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Renovation World Con – Day 4 – The Hugos

Renovation World Con – Day 4 – Hugo day

Having run myself ragged for three days straight, I realized the need for moderation – sort of. There was only one panel that I was really hot to go to, and that was the Weapons and Armor Demonstration for Fantasy Writers.

This was as cool as it sounds.

Eytan Kollin is a big guy with big weapons and he knows how to use them. He demonstrated the weapons and discussed how they were used, how force worked, why one weapon was better for certain tasks and some points on how to identify a quality weapon. He also discussed how weapons needed to be cared for and the tactics of an experienced warrior. There were repeated examples of when the unimpressive short sword (the one hanging at his side) was more practical and versatile than a fancy or gigantic mega magical weapon. This demo was two hours and could have gone on two more. As it was, he had to rush the armor portion of the demo a little bit, but he still got a lot of essentials across.

Eytan Kollin shows off his Zweihänder

The Cleaver

Is this in her job description?

This covered entirely melee weapons. I think I’ll recommend that they add a panel on projectile weapons as well, and that they break this demo into two parts because there was so much good stuff to cover.

I hadn’t realized that the weapons demo was two hours and I had signed up for a Writer’s Workshop which was being held back at the Peppermill (about a mile, or a shuttle ride, from the Convention Center). So I scarfed down a con-dog and scurried over there. I had the convenience of it also being my hotel so I knew my way around a little bit.

The Writer’s Workshops are a critique group with two professional writers and three attendees. We had already seen and critiqued each other’s work. The pros running my section were Cassie Alexander and Russ Crossley.

The crit group was excellent. Everyone gave good thought and feedback to their comments. It made me feel great when Russ said when he sat down on a warm afternoon in his backyard to read my piece, which was the first three chapters of my novel, that he just read it from beginning to end and enjoyed it all the way through. Everyone pretty much agreed that it was an easy read and they enjoyed it. And most of the things they brought up were things I had been thinking might be issues for some people. I learned some new things to look out for, too. Having completely fresh eyes on it was very helpful. Now I’m certain of some things I need to address, and with the two Fantasy panels I attended on the previous afternoon, my brain is just bursting with ideas to help improve it. That it got such a positive reaction from complete strangers is quite encouraging.

That ended at 3pm. The Hugos started seating at 7:30pm. I could have gone back for another panel and then been jostling for space on the return shuttle, but this is where I decided on moderation. I went up to my room and worked on the Day 2 blog post, called my boyfriend etc. Then I got a tweet that Vylar Kaftan, great author and fellow Codexian, was putting together a dinner get-together for anyone who felt like showing up. As I was facing needing to figure out dinner plans I decided to join the party. We met at Chi in the Peppermill and had a group of nine. It was pretty perfect. We only had to steal one extra chair when Keffy arrived. Then we went as a group to the Hugo awards upstairs in the Tuscany Ballroom.

Let me start by saying that I don’t usually like awards shows. A lot of blah blah and fake humility and an industry patting itself on the back – okay, so maybe I’m thinking about Hollywood awards shows. The Hugo Awards, however, were quite different.

As I mentioned, the established pros of this industry have a great sense of community. They also have a great sense of humor. I think it comes from the fact that most SF folk were misfits growing up; no one takes themselves too seriously. Jay Lake and Ken Scholes were the hosts and they were very funny. Here’s a link to the video of the show if you want to watch the whole thing.

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16783348

One of the funniest jokes went something like this:

Jay Lake: Every winner suffers from imposter syndrome.

Ken Scholes: Except Harlan Ellison.

And the crowd roared with laughter.

Another highlight of the evening was when Chris Garcia, editor of The Drink Tank fanzine, won his Hugo. He was overwrought with emotion. At one point, he had to turn the spotlight over to his assistant? Or co-? editor to speak and he just sat down on the stage cradling the Hugo. When he was able to talk, his acceptance was incredibly heartfelt.

I guess one of my other favorite bits of the night was when Robert Silverberg got up to present Best Novella. He talked about how he usually presented with Connie Willis and how they would banter endlessly back and forth, building the suspense until the few remaining authors waiting for results couldn’t stand it anymore. But that since Connie wasn’t presenting this year, he wouldn’t be doing that. Then he went on to banter and talk for a good ten minutes. His comic timing was perfect and had us laughing the whole throughout. And this was near the end of the night so that was no small feat.

Here’s a link to the list of nominees and winners: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/08/announcing-the-2011-hugo-award-winners

After this, I was wiped out. Sorry gang, but no parties for me tonight. It seemed like it would be intensely chaotic and crowded. I got a coffee and an insanely huge chocolate chip coverered biscotti and sat in the café to wind down. I thought I might work up the energy, but no. I did enjoy the music playing next door in the bar though. Then came the usual story of the week. I went back to my room, and collapsed.

 

Renovation World Con – Day 3 – the wild one

Friday started at 9am with the Codex breakfast. Codex is a neo-pro online writer’s forum and there were almost forty of us. It was really great meeting everyone. It also made coming to this con for the first time easier because I virtually knew a lot of people. There was never a shortage of good people to talk to.

Then more panels. They say that all the important stuff at a con like this happens in the hallways and bars, and I can see the truth of that. But there were a lot of cool panels and being my first time here, I wanted to attend them.

First there was Traveling Before the Motored Horse. Ellen Asher and Melinda M. Snodgrass gave a great presentation about the reality behind horses. They discussed their behavior and got down to the nitty gritty in how to take care of them. There was also a discussion of distance. A good rule of thumb measure might be that a horse could cover 17-30 miles a day realistically, depending on the type of horse and the terrain.

Now, on this day, I had taken my netbook with me so that I could work on blog posts in the in-between time and hopefully stay nicely current with my postings. Alas, it was not to be, but for good reason. A Codexian I hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to at breakfast introduced himself and we had a nice chat. Then I was off to another panel, then another break and more conversation with other Codexians and then another panel. Can you see why I couldn’t get these blog posts up sooner?

The thing is, in one of those conversations in-between, I got invited up to the SFWA con suite for the party that evening. I’m really not a party person, but I know these are a great opportunity to meet important people. More about this in a minute.

The next panel was F***ing Your Knight and the Horse he Rode in on: Fantasy Series Not Based on Medieval European Culture. This was really good and I’m going to have several new writers to catch up on. The panel was composed of: Saladin Ahmed, Aliette de Bodard, Ken Scholes and Christopher Kastensmidt who I’ve discovered is an excellent panel moderator. They discussed the benefits and challenges of writing fantasy in a non-European setting. While using existing mythologies, they twist and use them to create their fantasy worlds but they don’t forget to honor the culture the stories come from.

From left to right: Ken Scholes, Aliette de Bodard, Christopher Kastensmidt and Saladin Ahmed

I was about to walk out when someone mentioned the title of the very next panel in that room and I realized that I wanted to see that one too; I’m not sure how it slipped off my schedule. But this one was Mud and Blood: The Grittier Side of Fantasy. The panelists were Glen Cook, Pat Rothfuss and Ken Scholes. They spoke about putting hard-edged realism into a story, and not pulling punches. Even with not holding back there was one thing that Pat and Ken agreed on. I forget who said it first, but they both agreed that once they became dads, that the harming of a child in a story became a hot button for them. It had better be really important to the story and not just a play for emotion because it will turn them off as a reader. Glen had a keener edge in his attitude that, ‘bad things happen’.

From left to right: Glen Cook, Ken Scholes and Patrick Rothfuss

Both of these panels were excellent and pertained to my current novel project.

After this, I went to Mary Robinette Kowal’s puppet show, Whatnot.  She and her fellow performers, Jodi Eichelberger and Lance Woolen put on a cross of puppetry, improv and the Blue Man Group (mostly sans music). But it was certainly not what you would think of when you hear ‘puppet show’. There was audience participation and a series of skits. Some were funny, some touching, some sad, but all were thought-provoking. It was truly brilliant.

So now, as you can see, it’s been another long day. It’s late and I’ve not gotten more than five hours of sleep on any given night. Not because I couldn’t sleep; no, I’m out as soon as my head hits the pillow. I’ve just been doing so much stuff.

But, there’s the SFWA party to go to in the Atlantis, which is connected to the Convention Center via a sky bridge. Not wanting to miss out, I go. Next time, I swear I will do fewer panels and get in a disco nap in the afternoon. This party was being put on by Sheila Williams and Stan Schmidt, essentially Dell Magazines. They had two giant sheet cakes with a cover for each magazine as decoration.

Of course Stan and Sheila were there, and I thanked Sheila for giving her time and insight at the Kaffee Klatch. Gordon Van Gelder of F&SF was also there. Early on in the party I found myself talking extensively with James Patrick Kelly and Michael Cassutt. They were very entertaining and calling us the ‘next generation’ of SF writers. Again, there was only a good, helpful attitude toward us newer folk. Michael is based in LA. I told him I’d take care of him if he ever needed picture framing.

Then I mingled and ran into some more Codexians and a good variety of established people. When the main room got too hot and crowded, I slid over to the overflow room across the hall. A place vacated and someone noticed I looked tired and invited me to sit on the bed (this was obviously a normal room and not a con suite). I saw her name and knew that I recognized it from somewhere, but I wasn’t sure where. Well, I kept my mouth shut for a few minutes and paid attention to the conversation and realized that Patricia Briggs is a well established author with many books. And we were just sitting there shooting the shit. She’s a very nice, easygoing person.

By the way, I am usually lousy at recognizing people. Thank goodness for the name tags. I can’t tell you how many times someone famous has come into the frame shop and I’ve been oblivious.

After a couple of hours, I reached my limit. I found myself becoming a bump on a log just because I was too tired to participate. Rather than sit like a slug, I excused myself and somewhere around 1am went back to my hotel room – and collapsed.

 

Renovation World Con – Day 2

This morning I decided to walk to the Convention Center, just to see what the walk was lik and to work off the chocolate croissant I had for breakfast. Every morning of the con, they have ‘Stroll with the Stars’ where a bunch of people meet and walk from the Walgreen’s parking lot to the con whilst talking to a handful of the VIP’s.

Well, in my walk I stumbled upon this gathering and decided to join in. I had the privilege of speaking with Lawrence Schoen, Cory Doctorow and Ellen Datlow. Being the long time editor, I asked Ellen the classic question, “What is it you’re looking for in a story?” Though I know she’s answered it thousands of time, probably just this week, she told me that a strong voice was most important to her. She seemed to mean both authorial and character voice. Her answer was concise, obviously locked and loaded but one she believes in nonetheless. And the way she said it did not make me feel like a newbie idiot. That seems to be the general attitude. Overall there seems to be a sense of community and fostering the people that are up and coming.

The Stroll was running a little late and I had to jaywalk and scurry to the Kaffee Klatch with Sheila Williams. It was a very good session. I asked her the same question about what she was looking for and her answer was much more nebulous. I couldn’t put it in concise words here; the closest I could come would be that she wants something that impresses or surprises her. She also talked a lot about process and how she works.

I went to about five panels and while they were all good, I’ll just cover the highlights of my favorites. 

Making it as a Full-Time Writer was a full panel with Carol Berg, Tom Negrino, Dean Wesley Smith, Bud Sparhawk and Christina York. It was interesting to hear Dean Wesley Smith speak both about how much material he’s written, but that he quit many times over the years. There was also the idea that it’s okay, even good, to write in small chunks. The biggest message here though, was that discipline is probably the most important factor in being a full time writer. Well, that and perseverance.

Brandon Sanderson and Carrie Vaughn ran a panel on Creating Gods. There was supposed to be one more person that didn’t make it so they called up Matt Rotundo (a great author and fellow Codexian) and this guy who’s been a Wiccan priest volunteered. Then Brandon texted Pat Rothfuss and he joined in a little later. This was a very energetic panel with some great discussion about how to keep powerful characters from becoming too powerful and that disparity in power levels is a good source for conflict. And then once you start putting limits and making rules, how important it is to keep them consistent.

From left to right: Patrick Rothfuss, Carrie Vaughn. Brandon Sanderson, Matt Rotundo

After that, I went to the live Writing Excuses Podcast. They recorded about five shows in two hours. There were some technical difficulties to start, but Mary Robinette Kowal worked with Jordo and Howard Tayler to save the day.

From left to right: Jordan Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal

This was all sorts of fun. All of that energy that comes through in the podcast is really there in the room. Though sometimes I was surprised at the seemingly serious expressions they wore even while jokes were flying. I attribute it to them being focused on what might come next. I did discover how little preparation they actually do and was impressed at how easily they handled subjects that were simply thrown at them. If you ever have a chance to go see them work, get there. 

From left to right: Patrick Rothfuss (guest), Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells and Howard Tayler

 
From left to right: Mary Robinette Kowal, Keffy Kehrli (guest and WOTF winner), and Brandon Sanderson

At this point, I’m tired. I’ve been there all day, exhausted, worn out, feet hurt. Time to go back to the hotel, right? Well, no. I went to another panel, this one on SF Cover Art. It was good. Though it didn’t cover technique as much as I thought it would. The effects of e-publishing were certainly a big topic.

But then there was the Girl Genius Ball. It was a steampunk dance with many people in costume.

Dancers at the Girl Genius Ball

Most of the dances were organized and taught on site. Most set up like square dances. I was curious, so I went. The music was really fun. I have to admit, I didn’t dance. I was just too exhausted. I found a place to sit and spectated for a good long while.

Then I came back to the hotel and collapsed. (You’ll find this is a recurring theme.)

 

Renovation World Con – Day 1

Renovation World Con – Day 1, Wednesday August 17, 2011

Okay, so I’m not posting this on Day 1, but I’ve just been too busy and too tired. There is so much to do. Reno in August is hot and dry. It agrees with me.

When I arrived after my flight, my room wasn’t ready so I headed over to the Convention Center to register. I’m glad I did because I was also able to sign up for a Kaffee Klatch with Asimov’s editor, Sheila Williams. The Klatches can only be registered a half day ahead, so I was lucky to get in early. (More about this later.)

After registering and receiving my badge and ‘personal hydration device’ (water bottle with con logo) I went to an interview with Aliette de Bodard. It was very interesting and she was fun to listen to. Both she and the interviewer, Christopher Kastensmidt, are on an online writer’s forum that I am also on and it was nice to meet them in person and chat afterwords.

Then I had a convention hot dog and wandered the dealer’s room for a bit. Below are some pictures of displays there. On an impulse, I bought a hat with a wide brim and a cool swoop in the front. The art show is also quite good. I placed a bid on a steampunk locket. I’ll find out Sunday if I get it.

I also ran into Heather Muir, a friend from OSC’s Boot Camp. We’ve been crossing paths and chatting throughout the convention. That’s what these things are all about – connections. It’s been nice seeing her again. We got to compare notes on what we’ve been up to in the last year.

After going back to the hotel, I found my room was ready. It’s very nice. One of the fanciest I’ve stayed in. I only say ‘one of’ because we had some pretty fancy rooms in China (for a lot less money, of course).

Then I went back to the Convention Center for the filk jam. I had heard a very good example of filk on the Writing Excuses podcast a couple of weeks ago and wanted to check it out. There were some good musicians by the time the room filled. I especially enjoyed the harpist. There was a wide variety of styles and skill levels. Their energy and the enthusiasm were great, even if sometimes the music was a little rough around the edges. If I had one criticism, I’d say that a lot of the songs went on a little too long.

Finally, exhausted, I went back to the hotel and collapsed into bed around 1am. I thought about doing this blog post, but was afraid it would come out gibberish. So far, so good. Every day is busier than the last. Now I’m off to breakfast.

 

Writing, Los Angeles and Traveling the World

Writing 

I write Fantasy and Science Fiction, short stories and books. Currently I am in hot pursuit of pro publication for my short stories. The big project is a seven book fantasy series that has taken over my brain, and my life. The main characters cornered me one night and insisted that I tell their story. It wasn’t their sharp swords that convinced me, but the determined look on their faces. This is truly a story I need to tell and I ask the Spirits for the ability to do it justice. 

Next week I’m going to WorldCon Renovation in Reno. This is my first time attending and I’m finding too many things I want to do at one time. I will be posting as regularly as possible to keep you up to date on events there.

Los Angeles – The City of Angels

You know all of those nasty things people say about Los Angeles? Well, some of them are true. There will certainly be days you’ll hear me complain about traffic and that idiot that cut me off, or worse yet, cut in front of me and then drove really slow. Grr. But there are also a lot of great things here. I plan to give you my take on both the good and the bad and everything in-between.

Traveling the World 

When the opportunity arises, I like to travel to places that are as different from home as possible. I’ve been to (in order): Europe, Eritrea, Egypt, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mexico and China. I travel on a tight budget, no fancy hotels and tours, but a Lonely Planet guide book in one hand and a sense of adventure in my heart. 

I am currently deciding where I want to go next year. Indonesia is looking good, but I still need to research Malaysia and Cambodia. If you have any input, I would be glad to hear it. I guarantee that when I start following the Wanderer’s Compass, I will bring you along. We’ll have all sorts of fun together.