Norwescon Weekend

I had a swell time this past weekend at Norwescon 34, the Pacific Northwest premier science fiction and fantasy convention. Here are the highlights:

7:00 a.m. PST. Saturday. Headed back to Norwescon soon for a 9:00 a.m. workshop. What a crazy, fantastic day Friday. Sat four panels that played to full rooms. Solicited stories for 10Flash from John Pitts, Ken Scholes and Michael Ehart. Had a grand conversation with my good friend, Jordan Lapp, about all and sundry. Worked hard and partied hard. Amen and Hallelujah.

Another great day at Norwescon. A 9:00 a.m. Fairwood Writers critique group for a most receptive writer. Scattered pithy chats with friends. Jordan Lapp. The Odells. Tod McCoy. Dale Ivan Smith. Janna Silverstein. Camille Alexa. Mike and Sheila Alexander. Jude-Marie Green. Cat Rambo. SO many others. A fun flash fiction panel with Jordan, Cat, and Caren Gussoff. Bless them each and every one.

A last tidbit from Norwescon. Friday night, I learned something of the depths to which a magazine editor can fall. I enticed the promise of a story to 10Flash from Ken Scholes – by offering money and a bar chair I didn’t own. The shame. Also got promises of submissions from John Pitts, Camille Alexa and Michael Ehart. No chairs involved in those deals.

In addition, I discovered why writers I follow on blogs and at Facebook talk about “secret projects”. I’m now involved in two such projects of my own. Can’t share the details yet, but both are so exciting I have to make some sort of announcement. More later.

Finally, there’s a long list of people I wanted to spend time with and wasn’t able to arrange connections.  Janet Freeman-Daily.  Mary Rosenblum.. Fred and Johanna McLain. Kevin Shamel. Jeremy Zimmerman.  Marta Murvosh.  So many others, friends I didn’t see or only saw in passing.  Mea culpa.  Next time, huh?

At Orycon

I’ll be at Orycon (at the Doubletree Hotel) in downtown Portland this week-end.

I’m participating in a group reading, with Alex Black and Lael Salaets, of our stories from the Writers of the Future 26 anthology.  That’s Friday night (11/12) at 8:00 p.m. in the Lincoln Room.

Also, I’ll be sitting on three panels Saturday (11/13):

  • Winning Writers of the Future (noon in the Jefferson/Adams Room) – with Ken Scholes, Aimee C. Amodio, Alex Black, Lael Salaets and Gra Linnaea.
  • Writing with all your senses (1:00 p.m. in the Madison Room) – with Nina Kriki Hoffman, Camille Alexa and Richard A. Lovett.
  • Dumbledore is gay? (5:00 p.m. in the Hawthorne Room) – with Louise Owen, Gene Armstrong and Judith R. Conly.

I’d love to say hello and chat with anyone who happens by.  Hope to see you there.

Belated comments on Norwescon

It’s Thursday and I’m just getting around to commenting on Norwescon. Good reason, or bad reason, I suppose.

Plague and contagion runs rampant here.

Well, maybe not in such epic proportions, but bad enough to send me packing for medical assistance, and I hate going to the doctor’s office.

I fought the cursed thing all through Norwescon, rasping in a voice that sounded as if I had a throat full of sand. Pushed my way through three panels and a Sunday morning reading that fell flat. Never try to do a public reading when the best adjective to describe your voice is raspy.

But there were joyful moments, too.

Made it, Friday night, to Michael Ehart’s book-launch party for his novel, The Tears of Ishtar, and had a swell time. Thanks, Michael. The book looks fantastic.

All three panels were well attended and successful, I believe. I had a great time at all three, particularly the second one Saturday night — Avoiding Cliches in Urban Fantasy — with co-panelist John Pitts. We both agreed we rocked it. John’s got a new book coming out soon, too. Black Blade Blues.

I met a ton of people, too. Said hello to Sandra Odell, one of my fellow Clarion West 2010 classmates, and Leslie Howle, one of the CW workshop coordinators. Broke bread, on various occasions, with Jordan Lapp and Randy Henderson, from last year’s Clarion West class, and Janet Freeman and Dale Ivan Smith, two of the writers who have appeared in 10Flash. Bumped into Jeremy Zimmerman several times, as well. Jeremy, I heard your story presentation was very well received. Congratulations.

So, I had a great time, but came home Sunday afternoon and literally collapsed. The doctor said it was a sinus infection made worse by allergies. It seems all that nice weather we had here in Seattle a couple of weeks ago brought out the pollen early. Who would have guessed?

At Norwescon 33

I’ll be at Norwescon 33 as an attending professional in two weeks.

In addition to just hanging around and being generally bothersome, I’m participating in three panels, one each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and reading my Analog story, Flotsam, on Sunday morning.

Here’s my schedule:

Friday, April 2, 2010 9:00 p.m., Cascade 6
Gender Queers in Urban Fantasy: Where are the novels that discard the gender binary in this genre? Where are the drag queens and other gender queers?

Saturday, April 3, 2010 10:00 p.m., Cascade 7
Avoiding Cliches in Urban Fantasy: How many hard-boiled PIs does one genre need? Gritty locales are fun, but why can’t we ever be at the beach? Magic users, vampires, and werewolves, oh my! Do we need something more original?

Sunday, April 4, 2010 10:30 – 11:00 a.m., Cascade 3
Reading by K.C. Ball of Flotsam, a near-future science fiction story scheduled to appear in the September 2010 issue of Analog.

Sunday, April 4, 2010 2:00 p.m., Cascade 9
Urban Fantasy: Bridge Over a Genre: This is a genre that seems to pull ideas and forms from many different worlds. A little noir here, some mystery there, and oh hey, look steampunk! Where does urban fantasy begin and end?

Norwescon is one of the largest regional science fiction and fantasy conventions in the United States.

While maintaining a literary focus, Norwescon also provides a venue for other aspects of science fiction and fantasy, such as anime, costuming, art and gaming.

The convention will be held at the SeaTac Double Tree Hotel, April 1-4, 2010. If you’re planning on attending, stop by and say hello.

At Potlatch

This past weekend, I spent a lot of time at Potlatch 19. It’s a literary convention for readers and writers of speculative fiction and it focuses on communications.

No costumes. No gaming or art shows. No film rooms. Just a bunch of folks with a passion for SF and an interest in discussing the genre with other devotees. Intimate is a word you hear a lot at Potlatch and it is that.

There are some group events — a couple of scheduled panels, an organizational meeting or two and a Sunday brunch — but what you see most (and get drawn into) are small clusters of people everywhere, involved in animated conversations.

It was enormous fun.

Jude-Marie Green, fellow writer and associate editor of Abyss & Apex, the quarterly on-line SF magazine, flew up from Los Angeles. She stayed with Rachael and me, came bearing gifts from LaLa Land, and was kind enough to hang out with me at the convention.

She and I breakfasted with Kij Johnson Saturday and Rachael met us Sunday afternoon for a swell poke around at Pike Place Market. We were sorry to see her leave Monday afternoon.

The event was held at the Deca Hotel, in the heart of the University District, and it was a good choice. The attention we received from the hotel staff was first-rate — friendly, competent and ever-helpful — and all the nooks and crannies of the facility were perfect for small gatherings.

I had a chance to chat with some of my favorite published SF writers — Kij Johnson, Vonda McIntire, Ellen Klages and David D. Levine, to name just a few — and had an animated conversation about fanzines, SF movies, silent-film comedians and the logistics of conventions with Potlatch committee member Jerry Kaufman over Sunday brunch.

The best part of the whole thing is that proceeds — from the Potlatch auction, tee-shirt sales and the like — go to support the Clarion West Workshop, the six-week workshop, held here in Seattle, for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy.

Talk about win-win situations. I’m already looking forward to Potlatch 20, next year in San Francisco.

March 1st is upon us

To paraphrase Don McLean, February made me shiver, with every word that I delivered.

Well actually, it didn’t.  The weather has been oh, so mild in these parts.  In the low sixties today.  But the writing scene has been sort of chilly.

The writing progresses steadily — up to almost 27,000 words now — but not a word on the pieces I have out.

I add to the pile, though.  I’ve sent The Night Bus Doesn’t Stop Downtown on Mondays Anymore out into the cold to knock on doors, along with A Very Narrow Bridge, my fourth completed story for the year.  It’s an alternate worlds story set in Seattle.  That went to Scheherazade’s Facade, an anthology due out in October.

For those of you who are attending, I’ll be at Potlatch 19 next week-end and I’ve been invited to Norwescon 33 as a participating professional.  That will be the first weekend in April.

That’s it for now.  I’m off to drive my Chevy to the levee.

Doing Rustycon

The last few days, I’ve been processing the experience of participating at Rustycon as  an attending professional.   Here are some thoughts:

  • I sat on six panels — one on Friday and five on Saturday — and had a scheduled reading Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m.   Preparing for it all felt a bit like work, which I suppose it is.
  • Four of the panels were a hoot — they were well attended, there was lots of questions and audience participation and the other panelists were fun and challenging to talk to.  My favorite was the Friday night session on getting published.   My fellow panelist — John Hedtke — writes technical non-fiction and has published 26 books.  It was a spirited and funny sixty minutes.
  • Two of the panels — I won’t say which two — were not so much fun.  One in particular was painful.   in the first minutes, a woman in the audience asked a question about research and then would not let anyone on the panel provide a complete answer. She kept talking, interrupting, wouldn’t let anyone else in the audience get in a coherent word, and there was no polite way we could shut her up.  After a time, people began leaving.  Some of the other panel members looked as if they wished they could leave.  I know I wanted to.
  • My tight schedule didn’t give me a lot of time to wander around and see what else was being offered.  I did get a chance late Saturday to chat awhile with Michael Ehart, who was also there as an attending pro.  The more I get a chance to talk with him, the more I like him.  I think Michael is as serious as I am about making this writing thing work.  I wish him much luck and hope I keep running into him.
  • Since Rustycon was here in Seattle, I commuted from home — 12 miles each way.  I suspect I missed out on a lot of the convention color by not staying at the hotel — the Airport Marriott.  I’m planning on attending two more SF conventions in Seattle this spring — Potlatch in March and Norwescon in April.  The folks at Norwescon have already invited me to participate as an attending professional.  If I can afford it, I hope to stay the weekend at the host hotels.
  • Sunday morning was a disappointment.  I had decided to read Flotsam, my story that will appear in Analog sometime this year.  I prepped hard for that thirty-minute session.  Rehearsed reading the story, promoted it as much as I could during my panels and handed out business cards and flyers to people I bumped into between panel sessions.  I was pumped for it.  Nobody showed up.  I understand that I have to build an audience, that people will come to appreciate my work if it’s supposed to be.  Even so, it was difficult to sit there in that empty room and wait.
  • I need to call upon my training and experience in marketing.  I hadn’t really considered that before attending Orycon in November.  The people who attend SF conventions, and show up for the panels on the writing track, are my target audience.  I’m offering them a product — me and my stories.  I can’t expect them to buy that product if I don’t promote it.

At Rustycon 27

Next weekend, I’ll be at Rustycon — the science fiction convention held here in Seattle — and as more than one of the crowd.

The Rustycon folks were kind enough to invite me to participate as an attending professional.  And so, I will be appearing in six panel discussions — moderating one of them — and reading some of my work.

I’m looking forward to it.

I have a new acquaintance to thank for the connection; two new acquaintances, actually.  I’ve come to think of them as my Amtrak friends.

I met Fred and Johanna McLain on the train to Portland at the end of November, on the way to Orycon.  They were across the aisle, we struck up a conversation when Fred asked me about a book I was reading, and it turned out that they were on their way to Orycon, too.

Fred’s been active in the Pacific Northwest science convention scene for years and he seems to know everybody.  And he mentioned me to some of them.  And that lead to an invitation to Rustycon.

Thank you, Fred.  New friends are a joy of discovery.

Anyway, I’ve got one panel Friday night, five on Saturday, on everything from world-building to sex scenes in science fiction.  They’re spread throughout the day so I’ll be hopping.  And I will present a thirty-minute reading Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m.

If you’re going to be at Rustycon, come introduce yourself; I’d love to say hello and talk writing for a bit.

And stop by to hear me read, if you can.  My voice echoes something awful in an empty room.

Home again, home again

Ignore the ransom demands. I’m home from Orycon and what a great time I had. Lots to process, but here’s a few high points:

  • chatting with Michael Ehart, one of my favorite flash fiction writers and author of The Servant of the Manthycore and the upcoming The Tears of Ishtar.
  • watching author and anthology editor Lou Anders and Mary-Robinette Kowal, author of the heart-rending 2009 Hugo nominee Evil Robot Monkey (which is flash fiction BTW), pace the center lane at the Building a Balanced Mythos panel.
  • Saturday dinner with Tom Crosshill and Alex Black, the other two 1st Quarter 2009 Writers of the Future winners.
  • seeing Kevin Shamel again. Kevin was at Orycon selling his new book, Rotten Little Animals from Eraserhead Press. (The Mohawk is cool beans, Kev.)
  • Saturday drinks with author and teacher Mary Rosenblum (who has been enormously supportive of 10Flash. Thanks again, Mary. I can’t say that too often.), Dale Smith and Shawna Reppert, whose flash fiction (respectively) Dead Wife Waiting and A Knight’s Vow will appear in the January 2010 and April 2010 issues of 10Flash. (Wait ’til you read them. Great stuff.)
  • the late Sunday afternoon chat with Camille Alexa, author of Push the Sky, a short fiction collection from Hadley Rille Books, and flash fiction editor for Abyss & Apex magazine.  Smart and funny lady.

I hope to talk more about Orycon later. Right now (it’s a bit after midnight), I’m going to bed. I am usually a night writer but at this moment, I’m exhausted.

At Orycon

Got into Portland just before two p.m. yesterday, after a great trip down via Amtrak. The only negative part of the journey was trying to figure out how to get into Union Station in Seattle. I swear they don’t want people to use the place.

Seating aboard the Coach Starlight was fantastic. The first time I’ve ever traveled anywhere by public transportation when I was able to stretch my legs out in front of me. Lunch in the dining car was tasty — a nicely cooked burger and a slice of peanut butter and chocolate pie.

I had a chance to chat with people on the train. A couple nearby — Fred and Johanna — were on their way to Orycon, too. Nice folks. The three of us rode the street car to the Double Tree hotel.

My room is spacious and I had a great night’s sleep. Unfortunately, I crashed early because I stayed up all night Thursday night, working on a story, and by six p.m., I was stumbling and incoherent.

I did have a chance to take in a couple of panel discussions before I crumpled. Also said hello to Michael Ehart, who wrote Without Napier , one of my favorite stories at Every Day Fiction, to Mary Rosenblum, of Long Ridge Writers Group, and to my old traveling buddy, Kevin Shamel, who is here to promote his new book, Rotten Little Animals.

I was up at four a.m. this morning, for a couple hours of writing.  It’s almost seven a.m. now.  Time to get ready and go down to face the day.

More later.