Monday, August 27, 2012

Heritage Park, a Wedding, and a Road Trip

Trains at Heritage Park with Shelli. Read her blog all about it here!

View down the main road through Heritage Park.

At Matt and Amanda Roth's wedding!

Trevor was in the wedding party. They posed for lots of photos...things may have gotten a little silly. :)

Day 2 of our road trip, along the waterfront in downtown Kelowna! The first day we only went as far as Kinbasket Lake, just west of Golden. It was BEAUTIFUL, but there were LOTS of trains so I don't recommend it. :P I do however, recommend Chez Francois in Canmore for brunch! In the morning we leave Kelowna to go to Kent, just south of Seattle. Wish us luck crossing the boarder! :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Words Collide 2012 - Sunday

This feels so very, very long ago now! It's been a very busy week with several bloggable adventures, but I definitely want to cover Sunday of WWC, because it was just as great as Saturday.
The first panel of the day was on eBooks and included discussions on digital rights/piracy, whether or not there will be a demise of printed books, and how publishers are dealing with the changing climate and the rise of digital media. The panelists were a cross-section of all sorts of different publishing styles, and it was pretty interesting.
Next up was the EDGE book launch, which was really exciting for me, because the book I copyedited, Wildcatter by Dave Duncan was being launched with Mr. Duncan reading from the book. I snagged him at the end to get my ARC copy signed, but I don't think he was as excited to meet me as I was to meet him. :) There were other EDGE books being launched/read from, of the new ones I have Paradox Resolution by K. A. Bedford, and two anthologies - Danse Macabre and Tesseracts Sixteen - sitting on my shelf to be read.

We stayed for another live action slush - I just find them so fascinating! This panel was very no-nonsense and focused on getting through the submissions. There were some good comments, but I found that combination of people a little severe and I think if they'd read the submission I had in earlier in the weekend, they wouldn't have liked it much. :) Here's a blog post by someone who'd been in a slush reading on Saturday night, and how she felt about it...

At 1 pm we went to "How Science Fiction has Influenced Science and Technology", and it was a nice change of format. It was presented by Dr. Jason Donev, a physics instructor at the University of Calgary, so it was more of a lecture than a panel, and he had a slide show. Since I'm more of a visual learner, having that was really great for my attention span! He has a course for non-science majors which I'm going to try to take next winter - he's a good speaker, so I've added him to my wish list of profs to take classes from. (Yes, I have a list of profs who's classes are priorities. Does this make me an educational geek on top of all of the other types of geek I am? I don't know...but I do know I enjoy school! :)

Me at the presentation by Kevin J. Anderson
Photo courtesy of Christopher Chupik.

"Eleven Tips to Increase Your Writing Productivity" by Kevin J. Anderson was really interesting. He has many, many books published, and something like 50 of them are best-sellers. He's got a system where he dictates into a hand-held recorder and then has someone type up what he's written, which is handy. :) The tips were all common sense things, but it was interesting to hear them from someone for whom they clearly work - you can't argue with someone who's sold that many books! He also blogged a bit about the weekend here.

The publisher's panel had some interesting stories of how the various publishers had come to work in the industry. The publisher from a big publishing house had a lot of interesting things to say - here's a post that summarizes some of the advice she gave at another point during the weekend. It was nearing the end of a very long day, so it didn't hold my attention as much as it might otherwise. In hindsight I probably should have checked out the YA panel instead!

Lastly, we went to "The Canadian Voice in SF&F", which didn't turn out to be really what I expected. I was hoping for more discussion of specific authors to check out, whereas it was more of a theoretical discussion of concepts, which was sort of interesting, but not really what I was looking for. Although, extreme exhaustion was probably colouring my perception at that point. :)

So we took a break for dinner, and felt rejuvenated enough to come back and find out what on earth a 'dead dog party' is all about! Turns out that after a quiet start a post-con party is a lot of fun - everyone is pretty tired but not really wanting the weekend to end, and there's lots of socializing and leftover goodies from all of the other weekend parties. We met a whole gang of interesting people - including a sort-of-cousin from the same small town of Buchans in Newfoundland, who I'm sure has family who've married my family - and generally had a blast. We ended up staying until almost midnight, and really only left because I'd promised Trevor "we'll be home earlier then we were last night", which was 1 am, so we had to drag ourselves away from watching the Olympic Flame, and a massive hail and lightening storm from a hotel balcony with a bunch of people including Robert J. Sawyer and Kevin J. Anderson. How often can you say that happens in a lifetime?! (And by the way...what's up with J as a middle initial, I ask you?!)

Brittni and me at the 'dead dog party'.

I will definitely be going back to WWC next year - my only concern is that it's in a bigger hotel, and I like it small and cozy! Hopefully it doesn't get too much more crowded, and that the new hotel has chairs that don't make my bum numb. Also, it would be helpful if the con staff had shirts or badges or something that identified them as staff. Other then that, I have absolutely no complaints! Well, actually, I don't like having to choose between three different panels that are going on at once, but I suppose that's a first world problem I can live with!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

When Words Collide 2012 - Saturday

Me at WWC. Photo courtesy of Brittni Carey.

It's hard to believe that at this time last week I was hanging out with a bunch of people in a hot and crowded hotel bathroom, on the edge of a very large jacuzzi filled with ice and booze.

(Please note: I did not start this post with a reference to waking up, or to the weather.)

Saturday of WWC got off with a bang. At least for Brittni and me...the first panel we went to was a live action slush, where we both submitted pages to be read. We got there early, so I was second in the pile, and she was third. We'd stayed up late polishing and crafting, and I'd taken the previous day's slush criticisms to heart, and made my sample as short and punchy as possible. No wasted words - just action and pathos. It was a series of three vignettes showing action on three different planets in my invented galaxy, and I'm quite attached to them, which is risky when entering a live action slush. The panel was anxious to move along quickly (and every second the reader was reading my writing felt like years, and my heart was pounding so hard I thought everyone in the room could hear it!), so they only got part-way through the second one, but I got good comments about the atmosphere and setting. However, one of the publishers said that there was just a bit too much action and not enough development, which I found very ironic!

Brittni's page was next up, and not a single person on the panel stopped the reader, and then the reader ran out of words to read. And then...the panel agreed that it was excellent and that they wanted to meet the writer after the session. Which is pretty much the reader con equivalent of winning a jackpot in Vegas...every aspiring author dreams of being plucked out of obscurity by some chance of catching a publisher's undivided attention. She went up to talk to them after, and Big Publishing House Editor wants to see the rest of her now she has to finish it! This doesn't necessarily mean they'll publish it, but it gives her a leg up over the rest of the people in the slush pile. It's INCREDIBLY exciting. I think she was a bit in shock...and I was flailing a bit with excitement. We weren't really sure what to do next, so we just stayed where we were for the next panel in the same room.

It was on conflict and tension, and how to use it to move along plot and develop characters. After all the excitement of the slush panel though, it was a bit of a blur. I also slipped out at one point, when one of the authors talked about all of the nasty letters he got when, in a murder mystery series, he killed off a couple of pet dogs, and people got more worked up about that then the murders of people, and went to meet Kevin J. Anderson and get my copy of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina signed. I also got it signed by Rebecca Moesta, since she has a story in it. That was fun - Anderson's Jedi trilogy were one of my early and defining Star Wars moments, and his writing/characters have had a HUGE influence on the extended universe. They weren't busy so I was able to chat for a minute while they signed, but my highly conscientious student brain felt like I was skipping class. :)

Next up was the Psychology of Criminals and Villains, which was a bit disappointing. For one, the room was so full we had to sit on the floor at the back, which was a nice change from sitting on uncomfortable chairs, but we couldn't see the people on the panel, so it felt a bit disconnected. Also, all of the great literary villains out there, and they mostly talked about current tv show criminals, which I'm not up on, so I didn't get much out of it, except to note that generally the most interesting bad guys are the ones who actually think what they're doing is right.

Murder and Mayhem Canadian Style was was a lot of discussion on what makes a novel 'Canadian' - is it the setting, or the writer living in Canada? I think it's mostly something undefinable, but the topic seems to get a lot of mileage.

100 Years of Planetary Romance was a panel with Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta where they talked about the 'boy-meets-planet' trope of the genre. It was smaller and a bit more intimate than some of the others, which was fun.

I swear, in every class, at every con...there's that ONE person who doesn't seem to know where the line is between asking a question of the prof or panelist and getting on one's soap box. Drives me nuts...this next panel was on pitch and query - a pitch is where you verbally tell an editor or publisher about your work, and a query is a written submission summarizing your work (although I had to ask someone for that clarification later in the day, since that wasn't actually explained at the panel!). Mostly it was about the do's and don'ts of writing a query - basically, use your common sense, and check the publisher's submission guidelines. So near the end of this panel, 'know-it-all-grumpy-middle-aged-man' rambles on about something, gets up, literally chucks his business card at each member of the panel like he's throwing frisbees, and then goes and stands beside the door for the last five or ten minutes of the session. Weird, hey? Good way to get your card noticed - bad way to actually get a contact!

The last panel we went to on Saturday afternoon was Kevin J. Anderson's popcorn theory of success, which is basically to not pop one kernel at a time, but put a whole bunch out in the pot at once and eventually, odds are, something will start popping and the whole batch will take off. He talked about how he was writing something like six projects all at once back when his writing career first took off, and now he has 115 published novels, and 50 of those were best-sellers. Can't argue with those kind of numbers!

Finally we  had a break for supper, so we went to Boston Pizza with Trevor, and it was nice to have some downtime and sit on something other than an uncomfortable hotel chair! Then we headed back for the Aurora Award ceremony - Canadian science fiction awards. The chair of the conference won an award for the con, and the publisher I do some slush reading for had an author of a short story in one of his anthologies win an award. Robert J. Sawyer won the big one for his most recent novel, which was sort of a given, because that man WINS ALL THE AWARDS! :)

Then we went to a panel called 'Im A Writier', the title of which physically made me twitch when I first read it on the schedule. It took me a minute to realize that it was a deliberate typo. Whew... The topic was essentially how to get kids interested in reading and good grammar without scaring them off because of all of the 'rules'. There were a wide range of opinions and backgrounds on the panel, so it was really interesting.

The last panel of the night for us was Wilderness Survival for Writers, hosted by two sisters. They're both writers - one fiction and one non-fiction, and the one who writes non-fiction is also a very experienced outdoors-woman, including being a park ranger and mountain hiker and survivalist. Unfortunately it was after 9 pm by this point, after a very long and packed day, so I did drift in and out, but she had some fascinating stories.

Then it was party time. We were only going to go for a little bit, but I think it was 1 am before we finally got home... :)

Anything worth doing is worth doing again. Support alternate history.
Photo courtesy of Brittni Carey.

First we went to the EDGE Publishing party, since that's where we have the most connections. They had a suite on the top floor of the hotel, and it was packed. We went in to the bathroom for the 'bar' and ended up staying in there for ages, talking to all kinds of interesting people. I had a panicked moment when I realized I'd lost all of my business cards, but thankfully they were just sitting on the chair where I'd been earlier...whew! After a while there we went to the Calgary Steampunk Assemblage party down the hall, where they offered us absinthe. I was quite disappointed that I was driving and had to decline, because chasing the green fairy is one of those things that great literary characters should do. :) Brittni tried it though, but couldn't finish one serving because it was so strongly flavoured. We hung out for a while and admired the costumes and art, and talked to more interesting people, and then wandered back to EDGE, just to say goodbye and then go.

And then we were there for another couple of hours after that before we finally left, after making sure to leave our mark by writing on the post-it notes on the walls. There were three topical prompts and lots of space for writing - it was a really fun party game for a group of word people.

hehe...what a party! :)

I had such a blast...I'm usually quite a bit of an introvert, but either I'm growing out of that, or else people who love books as much as I do are much easier to talk to than co-workers or clients at a law firm, because I loved every minute of chatting and meeting new people. Interesting.... :) Sunday was just as much fun...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When Words Collide 2012 - Friday

The first annual When Words Collide, a reader con, happened in Calgary last summer. I only blogged about it briefly, but it was a life-changing experience! It really solidified my desire to go back to school, as well as my desire to get involved in the publishing industry in a capacity other than a wanna-be writer, and propelled me in to getting started on launching my freelance copyediting business.

This year I'm in a completely different position; I'm totally self-employed with business cards to hand out, I'm LOVING being a full-time student, and my first major copyediting project has been published. I was really excited for this year's WWC, and it did not disappoint! My friend Brittni, who I went with last year, came down again, and we had a couple of days of adventure before the con started (cheap ribs, Firefly, Shakespeare in the Park...) but Friday noon found us checking in at registration as early as we could.

The very first thing we did (well, after scoping out all the books for sale in the dealer's room!) was go to a 'live action slush' panel. This is kind of like America's Got Talent - the Writer Version. Writers anonymously submit the first page of their novel or short story, a reader reads them out loud, and a panel of editors/publishers judge them. As soon as one of the judges hears something they don't like, they put up a hand, and as soon as the majority have their hands up, the reader stops, and the panel gives feedback about the writing. It's VERY educational. Since I read slush for a local publisher, I'm interested to hear what other people judge it on. The reader for that particular one was Jack Whyte, who could read the stock report and make it sound amazing, which gave those submissions something of an unfair advantage. :)

Next we went to "The Role of the Academic Library in Relation to Genre Fiction" which was about the Gibson Collection held by the University of Calgary, where I'm a student. I'm interested in doing a research project on it, so I talked to the librarian after, and she offered me a tour! I'm really excited about that.

After that we crammed into a tiny hotel suite to hear two editors talk about "Building Enduring Characters: Playing in the Victorian Sandbox". They've edited three anthologies of Sherlock Holmes stories together, and Brittni and I noticed later that they actually reminded us quite a bit of Holmes and Watson in their character and interactions, which was fascinating. Were they drawn to the Holmes genre because of an already existing dynamic, or did the dynamic develop over years of working together? Very interesting! :)

Robert J. Sawyer gave a presentation on "Mastering Point of View", which was great, as pretty much everything he does is. The man is a genius. And he wins ALL THE AWARDS. But by that point I was tired and hungry, so I don't remember much about it! :P There weren't any panels at 5pm that we wanted to go to, so we found a bench and ate our lunch, and then I felt better.

The next panel was on "Humour in Fiction" and I remember laughing tons. It was moderated by a writer who used to do stand up comedy, and it included an archaeologist who writes romances, a fantasy writer, and Dave Duncan, who writes science fiction and fantasy, and who's most recent sci fi work I just copyedited. They told funny stories and talked about funny situations they put characters in, and how you can use humour as a tool to accomplish various things in a story. It was highly entertaining.

Finally there were the keynote addresses by four authors, an editor for a big publishing house, and a local filk writer. One of the authors, Rebecca Moesta, talked about a subject near and dear to my heart, which is how errors manage to make it into published books despite the gauntlet of professionals they go through on the way to print. There were a lot of different people speaking on a lot of different topics, and by the time they were done, I was fading in and out and was ready for bed. But we went home and did a little work so that we would have some things polished for the live action slush panel first thing on Saturday morning....

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

I've found a lot of things this week!

It's been a busy week - too busy for just one topic! It was a long weekend here, and since I'm on holidays from school, it was a really long weekend! :)

On Friday my friend Shelli and I made a road trip to Nanton, Fort MacLeod, and Lethbridge and back, which was super fun. We left around 9 am, were in Nanton about an hour later and spend an hour poking around antique shops. There was the one I could probably just live in - everything was SO ORGANIZED. It made my OCD heart very happy, and it was huge - it just kept leading into room after room after room. In Fort MacLeod we checked out the Salvation Army, and were going to visit the Fort, but we decided it was starting to feel like lunchtime, so we headed on to Lethbridge.

I was pretty proud of myself for remembering my way to the Five Guys location without getting us lost, and we had what was probably the best burger I've ever eaten. I ate it so fast I sat there for a second after looking at my empty hands wondering where my burger went! I subsequently found out that there are two locations in south Calgary, so I'll definitely be eating at one again. Then we hit up Bulk Barn for some candy - Bulk Barn is amazing. And I just this minute found out that there actually is one in NE Calgary, which I did not know. (Sensing a trip to the NE in the near future...)

Then we went to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens. I'd say this is a little-known Lethbridge gem of a place. The history of it goes back to the Second World War, when Japanese-Canadians were rather forcibly removed from coastal areas over fears that they would collaborate with Japan in the war. Many of them were removed to internment camps, and a large number were sent to southern Alberta to work on sugar beet farms. After the war, many stayed in Alberta and built new lives. We also went to Nakagama's Japanese store, which was started by a Nakagama after the war, and is still run by the Nakagama family. It's a neat little place, with a historical plaque out in front.

Japanese Gardens

We hit up a few junky type stores and were back on the road to Calgary and home again in time for (late) supper! What a day - lots of fun! I'm so blessed to have the time to play a bit this summer. You can read Shelli's side of the story here...

On Saturday morning I had my annual blood test (my mom has thyroid issues and my dad has cholesterol issues so I get checked every year) and it went pretty well. I tend to come close to fainting every time, but this year I was well prepared with snacks and beverages, so there was no near-fainting experience, but my arm was unusually sore, so I didn't do much for the rest of the day. Trevor and I watched the first Men in Black, which I really enjoyed. I'd forgotten how classic it is, and seeing it after seeing some of the back story in MiB 3, it had some funnier moments.

Then on Sunday morning I made up for not feeling faint on Saturday. :) While I was showering I took off the tape and cotton ball over the needle site, and THERE WAS SO MUCH DRIED BLOOD. And it was so very unexpected. And so I totally fainted for the first time in years. When I was a kid I used to faint fairly regularly, but it's been a long time and I'd forgotten how HIGHLY unpleasant it is. I had to miss church, which made me really sad, because Trevor was playing, and it's the last time until October, and they were doing a new Matt Maher song, and I was really excited about it. But the last time I fainted was actually at church about 12 years ago, and I'm not really interested in a repeat. :) (It was the choir Christmas cantata, and the loft was hot and stuffy, and I was probably dehydrated, and definitely oxygen-deprived!) So Sunday was even more of a day of rest then it usually is! (Don't worry Mom, I'm fine now!)

Monday Trevor and I went to the range with Dad, which was fun. It was pretty quiet there, and we got to try Dad's new Beretta. (It's the black on at the top left.) My favourite is still the .22 though - the other two have too much recoil and are too heavy - more like work then fun! Something interesting I noticed though is that now that I'm not so stressed from working all the time, I didn't find shooting as stress-relieving as I normally do! Ironic, hey? :)

Guns with trigger locks, in a locked case. Strict gun laws!

Then today we had a bit of a rainy day adventure in Chinatown - it was pouring and humid like Florida - and we ended up buying umbrellas. Of course by the time we got the umbrellas and got outside we were only out in the rain for about 10 minutes before it stopped, but I have a lovely new lilac umbrella! And the whole point of the trip to Chinatown was for me to buy a Chinese paper parasol to steampunk, and that was highly successful. Only $5! So much to steampunk, so little time before school starts again...

Now I'm preparing myself for the When Words Collide reader con in Calgary this weekend. Last year when I went I was just dipping my toes into the world of publishing, and now I'm a freelance copyeditor with a published book to my credit! Wildcatter by Dave Duncan is being launched at the conference, and my name is in the cover! It's definitely an 'adult' book, but it's fun and it's taken me a LONG way from where I was this time a year ago. And I've emailed out my CV to a half a dozen publishers I'd like to make contact with this weekend - I'm just terrified that I might have made some hideous typo in my CV that would tank my career forever... So stay tuned for tales from WWC, coming next Tuesday!