2016 Anthology Workshop

It’s been over two weeks since I got back from the Anthology Workshop. I meant to do a write-up about it before this, but I caught some kind of crud on the flight home (best as I can tell, looking at the likely incubation period) and I’ve only just gotten over the hacking and sniffling. I hate trying to sleep when my sinuses are clogged up; I think the sleep deprivation is worse than the actual hacking and sniffling. πŸ˜›

Anyway. Great workshop as always. I only sold one story (an SF mystery to John Helfers for an anthology called No Humans Allowed,) but I had a great time anyway, and learned a lot. I had a chance to talk to a bunch of folks, get to know some new people and some people who’ve been around, but we just never had a chance to really sit down and chat before.

The whiteboard John built his TOC on. My story’s on the right, in darker marker; it was a “Hold” at first, and he decided to add it at the end, when he was filling in stories to make his wordcount.

We wrote stories ahead of time, as always. About 45 attendees wrote about 250 stories, totalling 1.1 million words of fiction. The reading was like a tidal wave, seriously. We’re supposed to be learning to read like editors — who definitely do not read every word of every story that’s submitted — but it’s hard when you’re dealing with quality this high. If this were open-submission slush, most stories could be rejected after a paragraph of two. That’s not the case here. This is a pro-level, invite-only workshop, and people who attend are ridiculously good at this stuff.

Six of the editors — John Helfers, Kerrie Hughes, Kris Rusch, Mark Leslie (aka Mark the Kobo Guy), Kevin Anderson and Rebecca Moesta — had established books they were reading for. We got guidelines for one book per week we were writing, and had a week (or a bit less) to write a story in accordance with the guidelines and get it in. Dean Smith was the odd guy out this year; he read all the stories and had to put together an anthology out of the ones the six other editors didn’t choose, coming up with a set of stories that created some kind of theme as he went. He ended up with a bunch of stories on the theme of Hard Choices, and he had to fight a few of the other editors for some of those stories.

It was fun to watch. πŸ™‚ If the editor for whom a story was specifically written doesn’t want it, any other editor who thinks it’d fit their book really well can steal it. All the editors with established books had dibs over poor Dean, who often found himself wanting a story, but standing in line behind two or even three other people. By the time he put his TOC together on the last day, he say the process had been a lot harder than he’d expected. I definitely wouldn’t want to have to do it, although watching him do it was educational.

Most of the workshop was spent watching and listening as the editors went through the stories one by one, evaluating, disagreeing, arguing. There were a lot of WTF?? expressions scattered through the week as one or more editors loved a story that one or more other editors hated. Discussion got pretty heated once or twice. In the middle of all of this, Kris reminded us that this was because the stories were all very good. If this were a beginner workshop, where all or most of the attendees were still learning how to write, the editors would all agree. Obvious flaws would stick out to everyone. In this group, everyone can write, so the disagreements and arguments were all a matter of individual editors’ taste. Even the common disagreements that sounded like craft issues — like Kris and Dean insisting that a lot of stories had “no setting” (since they’re both really aware of setting) while John and Kerrie often loved those stories and thought they had just the right amount of setting, or that the characters and plot were so interesting they hadn’t noticed or didn’t care that there wasn’t much setting — were really matters of taste. There are readers like Kris and Dean, and there are readers like John and Kerrie.

And that’s the point. Just because one editor, or even five editors, rejects your story, that doesn’t mean it sucks. It might just mean it wasn’t to that editor’s (or those editors’) taste. Keep trying. Some of my stories that didn’t sell would’ve sold to one of the other editors if they’d been editing that particular volume. Which is the point. Keep going. Too many writers get a rejection or three, decide the story sucks and stop sending it out. Don’t do that!

As we’ve done before, we had sign-up lunches in small groups with most of the editors, and a few other subject matter experts, like Christy Fifield, who writes fun cozy mysteries, and is a hotel Controller in her day job; she’s a great source of info for finance and accounting and such. We also had an audio expert, and someone who writes comics for major publishers, for folks who are interested in that. I went out with John, Dean and Christy, and had a great time with each of them, and the other writers who signed up to go with.

Other days we grabbed lunch with whoever was available, and there’s plenty of talent in the room and lots of brains to pick. Dinner was also chaotic in a fun way, and I hung with a lot of different people at various times. Sometimes it’s fun sticking with a few friends — I usually do that at SF conventions, that sort of thing — but at this kind of event, the more people you can hang out with and get to know, the better. The networking at these events is worth the workshop fee all by itself.

Allyson, the Publisher at WMG, announced that they’re starting up a companion line of anthologies called Fiction River Presents. These will be reprints of stories that’ve already been in Fiction River, remixed in various ways. Fiction River is starting its fourth year now, and a lot of people only heard about it recently. Doing the reprint volumes is a good way of giving folks different mixes of stories, so if one theme from the past didn’t appeal to you, maybe another will and you’ll see some stories you’d have otherwise missed.

From the WMG site: “Appropriately, the first volume, Debut Writers’ Showcase, commemorates first sales by up-and-coming authors. Future volumes will revolve around themes such as family, thrillers, offbeat stories, and ReadersÒ€ℒ Choice.”

My first professional sale was “Staying Afloat” in How to Save the World, and that story will be in the Showcase volume.

Othere random bits I noted down during the workshop:

Short fiction is an entryway to your work for people who’ve never read any of your other stuff.

Anthologies are an exception to BookBub’s one-book-per-author-at-any-one-time rule. you can only have one novel up at a time, but you can have multiple multi-author anthologies, or a novel and an anthology, or whatever combination.

If you’re looking to build up your sales ranking on sites like Amazon, advertise sales on multiple sites in succession rather than all at once. Start with BookBub and then go through others week by week. BookBub will raise your book up the ranks, and the smaller lists will keep it up there.

A workshop attendee who writes romances puts out a new short story each month. He makes it free on his blog for a week, with a buy button on the page. He sells a few during the free week, then when the story comes off of free, sales shoot up. He sells the e-books for $2.99 and paperbacks for $5.99, and he gets bookstore/warehouse sales; he sees batches of 10-15 of the paperbacks selling. He does this once a month, and now makes a third of his income off of short fiction this way.

“Free” is the most popular search term on Kobo, always, no matter what else is going on or what hot book’s been released.

Writers are generally pretty awful at writing our author bios. I’ll admit I hate doing it, and the standard one I use isn’t great. An author bio should talk about your writing. It doesn’t matter that you have five cats unless there are cats prominently in your work. It doesn’t matter that you like to garden or knit unless your characters are gardening, or some detail about historical knitting is a plot point in your story. What do you write? What have you published? Have you won any awards? Or been nominated? Made any significant bestseller lists? When writing your author bio, remember — not too long, not too short, not too modest. Most of us seem to have a problem with that last bit. πŸ˜›

If your story is set during a big, horrific event, it’s hard to get your readers to hang on to it. If you deal with it head-on, it’s better to deal with a smaller part and make it representative of the larger events, with a close emotional grab. Trying to deal with the whole, sweeping thing will probably require a lot of tell-tell-tell narrative, which can get boring. Keep the reader down IN the events, focused on a representative character. Also, use little details, like in the middle of a huge event that’s caused shootings or protests or whatever, there are going to be closed streets. Have your characters deal with that, to make the larger events have an impact on their lives in a given moment.

Make your manuscript readable. Small fonts are bad. Courier is iffy.

Make sure your name and the page number are in the header of every page, because some editors still print things out to read. If they drop a stack of pages, or they go for coffee and the printer spits the pages for a dozen stories all over the floor, the editor’s not going to bother to play literary archaeologist to figure out which pages belong to your story and what order they go in.

Give your story a significant file name. Some markets call out file name formats, in which case follow that. But if a market doesn’t specify, don’t call it “Story.doc” or “Fantasy.doc” or whatever.

Story titles should be memorable. On the one hand, that means that calling something “Aftermath” or “The Game” or “Conflict” probably isn’t a great idea because that kind of title doesn’t call a particular story to mind. On the other hand, words and names in your title should be reasonably familiar and pronounceable. You want readers to be able to talk about your story to their friends, and editors to be able to remember your title when thinking about their up-coming book or issue, or when talking with their staff. They can’t do that if they can’t remember or pronounce your alien name, or your transliterated Arabic phrase. Put the linguistic fireworks in the story, not in the title.

First person can be very distancing because the reader is NOT the person doing whatever

There’s a convention of a type of mystery fiction by people who don’t know police procedure perfectly and that’s fine. You’re just aiming for a different audience of readers than the folks who are experts on procedure and make that a major focus of the narrative.

Put something in the body of the e-mail when you sub a story, or even just edits. Blank e-mails with just an attachment end up in the spam filter. Also, you’re trying to foster a relationship with the editor, so say hi, looking forward to working with you, something. Not a Christmas letter, but a line or two.

If a published story gets picked up for a reprint, gets into a Year’s Best, nominated for an award, whatever, let the original editor know. They might want to use it in their marketing, and even if they don’t, it’s a fuzzy to them too, just to hear about it.

If you’re writing about one of a series of events, what’s special about this occurrence, this character? Why are you writing about this particular one and not the previous one, or the next one, or the first one? Let the reader know why this person/thing/occurrence has a story written about it.

We were talking in the workshop about the layoffs at Random Penguin, which happened while we were there. Someone there who knows people at PRH said that Nora Roberts’s editor was one of the people layed off, which… seriously? How could anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together for mutual warmth argue that that particular editor wasn’t pulling in enough money for the business to justify their salary?? o_O So when word came out about a week later that Ms. Roberts had taken a hike up the road to St. Martins, I wasn’t at all surprised. That was a ridiculously expensive round of layoffs for Random Penguin; I’m sure someone was called to explain WTF they were thinking, or will be when the company start to feel the lack of Ms. Roberts’s sales in their bottom line.

We had a funny thing happen on the way home. I rode back to Portland with Lyn, who was driving, and Laura. We stopped at Laura’s hotel to drop her off, and ran into Brenda in the parking lot. Brenda had dropped Michele off at the airport and decided, spur of the moment, to stay at that hotel herself. Lyn had planned to drive farther before stopping, but with two other writers from the workshop there, she decided what the heck, that she’d stay there too, so she ran in to get a room. I think she and Laura ended up sharing. I had a room at another hotel a couple miles away, and was having dinner there that night with a writer friend who lives in Portland. Under other circumstances, though, it would’ve been pretty awesome to have one more “workshop” night at the hotel. Or better yet, if they’d all been in mine — it’s the hotel I always stay at when I’m flying out of Portland, and my husband got a great deal on a suite. I had a for-real suite, with a main room and a separate bedroom, and my main room had a full size dining table and six chairs. We could’ve stayed up for hours gabbing. πŸ™‚ Maybe next year.

I had a great conversation with Amelia, and a decent flight home the next morning. I came down with the creeping crud a couple of days later, but the trip itself went wonderfully well. I’m already signed up for next year, and there’s still space. If you write short fiction, the Anthology Workshop is an awesome experience, and one I can’t recommend strongly enough.

Thanks to Dean and Allyson for organizing the event, all the editors for helping make it happen, and all the attendees for making it rock. So long as they keep throwing these workshops, I’ll keep going.


What Are We Paying For Again…?

From ABC News:

An internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration revealed security failures at dozens of the nationÒ€ℒs busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials, ABC News has learned.

Wow. So we get lined up, barked at, irradiated and/or groped, little tin dictators in spiffy blue shirts with official looking epaulettes and shiny fake badges[1] treat us like cattle or prisoners, and… for what again?

According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector GeneralÒ€ℒs report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.

Gee, I’m so glad we have TSA making us feel so much safer than we were before 9/11. Oh, wait….

Security experts have said before that all the security rules put into place at the airport at the security checkpoints can be defeated without too much trouble, and I’ve discussed that here before. It’s common knowledge; I’m sure all the terrorists know.

Or maybe this is a one-time thing?

This is not the first time the TSA has had trouble spotting Red Team agents. A similar episode played out in 2013, when an undercover investigator with a fake bomb hidden on his body passed through a metal detector, went through a pat-down at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport, and was never caught.

[T]he review determined that despite spending $540 million for checked baggage screening equipment and another $11 million for training since a previous review in 2009, the TSA failed to make any noticeable improvements in that time.

And according to a USA Today story in 2007, about failure rate of screener tests:

Howe said the increased difficulty explains why screeners at Los Angeles and Chicago O’Hare airports failed to find more than 60% of fake explosives that TSA agents tried to get through checkpoints last year.

The failure rates Ò€” about 75% at Los Angeles and 60% at O’Hare Ò€” are higher than some tests of screeners a few years ago and equivalent to other previous tests.

So I guess that’s a “nope” on the one-time failure thing.

And of course, part of the problem is that so much of the effort is focused at airports. It’s as if Homeland Security thinks terrorists have some kind of a compulsion to attack airports and airplanes. News flash: terrorists want to cause terror. They’ll do that anywhere they think will be effective. Other places will do just as well, places like sports stadiums, shopping malls, theme parks and other tourist attractions — anywhere large groups of people gather. There’s no way to guard every possible target against terrorist activity without turning the US into the ultimate police state. Money wasted on TSA would be much better spent on intelligence, stopping terrorists before they ever get near their targets.

David Burge, on Twitter, has it right IMO:


At $8 billion per year, the TSA is the most expensive theatrical production in history.

Yeah, that’s just about right. [sigh]

Thanks to Bruce Schneier for posting about this.

[1] Yes, fake badges. The TSA screener uniforms and badges are designed to make travellers assume that the screeners are law enforcement officers, for purposes of intimidation and compliance. They are not law enforcement, and have no arrest powers. If a TSA screener thinks you should be arrested, they have to call a real cop like everyone else.


BayCon Redux

I’m alive, barely. I came home with Con Crud from BayCon and have spent most of the last few days unconscious, which is the best way to spend a period of physical misery IMO. I’m feeling almost alive again, yay.

The convention was fun. I saw some friends I only (or almost only — depends on the year) see at BayCon, and that’s always cool. Even if the convention itself wasn’t really that great, I’d still go to see old friends. Lois McMaster Bujold was the writer GOH, and I went to a couple of her panels, a reading and an interview.

For the reading, she read a couple of chunks of a novella in the Vorkosiverse, which she said might not ever be published because of structural issues, so those of us in the room might well be the only fans who ever get to experience even a piece of it. That’d be a shame — it’s from Ekaterin’s POV (which was apparently one of the problems, but anyway) and was about how the guy who developed the butterbugs modified a strain of bugs to eat radioactive foliage and such, and concentrate the “hot” matter in their feces, which the bugs were trained to deposit in central collection areas. So basically, the idea was to release these bugs into Miles’s glassy crater (which isn’t so glassy anymore, but is still very radioactive) and let them do their thing. Clean up the glowy poop periodically and shoot it into the sun, or dump it down a particularly active subduction zone, whatever you want to do with it, and eventually the land will be habitable again. Of course there’s a kink in the cable, and things get interesting, and that’s about where she stopped reading. πŸ™‚ I hope she fixes the problems some day, because this was the beginning of a fun story.

I’ve heard Ms. Bujold speak before, and I’ve always enjoyed listening to her. She’s a good reader, too — I dragged my husband to one of her readings at a WorldCon back when, and that persuaded him to start reading the Vorkosigan books. If you have a chance to see her, take it.

The masquerade was small this year, but there were a lot of cool costumes. My favorite was Erin Mittman, who did “Dess from the Midnighters, by Scott Westerfeld.” I’ve never read that book, so I have no idea how close she was to the original. But what I loved was her prop work — young girl in a black costume, it was decent, whatever. But she had this long spear she carried, and the spear had a length of fishing line at the pointy end, attaching it to a big, black fly/spider-like monster made as a balloon animal. For her presentation, she “fought” the monster, and it looked awesome. πŸ˜€ The balloon creature was light and floaty, so at times it sort of hovered, and at times it darted around, depending on what she was doing with her spear. It was the best fighting-a-monster act I’ve ever seen at a masquerade, where the monster wasn’t another person in a costume. Major kudos to Ms. Mittmann; I hope we see more of her at future cons.

Best Workmanship went to Shael Hawman, for “Knit Klingon.” I think she was the woman who did the crocheted Wonder Woman costume last year, but I’m not sure. This was great, though, and I actually liked it more than the WW costume. The announcer said that everything above her boots was either knit or crocheted, and it looked awesome.

Best in Show was a black woman named J.B. (that’s all that’s in the newsletter, unfortunately, and I don’t remember whether more of a name was announced during the competition) who was an “Intergalactic Amazon Warrior.” The costume was decent, and I liked that it wasn’t low cut or slit up to here or anything; it was a warrior costume, not a “sexy-whatever” costume playing for catcalls. What was really cool, though, was her presentation. She had a sword (looked kind of like a katana, although I didn’t get a close look) and she had a dance/kata routine she did with it that looked really good. A lot of costumers can’t move very well, and look awkward or self-conscious, but J.B. must have practiced this, and it looked very good. Another one I hope to see more of in the future.

Luckily my con crud didn’t hit until I was on my way home, so I had a great time at the convention itself. Ironically, I actually did some writing at the convention (although not quite enough to make my quota for the week) but I haven’t managed any at all since I got home. :/ I hope to fix that tonight and tomorrow, although I’ll probably blow my quota again. That’s okay; I’m way ahead for the year so far, and if I had a day job, I’d definitely have taken these days off, so I don’t feel bad about taking them off writing too.

Still hacking and light-headed,


At BayCon

Jim and I are in Santa Clara at BayCon. They started giving the different iterations of the convention subtitles a while back, and this one is “Triskaidecaphobicon,” which made me snicker.

Despite living almost a thousand miles away now, I consider BayCon my home convention in fandom. I was a gofer at the first one (in 1982), and was on staff until a few years after I got married in ’96, when I finally admitted that it’s tough to work ConOps, even as a grunt, when you can’t attend meetings during the year. I gofered again a couple of times, but have settled into being an attendee. Hey, I get to see panels now! Whenever I want! πŸ˜€

The best part is seeing people I’ve known for a long time, many of whom I never or hardly ever see anywhere else. That’s really what it’s all about — keeping up with the people. Sometimes a person from Back When will vanish for years or decades, then pop up again, and that’s always pretty awesome.

Lois McMaster Bujold is the writer GOH, which is pretty exciting. I’ve seen her at other conventions; she’s a nice person, and gives great reading.

If anyone I know online is going to be here this weekend, drop a comment or an e-mail and we can get together. I love meeting internet people in realspace. πŸ™‚


Travelling — No Anthologies This Month

Greetings from the South Pacific and all that. [wave]

For anyone looking for the Anthology Listing, I’m afraid I’m skipping this month. I’m on a cruise ship a couple of days out from Tahiti; internet is unreliable, and when it works it costs thirty-eight cents per minute. I usually do several hours of research online before I post the month’s listing, and much as I love you all, I’m not willing to spend a hundred bucks or more to do it. :/ When I get home, I’ll have one (1) day to wash every garment I own before getting back on a plane to go to my mom’s for Thanksgiving, at which point I’ll be doing family stuff. I think November’s going to be a wash for the listing. Everyone keep writing, and I’ll see you in December.

I’ve been having a great time, doing lots of reading and lots of writing, and am sitting here with a truly spectacular sunburn, courtesy of Bora Bora. πŸ™‚ We went on a 4WD tour around the island and up three mountains. It was truly awesome, but the truck had no roof (which was one of the awesome parts, actually) and I got sizzled like whoa. My face has been peeling off my skull in small, dried-up bits, and the peeling part is working its way onto my scalp. I expect to have what’ll look like an absolutely terminal case of dandruff by tomorrow at the latest. [rueful smile]

Tahiti’s awesome; see it if you can. Bora Bora was particularly beautiful, and had great weather, sunburn notwithstanding. Samoa is lovely and has incredibly nice people, but the missionaries did a number on them like whoa, to the point where it’s rather horrifying. (Samoa is very Christian, to the point where you’re required to go to church on Sundays, and when one of the people on our tour asked the guide on American Samoa about their religious beliefs before the missionaries, she smiled and said, “We had no beliefs.” O_O Note that American Samoa was the less uptight of the two stops; Apia was more conservative on the surface, but nobody asked any of the locals there within my hearing about their traditional beliefs. Now I kind of wish I had, for comparison. I’d like to think this one guide is just particularly well brainwashed, and not representative.)

Hawaii is… well, it’s the US, and there you go. It’s worth visiting, definitely, but don’t expect it to feel terribly different, if you’re an American. The Polynesian Cultural Center that everyone raves about is very expensive and very plasticly Disneyfied. Oh, and no one grows sugar cane commercially on Hawaii anymore, something I didn’t know. The last crop was harvested in December of… either 2008 or 2010, I forget now, but just a few years ago.

We have our share of idiots on board, including one gentleman who was on a tour with us who seems to think all brown people speak Spanish. [headdesk] I’ve been wishing I could confiscate people’s citizenship for a while now, because nobody who goes out to foreign countries representing the USA should be allowed to be that obnoxiously ignorant. Every cruise seems to have at least a handful of them, and it’s damned embarassing.

I meant to do a stop-by-stop commentary, but that probably won’t happen at this point. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer. I’m having a great time (and losing lots of weight, yay! being one of the few people on the planet who loses weight on cruises) but am looking forward to being back in my own bed.

Oh, and the internet on this ship has some kind of nanny software installed. πŸ™ Early on I was bounced off of several of the sites in my RSS reader because of “adult” content, and I’ve been pretty much ignoring the whole thing since. I’m not sure how tight it’s set, and trying to read something means it’s marked as “read” in my feed reader; I already have to just remember (with my awful memory) that I need to back up on a few blogs and comics, and I’d just as soon not mess up any more feeds, so I have 1000+ posts piled up with more coming in all the time. I’ll try to get through them all, at least eyeballing post titles to see what’s interesting, but if I haven’t commented on your blog in a few weeks, that’s why. [sigh] It’s going to be a busy holiday season.

I hope everyone’s been doing well, and writing well, and that everyone’s safe and unflooded and not blown over. {{{}}}

Oh, and Washington now has gay marriage! πŸ˜€ Washington’s voters rock; I’m very proud of the state I live in. I wish the rest of the country would get with the 21st century.

Missing you all,


Free Story Plus Convention

Hey, all! [wave] I’m here at WorldCon in Chicago and having a great time. I just got back from a reading and Q&A session with John Scalzi, who’s always entertaining, and who has a short story (I’m not even going to try to remember the title; it’s long and funny) up for a Hugo this year. I’m also hoping to get into Laura Resnick’s Bheerfest thing this evening, if one or two people ahead of me on the list don’t show up, which would be pretty cool. (I don’t drink beer, but I’d love to sit at a table with Laura Resnick and BS.)

I also have a free story called Birthdays Suck up at Cryselle’s Bookshelf. It’s set in the Sentinel verse and is about Paul’s 17th birthday. It has no sex in it, so it’s safe for folks who aren’t into graphic sex in their fiction, but be aware that there’s a major spoiler in this story, if you haven’t read A Hidden Magic yet.

I’ll put this up as a free read on my own site in two or three weeks, something like that, but for now it’s only available at Cryselle’s place; my thanks to her for hosting it. πŸ™‚


Still Alive

There are a bunch of things I’ve wanted to blog about, starting with my trips last month, and in particular the Anthology Listings post that should’ve gone up a couple of days ago. We’ve had some medical issues around our place, though, most recently with my husband, who thought a cataract was getting worse and actually has a detached retina. :/ He’ll be having surgery on that next week.

I’m still around, though, and I’ll be getting the antho post up within a day or two.


PS — don’t sail with Celebrity. πŸ˜› Our cabin bathroom smelled of sewage the whole trip, despite broken promises to fix it. I got a case of e. coli and spent a chunk of the cruise on in-cabin isolation, the kind where if you leave before you’re okayed, they toss your butt off at the next port. Wow, fun. At least they picked up the medical tab.

November Stuff

Writing: 60,826 = 29 pts.
Submissions: 1 = 1 pt.
TOTAL = 30 pts WOOT!

Koala Challenge 9 NaNo 2011 Winner

NaNo went wonderfully, as you can probably tell from the above. πŸ™‚ I wrote just over 50K on my NaNo project, which was the third book of my Sentinels series, and another 10K and a bit on book two of the same series. Sentinels 2 (the book that comes right after A Hidden Magic) is almost 85K words and I think I’m about two or three more chapters from finishing.

Doing both at once actually worked out well. The two stories take place at the same time, with most of the team up in Seattle in Book 2, and the guy left home to hold the fort having an adventure of his own back in San Jose in Book 3. I had to go back and do a couple of tweaks on chunks of Book 2 I’d already written to make the timeline work with Book 3, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I’d finished 2 and turned it in (especially if it’d already been published before I got significantly into 3), so I’m glad I decided to start 3 even though 2 wasn’t done.

The current plan is to finish Book 2 in December and get it submitted and in the pipeline, then finish Book 3 (maybe before spring?) and submit that. If I can have two novels published in 2012, I will be absolutely delighted.

Jim and I went to Reno to spend Thanksgiving with my mom and brother, and we had a wonderful dinner (on Wednesday, because my brother is a retail manager and worked both Thanksgiving and the day after) at a very nice steakhouse at the Atlantis, the same hotel WorldCon was at this last August. I had American Kobe beef for the first time, and I now understand what all the fuss is about. It’s sublimely beefy, tender and flavorful and rich. I could have eaten three of them, except then I wouldn’t have had room for the excellent beef-vegetable soup or the great cheesy-buns that came in the bread basket or the very good creamed spinach or the creme brulee (yum!) I had for dessert. The service was great, not at all snooty, and the little extras — like the coffee service, which came with rock sugar on sticks, cinnamon sticks, white lump sugar, brown lump sugar, chocolate shavings, whipped cream, and I don’t remember what-all else to put in your coffee — made the whole dinner a wonderful experience. It was expensive but very much worth the price. If you’re ever at the Atlantis and have a week’s food budget to blow [cough] I highly recommend the steak house.

The Friday before Thanksgiving, Jim slipped on an oily metal grate or something on his way home from work, and banged up his knee pretty bad — all scabby and sore — so he kept it bandaged and went on with life. A couple of days after we flew to Reno, his leg from the knee down was incredibly swollen and red, and a bit warm to the touch. Mom and I persuaded him to go see a doctor; the local urgent care clinic was on our insurance, so Sean dropped us off on his way to work. The doctor took one look at it and said it looked to her like he had a blood clot, and she wanted him to go to a hospital for an ultrasound immediately. She said that if they found a clot, they’d keep him at least over night, because you don’t mess around with those things. We took a cab to the medical center and after some really ridiculous run-around about where we were supposed to be and who we were supposed to see — the urgent care doctor called and talked to an ultrasound tech and made an appointment for us, but no one else seemed to have ever heard of Jim or of the tech — we finally got in and he got his ultrasound. She didn’t find a clot, which is good but kind of weird; she said that just looking at the leg, she’d have assumed there was a clot too, but no. Apparently it’s just an odd case of cellulitis, or however you spell it, and so he’s on antibiotics. If it’s not back to normal by the time he’s out of pills, he promises he’ll go see our regular doctor.

That was scary for a while, but it looks like he’ll be okay. :/

I did my usual travel-sick thing, which continued after I flew home, yay. I missed going to the movies with the rest of the family, but they saw The Immortals and from all accounts I didn’t miss anything. I’m used to the whole post-flight sickness now, though; I’m just glad I have my pills.

I hope everyone else had a great Thanksgiving, or if you’re not in the US, had a great November anyway. πŸ™‚


New Orleans

Wow, I haven’t blogged about GayRomLit yet — I should probably do that before I forget what-all happened. πŸ™‚

The conference was a lot of fun, more than I expected, actually. I’ve always loved meeting internet friends in realspace, and I got to meet one of my very best online friends, plus a bunch of other people I knew, people I sort of knew, people whose names I’d seen around, and people I ran into for the first time while I was there. One thing a lot of people have commented about is how awesome it was to hang out with a bunch of people who are all into m/m romance. I’ve never been to one of the big romance conventions, but people who have talk about been sneered at, snubbed and otherwise marginalized, on a ratio of four or five to one versus people who say everyone was great and they had no problems. Gay romance is the redheaded (bastard, drug addict) stepchild of romance, and it seems to be very stressful, to say the least, to be an m/m romance reader or writer at a general romance convention. This one was for us, everyone was in the same group, and no one was asked, “But why do you read/write that stuff?” with even curiosity, much less hostility or distaste. Good stuff.

I got majorly fangirled a couple of times, which was pretty darned cool. [beam] I even had about half a dozen people ask for my autograph, which was ??? because I don’t have any paper books out and wasn’t expecting it at all. The first four or five I was trying to actually SIGN a name I’d never signed before, and I’m sure no two were alike, LOL! My usual mode of writing is a rather weird printing style I’ve developed since I was like eleven, though, so for the last couple I ditched the whole cursive-signature thing and just printed my name. It’s still very curvy and doesn’t look like anyone else’s printing, so that should work fine. Also, it’s readable, which my cursive most definitely isn’t. [cough] Also-also, this matters less with a pseudonym, but in general you don’t want your “autograph” to be the same signature you use on checks and credit card slips, so that’s another good thing, just on general principles.

It wasn’t all wonderful, of course. I had some tote bags made up with the title and author name (same fonts and all) from A Hidden Magic to give away, and had my vendor send the box directly to the hotel. They lost it. [headdesk] They found it eventually, but it took about a day and a half, and the first couple of people I talked to (two separate occasions) seemed pretty convinced it’d never arrived, despite UPS’s web site showing that it had been delivered to the front desk. The third time there were three people hunting for a while, and the bell captain finally found it and brought it to my room, yay! I gave him a nice tip and was very happy to have my stuff.

The day after I arrived, I went out with three friends to Cafe du Monde, where the coffee’s great and you have to excavate through the mountain of powdered sugar to find your beignets. That part was good, but there was an older guy right outside the fence, like twelve feet away from us, who was alternating between trumpet music and very loud singing the whole time we were there, such that we had to shout at each other to have a conversation. [sigh] I know the street performers have to make a living too, but the whole captive-audience thing sucks. It’s one thing to do your performance on a street corner, or around the perimeter of Jackson Square where a bunch of performers and artists and fortune tellers hang out, so that people passing by can stop and watch/listen if they want. But when we’re in a cafe having coffee and beignets and want to talk, it’s very unpleasant having music blaring in our ear the whole time. And courtesy dictates that you stop what you’re doing to applaud whenever a song finishes, whether you enjoyed it or not, and that got old as well. The guy was all “Thank you for your thunderous applause” whenever there wasn’t much, going passive-agressive on people who hadn’t chosen to hang out and listen to him in the first place — so that kind of sucked. He’s the one who chose to foist his very loud music on people who just wanted to sit down with coffee and beignets and conversation; if his audience wasn’t universally delighted with his offering, that was his doing and nobody else’s. If I ever go back, I’ll definitely look for a table inside, or way in the back of the patio.

After that, we took a carriage ride around the French Quarter, which was fun. Our driver knew a lot about the history of the area (I’m assuming they all do, but still) and it was nice to see things while sitting down. The carriages are pulled by mules these days. The driver said it was because mules are stronger and can take the heat better than horses. They used to use horses, but there was trouble with the horses being overworked and generally in bad shape, so the city passed a law saying that the carriages had to use mules, which is good. They all seemed to be healthy so far as I could tell — no hip bones sticking out, no limps, nothing I recognized as abused animals, which isn’t always the case with animals who work this way, so that was cool.

I had some “lightly” blackened red snapper later on which was way too spicy for me (I have pretty much zero appreciation for capsaicin type heat in food) so I only ate half of it, although the rice and veggies were good. And on the last evening before I left I had a fried oyster poboy with sweet potato fries, both of which were very yummy. And I had breakfast a couple of times at the hotel restaurant, including my first try at grits. I expected to like them — I’m Italian and grew up eating polenta — and I did. Grits have a lighter taste, less corny, if that makes sense. I imagine it’s something to do with the chemical processing that turns them white. They’re still good to eat with butter, just like polenta, and I’d definitely have them again.

I didn’t do any of the walking tours the con had set up — they did cemetary walks and vampire tours — and from what I heard I was glad I didn’t. It sounded like they were too long and with too much standing around for someone with my mobility issues. I have to be careful what I commit to, and I had a feeling these wouldn’t work out for me.

A lot of the planned events of the conference were based on alcohol — hurricane party, wine and cheese party, pub crawl, that kind of thing — and I didn’t sign up for them because I don’t drink. Various authors and/or publishers were sponsoring all these events, and they had to pay so much per head based on how many people signed up. I could’ve gone just to be sociable, but I didn’t think it was right to make someone pay for booze for me that I wasn’t going to drink.

I haven’t mentioned any panels because… well, I can’t quite say there weren’t any, but there weren’t supposed to be. The organizing committee decided not to hold panels because they, as individuals, don’t care for panels at conferences. All right, it’s their show, they can do what they want. But there were panels anyway — two that I ran into, and I didn’t try to get to everything — so it seems at least some of the attendees and sponsors want them enough to go impromptu if none are organized. This would be fine, except that the rooms weren’t set up for panels. The idea with the smaller events was that authors or publishers or whoever was hosting a social or signing or whatever would be sitting behind tables around the perimeter of the room, and people would walk in, chat a bit, pick up swag and/or autographs, and leave. The first panel I encountered was in a small room intended for a meet-the-authors social sort of event. A friend was in there and I wanted to go say hi and see how things were going with her, but I found a panel going — people were asking questions, writers behind the tables were answering them, and everyone was listening to the answers. That’s a panel. The room had about six chairs in it, aside from the chairs behind the tables for the authors, and they were all full. There were people standing along the walls, packed into the corners, standing here and there in the middle of the room, and packed very tightly in the doorway and in the hallway right outside the door. I couldn’t even get close enough to the door to peer in and see my friend, and I could only hear every fourth or fifth word. I stood around for a few minutes, but then my knees and back started griping so I left.

The second one was a publisher’s reception. They were supposed to be hosting a hurricane party on the patio around the pool, but the hotel was going through some rennovation and fumes from the paint had drifted out the windows and made the pool patio uninhabitable most of the afternoon, so events that were supposed to be near there were hurriedly moved. I hadn’t signed up for the hurricane party, but I wandered past their relocation room (which was way too small for a party, but they were moved back to the pool patio a bit later, after the painters had gone home and the fumes dissipated) and saw that the publisher was holding a panel. The room was packed again — there were eight or so chairs that were full, people lining the walls and packing the corners and standing in all the free space, plus people sitting on tables and assorted other things that weren’t meant to be sat on. The publisher had been invitation-only up until recently, and one of the bigwigs (I didn’t catch her name so I don’t know exactly who) was speaking about their preferences in submissions, what they’re looking for, how they deal with covers and promo, and generally the sort of thing an author who might consider writing for a publishing house would want to know. I’m happy where I am, but I wanted to hear what the publisher had to say anyway and there was a spot on a table near the door, so I perched for a while, along with a number of other people. Seriously, though, if this sort of thing continues, one of these times someone or a group of someones is going to sit on something that isn’t meant to be sat on and break it, and the hotel is going to bill the conference. I get that the organizers don’t care for panels, but if they’re going to happen anyway, they’d best be organized and scheduled and put into rooms that are set for panels, with plenty of chairs. Otherwise the committee should start setting aside money for a surprise on the hotel bill, because it’s going to happen.

I got to meet my own publishers in person for the first time, which was pretty cool. Shawn and Lorna of Torquere Press had a table at the big signing event — which was on a riverboat — and invited me to sit with them for a while. That’s where I got asked for most of the autographs. πŸ™‚ A lot of writers in this genre don’t have paper books, so readers were going around with notebooks and such, using them as autograph albums. One lady was having people sign her e-reader cover, and one of the mods of the M/M Romance group on Goodreads was having people sign her Don’t Read In The Closet knapsack, which was pretty cool. That’ll be an awesome souvenir.

Later some of us Torquere people gathered in the hotel bar — which was around a corner and down a long hall and pretty dead unless there was a conference event in it, which sort of surprised me — with Torquere hosting. Shawn ran a tab, which I’ve never seen anyone do in real life, and which amused me beyond reason. Okay, I don’t go to bars, I’m sure everyone else is eyerolling right now, but it was pretty cool from my point of view. πŸ™‚ I had a couple of sodas and we talked about stuff. One thing that sticks out was confirmation that when the second Hidden Magic novel comes out, they’ll bring both it and the first out in paperback, yay! Seriously, that was awesome to hear; I’d suspected they might, just because it makes no sense to bring out Book 2 of a series in paperback but not Book 1, but it’s great to hear it officially. I know paperbacks don’t sell terribly well in this genre, but I’ve been wanting a paperback book with my name on it that I could autograph and give my mother for ages, and now I know I’m going to get one. Even if sales are lousy — which I hope they aren’t! πŸ˜€ — just being able to give her that will be worth it.

Oh, one of the street performers I saw while walking around the Quarter was excellent!! I was on the way to a nearby drugstore and was passing by Jackson Square, and there was a guy who was a police car transformer, and it actually worked!! πŸ˜€ He walked around with pieces of police car hanging off him like armor — I think a lot of it was sturdy cardboard or light wood, it certainly wasn’t plastic or metal, but still — and then he’d sort of squat and fall forward and the car assembled itself around him with the four tires on the ground and his feet tucked up out of the way. He must’ve had an electric motor in there somewhere because he could drive around!! Then he’d stop, then put his feet down and stand up, and the car disassembled back into an armor-y thing again! I definitely dropped some money in his bucket, ’cause that was freaking awesome. [beam]

On the whole I had a great time, and I’m looking forward to going to next year’s conference, which will be in Albuquerque. Hot and dry instead of hot and humid, so a bit better to this California native who’s not at all used to humidity. It’s the people who make it a great time, though, and I expect that to be just the same, only maybe a little bigger with any luck. I can hardly wait! πŸ™‚