My Report from Sasquan: Mostly Glorious and So Many Thank Yous

Picture of Cat Rambo

And we’re off!

For once I’m going to try to write a con wrap-up while it’s still (relatively) fresh in my head.

Caren and I arrived Wednesday evening and checked into the Davenport Grand, which was the same hotel as the SFWA Suite. We headed up there immediately after dumping up luggage to consult with SFWA Volunteers Extraordinaire Cat Greenberg and Terra LeMay. Heading out for food, we ran into the inimitable Ken Scholes, which was unfortunately just about the only time I saw him other than in passing at the con. After that I hung out in the SFWA suite for a while but we went to bed pretty early, since I knew it was going to be a long convention.

Thursday morning started with early AM swapping back and forth of mail about SFWA stuff and then I wandered down to Stroll with the Stars, where I saw some of my very favorite people in the world and met lots of new friends. Spokane was beautiful along the river — lots of visual interest and pretty things. Stu Segal led the amble while David Gerrold, Vonda N, McIntyre, Lawrence M. Schoen, Stphen Segal and Tom Smith were fellow walkers.

After that I went off to the board meeting. Thank you for coming, Jenn Brozek, Susan Forrest, Matthew Johnson and Susan Pinkser, as well as to Kate Baker and Bud Sparhawk for being willing to attend virtually. While the SFWA board meets sort of continuously in the form of a discussion forum on the SFWA boards, it’s nice to meet face to face and get to talk about things quickly. Because there wasn’t a full assemblage of us, we just did it in one of the SFWA suite rooms, which seemed to work well and saved us money, which I always approve of. I had to duck out of the meeting and go off and talk to the con folks after lunchtime about a table issue (this was not the smoothest con we’ve ever had, particularly with hotel difficulties, but we muddled through.)
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Retreat, Day T-7

picture of a sleeping cat

Willow, sleeping in her net.

It feels like I have been here a shorter time than I have, but it’s been great and I have gotten so much work done. I’m filling in gaps on Hearts of Tabat right now and happy with its progress. I wrote a bunch of stories and one poem. I walked on the beach and among the redwoods, and I got to spend time petting a bunny, and watching deer. I saw a grey fox and a barn owl swooping along late at night and covey after covey of quail, including a mama with six bitty little perfect quail running as fast as they could to keep up with her. Tonight I’ll lie out under the stars and watch the Perseid meteor shower from probably the best vantage point I’ll have in my life.

I spend literally less than a day at home, then get a haircut in the morning and head off to Sasquan in Spokane with my bestie, the fabulous Caren Gussoff. I’ve posted my convention schedule here, and if you’re wondering what sort of SFWA events I’ll be attending, here’s a video about that:


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Patreon Story: Snakes on A Train (Steampunk)

Fantasy scene with steampunk style in the forest

Fantasy scene with steampunk style in the forest

Hello! If you’re new to this blog, this story is part of my Patreon campaign, which you can support here.

This story is a prequel to Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart; I’m working on a third involving Elspeth and Artemus. Other stories in this world include Rappacini’s Crow and Clockwork Fairies.

Snakes on a Train

Elspeth folded her hands in her lap, trying to keep her brows from knitting. She hated trains.

They were dirty, with bits of smut and coal blown back from the massive brass and aluminum steam engine pulling them along, and engrimed by successions of previous passengers.

They were noisy, from the engine’s howl to the screech of the never-sufficiently-greased axles as they rocketed along the steel rails with their steady pocketa-pocketa-pocketa chug seeping up through the swaying floor.

And they were oppressively full of people, all thinking things, all pressing down on her Sensitive’s mind, making her shrink down into the hard wooden seat as though the haze of thoughts hung like coal-smoke in the air and if she sank low enough, she’d avoid it.

She glanced over at her fellow Pinkerton agent, who returned her look with his own slightly quizzical if impersonal gaze. All of the curiosity of their fellow passengers was directed at him, perhaps the first mechanical being they’d ever seen, with silver and brass skin and curly hair, eyebrows, and moustache of gilded wire.
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Retreat, Day 25

Picture of a page of writing

Tomorrow’s online class is Delivery and Description. Click here for details.

Today’s wordcount: 3001 (so far. plenty of daylight left.)
Current Hearts of Tabat wordcount: 119954
Total word count for the week so far (day 6): 23568
Total word count for this retreat: 70229
Worked on Hearts of Tabat, “Moderator,” untitled piece
Works finished on this retreat: “California Ghosts,” “My Name is Scrooge,” “Blue Train Blues,” “Misconceptions of Gods and Demons”
Taught week 3 of the Writing F&SF stories class, prepping to teach Delivery & Description tomorrow.

We have no water at the moment, or at least a pump is broken and we must conserve what we have in case of fires. Hopefully fixed soon, but I drove into Santa Cruz this afternoon and had a nice chat with the guy at the Pure Water store, who recommended all sorts of local places and doings.

I have been reading and reading here. I was watching no TV but Wayne and I usually watch Big Brother each year, so we started watching it while he was here and now have been watching it together while Facetime-ing. Yes, we are huge geeks.
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Retreat, Day 22

coffeeToday I am letting myself slack a little, feeling caught up from the weekend’s excesses and so I can game tonight.

Today’s wordcount: 2592
Current Hearts of Tabat wordcount: 119954
Total word count for the week so far (day 3): 13568
Total word count for this retreat: 60229
Worked on Hearts of Tabat, “Moderator,” untitled piece
Works finished on this retreat: “California Ghosts,” “My Name is Scrooge,” “Blue Train Blues.”
Time spent on SFWA email, discussion boards, other stuff: 45 minutes

From the untitled piece:

The magician gestured, and out of the pool came musicians, the very first thing the tip of a flute, sounding, so it was as though the music pulled the musician forth, accompanied by others: grave-eyed singers and merry drummers; guitarists and mandolinists with great dark eyes in which all the secrets of the moon were written; one great brassy instrument made of others interlocked, so it took six to play it, all puffing away at their appointed mouthpiece, and all of them bowed down to the priestess who stood watching, her sand-colored eyes impersonal and face stone-smooth.

“Very pretty,” she said, and yawned with a feline grace, perhaps even accentuating the similarity in a knowing way with a tilt of her head.
The magician smiled, just as catlike, just as calm. “You can do better, I am sure,” he said.

She shrugged, her manner diffident, but rather than reply, she pursed her lips and whistled. Birds formed, swooping down, and wherever they swooped, they erased a swathe of the musicians, left great arcs of nothingness hanging as the seemingly oblivious players continued, their music slowly diminishing as they vanished, the instruments going one by one, and the last thing to hang, trembling in the air, was an unaccompanied hand, holding up a triangle that emitted not a sound.

Landing, the birds began to sing, and though the music was not particularly sweet, there was a naturalness about it that somehow rebuked the mechanical precision of the song theirs succeeded. As they sang, more and more birds appeared, and the music swelled, washing over the pair where they stood, like a river.

The priestess patted the air with the flat of her hand and the birds winked out of existence, leaving the two of them in a great white room, the antechamber of her temple.

“Will you go further in, then?” she said, and her voice was still casual.

The magician’s eyes were green as new grass and the black beard on his chin, which grew to a double point, was oiled and smelled of attar-of-roses. He considered her as though this was the smallest of debates, and finally stepped forward.

“We are still evenly matched,” he said.

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Retreat, Day 21

IMG_6608Feeling a bit more caught up, some solid word count today. If I can bank a little more tonight, I’ll give myself a treat tomorrow and go down to check out the Santa Cruz boardwalk.

Today’s wordcount: 5102
Current Hearts of Tabat wordcount: 119160
Total word count for the week so far (day 2): 10976
Total word count for this retreat: 57637
Worked on Hearts of Tabat, Bloodwarm Rain, “Blue Train Blues”
Works finished on this retreat: “California Ghosts,” “My Name is Scrooge,” “Blue Train Blues.”
Time spent on SFWA email, discussion boards, other stuff: 45 minutes

From Blue Train Blues, completed today in first draft form:

The next obstacle presented itself a few miles further on. Fog covered the road, and the car swam in and out of it, a submerged salmon leaping through foamy water, curls and tendrils swirling in its wake. My lord drove slower, but barely, and more than once we swerved to avoid an incautious cow or deer. I tried not to think of how many things stood too low to be spotted through the fog.

We ascended to a hilltop and saw a basin of fog in front of us, an immense white bowl. I started to say something about the odd flapping noise that was just starting to creep up on my consciousness but before I could begin, my lord shoved me sideways, then rolled in the opposite direction himself. A massive claw flashed in the space between us and rasped against the metal before the dragon swooped back upward.

“Hold tight.” We leaped down the hill and into the fog.

My lord steered with face tense, watching the road flash by mere feet from our front wheels, not slowing. Overhead we heard the flapping of the wings.

Then the hoot of a train, off to the right, somewhat ahead.

“What are you thinking, sir?” I asked. “That’s not the Blue Train. It’s the train to the western coast.”

“I know,” he said. “But the crossing is up ahead, I can hear it.”

“But not see it.” Fog thickened and lessened around us; sometimes I could see his resolute face, other times he was lost to me. Overhead those wings flapped, and sometimes fire coiled, once a great wash of it directly overhead accompanied by a foul, sulfurous stench. My cap had blown off my head many miles ago, and I felt the hairs atop my head singe and vanish.

“Hold tight!” my lord yelled over the roaring of the wind and if he added anything to that, it was lost in the howl of the train and the sudden flap of wings and then somehow we were soaring through space just ahead of the train, so close I could count every bar in the cowcatcher in front of it and there was a vast scream and crash as the dragon and the train collided, and then a whoosh of flame, exploding outside, that cleared the world of mist and revealed chaos.

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Retreat, Day 20

Beach AeEek, I thought I had been better about posting. At any rate, here I am still in California writing away. I had Wayne here Friday-Sunday, so no writing was done, but we really had just a delightful time with each other and both were very sorry to part when I dropped him off at the airport on Sunday.

Today’s totals:

Today’s wordcount: 5884
Current Hearts of Tabat wordcount: 119083
Total word count for the week so far (day 1): 5884
Total word count for this retreat: 52435
Worked on Hearts of Tabat, “Blue Train Blues”
Time spent on SFWA email, discussion boards, other stuff: 30 minutes

Besides working on “Hearts,” I have been finishing up “Blue Train Blues”, a steampunk set in the Altered America world, although over on the other side of the world, in their version of France, occupied by vampires. It’s not a pieceI’ve promised anyone, so it will probably go up on Patreon either this month or the next.

Here’s a section from it:
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Patreon Post: California Ghosts

Picture of two peopleThis post marks a change-up in my Patreon campaign – I will post content publicly. If you’re enjoying it and want to make sure it continues, please consider supporting my ongoing attempts with this publishing model! There are several levels of possible support, but you can do it for as little as a dollar a month.

I’m enjoying on retreat in California right now, which will explain what provoked this piece.
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Convention Schedule: Sasquan (WorldCon 2015, Spokane)

Stroll with the Stars
Thursday 09:00 – 09:45, Breezeway/Statue (CC)
A gentle morning stroll with some of your favorite authors, artists and editors. Meeting each morning at 9AM in the Breezeway between the INB Theater and the Convention Center (check your map), and returning in time for 10AM programming.
Stu Segal, David Gerrold, Vonda N. McIntyre, Cat Rambo, Lawrence M. Schoen, Stephen Segal, Tom Smith

SFWA Board Meeting
Thursday 10:00 – 18:00

Writers Workshop section 13
Friday 10:00 – 13:00, 201B (CC)
Fifty-plus entrants submitted speculative fiction manuscripts in advance to be constructively criticized by industry professionals. In this section, a few of these entrants go on the hot seat to hear what the pros have to say. All workshop sections are closed to non-participants.
Bud Sparhawk, Toni Weisskopf, Cat Rambo

Dreaming on the Diamond: A Look at Baseball in the Speculative Fiction Genre
Friday 14:00 – 14:45, 303A (CC)
Some of our best loved stories embrace America’s favorite pastime. How has the sport infiltrated the fantasy and science fiction genres? Are all baseball stories as nostalgic as Field of Dreams? Or are they more whimsy like Angels in the Outfield or Rhubarb? What about other sports?
Bradford Lyau, Patricia MacEwen, Cat Rambo, Rick Wilber, Bud Sparhawk

Reading – Cat Rambo
Friday 17:30 – 18:00, 303B (CC)

SFWA Business Meeting
Saturday 13:00 – 15:00, 300B (CC)

Kaffee Klatche – Cat Rambo
Saturday 16:00 – 16:45, 202A-KK2 (CC)
Join a panelist and up to 9 other fans for a small discussion. Coffee and snacks available for sale on the 2nd floor. Requires advance sign-up.

What New Pros Need to Know
Sunday 12:00 – 12:45, Conference Theater 110 (CC)
You’ve sold a few short stories. Your first novel is just coming out. The praise, the pans, the fans. How do you manage it all? What should you do to help your career along? What should you avoid? Here from people who have been there and done that, and hear how they got through it.
Cat Rambo (M), Wesley Chu, Wendy S. Delmater, Brandon Sanderson, Rhiannon Held

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Finetuning Patreon

Photo of a clock shaped like a Neko Cat, altered with the Percolator app.

One of my favorites is the First Pages workshop – come find out where to take your novel!

As some of you know, I started a Patreon campaign about a year ago. It’s worked pretty well, although I still need to put together the first year’s worth in ebook form to send to people.

I’m going to stick with it, particularly given that I get new ideas for short stories all the time (and generate a lot in the course of teaching), but I’m thinking about making some changes.

  1. The most important is making it so paid content isn’t just restricted to patrons. I’m going back and forth about this. Right now it feels like a subscription model, but if I go to public content, it seems less so. But what paid patrons would get along with the public posts are sneak peeks at drafts for outside markets, which would be free but accessible only to people supporting the paid stories. The drafts would be early ones, rather than late, and they also wouldn’t be getting paid for, which seems to be the main criteria editors apply to Patreon stories when ruling them out for acceptance. (This is a whole ‘nother long and interesting discussion, I think.)
  2. I recently switched from two stories a month to one and I’m going back to two.
  3. I need to remove the postcard incentive because I keep forgetting to send them, and figure out something else. Suggestions?

Today’s wordcount: 5476
Current Hearts of Tabat wordcount: 112800
Total word count for the week so far (day 2): 11487
Total word count for this retreat: 42856
Worked on Hearts of Tabat, finished “California Ghosts” and “I am Scrooge”
Time spent on SFWA email, discussion boards, other stuff: an hour

Classes that are coming up soon and still have room! All times are Pacific Time.

  • July 15 (Wednesday), 7-9 PM – First Pages Workshop Section 1
  • July 17 (Friday), 2-4 PM – Writing Your Way Into Your Novel, Section 2
  • July 19 (Sunday), 9:30-11:30 AM – First Pages Workshop Section 2
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