Fire, Man’s Eldest Ally, Man’s Worst Enemy

So, I got home from getting groceries and was putting them away when the building alarm went of for the hundredth time. My reaction – *sigh*, probably yet another false alarm or some dickhead pulling the alarm again, but you know, maybe I should go out and, you know, make sure, and make sure the caretaker is there and knows how to turn of the alarm and is on top of that…

So I get out to the hallway and there’s smoke billowing out from the edges of the door on apartment 21 down the hall.

I booked it back to my apartment to get my phone and call 911. My phone even gets this big “emergency call!” message on the screen when you’re talking to 911, it’s pretty cool. The transferred me to the fire dept, got the address, asked me if I was in danger myself, and said to evacuate the building – seeing as other people in the building are as jaded by that alarm as I am.

By the time I got off the phone with them, the hallway was full of smoke. I knocked on a bunch of doors and windows as I went up and down the fire escape, and helped Nathan chase our Siamese out from under the bed. Stuffed both cats in the cat carrier (cozy – they were not impressed) and took them out down the fire escape.

There were fire trucks there in about two minutes, I think – we’re very close to a fire station. Six trucks total, once they’d all arrived, and paramedics to check people. Everyone was fine though. Some people got their cats out, some were away and weren’t allowed back in to rescue them, but the fire fighters assured them that the cats would likely be fine, since the smoke was mostly in the one apartment. (Though the human tenants of apt 21 were away at work at the time, I did find out later that they had a cat who was asphyxiated – from the amount of smoke I saw, that one was probably gone by the time the alarm went off.)

The city arranged for a not-in-service bus for us to hide out in around the corner while it rained outside. Someone brought coffee, and we went and got subway – Laurie from upstairs was kind enough to shout me for a sub since I hadn’t eaten yet today, and was starving. We hung out in there for about four hours, chatting, while the cats complained, and someone came by every half hour or so to say it would be at least another hour before they knew when we’d be allowed back in to get our stuff, or know if we’d be allowed to stay in our apartment tonight.

Finally, they let us back in. The hallway smells like burned plastic, and there’s smoke damage on the walls, but our apartment is not damaged, and smells mostly okay. The Fire Marshall has declared the building habitable, aside from apartment 21 (not sure about the apartments below it that suffered water damage) and we’re allowed to stay the night.

So, we’re fine, the cats are fine, we still have a place to live. It was an electrical fire, which makes me wonder about the buzzing sound coming from our living room light switch. It was an exciting day, and I’m wondering if the sight of smoke filling the hallway is going to haunt my dreams for a while or if I’ll just be fine. Probably be fine. Last time I had a reaction like this was witnessing a car accident, and I was okay after that – I cope pretty good with emergency type stress, it’s long term stress I don’t do well with. I’m still a bit on edge, though even the sight of smoke filling the hallway of my apartment building didn’t trigger the level of adrenaline rush that I get due to social anxiety. Kind of funny – I cope with a building fire better than I do social conflict.

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Report on Keycon 29

I had a great time this year at Keycon. I had my awesome aviator goggles, and blue/purple bangs and I made the most of it. Apparently goggles and dyed bangs are enough to convince people at the con that my jeans and a t-shirt constitute a costume. People asked me what character I was dressed up to be, so I told them I was an airship pirate.

This year might have been a little ad-hoc, but I realize that was because multiple con organizers, including one of the con chairs, had to step down for various reasons beyond their control. Those stepping in did their best to pull it together last minute.

It was great to see the hospitality floor full this year. Lots of suites serving food and drink – alcoholic and non-alcoholic, with the suites done up beautifully. With more of the suites open late in the evening, there was less crowding in the hallways, especially during the dead dog on Sunday night.

Programming was also improved, IMHO, this year, there was less trying to figure out which of two or three panels I wanted to attend – they seemed to have been more careful to schedule writing related panels so that they didn’t compete with one another, and I got to attend everything I wanted to.

The guests of honour of course were interesting, especially Jonathan Mayberry. He could just keep talking and he had so many interesting things to ramble on about, that when he asked if anyone had any questions, people just wanted him to keep going on whatever he wanted to talk about.

Author Idol was disappointingly poorly attended – there were about seven people in a massive room, and two submissions, mine and a friend’s. I suspect that was largely due to the lack of notice – I only heard about it a few days before the con, and had to scramble to get a synopsis ready and critiqued. On the other hand, the editor and author on the judging panel both very much liked the synopsis and thought it was well put together. The editor, Ellen Smith of Champagne Books said she would likely request the manuscript based on it.

So it was pretty cool that Ellen Smith was also in on my panel on how to write a query letter and synopsis. That was fairly well attended, fifteen people or so, lots of questions and conversation. I was nervous, but not as bad as I might have been – it was lovely to have Ellen there with me.

Outside of official Keycon activities, I also got to hang out with Chadwick Ginther, who has an Urban Fantasy coming out in September, and get to know him a bit better, along with a bunch of other fellow authors over supper at Moxies on Saturday night, including Erika Holt, Marie Bilodeau, Sherry Peters, Eileen Bell, Gerald Brandt, and Robert J. Sawyer. Great conversation made it easier to overcome my Aspergers Syndrome tendency to be the quiet one in a group. In fact, I did a lot of fighting the Aspergers Syndrome over the weekend, reminding myself that hiding away in a corner and not saying hi to new acquaintances when I see them is not how Lindsay makes friends. I still expect rejection, in the back of my mind, and it’s hard to overcome years of assuming that people don’t like me and trying to protect myself from being hurt by not trying. And it was worth every bit of fighting it.

So, overall, I had an awesome weekend, and I very much look forward to next year, when I expect things will be much better prepared. I know the people running it next year, and they have done a great job in the past. Thanks to all to Con staff who put things together this year, and I’ll see you all again in 2013!

Keycon 29 Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the beginning of Keycon 29, for which I’ve booked off time from work to make sure I can go. I really needed a vacation anyway, so I have a week after.

As usual, they have guests of honour.

I have new costume stuff for this year. I have a real, steel boned corset, and a pair of aviator goggles from the Abney Park market that came with dog tags with the AP jolly roger on them (skull with spiked hair, goggles, and a propeller and cutlass instead of bones, hee! My best friend thinks it’s ridiculous.)

I’m doing a panel, on Saturday at 1pm, apparently with Ellen Smith, on writing query letters and synopses, and I’m excited about doing a panel for the first time. No idea what the turnout will be – I hope it’s more than one or two people, but if it’s more than ten, then I’ll be glad to have a co-panelist with me, so I don’t get eaten.

There’s also the readoff, but I don’t think I have anything to read for it that really fits with their theme of Survival. Not that I likely have anything short enough for the five minutes you’re allowed to read. Just not really a flash fiction author.

And Author Idol is back! The first year they did that was really cool, and had a great turnout. It had a panel of four authors and editors as judges who would raise their hands (Robert J. Sawyer opted for armpit farts) at the point where they would stop reading a submission, and when three of four hands were up, the reader would stop and go on to the next piece. It was just the first page of your novel or story, that year, and my submission did decently well – the editor running the show didn’t like it and made them stop, despite there being only two hands up, and Robert J. Sawyer even argued with her, adamantly refusing to armpit fart my story.

That opening needs work, I’ll concede that, and I’ll go back and revise it, possibly when I’m finished with The Eyelet Dove, but for now, this year they’re doing opening pages or one page synopses. So when I found out, I scrambled to whip together a synopsis for Dove to throw at them, and I’m excited to see what they think. I don’t know if the rules will be the same. It’s also tempting to give them my first page, since the opening of the story has gone over so well with readers in general, but the synopsis is probably what I need feedback on more, and on top of that, well, I’m doing a panel on queries and synopses, so I should darn well do the synopsis option. If they’ll allow both, then I’ll give them both.

As usual, there will be the social, and the fancy dinner. I’m tempted to go to the fancy dinner – we weren’t going to, but apparently the entertainment is the sequel to the steampunk play they put on two years ago, by Kiss the Giraffe productions, which was fun. There’s usually tickets available for the dinner still available at the con, so we might pick them up at the con.

And the Dead Dog, where we drink all the alcohol left over from the hospitality suites. Giant room party taking up the entire fifteenth floor. Be there.

But I’m off today, too, so really, today is my Friday. I think I pretty much have all my costume stuff ready. I might make lists, so I don’t forget things. I still want to buy a pair of steampunk earrings from that guy who calls himself Thorgrid, or Thorgrid Jewellery. Hopefully he’ll be there again – he has the last three years, I think. Has nice stuff.

In other news, my chapter 2 of The Eyelet Dove was well received by my new critiquing group last night. They had some great feedback on where there’s details and description missing – always my weak point, but as far as story and character, I’m getting pretty much the reaction I want. Just some cosmetic touching up to do on that chapter.

As far as the revision, I’m on the touching up description/dialogue/flow part, and it’s going faster because I fixed a lot of this stuff in earlier stages as I came to it. The biggest trouble at this point is running out of space on the page to make corrections, and wanting to just type it up so that I can see the flow clearer. I think in later revisions, I may do the type-in earlier, though that may depend on how bad a wreck the story is to begin with. This one’s bad, and yet, it’s interesting to realize how the state of a first draft doesn’t really reflect the quality of the final draft once it’s done, only how much work it is to get it to final draft. This one’s just a very complex story, and to try and get everything straight, and things revealed in the right order, it’s been a challenge.

I hope to be done the final draft, or at least as good a draft as I can get on my own without beta readers helping tighten and clarify, in the next few weeks. I’d like to be on the typing out stage by the end of my vacation. Will try at least. Wish me luck, I want to start sending this to agents.

6 Essential Dieselpunk Movies

Hopping on the list bandwagon. There doesn’t seem to actually be that many people out there doing much of this stuff; it seems to be all Steampunk these days. So here’s my favourite movies in the setting of Steampunk’s grittier younger brother, Dieselpunk.

The Book of Eli – Post Apocalyptic Dystopia – check. Mafia lord ruling over the general populace – check. Ok, so the story is a bit simple, and the theme hits you over the head with a monkey wrench, but when they rolled that Gatling gun out of the back of the truck, the little girl that went to air shows with her dad that lives inside me went *squee!!!*

Waterworld – Post Apocalytic Dystopia- check. Mafia lord ruling over the general populace – check. Kind of a classic, despite the Kevin Kostner detractors. Complete with distopically rusty jetskis.

Final Fantasy Advent Children – Ok, granted, to really properly appreciate this movie, you have to have played the game, or you’d probably have no clue what’s up with the random girl in the pink dress. Or who the bad guys are at all, or why the main bad guy turns into a different guy in the end. But if you *have* played the game, you get to point at the screen and say “OMG, Bahamut’s doing Mega-flare!”

Indiana Jones – I’m my father’s daughter. I cut my teeth on these movies as soon as I was old enough to stay up long enough to watch the grown-up movie my dad would rent for after the cartoon movie. Indiana Jones is just awesome and requires no justification. Fourth movie notwithstanding. Though, I don’t have a problem with the Indiana Jones had a kid bit, especially since they got the old actress. After all, the third one brought in his father, and that was great. The monkey scene was a bit much though. But it’s got all the tech level of dieselpunk, and the dustiness, without having to be post apocalyptic.

Sucker Punch – Sureal sort of a movie – some people have tried to say that it’s about female empowerment, but it’s really not at all. People try to say that about any movie that has girls looking hot and carrying around assault rifles and katanas. It’s not about female empowerment at all, it’s about the tragedy of how women are sexualized and cast off and forced to sacrifice themselves for the sake of those around them when things get hard. How women are expected to be everything and how they can fight so hard, and get so little in return in the end, and they’re supposed to be satisfied with martyrdom. But there’s steam powered zombie nazis, and that was cool.

Tank Girl – Post Apocalytic Dystopia- check. Mafia lord ruling over the general populace – check. And come on. Girl with attitude + Tank = awesome. Not sure about the kangaroo guys, but we’ll run with it. But – tank? Come on, how can you go wrong? Re-watched this recently, and it’s way more over the top than I remember (I don’t remember the cabaret number at all!) Warning though, contains alcohol abuse. (They run out of ammo and have to load up cans of beer into the main gun.)

By the way, I’m classifying Sky Captain and the world of tomorrow as very much non-essential Dieselpunk, because, quite frankly, it sucked. I cannot describe my disappointment in that movie. The main character was set up to be this awesome guy that the world revolves and depends on, but I saw no compelling reason that should be so. And there was no plot. Unless you consider evil scientist out to destroy the world, a plot. Do you consider that a plot? I don’t. It’s a premise. Not a plot.

That one aside, anyone else have any movies I missed?

3 Reasons Why I’m Not Self Publishing

I had a family member ask me recently whether I had considered self publishing my novel, instead of going to all the trouble of finding a traditional publisher. I have thought a lot about this – and I have a number of reasons, even aside from the reasons I have never bought a self published book. This isn’t about which is better, it’s about what I want and what’s best for me.

I do better being managed.

I’m not a terribly self motivated person, but I work well under pressure. Give me a deadline, and I can make that deadline. Just tell me what you need me to do.

Self publishing, I’d have to manage myself, and I suck at that. As John Scalzi mentioned in his article on Amanda Palmer and her indie Kickstarter project, “This is particularly the case when it comes to writers, artists and musicians, who are famously complete shit at working through their finances anyway, but who are also, through Kickstarter tiers and through encountering production costs that were previously handled by other people, wading into financial waters they often know next to nothing about.” The same thing goes for self publishing. Traditional publishing has a system all worked out for pumping out books – they know how it works and how to usher an author through the process.

I don’t, and if I self publish, then I have to learn a huge ton of crap that I’m really not good at handling.

Self publishing is a lot of work that takes away from writing time.

Why go to the trouble of finding a traditional publisher, when I can just self publish?

Even I know self publishing is not the easy way. Self publishing means doing one hundred percent of the manuscript preparation, distribution, and marketing for my books. That’s a frelling ton of time that I could be spending writing. That’s why traditional publishers existed – because it frees up writers to do what they do best – write.

I know that self publishers who have been successful have had to put massive amounts of time and effort into getting their books out there, and getting the word out. I know I’ll still have to put a decent amount of effort into the marketing side of things myself, but to be completely responsible for everything, my productivity would suffer.

I wan the legitimacy that traditional publishing gives.

Adam Heine made a clever analogy on his blog today, about wanting to finish the game on the hardest setting. There’s definitely that for me. I want to be able to say that someone besides myself was willing to put their reputation on the line and say that I wrote a book that’s worth paying money for. That I was ready to be published, not an author with potential, putting their book out there too early because when I’m self publishing, no one can tell me it’s not ready.

But honestly, even more than that, I don’t want the responsibility of trying to convince readers that I’ve written a book good enough to pay money for, despite the lack of legitimacy that the traditional publisher provides. I don’t want the responsibility of convincing potential readers that my self published book isn’t like the others that they’ve heard about, the nightmares of grammar that should never have seen the light of day. People have tried to convince me. If I haven’t been convinced, how can I convince anyone else to give me a chance?

I know traditional publishing is on uneasy ground right now. With people predicting big three will to put the big six out of business, sure, that scares me. I think self publishing, or some form of it, will eventually find a way to gain more legitimacy via some way of filtering out the books that are of poor quality. There isn’t one yet, but I really think someone will come up with something eventually. But I think when the dust settles, there will also still be a system that allows writers to just write, without having to manage the publishing end of things, and that’s really what I want for myself.

Why I Unfollowed You on Twitter

A friend dragged me onto twitter, and I’m now finding I like it better than facebook – it’s simpler – facebook has so many bells and whistles, and it’s constantly changing it’s policies and auto-unsecuring things that you wanted to not be public. I’m at the point where I just don’t believe that anything you put up on facebook is not public. The only place I dare put anything that I don’t want public is my dropbox account – they seem to know what they’re doing, and they publish their TOS in fairly simple layman’s terms. (I don’t get legalese, and I don’t think I should have to or have to hire a lawyer to interpret it, but that’s another rant.)

I’ve found some cool people on twitter – I keep up with some of my favourite authors there, and I’ve discovered some new ones, or been convinced to try new ones I was uncertain of. I also keep up with political stuff on there – my more informed friends post things and keep me up to date.

Then there’s the more random people – people who aren’t published yet, or who are self publishing and using twitter to publicize. I’ve followed a few of those and noticed a rather annoying practice. People using twitter to self-promote will follow you, and expect you to follow them back. They dutifully retweet any blog post that anyone on their list posts tweets, and often have little or no content of their own. And if I don’t follow them – say, I glance at their feed and don’t see anything but retweets of someone more interesting (that I already follow) and lists of people this person is recommending I follow – then they un-follow me a week or so later.

Then there’s the ones I’ve followed, who are self promoting, but aren’t being all that subtle about it. Tweets that are basically, “Hey check out my book if you like (insert selling points)” are fine…the day your book is released. Maybe even another “for the evening crowd in case you missed it,” later in the day – that wouldn’t bother me. Twice a day for the entire week, and then once a week afterward, is just annoying. Seriously.I don’t need to see the same tweet over and over.

I mean come on, entice me to your website – write a post that I might find interesting, and I’ll click on it. Make it relevant to your novel, and have a link to info on your novel easy to find, and I might buy your book. But spamming your twitter feed with please-buy-my-book is shooting yourself in the foot. There’s too many people doing it, and a twitter post isn’t enough room to make yourself stand out.

And the whole, you follow me and I’ll follow you thing? I don’t get what you’re trying to accomplish there. That’s no different than two authors agreeing to buy one anothers’ books thinking that’s going to keep one another afloat. The math doesn’t work out. You need to generate content that is going to draw interest in your own work – content that will attract your intended audience, and that audience is not other authors desperate to market their own books. That tactic is terribly limiting.

It’s just my two cents, but this is how I use twitter, and while it’s a great platform for author promotion, I don’t think it helps to look desperate.