The Con Show

I went to NorWesCon, which I have done for many years before. This con, however, I focused on my venturing into my writing career, rather than just going for fandom. Fandom in and of itself is fun, but this year I was more engaged. I went to learn about something I love, and that’s just what I did.

I went to panels, which were great fun. I went to one panel called, “The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made…” and all of the panelists seemed in consensus that it was agreeing to a panel at 10 am Saturday morning. I didn’t meet Simon R. Green, but I made him laugh. It was a nice return for all the times his books made me smile.

My next most exhilarating moment was getting my story critiqued by four published authors. Sunlight streamed into the big plate windows 14 stories up, creating a hot box effect. Not ideal. I tried to hang in there and concentrate on what they said. I felt like a patient being diagnosed by four doctors. Fortunately, they were kind, wonderful doctors. They didn’t leave a stone unturned, but the way they delivered their advice was professional and encouraging. I have lots to think about going forward on Bastions.

The best is of course for last. My friend James, whom I met through my writing group, offered to escort me down to see Phil Brucato and his partner Sandra for dinner down in the lounge. I’ve met Phil once before, when I sat on a panel at Geek Girl Con. He was wonderful, and I thought to myself that I’d like to get to know him better. He remembered me, smiling easily as I sat down at a table full of noone I knew. At one point James brought up the Mage Anthology that Phil is orchestrating. At that moment, Phil Brucato turns to me, looks at me point blank and says, “Oh yeah! I forgot you were a writer. Do you have a month? I’d like you to write a short story.”

…and then my heart stopped.

I said, “For you, of course! I’d be happy to!”

…and then I remembered how to breathe again.

I had other great moments while I was there. I bought a very adorable, tiny matted picture of a blue squid with a hunter’s cap, magnifying glass and pipe. Squidlock Holmes is my favorite, and I have to find a place to put him on my wall. The artist was Meg Lyman, a local Seattle artist with a clever talent for cephalopods.

Con always ends too soon, and Monday is the cruelest cut of all. That being said, I have no regrets. This con was the best I’ve attended in ages.

Conference Send Up

I attended my first writer’s conference. I felt like such a grown-up, ready for school with my laptop bag and my shoulder bag slung over one arm. The day was sunny and bright, and the modest building hosted trees that went all in on the autumn foliage. The day began full of promise, and I made it on time for registration.

I almost missed the morning ceremony, however. A well-dressed older woman extolled how amazing this particular conference was, listing kudo after kudo while I juggled my gear and the gratis coffee that I prayed would be drinkable. I was in for a surprising treat on that end, and I fishtailed my way to a seat only to send my drinkable, gratis, lidless coffee sloshing far and wide beyond the lid of the cup. No writers were hurt in the making of this feature, but I was mortified by my unruly beverage. I sat down, shamed, listening to the litany of People Who Are Cooler Than Me.

I looked around the room, and noticed a couple of things. One, that there was a PALTRY number of outlets that I would have to target if I wanted to use my laptop, and I was suddenly grateful for my splitter. I would make friends by extending the warm glow of electricity to their toys. I also noticed that I was not the target demographic of this conference. I was, in fact, a good twenty years younger than the median age.

As the clapping began, I stood up to fishtail my way over to the open outlets, when my drinkable, gratis, lidless coffee did a half-gainer with a twist, and ended up turning the seat I had just vacated into a caffeinated swimming pool. My mortification from earlier was a pale and paltry thing. A lovely woman named Fran took pity on me, offering up her napkins to my disaster. She said she’d never forget me. I pray that she was wrong.

My first speaker was William Dietrich, a PacNW local who is also an NY Times bestseller. I listened avidly and took copious notes.. only to look around and notice that there was only one other laptop in the room. The two of us were of a similar age, which may have something to do with it. Over a sea of gray I listened to William extol his formula for improving his plot.

My next speaker was Alice Acheson, who has been a publicist for 40 years. She’s the person I was most interested to see. I mean, as a writer, one always strives to improve your craft, but if you want to be an author, and get a published deal, and join the ranks of Stephen King and JK Rowling.. you have to be into the marketing aspect of things. You have to understand that you are going to be a recognized figure. You will no longer be obscure; people will make judgments of you and want you to speak at awards ceremonies or maybe the darker side of fame, where you become someone’s imaginary best friend. Now, that’s the best case scenario, becoming that famous, but in this day and age, where a woman managed to get on the NY Times Bestseller list for writing Fan Fiction, you don’t know when it could be you.

Alice spoke about how to focus on that secondary piece, researching Agents and Publishers and how to submit, etc. I listened in horror as one of the attendees asked her point blank, “What’s the hot trend right now?”

Alice smiled, as smooth as a cat, and replied, “It doesn’t matter. If the ink was wet on your contract today, it would take a year, maybe two to get your book on the shelves.”

I love her.

My third speaker was by far my favorite, although I wasn’t expecting him to be. Maybe you’ve heard of Benjamin Percy, but I never had. He stepped up to the podium wearing flannel, well-worn jeans, and equally worn cowboy boots. Not the frilly kind, but the working kind. I know the difference, coming from Wyoming. I wondered how this guy could write a paragraph.

Then, he spoke. First of all I must describe his voice to you, but I never will properly manage. He simply had one of those deep, bass voices like Ving Rhames, Vin Diesel, or Morgan Freeman. At one point a participant told him he should be a voice actor. He grinned and said, “Yes, I read my children bedtime stories. Can you imagine me reading Goodnight, Moon?”

He began with his humble start, and detailed how he devoured mass paperbacks. Anything with a dragon on it, a dragon with a sword was better. He named Robert Jordan and Dritz, and I was hooked. The way he turned a phrase was lyrical, and I was astounded. He made me want to go back to school, so I can do what he does.

In the interest of cutting a long story short, (too late,) the conference was excellent. I’m glad I went. I can also tell you I was exhausted by the end of the first day and opted to skip out on the second, despite how much I enjoyed being there. My brain was full, and I spent Sunday reveling in the ‘nothing to dos.’

Write on the Sound

Write on the Sound

The first step in my October writing odyssey is the Write on the Sound conference in Edmonds. It’s been around a while, but this was the first that I’d heard of it. I am hoping to make a few contacts with writers in the Seattle area. I have made plenty in Bellingham, but my heart still belongs to Seattle. This year I can walk with my head held high, knowing that I have a published book under my belt. It has helped my confidence. I’ve committed to a path that I had spent years avoiding, and I’m getting recognition for what I did.
The irony of it all is that in spending this month deeply involved in the writing community, I’m not writing. I’m barely managing to sneak in 500 words a day, which by my standard is the equivalent of writing nothing. And maybe that’s not fair to myself, but I think you have to have some kind of standard, especially when writing. It’s very easy to say, “I have a great idea for a novel.” It’s very hard to say, “I’ve written a novel.”
Word count notwithstanding, I remain excited about my opportunities. Some classes I’m taking are going to enrich my career. How to Find an Agent, or Using Social Media. Then, there are classes to help work on my writing. How Stories are Told, etc. Then there are the purely fun classes, like “Food and Wine Writing.” (And yes, that’s my idea of fun! Don’t judge me.)
Then there’s been the adventure of getting there. I feel as though there will be a There and Back Again: A Writer’s Story post in my future. I could tell you how I plan on doing it, but I think the fun will be in explaining how well things went according to plan.
This whole month is a month of waiting. It’s the hardest part of looking forward to something. The pure distraction as the event approaches. And I can tell you that when I’m getting out of bed at five o’clock in the morning to get rolling on Saturday, I’m certainly going to be asking myself what I was waiting for, and why not go back to bed. But it will be worth it.
And, if it’s not worth it, then let’s hope that it’ll be funny later, when I’m relating the tale.