KeyCon Saturday

Made my way back to KeyCon for the first scheduled events of the day at 10:00. I was keen to attend Gerald Brandt and Lindsay Kitson’s seminar on querying. For the most part, it sounds like I’m on the right track.

The sign-up sheets for the Blue Pencil sessions were nowhere to be found, so I just walked up to see David Annandale at eleven o’clock. He writes horror, and I had two flash fiction pieces in my briefcase that lean that way, so I produced them. He liked “Flesh is Weak” more than “Zeta Series.” Despite being only 200 words, (it was written to the stringent limit of Flash Friday) he felt it had evocative setting and enough characterization to make him curious. He gave me some pointers on how to enrich it for wider marketability. I was thinking of expanding it to about 300 words, he thought it could go to a thousand. “Zeta Series” was written for the Science Gone Wrong category of an Apex Magazine halloween competition, and takes a tongue-in-cheek look at making lab rats too smart for our own good. David pointed out that even for a piece written entirely in dialogue, it has too many exclamation marks. He thought it would work better as an audio presentation, like a little radio play. I’ll keep an eye open for opportunities like that.

By the time we were done, the sign-up sheets had appeared. I didn’t want to be greedy, so I put myself down for two: Sherry Peters and Gerald Brandt. I planned to come back and hog more slots if there were vacancies later. I could have been bolder; Chadwick Ginther’s sheet never did fill up.

I wandered off to the dealer’s room to kill a few minutes and didn’t make it past Ronald Hore and Leia Getty’s table. I remembered to tell Ron that I thought The Rat Queen was one of my favourite names for a spaceship. Pretty soon it was time for my next blue-pencil session.

For Sherry, who I have been bumping into for a couple of years now, I felt comfortable enough to produce an unfinished piece. “Aperitif” is about a mysterious encounter in a hospital. An old man anxiously awaiting major heart surgery is offered an unspecified alternative by a cryptic stranger. Sherry liked the free-flowing voice, and pointed out some places where more description would enrich the story. I’ll have to try and figure out a snappy ending before I can send it anywhere.

I went to see about some food and bumped into Chadwick Ginther, so we had lunch together. I asked him about that steampunk werewolf piece from his Friday reading, because I forgot to note the title. “A Taste for the Other Side,” appears in Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls. He also talked about how he developed Ted, his protagonist for the Thunder Road trilogy. Ted is an oil-patch roustabout with a gift for rubbing people (and Norse gods) the wrong way. Chadwick is completely different- he has a gift for visiting places and chatting to people. He calls it research, and admits that luck plays a big part in finding the right settings to enrich his writing, but I think it’s his willingness to let people he hardly knows show him around that makes the luck happen.

In the afternoon, I went to the Taming the Swampy Middle of Doom panel. Ronald Hore and David Annandale focused on how to structure the middle of a novel to keep the reader engaged. I remembered where I had first met David. He visited Kenora for one of the Word on the Water festivals and ran one of the very first workshops I went to. He is a die-hard Outliner, where Ronald is a reformed Pantser. I am a retroactive outliner at best, but David is persuasive when he talks about how outlining frees him from writer’s block and breaks the writing process into manageable chunks. He stays flexible by using an index card approach. Maybe it wouldn’t kill me.

There were still vacancies on the blue-pencil forms, so I shrugged and signed up for one with David Weber, Guest of Honour. This is the one I expected to book solid in minutes. Perhaps people are shy to show their work to such a successful author. I haven’t read anything by him this year, so while I was wandering through the dealer’s room, I picked up a used paperback of his 1999 book, Apocalypse Troll. Why not something newer? As an author who is just starting out, it sometimes helps me to read earlier works from ‘big names’. And hey, it’s a fun read.

I went to the panel on Establishing Setting with Chadwick Ginther, Gerald Brandt and David Annandale, AKA the men in black. Gerald likes to use GoogleMaps and it’s street view, but I was impressed that he goes the extra mile to research seasonal weather norms for a place he’s checking out. Chadwick specializes in Canadian settings within driving distance and likes to visit them in person and talk to locals. Me, I mostly build my worlds from scratch, so I was interested when David talked about modelling fictitious cities for his Warhammer series by studying earthly cities. David has to crank out planets rapidly, because he tends to waste them. In the bad way. But when he wants a waterlogged city, he looks at Venice, and so on. I should probably look at some mountainside cities. To, you know, add dimension.

The last thing of the day for me was the pair of readings by Evan Braun and Sherry Peters. This was my first exposure to Evan’s work; The Law of Radiance is the conclusion of The Watchers Chronicle. It just came out electronically today, with the print version some weeks away, although Evan had a printer’s proof for display. Sherry offered a preview of Mabel, a Mafioso Dwarf, which is coming out soon. It’s the sequel to her first novel, Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf, which won a Writer’s Digest award.

I have to stop blogging and get moving, the Sunday schedule is starting.

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