Saturday, July 28, 2007


Chris here, on the road, posting on Steve's account because I forgot my password.

I have now experienced a tiny fraction of the amazing thing called Comic-con. I ache from walking several miles. I know I saw very little of what was available. I still can't wrap my brain around the enormity and complexity of what I did manage to see.

And we went on a "slow" day!

Of course, the entire process was complicated by the simple fact that we are staying about 70 miles from the San Diego Convention Center. We drove about 90 minutes Thursday morning to Qualcomm Stadium, parked the car, caught the trolley for a 25 minute ride to the Convention Center, then walked the block or so to the Center. It is "across the street" from the trolley stop, but the "steet" is about eight lanes wide. We were fortunate enough to find the professional registration entrance line, where check-in was swift and relatively painless, thanks to the bar code confirmation that had been e-mailed to us.

Then we headed for the Exhibit Hall, literal acres of floor space, packed with vendor and exhibitor booths. It seemed like every major purveyor of pop culture was represented, and many minor ones.

We were accompanied by our son, and two-year-old granddaughter - due to a re-scheduled final exam, our daughter-in-law didn't get to go. A stroller is a fabulous way to corral the baby, and haul stuff, but it's a real pain to navigate in the crowd. You spend most of your time trying to avoid running over the feet of the people crowding around you, cutting in front of you, or crossing your path without looking. There were some areas we simply couldn't get to because the crowds were too thick to allow us through.

Did I mention we went on a "slow" day?

We saw the art show, which was a mixed bag, as are most art shows. Zoe loved the six-foot-tall, welded steel sculptures. She took one look, grinned, and said "monster." Then she said, "Mine." Her dad inspected the bid ticket, and told her she would have to choose between the monster and a college education. Unfortunately, dad and her grandparents out-voted her, and the monster did not accompany us on the trolley home.

One little bit of marketing we tried was to order buttons for the freebie table. The 750 or so that we took in Thursday morning disappeared in a flash, and I did spot one occasionally in the crowd. They are a simple black-and-white "EVIL IS NOT MY NATURE. EVIL IS JUST MY DAY JOB" with the Website for Steve's Web cartoon blog Minions at Work. Given that last year's attendance was in the neighborhood if 123,000, that 750 is a drop in the bucket. But it will be interesting to see if it drives any traffic to the Website.

We were pleasantly surprised at the food available in the Convention Center. It wasn't cheap (we didn't expect it to be), but the hot dogs ($4) were good quality, and large enough to provide a reasonable lunch. The other surprise was that there are apparently no restrictions on carrying in your own food, unlike many venues. And the line to buy said hot dogs was only 12 minutes long. I know this because one of the boys sharing our table (table space and chairs are at a premium), when asked how long the line was, answered, "Twelve minutes. I timed it." Make of that what you will. :-)

One of the strangest things in a crowd of that size - and, did I mention, we went on a "slow" day? - is running into people you know. Scott Edelman, fellow SF writer, editor, and all around good guy - took our picture, just to prove we were there. We also saw a couple old friends, and our daughter's ex-boyfriend (they're on good terms, no Jerry Springer fodder here), as well as several editors we know.

We left the Center about 5, to have a drink with the folks from Paradox Entertainment, the people behind the World of Conan. Steve wrote a trilogy for them a couple years ago, and they were kind enough to include us in their party. We had a wonderful time, and would have stayed longer, but we'd abandoned Zoe and her dad, so we left after a delightful 90 minutes. I have to say, Leigh and Frederick were absolutely delightful, Josh and Tom were super, and fellow writer (and Scribe nominee) Matt Forbeck is simply amazing! The Amazing Mr. Forbeck is in the same category as I am for Sunday's awards, and I have to admit to mixed feelings. I want to win, sure, but I want him to win, too. He's really that nice!

After the Paradox party, we retrieved the over-stimulated two-year-old (isn't that just a scary phrase?) and joined the mass exodus to the trolley. The ride back to the car was hot, crowded, and seemed to last forever. But we finally got back to the stadium, reclaimed the car, and headed home. Zoe was asleep in about five minutes, and I wished I could join her. It was one very long day, filled with more input than I have been able to process so far.

And, did I mention, we went on a "slow" day?

We're going back to Sunday, for the awards ceremony, and my moment of fame as a panelist at the biggest pop-culture convention of the year. Then Monday morning we head home to Oregon, and back to our regularly-scheduled lives.

I think I'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Things That Make Me Happy

Several months ago, I posted about making a reputation, and getting into anthologies. Since then, I was invited to submit stories for a couple anthos, and I am happy to report that "To The Top" will appear in WITCH HIGH, and "Cupid's Crib" sold to ENCHANTMENT PLACE. Both books are edited by a very savvy woman named Denise Little, who is a true delight to work with - and who, of course, has exquisite taste, having bought both my stories.

It makes me happy to make a sale, and it gives me some outside validation, which a writer needs now and then. Face it, we sit alone in a room and make stuff up. Weeks - or months, or years - later, it appears in print, and you occasionally get feedback from a reader. But for the most part, you work completely alone, and a writer is most definitely NOT the best judge of her own work. In fact, you're usually the worst judge of your work. Which makes outside validation a very nice thing, indeed.

Which brings me to the other thing that made me happy recently. Just yesterday, in fact. This spring, I was a preliminary judge for the Rita, the RWA award for romance fiction. I received a box of several books, in a variety of categories, which I read and scored.

Among those books was ADIOS TO MY OLD LIFE, by Barbara Ferrer, writing as Caridad Ferrer, from MTV Books. I was planning to buy the book, so it was a nice surprise in my box. What's more, while I thought I'd like it, it made me happy to find that I LOVED it. Fast forward to the announcements of the finalists, and there's ADIOS, on the short list as Best Contemporary Single Title! That made me very happy.

Now, my happy feelings came from knowing that other people shared my opinion of ADIOS, a form of outside validation; the reassurance that I understood what made a "good" book.

The best part, though, came with the announcement, last night, of this year's Rita winners. And (if you haven't guessed by now) ADIOS won the Rita! It made me happy to know that my opinion was validated, but that wasn't the most important thing. For me, the best part was knowing that a book I loved, a writer whose work I admired, and who I felt truly deserved the recognition, got the award.

And if you haven't read this book yet, go get it. Now!



Congratulations, Barbara!! A well-deserved award, and a fabulous book. I'll be looking for your next one.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

No Joy?

Writing, like life, comes complete with "issues." Some large, some small. Some good, some bad. The one thing they have in common is that they disrupt your schedule, confuse your brain, and generally make you turn things upside down and look at the seamy underbelly of what you're doing.
So, when a friend commented that she had "lost the joy" in writing, I found myself pondering the implications of that statement.
Somewhere along the line, if you want to make writing your career, it becomes A Job. Now, if you want to make a living at writing, this is a good thing. Writing is your job, and you have to be disciplined and dedicated, and willing to devote the time and attention any career deserves.
But there is something else buried in the subconscious of many of us, probably the residue of a blue-collar work ethic, that says "Job" is not equal to "Joy."
For many of us, no one ever said, "Find something you love, and do it for the rest of your life." Instead, they told us to find something we were good at, something stable, with a good future. What you're good at, though, isn't always something you truly love.
Of course, the current Dilbert strips illustrate the downside of "do what you love," what with the guy who wants to be a billionaire, but doesn't want to actually do anything for it, and similar characters. But, if you go from the premise that you need to produce income to put food on the table, working at something you truly love is the optimum solution.
But we can take something we love, turn it into A Job, and suddenly our brains tell us that it is Work, it's drudgery, it's what we have to do, not what we want to do. And that's when the joy goes away.
There are a lot of business aspects to a writing career. You are essentially running a small - or not so small - business, with all the record-keeping, marketing, promotion, financial management, and long-term planning that every business needs to succeed. Those things are necessary if you are going to be successful at your business.
But I think we do ourselves a disservice when we let those things intrude into our basic attitude toward writing; when we make writing A Job, and allow those voices in our head to tell us it can't be fun, because it is Work.
It's a difficult problem, and one that requires a writer to develop two personalities - the writer, and the businessman. I know many writers who don't consider business issues when they write. They don't try to fit their work into a particular niche, or force a story to a specific length, or deliberately censor their themes and vocabulary. But in general, they talk about those considerations stifling their creativity.
For me, joy is a different animal. Joy comes in the rush you get when you create a scene, put dialog in the mouths of your characters, choreograph a tricky bit of action, or evoke a strong emotion just with your words. Joy is the pleasure that comes from bringing the pictures in your brain to life on the page.
I am working on keeping that joy in my writing. I don't always succeed, but when I do, I think the results are stronger and truer, and ultimately more successful.

I hope you can all find your joy.