Tuesday, May 28, 2013

bragging rights

It's Tuesday after ConQuest 44 and I've got a cold. I actually had a cold going into the Con this year, so I can't really call this con-crud, although I'm sure the late nights and excessively starchy food didn't help. I also got expectorated upon by at least two strangers and one apologetic friend, so there's no telling what I brought home with me.

But I did have a good time, especially at my reading. It was ten o'clock Saturday morning, which is the loser's slot at a con, but I didn't mind. I had a few friends and acquaintances there when I started, and more people showed up during, and more importantly, nobody left.

My friend Lynette was there and said that people were responding nicely to the story. They reacted to the tense bits, smiled at the humorous parts, and asked questions. I had my eyes on the page, of course, but I did notice the room was very quiet, nobody shifting around restlessly.

I read standing up, affecting the voices and accents in a mild way, and making semi-conscious gestures that reflected the characters' body language. (One of the audience complimented me on it later, she said I was very natural. I told her I am a 'method writer.') I read the first two scenes of The Curse of Jacob Tracy, which introduce the three main characters and end on a chuckle. Then I read the first three scenes of "Moreau's Daughter," which ended right where the killer locks himself in with his next victim. When I finished that one, a woman in the crowd exclaimed, "Good place to stop!"

And I must say, it was very gratifying to be able to announce that both those works were placed with respectable, even prestigious publications. In an environment where eight of ten writers are self-published, and the ninth is with a small press you've never heard of, being able to tell people you've got a book coming out from Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's will raise you instant credibility, and I'm petty enough to enjoy it. And if that sounds snotty and elitist, it is, a little, but consider this, my fellow writers--how do you present yourself when you talk about your self-published or small-press digital book? Are you apologetic? Do you talk more about the next step in your publishing goals, than about the plot of the book itself? If so, don't you think, maybe, you should invest a little more time in your craft and a little less on your "career"? When a work appeals to people it will sell itself; you don't have to sit around at conventions waiting for strangers to take pity on you.

Telling strangers about Trace is actually pretty fun. I'm proud of that story and I enjoy it, so when I talk about it I get excited and the person I'm talking to gets intrigued, instead of wandering away mentally and tensing up until I'm done talking. I never have felt that way about any of my previous novels (I've written 10, in case you were wondering; CJT was number nine). The others just weren't ready. I did have an offer to publish one of them, from a small press that is now out of business, but I know myself–I would've been forever uncomfortable with the cover and the publisher, so I pulled out of the contract.

I think taking some time away from this con, and doing Planet Comicon for the past five years, were both immensely good for me. I've gotten better at presenting a professional version of myself without laying myself bare and getting worn out too quickly. It's still easier to do in costume, however, and in small five-minute intervals of posing for pictures. Standing on the backside of a table and selling my wares is still easier than schmoozing with a drink in my hand. I didn't dress up much for this con; I wanted to be comfortable and approachable on the con floor. But on Sunday I was doing two costuming panels so I wore my green Victorian dress and new black hat. People love that hat. I posed for a lot of pictures.

I very seldom spend much money in the dealer's room, but this year I went a little crazy. I bought some witchy Voudou accoutrements: a dessicated, black-painted chicken's foot on a cord, and a bleached, epoxied coyote jawbone to wear around my neck. I figure I'll add them to my alchemical glassware installation.

I also bought a sword. One of the weapons dealers had a very good-quality Chinese gim/jian (straight sword) at a great price, so I caved. I have to do a tai chi performance in a couple of weeks so I figured that was a good enough excuse.

My intent, of course, was to buy books in the dealers' room, but I just didn't find anything that intrigued me. I haven't read much scifi/fantasy in recent years. The truth is I have very little patience with the elaborate otherworlds of most spec-fic. I'm a Stephen King baby, I like stories that at least start in a familiar venue, among people I can relate to.

Some people in the know suggested to me that my publisher and agent were making moves that suggested they expect my book to be a success. If that's true I can guess why: even though it's a Western, it's a darn sight more accessible than any of the Steampunk out there. I went to great lengths to be accurate with the history, geography, and daily life details in Trace; most mainstream readers should be able to dive in without difficulty.

We shall hope, anyway.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

caught in a bad romance

Her bad mood did not abate on the ride back to the hotel. Once through the door she began to throw things—her hat, her gloves, her purse.
“Look, it ain’t that bad,” Trace said, despite his instinct to leave her alone. “Just because they ain’t coppin to it don’t mean we have to believe ‘em—“
“Ain’t, ain’t, ain’t,” she mocked viciously. “Do you believe that boorish grammar makes you sound frank and unaffected? Because I know better, Mr. Tracy—and your attempts to brush off the issue as insignificant are insultingly transparent.”
Trace bit his tongue, grimly. “All right,” he said after a moment. “It isn’t insignificant. We are up against a wall. But it isn’t over yet. Neither of us is dead. If we can’t get this woman to help we’ll do it ourselves. We never expected to have help, anyway.”
 “Gods, can you not—“ She pressed her hands to her brow as if she had a headache. “Bloody hell. This is just what I did not want.”
“What?” he demanded.
“You—managing me and coddling me and telling me all will be well!”
“Well what am I supposed to do? Throw my hands in the air and give up?”
“You can leave me alone for five bloody minutes so I can think. Go wherever it is that you go, when you men go to enjoy your freedom and privilege. I’ve been trapped in this room with you for three days and I cannot stand the sight of you anymore.”
Trace got up, struggling with his temper. “You know, if you want some privacy, all you have to do is tell me.”
“I’m telling you now. I cannot breathe with you here all the time. You smother me. Is that what you want to hear?”
“No, but thanks for bein so ladylike about it,” he said nastily.