For some reason, writers can’t seem to get together without calling it a con. I guess so we can write it off. Tonight, Ken Scholes invited a slew of writers down to the Barley Mill Pub to meet Aimee Amodio, who is every bit as funny and delightful as Ken promised. So nice when a gentleman keeps his word like that.
Also paying court to Miss Amodio were Jay Lake, Damian Kilby, Kai Jones, Cat, Benjamin and… here is where my facility for names falls apart, because I can’t remember the name of the last lovely gentleman. Ken will correct me, I’m sure.
It’s so nice to shoot the breeze with other writers without the pressure of an actual convention. I think we were all in the same time zone, except Aimee. Poor sleep-deprived east coaster.
Today we got to sleep in, til 7:30 am. Oooo. We’re staying with some friends of Joe’s (Shawna and Steven) that live in Seattle. In tour talk, this is a “home stay”. Tears of Joy gives us $40 in per diem for food and hotel, but we get to keep the leftover soooo…. I normally don’t like homestays but this one is great. No, I’m not just saying that ’cause they might read this.
It was an eventful day. We did our trick of slightly wrong street names with the first school. NE 8th vs. 8th St. We got to the show late, and had half an hour to load-in to a school with steps. This is called a “jogging load-in.”
We hate steps. Most of our set-up time is actually the walk into the school.
[Missing Photo] This is a shot of our second school. Notice the Extremely Long walk to the other side of the gymnacafetorium. The stage at the far end is both a plus and a minus. It means that we are definitely high enough for everyone to see. The problem is that most of TOJ’s shows are designed to be on a gym floor and visible for an audience that is seated on the same floor, with no chairs. So everything begins at the three foot level and is elevated. The problem with being on the stage is that it makes our performance six feet above the audience’s heads. Very bad sightlines for the kids in front. If we move away from the playboard at all the puppets vanish.
Also at this school we had the joy of trying to find electrical outlets. Our lights and our sound draw a lot of power. Each light uses a 500 watt lamp, we have six lights. You do the math, and you see our problem. Sometimes, especially in older schools like this, we’ll blow a fuse. So we try to spread the current out to different currents in the room. At this particular school a good half of them were already dead. And all of the ones close to the stage weren’t working. Which means that Joe had to first, find outlets, and then establish that they weren’t working, and finally snake cord from the stage to the far end of the room.
To add to our joy, the person introducing us didn’t check to see if we were ready. We were not. We’d even gotten to this school fifteen minutes early. Joe was still focusing lights, and wasn’t in costume yet. So, I talked to the kids about microphones, because I was still putting mine on. I explained about electricity, and older schools, and what we were doing. Then when Joe went backstage, I segued into talking about Africa where the story is set. Then we started and they were a really great audience. Very live.
I find that if you know the background of the play you can generally expand a normal introduction for however much time you need. Although I try not to make a practice of needing expansion.
So it was off for Shawna and Steven’s house after that. We spend a lot of time in the van, and will be touring almost till Halloween. Notice the pumpkin. Anyway, here’s the view from the van in Seattle.
My last bit of adventure was a small car accident. Yes, I’m fine. I was turning the corner in my very large van and did not see the very small, illegally parked car. It was at a diagonal, partially in an intersection. My wheel became wedded with the front bumper of this car. I couldn’t go forward or backward. We were dropping off Joe and his friend, Matt at Matt’s house. Matt says that this car has been there for two months. It even had a parking ticket.
So we called AAA and the police. AAA pulled the van sideways off the car. The police said that technically I was at fault, but he didn’t want to charge me, so he waived the fine. TOJ’s insurance will deal with the accident, so I’m basically okay. I’m just making really wide turns right now.
I’m cleaning out my bookshelves and finding that there are books to which I’m no longer attached, so those are going in “away” pile. But there are also books, which I love, that are in terrible shape. I have a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s The Old-Fashioned Girl (long one of my favorites) which is missing pages. This one was given to me in high school by a friend that knew that I loved old books, but I have never known what Tom says to Grandma. And yet…yet I think it’s going with me to New York.
Do you have things like that? Damaged, no rational reason for keeping, and yet precious.
Our day together started at 9:40am. Joe came to pick me up in the touring van and we drove to TOJ to do one last run-through of the “Brer Rabbit” part of the show. I was still shaky on some of the lines. Then it was off to Beaverton to set up for our first performance together. It was, as Joe says, trial by fire. The stage was too low for us to fit on. We have a 10 foot ceiling height, so we had to set up on the floor in front. But because we knew they were sold-out we tried to crunch as much as possible by having parts of the set on the floor, and parts on the stage. This created interesting staging concerns. We could no longer go behind the tree.
But things went okay. Since it was a public show, instead of doing our usual demo and Q&A, we just showed the audience puppets up close and answered questions individually. This lets the parents get out with the problem children. And it’s nice for us to have a closer contact with our audience.
Then it was time to pack up the van and head out. It takes us about an hour to set up, and an hour to take down. Everything goes in this van. We also have luggage and the bench seat too. So you can tell that it collapes pretty well.
Now we are on the road to Tacoma, WA. Jodi will be with us today and tomorrow. He and I have a meeting tomorrow with the man who is writing the script for Secret of Singbonga, a tale of India. Tonight we are having Canadian Thanksgiving with our friends, Aaron and MaryClaire.
I biked down to Hawthorne to have lunch with Jay Lake, so that he could sign the limited edition chapbooks of his story Christmas Season. The wind was pretty ferocious and it was like biking uphill the whole way there, which was frustrating, since that’s the downhill direction.
By the time I got home, two people IMed me, knowing that I had been at lunch with Jay. Granted, he was closer to the restaurant than me, but still. There’s something a little odd about having lunch with someone in the same town, and having the news be instantly on someone’s computer, across the country.
Anyway, the lunch, as he reports, was fun. This is the first time I’ve gotten to hang out with Jay outside of a con, and he’s even more frighteningly intelligent when not sleep deprived.
During the course of lunch, we were talking about written versus oral storytelling. I think it sprang up, because I was talking about the cultural difference between a writers’ convention and a puppeteers’ festival. At World Fantasy, I told my Sleeping Beauty story, which is the tale of a puppet show gone horribly, horribly wrong. It’s always a good story, but the reaction that I got at WFC was much, much bigger than anything I get among puppeteers. At first I thought that it was because the material is familiar to puppeteers and unexpected to writers, but, after going to a party with a bunch of theater friends, I think there’s more to it. I think it’s that writers aren’t used to people who know how to tell a story, as a performance. When I was at the theater party, we all seemed to take turns telling stories, like miniature plays. We all have repertoires of stories that we trot out when they seem appropriate. I tend to tell the Sleeping Beauty story, the Stolen Van story, the Hot Chocolate story and the Time I Hurt My Wrist story with most frequency.
They do have titles. I love it when Jodi tells the Jello Salad story. Or when Sam tells the Beauty and the Beast Vomit story. It’s true in other fields, clearly. Ken Scholes’s Orange Bicycle story, is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.
But none of these are written stories. I could write down any of them, but it’s not the same as telling them. Have you read Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories? He wrote them specifically to be read aloud by parents to their children. They are full of asides like, “O Best Beloved”
So the Whale swam and swam to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West, as fast as he could swim, and on a raft, in the middle of the sea, with nothing to wear except a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must particularly remember the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, he found one single, solitary shipwrecked Mariner, trailing his toes in the water. (He had his mummy’s leave to paddle, or else he would never have done it, because he was a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.)
It’s a very different style of writing. In fact, Gentle Reader, it makes me wonder if that’s why the direct address to the reader used to be in style. Was it a holdover from when stories were predominately an oral form?
I’ve sometimes wondered if the blog and audio books will bring direct address back into style. Certainly, I address you much more than I would if I were writing Fiction with a capital F. As readers become used to that, will it come back into style? The Algebraist, which I’m reading now, begins with direct address. I quite liked it. It was exciting to feel as if an author were speaking to me. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve always liked Steven Brust’sVlad Taltos series; I always feel as if Vlad were sitting across the table talking to me.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I think there are some ideas that are worth exploring. If nothing else, it will help me be more aware of my audience next time I’m telling a story.
I’m not often jealous of my friends, but in this case… oh yes. Thank heavens, Santa has already come, or I’d wind up on the naughty list for my covetous thoughts.
In the Sunday New York Times, I learned that the original stop-motion Rudolph and Santa puppets are on exhibit at the Center for Puppetry Arts. That gave me an immediate, “ooo! neat!” reaction, and then I read this…
For restoration, he turned to another stop-motion studio, Screen Novelties, in Los Angeles. There, Robin Walsh, a puppet maker, ordered kid mohair for Santaâ€™s beard, consulted museum restoration experts for the best ways to clean painted wood and grimy wool, and discovered, by freezing frames from â€œRudolph,â€ that Santaâ€™s mouth had once been painted. The broken lead wires in the puppetsâ€™ arms and legs also needed to be replaced.
The hardest thing, Ms. Walsh said, was getting over her fear of handling the puppets.
â€œI was holding my childhood in my hands,â€ she said.
Robin and I were at the Center at the same time. She’s gone on to work with Ray Harryhausen and do other mind-numbingly cool things.
To read the whole article, you have to be logged into the New York Times, but it’s pretty amazing and worth it.
Normally, I have a formal dinner party for Christmas every year and this year it was scheduled for Sunday the sixteenth. You know. The day after Rob got back from Iceland. Why would I do something like that? Because, our friend Jodi was in town and leaving on the 17th, which meant that the only night possible was the night after Rob got back.
This was fine. We’d talked about it and made our plans and everything was fine. Then I got the call to go to Iceland. At this point the party started to get dicey, but I’d already mailed the invitations and I’ve done it so many times that I felt like I could pull it off. The only thing that made me really nervous was that I had to work on Sunday and would only get home an hour before the party started. I’d done that before too, so I knew I could handle it by prepping all the food the day before and leaving Rob instructions about what to put in the oven and when.
And then Rob’s travel karma kicked in. He got the the airport two hours early and it took three hours to clear security. He called me from Detroit. I knew his itinerary and Detroit was not in the picture. He was supposed to arrive home at 1:10 and was now scheduled for 7:00. I got off the phone with him and started calling people to cancel the party.
My friend, Sue, suggested that I tell people to come anyway and to bring a finger food. Brilliant. So that’s what we did. While it was did not satisfy my craving to host a dinner party, it was wonderful to see everyone. The food was outstanding too; my friends can cook. So, all told, it was a successful party, but I’m still going to have to have a sit-down affair later. I think it’s the tables set with china and silver that makes me all happy.
I’m getting on the 5:00 flight this evening to head back to the States. I’m quite melancholy about this and again find myself reluctant to go.
The good news is that I have an overnight layover in New York City. I’m getting together with friends around 9:30 or 10:00 tonight. We’re still sorting out the details of where. If you’re in the area and want to join us, drop me a line with your phone number and I’ll call or email you with the location. Sorry that this is so sudden; we had a period yesterday of thinking that I might stay a day longer.
I invited a group of friends over last night to let people know I was back in Portland. It was nice to see everyone, but it was a little strange to set up for the party. I went to the grocery store and could read everything without having to think about it. I’m also out of practise throwing parties here, so I really had to think about what we needed and where to get it. Now the thing I loved was that I biked to the stores. Oh, and people showed up on time. What’s up with that? Don’t they know that parties start an hour to an hour and a half after the scheduled start time. Actually, I had everything ready waaaay ahead of time, because I have gotten used to having that buffer in Iceland and, knowing I wouldn’t have it here, I overcompensated. The party definitely made the house feel more comfortable, but I spent most of the party feeling like something was missing.
Rob and I talked yesterday and he said that he keeps wanting to come back to Portland. Without me there, he is wondering what the point of being in Iceland is. I said, funny, I have the same feeling about wanting to go back to Reykjavik. Our friends are very dear to me, but the friends and the house aren’t where home is. The party was fun, but I’m still not home.
Well. I got home around 1:30 am. My flight was delayed out of Austin and I just barely caught the connecting flight. Alas, my luggage did not. The wait for the flight to take off would have been worse had I not had a lovely conversation with Sally Harding.
The weekend is a complete blur, so I’m not going to try to tell you about things in chronological order. Because Beth and I were running around getting ready for the Shimmer pirate party, I only made it to a couple of panels. The panel on Alternate History sparked a pretty exciting conversation. The panel had been talking about “deep stories” as the point where events had changed in an alternate history. Howard Waldrop was talking about the Cone of History and used the words “Alternate Future.” I asked if anyone had every done a SF story with an alternate history deep story. You know, like, what would space look like if Lincoln hadn’t been shot? The panel stopped dead and then they all started saying that they couldn’t think of an example and wanted to write one. In one of those moments of telepathy, where I don’t remember having the conversation with Beth, we agreed that Shimmer had to do an anthology of Alternate Future stories. I announced that to the room at large and Paul Park said, “What are you going to call it?”
“Alternate Future. Is there another choice?” Howard Waldrop cautioned us that we needed to pay attention to Heinlein’s rule that you could only change one thing in a story. I know what he means, but I think with careful guidelines this could be an exciting project. So, anytime Beth and I weren’t working on the Shimmer Pirate party, we were hashing out beginning guidelines for the Alternate Future anthology. I’ll keep you posted.
The Pirate Party went off better than we could have hoped, since neither Beth nor I had thrown a con party before. We were totally stressed leading up to it but Melissa Tolliver saved our tails. Her son Adrick has a room decorated with pirate gear and very, very kindly let us use his stuff as part of our decorations. The piece de resistance was a giant Pirate Mr. Potato Head. Beth fell in love with it and bought one of her very own. We were also saved by Sulin, who cut lemons and got music going and took photos and generally filled in the gaps for us. I spent the party pouring drinks for folks, which was loads of fun since it meant that I got to meet everybody.
After it ended, I headed down to the Awards banquet to sit with Brad. The presentation on Six Fantastic Flags over Texas was very funny and I wish I had caught the name of the gentleman who delivered it. Everyone at the table was very nice, and despite the fact that we all introduced ourselves, I have forgotten everyone’s names except for Katie, Howard and John. I only remember them because we talked afterwards and I was able to stare at name badges and well, Brad blogged about them first. Sigh. I’ll have to come up with a better system for remembering names for the next con.
How about you? How do you remember names of people you meet at cons?
I’ve been having trouble with my internet in the room and complained multiple times to the hotel. They sent their engineer up–who announced as he came into the room, “I’m not particularly computer savvy.” Oh, how true that was. He poked at buttons on the computer and said, “I’ll have to close these windows,” and generally pretended to do something.
I continued to have no internet and to complain vigorously. They finally agreed to move me to another room. So during all of that, I didn’t do much blogging or work on my NaNo. Today, I got up and opened my novel for the first time, since he came in, so I could do some NaNoWriMo.
It consisted of the title page.
He had deleted the novel.
I hyperventilated for a second and then realized that I back up on a regular basis. Which means that I only lost half a page. I was ready to kill though. To their credit, the hotel recognized that this was a huge deal and that, even though it all turned out all right, they had really screwed up. They gave us one night for free.
I would like everyone who reads this to ask me 3 questions: no more, no less. Ask me anything you want. Anything! Doesn’t mean I’ll answer them in the way you expect. Then go to your journal, copy and paste this, allowing your friends (including me) to ask you anything.
Amoung other things, I’m curious how many people read this and it seems like a fun way to find out. Yes, you neo-luddites may ask questions even if you don’t have an online journal.
We had folks over for dinner after production today. It was just a light meal with conversation. I made a Roasted Cauliflower soup, which I love because it’s easy and you can do other things while it’s becoming tasty
I also made Mixed greens with feta, pinenuts and blueberries for the first time. Again, a very easy recipe and delicious. I used the Icelandic blueberry, which is smaller, crisper and slightly more bitter than the blueberries I grew up with. If you have…drat I can’t remember the name of the berry. -E- what is the berry that grows in your front yard that’s like a blueberry, but isn’t? Anyway, those are similar to the Icelandic ones.
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 5-ounce bag arugula greens
1 10 ounce bag spinach
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2-pint container blueberries
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Whisk vinegar, oil, and honey in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine greens, feta, and blueberries in large bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.
One of our friends brought an almond lemon cake that I have to get the recipe for. Yummy.
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]