Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Reno 2011 World Science Fiction Convention site-recon report and photos

Husband Steve here: Welcome to our Reno 2011 Worldcon site-recon report. We're not doing this in any official capacity, but since we were in town anyway, and have worked on a con or two or five ourselves back in the day, we knew there were people out there who would be starved for information.

We spun by the Peppermill Hotel and Casino (Quiet hotel), spent quite a bit of time crawling around the Atlantis Hotel and Casino (the party hotel, and the one connected to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center) and checked the exterior layout on the convention center itself. We took lots of photos of these things and we'll try to lay the photos out with our observations in a way that may be useful to those attending or working on the convention.

Rather than clutter up our "gateway" blog, with this special-interest stuff, we decided to post them on Chris' blog, which hasn't been that busy lately (get posting, Chris!).

So, since we're taking over her blog... Before we go on, a brief word from our sponsor: I know this isn't sf/fantasy (which Chris has published plenty of, by the way), but Chris, under the pen-name Christy Evans, has a new mystery series launching through Berkley Prime Crime this fall, featuring a mystery solving female plumber's apprentice/amateur detective. You can see her gorgeous new cover for the first installment, "Sink Trap," and read all the details on "Christy's" blog. Two more installments are already in the pipeline ("Lead Pipe Cinch" is scheduled for April 2010), with more to come if enough of you nice folks out there buy the books.

Please check it out and spread the word. Thanks!

Now, on to the recon!

(Click on any of the following photos for larger-versions. If anyone involved with the convention needs the full-sized originals for any reason, I'd be happy to share.)

There are two official hotels for the convention, the Peppermill and the Atlantis. Both are located on Virgina Street, Reno's "Main Street" that runs from the convention center back into downtown and the "old-Reno" convention district.

The entire convention facility is located quite near the Reno airport, and has excellent freeway access. (For those considering driving from the Northwest, it's a long but not-awful days drive for us from Lincoln City, Oregon. Which means it should be the same or better for people in Portland, Oregon and points south. Seattle people will either need tag-team drivers or to plan an overnight stop somewhere. Vancouver (B.C.) people will really need two days.

It's also a day's drive from L.A. or San Diego, or pretty much all of California.

It's very centrally located for anyone on the west coast.

Okay, first we dropped by the "quiet" hotel, the Peppermill Hotel Casino. This is an older hotel, but it's recently undergone some major remodeling, and the locals seemed impressed with its new, Vegas-styled facade, seen here.

We didn't take the time to go inside, so all you'll get are some exterior shots here.

The Peppermill really isn't that close to the Atlantis and the convention center. Here's the view from the Peppermill's front parking lot of the Atlantis. It might be considered walkable, but just barely. I understand there will be shuttles. There's also lots of free parking. Does "lots" mean "enough" when it comes to convention week though? I'm not sure. Maybe someone else will have better answers.
The Peppermill has a multi-story parking structure (all parking for the Atlantis and Convention Center seems to be single-level lots), and we drove to the top to give you some idea of the distance between and the overall layout of the convention site. There are a large number of eateries, fast-food joints, and convenience stores in-between.
Here's a closer look at the Atlantis layout. The Casino is in the lower level of the Atlantis, and naturally, to get anywhere, you've got to go through it. The second level is all non-smoking, with more casino space, meeting rooms (I'm not sure how much the convention will be in these, and how much will be in the convention center), restaurants, arcade, and other stuff.

The Sparks Reno convention center is just beyond in this photo, and is connected to the hotel by a skybridge and several crosswalks. A second skybridge connects the hotel to a large parking lot on the other side of Virginia street. The Convention Center has its own parking as well.

Here's a closer look at the parking bridge. It's a large bridge, with stuff inside, as you'll see later.

Here's the front of the Convention Center. Not a great shot, but it was hard to photograph because of trees. It's bigger than it looks.
One thing that really impressed us was how centrally located the Atlantis and Convention Center were. Pretty much ANYTHING you could want is within a mile. Dozens of chain restaurants and fast food outlets. Several large grocery stores, including a Grocery Outlet, Safeway, Whole Foods, and more. Two big-box book stores, one of which is seen below. A Super-Wal-Mart. A Michael's Crafts for party supplies. Office supplies. It's all there. It's all close.
Another shot of the convention center and the Atlantis, giving some idea of proximity. There's a sky-bridge from the second (meeting room) level of the Atlantis to the convention center, but it looks like a bit of a hike, and the convention center itself is long and thin. Bring your comfortable walking shoes.
Here's a better look at the Convention Center skybridge.
Here's the back of the Atlantis tower, with more parking. Also in this area is a curious thing, an old style motor-court hotel that appears to be part of the Atlantis. I'm very curious if the concom has any special plans for these rooms. (Chris here: According to the Atlantis website, these rooms are "pet-friendly." If you travel with your furry or feathered friends, you might want to check this out.)
Here's a not-very-good photo of some of the Atlantis Casino decor. There are escalators to the second level back there, though it's hard to tell in this shot.
Token shot of the casino floor. They gamble in Reno! Who knew?
This is the Atlantis registration desk area, seen from the rear of the hotel. It's a bit cramped in here, so lines may be a problem.

The registration desk seen from just inside the front door.
Remember I said there was stuff inside that parking skybridge? Well, this is it. There's a non-smoking gaming area, an Oyster-bar, some other food and drink, and a nifty little seating area at the far end (more on this later). This may be a good place to hide from some of the convention crowds during the day or evenings. Bad news is, there's a greenhouse effect that can make it warm during the day. Should be fine at night.
Here's the view from the parking bridge of the Convention Center. That's Virginia Street in the center.
Here's that little conversation area I mentioned. There are a couple such areas in the hotel, unusual for a casino. I like.
Below is the Atlantis buffet. Not as big as some of the Las Vegas ones, but looks pretty nice. No, we didn't have a chance to try it.
This sign offers an overview of the dining options in Atlantis currently. Of course that could change by convention time. The Manhattan Deli is apparently brand new.
Below is the Convention Center and skybridge as seen from the second level of the Atlantis. The skybridge connects directly to the programming room area of the hotel, which is nice if they have programming in both locations. Also, note the crosswalk on the left. Could be useful if the bridge gets too crowded.

A slightly different angle. Note the parking.
Above is the program-room lobby area just at the end of the skybridge. The hotel was perhaps more upscale than I expected. I hope everyone is on their best behavior and doesn't break anything!
Here's a map of the second level, showing all the programming rooms. There wasn't much going on at either location that day, so we didn't have much opportunity to check out the program spaces. One smaller room was open however, and we did get some photos.

Above is another programming lobby area. Everything is wide, more lobby than corridor. Of course, this being a convention, things may get filled up exhibits, fan-tables and the like, but at the moment, it all looks quite spacious.
Here's the smaller program room I mentioned. I assume it's pretty typical of the hotel.
Another angle. For the record, this is one of the "Treasures" rooms on the rear of the hotel. See the map photo for to get a better idea of where this is.
This is the "Grand Foyer" another lobby area on the second level, near the Napa Bistro. Quite nice.
Above: the Napa Bistro.
Here's part of the arcade, also on the second level.
Here's a view from one of the glass elevators in the Atlantis, showing more of the layout.
From the elevator looking into the spa level and indoor pool there. There's also supposedly an outdoor pool, but we didn't manage to find it.
A look at the Convention Center from higher in the Atlantis.
Looking down from the elevator to the parking skybridge.
A guest room hallway on the third level of the tower. I assume this is typical. No, we didn't see any of the rooms.
Looking down into the elevator atrium area. There's another nice seating area in the trees behind the elevators.
The afore-mentioned seating area.
Looking up at the elevators.
Of course, we know what concom, artists, dealer are REALLY interested in. Here are some shots of the loading docks and doors on the rear of the convention center. We figured somebody might find them useful.

Finally, just because these came out cool, and it really isn't apparent from our other shots, Reno is located in some very beautiful country, and we got a wonderful sunset after a little rainstorm that rolled through during our visit to Atlantis. These photo were actually taken from our room in the Circus Circus Casino downtown, where we stayed this trip. It's just a few miles from the Peppermill in old-Reno.

Questions? Comments? Go for it. We'll do our best to help.

We're also likely to be making other trips through Reno before the convention, so if you have specific information requests, we'll try to help as best we can.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Staying Flexible; or Keep On Keepin' On

The other day at work I needed to get in a bottom drawer of the file cabinet. I squatted down next to the drawer, pulled it out, grabbed the papers I needed and stood back up. Now this doesn't sound like much - unless you've taken a look at the pictures in the sidebar and you know I'm somewhere on the shady side of 40 (very shady!) and rather round. Not a lithe physical specimen.

One of my office mates expressed admiration for my ability to do what amounted to a deep-knee-bend and stand up without pulling myself up on a chair. At the time I told her it was someting I had always done, so I was always able to do it. As long as I don't stop doing deep knee bends, at least occasionally, I will still be able to do them.

So tonight, when I was trying to figure out why the writing was going so slow, I made the connection: I am doing something I haven't done before.

Up until now, I've written single books. I've done a book in nine or ten weeks while working a full-time job. It isn't impossible. But I have never had multiple books back-to-back. I've always been able to take a few weeks off, or work at a more leisurely pace, between books. Yes, I've always had another project waiting for attention, but I didn't have to keep up the 10-week pace.

Then a three-book series came along. When I set my deadlines I figured 10-weeks, plus an extra couple weeks in case of emergencies, one week for an already-planned vacation, and an extra week for the holidays. What I didn't plan for was the lack of experience at maintaining that 10-week pace.

It was like trying to run a steeplechase based on my experience doing knee bends. Same basic anatomy, totally different skill set.

Or to strerch the running metaphor a little farther, what I naively set up was three back-to-back sprints. What I needed was a marathon. I knew I could do an all-out assault on the manuscript as I sprinted to the deadline. I'd done that before. I didn't know how to pace myself for a long-haul and set my goals accordingly. I didn't know how to run that writing marathon.

I need to learn the marathon skill set, and I'm taking this lesson to heart so I can plan better in the future.

And I'm starting to train for the marathon that helps defines a long-term writing career. Even though I may write in sprints in the future, I am learning that different projects require different skill sets.

Just like knee bends and hurdles.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Secret Identities

Months ago I posted about having a new identity as "Herbie's Mom." At the time, I said it would be cool to have a secret identity, and I still believe that.

Well, this month I got a temporary secret identity. It was fun to be undercover, but it's time to make it not-so-secret and to announce some cool news.

My cool new un-secret identity? Christy Evans, Mystery Writer.

And the news? I am currently writing the third book in Christy Evans's new series for Berkley Prime Crime. The first book of the Lady Plumber Mysteries, SINK TRAP, is already in production and will be released in October. Book two, LEAD PIPE CINCH is turned in, with a tentative release of February 2011, and CRAWL SPACE is due next month for release in June 2012.

This is a new genre for me to write, but it's actually taking me back to a genre I have loved all my life. SINK TRAP is dedicated to my Uncle Darrell, and his enabling my mystery addiction.

I can't remember a time when I couldn't read and always assumed my mother taught me in self defense. After all, you can only read The Little Engine That Could, or the latest Humpty Dumpty Magazine so many times before you run screaming. Teach your kid to read, you're spared many hours of the same story over and over.

Mom, however, refuses to take any responsibility. She says I taught myself when I was about three - not that she wasn't relieved, but she still blames me.

Anyway, there I was at three, four and five, devouring anything I could get my hands on. I quickly went through all the beginner books and started in on bigger and better things. In the process I discovered Nancy Drew and read every one of them in the course of a few months. (It was a long time ago, there weren't as many titles as there are now, okay?)

From Nancy Drew I moved on. I read the Walter Farley Black Stallion series before I knew what a series was, and sampled many others. We didn't have a school library, but the public library - a branch of the L.A. County system - was only a few blocks away and the teacher walked the entire class to the library every couple weeks. I of course went back several times in between.

By the age of ten I had finished with the children's section and was beginning to explore the adult section in an effort to feed my growing addiction for words, sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters.

Uncle Darrell wasn't really my uncle - he was my mother's uncle. He was nearly fifty when I was born, a life-long bachelor who lived with his widowed father, my great-grandfather. We always visited Grandpa and Darrell after church on Sunday afternoon, and those are some of my favorite memories.

Darrell never treated me like a child. When he and his two sisters did the vocabulary quiz in the Reader's Digest I was allowed to join in. He encouraged me to play chess tournaments at his local club, and I don't think he ever said I couldn't do something because I was too young. Or because I was a girl. For obvious reasons, I adored Uncle Darrell.

I don't know if Perry Mason was an appropriate read for a ten-year-old girl, but Uncle Darrell thought it was. When I picked up a Perry Mason mystery one Sunday afternoon and started reading he offered to lend it to me since he was finished reading. He told me I could bring it back the next week.

From that moment on I was hooked on mysteries. Where I had liked Nancy Drew, I loved Perry Mason. I didn't want to be Della Street when I grew up, I wanted to be Perry Mason. Every week I would trade Uncle Darrell the book I had finished for a new one, which I would eagerly dive into the minute I got my mitts on it and not come up for air until I reached the thrilling courtroom conclusion where the bad guys were trapped and Perry emerged victorious once again.

Nothing lasts forever, and eventually I ran out of Perry Mason. But by then I knew where the mystery section of the library was and I could find other writers. Earl Stanley Gardner is gone, and so is Uncle Darrell. But the love of mystery they instilled in that ten-year-old girl lives on.

And now, much to my delight, I get to write a mystery novel - actually three mystery novels! - and send them out into the world for other readers to share. I can only hope that someone, somewhere, will fall in love with my heroine, the way I did with Perry Mason.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The No-Hope Publishing Plan

Recently I read an article in the local paper profiling a woman who started a small press publishing company. She characterizes the venture as a “pay-to-publish” service. She doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that any author whose book she accepts will pay out of their own pocket for editorial and production services and costs. Distribution and promotion is the responsibility of the author, or those services are available for an additional fee.

I don’t have any problem with this. She’s straight-forward about what she’s doing. A writer goes in knowing it will cost them money. It’s a choice the writer must make. I don’t think it’s a good choice, and my husband, writer J. Steven York, has written about why on his blog

What bothered me was the rationalizations she gave for why her service was a good alternative to traditional publishing. They are the same ones I see every time the subject of vanity presses comes up.

I call them the No-Hope Publishing Plan.

Why? Because they all hinge on the assertion that the writer has no hope of being published by a traditional publisher. You know, the kind that send you checks instead of the other way around.

And just what are these No-Hope “facts”?

“Nobody buys a book from a first-time writer.” Oooookay. This is impossible. If “nobody” buys a first book, there cannot be any books sold. Logically, every writer ever published sold a first book. Maybe not the first one they wrote, but that isn’t what the no-hope brigade claims. Stephen King sold CARRIE, Tony Hillerman sold THE BLESSING WAY, Stephanie Meyer sold TWILIGHT, and Nora Roberts sold IRISH THOROUGHBRED. Even J.K. Rowling sold HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE. They were all first books.

“You can’t sell a book without an agent.” Really, No-Hope Brigade? I just sold three myself, and I know a lot of other writers who have managed similar things. You want an agent for a lot of other reasons, but it simply isn’t true that you can’t sell without an agent.

“You can’t get an agent if you haven’t sold a book.” Look around. There are agent blogs all over the ‘Net, and every one of them trumpets when they sign a new writer who has bowled them over with a fantastic book.

“Publishers only want books from best-sellers.” Walk into any bookstore in this country, even the tiny ones. There are a lot of shelves in there. Even a writer as prolific as Nora Roberts or Stephen King or James Patterson can’t fill all those shelves. Somebody else has to write some of those books.

“Writers can’t make any money. The publisher gets it all.” Traditional publishing contracts call for an advance against royalties. Royalties means the writer gets a percentage of every sale made. When that total exceeds the pre-payment (“advance”), the writer start getting checks. Checks that will continue to come as long as the book continues to sell. If you write a really good book, those checks keep coming for a long time – even after you die. The publisher absorbs all the up-front costs, including your advance, and doesn’t start making money until all those costs are recovered.

“The publisher can change your title.”
“The publisher can edit your book without your permission.”
“The publisher can put whatever cover they want on your book and you have no say, even if it’s awful.” These are all things that can happen. If you let them. Each of these, and many more, are subject to negotiation when you and the publisher work out the contract. This is where your agent really earns their commission, helping you negotiate the best possible contract terms. The No-Hope Brigade will tell you that you don’t have any control. Not true. The publisher can’t do any of these things without your permission in the form on a legal contract.

Every one of these arguments boils down to a single argument: You have no hope as a writer, and the only way you will ever see your book in print is to give me a pile of money.

Don’t believe them. Don’t let the No-Hope Brigade take your dreams – and your money.

You deserve better.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Thumbnail Cover Gallery

Click on the picture for a larger version.

Hi, Chris's husband Steve here, bumping in because Chris hasn't posted in a while. (She's currently working on a three-book mystery contract for Berkley Prime Crime, so at least she now has an excuse). I originally did this post for my own blog, but decided that since it concerned Chris, I'd make it here too.

A while back I started collecting recent covers from books in which Chris and I were published and combined them into a single graphic to use as a backdrop for our oft-neglected web-page. I realized today that I hadn't updated it in a long time, so I wasted several hours this afternoon tracking down covers (new ones, and old ones that I hadn't included before), resizing, and editing them in.

This is what I came up with. It still isn't complete. For example, I can think of at least four anthologies that aren't included (with several more coming before the year is out), plus a computer game (yeah, there are already two computer games in the grid that I wrote for), and a non-fiction book. I'll add another row later this year if I think of it.

It's been my experience that if you write and publish enough, you quickly start to forget things that you did, even if they were only a few years ago. Having an "at a glance" cover gallery like this is a bit of an ego booster, and a reminder on the hard days that you have accomplished something.

(Now that I've posted this, I look over and see the cover for "Fantasy Gone Wrong," which I didn't include. So make that five anthologies. However, I also noticed that I had "Transformers Legends" in there twice, so I edited things so "Fantasy Gone Wrong" is in its place. Fix!)


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.