Lessons from a reading

Erin M. Hartshorn reading at WorldCon

Photo courtesy of Margaret McGaffey Fisk

Last month, I attended WorldCon in San Jose. I had an amazing time, primarily because of the wonderful people I talked to, both those whom I already knew and those whom I just met. (I wrote all about it in my newsletter last month — consider subscribing if you missed it!) The last thing I did officially at the con was to give a reading on Monday afternoon of a couple scenes from Troll Tunnels.

Lesson 1: All conventions are not created equal. When I did a reading from Ghost Garages last year at Boskone, two people came to listen. This year, the room was crowded, with easily a couple of dozen people. Maybe more? I tried to take a picture but failed to do the panorama properly. But … a crowded room, most of whom had never heard of me or read my writing, seeking to be entertained and decide whether to check out my work.

The reading itself went well, with a couple of people coming up to me afterward to compliment me on my reading skill.

Lesson 2: I can do this! Even if I’m a little unnerved by the number of people in front of me. However …

Lesson 3: I need to be prepared to say more about the book and series to lay the groundwork for the new audience, and

Lesson 4: People actually want swag like bookmarks or other material to help them remember who was reading from what. I’ve seen a lot of people online say that no one cares about bookmarks, they just throw them away or don’t really look at the content, so I’d dismissed this as something to pursue. Evidently, it’s common because it does work.

WorldCon 76 schedule!

A week from today, WorldCon starts. Okay, technically, there are a few tour items that happen Tuesday and Wednesday, but Thursday is when things get rolling, with 74 things on the program. I’m excited to be in sunny San Jose, California — back in the Bay Area, though not the East Bay this time around.

Not only am I attending, I’m participating!

Friday, August 17

8–10 a.m.
SFWA business meeting
Convention Center, 210DH

3–4 p.m.
What can SFWA do for me? (panel)
Convention Center, 210DF

Monday, August 20

12:30–1:00 p.m.
Reading from Troll Tunnels
Convention Center, 211A

Additionally, I will be participating in the SFWA Board meeting on Thursday, partaking of the Codex breakfast on Saturday morning, working as a door dragon for the SFWA suite for a couple of hours on Sunday, and trying to find time to say hello to friends I haven’t seen in a while (or whom I’ve never met in person). If you’re there and you see me, please say hello!

First Friday, third Monday

Mountain peak in snow photo by Jérôme Prax on UnsplashThe first Monday of the week didn’t feel like Monday because it was a holiday. Wednesday was more of a Monday with everyone off to school. Then yesterday, kids home again, making me feel like today was Monday yet again. At least I got things done, starting with lugging the tree out to be picked up with the trash.

The other thing I accomplished was finishing the draft of a short story. Not bad for the first week of the year.

Words written today: 2,224
Words written this year: 6,534
Average words/day: 1,307

Starting off on the cold foot

Ice bubble photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Ice bubble photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Where we are, we usually miss the brunt of winter storms. This means that although we’ve had temperatures into the single digits this week (Fahrenheit) and high winds today, we didn’t get half a foot or more of snow, and we’ve mostly stayed out of the negative temperature range. Still, the kids were home from school today (and they only went back yesterday!), with a two-hour delay in the morning.

I didn’t post a wrap-up of my 2017 here yet, so here goes:

Things I wrote, polished, and/or released

  • Treachery of Doubt (book 2 of Bodyguard of Lies)
  • Ghost Garages (book 1 of Boston Technowitch)
  • Siren Circle (book 2 of Boston Technowitch)
  • Dreamwalker (tie-in novella for Boston Technowitch, only available to newsletter subscribers)
  • Troll Tunnels (book 3 of Boston Technowitch, currently in edits)

Additional things I did

  • Wrote most of a second tie-in novella for Boston Technowitch
  • Worked on a couple of short stories (neither of which is ready for submission yet)
  • Completed a month of ink drawings for Inktober
  • Participated in programming for Boskone and for the Nebula Conference
  • Served part of the year as a Director-at-Large and the remainder of the year as Vice President for SFWA
  • Went to a writing meet-up in Manhattan
  • Went on a lovely vacation where I got to visit my mom, my younger brother and his other half, and my in-laws
  • Spent lots of family time
  • Got the downstairs family room painted and (with the rest of the family) organized and looking comfortable

Words written 2017: 253,721
Average words/day written 2017: 695
Best month for writing: November
Worst month for writing: June

As for 2018, I’m planning to do more of the same — more in every sense: more writing, more books released, more reading, more activity in the organizations I’m part of. I’m doing okay so far, though last year’s January was pretty good, too. It’s the long term where we see how things go.

Words written today: 1,130
Words written this month: 4,310


Grace to end the old year

English cocker spaniel, Grace

This is Grace (aka Gracie). Our daughter has wanted to keep her (stealing the dog from her grandparents) for a couple of years. Now she gets her wish — my in-laws came to visit for the holidays, and they’re leaving Grace here when they go home.

Interview with Continuum author Wendy Nikel

I know I haven’t blogged in ages — which is unlikely to change much this close to the end of the year, with major family commitments — but today, I have a special treat for you, a guest post by Wendy Nikel, whose debut The Continuum comes out in late January (just about a month away). If you’re looking for ideas to spend holiday gift certificates on, The Continuum is available for pre-order.

The sales copy on Amazon says, “For years, Elise has been donning corsets, sneaking into castles, and lying through her teeth to enforce the Place in Time Travel Agency’s ten essential rules of time travel.” This immediately makes me ask two things — why is there only one agency that deals with this, and how did you decide on the ten essential rules?

At the time of my story, time travel is a recent invention, and the inventor has done all he can to limit the number of people who know it’s possible — while still making a tidy profit by sending a select clientele back to “vacations in the past.”

In order to keep this enterprise a secret and keep his clients safe, he’s developed the Ten Essential Rules of Time Travel.

Do you list all ten rules and discuss the reasons behind them? And if you do have them listed, do you have a favorite (as a restriction on what your characters can do, for example)?

The Ten Essential Rules of Time Travel are listed at the beginning of the book. My favorite would have to be #4 – “Travel within the Black Dates is prohibited.” These are periods of time that are too dangerous or too pivotal in history to risk traveling. Linchpins, one might say, and it’s the breaking of this rule that sets Elise on her journey in this story.

Is Elise Morley an expert on a particular era in the past, or is she more of a generalist historian? What kind of training did she have before the Agency recruited (or hired, as the case may be) her?

Elise has to have a working knowledge of all the places where her clients travel, so although she knows a lot about history in general, she has more hands-on experience in some eras than others. The turn of the twentieth century, for instance, is a very popular travel destination and the one that Elise specializes in. As you may be able to tell from the cover, this era plays an important role in this story.

When you were developing Elise as a character, what sort of impact did Elise’s family and friends have on her decision to work for the Agency?
At the time of THE CONTINUUM, Elise is a loner. Keeping the truth of her job a secret and being away in the past for lengthy periods of time make it difficult for her to develop or maintain meaningful relationships in the present.

I tend to think of time travel as having two primary flavors: the past is immutable, or the past can be changed. Since you have an agency that works to be sure the past isn’t abused, I’m assuming THE CONTINUUM falls into the second category. Why did you make that choice? Conversely, if there’s a single future that Elise gets sent to, I have to wonder why they can’t just make changes in Elise’s present to prevent that future. Can you talk about that, or would that involve spoilers for the book? Also, a single future seems to ignore the Many Worlds hypothesis. Was this a deliberate choice on your part? Is it something your characters care about?

Without getting too spoilery, I think it’s safe to say that different people in the story have different ideas about how time travel works and their assumptions change throughout the story. Because time travel is such a new development, at the beginning of the story, the Place in Time Travel agency operates based on the assumption that the past could be changed, and this definitely influences how Elise approaches her assignments.

If you could travel to the past or the future, what time period would you choose?
Like Elise (and many of her clients), I’m fascinated with the turn of the twentieth century. There were so important events, especially in the United States, between the 1860s and the 1920s, that I’d love to jump around in those decades, seeing what the world was like then.

Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she’s left her cup of tea. Her short fiction has been published by Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Daily Science Fiction, Nature: Futures, and elsewhere. For more info, visit wendynikel.com or sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive a FREE short story ebook.

THE CONTINUUM is available for pre-order via World Weaver Press! Release date: January 23, 2018. (LINK)

Noisy neighbors 

This morning, I heard quite the fuss outside and had to go out to tell them to quiet down. But then what can you expect from the local murder?

crows in tree and on the wing
more crows in trees

I got a slow start on NaNoWriMo, but I caught up today — today’s count was 3,744, putting me at 5,262 for the month. Yay for being back on track!

Part of what helped (though not all of it) was checking out 4thewords.com — a gamified site where you defeat monsters and gain loot by writing a certain number of words in a given time frame. If I’m still enjoying the site at the end of the month, I might subscribe — $4/month isn’t an unreasonable price. One more tool in the productivity quiver!

Inktober finale

This post is late, for which I apologize. I actually did the drawing first thing in the morning after getting the girl on the bus to school. No words today, just outline work.

Prompt was “mask.” This Noh mask is in the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison. Done with brush pen. The face is too elongated, but I’m still pretty happy with it.



Never lost

I wrote more than 300 words today, adding to the beginning of Troll Tunnels, and I really like the way it’s shaping up. Signed up formally on NaNoWriMo as a NaNo Rebel, too, to finish this up, then maybe start up a novella if there’s time.

If I nap tomorrow to stay up until midnight, however, it’s so I can listen to the final episode of Steal the Stars when it drops, not to get a head start on my writing.

Today’s Inktober prompt was “found.” This tiny white flower was on I found underfoot while at Rocky Mountain National Park, although “discovered” might be a better term.

drawing of small flowers

small alpine flowers