So… There went November and NaNoWriMo. I have participated in NaNo before, and love the idea. Although I have come close, I’ve never made it to the finish line within the month. As I’ve said before, finding time to write has always been my big challenge. This year, life got in the way in a more aggressive way that in past years, but the principle stands. That being said, congratulations to all those NaNoWriMo winners!

I’m still on my self-imposed deadline to finish the first draft of Oberon’s Heir by the end of the calendar year. I’m at 300 pages, so I’ll need to push to finish the last quarter of the book in the next month. In addition, I have two short stories, “Paper Dream” and “Sic Transit Axis Mundi” that I’d likee to get into submission by the end of the year. Both have been in submission before, but are undergoing retooling to add a greater emotional depth.

First Writing Convention: Getting Your Feet Wet

So…November got away from me and it’s taken me awhile to put together my thoughts on Capclave, the first speculative fiction convention I have ever attended.

Capclave is small, but local to the WDC area, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to break into the con scene. Worldcon and Word Fantasy Con are the big boys on the bloc for writers of speculative fiction, but there was a lot to recommend breaking in with something small.

1. If I’m flying to another city and shelling out for three or four nights of hotel, if I don’t have a good time, I’m kind of screwed. Local and small meant costs stayed low which minimized the investment. I commuted each night – sure, that meant I missed a very small portion of the events, but I thought it was a good trade off.

1a. This also meant my wife could come with me. For moral support. Having someone there with me was a good move, at least the first time. She’s much less shy than I was, and helped me get over my “new and scary” initial reaction. (I believe it was “You’ve had your freak out. Now pull up your big boy pants and get over there.” or something to that effect…)

2. Accessible program. Unlike Worldcon’s 8,000 track monstrosity, Capclave’s program was very doable. I only had two or three choices each hour, including readings and kaffeeklatches. (Note: Speaking German was not required. A kaffeeklatch at a con is a limited-attendance small group with the Guests of Honor.) Nerd that I am, I wanted to select my program choices in advance and felt like I could with that kind of schedule. Highlights were “Using Medieval Myths in Fantasy”, “So You Want to Put Together an Anthology?” and the Guest of Honor Chat.

3. I was able to meet some new people. The con was small enough that you basically sat with the same people over and over again. One of my more convention-worldly friends suggested that you make it a habit to meet new people at each con. Networking is a huge part of the convention scene. Thanks to the wonderful Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Jean Marie Ward for the great Capclave history lesson and an explanation of some of the con undercurrents.

4. I got to meet and spend some time with the Guests of Honor, Catherynne Valente and Carrie Vaughn. Since the con was so small, I got to attend a kaffeeklatch for each. Both were awesome and gracious. It reminded me that these writers that I admire are normal real people too.

4a. My wife LOOOOOOVES Catherynne Valente, so I was able to score some major points there. She got her copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making signed, as well as The 2-volume set of The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice.

5. And I was able to better figure out what I might need to attend a longer/larger convention in another city. I need to better plan the food budget or bring food along. Be open to leaving a session if it’s not that interesting. Be ready to change plans in mid-stream. (Not easy for me.) Be open to meeting new people. Have a con buddy for shared snark and easy escape, if required.

All told, it was a wonderful experience and I will definitely attend again. I think my next venture will be Boskone in February. Watch out, friends in the NorthEast. I’m coming.


Being Serious

“If you don’t take yourself more seriously, how will you ever make this work?”

…she says as she glides off into the night. And she’s right, I suppose. If I can’t force myself to write down my thoughts on writing and how it makes me feel, what it means to me, how I hope to be a writer, than how am I supposed to actually accomplish anything?

I visited some writing friends in Bellingham, WA today while I’m on the west coast for business. My Viable Paradise classmates are working hard, writing a lot and trying to make it work. I feel like I’m not working as hard on writing as they are and it makes me waver.

Am I not as committed?

Am I not as good?

Or do I just have different things going on in my life?

I am nearly ten years older than they are, with a different career, (older) kids and a different life back in Washington, D.C. What I’m able to do, what I want to do, is bound more by that than by what is going on in my friends’ lives. Or at least it needs to be.

She glides back into the room and tells me not to be so frustrating.

I am an adequate writer now, but I want to be a very good writer. Even great. I can see how much I’m going to have to work to make that happen, and I’m at the stage where it’s just all rather daunting.

But I can. I know I can. I taught myself not to be shy. I lived across the world from my family for two years. I learned to read a novel in Japanese. I asked a beautiful girl to marry me.

I’ve done difficult things before. I can do them again. It’s just been so long since I’ve wanted anything this much. It’s an unusual feeling. I have to get back on track. Take charge of things once more. Force myself to push past the obvious hurdle and get to the good stuff.

She glides back in once more. “Make sure to tell them that I’m a professional at being right.” And she is.

I WILL make this work.

My immediate goal: Finish first draft of my novel by year’s end. I’m 3/4 of the way there. I just have to get through the ugly, doubting part.

My long term goal: Revise it enough to send out and get an agent. Sell the novel.

My longer term goal: Write the other five books I have floating around in my head.

My dream goal: See my book in Costco or the supermarket. (I know, but still…)

I can do it. I’ve done harder things. I’ve just gotten soft about it. Time to man up.

She smiles and says “I told you so.” Then she takes my hand and takes me with her.