November 20th, 2009


WindyCon 36 Part III

Saturday 14 November 2009 - Evening

Continuing with WindyCon 36, we've arrived at 6pm, my reading. This is my second reading at a con -- I gave one at ConFusion in January. I know I'm behind in updating my website, but memo to self: need to add a page about giving readings and signings. (grin)

Given that the con's theme was Steampunk, I decided to go counterculture and do a "high tech" reading. Forget those Kindles, I've been impressed with the Sony Reader eBooks. I can hook up the PRS-300 with a mini-USB cable and treat it like a flashdrive, downloading at RTF version of my manuscript at no cost (or even installing the interface software). For the reading I stepped up the font size to Large.

Other than having to anticipate page turns by hitting the page button a trifle early so the electronic ink can update in time, I had no problems reading the bright contrasty screen. In Standard Manuscript Format, my story was about 7900 words in 32 pages -- as you can see, enlarging and reformatting it made it 112 screens long.

Dammit, Dr. Phil -- What About The STORY?

So glad you asked. "Z.P.D. (Zeppelin Police Department)" was read before an audience of about five people -- of which I only knew two. I previously described it as "Noir. Police. Zeppelins. Steampunk." I had promoted it earlier at some sessions, one does have to be proactive about these things after all, and one person told me, "You had me at zeppelins." (grin)

I've been told that a good reading is about twenty minutes. Naturally, when I test read the story last Thursday it took about 32 minutes -- I always write long. That said, I must say I had people glued in their seats and managed to elicit some reactions at some of the twists.

Yeah, my reading went REALLY WELL. And "Z.P.D." will be sent out to the majors as soon as it can be fit in the rotation. I'd brought a couple copies of WOTF XXIV, which Al and I signed, and handed out to those who attended.


It looked like we had four to go over to the Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse for dinner afterward. Al tried calling over, but the number didn't work. We wandered over -- Walnut was literally the furthest room from the lobby -- and found out that there'd be an hour wait. So we went out to the lobby and took over one of the tables used by groups during the afternoon. Matt couldn't stay for dinner, but hung around for the chat, then it was just me, Al and Allen. I guess Jill, who was meeting other friends for dinner, had gone later to the restaurant to look for us, but we were still in the lobby.

Dinner, of course, was magnificent. Had them make some calamari without breading. Al and I had the 9 oz. fillet -- a ball fillet not a strip -- mine had Gorgonzola and his had peppercorns. Allen had really lovely looking fettucini alfredo -- which at one time I ordered all the time at Italian restaurants, but cut out because it's just too rich and I don't need it. (sad grin) Split a huge Idaho baked potato, and some broccoli and mushrooms. Stuffed all, I told our excellent waiter Christopher that he should at least tell us about desserts. Allen and I shared a chocolate bourbon pecan pie -- you thought I'd pass up an opportunity for a really fine not-too-sweet pecan pie?

Although not cheap, WindyCon 37 is also at this Westin on 12-14 November 2010 -- and if you come you owe it to yourself to splurge at Harry Caray's, if you love steak, Italian and/or seafood.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Packed up, check out, stash stuff in the Blazer. Then off to do a quick check of the Dealer's Room, to see if anyone was selling any Steampunk stuff. One dealer had some lovely leather and brass goggles, one set complete with extra magnifying lenses, but the ones I liked were $120 and $149 respectively -- too rich for today. So on to...

11am, third Christian Ready show with latest Hubble Space Telescope images. Noon, "Alternative Technology", What assumptions are made about steampunk technology? What is possible from a materials engineering standpoint and what breaks the rules of physics? I'm on this panel and we had a lot of fun talking metallurgy, the time that steam engines require, lubrication and maintenance issues, etc. As with the Science of Steampunk panel, the emphasis was made that alternative universe stories which are well crafted and consistent, can always get away with murder -- scientifically speaking. (grin)

Jeff Karp, my friend from Northwestern days, was supposed to meet me at 1pm. And I quickly found him, and as I mentioned before, he bought me lunch while we caught up.

All too soon it was time to leave and hit the road. No problems racing into the heart of Chicago on I-88 and I-290, through the Post Office and hang a right turn at Buckingham Fountain, then off onto Lake Short Drive and Indiana. Naturally, the only problems were at the end. The Shell station at M-89 was overrun with vehicles, so I drove on. Road construction on I-196 closed the last Rest Stop before Holland. And the exit for US-31 North was closed, probably due to reconstruction on the flats from previous washouts during the flooding this summer. So I got off at M-40, hit the McDonald's for a restroom, then home.

Dr. Phil

Harlequin Steps In It Big Time -- RWA Slaps Back

A Horrifying Development

Lots of people read romances. And the paranormal romances are clearly a cousin of genre writing -- and sometimes it is a pretty artificial division. I read Marjorie Liu's stuff, and Meljean Brook -- these are authors I know from Clarion and online, respectively.

Growing up, the brand name Harlequin seemed synonymous with Romance to me -- I guess in terms of sales, for good reason. But recently Harlequin decided to announce a new venture, essentially mining their slush pile for an in-house vanity press operation. For God's sake, Publisher's Weekly ran a news flash with a straight face. I heard about this first via Nick Kaufmann via Nick Mamatas.

But now Scalzi and Making Light have lit in, because -- Thank God! -- the RWA (Romance Writers of America), MWA (Mystery Writers of America) and SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) have all condemned the move. In particular, RWA is to be commended, seeing as they have the most to gain and lose in this effort:
One of your member benefits is the annual National Conference. RWA allocates select conference resources to non-subsidy/non-vanity presses that meet the eligibility requirements to obtain those resources. Eligible publishers are provided free meeting space for book signings, are given the opportunity to hold editor appointments, and are allowed to offer spotlights on their programs.

With the launch of Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin Enterprises no longer meets the requirements to be eligible for RWA-provided conference resources. This does not mean that Harlequin Enterprises cannot attend the conference. Like all non-eligible publishers, they are welcome to attend. However, as a non-eligible publisher, they would fund their own conference fees and they would not be provided with conference resources by RWA to publicize or promote the company or its imprints.

Sometimes the wind of change comes swiftly and unexpectedly, leaving an unsettled feeling. RWA takes its role as advocate for its members seriously. The Board is working diligently to address the impact of recent developments on all of RWA’s members.

So far, it sounds as if Harlequin sounds hurt, but has removed the name Harlequin from the new venture. It has not, however, decided to skip becoming "Romance Publish America".

Why This Is Evil

Self-publishing is when you hire someone to print your work -- it is very useful for certain limited interest publications, gifts and small runs of things for family & friends. Vanity publishing is when you hire someone to pretend you're a professional author -- they make you believe that your book is "just like" something which has been vetted and marketed by a real publisher.

As annoying as rejection is and as big as slush piles get at real publishers, you really can't judge your own work all that fairly. For someone else to say, "hey, this is good, we can work with this, and we'd like to pay you this much to publish your work", is setting the minimum bar level.

In real publishing, money goes to the author.

If I put up a story on this LJ or on my website, , I'm doing this for fun and/or to give people a taste of my writing for free -- especially given that some of my real publications are hard to get. And I've been using unpublished stories so as not to interfere with those who have published me. But I know these are not vetted, edited works. They are my words and I can give them away if I feel like, provided they're not under contract elsewhere.

For you to pay Harlequin, or its minions, hundreds or thousands of dollars to produce books that likely will not sell and will never get promoted to "the real publishing arm" is a scam. The bait-and-switch aspect of slush piles and rejection letters is just too vile to support. Harlequin's management should be ashamed of themselves and grovel at the feet of their authors, their readers and the writers' organizations like RWA and beg their forgiveness and vow to sin no more forever. Period.

So far, no. Clearly we are misunderstanding Harlequin.

And this has to be CRUSHED IN THE BUD, lest in these dangerous financial times, other legitimate publishers begin to start thinking -- hey, I've got this fucking big slush pile, too, and maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be so bad if I followed Harlequin's lead. And don't get all sanctimonious that hey, it was Harlequin that did this, one of those Romance publishers, complete with the eye rolling of superiority. Because it could happen to anyone in any genre. No, really. It could happen elsewhere.

NO. It'd be BAD. It's not RIGHT. And you people all know it. Preying on the wallets of those with hopes and dreams of becoming published authors is WRONG. And EVIL.

So just STOP IT. NOW.

And please, PLEASE, PLEASE... Don't Fall For This Shit Yourself.

Dr. Phil