Monday, October 31, 2011

My first World Fantasy Convention and how it went

Where to even start?

How about 38,000 feet in the air, since that's where I was two hours ago.

I'm back in Seattle, home from my first World Fantasy Convention in San Diego, CA. And it was...

On Twitter I called it a "wonderful dream," even though I knew it sounded twee. I can only think of these big, sweeping adjectives that don't mean anything. Fun, inspiring, awesome. Vague, all-encompassing epithets, that fail to capture the experience. It's like trying to carve a face into a chunk of wood and whittling it down into vapor.

Or maybe that's the sleep-deprivation talking.

I spent the weekend in the same rooms as my heroes. I heard them speak and read and argue. I shook their hands. I made new connections, I saw incredible art and heard exciting stories read by the people who wrote them. I closed my eyes and listened to the words and imagined I could see the structures falling into place.

I'm not sure I can describe this experience without becoming dangerously twee. So I apologize for that. I do understand they were all just people, real people with problems and faults, and by calling them "heroes" it sounds as if I've put them on an unreachable pedestal. I don't mean that. By heroes I mean people whose work I respect and admire.

That's about all I have. Everyone was accessible and welcoming. I learned a lot attending panels and I learned a lot just sitting around talking to people, especially on those late nights when I should have remembered a warmer jacket, but instead sat on the edge of my lawn chair shivering, sipping my drink, and nodding like a bobblehead.

Yes, if you're wondering, it was worth every penny.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My first day of wfc 2011

Hola. It is the morning of day two at the World Fantasy Convention, and I am about to venture out into the world for breakfast. To sum up my experience so far: I am in awe of the wonderful writers, fans, and creative types everywhere. I'm having a great time.

(I've been taking pictures with my fancy camera as I can, but I won't be able to offload those until I get home. So I may post a few from my iPhone if they're worth posting.)

Yesterday I went to a panel on dystopian societies in YA fiction and had a chance to meet urban fantasy author, John Pitts, which was very cool. (Check out his story "The Harp" in 10Flash Quarterly -- 10Flash is also the place to read my story, "The Truth About Woodpeckers")

John Pitts is on the far right

Then I went to the opening ceremonies where brief introductions were made by Neil Gaiman, Parke Godwin, Shawna McCarthy, Val Ontell, Ruth Sanderson, and Connie Willis.

Later there was an interesting live animal demonstration by the San Diego Zoo -- I took lots of photos. I'll post a link here when they're ready next week. Armadillos, pangolins, not-bear-cats (a Binturong actually), oh my.

Still later there were a couple of other panels and hanging out at the bar.


I'm losing steam here at the end of this entry. Thank you for not noticing.

I guess that means it's time to drain this hotel room coffee cup and find real food.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


So I'm in southern California. Greetings. I'm visiting my parents for a day and a half and then heading over to the World Fantasy Convention. The weather isn't much different from what I left behind in Seattle. Gray and overcast to be specific.

The flight took 2 hours and 10 minutes, non-stop, no turbulence and no problems.

Been up since 5am and starting to fade. You can tell by my lack of fluidity. Staccato bursts of sunny-time words. Boo. Rad. And don't forget Lee.

Folly, out.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Writing Update for October

Since my internet connection will be spotty through the end of the month, I'm posting my October update early. I expect to hear about one more submission before Nov 1, and I'll update this entry then.

  • Submissions: 5 total -- 2 for publication, 2 for contests, 1 for a workshop
  • Rejections: 2
  • Acceptances: 1 (for a 2012 workshop). Also, 1 story was shortlisted for an anthology.
  • Waiting to hear: 8 total -- 5 for publication, 3 for contests

What have I learned this month?

I continue to be a slow writer. It took me two weeks to write my last 5,600-word short story, however the good news is I'm getting better at identifying and fixing flaws earlier in the process. Not perfect, but better.

I once read some advice given to a young artist, though I can't find the source now: "Get good. Get fast. Then get good and fast."

This is October's motto.

I can tell my work is improving. I am juggling more threads in stories and consciously incorporating themes. As a result, stories are getting longer. There is one more story I hope to finish before November 1 -- the soft sci-fi one I've been talking about. I'd really like to get that out before NaNoWriMo eats my brain.

In November I need to work on subplots, long story arcs, and making sure I know what characters want and what's at stake.

NaNoWriMo, World Fantasy, and The Art of Passive Rejection

I keep forgetting this isn't the last day of the month, because it is as far as I'm concerned. The next week is going to be eaten up by travel and family and my first World Fantasy Convention. (YES!) So everything that needs to get done before NaNoWriMo must get done today.

If you're looking for my NaNo profile it's follyblaine. The ability to add writing buddies should be reinstated soon, according to their site.

By the way, if you're an opportunistic burglar excited at the prospect of my travel, don't bother casing the joint. My husband will be holding down the fort with tar and feathers and other old fashioned defensive weaponry. Like moats. And fierce Amazonian women. On catapults. Or stilts.

We're still working out the logistics.

So over the weekend I got a few things done. I ripped some CDs, because apparently I still buy physical music, and loaded up my iPod with lossless tunes. I put together a scene for a workshop I'm attending in a couple of weeks. And I figured out I'd been rejected by a market by seeing their most recent publication and using mad deductive reasoning to deduce my story wasn't included.

Surprise, I have a comment about that. It just seems reasonable, not to mention respectful, to let your submitters know when their stories are no longer under consideration. I'm not even requesting feedback on why the story was rejected--I understand the reasons aren't always easy to qualify--just a simple form letter and I'm on my way. It doesn't even have to include my name.

If we're even going to pretend that what we do is a business, then a certain level of communication should be expected. If you are accepting submissions and I know my work is in a queue, and you do not accept simultaneous submissions (so I'm locked into your system), the least you could do is let me know when my story is free to circulate.

By choosing the passive option of not telling a submitter their story has been rejected, a market robs the submitter of time. And time is huge, when it can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to 4 years to hear back on a story.

It's not even a big enough deal to make me angry. Just makes me think twice before I submit to that market again.

So I took the story and revised it a bit -- I think it's stronger now, so that's a benefit -- and sent it out. This one may have trouble finding a home, but I believe in it and I think someday when you get to read it, it will have been worth the wait.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thinking in scenes

I wrote 1,500 words on the sci-fi story and set it aside with a goal of finishing it before November 1. I had to switch projects because of a deadline.

I'm taking a one-day workshop next month to learn about techniques for writing a good first scene, and as part of the class, I have to submit my own first scene by Tuesday. I had one ready, but it wasn't anything special so I've been rewriting it. I cast two of the characters in my head, tightened up the language, and added a few more story hints to set the tone of the story.

One big problem is I'm not sure where the scene starts and stops. I drop the reader into the middle of the action and then set the main character in motion. She has mini-goals and I present bigger questions, and it moves along fairly quickly.

My gut says the first three pages are the first scene. Something strange happens, she talks to somebody and then she runs for something. After the running part I *think* a new scene starts. But is it really about location? I don't think so.

Links I've found during my research that are particularly useful get posted to my Facebook page. If you want to follow along subscribe or like or whatever it is we do now.

I'll give you one link for free: Wikipedia summarizes Jack Bickham's definition well. He says a scene has a fundamental pattern:

  • Statement of a goal
  • Introduction and development of conflict
  • Failure of the character to reach his goal, a tactical disaster
With that in mind I think I am missing an opportunity for failure in those opening pages. It's funny sometimes. I've spent my life consuming stories and these basic structural elements are still so elusive. I've been so busy suspending my disbelief, I haven't stopped to think about the formula.

I don't believe you can subvert a formula until you know how it works and why. So here's to me learning the basics. A little late trumps never, I guess.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Going to WFC and writing a new story

I finished and submitted the last short story I mentioned here. (Horror, mysterious creatures, 1853). Now I'm working on a science-fiction story (soft SF). I thought it might be flash fiction length, but I'm already at 1000 words and it's still going strong.

Technically I haven't written sci-fi since I was a kid.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

The story was this: My characters were on a spaceship, approaching a planet. They were talking about their societal problems -- like not having enough cheese or whatever -- things were going wrong, anarchy and stuff OMG! And then... the planet comes into focus and it's blue and white with large tracts of land, so perfect.... except for all the humans living there...

Yep. The old aliens approaching Earth trope. But hey, I was probably 10 years old and I never tried to publish it. I may have drawn some illustrations for it though.

Different, simpler times -- those heady times when the ellipsis was king and I hadn't yet discovered Asimov or Bradbury or Clarke.

The best news I have to share is that I'll be in San Diego next week for the World Fantasy Convention. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and learning some things. It'll be my first WFC so if you have any tips, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My first soccer game

Last night Jer took me to my first Sounders game. His work gave him a pair of free tickets so we met for dinner and drinks at Owl 'n' Thistle and headed over to the stadium.

It was a good time. Of all the live sports I've seen, I thought this was the most interesting.

A beautiful Fall afternoon in downtown Seattle, walking from the bus tunnel to the meeting spot

CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders play

My first night-time Sounders game

Monday, October 17, 2011

Steamcon day 2 and 3 with photos

Before I show you the pictures I took with my iPhone, I have one disclaimer. My outfits are bare minimum acceptable. The amount of work and creativity people put into this event was unbelievable and awesome and inspiring. If you ever have the opportunity to attend Steamcon or other steampunk convention, do it! I had a great time, even without knowing what I was getting myself into.

My outfit, day 2 of Steamcon

Full-length view of my outfit, day 2 of Steamcon

A panel on 19th Century Firearms featured about 40 rifles, muskets, and pistols, plus a homemade Gatling gun.

A sabre demonstration.

Gorgeous backs of Victorian dresses

Cool military Steampunk style

A group photo on the stairs of the Hyatt

Day 3 of Steamcon

My outfit, day 3

Author K.W. Jeter (who coined the term Steampunk) and illustrator, Gary Gianni discussing "The Spark of Invention"

My friend, iapetus999

Cool steampunk stilts

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 1 of Steamcon

Top half of my day 1 steampunk outfit

I really enjoyed my first day at Steamcon, a three-day steampunk fan convention in Bellevue, WA. I actually felt underdressed. The outfits were amazing.

Full length shot of my steampunk outfit

I went to the Airship Awards Banquet and met new people over achiote chicken and cheesecake. I went to Cat Rambo's reading of the book she just finished. I went to a panel on the Bessemer Process (an inexpensive industrial process for transforming molten pig iron to steel). And I gathered DIY tips for transforming an apartment into steampunk chic. There was also 19th century astronomy and a short panel on writing.

Today promises to be just as jam-packed. I will be going to my first tea. And maybe learning about fencing. I'll try to take some more crappy iPhone pics for you. :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Seven years ago

Seven years ago I posted a poem I wrote in 2001. I feel like bumping it up today:

Paparazzi for Sale

years ago the poets wrote
of sacrifice and battling vice
today the talk turns more to rock
the tunes that make our children swoon
morals lost and sins we heap
on paper stars and tinfoil creeps
we make them and we watch them fall
the bloodlust, hypocrite roll call
we send out spies to look for cracks
in polished floors and public acts
they snap perplexed out of context
and get paid well for lies they sell
to impulse press they spell success
in taped affairs and drinks for two

remember that when all else fails
the heights that icarus did reach
were laid to waste by tabloid tales
- By Me, March 2001

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Editing words words words

I'm happy with the way this short story is turning out. Yesterday I edited half, which came to about 2,000 words. I'll tackle the next 2,000 today.

By "editing" I mean I added 800 words, cut with abandon, and filled in gaps so the story reads more smoothly. It's different than I normally write. The story is told in first person and the narrator is not my gender, not my culture, and it takes places in 1853, so I get to play with language like crazy.

I have no idea when I'm going to finish this story, except I know it will be before the deadline. Mostly I'm impatient to send out another submission, since we are a third of the way through the month and all I've done is work on this one story. But I don't want to rush the editing process at the expense of writing the best story I can write. At least not while I have the time to commit, which I don't expect will always be the case.

On Sunday, I attended a one-day Clarion West workshop taught by author Mark Teppo called "Jumpstart Your Novel." It was a great opportunity to think through some of the problems with my longer work before starting NaNoWriMo. He also shared his method of using Tarot cards to help work through creative blocks.

I'm looking forward to giving Tarot cards a try next time I get stuck. It's funny that idea never occurred to me, even though I own several decks.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Drink your beer and eat your vegatables [sic]

The Great Pumpkin Beer Festival in Georgetown (Elysian Brewing, Oct 8, 2011, Seattle, WA)

On Saturday afternoon Jer and I went to a pumpkin beer festival. Of the six tastings that were included in my $20 admission, here were my favorites:

  • Punk Rauchen, a Smoked Pumpkin Lager, from Silver City Brewery in Silverdale, WA. From the brochure: "Fresh pumpkin was smoked over apple wood for 6 hours then mashed with pale barley malt." I am a big fan of smoked porters and big flavors, so this was perfect for me.
  • Hansel & Gretel Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner from Elysian Brewing in Seattle, WA. Nice and light. If you've ever had ginger beer and liked it, you'll know what to expect. The addition of pumpkin was a nice twist.
  • Coche de Medianoche from Elysian Brewing. This beer was Jer's favorite and I've never had anything like it. From the brochure, "This beer is about the spicing--cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, pan-roasted guajillo chilies and two kinds of cayenne pepper--both the Indian and the super-fiery African, in moderation. There are also roasted pumpkin seeds in the mash." In short, this beer burned in a good way. It was like drinking a cajun Bloody Mary.

The only beer I didn't care for was Orange Manalishi from Elysian Brewery, but maybe I'm just not a fan of the Trappist beer style. It was too flat for me. Also, having only tried about six beers, my sample size is not very scientific. But there ya go.

If you have any interest in attending this festival next year, buy your tickets ahead of time. People waited as much as three hours to get inside. (We were not those people. I would've just left.)

And here's a photo of a sign advertising a local farmer's market. Spot the typo:

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday Night: Just Me and MS Word

Friday. You sneaked up on me, you cheeky monkey.

Tonight I need to finish a second draft of the short story I've been writing and move on to the next thing. Tomorrow I start a class on novel writing, in the afternoon I'm going to a pumpkin beer festival and the next day I'm at an all day class about novel writing, unrelated to the first one.

Can you tell what my next project is going to be?

By the way, my NaNoWriMo user name is follyblaine. You know, if you want to be buddies. And why wouldn't you? My hair smells like basil and thyme.

I went to the gym again today. But that accomplishment was slightly marred by the fact I ate a bacon cheeseburger and three truffles last night.

Let's just focus on the positive.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Staying motivated to do what needs doing

I'm a sucker for beginnings. I enjoy origin stories. I'm that person who plays her World of Warcraft character up to level 11 and then gets bored. I like the parts of the story when everything is shiny and new and full of hope, before the choices get narrowed and the path is fixed and I can predict the outcome. The moment stuff starts going downhill I get antsy and start cleaning the living room, assuming I'm at home. If I'm at the theater I admire the backs of other people's heads and count the lights in the ceiling.

I think this predilection for newness carries over into other areas of my life -- specifically the gym. For the first two weeks of working out, it always feels like I'm the star of a sports montage. Like I'm going to race up the museum steps at the end to stirringly heart-pounding music, or do bad ass chinups in the desert with a bunch of terminators on my tail.

The truth is, it's always just more of the same. There's never any climatic moment and the movie is over. IT JUST KEEPS GOING. Forever.

This character trait is going to affect my NaNoWriMo attempt. So let's address it. Together. How do I defeat the serial blah-blahs?

Up the ante. Progress and escalate the challenges. Treat the plateau like a hot potato.

Mix it up. Whether it's writing or exercise, change locations, change methods, keep it interesting. Staleness is the enemy.

Find a buddy. With writing I've found many buddies and it's helped my output immensely. For exercise and health, I know I have online friends going through the same stuff. I could also check out the Weight Watchers forums since I no longer attend meetings.

Or I could just find a nemesis. It'd probably be easier to find a nemesis.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Hello, treadmill. We meet again.

I'm on day two of returning to the gym and I'm already sore. I have to keep reminding myself of the benefits, besides the obvious zombie-fleeing reasons.

Heart health? Better mood? Requiring less booze before I feel the effects of drunkenness?

All excellent reasons.

For a couple of years I met with a personal trainer once or twice a week and that was extremely useful. For one, I learned how to use all the scary machines. For two, I learned I could push myself a lot further than I ever thought possible.

(For proof, see the blog entry where I drew myself using a particularly hated piece of gym equipment.)

Enough about my superior MS Paint skills. Let's check in about writing.

Okay. Well, I'm writing. I'm at 740 words for the day and counting. My hands are cold and I'm thinking of putting on another pot of coffee. I'm wearing bright orange cut-off cotton gloves I bought at Daiso. So I will never lose track of my hands.

Now you know everything.

There will be a quiz.

Monday, October 03, 2011

New story in progress

I started a new short story yesterday and I've written about 1,300 words so far. I'm not sure how long it'll end up. Maybe 3,000-3,500 words? I'm just focusing on having fun with this one. No planning. I've been thinking too much and losing some of the spontaneity.

I'll turn thinking back on for the second draft.

Another experiment, eh? Whatever works.

I've received some really nice feedback on my newest flash fiction piece, "The Truth About Woodpeckers." I'm happy people are finding it entertaining.

Integration of the cats is slow going. For limited periods of time they are willing to stay in the same room together. We are still separating them at night and for meals. I don't expect that will change anytime soon. Baby steps.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

My computer wishlist from 1999

Jer and I ate breakfast at Panera's. I needed to get out of the house, specifically away from the internet, so I brought along an old notebook and a pen to make my words. Then I made the mistake of reading some old entries.

My favorite entry is from July 4, 1999:

My computer wishlist:

  • 128MB RAM
  • Minimum 6GB hard drive
  • Intellimouse
  • Mouse gel pad
  • Curved keyboard
  • Speakers not attached to monitor
  • Epson Stylus Color 900
  • DVD
  • CD Writer/Rewriter
  • Floppy 3.5"
  • 32MB video card
  • Zip drive

I was still rocking the floppy back then. Go me.

Most of what I wrote is now embarrassing, but I've got to claim it.

It's me.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

New story, "The Truth About Woodpeckers"

I'm excited to share my new flash fiction piece, The Truth About Woodpeckers is now up at 10Flash Quarterly. (Read it here.)

It's an honor to be included in this issue. All the contributors have written stories around the same prompt: It’s quiet. Too quiet. Other authors in this issue include J.A. Pitts, Cat Rambo, Ken Scholes, and more.

Editors at 10Flash have categorized this piece as slipstream, which Wikipedia defines as "a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction/fantasy and mainstream literary fiction." So if you're not a fan of horror and dark fantasy like my other published work, here's a story for you.

Thanks for reading!