Tag Archives: Alex Bledsoe

Second Thoughts

I didn’t get a lot of work done last week. I took a little break to read a new book from one of my favorite authors, Alex Bledsoe (it was great, by the way), but after I finished my reading I had trouble getting back to work. I think that a big part of my problem is that I am having second thoughts about both my character and my story.

Like I was saying last week, I would love to get some feedback about my story idea to see if it would be something that people would like to read. I’m still waiting. As for my character, I’m having trouble with the idea that a man would still be in such pain over his wife’s death as to be suicidal after twenty years. That just doesn’t seem very plausible, does it?

I was basing my character idea on the main character of the Lethal Weapon movies, Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson. He is so distraught by his wife’s death that he has trouble going on without her. He considers suicide, but is unable to actually pull the trigger. The only thing that keeps him going is his job as a detective, but even there his behavior clearly shows he has a death wish, as he continuously takes extreme risks that could easily get him killed.

The problem is that, with my character, he has had twenty years to move on and learn to live with it. You would expect that after that much time he would either have pulled the trigger or taken that one step too far and gotten himself killed. He wouldn’t still be pining away and sticking his gun in his mouth whenever he gets depressed.

So there goes my first scene. I was planning on opening the book with him having a nightmare about her death and reacting by reaching for his gun. Now I’m thinking that I should drop both the nightmare and the suicide attempt. I can open with him having a nightmare, but I don’t have to describe it. I can mention it, and leave the reader hanging as to what it was about. And I can work in something about his attempts at suicide as a reminiscence he shares with one of the other characters later on in the book. For now, I can simply get him up and moving towards meeting the rest of the cast.

So that’s what I’m working on now. I’m also rethinking how the whole University of Magic comes into play. I was planning on having the young mother he helps to get there be involved somehow, and I think that now I know how. They were going to be working on summoning spells, and maybe she could be involved by trying to contact her recently deceased husband.

I guess what I need to do is nail down how each of the major characters is going to fit into my story. The main character isn’t the only one that can have a story arc and learn something from their adventures. Maybe he can teach her how to deal with her pain. After all, he has been there himself.

As for my need for feedback, please leave a comment if you have something to share. Otherwise, maybe what I need to do is get back in touch with my writing group. I haven’t participated in several months, and maybe it’s time I check in and see how they are doing. I’m sure they could help me fill in the holes and brainstorm stronger plot lines.

That’s it for this week. See you next Sunday!

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Odyssey Con 13: Steer Trek

Today is the last day of Odyssey Con (or OddCon, for those who know it well). It was nice being able to spend some time connecting with my fellow geeks. The highlight, of course, was being able to spend three days with two of my favorite authors, Alex Bledsoe and Kevin Hearne. They signed some books for my collection, as well as a couple for my son Nate, who couldn’t make it this year.

I also entered the Spontaneous Writing Contest yesterday morning. Let me start by saying that it was definitely organized better than last year. The rules were that you had to sign up in advance to get a spot on the list, and then the first eight people (in registration order) that were physically present at 8:30 AM in the hotel lobby were given a flash drive. That drive contained an .RTF file with four lines of dialogue that had to be used in a story. Each contestant then had one hour to write their story and turn it in. I was fourth on the list, so I was assured a spot as long as I was there (and, of course, I was). The drives were each lettered, in order to keep the author anonymous and keep the contest fair.

Here are the lines of dialogue that we were given to work with.

“Not a one!”
“What!? Most of them never did anything wrong even on their own planet, let alone here.”
“You’re not hearing me, and I’m not going to say it again. Not. A. Single. One!”
“With all due respect, ma’m …”

We could alter them if we needed to, but any changes would count against us. Putting other text between the lines was no problem, though, and most of the authors (including myself) did so. I managed to write about 800 words in the allotted hour, and I felt pretty good about it. At least, until they posted the entries in the hallway for everyone to read. There were some nice stories there. And I overheard one of the judges talking to one of the other contestants about the merits of some of the OTHER stories. Needless to say, I began to have some doubts about my own work. My biggest worry was that, despite the reference to another planet in one of the lines of dialogue, I decided not to take the easy route and write a science fiction story about aliens from another world. Instead, I wrote about a murder investigation at a science fiction convention. It’s titled “A Killer Con”, and here it is, for your reading pleasure.

The trouble with these guys was that they seemed to think that the rules of normal society didn’t apply to them. To be fair, though, their own concepts of morality and ethics was sometimes a whole lot better than what the rest of us lived by. Still, there was a dead body in the hotel, and it was up to me to find out why.

“All right,” I said to the con rep that I had cornered, “we’re going to be here until I get some answers, so start talking.”

We had commandeered one of the rooms for the duration, in order to lock down the hotel until we had a chance to question the three hundred suspects that were still wandering the halls as if nothing had happened. The queen sized bed that took up most of the room distracted a bit from my interrogation techniques, but I tried to ignore it as we sat at the little work table in the corner.

“Well, like I told the officer earlier, we were just wrapping up the afternoon anime movie and as they left the room one of the kids complained to the AV guy about a nasty smell.”

“And nobody had noticed anything before then?”

“Not really. I don’t know if you have ever been to a convention like this before, but some of our attendees aren’t so good with personal hygiene, if you know what I mean.”

I grimaced. I couldn’t imagine going without at least a shower if I was going to go out in public. “Go on.”

“He went in to check it out, in case someone had gotten sick or something in there. And that’s when he found the body.”

His story checked out with what I had already gotten from the uniforms. “All right, so who was this guy?”

He shook his head. “No idea. I mean, his name was Jerry Dantillo, but nobody really knows him. He hasn’t been to the con before, and he wasn’t pre-registered. We think he was probably just some local guy who heard about the con and decided to check it out.”

“So nobody knows this guy, which means nobody has any reason to want him dead, is that it?”

“Not a one!”

I frowned. “That just doesn’t make any sense. You don’t get a nine-inch dagger through your heart without pissing someone off.” I planted my hands on either side of the little table and leaned over him. “I don’t really care what planet you guys think you’re from, but that sort of thing doesn’t fly in my town.”

Unfortunately, I had underestimated the sheer level of geekery I was dealing with. My intimidation technique was totally useless when he was more interested in my cleavage than my comment. I glared at him and sat back down in my chair, crossing my arms over my chest.

He looked up at my scowling face and flushed. “What!? Most of them never did anything wrong even on their own planet, let alone here.”

“Well, I’ve got a dead body that says otherwise. And nobody is leaving here until I find out who did it. So somebody had better start talking. Who here would think that this guy would be better off dead?”

“You’re not hearing me, and I’m not going to say it again. Not. A. Single. One!”

I threw up my arms in frustration. “Fine. Be that way. But this con is over. For good.”

“With all due respect, ma’m …”

I snorted. “Respect? You seem to have more respect for my breasts than for my job.” He ducked his head like a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “I’m trying to help you out here, but you’ve got to meet me halfway.”

He raised his head and looked me in the eye. “You don’t understand. We have a strict weapons policy at the convention. No real weapons are allowed. Ever. And we have a security staff that keeps an eye out for those things. They check every single costume to make sure nobody has any real blades, or guns, or whatever. There’s no way that knife would have gotten past them.”

I leaned back in my chair. “Well, then I guess that narrows down the suspects, doesn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Vigilat qui custodem,” I said, getting up to open the door. “Who watches the watchmen? I need to speak to your security staff.”

His face blanched.

I ushered him out the door and gestured for one of the uniforms to join me. If I was right, there was no way I was going to be caught alone in a room for this interrogation.

Not too bad, right? Needs a little work, but most first drafts do. Especially ones that were written under a one hour deadline. But in the end, it wasn’t quite good enough, and I didn’t win. However, I may keep working on this story over the next week. I can extend it out, through the interrogation of the security guard  and on to the revelation of the killer and resolution of the mystery.

I’ll give you an update on Wednesday to let you know how it’s going. Until then, live long and prosper!

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Is It Wednesday Already?

Sorry for the late post. I just realized that it is Wednesday and I hadn’t posted anything yet.

I don’t have a whole lot to say. The weather turned sour again, and although I rode my bike in the rain yesterday, I didn’t ride today and I’m not planning on riding tomorrow. I’m going to rationalize my decision to drive by saying that I didn’t want to take the chance of getting sick for Odyssey Con this weekend.

Speaking of which, only two more days to go! I’m a little jealous of my friend Zombie Joe, who gets to go to pick up Kevin Hearne at the airport tomorrow. He will get the chance to spend some time alone with an author whose work has been compared with Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I’m hoping that Joe will have the time to introduce me to Kevin during the convention, but he’s going to be pretty busy, so I won’t push it. At the very least, I will have a chance to get a book signed.

Another bit of convention news is that I signed up for the “spontaneous” writing contest on Saturday. The idea is to work some lines of dialogue into a short story. It’s only open to the first eight people who have registered and are present in the lobby at 8:30 Saturday morning. I was number four to register, so as long as I get there on time I’ll be able to participate. Which means that I will actually have two short stories this week. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll count that. Maybe I’ll skip writing next week, or maybe I’ll save it for later in the year in case I run out of ideas. Or maybe I’ll just count it as a bonus. I may not decide until after I find out how it ranks among the other seven contestants (one of which is Zombie Joe).

So that’s it for tonight. I’ll check in again after the convention is over on Sunday afternoon. And don’t forget to look for me if you’re at the convention!

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Quick and Dirty

I don’t have a lot to say today. I finished Dirty Little Freaks #14 yesterday. The morning was spent running a lot of errands, and the afternoon (after finishing the story) was mostly goofing off. Today too was not very productive, as you might be able to tell by the fact that this post isn’t going up until almost 2 PM. But that’s okay.

This week I think I might write another Alchemist story, which will almost wipe out my ideas for shorts on that line. It should bring the character through most of his origin story and get him into a place where I can start planning the novel. But that’s for another time.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to spend the rest of my Sunday being lazy and watching a Warehouse 13 marathon.

I’ll check in on Wednesday and let you know how much I’m looking forward to seeing Alex Bledsoe and Kevin Hearne at Odyssey Con next weekend. Hopefully I’ll have the majority of my next story done by then.

Catch you later!

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Socializing for an Anti-Social Profession

Let’s face it, writers spend a lot of their time alone, lost in the worlds inside their heads. Some of them have even been known to bite when provoked. Getting those words on the page is the only way to get the voices to stop.

But stories are about people, and it’s kind of hard to understand how people work without spending any time with them. So every writer needs to get away from the manuscript once in a while and get out there where the stories are. If they’re lucky they can also find other people who share their interests and might be able to help refine their work into something they can print.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

– Stephen King

Today I’m going to tell you about two of the things in my life that help me get my writing done. Writer’s groups and conventions.

I have been with a writing group for a few years now. We meet on a weekly basis and discuss our work. In the past, we would read our pieces out loud and get critiques from the others. That worked, but there were times when nobody had anything to read, or when only one person had anything prepared, so there was sometimes a bit of guilt or tension in the group.

We are shaking things up a bit now. We’re still going to meet weekly, but we’re only going to offer critiques once a month. The other weeks we will use as a scheduled writing time, with the opportunity to discuss any story problems we are stuck on with the rest of the group. We will also take some time each month to discuss a book that we have read.

I’m not sure about the book discussion, as I already have a discussion group that I go to at my local library once a month. I have enough trouble getting through the books on my own to-read shelf without adding yet another one from someone else’s list. But I’ll give it a try anyway, because at least the books that my writing group discuss will be more closely aligned with the ones I normally read for pleasure. The library book group mostly discusses popular fiction and non-fiction, which I would probably never read on my own.

As for conventions, it is nice to be able to get out and meet new people every once in a while. Conventions give me a chance to get out there and participate in discussions about interesting topics led by interesting people. I also get the chance to meet famous people, like Larry Niven, who has been a favorite author of mine for decades.

This year my convention plans include Odyssey Con, April 12-14, and WisCon, May 24-27, both held in my home town of Madison, Wisconsin. I almost decided to skip Odyssey Con this year, but when they announced that the Guests of Honor included Alex Bledsoe and Kevin Hearne, I just had to go. Alex is also local to the Madison area, and I have met him several times and consider him to be a friend. He is a great guy and his writing is superb. Kevin is the author of the Iron Druid series, which I started reading a couple of years ago and have loved every bit of it, so I am looking forward to meeting this outstanding author.

While at the conventions, I will have a chance to sit in on discussion panels with these two greats, as well as many other writers and fans, and pick their brains about writing, news of the world, and our future on this planet (and possibly others). And there will be lots of other, like-minded people around as well, each with their own opinions and views to share.

I highly recommend that, whatever your situation, you should try to connect with other writers. Either with a writer’s group or a convention. Preferably both. And if you can afford to travel, come and join me in Madison at one of my conventions and introduce yourself. We’ll chat.

I’ve got to go lock myself in a room now and get some writing done. I’m going to write another Alchemist story this week, and I am hoping that I will be able to finish it ahead of schedule again. As usual, I will post another update on Wednesday.

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Putting Yourself Out There: Conventions

Today I thought I would write a little bit about conventions, and how they can help or hurt your writing career.

For the most part, conventions are great. They are a wonderful opportunity to meet other people who share your interests and struggles. As you might expect, writing conventions will have a lot of panels that revolve around writing. And even those conventions not specifically created for authors may still have activities that can either help you with your craft, or at least be a source of inspiration and ideas.

The local conventions that I have gotten hooked on here in Madison, Wisconsin, are Oddysey Con (OddCon), WisCon, and Geek Kon. All of them have panels for writers about the craft and the industry. Some more than others, but I think that all of them are worth my money.

OddCon starts the ball rolling in late April. It is a small science fiction/fantasy/gaming convention and costs $35 for three days. And when I say small, I mean less than 500 people. A lot of the panels are on writing, but there are also several on gaming and movies/television. They even have a video room where they are constantly playing movies and episodes of science fiction television shows.

WisCon is next, held on Memorial Day weekend. They proclaim themselves as the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention and have an upper limit to their registration of 1,000 people. Even though the convention has a strong female focus, they also welcome open-minded men into their ranks. The convention is also very friendly towards the LGBT community, so you can find all sorts of people walking the halls. This year was my second year attending. As a writer, I seem to be drawn to writing female characters, and the panels at this convention help me to tap into my feminine side and more fully understand the female perspective. WisCon is the most expensive of the conventions I attend, being $50 for four days, but it is worth every penny.

Geek Kon is the last hoorah of the summer for me. It is held in early September, and the cost is $25 for three days. While this large convention is mainly focused on movies, manga, and video games, they do have several writing panels to keep me connected to other authors. And sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the importance of play. Besides, a lot of the attendees come in costume, and just walking down the hall can be like stepping into another world. And the huge dealer’s room has everything a geek like me could want to celebrate all sorts of fandom. Definitely worth the price of admission.

So those are the conventions that I have experience with. As I said, they are all local for me, which makes it easy and cheap for me to attend. I don’t need to worry about a hotel room, as I can easily drive, bike, or bus to the hotels where they are held. And I can touch base with a lot of other local writers and editors, as well as authors from a little farther away.

This interaction with others is where things get a little dicey. As is true in all facets of life, no matter how friendly you are, there are certain people who will never be your friend. The way you interact with these people can either help your career, or hurt it. If you are trying to sell your novel or short story, a lot of times the deciding factor is who you know.

I have met a few editors and several authors over the last two years, and all of them have seemed very nice. A lot of them have been on the panels I attended, but some of them were simply enjoying the convention along with me. Either way, I tried my best to be polite and not intrude on their conversations with other people. Those are the most important things to remember when meeting someone who may be one of your heroes, like Larry Niven, who was the guest of honor at OddCon this year. Steven Barnes was the other guest of honor, and both of them turned out to be wonderful, really nice guys. Steven Barnes even led me (along with several others) through a short Tai Chi class on Saturday morning.

At WisCon last year I had the privilege of meeting Cassie Alexander, a newly published author who was leading a writer’s workshop, and helped me identify some problems with my first Valkyrie book. This year I met Kater Cheek, an independent author who did a tarot reading for me. Neither of them are local, but they are really cool women and I am happy to have had a chance to meet them. Two of the local authors I have met are Alex Bledsoe and Lori Devoti. Both of them are wonderful authors and have not only signed my copies of their books, but have become my friends on Twitter and Facebook. Lori in particular has taught me a lot about the current state of the publishing industry and has influenced my choice to self-publish once I finish a final draft of my books.

So, like I said at the start of this post, conventions can be a wonderful help to your writing career. Just remember to be polite and you should be all right. Tips I have heard for introducing yourself to someone are:

  • Don’t interrupt someone who is in the middle of a conversation with someone else. A better way would be to say hello if you pass them in the hall, or introduce yourself immediately before or after a panel, or at one of the parties.
  • Don’t immediately ask them if they would read your manuscript. Make a friend before you ask a favor.
  • Talk to them as people, not as superheroes. Believe it or not, most of them are not from Krypton, and have had some of the same life experiences you have had. Share something interesting about yourself, and maybe they will share something with you.

The last thing I wanted to say about conventions is about the inherent contradictions of being a writer. Writing is essentially a solitary undertaking, and yet the end result is a study of people and society, and is intended to be shared with others. So authors almost have to have a split personality to be good, being antisocial in order to work, but also being very perceptive of how other people both think and feel. Also, like actors, they have to be able to put themselves into the heads of their characters in order to allow their readers to share more fully in their world.

This is another of the things about attending a convention that may make things a little more difficult for you. Depending on your personality, you may find it difficult to make new friends at the conventions. Luckily, some of them have mixers or parties scheduled where you can introduce yourself in a more relaxed setting. For example, WisCon has an opening night dinner, where you can go out for a meal with a random selection of other attendees. The dinner conversation is always interesting, and you get to share some time with some potential new friends.

Writer’s workshops are also good opportunities to meet other writers. As I mentioned, Cassie Alexander led a workshop for me last year, and not only did she give me some excellent advice about improving my book, but we developed a friendship that I treasure. I look forward to seeing her at future WisCon events.

I hope this information has been helpful. My advice to you is to find out what kinds of conventions are in your area and see if you can work at least one into your budget. Despite my warnings, you shouldn’t be scared. Most of the people who go to conventions are looking for the same things you are. Namely friends that share your interest and the chance to meet others who have made the jump from aspiring writer to published author.

Good luck and have fun!

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September 12 – Geek Kon!

As promised, here is a report on the great weekend I had at Geek Kon!

The first thing I saw when I walked in the door of the hotel was the Tardis, and it just got better from there! I arrived early and managed to get through the registration line without too much hassle or delay. I expected people in costumes, but I was surprised at the sheer number of cosplay attendees. It seemed like every other person was dressed up as something. The costumes ranged from steampunk to anime to gaming. There was even a Pac-Man and a person with a Lego head.

The dealer room was focused more on anime than anything else, but there was also some steampunk and fantasy stuff around. And there was only one bookstore that participated. That was the biggest difference between Geek Kon and the other two conventions I attended this year (OddCon and WisCon). While there was a writing track, the attendance at each of the panels was minimal. Most of them had only four or five attendees (including yours truly). Speaking of panels….

My first panel was Creating a Steampunk Persona. I have been mildly intrigued by the steampunk movement and wanted to learn more about it. I got a few ideas, and learned about the local steampunk organization.

Next was Coolest Science Fiction of the 21st Century. Jim Frenkel was the panelist. He is an editor for Tor Books, and I met him earlier this year at both OddCon and WisCon. It was an interesting discussion, and I walked away with a few more books for my To Read list.

Jim was the panelist for the next panel as well. It was simply titled Steampunk, and actually had about 20 people attending. Jim pulled a couple of them from the audience to join him on the panel and talk about their feelings and experience with steampunk. It was interesting, but I had to leave early to go to….

Small/Indy Press Publishing. Monica Valentinelli and Matt McElroy were the panelists. I actually shared a couple of meals with Monica at WisCon, and it was great to see her again. We had a great discussion about the current small press market. I shared my experience with selling my first story to a small press, and got some advice on how I might better handle future sales.

After that I took a break for dinner, grabbing a ham sandwich and candy bar from the concessions booth. The last panel of the night was New Author/New World, and Monica was the sole panelist. That was okay, because there were only six of us in the room. The problem was that she was competing with the warmup of the rock band in the next room, and it was sometimes hard to hear. But she had lots of advice for new writers, and I think that we all had a good time.

Saturday was a lot of fun, and I actually got to sit with fellow local author Alex Bledsoe for several panels. Of course I had to start with a fanboy moment and tell him how much I enjoyed his Eddie LaCrosse books. You should pick them up if you get the chance. They are like a film noir detective in a medieval setting. Really cool!

It started early, with a panel on Creating Enduring Characters. Troy Denning had a lot of good tips on the subject of character creation, and I even took notes!

Following Troy was a panel on eBooks vs. Traditional Publishing. They discussed the trends in the market regarding eBook sales, and Jim Frenkel was there to represent the old school publishers. He told us that even the big boys are moving to ebooks, because the market is growing rapidly and they would be fools to ignore it. They also discussed some of the problems with ebooks, including Digital Rights Management (DRM) and piracy. A lot of information to consider if I decide to self-publish.

After that was a long break. I took the time to get some lunch and have some new pictures taken from a free photographer that was set up next to the cafe. I posted them on my Facebook and Google+ profiles, so feel free to check them out. The overcoat I was wearing belonged to my grandfather, so it is older than I am! It was really warm in most of the rooms, but it was worth it for the pictures.

Following lunch was a session on Writing for Shared Worlds. I went because I thought they might have some advice on working with another author, like for a collaboration. But it was mostly for contracted work for tie-in fiction, like if I was hired to write a Star Wars or Forgotten Realms novel.

After that was a panel on World Building. It was nice to hear some of the things I need to consider when I am working on my stories. It was also nice to hear that it isn’t necessary for me to do all the work before I start writing. Some parts of world building can be done during the creation process.

A Writing Panel followed, where I was able to hear comments and stories from published authors regarding their experiences. I went to a panel on Getting Published in the Gaming World after that, but I left early because it wasn’t quite what I expected. I was hoping that it would be about getting a contract for writing for a gaming magazine or tie-in fiction, but it was actually more about writing adventures and rules systems. So I went to have dinner instead.

After dinner I went to a panel titled Bak Desu Ne! (Being An Idiot In Japan). The plug for the panel was that I would learn what it was like to learn Japanese, live in Japan and then start an indie animation project to teach Japanese. So I was expecting something on how to learn Japanese, but it was more about the experiences of the panelist who had done these things. Even though it wasn’t what I expected, it was still probably the most fun panel of the day.

The last panel I attended Saturday night was Manly Women of Anime, where we discussed some of the women of anime, and how some of them are portrayed as masculine, where it is almost impossible to tell they are women. We also discussed how even the ones with more feminine appearances are given male personality traits. It was interesting, and it made me want to watch more anime.

Sunday I was planning on starting with The Horror and Wonder of NaNoWriMo. My other option was a Writing Workshop, but I didn’t have anything that was ready for critique. I ran into Alex again before it started and he said he was filling in for one of the workshop panelists that had to cancel, so I promised to go. There were four aspiring authors that came to the panel (including me), so we had plenty of time to discuss our work and we still finished early. The piece I shared was the short story that I submitted a couple of weeks ago. They told me that they thought I should change my opening back to the way I had it for the original draft, so now I’m thinking that if it gets rejected I’ll make the change before I send it out again.

After the workshop I went to a panel led by Jim Frenkel titled What is Science Fantasy Anyway? We had a good talk about the topic and named some books and authors that have dabbled in this hybrid genre.

I had an hour for lunch, and then my last panel of the con was Costuming 101. I have to admit that all the people walking around in costumes over the weekend made me feel like I was an outsider because I wasn’t wearing one. It wasn’t so bad on Saturday when I was wearing my mafia outfit, but I had started thinking about what I might be able to do in the future. I learned quite a bit, and got some information about the local costuming group, so who knows? If I can make up my mind what theme or character I want to portray I may be able to put something together for next year.

So that is my weekend in a nutshell. Geek Kon was a lot of fun, and I am already looking forward to going back next year.

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ROW80 Update June 1

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish planning the rewrites of my three works in progress
  3. Post to my blog on the ROW80 update days (Sunday and Wednesday)
  4. Read at least one of my books on writing every week

I’m not sure what to tell you all about the convention last weekend, other than it was great! I learned a lot and had a blast meeting new people and listening to the panelists.

My schedule started with a writer’s workshop, where I got feedback from author Cassie Alexander on the first five chapters of Finding Valhalla. After the workshop we went to a local coffee shop to meet and talk with other writers in the workshop. Next up was a panel on Romance and SFF, where we talked about romantic sci-fi and fantasy, which was perfect for Finding Valhalla. The last panel I went to discussed the role of religion in fiction, which was a good topic for my novel Dragons at Dawn.

Saturday started off with Tarot for Writers, a workshop that gave me tips on doing simple tarot card readings to help build stronger, more detailed characters. It was awesome and the reading I did for one of my story ideas really helped me figure out how to develop the character. After that I went to a reading of sex scenes and romantic fiction. I thought it might help me to strengthen my love scenes. After lunch we had a panel on the Wisconsin protests. There was no way I could miss that, since I am a Wisconsin state employee and have been involved in the protests. Next was a panel on book covers, discussing both good and bad examples. Finally there was a panel on combining the classic detective fiction with science fiction or fantasy. Another local author, Alex Bledsoe was there, and he had some good tips. One of these days I’m definitely going to have to make time to read his books.

Sunday started with a panel on Middle-grade fiction. I didn’t even know what it was, but I found out that my novella Six Days to Sabbath is more middle-grade than the young adult classification I have been telling people that it was. Not a problem. Now I have a better idea how to market it once it is finished. The next panel was very informative, where we discussed the ins and outs of self-publishing, both in e-book format and as print on demand. I went to lunch with a couple of ladies from my writer’s group, as well as another local author, Monica Valentinelli. She was really cool and gave all of us lots of tips. After lunch was a panel on Religion in Hard SF, where we discussed the trend of science fiction authors to avoid religion altogether. Some of the classic authors have dared the topic in their books and stories, but most of them either feel that religion has no future, or they are too scared to write about it. After that was a fun panel on Doctor Who, which started with a moment of silence for our dearly departed Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). The last panel of the night was Ask a Pro. There were three published authors (including our guest of honor Nisi Shawl), and James Frenkel, Tor’s senior editor, who I met at OddCon a couple of months ago. They had a lot of good advice. The most important thing that I got out of it was that I need to start writing more short stories. So my editing is on hold for now while I work on a new short for submission to a company looking for bizarro fiction. The first half of the story is a steamy love scene. The bizarro part comes at the end. I went to dinner with my writer’s, and Monica joined us again so we could continue our earlier conversation. The night wrapped up with dessert and the guest of honor speech, which I recorded on my new camera, but I won’t post it due to the photography policy of the convention. After the speeches I had a picture taken in the Photo Booth, which I hope to be able to use for my online profiles soon.

Monday was the last day of the con, so there wasn’t much there, but it was still worth going. The first panel I went to was Anatomia Fantasticus, which discussed anatomy and how it can be used to develop the physical attributes of fantastic creatures like dragons and werewolves. The last panel was Being a Resilient Writer, which was just as helpful as the Ask A Pro panel, as the authors present all had lots of good advice on dealing with the publishing world.

So that’s my report. I’m certainly going to see about getting in again next year. Hopefully I’ll have something published (or at least sold) by then. Check back on Sunday for an update on how my new short story is coming.

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