Tag Archives: Orycon

Writing: The Convention Circuit

This last weekend I took the journey to Portland for Orycon, Oregon’s science fiction and fantasy convention. I traveled down with writer Donna McMahon, Clint Budd, the Aurora Awards administrator and their friend Heidi. The drive from Vancouver can take 5-7 hours so it’s much more fun to travel with others and gave me a chance to catch and talk shop.

Like many fan oriented conventions (there are professional conventions that don’t always have fan tracks) there are panels and workshops in the area of gaming (from live action, roleplaying, to board and card games), costuming, writing/publishing and media. Some cons focus more on one area over another. There can be a Star Trek con or a Star Gate, which would have a heavy media track.

Orycon’s theme this year was dark fantasy. They usually invite pros, giving them a free membership in exchange for serving on several panels. I had a midnight horror reading, where I read “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” newly out by Cutting Block Press and in Horror Library Vol. 4. At one point I think there was supposed to be three readers but one never showed. Instead S.D. Perry read from her novel, as yet unpublished. She is the author of many Resident Evil and Star Trek books. As is the case with a horror reading her piece was visceral and horrific, in the sense of the crimes of the people and what they are driven to. Of course, a writer must describe the scene enough that we can see it and S.D.’s excerpt did that very well. We had a small audience, but one of the con’s few foibles was to not include the readings in the lists of the panels. There were about five or six panels on at any time from about 10am to midnight. The readings were on  a separate page, which meant many people missed them.

This probably explains why, for my second reading, no one showed up. Also, I had questioned the con in putting me down for two readings, as I’m not a big name author and won’t reach even the minor notoriety of people wanting my autograph until I sell a book. My second reading was at 1pm and you would think that it would get more people but there are just too many panels to attend and people already have to pick and choose. The panel range did seem to be quite good, with everything from the usual fan and filk tracks to workshops (in writing, costuming and other aspects) and covering various sciences or how to write/publish.

Some cons are also great for meeting new people or reconnecting. I re-met Mike Drindenberg, a very good Portland artist who I had last seen at a World Fantasy con. I ran into old friend and writer Dave Smeds and met Steve Perry. I also got a chance to see a couple of friends who live in Portland. One is a fan and the other a fan and film student who wants to get into more writing.

I also did two panels, though some people do more. They were on urban fantasy and on gore vs. terror. Good panels have good moderators who keep the flow going and keep one or two people from monopolizing or getting off track. The moderators for these panels did a great job. They were different as suits the topic and the first had more audience participation than the second, but I think the audience enjoyed them. I find that these panels sometimes get my gears turning on old stories and how to rework them or on new stories to create. Also every writer needs to let the reading community know who they are and this is one way for people to become familiar with your name. In the era of tight financial constraints usually writers have to do some self promo even if the publishers are advertising.

The con had a dance and sometimes, like VCon’s tiny one, they’re very bad. This one had a large space with an okay blend of music from those classics like Rocky Horror songs, to German technopunk…something for everyone. I got a chance to dance with a lot of space to move, which I love doing. All in all the convention was a very pleasant experience and if the con can just fix their program guides to have a better font and include the readings in the main section, it will continue to be a popular convention.

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Writing: The Process

I’m sure I’ve written about this before but right now I’m in the middle of the full-fledged process. I’m trying to get a story done for the World Horror Convention writing contest, as well as doing and online interview with the other Evolve authors on Bitten By Books. Go over there now if you have questions to ask or want to see a bit of how different authors view the process of writing or writing specifically about vampires: www.bittenbybooks.com I’ll also be at Orycon from Nov. 12-14 in Portland to talk about writing and to do a reading, maybe two. Right now I think I might read this virginal story I’m working on.

Indirectly, perhaps, it involves the picture to the left. Those are barrow mounds in Ireland, at Knowth. However, to back up to the beginning of this process is the kernel of an idea I had. Perhaps it started with Nancy Kilpatrick saying she was doing a second anthology of vampire fiction. I wrote one page and couldn’t think of a plot. I had atmosphere, a character and…that was it. Well, sure there was a thin plot showing itself but it was a cliché vampire tale and I didn’t want to write that, nor would anyone want to buy it.  So I put it aside and pondered. And pondered.

And came up with nothing. Thinking this one page still had something I finally emailed a bunch of people and said, “Is anyone willing to read one page of fiction and tell me what you think the story should be.” About five people responded. One went for humor, which this story was not, two gave suggestions not really suitable even to the first page, and two others gave me enough suggestions that I could kickstart the thinking process again. Sometime we need a mental smack upside the head to knock us out of those cliché grooves.

Often my next step in the writing process is this: ruminate. Turn the ideas over, think about this or that factor, literally sleep on it and work out a whole bunch logistics in my head before even hitting the paper. Then I start to make points, bits of conflict, images that come together. I went to Ireland a few years back and I’ve never used anything Irish as a setting for a story. Once I started thinking that my story started to come together better and the characters inhabiting it made more sense. Then those thoughts lead to the ability of my character to change or not and the depth of the conflict.

Next, I start writing. And stopping. And writing. And going to clean. And writing. And napping. Sometimes the story pours out and sometimes it creeps shyly. I wrote six pages last night after taking a day to write one page. And now I’m stopped (procrastinating writing this) as I try to work out the next stage. My character has overcome one conflict, but is that it? No. A good story usually has internal and external conflict so I need to bring up her internal conflict and whether she succumbs, fights or changes will remain to be seen but I have to make sure there are enough stakes in the game for my character (whose name is changing as I write this) to either emerge triumphant or changed by her travails.

Some stories have taken me years to finish because I can never satisfactorily work out the plot and conflict to my satisfaction. Some stories leap fully grown from my head like Athena from Zeus’s brow. And some are a bit of both worlds; parts flowing out while others turn to concrete in my head.

And now that I’ve defined my problem, the internal conflict, I guess I need to decide if in fact the theme that I often write about in my stories will be the same here. Morality. “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” was a morality tale. “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” is maybe an immorality tale and this one, well, yeah her morals are question. I’ll see what the character decides.

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Orycon 31 Wrap-Up

I just got home from a weekend at Orycon, Portland’s Science Fiction convention. Since I didn’t really attend Vcon I can say that this is the first fan con I’ve been to probably since Worldcon in Toronto. Orycon is a midsized convention I think, neither as large or Dragon Con or Worldcon  but not as small as Vcon.

I can only speak to my experiences from being there as a pro, in writing and editing. My early experience was with the committee in charge of organizing the panels. First, they found me through this blog as my email had changed since the last time I was down (probably a dozen years ago), and sent me an invitation to attend. They then sent out a list of possible panels and asked which ones I might like to be on. This form allowed for submitting a bio and a bio picture at the same time.

A couple times I needed to contact the committee to clarify some things (such as was the reading at midnight Saturday meaning midnight Friday because that’s technically Saturday) and they got back to me promptly. Thanks to Kami Miller and Rick Lindsley for all their help and organizing the panels well.

I did notice on site that there were no bios at all except for the guest of honor so I’m wondering why we needed to submit it. A bit disappointing that but the panels were listed in the large program book and the little pocket booklet. It would have been better to put some bios in the program book and left the panels to the booklet but then they needed room for describing them. I had offered (beforehand) to fill in on a couple more panels if needed but I never heard back and I did notice several panels only had two people on them. However, there were panels offered on art, editing, writing, costuming and other fan-oriented activities so that there were about five panels or more on at all times.

The booklet listed panels by room or by time and basically you could cross reference any way you wished. The kept all the readings off of the main listing though and had them separate which means many people missed them because they weren’t listed in the regular schedules. And I guess they were several hundred programs short in the printing.

I went to the art show, which was so spread out in a very large room that it look kind of empty. It might have been better to put the art panels closer together. The show ranged from the professionals like Lubov (the artist GoH), Alan Clark and a few others to the amateurs. There were fewer pictures of characters from Star Trek and other shows but it almost seems as if the unspoken theme was that of dragons.

That theme of dragons carried over into the dealers room, which was quite large. From what I could see I’m predicting Steampunk is on a huge rise and it will be flowing into mainstream fashion soon. There were many steampunk items from hats and goggles to other mysterious items and corsetry. There were very few books at all in the dealers room and the only presses selling their publications were Apex Book Company, Bizarro Fiction from Eraserhead Press,  and Talebones/Fairwood Press. I meant to go back and by one of the Bizarro books but forgot (and Apex too).  Darn. But the dealer’s room had gadgets, toys, comics, books, clothes, jewellery and all the goodies that people love to buy.

I missed taking a gander at the dance or masquerade and though there were few room parties they were fun and casual. The Pirates of the Columbia hosted one and I think they just do it for fun, plus there was the Radcon party, the hospitality suite and IRoSF, which my brain is blanking on right now.The costumes I did see were quite fun, from women in baroque dresses (complete with ship on the hair) to steampunk farmers and the Joker.

The hotel itself seemed fairly nice, and new from the Jantzen Beach hotel of previous Orycons. It was an extremely cold hotel though and they could have done with turning up the temperature a couple of degrees. I didn’t eat much but the food seemed all right and the hotel very apologetic when they screwed up our reservation. The rooms were quite spacious and nice with small balconies.

I’m notorious for not getting to panels at cons. Because I arrived at 6 I don’t think I attended a panel Friday except to do a reading at midnight in conjunction with Darklady Reed, Kal Cobalt and Tami Lindsley (hopefully I have those names right). Saturday I moderated the “Drowning in Slush” panel and attended one on Steampunk and on neural interfaces.  That’s a better average than usual. The Steampunk panel was quite interesting and well balanced. The neural interface panel was in jeopardy of being dominated about people talking about their disabilities but was save by the other panelists extrapolating into what’s being done and where it might go. And I managed to chat with the physicist so that I can worked out the logistics of a virtual environment story I’m working on.

Overall, I enjoyed the con and would consider going again. I also lucked out on driving weather, which was perfect. With stopping to visit friends, it was a pleasant (if long) drive.

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I will be on my way to Orycon in Portland, Oregon in just a few hours so there is no true post today. I was hoping to have the review of In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed done but it’s turning into a bit of a mini-essay and I’m not finished researching a few things. I’m extremely tired so this might not even make sense.

Addendum to the Sears attitude issue: When I bought my coat it was on sale plus an extra $10 was taken off if you applied for a Sears card. I received the card in the mail but it’s a Sears MasterCard. Surprise to me. There was also a “buy now, don’t pay to January” sign when I bought the coat. In the process of all the paperwork to get the sale, I asked, does this apply to the coat (because it was for purchases over $100 and I was told yes. However when I got the statement it showed that I had to pay this month.

I called the number on the statement but they couldn’t help me as it’s really just the MasterCard office. They told me to call the store. That took about four tries to get through and not disconnected. Eventually I was told that I had to come in with the statement to get the payment deferred. They couldn’t do it over the phone because I didn’t have the credit card and hadn’t activated it.

So I went into a store on my way home and I was told any Sears would do. First there was no store directory so I had to ask for the accounts department. It seems they don’t have one but they sent me down to catalogue shopping, tucked behind the fridges.

The girl there was new and didn’t know what I was talking about and said her manager had gone home. I said I was told I could go to any store before it closed. Eventually she found some sort of manager. He came and showed her what to do and left and then she couldn’t get it to work and called someone. Then I had to talk to the woman on the phone and then give it back to the girl behind the counter. The the manager came back, (about a half hour has passed by now) and he starts to do it and asks for the expiry date of my card. I say I don’t have it on me and I haven’t activated it. He says he can’t do it without this and gives me a phone number to call back once I get home and get the card. (I could have been told this the first time I called).

Eventually I get home and get the card and call Sears. The number to that department is busy so the switchboard tells me it’s still busy. It’s about 8:25 and the store closes at 9. I leave in the morning for Portland and the bill is due at the same time. I have to do this now or get interest charged.

Then the switchboard accidentally disconnects me and I call back. They say the line is still busy and I say I will not call back but I will hold. They ask me for my credit card number to pass on and I say no. Then I get through and the girl has a customer so I wait. I give her the number, she takes my phone number and calls me back ten minutes later to say it’s done. Whew! Very exhausting.

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Writing: Orycon 31 in Portland

Orycon 31 is Portland’s local science fiction convention. I will be attending as one of many writing and editing guests on the weekend of Nov. 27-29. Many local conventions will often invite writers and editors to attend and in return for sitting on panels they get a free membership. The larger conventions (World Horror, World Fantasy and Worldcon) do not do this because the ratio of professionals is so high. It seems the local Vcon (Vancouver, BC) is still trying to figure out how to invite the locals.

But Orycon has been inviting me for years and I have far more publications now than I did when I attended the first one over ten years ago. I don’t get to many conventions but I’ll go to Orycon as the quality is usually quite good. Because I had no idea what time I would arrive or leave on the Friday and Sunday I told them I could only do panels on Saturday.

And so it is I’ll be on two one panel. One is “Drowning in Slush” with editors Deb Taber and Maggie Jamison  from Apex ; Abyss and Apex (which for some reason I always pronounce Abbess–I should be smacked) magazine’s Camille Alexa, and Lou Anders, the editing guest of honor at Orycon. Later that day I’ll be on “Publishing Ethics”.  I’ve just received the updated itinerary and I’m not on that one any longer.

At midnight on Saturday I’ll be doing an erotic reading with four other authors. That’s just been changed to three others; Theresa “Darklady” Reed, Tammy Lindsley ( I can’t find much on her but she’s on the bid committee for Worldcon Reno in 2011) and Kal Colbalt. It works out to about fifteen minutes apiece so I’ll need to find a pithy, erotic scene from an existing story, and of course one with more SF or fantasy elements (Isn’t all erotica fantasy?). I might read “The Boy Who Bled Rubies” from Don Juan and Men or “Janukurpara” from the Mammoth Book of the Kama Sutra. These two have been published in the last year. However it might be fun to read from “A Taste for Treasure”  to be published in the Harlequin erotic fairy tale anthology Alison’s Wonderland next year. I’ll have to do some timed readings and figure out which excerpt works well at midnight to keep people hot and bothered.

I am much more familiar with the editors on the panel than I am with the authors at the reading . But that makes sense as I submit to many of the magazines. Any field of writing, whether fantasy, SF, erotica or mainstream literary (as well as any other genre and subgenre) has numerous writers. There are those at the top, famous, selling a lot, read by many, interviewed often and known by the general public. Then it peters down to lesser known novelists and onto to fiction writers of various sorts. There are many magazines of different calibers and people publishing a lot or a bit. Even if I was up on my reading (which I’m not because I use my time to write…and read some) I probably wouldn’t know everyone out there. And I know far more in the SF/fantasy side than even the erotica side. It’s one reason many of us do these cons, to get some exposure.

If I worked full-time in publishing (some day I shall) I might then know most of the names. Even when I was a book buyer I knew every novelist’s name. A few years out of that business and I don’t know many new authors at all. Then there are the novelists and the short fiction authors. Ellen Datlow and other editors who are velociraptors in their reading have a very good fang at the jugular of speculative fiction (hey, it’s Hallowe’en; I had to use the imagery). I’d love to be able to do that but it’s a constant thing.

So I look forward to meeting the editors and the writers I don’t know, and hear their knowledge or readings. I often find that reading or hearing other stories and poems, makes me go, hmm, interesting. I never thought of that, and what if… Reading other people’s work can be inspirational as well as churning up thoughts in the ole gray matter. I’m looking forward to Orycon and hoping for good weather on the drive down. Now I need to polish up a piece to read, and practice reading it aloud.



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