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Below are the 13 most recent journal entries recorded in Adrienne's LiveJournal:

    Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
    1:23 pm
    Epinions is a great loss to the internet
    Yesterday I learned that Epinions.com is shutting down the community aspect of its website. It won't be accepting anymore new reviews. (It officially started disabling the website yesterday.) A huge part of their reasoning was decreasing participation. Sadly, I was one who wasn't keeping up. My activity has been practically been non-existent since my father died. I've just had too much on my plate to do much writing or rating.

    For those who aren't familiar with Epinions, it had some of the best consumer reviews on the world wide web. Its contributors took a great deal of pride in the quality of the content they posted. When they wrote reviews, there was a lot more to them than "This CD rocks!" or "This movie sucks!" Many of the music reviewers could talk about the subtle nuances of the instruments. Movie reviewers might concentrate on the director's camera angles. Novel reviewers can understand the importance of pole-to-pole character growth. Travel reviewers actually spent some time describing their personal experiences visiting a hotel or destination. Unlike the users of Amazon.com, Epinions's users appreciated reviews that had more than a 200 word paragraph. Many were better than some professional reviews. Unlike Yelp, it didn't manipulate its automated system to allow (or extort) businesses to pay for favored treatment.

    Epinions's writers have been told they'll be issued their last royalty payment on March 6. I'm am currently going to be looking for another home for my reviews. I currently have 292 reviews posted there. I'm going to poke around for another place for them. Hopefully, I can find another that pays something, but they may come here.

    For those interested in seeing my reviews there, please go to: http://www.epinions.com/user-adriennefoster

    Current Mood: sad
    Saturday, August 10th, 2013
    12:18 pm
    Worldcon 2015 site selection and the writers workshop angle
    This year we're seeing the first contested bidding for the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon 73) that the community has seen in several years. Among the three contending bids to host in 2015 are Spokane, Washington; Orlando; and Helsinki. All full-attending and supporting members of this year's Worldcon, aka LoneStarCon 3, are eligible to vote in the site selection process for 2015. For those concerned about whether the committees are going to put the effort into organizing a critique-circle-format writers workshop, I'll provide my thoughts on this issue.

    For those unfamiliar with Worldcon, it is the flagship of science fiction conventions. It earns its high profile in the industry because it administers the Hugo Awards and all of its members are eligible to nominate and vote on the awards. It has been held annually in a different city every year since its founding in 1939—with the exception of a few gap years during World War II. It is a non-profit convention and all of its staff are unpaid volunteers. (Event planning is their hobby.) Committees bid for the honor two years before the year they want to host the convention. All members of LoneStarCon 3 are eligible to vote for which site they prefer to host in 2015. For official, unbiased details on this site selection race, please go to:

    http://www.lonestarcon3.org/wsfs/wsfs-site.shtml

    The writers workshops found at Worldcon are the best aspiring writers will find at a speculative fiction convention. Worldcons attract more talent—international and domestic—in one place than any other. The wealth of feedback can be the most diverse entrants ever receive.

    After supporting both Boston in 2004 (aka Noreascon 4) and Denver in 2008 (aka Denvention 3), it was upsetting when these committees dismissed the need to have a writers workshop after winning their bids. The first failed to understand the value of a critique circle workshop at a genre convention and the second claimed it would be a drain on its resources. My past experience coordinating writers workshops has shown me they create a great deal of goodwill and attract members who otherwise wouldn't attend. The only scheduling requirements any committee has to fulfill when hosting a Worldcon are the business meetings for the World Science Fiction Society, which governs Worldcon. The next concom can just as easily eliminate the writers workshop as well. Fortunately, LoneStarCon 3 is offering one.

    I attended the Worldcon fannish inquisition at SMOFcon 30 last December and all three of the bidcoms promised outright they would make the effort to pull together a writers workshop if they won the bid. On the other hand, minds can be changed after promises are made.

    Despite my personal reservations, the one I support is Spokane. Some of the rumblings I've heard in the community are doubts in the some of the personalities on this bidcom. Others have claimed the crew is incompetent. There are all sorts of personalities in the community, but that doesn't mean they'll give us a bad convention. We faced a lot of personnel issues during the planning of ConJosé and yet pulled together one of the best Worldcons ever. It may have been one of the most contentious behind the scenes, but the staff's attitude towards outsiders was always professional. I also understand some who attended the presentations at Westercon 66 lost a lot of confidence in this bid, which is critical because of how many serious voters attend that convention, but Spokane's most experienced presenters did not to attend. As for incompetence, there are many people in this community who love Worldcon enough to ensure it happens. Torcon 3 had loads of problems visible to the entire membership, yet its writers workshop was very well managed by Richard Chwedyk. I have talked with Bobbi DuFault, who is slated to co-chair the convention if they win. She is a strong supporter of the critique circle workshop at science fiction conventions. In addition, general science fiction conventions in the Pacific Northwest already have a tradition for providing them and have been doing them on a regular basis longer than many other regions.

    The Orlando bid for Worldcon 73 shows no objection to writers workshops and if it can find the right staffer to do it, will likely offer one. Seasoned Worldcon organizers worry that this bidcom has few members, if any, with any hands-on experience working on this particular series of conventions. People who work on a bid usually vie for high profile positions on the convention if they win. Worldcon has a community with a long history and many traditions they may not be aware of or are prepared to deal with. Would they accept the advice and help from those who have? Many long-time members of the community worry that if the Orlando bid wins, Worldcon 73 will lose its traditional characteristics.

    The Helsinki bid is lumbered with two major disadvantages. The first being that overseas Worldcons are notorious for snubbing the members who look forward to participating in critique circle writers workshops. (Please note that Loncon 3 currently shows no plans for one next year.) The second being not very many American members can afford to go an overseas Worldcon two years in a row.

    One of this bid's advisors was Priscilla Olsen, who publicly announced at SMOFcon 30 she didn't see what critique circle workshops added to a convention and was the one who decided to eliminate it in 2004. She is no longer associated with the Helsinki bid, but it was a scary moment for writers workshop aficionados when she helped present the bid at SMOFcon 30. Bidcom Member Crystal Huff has personally informed me, "If Helsinki wins, there will absolutely and definitely be a writers' workshop in 2015. We've had one associated with Finncon now for years, organised in cooperation with the Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, and it would be just plain silly not to organise one at a Helsinki Worldcon."

    Many of the Helsinki bid's supporters believe that another international bid would put the World in Worldcon. The last time we heard this argument, we ended up with a committee that went into massive debt after their Worldcon was held. Nippon 2007's initial debt after the convention was around US$35,000. The majority of the people who supported the bid did not support the convention. Worldcons need members to actually attend or else it has problems paying its bills. Despite Worldcon's international emphasis, it unofficially acts as the American national convention, since there isn't one in the U.S. It's hard to imagine that the American constituency is going to like Worldcon being in Europe two years in a row. Professionals as well as fans are complaining they'd be financially unable to attend a European Worldcon two years in a row, so their services would be unavailable for a writers workshop.

    That being said, if Helsinki doesn't win this year, I'm hoping they'll bid again. It sounds like they have a dynamite crew, but the timing is bad. However, if it's the critique circle workshop a member wants and Loncon 3 decides not to have one, then she can skip Loncon 3 in favor of Helsinki. (I'm greedy, though, I want to attend them all.)

    Site Selection voters are influenced by different factors when choosing which bid to host a convention in a given year. Some look at the host city, others the committee, and still others the facilities. But, if a voter's primary concern is whether they'll be able to enjoy participating in a critique circle writers workshop, Spokane and Helsinki are both emphatic that they will supply one. I am endorsing the Spokane bid for personal economic reasons; otherwise, the Helsinki bid sounds very good. Voters who are interested in incorporating a visit to Walt Disney World or the medieval city of Porvoo into their vacations are going to favor another bid. If writers workshop-inclined voters still prefer another bid, please give Spokane your second place vote.

    Above all, if you're eligible to vote in this year's site selection, please do so. It will count this year more than it has for quite a while.


    Adrienne Foster
    Writers Workshop Coordinator for
    Westercon 66
    L.A.con IV
    ConJosé
    BucConeer
    L.A.con III
    Conadian
    ConFrancisco
    BayCons '91, '92 & '93

    Please note that this was previously posted at both Gather.com and Epinions.com. Since Gather has turned off the ability for users to become members, I am posting it here as well.
    Sunday, August 23rd, 2009
    1:23 pm
    The angst of Anticipation

    The thing I like best about the World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon) is that it gives me a reason to travel to places I probably wouldn’t choose on my own. In 2007, the honor (or sentence, depending on how the individual interprets it) of hosting it was awarded to the Montréal bidding committee, who held it August 6–10, 2009. With several members of the Torcon 3 convention committee on the bidcom, I knew some people hated the idea of the Canadian team doing it. However, I recognized half the names as my colleagues from ConAdian, which was one of the best Worldcons I ever attended and worked on. In spite of how poorly some things were done, Anticipation was a trip I found worthwhile. Not only was I joined by several friends from home, but also those I’m only in touch with from afar. Worldcon is about the only time I see many of my contacts face-to-face. Overall, Anticipation was a mixed bag of quality. I’d give it three out of five stars because of its inconsistency. Following describe my experiences at this year’s Worldcon.

    Facilities/hotels

    The Palais des Congrès was the convention center used for most of Anticipation’s programming and was an interesting venue in itself. At one corner was an entrance to Montréal’s Metro system. The first floor was used as commercial space year round. It had many restaurants and shops that not only convention goers took advantage of, but many of the locals did too. Anticipation took place on the second and fifth levels and that building was huge. Anyone going to back-to-back panels would have been challenged if he had to take a long walk from one end of the building to another. It also remained open for late programming, which was refreshing. Most evening Worldcon programming usually moves over to its party hotel because the convention center charges way too much stay open.

    The Delta was the party/light programming hotel. The con suite and a party or two were on the 5th floor and the rest of the open parties were on the 28th. The writers workshop was scheduled in some of its function rooms. Its bar was poorly set up for informal groups, so most of the writers went to the Intercontinental to hang out. Unfortunately, I looked for a lower rate and chose Hôtel La Tour Centre-ville, which turned out to be purgatory at Anticipation. (Anyone interested in more details about that can click on the link for my review on Epinions.) I was really disappointed in the concom for selecting La Tour as a part of its room block.


    Registration

    After the long lines at Denvention 3, Lea Farr did an excellent job organizing at-con registration. There was no separation of members by last name. Everyone entered the same snake line. At the table, members provided their name and ID and were promptly given their badges and publications.

    I personally had problems because I missed upgrading my supporting membership before the final deadline. Hoping to save a little money, I bought a second-hand membership only to find that the member who sold it to me provided the wrong details. Staffer Elayne Pelz (who, by the way, is one of the most efficient administrators in fandom) dealt with the problem fairly and competently. I learned my lesson. I made a point of upgrading my Aussiecon 4 membership before I left Anticipation.


    Dealers’ room

    This had to rate as the poorest Worldcon hucksters’ room I’ve seen to date. Most of the vendors there were publishers promoting their books or magazines. Not that it was a Bad Thing, but the variety of merchandise was so limited. There was only one jeweler, some books, plenty of T-shirts, and some media-related toys. For anyone looking for a prized collector’s item, it was unlikely they found it there.

    This really came as no surprise. After the holdups so many vendors had going through Canadian customs documenting every single piece of merchandise for Torcon 3, American dealers didn’t want to face it again. I know that’s why Cargo Cult Books and Springtime Creations declined to vend this year. Talking to a couple of artists at Denvention 3, they said they had been pulled aside by Canadian customs, too. They told me that even though the transporting was more expensive, it was so much easier to go through customs in the UK or Australia. That might explain why American dealers gave it a miss, but there must be more Canadian dealers than were there. What happened to them? If I go to a Canadian convention, I’d prefer to purchase items that are uncommon in the U.S.

    For anyone who finds the dealers’ room important, I can imagine this will affect any Canadian bids in the future.


    Art show

    Although there was some good stuff in the art show, very little of it really stood out to me. The only pieces I particularly remember was a cute series of portraits copying those of Henry VIII and his six wives, except replacing their faces with those of mice. Since I have a Tudor fantasy novel in progress, those would command my interest. Hugo Nominee Artist Alan Beck had chosen one of the portraits wrong, though. The one that was long believed to be that of Henry’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard, has been correctly identified as that of the sister of either Jane Seymour or Catherine Parr. Anyone who carefully looks at the original portrait will see that the woman appears to be in her 30s. Katherine was around 20 when she was executed. Another portrait has since turned up that is believed to be her.


    Off-site excursion: ghost walk of Old Montréal

    One of my favorite things to do when I travel is take the local ghost walking tour. I found one in Montréal, but the English language tour regularly took place on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I was traveling on both Wednesdays of my trip. I know I would enjoy the ghost walk more than the masquerade, but also hated the idea of losing the option to see the costumes. (As it turned out, I was too tired to attend, thanks to my problems at La Tour.) Putting on a group tour, I could arrange with the operator any day I wanted and I was confident it was genre other members of Anticipation would enjoy. Unofficially, I put together one at Denvention 3 and decided to do it again for Anticipation, but this time I pursued it a little more aggressively since any shortfall would come out of my pocket. René Walling, Anticipation co-chairman, graciously allowed me to post an announcement under the tours section of the official website. The webmaster, Mike McMillan, was even kind enough to modify the map I sent him to include Anticipation landmarks. Advance ticket sales did pretty good. I needed to sell 20 to cover my ass, and 41 members made reservations. We would need two guides to see after us properly.

    Paying in advance insured that the people who said they would be there showed up at our meeting point, the Place d’Armes, which was a couple of blocks away from either the Palais des Congrès or Embassy Suites. Three more people dropped by at the last minute. While we were clustered together, two fellows in goth garb suddenly appeared.

    Five never checked in with me, so I hoped that meant they tagged along with the other guide. Our guide, Donovan, was absolutely delightful. We walked up Rue Notre-Dame hung a right at Rue Bonsecours and then right again at Rue Saint-Paul and ended our walk at Place Jacques-Cartier. We stopped at several spots along the way where Donovan told us some of the local history and ghost folklore of that particular location. He was pleasantly dramatic and constantly teasing our group, particularly a six-year-old girl who came with her parents. Many stories would end with “I’ll bet Spock couldn’t come up with logical explanation for that!” Everyone seemed quite delighted with the excursion.

    The following day I found a message on the voodoo board from one of the missing five. They thought we were meeting at Places des Artes.


    Programming

    OMG. This has to be one of the most visible departments of any convention and its organization at Anticipation was probably the worst. Terry Fong, who was the programming division manager for Torcon 3, was given a second chance to do it again for Worldcon 67. The only improvement over Torcon 3 was the lack of personal yet public internal bickering going on amongst the committee. I heard the acronym SNAFU (Situation Normal—All Fonged Up) over the weekend and again after returning home.

    The biggest bone of contention was the schedule changes. Granted, no matter what the size of a convention, there are going to be last-minute changes. One never knows when a program participant is going to have an emergency and sometimes a conflict is overlooked. The grid that was initially released as a pocket program was more likely inaccurate than correct. We were told that the pink sheets were latest and greatest, but then they were inconsistent themselves. It was so hard to plan my time when half the stuff I wanted to do was incorrectly documented. As a matter of fact, I was scheduled for an item in kids programming and had asked to be removed. I never saw that correction announced anywhere. I even went to prog ops for some definitive answers but the staff there knew no more than I did.

    Panels

    A great deal of praise should go to Farah Mendlesohn for pulling together a fantastic schedule of panels. I enjoyed the couple I attended and thought she did fantastic job moderating the “Handicapping the Hugos (Part 1)” panel. I heard several people rave about the quality of the topics and the people who were scheduled on them. I’m at a loss as to why the announced times became such a mess.

    Autographing

    Once again, my biggest grievance was about the hosed-up schedule. I weighed down my luggage by bringing five books I wanted signed by attending authors and only managed to acquire two autographs. The schedule kept rearranging and I could never find a clear answer as to when I could find one author, John Robert Columbo, at the table. John Scalzi was rescheduled opposite the writers workshop section I was moderating. The only option I had was to stalk these guys at panels, but I grew weary with all of the running around I was having to do.

    Writers workshop

    After spending about 15 years of my life to promote critique groups at science fiction conventions, I gave up fighting for them when one former Worldcon chairman told me that SMOFs thought they were a trivial issue. With Oz Drummond taking over the reigns, I was relieved to see it back at Worldcon this year. I further appreciated Farah’s zealousness in protecting the writers workshop sections, which had not been seen at four out of the last five Worldcons.

    Oz did it a little differently than mine, but the only real complaint I have was that manuscripts were distributed less than two weeks before the convention. I would have liked more time to properly prepare my critiques before I left home, but I work full time and had to finalize my travel arrangements, among other things on my plate during that time.

    The pros in my section were Steve Miller and Laurel Anne Hill. The entrants in my section accepted their criticism in a mature manner, but I had to remind them to keep quiet while in the hot seat. Another friend of mine, Joe Rhett, who was an entrant in another section, said he found the advice he received invaluable.

    Too bad SMOFs fail to appreciate that.


    WSFS business

    Once again I was snared by the rearrangement of the schedule. This year WSFS members were dealing with the very contentious issue of the “Locus Award.” Out of the last 25 Hugo awards given in the semi-prozine category, 21 of them were given to Locus. At Devention 3, a proposal was made to eliminate the category from the Hugo lineup.

    I had mixed feelings about the award. It is a legitimate category, but there’s something unsettling when the community keeps giving it to the same publication almost every year. Some film directors keep being nominated for the Oscar year after year, but the Academy rarely honors the same nominee more than two years in a row. The problem is obviously with the Hugo voters. While I grant Locus provides a valuable service to the science fiction industry, it has its weaknesses too. My guess is it kept winning because voters were too lazy to take a look at the other nominees in the category.

    This year John Scalzi, who himself was nominated in three categories, made a concentrated effort to collect as much of the Hugo-nominated material as possible and distribute it to every member of Anticipation so they could better consider their choices.

    Before Kevin Standlee hopped on his train to Montréal, he told me the WSFS administrators planned to have the deciding vote on the fate of the semi-prozine category on Sunday. I was sorry to see that vote was arranged before the Hugo ceremony, since the results could have some influence over how I would vote. Once again I was thwarted because I never learned the scheduled was changed yet again to have the vote on Saturday and I was never able to exercise my right to vote. That stinks.


    Hugo ceremony

    What I liked least about the venue for the Hugo ceremony was that all of the seating was on one flat floor. The stadium style auditorium at Denvention 3 saved me from having to worry about someone tall sitting right in front of me and obstructing my view. While this year’s base was beautiful, the ceremony seemed more utilitarian than others I’ve attended in the past. I missed seeing Connie Willis and Bob Silverberg amongst the presenters.

    Since Neil Gaiman was guest of honor, it was no big surprise when he was given the award for best novel for The Graveyard Book. He’s such a popular author, he probably would have won it regardless. The big upset was seeing the semi-prozine award go to Weird Tales. After that, I was happy to see the category stay. Perhaps that Hugo nominee package was what the voters have been needing for a long time now and I understand every effort is going to made to continue this practice in the future.


    Con suite

    Diane Lacey, who overlapped her duties in the Hugo awards department with taking over hospitality, was certainly a busy woman during this convention. Her whiz of a staff did a fantastic job of hosting Anticipation members in a friendly atmosphere. For those who were busy throughout the day, the fifth floor of the Delta was a great place to make a pit stop, grab a little something to eat, and socialize with other members. In my case, the hot spaghetti that was served Sunday night was a savior, since I had no appetite before the Hugo ceremony and was hungry afterward. The evening parties at Worldcons rarely rev up before 8 p.m., so the con suite provided a pleasant, laid-back gathering place during the day.


    Parties

    Every night I like to spend an hour cruising the open parties. They were held on the top floor of the Delta and those suites were so impressive. Some were split level, but all of them had spectacular views, especially since we had a couple of nights with a full moon. I would go back to Montréal just to spend a couple of nights in one of those suites.

    There were the usual lot of bid parties and others to promote some regional conventions, including one in Scandanavia. A Texas group announced a bid for another Worldcon in San Antonio in 2013. They handed out some marvelous margaritas. Japan is throwing in their hat for another Worldcon in 2017. The Chicago bid for 2012 will be going to the polls next year. I wonder if the DNC will follow Worldcon again?


    The bottom line

    While there have been worse Worldcons in the past, Anticipation gave its fair share of angst. What I was happiest about was seeing the writers workshop come back. What made me the most miserable was the poor communication about schedule changes. Did the progcom reschedule John Robert Columbo’s signing at all? I never learned. No one could answer my questions. Montréal was a beautiful backdrop for Anticipation, but the disorganization of its schedule did affect my enjoyment of this year’s Worldcon. At least I was able to have my annual visit with friends I rarely see. My final assessment of it is neutral.

    On the other hand, I’ll be attending my first World Fantasy Convention this year. Maybe that will help make up for it.

    Tuesday, August 5th, 2008
    12:22 am
    Will this be Yelped?
    This actually warrants a longer, more thoughtful essay, but since I'm flying to Denver tomorrow morning and this is timely, I'm going to make it short. As I pack for my trip, I have been watching the local news and it ran a story on the consumer review website, Yelp. The integrity of consumer reviews has always been questioned, but apparently Yelp solicits local businesses to take "enhanced accounts" that will push negative reviews to the bottom of a heap and highlight a business's favorite positive ones. They have 10 million users and apparently a great deal of influence over the locales they cater. For more details, please go to:

    http://cbs5.com/wrapper_consumer/seenon/Yelp.Internet.ratings.2.787400.html

    I have to admit the nature of this Razzberry Lips business grates on me. (I'm not thrilled about little girls doing adult makeup.) I'd be inclined to give Razzberry Lips a negative review just for the concept.

    This article is clearly slanted in the favor of local businesses, but the Yelp spokeswoman did raise some valid points (the owners and friends of the owners posting glowing reviews their businesses). Regardless, these enhanced accounts Yelp offers appear unethical without further research and at face value I'm inclined to believe the local businesses are being extorted.

    As far as I know Epinions and Shopping.com doesn't offer "enhanced accounts" for businesses, but someone correct me if I'm wrong.

    Current Mood: aghast
    Saturday, July 19th, 2008
    1:21 pm
    A couple of on-line business resources for writers
    An agent I had met at Windycon 34 left the agency he was with, so I googled him and ran across a website that looks like a very helpful resource for writers. It's called LitMatch and does nothing except list agents and agencies. I've had published authors ask me if I knew of any agents looking for writers, so I thought I'd share this URL:

    http://www.litmatch.net/

    In addition to listing agents, it helps sort them according to the kind of manuscripts they represent and whether or not they're currently considering new clients and take electronic submissions. It also allows writers to track their projects and use their experiences as a reference for others online. It registers the date sent, how long it took receive a response and what the response was (positive or personal/form rejection). In addition, LitMatch refuses to list agents who charge reading fees and asks writers to let them know if any in their database have had a change in policy in this matter. It claims to list 1,680 agents at 790 agencies worldwide. It certainly sounds a lot easier than sorting through the data in the LMP!

    As a quick aside, it is good practice to decline paying reading fees. My mentor, James N. Frey, says any agent who charges for considering your work is more than likely making his living off the fees than selling books. You have to admit his advice makes sense. With that in mind, a friend also told me about another helpful resource for writers, Preditors and Editors:

    http://www.invirtuo.cc/prededitors/pubabout.htm

    This website is actually for more than just writers. It covers the whole world of intellectual property rights. It's mostly about industry gossip. People share their experiences with others here. From what I hear, one agent is suing these folks because they are damaging her reputation. (Apparently, she charges reading fees with little or no benefit to writers.) (The best defense for libel is the truth.)

    I just ran across these resources within the past couple of days, so I can't relay much personal experience using them. If any of you have, I wouldn't mind hearing whether you found them positive or not.

    Current Mood: geeky
    Thursday, July 17th, 2008
    10:41 pm
    Moving up in the on-line world
    I finally did it. I finally got DSL. I spent all evening yesterday installing my new modem. The ethernet cable confused me because both ends had telephone-like jacks on them and the yellow socket on the back of my computer had a round socket. I called AT&T and it wasn't until 11:30 p.m. until both e-mail and internet service were thoroughly hooked up. I now feel like I'm in the 21st century. I stayed up another two hours watching clips on You Tube. This evening I watched the special Doctor Who installment of Weakest Link.

    Now I'm anxious to remove a lot of the software that came bundled with my computer and have no idea how to do it. I heard there used to be a program called Nuts & Bolts that facilitated this need, but has long since gone out of print. Is there anything similar to it?

    My cat, Spot, has taken to keeping close to me at the computer recently. She really likes the little space on the table next to the monitor. I wouldn't mind it so much if she didn't want to use the keyboard as a pillow.

    Current Mood: accomplished
    Saturday, July 12th, 2008
    3:31 pm
    Taking a chance on a writers workshop website
    A friend at work introduced me to a British website for new writers, You Write On, where users can exchange constructive criticism for novels and short stories, whether they be completed or in progress. It is sponsored by the Arts Council and those who are rated well will have their work looked at by industry editors and agents. My friend, by the way, is a published author of four novels who is struggling to sell his fifth and I am acquainted with several others who are in similar predicaments to find homes for their manuscripts. My friend decided to give this website a try.

    Since my first two novels take place in England, I fancy my chances of selling Bettina's Ghost in the UK are much better than here in the States. I am currently taking a shot at YWO myself. A few of the things I like about this website is that users have to give critiques in order to receive critiques. They only get the first one for free. It assigns submissions to random users to critique for credit and they aren't necessarily people who will be critiquing you, so there's no worries about retaliation critiques and ratings. (Users can do "free will" critiques, but receive no credit for them.)

    My friend was soon discouraged by the results of YWO. The website requires a minimum of 100 words for a valid critique. It also has the critiquer rate the writing sample on various aspects and requires the reviewers to pass a reading test to ensure they thoroughly read it. I notice several of the other users barely provide the 100 words and some don't pass the reading test, thus disqualifying their comments altogether. My friend found the level of critiquing to be that of beginners and they rated his work poorly. He pointed to one of the top 10 rated submissions and I had to agree that it had some serious structural problems.

    My experience with YWO started out well when my first reviewer found Bettina's Ghost to be her type of story and she nailed where I believe my biggest weakness is: awkward sentence structure. (Unfortunately, since we never meet face-to-face, I can't see a marked up manuscript with suggested copyediting.) After that, however, it's been disappointing. While I certainly don't expect my novel to be the type of story that interests everyone, I do expect them to distance themselves from their personal tastes to provide an objective review. Why are new writers so lost on that concept? I also like brainstorming ideas and story structure in workshops, new writers concentrate on punctuation. Beautiful sentences are always nice, but frankly they aren't worth a thing if a writer can't plot a story. A huge part of writing is rewriting.

    However, what is about new writers who can't grasp the purpose of workshop? When you ask for honest, constructive criticism, you need to understand it isn't always going to be glowing. I don't do puff critiques. Of the eight critiques I've done, only one was worthy of being published. It actually made it to the top. YWO gives users the privilege of removing one review for every eight received. It's rather discouraging to see my comments go without any indication of whether they're considered. I saw one of my critiques removed in less than 12 hours of being posted.

    I committed to one more critique at YWO and the lack of conflict in this last writing sample is pathetic. My friend doesn't want to hear anymore about YWO. I'll wait a little longer to see how it goes.

    Current Mood: cynical
    Sunday, May 25th, 2008
    4:20 pm
    Current Worldcon bidding and writers workshops
    I've been making some inquiries about the upcoming bids for Worldcon and am somewhat assured they bode a future for writers workshops.

    As you may be aware, the Melbourne bid is unopposed for 2010. It's another overseas location, but the Aussie concom offered one in 1999 and it was put together by Lucy Sussex, who is a selling author herself. Her format was different from mine, but it was nonetheless a critique group. When I contacted this year's bidcom to ask if they intended to have another in 2010, the best they would tell me was that if they had one in 1999, they would probably do it again. There was no commitment in the email, so it wouldn't hurt if site selection voters keep asking about it. We still have the option of voting for "None of the above" if we're unhappy with the bidcom. (If a none-of-the-above vote wins, site selection would then return to the WSFS business meeting. I don't know what would happen next, since those results are unprecedented.) For more info on this bid, please go to their website:

    http://www.australia2010.org/

    They also have a Live Journal discussion:

    http://community.livejournal.com/australia2010/

    The bid for 2011 became contested recently. There are two bids vying for the honor of hosting Worldcon 69, Seattle and Reno. Both had parties at BayCon '08 last night and I talked to the folks at both of them. Both strongly stated that if they win they would put every effort forward to provide a writers workshop. They may not follow the same format of the ones I coordinated, but I am reasonably assured they will be critique groups. At this stage, I'm more inclined to prefer Reno for personal reasons, but I wouldn't mind if either group wins. (I actually presupported both.) For more info on these bids, please go to the following websites:

    http://seattlein2011.org/

    http://www.rcfi.org/index.php

    The Reno bidcom also has a Live Journal discussion:

    http://community.livejournal.com/renoin2011/

    I pass this information on for consideration in the site selection process. Anyone who has either a full-attending or supporting member of Denvention 3 is eligible to vote for 2010. Likewise, anyone who has either a full-attending or supporting member of Anticipation, which takes place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, is eligible to vote for 2011. If you are eligible, I hope you do take advantage of the power you have.
    Saturday, April 5th, 2008
    5:21 pm
    A question about modern personal hygiene
    What is it about loofahs and these wads of cheesecloth used as sponges for the human body? On my last birthday, a friend gave me a tube of Bath & Body Works pink cherry blossom body wash. When I shower, I prefer a hard (as opposed to glycerin) bar of soap and a washcloth, but I like the scent I was given, so I thought I'd give it a try. Who knows? I might find something I like about it. I have to admit combining the wash with the cheesecloth wad gives a great lather, but it is really uncomfortable against those tender parts of the body. To avoid the scratching, you need to lather up the washcloth after all. I just as soon stick with the washcloth all along.

    Why are these loofahs and cheesecloth wads so popular?
    Saturday, September 15th, 2007
    7:59 pm
    Using my frequent flyer miles
    My airline options to go to South Dakota last July were slim, so I ended up flying Delta to go Rapid City. This is an airport that American Airlines doesn't bother with, so my frequent flyer account is due to expire come January if I don't show some activity on it soon. As it happens, I have accumulated enough miles to fly a modest distance, so I'll take advantage of them to attend Windycon 34, which is held in Chicago over the Veteran's Day weekend. Since I didn't attend Worldcon this year, it will be my make-up convention.

    Both my room and flight are booked. The check for my membership will be going out during the next day or two. Is anyone else planning to go too?

    Richard Chwedyk told me about a haunted pub in Windy City I'm looking forward to seeing. As if my backlog of travel reviews to write isn't long enough.

    I should be posting one on New Lanark in the near future.

    Current Mood: curious
    Tuesday, August 28th, 2007
    10:07 pm
    Renaissance Faire in NorCal
    I just took a look at the web page for the NorCal Renaissance Faire to find out the dates for this year. While I was pleased to see it’s planned for the full six weekends, I was amazed to see single-day admission is now $25.00 before any discount. I’ll probably go regardless, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a huge part of why its attendance has declined since it lost its Blackpoint Forest location.

    When the Living History Center managed it, I remember it used to offer group discounts to corporations for their employees. Does the current organization do this? A couple of years ago, one of the local See’s shops was giving a pair of tickets to the Dickens Fair to any customer who purchased $50 or more of its merchandise.

    In the meantime, I'm looking forward to going to the 142nd Annual Scottish Highland Games at the Alameda County Fairgrounds on Saturday. They have some historical reenactment there as well, except it's with the not-so-bright Mary, Queen of Scots. My main goal is to do some Christmas shopping, though. I wouldn't mind watching the sheep dog trials too.

    Current Mood: restless
    Saturday, June 2nd, 2007
    2:25 pm
    Some thoughts on MOST HAUNTED live at Eastern State Penitentiary
    Did very many folks see Most Haunted's seven-hour live investigation of Eastern State Penitentiary on the Travel Channel last night? I happened to catch it from beginning to end, with a couple of 15–20 minute breaks. I'd certainly be interested in hearing other people's take on it. I've been scanning its bulletin boards and they make interesting reading.

    Among others things, several people have been accusing Derek Acorah of being a fraud. I think one of the biggest fallacies about psychics is that they're always right. My best friend is a medium and she says sometimes the spirits may have a dicey perspective on something or will outright lie about facts. When we went to the Brook Room, we had one that was messing with us, but fortunately, there were plenty of others who told us otherwise.

    However, I was quite impressed when David Wells told the story of Jack and John, a staff member whose throat was cut by a prisoner. The historian on site insisted the details David relayed were accurate and could be confirmed only through unpublished records still extant about Eastern State. The incident in question took place in the mid-19th century and it was an escape attempt by the inmate, John, who tried to steal Jack Gaston's clothes.

    The inevitable comparison to Ghost Hunters also arises on the bulletin boards several times, especially since TAPS investigated the same location on two separate shows. While I enjoy both series, the only objective they have in common is entertainment. The goal of TAPS is to either verify or debunk whether a place is haunted using evidence through electronic equipment. They completely dismiss feelings and personal experiences. Come on, eyewitness accounts do have value in a court of law. When TAPS confirms a site is haunted, what then? They ask to be kept in the loop, but they have no medium on hand to clear the property, which Derek and David have done from time to time. TAPS has had this demonologist guy on in a few episodes, but I've seen no followthrough on his efforts.

    Quite frankly, I don't think the electronic evidence is going to convince skeptics either. People who believe don't need evidence. People who don't can be shown evidence until you're blue in the face and they'll always look for the "rational" explanation for an occurrence. The only cases that I've come across that convinced a skeptic otherwise was when they experienced phenomena themselves.

    For what it's worth, I was rather flabbergasted when Most Haunted found the claims about the Whaley House in San Diego, California, to be inconclusive. Its parapsychologist, Ciaran O'Keefe, found the evidence they collected there unacceptable. Quite frankly, I can't think of anyplace in the USA more haunted by square inch than that place. I've been there twice and the place is heavy with emotion and something seems to happen there everyday.

    For anyone who's interested, I should be posting my Epinions review on Hampton Court Palace within the next week. I am also in the midst of planning to visit several haunted sites in South Dakota during the 4th of July week.

    Current Mood: complacent
    Sunday, May 27th, 2007
    2:49 pm
    My first post
    Dinogrl was complaining yesterday that I don't post to LJ. So here's a post.

    Current Mood: accomplished
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