Magic District: Workshop paralysis

October 19, 2010 at 7:33 am (Magic District)

As an attempt to get back into the spirit of blogging — for my own sanity if nothing else — I’ve put up a new post at the Magic District and planned out another for a couple weeks from now.  This one, in honor of this year’s crop of Viable Paradise students, is on that weird, difficult stage of a workshop that takes place well after the goodbyes have been said: writing after the workshop.

(Incidentally, anyone willing to give me a hand on the next post?  What I’m looking for are examples of technobabble done right.  Not just exposition, but the garbledy garbledy SCIENCE!-type (or, if it’s fantasy, garbledy garbledy MYTH!) exposition that would normally be used to explain just why we have to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow or whatever plot-relevant action is needed.  I know there are places where it works, and I want to put together some examples.)

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From one island to another

October 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm (Cons)

Viable Paradise 14 was fantastic.  We had a diligent group of students this time, all devoting their time to revision and composition.  I performed adequately as sous-chef and stuff wrangler, occasionally terrorizing small children, and though the chili recipe I meant to get still eludes me, I had a great time.  The first few days of the workshop passed in a haze of pep talks for talented writers suffering crises of confidence, 1:30 AM calls for help with critique, and late-night impromptu crit groups.  Sadly, the bacon brittle I attempted did not turn out.  I will have to experiment to see what I did wrong, so I can have a better chance at it next time.

Thursday I left the island (just in time to miss the good weather) and flew to Boston on a plane roughly the size of a lozenge, then from Boston to New York for Comic-con.  I got to meet my editor, discover that she’s just as charming in person as over email, and discuss a few upcoming projects with her.  Friday I had a chance to visit my agent, then work out a few outlines for chapters on my own before heading over to the Javits Center for Comic-con.

The panel was a hoot, and I managed to drag it into the gutter…er…several times.  I regret nothing.  I also got to briefly speak about Soul Hunt on an Eos/Avon preview panel the next morning, but managed to remain presentable through that.  Mostly.

I also got to catch the performance of The Two Towers at Radio City Music Hall with a live orchestra and chorus, then joined one of the chorus members (a very talented writer in his own right, and damn do I want a copy of his novel once it’s ready) for drinks afterward.  All things considered, it’s surprising that the con crud waited till I got on the train home to hit.

I don’t really have a full con report in terms of booths visited, costumes photographed, costumes causing an immediate need for brain bleach, and friendly people who I hope will enjoy the books they received.  What I do have is a number of strange similarities between downtown New York and Martha’s Vineyard, all of which kept coming to mind over the weekend:

  • Music.  One of my best memories from my first year as staff is waking up to hear soft guitar music from the living room.  This year, there was plenty, although any contribution I made was probably very off-key.  When I crashed at my hotel downtown on Thursday night, it was apparently live music night in the bar downstairs, and so for the next few hours I heard acoustic guitar and a pleasant baritone singing nearby, muffled just enough that I was certain I knew each song but could never identify it.  It made for a strange and welcome continuity.
  • Direction.  I grew up in a town where most of the streets run north-south or east-west, and it’s fairly easy to make your way through them.  So while I’m always, always lost in Boston, I was able to find my way through New York fairly easily.  (I also seem to have the look of someone who knows where she’s going, because I got asked for directions three times.  The third time, I was able to give them.)  In Oak Bluffs, I’m familiar enough that I can usually make my way through without too much trouble (minus the occasional confusion among too many similar summer homes).  It helps that I have one big landmark: if the ocean is there, then the hotel is that way.  But in both places, I’m working entirely on memory and deduction rather than any sense of direction.  I could not for the life of me tell you which way was north when I was in New York, and on the Vineyard my knowledge ended at one end of the beach.  What does it take, I wonder, to develop the natural sense of direction, the ingrained knowledge of landmarks and how the rivers and streets twist?  And what does it mean that I’m starting to develop it in Boston — after mumble-many years?
  • Community.  Half of the fun of my first VP was suddenly meeting this group of people who all spoke the same language — all of them had experience with unruly characters, revisions from hell, plots that sprouted subplots like mint invading the next garden bed.  That moment of click — of community, suddenly realized — is something that I’ve felt every year, and I love watching new students find the same.  This also results in conversations on specialized and highly geeky subjects: linguistics, Doctor Who, production horror stories, the serial comma, and so on.  At Comic-con, the geekery is both deeper and more spread-out: it’s on display, rather than buried in conversation, and walking through the Javits Center is like breathing an entirely different atmosphere.  (Cue the usual joke about convention hygiene — seemed okay while I was there, but then I left by midday Saturday.)  It’s a different form of social recognition, and one with which I’m less familiar, but it’s still very present.

Overall, both VP and Comic-con — and the week of recuperation I’ve had since — left me with a few new resolutions: restart blogging at the Magic District, finally get off my butt and put together a Facebook page, and update the dratted bibliography.  (Not least because I’ve sold another short story to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, set in the same industrial fantasy universe as my recent stories…only this one’s about the brink of change from fantasy to industrial fantasy.)

I’ll have those taken care of shortly, but the writing comes first.  If I’m lucky, I can get another chapter taken care of today.  Or at least spackle some chapter pieces together.  (It’s a first draft; it can get smoothed over later.)  Onward!

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October 13, 2010 at 9:33 pm (Totally irrelevant to anything else)

Both VP and Comic-con were amazing, and I’ll have a full report of both up shortly.  However, one minor detail is currently occupying quite a lot of my attention.  You see, within about ten minutes of arriving in New York, I stumbled and fell, skinning one knee.  It wasn’t that bad, and so I jokingly referred to it as “bending the knee to the city,” i.e. acknowledging its sovereignty.

Cute, but not much more than a tepid joke, right?  Well, it seems the city I’ve made my home didn’t like that, because not long after arriving home (not counting the couple of days spent out of commission with Con Crud), I fell again.  Same knee, same spot, worse skinning.  Seems this city didn’t like me bowing to another, even in jest.

The moral, if any exists?  Man, those genius loci (genii locorum?) are a surly bunch.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go clutch my knee and whimper for a while.

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VP and Comic-con

October 5, 2010 at 9:50 am (Appearances, Cons)

I’m currently at Viable Paradise, acting as staff and sous-chef for some fantastic people, students and staff and instructors alike.  There have already been great conversations, silly band names tossed back and forth, and a whole lot of talented and funny people all working together.  It makes up for the weather on Martha’s Vineyard being kind of horrible right now.

Also, there was bacon this morning.  And fresh scones yesterday.  And if we can do it right, bacon tonight.

Thursday I fly off the island (assuming the weather lets up a little) and head down to New York City for Comic-con.  I’ve visited New York so rarely that I still feel as if I need a hayseed in my teeth when I go there, even after all these years living in the Boston area.  Something about the place produces sheer sensory overload, and I end up gawking like the tourist I am.  And then there’s the con itself, which isn’t exactly low on the scale of spectacle…

…anyway, here’s my schedule for the con:

Friday, 2:00 – 3:00.  Fighting Like Cats and Dogs. In the furball battle for supremacy, what shapeshifter is going to claw, bite, gnaw and scratch its way to the top of the pack? In recent novels by novelists such as Pamela Palmer and Juliana Stone, paranormal romance fans have gone absolutely feral over the emergence of cat shapeshifters…they purr, what’s sexier than a werepuma or wereleopard? Loping through the howling legions of the other side of the debate comes authors such as Jocelynn Drake, Marjorie M. Liu, and Margaret Ronald – who might argue that woman’s best friend is going to hound all the competition until they emerge triumphant. The argument may get catty; and the arguments over which breed of shapeshifter is sexier are going to be doggone good – so come and join the melee!  (If I can make it through this panel without giving voice to my inner Labrador Retriever, I’ll consider it — SQUIRREL! — a victory)

Friday, 5:00 – 6:00 Signing, Table A5. (I’ll sign anything!  Okay, not checks.  Or body parts.  Even if they’re still attached.  Or other authors’ books — I believe they have A Serious Talk with you if you do that.)

I will also try to be around Saturday morning, if only briefly.  I may have hit my limit by then, though, given that I’ll be coming off a week of workshop followed by some very intense convention time.  Or maybe I’ll just feel free to relax and enjoy the con at that point.

In the meantime, I’ve got a chapter that needs a decent intro, a linking segment to explain some interaction later on, and a thrilling aerial battle (shut up it totally makes sense in context) to write.  Not to mention the writing assignment I got handed last night.  Viable Paradise: not even the staff get out without assignments.

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