Smoke and mirrors at Sasquan

So, that happened.

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I’m home from Sasquan, where genre fans converged to celebrate things they loved, where raging forest fires sent the populace scrambling for face masks, where Hugo voters sent the various puppy factions scurrying home with their tails between their legs. As you may have gathered, it was anything but dull. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, hanging out with Taos Toolbox pals and their friends, and even scored more agent interest in my latest novel. I may or may not have dyed my hair blue-green– temporary dye, the kind that leaves big blue handprints on hotel towels. (Sorry, Davenport) We may or may not have tried vaping– no nicotine or more nefarious substances involved– and carried flasks into the Hugo award ceremony, Such rebels! I’ve lost count, but that was at least my fifth or sixth childhood.

And to think I considered not going. My fear that the Puppy Slate brouhaha would cast a pall over the proceedings turned out to be ill-founded. Of all the reasons I’m glad I went ahead and pulled the trigger, the biggest is witnessing firsthand how little impact that online shitstorm had on fandom at large. Panels and parties continued as planned, friends met up and discussed their favorite new reads. The attempted Puppy hijacking came up quite infrequently, with a shrug or eyeroll and a transition to more interesting topics. It just wasn’t all that relevant– or perhaps we had already discussed it to death. Like so many online squabbles, it seemed so insignificant away from the glare of the screen.

Then came the awards ceremony itself. Five No Awards handed out, doubling the total throughout Hugo history. Not only were the puppies denied any rockets, they were outvoted by downright massive margins (as revealed in the Hugo Stastistics data.) In the Novella category, No Award received almost seven times the amount of votes as the second place finisher. That’s what you call an unqualified blowout. Oh, and the winners included a novel translated from Chinese, a Dutch novelette, a comic book about a Pakistani-American girl, and a writer who helped expose the cowardice of an online hatemonger. And then George R. R. Martin showed the meaning of class by awarding losers his own Alfie Awards at a party that was all anyone would talk about the next day.

So, yeah. Nothing ambiguous about this outcome. It was a thing to see, and I’m glad I was there in person.

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But speaking of casting a pall… holy shit, that smoke! The burning acres surrounding “Smokane” provided us with weird, greenscreen-like skies and blood-red suns. By Friday the air hazard infiltrated the Convention Center itself, when an unfortunate shift in the wind carried smoke and ash right to us. Regardless, it’s a beautiful town and I hope they get those fires under control. Though I am glad to be home and breathing salt air again.

Thanks, Sasquan. It was one for the record books.

 

At the sound of the falling tree, it’s 9:30.

I made it to Spokane! Along the way I made a few quick detours to visit Twin Peaks locations in Snoqualmie and North Bend. Nostalgia++

Also, sadly, Eastern Washington is burning. The scenery once through the mountain pass consisted of smoke and haze all the way to Spokane. The last pic is not of a Black Lodge entrance, but a random “Scenic” View along the highway. Here’s hoping the fires are contained soon. Meanwhile… Sasquan! Tune in next time.

The Great Northern Hotel, aka Salish Lodge and Snoqualmie Falls

The Great Northern Hotel, aka Salish Lodge and Snoqualmie Falls

 

Ronette Pulaski's bridge, AKA Reinig Bridge (sans Ronette)

Ronette Pulaski’s bridge, AKA Reinig Bridge (sans Ronette)

The Double R Diner, AKA Twede's Cafe (good pie!)

The Double R Diner, AKA Twede’s Cafe (good pie!)

 

100% humidity

Tomorrow morning– or maybe later tonight, since it will be early enough to introduce ambiquity– I will be off once more to the Pacific Northwest! This time I’m headed to Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon, in Spokane, WA. Even better, I just received my Known Traveler ID, which with any luck will keep me from the shoe-removing, laptop-unpacking Hell Lines at airport security. It’s the little things. Anyway, I look forward to reconnecting with friends and acquaintances– especially from Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox and Codex– and making new ones. I even have another author pitch scheduled. So, a full but potentially fun week.

Taken with Lumia Selfie

Walking the Highline!

As intimated in my last post, August continues to be a crazy month. So crazy, in fact, that I realize I never checked in here after the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. I have nothing but good things to say about the whole trip, aside from maybe the subway swelter and the sudden downpour that gave us a surprise soaking out in the middle of the East Village. But hey, it’s all part of the experience. The sightseeing rocked, courtesy of my fellow writer-types. And the conference itself was, like the SFWC earlier this year, a kick in the pants. In a good way. I highly recommend it if you find yourself anywhere near. Excellent guest speakers, lots to see and learn, and quite a few nibbles from the Pitch Slam. Whether any of it pans out or not, I’m glad for the experience.

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The mighty hunter.

But that’s not all! According to the dogsitter, while I was away my hound chased down and (quote) “killed the sh!t out of” a nasty, flea-ridden possum that had been terrorizing the neighborhood. The sitter was quite happy and let him howl all he wanted after that.

And now it’s off to another adventure.

Busy August Incoming

cbIt’s the eye of the hurricane! I’ve finished the final draft of PCH Roadkill (many thanks, lovely readers), wrapped up some short story work, and still have a bit of time before the next volume for Dark Age ramps up. Fear not, August is looking like another whirlwind of activity. But, for now, I’m taking some time to decompress. And why not revisit my childhood with an adult coloring book? Whether this activity actually relieves stress or not, I have no idea. But I’ll let you know.

About that August. Mine actually begins on July 30th, when I head to New York City for the Writers Digest Conference.  I’ll be participating in the agent Pitch Slam as well as the panels, so wish me luck. Boondoggles around Manhattan (and possibly Brooklyn and New Jersey) will happen with writer friends, so I’m very much looking forward to that.

Less than two weeks later I’ll be heading to Spokane for Sasquan, aka Worldcon 2015. Yes, *that* con, the one that’s been hijacked by sad, rabid and generally disdainful puppies.  Many electrons have been expended over this topic, including embarrassing coverage in the mainstream. I don’t have a lot to add to the exhaustive comments already circulating.  Suffice it to say I voted 100% non-slate, including “No Award” when necessary, because slates suck. It was an easy decision, because this was the sorriest voter’s packet in recent memory– aside from some non-puppy nominees. I’m not looking forward to the awards, but I am looking forward to reconnecting with friends. Hey, that’s what community is about.

So that’s a good chunk of August away from home. Meanwhile, I’ll get to colorin’.

Ketchup

I’ve been quite busy over the last few weeks with a little thing called a final draft. Good for my novel, not so much for this poor blog! I have the best of intentions, honestly. How about a random smattering of tidbits that have caught my attention lately, to match my current frame of mind?

-Ten days left on writer/Director Sharon Lewis’ Indiegogo campaign for Brown Girl in the Ring – The Prequel. The film will serve as a prequel to Nalo Hopkinson’s terrific novel. I, for one, am intrigued.

– Writer pal Miranda Suri has fired up a new blog (because one isn’t enough, except for me, apparently) called Gluten Free, No Substitutes. She’s a dynamite cook and has dedicated her site to good food that avoids gluten without reaching for scary, faux-food ingredients. (I’ve tried cheese substitutes. Trust me, no bueno.)

– Comics scribe Brian K. Vaughan has announced The Private Eye will be coming to Image Comics. In exchange, he’ll be penning a Walking Dead story for Panel Syndicate! I’ve waxed rhapsodic about both Panel Syndicate and The Private Eye on this very blog, so this is good news all around. We need more independent sources for comics!

– The 2015 World Fantasy Awards finalists have been announced! This on the heels of the Locus Award finalists. Congratulations to two great slate of nominees, including former teachers John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear and Nancy Kress. Almost makes up for all the Hugo/Puppy BS. Almost.

I’m off to Vegas this weekend! Perhaps next week I can scrounge up some news that involves, you know, me. ‘Til then, kids!

Like a streak of light, he arrives just in time

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_185With Marvel’s announcement in February that a joint venture with Sony would allow Spider-Man to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comic nerds rejoiced. The decision was apparently prompted by Marvel’s desire to incorporate Spider-Man into the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, presumably based on the comics crossover event in which Web-head played a pivotal role. Kevin Feige promises that this will be a “different” Peter Parker than we’ve seen so far, and will interact with the rest of the MCU as well as mainline his own movies. And they won’t be foisting yet ANOTHER origin story on us. So far so good, yeah?

Then we learn that this “different” Spider-Man will be a teenager and star in one movie for each year of high school. Chasing the Harry Potter demographic, are we?

First world comic nerd problems, to be sure, but one of my pet peeves is Marvel’s weird insistence that Spider-Man is only relatable as a gangly, bumbling high school geek. Set aside for the moment that the last two cinematic reboots of Spider-Man chose this same tack. (With the added burden of believing a late-20s dude is still in public school, but whatever. Casting a real teen hardly qualifies as innovation.)

Peter Parker graduated high school in 1965. That was issue 28 of Amazing Spider-Man. Heck, he graduated from college in 1978, in issue 185. Almost 800 issues of ASM are now in print. Never mind the well over a thousand other issues of Spider-Man titles. Even if you add in the two hundred or so issues about alt-universe Peter Parker before Ultimate Spider-Man kicked the bucket, the overwhelming majority of classic Spider-Man stories do not take place in adolescence. Kraven’s Last Hunt? The Death of Jean DeWolff? The recent Superior Spider-Man digression? According to Marvel, those aren’t Spider-Man at his most cool and relatable.

So, here we go again. Peter flunks geometry because the Scorpion is on the loose. Bullies steal Peter’s lunch money because he can’t fight back. Peter gets his ass kicked by the Rhino because he’s distraught over someone else asking his crush to the prom.  Hey, these Spider-Man movies keep tanking, in part, because we’re tired of the same old thing. Why eschew the origin story but keep him as a teen? And if Marvel wants to give us a high school flick, but also keep things fresh, why not use Miles Morales? Or even Kamala Kahn?

I’m not saying young Peter Parker ain’t fun. But let’s not pretend we haven’t seen it on screen before. And let’s not pretend Spider-Man can’t be an adult, or married or acne-free because that would render him unrelatable. Thousands of comic books from the past fifty years disprove that theory.

Point Sur Light Station

One of the best things about writing fiction is that research is often required. This does not always mean burrowing through the library stacks or sequestering yourself in a basement filled with musty tomes. Counterintuitive, I know. But sometimes it requires getting out into the world and experiencing some of the most beautiful places to be found. Case in point: a few weeks back I hopped in the car and headed down the coast to the Point Sur Lighthouse, part of a state historic park in California’s Central Coast.

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A little backstory. I discovered this place while driving near Monterey and wondered WTF was up with that volcanic rock just off the shore with a little settlement on top of it. Turns out it houses one of the key lighthouse stations that keeps ships from wrecking in the fog and darkness of the Central Coast. Oh yeah, and it’s a beautiful spot. But you wouldn’t know it from the foreboding sign along the highway, as shown.

Of course a Keep Out sign for a crazy place like that means a protagonist somewhere must inevitably flaunt those rules. Voila, a major location for PCH Roadkill.

Day tours last for three hours, and are well worth the trek. They include a thorough exploration of the lighthouse itself and the grounds where operators and their families lived in previous decades. Here some snaps from the top of the lighthouse:

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The diamond-shaped glass pieces are prism lights, similar to those used to light basements below sidewalks in large cities during earlier times.

I heartily recommend the tour to anyone driving the Pacific Coast Highway between Monterey and San Luis Obispo. If further incentive is needed, how about a view of the lovely Central Coast from the widow’s walk, looking Northeast toward Carmel:

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SFWC FTW

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OK, that’s a good sign.

Now that’s more like it.

Had a great time this past weekend at the San Francisco Writers Conference. 2015 marks my first appearance at said event, and in retrospect I have to wonder why. The sessions were overall useful, the staff friendly and helpful without exception and the hotel was top-notch. Best of all: Queen Calafia, goddess of California, lent a watchful eye to the proceedings from her perch in the Room of the Dons. Yes, the very same Calafia that made an appearance in my previous work, In Cahoots (as referenced in a previous post.) Even better, she was in position during the Agent Speed Dating session on Saturday. Bless the Goddess!

Right, the pitching. Without a doubt the best part of the conference was a pair of editorial consultations followed by several expressions of interest from said agents. The year is off to a rip roaring start. I’ll be busy shipping out words into the void and telling them not to come home without a request to send more.

This was one intense conference. I had the good fortune to meet up with Cath Schaff-Stump and Debbie Goelz, both of whom also had great success with pitches. (Cath has posted her own exceptional account of the goings-on at her own website.)  We scurried around town between sessions and helped each other refine our presentations. I can’t imagine attending one of these things without such stalwart support.

I’ll be posting more thoughts on this weekend soon. For now, let’s say it was well worth the time and effort and greenbacks to attend. And I’ll likely return next year.

 

PCH Playlist

Like many writers, I often turn to music to get me through a draft. Every project requires its own inspiration. Since I’ve found it fun to share playlists with other writers, here’s one for my most recent work, PCH Roadkill. It’s a California tale of sun, surf, aliens and shady dot-com startups. Needless to say, this one was a bit more esoteric than simply burning through a film soundtrack or looping ambient nature sounds. Enjoy.

DJ Shadow – Six Days (Soulwax Remix)
Modeselektor – Vote or Die
Mr. Bungle – The Air-Conditioned Nightmare
Tommy McCook & The Skatalites / Silver Dollar
Man or Astroman? – Bermuda Triangle Shorts
Mass Effect OST – Liara’s World
The Mermen – Scalp Salad
Mike Ladd – Housewives At Play
The Ventures – Moon Child
Aphex Twin – Shiny Metal Rods
Lene Lovich – What Will I Do Without You?
Descendents – Silly Girl
Mr. Bungle- Desert Search for Techno Allah
Modeselektor – Die Clubnummer
Dead Kennedys – Winnebago Warrior
Jack’s Mannequin – Miss Delaney
The Ventures – Slaughter On Tenth Avenue
Final Fantasy XI OST – Faded Memories – Promyvion
Guns Of Navarone – The Skatalites
Mass Effect OST – The Secret Labs [extended]
Man or Astroman? – Madness in the Streets 10
The Mermen – Brahms Symphony 3, Movement 3
Psykosonik – Secret LifeDJ Shadow – Six Days (Soulwax Remix)
Modeselektor – Vote or Die
Mr. Bungle – The Air-Conditioned Nightmare
Tommy McCook & The Skatalites / Silver Dollar
Man or Astroman? – Bermuda Triangle Shorts
Mass Effect OST – Liara’s World
The Mermen – Scalp Salad
Mike Ladd – Housewives At Play
The Ventures – Moon Child
Aphex Twin – Shiny Metal Rods
Lene Lovich – What Will I Do Without You?
Descendents – Silly Girl
Mr. Bungle- Desert Search for Techno Allah
Modeselektor – Die Clubnummer
Dead Kennedys – Winnebago Warrior
Jack’s Mannequin – Miss Delaney
The Ventures – Slaughter On Tenth Avenue
Final Fantasy XI OST – Faded Memories – Promyvion
Guns Of Navarone – The Skatalites
Mass Effect OST – The Secret Labs [extended]
Man or Astroman? – Madness in the Streets 10
The Mermen – Brahms Symphony 3, Movement 3
Psykosonik – Secret Life

Beware the ides of February

Hey, remember me? Yeah, I’m still around. Though you wouldn’t know from this blog. Happily, I have not been making updates because I’ve been busy at work on other projects. I finished a rough draft of my latest novel, polished up my last one (last time, honest) and completed about a half dozen short stories. Not bad after the post-Taos slump of late 2014. This new year shows promise.

Beginning with the San Francisco Writers Conference a week from now! I’m all signed up and looking forward to meeting up with several other writer pals at the fancy-schmancy Mark Hopkins International. I’m even signed up for the Agent Speed Dating Session on Saturday. This will be my first face to face encounter with the fabled literary agent. Wish me luck.

Interestingly, 2015 is shaping up to be the Year of the West Coast. I’ll be hanging out at a writers’ retreat in Portland this spring, then heading to Spokane for Sasquan (aka the 73rd Worldcon) during the summer. Too bad the Nebula Awards Weekend moves this year from San Jose to Chicago.

So, yeah. Lots going on. Just not here, so much.