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Post-Shore Leave wrap-up

Well, I’m home at last, recovering from my drive home yesterday. Shore Leave this year was a mixed bag for me; the con was mostly fine, but due to various circumstances, mostly my own situation, I wasn’t able to enjoy it as fully as usual.

On Saturday evening, I had hung out with my fellow authors for our annual BBQ dinner; this year, because several of us had late panels, the ever-generous Keith R.A. DeCandido and his wife Wrenn ordered a take-out catering package for us to have at a reserved suite at the hotel, instead of driving out there en masse as usual. I kind of missed the chance to get out of the hotel and experience the ambience of the BBQ place, but we were able to have a larger group of authors, and I was able to make a second pulled-turkey BBQ sandwich to keep in my hotel room fridge for lunch the next day (which is good, since it cost more per person than I usually spend at the restaurant). I also got to have a nice conversation with the charming and multitalented Mary Fan, an author, acrobat, composer, and who knows what else.

Although I got so caught up in the conversation that I failed to realize I’d bit the inside of my lip rather hard and repeatedly while eating my sandwich. I had to bow out early, and the next morning it looked badly bruised, so out of an excess of caution, I sought out the hotel’s medical staffer just to make sure it wasn’t infected or something (it was fine). Later on, I was on two consecutive panels in the same room, so I was able to stay in my seat for both. The first was a panel on toxic masculinity and alternatives to it in fiction, with panelists including the aforementioned Mary Fan (who thought Emerald Blair looked “badass” on the Only Superhuman cover, which is a great compliment from someone who’s pretty badass herself), and the second was one on trickster figures in fiction, which I only had a tenuous reason to be on (Emerald Blair can perhaps be considered a bit of a trickster, as can Rynyan and Tsshar in the Hub series).

Ultimately I didn’t really do much beyond panels this year, since the vagaries of bad timing meant that I had a novel deadline on Monday and I had to spend most of the time holed up in my hotel room revising the draft manuscript, which had come out a bit too short and needed fleshing out. Also, for some reason, the con’s book vendor didn’t have any copies of Star Trek: TOS — The Captain’s Oath for sale, and I didn’t bring any of my own since I assumed the vendor would have them. So I wasn’t able to sell many books this year, although what with all my economizing on the trip (eating homemade meals, avoiding some but not all toll roads, driving all the way to and from my cousins’ in DC rather than staying at motels), I was able to come out nearly $47 ahead on this trip. It would’ve been over $50, but I had to buy a new power cord for my phone en route.

Oh, my phone. Ugh. In addition to the power cord problem, the GPS kept crashing on me. And I’m so reliant on GPS that I don’t know the way from the Shore Leave hotel to my cousins’ place without it. Well, I have paper Google maps printouts I could’ve used, but the GPS directed me away from the printed route due to crashes on some highway, so I tried to wing it, made the wrong turn (onto I-83 instead of I-495), and ended up hopelessly lost in the middle of Baltimore. Once I got the GPS working briefly, enough to make my way back to a familiar highway, I tried to rely on my printed map from there, but made the wrong turn again at a confusing exit and got lost a second time! Eventually, after a couple of more false starts with the GPS, I finally ended up on a local road I remembered from coming in on Thursday, just a few miles from my cousins’ house, so I no longer needed the GPS — and that’s when the GPS started working reliably!!!! GRRRRRRRRR!!! I was utterly frazzled by the time I got to Barb & Mark’s, and not great company when we went over to their friend’s for dinner as usual. (Mark suggested that the problem was that I’d enabled offline maps and it was eating up my phone’s memory. I changed the settings as he recommended, and my GPS still crashed at one point on the way home on Tuesday, but it kept working steadily as long as I shut off the phone screen and put it on standby during the long stretches between notifications. Honestly, I barely needed it once I got onto I-68W, and certainly not once I got to I-70.)

Anyway, I spent pretty much all day Monday alone at Barb & Mark’s house (aside from their dog and cats), which was perfect, since I needed both a day to recover from that horrible drive on Sunday and a quiet day to concentrate fully on finishing up the manuscript before the deadline. I managed to turn it in on time and close enough to the target word count, and significantly improved by fleshing out some supporting characters who needed it. (Sometimes it’s good to add a whole subplot in a day, weaving it into the existing storyline, since it gives it cohesiveness and keeps you in the right mindset to write it.) So I’m finally done with that (until I get editorial notes), and hopefully soon I’ll be able to tell you what it was.

Thanks to my cousins buying turkey and cheese for me, I was able to make a couple of sandwiches for the drive home on Tuesday, and to take the remaining turkey and cheese home with me as well, along with an extra ice pack in my insulated grocery bag. The drive home was by the fastest possible route, which Google Maps said would take a bit over 8 hours, but it took me something over 11 hours, which seems excessive even given all the rest areas I stopped at. But then, I was caught in rush hour traffic in both DC and Columbus and at least one similar slowdown in between, so that added somewhat to the travel time.

(Though it could’ve been worse. Since Barb disagreed with the phone GPS about the best route out of town, I went with the version on my map printout and almost made a wrong turn again when it told me to go right at the fork to stay on I-495W when the road signs said that was the left fork. At first I went left, but then I had doubts, and since the road behind me was empty, I stopped, backed up, and parked myself on the marked-off triangle of pavement between the two roads, staring at the signs, before finally deciding I’d probably been correct to go left all along, so I went left again. Fortunately, it turned out to be the right call, and the trip was mostly pretty straightforward from there. I’ve scratched out the “right” on that step on the printout and written in “left” so I won’t make that mistake again.)

So now I’m home, but I still don’t feel quite settled in. The fatigue hasn’t left me, and I have to get groceries and catch up on a lot of TV. I also have an overdue video at the library due to bad timing; I wasn’t able to watch it before going because of my manuscript, and I wasn’t able to renew it because it was reserved. So I’ll have to watch it and get it back today, just one day late.

Once I’m a bit more recovered, I’ll get on with reviewing my editor’s notes on Arachne’s Crime, which have been waiting on my computer since last week. After that, I have an original project I’ve been working on that I need to get back to. And then… we’ll see. I still have some car repairs that I wasn’t able to get done before the trip. For one thing, it seemed that the wiper fluid sprayer was fixed, but it stopped working again late in the drive home.

In the meantime, I picked up some new copies of Among the Wild Cybers at Shore Leave, replenishing my stock, so I now have five copies available as part of my autographed book sale. If you buy them, I can say I made more of a profit from my trip! And don’t forget, I have a bunch of copies of The Captain’s Oath for sale too, so you can help me make up for not being able to sell any at Shore Leave.

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Shore Leave news — Announcing ARACHNE’S CRIME and ARACHNE’S EXILE!

It’s Saturday night at Shore Leave, and I’m only getting around to posting now since I’ve been busy trying to revise a manuscript by its Monday deadline (lousy timing, I know, but it can’t be helped). I can’t yet say what it’s for, but I do have other big news below.

Anyway, I had a better drive in than expected; there were thunderstorms along my path all day Thursday, but by luck, I managed to stay just behind the tail end of the storms the whole trip, with just a brief period of drizzle in Eastern Ohio and clear skies the rest of the way. I stayed at my cousins’ overnight, worked on the manuscript Friday morning, got into the hotel Friday afternoon, then stayed in my room working until the What’s New in Trek Fiction panel where I couldn’t really talk about anything except the new Star Trek Adventures games I’ve got coming up in the next month or two, theoretically. Meet the Pros was fairly quiet, but I got to talk to writer friends and that was good. Today, I was on a “Batman Turns 80” panel for no particular reason (though it was a nice talk, led by Greg Cox, who — unlike me — has actually written Batman fiction), then I was on two consecutive Star Trek Adventures panels (one about the game, one about how to write/pitch for it, which I wasn’t scheduled for but crashed anyway). Then at 6 came the eSpec Books panel run by the company’s owner/editor Danielle McPhail, and though we literally had an equal number of audience members as panelists (5 each), it was here that I got to make my big announcement.

And here it is: eSpec Books has acquired my duology Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile. I’ve talked about this project intermittently on my blog over the past few years, though not under those titles. Readers of my original work may recognize Arachne as the name of the colony starship from my first published story, “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” from the November 1998 Analog, reprinted in Among the Wild Cybers. To quote the story description from my AtWC page:

The colony ramship Arachne accidentally destroys a space habitat of the nomadic Chirrn while its crew is suspended in hibernation.  Even if the colonists can persuade the Chirrn that the disaster was an accident, will they still be held culpable for negligent mass murder?  And can they get a fair trial despite the Chirrn’s mistrust of planet-dwellers?

I always wanted to continue the story of the Arachne crew in the wake of that novelette’s outcome, so I eventually settled on the idea of doing a novel that would incorporate the original story but expand on it and continue the tale beyond it. It turned out that some of the science in the original story (concerning the feasibility of interstellar ramjets) was implausible, so I eventually decided I needed to break with my usual “Keep everything consistent” policy and do a whole new version that would replace the original story in my universe’s continuity. Once I made that choice, it freed me up to make other changes and really add depth to the story and characters. (Most of the original story’s events and dialogue are still in there, though. Consider it an inaccurate account of the same event, superseded by a much fuller and more accurate version.)

The expanded and corrected retelling of AVG is just the first half of Arachne’s Crime, though. The rest of the novel continues the tale beyond the verdict, as the crew of Arachne adjusts to their new status within the Chirrn’s civilization — which includes a number of Chirrn who did not agree with the verdict and have their own ideas about obtaining justice. Both halves let me flesh out the Chirrn’s culture, biology, and psychology much more richly than in the original story, as well as intensifying the human drama far more than in the original tale.

The events of Arachne’s Crime then build to a climax that leads into the second novel, Arachne’s Exile, which opens up the narrative to a more cosmic, epic scope, bringing in more new species and exotic environments, and really fleshing out the big-picture galactic culture and history of my primary SF universe more than anything I’ve had published to date.

The reason I have a duology all ready to go, by the way, is that it was a single really long novel for years, but I was never able to sell it at that length. Eventually I started to think about submitting it to small publishers with word-count limits per volume, which would require cutting it in two, something I resisted for a while because I saw it as one story. But eventually I realized it had been trying to be two stories all along, that there were elements resolved in the first half and others not introduced properly until the second. Cramming them together probably kept the book from feeling properly focused. Splitting the tale into two distinct phases turned out to work much better, tightening the focus of each volume. Also, since the natural breaking point was less than halfway through, I needed to expand the first book to make it a suitable length, which let me flesh out a lot of Chirrn worldbuilding I’d glossed over in my rush to part 2, as well as adding a new climax to make part 1 more of a complete book on its own. I also added new material to the start of Exile to reintroduce the characters and story threads. I’ve always felt that a story told in two or more volumes should be made of distinct parts that work somewhat independently, rather than just being one long story arbitrarily divided by length (which was why I resisted splitting Arachne until I realized it worked better as two connected stories).

The current plan is to run the Kickstarter campaign for Arachne’s Crime in the early fall, with the book hopefully coming out fairly soon thereafter. Arachne’s Exile is expected to follow sometime in 2020.

Just think… this time a year ago, I had only two original books in print, Only Superhuman and Hub Space. Now I have a third (Among the Wild Cybers) with the fourth (Crimes of the Hub) due out very, very soon. By this time next year, I’ll have six original books in print. (Which are either 3 novels and 3 collections or 4 novels and 2 collections, depending on how you count Crimes of the Hub, which is three stories collected and blended into a short fix-up novel.) Hopefully I’ll have copies of all six to show off and sell at next year’s Shore Leave!

My Shore Leave 2019 schedule

The Shore Leave schedule is now online here:

https://www.shore-leave.com/programming/schedule.htm

Here are my panels, with descriptions quoted from the convention booklet:

FRIDAY 7/12:

What’s New in Star Trek Fiction — 6 PM, Salon E/F
What are the latest plans for Star Trek publications?
John Jackson Miller, Dayton Ward, David Mack, Christopher L. Bennett, Scott Pearson
Meet the Pros — Hunt/Valley Corridor, 10 PM – midnight
The usual mass signing event for all the authors, where I assume I’ll be at the eSpec Books table for the convention debut of the Footprints in the Stars anthology. I also plan to have copies of older books to sell and sign, including Only Superhuman and some Star Trek back titles.
SATURDAY 7/13:
Batman Turns 80! — 1 PM, Salon E
2019 is Batman’s 80th anniversary. What is it about the Dark Knight that accounts for his longevity as a pop-cultural icon? And where does he go from here?
Greg Cox, Russ Colchamiro, Christopher L. Bennett, Glenn Hauman, Keith R.A. DeCandido
Star Trek Adventures RPG Discussion & Workshop — 3 PM, Tack Room
The newest Star Trek RPG is running full speed ahead! Come learn more about the game and its upcoming releases from developers and writers. Also learn about professional RPG writing processes and how to pitch adventure ideas for possible publication.
Jim Johnson, Derek Attico, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Christopher L. Bennett, Scott Pearson
Meeting eSpec Books — 6 PM, Derby Room
The publishers, editors, and authors of eSpec Books discuss their new and upcoming releases, including novels by Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christopher Bennett, and Bud Sparhawk and new volumes in their ever-popular Defending the Future and Beyond the Cradle anthology series.
Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Mike McPhail, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christopher L. Bennett, Robert Greenberger, Dayton Ward
SUNDAY 7/14:
Toxic Masculinity and Its Alternatives in SFF — 11 AM, Derby Room
Panelists explore their own concepts of masculinity as it relates to their writing, as well as how they address toxic gender expectations and stereotypes in their stories and worldbuilding.
Kelli Fitzpatrick, Mary Fan, Amy Imhoff, Dave Galanter, Christopher L. Bennett
Meet the Tricksters — Noon, Derby Room
Trickster characters populate myth, religion, and fiction. How do tricksters influence storytelling and societies? What do they tell characters (and us) about possible ways of navigating the world?
David Mack, Jenifer Rosenberg, Christopher L. Bennett, TJ Perkins

 

As usual, be sure to check out the book vendor’s table on the lower level, where some of my books will be on sale and where you might find me and other authors doing signing stints.

 

 

The Kickstarter for my next anthology is open!

We’re at it again, folks! eSpec Books has just opened a new Kickstarter for three anthologies, including Footprints in the Stars, which features my new Troubleshooter story “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of.”

The first anthology being fundraised for is In Harm’s Way, Volume 8 of editor Mike McPhail’s military-SF anthology series Defending the Future, which has a focus on rescue and recovery missions (an idea I think is pretty cool), and contains stories by Brenda Cooper, Bud Sparhawk, David Sherman, Edward J. McFadden, Robert E. Waters, Jeff Young, James Chambers, Lisanne Norman, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Christopher M. Hiles, Eric Hardenbrook, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

Footprints in the StarsOnce that book is funded, the other two anthologies will be funded as stretch goals:

Footprints in the Stars: “A traditional science fiction collection with the theme of the discovery of evidence of other life in the universe and how those discoveries impact humanity. With stories by James Chambers, Robert Greenberger, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Christopher L. Bennett, Dayton Ward, Russ Colchamiro, Vincent Collins, Bryan J. Glass, Gordon Linzner, Ian Randall Strock, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.”

Devil Dancers is a single-author military-SF collection by Robert E. Waters, containing reprinted and original stories in the titular universe.

The fundraising goal for In Harm’s Way is $800. Once we reach $1900, then Footprints in the Stars will be funded, and Devil Dancers will be funded at $2800. As with last time, there are also bonus stories and other rewards for people who pledge certain amounts, which will all be spelled out at the Kickstarter page — just click on the widget up above. The Kickstarter will remain open until May 19, 2019.

I’m told that Footprints in the Stars is scheduled to make its debut at this year’s Shore Leave Convention in Baltimore from July 12-14, which I expect to be attending as usual. The eSpec folks are going to be there as well, and we’re going to have a panel and stuff.

So everybody start Kickstarting! Or… whatever.

More car woes

Even though I was feeling a little under the weather this morning, and even though we had actual rainy weather this morning, I decided to take a quick shopping trip during the lull in the rain, to visit a local store I haven’t been to in a while and need one or two things from now that I have some money again. Imagine my surprise when my car wouldn’t start. I just got a new battery a few weeks ago!! Luckily the building maintenance guys were right there, and they gave me a jump start and determined that the battery was still holding a charge; it had just been drained by something. I realized my headlights were reflecting off their truck, and when I tried to turn them off, nothing happened. Somehow, they were stuck in high-beam mode.

So I drove straight to the garage, and the guy there told me he had a lot of jobs and couldn’t get to me until Tuesday. I was just about resigned to driving back home and getting another jump start on Tuesday, but he decided to take a quick look at the problem, and in trying to force the lever on the steering column to turn off the lights, he managed to break the lever altogether. So now I had to leave it in the shop. (Is it even street legal to drive without working lights or turn signals? I guess I could’ve stuck my hand out the window and signalled turns manually the old-fashioned way.) But to his credit, the guy tried harder to find a solution and promised me he could get a new part delivered and installed by tonight.

But I wasn’t up to walking home in my condition, and it had started to rain again, and I’d forgotten my umbrella. Not to worry, though; the guy offered to arrange a ride for me, on the garage’s dime. So I’ve now taken my first ever Uber ride. There was an Uber driver just a minute or two away at the university, so I didn’t have to wait long at all. So that was handy, although it meant I had to skip my shopping trip. Hopefully I’ll be up to walking to the garage to pick the car up whenever they’re done with it.

I think there may have been a harbinger of this problem on my recent Shore Leave trip. On the way back, I was returning to my car at a rest stop when I noticed the high beams were on. It took me a while to remember how to turn them off, and when I determined it was by pulling the lever toward me, I figured I must’ve accidentally done so at some point. But maybe it happened spontaneously and was a warning sign of the problem. But because I’d had that problem before, I was extra-careful the last time I used the car to make sure the lights were off when I was done with it. But it looks like there’s a problem with the internal switch, so that didn’t make a difference after all.

It’s always the way, isn’t it? As soon as you get money, new expenses crop up. Well, I guess it’s better than having it happen before you get money.

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I’ve sold my first fantasy story!

In my last post, I mentioned waking up Saturday morning at Shore Leave to find good news in my e-mail. The good news is that I’ve finally sold my first-ever short story in the fantasy genre rather than science fiction. It’s a fairly short piece called “The Melody Lingers,” a tale of magic harnessed through music, and I’ve been trying to sell it for years, honing it through various rejections. I’d pretty much run out of markets for it until I learned that Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, edited by fellow Cincinnatian Mike Resnick, was opening to general submissions. It was too long for Mike as written, but he said he’d take another look if I trimmed it down considerably — which is ironic, because the version I submitted was expanded from the first draft. I ended up going pretty much back to the story’s original structure, although incorporating enough of the improvements I’d made along the way to make it work. It was on Saturday morning that I got the acceptance and the contract, and fortunately they accepted an electronically signed contract, so I could send it right back without needing to wait until I could get it printed out and find a post office (or, well, I guess hotels can mail things for their guests). I just got the check today, which is very fast service.

“The Melody Lingers” is set in a fantasy world called Thayara that I’ve been developing since the ’90s (probably inspired by my college friends who were heavily into fantasy) and have made occasional attempts on and off to write stories in. This particular story focuses only on one limited part of that larger world, and it isn’t the tale I’d imagined as being the introduction to Thayara, but hey, it’s a start. I can finally say I’ve written fantasy professionally. And now that I’ve sold this one, it might inspire me to put renewed effort into writing more stories in this setting — sooner or later, once more pressing responsibilities are past.

I don’t yet know the publication date, but I’ll post it once I do.

Finally, my post-Shore Leave post (on Shore Leave)

Sorry it took me so long to write this — it’s been an exhausting week. As I mentioned, I had to leave a day early and drive a fair distance out of my way to pick up some belongings for a relative who recently moved to the DC area. So I spent 6 hours driving on Wednesday. I stayed with my relative’s friends, who were nice and welcoming, but I never get any sleep on my first night in an unfamiliar place (I recently read an article about this — it has to do with the brain’s instinctive alertness to danger, so it’s not just me), so not only was the big drive to DC on Thursday really long — more than 12 hours, as it turned out, including the frequent rest breaks I needed — but I was making it on no sleep and plenty of coffee. The folks I stayed with were kind enough to let me have a travel mug full of coffee to take with me on my drive, in addition to the first cup I had that morning, so that was pretty much all that kept me functional through that really long trip. Oddly, though, even with my car packed with a significant amount of extra weight, I got the best gas mileage I’ve ever had on that part of the journey, even topping 32 MPG. (I learned the habit from my father of always writing down mileage and gallons when I fill the tank to calculate MPG.) I wonder what made it so efficient. Could the extra weight have actually improved mileage somehow by giving me a bit more traction or something? That seems counterintuitive.

(Oh, and when I accidentally stretched out my laptop’s power cord too far Wednesday night and it came unplugged, I discovered the battery is dead. Something I’ll need to take care of when I can afford to.)

The drive out wasn’t entirely smooth, though. I committed to making it in one day because I didn’t want to pay for a motel and because the forecast called for heavy rain in the DC/Baltimore area on Friday — but as it turned out, Friday was quite clear, whereas I hit a fierce, intense thunderstorm at one point on Thursday. The weather radar at the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s travel plazas didn’t show its position clearly — I’m not sure it was a live feed, since it didn’t match what was on my phone’s radar app. But then, that app didn’t seem to show where the storm actually was either. (I wish there were a way to combine it with Google Maps, get both route and weather info at the same time.) Still, as scary as it was, it was mercifully brief, and was the one period of significant rainfall I experienced on the trip.

I made it to Cousin Barb’s home near DC a little before nightfall on Thursday, though I had to wait in the car for a while until she made it home. I hoped I’d be exhausted enough to get some real sleep despite being in a relatively unfamiliar place, but it was very humid, so I got almost none, though I do remember a couple of brief dreams, so there was at least a bit of REM sleep in there. Anyway, on Friday morning, I relied on my new travel mug full of coffee to keep me going as I drove my relative’s belongings to their new place, though I spilled a fair amount of coffee on an empty bookcase and my own tote bag because I overestimated how well the mug’s lid was secured. Nothing important was damaged, though.

After spending the rest of the morning with the family, I finally headed off to the Shore Leave hotel, which was another hour’s drive. I was so worn out by this point that I don’t really remember much detail, but I did the usual thing — shower, change clothes, rest up for a while, then finally venture out into the hotel and look for friends to talk to. As usual, fellow Star Trek novelist and Only Superhuman editor Greg Cox was one of the first people I ran into, and we and some others sat in the hotel Starbucks and chatted for a while about various things. I’m pretty sure Bob Greenberger (former DC Comics editor and Trek novelist) was there too, and Trek novelist Dayton Ward showed up for a time, but I’m not sure who else was there or what we talked about.

Eventually, at 7 PM, I had my first panel, which let me show off Among the Wild Cybers for the first time. Though the panel was nominally about anthologies, i.e. collections of stories by multiple authors, single-author collections like mine were included in the discussion too, so I got to talk about such things as how we chose the story order.

The big debut of the collection was supposed to be that night at Meet the Pros, but I got bad news from the book vendor: the distributor had failed to deliver the books in time for the convention. They were slated to reach his store on Monday, which was after Shore Leave ended. This was very frustrating. I’d brought a half-dozen copies with me (albeit slightly imperfect ones, from the first print run that left out the Only Superhuman preview at the back), but I’d given two to family members and I needed to keep one for my later panels, so I only had three copies to offer him to sell on consignment. As it happened, nobody bought any at Meet the Pros anyway, though all three copies sold on Saturday. Still, Meet the Pros was busier this year than it’s been in a while — perhaps because William Shatner was a guest at the con this year so there was larger attendance — and I did a good job selling the backlist Star Trek novels I brought with me.

But my favorite memory from Meet the Pros was getting to meet Michael Okuda, the longtime illustrator and technical consultant for the Trek franchise from Star Trek IV through Enterprise, as well as the co-author of the Star Trek Chronology and Encyclopedia, a member of the team that created Star Trek Remastered, and a graphic designer for NASA. He’s kind of a Trek legend (along with his wife/collaborator Denise, also in attendance), and he’s been of great help over e-mail with a number of my books, but this was his first Shore Leave. I was pleasantly surprised when he came up to me at my Meet the Pros table in order to meet me in person at last. Turns out he’s a really friendly guy. I went to one of his and Denise’s talks later on Sunday, and they’re both really nice people, who later on insisted on taking a picture with me.

In the less fun category, one of my pens started leaking in the pocket of one of my best shirts and left a stain that just got bigger the more I tried to wipe at it. I had to spend most of Friday night hiding the stain under my jacket. The next day I changed back into the shirt I’d worn previously (I didn’t have many other options, since I packed light to make room for my relative’s stuff), only to find it had a smaller ink stain in the same place. Anybody know how to get ink stains out of cotton/polyester?

I actually got a fair night’s sleep after MtP, though not a full night’s sleep, because MtP runs to midnight and I woke up sometime after 5 AM. I remembered a trick I finally figured out last year — since the hotel mattresses are a bit too firm for me, sleeping on top of the comforter makes it soft enough to be comfortable. Although using the other half of the comforter as a blanket made me too hot, which may be why I woke up early. Anyway, when I checked my e-mail on my phone that morning, I got a nice bit of good news, which I’ll share in a later post.

I had a pretty early panel on science fact in fiction, and… I can hardly remember anything we talked about. I’m starting to think I should’ve been more diligent about keeping this blog during the convention, as much as an aid for my own sleep-deprived memory as for anyone else. I remember it being a pretty good panel, moderated by Kelli Fitzpatrick, a new writer friend I met at last year’s Shore Leave and who’s already become an integral member of the gang. After the panel, I tagged along with Kelli and sat in the audience on a panel on cultural and gender representation in fiction, moderated by author/editor Mary Fan, and with my former Trek editor Marco Palmieri on the panel as well. It was pretty interesting, and when the question was raised about the difference between cultural representation and appropriation, I had a thought that I didn’t have the opportunity to express during the Q&A but mentioned to Mary afterward: That maybe the difference is akin to the difference between symbiosis and parasitism, in that it’s about whether the entity that takes something from another also gives something back to it in turn.

At noon, I had a panel on the Star Trek Adventures game, with my editor Jim Johnson and moderator Stephen Kozeniewski. I finally got to see some of the game books in hardcopy form and see the final formatted version of some of the adventures, although Jim tells me that my first couple of adventures probably won’t be published until August or so. Since I have little prior experience with gaming, it was an informative panel for me, even though I can’t clearly remember all of it. But I remember talking about the challenge of adapting my writing style to stories where I don’t know who the main characters will be, and figuring out how to create situations that are at once generic and adaptable to any characters yet designed to encourage character development and growth — for instance, a situation that forces the characters to address a moral dilemma, or to try to convince a character of something by drawing on their personal experience and values, or the like.

It turned out that I had a third Saturday panel that I failed to mention in my schedule post, because I’d forgotten applying for it and my name didn’t seem attached to it on the copy of the schedule I got. It was a panel about Sherlock Holmes and his various adaptations, and fortunately the moderator Roberta Rogow reminded me of it the night before. I was probably the one panelist least qualified to be there, since most of the others (including Keith R.A. DeCandido and Mary Fan) had written various Holmes pastiches, whereas my only bit of Holmes-related writing is that Locus Online post I did a few years ago, plus my blog reviews of the Rathbone films and whatnot last year. But I managed to hold my own, I think.

Let’s see, after that I went down to the book vendors and spent some time catching up with David Mack, who was doing his hour in the Author Chimney, the narrow space between brick columns which is where authors spend an hour at a time signing books for passersby. Dave has grown a goatee and dyed his hair bright blue, apparently in homage to or solidarity with his old boss on Deep Space Nine, Ira Steven Behr. He also had some good insights about Star Trek: Discovery through his connections to the show’s staff, and his words encouraged me about the future of the show after its recent staff upheavals. I did my own hour in the Chimney after Dave left and sold a few more of the books I brought with me. They’d already sold out of the three copies of Among the Wild Cybers I’d provided, which was good, though it’s a shame they didn’t have more copies available.

But the highlight for us authors on Shore Leave Saturdays is the annual group visit to Andy Nelson’s BBQ for dinner and conversation. Since I was so broke, I mostly just ate food I brought from home or from the folks I stayed with en route, but Andy Nelson’s is a tradition, and fortunately I’d made enough on book sales to feel comfortable paying for it.  We managed to get the indoor dining room to ourselves for only the second time since I started going along, which was good, since it was way too hot and humid outside. My usual pulled turkey sandwich was drier than usual, but a bit of BBQ sauce helped with that, and I was given extra stewed tomatoes on the side since my first helping got partly spilled. I had some nice conversation with Keith DeCandido, his wife Wrenn, Kelli Fitzpatrick, and others, and afterward Keith and Wrenn treated me to an Italian ice at a place Wrenn spotted along the way and apparently knew from the past. I got a banana-flavor one and was pleasantly surprised to find it had real banana puree and chunks in it.

It was kind of late when we got back and I was still sleepy, so after enough time to digest my big dinner and dessert, I turned in early. This time, I got more than a full night’s sleep, managing to sleep in well past 7 AM. I mostly just puttered around in my room until it was time to check out, which I did before the Okudas’ presentation at 11. After that, just the once, I splurged on a burger and orange juice at the hotel Starbuck’s — which, interestingly, cost exactly 1 cent more than my entire dinner at Andy Nelson’s the night before. So I was well-nourished for my personal Q&A panel at 1 PM. It was surprisingly well-attended for a Sunday afternoon, and though I didn’t have any specific presentation prepared, there were plenty of questions and we kept up a good conversation about Among the Wild Cybers and my other writing. Afterward, I managed to sell most of the remaining books I had with me, even including two hardcover copies of Only Superhuman.

The remainder of the con was just hanging out in the autograph section talking to other writers. I finally made a bit more progress in the discussion of a project that I’ve been talking about with someone for several Shore Leaves now but that’s been slow to get going. I now at least know the specifics of what I should aim for, and now it’s just a question of actually bringing it about, though at this point I’m not holding my breath for it to progress rapidly. I also let a certain editor know I’d be interested in pitching to their next anthology, a project I think it would be cool to be part of. So we’ll see how that goes. Oh, and this is also when I posed for that photo with Mike & Denise Okuda. (I didn’t manage to meet any of the actor guests this year.) Before I left, I made sure to find Kelli, since she was one of the lucky few who managed to buy a copy of Among the Wild Cybers and had let me know she wanted me to sign it. I’m glad I got to sign at least one copy of the book, especially for a friend.

After that was the usual deal, spending Sunday night at Barb’s again. I considered sticking around for another day or so, but I was getting eager to get home. I gathered that a bunch of the other writers had been invited to visit the Goddard Space Flight Center with the Okudas, and I would’ve liked to be part of that, but apparently they were all booked up already and couldn’t accommodate another guest, so I had to miss out. So on Monday morning I just set out on the long drive home. Having survived the even longer drive I made on Thursday, and remembering how smoothly this return trip on the fastest possible route had gone last year, I felt pretty confident I could make the trip in one day, though I still made sure to have a full travel mug of coffee before I left. Anyway, it was an uneventful trip and I got home safely and I’m still recovering 3 days later. That was a heck of a long trip.

Still, it turned out to be a good trip. I got some significant stuff accomplished both in terms of career and family, and for once I made significantly more money than I spent, partly because I economized all I could and partly because it was a busy con and my book sales were quite good (despite the lack of Wild Cybers). Plus I got a cool new coffee mug!