Category Archives: Misc.


The Post-Con Naps

I just woke up from a two-hour nap. This nap was necessary because, in spite of 9 hours of sleep, I’m still exhausted from Norwescon. In convention terms, that means I had a very good time.

Regular readers (ha!) may remember remember a series of posts about last year’s Worldcon, where I expressed considerable annoyance with my apparent inability to talk to people I didn’t already know, whether they were fans or pros. It turns out that there are two solutions for this problem:

  1. alcohol
  2. a ready-made conversation-starter

By “alcohol,” what I really mean is a social environment where walking up to random people and saying, “what’s up” is acceptable and even expected. That way I don’t have to deal with my issues of not wanting to intrude on people’s personal space. If you fit 50 people into a smallish hotel room, nobody’s going to have personal space anyway, so who cares?

The ready-made conversation-starter was more accidental: I just went wearing my NIWA shirt and pin. Between that and the dealer flag on my con badge, people more often than not asked me what I was selling, and that let me dive in my NIWA spiel. I got very good at that spiel. And then, once that was over, the conversation could move along naturally. I talked to plenty of pros and plenty of fans that way, and I don’t think I ever embarrassed myself once, despite the atomic cherries floating about.

I’m not a social butterfly and I never will be, but it’s nice to know that I can mingle and schmooze and make some friends in the right set of circumstances.

Other con notes: it was a pretty good convention for Fugitives from Earth, especially compared to other recent events where it got no interest at all. I was one of the top sellers from NIWA, although the convention itself was admittedly slow for us. A big part of that, I’m convinced, was our booth setup. A million other small things contributed as well; I suspect that we’ll have a lot to talk about at our next meeting.

Norwescon itself was great: good panels, great costumes, lots of people and interesting things going on. Aside from last year’s Worldcon, it’s the best convention I’ve ever been to. Even if NIWA doesn’t go back next year, I probably will.



Hey everyone! I’m at Norwescon! Just arrived at my hotel after spending an hour and a half setting up our booth in the dealer’s room, and then walking a quarter mile in the middle of a raging thunderstorm. I was so close a bolt of lightning that I could hear the sizzle as it struck, a quarter-second before the thunder hit.

The view

The lovely view from my hotel window.

It’s funny, this being the third con I’ve attended in the last year, that I’m starting to recognize people. Mostly dealer’s room folks; they tend to make pretty regular circuits to the local cons just like NIWA. But, there’s also various random attendees that I glance at in the hall and think, “Hey, I saw him in Reno.”

Another fun tidbit about Norwescon: it’s kind of packed. In terms of attendance-to-space ratio, this is the largest con I’ve ever been to, and I’m hoping that I’ll be doing less scooting between clots of people as the rush to registration ends.

Final tidbit for now: this is the first time I’ve ever stayed in a hotel room all by myself. Is that weird? Every other time I’ve been with my wife, my parents, or friends. I feel like a decadent Roman emperor, lounging all alone on the rock-hard beds or flipping channels on the ancient Zenith CRT.

Anyone else at Norwescon? Stop by the dealer’s room and say hi at the NIWA booth.

The Road (from) Reno, Part I

So endeth Renovation, so endeth my first WorldCon. I’m decompressing, just relaxing, in our hotel room in Anaheim across the street from Disneyland. Tomorrow begins the second, more easy-going half of our vacation.

The plan is this: I’m going to write up my Renovation experiences in two parts. Today, I’ll just write some general, random thoughts in more or less the order they occur to me. Friday’s post, on the other hand, will go into a little more detail on the panels and talks I attended. So, stay tuned.

First of all, the bad news. Reno is a pukehole. There’s this contrast between the depressingly artificial glitz of the big casinos towering over the depressingly realistic grime of the rest of the city. There were some newer shopping centers, and the convention center was quite nice, but we avoided the rest of the city wherever possible. Don’t ever go there.

The convention itself was pretty awesome. It wasn’t quite the non-stop spectacle of a megaproduction like PAX; in contrast to a lot of gaming and comic-cons, it was quite small and sedate. Two reasons for this: first, there weren’t a lot of people there. Renovation only had about 5,000 registered attendees, about 3,500 of which showed up on any given day. So, compare that to the SDCC’s 130,000 or PAX’s 68,000. The second reason was far more surprising: the average attendee of Renovation was old.

Well, perhaps not old, but certainly middle-aged. I was really surprised to find that I was one of the younger people present, and that there were a few people as old as my grandparents. Science fiction and fantasy have been around for a long time, of course, but I didn’t really expect the demographics to look like they did.

And I definitely got the feeling that a lot of those people have been going to WorldCons (and cons in general) since they were my age. Science fiction fandom wasn’t just organized around their hobbies, like gaming fandom generally is. No, SF fandom is more like a family, or at least a club, where a lot of the regulars have known each other for years and years. There were times (not many, but a few) that I felt like I was intruding on their private gathering.

Of course there were younger people there too, and a lot of the authors I was most interested in were in that group. Of course, they had their own groupies, and that leads me to the slightly negative part of my experience.

So, the panels were really interesting. And I did meet a number of authors–including everyone from Writing Excuses, which was very gratifying to me. But I didn’t really make any connections, like I was hoping to. I only chatted lightly with a few of the authors, and except for maybe Howard Tayler I don’t really expect any of them remembered me beyond the next moment. It was a little disappointing that I couldn’t find more of an “in.”

I might’ve fallen short of my hopes, but that doesn’t mean that my hopes were necessarily realistic. I didn’t really know how cons worked, and I didn’t make much of an effort to connect with people before WorldCon, which would’ve helped immensely. In a sense, I was hoping to make an “in” with some of these writers, but I should’ve come to the con with an “in” already prepared.

Of course, part of it was just my usual social anxiety. I hate feeling like I’m being an inconvenience to someone, and I can’t tolerate the thought of being “that guy” that hounds after authors, desperate to make conversation.

Well, there’s always next con. If what I saw was any indication, most of these people know each other pretty well, so I’ve got to start small. Like, say, by getting something published. Hmm…

Ooh, lemme talk about the Hugos. Pretty fun stuff, like our very own tiny little academy awards. It really made me feel like a part of this big happy family watching the way that the emcees, the category presenters, and the winners were so chummy. No real competition, and lots of genuine emotion. In particular, the winner of the fanzine Hugo was pretty much sobbing like a maniac at the podium for five minutes. Fun stuff.

Despite the fact that we were in Reno, no odds were offered on the winners. Which was good, really, because I picked almost none of the right ones. Best novel? Nope. Writing Excuses? Nope. Freaking best novelette? No, no, no. Ah, well.

That’s pretty much it for general impressions. The dealer’s room was cool, and the art gallery was amazing, but they’re both pretty par for the course. The panels were pretty much uniformly awesome, but that would be getting into specifics.

Speaking of specifics, on Friday I’ll be discussing the panels and kaffeeklatsches in more detail, plus anything I forgot to mention today. Stay tuned! Should be great.

I’m Not Dead

Crappy Internet at this crappy hotel in Reno! Still, I did make it intact and I’ve been having a great time. I’ll try on Monday to get a more complete post up—there is much to discuss!

See you then. Hopefully.

Mea Culpa

I was hoping to have my beta reading roundup finished in time for my regular Monday post, but it’s not quite there yet. Look for more details tomorrow, but for now I’ll just say that I got some really good feedback. The consensus was right where I wanted it to be: needs work, but it shows promise. I’m really hoping to have the novel substantially done within two months, but my previous schedules haven’t worked out all that well, so I’ll just say that my OryCon release date is looking good.

Oh, and thanks to any beta readers who may be reading this. Without you, I am nothing! Look for details tomorrow, as promised.

While you’re waiting: some good news, some bad news.

Finally, congratulations to fellow NIWAn Pam Bainbridge-Cowan AKA P.J. Cowan on the release of her new novel Something in the Dark. Looks like it’s been getting great reviews, and her experience getting the thing published in the first place will prove invaluable to yours truly. Naturally, I wish her the best of luck.

The Cool Kids are Hanging Out

It’s Friday, and that means it’s post time! What better way to go into the weekend? None, I say.

On the writing front, I’m trying really hard to get a revision of my hopeful cyberpunk story done before I need to dive into my novel, and I’m not having the best of luck. I had a good run of a couple of days where my writing was just buzzing along, but I think I’ve lost steam. Nothing dramatic about it, I just need to pull myself back on track.

Actually, there is a bit of a reason. I’ve been a lot sleepier in the mornings because my wife and I have been getting up early to work out. I enjoy the workouts themselves (great chance to catch up on my reading) but the 5:30 AM wake-up calls are playing hell with my schedule. When I get back, if I don’t get right on the ball and make myself some coffee, I’ll just lay my head down for a little rest, and then wake up two and a half hours later unable to remember what day it is. So, good for the body, less so for the mind.

Are you on Google+ yet? You should be, and not just because it’s far less annoying than Facebook. The circles feature is nice and everything, but what I’m really, really getting into are the hangouts. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but several writers that I follow have started doing hangout write-ins, and it’s probably the best idea anyone’s ever had.

Write-ins provide an awesome burst of productivity for me because, being around other writers, my professional pride tends to outweigh my laziness. At home, where there’s nobody but the dog around, that’s not quite the case, but it is more comfortable. So, being able to have a write-in and stay at home is the bee’s knees for reasons I shouldn’t have to explain. As long as you have a webcam, a microphone, and someone in your circles who’s interested, you can get the best of both worlds.

It’s even better when there’s some well-known writer in the mix. This week I’ve had write-ins with both Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary) and Mary Robinette Kowal (Shades of Milk and Honey). Wonderfully productive both times, and I’d recommend it to anybody.

Finally, today’s the ostensible deadline for my Fugitives beta readers. I’m going to be pretty busy this weekend, so in reality they have a few extra days, but I’m hoping to get some good feedback by Monday. So far two individuals including my wife have gotten some to me, and I know at least one other will get the book done. Check back here on Monday for a round-up of the critiques and a game plan from yours truly.


So, today marks one week of letting Fugitives from Earth decant a bit in my mind. I’m still working on a few short stories and things like that before getting back into it, but I’ll definitely be plugging away at it again by this weekend.

I’m actually rather enjoying the short story work in between major projects. Once the novel goes out to beta readers it’ll be literally impossible for me to work on it for a month or so while they chug their way through it, and I think I’m going to use that opportunity to try a little experiment.

So, NaNoWriMo is great, right? And why? Because of the magic of the deadline. That little pretend goal takes on Damocles proportions as the month goes on (especially if you’ve been bragging) and that means that stuff gets done. And, frankly, when I don’t have a deadline around, I really miss it. Ones that I arbitrarily assign to myself aren’t as compelling as ones that are tied to dates by circumstances partially out of my control.

So, here’s the plan: for the four weeks after I submit FfE to the beta readers, I will write one complete short story from conception to submission-ready per week. Each story will be at least 3000 words long (as if I could ever write anything shorter) but no more than 7,500 words. There aren’t any other rules for NaShoStoMo. I just need to write.

Using the NaNo method for short stories will be particularly useful, I think, because of the peculiarities of short stories. The economy of plot and language required are totally different for shorts than a novel; the skills are barely transferrable. But because each word is so much more important for a short story, I tend to slow down and seize up altogether when I get nervous. Writing nothing instead of “the wrong thing” is pretty much the stupidest habit ever, and I really, really want to rid myself of it. It’s not like anything you write is ever wasted, even if it just improves your skills.

There are advantage of writers block, as I’ve discovered, but most of the time, it just pisses me off. And I want to fix that.