Fan Expo diary – part One

August 30, 2010

First off, I’ve missed a blog post from my usual schedule, on account of preparations for Fan Expo keeping me busy, but I figured I’d do a big series to start off the week with some of my experiences. This was written Saturday morning, about my first day at Fan Expo, the afternoon and evening of August 27th:

Got into town around three on Friday – immediately headed off to my hotel to check in and drop off my bags. They had automated check in, which was nice, and I hung around in the room for a few minutes to catch my breath, and kept a lookout for any place to grab some food fast when heading down to Front street.

And then I saw the lines of people waiting to get in.

Immediately hurried over to join the line, and then realized that this was the line of people who hadn’t reserved tickets online, so I hurried down to find the end of the other line. Bought a burger and a bottle of water at a hamburger car sitting out just past the start of the ‘reserved tickets’ line. It was just after four when I got my order, the line started to move – slowly, and I continued along ALL the way down Front street and down the side street to the end of the line. Ended up behind a family group – mother, three daughters from teen-age to pre-teen and a little boy. Ate my burger, drank my water, and moved with the line.

Now, I’d really been excited about the Serenity RPG-ing, and there was a session listed for Friday at 5pm, so I was constantly trying to convince myself that I’d be in the building by five. I wasn’t, quite, and there was more of a lineup inside the building. By the time I’d handed in my reservation printout and gotten my orange wristband, it was probably five twenty-five, and I lost more time trying to go down the wrong stairs before I found the right way to the RPG room.

“No, sorry, that session is full up, and even if it weren’t, they’ve started play.”

So I reserved a spot in the Sunday Serenity session, and also a D&D session for Saturday, thanked the people outside the RPG room, and headed back up to the main floor. Met someone from the Shindigs group in passing, got all the way over to the celebrity signing lines, hesitated over who to wait for at this point, ended up going through Michael Dorn’s line and getting a signed action shot of Worf.

By this time, I’d figured out that the Saturday D&D session conflicted with Felica Day’s Q&A, and some other things that I wanted to be available for, so I went back down to RPGs to cancel on that one, back up to the floor, wandered around some of the vendor stalls. I think I visited Chris M from the Buffy and Shindigs groups, who was working at the Pixel Barrel stall, and bought a hardcover volume of the Ninth Doctor Shooting Scripts, then to a photo stall and picked up two more unsigned pictures of Summer Glau, and then finally hit the jackpot at a comics stall.

“All trades for half off the US cover price” – and they had all the Buffy comics omnibi from two through six, which I’ve been meaning to pick up since I loved reading the first one, but thought the price came a little steep on Amazon.

So I paid them off, and found a way to stick all the books into my laptop bag along with the doctor who and what I’d brought with me. Wandered over towards the signing area, Felicia Day had shown up and I actually got into her line, then realized just how heavy my bag was now, and decided to go out through the exits, drop the heavy stuff back at the hotel. It was just getting towards seven by this point, and I didn’t have any firm ‘gotta be there’s until the James concert at nine.

So I headed down and out the marked exits – there was a sign saying ‘no re-entry without hand stamps,’ but that apparently doesn’t apply to weekend ticket-holders with orange wristbands. Got a soft-serve ice cream cone from another truck on front street, got back up to my room on the tenth floor, unpacked the bag, drank one of my powder drink mixes with the hotel tap water, headed back down, grabbed a donut from the Tim Horton’s on the corner, and back to the convention center. Went back to the signing area, took a look at the Felicia Day line again but didn’t actually get in, wandered around the vendors for a while, and then headed down to level one for Stockwell Day’s Q&A.

That was a fun session – he was very matter-of-fact about what it had been like for him to be a working actor for so many decades, and even though I got spoiled for some Battlestar Galactica stuff I didn’t mind. I asked a question about funny moments from shooting Quantum Leap, and just got a reply of “I can’t think of one moment, but there was something funny happening every day on that set between Scott and I,” which was alright.

I showed up ten minutes early for the James concert, and nobody got let in until at least twenty after nine, but it was really fun once it started. He obviously loves to write songs and to perform them, which I hadn’t really realized even when I bought the ticket. He sprinkled in a few fun stories between numbers, and I took an awful lot of pictures – I hope the people ahead of me weren’t too annoyed at the flash going off.

And that was pretty much it for day one of fan expo, for me – chatted with a Shindig friend a little on the way out of the James concert, (most of them were in the VIP line waiting I think,) and came back to my hotel tired and just about ready to fall into bed.

Developing a novel idea.

August 23, 2010

So – I was surprised by a plot bunny, or possibly a small pack of them, walking home from work last week. Well, I don’t walk all the way home – I walk about two and a half kilometers into downtown Burlington, and catch the Hamilton number eleven bus from there, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the idea.

And possibly I shouldn’t even call this bunny a ‘plot bunny’, though that’s the usual term in some of my writing circles, because the idea that I’ve got a the moment – well, there are a few plot elements, but mostly what I’ve got is the beginning of a sci-fi world setting, and a few character notions, and how an adventure for them begins, and the vaguest idea of where it might take them.

So, out of this – I’m not quite sure where go next to flesh the idea out before I start writing – though I’m sure I do want to put a bit more thought into it before I start. This is a part of the process that I’ve never really thought about in much detail before – I suppose I keep the notion on ‘the back burner’ of my head for a little while to see what develops next. It would be interesting to try to structure this into an outline in a more formal way, though, but I’m not sure where to start.

Do I start with the characters I already know about, interviewing them with questionnaires, and trying to figure out who else might be a person of interest in the story? Worldbuild like crazy? (Especially important since the idea involves several alternate Earths.) Try to segment the plot, breaking it up into beginning middle and end, or come up with a plot structure like the Beat sheet and fill in the blanks?

If you have any thoughts or especially useful links on this topic, please comment away! I’m exhausted just thinking about it all.

Travelling writer… sometimes.

August 21, 2010

Well, I’ve been thinking about travel for a little while now. It’s only a week and a half since I got back from Hidden Valley – and Elizabeth Twist wanted to hear more about that, after my somewhat ranty blog ramble about the reservation issues I ran into the first day. Yes, I had an amazing time up in Muskoka. The area around Hidden Valley was beautiful and peaceful – I’ll try to post a few of the pictures that I took. I walked around a lot – the Deerhurst resort, down the road, had better selection of restaurants, so I was heading over there for lunch and dinner by the end of my trip.

Saturday evening, I went down to the docks for a sunset cruise on the lake. I was the only one who’d come for the trip, but the old guy running the boat was happy to take me out on the water, and we chatted for a while – he seemed to know all about the whole Huntsville area, especially the parts of it that could be seen from the water.

I had in mind last New Year’s that I wanted to not be so much of a homebody and to travel more, which I guess I’ve done, though like a lot of resolutions it didn’t quite work out like I’d planned. I went to Wizard world Comic-con and Polaris in Toronto, and I’m planning to hit a few more weekend conventions. (Fan Expo is in less than a week!) And in late November, I’m going to be flying back to San Francisco and attending the National Novel Writing Month ‘Night of Writing Dangerously.’ for the second time. I’m so excited and it’s still around three months away.

The NOWD, if you haven’t heard of it, is a big fundraiser and gathering for Nanowrimo-ers from all over. I made it the centerpiece of a five-night trip to San Fran last year, and I found that I didn’t have nearly enough time to do all the touristy stuff that I wanted, so this time I’ll be spending nearly two weeks in the Bay area. Whoo-hoo. Wish me luck!

And we have pictures from Muskoka…

Quick mini-updates.

August 16, 2010

Hey, I’m feeling a bit drained – I’m going to driver education classes this weekend and next, so the time crunch seems to be tighter than usual at the moment. So, I’m just going to quickly run through a couple of other things that I’ve touched on recently for today’s post.

Critmo is well into the second week at this point, and I’m a little worried that participation seems to be lagging somewhat. I still have one excerpt to crit, and somebody else who I’m supposed to be critting is several days late posting her excerpt. Guess there’s not much more to do than keep soldiering on for now, and try to figure out some way to muddle through.

I’ve got more feedback swaps than I can keep up with at the moment – I’m trying to work my way through one Nanowrimo manuscript, an interesting alt-historical romance called ‘Duty’, and I’ve got another novel and a script sitting on my hard drive, and another scriptwriter who’s sent me a message saying that they’re interested in a swap, but I’ve put them off saying that I can’t commit to it yet after all. It’s fun stuff, though, when I can fit it into the day.

And some more playing around with ‘I write like…’

All of my JulNoWriMo words came out as: Dan Brown again. Sigh

The sentence ‘I hate Dan Brown’ bounces back without a result, and highlights the note: ‘For reliable results paste at least a few paragraphs (not tweets).’

The Preamble to the US Constitution is written like: H. P. Lovecraft

The first two sentences of the Declaration of Independence are written like: James Fenimore Cooper

The opening paragraph of Tale of two cities – is recognized as being written like Charles Dickens. That’s good, I suppose

Winston Churchill’s ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech could have been written by: James Joyce

The ‘Give me Liberty or Give me death’ speech is written like – William Shakespeare

Switching POV and voice.

August 13, 2010

I started a new fanfic crossover piece in late June, and started working on Chapter Two early in August, after JulNoWriMo was over. This story, ‘A New Mexican Alien in Metropolis,’ is Smallville/Roswell fandoms, and a sequel to a charity auction challenge story that I did last fall, ‘Arrow through my soul.’

For a while, the new story was going great – Michael Guerin had come to Metropolis to start a fight with Oliver Queen, but Oliver wasn’t available, so I was introducing him to Chloe Sullivan, (who he kind of grudgingly tolerated,) Davis Bloom, (who he almost got in a fist-fight with, and then bonded over the graveyard shift life with,) and last of all Lana Lang, and sparks definitely started to fly between Michael and Lana, with much flirting and witty banter going on without my feeling like I had to work at it at all…

Until the dinner at the Italian restaurant started to bog down in sharing of canon trivia between their two universes, so desperately I tried to shift ahead suddenly to a scene with the two of them breaking into Maria’s Metropolis apartment… and that scene absolutely stalled. Sigh.

I switched to another project for a few days, and yesterday it occurred to me that maybe one of the problems with ‘Metropolis’ was that I was writing it in third person, generally following Michael’s perceptions. ‘Arrow’ had been first person POV, with Maria narrating as she travelled into the worlds of Metropolis and Smallville, Kansas, and I think that worked well. So today on the bus I started going through what I’d written for ‘Metropolis’ and changing “Michael” and “he” to “I”, “they” to “us”, and all other pronouns as necessary to make it first person.

In the process, I noticed some interesting things happening, that other changes in wording and phrasing were coming up, because the words that I’d initially used weren’t the ones that Michael would use. (That’s one benefit of writing in a fandom that I’m so familiar with, that the character voices are so natural without my having to come up with them.)

I also ran into a bit of trouble with the very first scene of chapter one, because that was NOT third person limited POV of Michael Guerin. The story actually opens in third person limited POV of Chloe Sullivan, how she runs into this agitated guy outside Oliver Queen’s office, (who turns out to be Michael,) and calms him down a bit. So I suppose I’m going to have to rewrite that one scene much more seriously to get it into Michael’s narration.
Wish me luck with that!

CritMo has set sail…

August 8, 2010

Next stop? A magical land where respectful, authentic, and specific feedback flows like – I dunno, maple sap or something?

So – over at Stringing Words, we’ve started doing a Critiquing Month, or CritMo. I volunteered to organize it, since there were interested writers, but all of the usual SuperAdmins seemed to be a bit too busy to jump at doing the legwork this time. Though SW has had 2 CritMos before, this is also the first time I’ve participated.

So far, it’s been a lot of fun, and very instructive. The basic idea was simple – you sign up to contribute a certain number of excerpts, and you’re assigned to critique two other pieces for each piece you contribute, so that each excerpt has at least two assigned critiquers. Along with your excerpt, you provide some questions or notes for what sort of feedback you’re interested in, and then you read the pieces that you’ve been assigned to critique and do your best to provide good feedback.

By the way, when I was blogging about what makes a good critique in early July, I was already planning for CritMo – I believe I mentioned that at the time.

So, this time we’re doing week by week assignments, four week-long periods during the month of August, and the first week is nearly drawn to a close – it goes until Tuesday night. I’ve finished the three critiques I signed up for this week, (we agreed to try a variation where people can pledge to do a third crit in the hopes of getting a third crit on their own work,) and received one critique on the lead-in to a fantasy short story.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Reading for feedback, and composing feedback, can be very hard.

In the end, it’s so very worth it.

However, I’ve been so focused on CritMo that I haven’t really started on the 3 longer pieces that I’ve agreed to do feedback swaps on. Oh well, I’ll get to them – and I didn’t promise a particular completion date to anybody at least.

And, as a followup to my saga of mixed-up reservations in Huntsville, Saturday turned out to be a non-event. I packed up all my stuff carefully to take to the new room, went to the front desk – and was told that they’d arranged things so that I could stay in the same room until Tuesday. Ah well, at least it’s a nice room, and no stairs out to the lobby,

Off in Summertown…

August 6, 2010

I’m taking my summer vacation at the moment, at a resort hotel near Huntsville, Ontario. Coming back home to the Golden Horseshoe next Tuesday.

Today was fairly exciting and eventful – finished backing and left early, taking the city buses up to the Burlington GO transit station, GO train into Toronto Union station, and getting my tickets for the Northlander train to Huntsville.

The plan from there was to hang around Huntsville for most of the afternoon, walking around, grabbing lunch and an early dinner, and maybe picking up some snacks at a grocery store, before finding a taxi to take me out to the resort, since I wasn’t sure if I’d want to pay for a taxi to take me into town once I was out here, until it was time to check out and take the train home, and there didn’t seem to be much else around the hotel aside from its own restaurant and sports facilities, as far as I could tell.

That plan worked out well enough, actually, despite the train station being in a different place than I’d found searching the company name on google maps. (Didn’t realize that there was also an Ontario Northland bus depot.) Took some good pictures around Huntsville.

Taxi driver dropped me off at the resort reception area, I went up to the front desk, with my smallish wheeled suitcase, my smaller laptop bag, and my snacks, and told them my name. This was the last point in the process at which I expected a problem.

At first, they couldn’t seem to find me, and then, checking the expedia records, the girl said that my reservation was for July 5th – which at first she thought was yesterday, and then clued in that it was a month ago. “Do you have a printout of your reservation?’

No, I didn’t. Sometimes I print it out, but not always, because I never seem to need it, hehe.

“Well, we can book you in for two nights, but that’s it. We’re full up on Saturday night.”

I didn’t really like this, but I agreed, partly because I wanted to have a room where I could unwind, get online, figure out what had happened, and especially if I’d managed to book the hotel online for the wrong month and NOT NOTICE. I do have a little history of absent-minded mistakes of that sort, but this would take the cake for stupidity, or at least be a contender with mistakes that were not date-based at all.

So, the girl ran my credit card, handed me key-cards and told me where to find my room, and I booted up my netbook computer, checked my google mail, reset my expedia password so I could log in, because I didn’t have the expedia password saved on the netbook.

The reservation was definitely for August 5th-10th. I even had a reminder that was sent on August 1st.

Called the expedia toll-free number, waited on hold for over half an hour without getting anyone live, and then gave up in frustration. Sigh. Called the front desk and mentioned that I’d found the confirmations in my email, and I could take the netbook to them and show it to them if that would help sort things out.

“Actually, I’ll give you the hotel’s email address, if you can forward the emails to us.”

So I did, and she said that she’d call me when there was any news. So I chatted online with some friends, blowing off a little frustrated steam, and worked on writing some new words for the day. Still anxious about what was going to happen, and what I would do if I couldn’t stay past Saturday, especially since the Northlander train doesn’t run on Saturday, so I couldn’t just go home at that point – at least, not using the other half of my open-ended round trip ticket.

Finally, I anxiously called the expedia toll-free again, and to my surprise got through to somebody in under five minutes. I gave my itinerary number and explained the situation, and I have to say, this guy was the man you’d want in your corner when you have a misunderstanding with a hotel. “Alright, I’ve emailed and faxed our copy of the reservation to the resort, and if it’s okay, I’d like to put you on hold for just a little while and call the front desk myself, and I’ll be back with you once we’ve had that little chat.”

So I waited on hold with a bit more hope and less anxiety, and Expedia guy comes back a little more than five minutes later. “Yeah, it’s all set up. You’ll have to switch to another room, but you can stay for the full reservation. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“Not really, you’ve been great.”

So, at this point, I figured I would be moving presently to my new room until Tuesday morning, so I ran around for a little while repacking and getting ready for that. After that was done, I called the front desk, to ask if there was any update on sorting out my missing reservation. (I didn’t mention talking to Expedia guy.)

“Yes, we’ve got a plan, but the room you’re in now is booked for starting Saturday night. So you’ll have to pack your things and come to the front desk Saturday morning, I’ve had a cancellation, so we can move you into another room then.”

Well, that wasn’t what I’d expected, but I’ll take it happily. (Assuming of course, that it isn’t just a clever ruse to get me out of the room on Saturday so that security can throw me off their property more conveniently, which is probably a pretty paranoid thought.)

I’ll make sure to include a resort reservation update on Sunday. And one more minor thought.

The word ‘prerogative’ does not look right to me that way, nor sound right pronounced as it is spelled. Up until today, I seriously thought that the word was spelled and said as ‘perogative’, and I’m not quite willing to let go of that. Who else, (besides Britney Spears,) is with me??

In search of some good feedback swaps.

August 2, 2010

I’ve started to like the idea of manuscript feedback swaps – two writers exchanging their complete drafts and each reading through the other’s and giving a detailed critique. I did two swaps for ‘The Long way Home’ back in January and early February of this year, and those notes gave me a lot of good stuff to work with on my recent draft revisions.

Now, I’ve gone back to the ‘Critiques, Feedbacks, and Novel Swaps’ forum at the National Novel Writing Month website, which is where I came across the idea in the first place… and the Script Swaps forum on the Script Frenzy website – but neither seem to be too active at this point in the summer, which is when I have a reasonable bunch of spare time to be reading and critiquing other people’s work. Sigh.

At this writing, I have gotten one swap offer at Script Frenzy, though, which I’m looking forward to – and two people from Nano Swaps have offered to critique my manuscript, but without sending me back anything to critique myself, which leaves me a little at loose ends until the critiques start coming back.

I’ve also been looking on google for other places to find swap partners, and there seem to be some possibilities, but I haven’t sifted through them all yet. One interesting one for screenplays is Screenwriters Utopia, which lets you upload your script into the database, and automates the process of releasing your script to others once you’ve posted critiques. On the other hand, they have a spot in the upload for a WGA registration number, and ‘strongly suggest’ that you should have your work registered before you upload. I’ve taken a quick look at registering my work with Writer’s Guild of Canada as a non-member, but I’m still not quite clear on how the payment process works.

So, any recommendations for good places to find feedback swap partners, year-round?

Oh, and a JulNoWriMo postscript – I got up to 50,004 words on Saturday morning, around 9 am. Still haven’t finished ‘Children of the Molecule’ – but then, I never expected to, in a month, and I can actually see that the end is not so far off at this point!

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