Category Archives: Cons

Fantastic Fantasy

IMG_9512Word of mouth…a powerful marketing tool. I picked The Lies of Locke Lamora by new writer, Scott Lynch, because of a recommendation from a very reliable source.

I wasn’t let down.

This is a debut book that feels like a pro wrote it. The story takes place in a fictional island city of Camoor, very much like Venice, and tells the tale of Locke Lamora, a ragged orphan child who dodges death and slavery in a world of vicious nobles and ruthless cutthroats. He is taken under the wing of a consummate con artist who goes by the name of Chains. By day Chains manacles himself to the pillars of the temple where he begs for alms while his small band of thieves strips upperclass nobles of their wealth. But hidden deep below the temple is a money trove Chains has accumulated over the years and rooms with all the comforts of a nobleman’s home.

The Lies of Locke LamoraNothing is what it seems.

Locke joins this small light-fingered band, known as the Gentlemen Bastards, and receives advanced training in all things from gourmet cooking to consummate duplicity. Soon, Locke becomes the brains of the outfit, creating outrageous thievery and even scamming the underworld’s most feared ruler.

Until, from past shadows stirs someone even more audacious who plans to use Locke for a violent and bloody coup.

The book is full of twists and turns, fun banter among the band of young thieves, and pulse pounding action as they dare to trick the powerful and ruthless nobles of the land. It’s a combination of “Robin Hood,” “Mission Impossible” and “The Sting.”

The story also reminds me of Lynn Abbey’s Thieves World, which I also enjoyed.Theives World

Scott Lynch’s next book has just come out and is called Red Seas under Red Skies, and continues the saga of Locke Lamora. It will be interesting to see if it is as good as the first in this new exciting series.

Red Skies under Red Sead

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Filed under Cons, fantasy, fantasy series

Overheard Conversations

“Down the hall. It’s a 10 x10 room with an orc in it.”

“That second glass of toxic waste is what did me in last night.”

“She’s with either the klingon or a guy in an aviator’s outfit.”

YEP, you guessed it.   ORYCON. Where else would you see a cardboard box with a periscope peeking out and riding an elevator? Or a captain of a spaceship walking in Earth heavy gravity?

Orycon is Portland’s annual science fiction/fantasy Con. And it can get pretty weird…and wonderful.Vance Kovacs

One of the most important things  writers can do is to attend a workshop, a Con, or join an association or a writer’s group. Get out and about and meet your readers and fellow authors. Learn something new and make new acquaintances. I met my editor at a Con and the leader of my writers’ group.

Boy, am I glad I did.

Here in Oregon, Orycon is the big event where writers can learn how to hone their writing skills, navigate the treacherous waters of publishing, and network with fellow writers and well-known science fiction and fantasy authors through panels and chance encounters. There’s a whole gaming culture, art gallery and deep into the evening…there’s filking.

This year  Author Guest of Honor was my friend Mike Shepherd who whispered that he just got offered a three book contract for a new series with a new protagonist in the universe of Kris Longknife. Artist Guest of Honor was Vance Kovacs. Check out his beautiful pictures on book covers, movie treatments, games and films at (see picture above) Editor Jess Hartley has her fingers in the pies of gaming, fiction and game design. Media Guest of Honor, Aaron Duran has a popular blog and podcast called

Gaming entrepreneur Clayton Callahan brought gaming fun with his “Quick and Easy Games.”

I attended two writing workshops where in August I had turned in 7500 words  each of two upcoming novels to be evaluated by professional authors. (Bill Nolan being one) If my ego can weather the corrections, my stories will be stronger for all the great comments offered me.

Special thanks again to Carole Cole who does a fantastic job at arranging everything for the writers’ workshops…down to the chocolate. Criticism goes so much better when there’s chocolate in your mouth.

Some suggested venues for this area are: the Willamette Writer’s Conference, The Clarion Workshop and other private workshops. These cost more money, but are not genre specific and do not require costuming skills. Local writing groups are sprinkled around the area. Check them out. Powell’s Bookstore in Cedar Crossing has a great science fiction book club if you are an avid reader and want to join up with folks with the same interests. Also associations such a the Northwest Independent Writers Association and the Portland Writers Group offers networking opportunities where writers share what they know and talk about their work.

And there’s no telling what you might overhear at any of them. Get out, get about and join the fun.

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Filed under alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, book fairs, Classic science fiction, Cons, fantasy, Filking, military, military science fiction, science fiction, science fiction series

Analyzing Aliens

When writing, or reading best selling science fiction, usually there are aliens. As a writer, this can get really tricky, for if your aliens are really different, i.e. alien, then most likely, your readers won’t understand them or relate to them. This does not make for a good story usually. Your readers need to get engaged and identify with your protagonist, and the characters in your book.

That is the reason I went with the Earth colony idea and threw in variances caused by a different environment, much the same as the wildly popular Darkover Series by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I wanted to write stories that my readers could relate to.

Most of my characters are humanoid because it’s hard to love a slime worm or rancid igrot. Still in Past the Event Horizon just as they rediscover the alien signal, the crew on my spaceship The Seeker discuss what might be out there in space, and what an alien might look like:

Here’s an excerpt:

Idly Joel said, “What do you think they look like?”

Everyone paused.

“Surely someone has a bet?” commented Braden.

“I’ve got money on blobs that float,” answered Glaze. “They live in the ether and inhale methane.”

“Blobs?” Icabar snorted. “That’s ridiculous. You need dexterous digits to build a stargate.” He grinned and flexed his hand. “I’ll take your bet, and I’ll take your money.”

“It’s not a big bet.” Glaze shrugged.

“My money’s on a hive mind and insect-like creatures.” Icabar looked up. “The leader has a big brain and lots of worker bees.”

Solanje shook her head. “Insects stay small on Alysia because they can’t support a heavy exoskeleton under our gravity. No, I think, maybe, something with tentacles and eyes that shoot out on stalks. Something tall and skinny that survives in a light gravity.”

Glaze twirled around. “Tessa thinks they’re living plants with wavy fronds that walk on stalk legs.”

“Geesh, she would think something like that,” commented Icabar. “Just like a botanist.”

“Maybe they’re all hairy with ugly sharp teeth and red eyes,” offered Bashar.

“Putting money on that?” Icabar gave a grin.

Bashar smirked and shook his head.

“What about ghosts?” Joel blurted out. “Ghosts that glow in the dark.”

“I think bird creatures with wings,” chimed in Solanje, flapping her arms.

“Yes, wings,” mumbled Joel.

Braden pursed his lips and thought. “They need digit like hands so they can manipulate materials and build stuff. The need eyes to see and sensory equipment…feet and legs to walk with.”

The crew realized that they were parameters and rules that would dictate what an alien might look like, or  how it might act.

Over the ages, science fiction stories have depicted many kinds of aliens. Once again, I have to reference Veronica Sicoe because when I went to write a blog on aliens, I thought of her “Thirteen rules for aliens” blog. Witty and funny, she has some real thoughtful things to say.  A few examples below, highlighted in bold, are from her, but for the complete blog, go to

Here are just a few of her rules and my comments.

1. Aliens should be alien. The problem I have with this is that it’s like trying to visualize the fifth dimension. One dimension…easy, two dimensions…easy, three dimensions are easy to understand. I live with them every day. Fourth dimension of time, I kinda get, but go past that and my mind starts to turn to jelly, trying to understand what it would look like. Same with an alien. If it’s truly alien, then how can I understand it or even try to write about it? Would my readers even care whether it lives or dies if they can’t understand it.

2. Aliens have their own history. This is totally true. And what fun to construct a culture and history for an alien race. Going wild here.

3. Aliens that are naturally telepathic won’t grasp the concept of language. Interesting. Most likely true, but what if only a select few are telepathic and most others aren’t. Then you have to  have a language for the nontelepaths in the society. If there’s no language for your alien because they are all telepathic, then how on God’s green Earth are you going to write a book? Ommmm. No words.

4. Aliens that can’t hold a tool, won’t invent space ships. Love this one. So if your alien is a blob, or chittering insect, better have flexible mandibles if they are going to go far…like outer space.

5.If aliens have a different body chemistry (and alien means that they do) then they aren’t going to eat human food.  And a corollary to that is that humans won’t be able to eat the alien food. Makes sense, but I bent the rules a little here. So if you have your characters land on an alien planet, they’d better be well supplied or they could starve.

6. If they don’t look human, then they most likely have a different definition of beauty. Silky filaments probably turn on the Jovian worm lord, but for you, me and our reader…ugh. Maybe the males on Cassiopeia don’t appreciate the fine curves of Marilyn Monroe. Heh! Finally. I don’t mind competing with the three-eyed felix from Raegon…unless the judge is the three-eyed male felix.

There are seven more interesting rules for aliens that Veronica outlines that every author should think about when inventing aliens and an alien world. Maybe aliens aren’t visiting us because their worlds are so different, and our environment would kill them.  Oh remember, War of the Worlds. A very clever book.

So, my aliens have very human characteristics because I wanted my readers to relate and thought it would be fun to create a whole new world and see what human descendants would do there…much like Marion Zimmer Bradley did.

One of the reasons I decided to highlight her series this week is because of Deborah J. Ross. She was asked to co-author a trilogy with Bradley that takes place during the Age of Chaos. Marion had gotten very ill, but could dictate and talk, so they would sit and discuss plot and characters for the trilogy. After Bradley’s death, Deborah wrote more in the Darkover Universe: Lord Hasteur , A Flame in Hali and in the modern era, The Alton Gift and Zandran’s Forge.

Deborah Ross went to Portland State University and attended Orycon, where I got to meet her not long ago. She personally signed her novel The Fall of Neskaya for me and is a charming, delightful person. So I wanted to introduce her to my readers.

Since there are a lot novels written by Bradley and also several co-authored by others, so it becomes a daunting task to take on Darkover completely. Start with Darkover:  First Contact ,  Ages of Chaos and Ross’s Fall of Neskaya and Zandru’s Forge. That should get you started. You can take it from there.

Not only does the series have stories of great male and female relationships, but Bradley has a strong feminist bias that she reveals in her Renunciate characters. Her female characters are strong and well defined. On Darkover, the Chierys are elusive, indigenous, humanoid creatures that affect the crashed spaceship of humans and imbue a select few with Laran. Laran brings about various special powers in the humans, among which telepathy, weather control, remote viewing are a few. Those with laran form towers where they are trained to use their talent and develop a network of communication with other towers.

My Alysian humans also take on special powers brought on by an alien crystal.

Bradley intertwines local politics, and later after centuries, the lost  Darkover colony is discovered by Earthlings, causing  an interesting conflict of native inhabitant and invading humans. How the two struggle to co-exist makes for fun reading.

I recommend the series. Each book can be read on its own for the most part, but you’ll probably want to read on and immerse yourself in a whole new world…with a touch of the alien lingering in the ambience.

What do you think an alien should look like?


Filed under alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, Classic science fiction, Cons, first contact, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, Science fiction world building

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty pleasures…chocolate…definitely chocolate. A glass of fancy wine, not the table stuff…the good stuff…a new outfit, shoes maybe and yes, ice cream…with a rich fudge topping and cherry on top.

And a really good science fiction novel.

Sometimes on Sunday morning, my mother would line us all up for church and count noses. She had three girls and a boy to get ready, so it was quite an undertaking. We’d be standing there at the door ready to go and dad would be missing. He had the car keys, so she would go searching, only to find him in the bathroom hunkered down, avidly reading some science fiction book.

He’d look up and blink. A guilty pleasure.

She wanted him out and about DOING something useful. He just wanted the excitement of strange worlds and exotic creatures.

I am my father’s daughter.

One of my favorite authors has a new book coming out November 6. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMasters Bujold. I thought I would give you a heads up, since this is the latest in a long series, and you might need a running start.

One of the things that older series best selling science fiction authors are doing is combining several books, repackaging them and reselling them with a new title and new cover. Lois is doing this, so be aware that what might look like a new book could be just two novels combined with maybe a novella or short story added in. I know she had some issues with the covers when some of the earlier books first came out, particularly Mirror Dance, but the latest covers are really nice.

In traditional publishing, authors have no say over how their covers look. Some can be pretty awful and the Mirror Dance cover was grim. Lois even said so.

I bought it anyway.

The new ebooks also are allowing, nay encouraging, authors to put out short stories and novellas since shelf space is not an issue with them. So she has sprinkled a few of those on Amazon.

Now I have met Lois and was amazed at how natural and down to Earth she was. She was really nice, and not weird like some scifi authors can be. She was a guest author at Orycon back in 1998 and I had her sign several of my books by her.

Her series centers on Mile Vorkosigan, who is handicapped by a birth accident and his bones are very brittle. He is also extremely short. However, what his body lacks, his mind makes up for and he gets into unbelievable situations with his manic behavior and wild schemes. Lois has a wicked sense of humor, which I  enjoy very much. Miles has a clone brother, and a cousin Ivan. This newest book is supposed to be about Ivan and his escapades and I am eager to check it out. I’ll read it and let you know down the road how I liked it.

Before you read the newest one, you might start with the earlier books. Barrayar (won a Hugo1992), Shards of Honor, The Warrior’s Apprentice, The Vor Game (won Hugo 1991), Brothers in Arms, Borders of Infinity, Falling Free (won Nebula 1988) Ethan of Athos, Mirror Dance,(Hugo 1995) Young Miles, A Civil AffairCyroburn (latest out 9/2011) and others repackaged. She also has two fantasy series you can look into if you like fantasy, or just a good read. Paladin of Souls (won both Hugo and Nebula 2004).

She has quite dominated these prestigious awards, so I’m not the only one who likes her. You might too.

A guilty pleasure.

Currently, I’m reading several series books that I recommended earlier.  Mad Ship by Robin Hobbs is an older novel while Sisterhood of Dune is just out by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert. I’m enjoying both.

I’ll report on them soon, so stay tuned.

Enjoy what’s left of summer. Enjoy a guilty pleasure…or two.


Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Classic science fiction, Cons, Hugo winners, military, military science fiction, Nebula nominations, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, Science fiction world building

Involved in a Con

One way well known best selling science fiction authors get better known is to network at various cons. A complete list of cons by date can be found at:  

While some of my better known fellow authors flit all over the world, networking and being on panels, I stick closer to home. Right now Phyllis Irene Radford of the Merlin Trilogy fame and dragon trilogies is conning in Boston. She also just edited a steam punk anthology Gears and Levers–and David Levine is a top listed contributor. More about his activities further on.

I am currently putting together two submissions for Orycon’s Writers Workshop program ably headed by Carole Cole. Orycon is Portland’s science fiction/fantasy convention that usually takes place in early November. This year, local writer Mike Shepherd is the guest host. I have mentioned his popular Kris Longknife series and now he is coming out with a new one in October. Stay tuned. Here is the preorder cover. Mike is also in our Portland Writers group and recently told me that his latest novel has an intriguing premise. 

Deadline for workshop submissions is August 24, so it kinda creeps up on me. Who’s thinking about November when it’s 90 degrees out?

So I’m scrambling again.

Last year Bill Nolan of “Logan’s Run” fame gave one of my critiques. Usually two or three amateur writers submit their first 7500 words and a 500 word summary to two or three professionals for critiquing. It’s a rare opportunity to get a one on one writing evaluation of your work by several well know authors.

I talked about Mars and the landing of Curiosity last week on my blog. Lots of programs are researching what we’ll need to do and have to live on Mars. Portland writer and adventurer David Levine participated in a two week Mars immersion and blogged about it. If you are interested in what living on Mars might be like, check out his blog at:

I found it fascinating.

And OMG!!! I just got this link from a new twitter pal. You have to look at it! As I am finishing up edits on my space travel book, “Past the Event Horizon,” this will give you a real sense of being out in space. It’s video from the International Space Station looking back at Earth with awesome music and great photography. Check it out. The book after “Past the Event” deals with events on a space station, so this is exciting to me.

With reruns on TV, I have been looking for good new science fiction to read, but very little looks intriguing. What are you reading this summer?

Morgen Bailey has a robust website and one of her pages has a list of Indie writing. Organized by the author’s first, then last name, it gives the genre and a short synopsis. Check out Sheron McCartha and then scan other offerings you might like. All genres are represented so you don’t have to just like science fiction.

Fly high and fly straight and I’ll talk to you next week unless we twitter before then.


Filed under Best selling science fiction, blog information, Classic science fiction, Cons, dragons, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Mars, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, science news, Uncategorized

Return to Normal



I’M Baaack…

Once again, Orycon was a banquet of experiences from the scifi/fantasy world.

This year the costume of choice was Steampunk. Many men wore WWI kaki uniforms with goggles on leather hoods and several women appeared in Victorian, low cut, ruffled gowns with waving feathered bonnets. An arbitrary Startrek uniform popped up, now and then, with an occasional exotic horror costume making an appearance. There was a parade.

Coming in from the hotel’s garage, I had to warn an innocent out of town traveler that he wasn’t really entering the Twilight Zone…or maybe he was.

I attended formal panels on “To Outline or Not to Outline: that is the Question.” and “Writing with all Your Senses”, “Social Networking Sites”, “Blah, blah, bah she said”, “Spaceships, Colonists and castaways”, and several more

The most amazing panel for me was on Sunday.

I almost didn’t go.

This was on isolated communities and entitled, “Spaceships, Colonists and Castaways.” Since my fifth novel takes place on a spaceship with an enclosed environment that causes lots of stress, I decided to attend. I had no idea that David Levine participated in a Mars simulation where they were isolated as if on a spaceship with limited water and resources for the amount of time it would take to get to Mars.

He had appeared so normal at the luncheons!

And Camille Alexa, also part of my Portland Luncheon Writers group, relayed her experience the night before of being trapped in an Orycon elevator with twelve other people. Eventually, the emergency rescue squad pried them out, but not before she had trouble breathing the diminishing air supply. Panic does strange things to people.

G. David Nordley related his military experiences of being in charge of a unit that was isolated in a foreign country where, in order to alleviate boredom, four soldiers brewed some alcohol and then challenged each other to a drinking contest. He walked in after they had drunk quite a bit, but just in time to stop them from further drinking. They later thanked him for saving their lives. But not all. One died. Death by friendly liquid? Try explaining  that to a soldier’s mother.

While the panels were informative, the best part was networking.

Mary Rosenblum confided that she is working on a sequel to Horizons. Mary heads up a program called The New Writers Interface. It provides services and workshops for new aspiring authors.

Mike Shepherd talked about a brand new series he is planning after having so much success with his Kris Longknife novels.

M. K. Hobson, Nebula nominee for 2011, graciously signed my copy of The Native Star while standing in line at the lobby desk and mentioned that she had just published its sequel. Check her out on Amazon.

And William K. Nolan, of “Logan’s Run” fame, was one of three who critiqued the first 7,000 words of one of my future novels in the Alysian Series that I am currently working on. Yipes!

The writers’ workshops were constructive and tough, but all the stories will be better because of the time and care the pros took with their critiques. I want to thank Carole Cole for the outstanding job she did on organizing it. Kudos Carole.

I came home exhausted and humbled, but wiser in the ways of book writing.

I didn’t hear very much about Indie Publishing. The elephant in the room was ignored as far as my experience went. Everyone talked about query letters, proper submission format and waiting years for a response. There was a lot of talk about newly published short stories, not so much on newly published novels.

I was amazed. I had expected more about self-publishing. The whole industry is going through an upheaval and change and not much was said about it at the convention. Well-known editors were either absent or hiding out in a Steampunk disguise. Most of the attendees had gray hair and lined faces. I wondered where our young future writers were.

Most likely twittering or face booking. They weren’t at Orycon.

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Filed under Cons, dragons, fantasy, Filking, science fiction

Working a Con

A klingon warrior walks arm in arm with a buxom medieval damsel. An earnest young writer in glasses taps the arm of a grizzled gray well-known author. Both laugh. Someone in the background is humming a song under their breath.

Where am I?

Orycon….that’s where.

Orycon is Oregon’s annual science fiction/fantasy conference and it’s loads of fun and packed full of information for the ambitious writer. Successful authors sit on panels every hour to offer sage advice on the art of the novel while fully costumed sane and not so sane humans stroll the premises.

I am registered into two writing workshops where 7,000 words each of my next two manuscripts will be scrutinized and discussed. In addition, I have prepared critiques for four other writers to help them improve on their work.

Should be interesting.

I will meet and see many friends and acquaintances that have come to the conference ever since I started attending over ten years ago. One is now my editor, another heads up the evening writing group that I joined last year after meeting her at Orycon.

One writer I first noticed behind me in line ten years ago with a towering stack of books to have signed. Then, the following year Mike Moscoe was announcing a three book contract with a top line publisher. Silence and then after missing a conference, when I returned, he had a new name, a new book and he hasn’t looked back since. Mike Shepherd now has a row of books in front of him when he sits on panel dispensing wisdom. Mutineer: Kris Longknife starts it all and she continues her adventures throughout so many novels that I have lost count. But you can check them all out on Amazon.

I had lunch with Mary Rosenblum and others last month at the Portland Writers Group. She and several others in the group will be heading up panels. Irene Radford among them. I have been following Mary’s career starting when she won short story writer of the year from Fantasy and Science Fiction several years ago, through her mystery trilogy, and back to science fiction with her novel Horizons. (which I enjoyed). I look forward to what she has cooking now.

I have met famous writers such as Lois McMasters Bujold, only to find her down to earth and very personable. I sat at a table with heavyweight editors of Tor, Patrick Nielsen Haydon and his wife Teresa and heard their side of the publishing story. Nasa scientists have shown up on panel to explain String Theory and nanobots.

This year I will attend panels on “Spicing Up Your Hero”, “Social Networking Sites”, “How to Organize your Critique Group” and the obligatory “Chicks in Chainmail.” I will skip, but others will attend, “Putting the Game Back Into Gameplaying” and “Stitch and Bitch.”

I do not Filk.

But I understand that it’s lots of fun and late into the night, normally sane people dress up in wild fictional costumes, sing, dance, drink and otherwise have a merry time. Filking is taking a known song and adding you own words along with much drink, laughter and good time.

So I start tonight with the meet and greet…and must be on my way soon.

Should I be a Klingon Female Warrior or a Fallen Angel? Nah…. I guess I’ll just stick to my every day costume. It’s fantastical enough.

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Filed under Cons, Filking, military, science fiction, Uncategorized