Tag Archives: Orycon

A Space Launch

It’s a space launch! Wahoo!  Past the Event Horizon is finally published! Kennedy declared that man should land on the moon and ten years later, we made it. While it hasn’t been ten years launching Past the Event Horizon, or maybe it has, a book about traveling through space has all kinds of challenges and is really fun to write.

One challenge is gravity. Low gravity is hard on the human body. Take your characters away from Earth’s gravity and you encounter all sorts of problems. Bones decalcify, blood flow changes, digestion stymies. Currently, the answer is to provide centripetal force, or gravity induced by spinning parts of the ship. When this stops and zero gravity occurs, the human body and all things around it float and provide amusing experiences.

In one episode, on his way to a crisis, Captain Braden encounters a floating sock. Sex in zero gravity is different also. Body parts float, and there is always the action, reaction law. Push at someone and you’re likely to be rebounding off of walls or furniture. So, the crew snickers about tethering each other on certain occasions.

Providing edible food in space is a challenge. On my ship the Seeker, we have the farm, which uses wide spectrum light to grow plant food and duckweed and water hyacinths to filter water. The diet is soy based supplemented by animal proteins and grown vegetables. Miniature goats and chickens are present. In an extended voyage, keeping the menu interesting would be difficult. However, as Captain Braden says in the story, “People will eat anything if they’re hungry enough.” And it is the wide variety of foods that humans can eat that has helped us survive. We’re flexible eaters, but keeping the crew healthy and fed is a real challenge.

Enclosing twelve people in a small space with no egress strains the human psyche. Currently around the world, a number of experiments have been run to assess what people will do in such an environment. Check out David LeVine’s blog at Mars journal: http://www.bentopress.com/mars/My editor, and not a few in my writing group, protested the antics of several of the crew on board my ship.

Then, I attended a panel at Orycon on enclosed space habitats and learned of some of the extreme behaviors human beings resort to when enclosed with each other for prolonged periods of time. One of the panelists quoted an experiment in an enclosed habitat that had to be discontinued due to violence and serious death threats. On board the Seeker, a lot of the crew make bets to keep themselves amused. Never did I mention what the payoff for these bets was. I thought I would just let the readers imagine that part. Emotions often get high, people jockey for power, and there is an attempted rape by a frustrated male. Yes, I had a mixed crew. As I wrote, “The crew was mixed military and civilian, mixed male and female, mixed nationalities and temperaments. In total, a handful of headaches thanks to the thoughtful selections of Mission Control. And lately, everyone was getting cranky with everyone else.”

I had to think about how to power the ship both inside and out. I decided to walk on the wild side of science and, once the ship is in deep space, it uses a dark matter propulsion matrix that powers the ship along. Sucking up dark matter and spitting out bits provides propulsion in frictionless space. Because once you get going, there’s little to slow you down. I have a magnetic field surround the ship to protect it from random space debris and radiation, much like the magnetic field around Earth protects it. While I was in the neighborhood of wild science, I put in a stargate. The wild ride through the stargate provided some fun reading.

Excerpt:

“Some kind of beam has locked onto us and is pulling us toward that energy mass’s center,” Bashar shouted.

Braden activated his emergency comm to Adam and commanded, “Reverse engines. Increase reverse thrusters, NOW!”

From the engine pod, Adam’s voice could be heard yelling, “I can’t! I can’t! I’m trying. We’re picking up speed. Nothing’s responding. It’s got some kind of grip on us.”

Braden stared at various digital readouts that began to flicker wildly, recording huge leaps of increasing speed. Red lights started to flash all over Navcom. He saw Bashar’s hands fluttering over helm’s board, as chunks of rock grew larger and closer in the overhead monitor. Soon, the overhead screen showed bright flashes as bits and pieces of rocks hit the magnetic field and disintegrated into bursts of light. A fanfare of fireworks circled all around the outside of the ship. A violent jolt to the left smashed Braden against something hard. He blinked and put a hand to the side of his head. Pulling it away, he saw blood coating his palm.

Sweat poured down Bashar’s face as he jabbed at the control board. Blinking red lights flashed collision alert warnings. Another sharp jerk, this time to the right, caused Bashar’s fingers to slide over his board. He shook one hand to his side to bring back feeling, while the other gripped a control lever even more tightly.

TAKE HOLD…ALL PERSONNEL SECURE FOR TURBULANCE…TAKE HOLD. The ship’s computer blared out warning.

“We are experiencing severe turbulence. Everyone get in and stay secured,” announced Braden through the comm. Bashar’s hands started to shake uncontrollably from the strain of holding the ship’s course. Bashar bit his lip and bright blood swelled at the corner of his mouth.

Icabar glanced over worriedly.

A path began clearing again. The ship gave a quick jerk to the right to avoid a large asteroid that tumbled by outside.

The computer started flickering and printing error messages.

Frag, no! They couldn’t lose the computers at a time like this!

Braden stared across the gaping void and a visible hole began to iris open at its center.

They were going to be swallowed alive!”

And so they enter the stargate into a new universe where they discover ALIENS!

Yes, the whole purpose of the mission is to find the aliens that created the probe that crash-landed on Alysia. And find them, they do. And that is just the beginning of what they discover.

What the aliens look like, what they do and how they change the entire crew and what amazing things Braden and his crew  find out in deep space, well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Thanks to all who helped birth this one. I appreciate you all. Now go forth and spread the word. Or grab one and enjoy the read.

Available as both paperback and online through Amazon.

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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. www.mikeshepherd.org. Artist Guest of Honor was Vance Kovacs. Check out his beautiful pictures on book covers, movie treatments, games and films at www.Vancekovacs.com. (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 www.geekinthecity.com.

Gaming entrepreneur Clayton Callahan brought gaming fun with his “Quick and Easy Games.” http://www.quickandeasygames.wordpress.com

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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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.

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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: http://www.smofinfo.com/LL/TheLongList.html  

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:   http://www.bentopress.com/mars/

I found it fascinating.

And OMG!!! I just got this link from a new twitter pal. http://vimeo.com/45878034. 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.

http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-other-peoples/novels-novellas/

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

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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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