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All Fired Up and Launching (written) Torpedoes June 3, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, hobby, Texas, writing.
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That’s the way I usually feel after going to a convention. Tired, but revved up to write more. The reason is pretty simple. Listening to other writers tell of what they have being published, what they’re working on, everything about their prodigious outputs, all this makes me feel like a slacker. No matter I am hearing about a year’s output from dozens of writers. It all boils down to: I need to write more.

I am not a big proponent of writing seminars and workshops, though many swear by them. They are certainly great networking opportunities. But the cost is frightful on some for marginal advice (in my opinion). I saw one that charged $100/hr, 3 different sessions (so a total of $300) covering stuff you can figure out on your own or find online for free.

But there might be more to attending than networking or actually learning. I spoke at an East Texas writers workshop quite a few years ago. One writer told me how especially fired up she was and how much she had gotten from my talk. I asked her what she intended to write next. Answer: nothing, but she was going to another seminar in Houston in a month. Write something new? Never! Go to more seminars! Yes!

Everyone needs a hobby, I suppose, and this was hers. Going to writing seminars. A long time back Ed Bryant mentioned speaking at an annual Colorado Springs workshop where James Michener was headlining. A woman brought the same ms to the workshop every year–this was her “ticket” to meet famous authors. It gave a cachet of “being a writer, just like you” so she could meet folks like Michener (and presumably Ed, whom I consider a far better writer, but that’s just me).

Use conventions/seminars/workshops to network, maybe to learn something, but when you’re away from all the glitz and glitter, write!

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You Only Live Twice…Things Done 2x May 24, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, charity, conventions, fantasy, iPad, steampunk, writing.
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Thanks to Mike Stackpole for letting me sit in for him again (even though he was there) at his office hours last night. But the title of this blog is things done twice. I will be reading in Second Life (second time in 2 days) tonight for Relay For Life. Which is the second time I have participated. Come by at 6PM SLT for my reading of a short story, “Memory of Wind.” Maybe even contribute a few pennies for cancer research.

In response to my “Strategy and Tactics” blogpost of a few days ago, I received this from Copyblogger. Sonia Simon has written an article on “the difference between ‘work’ and work that moves you toward your goals.'” Good stuff in the article and in general on Copyblogger.

For some reason the term “sprocket watch” keeps rattling around in my head. Sounds rather steampunkish. Might just be in anticipation of Steve Sullivan posting his entry into Empires of Steam and Rust–this will be passage two.

Also my second gig at Albuquerque Comic Expo is coming up fast. Get your tickets now!

The burdens of work hardly qualifies as 2x since it is pretty much constant. I need to get the story I’ll read tonight all gussied up and into epub format so I can read it off the iPad and not drop pages like I did last time I read. On this note I leave you with a Calvin and Hobbes that seems especially appropriate

Calvin the writer, waiting for his Muse

Reading Writing May 18, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, charity, conventions, fantasy, Free, writing.
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The value of autographings has been a subject of discussion here, with the vague conclusion that it benefits the bookstore more than the writer. And many bookstores look on them as a hassle and not worth the effort (I have 2 autographings next month here in Albuquerque, both as Jackson Lowry–the first at Page One on June 13 and the next at B&N Coronado on June 15.) (And a couple all day signings as yhos at Albuquerque Comic Expo June 8-10) Busy week in June.

But prior to that is a form of autographing that doesn’t require anyone to put out money, though in this case I hope many of you do. I will be reading a first draft of my short story, “Memory of Wind,” in Second Life as part of the Relay For Life, donations to benefit cancer research. I’ll post a location in SL later but the date is 24 May at 6PM SLT.

I am not a fan of readings and don’t think I am all that good doing it, but this is for a worthwhile charity (as opposed to the BLFM fund–that stands for Better Lunches For Me. Send me lots of money so I can eat better! After donating to Relay for Life.) Why do you like to hear an author read? Some authors, notably Harlan, don’t read as much as they perform. One thing this is going to force me to do is keep all those fantasy names pronounceable The worst title I ever came up with was Beasts of the Mist. I cannot say that without lisping.

For those of you who can’t make it to the SL reading, I’ll have a page on my website after Sunday with the text of “Memory of Wind.” That story, btw, is being submitted to an original anthology. Fingers crossed on its reception. I am batting .500 selling here. This could push me to .667 sales or drop me to .333. Either of those is pretty good for the majors, I am told.

This cartoon caught my fancy today. Makes me want to replace my tinfoil hat.

Looking Into the Future From the Past April 21, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, history, inventions, nostalgia, science, space.
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It’s hard for me to believe the Seattle World’s Fair opened on this day in 1962. My dad was a big fan of such fairs, for some reason, and one of the few family vacations that didn’t also touch on visiting relatives got us moving northward from El Paso.

For my part, I was in hog heaven. LBJ opened the NASA exhibit but who cared about petty politicians? Wernher von Braun was there, too. A real superstar in my eyes, but we couldn’t get in to see the talks. Doubt my dad would have been all that interested, since he didn’t share my enthusiasm for things outer spacial.

According to this article, JFK wasn’t at the closing ceremony because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Who knew?

The article also goes on at great length about how the fair theme was overpopulation and how we were going to nuke ourselves into oblivion. I don’t remember a bit of that, though considering that JFK was trying to keep the Russkies from doing that very thing, perhaps I should have paid more attention.

I remember the weird vending machines that kicked out hamburgers in cellophane wrappers (gee, just like the ones I buy at Costco, only they come in big boxes and not from vending machines). Never a big one of trinkets, I still got a glass sculpture of the Space Needle. Alas, I have no idea where the 6″ glass structure is. Too many moves since then doomed it, I fear.

This is the first time I ever saw color TV. KOMO had a live broadcast, their afternoon guy and a basset hound. Comparing the TV picture with the real thing was a revelation. The basset hound really wasn’t purple. That was a little disappointing. Riding the monorail was fun but not the transportation system of the future they made it out to be. Last time I was in Seattle was 1989 and rode the monorail for old time’s sake. Wasn’t the future of transportation then, either.

I remember the cube buildings and, of course, the Space Needle. In ’62 didn’t eat there because of the cost, though we did ride to the observation deck and look around. In ’89 did eat there and the view was great and the food mediocre (unlike the Calgary Tower where both view and food were superb). And nowhere was there a hint of Jessica Alba sitting on the outside.

The AT&T/Bell Labs display. I got shunted aside when I was chosen to show how much faster touchtone phone dialing was compared to rotary. And yes, I was the perfect choice and was *much* faster on the buttons. But the guy pushing this innovation didn’t appreciate my comment that the central switching system still took the same length of time to put the call through since it was mechanical, especially since he shoved a microphone in my face when he asked what I thought and hundreds of people heard.

An excursion around town to the Archway Bookstore was a revelation. El Paso didn’t have bookstores, per se. Newsstands and department stores, but an entire store of nothing but books? In the basement of the Archway was about every Ace Double ever. Or so I thought. I must have spent close to $3 on books! (A princely sum for me then) Apparently this store is long gone.

The fairgrounds is undoubtedly far different from 1989 and vastly so from 1962, but memory of seeing von Braun, the bold architecture (which style burned itself by 1970) and the idea of the future all appealed. (Another World’s Fair I went to, this one in New Orleans, had the most depressing exhibits of massive water valves and pictures of hydro plants ever–their theme was “water.” That trip was fun for reasons other than the fair.)

The Appearance of Hardly Working April 8, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, Time, westerns, writing.
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My accountant used to ask me “Are you still having fun or are you going to get a job?” He was, of course, referring to writing as fun. Compared with another client of his (Ray Hogan, the western writer), it might have seemed as if having fun and not making money was all my life was about.

Maybe so. I could make a lot more money doing other things. If I’d stayed at Sandia Labs I could have retired by now, but as engaging as the research was, it lacked something I found in writing. Not creativity. A lot of that went into the various projects I worked on at Sandia. Rather, it was freedom. I don’t have a schedule. I don’t have a boss (to speak of). I probably work as many hours for a lot less money, but the choice of project is mine, not someone else’s. How much that is worth might not be calculable in dollars.

What I do with this freedom is problematic since it seems so much time is wasted. Or is it? Staring out the window at the snowy mountains actually can be working rather than daydreaming–wait, part of being a writer *is* daydreaming. I’m not daydreaming on someone else’s dime.

The past few days haven’t produced words on the page, but there’s been a lot happening. The Accursed trilogy (and omnibus) is posted on Kindle, with Nook soon to follow. Well, to follow eventually. They are much slower. I have completed two synopses for books and am wrestling with the ending on a short story. While goofing off over on Facebook, I was asked if I wanted to be part of a new sf anthology. The Human Wave idea seems interesting, being mostly what I write (as gloomy as I am in person, I tend not to do gloomy stories–the protagonist wins, usually convincingly. No mere Horatio Alger Jr stories for me, no sir. Win big or sacrifice nobly.) Am rounding up western writers for an autographing at Page One on June 13, which requires some emailing back and forth. So far writers from Hollywood and Tokyo will be there. Since I’m running the front end of this, I suppose you could say an author from Tamale-wood will be there, too.

Did some more Long Ridge work, gearing up for another season of Fantasy Football editing (all four mags are back this year with last year’s strike a dot in the rearview mirror) and am getting ducks in a row for another trip to Oklahoma but not before running the ASFS auction and going to Moriarty for the public library autographing. And there is a science fair judging coming up next week. And checking on how other stories in the Empires of Steam and Rust universe are coming along.

Lots done, no writing. But it *was* writing–business and prep work and bookkeeping rather than book writing. All necessary. But not writing. That starts later today after I get the web site updated and this posted.

I leave you with the Dilbert cartoon.

Huzzah! The AZ Ren Faire! March 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, fantasy, geocaching, weather, writing.
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Wind at 50mph, gusts to 68. Snow. It didn’t look good for my flight out of Abq to Phoenix and the Arizona Renaissance Faire autograph session. But the plane got off quickly (flying into such a wind meant the plane only had to get up to about 70 mph on its own to get airborne, though I am sure the pilot used full power). Great flight, lovely weather in Phoenix.

Mike Stackpole picked me up and off we went for dinner at a new Mexican restaurant. The next night we had dinner with Don Juan and Miguel at a BBQ place run by a friend of Mike’s. Wolfley’s has great food. Great conversation and Ron Wolfley topped it off with free desserts (I was stuffed to the point of potential explosion–and I regretted not being able to scarf up more).

Saturday, all day autographing at Lady Chamberlain’s Book Shop at the fair. Ann Chamberlain said this was her best day ever and she’s been at the fair for at least 5 years, maybe more. Don Juan said the estimated gate was 15,000 and a goodly number came past the store where Mike and I were set up since this was on the way to the joust.

We fielded the usual questions asked of authors at autographing: where’s the restroom? Which way to the joust? Did you write those books?

I sold all but two copies of Ogre Castle, all the copies of Desert Bob’s Reptile Ranch, surprisingly all but one of Stink of Flesh (this is a very heavy family oriented exposition) and, huzzah! No other titles were left. All gone.

Good meeting “Taos” from Second Life. Somehow, those avatars convey nothing about the real person, which is probably the point (though Taos towered over me, which was unexpected). And tea with Don Juan, Miguel, various Tortuga Brothers, the guy running the joust and others was simply fun (and makes me think I need to reevaluate my initial distaste for tequila).

Overheard: A woman telling her kid that the Middle Ages were in the 1800s.

I’ll have more about my geocaching adventure at the fair tomorrow. I leave you with a picture of Miguel and me.

Me and Miguel

Arizona Renaissance Faire Ahoy! March 8, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, contest, conventions, fantasy, Free, iPad.
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I sit at my computer listening to 50mph wind with 65+ gusts and see snow blowing parallel with the ground. And I worry I won’t be able to convince Southwest Airlines to take off and get me to Phoenix this afternoon. In addition, there is the solar storm hitting us now.

But the solar storm had nothing to do with downing powerlines just a half mile from me. Luckily, my power is on so I can recharge my cell phone and iPad for the trip.

Saturday Mike Stackpole and I will be autographing at the Ren Faire. Come on out if you’re in the Phoenix area and talk a while. Even if you’re not in the region, get there, come out and etc. I’m not sure what titles of mine will be available (got to keep a bit of suspense in such things, right?). The store is near the entrance/exit for the jousting arena.

Dinner with Don Juan and Miguel tomorrow night is on the schedule.

Clearing the decks of other stuff. Scott Phillips says the second part of his Pete, Drinker of Blood is ready to go real soon now. Let me mention again Stephen D Sullivan’s Elf Princess of Mars and that Scott Gamboe has extended his “win a Kindle Fire” contest until All Thieves Day (ok, tax day).

See y’all in Phoenix!

New Mexico? Where is that? December 17, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, ghost towns, gummint, history, ideas, movies, music, New Mexico, Wild West, writing.
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Back in the day I used to sell as a sideline gag “visas” to New Mexico and touristy junk like that. I vaguely remember a booklet telling tourists US postage stamps were good here, passports weren’t needed and other obvious things that the rest of the USA simply didn’t know. Jan 6 the state is 100 years in the union. Most citizens of these great states still have no idea. It wasn’t until the most recent set of license plates that USA was dropped to keep cops in other states from thinking New Mexico meant “Frontera.” (The ultimate tourist story is the one where a woman asked at the Balloon Fiesta is she had to be a Catholic to go to the mass acension.)

The state image is in the pits. Nobody wants to vacation here because they don’t think there’s anything here. Fair enough. Tourism Dept has a lot of work to do with not much money. But I recently received a link to another blog that got me thinking. The idea of sf writers portrayed on the Simpsons is cute, but the blog itself is for an online college.

NM needs name recognition as a state with things to see and do. What are our resources? A lot of scenery. A lot of world class writers and artists and, I suspect, film makers.

But….but…but playing on the idea that people want to learn, especially to write (disclaimer: I am an instructor for Long Ridge and have been for four years), why not have a series of seminars, lectures, writing clinics at appropriate places with big name instructors? SF would obviously tie into Los Alamos or, shudder, Roswell. What’s the most romantic spot in the state–for a romance writing conference? Westerns? Lincoln County to tie in with Billy the Kid and the LC War. But there are buffalo soldiers and Indian War and even that most maligned, the Trans-Mississippi Civil War. Spanish exploration? Pueblo revolt? Spots all over the state would be fine for such writing classes. We’ve got top of the line western authorities here. Paul Hutton, Don Bullis (the official NM Centennial historian), Johnny Boggs, Melody Groves–I could go on but the list is long. The WWA 2012 conference is in Albuquerque but this is limited to WWA members who go to lots of places for the convention, not necessarily for the place itself..

Mysteries? We’ve got mystery writers galore here. Thrillers? David Morrel and others.

If the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium draws 30k or so, finding 50 people interested in Billy the Kid (who aren’t from either NM or Texas) shouldn’t be impossible.

The biggest problem is transport since Abq is the only air terminus for the rest of the US to get here. State tourism would do well to promote genre writing clinics in various parts of the state–writers tend to write. A lot. But movie making clinics would draw bigtime from California. Maybe the state tourism dept could subsidize the transportation (an obvious gimmick is to “charge” $1000 for the actual seminar but discount it for people from, pick your target region, to only $250. And that $250 covers the actual costs so the state money would only go for transportation–what kind of a deal can the state make with airlines?)

Would budding artists pay to do landscapes in a weeklong seminar with masters? They’d be using NM’s actual scenery for subject matter. They go home, they display their work or do more…of NM. Photography, the same thing. Music? The idea is to get small groups coming here that will leave and carry with them pictures/words/movies of New Mexico that might slowly educate the geographically ignorant in the rest of the country that we have immense beauty and talent here.

Two obvious resources NM has are scenic beauty and a pool of artistic talent. None of this will happen (listen to indie film makers about how the NM Film Commission works sometime) but it is an interesting gedanken experiment. For me, at least.

Single Action Shooters Society End of Trail June 2010

Wrapping Up November 6, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, Chain story, conventions, e-books, food, geocaching, iPad, iPhone, movies, science fiction, serial fiction, steampunk, VIPub, writing.
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Odds and ends. First off, today’s the centennial of Roy Rogers’ birth. The King of the Cowboys.

Next is my website being down. Think it might have gotten hacked. Guru Leif has been informed and will see if it can’t get back into action ASAP. Or at least RSN.

One benefit of face to face meetings such as at World Fantasy Convention, is brainstorming. Or maybe that’s barnstorming. Mike Stackpole, Nathan Long and I got together and have plans brewing with a potential launch on a brand new project come January. And not satisfied with this, Mike’s come up with another project playing off the successful Chain Story concept. Working idea is heroic fantasy and killer stuff. That’ll develop and be a couple months later than the aforementioned steampunk project. The benefit of WFC (or any other con) is tossing out an idea, having it turned over and inside out and revised and added to and subtracted from and coming up with a synthesis better than any of the people involved could have come up with alone. Writing may be a solitary profession but group effort pays off now and then, especially in these days of VIPub. Pooling talent and information is so necessary.

Also at WFC, I got the chance to do some geocaching, with Alice Henderson as well as on my own. I’d bought my android smartphone in June with an eye toward using it with Square to accept credit cards for my book sales. The more I use the phone, the more things I find to do with it. Reading ebooks isn’t as easy as on my iPad but it can be done. The 3G connectivity I lack on the iPad comes in quite handy, though. I can’t say this is a tool for any writer but it is proving useful. I put on the geocaching app and found it quirky but adequate for the task. That sums up the other apps, too. At one time it struck me as peculiar to use a cell phone to call someone who was only across the room–but it is less so now. The sheer immensity of bouncing a signal off a tower, maybe going to a geosynchronous satellite and then back is so….stfnal. Great for getting in touch with people, especially on a 40 acre hotel site such as WFC’s this year. And with internet google capability, factoids can be summoned up fast (as well as maps, restaurants and all the rest of things con goers need).

This is what I found about Angels Flight in LA. And am I wrong thinking this was used in a terrible movie of the great Lawrence Block book 8 Million Ways to Die?

World's shortest railroad

Stop, Look, Listen November 4, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, e-books, education, fantasy, ideas, steampunk, VIPub, writing.
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What you need to do at a convention like the World Fantasy Convention. There is so much talent drifting around, it’s hard to know who to listen to, what notes to make, how it is all going to affect your work and the way you conduct your professional life.

Talking with editors is, of course, a necessity. But there are new players in the game worthy of more than a few minutes attention. Panels are a good place to pick up ideas (I went to the airships panel. I am a huge airship fan.) As informative as the panel was, talking to other writers afterward probably gave more information. Questions could be asked and speculation trotted out for wonderful results. Engineer-minded Dennis McKiernan came up with the way to conduct air-to-air warfare (you need a belly gun if you’re opting for cannon. Otherwise, rockets are best.) Firing a cannon so you cause the airship to rotate is, well, stupid. The entire mass of the ship has to be used to absorb the recoil.

Newer “professions” are actually offshoots of ones that should have been done by legacy publishers. Publicity is a necessity for VIPub authors, but there is only so much time in the day. Mike Stackpole just sent me a great link about how to best use Goodreads. I don’t have hours enough in the day now. How much more do I add learning the ropes there? I spent a fascinating 45 minutes listening to a woman who had jumped with both feet into the e-advertising game. Mlg lists, places to go (she said Goodreads needs a minimum of 10 recommendations and probably 20 before others will even notice a title–getting a reader to give even one rec is a chore. A Career Guide to Your Job In Hell has solid reviews–but only 6. Does the 10 minimum carry over to Amazon? Maybe. These are things that someone needs to learn. YMMV but every author is in the same boat when it comes to such things. It’s good to learn from pioneers what works and what doesn’t.

Freelance editors abound and Andrea Howe has announced an anthology based on the utterly creepy “Blue Girl” art print in most of the hotel rooms. Looks like fun and who knows, it might garner a touch of publicity for the included authors.

Another of my fascinations (which I have never cadged a ride in)

Goodyear Blimp over LA