Boskone breakdown

This past weekend I traded biblical rains and landslides for ice, snow and surprisingly moderate temperatures at Boskone. This is my favorite East Coast con for several reasons, not the least of which is an opportunity to hobnob with Chia and George–the other coastal elites of the Unreliable Narrators–as well as other friends and cohorts.

A few highlights:

– The hotel. Westin Boston Waterfront is one of the best convention sites around: clean and modern rooms, a spacious lobby and bar, several decent restaurants and plenty of conference space. Relieves the downside of sitting in a quiet and uneventful part of town.

– Several lively panels. Hearing Brandon Sanderson, Charles Stross and Walter Jon Williams discuss their toughest books was highly entertaining. And moderator extraordinaire Julia Rios even plugged our podcast and drama series during her panel on podcasting.

– The horror contingent. A small but closeknit group of horror authors provided lively discussions of horror in literature and on the silver screen. They even showed up for each other at the Kaffeeklatches. Other genres, take note.

– The flash fiction slam. Three of the Narrators–George,Chia and I–participated in the contest, and George took second place with his tale of disease warfare. Three minutes is… not a lot of time to read a piece.

– Dinner with Walter, Julia and my fellow Narrators. Deconstructed shellfish and onion strings atop every dish (even the fish and chips!) Now we know why it’s called a test kitchen.

So very not a highlight: the three-hour delay into Boston and the two-hour delay returning home. This follows a four-hour stretch of boredom in Chicago on my last trip. Yeah, I think I’m done with United. This is not the sort of thing I’m interested in becoming business as usual.

Thanks, Boston. I’m sure we’ll meet again before long. And damn, was it nice not hearing about our orange dystopia for a few days.

We are Unreliable

Hey, it’s been over two months since I checked in! How the hell did that happen? It’s not like nothing has happened since then. Paradise ICON was a success, as always, getting to hang out with writer pals as well as class acts like Joe and Gay Haldeman and Ann Leckie. Then there was NaNoWriMo, during which I knocked out a decent amount of words on my next book but will likely throw out 90% of them. And there’s also been the usual submit-and-query game that goes with writing fiction.

Then there’s the not trivial work of bootstrapping a new podcast and website with several writer friends. We’re up and running as the Unreliable Narrators! The first few episodes are available, and we are only gathering steam. It’s been a lot of fun, and it allows me to combine several favorite pastimes. Just need to make sure it doesn’t pull me too far away from finishing the next manuscript.

Happy holidays!

Smoke and mirrors at Sasquan

So, that happened.

sasquan1

I’m home from Sasquan, where genre fans converged to celebrate things they loved, where raging forest fires sent the populace scrambling for face masks, where Hugo voters sent the various puppy factions scurrying home with their tails between their legs. As you may have gathered, it was anything but dull. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, hanging out with Taos Toolbox pals and their friends, and even scored more agent interest in my latest novel. I may or may not have dyed my hair blue-green– temporary dye, the kind that leaves big blue handprints on hotel towels. (Sorry, Davenport) We may or may not have tried vaping– no nicotine or more nefarious substances involved– and carried flasks into the Hugo award ceremony, Such rebels! I’ve lost count, but that was at least my fifth or sixth childhood.

And to think I considered not going. My fear that the Puppy Slate brouhaha would cast a pall over the proceedings turned out to be ill-founded. Of all the reasons I’m glad I went ahead and pulled the trigger, the biggest is witnessing firsthand how little impact that online shitstorm had on fandom at large. Panels and parties continued as planned, friends met up and discussed their favorite new reads. The attempted Puppy hijacking came up quite infrequently, with a shrug or eyeroll and a transition to more interesting topics. It just wasn’t all that relevant– or perhaps we had already discussed it to death. Like so many online squabbles, it seemed so insignificant away from the glare of the screen.

Then came the awards ceremony itself. Five No Awards handed out, doubling the total throughout Hugo history. Not only were the puppies denied any rockets, they were outvoted by downright massive margins (as revealed in the Hugo Stastistics data.) In the Novella category, No Award received almost seven times the amount of votes as the second place finisher. That’s what you call an unqualified blowout. Oh, and the winners included a novel translated from Chinese, a Dutch novelette, a comic book about a Pakistani-American girl, and a writer who helped expose the cowardice of an online hatemonger. And then George R. R. Martin showed the meaning of class by awarding losers his own Alfie Awards at a party that was all anyone would talk about the next day.

So, yeah. Nothing ambiguous about this outcome. It was a thing to see, and I’m glad I was there in person.

sasquan2

But speaking of casting a pall… holy shit, that smoke! The burning acres surrounding “Smokane” provided us with weird, greenscreen-like skies and blood-red suns. By Friday the air hazard infiltrated the Convention Center itself, when an unfortunate shift in the wind carried smoke and ash right to us. Regardless, it’s a beautiful town and I hope they get those fires under control. Though I am glad to be home and breathing salt air again.

Thanks, Sasquan. It was one for the record books.

 

100% humidity

Tomorrow morning– or maybe later tonight, since it will be early enough to introduce ambiquity– I will be off once more to the Pacific Northwest! This time I’m headed to Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon, in Spokane, WA. Even better, I just received my Known Traveler ID, which with any luck will keep me from the shoe-removing, laptop-unpacking Hell Lines at airport security. It’s the little things. Anyway, I look forward to reconnecting with friends and acquaintances– especially from Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox and Codex– and making new ones. I even have another author pitch scheduled. So, a full but potentially fun week.

Taken with Lumia Selfie

Walking the Highline!

As intimated in my last post, August continues to be a crazy month. So crazy, in fact, that I realize I never checked in here after the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. I have nothing but good things to say about the whole trip, aside from maybe the subway swelter and the sudden downpour that gave us a surprise soaking out in the middle of the East Village. But hey, it’s all part of the experience. The sightseeing rocked, courtesy of my fellow writer-types. And the conference itself was, like the SFWC earlier this year, a kick in the pants. In a good way. I highly recommend it if you find yourself anywhere near. Excellent guest speakers, lots to see and learn, and quite a few nibbles from the Pitch Slam. Whether any of it pans out or not, I’m glad for the experience.

11813340_10153073410171452_4547163991010849673_n (1)

The mighty hunter.

But that’s not all! According to the dogsitter, while I was away my hound chased down and (quote) “killed the sh!t out of” a nasty, flea-ridden possum that had been terrorizing the neighborhood. The sitter was quite happy and let him howl all he wanted after that.

And now it’s off to another adventure.

Ketchup

I’ve been quite busy over the last few weeks with a little thing called a final draft. Good for my novel, not so much for this poor blog! I have the best of intentions, honestly. How about a random smattering of tidbits that have caught my attention lately, to match my current frame of mind?

-Ten days left on writer/Director Sharon Lewis’ Indiegogo campaign for Brown Girl in the Ring – The Prequel. The film will serve as a prequel to Nalo Hopkinson’s terrific novel. I, for one, am intrigued.

– Writer pal Miranda Suri has fired up a new blog (because one isn’t enough, except for me, apparently) called Gluten Free, No Substitutes. She’s a dynamite cook and has dedicated her site to good food that avoids gluten without reaching for scary, faux-food ingredients. (I’ve tried cheese substitutes. Trust me, no bueno.)

– Comics scribe Brian K. Vaughan has announced The Private Eye will be coming to Image Comics. In exchange, he’ll be penning a Walking Dead story for Panel Syndicate! I’ve waxed rhapsodic about both Panel Syndicate and The Private Eye on this very blog, so this is good news all around. We need more independent sources for comics!

– The 2015 World Fantasy Awards finalists have been announced! This on the heels of the Locus Award finalists. Congratulations to two great slate of nominees, including former teachers John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear and Nancy Kress. Almost makes up for all the Hugo/Puppy BS. Almost.

I’m off to Vegas this weekend! Perhaps next week I can scrounge up some news that involves, you know, me. ‘Til then, kids!

SFWC FTW

WP_20150212_13_29_46_Pro

OK, that’s a good sign.

Now that’s more like it.

Had a great time this past weekend at the San Francisco Writers Conference. 2015 marks my first appearance at said event, and in retrospect I have to wonder why. The sessions were overall useful, the staff friendly and helpful without exception and the hotel was top-notch. Best of all: Queen Calafia, goddess of California, lent a watchful eye to the proceedings from her perch in the Room of the Dons. Yes, the very same Calafia that made an appearance in my previous work, In Cahoots (as referenced in a previous post.) Even better, she was in position during the Agent Speed Dating session on Saturday. Bless the Goddess!

Right, the pitching. Without a doubt the best part of the conference was a pair of editorial consultations followed by several expressions of interest from said agents. The year is off to a rip roaring start. I’ll be busy shipping out words into the void and telling them not to come home without a request to send more.

This was one intense conference. I had the good fortune to meet up with Cath Schaff-Stump and Debbie Goelz, both of whom also had great success with pitches. (Cath has posted her own exceptional account of the goings-on at her own website.)  We scurried around town between sessions and helped each other refine our presentations. I can’t imagine attending one of these things without such stalwart support.

I’ll be posting more thoughts on this weekend soon. For now, let’s say it was well worth the time and effort and greenbacks to attend. And I’ll likely return next year.

 

Beware the ides of February

Hey, remember me? Yeah, I’m still around. Though you wouldn’t know from this blog. Happily, I have not been making updates because I’ve been busy at work on other projects. I finished a rough draft of my latest novel, polished up my last one (last time, honest) and completed about a half dozen short stories. Not bad after the post-Taos slump of late 2014. This new year shows promise.

Beginning with the San Francisco Writers Conference a week from now! I’m all signed up and looking forward to meeting up with several other writer pals at the fancy-schmancy Mark Hopkins International. I’m even signed up for the Agent Speed Dating Session on Saturday. This will be my first face to face encounter with the fabled literary agent. Wish me luck.

Interestingly, 2015 is shaping up to be the Year of the West Coast. I’ll be hanging out at a writers’ retreat in Portland this spring, then heading to Spokane for Sasquan (aka the 73rd Worldcon) during the summer. Too bad the Nebula Awards Weekend moves this year from San Jose to Chicago.

So, yeah. Lots going on. Just not here, so much.

ICONography

WP_20141101_10_49_41_ProI’m back from the wilds of Eastern Iowa following a smashing time at ICON and its associated writing workshop, Paradise Icon 3.  This was my second year at the workshop, which is run by the inimitable Cath Schaff-Stump. (Incidentally, Cath posted a 5-year “where are they now” restrospective for our Viable Paradise class on her website. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.)

Last year was a tough act to follow, but I can now declare– from the safety of my 70-degree homeland– this year was even better. Great writers, awesome stories, insightful critiques, annd I’m out of adjectives. The guest lectures/Q&A by Jim Hines, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch  proved entertaining and energizing. (Best advice of the weekend, courtesy of Mr. Hines: Trying to make it perfect will keep you from making it good. “It” referring to a work in progress, of course, but doesn’t that apply in so many other cases?)

Hats off (mostly knit sockhats, I’m thinking) to Cath for another stellar job on Paradise Icon 3.  Now to buckle down and bang out that next rough draft, which I am disappointed to report hasn’t written itself in my absence. I guess winter’s good for something after all.

20141101_203212

 

Taos Toolbox 2014

That's me in the back, the Sasquatch looming over the unsuspecting vacationers.

That’s me in the back, the Sasquatch looming over the unsuspecting vacationers.

Last week I drove from Taos back to California. I arrived home Sunday evening, and had to work bright and early on Monday morning. Needless to say it was a loooong week. But! I made it to the next weekend, slept on and off for a majority of it, and now I’m back to normal. For some value of normal that works for me, anyway.

So how was it, you ask? Even if you don’t, I’ll tell you. In a word, several times over: incredible. Inspirational. Fun. Challenging. Exciting. Draining.

What a great bunch of people. Walter and Nancy were gracious, if exacting, hosts. Our group consisted of four men and nine women, a reversal of many previous classes. Also unique was the large percentage of humorous fiction submitted and written at the retreat.  With a default setting of Grim to Dark in genre fiction these days, this was a refreshing change of pace.

Time well spent, without a doubt. I achieved a decent sweet spot; my fiction was well received, but greatly benefited from feedback. I’ll be unpacking what I’ve learned for some time to come. If you have any genre writing aspirations, I can’t recommend it enough.

The only universal truth in writing is that there are no universal truths. Walter and Nancy don’t offer platitudes and plug-in formulas. They point out strengths, hone in on weaknesses and expect improvement before you leave. It’s fun and demanding all at once.

Sleep deprivation. Altitude sickness. Wildlife invasions. Trapped under a dome for two weeks with some of the brightest folks you’ll ever meet. Planning, writing, revising and then revising some more. You will experience the Quickening. You won’t recognize the writer who returns from the mountaintop, but he or she will remember you as an ancestor. You cannot help but improve. The bear gods demand it of you.

Help out Hadley Rille

Here’s a good cause for the crowdfunding inclined out there. Hadley Rille Books is an excellent small press looking to expand. They’re very open to working with new writers and their roster includes several VP alumni.  They’ve opened an Indiegogo campaign designed to support their continued growth. Aside from publishing great books they’re also offering up some great prizes, including manuscript critiques and a spot in a seaside writing retreat. The HRB authors have taken up the cause and offered quite a lot of time and effort in support. Why not show some love to those out in the trenches?