Tag Archives: OddCon

Broken

I started writing my first Broken story yesterday. I’m using a broken mirror for the focus. I’m also making it a Dirty Little Freaks story, but I haven’t figured out yet just how I’m going to be working that in. I’ve got a little over 500 words so far, and I’m going to have to ramp things up pretty soon or the story is going to fall apart.

The idea I’m considering for this is that there is either some kind of creature lurking behind the broken mirror, or some supernatural force is responsible for breaking the mirror, along with the mind of the prior tenant of the apartment where it is located. Either way, I see nasty things in the future for Miss Carson.

Speaking of Dirty Little Freaks, for those of you who, like me, are fans of Patrick Rothfuss, I’ve got some great news! He just announced on his blog that he will be releasing a sequel to his fantastic not-for-children’s book, The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle. There is no set release date yet, he just says that it will be out late this year. However, you can pre-order it now. You can even pre-order a signed, limited edition copy. I would love to get it myself, but unfortunately my finances are a bit tight right now, so I will be waiting to order until they have an actual release date. Of course, this means that I won’t be getting the limited edition, but since the bearded one lives in the same state that I do I will probably be able to get it signed anyway. He may even be at OddCon next year, if my friend Zombie Joe has anything to do with it.

And that brings me to another topic. Joe is also one of the fantastic members of my writing group. We try to meet every Thursday to either write or to discuss our writing. Since I have been only working on short stories this year, and all of them are first drafts, I didn’t really want to share them with the group. This makes me feel guilty for not contributing, although most of them probably don’t mind, since there are still plenty of drafts that need critique without mine being added to the stack.

I also feel a bit anxious for feedback on what I have done. Many of the ideas seem good to me, but I would really like to hear what other people think as well. No matter how many stories I write, none of them count if nobody ever reads them.

So what I have suggested is that I share a few of my stories every month, and the group gives me feedback solely on the idea, to let me know if the meat of the story is worth the effort it will take to edit or expand it into something I can publish. Two of them have already told me that they are willing to do that for me, so I will be sharing some of my January work next month (our critique night is tomorrow, which is why I am not sending them out right now.

So that’s what I’m up to this week. I’m going to continue working on this broken mirror thing, and hopefully it will shake out in the end so that I can get it finished by Saturday. I’ll let you know on Sunday how it went.

In the meantime, here’s a question for you:

Imagine that you are being taken to a mental hospital and you only have time to say ten words to your therapist before they drag you away. What would they be?

See you on Sunday!

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Missed it by that much!

All right, how come none of you told me that yesterday was Wednesday?

Seriously though, sorry for the late post. I got distracted by the nasty weather here in Madison, and my journey to the Apple store to get a new iPod Touch. My old one (3G, about 5 years old) was giving me problems when I tried to sync it, so I figured it was time to get a replacement.

In writing news, I decided not to continue the short story I wrote for Odyssey Con. Instead, I’ve started the fifth and final prelude story for my Alchemist character.

By started, I mean I’ve written 39 words. Not a great start, but it is words on the page. I’ll keep at it and try to finish by Saturday night. I’m not counting the OddCon story as one of my 52, even though it could easily be included.

That’s it for today. I’ve got real writing to do, so I’m not going to waste any more time on this blog post. See you back here on 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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ROW80 and OddCon

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish rewrite of Dragons At Dawn
  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 managed to work on my writing and editing up through Thursday, at least. Friday and Saturday were spent at OddCon, so not much work was done. I did, however, have a lot of fun at the convention, and came away with a lot of ideas and great advice from other authors and editors. I’m still plowing through Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, but I am only about halfway through it due to the other priorities. I’ll continue reading it and hope to finish by next Sunday’s report.

As I mentioned, OddCon was great. I won’t embarrass myself by posting pictures. My digital camera is about 15 years old and cost me more than my laptop, but compared to cameras today it is completely pathetic.

Here’s a list of the panels I attended:

  • Unhappy Endings
  • The Rules of Magic
  • Geek’s Delight
  • Whedonistas
  • What is the nature of magic in fantasy writing?
  • So you think being published is glamorous
  • Shapeshifting
  • Is there hope for the human race…or does it deserve to die?
  • Bookselling in the age of Amazon
  • Author reading – Sarah Monette
  • What the hell is Science Fantasy anyway?
  • Sex & the supernatural

As you can guess, it was awesome. I met quite a few authors, and the senior editor of Tor Books. The highlights for me were Geeks Delight, where we discussed our favorite SF authors of the 20th century (I added a lot of books to my To Be Read list during that panel); Bookselling in the age of Amazon, where we discussed the future of publishing and independent bookstores; and Sex & the Supernatural, where we discussed paranormal romance (and there were more men than women in the room).

The low point (you know there had to be one) was the Is there hope for the human race panel. It was supposed to be about writing about the apocalypse, but it turned out to be a lecture about mankind’s journey to self-destruction, and we didn’t discuss writing at all. The moderator (a non-writer) turned it into his own personal lecture on the subject and the two authors and the Tor editor on the panel hardly got a word in edgewise. Since my Dragons At Dawn novel is an end-of-the-world story I was very disappointed.

But overall, I had a great time and I am now even more excited about attending WisCon at the end of May. I managed to submit the first five chapters of Finding Valhalla for the writer’s workshop late Thursday night/early Friday morning. I applied for Margaret Ronald‘s group, and this weekend I managed to find three of her books in the dealer’s room, so I am going to try to read at least one of them before WisCon.

In other news, I also broke down and bought a Nook Color this weekend. So far I like it a lot, and hopefully my wife will also like it too. I told her it was something she could use more than me. I still can’t believe she actually fell for it! Actually, she probably knows my tricks by now and just said it was okay so I would shut up and leave her alone. Anyway, if anybody out there is a Nook user and wants to share books through LendMe, send me a DM on my Twitter feed (@BSRPG) and we’ll hook up.

That’s it for now. Time for me to get back to work on editing. I had a lot of ideas for Dragons At Dawn this weekend that I need to get down before they’re gone. See you on Wednesday!

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ROW80 Check-in

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish rewrite of Dragons At Dawn
  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 have been concentrating on editing this week, getting ready to submit Finding Valhalla for the WisCon Writer’s Workshop. I’ve got it about half-way done, but I’ll really need to hit it hard if I’m going to have 10,000 words edited by Friday. I haven’t done anything with Dragons At Dawn yet, but that will be next on the list starting Saturday.

I have been reading Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell this week. A very good book, but so far it isn’t telling me a lot about editing, just about how the book should be written in the first place. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish it this week, but at least I am reading it. I also picked up another dozen writing books, including Save the Cat, Make a Scene, Stein on Writing, and Writing the Breakout Novel. I will probably post an updated list of my writing library next week.

And now, back to my edits! Come back on Sunday and I’ll give you a report on OddCon. It should be fun!

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ROW80 Round 2 Goals

The second round of ROW80 starts tomorrow, April 4. I got a lot accomplished in the first round, and I am looking forward to the second round, but I think I need to tone things down a bit. I think the goals I came up with for Round 2 will be something I can do without too much stress.

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish rewrite of Dragons At Dawn
  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

In other news, I will be attending Oddyssey Con next weekend. I am looking forward to the writing panels, and the opportunity to do a little face-to-face networking. Guests of honor this year are J.V. Jones, Sarah Monette, and Robin D. Laws. I also registered for WisCon on Memorial Day weekend. I’m currently working hard on editing the first 10,000 words of Finding Valhalla to submit for the WisCon Writer’s Workshop. It has to be in by April 8, so I am busy, busy, busy!

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