Friday, November 30, 2012

girls on a road trip

I crawl out from under the heaps of apples and the much smaller heap of Nanowords to post a picture-studded side-trip. Specifically, a little about the Golden Swan event in October (this is apparently a non-chronological blog).
I've posted before about the Tournament of the Golden Swan. It's a persona-development SCA event, originally designed to encourage the more creative and less combative aspects of the Society for Creative Anachronism, or more pragmatically described, to give non-fighters something to do. This is done by testing how thoroughly entrants have researched and imagined the medieval person they present themselves as being.
Given that it's been going a fair few years, the contest has been stuck in several ways in a very SCA mindset, perhaps describable as a 1960s take on a romantic Victorian idea of the Middle Ages. As knowledge about medieval society and daily life has grown, and research within the SCA reached a higher standard, the better-researched your persona, the less likely you were to find a good fit with a contest that required an embroidered favour (an SCA tradition, not a medieval one) and expected entrants to inspire the lord who fought for them. Last year the outdated format was addressed once again, and actual changes were made.
Perhaps relatedly, there were three entrants this year, compared to none last year.

I leap ahead chronologically to show off a painting I did several years ago, for the Wild Women of Frozen Mountain. It's based on a German playing card, the Queen of Animals, and depicts a wild woman (covered in fur) with a unicorn.
It was hung up inside the hall, so I took the opportunity to get a digital pic of it.
Geez, guys, you could hem it sometime, you know? 

Anyway, Joan and Rosie and I drove out Friday morning--a beautiful clear Friday morning--from Port Moody. The plan was to have enough time to stop for scenery and wineries, and this worked out nicely.
Stop on the journey. Rosie surveys the Hope Slide. It must have been too cold for the chipmunks that Deirdre and I saw and fed, because they did not appear, though we made coaxing noises.

Stretching our legs in Manning Park. High altitude and shade meant lingering frost on the grass.We did not spot the derelict cabin this trip.

We did, though, encounter this cool tree-trunk,. Is it safe to turn your back, or will it lurch after you?

Despite wineries, we arrived in good time, and set up our tent alongside Alicia and Stephen's tent. Most people were sleeping inside the hall because of the cold, but we hardy medievalists were relying on wool and down (and straw mattresses) to shield us through the night. I have a photo of the frosty grass taken early the next morning, but perhaps the point was made above. It was cold. The stars were amazing, bright white in a black black sky. Until I set off the motion-sensitive light outside the hall.

Swans at bowls, on the field behind the hall. Most of the contest is indoors, sitting and chatting in close quarters, thus not appropriate for taking photos. Outdoors it's more relaxed, and I followed the gamesters about making quick sketches. This one they posed for.

Another shot from the bowls game that meandered all about the site. It started in the field beside the hall, wandered past the bandshell, behind the mock-frontier streetfront, through the seating for the fair bbq, past the animal pens, and around to the fighting field. (There was fighting going on, with HH Gemma exclaiming 'Man fall down!' at intervals.)

A game of 9 mans morris outside Alicia's tent. Entrants need to show competence in pastimes their character would have known, as well as skills in their craft or station.
Needless to say (but I will say it anyways) Alicia kicked butt in every category. Happily, all three entrants carried it off successfully and joined the Order of the Golden Swan.
We packed up as early as we could manage the next morning and set off, managing to stop at another couple of wineries on the way back, and take our pictures with the sasquatch.

A Garbage Gobbler, an icon of my childhood travels. Joan poses with it on our way out the gate.
Then I ran away with the sasquatch and was never seen again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

more WFC

So my fellow VPXer at this year's World Fantasy Convention was John Chu, fresh from selling short fiction to Asimov's and to, and thus in a state of not-quite-believing and recalibrating status as a neopro. (There's more than one kind of 'sense of wonder', and the OMG I'm REAL! version is fun if exhausting.)
I went to more panels than last year, and a mixed bag they were.
I was disappointed in the Humour in Horror and Fantasy panel, because the description promised some historical overview, and it turned into 'who's writing funny books right now' and 'how I shoved humour into my own books'.  Because apparently none of the panelists had ever read any Victorian or Edwardian fantasy, or even much from before the 1990s. Eh. A similar problem turned up with Bibliofantasies (discussing the trope of arcane and dangerous books and libraries) so I wandered over to Have the Antiquarians Served Their Purpose? where the panelists were better acquainted with the topic.
Sandra Kasturi's interview of Tanya Huff was huge fun and very funny. I'd meant to tear myself away and catch a couple of Hadley Rille author readings, but couldn't manage it. Forgive me, I am weak!

Then dinner with my agent, as mentioned before, and back to the hotel for the Autograph Reception. I collected my tent-card (all attendees get a tent-card, whether they plan to use it or not) so that I can pretend to be real, and trotted around to collect autographed books, mostly for Christmas presents.
It's also a good chance to discover new-to-me authors, by asking people what their books are about. The highlights this time were chatting with Hiromi Goto about Darkest Light (she tried and tried to give Gee a happier ending, but the way the story ended was really the only way it could have ended.) and getting to try the Death Machine. My death fortune is 'misfortune', about as non-specific as could be. The person before me got a more specific death.
Hiromi Goto with Darkest Light--you should buy it and read it, even though it isn't out in the States yet.
 The Death Machine. Not only your death:
but a ribbon to stick on your badge saying 'Ask Me How I Die'.

I almost didn't go to the Fritz Leiber panel because Danel Olson was on it, and he brings me out in a rash, but thankfully he wasn't the moderator, so it went much more quickly. The panel on Designing and Building a Book Collection was terrific, though someone behind me was disappointed that it wasn't much more than anecdotes about collecting. Ed Greenwood and John Clute were funny enough that I didn't care.
Then, instead of going to the bar to argue with John Clute about the relevance of social-networking sites to book collectors, I trotted over to The Road to Urban Fantasy, where Farah Mendlesohn had a completely different definition of 'urban' from the other panelists, dating its origins to the first British children's fantasies to use cities for their settings (and entry to other worlds) rather than the countryside, for instance Elidor, by Alan Garner (as opposed to his The Weirdstone of Brisingamen). The other panelists hadn't considered children's books at all, and she wondered if this was a US/UK split.
The other notable panel that day was Diversity and Difference in YA Fantasy, even though the description was rather disjointed and only mentioned female protagonists (perhaps so as not to tread on The Changing Face of YA Fantasy the next morning). Nonetheless, there was a good discussion of diversity in race and ability, and I got to recommend the books of Zoe Marriott, fellow Furtive Scribbler who should be better known in North America.
I felt my hackles rise some when an audience member asked whether the race and/or disability of characters should be mentioned if it wasn't going to be 'dealt with' within the story. The panelists were quite polite in responding that there were still plenty of 'issue novels' being written that were all about the difficulties of being a non-default person in a default white-ablebodied-straight-male setting  (sorry, my paraphrasing got annoyed there) but that there was merit in writing stories where non-default characters were just characters, not problems to be 'dealt with'.
Sunday morning I was torn between Maps in Fantasy Literature and The Changing Face of YA Fantasy, ended up in the latter and stayed in the same room for Part Seen, Part Imagined, which was about fantasy art, particularly book covers. I was impressed that all the artist panelists said they read the book whenever possible and contacted the author whenever possible (sometimes the art director didn't allow contact, hmmm).

Got the usual bag o' books, and added more from the Dealers Room, haunted the swap table, wandered through the Tor party and the Chizine party, sat on the floor in Hospitality and talked about e-publishing with Kathryn Sullivan and about racist subtexts with John Chu, made it to a few readings ( checking my program book suggests Julie Czerneda, Andy Duncan, Max Gladstone, Barb Galler-Smith)
 Andy Duncan answering questions after his reading.
Julie Czernada with her newest book, a fantasy.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

contrary to popular belief

Well, I made it to the World Fantasy Convention with roughly a 100k wordcount section of novel under my metaphorical arm (actually it was emailed a couple of days before. I met with my agent and we ate Chinese dumplings while discussing how I needed to restructure the entire first third of the historical storyline, and majorly intensify the modern-day storyline. The lack of a romance in the modern-day story is a problem (caused by the refusal of the two main modern characters to take a proper interest in each other). Another problem is that in a darned good scene, I knocked off the first minor villain in the 2d chapter. Villains should be saved for later, even if there are bigger villains waiting to take the stage.

Above, the Richmond Hill restaurant where we had really really good lamb dumplings and spicy green beans. Mmm.

So we hammered out a potential new sequence of events for the first part, hopefully allowing me to keep the best scenes, and we discussed various ways to bring storyline two up to speed. I made it clear that not only am I okay with criticism and hearing what doesn't work, but that I enjoy 'talking story', one of the joys of co-writing. So that was fun.
And I was given a couple of pieces of general advice for revision, both of which made me blink rather.

Now, dear readers, I don't know how much time you spend on writerly websites and discussion fora, or how many of the Folk Beliefs of the Hopeful Writer you personally subscribe to. For those who aren't familiar with the scene, let's say that there are many things you must never never do or not only will you never get an agent or publisher, but you will probably be blacklisted on the Secret Blacklist that Publishers and Agents secretly keep.

Such deadly sins include (among many others):
Opening a story with a dream or someone waking up.
Using adverbs:  any at all, not just the non-information-conveying ones like 'really', 'very', 'actually'. (For some reason, adverbial phrases don't come under this interdict).
Using any word other than 'said' to describe speech.
Telling rather than showing (made more difficult by the explainers not having a clear idea which is which).
Info-dumps (sometimes extended to mean any direct conveying of information to the reader).
Opening with dialogue.
Opening with the weather.
Using 'passive voice' (another poorly-understood term, sometimes extended to include past tense or adjectival phrases).

I'm leading up to something, you've doubtless guessed. Which is that the two pieces of advice I had were:
Use more telling, less showing.
Use more info-dumps.

But why? you ask.
Because telling improves pace. And since it turns out that Cost of Silver is a thriller, it needs a fast pace. So, cut back on description, intensify emotions, increase stakes and speed up the pace.

I'll post more about WFC and other excursions when I can. November is less overbooked than October was, but I am besieged by apples and Nanowrimo, so I make no guarantees.