Monday, August 29, 2016

Worldcon Post

This year I went to my second-ever Worldcon, taking place in Kansas City, Missouri. In general, I'm coming to realize that conventions for science fiction and fantasy fans tend to be more my speed than gaming conventions. If nothing else, the attendance tends to be much, much smaller, meaning it doesn't feel quite so crowded and full.

The convention center itself was gigantic - I'm pretty sure it was at least a city block long, and may have been a block wide as well. This was good and bad - good, in that there were plenty of wide hallways and areas for people to sit and recharge (either themselves or their phones) without feeling like they're block traffic; bad in that everything was a decent distance away from everything else. On a good day, this isn't a problem; however, I was using my cane the entire convention, and I was feeling the extra distance every time I walked around.

The panels themselves were, by and large, fantastic. I went to a couple of readings for authors I truly enjoy, and loved being able to hear stories from them about how they've gone about writing their works (or re-writing, in some cases). I also got to be called Mark Oshiro's favorite - when he got to the Q&A portion of his reading, my first question was "So, you mention that the main character dropped his bus card. When did he pick it back up? Because he leaves the terminal..." and got a "...God dammit, let me write that down" in response. (I later called him a terrible human being, and he thanked me. Good times were had by all!)

Several of the panels left me with lists of book recommendations, which is always a bonus. It's wonderful hearing about different writing styles from multiple points of view, and realizing once again that there isn't really a "right" way to write. It was also lovely to hear an editor manage to articulate her issues with J.K. Rowling's North American wizarding school, and not have it come across as simply bashing the author. (Her point was that, throughout the Harry Potter books, the world is a monolith - the only part of Great Britain that we see is London, and the countryside where Hogwarts is, which is not near any real city. Having one school for all of North America, and having it somehow lump all of the cultures that make up the countries of this continent shoved together, is in keeping with her already problematic writing style.)

It isn't to say that it was all wine and roses. As I mentioned previously, I personally had a little trouble with loneliness, and the first couple of days I felt as though I were being judged for using my cane and thus taking up more space than I "should". Rightly or wrongly, that was the impression I got. I was fortunate enough to (literally) stumble upon the Accessibility table on my third day, and received a badge ribbon that made things a little easier.

The demographics of the convention attendees still skewed pretty heavily toward Caucasian, though there were significantly more PoC than I've seen in the first few Norwescons I went to, for example. However, the demographics of the panelists didn't really reflect the diversity of the attendees. It can be really hard to get excited about a community that doesn't allow you to see yourself in a position of authority.

On the other hand, the Hugos were a thing of beauty. It wasn't a complete Sad/Rabid Puppy shut-out, and I didn't believe it would be - this year, they hedged their bets by including works on their slate that had a wide range of appeal. Still, we had three of the four prose categories won by people of color (including one translation, which included the translator as a part of the award, which I think is awesome), several of the award winners who couldn't make it in person used their chance to provide a written acceptance speech to call out the BS of the Puppies and how important diversity in fandom and fiction is, and two of the awards were accepted by astronauts. It's hard to beat that.

Overall, I'm very glad I went. Next year's Worldcon will be in Finland, which means I will probably not be attending, but I still plan to get a supporting membership and have the opportunity to nominate and vote for the Hugo awards. What about you? Will you make the trek to Helsinki, or watch the livestream with many of the rest of us as we see how the Hugos turn out next year?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Free eBooks Link

A quick post to let y'all know about a deal going on (that ends today) from Self-Publishing Roundtable - free eBooks!

The deal is that these are available on Amazon, and they're book 1 on various series or serials. Full disclosure - I was given this link by my friend Crissy Moss, who wrote Witch's Sacrifice, which is part of the above deal.

So go forth! Find new authors and new series! And have a lovely weekend - with luck, I'll be back with more content next week.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Post Worldcon quick post

Apparently, in the Kansas City (MO) airport, you can either get soda or candy, but not both at the same store. It's a little odd, but have me the chance to walk a bit.

I hope to have better, more thinky thoughts on the convention when I'm home and properly be-kittied, which will be tonight, partially. The elder statescats are being boated, as they need daily medication and no one likes us enough to try to medicate them (nor do I blame them). We get in too late tonight to spring them, but they'll be home tomorrow. Meanwhile, Daisy will be over the moon to have people again. She doesn't take being left alone well.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lightning and loneliness

I'm at WorldCon in Kansas City, MO this weekend, and it's been an adventure thus far. I'm realizing that I've grown complacent in my convention attendance - I'm used to going to conventions where I know a decent number of people, so I'm likely to run into familiar faces who will stop and chat, even for a moment between panels.

That is not so much the case here. The panels themselves have been wonderful, and I've been glad to go to all of the ones I've been to thus far, but between sessions has been more difficult than I had anticipated. I find myself feeling down, and it makes it harder to convince myself to stick around, rather than going back to the hotel room to mope. I've been fighting the urge, but it's not easy.

However, I will give Kansas City this - they throw one heck of a thunderstorm. Currently, I'm hearing thunder and seeing flashes of lightning fairly regularly from the hotel room, and can hear the rain coming down against the window. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I am a sucker for rainstorms, particularly with lightning and thunder. (There's a reason why I moved to the Pacific Northwest, after all.) It always makes me feel just a little closer to my dad, who was a storm worshipper and taught me the beauty of a good, soaking rain.

Somehow, it makes me feel a little better. Even if I don't know specific people, I am among my people, and that's still a pretty great place to be.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Neither a borrow nor a lender be...

Except when it comes to books. I freely admit that the majority of my reading these days happens on an ereader, but I will never get over the desire for paper books. One of the earliest memories I have of every house I ever lived in was having walls of bookshelves, and it's something I've continued in my home.

Every room in our house has books, up to and including the bathroom, and the standing rule of our home is that if you see something you want to borrow, feel free - just tell us so we know where it went. It makes it easier for friends who are also People of the Book who found something that catches their eye to get their hands on it.

As much as I enjoy my ereader (and not just because it provides me with my day job), the ability to lend books out both willy and nilly is still best suited by physical books. And frankly, nothing will ever be more soothing to my soul than seeing a wall of books, just waiting for me to start reading.

Friday, August 12, 2016

How do they swear?

I've been spending some time getting caught up on Writing Excuses, and one episode on polytheism brought up an interesting question. A couple of the panelists said that when they are first thinking of a new religion, they start by wondering what their characters would swear by. That got me thinking in a different direction about character development - how do they swear?

Last year I read a book about the history of swearing in English, and the book broke things into two categories - the profane and the obscene (or rather, the holy and the shit of the book's title), and charted how these two categories rose and fell in terms of how "bad" they're considered by society.

Its says a lot about a person's beliefs with how they treat these two categories - I have family members that will take God's name in vain, but would rather be mute than reference any bodily function or fluid. On the other side, I've worked with people who had no problem dropping f-bombs on a regular basis but would twitch any time they heard someone say "Oh my God."

Swearing is one of those aspects of language that people tend to have definitive ideas about. Growing up, I was under the impression that the only people who swore were "bad" people, and even saying something that could be misconstrued as a swear word was to be avoided. (I may or may not have gotten into trouble for calling for my cat by saying "Puss puss!" Mom meant business.) I had to come up with some kind of "filler" words, because you still need something to holler when dropping something on your foot. I tended to go either cutesy (fudge), old-fashioned (blast), or British so no one will yell at me in the States (bollocks).

So when thinking about a character's voice, imagine they've dropped something on their foot. How do they react? Why?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Drafting versus editing

I freely admit that the majority of my word count over the years has come during things. like Nanowrimo, where the goal is to get the words on the page and silencing your inner editor. I'm currently plugging away at the gap (or Gap, at this point - it's earned the capital letter) in Paranormal Investigations, and part of me really, really wants to go back and edit everything I have before continuing into the breach.

Here's the problem with that approach: I know myself. If I allow myself to go into the Land of the Editor, I may never leave. It will be exceptionally difficult for me to switch back to writing if I try to edit everything first, so I'm forcing myself to keep writing and reminding myself that I can fix it in post.

I'm very grateful for the college education that I had, if for no other reason that that it taught me that if I'm given the chance, I will pick my work to death before moving on with new work. I literally had to have parts of my thesis taken away from me by my advisors so I would leave them alone and work on the next piece.

Basically, I'm just going to keep working on draft zero, and resisting the urge to edit all the things until draft zero is complete. After that, well, I might need help getting myself out of the Land of the Editor, but we'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Book review - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

It's been a while since I've done a book review, so a quick perusal of my Goodreads shelf and I found one of my comfort books - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

The book follows the basic idea that magic is real, and two magicians have taken apprentices - one a boy, the other a girl - from an early age. It follows the apprentices as they grow up and learn about the different kinds of magic, not knowing that they are in a competition with each other. Throughout, there's also a description of a carnival known as the Night Circus that travels around the world. No one knows when it will appear until it does, and it only opens at sundown. The different exhibits and tents are unlike anything anyone's ever seen, and they develop a following of people who create their own kind of family as they bond over the circus.

One of the beautiful things about the book is the way the storylines are woven together. You're introduced to the circus before you meet the main characters, and it gives you a sense of wonder and awe from the beginning - you know right away that this is no ordinary carnival. Following the characters, they are developed wonderfully and in-depth, so they aren't just about the tricks they can perform. Watching it all come together, and trying to figure out how it will all end, is breathtaking.

The writing is gorgeous and haunting, and there's a subtle melancholy through the entire book that doesn't send it into the realm of depressing fiction, but reminds you that not everything is as happy as it may appear. For me, it makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea and settle down with the book, preferrably on a rainy day. I highly recommend it.

Monday, August 1, 2016

How is it August already?

So Camp Nanowrimo this last month was a bust for me, but at least I was able to keep writing. I have a good idea of where things are going for the rest of the story. I've also been using My Write Club to set smaller, shorter goals for myself - I've been setting things for a week at a time, and that's been helping me keep my motivation going. This may be the longest period of continuous writing that I've done in ages, and it makes me feel more like things are in hand.

With luck, my blog posts going forward won't just be about how I'm trying to write, really and for true! In the meantime, I'll be here, trying to figure out why my villain is making evil coffee.