Balticon 52

No query corner this week: instead here’s a quick review of Balticon 52. I’ll be going into more depth on some of the panels later.

After a long week away from home learning about Aeronautics, my bed got me for one night before I hit Balticon 52. I saw old friends, made new ones, and–as always–brought home loads of notes to share with you!

Balticon 52

For those of you who don’t know, Balticon is an annual Science Fiction and Fantasy convention hosted in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s not a for-profit convention like the Comic-cons and the AwesomeCon’s of the world, this one is a labor a love, run by fans, for fans.

Balticon is a bit smaller and more mellow than DragonCon, though chock-full of activities and panels. There are writers and agents, scientists and publishers galore. But, unlike some of the writer-targeted conventions, there are no ‘pitching sessions’, etc. At least outside of BarCon* (the habit of some agents/etc to hang out at the bar. ‘Can I buy you a drink’ is often a good conversation starter…)

In years past, I’ve attended up to 21 different writing panels and workshops in the 4 days of the convention. This year was a bit lighter. Partially because some panels repeat, and partially due to me pacing myself a bit better.

I would have liked to get to the convention before the traffic picked up on Friday afternoon, but it was not to be.

gray plane wing

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As I mentioned earlier, I spent last week learning about aeronautics and my flight home wasn’t until after 4pm on Thursday.

If I had to list the biggest misconception I had corrected, it would be the concept of the ‘sonic boom.’ I’d thought it was a boom that emitted from the aircraft as it passed the speed of sound, radiating out from that point in space.

Nope! Instead, it’s the sound of the air leaving the speed of the aircraft and returning to standard pressure. It follows the vehicle like a dude water-skiing follows the boat.

But anyway, I’d made the decision to schedule an evening flight home to DC, aiming for the latest flight possible as to not miss any of the class. As it was, I had to miss the final review and the certificate ceremony.

I was pleased because flying back the next day would have me landing at Dulles, during rush hour, on a Friday–OF A HOLIDAY WEEKEND. Basically, a nightmare for getting to Baltimore.

However, that decision set me up for a 90-second layover in Detroit.

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

WHAT? Do airlines even allow that?

Well, it started out as a 42-minute layover, with the same airline, so it seemed reasonable.

Until you realize that planes start boarding 30 minutes before takeoff, and typically have to close the doors at least 20 minutes before taxiing.

So, that leaves me with a bare 22 minutes before they stop boarding.

Plus, that doesn’t include disembarking time. And did I mention it was a smaller plane so my rolling luggage wouldn’t fit in the sloped overhead compartment, so I had to wait for my luggage to be brought to me?

There I am, watching the clock, a map of the Detroit terminal on my phone, ready to run. And run I did, because my plane arrived at gate C15 and my next flight was at gate A73. The FAR end.

There were several people-movers (moving sidewalks) and I scurried. And in 12 minutes, I made it to my gate. With about a minute to spare before they belatedly began to board my flight.

*whew*

After I got home, I made the intelligent decision to assemble a new nightstand that had arrived while I was gone. I finished around 1:15am. What can I say? I haven’t assembled the 2 bookcases that also arrived! Because I couldn’t assemble just one. And after assembling them, I would’ve needed to finish unpacking from my move! (not my trip)

But back to the convention. By the time I got up, got moving, and got on the road, it was 1:30pm. And my radiator needs to go into the shop.

Blue car on the side of the road, hood up, person in blue shirt and khakhis looking in.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Fun Facts About Morgan’s Radiator Issues:

  • It was 90+ degrees on Friday
  • If I went over 65 mi/hr, I could have my AC on
  • If I was under 40 mi/hr, I could have the AC off, but the temperature still cool
  • If I was under 30 mi/hr, I had to have the heat on
  • If I was in stop and go traffic, I had to blast the heat

If I didn’t? My radiator overheat warning would come on! I only had to pull over twice before I got my levels properly calibrated.

I arrived, splurged on valet parking, and the line for Registration was done in under 15 minutes, my dad handed off my room key, and I was ready to convention!


Panels I Managed to Attend At Balticon

  1. Writing Characters with Agency
  2. Sustaining Tension In Your Writing
  3. Keeping Your Topic Interested (ended up being a lot about how to interview people)
  4. Reading Your Own Work (workshop)
  5. Pitching Your Own Work (workshop)
  6. What Makes An Idea Worth Exploring
  7. Ask Me Anything – Editors & Publishers
  8. Sassafras – (Concert! Including a Loki/Thor duet)
  9. Class Structures in SF/F
  10. [Nap Attack — missed some panels and was late to the next one]
  11. Useful Rabbit Holes For Writers
  12. What Good Is An Agent (I thought it would be preaching to the choir, but got useful stuff!)
  13. Making Fantasy Feel Realistic
  14. This Kaiju Life  (live podcast)
  15. Writing Compelling Villains
  16. Pitches We’re Sick Of (And One’s We’d Like To See More Of) (mostly boils down to writing what you’re passionate about, don’t chase trends, Zombies, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance are currently out, Steampunk may make a resurgence in the next 3-5 years. And vampires are coming back)

Cosplay!

 

 

I like to wear silly shirts, play dress up, and–I like bad puns. I kicked off my weekend with a ‘My Weekend is all Booked!’ T-shirt, and then followed it up with my Book-shaped bookbag wearing copper and red dragon, otherwise known as my ‘BookWyrm’. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of my button-eyed Other-Morgan, as inspired by Coraline, but I did manage to creep out a few people and get several double-takes. Maybe next time?

I lost the hall costume votes by 2 votes TO A MUPPET!! A guy dressed as a Jurassic Park scientist, with a giant egg and a baby velociraptor muppet who visited the kids’ room during their ‘Dinosaur Dig’ hour, but STILL. I lost to a muppet. I blame the lack of costume title/explanation on the vote sheet.

 


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I also helped hostess the DC 2021 bid party!

Confession: I’m a second generation geek and when I decided to hit Balticon, I emailed my dad and asked, “Hey, can I room with you?” To which his reply was, “Only if you’re okay helping Bill with the Bid Party. Cause I’m signed up, as usual, to work the midnight-3am shift in the ConSuite (food and relaxation space open to all Con attendees).

Hostessing is something I’m usually pretty comfortable with, so he didn’t really need to talk me into it.

Anyway–at SF/F conventions like this, room parties are usually on the ‘party floor’, and put on by other cons that want you to attend them as well, committees bidding for the next WorldCon to be scheduled, or other groups. You wander down the hall, check out their snack and drink offerings, and chat with people.

We got a fair number of sign-ups of people buying supporting memberships for the DC bid (currently unopposed…) I gave out tiny stickers as long as people promised not to vote against DC, and the last people wandered out at 2:52am–the last party to shut down on the hall by quite a bit.

Good chats and I hit the chips&dip pretty hard.

I cleaned up, changed into my pajamas, and the alarm went off. 3:03am. So, I tromped down 5 flights of stairs and waited for the all clear. It took about 10 minutes. Then, back up to the room, helped carry all the left-overs to the ConSuite.

I’m sure I was asleep before 4am, but barely.


Between panels, I managed to fit in meals with friends, a few walk-throughs of the dealers’ room and art show, and, of course, SUNDAY night’s ‘return of the fire alarm’ at a more respectable 12:48am.

I met a lot of lovely people everywhere I went, dropped into a round of CodeWords for a bit, and overall had a pleasant visit.

Now, I’ve got to wait til next year.

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When Querying A Novel: Hope Can Be The Scariest Thing

If you’re a regular reader, you saw my post two weeks ago about how I started to lose faith in my story. I believe in my story, but I was worried about its ability to stand out in an over-crowded market full of amazing stories.

I don’t know if it was karma, persistence, or simply comedic timing, but I got a FULL REQUEST on Monday.


Querying and Life

For those of you who haven’t queried a novel, I’ve been sending 1-page ‘query’ letters to agents, asking if they would like to represent my novel and me, and find me a publisher. Each agent and agency is different in what they ask for, some just want the query, some want anywhere from 5 pages to 50 pages, some want the synopsis as well.

As you might remember, I just finished a move that turned into a two-month ordeal. Well, I didn’t really get time to recover from that. The past 2 weeks, I’ve been helping coordinate my cousin’s wedding, which culminated in the official event this past Saturday. The beach was hot, the bride looked lovely, and we were surrounded by friends and family.

And? Let me tell you–if putting in that much time and effort to help a loved one earns me the karma for a full request on my manuscript? I’d do it twice a month. (I just don’t know where I’d find the time to work full time, write, and throw a wedding…)

A couple, kissing on a sandy beach at sunset (sunrise?)

Photo by Ibrahim Asad on Pexels.com


Hearing Back On A Query

But, going back to the full request. I’d queried this particular agent with just the query 104 days ago. The agency website says they TRY to respond in under 8 weeks for queries and under 12 weeks for page requests, but it’s not guaranteed.

Personally? I like to be patient and am hesitant to nudge unless a timeline for that is explicitly noted. Otherwise, I’ll likely wait double the suggested time limit. I don’t want to irritate the agent, and as long as they aren’t a ‘no-reply-means-no-thank-you’ agency, I’ve yet to not hear back eventually. (And many are now sending “we got it” automated replies, so that worry is alleviated.)


My Reaction To Getting a Full Request From An Agent

Confession?

When I got the email, I had to read it twice. I’ve gotten fewer than a handful of non-form-letter rejections. My one other FULL request, from two revisions ago, turned into no-reply.

Reading this one, I started breathing hard and my hands flailed in the air.

Tears welled up in my eyes, as I covered my face with my hands, and tried not to let my entire cube farm know that something was up.

Hope is terrifying!

I’d given up. I’d emotionally stopped expecting to get any traction with this story I love so much, that I’ve worked so hard on. I’d even entered a writing contest last week to try and get feedback, to see if someone could help me try and add that SPARK to get the interest that my story deserves.

To be offered this chance, this opportunity to display my work to an agent I was super excited about was overwhelming.

I had hope. Which meant now I had something to lose.

I stared at the clock. I couldn’t wait to go home and work on my novel.

clock


Prepping My Manuscript For Submission

Wait! But Morgan, you’re only supposed to query novels that are already edited and ready to go? What work did you need to do?

Well, true. And my novel IS revised, edited, and ready to go.

But, I’ve been slowly working on a read-through of my novel, just for a final polish while waiting on rejections to try and make it shine. I’d slowed down after I passed the 50 page mark, thinking anyone who asked for more pages would start with a partial (i.e. Where they ask for more pages, but not the whole thing.)

And with the move and the wedding and all? I was sitting at about page 160 out of 340.

I could have just sent it and trusted my earlier edits, but honestly? I wanted to finish this read-through.

5 Bic pens fanned out. Green, black, pink, blue, and red.

All of my Bic editing pens.


The Odds That A Full Request Will Lead To An Offer

Now, I’ve been querying for a while and I know the odds. A request for more pages means that my query is working (and maybe my first pages if they’re included in the submission package.)

It does NOT in any way, shape, or form mean I’m about to have an offer on the table.

For one? Remember that 104 days I waited to hear back on my 1 query letter? A full manuscript takes a bit longer to read — assuming always that they don’t read the first chapter and decide it’s not for them.

In addition? This particular agent hasn’t read a single page of my manuscript, yet. The voice, the tone, or the pacing might not be right for her.

But then again? It could be just what they’re looking for.

Picture of a roulette wheel.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


Responding To On A Full Request

Back to my manuscript polishing. I could have spread it out a little–as long as I replied in the next couple days I would be okay.

But, I didn’t want to give the impression that I wasn’t ready.

I didn’t want to give the impression that I was slow to work with or that I looked at standard guidelines as mere suggestions.

Plus, I’m the kinda girl who finishes her test and turns it in first, because every time I try to review my answers, I only change right answers to wrong ones. Overthinking things isn’t my forte, so I just send it off and make sure it’s out of my hands. I wasn’t about to start sitting on things now.

Also, I’m the sort of person who, once I have a decided course of action, moves forward. (Assuming it’s something I want. Not just the lesser of two weevils.)

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Focused On Polishing

Thus, I got home at 6 pm and I polished until 1:30 a.m., prepped the submission package, and sent it off before I could work myself into a tizzy.

The first about 150 pages I polished had my complete focus.

Wait. That’s a lie.


Distractions From Writing – Gaining Traction

About 25 pages in, I got an email from my dad asking if I wanted to collaborate on a short story. And remember that writing contest I entered? They were asking for more pages.

❤ Traction. My little story is starting to get some traction. ❤

I had to take a few moments to fan myself and take it all in.

Meanwhile? A thunderstorm was blowing in, with strong winds and heavy rains. I watched the trees in my backyard sway and decided I’d be working a little further away from those great big windows.

Sitting on my couch, away from the windows, listening to the howling storm, I had to just sit back and laugh.

When it rains it pours. In this case? Literally.

A hand reaching out to feel the falling rain - in black and white/greyscale.

Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com


Late Night Writing

So, there I was, burning the midnight oil to finish reading through my polished draft one last time before I sent it off.

Honestly? The last 50 pages? Well, my eyes were starting to blur from staring at the screen, but the ending’s been rewritten and reworked a lot, so likely needed less polish than the middle.

A bit rushed, but acceptable work. Plus, now I know I can polish nearly 25 pages an hour, so I have no excuse next time for working so slow.

Social media can take care of itself without me for a while.

Now all I can do is cross my fingers and hope that my manuscript touches a chord.


 Best of luck to all of you out there and don’t give up hope!

Let me know if there was a time YOU got feedback at just the right time to keep you going. It doesn’t have to be writing related.

Teacher Appreciation Week

I grew up blessed.

Blessed with a family full of readers.

Blessed with teachers who supported and encouraged me.

Blessed both my own personal what-to-read-next advisor and access to all the books I could want.

 


In honor of teacher appreciation week:

An empty classroom looks at a white board and podium.

Here’s to Ms. Quesinberry, my long-term substitute teacher in 2nd grade–who was there when I got moved to the accelerated reading group and helped foster my love of reading.

Shelves full of books, in a decently lit library.

Here’s to Ms. Firesheets, my elementary school librarian, who introduced me to so many books, taught me how to use a card catalog (the year before we went electronic), and made the library into a second home.

Coverless side of 7 thick books.

Here’s to Ms. Haney, my 4th-grade teacher, who, one day after she took away 2 books, and I pulled out a 3rd during class, had me empty both my desk and my locker and return some to the library. There were 7.

A hand balances 3 notebooks on the palm.

Here’s to Ms. Hardt, my 6th, 7th, 9th, and 10th-grade social studies and English teacher who encouraged my writing, supported my genre preferences, and taught me that edits are suggestions that I should mold into my own image.

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Here’s to Ms. Hoppe, who scared a group of 8th graders–on their first day, during their first period, in the big, scary high school–with an amazing Gollum impression, and allowed us as both 8th and 12th graders to act out our Shakespeare. (Despite our initial discomfort, doing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with Michael wasn’t too embarrassing. )

Grape hyacinths, blooming at dusk.

And here’s to my mother. A retired high-school librarian and former children’s librarian who can read stories with the best of them, keeps her shelves full, and always knows what to suggest for me to read next.

P.S. Sorry I went through the Foundation series in two weeks. Thanks to Game of Thrones, I now know the pain you suffered between books.


Happy Teacher appreciation week to ALL the teachers out there.

And Happy Mother’s Day.

Your support and encouragement are remembered and appreciated.

Confession: I’ve Been Losing Focus–and a Little Faith–In My Writing

There comes a time when one must look in the mirror and face accountability.

We’re a third of the way through the year, my move turned into a two month ordeal, and I’ve gotten distracted from my writing by hunting page views on WAY too many social mediums.

And?

To be honest? I’m starting to lose faith that I’ll find my agent with this story.

I’m even rolling new story ideas around in the back of my head.

Now don’t think for a moment I don’t love this story, I’m not sick of this manuscript–I keep getting ideas on how to improve it more. But, I will confess to being frustrated every time I realize it really does need more revising or editing–that’s the struggle with writing a novel, it’s never done. Even after it’s printed, you can still find authors who want to fix things.

I think it’s called “George-Lucasing” their novel…

But, maybe the market for YA Fantasy is just too crowded right now, too hungry for high concept books that flip-the-script on everything. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place for my agent, or they’re not in the mood for the flavor of my manuscript this month.

And none of those are things I can control. So, when external things get in my way, it’s time to look internally.

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How am I doing on my goals for the year?

Query 3 agents every other week, unless revising

Well, it’s a good thing I tossed that caveat in there. Too bad I’m not actively revising…

Read 2 books a month, and try to rate/review them

I slipped at least one book in last month, so I think I’m comfortably treading water here, at least.

Blog every week. Decide if I’m going to keep vlogging

Unmitigated success!

And I even added the Query Corner feature. Which isn’t as popular as my regular posts, but that’s okay. It’s a pretty niche topic.

I keep thinking if I’m going to continue with the vlogging, I really should start pushing it a little harder, because I don’t have many followers. [Feel free to subscribe!]

And you see how this social media related goal is the first one that I feel confident in…

Move forward with my picture book

Hahaha! Nope. Not a thing. I’ve lost faith in this one too, I keep delaying researching word count and query tips for picture books.

I think it’s sweet and fine. And doesn’t stand out.

Try to use social media better

Here’s one I’ve been letting consume far too much of my days, weeks, and months. I need to start scheduling stuff and stepping away.

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And I’ve started! But, I also joined 2 support groups for bloggers who keep trying to get me to promote my stuff more and network. Which… why blog if I don’t grow my audience?

And maybe Pinterest really is the key to everything…but it might be a niche for lifestyle blogs and not really for writing blogs? No one knows.

Rewrite one of my NaNoWriMo shelved projects

Not yet. But there’s still time.

Write something new for NaNoWriMo

There’s still time left for this!

Clearly, I need to prioritize better and make sure that writing goals aren’t being sidelined by the supporting goals. I want the writing to be my focus, but too often, the social media stuff, with its short-term deadlines and insta-feedback is taking over.

But, luckily for me, these aren’t the only things I’ve been doing.


What am I doing that isn’t part of my goals?

Well, it’s actually thanks to this whole “use social media better” objective. I’ve been writing. Flash fiction, little stories, and vignettes. A little on Reddit, a little just for myself. And even a smidgen on Tumblr.

Things that don’t require a lot of planning and that I’m probably not going to go anywhere with.

But I’m still going to give myself credit for working on telling stories that aren’t 80,000 words long and 2+ months of effort to even get the concept down on paper.

Now, I just need to buckle down and finish this round of revisions so I can move on.

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We’re a third of the way through the year. How are your goals coming along?

Do you like what goals you’ve made progress with? Or do you need to re-prioritize, too?

How Change Can Be a Good Thing – In Life and In Writing

I’m moving.

This week has been spent packing, painting, and making seemingly endless to-do lists.

I’m partially moving to be closer to friends and family, partially to be closer to my new job (that I took partially BECAUSE of it’s proximity to the aforementioned friends and family), and partially because it’s cheaper there than it is where I am now.

That’s a lot of change.

I think it’s going to be a good thing.


Getting Away From The Status Quo

In life, if you don’t make changes, you end up doing the same thing, day-after-day, year-after-year. If you want to reach your dreams, you need to be actively working towards them, changing your life to get you there. Wishes are only useful for the direction they give you.

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In writing, if you don’t read and practice and learn how to use criticism to grow, your writing won’t improve.

In your stories, your reader cares about change. Stories are about things HAPPENING and that means change. Sure, there are some stories about daily living, but something, even if it’s internal growth or understanding, should happen. “May you live in interesting times” might be a curse, but that’s where stories are.


Trying Something New

You weren’t born knowing what your favorite food was, you had to try it to find it.

Just because one writing style, one point of view, one tense comes naturally to you, doesn’t mean that a different style can’t compliment your writing better! If you don’t try something, you’ll never know.

Whether they like it or not, your main character is probably going to have to step outside their comfort zone if they want to fix the problem caused by the ‘inciting incident’ (assuming a traditional style novel, and most non-traditional).


Embrace The Unknown

This new thing you’re trying might be a complete disaster. You might make every mistake in the book–and invent a few new ones along the way.

You won’t know til you try.

OR

This new thing may be just the thing you didn’t know you were looking for. Sometimes the ‘mistakes’ you make are just how you figure out what comes next.

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Less esoterically? There’s a program I used at my old job that I learned how to use by breaking it. Repeatedly. And having to unbreak it was how I learned the ins and the outs.

And now, at my new job? My current task is to switch most of the projects to use this program.


What changes have you made that turned into a complete disaster?

What changes have you made that turned out better than you could have ever dreamt?