Monday, February 27, 2012

Campaign Update

Mary Robinette Kowal, who's served four years on the SFWA board - most recently as Vice President - is not running for election again. The two candidates for the open seat are myself and Rachel Swirsky. Kowal has endorsed Swirsky, adding that she asked her to run. You can find Kowal's post here.

SFWA President John Scalzi, who is unopposed for re-election, weighed in today on the race. You can find his comments here.

Both Swirsky and myself posted our campaign statements at the SFWA discussion board.

I think it's pretty clear I'm the underdog in this race, but I hope my effort encourages the newbies and semi-pros, the strivers and dreamers. And if all these people vote for me, I will do well.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

"Racing with the Sunset"

I spent some time Saturday checking and subbing a couple of stories to a pair of small ezines run by some friendly and dedicated fans - David Gray at 4 Star Stories and Shelby Vick at Planetary Stories.

Today my main project - aside from subbing a story returned from one of the large magazines - was to take a story that was between six and seven thousand words and break it into two parts. The original story was "The Way of the Heretic", which had something wrong with its structure I couldn't put a finger on. A few years ago it came back from a magazine with the observation that it seemed to drag. A couple of weeks ago I sent it to Bruce Bethke at his new magazine, Stupefying Stories (Whadda great title!).

He didn't buy it, but he came up with a clear explanation of what was wrong. It made perfect sense, so I took the original story and busted it into two logical parts. "The Way of the Heretic" is now under 4,000 words, and its offshoot, called "Racing with the Sunset", is also less than 4,000 words. "Racing" now may be the stronger of the two stories. We will sub them both and see what happens.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Back in the routine

My hands are feeling better after a few days of rest and recuperation. I went back to the genre front tonight, and spent the evening editing a pair of stories I sent to two small ezines. I've been published in both in the past, and they had emailed to ask whether I might have something to send their way.

It's nice when an editor approaches you and asks you to submit, even it is a small venue. I guess the top rank authors get the same solicitations from the big venues.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Aches and pains

I spent my day off Monday trimming shrubs with pruning shears - really big ones, branch loppers - and I messed up my hands. I already have carpal tunnel syndrome. Tuesday morning I could barely hold a cup of coffee. I have been taking Aleeve and have cut my typing to the minimum the past few days.

Monday, February 20, 2012

ConDFW afterthoughts

I forgot to mention Sam Taylor was one of the people in the dinner group at the Tasty Greek Saturday night.

This was the first time I was blessed with the famous Coupons of Great Value from Yard Dog Press, since Music for Four Hands is one of their books. I noticed that if handed some out after a panel, if I went to the dealers' room a few people would have gone directly there to buy the book. I signed a few that way right at the Yard Dog outpost

ConDFW notes

Bad weather had been predicted for the weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised as I drove to Dallas Saturday afternoon to find the road mostly clear and dry - but then I drove into the storm that was right over Dallas County.

People in Dallas drive Zero to 70 - Zero visibility at 70 mph. I was grateful I was driving a rental, because I wouldn't feel bad if it was wrecked. I just didn't want to get my ass killed.

I arrived at 3:30 and Keith West caught up with me in Con Ops. Keith used to teach at Texas A&M-Commerce, we met back in 2005 because my wife took a science class with him. He now is on the faculty of Texas Tech. I bunked with him Saturday night. That was the first time I actually stayed at the Crowne Plaza Suites. My mother-in-law lived in Dallas until last fall, and so I had previously cheaped it out by staying with her.

I went to my reading. Linda Donahue and Melanie Fletcher had already done their reading, and so I dove right in. Linda was the first of many people to say they hadn't seen me and didn't know whether I was coming. Years ago, when I first began attending cons, no one knew me. Now after a number of years people actually know who I am and look for me. It feels kinda strange.

The book signing at 4 p.m. was for me, Rie Sheridan Rose, and O.M. Grey, but Grey was a last minute cancellation, so Pat Elrod took the empty slot. As I mentioned previously, I sold a couple of copies of "Zombie Writing!".

Pat did the edit of "The Centurion and the Rainman" for Buzzymag, and she said I had really come up with a very creative idea. It makes me wonder whether maybe I'm not the old-fashioned hack I think I am.

Pat was also on the panel about Dirigibles at 5 p.m.

I mentioned to Martha Wells that she was at the first con I ever attended, ConDFW in 2003. During the discussion I was impressed that she knew the story of the Italian aviator Umberto Nobile and his ill-fated attempt to reach the North Pole with the airship The Italia. She even knew about Nobile's dog, who survived the whole idea with her master.

GOH Cherie Priest was on the panel. I had never met her before, so that was nice.

After the panel, I found Bill Ledbetter. We had communicated before the con about going to a Middle Eastern restaurant, The Tasty Greek, on Belt Line Road in Addison. We brought a contingent of ten there - Bill, myself, Adrian Simmons, Michelle Muenzler, Loa Ledbetter, and five other people whose names I can't recall (friends of the others).

The food and appetizers were all great. The last time I was there I asked for, and got, one of their tall red hard plastic drinking glasses. A few weeks ago Millie knocked it off a table with her big fat Labrador tail and it cracked when it hit the tile floor. The owner gave me a new glass. "You can have glass any time you come by and bring nine other people for dinner!"

When we got back to the hotel, I visited a few room parties, for Dark Star Publishing, FenCon, and AggieCon (which will be my next con.) Afterwards I went back to the suite, where I pulled out the sofa bed and slept in the living room while Keith snoozed in the bedroom.

We ate breakfast in the hotel in the morning and then I went to finally visit the dealers room. The book swap table had a pile of old Asimov's, and I found a copy of the Sept. 2005 issue (where my story "A Rocket for the Republic" was published). I bought it, and at the next panel I waved it, Turns out it had been donated by Dallas fan Cliff Barnes (the label says C.A. Barnes so I didn't make the connection). I've seen Cliff and his wife at conventions a zillion times over the years; they are the most faithful fans I know.

The Escape from the Slush Pile panel had a good attendance, despite being at 11 a.m. One of the panelists, Jaye Wells, will be giving a workshop on world building at the spring writers' conference being hosted by the local writers' group NETWO (Northeast Texas Writers Organization) here in Mount Pleasant in April.

I moderated that panel, and learned that Michael Ashleigh Finn had come to the con, but had to leave. He's a nice guy, I was looking for him. Cathy Clamp replaced him on the panel.

Since Wells and Camp are both published novelists, I picked up some pointers myself.

I was also the moderator for the panel for the panel on Writers to Keep an Eye on. This was the second panel I had with Cherie Priest, who was freezing the whole time. I think the hotel had the fans turned on, but after the storm passed through Saturday, the outside temperature dropped. Everyone was cold in that room, except perhaps me.

This was another panel where Michael Finn was scheduled, and Pat Elrod replaced him.

My final panel at 3 p.m. on How to Fix Terrible Prose was the only one I had where all the scheduled panelists made it. Mel White had the great idea for us to go over the first few pages of the infamous "Eye of Argon", and since that story has so may screw-ups it was a great teaching aid. We all - the other panelists were Lee Martindale and Adrian Simmons - synced up great and I think the audience enjoyed it.

After going to cons for years, I meet and greet a lot of the same people now, but one person I met for the first time was Laura Domitz, who is co-chair of LoneStarCon 2013, the world con. I ran into her while having a drink with Bev Hale and Michael Moe. I was able to ask a lot of questions about the world con, which was very helpful.

Oh, the art with this blog post? I found this cool poster on the literature table. Chances are London will get the world con bid for 2014, but Orlando is in the hunt for 2015, and with his kind of attitude, they'll be a shoo-in.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

ConDFW Report

I enjoyed ConDFW this weekend, although I was there for only half the con. I arrived at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. I couldn't participate Friday - my wife and I had a reservation for a Valentine's related social event - and I had to work until 1 p.m. Saturday. Then it took longer than usual to drive to Dallas, which was being soaked by a storm.

I was scheduled to read during the 3-4 slot along with Melanie Fletcher and Linda Donahue. After I checked in at con ops I went to the room where the reading was being held. They had already gone, but I still had time to read a flash.

P.N. Ellrod, Rie Sheridan Rose and I were at the signing table from 4-5. I sold and signed a couple of copies of "Zombie Writing!" - one to Rie -and signed a copy "Texas & Other Planets" as well as "Music for Four Hands".

From 5-6 I was on the panel on Steampunk Aviation ("Fly the Friendly Dirigible Skies!") with Guest of Honor Cherie Priest, Julie Barrett, Martha Wells, P.N. Elrod and Shanna Swenson, who was the moderator. Everyone was at their best and the audience enjoyed it.

Sunday I was on three panels. I moderated two in a row, Escape From the Slush Pile from 11-12 with Jaye Wells, Chris Donahue and Cathy Clamp, who was a last minute replacement for Michael Ashleigh Finn, who had to leave the convention, and Writers to Keep and Eye on from 1-2 with Cherie Priest again, Rachel Caine and Rie Rose as Finn's replacement on this panel.

All the other panelists on the Slush Pile panel could address books, so I was the voice of experience when it came to short fiction. The Writers panel was slower than some others because it is especially hard to break into fiction these days, but in both cases by the end of the hour everyone had learned a lot and enjoyed it.

My last panel was on How to Fix Terrible Prose, with Adrian Simmons, Lee Martindale and Mel White - who was the moderator. Mel had us use the beginning of the infamous Eye of Argon as an example, which proved to be fun as well as instructive.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spend your money! Spend your money!

John Teehan and Merry Blacksmith Press has a table in the dealers room at Boskone, the New England Science Fiction Association convention being held this weekend in Boston. Here is a photo taken by John. "Texas & Other Planets" is for sale there (front row, second from left). If you are there, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I began a new story a few days ago and typed up about seven pages of "Yankee Puja" when my carpal tunnel flared up real bad. It already was on the upswing, but the pace I set as I typed up the story really aggravated it, and I knew I had overdone it when my left thumb went paralyzed. Not numb, paralyzed, I couldn't move it. The application of a cold pack relieved the problem quickly, but I haven't typed anything for a few days.

I've ordered ten copies of "Zombie Writing" so I can take them to ConDFW this weekend, and they should arrive by the end of the day Thursday, according to the UPS tracking system. The folks from Yard Dog Press will be there selling copies of "Music for Four Hands", and Zane Melder with Edge Books will be there with copies of "Fantastic Texas" and "Texas & Other Planets".

Saturday, February 11, 2012

ArmadilloCon 34

I have been invited to be a program participant at ArmadilloCon 34, to be held
July 27-29, 2012 at the Renaissance Hotel in Austin, Texas. It is in the same hotel as last year, but a month earlier than in 2011.

I have replied with my acceptance. I went to my first ArmadilloCon in 2004, then because of a conflict with my job schedule I couldn't go back until 2007. I've been a program participant since then.

By way of promotion, here's a little description from their email:

"ArmadilloCon is a long-running science fiction convention that covers a
wide spectrum of interests, with a particular emphasis on literature. This
year's guest lineup features Guest of Honor Anne Bishop, Editor Guest Liz
Gorinsky, Fan Guest Bill Parker, Toastmaster A. Lee Martinez, and Special
Guest Chloe Neill. The con will have readings, panel discussions, a
writers' workshop, autographings, gaming, an art show, filk, and more."

Thursday, February 09, 2012

AggieCon 2012

I've accepted an invite to be a guest at AggieCon 2012,which will be taking place at the College Station Hilton March 23rd-25th. I attended in 2006 and 2007, but haven't been back since. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Schedule for ConDFW

I will be attending ConDFW Feb. 18 and 19. I have attended every one since 2003, which was the first con I ever attended. I am very pleased with my schedule, especially since I'm on an abbreviated time frame; I have to work until mid-day Saturday and then drive to Dallas. But I have four panels in two days, plus a reading and a signing. Excellent.

The days starts Saturday with a reading at 3 p.m. I share the hour with Melanie Fletcher and Linda Donahue - certainly two of the nicest people I know.

Then I segue into a signing at 4 p.m. with Rie Sheridan Rose and O.M. Grey - another pair of very pleasant people.

My first panel follows immediately at 5 p.m. in the Manchester Room. The topic is "Flying the Friendly Dirigible Skies: Steampunk Aviation" - a great choice in light of my story "Great White Ship" which is being published this spring by Daily Science Fiction. My fellow panelists include Cherie Priest, Martha Wells, Julie Barrett, and Shanna Swendson (moderator). The panel description is follows:

"One of the traditional views of the steampunk genre is the dirigible, or the zeppelin. In fact, it is often used to illustrate to modern audiences that they are in an alternate reality – if they see a dirigible, they know it’s not their world. For examples, look at Blade Runner (dirigible ads floating 24/7), Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Zeppelins docking with the Empire State Building), etc. So, let’s fly a floating flammable gas bag and see what the future really is!"

My panels on Sunday are as follows:

Churchill 11 a.m. - Escape from the Slush Pile. Chris Donahue, Michael Ashleigh Finn, Kevin Hosey, Jaye Wells. I am the moderator. "We bring back this popular panel from last year to tantalize people with mistakes and errors you should try not to do. Beware: someday you may end up here if you do not learn from your mistakes… Come and learn from our editors on what to avoid so you don’t end up on the slush pile."

Warwick 1 p.m. – Writers to Keep an Eye On… Cherie Priest, Rachel Caine, Michael Ashleigh Finn. I'm also moderating this one. "An annual discussion, our panelists have a lively discussion on who are the upwardly mobile in writing. Who has a good handle on writing? Who is a hack and won’t stick around long? Expect opinions to fly hot and heavy."

Manchester 3 p.m. – How to Fix Terrible Prose - Writing Seminar. Panelists: Mel White (moderator), Lou Antonelli, Adrian Simmons, Lee Martindale. "Ever wanted to find out how to fix terrible writing but never knew how to do it? Led by Mel White, this panel seeks to do group therapy – taking a piece of horrible writing and fixing it so it is a shining jewel of prose. Well, maybe not, but group participation is going to be requested, so good luck and have fun!"

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Ardath Mayhar passes away

Ardath Mayhar died Wednesday. Word spread quickly throughout the genre literary community. I met her twice, in 2004 at the first FenCon in Dallas, and in 2008 when the Nebula Awards were held in Austin.
She had mobility problems in old age, and she was taken to FenCon by Joe Lansdale, who she called an "adopted grandson". We had a nice conversation. I remember she was especially impressed that I wrote on the side and worked full-time as a journalist. She said it was smart to have an "eating job".
When I learned that she was receiving the SFWA Author Emeritus Award in 2008, I called her and conducted an interview. I was proud for her, as a representative of East Texas, and I published the interview in my newspaper, the Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune. It was also published in her hometown paper, the Nacogdoches Sentinel.
When I saw her in April 2008, I noticed she seemed to be weaker than when I saw her in 2004. She passed away at 81.
Here is the text of her obituary from the Nacogdoches Sentinel"

Ardath Frances (Hurst) Mayhar died Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, in Nacogdoches, Texas. She was 81. Born Feb. 20, 1930, to Bert Hurst and Ardath Ellington, in Timpson, Texas, Ardath Mayhar is the author of more than 60 books ranging from science fiction, fantasy, horror and young adult to historical and westerns, with some work under the pseudonyms Frank Cannon, Frances Hurst and John Killdeer. She began her writing career as a poet when she was 19 and began publishing science fiction in 1979 after returning with her family to Texas from Oregon. She was nominated for the Mark Twain Readers Award, won the Balrog Award, was nominated for awards in almost every fiction genre, and won many awards for poetry. In 2008, she was chosen by the Science Fiction Writers of America as their author emeritus. Mayhar also owned and operated The View from Orbit Bookstore in Nacogdoches with her husband, Joe, until his death in 1999, after which she sold the store. Mayhar taught writing through the Writer's Digest school, provided book doctoring, and mentored numerous young authors. Until her health declined, Mayhar's reputation was such that she spoke regularly in the area, drawing large crowds to listen to her wit and wisdom. She is survived by two sons, James Mayhar and Frank Mayhar; two stepsons, Robert Mayhar and William Mayhar; grandchildren, Kai Mayhar, and Brad Mayhar; sister, Judy Corley; and brother, Joe Bert Hurst. A memorial service will be held later, with details pending at this time. Online condolences and memories may be offered at Cason Monk-Metcalf Funeral Directors.

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