Archive for September, 2004

8/22/03: Bad writer, no doughnut

Word count: 24262 Okay, I took a week off to do a new issue of Bento. That’s excusable. But the following week of no novel-writing isn’t. And when I sat down to work tonight, I kept getting up again. But I promised myself I wouldn’t go to bed without at least 500 new words, and I did manage that: the beginning of a gutwrenching argument between Jason and Chris. I’m really putting Jason’s nuts in a vise here, and he deserves every bit of it. More this weekend. I still hope to get 3000 words down before next weekend’s critique group meeting… which will be while I’m at Torcon, but I’m still going to treat it as a deadline. I also got galleys and a cover flat from New Voices in Science Fiction. I like the cover.

4/30/03: Bang bang

Word count: 12326 No new writing lately, but last weekend I went shooting with some folks from the Portland Cacophony Society. It’s the first time I’ve ever fired a gun. I can definitely see the appeal, but I still think it’s generally not a good idea to keep guns around the house. Unlike most other dangerous tools, guns are very easy to use and can kill at a distance. Politics aside, I had a great time. We had marvelous weather for a drive in the country, and I had fun shooting at various old appliances, stuffed animals, and old propane tanks, even though I couldn’t hit a thing. And I picked up a lot of terminology, sounds, and smells I will be able to use if any gunplay occurs in the novel. There isn’t any in the outline, but the character of Sienna is shaping up into someone who, given the choice, would rather shoot than ask questions. Oh, and I’ve gotten over whatever minor bug was bothering me earlier this week.

3/22/03: Weekend warrior

Word count: 8676 Wrote a thousand words today, and returned a bunch of library books, and did grocery shopping. Go me! Nice tense scene with Jason and Sienna, introducing Jason’s previous relationship with Clarity, and getting them out of Seattle, hurrah. Much puzzling with the Washington gazetteer trying to find a location close to Seattle that won’t have cell service in 2051; wound up with Bessemer Mountain. Also introduced minor character Chopper. Chopper is a gunsmith and I need to do some research on guns, maybe even do some shooting myself. I mentioned that I am participating in the sff.writing.novel-dare PseudoNaNoWriMo, to write 30,000 words in March. To motivate myself I drew up a big thermometer (the PseuDoNaNoWriMoTherMo) with marks from 0 to 30k and I’m coloring it in as I go. It’s posted on the wall opposite my comfy writing chair. At this point the goal of 30k words seems well out of reach, but I’m probably going to keep the TherMo posted until I reach that milestone.

9/10/04: Finished and printed

Word count: 93678 | Since last entry: 43 | This month: 2628 Just a little bit of clean-up on the chapter today, but I got it formatted for critique and printed out, and I wrote the synopsis of the previous chapter (not counted as novel words) and printed that too. Then I critiqued one of two stories; one more crit to do and then I’m all set for tomorrow’s critique session. I heard back from Dean: I am definitely on for the January novel workshop. So now I must finish my novel by the first week in December. That means going a little faster than I have been managing — 4 chapters and an epilogue in 12 weeks. I can do this. If I can go even faster than that I can do some revisions, too. So I will dive right in on the next chapter right away! (Yes, I’ve said this before, but now I have a deadline!) I have photos from Noreascon and the kitchen remodel that I haven’t gotten out of my camera’s memory yet. Until then you can look at James Patrick Kelly’s page for photos of me and some other “young turks.” (I take no responsibility for any nightmares resulting from looking at the picture of me halfway down the page.)

9/9/04: Finished chapter 8, and a missed opportunity

Word count: 93635 | Since last entry: 1052 | This month: 2585 Well, I’ve come to an end for chapter 8. I didn’t get all of the incidents I wanted into the chapter, but the last sentence I just wrote is so climactic that just about nothing can follow it. And the incidents that are missing either have to follow that chronologically or had to be left out of the place they were outlined because the character isn’t emotionally ready for that incident to take place yet (it might never happen). So chapter 8 is done (sort of), at a decent length of 5244 words, in time for me to do my copying and write What Has Gone Before at work tomorrow. (Don’t tell my boss.) Meanwhile, I just learned today there is an opening in Dean Wesley Smith’s next Novel Weekend. This is a chance to very seriously workshop a whole novel with a great bunch of people. Unfortunately, to attend I would have to have my novel finished by the first week in October, and after careful consideration and discussions with Kate I’ve decided that just isn’t going to happen. There’s about 20,000 words to go, we’re in the middle of a major kitchen remodel, the day job’s heating up, and we have to buy a new car. The most I’ve ever done in a month before this (apart from Clarion) is 13,000 words. So, alas, I told Dean I couldn’t take the available workshop slot. The next Novel Weekend deadline is in December, which is much saner. So I’ve asked Dean if I can get into that one instead.

9/8/04: Noreascon Report, part 2

Word count: 92583 | Since last entry: 0 | This month: 1533 Friday, continued: I arrived at the bar to find Jay Lake, Laura Anne Gilman, Keith R. A. DeCandido, and Janna Silverstein already set up and ready to go for the Two Beers And A Story Challenge, along with a number of onlookers and supporters (including Aynjel — who would have been my Clarion East classmate if I hadn’t gone West — and Jay’s agent Jennifer Jackson). The rules of the Challenge were simple: write a complete short story in the time it takes to finish two beers. If you know me, you’ll know that I can usually finish a novel more quickly than I can finish a beer. But in this case we had the cheering crowd shouting “Drink!” every minute or two, and by the time I reached the end of my 864-word opus, a Bradburyesque little horror tale titled “Moonlight on the Carpet,” I found I had downed a full pint of Sam Adams and two-thirds of another. Not to mention participating in the singing, trash-talking, telling of rude jokes, and other miscellaneous hilarity (including the mating call of the Giant Clam). We were having way more fun than the whole rest of the bar put together, from the sound of it. Janna, alas, suffered a Macintosh meltdown and had to compose her story on Aynjel’s Palm Pilot, which added to the stress with a wonderfully intuitive user interface (Command-Q to save?!) and a battery that threatened to expire at any moment, but nonetheless she finished her SF erotica story. Laura Anne’s battery did give out before her story did, but she still produced 1000 words of a peachy SF action tale. Jay was the first to finish, with a bizarre story of whales invading the land, but Keith’s story, all in dialogue, was the longest. We read them all aloud at the end and I was amazed that in that raucous atmosphere we had produced five stories that were not merely entertaining, but actually good — maybe even salable. Jennifer suggested we should produce an anthology to benefit the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund, but if that doesn’t happen I think I’m going to send mine to F&SF. We shut down our computers and repaired to Frank Wu’s party, still going strong, but I was tired and tipsy enough that I decided to bail out after a fairly short time. I thanked Frank for his hospitality, ate one last chocolate-covered pretzel (love ’em), and went to bed. Saturday I breakfasted with some of my Writers of the Future classmates (Carl Fredrick, Pat Rothfuss, Tom Brennan, Jae Brim, and Ari Goelman) at the Trident Bookstore/Cafe, while Kate ran off to Neil Gaiman’s reading. My WotF class is a great bunch and I predict you will hear these names again. We spent a couple of hours chatting over pancakes and omelets, and on the way back to the con we stopped and talked with Jenn Reese and Greg Van Eekhout as they ate at a sidewalk cafe. In the afternoon I attended one panel, called “Is It Fair?” with Carl moderating editors Scott Edelman, Shawna McCarthy, Sheila Williams, and author Resa Nelson in a discussion of who gets published in the magazines and why. It was a fairly standard panel, but I attended because I had never met either Shawna (Realms of Fantasy) or Sheila (Asimov’s) before and I wanted to gain any insights I could about what they are looking for. Shawna mentioned that she doesn’t like stories about talking cats, but I pointed out that she did buy one from me about a talking giraffe. I introduced myself to both editors after the panel; Sheila looks like no one in particular, but Shawna has the most intense eyes. After that I headed off to the Hugo rehearsal, which for the nominees was really straightforward: if your name is called, you come up to the stage this way and leave the stage that way. “It may seem simple, but the only person last year who didn’t practice it was the only person who stumbled as they came on stage.” So I did. And it was at that moment I began to be nervous. Up until the rehearsal I’d simply assumed that I wasn’t going to win, but standing on that stage in front of all those empty chairs I thought there might perhaps be a chance. I talked for a while with designated Plokta accepter Caroline Mullan before running off to my next panel, “Great Cliches in SF and Fantasy.” I was the moderator for this one, which meant I had to hurry to the green room to pick up the table tents before the panel started. Don D’Ammassa, Craig Gardner, and Josepha Sherman all did their parts, but S.M. Stirling, despite being somewhat ill, was the star of the panel, illuminating the discussion of cliches old and new (they do have their uses — especially if you are aware of them and use them to twist the reader’s expectations rather than letting them take control of your story) with plenty of examples from history. I learned a lot from him. When that panel ended it was 3:00 and I hadn’t had a thing to eat since pancakes at 10, so I took myself over to the food court in the adjacent shopping mall and, in a sudden attack of machismo, ordered chicken vindaloo. It was hot enough that it made my stomach a bit upset, a problem I don’t usually have and really didn’t need right before the Hugos. Fortunately I had enough time to dash back to the room and take some Pepto-Bismol before my next panel appearance: “Bad Con Advice for Newbies” with Sandra McDonald, Laurie Mann, and Pricila Olson. This was a really humorous mix of actual congoing advice couched in negative terms (e.g. “if anything goes wrong, yell at the volunteers — they appreciate the feedback”) and convention horror stories. I got a great laugh by saying, in the middle of a comment from the audience, “Don’t interrupt!” — and, a minute later, “Don’t interrupt again!” After that it was time to change for the Hugos. But Lyda Morehouse had offered to sneak me into the Ace party and introduce me to her agent, an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So I wandered through the habitrails of the shopping mall to the Marriott, where I talked with Lyda, Leah Cutter, and several other keen author-type people as well as the agent, Martha Millard. She said Lyda had said many nice things about me, for which I am thoroughly grateful. But I couldn’t hang around long. I hurried back over the skybridge and through the mall to my room, where I changed into my Nervous Suit. (Whenever I wear this tux, no matter what I’m doing — getting married, attending the Hugos, or Writers of the Future — I feel nervous. It’s gotta be the suit.) Kate wasn’t back yet, having gone to Cambridge for the afternoon, but somehow I managed to dress myself without help (hey, you think French cuffs are easy?) and headed down to the Hugo reception, where I found Paulette Rouselle and Amy Sisson from my Clarion class, along with Amy’s husband Paul and every glittering star in the science fiction firmament. I munched very good hors d’ouvres and drank Kaluha and cream, my tipple of choice when someone else is paying, while talking with authors and editors and agents and big-name fans, all wearing their spiffiest outfits except for Gordon Van Gelder, who was dressed as a “working editor” in a blue-collar shirt. He advised me to think about who I wanted least to win the awards I was up for and imagine they had already won it — after that, whatever happened would have to be an improvement. Fellow Campbell nominee Tim Pratt introduced me to his agent Ginger Clark, and the photographer from Locus made sure to get pictures of everyone. We all trooped down to the auditorium and took our seats in the nominees’ section. Kate and I (she had showed up during the reception, as promised, looking great) wanted to sit next to Jay Lake but wound up in front of him, in a pair of seats in the very front row with an empty space (for a wheelchair) marked out in tape on either side. At one point someone from the committee tried to boot us out of the front row to make room for Fredrik Pohl, but Charlie Brown of Locus told him Fred wasn’t coming. I owe him one. And then… the awards ceremony. Neil Gaiman was a wonderful emcee, but what I remember most is that my hands were cold as ice and I probably did serious damage to Kate as my grip tightened before the winner in each of my categories was announced. Jay was a real mensch; he thanked me in his Campbell acceptance speech, which was well above and beyond, and put his hand on my shoulder during that endless trembling moment before the Short Story Hugo announcement. So how do I feel about losing two Hugos (even though one of them wasn’t really a Hugo)? As I said to many people the next day, “Apart from the bitter, clawing jealousy and rage I’m just fine.” (And when Jay was in earshot I added “…and I’ll get that bastard Lake if it’s the last thing I do.”) But it really is an honor just to be nominated — even though I was just about ready to smack the 50th person who said that to me the next day. And I did come in second on the Campbell, which is nice. All of us Hugo Losers were ushered to the top of the Sheraton, where a suite had been decorated all in white, with faceless white masks hanging from white helium balloons and slide projectors flicking SF quotes on the walls and ceilings. It was, frankly, bizarre. But the food was good, and I had a nice talk with George R. R. Martin and Michael Swanwick among others (hey, wait a minute, he’s a Hugo Winner — who let him in here?). When that party got too crowded we adjourned to the Baen party at the other end of the floor, where we met Ted Cogswell’s daughter and her husband, artist David Mattingly, and looked at 3-D pictures until we fell over about 1am. By the way, here are my notes for my acceptance speech: Pat Murphy – Gordon Van Gelder – David Hartwell – Jonathan Strahan – Candas Jane Dorsey – Jim Van Pelt – James Patrick Kelly – Lyda Morehouse – Clarion West class of 2000 – Writers of the Future class of 2002 – Lucky Lab Rats critique group – and, always and forever, Kate Yule. Sunday we decided on a quick breakfast in the hotel, but when we couldn’t even get someone to seat us in the hotel restaurant we gave that up as a bad idea and settled for a latte and muffin at Starbuck’s instead. There we ran into writer Mary Rosenblum (meeting there with her agent, Martha Millard) and Diane Duane & Peter Morwood, who told us all about raising Hermes scarves for fun and profit. After breakfast I attended a couple of panels, on titles and books that died despite everything, then went off to my Kaffeeklatch. I didn’t have high expectations for this — I’d put all my self-publicity efforts into my reading — and I wasn’t surprised to find that no one had signed up for it. But while I was waiting for the table to be cleaned I met someone I knew — Marcia Lambert and her husband. Marcia and I went to the same university, though in different colleges; we didn’t meet until our 20th reunion when we sat next to each other at dinner. As long as there was an empty table with my name on it, we sat down at it to chat, and after a little while two more people joined us: Tricia Liburd, a new writer from Toronto whom I’d met at Torcon, and a complete stranger. So the kaffeeklatch turned out to be a success after all. In the afternoon I talked with Ctein and with Seattle fan Dave Howell, who used his artist ribbon to get me past the line of people waiting to get into the art show when it reopened after the auction, then gave me a whirlwind tour. If he hadn’t done that I might not have seen the art show at all, because I soon had to run off to my final panel, “The Great Character Swap.” Which was, frankly, lame. But it still had a decent crowd, as did all of my panels, so I shouldn’t complain. After that I met up with Kate and with Tom Brennan, Lyda Morehouse, and techie Hugh Daniel (“How many wires are there in a wireless network?”) for tapas. Tom, from Liverpool, thought at first we were proposing a “topless” restaurant, and Lyda, from St. Paul, had never had tapas before, so it was a bit of an adventure, but the food (tapas, in case you don’t know, is Spanish for “many delicious little appetizer-like fiddly bits”) was excellent, as was the conversation. As we walked back from dinner, Lyda and I quizzed each other and determined that neither of us knew of any cool pro parties. We went to her room, met her roommates, and called several people in search of the cool kids, but it seemed that none of the cool kids were throwing a party this evening. So Kate and I went to the SFWA suite instead. It had been so crowded and noisy the night before that it had been shut down by con security, but on Sunday night (possibly because of the previous night’s fracas, or maybe just because everyone was still at the Masqerade) it was quite pleasant — neither jam-packed nor empty. I talked with fellow Hugo loser James Patrick Kelly about how Jay Lake’s careers and mine have paralleled each other; he compared us to Silverberg and Ellison (without saying which was who) and offered to blurb my collection when I have one. I also talked with Shawna McCarthy again, but this time in her agent hat. Eventually we left, to wander the halls and check out the bid parties, but they were all Too Full (Montreal) or Too Empty (SFF.Net). Carl Fredrick ran into me in the hall and said it was probably for the best that I hadn’t won. Finally we landed in the bar, where we talked with some of the Writers of the Future folks (Pat Rothfuss said he’d recently had his best Internet shopping day ever, buying a strait jacket, a Latin textbook, and eight pounds of granular caffeine) and Tor assistant editor Liz Gorinsky as well as Tall Duane from Seattle’s University Bookstore. But, at last, fatigue set in and with many hugs and fond farewells we toddled off to bed. Monday. Packed. Ran into Clarion grad Diana Sherman in the lobby, otherwise saw no one we knew until we got to the airport, where we found Portland fan Ariel Shattan and her family, Lyda Morehouse, and Lyda’s friend Tim were all on our flight (Lyda and Tim got off at Minneapolis). Kate rented a DVD player for the trip; I slept, and finished reading Heaven by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart. I really should have written something on the flight, but my brain was too full. I also noticed I had a bit of a scratchy throat, which I hoped was just from dry air and too much talking, but by the time we got home there was no doubt I had caught a mild case of Convention Crud, and the next morning it was clear that Kate had too. At least it didn’t get in the way of the con itself. And then Tuesday morning, bright and early, the remodelers came and tore out the kitchen. But that’s a story for another day.

9/7/04: Noreascon Report, part 1

Word count: 92583 | Since last entry: 1533 | This month: 1533 Teresa Neilsen Hayden famously said of the San Antonio Worldcon that it had too much white space. This con wasn’t like that, at least not for me: it was quite comfortably packed with content from margin to margin, all in neat rows and columns. Everywhere I went I found keen people to talk with and interesting things to do, and all the scheduled items happened exactly where, when, and with whom they were supposed to. (Admittedly, I didn’t go to the Masquerade.) Wednesday was our travel day. On our flight to Minneapolis, by chance we found ourselves in a half-row just abaft of First Class, with tons of legroom, a handy little cupboard for our carryons, and our own video screen. Later, in conversation with Duane (the 6′ 6″ manager of Seattle’s University Bookstore) I discovered this is called a “bulkhead row” and giving it to a person as short as me should be a crime. But it was terribly pleasant, and I got almost 700 words written on my novel. We arrived in Boston without incident, to find the airport under construction (so what else is new?) and there was no clear indication where to catch the shuttle to our hotel. But we did eventually find one, complete with a couple of fans already on board, and soon arrived at the Sheraton, where we stood in the short Starwood Preferred Guest line and got a room with a great view on the 25th floor. Kate was a little guilty that we got such a nice room by virtue of traveling a lot, but I pointed out that anyone can become a Starwood Preferred Guest just by filling out a form — it’s free. Maybe we didn’t really belong in that line? Once we had dumped our bags in the room, we went off in search of dinner and soon found nearby Steve’s Greek Restaurant, and Bay Area fans Spike Parsons and Tom Becker and their friends Ruth and Ian. The waitress very kindly reconfigured the tables to let us all sit together, and the food was delish. Then, on returning, we ran into my Writers of the Future twin Carl Fredrick in the lobby. While we were standing there talking, we were joined at various times by Amy Sisson from Clarion, Tom Brennan from Writers of the Future, Ariel Shattan from Portland, Janice Murray and Alan Rosenthal from Seattle, Hope Leibowitz from Toronto, and many others. As I explained to Tom, whose first Worldcon this was, this is my typical Worldcon experience: getting about six feet in the door (of the hotel, dealers’ room, party, bathroom, etc.) and immediately becoming engaged in a two-hour conversation with an ever-mutating group of friends old and new. Eventually, though, that conversation broke up and we went in search of parties. First we hit Lise Eisenberg’s traditional before-the-con-even-gets-started room party (where I got a great laugh off the old line about “separate dishes for milk, meat, and trayf — and another set of each for Passover,” but had to explain what I meant by “a rood screen for dogs”), then wandered down to the Japan in 2007 bid party, where we saw a modern working replica of a hundred-plus-year-old Japanese tea-serving robot doll. This explains much. Thursday started off with breakfast at Charlie’s Sandwich Shop, a tiny ancient crowded diner with the best turkey hash I have ever dreamed of eating. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Flour, a delightfully decadent bakery/cafe, and walked through picturesque residential neighborhoods, all brick and stoops. We caught a cab to the marvelously eclectic Isabelle Gardner Museum, a grand old mansion filled with art and antiques, including a large collection of famous people’s letters. We saw a letter from cadet U.S. Grant complaining that his West Point report cards were being sent to the wrong address, and another from John Quincy Adams sending some magazines from London to a publisher in Washington — in effect, a two-hundred-year-old LoC offering The Usual. After we tired of the museum we walked through the fens of the Fenway neighborhood (yes, famed Fenway Park is named after a swamp), then took a bus home and a brief nap before hitting the convention proper. As it turned out, the first two program items we saw were solo presentations: Gary K. Wolf on the history of Roger Rabbit (the book, the movie, the phenomenon) and Teresa Nielsen Hayden on the literary genre known as Mary Sue. I pointed out that the New Testament could be considered the oldest and most extreme example of an Author inserting himself into his Creation. Walking out of the Mary Sue panel we engaged author Jo Walton (Tooth and Claw) and blogger Rivka (Respectful of Otters) in conversation, and proceeded with them directly to a fine dinner at the nearby Atlantic Fish Company. After demolishing our share of crustaceans, Kate and I went for ice cream at the famed Emack & Bolio’s, finishing up the evening at the First Night carnival and Mary Kay Kare’s LiveJournal/blogger party. The carnival felt a little desperate to me at times, but it certainly performed its intended job of getting everyone to mingle together; the party was a huge success (though, as I’ve only been on LiveJournal for three days, I knew few people by username and even fewer by sight). Friday we hiked back to Flour for coffee, yogurt, and possibly the best pain au chocolat I have ever eaten. But it was much farther from the con than we’d remembered, and we barely got back in time for the Thackeray T. Lambshead reading, where the authors were having entirely too much fun. After that Kate and I separated. I hung out for a long while in front of the SFWA table in the dealers’ room with Jay Lake, Ellen Klages, Tom Brennan, and various others, eventually wandering off for lunch at Au Bon Pain with Seattle writer Brenda Cooper. Then I had a nice long talk with Davey Snyder at the NESFA Press table before I had to run off for my own first panel: Introduction to Worldcon for Neo-Pros. The panel went well, with SMOFs Pricila Olsen and Janice Gelb, editor/fan Toni Weisskopf, and author/fan me. I compared attending Worldcon to dating — by which I meant that that you have to be interested in order to be interesting — but Janice pointed out that some people have been on a lot more bad dates than I have. From there the panel devolved into a collection of horror stories about Pros Behaving Badly (“kids, don’t do this at your con!”) but I think it got all the important points across. I had printed up 25 copies of the “Worldcongoing” article from Making Light, and all but 3 of them were picked up. After my panel I wandered back to the dealers’ room — for some reason I tend to gravitate there at Worldcons when there’s nothing specific to do, though I rarely buy anything — where I talked with artist Ctein and writer Tobias Buckell (whose first novel will be coming out soon!) before heading off for my reading. I’d been handing out business cards with the time and room number of the reading on one side and my at-con contact info (hotel, cell phone, email, and LiveJournal username) on the other, but this was the first time I’d tried doing a reading without a bribe of chocolate and I wondered how many people would show up. On the way there I ran into novelist and fellow fraud Lyda Morehouse (we bonded a few cons ago when we were both on an “I Feel Like A Fraud!” panel) and her friend Tim, and persuaded them to accompany me to my reading. As it turned out, there were about a dozen people there — including two people who didn’t even know me, one from Wednesday’s airport shuttle and the other a complete random stranger! I read the first two chapters from my novel (its first public reading) and got a great round of applause at the end. Lyda said “I want to write slash in your world” and recommended her agent, Martha Millard. I was grinning like a fool. Kate and I took the T to North Beach, where we listened to old men yelling at each other in Italian, nibbled on cannoli and excellent pastries, and had a fine dinner at Piccolo Venezia. I was astonished how few cars were on the streets. We got back to the con in time for a nap before the Rumor Mill gathering in the bar, but I stayed in the bar chatting with Clarion compatriot Amy Sisson rather than going up to the Klingon Birthday Party with the rest of the Millers. While Amy and I were talking several other interesting people joined us, including Ken Brady from the Wordos in Eugene, and Ken and I eventually decided to wander off to the Writers of the Future and Frank Wu parties. Frank’s party was smaller, but had better food and no Scientologists. But I couldn’t stay long — I had to head back down to the bar for the Two Beers And A Story Challenge! TO BE CONTINUED…