Stone of Remembrance

May 30, 2007

Travel With A., Memorial Day 2007 (3)

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 19:56

So here’s the deal.

I had intended to go to Balticon in part to hook up with some podcasting folks, to see what was possible in that world for Sword and Sun, or possibly for newer work (or even existing published work). That was one of the objectives, anyway. One of my long time writing buddies, Tee Morris, has Balticon in his back yard, and this year Evo Terra and Michael Mennenga – the “Arizona Postcasting Mafia” – were guests of the con. What’s more, J.R. Hutchins would be up from Florida. In the pic below, Tee is MC’ing, with Evo on the left.

Note: Picture has since vanished from the net.

But it didn’t quite work out that way. Balticon had its own podcast, and the podcast was like another convention happening at the same hotel; they passed through us and we passed through them and there was remarkably little overlap.

One of the places we did cross over was a panel I did with Jana Oliver on Saturday about new methods for self-promotion. Jana, by the way, is another old friend of Tee Morris, and if she writes as well as she comes across in person, I’ll enjoy reading her work. But High Tech Ways To Promote Yourself pointed up the idea that you can spend a lot of time in discussion groups, writing a blog (heh, heh: there have been some droughts here, needless to say!) and, of course, podcasting . . . all time that you’re not actually writing.

My agent says that none of this stuff matters. If done properly, it can’t hurt, but it doesn’t amount to a hill of dog poo in terms of actual sales. It’s about publicity, of course, but unless you’re the oft-mentioned Scott Sigler, it’s not really about sales. What’s more, if it’s not done properly it can hurt. My key point during that panel was that anyone online creates and fosters an online persona; people you don’t meet get a sense of who you are. And if they don’t like who you are, they won’t buy your books.

I should mention one other panel I did on Saturday on The Future of Sports in SF. Though interesting, it was a combination of homage to the well-done references (Serling’s robot pitcher, etc.) and complaints about the foolish ones (why is Benjamin Sisko the only baseball fan in the 24th century?) along with altogether too much comment on Ultimate Fighting. We concluded that there’ll always be rooting interest, and there should always be sports – but the jury’s out on how they’ll change.

The highlight of my Saturday was my reading, scheduled for 10 AM. Usually that’s a good time, though I’ve never had the experience I had at this convention: a full room, actually standing room only. I had an entire hour, and read from A Song In Stone – not the opening chapter, since some had heard it, but a few later sections. It went extremely well. Balticon attendees are very literate – and apparently have very good taste. :-)

And so we came to Sunday. A. and I enjoyed the hotel indoor-outdoor pool in the morning, and I had the autograph session after Niven and Pournelle in the afternoon; they took the queue with them, but that’s the privilege of stardom for you. When I was done, I went off to the game room, toured the con a bit, and had a fine dinner at the invitation of an editor I know well. And other than the Monday morning Alien Linguistics sitcom with Lawrence Schoen, that was the extent of my programming.

I wrote a dozen pages of new material over the weekend. The con hotel was very comfortable, though the program rooms were a bit hot and stuffy; A. had a good time bopping about on her own. But I never did quite catch up with Mike, Evo, Tee or J.C. for more than a few minutes (though I did talk Tee into crashing a panel. Which was fine, though he was was at 100% intensity all through. It’s something to see, and to get accustomed to.)

I admit that, after the programming I did and the conversations that I had, I’m now somewhat conflicted about podcasting in general. Evo and Rob Sawyer got into it about non-traditional content delivery about a year ago, and I stayed on the sidelines for that one; Rob and I are great friends, and I met Evo and Mike at Westercon in Arizona three years ago. I think there’s some merit in audio versions of books: I’m asked about them on a regular basis. But I don’t have the knowledge, equipment, or – frankly – the time to do the work.

And given the time, and that I’m primarily a words-on-paper guy, I’m not sure there’s enough merit in the idea. Is there good work being done in this audio format? Certainly. Is there a good audience for it? Clearly, the answer is yes. But is that where I should be positioned?

I don’t know. I didn’t attend that Balticon. I attended the other one, where I talked about books – actual printed books. I’m trying not to sound archly superior: I’m just not sure that my career is steering me toward the world of podcasting. Bought the book, listened to the content, drank beer with the Arizona Podcast Mafia. But to this moment I have not recorded my, or anyone’s voice speaking the words I’ve written.

So here’s a question. I know far more people read this blog than comment to it. Is there anyone in the audience interested in the project? I don’t mind reading aloud; I do it at every convention. Is there anyone who would like to help get this together?

UPDATE: Never got a chance to post a followup to this. More news on other topics soon.

May 28, 2007

Travel With A., Memorial Day 2007 (2)

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 18:37

The next part of our Balticon trip was a visit to Avalon Elementary School in Fort Washington, Maryland for its Career Day.

Many schools have such days, giving the students an opportunity to meet people with various professions. I’m a bit of a square peg here, since I can’t point out an obvious career path, and my house is my place of work – but I can talk about the work that goes into writing a long work, including editing and revising. They’re usually surprised (read: shocked) at the small amount of money I actually get from a sold book.

School Days

Avalon was also a bit of a shock for A., as this school (like many others) has school uniforms as part of its regimen. I did meet some wonderful teachers and some great students: one third-grade class, one fourth-grade, and two sixth-grades (one was in a temporary classroom, a trailer outside the building). Of the eighty-plus students I spoke to, there’s likely one future writer. I’m just not sure who it might be.

I passed on some signed books and gave out some business cards. A. and I got a nice lunch, then we were on our way.

Balticon’s new(er) home

Balticon has been downtown as long as I’ve been a pro, though it left its former quarters last year (when I wasn’t on hand). The new facility is the Hunt Valley Inn, a Marriott just off I-83, a few miles off the Baltimore Beltway. A few years back when Lois McMaster Bujold was the Guest of Honor, we had a brief exchange late Sunday about how tired we both were at the end of the festivities; Memorial Day weekend cons are exhausting, usually starting early on Friday and running until late Monday afternoon. My first scheduled event was Friday late afternoon, and I excused myself from a 1 PM Monday panel so that we’d be able to get on the road ahead of some of the traffic.

At 5 PM I sat in on my first panel: Is It Really Worth the Effort to Write a Book? Our contention was, well, I certainly hope so. The panel was a small one, and we talked about various alternate methods of content delivery – but largely we concluded that we were all writers and we were doing what we wanted to do – write.

Balticon’s panel tracks run late. What’s more, folks turn out for them. At 11 PM, after A. had gone back to the room, I participated in Using Real People As Characters In Novels. K.T. Pinto, a horror writer I hadn’t met, was trapped between me and Dan Cragg (who’s a very good writer I’ve enjoyed programming with before). We discussed the good and bad points of using real folks – and concluded that it has to be approached with care.

Approach With Care

NEXT: Saturday and Sunday at the Balticon whirlwind.

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