calissa: (Calissa)

Conflux 12, Red Fire Monkey, Shauna O'Meara, Canberra, speculative fiction, convention

Conflux 12 took place from Friday 30 September until Monday 3 October. As is always the case, there was a lot of good programming to see, so I had to split my report into two parts. You can read the first part here.

Panels, GoH interviews, books and book launches )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: Photo of Swarovski crystal & gold figurine of inkpot and quill sitting on a page that says 'create every day' (Writing)

Conflux 12, Red Fire Monkey, Shauna O'Meara, Canberra, speculative fiction, convention

Last weekend I attended Conflux, Canberra’s speculative fiction convention for writers and fans. The theme this year was Red Fire Monkey, in line with the Chinese astrological year. Special guests were David Farland, writing instructor and author of the Runelords series, and Alan Baxter, author of the Alex Caine series. Sean Williams served as the Master of Ceremonies. As is always the case, there was a lot of good programming to see, so I had to split my report into two parts. The second part will be posted next Friday.

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Travel mug and Day One con loot.

The convention began on Friday, 30 September. In the past, Conflux has dedicated the Friday to writing workshops. However, this year the programming took a different approach, running workshops and panels concurrently. This meant that panels began from 10 AM on the Friday. I got in nice and early to get registered. The con bags held a few lovely surprises, with books provided by Harper Collins. Mine held a copy of The Vagrant by Peter Newman. I was also one of the first 100 people through registration, which meant I also picked up a copy of After the Rain edited by Tehani Wessely and published by FableCroft Publishing.

Being Canberra, it was appropriate that the very first panel I attended was on politics in SFF. James Hayman, Tracy Joyce and Gillian Polack discussed how they incorporated politics into their novels. Each was writing in quite a different genre–dystopian sci-fi, epic fantasy and literary fantasy respectively–but they all agreed on the importance of perspective. After all, no one believes they are evil and everyone has reasons for acting the way they do. Also, the point was raised that the writer’s politics are always present in a novel, just not always consciously.

Guest of Honour David Farland gave several talks throughout the convention. His first was on writing best-sellers. He discussed some of the things best-sellers have in common and the importance of immersion. The best stories are the ones that take you to another time and place, therefore it is often harder for stories with a contemporary setting to become best-sellers. He also discussed the way Harry Potter was able to appeal to a wide audience by including characters of varying ages and telling their stories alongside Harry’s. And finally, he discussed the importance of using the right emotional draws for your audience, breaking this down by gender and age category.

For me, the highlight of Friday’s panels was the panel on spec-fic romance, convened by Nicole Murphy. It was great to see a knowledgeable and respectful discussion, particularly since romance cops a lot of flack from other genres. Nicole also had some good advice on learning how to write about physical intimacy. This was one of the few panels I live-tweeted and you can see a bit of her advice in the thread.

Chinese Black Lion, Lion dance, Conflux 12, Red Fire Monkey

A Chinese Black Lion inspects the audience.

Friday wrapped up with the Opening Ceremony. Our MC Sean Williams took us through the first moves of a new martial arts he’d developed with his Tai Chi class. Called Sci Chi, it included such moves as the Rimmer Salute, the Jedi Mind Trick and the Vulcan Salute & Nerve Pinch. A pair of Chinese lions then blessed the convention with luck and prosperity. Guest of Honour and Kung Fu instructor Alan Baxter provided some insightful commentary, thanks to his experience in teaching the dance.

The formal programming might have finished up, but my day wasn’t over. The last thing I did was run a game of Dungeon World for some friends who were in town for the convention. I used a pre-written module called The Slave Pits of Drahzu by Jason Morningstar. It was part dungeon crawl, part prison break. While it taught me I still have a lot to learn as a Game Master, everyone seemed to have fun (even if I did kill Alis twice. Sorry, Alis!)

I was back early the next day to attend David Farland’s Guest of Honour interview with Tim Napper. The pair met when Tim was a finalist for the Writers of the Future contest, for which David Farland is a judge. David had won the competition himself some years ago and discussed the impact it had on his career, introducing him to authors such as Orson Scott Card. He also spoke about his experiences writing the Star Wars novel The Courtship of Princess Leia (as David Wolverton), after which he went on to write twelve Star Wars books for younger readers with Scholastic. He was also responsible for talking Scholastic into making Harry Potter their next big thing.

There were some great panels throughout the convention. Fanning the Sacred Flame discussed religion in SFF. Panel members came from atheist, Anglican, Buddhist and Jewish backgrounds. Despite being an atheist, K.J. Taylor said she finds it weird when religion or superstition is never mentioned in fantastical societies because it is something that exists in every real culture. She also spoke about her experiences with writing religious characters and stressed the importance of not being patronising or making the characters look like idiots by following their beliefs. Rivqa Rafael discussed ignorance as a writer’s worst enemy. Often writers don’t know what they are evoking when they borrow elements from religions they’re not a part of, with the results being beyond offensive and into hurtful. She gave the example of the Jewish golem. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia was mentioned many times, with the consensus being that the story worked best when its parable elements were subtle. Rivqa also cited Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy as an example of religion done well, pointing out that conflicts between religions rarely happen on a level playing field, historically speaking. There are often major cultural and colonial elements at play.

Next week I will touch on a few more of the panels I attended. So stay tuned!

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Conflux 12, Conflux, red fire monkey, Earl Grey Editing, rooibos tea

Conflux, Canberra’s annual convention for speculative fiction writers and fans, begins next week! This year it is taking place from Friday 30 September until Monday 3 October and the theme is Red Fire Monkey, after the Chinese astrological year. Special guests are David Farland, a best-selling fantasy author and writing instructor all the way from the US, and Australian dark fantasy/horror author Alan Baxter. Sean Williams will be the MC. As usual, I will be attending and am very much looking forward to making some new friends as well as catching up with some old ones.

Where to find me

I will be sitting on two panels. Exact details are subject to change.

Books I’ve loved

When: Saturday, 1 October, 4:30 PM

Where: Reid Room
Novotel Canberra
65 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra

The panel name speaks for itself, really.

Exploring Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch

When: Sunday, 2 October, 3:30 PM

Where: Clarke Room

A discussion about how spec-fic is pushing the boundaries of gender diversity. I’m really looking forward to this panel.

If you have an interest in speculative fiction and can make it along, please stop by and say hi! I love getting to know new people. However, if Canberra is a little too far away for you or attending conventions is not your sort of thing, there’s no need for you to miss out entirely. I shall be posting a convention report once the excitement is over (and I’ve had the chance for a few restorative cups of tea).

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Conflux-11

Conflux 11 took place from Friday 2 October until Monday 5 October. As is always the case, there was a lot of good programming to see, so I had to split my report into two parts. You can read the first part here.

Sean Williams, Abigail Nathan, Karen Simpson Nikakas, Jo Clay and I on the self-editing panel.

Sean Williams, Abigail Nathan, Karen Simpson Nikakis, Jo Clay and I on the self-editing panel. Photo courtesy of Leife Shallcross.

I was fortunate enough to sit on a couple of panels throughout the convention. The highlight of these for me was the panel called Editing Your Own S**t, which ran on Sunday. There was a great diversity of experience on this panel. Jo Clay spoke as an emerging author and had a fantastic list of words she overuses in her own work (and now carefully edits out). At the opposite end of the spectrum was Sean Williams, who has published around 30 books, including a number for the Star Wars franchise. Sean spoke of the fatigue in doing final edits on one novel when he really wants to be diving into writing his next new one. Karen Simpson Nikakis offered an interesting perspective, having moved from a big publishing house to self-publishing. Finally, Abigail Nathan doesn’t edit her own work at all–she works as a freelance editor and owner of Bothersome Words. She named several tools and programs that had the other panel members grabbing for their notepads.

David McDonald and Maureen Flynn. Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks.

David McDonald and Maureen Flynn. Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks.

Another highlight of the Sunday program was the Paying for Our Passion panel. Based on David McDonald’s series of guest posts (which I highly recommend), the panel discussed the sacrifices they have had made in order to pursue writing or editing. David moderated the panel, speaking of how touched he had been by the response to his series and the heartfelt contributions he’d received. The panel was likewise intensely personal, with panel members opening up about some of the struggles they have faced. Tehani Wessely spoke about sacrificing time with her family in order to run FableCroft Publishing. It brought her a lot of guilt, but at the same time she hoped she was being a good role model for her kids by pursuing this passion. For Maureen Flynn, writing is a lifeline as she has struggled from a very young age to be the primary carer for two family members. Like Tehani, she feels guilty for taking the time to pursue her writing, but is also aware that it is crucial for her mental health. There was so much interesting discussion in this panel that I don’t have room to do it justice, so I’d urge you again to check out David’s series.

By Monday, I was well and truly flagging. September had been a demanding month and my energy reserves were almost out. I spent a lot of time pursuing the time-honoured convention tradition of hanging out with friends (both new and old) at the bar. However, I did manage to sit in on the alternative publishing panel. Small press was included as an alternative publishing option on the basis that in Australia small press really is tiny. Where small press in the United States might manage a print run of 20,000 copies, most Australian small press consider selling 500 copies a success. Self-publishing offers a lot of flexibility that might not otherwise be available. Marisol Dunham spoke of her 14,000-word novella that she struggled to get published. It received excellent feedback from publishers but the size made it an awkward fit for pre-existing categories among the large publishers. Tehani also pointed out that alternative publishing options (including small press) are helpful for getting an author’s back catalogues into print once again. For example, FableCroft Press published Flower and Weed, a spin-off from Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts.

However, the drawback of alternative publishing is finding an audience. It is difficult to distinguish oneself from the crowd, especially when the crowd just keeps getting bigger. The need for reader reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads was mentioned a number of times. Self-promotion is something that doesn’t come naturally to many writers–and the need to promote one’s work is becoming increasingly necessary for writers published by traditional publishers, not just those pursuing alternative avenues.

20151013_111059

Any convention would not be complete without a trip to the dealers room. My haul this year was surprisingly modest, though Ticonderoga Publications did particularly well out of me. I picked up three of their books: a collection of Janeen Webb’s stories called Death at the Blue Elephant and the Hear Me Roar and Damnation and Dames anthologies. Conflux is also a prime time for book launches. Throughout the weekend I attended Satalyte Publishing’s launch of The Time of the Ghosts by Gillian Polack, FableCroft Publishing’s launch of Dirk Flinthart’s collection Striking Fire, the CSFG’s launch of The Never Never Land anthology and Ticonderoga’s launch of the Bloodlines anthology and The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2014.

After all that, I didn’t quite make it to the Closing Ceremony on Monday evening. However, I made sure the first thing I did when I got home was to book tickets for Conflux 12. I had such a wonderful time catching up with old friends and making new ones that I wouldn’t want to miss out on the next time.

If you weren’t able to make it along to Conflux this year, I’d recommend checking out Cat Sparks’ fantastic Flickr album of the weekend.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Conflux-11

Last weekend I attended Conflux, Canberra’s speculative fiction convention for writers and fans. The theme this year was Light, in line with the UN’s International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. Special guests were Isobelle Carmody, author of the The Obernewtyn Chronicles, and Tehani Wessely of FableCroft Publishing. As is always the case, there was a lot of good programming to see, so I had to split my report into two parts. The second part will be posted next Wednesday.

Me with Little My and Alis Franklin

Me with Little My and Alis Franklin. Photo courtesy of Gillian Polack.

The convention began on Friday, 2 October. Not everyone was able to get away from work to attend the first day, but there were still plenty of familiar faces around when the registration desk opened. I also met a few newcomers, including the representative for the 2017 Helsinki Worldcon, Little My. She really got into the spirit of the convention and ended up with an extensive album of photos.

As has been the custom for the last few years, Friday was mostly devoted to workshops. I attended Gillian Polack‘s workshop on creating magic systems. Being a historian, Gillian approached this topic by looking at the ways in which magic in the Middle Ages was less a system than a complex, messy worldview. Writers need to express this worldview through telling detail–those small things that may not look important on the surface but actually say a lot about the character or the world. Gillian used the example of Turkish Delight in C.S. Lewis’ book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, bringing along a sample of the delicacy to help inspire us.

After lunch, I attended Tara Ott’s demonstration of special effects makeup. Tara talked a bit about her experiences with the local zombie walks and the cosplaying community. She was dressed the part, complete with eerie white contact lenses and several scars drawn on her face. The demonstration included the use of both latex and wax, with Tara outlining the advantages and weaknesses of each. She did an impressive job of making up my knuckles to look bruised and she also demonstrated how to use latex to replicate burnt skin.

The Opening Ceremony took place in the evening. The Star Wars Imperial 501st Legion were in attendance, making the audience nervous. However, it turned out they may have been there for our protection, as MC Laura Goodin received several phone calls about the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse while she ran the ceremony (with great flair).

Kaaron Warren and Isobelle Carmody.

Kaaron Warren and Isobelle Carmody.

Saturday kicked off with Isobelle Carmody’s Guest of Honour interview. Interviewer Kaaron Warren made the clever move of focussing on Isobelle’s short stories rather than novels. This allowed Isobelle to talk about a broader range of topics, including time she spent in Paris while young. Isobelle said she believes that time spent a little bit hungry, tired and sad sharpens a writer. Airports are especially good for this and she expressed disappointment that modern technology doesn’t allow as much space for boredom as there used to be.

Isobelle also talked about the pressure placed on her by the big publishers to whom she has been contracted. She spoke warmly about small press, who have greater flexibility and passion for their projects. At the end of the interview, there was an impromptu launch of Evermore, a non-traditional graphic novel she collaborated on with artist Daniel Reed and published by Windy Hollow Books.

Tehani Wessely. Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks.

Tehani Wessely. Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks.

Later in the day I attended a discussion on editing between Guest of Honour Tehani Wessely and editor of Cosmos, Cat Sparks. The program item said that it was “not for the faint-hearted” and, indeed, it probably should have come with a language warning. However, it was hysterically funny and contained some good advice. Cat urged writers to really do their research and concentrate on making sure their fiction is authentic–this goes as much for eavesdropping on dialogue at the food court as making sure the physics used is plausible. Cat and Tehani also touched on the way in which rejection isn’t personal, but can simply be the wrong time and wrong book. It is important for writers to read work by the editor and publisher they’re submitting to. Cat also advocated following an editor on social media if you find one who does work you like and whose style suits your writing. It helps you to be aware of opportunities as they come up.

The pair reconvened on Sunday morning for Tehani’s Guest of Honour interview. Tehani mentioned that she used to write but gave it up, claiming she was no good at it, despite having won a Scarlet Stiletto Award for her unpublished crime novel. Her passion is for bringing books and people together. Juggling a full-time job and family, as well as running FableCroft Publishing and convening of the Aurealis Awards is no mean feat but she remains undaunted by obstacles. Tehani said that the key to her success has been having people around her that she can rely on and ask for help. That said, there are times when she has burnt out. Shortly after the launch of the Cranky Ladies of History anthology, she became discouraged and cancelled her next anthology, saying she was going to give up the business. She lasted a week before she found a new idea that was too enticing to let go. She said that Conflux had already given her a couple of exciting new ideas, so look out for those!

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: Photo of Swarovski crystal & gold figurine of inkpot and quill sitting on a page that says 'create every day' (Writing)

Conflux-11

In her guest post for Brewing Community last week, Leife Shallcross mentioned Conflux: Canberra’s annual convention for speculative fiction writers and fans. This year it is taking place from Friday 2 October until Monday 5 October, so it is just around the corner! The theme this year is Light, in line with the UN’s International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. Special guests are Isobelle Carmody, author of the The Obernewtyn Chronicles, and Tehani Wessely of FableCroft Publishing.

I will be attending this year and am very much looking forward to making some new friends as well as catching up with some old ones.

Where to find me

I will be sitting on three panels. Exact details are subject to change.

Writing short reviews

When: Saturday, 3 October, 11 AM

Where: Clarke Room
Novotel Canberra
65 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra

I was in the audience for last year’s panel and found it really useful for my work here at the Earl Grey Editing blog. Hopefully this year I can return the favour!

 

Editing your own s**t

When: Sunday, 4 October, 11 AM

Where: Clarke Room

So you’ve got a first draft. Now you’ve gotta make it pretty. Where do you start? I’ll be moderating this panel. The exact line-up has yet to be confirmed, but looks like it will involve some highly talented writers and a couple of very experienced editors.

 

Creating virtual writing communities

When: Monday, 5 October, 1:30 PM

Where: Reid Room

Writing can be a lonely business, and we all know the value of being part of a community. How do you make a community work in situations where there are barriers to actually meeting up and hanging out in a physical location? This fits in nicely with my Brewing Community series.

 

If you have an interest in speculative fiction and can make it along, please stop by and say hi! I love getting to know new people. However, if Canberra is a little too far away for you or attending conventions is not your sort of thing, there’s no need for you to miss out entirely. I shall be posting a convention report once the excitement is over (and I’ve had the chance for a few restorative cups of tea).

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

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