Post Keycon

Keycon was awesome as always. Met even more of my blog followers, and got to chat more with some of the fellow authors I’d met previously, but didn’t have time to talk to as much previously. And even so, I wish I’d had more time to talk to some of them!

I got out of work early on friday, and made it to con in time to hear Samantha Beiko read from her upcoming novel, and it was creepy and messed up enough to make me pick up her (Aurora award nominated) “The Lake And The Library.” Looking forward to that, as well as finishing Chad Ginther’s second book, “Tombstone Blues.”

My first panel, on engines went swimmingly – the room was full, which, even for the smaller boardroom is pretty impressive for ten PM on Friday evening. The discussion was lively – I geared it toward people who know nothing at all about any sort of engine, but there were a couple of people who were less novice. One who knew engines  quite well, but less about aviation, and he had tons of great questions along the lines of “okay, I know with a car engine, this works this way, is it different with a plane engine?” And the other was Timothy Gwyn, a commercial pilot and writer working on a sci-fi novel, who was a great resource for when other attendees asked questions about larger, more sophisticated aircraft that I’m less familiar with. I’ve been considering what sort of panels I’ll offer to present next year, and I’m thinking I’ll have him as a fellow presenter for one. But along with them, came a number of other attendees with questions, and it made for a lively discussion.

I went to a couple of Karen Dudley’s panels, where she talked about world-building, and food in fantasy, and learned all about bread dildos. Yeah, and I’m not even going to explain that one – if you want to know, you’ll have to pick up her book, “Food For The Gods.” The Sequel, “Kraken Bake” is being launched on June 3rd, at Mcnally Robinson, Grant Park.

Tanya Huff had some good panels too – the one on non-heteronormative characters in fiction I particularly enjoyed, seeing as “Redwing” has a gay viewpoint character. It was good to hear that getting flak for including homosexual characters in fiction has been very rare, and that I’m not likely to be asked to remove it by an agent or editor. In TV and movies, it sounds like a different matter, but at least in literature, writers are free to be liberal.

Another panel I enjoyed was the Marketing and Publicity for Writers panel with Robert J. Sawyer and Samantha Beiko. A lot of it I knew, but I got a chance to ask about suggestions for how to organize a book launch as a debut author. Also, Sawyer said something that I’ve heard a lot of agents complain about, but I like the way Sawyer phrases it. The agents’ complaint is that writers querying their novel claim that their novel will appeal to *everyone*, rather than nailing down their target audience. Sawyer reminds us not just to not make the mistake of doing that with an agent, but not to do it with potential readers either. Nothing is more annoying than an aggressive salesperson, and he gave anecdotes about how he’s often got compliments on his personality just by not being an aggressive salesperson. And the reason, he explained, is that people who aren’t interested in your novel, even if you get them to buy it, and to read it, won’t enjoy it. Your job as a writer marketing your book is to find readers who are going to enjoy what you write. It’s what Holly Lisle calls you one thousand true fans. To build a core audience that really loves what you do and will buy everything you write should be your goal, not getting everyone and their dog to read it and then write nasty one star reviews because it wasn’t their shtick.

I’ve definitely been trying to do that with the blog, and I hope I’m succeeding. A lot of unpublished writers fill their blogs with writing advice and contests geared toward drawing agents and fellow writers to their blogs to build attention. I agree with Sawyer that this is a bad idea, for two reasons. First, it’s a tad pretentious for a writer to publish writing advice on their blog before they’ve proven they know how to write a story by getting their book published by a traditional publisher. But second, fellow writers are not your target audience. I mean, the odd one might be, but for the most part, they’re more likely to buy your book because they feel obligated to support a fellow author, not because they expect to enjoy the book.

On the other panel I was on, the home grown writers one, several authors spoke about one thing I’ve heard said before, but Karen Dudley’s description of the phenomenon made it clear I hadn’t realized how huge it was. That’s the support for the arts we have in Winnipeg. Karen is from Alberta, and she apparently had a hell of a time getting grants and such from the government to get started writing. But when she moved to Manitoba, things were completely different. People showed up to signings, and cons. There are tons of writers based in Winnipeg – Sawyer has said before that’s the reason he visits so often, because he’s made so many friends here in the writing community.

Anyway, Sunday night I had a great time chatting it up with Gerald Brant and Shayla Elizabeth, both writers of sci-fi, talking about the querying process, and critique groups. Also got to chat with Timothy Gwyn a bit more. That’s one I wish I’d had more time to talk shop about the sky with, but I was rushing off to something or other. I’ll have to hunt him down at the dead dog next year, or possibly at Word On The Water in Kenora, if I make it out there this fall.

Anyway, I had a great con, and I’m looking forward to next year. Hope to see you there!

Keycon This Weekend

With Keycon coming up this weekend, I thought I’d better throw up a post letting people know I’ll most definitely be there and what panels I’ll be on.

First, on Friday at 10:00 PM, I’ve got “How a Four Cylinder Carbureted Engine Works” which will be exactly what it sounds like. Steampunks and Dieselpunks are encouraged to come for a primer on the mechanics of internal combustion.

On Saturday, I have two panels – the first is “Locally Grown: Authors and More You Likely Missed”, where I’m appearing with several other local authors including:
Writer Samantha Mary Beiko (The Lake and the Library)
Writer and Illustrator Gmb Chomichuk (The Imagination Manifesto, Raygun Gothic)
Fantasy and Mystery writer Karen Dudley (Food for the Gods)
Historical Fantasy author Leia Getty (Tower of Obsidian)
Novelist Chadwick Ginther (Thunder Road, Tombstone Blues)

 
The second is another of my own panels, titled “Why Thunderstorms Are Shaped Like Anvils.” And it’s not because Thor is making horseshoes. Come learn about weather. It’s sciencey.

 
When I’m not in panels, I’ll be figuring out what all Nnedi Okorafor’s panels are, and going to all of them, (apparently Nnedi cancelled last month sometime and I did not notice, bah!) and hanging out with fellow authors. Last year I met some of my blog followers, which was cool, so if you’re there, feel free to introduce yourselves. I hope to see you there.

The Eyelet Dove – Teaser Chapter

I’ve never really been someone who can sell myself, and that’s been one of my biggest worries about trying to start a writing career. But this Keycon, I was involved in several panels – more than last year – and now that it’s over, I’m realizing that it’s been a very different experience than last year. By Sunday I’d had people familiar with my blog come up and introduce themselves to me, random people who’d heard the first page of The Eyelet Dove, or who had heard me talk about Dieselpunk in the panel with Anne Aguirre and Leia Getty, wanting to know if I had anything published, and I’ve had emails from people who met me at con, offering to beta read. It’s like, suddenly I became popular.

What did I do to deserve all that attention? All I did was put myself out there and talk about the things I love. You know how people say, just go out there and be yourself, and people will respond? Well, it just happened. It’s a huge confidence builder. I mean, I knew I had something interesting to say with my writing that people will enjoy, but now I know I’ll be able to convince people to buy it and not be that poor writer whining “Please buy my book, it’s good, trust me!”

The other big one was the positive reaction to the opening page that was read at Writer Idol. It’s enticed people to approach me looking for more. And that first page is so crucial – that little bit is the first thing people read when they pick up a book after reading the back cover copy. I know I’ve bought books and put them back on the shelf based on that.

A while ago, I had my opening chapter posted up here on the page I had set up for my novel. After going to the SIWC, and hearing Donald Maass describe what makes a good opening, I realized, wow, I have all of that stuff he just rattled off!

In Chapter Two. Claire is an engaging, passionate character, and her introduction goes straight into her primary conflict.

And since Chapter One was, structurally, a prologue, I did what I keep joking I always do, and cut it. Now, after Keycon, I have unequivocal validation that it was the right decision.

After Keycon, though, J. M. Frey, in my Blue Pencil Session with her, pointed out that the opening contained an element that was not only a tad cliched, but also apparently nearly identical to another unfortunately (well, fortunately for that author) well known book in the Steampunk Subgenre, Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan. I had Claire disguised as a man to sneak into a world dominated by men, and I certainly don’t want my book looking from the first page like it’s a ripoff of Leviathan, especially when the disguise thing doesn’t last through the end of the opening scene. And maybe an editor would overlook it once they got to the end of the scene, but would they get to the end of the scene once they saw that similarity? Not gonna count on it.

But it was easy to fix, and I think it’s overall better for having that element removed, for several reasons. And so do others, it seems. In any case, I’ve decided I’m ready to put it up as a teaser chapter, for all those who wanted more than the first page. Here it is.

Keycon Short Story Contest – open to all!

The first year I ever went to Keycon, they had a short story contest, and I entered and won first place. On the one hand, there weren’t many entries – I don’t think there were many more than the four that were published in the chapbook, but still, it was my first publication. But there hasn’t been a Keycon short story contest since then. I keep saying I want to run one, and my friend says, but if you run it, then you can’t enter it. But no one else runs one either. And I really wanted to see it happen. I got involved in Keycon programming, and one of the other writers expressed the same desire. So that’s it – we’re running one.

It’s open to all, so if I have friends in far-off places who are reading this, here’s your chance to make me read your short fiction! The details are here. Send me your stuff!

(And by send me your stuff, I mean, send it to the email address on the page on the link, and they’ll strip the names of so we don’t go all nepotistic and pick our friends. At least, not on purpose.)

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.

Keycon 29, Query Letter and Synopsis Panel

Keycon is my home con, here in Winnipeg, and I’ve gone every year since I learned of it’s existence. They’re always encouraging people to do panels, so this year, I’m jumping in to do one.

With only minor publications to my credit, I haven’t felt qualified to do a panel on anything that mattered to me, in the past, but over the last few years, I had the opportunity to participate in a proposal package focus group as I prepared to submit a novel I’d managed to get to final draft. I learned a lot from that focus group, and came out with a query letter and synopsis that got me a request for the manuscript from a managing editor at one of the Big Seven, and another from one of the six or so agents I sent it to – one of the top agents in the industry.

I haven’t got representation thus far – I’ve decided to go back and revise the novel since, but that’s not what a query and synopsis is for. It doesn’t sell the novel, it gets you the request for the manuscript, and my query letter and synopsis did that with a very good ratio. And so I finally feel like I have proven I know something legitimately enough to teach it.

My panel is tentatively scheduled for 1-2pm on the Saturday of Keycon 29, May 19th, 2012, at the Radisson hotel. I’ll have pens and paper for anyone who doesn’t have them, and there will be exercises. It will be most useful to anyone with a finished novel, ready to submit, but anyone is welcome, of course, at any stage in the writing process. I’m very excited about it, it’s the first time I’ll be running a panel – and on that note, I shall go and finish my notes for it!