Saturday, July 30, 2011

Clarion Graduation

Yesterday was graduation for the Clarion West class of 2011. Leslie Howle conducted a simple ceremony in which (to a CD of "Pomp and Circumstance") each student received: (1)from Leslie, a certificate of achievement, (2) from Charlie Stross, a poster signed by all six Clarion instructors, and (3) from me, the Clarion Secret Decoder Ring. This flashes blue light at steady intervals and with enough disconcerting brightness to induce epileptic fits in the susceptible. Students had already received their tee-shirts, the back emblazoned with memorable lines from critique sessions. Then there was cake:

In the evening the last Clarion party was held, at Eileen Gunn's. Students wandered around with their rings flashing like so many electronic fireflies. Somewhere across town George R.R. Martin was giving a reading, but for Seattle SF, Eileen's was the place to be. I sat in the cool evening on the front steps with a small knot of people lamenting the state of publishing. Or maybe just our publishing. Or not. There was wine involved.

Clarion is sometimes a traumatic experience, after it's over. Some students are unable to write for months afterward, until they process all the (sometimes contradictory) advice they've received. This group, however, seemed eager to keep on writing. Today they fly home to D.C. and Canada and the Netherlands and Australia, ready to become the next generation of George Martins in our unpredictable genre.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Charles Stross Reading

Last night Charles Stross gave a reading at the University Bookstore. The place was packed, with chairs jammed in everywhere possible and people standing in the back (none of which is actually visible in this photo):

Stross read a section from his new novel. Interestingly, the book is written in second-person, present tense, an unusual choice. That point-of-view can be really annoying ("Don't tell me that 'You did this' -- I know I didn't!") Stross, however, made it work. After a few minutes the POV disappeared and the story shone through.

Leslie Howle also announced next year's Clarion instructors, one of whom will be George R.R. Martin. Much applause.

As Duane, store manager and events co-ordinator, read off the last of up-coming appearances, it occurred to me that mostly I fail to publicize my own up-coming appearances, usually not blogging or tweeting about them until they're over. So in case anyone is interested:

August 5 and 6 I will be conducting two workshops at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Bellevue.

At Worldcon, I am a panelist, will hold a Kaffee Klatsch, and will be a presenter at the Hugo ceremony.

On September 10, Jack Skillingstead and I will read in San Francisco, a reading sponsored by Tachyon Press and part of the SF reading series at the Variety Preview Room with books for sale courtsey of Borderlands Books.

On November 6, I will teach one of Clarion West's new "One-day Clarions" workshops. For details and registration, see or call 206-322-9083.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Final Taos Report Plus Bear

Yesterday, in addition to a steady invasion of ground squirrels into the lodge, we had a bear sighting. It was ambling across the parking lot:

Today, however, was less about wildlife than about the last class. We critiqued the final two stories, after which there was a round-table discussion of agents, e-pubbing, political correctness in SF, other worthwhile workshops, and general trends in publishing. Tonight will be a farewell dinner at Old Blinking Light, with many Margaritas, and tomorrow everyone goes home. During the two weeks, we read and critiqued a total of 197,000 words of fiction. It's been a great workshop. Memorable quotes from the last few days:

"Breast reduction surgery is a shamefully under-explored topic in SF."

"You can never have too many maggots in a re-animation scene."

"Being dressed in a loin cloth and flak jacket, with a Mohawk and a Fu Manchu mustache -- this doesn't really inspire fear."

"We have butts and nipples that don't seem to be doing anything."

"I was confused about how many legs your narrator has."

"EEEiiiEEE! Flaming dicks!"

And, in the most concise synopsis ever offered of the rest of a story:
"What you just read.
Stuff happens.
The heroine wins."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pubbing and Critiquing

The first volume of my two-volume reprint space opera is available for Kindle and Nook. Attractively priced (I hope) at $3.99, it will soon be followed by CRUCIBLE. See humans caught in the crossfire of a space war between two powerful alien races!

Meanwhile, critiquing continues at Taos Toolbox, although everyone is looking a little brain-weary and there are more drinking parties at night. Memorable lines from critique sessions over the last few days:

"Give me more gears and pumps!"

"These guys are really talkative during a gun fight."

"It's bad marketing to have a product that kills your clients."

"It could go on a little longer before the squid enters."

"I love stories where someone argues with a car."

"Are you asking if the pickle in the story is an instrument of joy?"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Taos: Week Two

The Taos routine is by now well established: breakfast, assemble for class, my daily lecture, critique some stories, lunch, Walter's daily lecture, read and write in preparation for the next day. However, a few events vary this. This is a ski lift I rode up on Sunday, to a dizzying 11,500 feet:

Also on Sunday, Jack Skillingstead gave his guest lecture, an honest examination of one writer's journey toward publication, including the internal fears and discouragements that can inhibit writing.

Monday brought hard rain and a power outage. Everyone looked for non-existent flashlights, lit candles, and worked by computer-display light until batteries ran low. Ah, wilderness.

Memorable critique lines:

"I think you should grab the reader by the reproductive organs and go on from there!"

"I need more parasols."

"I like the idea of media people beating each other senseless -- it should be done more often."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taos: A Day Off

Yesterday at Taos people finally got a day off. Well, not everybody actually took the day off -- I saw a lot of typing going on at various places around the lodge. But Jack and I went sight-seeing. This lovely carved wolf statue, which I coveted, is in the Millicent Rogers Museum. Rogers, the Standard Oil heiress, fell in love with the desert (as do a lot of older women: Mabel Dodge Luhan, Georgia O'Keeffe), settled here, collected many Native American artifacts, and left them all in a museum.

We also viewed the Rio Grande Gorge. The gorge itself is impressive and stately, but where I come from, the river at the bottom would barely qualify as a creeklet.

Dinner was at a Bavarian restaurant yet further up the mountain. Much, much further, some of which seemed straight up. The car labored and groaned. But at the top, along with yet more ski chalets and condos, was a lovely German restaurant, all of its beer imported from Munich.

Memorable lines from Friday's critiques:

"You may suffer from extraneous fairies."

"There's nothing like a rat in the first sentence to put us right into a story."

"I'll just have to go back and blow something up."

Friday, July 15, 2011

This strange-looking object is an "ethernet concentrator." It was built by Taos student Jeff Duntemann and brought with him to Taos Toolbox in case Snow Bear Lodge had a weak wi-fi signal (it does in some places but not in others). The concentrator is built from a 1918 copper bathroom heater, a pillbox, and some other things I don't understand.

This level of scientific tech is typical of this year's Taos students, which also include an astrophyicist, a doctor, and many computer-savvy types. It's actually a bit intimidating: During last night's post-dinner conversation on the causes of nuclear melt downs, I had nothing to contribute.

The writing, critiquing, and class work go forward very well. Yesterday I lectured on world building, and Walter gave a wonderful talk on the Three R's (reveals, reversals, and raising the stakes). Some memorable quotes from critiquing sessions:

"This is The City and the City on LSD."

"Is it a scheduled squid or a chartered squid?"

"If steam is coming out of his ass, I'd notice."

"I need vowels!"

"Food is intimate without being sentimental."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Taos Toolbox, Mid-week

Yesterday was Taos Toolbox's second day of critiques; it went very well. However, a ground squirrel invaded the instructor apartment shared by Walter and me. Walter, less than helpfully, pointed out that ground squirrels can carry plague. From now on I am keeping the door shut. Here is Snow Bear Lodge, where the workshop is held. The tilt is due to the photographer, not the structure:

Memorable quotes from yesterday's critiques:

"If he actually gets beaten with the sex toy, that's okay then!"

"If I wanted to find a frozen girl in the woods, I'd hire an eagle, too."

"Did you consider crashing the car into a house?"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Taos Toolbox: Day 1

Today was the first class-and-critique session of Taos Toolbox. All went well. We critiqued two stories, I gave a lecture on writing in scenes, Walter gave one on plot. Here we are at work:

The critique room, which is also the dining room, is rustic. Everything that can be decorated with a bear or a moose, is. This is true throughout the lodge; the overhead light fixture in my apartment appears to be constructed from elk horns. The bedspreads have a moose pattern. Moose on the lampshade. A carved bear on the mantle.

Memorable lines from this morning's session:
"Specify the shape of her ass."
"I want to hear the horses scream and see the blood on the ground."
"Each story gets one free miracle."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Taos Toolbox

Last night Walter Jon Williams and I drove from Albuquerque to Taos to teach Taos Toolbox, a two-week intensive workshop in writing science fiction and fantasy. We drove through drifting smoke from one of the huge wildfires which New Mexico is currently battling. Everything is very dry. Through Taos and on up the mountain to Snow Bear Lodge in Ski Valley. Walter was bummed to discover that the hiking trails have been closed due to fear of fire. But the view is wonderful; the photo below was taken from the porch of the lodge. The air smells of pine needles.
Today the students arrive. My hope is that by the time they do, I will have overcome my altitude sickness, which last night was very unpleasant. Snow Bear is at 10,000 feet. This is a glorious clear morning, but thunderstorms are predicted for this afternoon. I'm looking forward to seeing them over the mountain -- as long as they don't ignite fires here. There is only one way down the mountain and if it ever becomes blocked by fire, Walter has a contingency plan involving a nearby beaver pond -- but I hope we never need to use it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New Kid on the Block

I have neglected blogging lately, shamefully, for two reasons. One is that New Kid, Twitter. It's so much easier to dash off 144 characters than to write a considered essay! But I will do better.

The other reason is that I have been drowning in work -- and NONE of it is writing new fiction. I finished teaching Clarion, only to plunge into the manuscripts for Taos Toolbox. These are mostly novel openings of 10,000 words each, plus synopsis, and they all must be read, line edited, carefully considered, and then a critique written.
The more of these I can get done before I fly to New Mexico on Saturday, the better off I will be as I fight the inevitable altitude sickness of being at 10,000 feet. I love teaching Taos, but it takes a physical toll.

I have also been proofing copy to get my backlist up on Kindle and Nook -- and the fir
st one is up! It is NOTHING HUMAN, priced at (I hope) an attractive $3.99:

Plus -- I got a new phone. For the tech-challenged, this has meant hours of fiddling with it and reading the manual, trying to figure out how to make it behave. I think it's almost tamed.

However, I WILL do better about blogging from there, along with pictures. Last year we had a black bear come right up on the porch of the ski lodge. If there is one this year, too, I will try to get a picture with my new phone. Maybe. If I can remember how. Or if the bear will hold still long enough for me to read the manual.