WindyCon 2018: my next adventure

November 9-11, 2018 Lombard IL. Fan-run, friendly, laid-back & fun. This’ll be my fourth one. Hard to believe it’s been 4 years since Controlled Descent & Flight Plan came out.

This year I took the big step of signing up as a programming participant, which meant gambling on life remaining calm so I wouldn’t have to back out. LIFE COOPERATED!  I will be on panels as well as hanging out in the dealer room . Without further ado, here is my schedule:

Pass the Kleenex – Friday 9:00 – 10:00 pm – Lilac D
Not all stories are upbeat and hopeful. A discussion of depressing SciFi/Fantasy stories.

Reading – Saturday 12:00-1:00 pm – 1631 (Reading Room)
12pm Deirdre Murphy 12:30pm Karen Herkes

Guilty Pleasures – Saturday 4:00-5:00 pm – Muller Grand Ballroom G
We all have them. It could be a drugstore book or a cheesy movie. Let’s admit it and share them out loud!

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! – Saturday, 11-10-2018 – 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm – Lilac C
You’ve written your book/story now you need to promote it.

Yeah, that’s right. I’ll be doing a reading, so I’d better bring my A game.  And yes, I am now secure enough in my authoring identity that I’m willing to speak about promoting books. I mean, sure, I don’t follow a lot of the “rules” but I know which ones I’m breaking and accept the consequences. That counts, right?  (Yes, right.)

Of course I’ll have copies of my books there. I’m hanging with Rich from Games Plus to help cover the store’s booth, and also pitching in to help at a table with some other fine, local authors, so… yes. THERE WIILL BE BOOKS YOU COULD OWN for the low, low price of some money.

Obligatory I-sell-books reminder made, onward to personal musings.

I love WindyCon for many reasons. First off, it’s local! (45-60 min drive, so local-ish, I suppose.) That’s always a plus. Second, a WindyCon was the second-ever fan-run con I attended as an author, and it was the first one where I sold books.

So. I am full of warm fuzzies for the kind and hard-working people who plan and run WindyCon.  (Next year, if all goes well, fingers crossed, I might be able to volunteer, too. If. Life. Cooperates.)

I am very much looking forward to seeing all the friends I met at past WindyCons and last year at Capricon, Keeping touch through social media is no substitute for hanging out in person. I’m not naming names because I would forget someone I adore and then feel horrible about it, but <waving>  HIYA, yes, I’m thinking of you! See you soon!

On reflection, that whole paragraph right there ^^^  is a matter of sudden, wondrous astonishment & joy.

I have con friends. Wow.

windycon 2018 blog topper

 

Come to Pittsburgh, it’ll Be FUN!

TL;DR summary: I’m going to Pittsburgh this week! Lots of amazing authors will be in Pittsburgh! You can meet them for free & get autographs!

Why Pittsburgh? So glad you asked. It’s the Nebula Awards Conference Weekend, a traveling event held annually by The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (aka SFWA)

There will be loads of professional development panels for authors and the big Nebula Awards Ceremony, but the reason I’m sharing  is that the event also has a super cool tradition called the Mass Autographing.

Open to the public. Here be all the official bits: https://nebulas.sfwa.org/autographing-event-sunday-may-20/

Basically if you’re within a distance of Pittsburgh where you can be at the Pittsburgh City Cetner Marriott Sunday May 20, 1-3, and you’re interested in excellent science fiction & fantasy books, you really should come to this event!

You can meet loads of authors–Nebula Award nominated, and Nebula Award WINNING authors–they’ll be there, and they’ll all have books available for purchase too.

Also there will be me. With my books. Not nominated books, and I’m not a SFWA member (not yet! SOMEDAY!) but I will be at the conference absorbing knowledge and maybe helping out if I can.

And so I will also have my excellent books for sale at the event Book Depot. In case anyone wants them.

What about next year? Will I go to the SFWA conference then? Maybe.  Depends on where it’s held, and even more it depends on whether I make enough sales to become a member. I’m not sure how long I can justify attending when I’m still not making enough sales to qualify as a member. Maybe forever? Maybe not. I get more self-conscious and nervous about it every year.

But that’s next year, and I’m not sure what next year will bring.  For sure it will be an adventure.

This year? PITTSBURGH, HERE I COME!

Obligatory Gift Idea Reminder Post

One week to Christmas. Remember the ease of giving readable gifts this season! (See visual below for two good examples)
They are great books, but don’t take my word for it. You can read 4 & 5-star verified-purchase reviews on Amazon: http://ift.tt/2nAqbm9 and on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36425571.
Ebooks. Paperbacks. Audios. Pick your format, there’s something for everyone. No, really.
(Sorry, no sweeping political intrigue sagas, no grimdark grit, no bloody horror. Just good, solid characters, thrills, and surprises.)

(Editing to add the review below because wow. As a lifelong X-Men fan, I’m torn. I feel I should somehow defend their iconic goodness but am too busy melting from the power of the complimentary comparison.)

 

Londinium Cover Reveal!

I’m really excited today because I get to help Debbie spread the word about  the brand-new awesome cover for the next book in her P.A.W.S. Saga, LONDINIUM. The cover was created by the hugely talented Rachel Bostwick who also made the cover for the new box set of books 1 to 3 that are now available on Amazon.

So here goes – drum roll please – LONDINIUM (The P.A.W.S. Saga 4), on presale now.

londinium

“The pea soup has spoken,” said Caradog. “You are destined for Londinium.”
“Londinium?” asked Miri.
“It was the ancient city from which London sprang. The P.A.W.S. Institute of Londinium is the oldest in the world. It started before the city of today existed and straddles the old and the new. Unfortunately, today it is run by a fool.”

Join Miri as she continues her journey through Umbrae and Londinium with the help of werecats, wild warlocks, an old dog, a duck, and a whole lot of pea soup.

The P.A.W.S. Saga continues with Londinium.

Need to catch up?

You can do that all in one place with a brand new box set of books 1 to 3. Now available on Amazon.

DON’T MISS OUT! Get yours today.

box set

The devil is in the details

storysculpting header 2 brushes and paints

I love world-building. I hate being bogged down in lengthy explanations. Those two ideas seem to contradict each other, but they don’t. Constructing a whole reality idea by idea doesn’t have to mean burying the reader in excess information. It’s successful if it’s real. It works if it works.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how that gets done lately, and here’s the stream-of-consciousness result.

I like a sausage-making metaphor: massive quantities of information has to be smooshed into a compact, spicy form that looks, feels, and tastes nothing like the disparate ugly ingredients of its origin. I also like a phrase stolen from role-playing. “When in doubt, roll and shout.”

Research is critically important, but it isn’t narrative-friendly.  If I haven’t considered all the implications of every idea that I dream up, then I will write something idiotic or miss obvious contradictions. But if I don’t provide all that background I made up when I write about things that don’t exist, then the reader will drown in unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts.

It’s a tricky balance. Part of the problem is the difference between real life and narrative life.

None of us notice everything about everything in our daily lives. We take reality for granted. Most of us don’t ponder the intricacies of electrical power generation and distribution when we turn on a lamp. We don’t discuss historical origins and socio-political underpinnings of every news event. In conversation we don’t provide definitions to each other for nouns we use every day.

But stories are condensed life. Dialogue is more than conversation. Writers can make every interaction and description a springboard for adding information to the mix. But does can mean should? (NO)  How much of the sausage-making needs to be shown?

When I come up with some clever new idea, the first thing I must decide is, does it work? Do all the imaginary events, objects, people, histories, actions, and places I want to include in my world make sense together?  Then I have to decide does that idea need to be in this story? The last tricky hurdle: when I describe these ideas, do my descriptions feel plausible?  That isn’t the same as the descriptions being precise.  Far from it. 

There’s an art to achieving realism.  What’s the right amount of information to make a world feel real without boring the reader to tears?  Alas, the answer is it depends. There’s a spectrum of tolerance for raw information. Pleasing every reader is impossible. I wish there was a formula or even a rule of thumb, or an easy middle road, but there isn’t.

There are tricks & tropes to ease data delivery into a story: the newbie; the research montage; the fish out of water, the amazing discovery–there’s a whole kit of craft tools. (A new one I’ve learned: slotting critical facts around cliffhanger action.) But those still only cover the how, not the which or the  how much.

Texts thick with numbers, vocabulary, and dates leave me cold, so they aren’t what I write. I use the technique I like best as a reader: immersion. I describe my worlds the way someone living in them would experience them. Then I add the minimal explanatory material to that framework.

Enough and only enough: that’s my descriptive mantra.  Brevity entices the reader’s imagination and sets it roaming free.  If I’ve done the does it work part of my world-build properly I don’t need to show much at all. My readers don’t nee a treatise on economics with every passing place name reference.  I can even leave details vague in my own mind until I need to write about that place.

A last phrase I keep in mind when dealing with world backgrounds is one attributed to several classic showmen, “Always leave them wanting more.”  If I build my world in broad strokes and use sharp wordcraft on the little I let into my story, readers will know there is more and come back for seconds.

If the devil is in the details, then get thee behind me, details.

It’s here and it’s beautiful!

Welcome to amazing author Debbe Manber Kupfer, who has an announcement so big it’s taking over my blog today.


Feast your eyes on the cover of Umbrae (The P.A.W.S. Saga, Part 3) created by the ever awesome Rachel Bostwick.

umbrae2

So what’s it about?

Step into the Shadows of Umbrae …

Miri’s world at P.A.W.S. in St. Louis is falling apart. First, Danny is accused of stealing her opapa’s charm. But before he can defend himself, he mysteriously disappears. Miri seeks Josh for help and advice, but he too has gone missing.

Then Lilith has a vision – Miri dragged away by wolves. Miri needs answers, answers that she feels sure are hidden in the blank pages of the book of Argentum.

With the help of Lilith, she travels to the ancient city of Safed. There, with the aid of a mystical rabbi and an outspoken werecat, her omama’s story is slowly revealed. And Miri uncovers something else, a world hidden deep beneath our own – the labyrinth of shadows also known as Umbrae.

preorder-umbrae

Help spread the word:  support my Headtalker campaign!

Add Umbrae to your Goodreads TBR list!

AND! AND!

Coming soon in paperback!

umbraewrapevenbetter

Superpowers = super tricky

Continuing my explanation of the letter-number-letter system that defines superpowers in my Rough Passages fantasy world. Part 1 discussed the primary powers. Onward to the rest of the dirty picture.

II: Power ratings

  • A rating is only meaningful within a power series. There’s no attempt to compare the “power” of, say, a B1 rollover who can see through foot-thick lead walls to the power of an R1 rollover who can measurably move a continent, or a W1 who can create a point-to-point teleportation gate big enough for a truck to drive through.
  • The number is assigned through a comprehensive set of objective tests. Results are compared to collected historical measurements, providing a consistent and impartial result.
  •  1 indicates the strongest manifestation if the designated ability series, a rating of 0 means practically no sign of the ability indicated by the primary series letter can be detected.
  • The change in power between rating tiers is even, but the rollover population distributes unevenly into the space. This, like primary series designations

III: Variant designation

Every power series has an alphabet’s worth of variations, far too many combinations to detail in a simple work like this. Before databases, the catalogues required multiple bindings, like an old encyclopedia set or the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. The early inclusion of additional letters to define powers was a white flag of cataloging surrender by the system’s creators. Here are some of the complexities:

  • Multiple abilities are more the norm than the exception, and some power series show more variation than others.
  • The variants are all series dependent — the same letter means different things connected to different primaries. J stands for “jump” attached to a W teleporter, meaning altitude control, but it means a medium weight restriction when applied to a W telekinetic, and something entirely different when attached to each of the assorted B sensory powers.
  • Each primary variant series has its own letter/number set of deviances, and some of those have variances.
  • Series and variant assignment still relies on subjective observation and human judgment as much as hard data.

 

All in all this a lousy cataloging system, but its limitations stem from its origins. The people who designed it never expected it to be permanent. Picture the poor doctors, police, doctors, firemen and air raid wardens tasked with organizing the thousands–even tens of thousands–of hysterical, confused rollovers on that first, dreadful night in the summer of 1943. Those first responders were working in total ignorance and facing a bewildering array of symptoms. An inspired few created quick-and-dirty rules of thumb to triage their charges as quickly as possible. Accuracy and precision were not priorities.

It worked well enough to be imitated and implemented on a international scale before anyone with more sense could protest. The military and the scientific community adapted the flawed template to suit their needs and stamped it with their own flourishes, and the newborn Department of Public Safety chiseled it into the stone of bureaucracy.

It’s unwieldy, and no one likes it, but unlike the Metric system (adopted by the US in 1969 and finalized in 1976 in this world) no one has come up with anything better yet. Or to be precise hundreds of excellent proposals have been offered up, but none have been effective enough to justify the upheaval and expense of changing now.

People being people, amateur cataloguers keep their eyes peeled for rare rollover types as diligently as any birdwatcher works on an Audubon life list. Trainspotters have nothing on monster buffs.

More on slang like that later. Another time. Remember, if you enjoy it, put a like on it.