Midwest Literary Festival

The Midwest Literary Festival kicks off next Friday in downtown Aurora, IL with an all-day writers workshop and a weekend of panels.

It’s not too late to sign up for the workshop, although most of the one-on-one sessions with agents are booked solid. I’m thinking of going to the workshop (schedule). There are panels on plotting strategies and suspense that look interesting. Nothing specific to SF/F but worthwhile nonetheless.

Recovering from jet lag

I’m home, safe and sound, and mostly recovered from the trip. The flight from Southern California to Chicago smooth and productive. I splurged a little and upgraded to first class (my first time riding up front). Overall, it was what I expected it to be. Squishier seats, more personalized attention, and better food. Warm chocolate chip cookies, you say? Yes please. For all of the security measures taken, I find it humorous that they still serve drinks in first class in a glass. I mean, I guess if you’re flying in style, you must be a sane, stable person, right?

I finished my last revisions to the first two scenes of “Wholesale Goods” during the flight. I think this story is wrapping up more or less the way I intended. Once this revision is done, I’m sending it off to the Writers of the Future contest and getting back to work on other stories. Two more to revise, lots more to create.

I think I’ve finally figured out what Jim Gunn meant when he talked about presenting a story dramatically. It’s one thing to hear the words and ‘get’ the concept, another thing entirely to understand it in a way as to put it into practice. I’ve internalized it, as I’m wont to do. The newest story I’ve been working on has, I think, really worked well in that regard. Now I need to keep putting it to practice until it’s as natural as breathing and send more stories out!

Eyes down, citizen

I caught a blurb on the news this morning about a new TSA program to help them identify people acting suspiciously while standing in the security line at the airport. Teams of screeners have been trained to look for signs of “stress, fear and deception”. From an article on the program:

The teams have referred more than 40,000 people for extra screening since January 2006. Of those passengers, nearly 300 were arrested on charges including carrying concealed weapons and drug trafficking. TSA officials will not say whether the screeners have helped nab potential terrorists, but they say terrorists and other lawbreakers exhibit the same behavioral clues.

A success rate of 0.75%! Great work, guys. Let’s roll that out across the nation, privacy and sanity be damned!

When asked what techniques were being used for this identification, according to the news report on tv, officials cited security concerns and refused to elaborate. In essence, “trust big brother, we’ll look out for you”.

I’ll be going to the airport in six hours. Let’s hope I don’t wrinkle my nose wrong, sweat, avoid eye contact, look at people, shuffle my feet, or worry if that pair of fingernail clippers in my pocket is on the prohibited items list.

Some days you ride the bear, other days the bear rides you.

Despite careful planning and the best of intentions, yesterday’s travels turned into a comedy of errors. Flav and I planned our flights so we’d arrive fairly close together. From there, we’d pick up the rental car reserved by work and make our way to the hotel.

I woke up at 5:30 and jumped in the shower. By the time I made it downstairs, I had three messages on my cell phone, all from American Airlines. My flight was canceled. They rebooked me on a new flight that left an hour later but had a layover in Dallas. The extra hour gave us time to stop for breakfast on the way to the airport.

At the airport, check-in goes smooth. I get to the gate with plenty of time. I sit and write. The plane at the gate, going to Boston, hasn’t moved. They announce maintenance is looking at the brakes. Then they announce the plane is grounded, and my flight is now changing gates. Run across the terminal to find new gate.

Flight to Dallas is smooth. I have five minutes to run across the terminal to find my connecting flight and get a seat assignment. The only food vendors nearby are Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. I pass.

The trip from Dallas to Orange County goes smooth. I break down and spend $5 on a “turkey wrap” in-flight.

All told, I added a new scene to “Wholesale Goods” and read about half of Nebula Awards Showcase 2007. Lots of good short stories in there.

In Orange County, Flav finds me and we head to pick up the rental car. We go to the pickup area and are sent back to the airport to the service desk to “check in”. Back in the airport, we find out that the person who made the reservation made it for a day earlier, so the reservation is automatically canceled. After a half-hour I finally wade through the red tape and have a car.

By the time we get to the hotel, it’s 5PM local time, 7PM for my body and with the exception of what passes for an airline snack, more than twelve hours since I had any food of substance. We checked in, freshened up and grabbed dinner.

We get back and plan to meet, to prepare for the meetings today. I’m checking my email, news, etc., when I find the news about Robert Jordan. That puts a damper on what’s left of my mood.

Here’s to a better day.

Robert Jordan is Dead

Not easy words for me to write. He gave it the good fight but in the end, as we all eventually will, he lost the battle.

I had a chance to meet him several years ago at a book signing. He was a friendly fellow and seemed larger than life, at the time. I’ve been a fan since the day I picked up “The Eye of the World”. Once upon a time, in the mid 90’s, I had a fan site that kept track of as many of the plot twists and turns, and characters, as I could identify. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for epic fantasy and he was among the masters of the field.

The official site is being slammed, but here is what it says.

It is with great sadness that I tell you that the Dragon is gone. RJ left us today at 2:45 PM. He fought a valiant fight against this most horrid disease. In the end, he left peacefully and in no pain. In the years he had fought this, he taught me much about living and about facing death. He never waivered in his faith, nor questioned our God’s timing. I could not possibly be more proud of anyone. I am eternally grateful for the time that I had with him on this earth and look forward to our reunion, though as I told him this afternoon, not yet. I love you bubba.

Our beloved Harriet was at his side through the entire fight and to the end. The last words from his mouth were to tell her that he loved her.

Thank each and everyone of you for your prayers and support through this ordeal. He knew you were there. Harriet reminded him today that she was very proud of the many lives he had touched through his work. We’ve all felt the love that you’ve been sending my brother/cousin. Please keep it coming as our Harriet could use the support.

Jason will be posting funeral arrangements.

My sincerest thanks.

Peace and Light be with each of you,

4th of 3

Quick updates

Another week of work is finally over. It feels like the last couple weeks have been hectic and stressful. Things are looking up, though. I’m flying to California on Sunday, for a few days of meetings and planning. We’re just about to start rolling out new products that will make my life much easier.

I’ve managed to do a bit of new writing through all of this, both pieces of Flash Fiction during the weekly challenge. It’s been fun experimenting with dark fiction/horror and exploring some background for a future story. I have one more piece of that story to write and then revise to be one complete short instead of three connected pieces of flash. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with that yet, but it’s been a very fun and useful exercise.

The deadline for the Writers of the Future contest is coming up at the end of the month. I’m going to make a batch of revisions to one of my stories and send it off to that. I wasn’t sure if that contest was worthwhile, but I’ve done a bit of research and spoken to a few people about it and it looks like the general consensus is that it is a good thing

I’ve been switching back and forth between new stories and revising old. At some point it’s time to either toss it in a drawer because I don’t know how else to fix it or send it out into the world and hope it sticks somewhere. I’ve got a pretty clear idea of what’s broken and how to fix it, so I’m going to make one more pass at the current drafts.

House on the Rock

Dena and I went to the House on the Rock in southern Wisconsin two weekends ago. It’s a 3-4 hour drive from Chicago and takes about the same amount of time to tour, if you get the Ultimate package (includes the three tour plans).

The house is the creation of eccentric architect Alex Jordan, and it is filled with artifacts and exhibits that will make you what Mr. Jordan was smoking. The world’s largest carousel, a collection of doll houses, antique and replica weapons, and more.

The Organ Room, is one of the most peculiar things I’ve ever seen. Pianos mounted on the walls and set on the floor. Giant copper tubs that appear to be part of a distillery but connected to electrical generators. It’s easy to imagine that all sorts of dark and strange rituals conducted by an evil maestro using this or this.
to conduct his undead orchestra in the middle of the night.

Dena’s pictures are here, if you’re so inclined.

Free Fiction: Holy Nepotism

I occasionally join in the weekly Flash Fiction challenge with the good folks over at Absolute Write. Every Sunday, a prompt is given and you have ninety minutes to write something inspired by the prompt. It’s a fun exercise, and a good way to experiment with different styles/genres.

This particular piece is based on the prompt “root”. I did shop this around to a few magazines that took humor like this. I did collect three rejections, one being a “near miss”. Rather than shop this around, I decided to post it here.

Read now: Holy Nepotism