Bubonicon 2014: Sunday

David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014

David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014

On Sunday, the panels and author readings didn’t get started until 10AM, but the Con Suite was open at 8AM. They had donuts, and not just any donuts, but donuts with bacon. Yep, you read that right. You could have a chocolate frosted donut that also had a strip of crispy bacon in it. (I think I heard one of the Con volunteers say the donuts came from Rebel Donut shop). I almost snagged one, but I feared that I wouldn’t like it and then who would I share it with? If my man was at the Con with me, I would just grab one for him, eat half of it, and then tell him how good the second half was. Instead, I stuck with the cheese, crackers, bagels, chips, bottled water, and a regular donut. The Con Suite also had a sizable spread of fruits, but there was a lot of chopped melon, and unfortunately, I am very allergic to melon.

I went to David Lee Summer‘s reading first thing. He read the first chapter from his latest book, Lightning Wolves, which is a steampunky desert Southwest alternative historical fiction that is quite fun and inventive. Then he read an interlude from his vampire novel, Dragon’s Fall. This book appeals to me because of the historical fiction aspect and his reading of the interlude only peaked my curiosity. And I asked my moonlight question. Growing up, I never really paid attention to vampires. But then vampires became a little more popular in the 1980s with The Lost Boys, and then with Interview with a Vampire. And that is when I started to wonder why most vampires weren’t reactive to moonlight, since it is simply reflected sunlight. Summers had a great answer for this in that it really depends on how the author has set up their vampires – is there a scientific basis for this existence (virus, blood defect, etc.) or are they magic based? From there, you can build logical reasons to how vampires do or don’t react to moonlight.

Steven Gould & Walter Jon Williams at Bubonicon 2014

Steven Gould & Walter Jon Williams at Bubonicon 2014

Then it was off to the Co-Guests of Honor Presentation. Steven Gould was the Toastmaster, with Walter Jon Williams helping out. They started off with some trivia questions concerning lizards mating in space aimed at the audience and then moved on to quizzing the co-guests of honor, Cherie Priest and John Hemry. Once the silliness was concluded, important matters were discussed, like the Chad Mitchell Trio song featuring Lizzie Borden. Yeah, that little girl from the nursery rhyme who gave her parents 40 whacks was indeed a real historical person. Priest’s soon-to-be-out book, Maplecroft, features Lizzie fighting Cthulu monsters. Damn! That’s some creepy nursery rhyme turned mysteriously cool yet still creepy all at the same time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wlO-J0v9ZY

John Hemry was asked to talk about retiring from his navy career to become a writer and stay-at-home father. He spoke openly of his three children, all who are somewhere on the autism spectrum and each requiring some amount of special care. I have to admit that this little bit of a reveal on his personal life is why I want to give his books a try. The military SF genre is filled with books written by military/ex-military men and, to me, much of it is interchangeable, lacking distinction from author to author. But since Hemry has been a househusband and a father to challenged children, I expect he has more insight into the human condition than most writers in the military SF genre. With my fingers crossed, I will be plunging into some of his books soon.

John Maddox Roberts on the Secret History/Alternate History panel, Bubonicon 2014

John Maddox Roberts on the Secret History/Alternate History panel, Bubonicon 2014

The first panel of the day for me was The Weird Weird West: SF with Six-Guns, moderated by John Maddox Roberts. He was joined by Craig Butler, Josh Gentry of SnackReads, David Lee Summers, and Walter Jon Williams. This was a fun, fun panel that was part history lesson and part romp through all the weird westerns out there, in print and on screen. Sitting down to enjoy this panel, I instantly thought of Westworld. The discussion started with a bit of history about the Wild West (and how short lived that actually was) to the paranormal side of the Wild West (think ghost stories and native folk lore) and then to the various cultures that have homaged the Wild West – Spaghetti westerns, Samurai 7, and more. For your traipsing through the Weird West, check these out: Joe Landsdale, Jane Lindskold, Emma Bull, Ambrose Bierce, Red Harvest, The Good, the Bad, and the Weird, The Haunted Mesa, and Science Fiction Trails magazine.

Cherie Priest & John Hemry (AKA Jack Campbell), Bubonicon 2014

Cherie Priest & John Hemry (AKA Jack Campbell), Bubonicon 2014

After taking a break to check out the Bubonicon auction, I ended up enjoying the panel Cthulu Lives! Lovecraft’s Old Ones in Today’s Fiction. Moderator Cherie Priest was joined by Yvonne Coats, John J. Miller, Harry Morris, and John Maddox Roberts. The panel spent a lot of time on their love for H. P. Lovecraft and his influence on today’s writers and the entertainment world in general. From the bookish world, check out Caitlin Carrigan, Fritz Leiber, Molly Tanzer, Livia Llewellyn. From the big screen and TV, check out True Detective, Cast a Deadly Spell, Pacific Rim. Then folks got a little serious and discussed the darker side to Lovecraft: his racism and sexism. Miller and Priest had the most to say, and seemed to have studied not only Lovecraft’s works but also his personal life. Morris also pitched in here and there with anecdotes. Priest pointed out that you don’t find hate without fear, and Lovecraft had a great hate of women. Miller pointed out that Lovecraft came from a highly dysfunctional home. It was a very interesting discussion and I think Lovecraft’s biography would be a worthy read. Then Priest told her story of her large framed Lovecraftian poster above her bed, and the squirrel falling down behind the wall late at night as Cherie sat up reading.

Claire Eddy & Connie Willis on the She's My Tardis panel, Bubonicon 2014

Claire Eddy & Connie Willis on the She’s My Tardis panel, Bubonicon 2014

By this point I was fading fast and thinking about that 2 hour drive home. But there was one last panel, She’s My TARDIS, Except She’s a Woman, moderated by John Hemry. He was joined by Connie Willis, M. T. Reiten, David Lee Summers, and Claire Eddy. This started off as a discussion of ships or even planets that became a personality within the story, such as Firefly‘s Serenity, the ship from Farscape, even the planet Arrakis from Frank Herbert’s Dune. Willis recommended the movie Dark Star. And then someone asked the question of why ships are usually referred to as female, which lead to a deeper discussion of animism and the female psyche. Needless to say, the men kept digging themselves into a hole and it was terribly fun to watch. Indeed, I spent much of this last hour of the con laughing out loud (with everyone else, so it was the good kind of laughing out loud).

And there you have it folks. I’ll try to do one more post about the autographing session, the auction, the costume contest, and the art room. I didn’t get to explore the gaming room nor the vendors this year. And there was a late night charity auction Friday night. Really, I should just replicate myself for this event so that I can enjoy everything. Next year’s Bubonicon will be later in August, instead of the first weekend, so I only have a whole year to wait.

Bubonicon 2014: Saturday

ABQ Steampunk Society & Cherie Priest

ABQ Steampunk Society & Cherie Priest

The Saturday of Bubonicon is where the most stuff happens – lots of panels, plenty of readings by individual authors, the mass autographing session, and the costume contest. For this post, I decided to talk about the panels and in another post I will share my crappy photos of the costume contest and talk about all the cool art I saw in the art show room.

First, let me say the Con Suite was awesome. This is my first time partaking of it and I was impressed. The hotel house rules put the Con Suite up on the 16th floor and they have to cover the expensive items (i.e. the TV) and the floor with plastic – which kind of makes you feel like you are walking right into a kill room, except there is all this food and nerdy people having merry geeky conversations. There were simple breakfast burritos that you could dress up with salsa or cheese, plenty of fruit, bagels, various beverages, and all sorts of appropriate con food (minion cheese nips!). And donuts! It’s been months since I had a donut and I was just dreaming about them last week.

Connie Willis on the Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit panel, Bubonicon 2014

Connie Willis on the Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit panel, Bubonicon 2014

Then off to my first panel of the day, Secret History versus Alternate History: Splitting Hairs. Since Ian Tregillis couldn’t make it this year (sniffle), Walter Jon Williams filled in as moderator. He was joined by Cherie Priest, John Hemry (AKA Jack Campbell), S. M. Stirling, & John Maddox Roberts. Williams quickly defined the terms ‘secret history’ and the grammatically correct ‘alternative history’ to the panel’s agreement. This panel was part history lesson and part discovery of other great authors of the genre that I need to hunt down and devour. Priest talked about how boiling water, two ladies (Clara Barton & Sally Thompkins), and their insistence to remain in charge birthed the organization we know today as the American Red Cross. There was also plenty of talk about dirigibles (real and fictional), submarines, and the what if photography came around a bit earlier (since all the tech was there but no one had put it together). Stirling highly recommended checking out the memoirs of Anne Lister, a mountaineer & traveler who died in the 1840s. Fredric Brown was also recommended, along with Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.

The ABQ Steampunk Society hosted a tea and chat with Cherie Priest that everyone was welcome to attend. The ladies of the ABQSS were all decked out in their outfits, complete with gadgets and personas. The tea was hot, the room chilly, the conversation excellent. Leah R, the ABQSS Event Organizer, was dressed as Briar Wilkes from Boneshaker (hooray!). Various steampunk touchstones in modern culture were discussed such as the tv series Jack of All Trades (which I need to Netflix!) and the robot Boilerplate (who has a tidy little faux history and website). Beyond Victoriana is a blog that focuses on steampunk, and especially on steampunk beyond the boundaries of England and English culture. I had quite a bit of fun browsing around on this site. Of course, Priest gave us a little history lesson (which is tied to one of her books) concerning Maria Boyd, a spy for the Confederacy in the Civil War. I forget exactly how Maria came up in conversation, but she had a fascinating life starting in her teens with plenty of marriages, internment camps, spying, affairs, etc.

Ernest Cline on the Pop! Culture Influences panel, Bubonicon 2014

Ernest Cline on the Pop! Culture Influences panel, Bubonicon 2014

Alas, the tea was drunk the hour was over and we all had to shove over for the next item on the schedule. I was off to Pop! Culture: Influences of Today’s Life, a panel moderated by Cherie Priest and which included Ernest Cline, Scott Phillips, Gabi Stevens, and Lauren Teffeau. Some of this panel I got, some I didn’t. I am a produce of the 1980s, but it was heavily influenced by country music and nothing but country music (unless I heard it in a movie). Don’t fret; I rectified this somewhat when I escaped to college and discovered all sorts of emo and alternative music. But there are still gaps in my 1980s cultural references as there were plenty of movies/music/tv that I wasn’t allowed to experience. Other parts of the panel, i totally got, like I can completely understand why someone (Cline) would want a DeLorean or two, and why they would trick them out with paraphernalia from Ghostbusters, Star wars, and KITT. There was plenty of talk about Star Trek, MST3K, and Atari to go along with it. Also, I learned an important Star Wars trivia – the gold dice hanging from the Millennium Falcon in the first movie were later stolen from the set and didn’t make a reappearance in the subsequent films.

Daniel Abraham moderating the Sidekicks & Minions panel, Bubonicon 2014

Daniel Abraham moderating the Sidekicks & Minions panel, Bubonicon 2014

The fun continued with Sidekick and Minion Cliches & Comic Relief, moderated by Daniel Abraham (who is half of the awesome writing team James S. A. Corey, the other half being Ty Franck). He was joined by John Hemry, Claire Eddy, S. M. Stirling, & Connie Willis. This panel started off with a rousing discussion of the definitions of sidekick, minion, and foil and then friendly banter about the differences, followed by examples – Pinky & the Brain, Harry, Ron & Hermione, Sherlock & Watson, Batman & Robin, Don Quixote & Sancho Panza. Who’s a foil (someone there to constantly screw up and create opportunities for our hero to look good)? Who is a minion (someone forced into assisting our evil empire builder)? Who is a sidekick (and there was tons of discussion on exactly what role the sidekick plays)? And here is another new-to-me author to add to my TBR pile – Sean Stewart. Then someone mentioned a podcast done in the style of old-time radio theater, The Thrilling Adventure Hour.  A few movies/tv shows, such as The Venture Bros. and Grabbers, were also mentioned.

Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit Before You Die was moderated by Connie Willis, who was joined by Yvonne Coats, T. Jackson King, John Maddox Roberts, and Courtney Willis (Connie’s husband). If you think I blathered on before, well, there was tons of good stuff discussed on this panel, and I could go on and on – but this is already a really long post. So let me say the following books/authors were recommended by the panel: The Wood Wife, H. Beam Piper, Samuel R. Delany, Discworld, Barsoom, Andre Norton, Redshift Rendezvous, Robert Forward, Riverworld, Karen Anderson, Richard K. Morgan, James White, Earthsea, And Flatland. There, if that doesn’t keep you in reading for 6 months, I don’t know what will.

David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014

David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014

The last panel of the day was What Scares You Now? Horror Today which was moderated by Craig A. Butler. He was joined by Cherie Priest, Scott Phillips, David Lee Summers, & Joan Saberhagen. First, let me say that I was NOT stalking Cherie Priest on Saturday. It just so happens that she was in nearly all the panels I had an interest in. No, the stalking came the next day – just kidding. But we did get to share an elevator (and some morbid humor) with several other ladies. Second, half the panel started off introducing themselves and their fear of centipedes. Hence, there was a fair number of centipede jokes throughout the hour. There was plenty of discussion about vampires and zombies; Priest said an interesting thing that I will attempt to clearly paraphrase: the two are opposite sides to the same coin. One makes you unique, powerful, desirable, and autonomous while the other strips everything unique from you, makes you undesirable, and leaves you no longer in control of yourself. I am sure there is a senior psych paper in that somewhere. Saberhagen was difficult to scare, as she fears none of the made up monsters. She did have bits and pieces to add to psychological terrors, such as when your senses say something is in front of you or happening that your mind says can not be. And of course there were lots of recommendations of what is good in horror now: Salem’s Lot, Manhattan, The Day After, Kate Kerrigan, The Ape’s Wife & Other Stories, The Slenderman.

And there we have most of Saturday. It really is a small convention, but that lets me ride the elevator with book celebrities and ask pesky questions at every panel (if I wanted to). And I get to know some of the regular con goers too. Plus several of the local authors bring their spouses and kids, so that is always cute to see.

Bubonicon 2014: Friday

Walter Jon Williams, T. Jackson King, and Laura Mixon

Walter Jon Williams, T. Jackson King, and Laura Mixon

It’s the start of my yearly holiday, Bubonicon, the scifi convention of Albuquerque, NM. I packed appropriately with books and a fun t-shirt for authors to sign at the big signing party on Saturday. I’m staying at the hotel where the convention is held, which makes it mighty convenient to pop in and out of panels and readings, zipping up to my room here and there for apples and sanity breaks.

This year, the 4pm panel kicked off the convention with local authors. It’s All SF: Sci-Fi & Southwestern Fiction, moderated by Walter Jon Williams, hosted a great discussion on how the desert southwest has been used as location in SFF. Williams was joined by fellow NM authors David Lee Summers, Jeffe Kennedy, T. Jackson King, and Laura Mixon (AKA M. J. Locke).

This panel ranged from the ecological and geographical diversity of the Southwest, to the cultural diversity of region. Of course, this went on to discuss frontier adventures in general and how what we learn from this region can be used to build frontier locations on fictional worlds. Two of the panelists have ties to the Roswell incident, which I found quite amusing. There was a nice discussion of the O.K. Corral and how modern movies make that the climax of the story, when in reality the O.K. Corral event was the beginning of Tombstone violence that went on for several months. Add in side notes about a Santa Fe version of the phantom of the opera and Japanese chili farmers, and you have a pretty amusing panel.

David Lee Summers, Jeffe Kennedy, & Walter Jon Williams

David Lee Summers, Jeffe Kennedy, & Walter Jon Williams

But then Walter Jon Williams had to bring up the (sadly) failed camel corp and the Ottoman trainer, Hadji Ali (AKA Hi Jolly), who was brought over with the camels to train US military personnel in camel riding. Apparently there is a monument to this man in Lake Havasu, AZ which is a pyramid with a camel at the pinnacle. Then Laura Mixon asked if anyone knew the song. No one volunteered, so she sang part of it for us, which was really quite awesome. Check out this LINK for the lyrics.

So, there we have scifi, history lesson, and musical entertainment all within the first panel of the Con.

Then I was off to tea, with two authors (David Lee Summers and Melinda Moore). We met at a nearby Starbucks, which is perfect for me as I love the scent of coffee but greatly prefer slurping down tea. We had a great chat, mostly about books, of course. And Melinda let me be a little book geek and have her sign my kindle.

ABQ Steampunk Society

ABQ Steampunk Society

Then back to Con in time for Steampunk 101: Queen Victoria Doesn’t Own It. This panel was hosted by ABQ Steampunk Society, and they were all dressed up. It was pretty cool to variety in their costumes (which I didn’t do a good job of photographing). Of course, plenty of steampunk literature was discussed – Scott Westerfeld, Cherie Priest, Jules Verne, K. W. Jeter, David Lee Summers, and plenty of others. Alternate history writers were pulled into the discussion (Harry Turtledove, Eric Flint). The aesthetics of steampunk were also discussed especially in relation to steampunk societies that have popped up around the world in places where there isn’t necessarily a body of literature int he native tongue to draw upon.

Bubonicon fun & swag

Bubonicon fun & swag

Then I was off to the dealer room to pick up a book I have been meaning to since the last Bubonicon – A Kepler’s Dozen. 99% of the time, I love living on the farm. But I do sometimes really miss being near a bookstore.

So, what do I have loaded on my kindle? Lightning Wolves by David Lee Summers. What audiobook do I have loaded on my laptop? The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis. I have so been looking forward to this event for months now and this kickoff doesn’t disappoint.

Interview: David Lee Summers, Author of Lightning Wolves

SummersLightningWolvesFolks, please welcome David Lee Summers to the blog once again. He’s previously gifted me with a bit of his time in this other interview. Today we chat about fairy tales, Star Wars, Cherie Priest’s works, awkward fan moments, and question over the correct use of the term ‘parsec’. I had quite a bit of fun in reading through David’s answers and I expect you’ll be as entertained as I am.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

One of my favorite poetry collections is Jean Hull Herman‘s Jerry Springer as Bulfinch or Mythology Modernized. Throughout her collection, Ms. Herman recounts stories of Greek myth and recounts similar episodes from the Jerry Springer Show. It all goes to show that we not only project our hopes and aspirations into our myths, we also reflect who we are as human beings on our myths and sometimes we don’t always come off in the best light.

No matter what genre a writer tackles, they’re going to react to those things around them. Now a science fiction writer might either add some wish fulfillment and create the world she hopes will come about, or she might create the world she fears. The same is true for fantasy. We’ll raise up our better selves in the form of heroes and noble creatures while also dashing ourselves through villains and monsters. In answer to your question, I think modern fantasy fiction simply gives us a lens by which to view the modern world and attempt to make the best choices as human beings. A century from now, people will look at our fantasy in much the same way as we look at Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as a window into past times.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenGiven the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The fantastical beasts of fiction I would most like to encounter would be any Maurice Sendak‘s wild things of Where the Wild Things Are. They look vicious, but really, all they want to do is play and I could be their king by simply being fierce at them.

Although I love dragons and gryphons and would love to see one from a safe distance, I’d probably also want to avoid them at all costs because I’m not sure there would be a safe distance.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I would love to see a PC game based on Cherie Priest‘s Clockwork Century novels. It would be fun to see a lot of the different locations and situations visualized. It could be done as a quest game with different objectives. I’d love to campaign through her alternate Seattle underground, or aboard the speeding train of Dreadnaught, or through the streets and swamps of her steampunked New Orleans from Ganymede. For my part, I would like to play the part of airship pirate captain Andan Cly, but there are plenty of great characters that a player could choose to be in this world.

SummersOwlDanceWhat nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

One of the go-to books in my personal library is The Atlas of Past Times. It was a book I found on remainder on a shelf outside a bookstore, but I find it a great quick reference when I’m checking where boundaries were at a given point in history or who was in charge of what, which can then point me to other historical reference materials. This is very useful if I’m working on a historical story, alternate or otherwise. It also reminds me about how fast boundaries have changed in human history.

In general, I think the most useful books for building cultures are collections of folk tales. I’ve used Grimm’s Fairy Tales, American Indian Myths and Legends by Erdoes and Ortiz, and Vampire in Europe by Montague Summers. There are also a lot of good projects where people have collected folktales on the web. These tell you a lot about people’s hopes and fears, their morality, and their taboos. Reading folk tales along with books from other times and places can open your mind and help you consider what future or fantastic cultures might be like.

NASA has many great online resources not only for their discoveries, but the spacecraft and vehicles that made them. This can be helpful when you’re thinking about how vehicles work in space. Plus, they often give you references for places to look for more information.

The way I approach any story at the beginning is to think about what building blocks I need for the story. Will I need to know about a certain region of the world? Do I want to build a culture that’s analogous to a culture that has existed? Sometimes I have books that will help answer those questions in my library. If not, I’ll go to the online card catalog for the local library and see what kinds of books they have on those subjects.

SummersTheSlayersWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Paradise Lost by John Milton is one I’ve always wanted to sit down and work my way through because it inspired so much of the modern lore about angels and demons—things people think are Biblical but aren’t. I’d also love to read the Iliad and the Odyssey all the way through. I’ve read large chunks of the latter, but it’s been a long time. On a somewhat lighter note, I’ve been looking for a good translation of Jules Verne‘s ‘Round the Moon, the sequel to From the Earth to the Moon. Verne ends the first book on a cliffhanger, with his crew going to the moon, but we don’t find out what happens until the second book and I haven’t tracked down a copy yet!

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay? Have others dressed up as characters from your books?

In fact the outfit I often wear to steampunk events is inspired by the clothes I describe for the inventor, Professor Maravilla in Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves. It’s a cravat, brightly colored waistcoat, and tailcoat. The bounty hunter, Larissa Crimson, was created by my daughter as her steampunk persona for events. As it turns out, she appears as Larissa on the cover of Lightning Wolves.

So far, I haven’t encountered anyone outside my family dressed up as a character from my books, but I’d be absolutely delighted if they did. They’d get a free book and I’d have to take a picture with them!

SummersSolarSeaIf you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

I would start with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. After all, she pretty much invented both modern science fiction and horror with Frankenstein. Next would be Arthur Conan Doyle. It would be great to meet the man behind Sherlock Holmes and see if I could get him to recount stories of some of his famous hoaxes. Another British author of the period who would be fun to have at this table would be D.H. Lawrence, to discuss both poetry and his perspective on northern New Mexico at the time my grandparents were doing their best to make a life there. Leigh Brackett would have to be on the list for both her role in early pulp science fiction, but for a Hollywood writing career that ranged from working with Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, to John Wayne in Rio Bravo, and finishing with the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back. With Leigh Brackett there, I would have to invite Ray Bradbury. Even though I got to meet him before he died, there are so many more things we could talk about and discuss now than when I met him in the early days of my career.

Who knows what they would order if left to their own devices, but with three people from England and two of them from the late Victorian period, I’d be inclined to invite them over to a sumptuous holiday meal of turkey and all the trimmings. If I were preparing it, it would be a smoked turkey with mole sauce on the side. I’d make sure there was plenty of wine and beer available. The one time I was with Ray Bradbury that he ordered something, it was a Heineken.

SummersDragon'sFallIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

The hard part of this question is that a college semester is only going to have limited time and you can’t read all the greatest, best, or the most influential works. My inclination would be to use Frankenstein to discuss science fiction’s beginning as cautionary, morality tale. I would move on to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon to discuss the rise of science fiction as an optimistic genre. Starship Troopers would probably serve as classic military, hero-driven science fiction and as a jumping off point for the role of politics in science fiction. Dune would probably come next to show a continuation of the heroic saga, but subverted by the sensitivity of ecology and drug culture at the time it was produced. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester would probably come in there, too, to show how heroic science fiction could be completely subverted, allowing for the rise of cyberpunk and other genres. A novel like Paolo Bacigalupi‘s The Windup Girl would serve to show the return to science fiction as cautionary tale, the introduction of steampunk and a jumping off place for a discussion of the future.

Lots of other books would certainly be mentioned, if not substituted for these. Certainly Ray Bradbury’s novels and stories would be discussed. Lois McMaster Bujold and the Miles Vorsagian novels would be good examples of character and plot almost becoming primary to any particular science fictional element. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could come in as part of a discussion on the role of humor in science fiction. So many books so little time!

SummersRevolutionOfAirAndRustCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

It was more cool than awkward, but last year at Phoenix Comicon, a fellow bought a copy of Revolution of Air and Rust. He was nice enough, but said he’d read it over and let me know what he thought. The next day, he came back to the table with one of his friends and he immediately bought Owl Dance and told his friend, he absolutely had to buy Revolution of Air and Rust. “That’s one of the best things I’ve read.” That just made my day.

As for awkward fanboy moments on my part, I went to see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan on the day of release with friends of mine from across town. We were all in high school at the time. They introduced me to their friend Jan Bixby. We were having a great time in line talking Star Trek, science fiction, and generally geeking out when an older man built like a bantam rooster with hair that looked like it put combs in their place walked up and had a few words with Jan. One of my friends pulled him aside and introduced me to him. “This is Jan’s dad, Jerome.” I shook his hand, then said something like “Pleased to meet you, sir”, then he went on his way. A beat or two later, I put it together. Jan Bixby’s dad was Jerome Bixby, the author of such original Star Trek episodes as “Mirror, Mirror” and “Requiem for Methuselah” plus the great, great horror story “It’s a Good Life” which was made into a Twilight Zone episode starring Billy Mumy. I think I was speechless and muttering incoherent syllables for a while afterward. One of my friends had to point out in typical high school fashion, “Yeah, but he’s just Jan’s dad.”

SummersSpaceHorrorsWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

One argument that seems to crop up from time to time is whether or not soft science fiction has any value influencing scientists. For example, someone might point to the infamous line from Star Wars where Han Solo says the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” In the context of the movie, it’s clear he’s referring to parsecs as a unit of time, when in fact, they’re a distance that was initially based on the size of an arcsecond of angle on the sky. The claim is often made that not only is this bad science, it’s going to lead kids away from the sciences and we’re going to raise a generation of idiots. Therefore, this kind of terrible science needs to be eliminated from science fiction at all costs.

However, most astronomers I’ve known have gone into science precisely because soft science fiction got them thinking about the adventure of space at an early age. Carl Sagan famously fell in love with Mars because of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who got almost everything wrong about Mars. I’ve known generations of scientists who got interested in science because of both Star Wars and Star Trek. In my case, I remember hearing Han Solo’s line from Star Wars and wondering what a parsec was. Was it anything real? When I looked it up, I found out they got it wrong. So what? I still loved the adventure of Star Wars, but I have to admit, I felt a little bit superior to the writers of Episode IV. A whole new world opened up to me and I started looking up even more stuff.

So my side of the argument usually runs something like this: Science fiction influences scientists not because it’s right but because it’s fun. Sure as writers, we should do our best to get it right, but it’s the fun that makes people care. I’ve yet to meet anyone who stopped having an interest in science because George Lucas didn’t know what a parsec was.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

2014: What’s Next?

Here is an artsy wool rug. Sky Stones - because you have to name such pieces something.

Here is an artsy wool rug. Sky Stones – because you have to name such pieces something.

2013 was an extremely busy year for me, so some of my book commitments fell to the wayside. I had ankle surgery in February and that took forever to heal enough to be fully mobile. My man took an EMT course over the summer, while continuing to work 40 hours/week, and hopefully soon he will be licensed (still waiting on the ambulance ride alongs to be scheduled). Several small, intense events also happened over the summer and having them all stacked up like that took a toll. Then there was cubicle land. Yep. The office. I saw myself going down the path that leads to Dickhood and I decided I didn’t want to be just another disgruntled employee who was spending every ounce of concentration trying to hide it. I was tired of listening to my coworkers cry at work and my managers being yanked around by yet more managers. So, I looked around at what else I could do and I spotted a loom and weaving supplies. Yeah. You didn’t see that plot twist coming, did you? So on top of all the summer madness, I started a home business (Woven Hearth) while still employed at the the Cubicle Dungeon. Craziness.

In October I put in my 2 weeks notice, and my last day at the Dungeon was Halloween. It’s always been my favorite holiday, and now I see it in a liberating light also.

Picabuche - Just a smidge demon?

Picabuche – Just a smidge demon?

What does all this babbling mean about my reading life? Well, now I have a full-time job where I listen to audiobooks all day while weaving. Hooray! So I am tearing through those like Granny Margaret tears through pantyhose (don’t ask).

I also took up free-lance editing. I love this side job. I love being paid to take apart (politely, always politely) someone’s work. I love double checking their facts. Do herons really nest on the Nile banks in summer? What kind of trade was going on in 1580s Europe? If she’s holding a knife and a gun, where do they end up when she lunges to strangle the good guy?

You get the idea. But the other side of that shiny coin is that I now have difficulty reading ANYTHING without mentally editing it. My eyeball reading has decreased even as my audiobook listening has increased. So I am trying to get my eyeball reading groove back. Hence, the pileup of review ebooks that still need reading.

As many of you already know, I will be participating in Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage SF and in Stainless Steel Droppings’ Science Fiction Experience 2014. The Wheel of Time read along is ongoing (and lots of fun!). We’re just starting Book 7, A Crown of Swords. Also, for 10 glorious weeks we will be dissecting Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings in a read along cooked up by On Starships & Dragonwings and myself. I’ll also be participating in the February The Book of Apex Anthology blog tour organized by Little Red Reviewer. Starting up next week is the continued read a long of N. K. Jemisin’s The Inheritance trilogy with Book 2, The Broken Kingdoms with Books Without Any Pictures and Violin in a Void. I also have about dozen books from last year to review so that I am all caught up. Beyond that, we’ll see what happens.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenThere were so many books and authors I didn’t get to last year, so they role over to this year. David Lee Summers still has plenty of books for me to explore. Jacqueline Carey has put out one or two books in the YA genre. Of course, Brandon Sanderson‘s sequel to The Way of Kings will be out in March (Words of Radiance). I’ve been meaning to read Jay Kristoff for 2 years now. James Maxey, I’m an ass for not having listened to Bitterwood yet. Kick me in the britches if we ever meet. Since listening to Wil Wheaton read John Scalzi‘s Redshirts, I want to read Wheaton’s book, Just a Geek, and also more Scalzi. I love Mary Roach‘s investigative reporter books and I NEED, yes it is a need, to read her latest, Gulp. I’m feeling a deep, deep need to reread The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and to follow that with reading Wise Man’s Fear (which I haven’t read yet). I also need something dark, magical, and WWII, which means Ian Tregillis and his Milkweed Triptych series.

MaxeyGreatshadowHeldigYou get the point. I will be foregoing sleep.

What’s on your reading goals for 2014?

TregillisBitterSeeds

Interview: David Lee Summers of Hadrosaur Productions

David Lee Summers giving a reading.

David Lee Summers giving a reading.

Everyone, please welcome author, editor, & publisher David Lee Summers to Dab Of Darkness once again. This time, he graces us with his knowledge on publishing, small presses, and the mysterious hadrosaur mascot of Hadrosaur Productions.

1) Often in the publishing world, we see that cover art and even illustrations may be wide interpretations of the actual story. As a small publisher, how do you match art to the story?

First off, as a writer, I find it exciting to see how an artist envisions one of my stories or novels.  I even love it when the artist’s vision doesn’t precisely match the vision I had in mind, as long as it’s a valid interpretation of what I wrote.  It’s the process of seeing what I wrote through a reader’s eyes.  I love seeing the elements of the story the artist found important.

TalesTalisman8-4-coverThe way the process works at Tales of the Talisman Magazine is that I send the stories that require illustration to our art director, Laura Givens, along with summaries of the stories.  Laura then does her best to match the stories with the artists she works with, typically looking at how the “mood” of a story will match the tone and flavor of an artist’s work.  Once the artist has the story, they’re free to go off and interpret it how they want.  Laura works with them to create a technically good piece of work and then she sends it to me and I pay the artist.  I very rarely interfere with the process.  I only send something back to Laura if I feel an illustration gives away too much of a story’s ending, if I feel something could be interpreted as a copyright violation, or if I just can’t understand how the illustration relates to the story at all.  I think I have only sent three or four illustrations back in eight years.

As for the covers of Tales of the Talisman, or an anthology like A Kepler’s Dozen, I really just tell Laura the mood or feeling I want to convey in the cover.  Most of the time, she goes away and about 48 hours later has something for me.  I swear, Laura Givens is a mind reader.  Most of the time, what she sends me is perfect.  In the few times I’ve asked for a change, it’s usually some detail that I don’t think was quite right and often it’s fixed the same day.

2) Concerning publishing etiquette, are unsolicited manuscripts a welcome treat or something that immediately goes to the bottom of the pile?

Let’s start by defining terms.  A solicited manuscript is one that an editor has asked for.  We often think of those as being equivalent to submissions made through an agent.  Well, sorta.  The way that happens is that the agent goes to the editor, makes a pitch and then the editor invites the agent to submit, hence the solicited part.  Magazines, even big-name magazines like Asimov’s or Cemetery Dance, rarely solicit work through agents.  They tend to buy short stories directly from the authors.

Tales of the Talisman takes submissions from anyone during its open reading periods.  As long as the stories conform to the guidelines, these unsolicited manuscripts are absolutely a welcome treat.  Our reading periods typically start on January 1 and July 1 of each year and we read until full.  (Note, we did cancel our July reading period this year to allow us to get back on track with our publishing schedule.)  The guidelines are available on the web at http://www.talesofthetalisman.com/gl.html

HowellSummersKeplersDozenThe anthology A Kepler’s Dozen presents thirteen stories set on exoplanets discovered by NASA’s Kepler Mission.  In this case, we wanted each story to be set on a different exoplanet.  Because of that, writers had to tell us which star system they were going to feature in their story and then they were given the go-ahead to write their story.  So, in this case stories were “solicited” even though they didn’t come through an agent.  What this meant was that an “unsolicited” story was unlikely to be used.  Even though I say that, we did get a submission for Tales of the Talisman that was perfect for the anthology, so I asked to buy it for the book instead of the magazine and fortunately the author was happy to oblige!

3) When considering a short story or even a novel for publication, are tales that fit snugly into a well-established genre preferred over tales that are cross-genre?

As a reader, I absolutely love it when authors play with genre boundaries and tropes to create something fresh and unique.  The only real requirement is that everything works in the story’s internal logic.  No surprise, then, that I love doing the same thing as a writer.

The reasons for genre compliance are really to give bookstores a place to shelve books and to give readers a sense of what to expect.  Being a magazine of science fiction and fantasy, Tales of the Talisman doesn’t have to worry much about either of those things.  When we’re lucky enough to be on a bookstore shelf, we’re shelved with the other science fiction and fantasy magazines.  Because we are a magazine of multiple stories and poems, people expect a potpourri.  So, in fact, I love to see cross-genre stories.  That said, my preference is generally for good stories regardless of where they fit in genre definition.  So, I usually buy a mix of stories that fit in well-established genres and ones that cross genres.

I don’t consider novels for Hadrosaur Productions, but I have considered them when I’ve worked as an editor for other publishers.  My sense is that small presses are a bit more open to cross-genre works than bigger presses simply because they’re selling more of their works as ebooks or through online retailers and again don’t have to worry so much about how the books are going to be shelved at the local big box bookstore.

4) Do small publishers locate beta readers for their works, or is that generally left up to the author?

Again, I think a definition could be handy.  A beta reader is someone who reads an author’s manuscript and provides an early critique.  I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of any press, big or small, finding beta readers for books.  Typically that’s something left up to the author.

Generally, a publisher will run a manuscript through three levels of editing.  First is acquisitions, where the manuscript is selected. Second is line editing, where someone will read for plot holes, characterization issues, factual problems, problems with sentence structure and so forth.  This is probably the closest a publisher will get to a beta reading phase.  Finally there will be copyediting or proofreading, where the basics like spelling, punctuation and grammar will be fixed.  Depending on the size of the press these jobs may be handled from anywhere from one to three or more people.

Some small publishers will send a novel out for review blurbs.  These are the little quotes you may see on the front or back cover of the book that tell how wonderful it is.  This really isn’t the same as a beta reader.  If the blurb writer loves the story, they will generally send you a short paragraph telling what they loved.  If they don’t like story, they generally won’t provide a detailed report.  They’ll just decline to provide a blurb.

5) Series versus stand-alones: What are the pluses and the possible pitfalls?

When a situation and a set of characters click, readers and publishers love series.  Readers love them because they can come back and spend more time in a beloved world.  Publishers love them because they have a ready-made audience for the next book in the series.

An author should only agree to do a series if they absolutely love spending time in the world.  If not, they’re not going to create a series that readers will come back to.  Ideally, a writer should also treat each book of a series as possibly the last, and wrap up the plot sufficiently that if the publisher cancels the series, readers won’t feel cut off.  By the same token, writers should recognize that a reader may start a series in the middle.  So, the book has to be able to function as a first book as well.  In other words, the perfect series book is a stand-alone that functions in the context of a larger story arc.

In fact, as a writer, I’ve never set out to write a series.  I always started with a standalone book, because a new set of characters and a new world is an experiment.  That’s the beauty of the standalone.  It’s a chance to try new things out.  Sometimes those new things are wonderful and need to be explored in more books.  Sometimes, that first book will prove sufficient.

On a related note, Tales of the Talisman did try publishing serialized fiction in some of its early issues.  A few readers were enthusiastic about the serials, but generally these were people who were already loyal subscribers.  New subscribers generally didn’t go back and look for past installments, and single-issue buyers didn’t rush to buy subscriptions to find out the next installment.  Perhaps this was a reflection on the specific serials we bought, but it didn’t seem like this was the path to creating loyal subscribers and it kept us from buying as many wonderful stand-alone stories as we would have liked, so we ultimately decided to drop serials from the mix.

6) How important is self-promotion for an author that has signed with a small publisher?

I’m going to say something completely heretical in this day and age.  Forget what you’ve been told about “self-promotion.”  Figuring out how many tweets per day to send out about your book is a fool’s errand.  Intentionally trying to build buzz is just going to get you put in people’s spam filters.  What sells books is word of mouth by engaged readers.

The job of an author is to come up with an idea so wonderful, a story so eye-poppingly well told, characters so dynamic that readers will have no choice but to gush about the book.  In fact, the book is going to be so terrific, you’re not going to be able to help yourself as you geek out about it to your friends on Twitter, Facebook and at conventions and book fairs.  When you’re done with the first book, your job is to go on to the next book.  It’s going to be so great, you’re going to have no choice but to talk about that one, too.

The best publishers, large or small, have always worked with the author to help share the enthusiasm, but all publishers have limited resources.  Small publishers in particular are going to be people just like you, struggling to make ends meet with a day job, but who have a passion for the craft.  On top of that, they also have a bunch of other authors they’re working with.  If there is one specific promotion job I can encourage you to do, it’s to work with your publisher to figure out how best to dovetail your energies spreading the enthusiasm about the book, but do it with a spirit of partnership and cooperation.

So, yes, self-promotion is vitally important to an author who has signed with a small press, but the idea I want to get across is that if you’ve done your job as an author, the enthusiasm will flow naturally.  It will be infectious.  A few curious people will see and check out the book.  If the book really is great and strikes a chord, word will spread quickly.  If the book’s greatness eludes people, it doesn’t matter.  Even though you’re enthusiastic and spreading the word, you’ll already be working on the next great book.

7) How did the hadrosaur come to be the mascot?

My wife, Kumie, and I both love dinosaurs.  There’s one dinosaur in particular that we found particularly striking.  It’s a Chinese hadrosaur called tsintaosaurus.  It’s a duck-billed dinosaur that had a strikingly unicorn-like crest, in effect making it the creature of science and the creature of fantasy.  Here’s a good page describing the dinosaur:  http://museumvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum/discoverycentre/dinosaur-walk/meet-the-skeletons/tsintaosaurus/

What’s more, when Kumie was going to graduate school for her Masters in Business Administration at the University of Arizona, her final project to create a company.  That company became our small press.  While working on her project, hadrosaur fossils were discovered near Tucson.  We took it as a sign and named our small press hadrosaur after the creature of science and fantasy, and we use the tsintaosaurus in our logo.

8) In this electronic age, is distance between author, cover artists, illustrators, and publisher an obstacle?

The distance between people really isn’t much of an obstacle at all.  These days I do the majority of business by email and it really doesn’t matter if the person I’m working with is across town or half a world away.  Editing stories is largely a visual exercise, and emailing manuscripts marked up in Microsoft Word is very simple.  Paypal has generally made it very easy to pay people, no matter where they live.  The only thing that can be a very slight obstacle is that it costs more to mail contributor copies of physical books to people in other countries than it does to mail them to someone in the United States.

SummersSolarSea9) What is your take on book trailers and their effectiveness in promoting a single book or a catalog of books?

I think book trailers can be very eye-catching if done well.  Like a good book, a good book trailer needs to be able to stand out from the pack and do something memorable.  There are a lot of sites for sharing book trailers and it becomes another way for an author or a publisher to share their enthusiasm for a particular title.  However, I’ve seen some book trailers that look like amateur YouTube videos.  Nothing about them really captures my attention.

If you’re going to take the time to make a book trailer or spend the money to have one made, make sure it’s done right.  Don’t just do it because it’s the “in thing” to do.  Do it because it’s something you’ll be proud to show off.  I haven’t assembled any book trailers lately simply because I haven’t had the time to make one of the quality I’d find satisfactory.   The last one I did was for my novel The Solar Sea.  It’s a little dated, but I think it still stands up, largely due to Laura Givens’ excellent artwork.  I even made an animation for the video.  It’s at http://thesolarsea.com

10) When you are actively scouting for new authors or artists, what are some things you look at for compatibility?

The process of “scouting for a new author or artist” is largely one of putting up a notice saying we’re open to submissions.  An author will send a story or a novel (depending on what we’re looking for).  An artist might send us a link to their online portfolio.

In the case of short stories, the process is simple.  If they send me a story I love, I most likely will send them a contract.  As long as they handle the contract and payment process in a business-like way, I’m happy to continue doing business with that author in the future.

In the case of artists for Tales of the Talisman, generally Laura Givens looks at the artist’s portfolio to see if the work fits the kind of tone and quality she wants to maintain.  If it is, she emails the artists to make sure they’re happy to work for the pay we can offer and deliver the illustrations we need in a timely fashion.  She’ll generally try them out with one piece.  If all goes well with that first assignment, she’ll contact them for a future assignments.

Most of my experience with novels comes from acquiring books for other companies.  Still, when a publisher commits to buying a book, it’s a relationship that will need to last at least a few years to be successful.  I generally start by evaluating the cover letter to see if the author presents herself in a businesslike and professional manner.  From there, I like to see what kind of track record the author has.  Ideally, I’d like to see a few story sales or at least some indication that she knows how to work well with an editorial team.  I also like an author who can carry on a conversation either online or in person.  Conversely, I don’t want someone who will dominate a conversation or whose ego is so big, I don’t feel like I fit in the same room with it.  I also like to know what an author plans next.  Do they have another book planned?  Is it a sequel or another standalone?  There’s not necessarily a right answer to those questions, but I don’t want an author who has invested all their hopes and dreams in the one work sitting in front of me.  Those authors are invariably disappointed when their baby didn’t make them a millionaire overnight or someone gave them a one-star review on Amazon.

11) As a well-established small publisher, what are a few pieces of advice for folks thinking of founding their own publishing company or joining one?

If you’re thinking of joining a small publishing company, look at their track record.  Do their books look like they’re professional quality?  Do they pay royalties on time?  Do they treat their authors well?  Do they have clear guidelines for the work they expect you to do?  Talk to other people working with that press to find out if they’re happy or not and why.

If you’re planning on founding your own company, plan for the long haul.  It can take years for a small publisher to find their niche and be successful.  Stay within your means.  Don’t publish more books than you can afford to.  Don’t take on more projects than you can handle in a timely fashion.

Educate yourself about the process.  Understand the workflows needed to create the products you plan to sell.  For example, if you plan to publish both print books and ebooks, learn how to manage your workflow so you can do both in a timely manner.  Understand how to create a print book and how to create an ebook.  Even if you ultimately plan to contract these jobs out, it’s the best way to know whether you’re getting a fair price for the jobs performed.

Educate yourself about the marketplace.  Where are you going to sell your books?  How do you place those books with those vendors?

As a small publisher, treat your authors well.  Pay your royalties on time.  Keep clear channels of communication open with your authors and your staff.  That said, remember, the readers always come first.  Fill your orders in a timely fashion and pay attention to what your readers like and don’t like.  They’re the source blood of any publishing venture and your mission will always boil down to finding the best way to get good books into their hands.

Thanks again David for sharing your time and knowledge!

Places to find David Lees Summers and Hadrosaur Productions

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

Bubonicon 2013: The Afterglow

The signed Kindle.

The signed Kindle.

First, here are a bunch of pictures of my signed goodies from the Bubonicon 2013 mass autographing session Saturday afternoon. I brought more books than I could carry in one backpack, and more than I could get signed in the 80 minutes allotted for it. I also went around with my kindle having the back signed. Some of the signatures on it are from Bubonicon 2012 and it came with one signature (David. B. Coe). We were allowed 3 items for the author to sign and then we could get back in line to have more signed. Since I had so many authors I wanted to stalk, I limited myself to no more than 3 items per author.

Books signed at Bubonicon 2013.

Books signed at Bubonicon 2013.

George R. R. Martin by far had the longest line. In fact, by the time I decided I was done (5 minutes left of the session), he still had somewhere between 20-30 people in line. So I spent my time stalking all sorts of other authors. Of course I had books for David Lee Summers to sign. Mario Acevedo, whose book The Nymphos of Rocky Flats I recently finished, was sitting next to Summers, so I couldn’t resist having him sign my kindle (devilish smiley face). I recently finished The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham and had a paper copy for him to sign. However, I listened to Leviathan Wakes (by Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck under the pen name James S. A. Corey), so I asked the two if they wouldn’t mind signing my kindle – and luckily I had a few permanent markers on me. Then I headed over to the Tim Powers line to get a few books signed for a fellow blogger and tripped over Joan Saberhagen on the way. Well, I just happen to have this anthology, Golden Reflections, she helped put together, so I asked her to give it a signing since I blundered into her. She was so nice. In fact, everyone I tracked down to sign this anthology went into smiles and commented on how much fun they had with it.

The only one I have read in this batch is The Outlander. Looking forward to diving into the rest.

The only one I have read in this batch is The Outlander. Looking forward to diving into the rest.

The Tim Powers line was shorter than I expected. In fact, Brent Weeks and Diana Gabaldon had longer lines, but Powers didn’t seem to mind. I told him my blogger friend threatened to beat me bloody with his books if I don’t give them a try and he seemed appreciative of the comment. Then I bobbled around to a few more - John Maddox Roberts, Walter Jon Williams, and Connie Willis. I got to tell her how much my man and I enjoyed the audio version of Blackout. I can’t wait to read the 2nd book, All Clear. Willis created one giganto novel and the publisher split it in two, so you really need to give both a read to get the full story.

My beloved Night Angel trilogy signed.

My beloved Night Angel trilogy signed.

Then I got in line for Brent Weeks. His wife and baby were right up there at the big table with him. The line had gone down quite a bit so he was chatting with folks as they came up to the table. I had my Night Angel trilogy that my man’s sister (thanks D.!) gave us a few years ago. Weeks was very cool. He let me babble on about how my man and I enjoyed his trilogy so much, we basically read it at the same time, having two sets of bookmarks and one staying up later than the other to get a chance at the book in use. My man won that little race, finishing the trilogy half a book ahead of me. Then over to Diana Galbaldon‘s table. By that time, the room was pretty darn warm and I and many others were beginning to wilt. I thanked her for doing this as I can only imagine that it might not be the most favorite part of a convention for the authors. I had found an old ARC of The Outlander and rescued it just for this con and was very happy to get it signed.

Sam Sykes books for my man.

Sam Sykes books for my man.

Finally, I swung by Sam Sykes‘s table. My man loved his first novel, Tome of the Undergates, and I picked up the next two in the series for him. Interesting factoid I didn’t know before the con: Sykes is the son of Diana Gabaldon. Sykes signed my kindle as the books were already signed, and he offered me two signed book plates! Hooray – keep putting out novels Mr. Sykes so we can use the book plates appropriately. Hmm… which brings up ideas of how to use them inappropriately. Anyhoo, I then asked Jane Lindskold (Firekeeper Saga) for a signature on the anthology. While I am not familiar with her work, I look forward to reading her story in Golden Reflections. Last on the list, but not least, was S. M. Stirling. My man really enjoyed his Island in the Sea of Time trilogy and we have both wanted to give The Change series a go. After all that, I was beat.

Mario Acevedo, Betsy James, Gabi Stevens, & Connie Willis

Mario Acevedo, Betsy James, Gabi Stevens, & Connie Willis

Now, on to Sunday, in which the festivities started at 10 and ended (for me anyway) at 4ish. Of course, I started off with a panel, Warehouse 2013: Odd Objects in Fiction. Gabi Stevens moderated and Mario Acevedo, Betsy James, and Connie Willis joined in. In this panel, they started off discussing objects that propel a story forward, such as the One Ring in Tolkien. The discussion then turned to metaphorical objects, such as searching for the truth. It was actually pretty good info for any aspiring authors because the dos and don’ts of how to use such objects in fiction were also touched upon.

Diana Rowland playing Toastmistress to Guests of Honor Tim Powers & Brent Weeks.

Diana Rowland playing Toastmistress to Guests of Honor Tim Powers & Brent Weeks.

I then stuck around for the hour and half Co-Guest of Honor Presentation. Diana Rowland played hostess to Tim Powers and Brent Weeks. This was a great discussion. I quite enjoyed Diana Rowland’s jokes and stories. She use to be a cop and use to work at a morgue. I know, you might be guessing things about me by my interest in such professions. At any rate, now I want to read her stuff. Library trip! All three shared publishing snafoos with the audience. Brent Weeks talked candidly, but kindly, about the narration to his first book and how reviewers found the narration (think surfer dude for the main character) to be not a good match for the book. Tim Powers, who has been a published author for many more years, talked about Canadian Harlequin’s failed SFF line of books and then his experiences with Lester Del Rey. I am constantly fascinated by all that goes on behind the scenes to simply get a book out there to the public. Then of course we talked movie versions of their books. Brent Weeks commented on how he would want a good match and to have a final product that he could be proud of. Tim Powers was at the other end of the spectrum, not minding at all if a book of his was turned into a musical with dancing hamsters. He commented that to him movies, or even audiobooks, were different beasts entirely than the source material, his books. The imagery of dancing hamsters doing a Tim Powers scene had many in the audience laughing. It was a great way to spend an hour and half.

Darynda Jones, Alan Beck, Caroline Spector, Debbie Lynn Smith, & Warren Spector.

Darynda Jones, Alan Beck, Caroline Spector, Debbie Lynn Smith, & Warren Spector.

Then I had a half hour to kill before going to a talk I didn’t want to miss, so I stuck around for the panel Reality Bites Back: Media/Game Shows Gone Wild. Caroline Spector moderated with Darynda Jones, artist Alan F. Beck, Debbie Lynn Smith, and her husband Warren Spector attending. This panel was about reality TV shows. We have a TV. It is hooked up to a blu-ray player and Netflix. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV preferring my audiobooks. So, I knew only a small fraction of the shows they were talking about (mostly the cooking ones). They made some interesting points about ‘scripting’ of such shows and just simply how human behavior changes if you add a camera and dangle money in exchange for outrageous behavior. I ducked out early to hit the 1PM talk.

 

Connie Willis giving her 55 minute talk.

Connie Willis giving her 55 minute talk.

Connie Willis was giving a solo presentation, Non-Formula Plotting. Again, this was geared towards writers and aspiring authors, but I enjoyed her novel Blackout so much, I figured listening to her chat for an hour would be a treat. She did not disappoint. She pointed out some basic plot frames that are used again and again, successfully. The man in a hole plot is usually a big draw. People love to see or read about a person digging themselves out of a hole – usually metaphorical. Even if you don’t care for the main character, you like to watch the struggle of the person trying to regain financial stability, power, life, etc. The other plot frame that I remember her talking about extensively was the try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed story line. She then went on to discuss how to modify these slightly, with either failing at the end, or succeeding in a way that made the whole mess worse. All in all, it was an entertaining and insightful hour.

Darynda Jones, Mario Acevedo, David Lee Summers, T. Jackson King, & Doug Beason

Darynda Jones, Mario Acevedo, David Lee Summers, T. Jackson King, & Doug Beason

I was waiting around for the art auction to announce whose silent bids won, and that wasn’t scheduled to happen until 3PM. So, I popped into the second half of another panel, What If Humans Never Go Into Space Again? This one was moderated by David Lee Summers with Mario Acevedo, Doug Beason, Darynda Jones, and T. Jackson King joining him. I walked in at the point where they were discussing how the travel industry and thrill seekers will propel humans into space (at least a vacation station) if world governments do not. Several on the panel made the point that as the world becomes more and more crowded, more and more eyes will turn towards the stars. I kind of wish I had caught all of this panel, but with the hour & half co-guest of honor presentation off setting the two main tracks, it was hard to jump back and forth catching all of a presentation.

Once this was over, I still had a half hour to kill, so I went to the afternoon auction. We could hear all the fun they were having through the floating wall. I sat near the back, where I could see one of the doors to the art show room. It was interesting to see the variety of items that had been donated for the auction. If I am reading the pamphlet right, these items were either for personal benefit or donated to Bubonicon to raise funds for next year. Of course there were plenty of books, some art donated by show artists, movies, Star Wars ice cube tray, even some VHS movies. Most people paid with cash on the spot. I think the highest item I saw was $40 or $50. Once I saw a line starting to form for the art show, I headed out there.

We waited. We waited some more. It was past 3PM when they came out with a handwritten list of all the bidders (by number) who won something. However, they repeated again and again that it was a very rough list and to check inside. I waited some more. Finally, about 330, they started letting folks in, but only 2 at a time, to pick up their items and pay for them. I was only 8 or 10 people back, so I was finally done about 410, not having won anything in the art show. Still, I had a great time.

My Favorite Moments: The autograph session, the Ty Franck & Daniel Abraham talk, with writer workshop put on by Diana Gabaldon, the co-guest of honor presentation.

Who Will I Be Stalking: Well, there were several new-to-me authors that caught my eye such as Diana Rowland, T. Jackson King, Susan Krinard, Jane Lindskold, Tim Powers, and Sam Sykes.

Next year I would like to attend the costume contest for fun. I saw several Saturday afternoon and wish I had taken photos. I loved staying at the Marriott where the convention was held as I kept bumping into authors here and there. If I do the art show next year (meaning more than look), I think I will do the quick sale instead of bidding. I could have either been enjoying another panel, the dealers room, or on my way home instead of standing around for just over an hour to learn that I had not won anything. At any rate, the art show is always fascinating to look at.

Sigh…. only 51.5 more weeks until the next Bubonicon.

Bubonicon 2013 Friday

Bubonicon 2013 Saturday

Bubonicon 2013: The Meat

Here we have Suzy Charnas, Daniel Abraham, Josh Gentry, David Lee Summers, and Joan Saberhagen.

Here we have Suzy Charnas, Daniel Abraham, Josh Gentry, David Lee Summers, and Joan Saberhagen.

Saturday of Bubonicon 2013 was an all day event, with the con suite opening at 9am. I opted to have tea in my hotel while messing around on the computer. 10AM brought about the first panel of the day: Short Fiction in the Era of Digital Publishing. Josh Gentry of SnackReads moderated this panel of Daniel Abraham (The Dragon’s Path), Suzy Charnas (The Holdfast Chronicles), Joan Saberhagen (manages the literary estate of Fred Saberhagen), and David Lee Summers (Owl Dance). This was a fascinating talk about how publishing has changed since ebooks came about, but also about how digital publishing has changed in the last few years and continues to change. Of special interest to this panel, was the subject of short fiction: how to sell it, should you sell it?, what format to provide it in, etc. Everyone agreed that ebooks were a great way to put an author’s backlist out there, but perhaps not the best way to become known as a new author (for a variety of reasons).

Walter Jon Williams reading a short story from a forth coming anthology.

Walter Jon Williams reading a short story from a forth coming anthology.

After that I bounced over to the 55 minutes with Walter Jon Williams. He was amazingly entertaining last year, doing the various voices for his characters in the short piece of fiction he read. I was hoping he would be just as charismatic again; he did not disappoint. His story, which will be published in a forthcoming anthology, was just a little longer than we had time for, but he paused in a good place. Of course this only added to my desire to pick up the anthology when it comes out. Let me just point out that I had a choice of listening to Brent Weeks for 55 minutes, or Walter Jon Williams. Sorry Brent, but I am sure you had plenty of fandom to glory in and my shy attention wouldn’t have added to it.

Back in the big main room, George R. R. Martin and Tim Powers had an hour long discussion about dark fantasy: Whatever Happened to Dark Fantasy. While I have read some of George Martin’s works going back to the Wild Cards days in my highschool days, I have not yet had the pleasure of reading Tim Powers’s works. Even with that bit of ignorance, the talk was fascinating. Both authors seemed to shy away from such categories as ‘dark fantasy’ or ‘horror fantasy’. I have to agree with them; having recently explored some H. P. Lovecraft works, ostensibly horror, I found them to be fantasy with some dark elements. Martin and Powers are discussed the differences between fantastical horror and psychological horror (where nothing magical is involved).

Bubonicon2013PowersMartin

Time Powers & George R. R. Martin

After all that sitting, I needed a walk, and what better place to walk than the art show. Lots of cutsy kitten & some magical or SF element art was on display. Some made me laugh out loud with the fun of it. Of course there was the requisite armed and nearly nude women that permeate the SFF world (some of which I appreciated, others I found improbable even with suspended disbelief). This year also had pottery and I loved that there were a variety of mugs named for Tolkien characters. While I bid on a few items in the silent auction, I failed to win any. Perhaps next year.

David Lee Summers giving a reading.

David Lee Summers giving a reading.

At the dealer room, I swung by Hadrosaur Productions and said hi to David Lee Summers. While we chatted, author Mario Acevedo happened by and stopped to chat. Of course I had to mention that I recently read his book, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, and from there we were off on conspiracy theories involving aliens and such. The dealers room had several more sellers than last year, which was nice to see. I wandered, looking for a corset to amuse my man with. Alas, I only found a few and nothing that struck my fancy. Perhaps next year.

I sat in on David Lee Summers‘s 25 minute reading. He entertained us with a short bit from his novella Revolution of Air and Rust, which is a steampunk or alternate history set in early 1900s near the beginning of WWI. Having recently finished the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, I really enjoyed the short bit that Summers shared with us. I’ll be picking up my copy for reading in the winter (when I have much more time for eyeball reading versus audiobooks).

Diana Gabaldon & my shoulder (since I was making a stunned bunny face).

Diana Gabaldon & my shoulder (since I was making a stunned bunny face).

On a whim, I then attended a writing workshop hosted by Diana Gabaldon, How (And How Not) To Write Sex Scenes. I don’t write, other than bloggity stuff and government reports (which may or may not be fiction), but I had not attended anything with Diana Gabaldon yet and didn’t want to miss out. The room filled completely. While we had a few minutes before beginning, Diana Gabaldon invited folks to come up and take pictures with her. I couldn’t resist, but the lady I passed my camera off to looked at it dubiously and caught me making a distressed face that could be mistaken for gas. It was way cool of Gabaldon to make the offer to the room. This was one of the funnest hours of the entire con. We laughed often and loudly. The room was full of women and a few brave men. I read a few of her Outlander books way back in college and recently reread the first book, The Outlander, so I had a good idea of her sex scenes. She gave a lot of great advice that was highly entertaining to even those who don’t have an interest in writing.

Brent Weeks moderating a panel with Darynda Jones & Diana Gabaldon.

Brent Weeks moderating a panel with Darynda Jones & Diana Gabaldon.

The last panel of the evening for me was Assassins & Serial Killers in Fantasy moderated by Brent Weeks (The Night Angel trilogy rocks!). Diana Gabaldon, Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson series), John Maddox Roberts (well known for his SPQR series), and Melinda Snodgrass (who has done script writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation & other TV series) joined him. Once again, this was another great panel. Brent Weeks, well known for his assassin trilogy, was the perfect moderator, keeping the questions coming as the panel explored the various differences between serial killers and assassins. John Maddox Roberts pointed out that the traditional assassin, the hashashin, were folks who were called upon once in their life to take out one person, and then they were expected to die in the back blast of vengeance. The panel also explored the dark, disturbing attraction to serial killers whether in fiction or in the media.

John Maddox Roberts waiting for the panel to get started.

John Maddox Roberts waiting for the panel to get started.

After that was the mass autograph signing. I think I will do another post showing off the treasures I got signed as this post has grown a bit long. You can tell my enthusiasm though.

Melinda Snodgrass chatting as Brent Weeks looks on.

Melinda Snodgrass chatting as Brent Weeks looks on.

 

 

Prepping for Bubonicon 2013

This is Chupacabra & Waffles nesting in my books.

This is Chupacabra & Waffles nesting in my books.

That’s right. New Mexico has it’s own SFF convention and it’s coming up next weekend in Albuquerque. Bubonicon is the only con I will be able to jaunt off to this year, so I am making the most of it. I’ve already booked my hotel room and purchased my con ticket. My man has offered to watch the farm for the weekend (as I will be watching the farm while he is off at the Fire & EMS Symposium – you can see pics over HERE from last year). the con is a 2 hour trip one way from where we live, so my man may or may not make it down for part of Saturday.

Of course I stacked these books just so, just so for the cats.

Of course I stacked these books just so, just so for the cats.

As you can see from the pile of books (and cats) I have plenty to get signed and keep me entertained. Brent Weeks and Tim Powers are the guests of honor this year. I have read the Night Angel trilogy (how fast did I read those books?) by Weeks and picked up a book by Tim Powers to give a try (I’ve heard great things about his works). You can check out the full list of participants on the site. Several state and regional locals will be attending. Who am I excited to see, listen to, politely stalk, end up having to do some emergency elevator evacuation drill with? Well, DoD favorite David Lee Summers will be there (you can kind of see a pile of his book sunder Waffles kitty), Connie Willis (loved her book Blackout), George R. R. Martin (yes, I finally read the first 2 books in the series A Song of Ice & Fire), Diana Gabaldon (recently reread her book Outlander, and it was every bit as good as the first time almost 2 decades ago). I just finished The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham two nights ago and am very excited to know he will be at the con. Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck wrote Leviathan Wakes under the pen name James S. A. Corey. I am just about halfway through Leviathan Wakes and loving that too. One of my man’s favorite writers, Walter Jon Williams, will be attending along with S. M. Stirling. Let’s see, who else…. Ian Tregillis, Sam Sykes, John Maddox Roberts and many more.

Cats. I will not be taking the cats.

Cats. I will not be taking the cats.

I attended one day last year (instead of the entire weekend) and saw a few costumes walking around. Since I have a room at the hotel hosting the con, I will be able to stay for the costume contest this year, hooray! There’s also tons of great panels and single author sessions scheduled. I plan to take my camera and my kindle – people like to sign kindles. I will probably take my knitting just in case there is a false fire alarm and we are all stuck in the parking lot. Speaking of the parking lot – right across it is Buca di Beppo, one of my favorite Italian restaurants. Yes, I will be eating good that weekend.

Around the Sphere April 2013

Yes, it is that time again. Time for me to be social. Which usually means snarking on things. In this case, other folks have already put together the snark for me. Enjoy!

I love making fun of Disney heroines. Mostly because they are not particularly heroic. Or rather, running through the woods, cleaning house, or reading a book all while looking gorgeous is heroic for the female form. Sigh….

Here is a really cool article about the what ifs of drawing female superheroes fully clothed. I love the idea and I think a competent, mostly clad superhero (of any gender) is far more attractive than stepping out to fight crime in a bathing suit or highheels and thong-bustier combo.

http://www.geeknative.com/38733/drawing-the-impossible-fully-dressed-superheroines/

Remember Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving) from The Matrix? Yeah, I do. Here he is again in the GE commercial. If all ads were this cool, I would spend more time rotting my brain watching them. Are you ad companies paying attention?

Cracked.com is a great place to visit if you need to kill some time waiting for the bus, that last load of laundry, or you’re stuck at work and can get away with it. Not that I would ever encourage folks to be slackers. Not me. This particular article is on real life places that could be sets for science fiction or fantasy movies. I wish some of these places made up my lawn art.
http://www.cracked.com/article_20357_7-modern-ghost-towns-that-look-like-sci-fi-movies.html?utm_source=thechive.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=7-modern-ghost-towns-that-look-like-sci-fi-movies-pics-article

I’m sure you have seen this trailer by now, but hey, it stars two of my all time favorite actors – Jodie Foster and Matt Damon. So there is no way I was not going to plague you with this trailer one more time.

Ever wonder how to make that superhero Aquaman sexy, useful, and manly all in one go? Well, yeah, I hadn’t actually spent much time thinking about Aquaman either. I mean, who does? Here a cool pic of Aquaman, medieval style. It does the trick.

http://www.ilyke.net/i-thought-this-deserved-to-be-seen-by-more-people–batman–aquaman-medieval-garb/25303/?utm_source=u212&utm_medium=p212137&utm_campaign=aff

Confession time. I love the Riddick movies. I have watched Pitch Black like dozens of times since I first caught on the once appropriately names SciFi channel. When The Riddick Chronicles came out, I hauled my main man off to the theatres to watch it. It was great. Now, a third movie is nearing completion.I know, some of you….perhaps most of you, are quirking your eyebrow at me. I’m OK with that, because I am picturing you all in The Next Generation combat leotard. You look smashing.

This last video is Honest Reviews. Now I love me some Harry Potter – books first, movies second, trick jelly beans third. This video covers all the movies, so beware of spoilers, if you care about such things. Had me chuckling out loud.

Finally, stuff about me that you may or may not care about. I care, and that is good enough. First, I gave an interview over at the Book Store Book Blogger Connection. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a great site where you can provide little snippets about books you love. Then bookstores, usually small, independent ones so far, print off those snippets and place them on their shelves to entice book browsers to pick up the book and perhaps take it home. Genius. (both the site and my interview).

http://bookstorebloggerconxn.com/2013/04/03/bloggers-who-win-dab-of-darkness/

Almost finally, David Lee Summers, an author, scientist, blogger, and all around fun guy, passed the WordPress Family Award on to me. This is my first bloggity award and I am still figuring out what to do with it. The rules with this award are simple – chat about some other blogs that you enjoy. I assume from the title of the award they are suppose to be WordPress blogs, but I am not one for rules really. I think rules, as well as recipes, are really just guidelines. In some cases they really only denote some end goal and how you get there is up to you.

So, let me take a moment to talk about a few blogs that have been in my life recently. On Starships and Dragonwings has one of the snazziest looking blogs around – not too much glitter or flash, and plenty of dragons. If you love your YA SFF, that’s the blog to check out. We recently wrapped up Book 2 of The Wheel of Time series and we’ll shortly be starting Book 3 (The Dragon Reborn). The Little Red Reviewer, who is also the power and master mind behind the Book Store Book Blogger Connection I mentioned above, has always got something SciFi good going on. I recently participated in her The Emoticon Generation blog tour. Stainless Steel Droppings is running his annual Once Upon A Time reading event that runs the duration of spring and is a celebration of anything fantasy (mostly books and film). It is a wonderful, fun event. We just finished up the Stardust Read Along this past week. Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers has been joining me on all my crazy read alongs, including The Shadow of the Sun Read Along which goes to the end of the month. Barbara Friend Ish is giving away digital copies of her book on her site (just follow the read along link to download yours). Let me just say that Sue from Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers always has such great comments. She really takes the time to read the post and leave meaningful comments. Lynn’s Book Blog has been teaching me UK words, like numpty. Lynn has also been a big participator in recent read alongs. And what is a read along if you ain’t got nobody to play with? Yes, I left the bad grammar in. Yes, I can see you wincing. You’re cute when you wince. There are many more to name, but I think I will save some for the next bloggity award or the next time I am feeling social. Yes, you may very well be on that list. It’s better than being on the Other List.

And just yesterday, Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog awarded me the Liebster Award. So, I had to come back in here and edit because this was the perfect place to stick this.  She gets a wicked chuckle from me on timing alone. First, she has these questions I am suppose to answer. She says I can’t say ‘both’. But she also says rules are for breaking. Hehehehehehhe.

  1. Beer or Wine - Chocolate milk stout or muscato dessert wine. But not both together.
  2. Dogs or Cats - I have to say both as I live with both and if I picked one, the other would find out and kill me in my sleep. For Reals.
  3. Fantasy or Sci Fi - This is a cruel, cruel question. How about Scitansy? The best of both worlds.
  4. Book or Film – Book. Except for The Hunger Games trilogy. That is one series I hope the movies end better than the books did.
  5. Star Wars or Star Trek - Star Wars for the women and star trek for the bald headed men.
  6. Batman or Superman - Batman all the way. There is nothing sexy about a grown boy scout in a blue and red unitard.
  7. Anime or Manga - Manga
  8. Gaiman or Tolkien - Gaiman for the everyday. Tolkien for the once a decade read.
  9. Reading or Music - Reading. But you knew that already.
  10. Chocolate or Cheese - Chocolate. Unless there are fresh local cheese readily available.
  11. Morning or night - Morning. Shit needs to get done in the morning.

On top of that, I am suppose to reveal 11 things about myself. Well, I already told y’all about my Riddick fascination above. That should really count for 2. My favorite bookmarks are the ones my aunt made several years ago. We live on a small farm and I rather clean chicken houses than fold laundry. Alas, folding laundry happens like every other day, and cleaning the chicken houses happens likes 3-4 times a year. Yes, I do wear a respirator when doing that. I often salt my icecream. I know you want to also. Oh you think it might be weird, but I bet you love other sweet & salty food. I have two addictions in my life – my man and Dr. Pepper. I once hit a puppy with my car on a dark night. I broke it’s neck, but it was still alive. I took it home and my man helped me grant him mercy. He is buried near the apple tree. I have a consuming fear of ladders. No, shaking the ladder while I am on it to prove how stable it is DOES NOT help. Just being clear about that. I have been with the volunteer fire and emergency response for 6 months now and seen two fatalities. The only girly thing about me is my super secret cutsy wutsy collection of My Little Ponies.  I have been peed on by a cat more than once. No, I am not on speaking terms with that cat. I have spent quality time in a public place with one boob hanging out of the bra (still covered by shirt). Lots of odd stairs went my direction, but no one took me aside and chatted about wardrobe malfunctions.

This last part is where I torture others. But I am going to mix it up (see rule breaking previously in this post). Instead of nominating 11 others and posing 11 questions to them, I am going to leave it open to you, my dear readers. Leave your answers in the comments.

1) I love interviewing folks, digging into their lives, etc. Would anyone like to do a real interview on my blog? Leave your email or twitter handle, and I will get in contact.

2) If you took the main characters from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy, and Brent Week’s Night Angel series and stuck them in a gated, locked grove, who would come out in the end?

3) Honestly, are the fig leaves really necessary?

4) Should they have a third go at turning Dune by Frank Herbert into a movie?

That’s all I got folks. This turned out to be a longer post than expected, but for anyone who makes it to the end, leave me a raspberry in the comments!