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Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse

July 6th, 2009

CONvergence... Dude! @ 11:57 am

A ton of things happened over the weekend, and most of them were a great deal of fun (even Mason's attempt to run away from home, but I'll get to that.)

As usual, I didn't spend a huge amount of time at the con. Since I'm local, I kind cheat. I drive in late morning/early afternoon (depending on my first panel) and usually skip out early, although this Friday I stayed wandering the halls/pool parties until well after midnight.

My very first panel was probably my best. It was "Tricks of the Trade: How to Publish and Not Perish" with Catherine Lundoff, Mark McLaughlin, me, and Pat Rothfuss. Ironically, Pat had just been complaining about how many of these writing panels involve a lot of people agreeing with him.

We didn't.

Almost all of us had some point of contention with everything Pat said. His first point was that all you needed to do was "write a good book," I jumped in right away with, "Actually, I disagree." Because, you know what? I wrote a good book. I wrote a book good enough to be published by Penguin USA. I wrote an national award-winning book. Where's that book now? Out of print. So, no, writing a good book does not mean that you will *not* perish.

But to his credit, Pat rolled with all the enthusiastic yelling and visual aids (it involved Mark's fingers, but not in the way you're probably thinking) very well. In fact, it was very much what I hope for on a panel. Everyone listened to each other pretty well. Everyone had something they were passionate about. We asked some tough questions, like, why do crappy books (you know the ones *cough*TWILIGHT*cough*) become run away bestsellers? We didn't really have a lot of concrete answers to those questions, but I do think we imparted a bit of wisdom about the publishing industry in amongst all the good-natured bickering.

Pat and I and Dave Hoffman-Dachelet and his wife Rachel and various other random folks ended up hanging out and just chatting in the hotel's bar until we finally wore Pat out some time around 11:30 pm. I was still wound up and ended up wandering the halls until I bumped into Robert Subiaga and ended up at Kruschenko's with Captain Kirk.

Speaking of which, dream come true or what? The first moment I stepped into CONvergence, who did I spy just hanging out in the hallway??? That's right: CAPTAIN AMERICA. I had to interrupt him to tell him that I so proud that he was defending America, I was a big fan, and, oh, congratulations on no longer being dead.

That was Friday.

Although earlier during the day, Mason ran away from home. He'd had enough, apparently, when Mama told him he could not have a cookie before diner (our rule is: "growing food first," which we got from our friends the Jacksons.) Anyway, for some reason this ticked off enough he decided to leave forever. He stormed out (well, of course, first he had to pull over the stool to unlatch the top "kitty airlock"), and then he took a piece of sidewalk chalk and wrote: "Good-bye" (exactly so without the quotation marks, but with the hyphen and the "e") at the top of the stairs and then...

... because he's not allowed to cross the street alone, he paced back and forth angrily on the sidewalk.

I'm sorry, Mason, but it was _so_ cute.

Eventually, he came back for diner. So it all worked out. (I love that kid.)

I showed his picture to pretty everyone at CONvergence, too. I'd been hoping to bring him to the con on Sunday because I know he would have FLIPPED to see all the superheroes he knows, the Jedi, Stormtroopers, Star Trek officers, etc. It would have made his day. But, there's always next year.

Saturday at the con was good, but nothing outstanding happened. I had the "Meet the Wyrdsmiths" panel, "Writer's Groups: The Secret to Success?", and the BroadUniverse Rapid Fire Reading. I ended up borrowing one of the New Wyrd chapbooks because I wanted to read from "Jawbone of the Ass" which is going to be coming out this year in SHE NAILED A STAKE THROUGH HIS HEAD edited by Tim Lieder, whom I got to meet on Friday (also making it extra especially cool.)

I had to skeedaddle early on Saturday because Shawn and Mason and I had plans to grill out and do all the traditional 4th of July stuff. We didn't want to go to the Taste of Minnesota and fight the crowds, so we had this brilliant idea to go to Mounds View Park across the river from Harriet Island to watch the show... with about a millon other people who all had the same brilliant idea. We didn't end up beating any crowds, but we did have an awesome view of the fireworks and Mason got to stay up very, very late which, for him, is almost better than pretty much anything.

In fact, he was all wound up after the fireworks that he asked if he could stay up "all night" reading. We said, "sure," thinking he'd pass out quickly... which is what we did. Somewhere around 3:00 am, I got up to go pee and I was like, "Mason?" He was still up reading. He'd finished reading the STAR WARS novelization and was nearly done with EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. I would have let him continue to stay up (I mean, what the hey?), but I thought he would be way too cranky in the morning... turns out we all over slept until almost noon. Which is something Shawn and I haven't done since we were sans enfant.

So Sunday was kind of a wash, except I did make a full chicken dinner with all the fixin's for dinner as well as a fine egg salad with dill for lunch... topped with some very expensive cheese from the new-to-our-neighborhood THE CHEESE SHOP. We got petite basque (a sheep's milk cheese, don't tell Shawn,) which was divine. And a lot of fun to get since I just walked in and told the women behind the counter what flavors I wanted it to go with and they let me taste a bunch of cheeses. I felt so French (in a good way.)

Okay, enough of this. I must off to writing.
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Date:July 6th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
To ask why 'crappy' books become bestsellers is asking the wrong question. Ask rather why so many people like something that doesn't suit your own tastes.

Twilight obviously has something going for it that appeals to a lot of people. Not everyone appreciates that Romeo & Juliet 'love or death' gothic ideal of romance - but a lot of people (mostly teenage girls) do. Stephanie Meyer does a good job of speaking to that sensibility, if not to yours.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:July 6th, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)
I've never actually read TWILIGHT, and I should have said that was the audience's suggestion, and you're right. The real question is why do some books hit a social nerve or whatever and take off. A book that I've always wondered about was/is "Da Vinci Code." I've written stuff not unlike what he's done in his early work, and so I wonder... what makes that book take off while mine didn't?

However it gets framed, it's an interesting question, IMHO.
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Date:July 6th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
There could be a whole panel discussion on that question alone - why some books have such a broad appeal.

From the best-sellers I've read I think one factor is that the writers are addressing the broader audience. They start with a sense of connection to a broad community. Their main characters, while individual in some ways, tend to have qualities that a lot of people will feel comfortable in identifying with.

Dan Brown deals with some arcane subject matter but his stories don't stray too far from conventional notions of how things happen in the real world. For what they are, they are pretty well grounded in the 'real world.' Harry Potter is magical, but the magic is treated as fun and silly even when other aspects of the story turn serious, and Rowling is very good at relating to the emotional issues of her characters. Stephanie Meyer, as noted, appeals to a certain widespread sensibility in her audience.

I don't think any of these writers are trying to appeal to everybody; but they do have a sense of commonality with a broad spectrum of people.

I don't know if it's necessarily desirable to try to appeal to a broad audience if one's own interests don't coincide with one. There's also something to be said for appealing to a narrower audience with specialized interests, like some of our best science fiction writers. (Charles Stross, John Scalzi) Not everyone gets it, but those who do feel very strongly about it.
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Date:July 6th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
Mason is such a cool kid. My mom also ran away when she was 3 and faced the same problem! I think she ended up going around the block instead. (Unfortunately, I never heard about it from her parents, which no doubt would have made an even better story.)
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Date:July 6th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I don't even think my parents knew when I ran away. I also was too young to really go anywhere, so I just wandered aroung the block, decided living on ones' own was scary and headed back home.

Shawn, my partner, apparently left a note saying: "I'm never coming back! You'll never find me at the neighbor's house!" Though she ran out of sandwiches before they ever even went looking....

Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse