Convention Season

Convention season is upon us and I hope all my fellow geeks out there have at least one fun con in which to romp. I am geeking out in a major way, spending two consecutive weekends at three conventions.

Over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, I headed to San Jose for the joint conventions, Fanime and Clockwork Alchemy. I have to shout this out to San Francisco Bay Area folks who aren’t in the know. For a $50 preregistration fee, you can spend four days at two conventions. It’s an incredible value and tons of fun.

Fanime is all things anime and manga, as well as a bit of Asian cinema thrown in. The attendees love to cosplay, i.e., dress in the costumes of their favorite characters. It’s like a four-day costume party that goes all day and all night. Just so you know, this is a very young crowd and the majority tends to be in their teen and twenties.

There’s a lot going on: video rooms, panel discussions, live bands, karaoke, swap meets and a 24-hour game room. There is a large dealers’ room where you can buy all kinds of anime-related paraphernalia. This year, the Artists’ Alley was enormous. This is where you can buy creative pieces by talented fan artists.

In the dealers' room with a Cthulhu plushie. Who knew an elder god could be so huggable?

In the dealers’ room with a Cthulhu plushie. Who knew an elder god could be so huggable? (Photo credit: Teacher Jennifer)

Clockwork Alchemy is all things steampunk. If you love Tesla and Jules Verne, this is where you want to be. The crowd is more mixed, with younger and middle-aged folks mingling equally. If you like the technical and/or historical side of the genre, there were plenty of informative panels as well as an art gallery and hands-on exhibit. There was an authors’ salon where writers could attend panels hosted by published genre authors. The convention also included a dealers’ room, a martial arts studio, dance lessons and three nights of live performances.

Steampunk fans love to cosplay, too. I got into the spirit and put on some steamy duds. Huge dioramas were placed around the con for posing purposes.

Oh the humanity! I watch in thrilled horror as zeppelins battle above me.

Oh the humanity! I watch in thrilled horror as zeppelins battle above me. Photo credit: hostess with the mostest Susan.

This coming weekend, I will be attending Denver’s Comic Con. Can’t wait for that, though I’m glad I have a few days to rest up before I get my con on again.

Does this all look and sound like a lot of fun? Well, it is! And you can do it, too. Check out this website, Upcoming Cons, for current information on upcoming conventions.

Harper Voyager Update for May

Hello, I’m back! Eurovision ended with a grand final competition on Saturday in Malmö, Sweden. Emmelie de Forest of Denmark won the top prize with her song “Only Teardrops.” Well done, Europe. This is a beautiful and haunting song, and Emmelie de Forest has a strong, impassioned voice. Take a look at her winning performance.

While I was busy (obsessed?) with Eurovision and my 12 Points To… blog, other things happened in the world. In particular, Harper Voyager came out with a new update. For those not in the know, back in October 2012 Harper Voyager opened a two week submission slot for unsolicited manuscripts. Those accepted would be published as part of a new digital imprint. If you are a speculative fiction author, this was a big deal.

Of course, they received thousands of submissions. They’ve been very good about keeping those authors updated via their website. Here is a quote from their latest update.

Another update on the digital submissions! As per the previous update post, we received 4500+ entries, and by early March we had responded to 2905 entries.

We have now reviewed all the submissions in our inbox and responded to 3595 submissions that were not right for our list. The remaining 948 are marked for further reading and consideration.

You can read the full update here.

I haven’t heard back yet, which means my novel “Fake” is one of those 948. This is very exciting and even flattering. Regardless of the outcome, I’m happy to be part of this group.

Submitting your manuscript is a nail chomping experience, but it is necessary if you want to be a professional writer. Even if you plan to go the indie route, it doesn’t hurt to submit a short story here and there. It gives you the experience of pulling together a professional manuscript. Rejections aren’t pleasant, but occasionally editors will include a nugget of invaluable critique.

If you are ready to submit a novel or short story, or even a piece of creative nonfiction, you really should subscribe to Cindi Myers’ Market News blog. It’s a (mostly) weekly blog that contains news on markets open to manuscript submission. Cindi has been doing this for years and she is a fabulous, generous person. While visiting her blog, you can check out her novels as well.

Hey readers, I haven’t forgotten about you. A tasty freebie by Neil Gaiman has been made available by HarperCollins. It can be downloaded for numerous eBook formats.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties By Neil Gaiman How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman
A short story from New York Times bestselling author, Neil Gaiman. Plus an excerpt from his new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Another Neil Gaiman freebie you can find online is his Sherlock Holmes/H.P. Lovecraft mash-up, A Study in Emerald. It is available in PDF format and is a short, fun read. Enjoy!

Eurovision Fever

I’ve got Eurovision fever. I’ve been giving most of my love to my 12 Points To… blog. I hate neglecting my reading/writing blog, but my mind is on music with a European flavor. Bear with me. It’s only another two weeks.

For those not around for my blog this time last year, Eurovision is the European song contest. Upwards of 40 countries compete every year. Most of these countries are in Europe, however certain other countries that belong to the European Broadcast Union (EBU) also compete, such as Israel.

Each country sends a representative singer or band and a single song. Many of these countries have qualifying competitions with judges and televoting, much like “American Idol.” The winning nation hosts the contest the following year. This year, after Loreen’s 2012 triumph in Baku, Azerbaijan, Eurovision will take place in Malmö, Sweden.

The winner of Eurovision is decided by a combination of judges’ scores and televoting. You may wonder, how can a small country like Sweden win against a huge nation like Russia? Easy. Citizens cannot vote for their own country, i.e., Russians cannot vote for Russia’s song. It’s a twist I really love and it makes for an interesting contest.

Eurovision takes place over three nights, with two semi finals and a grand final. The contest has a worldwide following and the official Eurovision website will be televising the competition live. The dates this year are May 14, 16 and 18.

For the past two months, I’ve been reviewing all the countries and their participants on my blog 12 Points To… Below are my top five favorites of 2013. I think only one of them has a chance of winning Eurovision. These are my winners in alphabetical order.

Adrian Lulgjuraj and Bledar Sejko, “Identitet” (Identity)

I’m a rocker chick at heart and I love me a good rock anthem. This is a great rock anthem! I love Adrian’s voice and Bledar’s badass guitar playing. Will this win Eurovision? Not a chance. I’m not even sure it will final. Don’t care. I love it.

Elitsa & Stoyan, “Samo Shampioni” (Only Champions)

This hits my sweet spot when it comes to something both traditional and modern. Love the drums, the bagpipe and Elitsa’s extraordinary voice. I hope they get enough votes to make it to the final, but I think they’re too ethnic and unusual to win. Too bad, because they are awesome.

Emmelie de Forest, “Only Teardrops”

“Only Teardrops” has been acknowledged the current frontrunner and for good reason. It’s haunting and beautiful, and Emmelie de Forest has a lovely voice as well as a unique and graceful stage presence. Denmark has a strong chance of a very deserved win.

Koza Mostra & Agathonas Iakovidis, “Alcohol is Free”

I’m thinking my fellow Gogol Bordello and Pogues fans are with me on this one. I love the folk punk genre and this nails it. I’m so glad Greece went with something high energy and fun. Won’t win and might not final, which would be too bad, because this song is a party and deserves to be heard twice.

El Sueño De Morfeo, “Contigo Hasta El Final” (With You Until The End)

Celtic rock is another favorite genre of mine and hearing it in Spanish makes it even more special. As a band, El Sueño De Morfeo is fresh and appealing. I’d love to hear more from them. Since Spain is one of the so-called “Big Five” sponsors of Eurovision, ESDM is already a finalist, which is actually a shame. I think they’d get more support if people could watch them twice. I don’t believe they’ll win, but they could make the top 10.