Archive for the 'conventions' Category

Sep 15 2011

Reader question: business card design(er)

I’d like business cards, that can be handed out at cons and such (since of course I’ll get healthy enough to travel and go to cons and such).  I know I want to incorporate the themes/aspects of writing and phoenix in the design, while keeping it simple enough to not overwhelm (keeping to good business sense/practice in the designing).  Since they’re writer business cards, while I can have stuff printed on both sides, there does need to be a little blank room kept (perhaps on the back) to jot a quick line or two of note down if needed during card trade-off.  Color is fine; bold and eye-catching while not too cluttered would be fantastic.  I have enough artistic readers out there, can anyone point me in the direction of someone who would be willing to work with me on such a thing?  Payment can be in money, trade, certain favors, or whatever other fair exchange we can devise.  Message me here or in the many other places you can reach me, if this is you or someone you know, and let’s talk!

2 responses so far

Aug 29 2011

writerly triumphs, upcoming cancer fears

I’ve been nearly-steadily working on getting my creative well refilled after beating back death (again, from a fiercer battle this year than last), so the good news progress on that front is:

I made it to a few parts of ArmadilloCon this weekend. Friday was a disaster and life lesson two-by-four all in one; I tried to essentially go by myself (with walker strapped to wheelchair), and didn’t realize just how hard it would be to push myself around, especially since the hotel had far more carpet than I’d expected (I’d remembered large expanses of tile, which there were in main areas, but not where the panels were held).  I managed to make it through one panel simply due to stubbornness of will, then found a friend who very kindly took me home.  At home I cried in frustration and felt nearly sick from the exhaustion, and bitter about not getting to do any of the things I want to do, and upset that my “last hurrah” before surgery was such a bust.

Waking up Saturday in a better mood, I spent most of the day napping and late afternoon my brain kicked in, and we worked out a solution where my helper used the front carrier to strap on Wednesday (who was apparently a big hit at her first con) and go with me to push me to panels.  We arrived late enough that I was only able to attend two more panels, but at that point it was the principle of the thing and I saw friends and took notes and went to panels just like a real convention, my first since this time last year.  Psychologically it was a big success, and of course I’m exhausted and sore and spent most of the day in bed and will spend most of tomorrow resting (with maybe a bit more movement and PT exercises that I won’t be able to do right after Tuesday) but quite worth the effort and I’m grateful to my Mom for providing the badge fee and my helper and another two friends for providing the rides to get me to and from.

I did a “create first lines” exercise with my writing group that was fun for me and seemed so for the others who participated.  I even wrote a couple that tickled the glimmer of possibly an idea for story, maybe, somewhere in there.  So that was a success as far as I’m concerned.

One of the next steps as I see it is to get back in the habit of the “send stories out — collect rejections — send them back out” routine I’d been doing so well at last year, so I asked my writing group which stories of mine that I’ve previously submitted for critique came first to mind as ones they’d like to see back out circulating.  Two of the ones they suggested are ones that have been out there already for months, so I sent queries out on those two, and at least one of the others they mentioned doesn’t really need further editing at least at the moment, so I am planning to find a market and send it out tonight (unless, of course, I fall asleep over the keyboard first as I sometimes still do).

I may have come to a decision about the novel I’ve been slogging over for years, which I think deserves its own blog post as possibly an interesting writer-process blog entry, and I’ve identified two characters from other stories that I think will be the easiest to start back on trying to write when I finally start generating new creative content.  I even have great encouraging words on those from that same writer’s group.

And then the anger and frustration parts:

I’m just now starting to get to where I can do more than one or two things a day without being wiped out.  I mean, there’s no way even a couple of weeks ago that I would have been able to try again on the con attendance like I did this Friday and Saturday.  I can’t get a straight answer about how my doctor is going to handle my pain med regimen when I go back into the hospital for surgery on Tuesday and it’s been working so I’d really like to not have to go backward on that end of things.  I’m angry.  I make the joke about having to get three mastectomies for two breasts but it’s not really funny, except in the life irony sort of way, it sucks. I trust my doctors this time but I’m still so scared.  So scared.  And admitting that in front of the world and everyone is hard, even if it’s a no-brainer, because I’m also the strong, beautiful, determined, fighter, role-model, hero, STILL ALIVE person that people talk about in the comments you leave here and tell me elsewhere.

But this is so hard.  So very very hard.  And scary, and angry-making, and I don’t want to do it even though it’s right and necessary to do.  And I wish I had more time to heal and enjoy the energy to write and help The Teen with his homework and feed Wednesday rice cereal messy-o-meals because on Tuesday I have to slog back from the edge of the abyss AGAIN in order to be able to do those things and I won’t be able to right away, and what if it takes long enough to heal and my baby girl grows fast enough that I’ll never get to safely hold her again because she’ll be too heavy for my arms to safely hold?

And I can heal, and I will, and I’ll even try to write about it so you know what it’s like as best as you can from reading about it.  But here I am, bloated enough from bed-rest and long-term steroid meds that I don’t look like me in the mirror anymore, emotionally naked, and the fear is so strong that writing it is the only thing that makes it smaller.

Caging it in words to show for you like a zoo exhibit gives me some iota of illusory control over the process, so here I am, and here it is:  I go in for double mastectomies this Tuesday, at 1 pm CDT, surgery expected to last 3 hours.  On the right side they will also take several lymph nodes along with the breast, and the remaining cancerous mass that has shrunk through chemotherapy to 2 cm from its previously baseball-sized visible lump under my arm.  The left side will be cleaning out the far-too-much breast tissue they left from last year’s mastectomy, though they don’t expect to have to remove any more lymph nodes.  They will be removing every bit of breast tissue they can find on both sides.  They do not expect to have to remove muscle, so send good energy that way if you have it to spare, as I would be left with lifelong arthritic-like symptoms if they have to take any of the muscle in the area, and the lymphedema brings enough of its own long-term side effects that I’d really prefer no more added to the mix.  They expect, given how close this is happening to the recent chemotherapy and other factors, that my healing time will be double the normal expected rate –so at least 12 weeks of active healing — and that doesn’t count the months of PT to get as much back of normal movement and function in the area as possible.  And that there will be at least one night spent in the hospital, but possibly more depending on how my body responds; so soon after a 9-week stay in the hospital, that in itself seems discouraging.

I have no idea how much, if any, it will set back the progress I’ve made in getting back my writing creativity, but I expect at least some.  I may have a baby 3-pound netbook, but I recall from last year even that was too heavy to manipulate for the first several days after surgery.  So expect a pause in blogging, though you might see me update on Facebook since I can do that from my phone.  I have a voice recorder I’m going to try to make sure is functional tomorrow as part of packing and prepping for going back in, in case I do manage to snag writing ideas out of this mess.

So the positive thoughts to send my way are: all breast tissue gone, no muscle removed, and speedy healing with no complications.  I’d really like some time and space to live this beautiful life with you beautiful people that surround me, and enough pain-less (not naive enough to say painless) functionality to enjoy it as fully as I know how.  And that’s pretty damn full — there’s nothing like two fierce battles with death to enhance the joy of living life.

4 responses so far

Apr 30 2011

radioactive weekend links

The world is ending again, on May 21st. This time with billboard announcements!

Why Nerds are Unpopular

Ridiculous fandom expression — royals tattooed on teeth

On Writing the Other, from Lauren Beukes

Tiny spacecraft — why hasn’t this been explored more as a concept? How cool…

I may or may not make it to World Horror Convention here in Austin today, but here’s the link in case you want to check it out!

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Sep 02 2010

ArmadilloCon report

This was The Kid’s first convention, and he enjoyed himself quite a bit, mostly hanging out in the gaming room with his Dad.  I got to attend three panels and took some notes, which I’ll share here.  It was nice getting out to a convention again, I’m looking forward to being on more panels in future conventions, though being a guest as I was at this one (last minute attendance decision) is also fun. I had some great conversations with Irish Eyes and my own beloved Nathan that helped me pinpoint where some of my current struggle with the setting in the novel has been, which will be its own post perhaps later.

I missed one of the panels I’d really wanted to attend, about the future of NASA and private spaceflight, so if anyone has notes from that panel please share!

When a Story Becomes a Series

This was one of the panels Steve was on, the full author list being: Steven Brust, Amanda Downum, Carol Berg, Julie Kenner, and Stina Leight.  I was hoping for much more out of this panel that I received, I’ll admit.  I asked a couple of questions pertinent to my current projects and got what I felt were incredibly generic and basic writer-101 advice in return, though I’m fairly sure they weren’t writer-101 questions.  I also didn’t like that the moderator wasn’t paying attention to certain panelists overriding less vocal panelists; in particular I don’t think we heard from Ms. Downum nearly as much as I’d have liked.  I wasn’t sorry I attended the panel, but I also don’t think I came away from it with any new insights into my work, like I did at some of the other panels.

However, I did still take several notes from the panel:

They started out with an interesting bit of definition; “episodic series”, where multiple nearly-stand-alone stories are connected by a larger world or setting or characters, and a “series arc”, one larger story arc told in multiple story-sized pieces.  The next half hour was mostly 101 advice that works for any story, such as looking for a point of conflict to find where the story begins, or start the story when something changes for your characters, and Steve’s standard “start with a cool opening sentence and write from there.”

In the second half they finally got back to more series-specific talk.  There was panel agreement that a book in a larger series should still stand alone enough to tell a story and leave the reader with some feeling of satisfaction (though connecting threads to other stories are fine).  Steve advised that a writer not hold anything back for another book; even if you are writing a series, use up all your good ideas in the first book.  Don’t worry about it, you’ll have more ideas later, and you don’t want to half-ass the project in front of you.  Accept that not every reader will get everything you write or like everything you write; don’t let that change what you write.  One suggestion for the really important story points was don’t tell the reader directly at all, just give them clues and let them figure it out.  More panel consensus that hand-holding the reader through recapitulating every detail of previous stories with each sequel was one of the faster ways to alienate your fans.

They wrapped up with talking a bit about getting stuck on longer projects like series.  They advised to “retain your passion” for your story to avoid falling into formulaic prose, though when asked they couldn’t easily advise the audience on how you would actually retain it or revive faltering passion.  They recommended to write stories you want to read, since likely at least some other readers will share your tastes.  One panelist said that any time she got stuck she found that she wasn’t writing the correct action or piece of the story, and she stops and goes back to looking closely at her characters to figure out a different path.  She found that usually the flaw was in the realm of too much exposition and not enough action.

LBGT issues in speculative fiction

This was definitely my favorite panel at the convention, so much so that I didn’t take very many notes, the conversation and questions were so engaging.  I got to meet a fellow Unspeakable Horror:From the Shadows of the Closet anthology author, Lee Thomas, who is fabulous as a panelist.  The other authors on the panel were Nancy Jane Moore, Rose Dimond, and Katherine Beutner.

One panelist advised to read YA (young adult) spec fic to see some of the up-and-coming treatment of gays in genre fiction; even though there  isn’t explicit sex in YA, she felt that they were still doing a good job addressing some of the social issues.  Lee Thomas mentioned that he’d like to see more stories that were well done that were in some way specifically about the gay characters, rather than more stories that happen to have gay characters in them.

They recommended the book Writing the Other, for anyone who wanted insight into writing outside your own cultural experiences.  Several publishers that do well with queer themes were mentioned, including Lethe Press, Bold Stroke, and Dark Scribe Press.  They also mentioned several authors that the panelists felt were doing good work with queer themes in spec fic, including Emma Donahue, Rob Dunbar, Steve Berman, Paul Bens’ Kelland, Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword, and Kat Valente’s Palimpsest.

The City as Character

This was the final panel I attended at the con, which was reasonably good.  The largest irritation here was again with the moderation, though this time the moderator apparently forgot that the audience was present and that all those arms in the air weren’t actually stretching.  The panelists here were Martha Wells, Patricia Sarath, Amanda Downum, Gordon Andrews, Ilona Andrews, and Stina Leight.

A common problem with a story city is that it often feels like an incomplete stage set, or like the false-front towns of old-western movie sets; if you move away from the story action your setting goes blank.  You want to go for a world that feels like it is rich and complex and vibrant and still exists whether the reader is present or not.

One person recommended to start with things that already exist, then alter pieces toward the fantastic based on what the needs of your particular story are.  A city with a sense of history and secrets helps.  Different ages within a city are also important; very few cities have all their parts built in a similar time frame, yet many writers make this mistake with fictional cities.

Several recommended that you travel enough to get an understanding of how different cities have different personalities or flavors or impersonalness qualities.  And don’t forget that a city ultimately depends on the people living in it to shape that particular personality flavor.  The setting reflects the characters who reflect aspects of the setting in turn, each altering the other.

Figure out which are the defining moments that shaped your city, and how those caused ripples of effects through the city’s timeline.  The environment and climate that the city is in are also quite important for city characterization.  Was the city a planned settlement?  If so, it will likely look much more homogenized with grid-like roads, as opposed to a city that “just grew” over time and changed amoeba-like to fit the inhabitants’ needs.

Cities are often thought of as working in isolation in stories, but even in the ancient world that wasn’t so; they had interconnected trade routes, a network of exchanged goods that were vital to a city’s survival.  The city reflects its history, it is effectively the warehouse of collective experiences over time of the inhabitants of the city.

Expectations can work against you perceptually.  The example given was Harlem, which is assumed to be a poor and “scary” neighborhood, but also contains some of the most beautiful architecture in America.  Quirky or inconsistent elements of characterization such as this will help give the feel of a personality to a story city.

Much good information on these panels, hope you find it helpful for me to share!

3 responses so far

Aug 21 2010

Con Alert!

Published by under conventions

Steve and I will be at ArmadilloCon next weekend, August 27-29, here in Austin Texas!  We’ll be accompanied by as many family and friends as we can drag along, so come join us!  Some of the discussion panels look quite shiny indeed.

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Aug 17 2010

Writing conferences/conventions?

Published by under conventions

Are there any cons upcoming for the rest of 2010 I might need to know about, other than ArmadilloCon and World Fantasy Con?  Not sure how many, if any, I will make but is worth thinking about.  Thanks!

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Mar 12 2010

Links links links

Over 100 years of Popular Science issues have been digitized and made available for free on the internet!

A good article for anyone interested in the cutting edge of neuroscience and how it connects to story.

And I’m thinking about attending the World Fantasy Convention this year in Columbus, Ohio. I have extended family living in a suburb of Columbus, and it seems like it would be fun to have the DreamCafé and my mom and brother along for the trip. With this many months to plan it, we might even make it happen! Any feedback from the readers on this convention, if you’ve previously attended?

2 responses so far

Feb 27 2010

Links for your weekend

Getting the bad news out of the way first, here is an incredibly concerning article about the latest battle on the women’s equal rights front. I’ll get sterilized before I’ll live under any “pre-pregnant” laws if they actually start passing them…and if you know anyone who lives in Utah, get them to write the governor to veto!

In more pleasant news, I finally got around to joining the Horror Writers Association. I qualified as an Affiliate member with the publication of “Memory Box” in the Stoker Award-winning Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet, by Dark Scribe Press. It slipped off my list of priorities in the busy-ness of the last several months, so I’m glad to have finally taken care of that.

Related to that, I found out this week that the World Horror Convention will be in Austin,Texas for 2011. How cool is that!

For those of you following the Callie posts, I’ll put up a separate page when we get a little farther along in the story, collecting them in one easier-to-read place. In the meantime I’ll post a link collection every 5 entries or so, like now!

Inside the Box
A Box Has No Windows
Opening the Door
At The Bar
Finding help?

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Jul 19 2009

setting thoughts

Fourth Street Fantasy Convention was great this year (and promises to be awesome next year, add it to your reminders now!), and though I didn’t get to attend all the panels I got a lot of tasty thoughts and ideas from those I did attend.

One idea might have come from either a panel or one of the good discussions that happened throughout the weekend. I was reminded of the importance of setting in science fiction and fantasy stories. This, coupled with Ella’s sound critique, have caused me to revisit and refine where and when in space and time my novel exists. I spent much of my first draft slogging out what and who, and I’m quite fine with having delayed further development until now. On the other hand, I think not working out those when and where details now will make extra work for me in later drafts, and I do so try to avoid extra work where I can. (Extra work isn’t the same as more work, which I hardly ever avoid, so wipe those smirks off, smartarses!)

Someone at the con mentioned that in a fantasy work, the setting not only affects the characters and the plot, but in many ways is developed and acts like a character in its own right, in terms of its effects. I think this holds true for many sf settings as well; the same characters and basic plot will very likely turn out differently if I drop the characters into 1950s-style space opera instead of hyper-urban New Calcutta fifty years from now.

For those reading interested in cool discussion, I’ll start off with this question: What are your experiences where social, temporal, geographical, cultural, or other contexts significantly affected a particular event or creation? I’m finding for this novel, so far, that the cultural and ethnic heritages of the characters and the location in space-and-timeline of various events heavily affect the development of characterization and plot points.

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Jun 24 2009

busy writing (and traveling) bee

Published by under conventions,Editing,steve,Writing

Whew. Back from 4th Street, which was great, of course. I think I talked with others about writing for about 12 hours on Sunday alone, not to mention all the other wonderful conversations with amazing people that happened throughout the con. I didn’t get to attend as many of the panels as I wanted to (in part due to arriving later than planned on Friday night), but I do have some good notes that I hope to share on the panels I did attend.

I got to meet an old friend of Steve’s at lunch after the con on Monday that involved me missing the post-con Fish outing. I really enjoyed seeing Neil and Steve interact with each other; I understand much better now why Steve refers to him as his “evil twin”. The lunch was delicious, the conversation and stories delightful, and Steve got more exercise wandering around the grounds looking at cool plants and animals than he has in a year! We should definitely go on more walks together, that was fun.

Even though I’ve traveled from California to Texas to Minnesota back to Texas all in the past two weeks, I’ve *still* managed to get two short stories viciously dissected and put back together into (hopefully) better stories during that time. The revisions on the latest one were an especially fun editing mini-workshop with Steve and Nathan on Sunday night when we all probably should have been in bed hours earlier. It was intense but really enjoyable and there was only one part that none of us could agree on or easily fix when it was all through. (Nathan, by the way, shows some early signs of developing into an awesome editor.)

And speaking of editors, one of my few epiphanies of the past weekend is that I don’t tend to categorize writers, even those with some measure of public fame, as larger-than-life in my head…but put me around brilliant editors like Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Beth Meacham, Debbie Notkin, Sharyn November (and others I met but didn’t get time to talk with), and internally I turn into a fascinated wide-eyed fan-girl. Hopefully it’s not TOO obvious on the outside…

Okay, back to sending off one of these stories, finishing inputting the edits on the other one before sending it off, and then maybe I can get back to such cat-waxing activities as typing up my 4th street notes. And my main character in the next novel I shall be writing can QUIT hijacking the mental processes already because I won’t write her story until this novel is finished. Back in your box!

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