Wednesday, May 27, 2020

An Online WisCon

The con must go on. This weekend, instead of heading up to Madison, Wisconsin, I sat in front of my computer to watch panels and presentations on YouTube and chat with others via Discord.

The virtual format allowed me to attend events that I don't normally have a chance to watch, such as the Thursday night reading by the guest of honor and the speeches on Sunday night. On the other hand, there were only a few hours of programming instead of the normal all-day affair, and the choices were much more limited. I wound up watching more readings and academic presentations than I normally do at WisCon. For the first time, I even watched the "Not Another *#?! Race Panel," which is a staple at WisCon. This is a panel where people of color discuss anything other than race. Normally I would pick a more focused panel dealing with something I wanted to learn about, but I enjoyed this panel more than I expected. I learned about an awesome Filipino bakery in Chicago, and the discussions about bad Star Wars parents and how the Harry Potter characters would handle quarantine were funny. Would I attend the panel next time I'm at WisCon? It would depend on what else is scheduled at the same time.

I have to admit an online Dealers Room and Art Show don't have the same draw, and even though there were a lot of subject-specific channels on the Discord, I didn't feel like I had anything to add to the conversations. I missed attending Farmers Market Saturday morning, listening to readings at Michelangelo's Coffee House, and shopping at the Soap Opera. When you've been going to a particular event for so long you expect to run into a past self in the elevator, any change feels strange. Hopefully next year the con will go on in person. But if for some reason I can't attend, being able to watch at least part of WisCon online would keep the connection alive.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Indies Together and WisCon Schedule

Best-selling indie author Susan Kaye Quinn has started a Facebook group to help other indie authors. It's called Indies Together. It's a private group, but she's encouraging other people to join. Susan is sharing her marketing knowledge with indies and offers a couple of different "recipes" depending if you're exclusive to Amazon or have your work available in multiple markets. I've read through her advice, and it makes sense, though it does take multiple books in series, time, and some seed money to make it work. If you're looking for a group with supportive members, I recommend it.

It's hard to believe WisCon will be this weekend. Today is the last day to register here. Standard price is only $10, but there are other tiers available. I won't be able to participate much on Friday since I have to work, but I should be able to do more Saturday through Monday. I'll report back next week how it went.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Amazon's Upload: Is the Near Future Futuristic Enough?

Although I don't spend a lot of time watching TV, occasionally I'm able to squeeze in some time around dinner when I'm crocheting or cutting fabric for masks. I was intrigued by the ads for Amazon's new show Upload, about Nathan, a young man who's killed in an accident and uploaded to a digital afterlife represented by a fancy hotel. Helping him adjust is his customer service representative "angel" named Nora. The show is set in 2033, which is only thirteen years away. Technology has advanced to the point where people print food, use self-driving cars, and, as the premise implies, have the ability to upload a human's consciousness to digital format.

I'm in the middle of Episode Three, so it'll take me a while to finish this series. However, I have noticed a few things that don't seem realistic to me. For example, in the first episode, we see a woman with a black-and-white avatar, which was based on an old photo. This was probably put in to be funny and appeal to the audience. In practice, we can already add color to photos, so why wouldn't that be done for her? For that matter, why not allow people to customize their avatars or even choose non-human forms? There's also a pretty big plot hole in the first episode where a dangerous section of the afterlife has less security than a chapel in that same setting. The dangerous area is key to the climax of the first episode; however, I think it could have been set up to make the character work harder to gain access, which would have proven he was truly desperate instead of hangry and annoyed about a bad hairstyle. Perhaps I'm more critical of these things because I'm a storyteller and used to nitpicking my own work.

One of the biggest dangers of writing about the near future is that it can be so hard to predict. You can reference current popular culture, but will the songs and movies you use be a flash in the pan or still be popular a decade or two later? Your audience may appreciate the throwback, but would a movie from 2004 be meaningful for a character who could have been born that year? What new disruptions will occur in the next thirteen years that we couldn't have foreseen?

Anyway, as I keep watching, perhaps some of these "glitches" will make more sense. (I'm trying to avoid spoilers, so please don't add any in the comments.) It will be interesting to look back at this show in thirteen years and see how well it compares to reality.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

IWSG: Writing Rituals

Welcome to the month of May, otherwise known as Level 5 of Jumanji if you've been following the memes on social media. It's not only the first Wednesday of May, but it's also the 30th anniversary of the day my husband asked me out, and I gave him a "Maybe." I guess by now I can give him a more definite answer. I guess I should also remind readers that this is the designated day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post, in which writers can share their insecurities without fear and encourage other writers. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed. Our hosts this month are Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, Kim Lajevardi, and Chemist Ken.

Here's our question for the month: Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

No, I don't have any special writing rituals. As a working mother, I have to take my writing time wherever and whenever I can get it. These days, since I'm working from home, I can no longer write on my lunch hour at work (I'm too busy making lunch for my son and myself, doing the dishes afterwards, and catching up on laundry.) What I can share is that it often takes me a while to get into the zone, especially if I'm not sure what to include in the scene I'm working on. I can be very distracted by games and social media under these conditions. To help me get started, I may end a writing session by adding a few ideas about what I want to add next and try to think about my story when I'm doing housework or walking around the neighborhood. The more I write, the easier it is to get the ideas that keep my fingers typing.

Now that I've warmed up by writing this blog post, it's time to turn to my work in progress. If you have any ideas for getting into and staying in the writing zone, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I Didn't Start the Fire (Song Parody)

Yesterday was my 50th birthday. To mark the occasion, I decided to rewrite the lyrics to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" to cover events of the last fifty years. There are five verses, so each one is dedicated to a different decade. (I used Wikipedia to look up key events, people, and things from each decade.) Although I like to rewrite lyrics to songs, this was one of my more challenging projects. Billy Joel manages to make his lyrics work by incorporating internal rhymes into every line. Not all of my lines rhyme that well. The syllable counts for each line don't sound consistent to me, though I could be mishearing them. Perhaps I'll come back to this at some point to tweak a few lines. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this musical trip down Memory Lane.

Earth Day, Watergate, Richard Nixon ain’t so great,
Oil crisis, Gerald Ford, Hawking finds black holes,
Voyager, Pinochet, Bell-Bottoms and World Trade,
Elvis Presley, Happy Days, Alda and Travolta
Saigon falls, Jonestown, Biko, and stagflation
Star Wars, Space Invaders, Dark Side of the Moon
Disco, edit genes, Test tube babies hit the scene
Margaret Thatcher, Mao Zedong, hostages, and Brady Bunch!

(Chorus) We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Lennon shot, Regan lives, Cold War and Gorbachev
Marcos had to go, Pinochet and Truedeau
Rubik’s cube, Madonna, Mario and Pacman
New pope in Rome, ET’s gotta phone home,
Dallas was a dream, Valley Girls reigned supreme,
Michael Jackson, Challenger, Halley’s Comet, Chernobyl,
Apple, MTV, Sarajevo, Tom Hanks
INXS, greed is good, Germans tore a wall down


World Wide Web, NAFTA, Bill Clinton, Mandela,
Hubble, GPS, Windows is a big success,
Rodney King, Eurostar, Kuwait and the Gulf War
Dolly Sheep, Warsaw Pack, Rabin and Arafat
Climate change, slacker, Hale-Bopp, Pathfinder
Amazon, Hong Kong, Spice Girls sang their songs
Toy Story, Pokemon, Gen X has flannel on
OJ got away, end it all with Y2K!


9-11 don’t forget, Facebook on the Internet
Climate change, anthrax, we all wear cargo pants
Harry Potter, civil wars, Pluto now is a dwarf
Bush, Obama, Merkel too, Come on back, Doctor Who
Housing bubble had to burst, earthquakes did their worst
Sequence genomes mice to men, Avatar and Eminem!


2010, Arab Spring, African uprising
Castro, smartphones, hybrid cars and flying drones
Human rights, Endgame, California needs some rain
Chicago Cubs break a curse, White House goes from great to worse
Women march in pussy hats, teenagers on SnapChat
3D printing, iPads, Brexit, The Walking Dead
Fire sweeps a continent, fake news from the government
COVID-19 at my door, I’ll be here for fifty more!
(This last line is meant to be an expression of an indomitable spirit, not hubris.)


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Indie Publishing: The Reckoning

When I started indie publishing back in 2011, I promised myself I would keep at it until my next landmark birthday and then re-evaluate if I wanted to continue. That day arrives next week.

Like many people at the start of a new venture, I thought self-publishing success would be assured, and it wouldn't take me long to find fame and fortune. That didn't happen. I'm not a fast or prolific writer, and the stories I want to tell don't have the tropes many readers seem to want. I seldom sell books unless I pay for ads on the free/bargain book sites, and even the ads end up costing more than I earn. I earn more from selling short stories to anthologies than I do from my indie-published novels. Perhaps I should focus on short stories--if I still feel that writing is worth the effort.

Despite all the struggled, I'm determined to keep writing and self-publishing my novels. I improve my craft with every project, and it's possible future novels will hit the sweet spot between what I want to write and what readers want to read. I don't necessarily need to be a bestseller; if I can find a few thousand people who are in my tribe and get what I write, I'll do well enough. There are still so many stories I want to tell with my current and future characters. I can't let them--or myself--down by giving up. I already fulfilled one dream by finishing the Season Avatars series. There are still more dreams out there. Thanks to indie publishing, I can control what happens to my dreams.

Here's to another fifty years of reading and writing books. May the Muse be with me!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Virtual Conventions

If you're missing your favorite convention, there are online ones to compensate. Here are a few that I know of:

Quarencon2020: This is a new convention that's supposed to run from April 24th-April 28th. There's not a lot of information on the website yet, but there will be panels, workshops, contents, and vendors (I've applied to be one of the vendors.) I think it will be free.

WisCon: This one has gone virtual as well. As usual, it will be held Memorial Day weekend. It sounds like there will be a small fee to attend, but registration hasn't opened yet. I haven't attended for a couple of years, so I'm looking forward to participating. While I'll miss seeing my Madison friends and going around my beloved city, it might be easier to focus on the online con if there are fewer real-life things competing with it.

WorldCon (CoNZealand) will occur online between July 29th through August 2nd. The supporting price is about $46. I'm not sure if I'll register for this one yet, but guests include Mercedes Lackey. I was a big fan of her work when I first started reading fantasy, so it might be interesting to attend her panels. Obviously it won't be as thrilling as meeting her in person, but it's much cheaper and easier than flying to New Zealand, even under normal conditions.

Are you aware of other online conventions? If so, feel free to share them in the comments.

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