Sunday, November 18, 2007

Orycon 29

Ursula Le Guin

Today Orycon ended. I saw people hugging each other and saying things like "I wish my whole life was like this."

Well, it certainly was a good time.

I did writery stuff in the day time, gamer stuff in the evenings.

Sometimes I had an hour to kill and did random stuff.

I met Ursula Le Guin, Robert Charles Wilson, Peter S. Beagle, Mary Rosenblum (my mentor), David Goldman (from my critique group), Kirk (from my role playing group) & Cheri, and lots of people I've met at other writing events. And people in costumes. And people playing games.

Vampire Space Pirates

I tried Deadwood, a Cheapass Game on Friday night, and Arkham Horror on Saturday night.

My head's still buzzing, take a look at more pictures. If the slide show isn't working for you, here's the photo set.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Family, Zombies, Football, and a Magazine.

It was Family Weekend at the University of Montana, so Alison and I flew from Portland to Missoula to see how Connor was doing as a Freshman, and to bring him some warm clothes. We flew out Big Sky Airlines. Pros: Every seat is an aisle seat, nonstop, you can look out the front windscreen while in flight, cheap. Cons: No toilet, no tray tables, no snacks, no temperature control, and no escape from the noise. I’d do it again, but Alison won’t, so only if I’m going solo.

It was Day of the Dead when we landed (alive), so Connor came over to our hotel room and we drove out to see Katie, Connor’s girlfriend, dance as a zombie by the train station. Then the four of us went out to dinner at Ciao Momba. Big wait, but good food and a fun place. The owner remembered Alison from August and came over to say hi. Connor’s looking and doing great, Missoula agrees with him.

The next day Alison and I went to a University of Montana football game. Fighter jet flyovers, paragliders, cannons, giant helmets spewing smoke. A great show. They beat Portland State 34 – 31, a good game. We rooted for UM, as that’s where we send our tuition money. :)

However, the fans chanting "Fuck You, Portland" did get on my nerves.

I was able to prove to myself I could play World of Warcraft on my laptop from the hotel room. Honestly, it was just an experiment. Alison didn't seem to mind, after I assured her we were flying back on Alaska (bathroom, snacks, bigger plane).

While I usually bring a book, this time I brought a magazine. I have to say December’s issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction is a good one. “Who brought Tulips to the Moon” by S. L. Gilbow was so melancholy, and so compelling, and had such a nice ending. “The Bone Man” by Frederic S. Durbin was a perfect spooky story after Day of the Dead. Pacing is everything in suspense, and it ratcheted up the tension line by line, word by word. And “Finisterra” by David Moles was a great story about a Christian woman engineer in a Muslim star empire who finds herself working for frightening criminals on a gas giant where people live on top of giant floating animals. That and Soduku on my iPod took me there and back again.

Want to see more pictures? Click here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shakespeare, Moliere, and Leaves of Gold

For my birthday, my wonderful wife Alison took me to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. We first went to the festival on our honeymoon, in 1985. Then we stayed in a KOA campground in a pup tent staked out on a thriving ant hill. This time we stayed at Plaza Inn. No ants, but we did bring Prince Henry the Navigator, our cocker spaniel.

Friday night we saw As You Like It, set in the American Depression, or at least that’s what it said. It seemed to veer from Guys and Dolls New York to an Aw Shucks Appalachia. The country parts were trying to be Oh Brother Where Art Thou?, but without the great music and without George Clooney. They did keep the original Shakespearean dialog, and the actors tried. It was enjoyable just being back in the Agnus Bowmer Theatre, and watching a good cast, but it didn’t really work.

Saturday, however, was amazing. We saw Tartuffe, by Moliere, and it was magnificent. The set was great, the cast amazing, the entire production sizzled. Anthony Heald played Tartuffe, and I had seen him play Richard the Third a year ago. A really great, over the top, unapologetic bad guy. Evil and loving every minute of it.

The set designers left their pyrotechnics for the Sun King scene at the end. Flying scepters and spinning orbs, giant tapestries of the sun, a brilliant on stage costume change into golden splendor. No wonder Louis XIV lifted the ban that the state and church had put on the play. And no wonder the Archbishop of Paris threatened to excommunicate anyone who attended a performance.

The weather was perfect. Upper 60’s with a crisp blue sky, and all the trees red and gold. Ashland is a fun, and conflicted, town. Is it a university town, a theater town, a hippy town, a yuppie retirement town, or a town of drunks and beggars? All of the above.

Saturday the streets were full of demonstrators saying “Honk for Impeachment.” If only it were that easy…

More Pictures.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Breast Cancer and the World of Warcraft

This last weekend a beautiful woman who happens to have breast cancer met a bunch of her husband’s crazy friends from another country who showed up to support her. Feather is the woman, Chris is her husband, and I was one of his friends. Chris, however, had never seen most of us in real life, yet we had played together for years. We had only met online, playing World of Warcraft.

Chris is a skilled World of Warcraft player, where we know him as Esstatum. He’s part of our guild, The Twilight Folk. Night after night, we log onto our computers and play together. We talk in chat boxes and over headphones. That’s how we knew about Feather, and her cancer.

Feather’s chemotherapy prevents her from working, and her paycheck was critical to keeping their household afloat. Chris is a talented musician, as is his brother Colin (another Guildie) and sister Kelsey. Canadian health care pays for a lot, but not everything, and not the cost of extra child care and the bills that Feather’s paycheck used to cover. So Chris and his sibs put on a benefit concert.

Colin posted information about the benefit to our guild’s web site, and before you could say “WTF, dude” about a dozen of us Twilight Folk from Washington and Oregon were heading up to Abbotsford, British Columbia for the Janz Family Benefit Concert.

Chris, Colin, and Kelsey are children Paul Janz, an award winning singer/songwriter who topped the Canadian charts in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I suspect that is why, out of the hundreds that attended the benefit concert, I was not the oldest. As a 51 year old, live music lover, I’m used to being the oldest one in the house.

Kelsey led off, with a fantastic folk rock set. Kind of like Ricky Lee Jones meets Beth Orton in Sheryl Crow’s basement. We kept whispering about her accompanist. “Is that Colin?” No, it wasn’t, but Kelsey’s voice was amazing, so we shut up and listened.

Next up, Colin, known to us as the naughty dwarf priest Kierkegaard in WoW. Loud, proud, and amazing, backed by a guitarist, bassist, and Chris on the drums. If I had to compare Colin’s music, I’d say it ranged from Coldplay to Tool. Only better. The drumming was insanely intense and complex. Well, Chris pwd that drum kit, it never stood a chance. Colin’s got a great voice writes powerful material. He’s working on a CD now, I can’t wait. Entropy rocks, it was my favorite song.

Then we got to meet Feather, on a big screen video. What a beautiful woman. Feather (her parents were hippies) had breast cancer before, so having it again is so unfair. As a side note, the Best Westin in Abbortsford, where Feather used to work, put us up with a sizeable discount, since we were coming up for the benefit. She loves her community, and it comes right back.

Chris was the main act, and, backed by a bass, keyboards, and drums, he did most of the music from his CD Fly. Chris is a songwriter and balladeer with an amazing voice. On some songs he reminded me of Jackson Browne, others Sting, but mostly he was his own man. Fly’s been getting airplay in B.C., and I’m sure people where there just to hear him sing.

Afterwards, we got to party with the Janz’s and a houseload of their friends, most of whom turned out to be Twilight Folk. Everyone was so welcoming, and happy to see people they had only played online game with come out and support Chris’ family. Feather might even think his time wasting hobby has some redeeming social values. After this weekend, I certainly do.

I followed some friends out onto the porch, it was a fine night, but found that was the smoker’s lounge. Do what you want, but think about it. Just out of a cancer benefit, and people are lighting up. Too much bad irony there.

Some of the “Warcraft Widows” would ask the women in our group “you play too?” as gaming is known as a bit of a boy’s club. The funny thing was, these particular women lead our guild. They’ve not only joined the club, they’ve taken it over.

BC was wonderful. Some of us brought little ones, and we took them to the Vancouver aquarium, to see the ice-white beluga whales. Followed by a dinner at Feather and Chris’ house, with his extended family and friends. Chris cooks almost as well as he sings. And composes. And plays guitar. And drums. I wonder if he does brain surgery on the side?

All this, from playing an online game.






The Twilight Folk

World of Warcraft

Friday, September 7, 2007

Empty Nesting Rocks -- Time to Write

Kids are great, but when they leave, you're ready. Or at least I was. Connor kept up the drama until the day he left, (don't ask about the car!) but we got him safely ensconced at the University of Montana.

Once there I had to hike up to the giant M that overlooks the university and town. I'm sitting on the bottom of the right "foot" of the M, as seen from the ground. The hike is a bit more of a workout that it looks from the ground, with a 2,100 foot elevation gain. The day I climbed it the air was a bit smoky from the wild fires that had been ravishing Montana all summer. Still, great views of the campus and city. By the way, if you do this hike, bring water.

The thing about living in a dorm, is you end up living in a dorm room. Here you see Alison helping Connor set his up. We didn't get to meet Elijah, but Connor likes him a lot. Although we didn't see him, we saw his stuff, which included an electric bass guitar and a skateboard. Bodes well, we thought.

So writing! I'm still in the Longridge writer's program, working on short stories with Mary Rosenblum. I've got three ready to be seen by magazine and webzine editors. I try to be patient, but I really want my first sale. I mean, come on! ;)

I'm working on a con-game SF story at the moment. My working title is Mirrors and Smoke. It should be about 5,000 words when done. I'm having fun with the point of view. It's first person, told by a somewhat unreliable narrator.

Of course, I can't be without a tabletop role playing group, and I have a good one. We are playing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (think dark humor fantasy in the Holy Roman Empire) and the players have decided they want to be pirates. So think Lovecraftian horror mixed with swashbuckling action off the coast of renaissance Italy.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ticketmaster is the Devil

Thickheadmaster, how I hate thee. Let me count the ways...

Tonight we were planning on seeing Spamalot at the Keller Auditorium. I had bought the e-tickets online. Huge fees on top of the Keller prices, but I didn't have time to drive down and buy them in person.

So I go online today to print out the tickets.

Your Ticket(s)

This order was cancelled.

For more information on refunds, please contact customer service.

Yikes! Was the show canceled? Or cancelled?

I called. They canceled my order because "your billing address does not match our address for you." They had my old address from a year and a half ago. The thing is, I had gone to their web tool and changed it after they mailed my Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tickets to the wrong house in the wrong state. A year ago.

And no, they can't get me tickets for tonight. And tonight is the last night for Spamalot in Portland.

Curse you Ticketmaster!

And curse you Keller Auditorium for using them...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Off to Montana

I've been working on my short stories. I about to send out "Shelter from the Storm." I got some good ideas from my critique group. I'm also working up a SF con-man story, and of course, working on the "Nerve Endings" novel.
I'll have to wait until after we send Connor off to the University of Montana.
Here's Connor on campus during a visit we did last January.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Willamette Writer's Convention

First, the Other World's Book Club is now the first Tuesday of every month.
OK, the Willamette Writer's Con. Overall, it was a very good con, with mostly solid writing workshops.
Mary Rosenblum's workshops were great, as usual. I almost didn't go to any, as she's my on-line teacher through the Longridge Writer's Group, but she always has the best workshops, and it was good to see her in person. Longridge is an email course. It was fun just chatting in the bar, and I can't wait for her next book. NOW she tells me she has a novel course that comes after the short story class I'm taking with her.

There was Lee Lofland, an ex-cop, doing a police procedures lecture with slide show that was very interesting. Then, he showed a man robbing a bank, and said "this is the first man I killed." He followed that with more slides and story about the man, and how he put five bullets into him. The next day the chief made him go to the morgue and take pictures. Yikes. No wonder he left the force to be a consultant on Monk.

Elizabeth Engstrom gave a workshop on How to Write a Sizzling Sex Scene. Not only entertaining, but a lot of fun. We had to write an afterglow scene and then read it in class. From the other gender's point of view. I did the only post-human wet-spot scene. :)

Besides the classes, I got to hang out with some great writers. Anne Paris writes children's books and is an illustrator, but loves reading science fiction. Susan Watkins is in my critique group and I got hear her pitch her book. She had to pitch to an editor, and I let her practice on me outside.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Other Worlds Book Club

With the help of Lake Oswego Public Library's Tsarina of Book Groups, Kiera Taylor, I've started the Other Worlds Book Club. We meet every first Thursday at the library, 7pm.

You can find a calendar and more on the Yahoo Group I created for it:

To join the Yahoo group, you need a Yahoo account, but they are free, so please join.

We'll be focusing on recent books nominated for best novel for the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Un Lun Dun

Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville is his first Y/A book. If you have a young teen reader on your list, or, if like me, you would rather read a great Y/A than a bad adult novel, get this book. Most of the action takes place in an alternate London, a very Alice in Wonderland place. Deeba Resham, a girl from our London, and a friend get transported there in the midst of a struggle against a malevolent cloud of noxious gasses. There is fantastic word play in Un Lon Don, in fact some words, when spoken, take form and come to life.
There is lots to laugh about, but Deeba finds herself up against some very wicked opponents. When considering this book, remember it's Young Adult, not a children's book.
In this book, Deeba and all the people of Un Lun Dun have to learn to face facts, turn away from the easy lies of those who would manipulate them, and take charge of their own lives. Not a bad lesson for the rest of us.