weren’t really focusing correctly.  It was heavy and beautiful, and I was a bit overwhelmed.  I know I said some things, and I think my words were somewhat intelligible, but I don’t remember exactly what I said.  As I handed it back, I remember saying, “If it was me, I’m not sure I’d be able to hand it off so easily.” Mary said, “You just did.”

After that, I was pretty much done.  The introvert in me said that it was time to go to bed, and unlike the previous evenings, I no longer had the strength to argue.  I wanted to say a few things to Brandon Sanderson, and I would have loved to visit with Howard a little bit more, as I had visited with him earlier in the week.  I was done, though.  I slipped out quietly, went and found Michael to let him know I was quitting early, and went off to my room to sleep.

Earlier in the evening, just before we went off to dinner, Michael had said to me, “Every time I see you, you’re talking to a different woman.” It is true, and looking back over this post, it might look like I was up to no good.  Honestly, though, I wasn’t seeing gender.  I was just enjoying conversations, and I spoke to as many men as I spoke to women.  As I was going to sleep, though, I was thinking about Michael’s words, and I wondered about it.  What finally settled me was this thought: A bad husband makes his wife jealous of other women, but a good husband makes other women jealous of his wife.  By that metric, I’m not sure how good a husband I was, but I wasn’t a bad one.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

When I get settled and have some time, I’m going to transpose all of my WorldCon panel notes… Reno, Chicago, and San Antonio… into their own area on my blog.  Maybe other people will find them useful.  I’m sure I’ll be reminded of some good advice just going through the exercise.


WorldCon — The WorldCon Strikes Back

I didn’t get back to my room until around 2AM again, so again, I didn’t get any blogging done before going to bed.  It seems that I was much more disciplined about recording the details of my life when I went to Disneyland.

After posting to my blog yesterday, I wandered briefly before getting to the Kaffeeklatsch room.  I was on the standby list to see John Berlyne, and I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to get in.  I was allowed in, and getting to sit down with John was absolutely fantastic.

John Berlyne is an agent in the UK with clients all over the world.  He’s an extremely intelligent man with a someone brusque, sarcastic mien.  I actually found him a bit intimidating last year.  Then I got to talk to him for a while at one of the parties in Chicago, and he was amazingly supportive.  He didn’t sugar coat anything, but he also didn’t let me bullshit myself.  He asked me about my book and told me that when it was ready in a year or two to send it to him.

Sitting down with him yesterday, I found him to be exactly as he had been in Chicago.  He’s sarcastic and witty, but more generous than one might expect.  He re-invited me and a few others to send our stories to him when we’re ready.  Obviously it’s no guarantee.  My work my night even be a good fit for him.  Still, I’ll take all of the encouragement I can get.

After the Kaffeeklatsch, I went on to the SF Signal meetup.  I wasn’t sure what that was going to be like, but it was only okay.  There weren’t really enough tables and chairs for everyone to sit together.  Michael, Todd McCoy, and acquired our lunches and sat together just outside the main set of tables.  I had been looking forward to catching up with Emma Newman at the meetup, but she wound up at a complete different set of tables.

Fresh from lunch and full of energy, I went to a couple of panels.  The first one was titled “But Why Can’t You See My Genius” and it was about how to handle rejection letters.  A lot of the information was stuff I’d already heard before, but there were a few interesting tidbits I put in my notes, and the presentation of the information was entertaining.

I almost attended a panel called “Should SF/F be Covert Commentary on Current Social Issues?” I went in, sat in a chair, and looked at the name of the panel again.  My novel questions few current social issues in a subtle fashion, so I determined that I could answer the panel’s question on my own.  I got up and went to a different one.

I chose “Use of Language in Fantasy.” It’s an ambiguous panel title, as it could be dealing with what the characters are saying, how the author is telling the stories, or made-up languages.  The panel actually touched on all of that and more, and was more applicable to what I’m working on than I expected.  Mary Robinette Kowal was on this panel, just as she’d been on the previous one I’d attended, and she was fantastic.

With the panels done, I wandered a bit.  I’m actually struggling to remember what I did next, and I feel bad because I think I hung out with someone.  I’ve met up and spoken with tons of people this week, but I don’t necessarily remember everything chronologically.  This is one of the reasons I wanted to do these posts before going to bed.

The last official event I participated in was a Kaffeeklatsch with Nancy Kress.  She’s a delightful writer, and now that I think about it, she’s similar to John Berlyne in that she has no place for nonsense.  She’s very sweet and nice, and she invited conversations very easily.  She seemed ready to shutdown hogwash quickly and effortlessly, without being mean about it.  It’s hard for me to describe.

I want to make one more note about that Kaffeeklatsch.  There were a few in attendance that didn’t seem fully healthy mentally.  There was another guy that just seemed bored and disinterested, although that might have just been how he presented himself.  There was an older woman sitting to my immediate left that was excited about the sit-down, but she was a little hard of hearing and kept talking over Nancy.  It made it more challenging for me to enjoy the Kaffeeklatsch.  Nancy was very graceful about the whole thing, and continue to invite conversation.

After the Kaffeeklatsch I went in search of dinner.  I was determined not to get something fro the food court, and I was hoping to have dinner with someone.  Michael was unavailable, having made a bee-line for the next party/get-together at Ernie’s Bar.  I wound up going to Chili’s and eating by myself, feeling just a little bit lonely.  A pigeon was foraging near my chair, pecking at chip crumbs and other dropped food.  At one point, he started attacking some discarded breaded chicken, and all I kept thinking that it was cannibalistic.

After dinner, I went to Ernie’s Bar for Drinks with Authors.  The bar was overcrowded, but I still had a good time.  I bought some drinks for some really great people.  I met some great people.  Much fun was had, in spite of the excessively long line to the bar.

Then it was off to the usual parties at the hotel.  Michael, Chris from Canada, Will, Jim, Jim’s wife,and I went to various parties and I tried various drinks.  I don’t drink that much, and at one point, at the Brothers Without Banners party, Michael tried to get me to have a reaction to a drink called an Orange Ghost.  Michael had tried it himself, and it had burned.  I don’t know why, but I found it a little bit yummy, and it tingled my lips a little.  Michael and the others that were watching were impressed that I hadn’t flinched or turned red or anything.  It was anti-climactic enough to be interesting.

By the time I got to my room, it was 2AM, and I was in no shape to make a blog post.

It’s Sunday afternoon now, so this post is going up later than I had planned.  I’ve already had a somewhat fascinating day, which I’ll likely write about tonight well after the Hugo’s, or perhaps tomorrow at the airport.