illogiCon: SF&F in the Research Triangle


(Professor Schrodington, the illogiCon mascot.)

The illogiCon science fiction and fantasy convention starts tomorrow! I’m going — are you? If so, stop in and see me …

Friday:

  • 7 p.m. in the Cameron Room — Nerd Music Unplugged, with Madison “Metricula” Roberts
  • 9 p.m. in the Smith Room — “Hell Week” Panel, a look at the Space Shuttle disasters
  • 10 p.m. in the Crescent Room — Drop-in Music and Filk Circle

Saturday:

  • 11 a.m. in the Cameron Room — “Famous First Words” Panel, a look at story & novel beginnings
  • 12 p.m. in the Cameron Room — “Famous Last Words” Panel, a look at story & novel endings
  • 1 p.m. in the Crescent Room — Reading … possibly something from my forthcoming novel?
  • 2 p.m. in the Reynolds Room — Baen Books Traveling Road Show
  • 4 p.m. in the Smith Room — “Live Action Slush” Panel, in which we consider the story openings of brave volunteers
  • (Tentative) 10 p.m. in the Crescent Room — Open Filk

illogiCon includes a number of unique events, including the illogiCon Brewmaster Competition, which has a “Steampunk” theme for 2017. I’m honored that they chose my tune, “Another Romulan Ale,” as the competition’s theme song!

Hope to see you there!

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Dragon Con Approacheth!

Over Labor Day weekend I’ll be in Atlanta, Georgia, with 70 or 80 thousand of my closest friends at the Dragon Con science fiction and fantasy convention. The Author Guest of Honor is Jim Butcher, the Artist GOH is Stephan Martiniere, and many of my friends are also guests, attending professionals and performers at the convention.

I’m giving a solo concert (4:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon — add it to your schedule now) and participating in a number of other events. If you’re there, I hope I get to see you!

Here’s a rundown of all my events:

Friday

  • 4:00 p.m. — Art Show “Concert-that’s-not-a-concert” — playing and singing for the art patrons
  • 7:00 p.m. — Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow — I’ll be narrating a live-action “fairytale rant” version of “The Little Mermaid,” and performing one of my filk songs — hosted by Alethea Kontis, with Leanna Renee Hieber, Mari Mancusi, E.C. Meyers, and special musical guest S.J. Tucker — always a fun time!

Saturday

  • 2:30 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show and Prize Patrol — with a whole cadre of Baen authors!
  • 4:00 p.m. — Panel, “Short or Long? How Do You Know?” — on short stories versus novels, with Sharon Ahern, Jaym Gates, Mike Resnick, Anne Sowards, Fran Wilde, and Timothy Zahn

Sunday

  • 10:00 a.m. — “Ecumenifilk” — I’m hosting a session of music focused on spiritual themes
  • 11:30 a.m. — Baen Books information and author signing booth, in association with The Missing Volume bookstore — I’ll be stationed there (Booth 1301 in Americas Mart Building 2) until 2:00 p.m.
  • 2:30 p.m. — Decisions, decisions … attend the first-ever Dragon Awards, or the Doubleclicks’ concert? Anyone have a Time Turner I can borrow?
  • 4:00 p.m. — Dragon Con Filk Music Track Solo Concert — come hear songs from my albums Distorted Vision and Truths and Lies and Make-Believe, as well as several new songs

Monday

  • 1:00 p.m. — Another turn at the Baen Books information and author signing booth, this time until 4:00 p.m.

At off hours, you might find me attending concerts by my musical friends, chatting with Baen Barflies in Barfly Central, hanging out in the bar with my writerly friends — or quite probably wandering around looking dazed. Be sure to stop and say hello if you get the chance!

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Music and More at ConGregate

This weekend is the ConGregate science fiction and fantasy convention in High Point, North Carolina. The Author Guest of Honor is Steven Barnes, the Artist GOH is Lindsey Look, the Special Writer Guest is my friend A.J. Hartley, and the Special Musical Guests are the incomparable Valentine Wolfe.

Even though I’m not the Master of Ceremonies at this convention, and don’t have any readings or panel discussions on my schedule, I’m going to be fairly busy — and doing a lot of music!

Friday

  • 5:30 p.m. — Concert
  • 10:30 p.m. — “Campfire Songs” — a fannish singalong!

Saturday

  • 2:00 p.m. — “Songs and S’mores” — kid-friendly songs and yes, I understand actual s’mores will be served
  • 4:00 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show and Prize Patrol — see what new releases Baen has coming out, and possibly score a free book!
  • 8:00 p.m. — “Confronting the Publishing Gatekeeper” Workshop — known at other conventions as “Face-to-Face with the Slushmaster General”
  • 9:30 p.m. — “Camp ConGregate: the Final Jam” — a musical roundtable “from filk to gothic and everything in between”

Sunday

  • 9:00 a.m. — Nondenominational Prayer (and Praise) Service
  • 11:00 a.m. — Filking Workshop

I was pleased to be part of the first ConGregate two years ago, and it’s gotten better every year. I expect the trend to continue, and I’ll do my best to help ConGregate be its best!

Hope to see you there!

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Mastering the Ceremonies at LibertyCon

I’m on the road again today, this time to the 29th annual LibertyCon science fiction and fantasy convention! The Author Guest of Honor is Jonathan Maberry, the Artist GOH is Todd Lockwood, the Science GOH is Dr. Ben Davis, and the Special GOH is artist Melissa Gay.

If it’s not obvious from the title, I’m the Master of Ceremonies for this convention. Here’s what I’ll be doing:

Friday

  • 1:00 p.m. — Face to Face Critiques from the Slushmaster General
  • 4:00 p.m. — Reading
  • 5:00 p.m. — Opening Ceremonies
  • 9:00 p.m. — Concert

Saturday

  • 10:00 a.m. — Autograph Session (with GOH Jonathan Maberry and Chuck Gannon)
  • 12:00 noon — Horror-themed Luncheon Banquet and Guest of Honor Speeches
  • 2:00 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show and Prize Patrol
  • 10:00 p.m. — Filk Sing!

Sunday

  • 10:00 a.m. — Kaffeeklatsch
  • 2:00 p.m. — Panel, “Changes in the World of Publishing”

My two big ceremonies to master are, of course, the Opening Ceremonies today and the Luncheon tomorrow. I will make the rounds of some other panels and events, though, and expect to make an appearance at the Closing Ceremonies on Sunday as well!

Let’s have some fun!

___
Shameless plug: I brought many copies of Distorted Vision and Truths and Lies and Make-Believe that I’d love to get rid of, plus a few other goodies as well. Flag me down if you want something!

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This Weekend’s Convention: Publishers and Aliens

I’m on the road again today, this time to the ConCarolinas science fiction and fantasy convention. The Author Guest of Honor is Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, the Media GOH is Nana Visitor of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Artist GOH is Ursula Vernon, and many of my writing and music friends will also be there!


(Love this badge logo from the 2010 ConCarolinas, by Bob Snare.)

My schedule is busy, and heavily weighted toward the literary end of things. The only individual event I have is my “real-time story submission” workshop on Saturday afternoon; I don’t have any readings or signings or concerts or the like. Here’s how the weekend stacks up for me:

Friday

  • 7:00 p.m. — Panel, “Designing the Reasonable Alien” — It’s been said that, because sentient aliens can never be fully “knowable,” they can only be written as metaphors of human characters or conditions. But hard science fiction accepts concepts that are “true to, or reasonably postulated from, science as it is known at the time of writing.” So why not a “reasonable” alien? And how might one go about designing one? — with Paula S. Jordan, Jeanne Adams, Wendy S. Delmater, Stuart Jaffe, and Allen L. Wold — Carolina A/B
  • 9:30 p.m. — Filking the Night Away! — with whoever shows up — Harrisburg A

Saturday

  • 10:00 a.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show — See what new releases Baen has coming out, and possibly walk away with a free book. — with Tony Daniel, David B. Coe, and Kelly Lockhart — Concord J
  • 1:00 p.m. — Panel, “What Publishers Do” — What do publishers do? Take a quick tour through the hurricane of activity surrounding each book that gets published – editing, cover art, marketing text, categorization, hype, formatting, and more – and learn what you can do to help sell your book. — with Tony Daniel, Ronald T. Garner, John G. Hartness, Rebecca Ledford, and Edmund Schubert — Carolina A/B
  • 2:00 p.m. — Panel, “What Publishers Look For” — What do publishers look for? Specific types of characters, settings, plot lines? Does length matter? Get a better understanding of what publishers look for, and how to increase your chances of getting published. — with Edmund Schubert, Ronald T. Garner, John G. Hartness, Nicole Givens Kurtz, and Rebecca Ledford — Carolina A/B
  • 4:00 p.m. — Workshop, “Face-to-Face with the Slushmaster General” — Have you been collecting rejection slips on a science fiction or fantasy novel, but haven’t been able to figure out why? Do you have thick enough skin to take direct, honest, face-to-face critique? Bring your cover letter, the first 5 pages of your story, and your 1- or 2-page synopsis and get real-time feedback. First-come, first-served, and volunteers only! If time permits, we may discuss short fiction; however, novels will have first priority. Learn what happens to manuscripts when you send them to a publisher, and how to make yours stand out … in the right way. — Piedmont

Sunday

  • 9:00 a.m. — Nondenominational Praise & Prayer Service — Gazebo
  • 10:00 a.m. — Panel Moderator, “Sharp SF” — Once they called it hard SF – space ships and robots everywhere. Then came soft SF, explorations of alien social systems and cybernetic awareness. Nowadays we have sharp SF, a mixture of both. Let’s talk about the ways hard and soft SF have blended in the new millennium. — with Jim Bernheimer, Alexandra Duncan, Paula S. Jordan, and James Maxey — Carolina C
  • 11:00 a.m. — Panel, “Intersection of Faith and Science” — A less adversarial discussion of how much faith and science have in common. — with D.L. Leonine and James McDonald — Concord C
  • 1:00 p.m. — Panel, “Getting to Know Your Aliens and Other Non-Humans” — A writer’s approach to non-human personality. OK, you’ve designed your own fantasy or alien world, or you’ve selected a real one from NASA’s now-vast catalog, What aspects of that world, or any (likely varied) cultures that develop there, might be useful in providing insights for the design of the typical residents’ personalities? An atypical resident’s personality? — with Paula S. Jordan, Jake Bible, Wendy S. Delmater, Margaret S. McGraw, and Leigh Perry — Carolina A/B

I’m a little surprised that the only open filking appears to be the Friday night session, but maybe some of us will get together at some other time and take over a room — or the hallway! — and play a few tunes. Stop by and sing along!

Hope to see you there!

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This Weekend: RavenCon

I’m heading to Williamsburg, y’all!

I’m going to RavenCon, which is usually held in Richmond but has moved to Williamsburg for 2016. The Literary Guests of Honor are Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and the Artist Guest of Honor is Vincent Di Fate, who illustrated my Analog Science Fiction and Fact story “SEAGULLs, Jack-o-Lanterns, and Interstitial Spaces” (which, by the way, was recently translated into Chinese).

 

My schedule is a little odd this year — more workshops than panels, including my solo workshop in which intrepid volunteers let me look at the first few pages of their story submissions as if they had landed on my desk. So if you’re coming to the convention please stop in and say howdy! Here’s my schedule:

Friday:

  • 10:00 p.m. — Reading — Room J
  • 11:00 p.m. — Eye of Argon — The worst science fiction story ever written gets a reading by our brave panel as they compete to go the longest without tripping over a misspelled word or laughing uncontrollably. Audience members are also encouraged to take a chance. Can you keep a straight face, especially when the panel begins acting out the story? — with Gail Z. Martin, Peter Prellwitz, and Michael A. Ventrella — Room E

Saturday:

  • 1:00 p.m. — Writer’s Workshop, Part 1 — with Allen Wold, Darcy Wold, and Chris Kennedy –Room H
  • 4:30 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show (and Podcast) — See what new releases Baen has coming out, and possibly win a free book. — with Jim Minz, Sharon Lee, Steve Miller, Joelle Presby, and Steve White — Room 8
  • 8:00 p.m. — Workshop, “Don’t Cry When You Get Rejected” — Have you been collecting rejection slips on a science fiction or fantasy novel, but haven’t been able to figure out why? Do you have thick enough skin to take direct, honest, face-to-face critique? Bring your cover letter, the first 5 pages of your story, and your 1- or 2-page synopsis and get real-time feedback from the “Slushmaster General.” First-come, first-served, and volunteers only! If time permits, we may discuss short fiction; however, novels will have first priority. Learn what happens to manuscripts when you send them to a publisher, and how to make yours stand out … in the right way. — Room H

Sunday:

  • 11:00 a.m. — Signing

No concert slot for me at RavenCon, but there will be various open filking sessions — Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 11 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. (though I may be on my way home at that point).

Hope to see you there — or, if not, hope you have a great weekend!

___
Shameless plug: I will, as usual, have copies of Distorted Vision and Truths and Lies and Make-Believe, plus other goodies. Flag me down if you want something!

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So, I Saw a Car on Fire …

Yesterday, on my way home from the MystiCon science fiction and fantasy convention — which went very well — I came around a bend on I-40 and saw a car on fire, and a young man pulling items out of the vehicle.

I was the first person to pull over, and by the time I got out of my truck the little car was completely engulfed in flames. The young fellow had stopped trying to retrieve his belongings because the fire was too intense. I dialed 911 on my cell phone, but I couldn’t pinpoint the location for the operator because the only nearby sign was obscured by trees. The driver was also on the phone with the dispatchers by that time, so I rang off.

In the next few minutes, two more cars had stopped to see if they could help. Thankfully, the young man was unhurt, but here’s what his car looked like when it was all over:

(Thankfully, the young man driving this car was not hurt when it caught fire.)

Turns out the driver was headed toward Raleigh in search of construction work. I offered to drive him into Raleigh — it wouldn’t be that much out of my way, and seemed better than having the Highway Patrol drop him off at a gas station — but he couldn’t raise any of his friends on the phone and they didn’t respond immediately to his text messages. So he decided to head back to Pilot Mountain, where he had come from … and I agreed to take him. (I thought about buying him a bus ticket, but a quick search showed it would cost more for that in my money and his time than it would to drive him.)

When we got him and his few remaining things in the truck, I warned him that he’d have to listen to the “old man music” I had on CDs. He didn’t seem to be bothered by that.

We made a quick pit stop, where he wouldn’t let me buy him anything to eat or drink, then we headed west. I tried to make small talk, but between the turmoil of the event and still trying to reach his friends he wasn’t very talkative. (I can relate to that, since I’m not usually very talkative either.) Then, as we were coming up on the outskirts of Greensboro, one of his friends finally called him on the phone.

They said they could come get him, but because they would be coming from the east side of Raleigh we turned around and headed back east. We talked about a number of different places he might tell them to meet him and finally agreed on a suitable spot. By the time we got there, we had listened to the first Hootie and the Blowfish CD, the first Kutless CD, and about a fourth of the Cruxshadows’ Dreamcypher CD. He never commented on my eclectic taste.

When we stopped and unloaded, he offered to reimburse me for gas. Of course I refused and told him to pay it forward when he could. If I’d had more presence of mind, though, I would’ve found some sneaky way to slip a few dollars into his backpack for him to find later. I’ve kicked myself for missing that opportunity.

In the end, I made it home from the convention a few hours later than expected, but I made it home. I didn’t mind the delay; as I told one of the state troopers, if one of my children were in that situation, I hope someone would offer them a ride, too. I just hope that young fellow finds his way to a good place, finds the construction job he wanted, and bounces back quickly from this temporary setback.

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My MystiCon Schedule

Later today, if all goes as scheduled, I’ll be heading up to Roanoke for MystiCon, a great small convention that features one of science fiction and fantasy’s biggest names in this year’s Literary Guest of Honor, George R.R. Martin.

It’s been several years since I first met Mr. Martin at a small convention here in North Carolina, but unfortunately, unless I run into him at the bar — in which case he’ll be surrounded by a horde of Game of Thrones fans — I probably won’t get within shouting distance of him. Well, maybe shouting distance: my voice carries.

Anyway, I’ll be busy throughout the weekend. If you’re coming (and if you haven’t already registered, I’m sorry to tell you that the convention is sold out so you’ll have to plan on next year’s), here’s a run-down on where you can find me. I feel safe in guaranteeing that you won’t have any trouble finding a seat at my events!

Friday:

  • 3:00 p.m. — Workshop, “Face-to-Face Slushpile” — Have you been collecting rejection slips on a science fiction or fantasy novel, but haven’t been able to figure out why? Do you have thick enough skin to take direct, honest, face-to-face critique? Bring your cover letter, the first 5 pages of your story, and your 1- or 2-page synopsis and get real-time feedback from the “Slushmaster General.” First-come, first-served, and volunteers only! If time permits, we may discuss short fiction; however, novels will have first priority. Learn what happens to manuscripts when you send them to a publisher, and how to make yours stand out … in the right way. — Ballroom C
  • 8:00 p.m. — Panel, “I’m From Iowa, I Only Work in Outer Space” — What is it like to work in outer space? What tools and supplies are required? What kind of specialized training do you need? Our panelists discuss the challenges posed trying to make an honest day’s wage toiling in the dangerous cold and dark of outer space. — with Tedd Roberts, Jim Beall, and Daniel Wallace — Board Room 1
  • 11:30 p.m. — Eye of Argon — The worst science fiction story ever written gets a reading by our brave panel as they compete to go the longest without tripping over a misspelled word or laughing uncontrollably. Audience members are also encouraged to take a chance. Can you keep a straight face, especially when the panel begins acting out the story? — with Michael A. Ventrella, Gail Martin, Peter Prellwitz, and Michael D. Pederson — Ballroom C

Saturday:

  • 11:00 a.m. — Signing
  • Noon — Reading — Room 533
  • 2:00 p.m. — Panel, “The Science & Psychology of Andy Weir’s The Martian” (Moderator) — A lone astronaut is stranded on Mars. How does he survive the harsh Martian climate? How does he maintain his sanity? Our panelists dig into the nuts and bolts of Andy Weir’s excellent science-and-survival tale The Martian. — with Anita Allen, Jim Beall, Tedd Roberts, and Daniel Wallace — Board Room 1
  • 3:00 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show (and Podcast) — It’s a combo slide show/podcast where Baen will showcase upcoming titles and book covers. Come to learn about Baen’s newest releases and possibly win a free book. — with Tony Daniel — Vista Room

Sunday:

  • 9:00 a.m. — Non-Denominational Worship Service — Ballroom E
  • 10:00 a.m. — Panel, “No More Evil Priests in Red” (Moderator) — Understanding faith in a secular world. It’s easy to depict organized religion as evil, led by greedy rapist scumbags and followed only by the drones and sheeple, but this trope hasn’t been cutting edge for the past forty years. In setting up evil priestly straw men for our postmodern heroes to blow away, authors too often overlook why brilliant people like Boethius could walk smiling to execution, St. Francis could try to protect the animals everyone else wanted to eat, or Hildegard von Bingen could write awe-inspiring music and plays. Let’s talk about books that depict the complexities of religious faith in interesting, insightful ways. — with Tony Daniel, Gail Martin, Peter Prellwitz, Michael A. Ventrella, and Abigail Wallace — Ballroom D

No concert slot for me at MystiCon, and no open filking, so my musical contributions will be limited. I’ll carry my guitar around, though, just to look cool. (I need all the help I can get!)

Hope to see you there — or, if not, hope you have a great weekend!

___
Shameless plug: I will have copies of Distorted Vision and Truths and Lies and Make-Believe, plus other goodies, so flag me down if you want something!

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Workshop Reminder, Two Weeks Until MystiCon

A friendly reminder that in a couple of weeks I’ll present the “Face-to-Face Slushpile” workshop at the MystiCon science fiction and fantasy convention in Roanoke, Virginia. (I’ll be doing other things at the convention, too, but I’m plugging this again because it takes a little prep in order to participate.)

The convention starts on Friday the 26th, and my workshop is one of the first events. As I explained in an earlier post, the workshop offers a brief, In-Person, Real-Time Manuscript Submission Critique on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you’re coming to the convention and you’ve been receiving rejection slips from publishers, I’ll take a look at your submission and let you know, from my experience evaluating submissions for Baen Books, what impression I get from it. If not you, but you know someone planning to attend who has yet to break through in the publishing world, tell them to bring in their cover letter, the first 5 pages of their story, and their 1- or 2-page synopsis and let me take a look at them.

Writer's Block

(Image: “Writer’s Block,” by Neal Sanche, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Let me know if you have questions or suggestions, and meanwhile … keep writing!

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Upcoming Workshop: In-Person, Real-Time Manuscript Submission Critique

If you’ve submitted a novel or story and wondered why you only ever got a form rejection, this might be the workshop for you. I’ve been evaluating submissions for Baen Books for nearly nine years now, so I might be able to give you some idea why your submission didn’t attract the right attention. I’ll do my best to, anyway.

Paperback Writer
(“Dear Sir or Madam, would you read my book?” Image: “Paperback Writer,” by poppy, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I’m offering this new workshop at conventions this year, starting at MystiCon in Roanoke, Virginia. This workshop is designed primarily for folks who have written (but not sold, obviously) their first novel; however, it’s open to anyone and I think writers at different levels may derive value from it.

I call it the “Face-to-Face Slushpile.” (If you’re new to the industry jargon, the “slushpile” is the collection of unsolicited manuscripts every publisher receives.) Here’s the description we’re using at MystiCon:

Have you been collecting rejection slips on a science fiction or fantasy novel, but haven’t been able to figure out why? Do you have thick enough skin to take direct, honest, face-to-face critique? Bring your cover letter, the first 5 pages of your story, and your 1- or 2-page synopsis and get real-time feedback from the “Slushmaster General.” First-come, first-served, and volunteers only! If time permits, we may discuss short fiction; however, novels will have first priority. Learn what happens to manuscripts when you send them to a publisher, and how to make yours stand out … in the right way.

Some things to note:

  • It’s free.
  • Your submission will not be anonymous. (Unless you engage someone to pretend to have written it, which would be perfectly okay.)
  • Your submission will be shared with the audience, if there is one, because I will read it out loud.
  • As noted, I will give you direct and honest feedback. I won’t be mean about it, though. The goal is to help you build a better submission, which may involve helping you tell a better story.
  • We will fit in as many critiques as we can in the allotted time. If we run out of submissions before we run out of time, we’ll segue to Q&A about writing and publishing.

If the current schedule holds, I’ll debut the workshop on the first day of MystiCon (the 26th of February). I’ve pitched the idea to some of the other conventions I’m attending this year, and as those plans develop I’ll post the details.

So, if you or someone you know is a struggling novelist, maybe this workshop can help! That’s the idea, anyway.

What would you like out of a workshop like this?

Send me an e-mail or post a comment to let me know what you think and what would make a workshop like this more valuable to you — or if you want me to come to your convention to present it. And if you know someone who might like to attend, send them the link to this post or send me their contact info.

And if you want more information about this and other projects I have going on, sign up for my newsletter.

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