Ad Astra 2013 flashback: Best Fuego Grilled Burger!

May 11, 2013

Okay, well, the first thing you need to understand is when I went to bed on Saturday night, I set an alarm on the iPhone to wake me up with a custom ringtone. The second thing is that I’ve gotten into this habit of taking the iphone with me when I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, because whatever email might have arrived between midnight and 3am is obviously SO important. ;)

So I wake up very groggily to the dim strains of a ringtone playing over and over again in the next room. By the time I finally got to the hotel bathroom to shut it off, that alarm had been ringing for something like ten minutes. Oh well.

I went to the hotel restaurant for the breakfast buffet, and wasn’t too impressed with their french toast or milk, (and there were no pancakes at all,) but went back for a second helping of bacon and breakfast potatoes. Maybe that was because I’d gone the day before with no meat and possibly a low level of protein, (peanuts notwithstanding.)

So after breakfast, went back up to the room again; the plan was to check out by nine AM so that I could help out with the vendor’s room again and not need to worry about running back upstairs. That worked out pretty well, except that I forgot about a work thing I was supposed to do on the laptop Sunday morning, (but that worked out okay twelve hours later.) I took a few things out to the car, and left other luggage behind the front desk with a claim check. It was a little while before anybody showed up for the vendor’s room, so I pulled out the Kindle and read some of Jim Butcher’s “Ghost Story.”

After the vendor’s room was open, I went upstairs, and met Magie and Maggie from the browncoats in the corridor. They were a little upset that the Star wars/Disney panel (with Jim!) wasn’t where they’d expected it to be, but I pulled out my schedule and figured out that they were nearly an hour early. :)

The Masquerade awards were given out at ten-thirty Sunday morning, and the participants outnumbered the few fans who’d come out to see who won. (And one participant, Link, wasn’t able to come because he was stuck on duty at the registration desk.)

So… I won an award!  Read the rest of this entry »


Ad Astra 2013 flashback: Cosplay Saturday!

May 9, 2013

Well, it’s more than a month since I went to Ad Astra, but I figure I can still tell you guys about it. My last Ad Astra post covered Friday, so this time I’ll start with Saturday morning.

I woke up pretty early, showered, headed out to look for the Tim Horton’s at the corner that I’d seen listed on Google Maps. It turned out to be a coffee counter at a gas station, and they didn’t have TimBits, so I grabbed two maple dip donuts for breakfast. ;) Once I’d eaten, I suited up into security gear and went downstairs to see if I could help.

The volunteer room wasn’t open by nine, so I just kinduv hung around, and kept an eye on the vendors moving their stuff into the room. Soon the guy who’d deputized me as a volunteer showed up, and told me that my main job was to keep non-Vendors from wandering into the Vendors room before it opened up at ten. That worked out pretty well; I got to say hi to a lot of people, even though some of them were disappointed that they couldn’t get an early start on their window shopping. I also challenged a vendor or two who didn’t have their lemon-lime colored vendor badges out, and let a few people with ‘panelists’ slip through because I wasn’t sure I wanted to give them a hard time about hanging out with their vendor friends. :) And it was fun to get to check with the ConCom liaison in charge of the Vendor’s room and tell the gathering horde that it was time to go and buy!

At ten, I went to a panel for ‘What’s new in fandom’, but started paging through my schedule and realized that I had a busy day of stalking Jim Butcher ahead of me, so I left the panel to take care of some business. First I checked in with the guy in the volunteer office to ask some questions about spending the day in Cosplay. The volunteer guy said that I could just leave the yellow T-shirt and the radio gear in my hotel room while I was dressed up. He was bonding a staff from somebody’s cosplay outfit when I got there, so that answered another question, if I should ask to get my blasting rod bonded as safe. So up the elevator I went, put on my Harry Dresden finery, and back down to the volunteer office, where a bit of black zip-tie was wrapped around the end of my ‘blasting rod’ broomstick, to mark it as convention-safe or whatever.

There were Jim Butcher panels in the next two time slots: “Standalone novel versus series” and “Magic in the big city.” I was complimented a few times on my costume, and two people suggested that I should sign up for the Masquerade contest that night, so I left after the first few minutes of the ’50 years of Doctor Who’ panel to go to the signup table and entered as a novice, no craftmanship judging: I didn’t craft most of the costume myself. My Mom did more of that, with all the time she put in on the white bead pentacle, and helping with the shield bracelet too.

Read the rest of this entry »


Ad Astra 2013 Highlights – Day One

May 3, 2013

Hi there, friends and followers. It was nice to be able to take a day off from blogging, now that April is over, but I’m happy to be back!

And I’ve got some exciting memories to share. I didn’t get a chance to deliver an Ad Astra report while the A-Z challenge was going on, but I made some notes that I’d love to share. Let’s begin at the beginning.

Okay, so I left work Friday around two in the afternoon, picking that hour so that if I made really good time to Toronto, I’d get there just in time for the 3:00 hotel check-in. Of course, things didn’t quite work out like that. This was the first time I’d driven into Toronto on a Friday afternoon; actually I think the only other time I’ve actually driven into Toronto by myself was going to the airport on my way to Kansas last summer. It worked out fairly well, but I got a little lost twice; once because I wanted to get off the highway for Burger King takeout, because the takeout bag was going to be part of my cosplay. There was construction on the exit I’d picked, so I decided to drive over to the next on-ramp, but couldn’t figure out the right way to get on the highway driving East, and ended up driving East along the surface streets until the highway drifted north enough to intersect my street, and getting on then.

I also went too far north on the 400, because I’d managed to print out the wrong directions. But I got to the hotel in good time, got checked in, ate my burger and fries, and went down to get my convention badge and program and all that. Rather interestingly, I got them on the honor system; the volunteers at the registration desk had a big list of everybody who’d pre-paid, but I wasn’t on the list. “When did you pay?”

“Um, last summer at Polaris.”

“Oh, that explains it then. Here you go.” And he handed me a badge. Apparently the list of people who’d paid at Polaris got lost, and they weren’t rechecking anybody who said that was where they’d signed up. I even had my payment stub, but he didn’t want to look at it. Oh well.

Read the rest of this entry »


Ad Astra Premiere Issue!

July 19, 2012

Okay, somehow WordPress managed to eat my post. :( It wasn’t a masterpiece, but I can’t reconstruct it from memory, so here are the high points:

Ad Astra. Really cool science fiction and fantasy zine. Premiere issue. There’s poetry, there’s articles. There’s fiction, which I read through the entire slushpile for! :)

So go check it out. And submit something for upcoming issues! There, that’s all you really need to know.


May goals update

May 12, 2012

Well, after doing National Novel Editing Month in March, and Script Frenzy + A-Z challenge in April, I went back to picking my own stretch goals in May, and I think that they’re going pretty well so far…

Back to ‘How to Revise your Novel.’ It’s taken me a little while to get back up to speed with where I left off in this Holly Lisle course, but I’ve finished off lesson 14 and done the reading for lesson 15 now. They’re both relating to timeline stuff: 14 talks about the ‘simple’ chronological timeline and the importance of getting that straight, and then 15 suggests different exercises with complex timelines to see what they can add to your book – flashforward openings, flashbacks to the beginning, backward scene-by-scene chronologies, and parallel structures where you go through each character’s timeline one by one. I’m not sure that any of those are the ticket for ‘Children’, but I want to go through the exercises and see if I can make any of them tell me something new about my story.

Drafting short stories. I’m still not quite crazy or confident enough to try ‘Story a Day in May’, but I’ve committed to writing three new shorts in May, and as of tonight I’ve finished two, including one that I submitted to the SDMB short fiction contest! :)

Cleaning my apartment. I need to keep on with this too, but I’ve gotten a good start – my kitchen is pretty much in good enough shape that the air conditioner guy can get some work done in there, which is very important at this time of year.

Reading and critiquing stuff. Doing fairly well. I’m all done with my slush pile responsibilities for James Gunn’s Ad Astra, until a new batch of submissions comes through. I’m keeping up with ‘two stories a week’ for Elizabeth Twist’s short story reading challenge, and – well, I’m not sure I’m going to get anything in for critters.org this week, but I’m going to do some critting before May is over!

Preparing for Kansas workshop. Some progress – I have my new passport, which was important as the old one would expire before I had to fly. I’ve sent in my registration form for the workshop session and the dorm room. Still need to – book flights, send in payment to the University, and revise the stories that I want to get workshopped. :)

How much have you accomplished so far this month?


Somewhat faded memories of Wizard World Toronto 2012 – part 1

May 2, 2012

Because of the non-stop craziness of the A-Z challenge and continuing to do Six Sentence Sunday, I didn’t get to tell you anything about the Wizard World Toronto Comic Con, which took place April 14th and 15th. I had a really great time, (except for perhaps one moment that I’ll tell you about later,) and want to send a shout-out to the Wizard World team for a very well-run show.

I’ve been to Wizard World Comic Con in Toronto two times before. In 2010, it was actually the first fan convention I ever went to – I won a general admission ticket in a Toronto Browncoats shindig giveaway, and had a really great time, meeting Jewel Staite and Magda Apanowicz. I blogged quite a bit about the 2011 show at the time.

There were a lot of changes to Wizard World Toronto in 2012. They moved from the Direct Energy Center on the CNE grounds to the North building of the Metro Toronto Convention Center, a venue that I haven’t been to since the overcrowded 2010 Fan Expo. They also cut it down to a 2-day show, eliminating the Friday afternoon part of the schedule, and moved into April – the same weekend as the Ad Astra fan-run literary convention, actually. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t go to both Wizard World and Ad Astra this year, but I have no regrets about picking Wizard World.

I stuck with the same strategy I used in the March comic con of taking the GO bus into Toronto each day, rather than getting a hotel room downtown. I was also able to drive to the Hamilton bus station this time, in my new car, which actually made the commute a lot less stressful. I got to the South building pretty early on Saturday morning, armed with my barcode ticket printouts. It didn’t take too long to get one of the barcodes scanned and an official wristband sealed onto my person. Then helpful volunteers directed me up an escalator…

To wait in line, with the rest of the general admission peons, for the doors to the show floor to open. (Behind the advance VIP line, but they had to line up too, at least.)

But around 10 am the line started moving, and I went straight for the celebrity autograph area along the back of the floor. Not many stars were there yet, but I think there was a volunteer at Sean Maher’s booth, saying that he was on his way, so I waited around and got him to sign the two items that I’m trying to get signed by the whole Firefly cast – my Serenity blueprints book, and the graphic novel of ‘Those Left Behind.’ Waited a bit longer for somebody to show up at Amy Acker’s booth – eventually heard from somebody that her flight was delayed and she’d be half an hour – or an hour.

The rest of that morning went pretty quickly. Lining up for the photo op with Sean, by that time the word was in that Amy was on her way and a line was forming at her booth, so I joined the line, got her to sign an Angel comic and a head shot, then lined up to get my photo taken with her. I think around this point I must have grabbed a slice of pizza from the ubiquitous Pizza Pizza concession, and wandered the sales floor, looking for anything really cool I had to buy, Picked up some ‘Firefly’ promotional cards, wandered through the comic book stands looking at all the Buffy and Angel graphic novels, and realized that I had very little certainty of which titles I already owned, so I didn’t buy any that day.

I don’t really remember anything else before three in the afternoon on Saturday, which was the Vampire Diaries panel. Actually, I remember lining up for the panel shortly after two. And I think that I’ve rambled long enough for one post, so I’ll pick it up there next time!


Polaris diary – day 3, morning

July 17, 2011

Okay, not that much has happened since my last update. Went to sleep, had a fire alarm in the middle of the night, overslept because I set my ipod alarm for the wrong day (stupid interface, grr,) and went to volunteer up at Ten Forward, where I mostly just looked for make-work because the guy in charge was oversleeping too.

A few thins from yesterday evening that I didn’t mention in the last update. The constellations awards ceremony was great – funny, and a touching moment when Jewel Staite presented Adam Baldwin with the award for best male actor in a tv show. It also ran long by about half an hour, which means that I didn’t get to see much of the costume masquerade before having to head down to the Geek-off.

Today, I’ve got scheduled:

  • A two-hour science fiction ‘writing workshop’ with Julie Czerneda.
  • Lunch, not at the buffet, (but possibly the same restaurant, just ordering off the menu.
  • Meeting with two other writers from the Ad Astra critique circle sign-up list – the first meeting that we’ve been able to organize!
  • Jewel Staite’s Q&A, and getting a new autograph from her.
  • A few more ‘potluck panels.’
  • And the Geek-off championships, where I don’t have high hopes, and will not be playing out of my own universe.
Then my brother should be picking me up for the ride back to Hamilton.
Before any of the things on that list, I’ll need to pack up and check out of the room, so I should post now and get packing! Talk to you again soon

More Ad Astra notes from Friday night:

May 28, 2011

(Taken from my palm tungstens)

Beta Readers
Terminology – editors versus test readers versus critiquers versus critters or beta readers.
The Bunch of Seven, at Ryerson: “Does anybody want to read this manuscript?”
The worst critiquer – your mother? Anybody who will grimace and say “it’s great”!
Deal to meet every two weeks for coffee to talk, and you had to demonstrate process or owe the other person a coffee.
Pride on the line, didn’t want to have to owe the other person anything.
My sister, the professor beta reader – loving yet stern.
Critiquing the work in progress is an art – getitng from the little cleanup stuff, to the bigger stuff, ‘where you lost me, what were you trying to do I didn’t get it.’
Is it important to all be around the same level of skill?
Useful specialty fields, like renaissaince history, fantasy fan
Someone who will give you the bad stuff, won’t take your bullshit or excuses.
Shorthand vocabulary between long time beta readers, familiarity with longer works.
30% more or less of a particular factor (30% less words?)
Posting something up for the fans realtime, but it’s malleable, make changes based on the fan feedback. intensely collaborative experience.
Different specialties and different perspectives, like cultural – british or german?
Busy schedules – distributing manuscripts before the meetings.
Everybody has to make a commitment to the group.
Internet writing friends – commiting to writing.
Limits on the group policies, reciprocity.
Where to find readers? making friends with other readers.
Writers as beta readers? giving the readers/audience perspective.
At what stage do you let the beta readers see it? in progress/first draft/second draft/later?
Clarity for helping you see where you need to get over the hump you’re facing.
‘Too many characters?’ When you list them off, if you say ‘he’s the other guy’ then get rid of him.
The reader is doing a good job when you say ‘I hate you / shut up.’
Ongoing relationship – it builds over time.
Might overlap with professional editing.
‘A marvelous precis of a story, with good cursing.’
Something positive, and something to improve on.
Getting the most beautiful rejection letter, it’s nice that they took the time to write it.
When do you take a comment to heart?
The stages – first to encourage, then your needs change as you get more confident and better.
Don’t tell them that you’re not taking their notes to heart, just thank them and compliment them.
Have the courtesy to say thank you.
Don’t tell them that you’re not taking their notes, or defend your work. (as in getting defensive,)
‘That’s a starter book’, ‘that’s a green belt book instead of a black belt book.’
Writer’s group, you feel under the gun with serious criticism. (defensiveness again.)
Don’t repeat the same constructive criticism that other people in the circle did.
Plug for ‘day jobs for creative professionals.’
Times when it’s very hard to write. you may need to make a change in your life.
Mystery story without any mystery in it.
‘Rewrite in regular english instead of fake olde english.’
‘Very pretty, very terrible story, with a remembered plot.’
Cutting 20000 words from the middle of the story.
‘Well i like you as a person.’
Confessionals didn’t come in for another 300 years.
Writing a rosary within 10 years of the introduction of rosaries.
Read the rest of this entry »


Lost notes from long-ago conventions.

May 26, 2011

Well, I went through the memo pad files on my Palm tungsten handhelds this evening, looking for more material on Ad Astra, but when I realized that I had some notes from even longer ago, I thought that I had to share them first. I’ll try to edit for a bit of clarity when I can, but these will generally be very rough, just what I managed to type down at the time. Please reply with questions in the comments about anything that intrigues you, and I’ll answer in more detail if I can, or speculate otherwise.

This first memo I don’t honestly know where it’s from, but it could be from Polaris 2010:

How to write
worldbuilding – know how things work and where things are
map of dystopian ontario – civilization around hydro plants, cancer pollution zones
writing a story in 24 hours – with prompts from strangers and libraries
outlining a story before starting the first sentence
have to be willing to kill characters off, even if you like them and they don’t want to die
two characters running around a building in opposite directions but not meeting
to master the art of outlining… Or not?
character driven writing – know their skilllsets, and then make them go beyond
appendectomy with a spoon and first aid training
wars and the aging of characters – retconning your history
computer tools – custom dictionary spell check, massive internet research, excel file for character bible, search and replace, macros for italicizing ship names
chinese font issues – pdf submissions
preparation details that don’t get into the book – lots of them
helps you live in that world
the grist mill – after being in one when it was working, the feel was wrong, needed to rewrite
tinker’s plague, triangular trade deficits, drove some of the plot
writing programs – ms word with all auto functions turned off, simple good manuscript format
Read the rest of this entry »


The Lost Ad Astra Notes: part 1

May 20, 2011

So, it’s been nearly a month since I went to the Ad Astra science fiction convention in Toronto, but I didn’t post that much about it because that was in the middle of the A-Z challenge, and the good letters like A for Ad Astra and C for Convention had already passed. And I didn’t pull my notes out as soon as May started. So here are my somewhat scattered thoughts.

My overall impression of Ad Astra was that it was ‘more Polaris than Polaris.’ Polaris 24 was my first hotel-based convention, and in some ways it was crazier than the conventions with bigger celebrity guests at fancier venues, like Wizard World or Fan Expo, because there were so many really cool panels going on, always something interesting happening, the action starting relatively early and ending really late, scrambling to find some time to grab a bit of food in between panels that I really wanted to get to. Those are all the ways that Ad Astra was moreso than Polaris.

And it was at least as much crazy fun.

So, my Mom picked me up at work this time to drive me into the city, on the condition that I at least try to buy any of a long list of Mercedes Lackey books for her. The drive went reasonably well, except that we got somewhat lost actually looking for the driveway into the hotel, though we spotted the building quickly enough. Then there was a bit of a wait for my room to be ready when I was checking in.

I registered, started going over my program and the schedule to see what panels I thought I’d be able to make, and a friend from the Firefly fan group, Colleen, spotted me sitting in the lobby and asked if I could keep watch over her suitcase for a few minutes, and I agreed. Then she got dragged outside by her grandkids and I had to hang around for a while until she got back.

My first panel was with Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, who were a lot of fun; that one was about continuity in an ongoing series. Then a panel on how to find good beta readers, which had lots of interesting tips. I was making notes like crazy on whatever came easily to hand – the iphone for one panel, a palmpilot for the next, and so on. I’ll put together as many of the notes as I can and share them with you all.

Read the rest of this entry »


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