Apr. 8th, 2015 06:13 pm
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Report on My Norwescon Experience.

I knew it was going to be a busy weekend, since I had scheduled 7 panels and a reading. That doesn’t sound like much: 7.5 hours over three days. In the context of a science fiction convention, it’s a lot.

First panel was “Broadsword Basics” for which I was the moderator. We had 60 (sixty!) attendees. I was not prepared for a Thursday night panel to draw like that. I had three other panelists. (Bill Gruner, Norman Moss, Joseph Malik. More on that guy later.) We had to rotate through the attendees in three groups, both because of the size of the room and because of the # of wasters we had on hand. (For the uninitiated: a waster is a wooden broadsword) I invited Sir Daniel and Randal the Redoubtable and set them to work helping with teaching and marshalling. There was no time for any fancy stuff: I was pleased that we managed to teach something *resembling* proper stance and footwork plus the mechanics of a flat snap to a significant number of the attendees. Between setting each group up, getting them moving correctly, and making sure that they were all (barely) a safe distance apart, I got a good workout in. I was sweating and puffing pretty good by the end.

Next, I had my turn to read some of my fiction to random strangers. In this case, one random stranger. Marian came along to the reading, and at the end I was reading to a few people who came to hear the next guy. But my original audience was Marian and one random fellow. I read the partial chapter from Saráyi about Peter the Bastard in the aftermath of a battle, and the fragment from Saltarae II bearing Arrenji’s analysis of modern America. Then I read the duel scene and the Birth of Saráyi from “Medusa”. Everyone applauded politely at the end.

The next day, Friday, I assisted at ‘One on One Combat for Writers’ and ‘Universal Rules of the Fight’. I contributed my fair share to the success of both of those panels. Later that day: ‘History of Jousting’. My knowledge base is the pre-joust era, about 1100-1300. I did my fair share of the lifting in that panel as well.

Saturday I had three panels: ‘Norse Sword, Shield, & Spear Tactical Combat’. I was a safety marshal in that one, except for a couple fine points that I inserted into the instruction. ‘Roman Legionary Tactical Combat’ was a similar panel, but I got to be a “barbarian” and attack the trainees’ testudo.

WELL. Not really, of course. Nobody was in armor, so we barbarians were mostly hitting shields and ‘touching’ open targets with the wasters. We did this twice, with two different sets of trainees. Both times I grabbed Sven Redbeard and we flanked the formation, ‘killed’ a bunch of archers and then...yeah, I bet you’ll have figured this next part out. At the exact moment when, in a real battle or an SCA fight I would have become a spinning and running tornado of steel death, I had to say: “Stop. You can’t actually hit these people.” So I got ‘shot’ by tennis-ball-throwing ‘archers’ both times.

That was a little frustrating, but there you go.

My final panel of the weekend, later that day, went well, I think. That was ‘Adding Authenticity to Historical Fiction & Fantasy’. I actually learned a few things in this panel. Lots of stuff from all the panelists about distances traveled in a set time-frame, the potential weight of backpacks, (How much weight *could* Sam Gamgee have carried?’) And interesting cultural tidbits and food related customs. Inns and hostels in various countries. Very Etc. What to serve at the Inn. How much can various animals carry and how fast can they travel, and how much food and water do they need. Et cetera.

For that last bit, it turns out that the US Army has a pamphlet you can get for free, and it has all that info in it.

The most interesting person I met all weekend was the above-mentioned Joseph Malik, who is a US Army special forces guy. He is currently serving in a unit which goes to crazy-ass places and tries to stop wars before they start. THAT was a fascinating fellow to chat with. He got a five-day leave to come to the con “as a liason to the highly intelligent geek and nerd community”. His words. He pitched it that way to his CO and got paid leave. “I’m here on your dime,” he said, not really joking.

He told me a story about a mission to Mongolia that involved goats. I intend to tell that story only in taverns and pubs, where I expect to get free drinks as a result.
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Fans and writers had a blast pretending to be Romans. We didn't actually hit them, just scared 'em a little...


One Photo

May. 9th, 2014 09:19 pm
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Photo of me at Norwescon at a lecture/demo on shieldwall tactics for fans and writers.

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Here’s the skinny from Norwescon, as I saw it. First, I sold only one book, and that to a close friend, who gives them to his friends to read. That’s great, but it doesn’t feed the cats. I did also negotiate a swap with GRSmith: He’s reading VIASMAE, I’m reading his Shakespearean play (To Each Their Own). We’ll swap reviews.

OTOH, the panels I was on were all great, and I think I contributed significantly. As it turned out, I got ‘traded’ from the one History panel I was on in order to fill in for a cancelled moderator. The panel I was traded to was called ‘Get Your Fight On’; Leith and I advised various writers who were looking for help with writing fight scenes. It went well, don’t get me wrong: 1,2, 3, 4, I think five people approached me at random times to compliment me on my knowledge and presentation, so that’s good.

BUT it meant that all six panels I was on were combat-related. Note: Slow-work is more tiring than the real thing, let me tell you.

I need to spend more time in the Green Room, and have more conversations with my fellow panelists. Those that I achieved at this latest con were often enlightening. And OTOH, the Green Room is not a good place to sell: too many of the other panelists have stuff they are pushing, and the GR seems to be neutral ground.

Which means I also need more time out of the GR, where I can interact with possible buyers…There were a small # of tables in the hall outside the Dealer’s Room, where people were selling their self-published novels and comics. If I could jury in to that, I would solve several problems at once.

[An aside: Marian and I are pretty much set to rent a table at next year’s Orycon, so that will help at that con. We’ll sell my books and crocheting, her art pieces and so on. We can spell each other while I’m on panels or reading or whatever, and she is hunter-gatherer-ing, or attending panels. Plus, we have a bookshop owner friend we are gonna try to set up next to, for emergency overlook.]

Back to Norwescon 2014: I heard Steven Barnes read. He told a horrifying but funny martial arts story, as well as reading from his latest work-in-progress. I heard Sonia Orin Lyris read from a recently sold novel. I enjoyed both of those readings; I may try to hit more of those at future cons. I tried to get in to hear Phil Foglio, but that was a hopeless quest.

My own reading went OK. I mean, it was set for 11:30 PM, I was the final reader of the night; and two people stayed and listened. I was mentally prepared for no one: Late at night, unknown author, blah, blah. However: I do believe I moved them. At any rate they didn’t flee in disgust or terror.

AND: I heard Michael Moorcock tell stories of the beginnings of his career, (he is quite funny, actually) and Marian actually handed him copies of my books. Who knows what might come of that…most likely nothing, but, well, you never know. I also got to hear Mr. Moorcock talk about the cover art from a bunch of Elric novels and calendars and such. Illuminating, that was, and very amusing.

SO: I had a good time. My Status in the con community is slowly rising. They seem to welcome my odd pile of hard-won knowledge, and that gives me a chance to disseminate some of it. That feels good, indeed it does.

Gotta go. See ya.


Apr. 16th, 2014 09:30 pm
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I am off to Norwescon in the morning. Panels off and on all weekend, and trying to sell my novels. This is a business trip. (Irony alert) No fun! No Fun at all. Just work.

Thur 9 PM: The Genesis of Science in the Middle Ages.
11:30- midnite: Reading in Cascade 1. Rated R

Fri 10 AM Roman gladius and scutum tactical combat (hands on)
11 AM: Norse tactical combat
Noon: One on one combat for writers.

Sat. 10 AM Weapons of the Middle Ages
11 AM Medieval Armor

Gotta go. See ya!
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On Sunday I went to Pacmac day 2 at Best Martial Arts and spent a half hour doing iai draws, from kneeling block to standing cut. Then I did judo with Michael Ehli. So my quads were screaming bloody murder at me to start the week. Then...
I spent Monday AM pulling ivy at the M's house in south hills. And I realized (somewhat belatedly) that I have to treat this week like the "week before the week before Egil's" and do all the trimming and edging and extra short areas so those are done for next week because I'm going to Norwescon and I have to leave on Thursday AM at nine...Oy, vey, am I sore. And here's to another day of that tomorrow. (clinks glass).
So, that's why I am not at practice tonight.
Gotta go. (just not very quickly)
See ya.


Apr. 26th, 2011 06:59 pm
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Writer's Groups, or:
Why exactly would I subject myself to THAT?
So one rather negative impression I got, not just from Norwescon but also from Orycon, came from what little interaction I've had with the group criticism process. I was prepared to read from 'Medusa' (Book Three) at Orycon. When I arrived I discovered that the limit on submissions to the group process was 750 words (!). If you are reading a standard paperback, that is the first page of a chapter plus about 2/3 of the second. I went off and sought for any 750 word segment that I felt might complete a thought. Then I found out that it HAD to be the first page-and-a-bit of your piece.
Okay, I get that there has to be some limit on the readings, that you can't read a whole chapter or anything. But really, who completes a thought in 750 words? Particularly in SF where so often the writer has to build a world or a timeline in Chapter One?
So I blew that off and thought: 'Well, let's see what Norwescon offers. Maybe that will be more open.'
Well, the Open Critique at Norwescon was a different basket of snakes, all right. Submit 10,000 words; one Chapter plus an up-to-1000 word synopsis. Then send it off to the Fairwood Writer's Group (and nowhere online can a body find out who they are) and they will assign a panel of 'professional' writers to critique it.
So I set to work to create a couple of possible submissions out of 'Viasmae' and 'Medusa'. In both cases, I found that condensing a Synopsis into 1000 words was difficult but possible. However, by the time I got the first chapter of either book edited down to fit the remaining 9000 word limit, I found that I didn't even, well, like them. It didn't sound like me anymore. I found myself removing necessary description and exposition and also engaging in the rather silly process of changing 'went with' to 'accompanied' (in order to pare away a word, you see), to the point that not only did the story fail to flow, but the characters became wooden and spoke in voices other than their own, using simpler syntax and becoming far less interesting.
I wound up finishing the process, then giving the whole thing up as a bad idea. (Oh no, not another learning experience!)
Now here's the real rub: at both cons so far, I've heard tales, sometimes from the perpetrators, of critiques that drove the novice writer to tears; or even drove him/her AWAY in tears; and the implication put forward was that this is in some way a good thing. The speakers imply, or even explicitly state, that such cruelty is justified because it makes the victim become a 'better' writer. To this I say "Fie! Nonsense! And nasty nonsense at that!"
It's nasty nonsense because it is clearly (from the expressions and vocal tones in which it is described) INTENTIONAL.
They seem to expect the new writer to accept insults and degradation as part of the critical process. I do not accept such. If you cannot speak to me in a polite fashion, wrapping your criticisms and suggestions in civility and compassion, then the fault and lack is with you and not with me. And if this culture of intentional nastiness has grown out Clarion and its descendants as some have said, then I say also: "A pox upon them, and all their houses!" And I don't really care how many 'great' writers this process has produced, nor how many sales they've made nor how many awards they've won. The ends don't justify the means, certainly not in this case.
If this is what is on offer to help new writers, I guess I'll just have to muddle through on my own, and get better without much help. Oh, well, that's how I learned to swordfight, how I learned to armor, how I learned to crochet. Musashi would approve. He'd say: "You have learned hei-ho. Go forward now. This requires much study."

I'm on it, Sensei.


Apr. 24th, 2011 05:19 pm
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My Trip to Norwescon, or:
how many aliens can dance in the lobby of the Seatac Doubleletree?

So this was my second Con ever, the first being Orycon back in November. The standout impression of the weekend was: MORE! The geeks were geekier, the nerds nerdier, the preposterously overblown outfits more preposterous; and the sexy people were moreso and the cool people who interrupted my conversations with friends were cooler, etc and so forth. Also just plain way more people. Big hotel, packed to the max.
Not sure about total book sales for the weekend. When I left on Saturday night I’d sold one: to E, a very old friend. A hadn’t sold any, but I guess there was a possibility of sales on Sun. morning.
Anyway, that is not as important as the networking, which is finally starting to happen. Got business cards galore (again), passed out many little bits of paper myself, talked to several smart and well-connected people including M B (Old Scadian friend) who now produces a con of his own. He offered to put me in touch with people in the Programming Department at NWC, including the person in charge of Fiber Arts stuff, who saw my outfit (I guess) and wants me on costuming panels. (?) (!) Oh that was Saturday’s gitup she saw: my old crocheted jerkin, new me-made ‘carwash’ kilt, both in brown/tan, maroon me-made sox, sandals, and overall a white crocheted belt. And yes, that’s a reference to ‘Leontari’, though of course that’s not obvious to very many people yet. People seem to be very impressed with that stuff. I ain’t complaining, mind, especially if it gets me a ‘pro’ badge and vastly increased Status (as a Commonwealther would say).
Even more, it could get me on panels, giving me a platform to express some of my personal philosophy, which, if let out in carefully rationed lots, could help sell the novels.
I now have enough experience with such panels (as a listener) to be certain that I can contribute something new to several different streams in the world of Con Paneldom. Hold on to your hats! Madness ahead!
Ego boost for the weekend: Author AA and her husband remembered me from Orycon, read my book, said they liked it---husband liked it a lot,according to Ms. A, though he is a stroke victim and made only slight attempts to communicate (mostly with eyes and smile).
Further reportage must wait, as I'm getting a little loopy. Very tired, but jazzed. Train home soon .


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