Calgary Comic Expo 2013

This was my third year attending the Expo, and as the three main stars of BBC’s Torchwood were coming, I decided to take the plunge and splurge on a ticket to the Torchwood ‘HUB’ reception.  Usually I just buy the weekend pass to the Expo and leave it at that. But the chance to ‘mingle’ with John Barrowman, Eve Myles, and Gareth David-Lloyd was more than I could pass up.

Excuse the blur – we weren’t ‘allowed’ to use flash photography. :(

I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt. JB is quite possibly the most extroverted person I’ve ever met. He kept the attendees entertained, telling stories (mostly dirty/smutty/silly, or a combination of all three), and he and Eve were quite the pair, egging each other on. Quite sensibly, GDL slipped away from the stage to get a drink, and spent more of his time in quieter conversations with fans. Just even due to space, he was far easier to approach — JB and Eve stayed near the stage and it felt a bit like a rugby scrum to get up there. But it was fun, nonetheless. I loved how JB singled out the cosplayers (and there were some good ones, including a woman dressed up, and in full makeup, as a Silurian.)

IMG_2950

My impression of JB up close: brilliant white smile, and blue, blue eyes. He’s a bit overwhelming. :)

And, just my luck, a photographer with the local paper, The Calgary Herald, took a photo of me and GDL: Click here and scroll through the gallery.

My two seconds of fame? Maybe. ;)

Saturday was far calmer in comparison, though I was still buzzed from the reception. JB’s energy seems to be a creature of its own. I met up with my friend Julie in line, and we headed to get JB’s autograph first thing. Then to Richard Dean Anderson, a must-have autograph for Julie (though I’ll be honest and say that I really had no idea who RDA was, or have ever watched Stargate). Then to GDL and Eve, who were lovely in a quieter environment. Told GDL about the photo in the Herald. I have lovely autographs from all three now, and I really ought to get them framed and up.

After autograph-gathering, Julie and I headed into the Corral for the Torchwood panel. 45 minutes of comedy and geekiness. GDL’s “Asparagus Man” had me laughing and almost in hysterics, and then JB had to drop trou and show off his Iron Man briefs. No pics of that moment. My apologies. You’ll just have to imagine it. (Or Google it–I’m pretty sure someone caught it on camera! …oh wait, here’s one for you, though not from this Expo…)

Then it was vendor and artist time, and I bought a really lovely teapot from Kamloops based sculptor Amanda Eccleston, owner of Clay Chimera. It was gorgeous, and holds about 2 large cups of tea, which is perfect for my everyday use. (If you don’t know already, I’m a total tea jenny. No coffee for this girl!)

As I was feeling the lack of sleep, I didn’t stick around till the day’s end. But I had a ton of fun, and I can’t wait till next year’s Expo!

Come to the When Words Collide convention!

If you’re in Calgary this coming weekend (August 10-12th, 2012), come check out the When Words Collide convention happening at the Village Park Inn (1804 Crowchild Trail NW).

I’ll be on a panel on Sunday morning at 10 a.m., talking about ‘Romance and Sex Through the Ages’. My fellow panelists are CaRWA members Michelle Beattie and Jade Buchanan, and we also have well-known novelist Kelley Armstrong, too.

And if you plan to stick around all weekend, check out some of the other excellent presentations and panels. I would recommend Saturday morning’s ‘Dead Men Still Talk’ presentation by Det. Sweet of the Calgary Police Service, the readings and Q&As by guest authors (Jack Whyte, Kelley Armstrong, et al.), and the live slush readings. Lots of the presentations and panels are geared towards writers, but if you’re a reader, there’s lots for you too.

 

Workshop: Michael Hauge’s Story Craft

On May 12th, I had the good fortune to attend a workshop put on by my local RWA chapter. We hosted Michael Hauge, a well-known story and script consultant. He often presents at the RWA Nationals (I missed him in NYC last June, alas), and after taking his seminar, I can see why.

His seminar was split into two parts: The Outer Journey, which we dealt with in the morning’s session, and The Inner Journey, our afternoon’s work. The Outer Journey was very similar to what I’ve learned in other courses (Laurie Schnebly’s ‘Plotting via Motivation’ course comes to mind), but I would say that the afternoon’s Inner Journey part of the workshop was worth the entry fee and then some.

When I write, I’ve nearly always found it easier to deal with the outer journey and motivations of my characters (Character A wants X, thus must do Y), but the inner emotional journey is much more difficult to portray. My notes for the afternoon are voluminous and as I continue with my WIP, I’ll be using them regularly. (I already know that I’ll need to go back and rewrite, but I won’t do it just yet.)

Michael used examples from several Hollywood films, including Shrek, Titanic (which I still haven’t seen), Hitch (ditto), and L.A. Confidential (seen once, not well-remembered). Already in watching some of my favourite films (Casablanca), I can pick out the structure and character arcs with greater ease, and I know that it’ll help my writing.

Naturally, it was also a great time to chat and reconnect with my fellow Calgary RWA members, and we had a drink or two afterward.

LtoR: Michelle Pierce, Susan Bohnet, Karen Uhl, me, and Jill Flanagan. (photos by Suzanne Stengl - http://suzannestengl.blogspot.ca/)

Calgary Comic Expo 2012

Early Saturday morning.

You’ll probably remember my giddy posts last year when I met Julian Sands. This year, I wanted very much to meet James Marsters. I’d watched Buffy (though not religiously), and I loved his turn as Captain John Hart on Torchwood. So it made sense to try to get his autograph.

I’m quite thankful that I managed to get into the Expo bright and early, as there were issues later in the day about capacity, and the fire marshals shut down access.

I also managed to see (but not get autographs from — I’m not made of money) Chris Heyerdahl, David Prowse, and a quick glimpse of LeVar Burton. I would have liked to see the Phelps twins from Harry Potter, but the line there was…. well, I can only describe it as insane.

There were lots of artists and vendors to see, and I picked up a dress, as well as a fun t-shirt:

And below the cut, a few more photos from the day….

Continue reading

RWA 2011, Part 2: NYC

First the conference, now, New York City.

Though I could have spent my time entirely closeted in the hotel, overdosing on workshops and networking, I had to get out and see a bit of the city. My usual destinations when I travel: museums, churches, food, and music.

St Patrick's Cathedral

Churches included St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Malachy’s (the Actors church) in the Theatre District, and a quick pop into St Mary’s episcopal church (the parish church of midtown). I’d been to St. Patrick’s on my previous visit and I knew I had to go back. Located near the busy Rockefeller Centre and Saks, it’s nearly always crawling with tourists. Fortunately, the tourists are generally quiet and respectful. Stepping into the cool, incense and candle-wax scented air is a welcome break from the noise of people and traffic just outside the doors.

St. Malachy’s is much smaller. In the middle of the block, it’s the sort of church that you might just stroll by, mistaking its front for yet another theatre in the Theatre District. I popped in on my way back from a run to the grocery store for breakfast items, and it was one of the loveliest churches I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. If I lived in NYC, I could see myself going there regularly just to enjoy the peace and quiet. I have no idea of its history, but it is billed as the ‘Actors Church’. Given its location, I imagine that it is more likely to be attended by actors.

The Birdland.

I didn’t visit a lot of restaurants on this trip. However, there’s one that is now one of my favourite restaurants ever. Zen Palate. Located on 9th Avenue at 46 Street, it’s a vegetarian restaurant with primarily Asian cuisine. There was so much on the menu that I had a hard time deciding, but I finally settled on a Portobello mushroom burger with yam fries. (No, that doesn’t sound especially Asian, but most of the rest of the menu was.) I wish we’d been able to stay and sample more dishes, but we were running late, having to get back to the hotel to get ready for the RITAs.

My favourite evening out was on Wednesday, when I had the evening to myself. A bit of googling found the Birdland jazz club on W 44 Street just past 8th Avenue. They have early shows on Wednesdays and I got there just in time to catch the performance of the Louis Armstrong Centennial band. They played a selection of tunes, all classic jazz, from Armstrong to Duke Ellington, and more. After the crush of people during the first day of the conference, I couldn’t have asked for anywhere better to sit and unwind.

The interior of the Birdland.

It’s difficult for me to explain exactly what it is that music does to me. Sitting on that bar stool, sipping my drink and listening to the jazz, I felt the stress drain away. The music takes over.

A flute of kir royale (with a twist of lemon) led to another, and then a full meal, including a very delicious mushroom risotto. If I could have stayed there all night, I would have. The interior of the club is dark, with a red glow from the stage-lights, and the gleam of the neon that encircles the top of the bar. Framed photos of jazz legends adorn the walls and half the club is taken up with tables, spread with linen, in front of the stage. The other half, on the far side of the bar, is bar stools along the window, and several small high tables. The bar seats come with a cheaper cover charge, so I sat there. The bartender (whose name I never got, and should have) was friendly, and the service was excellent.

Art at the Museum of Sex.

I managed to visit one museum on this trip, taking in the Museum of Sex with some of the other RWA attendees, Daisy Harris, Tiffany Reisz, Monica Kaye and Andrew Shaffer. There were three floors and a gift shop. The first floor highlighted sex in film, from the early silent era, through the Hayes code, and into modern pornography. The second floor dealt with sex in comics, vintage photos, and featured an entire wall of Disney characters engaged in sexual behaviour. (I’d love to know why Disney hasn’t come down on them, but I’m glad they haven’t.) The third floor was an exhibit on sexual behaviour in animals, sometimes with video footage. We’re really not all that different from the bonobo monkeys, apparently…

The only thing that disappointed me about the museum was its very tight focus. I would have liked to see a display of sex toys throughout the ages (ancient dildos, etc.), and just some overall greater depth. However, it was worth the visit.

Most of my other wandering was around the Times Square area, during breaks between events, so I didn’t stray too far from the hotel. Popped into the huge Toys R Us, the Hershey chocolate store, a music store, and a few other places. On my last morning there, I had a chocolate croissant (pain chocolat, to the French) and a glass of juice at the Blue Fin (normally a sushi bar, but it had a breakfast menu) before I went to the airport. On my next trip to NYC, I plan to take in more museums.

RWA 2011, Part 1: The Conference

The idea of dropping $2K+ on a one-week writers conference for the Romance Writers of America had me feeling queasy, but as I’d decided back in January, I certainly wasn’t going back. I landed at Newark on Monday, June 27th, and the whirlwind began.

The view from the 39th floor.

The hotel was smack-dab in the middle of Times Square, which made for a slightly crazy experience. I’m one of those people who likes to go out to get away from the crush, but to go out meant stepping into the chaos that is Times Square (except in the middle of the night, which I didn’t do during this trip.) Handy to most everything, but sometimes I wished for closer proximity to Central Park, or at least a site in the more northerly end of Manhattan.

The conference itself was spread over 3-4 floors, connected by escalators illuminated with golden bulbs, and a computerised elevator system where you’d input your floor and be given a letter (which corresponded to a particular elevator) to attend. That took a bit of getting used to, and on Friday evening, the demand for elevators (and the slowness of getting one) made me wonder if we were going to be late for the RITAs.

View from the Rooftop Patio & Lounge during the Nelson Literary Agency party.

My goals for the conference were simple: meet up with Twitter/online friends, pitch to an agent, and take in some workshops. I did all three. My favourite was the Nelson Literary Agency party on Tuesday night. Hosted at the Rooftop Patio & Lounge on 5th Avenue and 27 Street, I was finally able to meet the very excellent Sara Megibow, Sarah Skilton, Miranda Kenneally, Roni Loren, Steve Vera, Kristin Nelson, Anita Mumm, and Lindsay Mergens, and RT’s Andrew Shaffer. A better bunch of people I could never hope to meet. (And if you’re wondering, I didn’t list Tiffany Reisz because we were roomies at the hotel, and I’d met her already.)

The scheduled luncheons and the opening session were enjoyable. The opening session had a panel of writers: Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon, and Tess Gerritsen. I’d read most of Diana’s work but none by the other two, so I now have 2 books in my TBR stack. Luncheon #1 had Madeline Hunter as the keynote, and luncheon #2 was Sherrilyn Kenyon. Both were great to listen to. You’ll have to forgive my lack of detail, but all were dynamic and fascinating.

I didn’t get in nearly as many workshops as I’d optimistically plotted out on my RWA agenda. The constant barrage of people and broken sleeping patterns had me hitting the snooze button in the morning or retreating to my room after a luncheon to regain my equilibrium. Still, I managed to take in a few.

My favourite (and most useful) workshop was the Pitch Witch session by Carrie Lofty (author of ‘Portrait of Seduction’, which I reviewed.) She had four points for making the pitch that had me rewriting the entirety of my pitch. It came in handy for my Friday morning appointment, though I was caught off guard by some of the other questions the agent had for me. However, it was my first pitch ever, so I think I did well. My goal there was to do the pitch and get the experience.

I also learned that THE PARIS GAME (my current manuscript) does not have enough romance or erotica in it to be classified as either. Though I don’t tend to take genre specifications very seriously, being at the conference and hearing a publishing perspective made me realise that this book should really be classified as straight-out noir. And thus, not in the least suited to any of the romance sub-genres. What does this mean? Just that I’ll be more precise in my future pitching and querying (and I shall be starting querying agents this month). I’ll be looking for those who rep a broader variety of work, where I can expand my imagination and do noir one book, erotica or romance the next, and so forth.

So, where does this leave me? Recovering from the travel and pondering my next moves. It was definitely worthwhile to attend and hopefully I’ll be able to do it again.