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Shore Leave addendum

Okay, so I said in my last post that I’d have more to say later about the last day of Shore Leave.  There’s really not much to say, though.  I had the author breakfast, I had my three panels, I got checkout delayed enough that I could have lunch and vacate the room in the hour between panels, and everything went pretty smoothly, until the rain and my automotive mishap that’s stranded me in Carlisle, PA for the night.  (Although I should’ve refilled the ice bucket that I was keeping the leftover salad in, snce it was kind of wilted when I got around to eating it.  Plus I belatedly realized that Caesar dressing is made with egg, not something you want to let sit around at room temperature.  I haven’t gotten sick yet, though.)

I finally got to meet Ann (A. C.) Crispin, one of the first-generation stalwarts of Pocket’s Star Trek novel line, the author of the seminal Yesterday’s Son and its sequel Time for Yesterday (the latter being the book that really tied together the rest of the ’80s novel continuity), as well as the novelization of the original two V miniseries and a couple of the minority of V novels that were actually good.  She’s also known for her original Starbridge series, and most importantly, for running the Writer Beware website warning aspiring authors against scams.  We had two panels in common today, the tie-in vs. original fiction panel and the female action heroes panel.  Both were well-attended and spawned interesting conversations.  The Tor panel in between, with just Marco, Greg, and me, was more sparsely attended, but it went okay.  Basically Marco (with our help) was continuing the sort of thing he used to do for Pocket Star Trek books, giving a presentation of recent and upcoming books and their covers and descriptions, except for Tor’s lineup of original SF, fantasy, etc. instead.  There were some pretty interesting titles mentioned.  Some of the ones mentioned at the panel are covered on Tor/Forge’s Coming Soon page.

Overall, the whole thing just seemed to race by.  As I was on my way out of the hotel, I was amazed at how quickly I’d reached that point.  I just got there!  And essentially I did only spend about 48 hours there, from around 2:30 Friday to around 2:30 Sunday.  I guess I was kept so occupied yesterday and today that it seemed like it took very little time at all.

And then I left and it all went to hell.  The irony (lots of that today) is that I left early in hopes of getting as much driving done as possible before I hit the thunderstorms.  But if I’d just stuck around the con for another hour and a half or so, taken in another panel or two, the storm would already have passed.

I’m seriously thinking of flying to Shore Leave next year.  Sure, in absolute terms it’s more expensive than the cost of gas, but add in car repairs and this particular trip is definitely gonna be costlier than a plane ticket would’ve been.

I. Am. Such. An. Idiot.

The last day of Shore Leave went fine — more later.  The drive home, not so much.  Here is the chain of decisions that led to my current, entirely avoidable predicament:

About an hour out from Hunt Valley, just south of Harrisburg, I’m hit by severe rainfall that reduces visibility almost to zero.  Traffic crawls along.  I keep going slowly, looking out for exit signs.  I see indications of an exit 2 miles ahead.

I see other cars pulled over in emergency pull-offs to wait out the storm.  I decide to keep going to the exit.

Once I get near the exit, the rain starts to abate.  I think about continuing, but I decide to pull off and stop for a while just in case it gets worse again.

After I get off the Turnpike, I have two ways to go, north toward Harrisburg or south toward Carlisle.  I choose south.

Before very long at all, I see I’ve made the wrong choice; there’s nothing but road ahead of me, and I don’t know where it goes.  I turn around and head back to get on the turnpike.

Just before getting back on the turnpike, I see a sign for a Wendy’s a bit further ahead.  I veer out of the on-ramp and keep going straight.

I look for the entrance to the lot — a combined lot for Wendy’s and a convenience store/service station called Love’s — and spot it a bit late.  I make the turn at the last possible instant….

And it’s actually a bit after that.  My rear-view mirror hits the sign and my driver-side wheels go up on the curb.

As I pull in to a parking space, I feel the left side of the car is all bumpy, and I begin to realize what happened.

I get out and see that both driver-side tires are completely flat and off the rims, and at least the front rim is bent.  (This is getting ahead of the story; I didn’t get told this until later.  I don’t know from rims.)

So (shifting to past tense now) I tried calling my insurance company’s emergency assistance number.  The first  connection was almost inaudible and I didn’t get any help; she couldn’t even find my account.  I accidentally disconnected the call, and called again.  Got a better connection this time, and it turned out my account was still in my father’s name (I inherited his car) — and the roadside assistance had expired months ago.  Still, the operator did his best to help me find a towing service or a tire shop.  He found one practically next door to where I was (once I got the address from the store clerk), but they and everyone else were closed on Sunday afternoon, except for one rather pricey service.

By the time I was done with the insurance guy, the store manager and staff had come out to watch, and the manager tried to find a tire service for me, with a similar lack of luck, though I appreciate his effort.  He agreed it would be okay to leave the car parked there overnight, not that we really had a choice.

So it seemed I’d have to spend the night here in Carlisle.  I thought I’d have to schlep (or drive on my rims) over half a mile to the motels I’d seen in the other direction from the turnpike, but — the first stroke of good luck in this whole tale — I noticed a Hampton Inn right across the street.  So I got a sandwich to go from the Wendy’s, schlepped my luggage over here and checked in.  The clerk was sympathetic and got me a room at a discount, and is going to help me find a repair service for the morning.  I hope they can get me fixed up and back on the road reasonably quickly, but considering I only made it about 1 hour’s worth out of a 10 to 11-hour trip, I probably won’t be able to get home until Tuesday.  Luckily I set the DVR to record my Monday night shows just in case I was delayed.

So I’m feeling pretty rotten right now.  This was such a stupid, avoidable accident, and the irony is that it only happened because I was trying to be safe by not driving in the rain.

But I’m reminding myself that the good news is, only the car was damaged.  Neither I nor anybody else got hurt.  This is an inconvenience, it will be expensive to fix, and it’s the end of what’s hitherto been an accident-free driving record, but it’s not a tragedy and it should be reparable.  At worst I’ll be delayed an extra night or so.  And at least I have a nice hotel room to stay in tonight — and I don’t have to wait until I get home to watch tonight’s Leverage episode.  So there’s an upside.

Still… there were so many moments when I almost made a different decision.  And it was such a little thing.  I survived the worst downpour I’ve ever driven through, then got my car hobbled because I took a turn a little too fast.  So yeah, I’m feeling pretty dumb.

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At the con

Well, it’s been an eventful day and a half. My first panel on Friday, about superhero novels, was a pretty cozy affair, with the audience barely outnumbering the panelists, and it was kind of a replay of last year’s panel on the same subject. At least it was a gentle way to ease into things. And at least I had my advance reading copy of Only Superhuman and its great cover art to show off.  After that things were quiet until Meet the Pros, where I handed out promotional fliers for OS as well as signing Trek books. Usually I’m relatively quiet at these things, not as outgoing as some of my author friends, but this year I was less tentative and more assertive, since it wasn’t the usual case where the people coming up to me were already established fans of the thing I was writing for; I had something new that I really wanted to promote and try to get people interested in. I think I handled myself pretty well, though it was still less busy this year than it was in years past.

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. BennettMarco Palmieri, the assistant editor on OS, brought a printout of the cover mechanical, i.e. the full artwork and text for the wraparound dust jacket that will enswathe the hardcover.  It’s the first time I’ve seen the final treatment and what the spine will look like.  The brown-dominated front and back covers are offset by a green spine and flaps, and the spine has a smaller, cutout version of Emerald Blair’s cover pose between the title and my name,which is neat.

I showed the OS cover to Alan Kistler, who writes the “Agents of S.T.Y.L.E.” column critiquing superhero costume designs for Newsarama, and asked him to critique Emerald Blair’s costume.  He thought it worked pretty well, that it fit the character (as I described her to him) and was still practical.  So that was good to hear.

I only had one panel on Saturday, a morning panel about writing time travel, which let me talk about my DTI novels and discuss the writing of time travel in general with the other authors on the panel and the members of the audience.  That was really my only Trek-related panel for the whole con, although this morning I have one about moving from tie-in to original work, so there could be some Trek discussion there.  Anyway, despite only being a panelist on one event, I had a very eventful Saturday.  After my panel, I stuck around as an audience member for the next two in the same room, a writing workshop with Marco, David Mack, and David R. George III (which never really got to the workshop part sinceDTI: Forgotten History cover the audience was content to listen to the panelists talk about the writing process for two hours).  I’m glad I attended, since their comments on story structure helped me recognize a couple of significant structural flaws in the spec novel I’m getting ready to revise.  Hopefully I’ll be able to think of ways to strengthen it up in those areas.  That was followed by a panel on editor-author relationships with Marco and Greg Cox, my main editor for OS.  Some nice insights there.

I took the next hour off, then attended a panel on Leverage, which is not an SF/fantasy show but no doubt has plenty of overlap in the fanbase (and often makes genre homages, particularly to Doctor Who) — not to mention that one of its current writing staffers, Geoffrey Thorne, is a former Trek novelist who wrote the Titan novel right after my first one.  More to the point, a couple of the panelists, including Greg and the prolific Keith R. A. DeCandido, have written Leverage tie-in novels which should be coming out next year.  It was a fun conversation.  Then I spent an hour signing books at the Constellation Books vendor table — thanks to the folks there for hosting me, letting me hand out more Only Superhuman flyers, and feeding me chocolate.  After that I ran into Greg, Marco, and some others in the lobby and got invited to join them for dinner over in the nearby mall.  My editors and I shared a table with Bill Leisner (author of the TNG novel Losing the Peace) and we writers mostly listened while the editors talked about the business and traded anecdotes, which was very informative and entertaining and mostly not for public consumption.  I had a bowl of chili and a caesar salad, and as usual the restaurant portions were too huge, so I asked for a box to bring back the rest of the salad in, although I have no idea when or if I’m going to eat it (it’s probably wilted some by now).  After that I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, but then Marco ordered an apple cobbler with ice cream which turned out to be way too big for one so he asked for four spoons so we could all share, and, well, I guess there’s always room for apple cobbler and ice cream.  Then we came back to the hotel and I hung out with folks in the lobby and talked about old movies and Godzilla and the like.  After that I came back to my room to decompress after that very full day.

Today, after the author breakfast in half an hour, I’ve got three panels that will all be Only Superhuman-related for me: at 10, the tie-in vs. original panel mentioned earlier, then a Tor Books presentation at 11 with Greg and Marco talking about Tor’s upcoming releases and me talking about OS, and then at 1, a panel about female action heroes in the media.  Then I’m pretty much done and will probably be setting out for home not long after.  I’d like to get a few hours’ driving in today, but it looks like thunderstorms are likely, so we’ll have to see how that goes.

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