Happy Pi-Day … See You at Pi-Con! ‘Distilled Wisdom’ Debuts

Long time since my last post. Sorry, real life got in the way.

I’m now a full-time, self-employed, entrepreneurial, 1099 magnet, so I’ve had to take care of business. I found a way of blending journalism with consulting, and squeezing 40 professional-rate hours a week out of it, but I do have to stay on top of things to keep the cash flowing.

But now that I’ve got things stabilized on career front, I can make time for my writerly pursuits. One odd confluence is that I’m now working out of a client’s office which is six blocks from KGB Bar, home of the Fantastic Fiction readings — and only a block and a half away from the Grand Sichuan restaurant to which the crowd adjourns afterwards. (Not much farther away from The Strand, which is dangerous.)

Anyway, I’m getting back to actual writing. Time to finish Augie, then get started on the next thing. My train reading these days is Paul Witcover’s The Emperor of All Things, which I highly recommend to my steampunky friends (it takes place about a hundred years before The Difference Engine, but what’s speculative fiction if it doesn’t push a little?), and there’s a phrase that’s oft-repeated in the last half of the book. This phrase — which I think Paul borrowed from William T. Vollmann — pried open a creative crevice in my head and I feel a story wriggling out. More on this some other time.

The news I was saving for Pi Day is that I’ll be a program participant at Pi-Con, July 31-August 2 near Hartford, Conn. Looking forward to hanging with GOH Tanya Huff, whose Torin Kerr could kick Honor Harrington’s ass halfway across the galaxy. Don’t know what panels I’ll be on yet, so watch this space. I’ll also be reading — and who knows what else? — at Jennifer Jesia’s relaxicon, this coming weekend (i.e., Lunacon weekend), March 20-21, at the Homewood Suites Long Island-Melville (which is actually in Plainview). The readings will be from Mighty Mighty and Pitch Ribbons.

Another update: I’m following through with my threat to vlog my notes on panel discussions I attend as an audience member. This series of short vids, In which I’ll be discussing the craft of genre literature while imbibing top-shelf spirits, is titled, “Distilled Wisdom”. I just posted the first: the Arisia 2015 panel, “So You Think You Can Write a Fight Scene” modded by Keith R.A. DeCandido and comprising Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, Catt Kingsgrave, James MacDonald, Mark Millman and Resa Nelson. It’s here on the Streaming Media page.

That’s it for now. See you this weekend here on Long Island, over the summer at Pi-Con, or who-knows-where-else!

Arisia: My favorite con keeps getting even better

The upside to the recent convention cancellations here in New York is that I’m free to honestly name my favorite fan convention. It’s Arisia. And I can say that loud and proud without worrying I’m the only Red Sox fan in a Yankees bar.

I really look forward to MLK weekend every year. I’ve been adopted by a tribe of 4,000 people with whom I’m totally at home. The guy you see at the Westin wearing my face (and my dad’s hair) is the legit me. It’s like all I do 361 days a year is roll-play, then I spend four days being myself. Considering the whole concept of Arisia is roll-playing, I understand just how fucked up that sounds, but I don’t care. I love the people I met at Arisia. I love reuniting with others on the East Coast con “circuit” with whom I’ll be hanging out at another hotel bar in another city in another month. I love the costumes. I love the cult movies. I love going to the dealers’ room and buying a book by an author who I know I’ll soon run into and be able to get his or her signature (I’ve recently retired the lipstick bit after acquiring an enviable collection). I love finding craft-made cufflinks or watches or bill clips which I can purchase for roughly the same price as corporate stooges pay for theirs at Men’s Wearhouse. But most of all, I love the panels.

I missed Arisia last year. Without going too deep into my tales of woe, I had a shitty year and a half, financially and otherwise, but mainly financially. That truest version of me who shows up at Arisia is an epicure and bon vivant, one who celebrates both vice and virtue as essential elements of living fully. That kind of free-spiritedness is an expensive hobby, and I just couldn’t keep up appearances. I might have been able to attend Arisia 2014, but I wouldn’t have actually been there.

It looked like 2015 was going to be another miss but, just this past Thursday, I got the call I’d been waiting for since two Julys ago. Nothing I can formally announce at the moment, but it looks like I’ll very soon be back in the chips. Considering the timing of the call, there was very little thought involved in how and where I was going to celebrate.

I have some small regret that I wasn’t able to commit to attending Arisia 2015 until the day of, because I had to decline the invitation to return as a program participant. But no tears. For the first time, I was able to attend Arisia in a completely unstructured manner. I didn’t have any panel or reading commitments. I didn’t have the luxury of the green room to hide out in. I didn’t have to get anything delivered or copied or signed for. I could just hang out. And so I did.

And this turned out to be the most productive Arisia ever for me. I even sold a couple copies of Mighty Mighty, but that’s almost beside the point. There were no scheduling conflicts between the panels I was assigned and the ones I wanted to attend. There was no jealousy about “I know more about this-or-that than so-and-so — the nerve of putting him on that panel instead of me!” I didn’t have to speak at all. So I got to listen.

There were at least three or four standout panels I had the privilege of sitting in the back and listening to. And I do mean “standout”. There was nary a wasted microphone. The people on the panels were all deserving of the honor and delivered sage advice which I hoarded in my notebook.

Going forward, instead of vlogging con reports, I’ll be drilling down into specific panel topics in occasional (monthly?) video segments which will be called “Distilled Wisdom”. The first, coming soon, will be on writing fight scenes. Watch this space.

Meantime, I’m going to get back to work on short stories that I hope to get placed in upcoming anthos and start the serious grind on Augie. Playing in the background, at least one publisher is taking a long look at Pitch Ribbons. I’ll let you know as that develops.

Wow. I went on a lot longer than I intended to (or had time for). I don’t tend toward introspection so sorry I got lost in the unfamiliar territory. Hope to see you at Arisia 2016 at the very latest!

Works in progress

I was hoping to be able to tell you about my Lunacon and LI-Con schedules by now, but that’ll have to keep. No blame! It can’t be easy organizing conventions. All I can tell you about that for the moment is what I reported about a month ago: The launch party featuring Mighty Mighty and other, more worthy titles is scheduled for Saturday night at Lunacon.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been a busy little nut case.

As I mentioned here shortly after returning from Arisia, where I gave a first reading of my newly completed novel (well, pre-submission draft at least) and generated a little buzz from agents. I’ve gotten some positive vibes back from the beta readers for Pitch Ribbons: A Cantata for Four Voices, but I’m still waiting on all the manuscripts to come back with notes. I’m sure I’ll  have some work to do once those chickens roost. Meantime, I know certain sections that absolutely need rewrite. You see, a lot of Pitch Ribbons takes place on motorcycles, which I’ve never ridden in my life. So I went and got my Class M learner’s permit and am going for lessons. Within the month, I should be a licensed rider. Yes, I thought I was smarter than that too, but I’ve always been a stickler for research. I never want my ignorance to take a reader out of a story.

I have to admit, it was a little jarring when the DMV lady asked, while handing me my temporary permit, if I wished to be an organ donor.

“I hope not,” I replied, then explained I already have that designation on my driver’s license.

Then she showed me the results from my written test.

“Congratulations!” she chirped. “You only got two wrong!”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I want on my tombstone: ‘HE ONLY GOT TWO WRONG.'”

Assuming I live long enough, though, I will continue working on my next attempt at a commercially successful, or critically acclaimed, or at least widely witnessed train wreck of a novel. I just started on it next week, so I’ll tell you more about it as it takes shape.

But here’s what I can say about my new work in progress. The villain’s name will be David Stolarz, the name of the winner of a  raffle to benefit the Boy Scout troop for which I serve as an assistant scoutmaster.  (Yes, you read that right.) In addition to the tuckerization, Dave won signed copies of Land That I Love, Age of Certainty, and an advanced reader’s copy of Mighty Mighty. And if that’s not enough, he also won a $25 dry-cleaning gift certificate.

I can also tell you that it is a return to social satire and speculative fiction parody. The kind of skewering I gave to the superhero genre in Mighty Mighty I now apply to such near-future police procedurals as Almost Human or RoboCop. And as Mighty2 concerned itself with the limitations people saddle themselves with, this new novel will focus on  overt bigotry, unconscious prejudice, cultural appropriation, the hypocrisy of conservatism as a social movement, the privileges of the descendants of those who made the rules, and the sense of entitlement that engenders.

Wow, that sounds pretty deep, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, I’m too much of an intellectual lightweight to be taken seriously about any of it.

The working title is Augie and the first line is “You can tell a lot about somebody by sniffing his anus.”

You’ll love it. Trust me. But something tells me David Stolarz will never speak to me again.

PS: Please say something nice on Amazon and GoodReads!