Balticon 2013

David and I attended our first Balticon this past weekend. We were there for two out of the three days, and had a blast. I’ve attended a writing conference (Pikes Peak) and a writers’ workshop before, but this was my first convention. It was a very different experience!

The People

What I loved about this con was that it drew in readers, movie/TV fans, costumers, artists, and film-makers, as well as writers. We met a guy in a steampunk Tigger costume, a retired mailman into historical re-enactment, and a woman who’d sewn an Inara costume for a Firefly-themed wedding. I LOVED meeting people with these kinds of passions and skills.

(And, I also got to meet Linda Adams, although briefly. Hi, Linda. *waves* Update: Check out Linda’s thoughts about the con in Tidbits from Balticon)

(Also, this was the first family-friendly writing-type thing I’ve attended. We’re thinking about bringing our own three next year.)

The Panels

Most of the panels I attended had to do with self-publishing (social media, podcasting, marketing, business) which fell in the New Media track (and so many of those were in a room tucked all by itself in an end corridor, hmm *wink*). There wasn’t much there that I didn’t already know–and when the panelists touched on anything new, it was in a cursory way, making me go, “Hmm, I’d better go research this when I get home.”

(I believe that cons are all-important for meeting people and getting that valuable face-time with them. Information you can get in spades online, usually in more depth and detail than can be crammed into a 50-minute panel.)

Things that I learned/need to look into:

* Google + for writers. There was an entire panel on this, but most of the panelists admitted they didn’t utilize this as well as they could. If you’re a writer using Google + extensively, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also–I’d like to do a Google hangout sometime. Anyone interested?

* Podcasting fiction is a LOT of work. I think I’m better off hiring narrators down the road.

* At some point, I need to look into setting up a LLC.

* Why you need a business plan: So that you can gauge whether an opportunity is worth pursuing or not. Will this opportunity take you closer to your goals, or off in a different direction altogether? (Thanks to Gail Z. Martin for this insight).

* Advice on shopping around rejected stories you wrote for a themed anthology: Other writers are inundating the market with their rejected Machine of Death stories, so wait a year for the deluge to die down and then submit.

* Note to self: Science presentations are awesome. Attend more of them next time.

Special Events

The highlight of my weekend was the Steampunk Ball (and yes, David and I attended that in costume. We had hats and everything!). Susan de Guardiola, the instructor, was awesome. We did line dances and circle dances, and quadrilles, and much fun was had by all.

It’s amazing how being in costume can help you meet people. They will naturally stop by to comment on the costume or–in a few cases–ask to take your picture. Also, doing something with other people (like everyone failing to learn a dance) is a great ice-breaker. The next day, when you run into them again, you have something to chat about. (Though you might need to remind them who you are. They may not recognize you without the hat/goggles/hooped skirt.)


Have you attended science fiction & fantasy conventions? Which was your favorite?



afterlife, with corporate lawyers

via The Passive Voice

what my dreams tell me

I’m not big into analyzing my dreams–most of them are very random, making me believe that my subconscious is having fun pulling out fistfuls of memories, throwing them up into the air, and giggling at the mess they make when they come down. I tend to pay attention to recurring dreams, though, especially if they fall into one of the categories below. Rabia, these dreams tell me, you’re stressed, overwhelmed and feeling helpless. Stop pretending you’re okay and deal with your emotions.

Alright, subconscious, I’m listening. What are you trying to tell me here?

Oh no! I forgot to study for my physics exam and they’re going to make me repeat high school if I fail! These dreams always always take place in high school. And they always involve the adult-me, not the teenage-me. Adult-me, who has forgotten all her physics and most of her chemistry and higher-level math, but somehow must take these exams. The fact that I have three children to raise does not deter my high school teachers/zombie slave-masters from insisting I do so. The terror of being trapped in high school–again!–permeates these dreams.

Subconscious says: You’re feeling like you have lost control of your life. Stuff happens to you and you can’t cope. PANIC!

Help! I’m stuck in a house with a hundred rooms and I can’t get out! In this dream, I’m in a house. Supposedly my house. Only my house has spawned a hundred extra rooms when I wasn’t looking. And these rooms are old and horrid, full of peeling wallpaper, cracked linoleum, and stained metal bathtubs with clawed feet. And all of these rooms need renovating. Every single one, from the ground up.

I’m overwhelmed before I even start.

And no, it’s not like I’ve ever had to renovate a fixer-upper of a house or anything like that before. *puts tongue firmly in cheek*

Subconscious say: Yeah, you bit off more than you can chew. STRESS!!!

I’m in the ocean. No, by the shore. No, I’m crossing over a waterfall. Ah, the water dreams. These are the dreams I’ve had the longest, and they are the most ambiguous. Sometimes, they are downright terrifying, like the one in which a child of mine was swept off a narrow bridge and into the boiling rapids *shudder*. Other times, they are surprisingly peaceful; once, I dreamed I was in a shallow place in the middle of the ocean, bobbing in clear clear water, surrounded by white walls which kept out big waves. In the last iteration of the water dream, I was in a beach house right by the sea, looking out of a big picture window. Every so often, a massive wave would come in and engulf the house. I’d see dolphins and whales go by the picture window. Then the wave would retreat, and I’d wait for the next one. I wasn’t terrified, but it was surreal.

Subconscious says: WATER: raging, terrible, sweeping away. WATER: calm, peaceful, protective. WATER: vast, powerful, majestic. Oooh, look at the pretty dolphins!

Yeah, subconscious, I don’t get it, either.

What about you? Do you have recurring dreams? What do you think your subconscious is trying to tell you?

this week in research

Dragon anatomy.

Cross-section of the spine.

Atmospheric structure and high altitude sickness.

What did you learn this week?


Okay, this was too cute not to share

Thanks to my husband for the link!

an apple a day

Apple-picking is a quintessential fall thing to do up here in the Northeast. We went to our favorite orchard this past weekend on a day with a sky painted bright blue and sunshine lying heavy and golden on our shoulders. We came home full of cider donuts and with a half-bushel of lovely Macs. I grabbed a stack of my favorite apple recipes–for apple pie and apple crisp, apple butter and apple muffins.

I made apple crisp, and we ate it hot from the oven with vanilla ice cream, melding flavors and temperatures.

Miss M. learned about life cycles and seasonal change using apple trees as examples.

We made chalk pastel apples– unless they were pumpkins!

I have apples on the brain.

I never knew that there were so many varieties of apple. Or so many posters and prints depicting them.

And it is rather fun to see how apples have wormed their way into the English language in idioms. And into stories and myths, from the golden apple for the most beautiful that started to Trojan War to the poisoned one that nearly proved Snow White’s undoing.

Apples apples apples. I still have a LOT of them. Anyone care to send your favorite apple recipe my way?

thought for the day

There should be adult-sized swings in playgrounds. Even stodgy grown-ups like to fly sometimes, feel the wind in our hair and the lurch in our tummies as we arc and dip.

o christmas tree

I love it when we get our Christmas tree. Because we don’t want to overdose on Christmas *before* December 25th, we wait until the second weekend of the month to get it. I love its spicy green scent. I love the way the ornaments glint and glitter among the branches. I love sitting in the rocking chair next to it, enjoy its peaceful beauty, the red ribbon, the small fairy lights.

Everyone has their own special ornaments and Christmas tree traditions. We drink egg nog and sing carols after our decorating. It’s specially fun now because the olders are able to join the singalong, too. There are several ornaments that are dear to me: the handmade ones that my kids have made, from painted wooden letters to child-stitched felt ones; the one survivor of a set of four a cousin gave us; a glass ball with a painted panda in a Santa hat from Hong Kong; a porcelain Celtic cross from Ireland.

Thinking about my traditions has made me wonder how my characters would decorate their trees. You know, if they had trees in the first place and celebrated the same holidays.

Kai, for one, would say she didn’t want a tree, but really? She does. She wants to belong, she wants to be part of her people’s traditions. She’d find the most imperfect tree in the lot though; the lopsided one, or the thin and scraggly one, or the one with a crooked top. She’d bring that tree home and she’d decorate it with old and imperfect things she’d find in thrift shops, and natural things like pinecones and winter berries and acorns. She’d string popcorn and drape it around the tree, and put oranges under it. And a pyramid of canned food, which is what she lives on.

The Marquis of Rocquespur (from Quartz)–well, he’d get the biggest showiest tree around. He’d dress the tree up the same way he dresses himself, in shades of purple and gold. His tree would grand, but prickly, with scratchy purple tinsel-y stuff. He’d pick glittery ornaments, like miniature disco balls, covered in mirrors, or sequined stars. Hard, reflective, glitzy, rough-textured. Lots of sharp angles.

Oh, and he’d have colored lights on his tree, too. Annoying blinky colored lights. In randomized patterns. The sort that induce epileptic fits.

Rafe is too busy working to have a tree. Knowing his luck–and dedication to duty–he’d spend Christmas being chased through sewers by bad guys and war machines. But, I have the sneaking suspicion, he’d like to have a family and one day go out, cut down a tree, bring it home and stand it up in the tree stand thingy while the littles danced around excitedly. He’d get the ornament boxes out of the basement, and untangle the lights, and put hooks on all the balls that mysteriously lost theirs. He wouldn’t care what the decorations were—if his family wants all cow ornaments, or just pink ones–that’d be okay with him. He’d  just want to see their faces shining with excitement.

I haven’t mentioned Christmas trees to Isabella, though. I might get The Look.

Your turn. How would your characters decorate their Christmas trees?


Synopsis: A novel summary that makes it seem that the author wrote the story while on drugs.

Who can guess what I’m doing right now (or rather was doing two minutes ago)?

alexander the great and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

This is just LOL-funny, especially if you know the original book backwards and forwards. Thanks, David!