Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ergonomic cat

As you may recall, my 'writing room' has a HAG Capisco chair, which is super-ergonomic and ... has no provision for a lap.  Especially if I'm sitting in it backwards, which I do a lot.
Since the cat loves my writing sessions because I remain sitting for a couple of hours at a time, furnishing her with a lap, I wondered how she would cope.
She found a way.

In other non-writing news, I have successfully made apple peeling jelly, from this recipe here! I reduced the sugar and added a grated quince (from my brother's trees) for more pectin, and some ginger slices, not being a cinnamon fan.  
I don't know that I'll do this a lot, but I feel fairly virtuous about it, despite the extra electricity use.  And I can still compost the peels & cores afterwards.

You may have noticed, faithful reader(s), that I haven't said much about nature's goddamn bounty this fall. This is because something like 80% of the Spartan and Golden Delicious apples have Gone Away to be made into cider. So you may hear some groaning when bottling time arrives. 

In actual writing news, I have received 6 pages of editorial comments on the Dread Synopsis, which will require substantial revision (naturally). It seems I went too far on the expansion of historical scope / events / characters. Plus need to clarify motivations, provide closure to plot threads, etc. My agent includes this observation, which I found very interesting, so I share it with you:
As I read over this synopsis and thought about what kind of book succeeds I realized that what editors really want is a novel that feels like it has scope, but which isn't actually too complicated in plot because too much complexity undercuts the suspense and pacing.
There you are, actual writing advice. Now I need to take it into the revision.

Monday, November 21, 2011

WFC 2011 panels

 While I'm stuck in the kitchen waiting for the apple peeling jelly to cook down to jelly consistency, why don't I give you a few pictures from the sf-con side of WFC?
This is the last panel I attended, and a good one, too. Time Goggles: Modern perspectives and period literature. Emma Bull moderated, with panelists Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Bradford Lyau, and Marie Brennan.
Some very good discussion of how to honestly portray period attitudes without losing reader sympathy--and that tightrope between giving a character modern-day sensibilities and appearing to condone repellent practices like slavery.

 Another good one - The Not-So-Fair Folk, a discussion of the bad fae, fairies as fearsome rather than charming or benign.
Delia Sherman has something to say about this, as Mercedes Yardley listens.

Woo! Thanks to Mercedes linking it, I discover that there's a podcast of this panel on the Filipino Bibliophile.
 Jenny Blackford and Patrick Rothfuss were the other panelists. I realise that now I'll have to find my copy of Dreaming Again and re-read Jenny's story.

(Excuse me here, as the jelly seems to have reached the required temperature. Back soon.)
 With Holly Black as moderator. She had some great facial expressions as she guided the discussion or prodded the panelists, and I wish I'd caught one of the sly ones, but this will have to do as a hint.

 I might have skipped I Believe That Children Are the Future, because I've been to a few panels on juvenile and YA fantasy recently, but I couldn't resist the lineup. In any case, the discussion veered rapidly to trends in YA fantasy, particularly paranormal romance and The Book That Must Not Be Named.

Here, Tamora Pierce speculates on the mechanics of sex with the undead/dead.
 And here, Cindy Pon and Karen Healey react to those speculations.

It was a pretty amusing panel, and Tamora Pierce was gracious enough to stop in the hallway and sign books (she hadn't been at the Friday night autograph session).
Because I am, apparently, not at all on the ball, I took no photos at The Coral Sword: material culture of undersea civilizations, with panelist Sharon Mock (fellow VPer), or at But Can You Take Him Home to Mother: paranormal romance, with panelist Sandra Wickham (fellow SF-Canada).
But! Here is a pic of From Elfland to Poughkeepsie: should fantasy sound like fantasy? with Terri-Lynne Defino, Susan Forest, Ellen Klages, Shawna McCarthy and Ellen Kushner as moderator. How's that for star power?

Obviously, only to be outdone by Neil Gaiman, taking the podium during Opening Ceremonies. 
This is as close as I got to the Neil. The lineup for signings for him was immensely long, and so was the second signing added to make up for those who missed out the first time. The man must have signing muscles of iron by now.
This last pic here is why I missed about half the panels I'd put arrows next to--all the hanging out with VPers & associates.
I've forgotten the name of this restaurant, which I guess is a chain in the States? Any road, it's the chain where you can have Asian-fusion food next to the butt-end of a giant concrete horse. I hope sincerely that's an identifying feature.

I got back to the site in time to catch part of Out From Under the Bed: Monster as Protagonist, and managed to stay awake for How to Survive the Coming Zombie War (conclusion: I am pathetically unprepared and am doomed).

Panels I missed because of hanging out with people and eating food or scheduling difficulties (ie need for sleep):
The Role of Class in Fantasy and Horror
The Successful Misfit as a Theme in Fantasy
Founders of Steampunk
William Hope Hodgson's Nautical Horrors
Who Wants to Live Forever? Immortals
Don't Open That Door! The role of stupidity in genre fiction

On the whole, I think this was the best lineup of panels of the World Fantasy Conventions I've attended. Plus, that really annoying moderator whose name I've forgotten wasn't there.

because it is Nanowrimo

An excerpt from Maenads at Band Camp, which, if I finish it and have the nerve to attempt the YA Paranormal market, will probably go out with one of those portentous one-word titles instead. I'm favouring Muse.

This is about midway, from the pov of the Sensible Girl, Cassia:

I slid down the grassy overhang, and landed with a sandy thump on the narrow beach. Good thing they'd picked the sand beach, instead of the pebbled boat lauch. And there they were, all seven of the Parthenoi, some standing with arms crossed, some cross-legged or kneeling on the sand. I couldn't tell which was which in the moonlight, with all their hair turned black and silver.
"Okay," I said. "I came. And I didn't tell anyone I was coming. But I'm telling you now, I'm going to use my own judgement about what I tell Kay. I'm not keeping secrets from her."
"That is well." Oleia's voice. "She may believe what she hears from you."
"You're going to tell me something that's hard to believe, right?" I wasn't too sure what was still hard to believe, if the last few days were believable. They happened, I told myself. That means you believe them. Otherwise you can't trust anything.
"Hard for some. Your friend will not wish to believe."
I'd read about 'her heart sank'. Now I knew what it felt like. More in my stomach than heart, but I guess that doesn't sound as dramatic. "This is about Adrian."
"What have you guessed?"
"Uh-uh." I shook my head. "No. I know how a cold reading works. You have to tell me what's going on, you don't get to let me fill it in while you pretend you knew all along. That's what con artists and fake mediums do, and I'm not going to fall for it."
A sigh rippled across them, starting with Oleia and ending with the two who were kneeling.
Oleia seemed to hesitate, which was not what I was used to from her. "You have seen what happens when we sing. When Adrian plays."
"No kidding. And I've seen that Dubois and Sawchuk don't see what happens. Cute trick."
"Do you know what Parthenoi means?"
Jazz had told me, after he'd googled it in town. "Virgins. So?"
"It is a name of--courtesy for the dancers of Dionysus. The Maenads."
I bit my tongue and managed not to say 'the what?' Maenads was the spelling my brain came up with after a second. The first thing I remembered was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, with Bacchus and the wild girls making vines spring up in freed Narnia. But C. S. Lewis hadn't written the real maenads and bacchanalia, not in a kid's book, not by a long way. Hadn't Lucy said she'd have been afraid of them if Aslan hadn't been there? What about the real (mythical) maenads? Come on, brain, you read a book of Greek myths when you were thirteen...
Dionysus, the god of wine and madness. The bacchanalia, a mad dance and orgy, which sounded like fun (a ceilidh?) until you read about mad women chasing animals and tearing them apart with their bare hands. Mad women who demanded that Orpheus play his lyre for them. But Orpheus was mourning for what's-her-name and refused. So the Maenads tore him apart, and his head floated down the river, singing...
I shivered, and it wasn't just the cold wind off the water. "The Maenads who murdered Orpheus."
One of the sitting girls spoke. "Not murdered. The son of a god is not so easily dealt with."
There were seven of them, and one of me. I knew the ground better, and my night sight was pretty good, but--better to stand and face them. "You got me to break bounds so you could test my trivia knowledge of Myths and Legends of the Ancient World?"
"Not ancient," said Oreia, without a smile or sneer. "Now. We are the Maenads, we pursue Orpheus down the millennia, but the story is not as you have learnt it."
I crossed my arms, partly for warmth and partly to look bigger and more businesslike. "No kidding. What's your version?"
The sitting girl spoke again. "She is not ready to hear. Let us go." They swivelled their heads all together as if they had practiced for hours, and the seated ones flowed smoothly to standing, so they were all poised to leap up the bank and run into the night.
"Wait," I said. "Is this about Kayley? Is she in some kind of danger?"
They turned their faces toward me, all together, and the moon lit their eyes to white. "She s always in danger. In every life."
"Wait, every life? You mean, reincarnation?" I tried to remember. Did the ancient Greeks even believe in reincarnation? Didn't all their dead end up as ghosts in Hades, the most boring afterlife ever? "No, forget that. Is Kayley in danger now? Here and now, at Forbidden Lake, this summer? No double-talk, just tell me yes or no."
The moonlight cut Oleia's face into cold stone, a statue that didn't understand pity or fear. "Yes. She is in danger."
That book of myths had taught me one thing:  gods and other immortals were double-talking, double-dealing bastards, worse than lawyers about hidden clauses, fine print, and reading between the lines. "Be specific."
"If she continues on her present path, she will be dead before the week is out."

Monday, November 14, 2011

my WFC tribe

Not much wordage here, just some pictures, valued for their associations rather than their composition or artistry.
Perhaps the coolest thing about WFC2011 was the number of VPXers who were there. It made me realise how much I missed everyone. Following LJs really isn't the same, though maybe if I used twitter? Nah.
Let's see if I can remember who all was there from VPX. Zak and Sharon, Terri and her stalwart husband, Dave, Bart, Nikki, Elise, Erin and Mur--who have I forgotten? Myself? And a bunch of pre- and post-Xers, whom I will not attempt to name without reference materials handy.

 Thanks to everyone else being on twitter or texting, and to Zak and Sharon's hospitality, we managed a VPXetc. room party and a VP afternoon lawn party.
Yay us!

Room party pics:
Bart, about to unveil some amazing chocolate, and Nikki, relaxing.
They are as far as possible from the creepy girl-with-birdcage print, which is why they are relaxed.
 Dave Thompson, the voice of, did not on this occasion fall through the mirror to another world.
But it was a near thing.

 PNH was lively, providing an audio-tour through Great Moments of Making Light and filks of British fandom.
He and Elise make great tour guides of fannish history. I hear there was an impromptu concert another night, but I had puppied out and fallen asleep hours before.

 However I did not miss the music the next day, during the VPetc. afternoon lawn party, at the tables outside the con suite. Someone had provided a ukulele, which lured PNH over.

There was also, nearby, a very scenic and photogenic gazebo, causing a series of wedding-type photos. But I'll leave that for next time, and finish up with another group shot.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


 Until recent years, I haven't often stayed in hotels, certainly not in upscale ones. I still harbour a fearful conviction that staying in hotels and taking taxis is the Road to Financial Ruin, while sleeping on the couches of friends and standing in the rain for city busses is the Path of Financial Virtue. Perhaps as a result, the decor in hotels tends to make  me uneasy. The hotel where VCon was held featured carpets with a raised vinework that seemed likely to creep up and entangle one in one's sleep.

 World Fantasy was in San Diego this year, in a hotel complex that was very pretty, much too big and spread out, and both bewildering and frustrating to navigate. I'm fortunate in not having mobility issues yet, but for those who did, I can see that getting past the random steps and gates and steep narrow ramps would range from exasperating to outright dangerous.
The hotel was originally three or four hotels, I gather, which accounted for the disparity in height, accessibility, decor and theme. I was on the 9th floor of um, Park Tower? something like that.
A pleasant room with two big comfy beds and an unnerving colour print of a little girl with ancient eyes, wearing 19th c. clothing and holding a birdcage in which she doubtless trapped the souls of unwary guests.
 The view was impressive. Here is my arty shot of the balcony in the early morning, through the gauze curtains.
This fake mist was the only mist to be found. The weather was clear and warm and dry, only a bit chilly at night. I washed a couple of shirts and hung them on the balcony chairs, where they dried nicely.

 I mentioned a diversity of decor? I didn't get any pics of the rose gardens (rose pictures I have too many of already) but here's a tropical bit of garden that went with the palm trees. Unlike the scrubby little palm trees that cling to life in Victoria, those in San Diego are great big hairy things.
And here is a tiki - just for you!

Lots of green space and lawns and pathways, but interrupted by many white iron fences and gates. Some attendees were reminded of The Village, and expected Rover to come wallowing and bouncing along in pursuit of some poor escapee.

It's a good thing that along with relative able-bodiedness I have no fear of heights. This is the view out the front door of the hotel room. All the rooms in this building were reached by an exterior walkway. You could take the elevator or walk up the exterior stairs (I did the latter, to make up for not bicycling--discovered that after the 7th floor I do start to feel a touch vertiginous and have to watch my step), but either way you then walked along the outside of the building to reach your room.
Nice view though.

I admit, this post is mostly an excuse to put up some photos. Next post will be about people and panels. Probably. Unless I'm distracted by something.

Oh, yes, and I'm doing Nanowrimo again, with the usual degree of application and success. So I'll go and shove a couple hundred words into its gaping maw now.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

chronological conventions

 Before I babble on about World Fantasy, I must not forget that I owe you a VCon post, which is this one here.
On your left, a mandatory pic of someone in costume kindly posing for me. In the hallway outside the dealers' room were Ghostbusters with an inflatable Sta-Puft marshmallow man, with which one could be photographed, and Imperial Stormtroopers with a big painted backdrop, ditto.
A number of anime-cosplay freelancers, but a surprising lack of vampires, sparkly or trad.
Larry Niven was the Guest of Honour, but the autograph session was Friday afternoon, and most people missed it. I didn't even find it on the schedule.
 I spent most of my time in the dealers' room, next to Mark, hanging out at the SF-Canada table, which I was overseeing. This year we had no wall behind us, so the banner didn't get used--the table behind us had a nice pennon arrangement that I think I may swipe the idea of, and paint up something that will fit in smaller spaces. Also I want to paint or print up an SFC logo to fit that blank space between the red tablecloths.
Other SFC members took shifts at the table, so I got in some panels and some wandering of my own. Thanks to Casey Wolf, Donna Farley, Eileen and Patrick Kernaghan (I've forgotten someone--must find my notes).
All three copies of my self-published 3-Day Novel collection, Threefold, were sold, so woohoo! All to people who know me, but it's a small world.
I even ended up on a panel! I hauled a half-dozen people from the SFC party to an 11 pm panel (really, yes, pm) on 'Are You Prepared to Be Published', about what publishers wish writers knew, as an act of mercy to the panelists, Brian Hades of Edge, and Ian Alexander Martin of Atomic Fez, so that they wouldn't be alone with the hypothetical desperate unpublished insomniac writers (the sort who use more than one adjective in a row). And they called me up to represent writers (or be moderator?) on the strength of my four e-stories and having an agent.
Mark too was unexpectedly on a panel, filling in as swordsmanship historian for Devon Boorman, who couldn't attend.
One of the perks of a trip to Vancouver is a chance to visit with the boy and the girl. Chris and Shannon were about to leave for a camping trip, but hung on long enough to go out for dinner at a rather good Asian vegetarian place within walking distance.
I forced baked goods onto them before they escaped.

Next, WFC 2011!