09/1/17

What we say, what we don’t say

When I edit, I have to block out the world around me, ignoring the news, fun events, and generally forcing myself to focus on word choice, grammar, and mechanics. This year, that editing cave saved me from becoming embroiled in a couple of controversial situations. Now that I’ve mailed my copy edits to my editor, I’m reading over scores of emails (literally several hundred of them) and trying to figure out how to respond.

First there’s DragonCon, an event I’ve loved attending over the last thirteen years. The largest fan-run convention in the southeast, folks affectionately call D*C “nerd mardi gras.” This year some 84,000 people came to geek out. Unfortunately, there were a myriad of small-scale assaults, like the guy going around ripping off costumes glued onto delicate body parts, and one serious incident were two chairs were thrown from a tenth-floor balcony into the crowd below, causing two women to go to the emergency room with head wounds.

I enjoyed parts of DragonCon: the Georgia Philharmonic Symphony playing sci-fi and fantasy themes, the random moments of joy when I discovered new music by seeing bands play live in the halls, the atmosphere, the shopping. But I don’t feel safe anymore. A woman in front of me was grabbed by a stranger intent on pulling off her clothes despite her protests. There was no security and nothing to be done about it. That’s not a party I want to support.

But should I say something? Should I wipe my blog free of references to DragonCon from years past when things were reasonable? I’m not naïve enough to believe there was never a problem at any of the previous Cons I attended, but the silence from DragonCon staff seems deafening. Do I say my relationship with them ends as of this year, or do I volunteer and work from the inside to make things better?

Meanwhile the Romance Writers’ of America, a group I recently rejoined, struggled with questions of racism and privilege. The published authors network (PAN) forum included a note from a longtime volunteer who felt outreach efforts were misplaced. It stated that rather than recruiting and working to include marginalized groups, RWA should only focus on writing. Almost immediately, authors big and small stepped in to say that’s not okay.

RWA has a history of being a group for heterosexual, cisgender white women, but that’s changing. Most of the authors who spoke want it to keep changing. Some of them felt passionately enough to copy quotes and comments from the private forum group onto social media, much in the way I’m posting this to my blog. That’s where the problems started. Until the information was shared outside of the group, the conversation focused on the problem. Once it became a public issue, people wanted to talk about privacy and witch-hunts. It was no longer about discrimination or diversity, but about victims and rule breakers.

The two situations are very different, but coming late to the debates thanks to editing, there’s a common question of what do I say? And where do I say it? Does it make a difference if I speak out on the internet or in person? Is saying something on my blog enough or do I need to plaster the same message on all my social media outlets?

One of my favorite philosophers is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He’s the one who said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I wish I had a better idea of what being silent means for me, in this moment. I won’t deny this year has been hard – disasters, human rights issues, and violence have dominated the news. I see protesters speaking out, spreading hope, and people working hard to find solutions. For me I think the solution is not to name people or harp on controversy. There are plenty of people doing that. Instead I’m going to write the stories I want to see in the world, and hope their visions turn into reality.

09/1/15

DragonCon 2015

Preparations for my first DragonCon as a published author are coming to close this week, and I couldn’t be more excited. One of the largest conventions, DragonCon appeals to my many disparate fandoms. It’s the one time of year where I talk with astronauts, listen to editors and agents, and buy a drink for my on screen heroes. I’m especially excited for this year’s parade, which feature Nichelle Nichols as Grand Marshal. You might remember her as half of the first interracial kiss on television, which occurred during an episode of Star Trek (the original series) where she played Nyota Uhura.

My Con-trouage usually includes my two best friends, but neither of them can make it this year. While I’ll still be surrounded by 60,000 of my closest geek friends it feels odd to know I’ll be walking the Con floor alone. Unfortunately, I was late to the sign up so I won’t be speaking at any panels, but I’ll be attending most of what the Urban Fantasy track offers. If you need a coupon, want a book signed, or need a hug, look for me there.

My volunteer shifts at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America table (Hyatt, Exhibition Level) are set for Friday from 1:00pm-3:00pm and Sunday from 3:00pm-5:00pm. My nifty cover flat coupons (good for 25% off Under a Blood Moon) will be on the table throughout the Con.

On Saturday night I’m looking forward to the Georgia Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of famous Science Fiction and Fantasy music. It wouldn’t be DragonCon without the Rocky Horror Picture Show and glamorous geek burlesque but it’s nice to have some fine arts entertainment as well.

I’ll be running the Geek Girls Run DragonCon Fun Run 5K event on Friday morning. If you’re interested, please join us! The run isn’t limited to women or girls, and there’s a place for pace. Many of the attendees will be walking or walk/running. Thankfully there isn’t much going on early on Friday, so we’ll have time afterward for an awesome brunch.

Except for some very subtle nods to my favorite fandoms, I’ve decided not to costume this year. I will be spending copious amounts of time in the dealers room and at the art show. I harbor fantasies of finding the perfect cover artists for all my books in the 200 artists who are exhibiting. Of course, I’d also like to find the perfect corset, the perfect dessert, and the perfect spot to watch the parade. It could happen. Actually you never know what could happen at DragonCon, that’s the best part.

09/6/11

DragonCon Report

Panels: My panel, Brigands and Buccaneers: Myth and Reality of Pirates, went well. We had a variety of authors and pirate fans giving some great different perspectives. Ann Crispin, author of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom, led the group on a discussion that covered pirates from sweet Disney to bloody historic.

When I wasn’t behind the microphone I spent most of my time in the Science and Skeptic tracks. Sunday’s “How to Raise a Mad Scientist” with Dr. Pamela Gay taught me how to make fireballs with the things I have around the house. Later that day the Skeptic track’s “Very Superstitious….” explored some interesting research about how people form superstitions. Two years ago at DragonCon I viewed Jupiter, and Io (the saucy little moon that she is) winked at me. This year I viewed solar flares and sun spots through three different solar telescopes. Sadly, I didn’t see the dragon.

Corsets: This was the first year I didn’t bring a new corset home from DragonCon. I blame two things. One of my favorite corset sellers treated me poorly/rudely. The cost of her corsets had doubled from 2009, but I could still see buying one. However, after lacing me into a corset that clearly didn’t work for me she told me she didn’t have any more time for me and walked away. I won’t be recommending her ever again. I held out hope that the always wonderful Brute Force Studios would have something for me. Sadly, the recent hurricane damaged most of their stock. They came to Con with only a handful of corsets, most in patterns I already have. Ah well, that just means two corsets next year.

Hotel: I stayed at the Marriott Marquis this year. I’ve split my DragonCon time between the Marquis and the Hyatt, and I’m wondering if it’s time to try something new. While the Marriott still offers a wonderful central location there are no almost no track rooms (places where the bulk of the Con programming takes place) in the hotel. Easy access to shopping (all three dealers rooms) and the vaccination clinic is handy, but not as good as being able to pop down a few stairs to get into a panel on short notice. As always, rooms for next year’s Con need to be booked in October (a full 11 months ahead of time) so I’ll be deciding where to go soon.

As always the spectacle of DragonCon – the costumes, the people, the crowds – blew me away. The hard work that goes into the outfits (and bodies) you see on the show floor clearly shows.  But this year, my favorite was fairly low tech.  Baby Steampunk:

08/2/11

Avoiding Scams at DragonCon (or any other Convention)

Writing scams are many and varied. No one does a better job of covering them than the amazing Writer Beware blog.  If you’re writing you need to read their blog on a regular basis. It will protect you and your work.

But what about your pocket money? What about the money you’re hoping to blow at DragonCon or ComicCon or the money you’re saving up for next year’s Romance Writers of America conference? That’s what I want to talk about, because even though we’re a year away from some Cons (SDCC, RWA), we’re only 30 days away from others (DragonCon). My tips to keep your money safe at any Con:

Be cautious when buying commissioned work. Walking through an artist alley your fingers itch to take things off the walls. In the dealers’ hall your eyes are nearly blinded by the sparkly objects. What you see is amazing, but it could be truly awesome with just a few small changes. An easily approachable salesman strikes up a conversation, and moments later you hand over more money than you expected to spend with the promise of a custom piece in the near future. But will it ever come?

Maybe. Most artists are honest people. They know they live by their reputation in the community and they won’t risk that for your commission. Mistakes do happen though, so before you plunk down money do a little homework.  Check out the artist or creator on the web. Do they have a web page? Is it filled with grammar and spelling errors? Are there people complaining in their Facebook feed? Check Twitter and MySpace for complaints too. Google the name of the artist and words like ‘scam’ or ‘commission’. Ask if they’re delivering any work at the Con. See if you can speak to some of their customers.

Remember there are no returns. The one-of-a-kind light saber, the prop from your favorite movie, and the amazing software package to use on your author website all have the same restriction: once you’ve bought them you can’t return them. Protect yourself by doing research, is this item truly one-of-a-kind or are there fifty of them on eBay? Take a close look at what you’re about to buy, does it seem sturdy? I’d walk away from any sale where I couldn’t touch the item before I purchase. For software and collectibles, check to see that the box is truly sealed, and not just resealed with glue after having been opened. The web is your friend again, google to see that you’re getting all the parts you should be getting. If it’s software, check the web for reviews. In general, don’t spend so much that you’ll be crushed if something falls apart before you get it home.

Don’t be pressured. It’s easy to believe that a special show sale is the only thing that will ever make a book editing service affordable to you, or that if you walk away from a set of stormtrooper armor someone else will snatch it up. However, it’s just as possible that you don’t need that editing service and the armor will sit until Monday morning when you’re sure about it. Most of us don’t make our best decisions under pressure. Watch out for used car salesman techniques like failing to give a firm price, being unwilling to put a price in writing, blaming someone else for a price or policy, or pushing you off from one salesman to another. If you know you’re bad at this, enlist a friend or a stranger for help. It’s easy to say to someone “what do you think?” and break the salesman’s strangle hold on the conversation. Remember, you can always walk away.

Know your limits. If you’re arriving at a convention with twenty dollars in food money, don’t seat yourself in the most expensive restaurant in the hotel. If you can’t resist shiny new corsets (that’d be me) don’t stop at the corset booths without someone to bail you out. If you have a set budget for purchases, don’t take more than that amount of money on to the trade floor. If your credit cards are maxed out don’t carry them in your pocket, stash them in your  hotel room safe.

Don’t trust people just because they share your passion. Writers, Trekkies, and Steampunks can all be scam artists. The MMO player you’ve exchanged a few messages with here and there can hurt you just as much as a total stranger you meet in a bar. We want to believe that our fandom is filled with kind and giving people but that isn’t always true. Trust but verify. Be cautious, real fan clubs have letterhead, t-shirts, and a logo. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Above all, please remember that if you can’t trust someone with your wallet, don’t trust them with your body.

Have I missed any tips? Am I too gloom & doom? Am I just plain wrong? I can’t wait to hear about it in the comments. 😉

 

07/5/11

Random things – the 5 July edition

 

A few random things:

Best. Meeting. Ever.

Last Tuesday, my blog stayed uncharacteristically silent, largely because I was at the most fantastic meeting of my life. As someone with day jobs both federal and private, I’ve attended more than my fair share of meetings. When I say this meeting was the best, I have several to compare it against, and I mean it: no meeting has ever been better than meeting my editor at Tor books.

Somehow in the midst of the fantastic meal, the brilliant conversation, and the moments made of sheer win when my editor and I shared our enthusiasm for some obscure piece of SciFi-Fantasy culture, I decided to neglect my blog. Sorry about that. I can tell you that my editor is an amazing woman, the kind of person I wish I had for a best friend. The Tor offices are close to my idea of heaven: the walls are lined with books I want to read, the people are friendly, and everyone loved books as much as I did. I’m very excited to work with the Tor team.

T-minus 60 days….

As of today, there are less than 60 days left before DragonCon. I gushed about DragonCon earlier, so I’ll try not to repeat myself, but I will prattle on about my preparations.

I’ve ordered a new costume, an official pirate costume. I debated the purchase for three years. As someone who loves playing dress up but lacks sewing ability I rely on costumers and tailors to create their vision. When it comes to pirate costumes, that vision didn’t match mine, perhaps because I prefer cocoa brown over black. (It seems most pirates wear black, who knew?) I’ve found a new costumer and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that come in as planned. With a little luck you’ll see me in the halls of the Marriott with a bodice that matches the pirate hat I made myself a few months ago.

I’ve also started packing, the fairy wings, matching skirt and corset are set and ready to go. If that seems incredibly early to you, I’d like to pass along some DragonCon wisdom:

Ship your clothes.

My clothes go FedEx Ground. The shipping costs roughly $30 each way, that’s five dollars more than the check baggage fee. While I do have to ship five business days before the Con to ensure everything arrives, I have the reassurance of tracking my luggage every step of the way. I get a confirmation email when the luggage arrives at the hotel. I don’t have to hassle with luggage at the airport, or worry about getting into a cab. I don’t even have to lug it up to the room, I just call the front desk and a very nice young man brings my luggage to the door. So while the accelerated packing timeline can be a bear, I feel it’s completely worth it.

In a way this year’s DragonCon brings a little sadness. I’m hopeful that next year I’ll have obligations to the Writing Track. In my fantasies, I spend DragonCon 2012 on panels, doing book signings, and networking with other writing professionals. None of those are things I’m comfortable doing in four ft. tall fairy wings. This may be my last chance to costume outrageously, and I assure you’re I’m going to enjoy it.

And, the last, very random thing, I’m looking for recommendations for classic American authors, people like Faulkner and Hemingway. Actually, what I’d love is an online book club that reads classics. Any suggestions?