Obligatory Nanowrimo Post

Alas, October draws to an end. And Nanowrimo looms. It’s interesting–I learned about Nano in 2002, started doing it back in 2003–and back then it was the weird indie thing, and maybe there were a couple thousand of us doing it.

Now it’s massive. And everyone’s gotten in on it. They have best-selling authors writing their pep talks. Writer’s Digest keeps emailing me about their Nanowrimo specials. Everyone who is remotely related to writing or book selling is capitalizing on it somehow.

It’s a very bizarre thing, to have watched it grow all these years into the massive event it is these days.

But since I am remotely related to writing and/or book selling, I think I’m obligated to post about it. (Haven’t quite figured out how to capitalize on it yet myself. Ah, well, maybe next year.) I’m sorry. I’m sure half you guys are sick of the topic already.

As for me, I can’t remember if I told you guys or not that I’d decided on the space dinosaur scifi adventure series. I’ve had the world planned out for a while, and I sat down a week ago and figured out viewpoint characters, story arcs (internal, external, series-length), major plot points for all arcs, and interpersonal conflicts. Which is actually a lot more planning than I have put into any NaNovel in the past, with the exceptions of ones that were rewrites of previous ones. (I figure, on a rewrite, you’d better know where the hell you’re going and how you’re getting there.)

I figure the change in the level of planning comes down to the fact that I’ve become a lot more professional in my writing since I last started a first draft (…almost five years ago). I know more about story structure and character arcs, and so I know more about what a story needs and how to incorporate it so I don’t have to flail around for a first draft and do a massive rewrite later after I finally get my act together. So hopefully this will all go smoothly.

I haven’t done Nano since 2011 (I gave a half-hearted attempt in 2012 and made it about 14K), so I’m both excited and a little anxious. I used to think nothing could stop me from getting to my 50K after the year that I finished early while working full time and working toward a graduate aerospace engineering degree, but it turns out that kids make things really hard. But I am cautiously optimistic.

What about you, squiders? Nano yes or no? If yes, tell me a little about your story. Y’all are welcome to friend me on the website as well–my Nano handle is Kandybar. (I have an icon of Geordi loving a turbolift.)

Survived!

It turns out that it’s rather exhausting to watch a table all weekend. When I got home Sunday night (and also for most of yesterday) I felt like this:

face to ground(Coincidentally, I drew that at the con. You end up kind of chained to your table–unless you have help, I suppose–and there are periods of boredom, when everyone else is in panels, where you can’t leave and yet you have nothing to do. Aside from random landsquid drawing, I drew a cover for my space dinosaurs adventure, outlined a short story, and edited an extremely problematic chapter of the YA paranormal story I have been working on forever now.)

But, anyway, MileHiCon was interesting. I haven’t been to a smaller convention in, oh, years. And it was neat to talk to the other people in the Authors Row, to see how they thought this con was going versus other cons they’ve had tables with, to hear about their books, and to see how people had their tables set up and what was working for them. MileHiCon is specifically for scifi/fantasy literature, so everyone tended to be my sort of people.

I learned a ton and had a pretty good time, all things considered. And I sold a fair amount of books too. I’m hoping for an email from one of the other authors soon, who is going to send me info on some of the other local cons he thought I might like, so I might give some more a try, both as myself and for Turtleduck Press, depending on what seems like a better fit.

So long story short: con fun, exhausting, would probably do again, woo!

MileHiCon This Weekend (First Con Table)

So, this weekend is MileHiCon, which is a scifi/fantasy convention in Denver, Colorado. I shall be manning a table for Turtleduck Press for most of the weekend, and I’m a little terrified.

Why you ask?

Well, many reasons. One, I’ve never manned a table at a convention before. I have been to conventions, I have talked to people at tables (though admittedly that terrifies me most of the time too, because like many other authors I am a Super Introvert and also very very shy), I have cosplayed and gone to panels, but I have never sat at a table and tried to provide people information and/or awesome books.

To make it slightly worse, I am in charge of the table. I am the main contact, the one who’s been talking to the convention, and I need to get tax permits and badges and figure out how to get merchandise to and from the table in a logical, efficient manner and I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Not just because I have no experience in table running, but I’ve also never been to MileHiCon before and so am unfamiliar with the layout of the building and the programming.

So, to recap, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m running out of time in which to figure it out (three days!), and I am going to have to be social with other people in a non-weird way.

Now, I’m sure everything’s going to be fine. MileHiCon seems to have a reputation for being friendly and helpful, and probably the people at the tables next to me will be lovely people, and the attendees will be lovely people, and perhaps I shall make new friends and attract new readers and I will look back on the weekend and wonder what I was so worried about.

But for now, while I am excited, I’m also in that place where introverts go when they know there’s going to be a lot of people very shortly and that they will be unavoidable.

Any con table tips, Squiders? As a con goer, anything you like/dislike that you’ve seen people do?

Old-School Scifi

So, a few months ago, we were at our local thrift store on one of their half-off-everything days, and I discovered that someone had donated a ton of old scifi books from the 50s. Andre Norton, Asimov, people I’ve never heard of but the stories looked cool. And among them was an anthology entitled SF: ’59 The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy.

(I bought them all. Don’t judge me.)

Yesterday I finished reading the anthology, which was kind of enlightening, honestly. It was like a snapshot into what science fiction and fantasy was over fifty years ago. And it was interesting because most of these stories, the best of the year, would never get published in today’s climate. Part of that is that they would be seen as derivative, but I’m sure they weren’t back then. Some of them aren’t science fiction or fantasy, but just a little off-kilter (like one telling the story of Hickory Dickory Dock in the style of Jack Kerouac). And the editor uses “SF” to mean science fantasy, which she uses interchangeably with science fiction.

There’s still a couple of great stories though. My favorite was a longer story called “The Comedian’s Children” by Theodore Sturgeon, whom I know mostly because he wrote some of my favorite original series Star Trek episodes (including the infamous “Amok Time,” thus delighting fanfiction authors for decades). I should probably read some of his novels or more of his short stories at some point.

Even more interesting than the stories was, at the back, they had a nonfiction section, with essays about space travel and the state of science fiction. In 1959, the manned space program was still a few years out from starting (NASA wasn’t even NASA yet) and Sputnik had just been launched a few years before (in 1957). So it’s very interesting to see them trying to puzzle out how to solve space flight issues since I can look back and see how it actually happened (and I am a huge space nerd, and have read a ridiculous amount of books on early manned spaceflight, so it’s an area I know quite a bit about). And Asimov wrote an essay about the state of science fiction, and how science keeps coming along a few years behind them and proving them wrong, which is kind of hilarious (and I think he meant it to be).

(I think it’s worth pointing out that most of the non-scifi/fantasy stories included were originally published in Playboy.)

Some aspects of this anthology are kind of depressing, because it goes to show how few authors ever truly are remembered past their times. Of the authors included, the only ones I recognize are Gerald Kersh, Fritz Leiber, Brian W. Aldiss, Theodore Sturgeon, and John Steinbeck (who of course wrote one of the non-SF stories from Playboy). Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a SF expert, but here are a bunch of authors who wrote what was considered some of the best SFF of their time, and I’ve never even heard of them. And that’s a humbling idea.

Do you have an experience with old scifi, Squiders? Do you like the style? Who’s your favorite?

Return to Sender in the Modern Era

I’ve been having a spate of wrong emails lately, Squiders. You know the ones–where someone is looking for their friend, or their business compatriot, or their lab partner, and doesn’t check to make sure they have the right email address, and you get an email from someone you’ve never met.

(My husband has been having issues for years–there’s a Spanish-speaking family who has him on their email list, despite numerous attempts–my husband speaks Spanish–to explain to them that they’ve got the wrong person.)

I’ve been having a more interesting issue lately, and that’s that someone out there doesn’t know their own email address, but thinks it’s mine, and keeps signing me up for newsletters for businesses in another state. This morning I got a personal email meant for said person who does not know their own email address.

But I just think the whole thing with emails sent to the wrong person is a little strange. It’s a problem we never would have had back in the snail mail era. No one would write a letter meant for Joe Blow of Richmond, Virginia and then accidentally send it to Joe Blow of Modesto, California. I suppose there might have been some instances of people with the same name in the same town getting mail meant for the other, but I bet you it wasn’t as common.

Now there’s a ton of easy ways to send email to the wrong person. It’s as easy as making a typo, or assuming you know someone’s address because you know their name. (I made the mistake of keeping my college email after I graduated, and I have the email without the middle initial, so now I get email for everyone of the same name who comes after me. I always try, especially if it seems like an important email, to let the sender know quickly and politely that they’ve sent to the wrong person, but some of the college kids apparently don’t learn.) Or forgetting their address and guessing, or knowing two people with the same name and sending to the wrong one…

And at least, with snail mail, if you got mail that obviously wasn’t meant for you, you could just send it back with a note on the envelope. That’s harder with email. You’ve got to open it to see if it’s really meant for you, in a lot of cases, and you can’t reply without doing so as well. And sometimes I get some really heartfelt missives that obviously weren’t meant for me (like the poor dad looking for his daughter whom he hadn’t spoken to in years), and then I always feel bad for prying.

So, random public service announcement, I guess. Know your own email address so you’re not giving out the wrong one! And double-check someone else’s address if it’s someone new or someone you don’t email very often!

You ever gotten anything interesting that was obviously meant for someone else?

The Wisdom of the Future Dinosaur

Landsquid was tentacle-deep in flour–it was Thursday, his weekly baking day–when his doorbell rang.

Most of his friends knew not to disturb him while baking was in progress, so it was either a stranger, or it was important. He didn’t bother de-flouring before tromping across his house to the front door.

It was Turtleduck. Landsquid looked down at her. A pile of flour gathered on the doorstep.

“Have you heard?” she said.

“Heard what?”

Turtleduck twisted her head one way, then the other. She leaned in. Landsquid was forced to lean in as well. “They say,” she whispered, “that the Alpaca is getting out soon.”

Landsquid had not seen his neighbor and arch-nemesis since the scone/knitting incident, as he called it in his head. How long had he been in his house now, alone except for his knitting and the ceiling turtles? What had happened in that time? What had happened to the poor ceiling turtles? Landsquid had a momentary terrible image of the Alpaca roasting them over open flame. Or knitting them into a sweater from which they never escaped.

“Is that a good idea?” he said.

Turtleduck shook her head so violently she almost overbalanced from the action. “What should we do?”

Landsquid rubbed one head fin before he remembered the flour. What should they do? They could go visit the Alpaca, he guessed, though the last time had been bad enough. Who knew what horrors lurked next door now? “Maybe we should go see the Future Dinosaur,” he said finally.

They went inside. While Landsquid de-floured, Turtleduck managed to roll several muffins into a basket as an offering for the Future Dinosaur. Landsquid had never personally seen the Future Dinosaur before, but it was said that she was infinitely wise, being a product of both the past, and the future.

Landsquid locked his house on the way out, just in case the Alpaca got out before he returned. The last thing he needed was to be ambushed by a probably insane arch-nemesis, possibly wielding scarves and gloves. Then he and Turtleduck walked down to the bus stop, caught the number 5, and took it all the way downtown.

Mmm, baked goods.

The Future Dinosaur was usually found in a small out-building on the grounds of the city/county municipal building. Landsquid and Turtleduck left their names with a nervous platypus out front and sat down under a tree to wait to be called. Apart from the basket of muffins, Landsquid had also brought some Cheez-Its and cocoa in a thermos.

Though no one else came or went, it was half an hour before the platypus called them. Landsquid steeled himself outside the door. Hopefully the Future Dinosaur would have some advice for them, or would be able to help in some manner. Otherwise, this was going to be a waste of perfectly good muffins.

The platypus pushed the door open deliberately slowly. It was dark inside. Landsquid went in first, Turtleduck following less enthusiastically. Once inside, the door was shut behind them, and a low glow appeared, backlighting a table and whomever sat at it. The Future Dinosaur, if that’s who it was, was smaller than Landsquid had expected.

“Oh, great Future Dinosaur,” he said. “We have a problem that we desire your help with. Please accept these muffins as an offering of our sincerity.” Hopefully that sounded okay. Landsquid wished he’d looked up Future Dinosaur etiquette before, but there had never really been a reason to. He shuffled over to the table–the glow was increasing–and deposited the basket.

Up close, the Future Dinosaur was small. And very feathery.

“Cluck CLUCK,” said the Future Dinosaur.

Landsquid glanced at Turtleduck. Was that an invitation to continue? Landsquid explained the situation with the Alpaca. The Future Dinosaur was mostly quiet throughout, though she offered an encouraging “Cluck!” whenever Landsquid paused.

“What do you think?” Landsquid concluded finally.

The Future Dinosaur was silent for a moment, staring at the basket of muffins. Then she jumped on the table with a flap of her wings, knocked the basket over, and declared, “CluckcluckcluckCLUCK bawk cluckcluck,” and pecked the table four times.

Then she snagged a muffin and, with a ruffle of her feathers, disappeared.

Later, on the bus ride home, Landsquid mulled over the Future Dinosaur’s cryptic message while Turtleduck chattered on about how awesome the Future Dinosaur had been, and what an honor it had been to be in her presence, and how wise she had been about everything. Despite the wisdom of the message the Future Dinosaur had given him, he did not seem to be smart enough to be able to decipher it.

What would he do when he got home?

Well, maybe it would be obvious. Landsquid could only hope.

Happy October! (Updates and Misc + Sale)

First of all, Squiders, if you haven’t taken advantage of the Turtleduck Press sale (also featuring my Shards and Hidden Worlds and several anthologies I have stories in, including our newest, Under Her Protection) you have a few hours before the prices go back up! GO GO GO

Happy October! My favorite of months, which I have probably mentioned before, not just because it has both my birthday and Halloween in it. It’s fall and sweaters and cocoa and the promise of holidays and family in the near future. It’s brilliant trees and warm winds. It’s cookies and spices and blankets.

Anyway! What have I been up to lately?

  • I have a secret project I’m working on that shall go live on my birthday (which is October 12) which is both exciting and kind of scary.
  • I’m finally getting deep into the secrets of my serial story, which is exciting. It turns out, when you tell a story month by month, that it takes a long time to complete. My serial story will have been going for five years come January.
  • Editing on my paranormal YA novel continues, though at a slower pace than I would like. I’m about 50K in, but it’s looking like it will be 85-90K in the end. Ideally it will get done before November. Not sure what to do if it doesn’t, as I’m not sure trying to write a novel and edit one at the same time will go well at all.
  • I’ve been exploring story structures. This is something that I think many people pick up through trial and error and work through instinctively, and I feel like it will be in my best interest to have more conscious control process for it.
  • I’ve decided to do the first book of my scifi series for Nano, which shall be exciting. I’ve got the worldbuilding mostly done, but I need to do character work (ethnicies, last names, basic personalities), plot work, and decide on structure. I’m unsure how many point of views will be ideal as of yet, and unsure as to who to use. There will be eight “main” crewmembers, which is too much for a single novel. Best to do a single viewpoint per novel, or a few? Questions to be answered. I’m hoping that, as I expand the plot, it will become obvious who and how many to use.
  • There is a constant stream of short stories being written, edited, and submitted. It’s kind of hard to keep track of them all.

Anyway, I drew you guys a landsquid but then realized that I was at a coffee shop with no scanner, so you shall have to come back on Thursday for that particular brand of madness.

How’s October looking for you, Squiders? Anything fun happening on your ends?

(And seriously–sale! Almost over! Go!)

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