Thursday, February 28, 2008

Help P&E!

You know the saying no good deed goes unpunished? Preditors and Editors is a site that helps keep novice writers from being ripped off by scam artist agents and publishers. They're one of the "go to" sites I always recommend to folks wanting to be published. Their services are free. Now they're being sued by someone claiming to have been libeled by them as a scam artist. I believe P&E will be fully vindicated, but they need financial help to mount their legal defense. If you're a writer who's ever used P&E, now's the time to step forward and help them. Go to their website and make a PayPal donation to their legal defense fund.

The internet is full of shady publishers and agents. There are few out there protecting the newbie writers, but P&E has been on the front lines for years doing their best.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Boskone 45!

The trip started with an uneventful flight to Newark. This time I took the AirTrain into Penn Station, and appreciated the convenience. It was a little difficult wrestling my luggage on and off the train, but I arrived safely. When I got outside Penn Station I was thinking “Hey! It’s the middle of the afternoon and traffic will be light.” But I managed to time my stepping outside with a Sesame Street production concluding at Madison Square Garden, and there were school buses and hordes of small children blocking the taxi lane. Fortunately, the weather wasn’t too bad. Cold, in the 30's, but sunny.

My son left the key with the doorman for me and I made myself at home in his apartment, then headed out for a bite to eat and some leg stretching. As I’ve mentioned, one of the advantages of his living on the Upper West Side is everything is right there. All kinds of food, liquor stores, drug stores, clothing–whatever I wanted it was within five blocks of his apartment. I got a bowl of soup at a veggie restaurant and window shopped for about an hour, then walked back, stopping at a liquor store to get a bottle of scotch for his apartment, something I figured he and his roommates might appreciate.

Since I knew he wouldn’t be home until after 8 p.m. I settled in with some hot tea and my computer and got some work done. We went to the Popover Café for supper, with him remarking that spending Valentine’s Day with his mother wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.

“Maybe people will think you’re with me because I’m a really hot cougar.”

Being a dutiful son he gave me his bedroom and slept on the couch. I was awake when he got up at 5:30 and I saw him off to school, then ate a healthy breakfast at a café around the corner and caught my Acela train at Penn Station. Unlike last year, I had no trouble getting a cab so I got to the station in plenty of time to relax.

The train had a few delays but I again enjoyed the comfort of traveling by rail compared to flying. I plugged in my computer and worked on A Sea Change, and when that palled I read an ebook and relaxed. Truly the civilized way to go.

Back to the Westin Waterfront on a day that was mild by Boston winter standards, but I’d seen the weather and I knew that was going to change by Saturday. But I got checked in to the hotel and to the con, picked up Darlene Marshall’s material and reviewed my panels before heading out to see who was around. Saw a lot of my favorite people right off the bat–Mark and Priscilla Olson, Deb Geisler and Mike Benveniste, Laurie and Jim Mann, Ian Stockdale and Ruth, and of course, Janice and Stephen. Since I didn’t have a panel until 9 p.m. we planned on supper at the hotel, even though last year’s service had been so bad in the sole restaurant that we ended up missing a panel we’d been scheduled to be on. This year, the service was no better, but at least we didn’t miss our programs.

Before I hit my 9 p.m. panel I stopped by the “Death to Peeps!” event in the con suite. The imagination of those who wish to destroy Peeps knows no bounds. My evening panel was “Writing Erotica That Appeals to Most Sexes” with Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Cecilia Tan, Beth Bernobich and me as moderator. I especially enjoyed seeing Beth again, since I’ve been following the progress of her sales and fledgling career with a great deal of interest.

We talked about whether Erotica can be written in a one-size-fits-all form, and I mentioned a couple of my favorite gender bending books, like Carole Queen’s The Leather Daddy and the Femme, which is now in a new expanded edition.

At the end of the panel an attractive young woman came up to me, and I recognized her from my son's description.

“You’re Natalie!”

He had told me some months back that one of his fellow teachers was a SF fan who’d be attending Boskone and Worldcon in Denver. I contacted her, at her request, and we talked about her volunteering at Denver, and I suggested a few volunteer jobs she might enjoy. Her husband and child were settling down in the hotel room, so I invited her to come to the Australia 2010 bid party with me. It was a fun party, and I hung in until 11:30, but had to call it a night after that.

Saturday was a busy day for me at the con, but I enjoyed it immensely. My first panel was “A Universally Acknowledged Truth” on Jane Austen (‘natch) and why she appeals to so many people, and SF fans in particular. The panelists were a lively and opinionated bunch of ladies who love “La Austen”, including Beth Bernobich again, Esther Friesner, Beth Meacham and Teresa Nielsen Hayden again.

We talked about the themes of the books and why they resonate with SF readers, how authors continue to seek inspiration from Jane Austen (Esther Friesner has written stories with her as a character) and mentioned in passing Colin Firth in a wet shirt.

I raced from that panel to my next one, where I was the moderator, on “The Storyteller’s Bowl: Making Money Off The Web”, which is about whether or not a subscription service is a viable method of selling stories on the Internet. A couple of the panelists had experience doing this, but we agreed that if it’s going to be a viable model, it’s only going to work for established authors with a following, and the most likely scenario is a novella or short story in a universe where there’s a strong readership that enjoys filling in the gaps. For example, something in the Honor Harrington universe.

I had a kaffeeklatsch scheduled but got no takers, so I opted for lunch for myself and a trip through the dealers’ room and the art show. As usual the quality of merchandise was good for a con of this size, and one of the things I’d remarked to my young fan friend was that a regional convention like Boskone is good preparation for Worldcon–you’ll see the same sorts of things, but scaled down. I admired a jewelry set by Patricia Olson, but didn’t want to bid on it since I knew I’d be leaving before the auction Sunday. However, I spoke with her about purchasing it after the con.

My books were available at Old Earth Books so I stopped by to thank Mike Walsh and wave hi at my books, then I navigated a maze in the Mezzanine level to make it to my reading. To my pleasure, there were total strangers who showed up to hear me read from “The Bride and the Buccaneer”!

Saturday night we had a dinner excursion outside the hotel, which wasn’t too bad. It was cold but clear, and I’d prudently packed my longjohns. A group of us checked out Legal Seafoods Test Kitchen (I prefer the original), shared some wine, and smoffed like madmen (is that redundant?).

I’d intended to go to the Anticipation bid party, but ended up at the Tor party and got so involved with conversations there that most of the evening flew by. I also managed to score an invite to the infamous single malt lovers’ gathering, and finished the evening in fine style sampling quality distilled products with other fans of Scotland’s famed exports.

I was hopeful that my 2:30 a.m. bedtime meant I’d be able to sleep in Sunday morning, but no such luck. At 6:30 my eyes popped open, just as always, and I got up and packed and did some work until 10, when I met Janice for some girl gossip, catching up on the family and breakfast.

My last panel of the convention was whether 2008 would be the breakthrough year for ebooks, and this was a lively and contentious discussion. I was the moderator, and our panel ran the gamut form Ellen Asher, who said she didn’t have a cell phone much less an ebook reader, to Charles Stross, who was a proponent of a broadband tax similar to what the UK does for its broadcasting tax on televisions.

I checked out of the hotel after that, but promised myself that in the future at Boskone I’d try to stay over Sunday and make it to the Dead Dog Party--and the rest of the programming. I thought the programming was a great success, and kudos to the programming staff for pulling it all together.

New York trip highlights in the next segment!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I was planning on writing my Boskone report but I've just gotten back from NYC, where I seem to have spent all my money and returned home brain-fried. I'll have a report by this weekend, I promise.

In a nutshell though, Boskone was great and I am glad I went and saw old friends and made new ones.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Boskone 45

I'll be at the Boston Westin Waterfront Friday through Sunday for Boskone 45. Hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Five pages of new material today for A Sea Change. 10 pages yesterday. Cue James Brown:

"(Yell) I feel good! Dadadadada...."

And the day's not over...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Boskone 45 Schedule

Here's my schedule, and I hope to see some of you in Boston! If the panel has an "M" next to my name, it means I'm the moderator.

Friday  5pm        Flash for Fanboys -- Appreciating the Flashman Stories
Darlene Marshall
Ernest Lilley (M)
Brigadier-General Sir Harry Flashman (1822-1915) was a debauched, bullying coward who became acclaimed for heroism on every battlefield of the 19th century. In twelve delightfully cynical books by George McDonald Fraser, who died last month, Flashman goes everywhere and meets everybody from Charles Darwin to Sherlock Holmes, Karl Marx to Kit Carson. Why do the Flashman tales appeal to our fanboys? Despite (or because of) Flashman's caddishness, can fangirls enjoy them too? Do the stories qualify as true Tim Powers-style secret histories? What similarities does Flashy share with genre protagonists such as Dominic Flandry, Malcolm Reynolds, Miles Vorkosigan, or Vlad Taltos?

Friday 9pm Writing Erotica That Appeals to Most Sexes
Darlene Marshall (M)
Beth Bernobich
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Cecilia Tan
Can you craft your prose to appeal simultaneously to audiences with differing erotic tastes? Do you keep several different readers in mind, take care to alternate viewpoint characters, or focus-group your product? Have Samuel R. Delany and Jacqueline Carey evaded the problem just by writing incredibly well about their chosen sexual territories? What can we learn from their or other successful

Saturday11am A Universally Acknowledged Truth
Darlene Marshall
Beth Bernobich
Esther Friesner
Beth Meacham (M)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Almost two centuries after her death, Jane Austen is more popular than ever. We see film after film of her novels, read books about her life, and encounter a surprising number of works featuring her characters, or even herself. In recent years, SF authors including S. N. Dyer, Karen Joy Fowler, and John Kessel have written stories entwined with her world and words. What is the allure? Why do so many SF writers and fans love Jane Austen?

Saturday12noon The Storyteller's Bowl: Making Money Off the Web
Darlene Marshall (M)
MaryAnn Johanson
Sharon Lee
Lawrence Watt-Evans
Trish Wilson
Old idea, new technology: some writers are cutting out the middleman and publishing straight to the web via the "storyteller's bowl" model. In this arrangement, a chapter is posted once subscriptions reach a pre-set $um. Is this model good for the long term? Is it always successful? Should you try it for your next project?

Saturday1:30pm Reading (0.5 hrs)
Darlene Marshall

Saturday4pm Kaffeeklatsch

Sunday 11am Will 2008 be the Year When eBooks Made It?
Darlene Marshall (M)
Ernest Lilley
Charles Stross
Is this the year when eBooks stopped being the future and started being now? What is the state of the art? What issues remain to prevent wide adoption? Are they primarily technological, legal, or matters of preference? If 2008 isn't the year, just what is still needed for eBooks to be a success?

Sunday 12noon Autographing

Friday, February 08, 2008

Today's meme, taken from my other blog at LiveJournal. As is usual with these critters, you're invited to lift it and share it at your own blog:

1) Are you currently in a serious relationship?
A.Yes. Married 33 years this month.

2) What was your dream growing up?
A. To be a journalist. And I was, for over 10 years.

3) What talent do you wish you had?
A. A sense of rhythm so I could dance more with my husband.

4) If I bought you a drink what would it be?
A. Premium single malt scotch.

5) Favorite vegetable?

6) What was the last book you read?
A. Justinian's Flea.

7) What zodiac sign are you?
A. Aries.

8) Any Tattoos and/or Piercings? Explain where.
A. Pierced ears--one hole each.

9) Worst Habit?
A. procrastination.

10) If you saw me walking down the street would you offer me a ride?
A. If I know you, yes.

11) What is your favorite sport?
A. Sleeping. Walking's a close second.

12) Do you have a Negative or Optimistic attitude?
A. Depends on the time of day and how well my writing's going.

13) What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me?
A. Try not to fart.

14) Worst thing to ever happen to you?
A.My mother dropped dead when I was eight and she was 42.

15) Tell me one weird fact about you.
A. Define "weird".

16) Do you have any pets?
A. I have a dachshund and by default, my son's corn snake.

17) What if I showed up at your house unexpectedly?
A. I'd hope the bathroom was clean.

18) What was your first impression of me? (hmmm...careful!)
A. Intelligent. After all, you're reading my blog.

19) Do you think clowns are cute or scary?
A. Depends on the clown.

20) If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be?
A. Longer legs.

21) Would you be my crime partner or my conscience?
A. Depends on the crime, but usually, conscience.

22) What color eyes do you have?
A. Green.

23) Ever been arrested?
A. Nope.

24) Bottle or can soda?
A. Neither. I don't drink soda. Once in a blue moon I'll have a natural gingerale for indigestion. It comes in a bottle.

25) If you won $10,000 today, what would you do with it?
A. Invest it.

What happened to 26?
A. Purple.

27) What's your favorite place to hang at?
A. Maude's Downtown.

28) Do you believe in ghosts?
A. No.

29) Favorite thing to do in your spare time?
A. Read.

30) Do you swear a lot?
A. Too much.

31) Biggest pet peeve?
A. Room air fresheners in hotels.

32) In one word, how would you describe yourself?
A. Fantastic.

33) Do you believe/appreciate romance?
A. Absolutely.

35) Do you believe in God?
A. Yes.

36) Will you repost this so I can fill it out and do the same for you?
A. Done.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I'll be chatting live this Sunday, February 10, from 2 to 2:30 EST at the Yahoo Group, World Romance Readers.

Come by and chat with us!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I really should be out running errands, but I'm enjoying too much sitting on my back porch on a cloudless, 83F (28C) day, watching the gusty winds sway the trees in the back yard and make the wind chimes sing.

Days like this don't happen that often. They're meant to be enjoyed. And here's one way to enjoy them:

Monday, February 04, 2008

I have an appointment this afternoon to join another member of our library foundation board at a framing shop. I’ve served on the Alachua County (Florida) Library District Foundation board for years, and our purpose is to raise one million dollars for our library endowment fund.

So why am I going to a frame shop? Because one of my tasks on the board was to oversee renovation of our meeting room at the Headquarters Library. The space was industrial and utilitarian, and what we wanted was a board room–a place that made people feel when they walked in that it was more than functional, it was attractive. Attractive rooms make people more relaxed, and we hope that translates into not only a nice meeting space for us, but also a room that will help potential donors see our organization as successful and worthy of bequests.

At the frame shop I’ll have to weigh in with my opinion on matting, framing the art for our board room, the lighting, the colors in the board room, etc. These details make the difference between something that makes someone respond positively, and something that jars their sensibilities.

This doesn’t come naturally to me, in decorating or in writing. At home, I’d hire a professional. In my writing, I write myself notes. I can be pounding away at a tense scene full of luscious dialog and I’ll have to stop and write in brackets [SOUNDS! SMELLS! SIGHT!] to remind myself to go back and fill in the details that make a scene work.

See, I know what it looks like in my head. You, the reader, may not. Not until I add all the little things that make a scene well rounded, that contribute to your understanding of who the characters are and what’s motivating them.

This is also useful when you don’t want to interrupt the flow of the story with details that absolutely, positively can be filled in later. I do this most with clothing. Unless there’s a pivotal plot point revolving around a piece of clothing (like the neckerchief that hides the lack of an “Adam’s apple” in a cross-dressing story), I can go back and fill it in later. So my first rough draft has things like “She studied her [BALL GOWN] in the mirror while debating whether or not to wear the [JEWELRY, SHAWL?] and thought about what she had say to him tonight…”

Clearly, what matters here in the big picture is what she’s going to say to him tonight. But the details! The reader wants to know what she’s wearing, and it makes a difference. Is it demure? Sexy? Finely tailored or hastily altered? All of these details make a difference, but you don’t necessarily need to agonize over them right away–you can revisit them later.

It’s not the devil in the details, it’s the beauty of your writing. If there’s a devil in this mix, it’s allowing yourself to get slowed down by the details. Just remember to go back and revisit them, and the details will help the reader respond positively to your story,