Archive for the ‘Going Places’ Category

Daily Focus

September 27, 2017

Last week I didn’t end up needing to go back for juror selection, so that particular adventure is over.  This week’s adventure will start on Friday, when I head off to Silver City, New Mexico, to be one of the speakers at their biennial Southwest Festival of the Written Word.

Getting To Work

You can learn more about the Festival here.

I’ve never been to Silver City, and am really looking forward to seeing a new part of New Mexico.  It’s supposed to be a lovely part of the state, and autumn is one of the nicest times of the year for a long drive.   I’m also looking forward to talking about writing SF/F, and participating in an author’s roundtable.

Earlier this week, I went to Santa Fe to meet with Emily Mah Tippets, so we could consult about a bunch of on-going projects, many of which are going to get some of my stories into the hands of the people who want to read them, rather than them remaining in my office because I’m busy playing with the new idea that bounced into my head.

The reality is that, as much as big events like jury duty and book festivals provide topics to Wander on about, the real focus of my daily life is writing.  Last week, I wrote the final segment of a novel I started – more or less by accident – back in early April.  Actually, by the time I write the one scene I skipped and fill in a bunch of world-building elements, the project is probably going to turn into two novels.

So…  How could I have just skipped a scene?  And how could I write a novel (or two) without doing the world-building in advance?

Let’s talk about the scene first.  The short answer is that, while I knew what the end result of this scene had to be, I also knew the scene was important in and of itself.  The great mystery was that I didn’t know why the scene was important.  Rather than struggling miserably to just end up writing a lot of filler that I would end up rewriting later, I skipped ahead.

By the time I figured out why that missing scene was crucial, the book was surging ahead with plot complications galore that demanded my careful handling.  Rather than risk losing momentum (which is the same as being immersed in the story, which I love), I left that scene unwritten.  However, now that the story has a beginning, middle, and end, I can go back and write that scene.

As for world-building…  Well, sometimes I enjoy planning in advance, but sometimes I enjoy exploring the world along with my characters.  That’s what happened in this case.   As I discovered key elements of language, forms of clothing, magical arts, and the like, larger patterns that in turn shed light on the world and its cultures also appeared.  Rather than going back and putting these in, I created a second file in which I would periodically stop and write myself notes about things I needed to include later.

None of this material is filler.  For example, characters do need names but, unless the story is built around a name (such as The Importance of Being Earnest), I can quite easily be content with referring to even a major character as ABC or DEF.

The same is true of physical descriptions.  Again, unless what a character looks like is crucial to how the story is developing, the question of whether he is a golden-haired youth with deep violet eyes or she is a buxom maiden with dark-green locks and a distracting dimple can wait until later.

As interested as I am, delving into much of this material is going to need to wait.  I’ve promised myself that I’ll get several other new – and in their own way equally fascinating – projects moving along – which was one reason that I took a whole day away from writing to go off to Santa Fe and meet with Emily.

Now, however, I have nearly three days before I hit the road again.  You can be sure that some or all of those days will be occupied with writing that missing scene!

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Jury Duty

September 20, 2017

This week’s Big Adventure is that I’m on jury duty, specifically for the State of New Mexico, Bernalillio County, which is where I live.  When my summons arrived, I was asked to fill out several forms, including one that asked if I would incur any hardship if I were asked to serve.  I requested that I not be required to serve because I’m self-employed.  If I don’t work, there’s no one who can cover for me.

Documents in My Case

The county was sympathetic to my request, and reduced my term of being on call (not service) from three weeks to one.  I was also given the option to postpone serving for six months.  However, since I had no idea what my schedule would look like in six months, whereas this week had a certain amount of wiggle room, I opted to select this as the week I would make myself available to serve.

As required, I checked the county court’s website to see if my group number (not my juror badge number) was on the list for service on Monday.  Imagine my astonishment when, upon checking the appropriate page, I saw that one hundred and fifteen group numbers were listed.  Mine was in the fifth row.

Over the weekend, since I don’t know downtown Albuquerque very well, I’d gone to scout the area, including locating the appropriate parking facility.  Now, with a clear visual of the area in my mind, I found myself wondering how much time I should allow to get downtown, parked, and over to the courthouse by 8:30 a.m.  Even if each group contained only five people, the number of people attempting to park would be five hundred and seventy-five.  That many cars going to one parking garage would make a line that would stretch for miles.  The garage probably didn’t have that many places.

Jim and I discussed this and decided that – despite each juror having been assigned a separate badge number as well – the group numbers must indicate only one person.  When I checked in, I asked, and this proved to be the case.

So, as Juror Group 622, I took my seat in the jury assembly room.  The courthouse courteously provided both coffee and water, and I spent a comfortable twenty minutes or so sipping coffee and reading Terry Pratchett’s A Thief of Time.  No.  I didn’t pick this novel on purpose, but the irony of the title – since my time was being “stolen” by the requirement that I do my civic duty – didn’t escape me.

Eventually, a man came and explained that we had appeared in the jury pool because either we were registered voters, had paid taxes, or had driver’s licenses.  Basically, as is so often the case, because we were responsible citizens, more was being asked of us.  Those who don’t bother to vote, dodge their taxes, or drive unlicensed get off.  Oh, I know the state has to have some system, but once again… irony.

The assembled juror pool to which I belonged was short something like four people, all of whom, we were assured, would be hunted down and informed that they had behaved badly.  With that, about half of us (including several of the absent numbers) were instructed to go up to Judge Briana Zamora’s courtroom for voir dire.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, voir dire is the process by which the judge and attorneys select the jury.

We were handed numbers that corresponded to a seating chart, then escorted into the courtroom.  Now, to my identity as Group 622, I added Seat 36.  We were greeted, sworn in, and then Judge Zamora told us the charge.  She also told us that it was likely that the trial would run for three to four days.

I can’t remember the exact wording of the charge, so rather than risk misrepresenting, I’m going to paraphrase.  The defendant (who was there) was accused of rape.  Complicating matters was that the alleged act had occurred in a correctional facility.

I’m going to jump ahead here and note something fascinating.  Voir dire had been going on for well over an hour – first the judge, then the prosecution had asked their questions – before it became evident that the fifty or so of us in the jury pool were confused as to what we thought the crime was for which we might be asked to sit on a jury.

The more literal-minded (I raise my hand here) thought that the incident in question had occurred between two inmates since all we were told was that it had occurred in a correctional facility.  Others had interpreted what was said to mean that if the incidence was “criminal,” it must be between someone associated in some form of non-inmate role and an inmate.  This latter turned out to be the case.

So, those of us who literally adhered to what was presented to us were incorrect.  Those who added (for whatever reason) information that was actually not presented were correct.  Given that over and over again we were told that we would be asked to view the matter in the light of the evidence presented, not in light of our preconceptions…

Well, let’s just say this misunderstanding did not give me a lot of faith in the system.

Since I wasn’t taking notes, I can’t take you through the long process of questions, rephrasing of the same questions, new questions, misunderstandings, and circumlocutions.  However, I will say that the number of times one or the other of the attorneys requested to approach the bench (or were called to the bench by the judge) was remarkable.

I mean that literally…  At one point, the gentleman seated to my left remarked “I wonder if we’re all going to get sent home.”

But, in the end, the questioning ended.  We retired to the juror room.  I enjoyed a nice chat about SF/F with several of my fellow potential jurors, then the names of those selected to serve were announced.

I wasn’t chosen.  On the one hand, given that I can ill afford most of a week away from my work, I am relieved.  On the other hand, I do feel I learned a great deal from my four or so hours in court, so this wasn’t a waste of time

I was reminded once again that words don’t mean the same thing to people, even when those people are all native speakers of the same language.  I was impressed by the thoughtful intensity which the members of my juror pool brought to their responses to the questions they were asked.  I learned that consent in sexual relationships is really, really important to many people – men and women, young and old.  And that people understand that “consent” does not apply in situations of unequal power.

I’m on call for the rest of this week.  My group may or may not be summoned again.   But if it is, Juror Group 622 will drive to the courthouse for her new adventure!

Running the Rat Race

August 30, 2017

As I mentioned last week, this past weekend was Bubonicon.  I’m happy to report that it was an intense weekend, but a very good one.

My Third Panel of Bubonicon

For those of you who don’t know Bubonicon, I should mention that the mascots are Perry and Terry Rodent, so the reference to rats in the title of this piece is not in any way derogatory to the convention – far from it!

I had two panels on Friday.  This may not sound like much until you fill in that the first one was at 5:00 pm (Is the Stand-Alone Novel Dead?). This was followed by the Opening Ceremonies, which are a major event at Bubonicon, and not to be missed if at all possible.  I then had a dinner meeting before racing off to my second panel (Facts Behind the Fantasy: Research Impact) at 7:30 pm.

The panels were fun, and the meeting productive.  I have now met Linda Caldwell, who did the cover design for the new e-books of Smoke and Mirrors and When the Gods Are Silent.  Along with Emily Mah Tippetts, who is my e-pub guru, we discussed a host of future projects, both reprints and original fiction.

Then we went home to discover the pump on our little pond had stopped working…  But it was too late and too dark to fix it, so we admired the toads who were enjoying the still water and went to bed.

Saturday I was on the first panel of the day (Felines and Feline Aliens in SF/F).  This was very exciting for me, because I had my fan moment being on a panel with C.J. Cherryh, whose innovative aliens and alien civilizations are a seminal influence on the field.  I also had the chance to be on a panel with Ursula Vernon, who was back at Bubonicon, this time as Toastmaster.  And I meowed my introduction, which probably showed that I was already punchy!

Then Jim and I had lunch with writers (and dear friends) Steve (S.M. Stirling) and Janet Stirling.  Steve is amusing that early in the day (11:00 a.m. is early for Steve and thanks to an alarm clock error he’d been awakened at 10:00.)  After Steve toddled sleepily off to do his noon reading, Jim and I had a chance to tour the Art Show and a bit of the Dealer’s Room before my reading at 1:15.

This was very well attended.  Thanks to all of you who stayed to shiver in that very cold room!  I read my yet-unpublished short story “Can’t Live,” and took a few questions.  At that time, I revealed for the first time that forthcoming projects will include a new, self-published, Firekeeper novel…

(Did you read far enough to learn that?)

First, however, will come Asphodel, probably early in 2018, featuring cover art by Rowan Derrick, who also did the cover for my short story collection, Curiosities.  More on forthcoming projects in future Wanderings!

Fairly soon after my reading, Jim took off to buy a new impeller for our pump.  He was reassured that, given the number of plants thriving in the pond, the fish should be okay.

He returned in time to go with me to my next panel, SnackWrites: Writing Exercises. Moderated by Josh Gentry, host of the SnackReads site, this panel provided me, Robert (Bob) Vardeman, and M.T. (Matt) Reiten the challenge of having five minutes to show what we could write in response to a set prompt that we had not seen in advance.  The audience was encouraged to participate, and many did.  We had lots of fun and proved that five minutes is enough to get some decent writing done.

Whew!

We chatted with a few people after, then raced off to catch the second part of Artist Guest of Honor Elizabeth Leggett’s excellent presentation.  I always learn something about the creative process when I go to these – far more, honestly, than I do from most writer’s panels, given that I’ve been writing professionally now for some twenty-five years.  In her panel, Elizabeth offered a bonus lesson on perseverance as she showed just how many revisions she did on just one piece.

After that, it was time for the Mass Signing, followed by dinner with our much-missed friends, Mike and Yvonne (who moved to Virginia several years ago).  We added Ursula Vernon and her husband, Kevin Sonney, at the last minute.  However, as I had hoped, the group chemistry was great and I think a good time was had by all.  I certainly had a blast.

Sunday morning, Jim fixed the pond pump.  The fish were grateful.  I picked a lot of string beans and eggplant…  Gardens do not understand that you’re at a convention.  They keep growing.

Sunday, once again, I was on the first panel of the day (Pros Who Game: Gamemastering &Writing).  Then we went to the excellent interview of the two guests of honor (Sherwood Smith and C.J. Cherryh) by Ursula Vernon.  We had to leave a little before the end to get upstairs to help set up and run the Afternoon Tea.

The Tea was, as always, delightful.  This was my first attempt at judging the “hats and gloves” – a sort of friendly “hall costume” show, for which we give prizes donated by the Tea Team.  Betsy James was a good coach, and I think I’d enjoy doing it again.

After Tea clean-up, we stayed for closing ceremonies, and then stayed to chat for about 45 minutes with Mike and Yvonne.  Thus endth Bubonicon for another year…

On Monday, we discovered that Ursula and Kevin couldn’t get home because their flight is through Houston, so we picked them up at noon and went out to show them something of Albuquerque.  We hit the Rattlesnake Museum, then several shops in Old Town.  After that, we went by the zoo, where the much-desired the wombats and Tasmanian devils cooperated by being out and active.

Now it’s back to the “normal” week of writing.  On Friday, I left my characters about to discover some rather world-changing information.  Time to find out what they think of it.

Joy!

Life’s Peachy!

August 23, 2017

This week as we lead up to Bubonicon, New Mexico’s annual SF convention, I’m pulled in about three different – all very enjoyable – directions.

Sweet Bounty!

Let’s start with the convention.  Bubonicon is always a great show, and this year it’s extra interesting for me.  One of the Guests of Honor is C.J. Cherryh, whose works I first encountered in college.  Now I’m actually going to be on a panel (“Felines and Feline Aliens in SF: The Cat’s Meow”) with her – and as a participating author.  I wish I could go back in time and tell my eighteen-year-old self that!

She wouldn’t believe me, though.

Still, maybe I’ll get the chance, since the Bubonicon theme this year is “time travel.”  Perhaps someone there will have a working time machine I can borrow.

I’m on a bunch of panels at Bubonicon, including one on short writing exercises that I’m wondering if I’ll screw up.  I’ve never been a “writer in the window” sort of person.  Still, this one is hosted by Josh Gentry, host of the “Snack Read/Snack Writes” website.  I couldn’t pass up the temptation.

On Saturday, I’ll also be giving a reading, probably from an unpublished short story.   And on Sunday (after a panel and my chance to be a fan girl watching the GOH’s get interviewed by none other than the marvelous Ursula Vernon), I’ll be helping out with the Afternoon Tea.

For the Tea, I’m making a new (for me, at least) savory cheese cookie.  My test group loved the first batch, and I’m looking forward to sharing with a larger group.  Tea hosts this year will include Diana Gabaldon and Sherwood Smith.  Remember that those who wear hats and gloves (creative, elegant, just plain silly) are eligible for special prizes!   Sign up in advance, since spaces at the tea are limited, and we’re only doing two sessions this year.

Additional Bubonicon coolness includes…  Elizabeth Leggett, with whom I had a great time last year on the David Bowie panel, is going to be Artist GOH – hot on the heels of her Hugo win as Best Fan Artist.  Two other 2017 Hugo Winners will be attending as well: Ursula Vernon and Daniel Abraham (who is half of James S.A. Corey, of The Expanse).  The Bubonicon committee members clearly know how to pick their guests!

Bubonicon launches my personal public appearances cycle.  In late September, I’ll be one of the presenters at the Southwest Festival of the Written Word in Silver City, New Mexico.  It looks like a fascinating event and, as a bonus for me, will be my first trip to Silver City.

In late October, I’m one of the Guests of Honor at MileHiCon in Denver, Colorado.   More on that as we get closer.

Finally, in November, I’ll be supporting the Albuquerque Museum by participating in the “am Author Fest” on November 11th.   Come and get a head start on your Christmas shopping, while supporting the museum and hanging out with local authors.

So…  Public appearances is one direction my life is pulled in.  Another is writing.  I’m working intensely on a new novel, which topped 120,000 words last week.  No title, but I’m very much enjoying.  Also, I’m nearly done with one reprint-related project, and beginning to set up the schedule for my first self-published original novel.

Then, as if that isn’t enough, the harvest is coming in.   The monsoon rains are helping a great deal, and my garden is producing a bumper crop of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and string beans, as well as various herbs.  We’re trying an experiment with our summer squash this year, and are hoping for a solid late harvest.  We’re waiting to see if the cukes do more than flowers.

Additionally, our friend Samantha Thompson has gifted us with some of her home orchard’s bounty.  I currently have a dishpan full of peaches waiting to be processed (as well as some to be eaten immediately).  Next to that dishpan is a bag containing an utterly astonishing amount of seedless grapes, many of which will graduate into raisins.  There’s a bowl of miniature Bartlett pears on top of the fridge.

So…  There you have it: public appearances, writing, and dealing with produce.  Three directions, all quite a lot of fun.  Basically, life’s peachy!

Hope to see you at Bubonicon!

Tell Me Why…

June 28, 2017

Now that the weather has shifted to warm (sometimes too warm), I’m back to riding my bike on the road instead of spinning inside.  Even though I ride the same route, just about every day I see something that gets me thinking.

Truck With Socks

Can anyone tell me why the truck in the picture has its wheels wrapped?  They’ve been like this for weeks now.  The truck isn’t new, nor is it elaborately customized.  I never see anyone outside at this house, so I haven’t been able to ask.  I keep coming up with possible explanations, and they’re getting more fantastical each day.

At the start, I thought the tires were new and hadn’t been unwrapped.  That didn’t make sense, because they’d need to be unwrapped to be mounted.  Then I thought the truck might have been shipped, and the wheels wrapped to keep it from rolling.  However, if that was the case, wouldn’t the tires need to be unwrapped so it could be unloaded?  Then I began to imagine what the tires might actually be: giant donuts, extra-wide hula hoops, dormant pythons, swimming float rings, metal washers, wedding rings.

Can someone solve this mystery for me?

Another fun thing I’ve been watching as I bike is the creation of a possible puzzle for future archeologists.  Someone dropped a box of paperclips on the asphalt of the road.  These were spread out by passing vehicles.  Then the temperatures began to rise into the high nineties, then the hundreds, then all the way to one hundred and eleven degrees.  The asphalt softened.  The traffic continued to roll over the paperclips.

We now have a neat “fossilized” layer that looks deliberate.  I wonder what future archeologists might make of this.  My favorite is a sacrifice to a deity of office productivity and organization.  The runner-up is a sort of “outsider art” that involves imbedding materials into roadways as a sort of technological roadkill.

Less outré entertainments have been watching the urban wildlife.  My current favorite are the Gambel’s quail.  The chicks are hatched now.  Every so often I come across little flocks scurrying across the road, diving into cover beneath ornamental shrubs.  Last week they were hardly big enough to see.  This week, they’re distinctly striped.

I guess you can tell that my rides aren’t just exercise for the body; they’re exercise for the imagination as well.  I’ve been writing quite a bit, and although trucks with coiled pythons for wheels haven’t yet entered any particular tale, you never know…

Pretty Nonsense

May 31, 2017

Recently, I mentioned to a friend that, as an interruption in a busy weekend that was too full of Things To Do and too little with fun, Jim and I had dropped into an antiques and collectibles mall.  My friend asked, “Out of curiosity, what interests you most?  Furniture?  Jewelry….?”

Junk?

My answer probably didn’t surprise her.  “Neither.  Weird stuff.  Oddities.  Sometimes flat-out junk.  Occasionally, I’ll buy one of those jars full of odds and ends of costume jewelry or buttons.  My short story ‘The Button Witch’ came directly from making such a purchase.”

It did, too

Often I don’t buy anything at all.  I just wander around, soaking in all the things that people have decided are important enough to keep, that other people have decided are important enough to buy.  I’m not looking for inspiration as such but, without such fueling stops, after a while the only things I would end up writing about would be cats, gardens, and guinea pigs.

Sometimes, though, we do buy something.  Old books, especially ones long out of print, are favorites.  No surprise there.

Last year Jim bought me a magnificent Chinese brocade shawl lined in velvet.  When I protested I had nowhere to wear such an elaborate thing, he said, “You can wear it to the Bubonicon Afternoon Tea.”  So I did.

Another time I bought a battered wooden lap desk.   I took it home, sanded it (with a little help from Jim) and then sealed it with “pecan” Minwax.  It still looks a bit battered, but shiny.  I’m considering covering the lid with a collage of cancelled postage stamps, and then using it to keep my stationery.  However, I need a lot more stamps before I can do that…

Such trips, where what we’ll see is completely unpredictable, are like mini-holiday for the brain.  I’m curious.  What do you do when you’re feeling a need for stimulation?

Event and Eventful

April 26, 2017

This coming Saturday (April 29th), I’ll be over at Page One Books here in Albuquerque between 3:00 pm and 4:30 to help out as they join in the Independent Bookstore Day celebration.

Me at a past Page One event

Why are we celebrating independent bookstores?  Well, the folks at Page One explained this so well, that I’m just going to quote them.

“Independent bookstores are not just stores, they’re community centers and local anchors run by passionate readers. They are entire universes of ideas that contain the possibility of real serendipity. They are lively performance spaces and quiet places where aimless perusal is a day well spent.

“In a world of tweets and algorithms and pageless digital downloads, bookstores are not a dying anachronism.  They are living, breathing organisms that continue to grow and expand. In fact, there are more of them this year than there were last year. And they are at your service.”

This coming Saturday (April 29th), I’ll be over at Page One Books here in Albuquerque between there, ready to try and show you where to find just the book you’re hoping to find.  If I can’t, I’ll hand you over to one of Page One’s staff members.

Even if you aren’t looking for a specific book, I hope you’ll drop by and chat.  This is one of those rare events where I can just relax and visit – no panels, no scheduled events.   I hope you’ll come by…  Interested in a complete list of participating authors?  Look here.

Otherwise, this last week was marvelously busy.  I think we’ve finalized the cover art for the official When the Gods Are Silent e-book.  It’s pretty dramatic, in keeping with the trend I started with the cover art for the e-book of Smoke and Mirrors.

What?  You didn’t know that Smoke and Mirrors is now available as an e-book?  Yep!  It is.  Even if you already have a copy, this one includes an original afterpiece.   You can read more about the new e-book here.

I’m also immersed in writing a new novel.  The idea came to me a few weeks ago, hybridized with one I’ve been considering for the last several months, and has now taken over my creative brain.  I’m enjoying myself a great deal.

What next?  I’m really not certain.  There are a lot of variables in flux right now, so I’m focusing my sights on the immediate future, rather than investing too much energy in worrying about even a month from now.

Now, off to write.  My characters are about to…  Well, I’ll just need to start writing and find out!

Reimagining

November 23, 2016

This weekend, I went to an art show called “Fantasía Fantástica: Imaginative Spaces and Other-Worldly Collage” at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.  This features the works of four artists, all of whom create using a variety of found or repurposed materials.  Although all four artists are considered Latina/o, they work outside of the (to quote the brochure) “narrow definitions of what is considered Latina/o art.”

As Peter said last week: “Art is an ongoing conversation the future is having with the past,” and this show seemed built around that idea.

A Different Look

A Different Look

One of the reasons I wanted to see this show was because it involved collage and the use of unusual materials.  Rachel Muldez, for example, uses materials from nature: oak galls, magnolia seed pods, bits of wood or stone, tiny dried vines.  Nick Abdalla builds abstract sculptures from a variety of found objects, including wickerwork, placemats, animal horns, and scrap metal.  Color was downplayed in the majority of his works, which invited the viewer to look more closely at the shapes.

Cynthia Cook’s and Carlos Quinto Kemm’s art fit more closely into what people usually mean when they say “collage” in that the works were flat (more or less) and were intended to be hung on a wall.   That didn’t mean they were in the least “same old, same old.”  Cynthia Cook uses found objects – or as she herself calls it “trash metal, trash glass” – as not only elements in the collages but in creating the frames.  Carlos Quinto Kemm’s multi-layer collages are so densely populated with images that the three of us (I went to the show with Jim and our friend Michael Wester) spent a great deal of time exploring the details. “Did you see that tiny monkey in the corner?”  “Is that a turtle or a griffin?  “I really want to know the story behind that woman.”

Another reason I wanted to go to this show was the promised fantasy element.  I’ve seen many SF/F art shows.  These are always fun but, after a while, a degree of sameness does creep in – and not only due to the fact that certain artists mail their contributions to shows all around the country.  There are always dragons (and I like dragons), vampires, fairies, as well as works inspired by visual media productions – both new favorites and older “classics.”

I wanted to see what Fantasy meant to people outside of the SF/F community.  Certainly there were similarities such as mermaids and dragons, but there were differences too.  Religious elements –  and not only Christian – had a larger place.  There was a sense of a dialogue between a historical culture and an evolving present.  Mystical searching seemed to reverberate though many of the works, an impression confirmed by the artists’ statements accompanying the show.

Among the interesting elements was the time these artists were willing to give to permit a piece of art to evolve or to find the right place for a particular found object.  Several of the artists mentioned how a certain item might stay in their studios for years until the time came to use it.  Lately, maybe because November is NanoWriMo, I’ve seen a lot of emphasis on working hard and fast – as if that also means working at one’s best.  This show was a good reminder that a work that takes weeks or months to write may be years or even decades in gestation.

I found a bonus in the statement that accompanied Nick Addalla’s work.  He’s been involved in various forms of art for over forty years, and is recently retired after being a teacher at UNM for twenty.  About his current work he says: “I am learning to PLAY again…  Hours and hours of serious and totally involved play, getting lost in the MAKING.  No ambitions.  No goals.  No need to justify.  Just doing.”

That really spoke to me.  After years of writing to deadline, wondering what the next job will be, I’ve been doing a lot of creative “play” that has been very satisfying.  I’m feeling happier about my recent decision to permit myself a chance to explore my own creative ventures with less concern about where the story might “go.”

Seriously, these narrow definitions can really impede a writer’s creativity.  A couple of weeks ago, I came across a plaintive Twitter post from a well-known YA writer who was commenting on her own work in process:  “Is this even YA anymore?”

Should she need to worry about that?  Shouldn’t she just be permitted to write the best book she possibly can?  But the fact is that, in these days of “if you like this, you should read that” marketing, stories often aren’t permitted to be themselves, they’re trimmed and altered so they can be presented as a “portal story” or a “space opera” or a…  Well, you get what I mean.

In the handful of days since we saw Fantasía Fantástica, I’m already seeing the world  differently.  A friend sent a beautiful card.  I’m saving it with a future collage of my own in mind.  I’m smiling as I think about the short story I started last week, a story inspired by my allowing myself a foray into visual art.  It’s all good.  In fact, it’s all great!

Moving Along Now

November 16, 2016

Thanks to everyone who weighed in last week regarding branding as it applies to books and your awareness of them.  I’ll keep you posted on developments.  Please feel free to keep sending me comments, either on the post or to my work e-mail: jane2@janelindskold.com.

A Pile of Ongoing Projects

A Pile of Ongoing Projects.

Currently, I’m focusing in on the writing/editing side of things.  Last week, Jim finished reading the manuscript for a novel I wrote on spec.  The original manuscript was 54,000 words, but I recently expanded it to a tidy 72,000.  One of my jobs this week will be polishing the expanded version and getting it to a few beta-readers.

I’ve also selected which of my out-of-print Avon novels I’ll be getting ready for e-book publication.  Smoke and Mirrors, originally published in 1996, is a far future science fiction novel about what happens when a very unlikely person becomes among the few to realize that there just may be hostile aliens infiltrating human-inhabited worlds.  It’s more thriller than war story, because I prefer the small picture to massive troop movements.

If you can’t wait for the e-book, I still have some copies of the original mass market paperback of Smoke and Mirrors.  See my website bookstore for details.

I’m also writing a short story, because I’ve learned the hard way that if I’m not doing something creative, I get very, very grumpy.

This past weekend featured several fun and creatively stimulating events.  Friday, I read my yet-unpublished short story “A Familiar’s Predicament” at the monthly meeting of the Albuquerque Science Fiction Society.  I very much enjoyed the discussion afterwards.  Particular thanks to the lady who cheered at the story’s resolution.

Saturday, Jim and I went to the New Mexico Archeological Council’s annual conference.   Although Jim’s paper was the last of the day, we went early enough to listen to most of the other papers.   Even though this is technically outside of my “field,” I find such events very creatively stimulating precisely because the papers are outside of what I would usually be reading and thinking about.

Many of the papers we listened to had to do with the crossing of the various cultures that have settled the region now known as New Mexico.  In addition to the “alien invasions” represented by the incursion of peoples from Europe, there were culture clashes and cross fertilizations between the numerous indigenous peoples – many of whom spoke completely different languages and practiced widely varied religions.  By contrast, modern “America” looks positively homogeneous.  How many cultures have occupied this landmass is worth remembering, especially in these days when there is a rising myth that the United States was once a monoculture.

Sunday, I had a lovely time running my on-going roleplaying game.  Running a game is an entirely different type of storytelling.  I very much enjoy the stimulus of setting up a situation, then seeing how my players react as they discover something.  This week in particular was full of discoveries.  I can hardly wait for next time…

But, for now, I’m off to split my time between pen and paper and keyboard once more.  The stories are calling, and I must come!

Behind the Schedule

August 31, 2016

Overall, last weekend’s Bubonicon was a great deal of fun.  I had a chance to catch up with some people I only see at conventions.  I made a few new acquaintances who just might become friends over time.  I even had a couple of very interesting meetings.

Chatting with Folks at the Tea

Chatting with Folks at the Tea

I was on four panels, all of which went well.  My reading of the short story “Choice of Weapons” was well-received and generated some very interesting questions.  I signed books ranging from some yellowed copies of my early Avon Book titles to my most recent efforts – the “Artemis Awakening” novels, my short story collection Curiosities, and my non-fiction Wanderings on Writing.

Signing books brings me to my one uncomfortable encounter at the convention.  Following my first panel, a man came rushing up to the speaker’s dais and thrust a small stack of books at me.  “Can you sign these?” he said.  I replied that, in fact, I couldn’t.  The man looked astonished.  “You can’t?”  “No,” I said.  “I need to go feed my husband.”

Then again, on Saturday following a panel, the same man materialized with the same small stack of books.  “Can you sign these?”  “No, I’m sorry.  I can’t.  I have a prior engagement.”  When the man looked shocked, I went on, “That’s what the Mass Signing is for.  I’d be able to sign them then.”  The man never showed up, and I will forever wonder if he decided I was so rude he wouldn’t bother.

Now, unlike some authors, I don’t mind signing books outside of the usual schedule.  In fact, I did a great deal of impromptu signing throughout the convention.  However, at those times, I didn’t have another commitment.  This brings me around to today’s look behind the schedule – or, as I could have titled it: “What You May See as Open Time Just Might Not Be So.”

This year my Bubonicon schedule was relatively full.  On Friday, I was on the first panel of the convention at 4:00 pm.  This ended at 5:00, leaving Jim and myself just an hour or so to get dinner before both the Opening Ceremonies (which, unlike at many conventions, are a big deal at Bubonicon) and my second panel of the evening.  If we hadn’t eaten when we did, I would not have been able to remain coherent through my second panel!

My Saturday schedule did not officially begin until my reading at 1:30 pm.  However, we arrived at the convention early.  Once there, I met up with Josh Gentry, editor of Snackreads, to discuss a possible expansion of his webzine.  We talked until right before my reading.

After my reading, I then had about a twenty-minute break, during which I discussed “Choice of Weapons” with some of those who had attended and also signed a few books.  I then went on to a panel, directly after which I had arranged to meet with Steve (S.M.) Stirling and his wife Jan for an early dinner.

I went directly from dinner with the Stirlings to the Mass Signing.  After the signing, I had an informal meeting with Jeremy Brett from Texas A&M regarding the possibility of my putting my papers in their repository someday – Mr. Brett was very persuasive – as well as engaging in some more general chat.  Eventually, Jim and I went home, where we medicated elderly cats and fixed a broken pond pump.  And collapsed!

Sunday I was once again on the first panel of the convention.  (I don’t mind early panels and the concom knows this; what I don’t handle well are late panels!)  After that, I attended my first and only event of the convention – the excellent interview of co-Guests of Honor Rachel Caine and David Gerrold by Toastmaster Joe Lansdale.

From there, Jim and I went out to our car, collected our contributions to the Afternoon Tea, went and helped set up, and then worked the Tea (delightful as it is, it’s still work) for the next two hours.  After this, we helped with clean-up, and then had a few minutes to quietly sit down and chat with folks before the Closing Ceremony.

I never saw the entire Dealer’s Room or Art Show.  Why?  Because if a fan wanted to chat, I stopped and did so.  After all, being there to talk with fans is part of my job, and I take it seriously – but my desire to engage with fans doesn’t mean I feel I must go without food or be late for previous commitments.

Back in 2011, I wrote a Tangent about some aspects of convention etiquette.  It doesn’t seem like a bad idea to repeat a few of those points here, especially those related to talking with an author outside of scheduled events.  If you’d like to read the full piece,which touches on a broader spectrum of the experience, you can find it here.

Otherwise, here’s the bit that pertains to today’s Wander with a few additions.

A lot of well-meaning fans often insert themselves into what are private conversations.  When this happens, the author is at a loss.  On the one hand, it’s a compliment that someone likes your work enough to want to stop and chat.  On the other, you were just talking to a friend.  Maybe you were saying something that wasn’t meant for general consumption.

I hate being rude to a fan, but what to do when the fan is rude, especially when the rudeness persists over an entire weekend?  I’ll admit that I have asked for a moment to finish what I’m about before turning my attention to the newcomer.  If that makes me rude…  Well, I don’t know what the solution is.

Fact is, it’s hard facing the expectations placed on an author at a convention.  I walked down a corridor early one morning and overheard the following statement: “I was just in the elevator with Lois McMaster Bujold.  She didn’t even look at me.  She’s so rude!  I’m never going to read one of her books.”

I wanted to shake the speaker.  She judged a writer based on an elevator ride?  An elevator ride where the writer did nothing worse than not look at her?  Wow!  It’s enough to make me afraid to walk over the threshold of my hotel room into public areas!

Okay.  Not really.  But I think you see what I mean.

So meet the author by all means.  Chat.  But remember to extend the courtesy you would to any other human being.  Wait for an opening.  If you want to chat, have something to say other than “I love your books,” because, reasonably, the only polite response the author can give you is “Thank you.”  Questions are good, because they open up the chance for conversation.

And please understand, just because the schedule says that the author doesn’t have another event immediately after, this doesn’t mean the author is free.  Moreover, accosting him or her on the speaker’s dais directly after a panel is just about the worst time to do so because the author is trying to clear out so the next event can start.

If you absolutely must talk with an author right after a panel, wait outside the room.  Even then, remember, he or she may not be available right then.  That’s why most conventions schedule signings, whether group or individual.  If you can’t make the signing, then ask the author if there is a convenient time when he or she might sign your books.

I know a number of regular convention attendees read these Wanderings.  Perhaps you might have a few tips to offer or interesting anecdotes to share about your own experiences.