The Really Long Conference Post

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Random Assortment of Mountains, As Seen From Gas Station on the Way out of Town. Look: It snowed!

So, Pike’s Peak…

Let me be honest. I did not feel good the entire time I was in Colorado Springs. Thin air, altitude, kreb’s cycle… maybe I even caught actual germs… whatever it was, I was at less than my conference-going best.

I spent a couple of hours in classes really more intended for thriller writers, both of which were taught by the really fun–if somewhat morbid–forensic anthropologist and writer, M.R. Rutter. I have no idea what I’m going to do with the information, but since my own anthropology professor was a parasitologist, (think tapeworms and fossilized people poop) I figure the field as a whole owes me a few murders. These were absolutely the highlight of the weekend.

I also took a few craft classes, which–for the most part–seemed to be live recitations of things I (mostly) already knew, but which were said in a much more authoritative voice than the ones in my head.

I think–in general–I would do more of the information-sessions and fewer of the how-to sessions, if I had it to do over again. I’m not saying the craft sessions weren’t good, but in terms of bang for your buck, I think you could get a lot of the information out of books while sitting at home in your pajamas.

I like pajamas.

Well… I like the comfy clothes I sleep in. I may have been eight the last time I owned pajamas.

I am not social when I don’t feel good, and I think my outcome was probably affected by that. I met a few people from Holly’s website, and a few others, and did my best to be social, but… it did not result in stacks of business cards, or even more than a few people I feel like I know better than I did going in. Of course, that also means that no one gets to curse me as the person who gave them bubonic altitude sickness, or remember me as the queen bitch of the universe, either.

So, I met a few agents. Probably more than a few, if you count the ones who don’t represent anything close to what I write. Sat in on a questions and answers session with them (in which most of the attendees had the same deer-in-the-headlights look I did, and the moderator asked most of the questions.) Had lunch at the same table with one. (I may have infected them with bubonic altitude sickness.) I did not throw up on any of them, and in all honesty, I didn’t do anything memorable enough that I believe any of them will have any faint idea who I am in a week or two.

So, success!

There were, of course, pitch sessions (I picked up a non-industry type stalker at pitch-a-palooza once), and pitch appointments, and pitch-themed barf bags in the back of the chairs. So, if that’s your thing, Pike’s Peak would definitely be a good conference for you. It is also–the director notes, loudly–one of the few conferences where the faculty is required to actually eat with the attendees, so there are more casual opportunities to get to talk to them.

We could talk about the food… but the truth is, it wasn’t good. I was expecting more, and about half the time, I might have been better off with a drive-through cheeseburger. By the end of the conference, the lime-vinaigrette that kept appearing, meal after meal was a little tedious. Apparently, about half the conference cost is food, and they need to hit a certain food-sales benchmark to get the hotel space.

No comment, there.

The acoustics in the dining room were not great. Actually, they were can’t hear the person next to you awful. (Plus or minus the fact that my ears were a little clogged, it was still noisy.)

So, the big question would have to be, would I go back?

Yeah. I’d actually like to do this again, sometime when I’m feeling better, and when I have the time and money to do it right. (And preferably when I have someone else I know with me.) I’d like to see some of the upcoming profiling seminars. I also really appreciate the fact that the publishing glitterati are being forced to eat with me. Or… well, whatever the hell sounds diplomatic there.

I’ll point out here that–generally–my vacations do not repeat. I’m not someone who goes to the same place and eats the same food year after year. (Actually, lately… my vacations do not happen. This was the first one in a few years.)

Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference Day One

I’m going to admit I hit drained pretty early yesterday. I don’t know whether it’s the change in the altitude, or my own shift from my regular schedule to… uhm… normal human being hours and then on to mountain time. Or… quite frankly… the fact of being surrounded by people wearing my allergens (perfume, cologne, and—horrors—fabric softeners.) I do much better with those when I’m moving around than when I’m sitting still.

I skipped out on the last session yesterday, and also wound up ditching the costume party. I was down to the last dregs, by then. And not really meeting anybody because I was afraid I’d either throw up on someone or go full-on bitch.

I got out of the crowd, and had a snack out here:

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If you’re noticing the solitude, that’s because it was 43 degrees at the time, and even smokers didn’t want to be out there.

Still, the best I’d felt all day.

The best presentation was the one I almost didn’t go to. Something about freeing your inner extrovert. (I also hit my limit on presentations about building characters). The presenter was David R. Slayton. (The R is important–it’s what gets you the writer on a Google search.) There was a lot of audience participation–of a meet your neighbors variety–and I met my neighbors. Who were a lot of fun. And… most of them are writing sci-fi or fantasy.

Also, for the record… it is snowing here. I woke up to this, this morning.

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That’s the view from my discount-dive motel, not from the Marriot. (Sorry, but I’m getting motel room for basically half the price, and it’s a bargain, if you’re willing to do a little driving.) 7.5 inches predicted for the weekend, and absolutely tragic, if I get snowed in.

I will point out that Colorado Springs combines the worst of the city (tangled, looping freeways) with the worst of the country. Look out! A deer! but it’s a beautiful place, so when I do die my fiery death, at least it’ll be in the shadow of snow-peaked mountains.

For those of you from Holly’s website, the highlight so far has been meeting Carol and Josh Englehaupt and Bill Bush and his daughter (I think she’s still a minor, so no link or name mentions yet. I’ll owe her one.)

I may have been spoiled by ballroom events, but I think it’s safe to say that the food here is… well, edible. The brownies we had for snacks were actually very good. The chicken on my salad? Well, I could have used a sharper knife. My expectations were definitely a little too high. Uhr… a lot too high.

I got a fast-food cheeseburger for dinner. (I’m not sure what the dinner at the conference would have been, but it involved the word “chicken” again…)

A-to-Z Challenge: Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway

Just in case you missed it, I’m headed to the Pike’s Peak Writers’ conference in a little over a week. So, my mind is already out in Colorado, and look at this, I’ve found a railway just for you to look at.

Remember that hiking path that ends in a parking lot out in California? Well, this is the slightly more historically face-palm version, with trains. Pike’s Peak is named after a man called Zebulon Pike (Imagine having to scream “Zebulon” in bed! His poor wife.) Zebulon never made it to the summit, but they named the mountain after him, and at some point, they named this particular railway after the mountain.

Guess where the railway goes?

Yup. Straight to the summit. Six to Eight times a day.

Poor Zebby.

So, on to the details everybody’s been waiting for. The Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway runs 8.9 miles, between Manitou Springs, and the summit of Pike’s Peak. It is a standard gauge railroad with tracks 4 feet 8 and a half inches wide (as the Great Architect of the Universe intended.) (because narrow gauge is creepy.) It is a cog railway, which means that it has a third track with little teeth, to pull the train up steep places (like, say, a mountain.)

The older engines are on display at Manitou Springs and several museums through Colorado, and some of the historic (but still conveniently functional) engines and cars are dragged out and actually used from time to time.

I’d tell you how perfect and beautiful the scenery is, but I already said it was in Colorado.

This year, my inspired Alphabetical Challenge theme is “The Letter M”. I’m working my way through the alphabet, one M word, M, person, or M place at a time. No, I don’t have any idea what my Muse was thinking on this one.

If you want to learn more about the A-to-Z Challenge, or join in, the website is here.

And They Had To Go and Make It a Costume Party…

I’m fiddling around with ideas for costumes, right now. Apparently, someone decided it would be a good idea to make dinner the first night at the writers’ conference a costume party… heroes and villains theme… and then set a bunch of writers loose to do as they please.

There are some practical limitations, of course. You have to be able to sit, and also eat. It would be nice if you could do those things comfortably, and also, you know… stand for a while.

I’d also like to be able to wear at least some parts of the costume again, in a non-costumey way, since I spend maybe… uhm… just guessing, but probably 99.9% of my time not at costume parties. So, that ruffle-y blouse that would be perfect with what I’m thinking, but which I would never wear again… gone.

At the same time, I feel like this is a good opportunity to be impressive as possible. Impressive=memorable. And after all, memorable is what I’m going for. In a non-trips over her own feet, takes out three tables of honored guests, and face-plants in the keynote’s spaghetti sort of way. Just to be clear.

I’m leaning toward some kind of steampunk demon-y thing.

Yes, I know you’re supposed to go as your favorite hero or villain… but in a room full of people who all have a vested interest in their own books… I’m not actually stupid enough to step in that hornet’s nest.

I might even get a haircut on the way out to Colorado. You never know.