There are conventions out there for just about anyone, and they’re a wonderful place for people to share their excitement and learn about their favorite thing. I have friends who love Emerald City Comicon, Norwescon, Sakura Con, and PAX. I even know some coworkers and friends who go to the more...um...niche cons. Speaking of which, my husband and I inadvertently walked into the Rainfurrest convention. The amount of time people spent on their costumes was amazing. We walked into the hotel as the social hour ramped up and discovered the term “scritching” for the first time. I may have gaped a bit at a bird with an articulating beak.
I digress. But it was quite distracting!
Geek Girl Con and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) conference are two of my favorite cons, and this year I couldn't use my new day job as an excuse to skip. All too often I forget how important conventions can be in keeping motivated. This time I had the honor of presenting two workshops with my friend and co-ex-Booktrope author, Tiffany Pitts. Not only do I enjoy her writing (she features a nanobot enhanced cat that is hilarious in her Thanatos Rising series), but she is also an excellent co-panelist and roommate. She’s the unicorn squirrel of convention friends. We competed with pitch blocks and hangovers, so we had a small crowd. However, that led to some truly interesting conversations. My favorite parts of the presentation were when we went completely off script and helped brainstorm the ideal position on a space sled to avoid making oneself a larger target and the likelihood of data-linked companies being hacked.
I had my own convention “a-ha” moments as a writer. While I'm wading through the middle of a book, I tend to forget that the simple things are the most important. I was reminded that a single question is often the inception of a story (and the basis of a logline, which comes in really handy when you’re trying to explain or pitch your book). “What would push a woman to take revenge on their stalker?” was the question that kicked off a series of additional questions that formed the scaffolding of All the Pretty Bones. This reminder helped me understand the underlying motivation of my science fiction project. It’s funny how something that seems so small can have a prolific impact.
My friend, Eliana West, gave a wonderful closed-door workshop on writing diversity. She created an environment where people felt comfortable asking questions they’d normally never feel comfortable bringing up. Eliana shared many of her own experiences to illustrate a perspective, and I watched a few key moments when people sat back in their chairs in realization. It’s a really cool thing to watch when it’s happening as a collective. I was so excited to hear she has been invited back next year to give a master class.
Cherry Adair had me in stitches throughout her workshop on backstory and I’ve put into play her tip on picking and birthdate and using Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs to choose characteristics. If your character doesn’t fit the sun sign, make up a backstory for why they’ve broken away from the mold. I may lose a little of my enthusiasm after choosing one particular sign for my current project’s main character. She has a doozy of a backstory, so I’m optimistic it will work out for the best.
I owe people the slides on our technology and science workshops, but I’m afraid I’ll need to beg off for a week or two. In addition to some great motivation and new connections, I also walked away from PNWA with pneumonia. My doctor and I caught it early and the initial X-rays look good, but it’s taking time to improve. I’ve been fortunate that lupus doesn’t impact me for the most part, but every once in a while I get walloped with a big reminder. It’s so easy to take breathing for granted until you feel as though you’re being forced to breathe under water. Annie has been a wonderful nap assistant, which is saying something when I’m sleeping sixteen hours a day.
It’s going to take a while for me to get back to normal, but I know I’m feeling better because I’ve been writing a little. In the meantime, I’ve also been listening to It on Audiobook and reading Cherry Adair’s Stormchaser. On the non-fiction side, I recently finished Forensics by Val McDermid and Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter.
Do you have any book recommendations?
I had an interesting conversation with the CIO of my last company several months ago. He knew my words had stalled and it frustrated me. His recommendation? I should write a female protagonist in IT. Perhaps I could imbue code with magic if I needed a paranormal slant, but he knew I had enough material from my years in tech. He was right (except for the bit about magic infused code--it didn't strike a chord for me), and I've been developing a science fiction novel. When my friend contacted me asking if I'd be interested in speaking at PNWA, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Since I was elbow deep in research for my story, the topics I proposed were tech related and appealed to a coordinator looking for science fiction workshops.
When I research a book, I read just about anything I can get my hands on that is reliable. I've studied human and animal anatomy, aging theory in terms of genetics, and various forensics developments for The Hunted series. A small fraction makes it on the page (I find it interesting but my husband yawns when I go into detail), but because I'm breaking the common vampire tropes, I believe it's important to provide rational reasons and stick to my own rules. I've grown frustrated with series I've read in the past because the author either forgot or broke a rule for the sake of convenience. I also want to consider people in the professions represented in my writing. Would they think my scenes are passable or get frustrated and abandon the book?
My day job typically lands me either in one of a company's operations departments or with their IT department. I manage business applications that are used by different parts of the organization. I've supported sales people, support, and marketing organizations. On top of having a technical job, I live in the largest tech mecca outside of Silicon Valley. Since leaving college, I've worked for various companies that reside in the technology industry. My coworkers are highly intelligent and tend to be voracious readers. I get my best book recommendations from my fellow tech nerds, and I get to hear their rants when they stumble onto a book that defies established science.
My first workshop on Saturday (July 22nd) is "Technology and Science: Write it Right." I'm presenting with a writer I met through Booktrope, Tiffany Pitts. Tiffany has a history in the sciences and also has a passion for research, creating logical rules, and sticking to them. Our goal is to give a baseline for writers to use when reviewing their work. We want them to ask questions like: What would an expert think if they read this? Did I do my homework? Does this make sense?
The second workshop, also presented with Tiffany, is "Technology's Impact on Society." While I find this topic very interesting, it was hard to structure because of how strongly I feel about representing realistic experiences across demographics. I think many of us can quickly list off positive impacts of technology: greater efficiency, medical breakthroughs, better forensics, etc. But what about the hostilities many of us encounter on a regular basis? I can think of a few examples of science fiction I've read recently that present an "always wired" network as a utopia. What happened to the harassment, threats, and other hurdles we face online?
If you're attending PNWA, I hope to see you there! Otherwise, look for more content on these topics in the coming months.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.