Monthly Archives: May 2012

Steampunk ideas from Balticon

I attended the Balticon Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention this weekend. Among the various workshops was one on accessorizing your steampunk costume. I got a few new ideas for describing characters’ outfits, though these are a little much for my rural folks.

This airpirate’s pistol excited me the most.

It is outfitted with aether canisters, exactly what I was thinking of when I designed my fungus gun in my WIP The Farm. In my case, the larger canisters hold distilled mycelium. However, I forgot the tubes to feed it into the barrel like you see here. Edits are needed, but you can read the excerpt on my page titled The Farm.

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown…

For years I’ve listened to Garrison Keillor’s radio show A Prairie Home Companion, and—thanks to Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts—last night watched a practice of the show that will be broadcast live tonight.

Garrison is a fabulous storyteller and I love seeing him up on the stage in his light blue summer suit with his red tie, red socks and red sneakers. Red, white and blue might be his uniform dress for Memorial Day, but that’s my image of him on the standing weekend his radio show performs at Wolf Trap.


He always talks to both parts of the audience at Wolf Trap, which features outdoor covered theater seating and uncovered lawn seating. (I’ve attended in more than one rainstorm and have very clever ways from my camping days to use a tarp and umbrellas for cover.) A few years ago he began talking to the ‘wolves’ in the audience. We howl back. My last visit he decided to risk a walk out to see us. To the crowd’s delight, he did it again last night, singing with guest Sara Watkins. I have no idea what they sang, I was so excited to see him up close.


He then held an interview with the purported leader of the pack. I noticed Garrison did not use a script for the dialogue he had with sound effects man Fred Newman. The piece was off the cuff, all very fun and made me realize once again how clever he is. I have read that Garrison writes the entire script for Saturday night, including the regular skits and his monologue about his hometown, on Thursday.

I’ve come to realize he knows his world—or worlds, in this case—so well that he just talks about them. Talks about any tangential thought that occurs to him and relates it back to the world and the characters and what they would do. The monologue is delivered with no notes, pacing across the front of the stage, with glasses off, and, I think, eyes closed. He gestures, shrugs and smiles at the parts where the audience laughs.

I realized in watching him this is key for storytelling. Immerse yourself in the world, so deeply you know it as well as your characters.

And that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, the men are good-looking and the children are above average.

Learning from Twitter Pitching

I’ve had a twitter account and I understand the whole 140 and hashtag thing. I’ve also pitched my novels. Twitter pitching is the perfect marriage of the two. The format forces you to pick the best your manuscript has to offer and be succinct in 140 characters. Er, make that 135, because you’ve got to get the hashtag in there.

Writers had an opportunity to Twitter Pitch in an event arranged by The Writer’s Voice Contest coaches. (Please don’t just randomly pitch agents on twitter.) #WVTP was our ticket to the group.

I read a number of the linked blogs, prepared my pitch, ran it by my CP, ran it through a test tweet box for character count and then at the appointed time, lurked to get the gist.

Impressive pitching out there. I picked up a few tips:

What you say: It’s got to have the who, the conflict and the stakes. After that, a little setting or genre hints help, but key to setting you apart is your particular voice. You’ve just got to play with the words for that one.

Timing: Keep up with the feed and note when the agent of your interest comes on and pitch while he/she is fresh.

Persistence: One agent noted she’d seen the pitch all day, please send a partial. Then another said she’d seen too much, please those who hadn’t pitched much, do so now.

Variety: Present your pitch from a number of different directions. I discovered Twitter won’t let you post the exact same wording twice. Or my Twitter won’t. The writers that used this technique had a presence that wasn’t annoying. (To me anyway, jumping on and off.)

So, my tries—yes, I changed that pitch throughout the day—didn’t garner an agent’s attention, but I did pick up some great ideas for what does.

Upcoming Pitch Opportunity

I’ve researched the agents and editors—and the train schedules!—and decided to attend this year’s Long Island Luncheon hosted by the Long Island Romance Writers in  New York. About fifteen agents and ten editors will be in attendance and I was thrilled to see many of them are looking for my genre, fantasy, in both YA and adult. The trip will be a long day, made shorter by the company of a fellow Maryland Romance Writers’ chapter-mate, and the block of time we’ll have on Amtrack for writing.

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