Thursday, June 28, 2012

ApolloCon 2012 report

I enjoyed ArmadilloCon so much last year,
I thought I'd try out Houston's version.

After driving to Houston and getting checked in and typing up my last critique for Saturday morning's Writers Workshop I was pretty wiped, but I managed to make it to a couple panels.

Of Blood Spatters and Fingerprints: Clues to Fool the Savviest Fan
Martha Wells, Patrice Sarath, Bill Crider, and Ramirez 
A discussion of how mystery writers work clues into their stories without telegraphing the ending. It's tricky walking the fine line between believability and predictability to create a satisfying mystry. All writers being different, many approaches were discussed.

Cue the Evil Laugh: Lessons Learned from Evil Geniuses
Tanya Huff, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Rhonda Eudaly, and A. Lee Martinez
 All about evil villain stereotypes and how smarter villains make for a better story. This was a lively panel where villains and villainy were discussed. Personages mentioned ranged from Thantos to Wile E. Coyote. Everyone agreed that good heroes need strong villains, and villains need to be relatable (you have to understand their motivations). Martinez has the theory that villains are often likeable because of their committment to their goal and their crazy ways, like how the riddler MUST frame everything in a riddle even when it makes things more difficult for him. Interesting. Glad I stayed up for this one!

Writers' Workshop

I spent the morning in the Writers' Workshop led by Martha Wells. It was a good solid critique session with three other participants in our group. We had time, after talking about our stories and chapters, to talk about some of the larger issues regarding world building and publishing.  Very worth my time and you can't beat the price!

I spent the afternoon on the science panels. Being in Houston, a couple NASA people were kind enough to grace ApolloCon with their expertise.

Saturday Science with Paul Abell 
Dr. Abell is the lead scientist for Planetary Small Bodies assigned to the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate at the NASA Johnson Space Center. Wow! What a title. He gave a really interesting talk about the study of NEO (i.e. asteroids), and he brought slides!

100 Year Starship
Al Jackson, Stanley Love, Paul Abell, and Todd Caldwell
He was dressed slightly more casually for the con.
This panel took a little while to find its feet, but once it got going there was an interesting discussion about the science and challenges and rewards of interstellar travel.

Enter the Dragon: SpaceX and the Future of Manned Spaceflight
Al Jackson, Paul Abell, Stanley Love, and Scott Padget
A discussion about how private space companies will shape the future of crewed spaceflight and space exploration. This was a lively panel with some real world information and anecdotes from the people who make it all happen.

I finished off the afternoon with Austin (both Jane and Texas!) author Patrice Sarath. She read an excerpt from The Crow God's Girl, her stand alone novel of the Godarth Wood Series. The excerpt sounded quite intriguing, so I have yet another book to load onto my Kindle.

I made sure to stop by ArmadilloCon's Party since I'll be seeing them next month!

Writing 101 
Tanya Huff, Kerry Tolan, Bev Hale, and Julia Mandala
Billed as tips from pros on how to get started, stay motivated, and how to see your Big Idea through to the end. The wide-open topic seemed well suited to the first panel of the morning. It was fun with lots of real world writing advice and encouragement.

The Best YA You and Your Teen are not Reading
Patrice Sarath, Bev Hale, and Katy Pace
Well attended and in a small room, which happily encouraged more of a group discussion. Very enjoyable and now I have another long list of books to read - I may have to delegate some of these titles to my daughter!

Authors and books mentioned included (but were by no means limited to):

The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Scott Westerfield (Uglies, Leviathan)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
M. T. Anderson and Paolo Bacigalupi

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Last of the Short Story Marathon

Now that we've passed the Ides of June, I'd better tie up some loose ends!

It's been a good discipline to read a short story every day. I have so many books on my shelf about writing techniques and grammar and story crafting (I call them my devotional reading), and sometimes I get caught up with reading them and lose sight of the fact that the best instruction for writing STORIES is to read STORIES; to think about what a writer is trying to accomplish in a given story, if the story works, speaks, sings, touches my heart and mind...

There's a lot of flash fiction here, partly because the second half of this month got crazy busy, but also because I want to write more flash.

Below is the tally for the balance of May.

Fri 5/18 - All The Things The Moon is Not by Alexander Lumans in Clarkesworld - This one stuck with me more for the rendering of the world and of the characters who live together but mark time in lonely desperation.

Sat 5/19 - The Eye of the Sibyl by Philip K. Dick - his trademark stream-of-consciousness style set in both roman and modern times. You can see Dick working out some of the themes that pervade his later work like The Valis Trilogy.
Sun 5/20 - Broken Hearts by Ted Lietz on Every Day Fiction - A bittersweet story about an alien told with a distinctly feminine point of view.

Mon 5/21 - Notes from the Apocalypse by Stephen Graham Jones in Weird Tales #359 - Really three stories in one. Three different individual takes on a zombie future. The middle one titled "The Age of Hasty Retreats" was my favorite.

Tue 5/22 - The Deep by Adam Smith on Flash Fiction Online Having written a mermaid story I like this one. A nice story about suspicion (old wives tales), a mother and child and, of course, the sea.

Wed 5/23 - The Dome by Gregory Marlow at Every Day Fiction - I love dome stories and this one fits nicely within the confines of one thousand words.

Thu 5/24 - Fadeout by Amber D. Sistla in Bull Spec issue #6, Autumn 2011 - a parable-style tale about the nature of art.

At this point I borrowed a set of disks from my public library Masterpieces of Short Fiction. Even though it goes against my stated goal of reading some of the MANY books I have bouncing around the house, I'm really enjoying reading these stories and then listening to a short lecture about each of them.

Fri 5/25 - The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe - a revenge tale told by an unreliable narrator. Much of the suspense is carried by the finely observed detail.

Sat 5/26 - Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne - The only thing I'd read by Hawthorne before this was The Scarlet Letter. I'd forgotten what a good writer he was, even when the language is archaic the story feels immediate.

Sun 5/27 - The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol - Poor Akaky, I can picture his fine overcoat perfectly.

Mon 5/28 - The Diamond Necklace by Guy de Maupassant - Short and more of a parable, an anti-Cinderella story with a twist ending.

Tue 5/29 - The Lady With the Dog by Anton Chekhov - I'd read this one before, way back when. It really is just lovely. Chekhov is a master at revealing character.

Wed 5/30 - The Real Thing by Henry James - At first, I was a little annoyed by James' flowery style, but it's a long story and it grew on me. It serves his subject well. He's investigating some subtle aspects of society, class and what it means to be an artist, or more to the point, how to render art. I really liked it by the end.

Thu 5/31 - Araby by James Joyce - A coming of age story via a small disillusionment, presages a lifetime of a thousand cuts of the same.

The series continues with Hemingway, Babel, Kafka, Mansfield, Jackson, O'Connor, Garcia Marquez, Baldwin, Kingston, Atwood and Carver. It'll keep me reading a story a day through June.