Captain’s Log: LibertyCon 33, Gone Virtual

Had a blast at LibertyCon this past weekend. This was the first time I’ve attended a convention virtually. Not as surreal as I thought it would be, and being able to watch panels in the same time slot instead of having to pick one proved to be a definite plus. Still, I missed actually SEEING my con family. Also, looking at vendor and artist pages just isn’t as satisfying as shopping in person.

One big plus, however, was using Discord for discussions, author readings, and interaction with the panelists (even if the panel was pre-recorded, we were asked to be available on the assigned channel for live discussion during our time slots). It also makes writing this post easier, since I can scroll through the discussions to cherry pick interesting moments, rather than rely on memory.

One such conversation happened during the Very Vocal Vampire Voices panel (the only one I was on this year, and was recorded a few weeks prior to the convention).

David Bogen:I thought lawyers were top of the heap. KB Bogen: Just below politicians. David Bogen: A vampire lawyer? Tom Tinney, BikerNerd: They should be the favorite food. Brian412: That is a terrifying thought. Taking someone to court claiming that vampires have a right to their blood or some s**t. Tom Tinney, Biker Nerd: Easily defeated. Schedule the trial for 10 AM in morning and they’re no show. Tamara Lowery: And this is how anthologies are born outside of a bar. David Bogen: Yes! KB Bogen: That’s what the Renfield character is for. David Bogen: Brings new meaning to Night Court … Tom Tinney, Biker Nerd: I miss Markie Post and John Laroquette. Jamie Ibsen: Staring Harry T Stone, the Gargoyle Judge.

Sometimes just a couple of comments, with no apparent context pop up.

EvilPengiun: hmm, how to stimulate the memory of scotch without the actual drinking of scotch. Would that count as non-alcoholic scotch? Robert E. Hampson (Speaker): More importantly, how long can the grad student RIDE the cross between the triceratops-bison?

Yeah, it’s best not to ask.

For those interested, EvilPenguin aka Brent Roeder (whose nickname got changed in a later panel to Dr. EP then just Dreep), and Robert E. Hampson aka Speaker-to-Lab-Animals, are both neuroscientists. Yep, they stick thingies in people’s brains or hack thingies people already volunteered to have stuck in their brains and study them. Dreep even mentions multiple times that there are things he’s not allowed to talk about, which may explain this next exchange in chat.

EvilPenguin: I’m waiting for the science groupies I was promised. Tara Urbanek: EvilPenguin we got you groupies. You didn’t like them! Just because they were UNDEAD groupies. You are so picky. I literally made them in the basement. EvilPenguin: When was this?I don’t remember any groupies. Did I have to ablate my memory again? Tara Urbanek: …yes again.

Are you beginning to see why this is one of my favorite conventions?

And then there was the Moose.

tcavlee: So what does everyone think of one Moose for a battle situation? Jamie Ibsen: One battle, one moose. Marisa Wolf: A moose bit my sister. tcavlee: @Jamie Ibsen exactly. Kevin Ikenberry: Moose bites are quite nasty. Rob Howell: The Minister of Moose has spoken. Major Mayhem: Mind you moose bites are quite nasty. tcavlee: I have seen a Moose tear up a semi who honked at them. Casey Moores: My sister was bit by a moose once. Yvonne A Jacobs: The hell are they doing that close to a moose?! Marisa Wolf: Looking for the holy grail? Rob Howell: So, the MooseSha are allowed, right boss? Marisa Wolf: Whew, I believe it! Yvonne A Jacobs: MooSha. Casey Moores: No really! She was carving her initials on the moose with the sharpened end of an interspace toothbrush given her by Svenge — her brother-in-law — an Oslo dentist and star of many Norwegian movies: “The Hot Hands of an Oslo Dentist”, “”Fillings of Passion”, “The Huge Molars of Horst Nordfink” … mrklevel3: MooSha! tcavlee: LOL it was crossing the road and stopped to take a look at them. The driver blew his horn like you would a cow and pissed it off and lost his truck. Rob Howell: That’s too bovine! Casey Moores: I apologize for the false post. The person responsible has been sacked.

I admit, I’m not really sure what was meant in the MooSha sub-thread there. It didn’t stop me from adding “MooSha MooSha MooSha” to it, though. They soon went on to calling Canadian geese cobra-chickens, which is fairly accurate for any breed of goose.

This last conversation I’ll share just tickled me.

Michael K. Falciani: I remember when the electric typewriter was the big new thing. WJ Roberts: that’s cause you’re old. Michael Hanson: Old but with attitude! Michael K. Falciani: I prefer, “well preserved” thank you very much! Michael J. Allen: Those embalming fluid smoothies really do make a difference.

I did not watch the Mad Scientist Roundtable this year, though if it got recorded (it was live streamed), I plan to go back and watch it. Instead, I watched the Atlanta Radio Theater Company production. I usually end up missing that at live cons because of scheduling.

That pretty much wraps up my report on LibertyCon 33, other than membership for LC 34 has increased to 1000. Memberships purchased back in 2019 for LC 33 will roll over to 34, since 33 was virtual, unlimited, and free to all. The remaining 250 memberships will go on sale on LibertyCon’s Eventeny page (link on LC’s website) at noon Eastern time July 23. They will sell out fast.

Fixing the “Oops!”

Nothing like going through first edits on a rough draft written a few years previously and spotting gargantuan plot holes. In case you haven’t guessed, or are new to this blog, I have returned to working on my steampunk serial, The Adventures of Pigg & Woolfe.

I’m finally getting episodes 13 through 24 (aka Season 2) ready for publication. I’m also seriously entertaining the thought of having a new cover done for the Season 1 omnibus, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, as well as doing new illustrations for it.

“Why?” you ask. Mainly because sales have been all but non-existent, and I never really got marketing off the ground the first time through. This will mean pulling all the current versions down and republishing.

Yes, I am a masochist. I must be to intentionally put that much on my plate.

Meanwhile, back to why I started this post. I’ve found myself trying to keep supposedly intelligent characters from unintentionally looking like bumbling idiots. In other words, I originally wrote some scenes which turned into “wait-a-minute” moments. So, I have to figure out why I had a character do something a certain way, when an obviously better way was available.

Specifically, why did a character LEAVE a communications center to deliver a message rather than send it via a secure means already available to them. It would’ve been quicker to use the system rather than leave the building and head into a subterranean system of tunnels and lifts to reach a place deep underground.

Not to worry. I did find a plausible excuse.

Messages sent through that system, while secure, have to be entered in the log if they originate from the communications center itself. The character didn’t want this message to be discovered by her supervisor, so she feigned illness to be excused from the rest of her shift. She also didn’t encounter any message stations along her route before encountering other major characters.

Plot hole plugged.

Alpha Away!

The last two chapters of Hunting the Dragon are finally typed up and will be sent to my alpha reader by this evening. I also have feedback from her on several previous chapters waiting in my inbox.

Progress on what I hope is the last revision/proofread round on Blood Curse 2nd edition (which will be a sort of 10th anniversary edition if I can get it out this year) is slow, but well worth it.

I went into this one originally just to fix my punctuation snafu mentioned in my previous post, as well as insert accented letters; something the free Word app either doesn’t do, or I haven’t figured out how to do with it. It’s turned into line editing and seriously tweaking the prose one more time. I’m really enjoying it, even though I’m only 15 pages in.

My biggest problem is fighting off the impatience and wanting to do ALL the book things at once. I blame my newest addiction for this enthusiasm which must be bridled: booktube channels. For those yet to discover them, YouTube has a couple of genres which truly feed an author’s needs: booktube and authortube.

Booktube channels are primarily collections of videos about book reviews and sometimes book clubs/fans. Many of these channels can give books a wider audience than just promoting on social media and at conventions.

Authortube seems to consist of authors’ channels or videos with publishing and writing tips. For me, especially last year after so many conventions were canceled, these filled my need/desire for writing and book promoting panels. Plus, it gave me fresh perspectives beyond the familiar ones from the conventions I’ve been haunting for years.

I do have plans to revive and bulk up my own channel eventually.

Some day.

Oh! Before I forget, I recently took part in the recording of a panel for the upcoming virtual LibertyCon. The title of the panel is Very Vocal Vampire Voices. Look for it when LibertyCon goes live the last weekend of June. Since it’s virtual, it’s FREE and without an attendance cap.

An Admission of Grammatical Ignorance

Ellipsis and em dash: there is a difference.

Before this week, I honestly thought they were interchangeable and merely a matter of style preference. I have since been educated about their correct meanings and uses. I have also been advised to use them both sparingly.

I posted the question of which people preferred to use or see in published works to a few of the Facebook writers groups I’m on. (These groups are for writers to help each other improve their craft as opposed to groups for promoting one’s books.) My phone blew up the rest of the day with notifications of responses to my question.

Most of the responses agreed I need to use the em-dash for the purposes I have pauses in my prose (and some of my dialog). The most helpful actually explained the difference. The least helpful merely pointed out they have different uses/meanings without stating what those were.

For comparison of the proper use of the ellipsis and the em-dash,here are some samples of the more helpful responses. (Names are omitted for privacy.)

1. They mean different things, so they’re not really interchangeable. The hesitation mark (identical to an ellipsis, but serves a different purpose) is used when a character hesitates or trails off when speaking. The em dash is used to denote when someone is interrupted when speaking OR to denote an aside/additional information (rather than use parentheses).

2. They both serve the purpose of inserting a pause in your writing, but the flavor of the pause is unique between the two.

An ellipsis kind of makes the reader hang on in suspense momentarily. The last thought is kind of mentally suspended. An em dash is also a break, but it represents a quicker transition of thought from one idea to another. An ellipsis might be used where a speaker trails off mid-sentence, for example, getting distracted by something. And em dash in a similar situation would feel more like the speaker quickly coming to a realization.

“Do you know where… Oh, never mind.”
“Do you know where—Oh, never mind!”

while they both might seem to say the same thing, and effectively they do, it creates differences in interpreting the scene in this case. The ellipsis in the first example implies a longer pause, perhaps even a thoughtful one. The em dash implies that perhaps the speaker’s question was quickly interrupted by someone walking in, or finding what they were searching for, and thus they swiftly cut their question short.

That’s just the differentiation in application where they are used in a similar formula with different results. There are other uses for the em dash—such as in the place of commas to introduce a related thought mid-sentence—where ellipses wouldn’t make sense.

Additionally, my examples were for narrative works. In other types of writing (journals, articles, essays, and so forth) the ellipsis is primarily used to represent omitted portions of text in quotes.

“Style question… an ellipse or an M-dash?”

In that last example, I quoted you and omitted some text while maintaining the integrity of your question. The ellipsis was used to represent there was more text there that the reader isn’t seeing. An em dash wouldn’t be used in such a situation.

3. An em-dash typically indicates a pause longer than a comma would show. An ellipses is used to indicate an incomplete thought or statement.

4. An ellipsis is a trailing-off. It can read dreamy or scatterbrained and it reads like an intimate, personal narrative in real time. You can imagine the narrator losing their train of thought or suddenly changing the pace of their narration.

An em dash precedes an interjection. It’s jerky instead of smooth like the ellipsis. Use it when you want to insert more information or make a sudden change in direction. A character overflowing with information that they have trouble organizing may have dialog with a lot of em dashes. I speak with a lot of em dashes–I assume there’s more context needed than is actually helpful . . . .

Sometimes an em dash and a semicolon do similar work. Sometimes an ellipsis and an em dash do similar work. If you’re unsure, consider whether you should just have two shorter sentences.

“That wasn’t what she said . . . she wanted the blue one.”
“That wasn’t what she said–she wanted the blue one.”
“That wasn’t what she said; she wanted the blue one.”
“That wasn’t what she said. She wanted the blue one.”

None of these is wrong, exactly, but the first two options are a little excessive on the frilly punctuation. I tend to write run-on sentences so I’d go for the semicolon, but the period works just fine, too, and reads clean and straightforward.

5. Depends. I use an M-dash almost as a parenthesis. The ellipses are typically used as a thoughtful pause in fiction. In academic writing, it indicates that a part of the citation has been left out.

6. Copy editor here. They have different purposes. An ellipses is used for dialogue that trails off and for pauses in dialogue. An em dash is used for dialogue that is interrupted. Em dashes are also used for parenthetical phrases (could be replaced with commas or parentheses and have the same effect). Ellipses are never used for parenthetical phrases.

A couple of the responses also warned me of a pitfall my former ignorance posed for submitting to traditional publishers.

1. Just an FYI: if you’re querying a traditional publisher, best be aware that they KNOW the difference in usage between ellipses and em-dashes, and using them interchangeably is likely to get your manuscript rejected.

2. My opinion only. Definitely not ellipses. That’s a red flag for inexperienced writer. Use em dash sparingly. Restructure sentences not to need it. A few but not many.

So, I now know the correct usages of these two forms of punctuation. I hope sharing this information here will help other writers in their journey to publication. (It also provides me a quick reference without having to sift through reams of FB notifications to find them again.)

This proves you’re never too old to learn. I really don’t remember this being covered in any of my English or Composition classes in either high school or college back in the 1980s. (Not saying it wasn’t; I just don’t remember it.)

Now my next step in revising Blood Curse for the 2nd edition is to go through and fix all this. It’s going to take longer than my first few revisions, since I’ll have to use my desktop (which I don’t get much time on during the week). Unfortunately, my phone doesn’t have the em-dash available for use. That’s a lot of improper ellipsis to fix and/or delete and restructure the sentence.

Can You Say, “Red Flag”?

Hee! Yesterday I got home from work to find a message from Stratton Press on my answering machine. (Yes, I still use a land line at home. Just like I hand write my rough drafts. I’m old. Deal with it.)

According to the message, they’d sent me an email I had yet to respond to. They were interested in my book Hell’s Dodo.

Just out of curiosity, my husband had worked a little Google-fu on this company. They bill themselves as a hybrid press. They are, according to his research, an authors’ services company, not a true publisher. They get bad marks on Writers Beware, and some not to flattering blog posts about their business practices.

Additional red flags for me:

A. I never queried this company.

B. The representative who left the phone message lied. I checked ALL my email accounts, including one I haven’t used in years, and found no email from Stratton Press.

C. The book mentioned in the message is the 5th book in a series. Seriously?

All I can figure is some of my Facebook posts drew their attention. Whatever. I have no intention of contracting with them for any purpose.

Welcome to Organized Chaos

Oi.

I have plans, so many plans. Time, however, is an issue. Been working a lot of 6-day weeks, but that might calm down a bit in April.

I’m waiting for all the info from the game developer so I can do a promo video for Dragon Poker. They were going to launch it at LibertyCon this year, but the convention had to change to a virtual format this year. The online version of the convention will be free and open to all, rather than have the membership cap of the physical version.

I’ve been watching a lot of author-tube/book-tube videos lately. This has had the effect of putting my planning mode into high gear. I want to create a good bit of content for my YouTube channel to promote my books. I want to re-release Blood Curse later this year, and building interest beforehand will hopefully boost sales and pre-sales. I’d like to put some of the things I’ve learned to use, so that hopefully this second edition will take off and do better than the first time around did.

Still, time remains the crucial factor. Wish me luck. Thanks.

Bereavement and Business

Sorry I’ve been so quiet online this month. My father went to the hospital again on my birthday. He’d been having serious health problems all year last year. This time, he didn’t make it home.

While he did test positive for COVID in December, it was asymptomatic and not the cause of his death last Wednesday morning. However, it did prevent the medical school he’d arranged to donate his body to from accepting. They refused on the grounds of protecting their students, which is understandable.

He will be cremated. The family will have to find out if they will take a body if a positive COVID diagnosis is far enough in the past, since my mother has a similar arrangement. She also had asymptomatic COVID in December.

On to business: I’ve completed inking the Dragon Poker art and am working on the color accents for the top tier version of the game.

The plan is to have the game available by June, and to do the official launch at LibertyCon. Barring another postponement or health issues, I plan to attend. (The convention is sold out, but I already had a membership for it.)

If you are interested in the Dragon Poker cards or the Dragon Riders of Pern LARP they are a companion game for, go to Antiquarian Boardgames for more information.

I am about to start minor revisions on Blood Curse before I format it for print. Hopefully, I can manage to get time to do some promotional videos for my YouTube channel.

That’s the news for now.

Book News (and stuff)

I must agree with Viktor on it this time.

The rough draft of Hunting the Dragon (Waves of Darkness book 8) is in the bag. The first 10 chapters are with my alpha reader, and she’s promised feedback notes, hopefully by next week.

The remaining chapters are still in handwritten form and need to be typed up. I will start on that soon. I have to admit that the back half of the rough draft is a hot mess and in need of some scene rearranging and serious polishing.

Meanwhile, I’ve completed inking all the Dragon Poker portraits. I will be doing a color accent version of them for special edition sets of the cards. I’m told those will be offered in a wooden case.

Next on my agenda is the reformatting and revision of Blood Curse (Waves of Darkness book 1). The new edition will be in the 5×8-ish (not sure of the exact measurements right now) size rather than the 6×9 trade paperback version it was previously published in. I plan to snazzy up the interior as well. All this is necessary before I can order a new cover design, since I need a page count to determine the width of the spine. The size change will change the original page count, of course.

Finally, happy news: someone bought one of the 6-episode mini-omnibus ebooks in my The Adventures of Pigg & Woolfe steampunk serial. This is the first sale of the year and the first sale in months!

That is all for now. Thanks for reading!

Coming Up for Air

I think everyone out there already knows what a crazy, fly-by-night carnival roller coaster ride 2020 was, so I won’t dwell on it.

I hold hope but no expectations that 2021 will turn out better. It’s already off to a rocky start. Still, there is some promise. (Just try to ignore the ongoing political $#!t storms. Hurricane season has nothing on U.S. politics.)

Time for a personal progress report.

ART: I’m almost done with inking the Dragon Poker card art. Just 2 of the 17 left to ink. There has been some discussion of making a top tier version of the game available with color accents on the face cards (not full color). I will probably add those digitally. Antiquarian Boardgames plans to debut the cards at this year’s LibertyCon, provided it doesn’t get postponed another year or go virtual.

I will be putting some sort of promotional video for the cards on my YouTube channel later this year.

WRITING: I’ve made some progress on Hunting the Dragon, but not much lately. I’ve been concentrating on the Dragon Poker art during the longer winter shutdown of my day job. I do have plans to attack reformatting Blood Curse later this month. This is a necessary step before contracting for a new cover. The reformat may change the page count, especially since I haven’t decided whether to stick with the trade paperback size of 9×6 or a slightly smaller page size. The page count determines the thickness of the spine and is required data for most of the cover artists I’ve researched.

I also plan to have new cover art for the episodes of The Adventures of Pigg & Woolfe as well as The Girl Who Fell from the Sky done prior to publishing episodes of season 2 later this year. I apologize for the extended delay of the serial, but I’m still learning the tricks of self-publishing and the marketing of such.

YOUTUBING: Yeah, I think I have been a little over ambitious with my plans to revive the channel in relation to actual available time for all this. I’m not giving up, just not gonna promise a lot of content in a short time period. The new videos will be added as I can manage.

CONVENTIONS: So far, LibertyCon is the only regular convention I’ll get to attend this year. Chattacon is virtual this year. My dealer table/membership is supposed to roll over to next year. I do plan to check out the online program content, but I won’t be presenting any this year. ConNooga is canceled this year due to COVID. I have no plans for any other conventions at this time.

That pretty much sums up my updates for now. See you here again soon, hopefully.