Convention Review: Capclave 2012


For my last con of the year, it was off to Clapclave, which was in Maryland.  Not that far for me, but I was glad I stayed in the hotel.  The temperature dropped on the first day, and it was cold and windy.  I think everyone was a little scratchy.

The con itself had a studious vibe to it.  There were a lot of workshops — nothing too crazy like what would the military do during a zombie apocalypse (at a previous con).  There was one on research that was interesting and had a surprise guest, A.C. Crispin.  One on Details was a waste of time for me — they focused more on doing too much and I felt like they blew off my question about not being detail oriented.  The result was that they might as have been talking in French, and I didn’t speak the language.

The one workshop that really caught my attention was “Online Presence.”  The first thing was that the authors on the panel came across as knowledgeable.  In the other ones I’ve been to, it sounds like the lost leading the lost.  Panelists included Jamie Todd Rubin, Morgan Reyes, and John Scalazi.

For the writers here, we all know that publishers say we have to have a platform and promote ourselves via social media.  Platform is about expertise and credentials.  When I first heard about platform, non-fiction writers were blogging about it, telling fiction writers they needed a platform.  But beyond that, there wasn’t any answers.  And there still isn’t.  If I run a time management business for creative people, I have a platform because that expertise and credentials are there.  That’s going to be the reason readers will buy the book and visit me on social media.

But fiction?  What the heck do you do with that?

So one of the things that was mentioned at the workshop was that platform makes no sense for fiction writers, and that it’s been abused so much that it doesn’t mean anything.  It’s just a way for the publishers not to do their job.

Thank you! That mirrors my opinion.  I see other writers saying that platform is essential, but all those writers fit into three categories:

  1. Already published, so they have the credibility for the platform and are growing their existing base.
  2. Their platform is focused in a non-fiction area (usually for writers).
  3. They are already published in fiction, but are focusing on a non-fiction platform (usually for writers).

Other points that came out of the workshop:

  • Not everyone is suited for an online presence.
  • People are going to know when you’re going through the motions (I think this about 3/4s of the writers on Twitter who keep spamming me because I’m a writer).

But what’s a successful example?

  • Something that’s a joy to read.
  • Make it worth someone’s time.

So I’ll leave you with this question: Do you believe in platform for fiction authors?

VISIT

Shannon Knight’s blog post on Making Zombies, which poses the interesting question of “Why are we drawn to monsters?”

Charlie Gilkey’s Productive Flourishing, which is a time management business for creatives.  He has a handy blog planner, which is one of the reason I’m trying out themes.

9 Technology Time Management Tips for Writers


We got the first part of the “Frankenstorm” here in Washington, DC, late yesterday afternoon with some rain.  So far, it’s just been a lot of rain.  The Federal government announced that it would be closing today (likely because Metro suspended service).  DC’s usually a ghost town when the government shuts down, but there’s a surprising amount of people out.  DC is very type A, so people will drive in anything!  Me?  I’m staying indoors, thank you very much.  Meanwhile, onto my post.

Most of the time management tips for writers revolve around doing the writing like apply butt to chair.  But even something like the technology can eat at your writing time.  So here are tips about using the technology to cut back on the chaos around writing.

  1. Use templates for documents where ever you can.  Letters, manuscript format, research — whatever you can come up with. To come up with templates, think about documents where you repeat the format, and even the content.  — Urban Muse
  2. Always start your document from a template, not from an existing document.  It’s just too easy to accidentally save over the top of your old document, and then it’s gone.
  3. Learn the tool you’re writing with.  The last thing you want to do is be scrambling around trying to figure out how to change the format of a document to match the guidelines when you’re on a deadline.  These certification books are very good because they take you through how to do one task, so you can pick what you need.
  4. If you’re using Word, learn how to work with styles and always use them.  This will save a lot of time when you’re submitting to a magazine that requires a different format than standard manuscript.  Two or three updates to the document style, and you’ve reformatted the entire manuscript — less than five minutes.  Style Basics
  5. Stick to a naming convention for your files, but at the same time, don’t make it so obscure that six months from now you won’t remember what it means.   And especially, stay away from the default name of Doc1! Get it Done Guy
  6. Make backups!  This should go without saying, but make it a habit to backup your stories often.  There are also some free online backup sites like Mozy that you can take advantage of.
  7. If your email is overwhelming you, start by unsubscribing to anyone regularly sending you emails that you are simply deleting.  I turned off probably about 4-5 of these, and I was amazed at how much my incoming email dropped.
  8. If you’re thinking of buying a computer, check with your employer to see if you can get a discount through them.  One of my past companies offered this.
  9. Check with your employer to see if they offer a Home Use Program.  You may be able to get a substantial discount on a program you need without having to go to the store to buy it.  I’ve gotten both Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat X Pro this way.

Got any other technology tips?  Post them below.

Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller

WRITING STUFF

Also stop by my article Balancing Writing and Blogging on Vision: A Resource for Writers.

VISIT

Check out Using Time Wisely from The Editor’s Blog for some great tips that aren’t like everyone else’s.  I have to work on giving myself enough time to do a thorough job (she who had a 10-day turnaround on an article for a military anthology).

#Flashaton 1st Hour: Customs


Flashathon started this morning at 9:00 with the prompt, “As we started.”  There was a moment of panic when I first started because I had no idea what I was going to.  Then I set it the woods, because I was thinking of Fort Lewis, and then I thought about an old idea I’d had, and the rest of the story took shape.  Here’s “Customs” for you:

As we started, the sun crept up into the sky.  The light wasn’t enough to chase the chill out of the morning.  My breath puffed out in fog clouds.  Even my wool uniform didn’t keep as much of the cold as I liked.

The woods around us were still — the trees standing as sentries to time.  They’d seen a lot, but never told stories.  It was probably a good thing, since where we were going should be a secret.  The male soldiers wouldn’t like that we had gone.

I glanced at Annis.  We were the only two female soldiers in the company.  The King allowed women in, but the male soldiers didn’t want us.  We were intruders, and we spent our days trying to ignore the outright contempt and derision.  These men were never treat their sisters and girlfriends this way; yet, we were evidently fair game.

We stayed silent until we were clear of the camp.  We did not want our voices to carry.  But Annis finally spoke, her voice threaded with fear.  “Do you think we’ll be all right?”

“I wish I knew.”

I didn’t have any answers.  Yesterday, a seer — a man, of course — had predicted that the king’s foolishness would end with this battle, when everyone would be able to see that women didn’t belong.  I thought he was injecting too much of his own opinions into his “Seeing,” but there was a part of me that wondered what was going to happen.

Tomorrow, we would go into battle.  Our first one.

Our feet crunched on the path, following in the footprints of hundreds of other soldiers.  We were the first women to do this — but we had to do it in secret.  The men had refused to allow us to come with them.  The hardest thing was hearing that if we went we would curse the battle.

The path wound under the trees, and into a deep chill that pressed upon us.

“We’re getting close,” Annis murmured.

We emerged into a clearing of sorts.  No one kept it clear.  The trees just knew not to grow here.  In the center of the clearing was a wall, built out of fieldstone.  It didn’t look like much.  In fact, anyone who was not a soldier would probably pass it on by, not realizing what it was.

The air shivered, and I heard the murmur of voices.  Soldiers past and present.  Annis and I hesitated, wondering how the spirits would treat us.  The men hated us.  What would the spirits do?

Annis and I exchanged glances, then she drew in a breath and stepped forward.  She was braver than me.

Welcome washed over us, a warmth that worked its way through the cold of the morning.  The tension in my chest loosened.

Annis looked over her shoulder at me.  “Are you ready?”

My mouth dry, I stepped forward.  We didn’t know what the custom for the wall was, only that there was one.  I approached the wall and stared at it for a long moment.  Finally I reached out to touch it.  A thousand souls reached back for me, giving me their strength and courage for tomorrow.

We’d make our own customs.

The Otherworldly Family is Watching


When we hear about ghosts, the first image we get is a story told in front of the orange flames of a campfire against the dark, a barrier against the unknown that surrounds us.   I remember one of those stories being about the ghostly hitchhiker who vanishes after being picked up.   That story is an urban legend, but the ghost story I’m about to tell you really did happen.  To me.  And it wasn’t scary.

This post is part of the Absolute Write October Blog Chain, with “Otherworldly” as the theme.  At the end of the post is a list of the other contributors, so check in on their posts.

My own ghost starts with a house.  This one:

Front view of the Havilah Babcock House, a Queen Anne style house with a tower and carriage porch on the left side and a wrap around porch on the right.

It’s the house that was built by my great-great grandfather Havilah Babcock, one of the co-founders of the Kimberly-Clark company (the Kleenix guys).  He decorated the entire house to his personal taste.  It was so much his personal taste that after the house was inherited by two of his daughters, they were afraid to touch anything!

So it was left as it was, and eventually my grandparents inherited it.  Essentially, the family is living in a museum.   For pictures of the interior, check out the book Wisconsin’s Own.  But you if want a quick view, the cover of this catalog shows the library.

The house is the only one in the United States that is still occupied by the descendents of the original builder.

My grandfather died 18 years ago, and my grandmother Arva earlier this year.  After Arva died, my uncle reported ghostly activity.  Nothing scary — but clearly something “otherworldly.”  He thought it was Havilah’s wife, Frances Kimberly.  So, as part of the memorial service for Arva, we had a psychic come out to the house.  Not contact Arva, but just to see what was going on in the house.

The psychic was not told anything in advance.  In fact, she was completely shocked when she saw the outside of the house.  While we waited in the kitchen, she and my uncle wandered through the first floor.  In minutes, my uncle was back, telling us to hurry.  The psychic had contacted Havilah!

We rushed to the library.  The psychic described Havilah as being brilliant, almost brilliant to the point of autistic.  My father, who followed along the same route, was amazed at where it had come from.  The psychic reported that Havilah was pleased by the caretakers of the house — he dropped in periodically to make sure it was well cared for.   Then he was abruptly gone, which was, according to the psychic, the nature of spirits.

So we retreated back to the kitchen to wait, and then a few minutes later, they’re back.  This time, Arva had stopped in to visit.  If there were any doubts about the psychic, they were gone with this.  She knew one thing about Arva that no one would have said, would not have been posted anywhere, and yet was common knowledge:  Arva liked to talk.  The psychic was having some problems because it was “talk, talk, talk, talk.”  The psychic mentioned that Arva was not always well-treated because she was a little progressive for her time.   Arva also knew about two babies that had been born after she had died.

After that, I had to dash off to catch my plane at the airport.  They were four hours wandering around the house, and other spirits dropped in for a spell.  But Arva stayed present during that time and kept saying that we were not to sell the house.

Have you had any ghostly encounters?

—-

Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller

MORE HOUSE STUFF

Wisconsin Historical Markers, a blog featuring a photo of the house a month before the memorial service showing the roof being repaired.

Conrad Schmitt Studios shows off their restoration work of the stained glass windows inside the house.

WRITING STUFF

Starting November 5, I will doing a month-long session on Forward Motion on “Basic Training of Military Culture.”  The lesson plan for the course is posted here.

Check out my article Balancing Writing and Blogging on Vision: A Resource for Writers.  It deals with the pesky issue of time management so that blogging doesn’t interfere with writing.

And for a little Halloween fun, a very short story about the House of Green Cats on IO9.

VISIT

Absolute Write October Blog Chain:

Participants and posts:
Ralph Pines: http://ralfast.wordpress.com (post link here)
randi.lee: http://emotionalnovel.blogspot.com (post link here)
Aranenvo: http://www.simonpclark.com (post link here)
pyrosama: http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com (post link here)
hilaryjacques: http://hillaryjacques.blogspot.com (post link here)
meowzbark: http://erlessard.wordpress.com (post link here)
slcboston: http://fleasof1000camels.blogspot.com (post link here)
areteus: http://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com (post link here)
dolores haze: http://dianedooley.wordpress.com (post link here)
SuzanneSeese: http://viewofsue.blogspot.com (post link here)
bmadsen: http://hospitaloflife.wordpress.com (post link here)
Linda Adams: Me
Alynza: http://www.alynzasmith.blogspot.com (post link here)
Orion mk3: http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (post link here)
BBBurke: http://awritersprogression.blogspot.com (post link here)
SRHowen: http://srhowen1.blogspot.com (post link here)
Damina Rucci: http://thegraypen.wordpress.com (post link here)
CJMichaels: http://christinajmichaels.blogspot.com (post link here)
wonderactivist: http://luciesmoker.wordpress.com (post link here)
Lady Cat: http://carolsrandomness.blogspot.ca (post link here)
xcomplex: http://arielemerald.blogspot.com (post link here)
debranneelliot: http://www.debragrayelliott.blogspot.com (post link here)

Fan Fiction — Good, Bad, or What?


At one of our critique sessions for the Cat Vacuuming Society, fan fiction came up.  If you don’t know what it is, fan fiction are stories written by fans for an existing form, like a TV show.  Yeah, you get the obvious problem with it, and one of the reasons it gets bashed.  But I also read them at a time when it was a badge of honor, because several science fiction writers started out writing it, like A.C. Crispin.

And I do have a disclaimer.  I edited a fanzine, a long time ago in a galaxy far away.  I also wrote a few stories, and my novel Miasma is … Read the rest on Unleaded — Fuel for Writers.

Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller

WRITING STUFF

Starting November 5, I will doing a month-long session on Forward Motion on “Basic Training of Military Culture.”  The lesson plan for the course is posted here.  You’ll get to ask a vet questions!

VIEW

Cora Ramos on Spirits in the Redwoods:  http://coraramos-cora.blogspot.com/2012/10/spirit-in-redwoods.html  A creepy, real story.

Photos: Fall Colors of Washington, DC


Just thought I’d share some photos of the fall colors in Washington, DC.  We didn’t get much rain, so a lot of the trees don’t have good color.  But there are a few standouts.

A tree in front of the Hilton turns red.

 

This was taken while I was at Capclave in Maryland.  That’s the con hotel in the background.A tree's leaves turn orange.

 

This guy was blooming out in the convention parking lot.  I love the oranges and reds of fall, but with the trees so dry, these weren’t as vivid this year.Park path lined with trees changing to a variety of yellows.

 

The trees are starting to change color at Potomac Overlook Park, Virginia.Up angle shot of overhanging tree trunk framed by red and green leaves.

 

This was a tree trunk that leaned over the path.A small tree's leaves turn bright red and are framed by the still green trees around it.

 

One tree turns orange amidst all the green.Small trees bloom red.

 

And a fiery one.

How have the fall colors been where you’re at?

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to go to Critique Group


Action is fun to read about, but reading has a nice safe distance.  It’s definitely not fun when it intervenes in real life!  Our critique group meets in the food court of a local mall in the evening.  During lunch, a man dropped a Molotov Cocktail from one of the upper floors into the food court.  Evidently, he wasn’t very good at building Molotov Cocktails, since it didn’t go off.  By the time I got there, law enforcement had finally removed the police tape.  Only about three restaurants remained opened open — everything else had shut down.

You can read the news story here in the Washington Post.

We still met, by the way.

What’s the scariest things that you just missed?

Old War Stories: Women in Uniform


Put two vets together, and you get an instant rapport about shared experiences.  Doesn’t matter what generation it is — a vet is a vet.  I’m currently working on a submission for a as-yet untitled military anthology, which is due by October 31 (I’m hoping to find one of these when I actually have more of a lead time).  One of the things that has got me thinking, curiously, is the house my great-great-grandfather built.  My uncle is working on getting it declared a National Landmark, which is a really big deal.  One of the factors that will play into it is the story of the house.  Not how Havilah decorated it or its historic value, but the story of the descents of builders who came across country in a station wagon and found themselves with a legacy.  So, for this, I’ve been thinking, “What’s my story?”  It’s been a surprisingly tough question!

WRITING STUFF

Starting November 5, I will doing a month-long session on Forward Motion on “Basic Training of Military Culture.”  The lesson plan for the course is posted here.  The site’s just had a restructuring, so I will be flying by the seat of my pants for the course while I figure out how to use the technology.

Six Bullets Accepted!


My short story Six Bullets was accepted for the 2012 Forward Motion Anthology.  The theme was to use a princess, a boatman, and a lizard.  So, me being me, I had the princess enlist in the military at the rank of boatsman (which was like a private) and was chased by soldiers known as Screaming Lizards, for their tattoos.  Look for the anthology in November.  I’ll make an announcement here, since dates can get pushed bac.

Tracking Ideas and Inspirations for the Chaos Writer


I’m playing catch up this week — I was at Capclave, a sci fi con in Maryland this weekend.  Now I get all the stuff I didn’t do over the weekend.  I swear, I think Saturday and Sunday is when I run all my errands.  I’ll write a post about Capclave later on.  Meanwhile, back at the Capitol …

One of my writing goals for the quarter is structure.  Not structure like story structure, but outside structure, like organizing papers.  I grew up in a very disorganized house where things were stacked and we only cleaned up when we lost something.  The army was the opposite of that, but their organization never made much sense to me, so when I got out, it was like I exploded back in the other direction again.

But my writing is chaos, but when I let it spread to outside mundane things, it creates disorganization and more chaos that ultimately makes more work for me — and makes it harder to write.  So my goal is focused on finding things that work for me.

The first of these structure things is what to do with ideas.  When I started writing, I kept everything in a pocket notebook that I could carry around me.  Sometimes they ended up on scraps of paper.  Soon they began to breed …

Then they got lost.

Eventually, I turned the notebooks up and was amazed at how many notebooks I had with only a handful of ideas that I had never used stored inside.  Some were more than 20 years old!  So I evolved out of not recording anything because I figured I’d remember it if it was a good idea.

But it’s left me scrambling sometimes when it comes to short story ideas.

So right now, I’m experimenting with using a three-ring binder.  One idea per page, and date it to give it an expiration.  If I’m inspired by a newspaper article, I write the inspiration, not save the whole article.  We’ll see how this works out.

How do you store/track your ideas?

Linda Adams, Soldier Storyteller

WRITING STUFF

Starting November 5, I will doing a month-long session on Forward Motion on “Basic Training of Military Culture.”  The lesson plan for the course is posted here.

Check out my article Balancing Writing and Blogging on Vision: A Resource for Writers.  It deals with the pesky issue of time management so that blogging doesn’t interfere with writing.

And for a little Halloween fun, a very short story about the House of Green Cats on IO9.

VISIT

Natalie Markey talks about her first day in Saudi Arabia as a non-Saudi Arabian.  I remember when I saw my first Saudi Arabian women.  They reacted as if I were a strange alien creature.