The Launch Party, Thoughts and Photos

I am overcome with appreciation and gratitude for the number of people who turned out for the launch party on Sunday, August 11. It was literally standing room only! While I knew nearly everybody there, three young Coast Guard members, who had dropped into the store the day before, showed up, and two of them got books to be signed!

Margaret Speaker Yuan took most of the photos (because clearly I didn’t). I also borrowed one from Barbara Cromwell after she posting it on Facebook. (Thanks to both of you!)

Every time you do an event, you learn still more about doing events. In this case, I should have thrown a half-dozen ziplock bags into the food bag before we toted it off. And for a crowd getting together at 4:00 pm on a hot August Sunday, there were not a not of wine drinkers. Pelligrino water had lots of takers, though.

And I should have asked a few more people to take photos, because I have none, for instance, of the beautiful and scrumptious chocolate leaves, dusted with edible metallic luster dust, that Betsy Miller brought.

We also got no pictures of the event’s wonderful host, Brandy. Brandy not only opened up her store, publicized the event and set up tables and chairs, she gave me a wonderful introduction!

I read for about 15 minutes, which seemed like a very long time, and I think I only really lost my concentration once, although it was at a really dramatic point in the chapter. For next time at Second Chances, I might recommend that the configuration be flipped so the reader is at the other end of the store from the door.

I stood up to read. I don’t know if this makes a difference or not, but most professional writers do it — most other professional writers do it. I guess sound travels better, and I guess it lends slightly more authority to the process.

The first young Coast Guard guy told me his name was Anthony, but he wanted the book personalized to someone he called “My Fox.” (I’m like, “okay…”) His friend, Wes, said, “Who’s that?”

“That’s my wife. That’s what I call her. She calls me Bundle of Muscles.”

“TMI, Dude,” said Wes.

Jo Weber, the former Department Head of Human Services was always a champion of my creative work, and she came with her mother, Shirle. Karen Fies is the present Department Head of Human Services, and a wonderful friend.

Karen took me aside early in the event. “You have a full house,” she said.

“Well, it’s a small space.”

“You have a full house,” she said, only a little bit sternly.

Brain advised me that Betsy’s chocolate “Aluminum Leaves” were a marketing secret weapon. “If you do any more readings, bring these,” he said. “You’ll sell ten thousand copies.” He may have meant we’d sell ten thousand candies, since they were luxurious and beautiful.

My dear friend Kathleen made it, along with her friend Gabe.

I am overwhelmed by the number of people who took time out of their busy lives to attend this event. Some like, Terry, took one two-hour one-way drive to do so. There is nothing more validating. Thanks to everyone for making it an unforgettable day.

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The Launch Party is Today

I’ll just leave this here. Anything I wrote now would be the two-dimensional version of me screaming, “EEEEEEEEEE!” so maybe I’ll write more about it on the other side.

Oh, there was a five-star review on Amazon, though.

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MCWC, 2019

The high point of this year’s writing conference was learning that several of my consigned book sold in the conference bookstore. I wheedled the day-one bookstore employee into letting me put out five to start with; that was two more than they recommend. When I came through the bookstore area on Friday, they were down to one copy. “We had a run on yours,” said Bob, the day-two bookstore employee. I was giddy. I said with complete casualness, “I have more in the car.” (Imagine a false trill of laughter following that statement.)

“You do?” he said.

I brought in some more and he changed the number from five to eight. When I went to pick up my books and my earnings, I’d sold seven of them.

Some bad news – I’d misunderstood the deadline and the bookshop, and my money, was gone! Not to panic, I just had to go to the brick-and-mortar store on Sunday to pick up my money and discuss what to do with the remaining book, which I eventually left consigned there.

I assume everyone but me knows how consignment works, but in case you don’t; the store runs the book/object through their system, collects sales tax etc, and takes a percentage of the proceeds off the top. Gallery Bookstore does a 60/40% split (at least for conference-participants) which means the author gets 60% of the charged price for each book sold.

That was not my profit though. I have the feeling when I’m done with this process and figure my profit, I will be sad. In figuring out what I “earned,” I have to look at the cost of the goods sold, which means from my 60% per book I deduct what I paid for the books (at the author-discount rate) and shipping. These first few sales will look better than later ones because I got my author copies thrown into that first batch.

On top of the cost of the books and getting the books, there are other costs like the printing of the postcards I had made up.

I plan to have some books for consignment at Copperfield’s in both Petaluma and Sebastopol later in this month.

But enough about me.

No, wait! It’s all about me. Enough about the book.

The conference is making some changes, modernizing a bit, or probably doing things that are old by now but look like modernizing to me. Scott Sigler, who was my workshop leader, also gave a seminar on using podcasts to make your work available to a larger audience. They continue to expand the discussion of hybrid publishing and self-publishing, and I think they offered two pitch sessions this conference. I’ll never use a pitch session, but I think they are useful and helpful.

The conference continues to offer great food!

The second high point (the second-highest point? Oh, grammar, you are cruel,) was watching my friend Terry Connelly, who won First Place in the short story category of the contest, read from her suspenseful and disturbing short story “The Visitor.”

Nearly on a par with that was my one-on-one consultation with Penguin Random House YA editor Andrew Karre. Andrew will never ever edit or publish something of mine unless he leaves YA, but he was smart and friendly, positive, and shares a certain philosophy with me, which meant I had a great time talking to him and because I showed up a little early we talked a bit beyond the allotted time. I attended his seminar presentation, called, “Fear Not Confusion,” where “fear” is the verb in that sentence. (“Do not fear confusion” does not sound as good.) I liked a thing he said to me, and said again in the seminar, so much that if I ever were going to get a tattoo this would be it: “It’s a novel, not a brochure.”

Shobah Rao, who wrote Girls Burn Brighter, taught the short fiction class. She discussed plot in her seminar. Margaret and I, dyed in the wool genre writers, attended it and spent the first few minutes looking at each other going, “What? Huh?”

Rao’s work is more in the general fiction arena, and general fiction writers do not want to spend time with plot. They want to focus on other things. She started off soothing the group, saying things like, “I know it’s a weird thing to talk about, but every book needs to have one. You can do it, really.” I imagined a public health nurse talking to a group of privileged private high-school students and suggesting they get tested for HIV disease. Seriously, like, “I know it’s uncomfortable talking about it in public, but things to have to happen in your book, and even in a certain order.”

I’m mocking a bit, but then she made us break out the plots of some well-known works, including fairy tales, and it got fun. She took a look at how other people have described plot.

Later I bought her book Girls Burn Brighter and started it. I have to say, while Rao portrayed herself as a plot-newbie: “You mean things have to happen? I don’t just get to hang out with these characters I’ve created and watch them fall in love?” that book has plot for days, starting on page four. It’s not genre-plot, but it there and it is intense and deep and powers the story just as much as the exquisite language. By the way, do not start that book if you have other plans for the day.

It was another good year for me. I may write a couple more short posts about my morning workshop, and the views around Mendocino.

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Aluminum Leaves is Available on Amazon

The Kindle version and the hardcopy book are both available from Amazon!

These are both pre-orders.

MCWC participants, look for the book at the conference bookstore or order it from the Gallery Bookstore (they’ve already special ordered one!).

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Brian Hauser at Copperfield’s

Copperfield’s Petaluma hosted a low-key author event on Wednesday, July 17. Debut horror novelist Brian Hauser read from Memento Mori; the Fathomless Shadows.  

I liked Memento Mori a lot. I guess “creeping dread,” is my favorite brand of horror. I reviewed the book here.

Like other horror writers I’ve heard, Hauser, in person, is cheerful and funny.

A group of about ten people attended. Most were knowledgeable horror fans, although one young woman told me afterward she was a film person and came to the book via that medium. This is appropriate since Hauser is a professor of film.

When asked about his inspiration for this type of horror, Hauser talked about place. There are places in nature that offer him peace and relaxation; places that fill him with awe. And Hauser, who taught in Potsdam, New York, the tempate for Redstone in the book, said he never once felt at ease in that place.

I recommend the book, and the evening was a nice “welcome home!”

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Cover Reveal: Aluminum Leaves

And here it is.

Since the title is “Aluminum Leaves,” I really like the color of the font, and the font itself. It’s got a nice weathered-industrial look to it which does fit the story.

And I love that book!

The browns and grays fit in very well with the tone of the story, too.

The female figure is far from an exact match for Erin, but I love that they chose a female figure, she’s in the right place in relation to the book.

And they spelled my name right!

At the risk of being tedious, the release date is still August 1, 2019. And watch this space for Release Party information!

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ReaderCon 30; The Best and the Rest

"Let us dare to read, think, speak and write." John Adams, 1765
Sign at the John Adams House

Everything that was good about ReaderCon30 would be a long, long list. The convention is held at the Boston Marriott in Quincy, (which might be why I was confused for a while and thought I was going to Boston). It’s larger than the Walnut Creek convention, FogCon, that I love, but it’s not overwhelming. The layout, in the hotel’s concourse and convention space, is well suited to this kind of event, and well-utilized.

I came to ReaderCon with Terry Weyna, who had been to one a few years ago. It was nice to travel with a friend!

Rather than labor through a critique, I’ll share a few personal bests (and worsts. There were some; they weren’t at the convention).

Michael J De Luca, Rob Cameron, Tananarive Due, Cadwell Turnbull (l to r) discuss solarpunk and afrofuturism.
Michael J De Luca, Rob Cameron, Tananarive Due, Cadwell Turnbull (l to r) discuss solarpunk and afrofuturism.

The convention started at 7:00 pm Thursday night, and Thursday’s events were free and open to the public. The Afro-futurism and solarpunk panel was enlightening, and the high point came when Cameron talked about the Green Wall Project in West Africa. It’s a reforestation project, and it is wonderful.

Since we’d arrived on Wednesday, Thursday morning I took a rideshare down to the center of town, the John Adams Commons area. The commons is lovely. About five blocks away is the John Adams house, which is a national park. I got to go inside the Adams library but I didn’t have a ticket for the entire tour. The garden, though, is open to everyone.

The Adams House library exterior.
The Adams House library exterior.

Personal Best Moments:

  • Hearing John Crowley Read.
  • Having John Crowley sign a book.
  • Talking with John Crowley about his shirt with the woodpecker figures on it.

Yes, there is a theme emerging.

  • Getting to visit with Ezzy Languzzi, with whom I share space in Strange California, with whom I tweet and who I had never met.
  • Austin Grossman’s hilarious and educational slide presentation about how we ended up with Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • Anything Tananarive Due said.

All of the readings I attended I enjoyed. I loved getting a chance to talk to Dr. Malka Older about the statistics of book selling (no, really, it’s interesting) and her work. I liked the kaffeeklatche with Vylar Kaftan. The majority of panels I attended had good information and a few laughs.

In “The Etiquette of Criticism,” the don of SF criticism, John Clute, took exception to something writer and reviewer John Langan said, and there was… a spat. Moments later the moderator asked each panelist to name a critic they admired, and Langan said, “Well, I was going to say John Clute!” I was there, people, when that happened!

Elizabeth Hand’s forthcoming book is about “outsider” artist Henry Darger. I am really looking forward to that.

I thought the mobile app for the program was elegant and easy to use. One commenter pointed out that you could not get to the bios of the panelists from the app, and that was true, but I hadn’t noticed that until I read the comment. There was also a paper pocket-program which had the biographies.

The rest:

Some things weren’t as good. Here are some:

My Verizon mini-router (Jetpack) that I brought specifically in case the Marriott charged for interet access, which they do, decided on Thursday that it wasn’t going to function. I powered it down and paid for one day’s worth of hotel internet. The next day it worked fine. I hate that. Not the working fine part, the intermittent not-going-to-work part.

The Con committee said, “Regardless of the weather outside, the Marriott has one temperature: cold.” That statement was completely accurate.

And to continue the weather theme… can we discuss humidity, people? Who thought this was a good idea? It was never as hot here as it was at home, but the humidity was more than 50%. I had a bad few moments on Saturday when I went for a walk. I got into a mixed residential/commercial neighborhood and it was interesting so I walked farther than I realized. Then I was in a hurry to get back. Halfway up the hill to the hotel, I had to stop and drink some water, and I was pretty shaky when I got back to my room in the arctic zone.

Today was the final day. I am still in a state of euphoria. When I get home and settled, I’ll look over my notes and post something with more actual content. But for now, Terry and I are off to dinner in Braintree. In the humidity.

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The First Part of the Journey

We’re riding along in an older residential section of Quincey, Massachussetts, on our way to the Marriott. Ed, our Uber driver, is diligently following the directions from his GPS. We drive along a narrow street lined with various ethnics diners and cafes. Looks interesting. We can see the waterfront. I reflect how odd it is that the Marriott didn’t mention they were close to the waterfront. “Continue on Water Street. Make a slight right on Water Street.”

Ed makes a sound, the kind of sound people make when they think something’s not quite right.

“In 200 yards, turn right. Turn Right.” Turning right takes us onto the shipyard, where a large A-fame sign advertises tours of the USS Salem.

“No,” says Ed. “This is not right. Where is it taking me?”

1930s Art Deco
This will get your carry on luggage hand searched.

Terry, a friend, writer and fellow Fantasy Literature reviewer, and I flew out of SFO on Alaska Airlines that morning. We had to walk a gauntlet with a chemical-sniffing dog, a handsome black lab wearing a vest with the words Do Not Pet on each side. I made it through that just fine, as I expected. No, it was my carry on that made the TSA go, “Hmmm…” and pull it off the line for a hand search. The professional and patient TSA lady with the cornrowed hair said, in an only slightly weary voice, “Do you have a letter opener in here?”

“No, I don’t.” I mean, geez, I’m not that stupid.

“Well, what you have looks like a knife.” She turned the screen so I could see the X-ray. Sure enough, there was a pointy-ended thing that looked filagreed, right there, somewhere, in the luggage. I had no idea what it was. “Is it the Kind bars?” I said, thinking that the cellophane might be creating the filagree effect. (Okay, so maybe I am that stupid.)

It wasn’t the Kind bars, it wasn’t the six sets of electrical cords and connectors, it wasn’t the trio of pens banded together. I finally told her, “Open anything you have to,” and when she reached for my little fuchsia-colored jewelry roll she found my mother’s clasp, which I had forgotten was in there since I had worn it once in the last year, on New Year’s Eve.

My mother’s beautiful clip will ride in my checked luggage on the trip home.

“I’m not listening to you anymore,” Ed says the GPS. He calls the hotel, and askes if they were near the T station. When the desk person tells him yes, he drives us to the hotel in five minutes.

Ed came here from Haiti. He has two children, and a full-time other job. He picks up a few Uber drives in a week to supplement his income. At about 6:40 pm Boston time, we were his last drive of the day. And we were his only drive of the day.

We flew first class in a plane that was a former Virgin Airlines plane. (An airbus, not a Boeing Max, of course.) First class had fuchsia-pink mood lighting and the shades were down the entire trip. This created a surreal sensation for me, but Terry pointed out that every single person in first class (except me, pointy-ended-fine-jewelry-wielding dinosaur that I am) was watching/reading from a screen. It was kind of like being in a high-end, super-quiet cocktail lounge at 35,000 feet.

The Boston Marriott, in Quincey, is on a hill on a street named Marriott Drive. The hill may have been artificially constructed for the hotel, I don’ t know.

On second thought, that's not an artificial hill.
On second thought, that’s not an artificial hill. Is it the granite Quincey was once famous for?

My room is a Marriott room. It’s comfortable and nicely laid out. I worry sometimes that I’m becoming an accidental tourist; all airports look much the same, all hotel interiors look similar, at least. On the other hand, I’m here for a convention. So that’s all right then.

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4:10 AM

(I wrote this in June, and forgot to post it.)

At 4:10 am it’s still dark. It’s quiet, the quietest it gets during the entire day. All the neighborhood dogs are asleep. The house no longer creaks and pops as it makes the transition from a ninety-degree day to a forty-seven degree night. If people are driving, they are doing it far from this neighborhood. Even the male mockingbird guarding his nest has not started up his song yet. There are no televisions running, no washers or dryers, no lawn mowers. The neighbor’s children are sleeping and their basketball lies quiet underneath its basket stand. Even, at last, the wind has fallen still.

I shift position and hear the sheets rub against my leg. If I lie with one ear against the pillow, I can hear my own heartbeat. The house is silent, but the bed frame rubs against the headboard with a quiet groan.

It’s dark and cool. I lie awake, but not for long. I know when I wake again the room will be filled with pre-sunrise light, and the crows will be calling.

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ReaderCon 2019!

I will be on my way tomorrow to Quincey, Massachusetts for the annual book-based speculative fiction convention ReaderCon. I’ve never been before, but I’m going with Terry Weyna, who has attended a few times.

The program is jammed with wonderful presentations (many of which conflict with other wonderful presentations) and it’s going to be a busy four days. I can hardly wait!

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