Saturday, May 25, 2013

On the road again: Balticon, day 3

Work kept me up late enough that I didn't get to sleep until the wee hours, so I was happy to be able to sleep late today.  After a quick shower, I headed off to lead the Baen Traveling Roadshow, an event I encourage you to attend whenever it appears at a con near you.  In this 80-minute panel, we gave away free books, talked about how Baen works, looked at slides of nifty pieces of original art and the covers built around them, and heard from Baen author Chuck Gannon and cover designer Jennie Faries, who made the presentation happen. 

I had a bit of a break next, so I grabbed a nutritious (not) hot dog lunch, walked the art show, toured the dealers' room, and generally checked out the con.

As it turned out, the con had scheduled me to be part of a group reading with two other authors, neither of whom write anything like what I do.  We decided to take turns reading and to listen to each other, so I enjoyed a bit of a novelette the author intended to go to Analog, where her first two stories and appeared, and then a chapter of a YA quest novel, which the author said was the fourth (I think) in her series.  I read a romantic chapter of No Going Back.  The combination of our pieces worked surprisingly well, and no one in the audience seemed bored at any time.

After a couple of hours of work, I headed over to Kyle's to eat some delicious Indian food and watch the UFC PPV.  The card proved to be way better than either of us had expected, the food was also better than usual (and usual is pretty darn good), and the evening was low-key fun.

Now, I'm going to crash.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On the road again: Balticon, day 2

Most of today went to working in my hotel room, which is sadly the norm for me at conventions.  I did manage to register, help a friend set up in the art show, and grab a late lunch. 

I spent the early evening helping debug the opening ceremonies, and then at 8:00 I was the Master of Ceremonies for them.  I got to spend a little time talking with a lot of fun folks, including Joe and Gay Haldeman, T.C. McCarthy, and Myke Cole. 

When I agree to MC an event, I focus most on what the event's organizers want.  Here, it is for the event to go smoothly and on time.  Entertaining the audience is also part of the job, of course, but the focus is on how the event goes.  So, I try to adopt that focus, make the event be the center of the audience's attention, keep it rolling along, and try to hit our time marks.  I don't try to make it be "The Mark Van Name Show."  This approach tends to mean that I maintain a smooth, calm affect, never take too long in my jokes or monologue bits, and keep the show moving briskly.  I think that's what the audience wants--it's what I have wanted when I attended the opening ceremonies of various cons--but the cost is that I'm not as entertaining as I could be.  I always wonder if I've chosen the right balance. 

After we finished the opening ceremonies, a small group of us headed to Woodberry Kitchen for a late dinner.  The meal was tasty, though not quite as good as in past years.  Still, the setting was lovely, the service good, and the food well above average.  If you live in this area and haven't yet eaten at this restaurant, you should head on over.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

On the road again: Balticon, day 1

Each year, we leave earlier for the drive to Balticon, and each year, we arrive later.  The traffic on I-95 and the D.C. and Baltimore beltways is insane.  Time in the car on those stretches alternates between periods of no-motion and times of fighting with life-threatening traffic.  The drive is never fun.  When I wasn't driving, I worked.  When I was driving, I focused utterly on the traffic. 

The evening contained a fair amount of work but also two fun events. 

The first was dinner at The Food Market in Hampden, a part of this area that I quite enjoy.  I'd never been to this restaurant before, but every dish we sampled was tasty, so I'll definitely go back.

Over the meal, we discussed, among other things, upcoming action flicks we wanted to see.  Fast and  Furious 6 was high on the list because it's due to open this weekend.  As it turned out, the film actually opened tonight here with a single, 10:00 show, so off we went to the theater.  I may write a review later, but for now let me say simply that, as with so many summer action movies, you already know if you want to see this one, and if you do, odds are good that you'll enjoy it. 

Bandwidth here at the hotel is worse than that of any hotel in Europe, so miserable that SpeedTest couldn't even complete--and most fans aren't here yet.  Ah, well; email is already slow and will be getting slower.

Tomorrow, the con begins, and as Master of Ceremonies for the Opening Ceremonies, I get to kick it off.  Should be fun!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Where you can be sure to catch me at Balticon this weekend

I'll be reasonably busy at the con, but right after each event in which I'm participating is usually a pretty good time to drop by and say hi.  Here's what I know of my schedule so far--but do check the con's program book and the daily update sheets for possible changes.  Changes happen at cons. oh, yes, they do.

Opening Ceremonies, Friday night, 8:00 p.m., main ballroom

For the second year, I'll be the Master of Ceremonies for this formal kick-off to the con.  My job is simple to say but sometimes difficult to do:  Kick off the con, introduce the con head, introduce the guests, handle the presentation of two major awards (the Compton Crook and the Heinlein), and make sure we're done in one hour so everyone can get their party on over at the con suite.

Come to think of it, this job isn't even simple to say, but the con staff is great, so I'm sure we'll hit our marks (or come mighty darn close). 

The Baen Books Traveling Roadshow, Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Garden Room

Get free books.  See slides of original cover art and then of the final covers.  Get free stuff.  Learn about upcoming titles.  Get free books.  Pick up some insider scoop.  Get free stuff.

Oh, yeah, I'll be making this presentation, but there are other good reasons to come. 

Did I mention the box of swag I'll be driving to the con?

My reading, Saturday, 3:00 p.m., Pimlico room

Pull up a chair, pretend it's nearing bedtime and we're in front of a roaring fire with a good warm cup on a cold night, and let me read to you.

Okay, we'll be in a small room in the middle of the afternoon on an early summer day, and I advise light clothes and a cold drink, but I will be reading.

What will I read?  I have not decided yet.  Show up, and you'll find I will.  It could be anything, though odds are good that it will be something I've written, such as a part of No Going Back, or a short story, or a tidbit from my mystery in progress, or something else.  I truly haven't decided yet.

Liars' Panel, Sunday, noon, Garden Room

Forget coming to this one for me; show up for the people I'll have the honor of working with and to help give kids books.  We're talking fan legend Gay Haldeman, who is one of the nicest fans I've ever had the pleasure to know; John W. Campbell award nominee and noted podcaster, Mur Lafferty; and Compton Crook Award-winning novelist, T.C. McCarthy.  We'll all answer outrageous questions--and most of the time, we'll tell the truth.  Sometimes, though, we'll lie.  Catch us in a lie by challenging us--it costs a buck a person to challenge--and we'll put ten bucks in the charity bowl.  Challenge us and learn we were telling the truth, and you put your buck in the bowl.  The money all goes to Balticon's charity that buys books for kids who can't afford them, so, really, you can't lose at this one.

If you don't have the time or inclination to laugh your ass off for 80 minutes, no problem:  Show up, drop a tenner (or a twenty, or a hundred--hey, kids need books) in the bowl and move on. 

Xenoarchaeology Road Show, 4:00 p.m., Salon room

Remember the excellent Mur Lafferty and T.C. McCarthy from that last panel?  Well, they'll be joining me again on this one, but we'll have a different Haldeman with us:  Guest of Honor and SFWA Grand Master Joe Haldeman.  We'll all be assuming the roles of xenoarchaeologists some five hundred years in the future as we try to discern the origins and uses of a variety of objects from present-day Earth.  I was on this one last year, and the audience laughed until they kicked us out.  We're aiming to top that this year.

You can also probably catch me in the halls, the dealers' room, or the art show, but these events are the sure things. 

I hope a ton of folks show up!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Come see me at Balticon this weekend

Balticon is as close to a "home" convention as I have.  I've been attending it since 1979 and have missed very few years.  My first novel, One Jump Ahead, won the Compton Crook Award for Best First SF or Fantasy novel at Balticon in 2008.  I've debuted three comedy shows there.  I have history with this con. 

This coming weekend, I'll be back again.  I'll be busy--more on my events tomorrow--but if you're in the area, please come by the con, look me up, and say hello. 

If you need more encouragement, just check out the guests on its home page, a list that includes Guest of Honor Joe Haldeman, Artist Guest of Honor Rick Sternback, and Special Guest Nnedi Okorafor.  Or come for all the other good writers and artists who will attend.  Or the dances and filking.  Or the film festival.  Or the masquerade.  Or the art show, which will include many new and wonderful creations from Jain Faries.  Or the dealers' room.  The reasons to attend are many and varied. 

I've always had a good time at Balticon, and I expect you will, too.

Monday, May 20, 2013

My sinuses: 1; my brain: 0

A cold I've been fighting for a while joined forces with a massive allergy attack due to my becoming a good friend to a massive amount of dust during a friend's move.  The result:  a head that feels about twice its normal size, fatigue, and a definite need to work harder than usual to concentrate.

So, I'll tell you a very short and embarrassing story.  When I was twelve, I developed a crush on a girl who lived in a friend's neighborhood and who was, to me, as perfect as a girl could be.  As often as possible, I arranged to visit my friend and walk by places where she was playing with other girls, hoping she would talk to me.  She never did.  That I could open a conversation was beyond consideration; a mortal may not approach a goddess.

One of my greatest sources of comfort in those days was a small AM radio that I kept tuned to WLCY, a local pop/rock station.  I tended toward the Beatles and other artists I still consider to be good, but my young, moody self also embarrassingly and secretly fell for more than a few bubblegum pop songs.  One early evening, walking by her house with only my radio for company, my friend having weeks ago decided he could no longer accompany me on these senseless vigils, this song came on the radio.  It has stuck with me to this day, because at that moment it captured my thoughts perfectly.

Of course, the song starts with the guy already having been with the girl, which I never was, but in my imagination I had the kind of nerve and composure that was completely beyond me and so had indeed already charmed her. 

In reality, I never spoke to her.

The girl moved away, and I have long since forgotten her name, but the song stuck with me.  Such is the power of music, even bubblegum pop.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Josh Ritter

A week ago now, I was freshly back from watching the wonderful Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band perform.  I always love his shows, both because I like his music and because he so clearly loves performing.

He didn't play this song, but it's been in my mind recently, and I wish he had, so I'm sharing it with you.  The recording is from a live show a few years ago, so it's not perfect, but it's good enough, and Ritter's joy is evident.



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