Category Archives: Filking

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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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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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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