24 March 2008

How amusing life can get

I have to wonder how bored people are that they have to invent controversy to keep themselves busy. An example from just today? A certain blog and certain misinformed people have started making accusations about me again. I won't bother to share the blog or persons, because why should I bother giving them any free press?

The comment in question? That I've only finaled for the EPPIE as many times as I have, because I'm EPIC President.... Okay, everyone done laughing that knows my award history?

For those that don't, let me disabuse them of any delusions that there might be factual information in that accusation against me.

First of all, let's look at my EPIC presidency. I've served two years as EPIC president, as of April of this year. The EPIC bylaws state that no one may serve more than two straight years in a board position...and no more than 4 of 5 years on the board, in any capacity. Yep...that means I'm stepping down at the end of next month.

Okay...now, let's look at my EPPIE finalists. My first EPPIE finalist (Fion's Daughter) was in 2004 (Oct 2002- Sept 2003 books). I was a new member of EPIC. I hadn't joined a single committee yet. People on the lists barely knew my name. I was also with a startup publisher, so it wasn't publisher recognition, to be sure. My next two EPPIE finalists were in 2005 (Collected Poems and Renegade's Run); I was on the EPIC PR committee, second to Valerie Hardin. I belonged to no other committees, at the time. My next two EPPIE finalists were in 2006 (Rites of Mating and All I Want for Christmas); I was the PR committee head, and Valerie was my second in command, because she'd just had a baby. I'd just entered into discussions with the EPPIE committee about changes to the P&P (policies and practices), but I wasn't officially an EPPIE committee member yet.

AFTER that point, I became EPIC president. The EPPIES were awarded in March, and I was elected in April of 2006. In 2007, I finaled NOTHING in the EPPIE. Then again, all I entered was a children's book, which is hardly what I'm best known for. In 2008, my sixth (hardly a record for EPPIE finalists) and final EPPIE finalist was a poetry anthology with 18 other authors included (Phaze In Verse). I didn't enter Phaze In Verse; the editor did. I did enter 4 of my single titles, and none of them finaled.

What does that mean? It means that in my time as EPPIE president, I have never finaled a single-title book in the contest. Further, I support EPPIE by entering a lot of books. Over the years, I've entered a sum total of 29 or 30 books in EPPIE...out of 45 or so that were eligible to enter.

Now, add to this little breakdown the fact that EPPIE isn't nearly the only thing I've won. If it were, even I might concede that they were making some sick sort of point. But, what're the facts?

In 2003, I finaled for my first PEARL (Schente Night) and the Dream Realm (Last Chance For Love). For those keeping track, that means that three of the first four Kegin series books finaled (in three separate awards). Sounds fishy to me, all right. Tongue firmly planted in cheek.

In 2004, I finaled for two more PEARLS (Night Warriors and Konig Cursebreakers); Night Warriors took Honorable Mention in the category (second to Angela Knight). So, the first two books of the Night Warriors series took PEARLS, as well. Yeah, someone out there is really pulling strings to arrange all of these wins, I suppose? Picture my eyebrow arched appropriately.

Also in 2004, I had two CAPA finalists (Ultimate Warriors and Written In The Stars). Hmm...well, that's the first of my Grellan War stories in an anthology and the first book from my Star Mages series. I'm really not making an impression on anyone here, I see. It's all EPPIE. The rest of the world thinks I'm crap, I see.

In 2007, NOBODY: An Anthology of Dark Fiction (which contained three of my stories) took Spinetingler's Book of the Year. Enough said.

I could go into all of the reviews, but let's just hit the hardest-hitter of the bunch...RT.
Fion's Daughters- 3 stars
Mama's Tales- 4 stars
Written In The Stars- 4 stars
Ultimate Warriors - 4 1/2 stars

Somehow, I doubt that the facts stack up to EPPIE being somehow rigged toward the EPPIE president winning. On the contrary, I'd say that the books speak for themselves, with a whole lot of separate judging bodies.

17 March 2008

e-Publishing Article

Have a read!

This isn’t bad coverage. She didn’t have room to say it all, but this is one of the more balanced reports that has been done in a while.

She did misunderstand one thing I said to her, but it was minor. I never said that SF/F genres don’t embrace e-books. What I actually said was that the old school writers’ organizations (SFWA and MWA) are having growing pains, when it comes to "recognizing/accepting indie/e publishers." With RWA’s new "listing" and not "recognizing" tact, they are actually more inclusive than the others, at this time.


11 March 2008

EPICon 2008...days 1-2


Day one of EPICon was much like day one of any convention. Unless you're lucky enough to be within a few hours' driving distance of it, you're going to spend a large amount of that first day in travel and not actually in convention mode...and you're going to be lugging around a couple hundred pounds of luggage for a serious convention experience.

In my case, I had to be awake at 4 am EST and on the road--with husband and three wide-awake kids--up to Manchester by 5. And, I had three bags on me (a decrease from last year, when I was also running registration at EPICon...or from RT, where I need about half again as many or more clothes and promo gear). I know that my big rolling suitcase was a full 49 pounds. At least I didn't have to pay an overweight luggage fee, for the first time in two years. The pilot case, unbelievably, almost matched that, since it was stuffed full of books, signage, promo gear, pins, pens...all the things I tell people not to check. And my backpack full of books, DVDs, electronics, meds, reading books...again all things you don't want to check and risk losing...weighed in at another 40 or so pounds. 140 pounds of convention gear? I suppose that's a light year, for me. Then again, I also had some boxes shipped ahead, which I usually minimize.

I'd like to say that check-in was uneventful, but is it ever with me? Usually not. For the first time in five years, I did NOT have the full security check, bomb residue check and so on. However, since the TSA staff at Manchester was made up of a lot of new people that had only been there two days, the first checkpoint slipped up in marking my boarding pass, causing the second to go into panic mode, until they'd established that it was indeed their fault and not me bypassing security. Five rather harrowing minutes later, I had an apology from them and was on my way to the gate.

Typically, getting through TSA is the worst--though short-lived--part of travel for me. This cross-country trek to Portland, OR was an adventure. Surprisingly, considering my last two EPICons, there were no over-bookings, no scramble to find people willing to go later. There were no maintenance delays. It was smooth sailing. Planes left when they were supposed to and arrived at or before schedule. It was a joy, in that respect.

On the first flight, we had a medical emergency. By the grace of some kind deities we had three doctors on board, heading to a convention in Salt Lake, I believe they said. The man was stabilized on O2, and we were not forced to divert. Thankfully, he recovered nicely and was able to leave the plane with a minimum of help, so he was probably okay in the end. That got me as far as Chicago.

Well, not quite... I tend to listen to "From The Flight Deck," the tower channel, for at least the half hour or so before we land, if not the whole flight. That channel, if you've never listened to it, is a gold mine for authors. You don't just hear orders to change headings and such.

In my case, I was listening to a full discussion of how O'Hare had lost one of their two radar banks. Further, the ATC were complaining about how Dallas has four and Chicago needs four, being a major hub, but they only have two. Apparently, the pilots agreed that Dallas ATC needs four, because Chicago has a better staff. The entire time, I was taking notes and chuckling.

But, I wasn't chuckling over the fact that we were promised to lose the chop below 15,000 feet, and we were feeling chop down to the blacktop. Didn't need the tower to tell me that.

Switch planes, which went really well...and I was off to Portland. I'd hoped I'd get a lot of work done on the plane, since it was a 4 ½-hour or so flight. Unfortunately, they'd seated me next to a woman with an 18-month-old son, so I got more work done on the 2-hour flight from Manchester to Chicago than the second leg. That was okay; exuberant and in love with my computer or not (which I finally gave up and stowed in favor of a book), he was a fairly well-behaved toddler...and he spoke a little sign language, so we had a great time.

Oh...and if you haven't tried any of the new snack boxes that United serves, you are in for a real treat. They are healthy, and for $5, they will provide enough food for a decent-length flight and snacks for later. It's not a meal, but it is very filling.

Portland Airport, if you've never been there, is a joy. I can see why they've won best US airport two years in a row. I got off the plane, went down to baggage...had to ask information which baggage carrousel of the ten we were on, because they forgot to tell us... The people working there were incredibly polite and helpful, which you don't always see in airports. And, the luggage from my flight was already coming around on the carrousel when I reached baggage claim, so I had my bag within five minutes of getting to the site. Since our plane came in 25 minutes early, I had a full half hour to lounge, until Lisa picked me up.

Lisa and I spent the drive into Kelso/Longview, WA catching up. We had lunch at Capt'n Yoby's Fish...a sensual delight of batter-dipped fish, and that's saying a lot, since I live just outside Boston/Gloucester, and she lives in VA Beach, neither of which has any lack of seafood.

We did some shopping in Longview, and we were off to meet Leslie Slape for some refreshments before WordFest. As I said, on that first day of travel, you normally set up to travel, check in at the hotel and/or convention, and maybe set up some promo gear or other small tasks. You rarely have major events on travel day...save the people who day-travel or...or show up just in time for the EPICon book signing, which several people did last year.

Color me not that relaxed, which anyone who knows me can attest to. Leslie, finding that I was coming to the area on the same week as the monthly WordFest, headed by Alan Rose, had suggested to Alan that they make me their featured speaker. After speaking to Alan, about a month in advance, I learned that I'd have a full 45 minutes of speaking time plus question time. Okay...a class, and he wanted me to cover as much as I could, from the basics of "What is an e-book and how do you read it?" through the industry, in general.

I went in with 20 copies of a 9-page handout (which wasn't enough) and 18 pages of notes for me to make sure I didn't miss anything. Lisa gave me the running out of time sign when I still had 4 pages of notes to go, so I glossed over what was in them. Since I'd saved submissions and such for last, it wasn't so bad that I'd left off there. We did about 15 minutes of questions, moved on to the second hour of their programming (readings of people's work) and then the questions started again. I hung around for another 45 minutes, answering questions on the industry and markets, handing out my e-mail address for questions later... Until they kicked us out of the building at closing time.

Since we were already in WA state, Lisa drove us to her family's farm in Vader for the night. All told, I rolled into bed at about 9:45 PST or 12:45 EST, making a full 21-hour day or more. But, what a fruitful day it was!


Day two started bright and early, at 1:30 PST. Jet lag is the bane of every traveler, moreso when you're traveling 3 or more hours through time zones. Resetting the internal clock may take a number of days, and by the time you do, you're ready to head home.

So, at 1:30 in the morning (4:30 home time on the east coast), I was wide awake. This makes no earthly sense to me, since I was up so late the night before, which means I would have slept in until 6:30 or even 8 am, at home, but 4:30 and the earliest possible start to my day my body decided it was. I did manage to force myself to go back to sleep until a little after 5 am PST or 8 am at home. Lisa was up just a bit later, and she agreed that if I'd woken her at 1:30...or even at 5, she would have shot me, so it was just as well that I got an early start on my trip blog instead of bothering her.

A glass of milk and tour of the farm house later, I confirmed that I still had no cell connection in the wilds of Vader, WA. We went to breakfast at a little family-owned place down the road called The Little Crane and chattered like hens with people who knew Lisa and the farmhand, Pete, pretty well...and treated me like they knew me well, too. More and more, I'm enjoying how friendly and helpful people in the Pacific Northwest are.

Back to the farm... Lisa built a fire to heat the house, I met the farm animals (three big dogs, including a young Mastiff named George, and two cats), hung out with the family from the bunk house, and Lisa did some painting for her toy company (Arkitechy Toys), while we watched a movie on the computer.

I found that the farm was just being opened up for the year, which meant the land line phone and internet hadn't been hooked up yet for the year. In addition, Pete had the farm truck for the work day, which meant I wasn't going back to Portland anytime early in the day. Still, I got a tour of the farm (an old-growth tree farm...and I learned a heck of a lot about trees, life cycles of such and prices of stock), and we had a great time, until it was time to drive back to Portland in the newly-unloaded-again truck.

On the trip back in, I got a good look at the north face of Mt. Saint Helens...as well as Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood. We stopped in Longview, WA (again), where we indulged in some Burgerville fare. Let me tell you, the chocolate hazelnut shakes are to DIE for good.

In Portland, I got Lisa and myself checked into the hotel and set about searching for a place I could get online for a few minutes to print out the bids for EPICon 2009 that I hadn't printed out at home. The hotel had a lovely business center with printers and a 10-minute time limit per customer at peak hours that worked wonders!

Note... Always ask if such a service is available, when you're at a hotel. It's a sad truth that you may not want to log on from the hotel with your laptop. The connections are sometimes littered with viri, but the business center will take care of your most pressing needs. It's not the most secure thing, but it's workable for checking your gmail or something similar...and always wipe the cache and such, when you're done.

Almost upon walking through the doors, I started seeing old friends. Networking is an important part of a convention, to be sure, but the fact is...no matter how introverted you are, you're likely to make friends online or at events, and you are going to start looking forward to seeing them at conventions.

I also found myself in the typical president situation. Within 30 minutes of arriving, I fielded two separate last-minute problems. In both cases, the answer was simple; whatever would get the convention off, without a hitch, even if it cost the organization a little more money, was going to happen.

The most amusing part of the evening came when I tried to get ice for my room. The ice machine on my floor (which was being remodeled) wasn't hooked up, so I tried the floor below...where there wasn't one. The next even floor had one, but it had a sign on it, stating that it was out of order and guests should proceed to the one on the floor below.

From there on, it became something of a game. Lisa pushed all the floor buttons down to the lobby, and I popped my head out at each floor, confirmed that there was similar sign on the ice machine...or no ice machine on the floor. None of the ice machines were working...and we were pretty slap-happy by the time we reached the lobby. I did ask nicely at the desk, and they told me the restaurant could give me ice.

Lisa went back to the farm, and I went back to the room, proudly carrying my bucket of ice, anticipating ice water. Of course, the soda machine was out of water completely, so a soda it ended up being, but it was cold and wet. At a convention, the little things will always stick in your mind: the sing-along of "Friends In Low Places," the mix-up in rooms...and the great ice search.

Speaking of amusing, some hotel designers need their heads examined, I'm convinced. While we were checking in, the gent behind the desk gave me our room assignment...on the tenth floor. That didn't bother me...until he informed me that the way up to it was one of the three GLASS elevators behind me. Lisa jokingly said that four days here was either going to kill me or cure me. I don't believe either is true, but in the few hours I've been inside the hotel, I've suffered more than a single case of vertigo and panic, thanks to those lovely elevators, even if I do make a habit of staring at the doors. Peripheral vision is a bear.

Back in the room again, I realized I needed the four boxes sent ahead for me. I contacted guest relations, and they had them sent right up to the room. Though I caution there are things not to send ahead, sometimes you just can't carry it all with you. In cases like that, UPS or USPS to the hotel, in your name, is the best answer. However, be aware that some hotels will charge you a fee for holding and delivering your boxes to you.

Though I'd intended to watch a movie and turn in early, this is the way working conventions often run. It's just before midnight EST/9 pm local time, and I'm waiting for CR to bring up the boxes. I'm sipping tap water (be sure to minimize caffeinated drinks at conventions and load up on water and clear juices). Then I'll likely recheck my bags for tomorrow, finish charging all of my electronics, organize my files for the board meeting we'll have to cobble together in the morning...and probably still watch that movie before turning in. It doesn't matter. At somewhere between 1:30 and 5 am local time, I'll be up and moving again.

Final note to self...the low, soft shoes are great, except that they don't have much in the way of arch support. Though they were bought just before I left, break-in was minimal. The only big problem with them is that Oregon and Washington states are so rainy at this time of year, the ground (if it's not concrete) is largely mud and moss. On reconsideration, the hiking boots might have been the better footwear choice this year, after all.

EPICon 2008...days 3-4


In a stunning show of what working conventions are like, day two didn't end until nearly 1 am into day three, and that was PST...not EST, making day two a twenty-hour day. Like day two, day three tried to start at 1:30 PST, but I managed to coax the sleep meter out to 6 am PST, giving me a solid 5 hours down. For anyone keeping track, that makes 41 hours on the go and 12 hours of sleep over the first two days, and the convention hasn't officially started yet.

The morning was a rush of last-minute preps and impromptu meetings, punctuated by bouts of silliness and a housekeeping matron who kept attempting to clean the room around me. By early afternoon, I'd scheduled the board meeting (did I mention that I'm the president of EPIC?) and had finally succumbed to a sinus headache. Sinus meds and a quick nap (about an hour of nap) later, I was back in service.

In the meantime, I learned two interesting facts about the hotel. One was that there was an elevator that wasn't made of glass...but it stopped a floor short of my hotel room. The other was that the stairwells were lockdowns. If you entered the stairwell, at any point, you could only exit at ground level. Of course, there were no signs mentioning this delightful fact, so I found myself making a full circuit down ten flights of stairs and back up the elevator. So much for me taking the stairs up a flight or two as a form of exercise.

At this point, it should probably be noted that one of the convention coordinators and I were in the same hotel and communicating by e-mail. One of my board members and I were in the same hotel and communicating with cell phones. And, two of my committee members and I were leaving each other post-its on room doors and phone memos on the hotel phone system. The only thing we were missing was a centralized message board for the convention.

Registration/check-in formally opened at 4 pm. At that point, it was hard to find someone in the hotel lobby (besides their own desk crew) that wasn't with our convention, though there were two other conventions in the hotel (including a convention of grade school and middle school cheerleaders). People with questions used the time to find the other conventioneers they needed, and old friends caught up with news.

The desk closed at 6, and the board and EPPIE chairs took off for a business meeting at a local restaurant. It was the longest single BOD meeting we'd ever had, a full two hours, and we decided on a lot of changes and programs to be implemented in the coming year.

Back at the hotel, we hit the opening mixer. If there was someone there feeling out of place and too shy to mix, I didn't see it. It was a lot of fun, and we left there at about 10:30.

Lisa and Leslie went right to sleep. I didn't. I checked the awards I'd been given to hold, those that Carol was a finalist for, so she couldn't assemble them. Putting one of them together was a challenge, since we had one broken base. I knew Carol would understand being given the base that needed replaced, so I cobbled the one she won together (The Pat White Service Award) as best I could. Since the permanent base would have to be sent to her anyway, it only made sense to give her the broken one we'd be replacing.

I learned we had a full 15 New Voices winners attending, so I child-proofed more of the leftover 2007 binders for the kids and stuffed them with YA promo gear.

That accomplished, I wrote the last thing I had to for the convention...the information I'd cover at the business meeting...and worked on my travel blog. All told, it's after 1:30 am PST, and I'm finally considering bed. That makes for an 18 ½ -hour day...so far (discounting the hour nap, of course). If I go to bed soon, it will be my shortest work day so far this trip.

FRIDAY- Day Four

Day four started at 5:45. Since I was still awake at 1:30, there was no wake-up for my husband's alarm at that time. All told, I managed 4 hours of sleep...plus the one-hour nap for the headache, bringing my total to just shy of 60 hours of work and about 17 hours of sleep in the first three days of the convention, but most of the prep for the "real" work is now accomplished.

Over a breakfast of juice, croissant and fresh fruit, I fielded questions and problems. That led right into the EPIC business meeting. It went off without a hitch. The membership seemed content with choices we'd made at the BOD meeting and even went as far as suggesting further improvements that we'd said we'd consider and pass along.

One very encouraging thing was the willingness of those suggesting changes to volunteer to run them. Since EPIC's only "paid subcontractor" is our web master, and we typically see a core volunteer base of only 5% or a little more of the membership, that was music to our ears.

The meeting ended, much to Jeff Strand's tongue-in-cheek dismay, without a single person yelling at me.

I've learned to pack my backpack with all the notes and such I'll need for the day to minimize the amount of time I have to spend running back and forth to my room. That came in handy, since immediately upon leaving the business meeting, I had to teach a class on using a pen name. It was a sparsely-attended class...up against some powerhouses, but we had a good time and covered the planned material...plus some.

After a quick change in the room--different clothes for the keynote luncheon, my afternoon panel on paranormal, and our presentation at Ooligan--it was off to the luncheon.

On the way, I learned that...while the treasurer had Lisa and Leslie listed correctly on her database, the con chair and registration desk didn't. Luckily, they'd accidentally listed Leslie as attending the full convention, so her meal tickets for Saturday were handed over to Lisa...and they made her a name tag on site. If that hadn't been the case... If they had Leslie listed as a day attendee and still missed Lisa entirely, we would have had a problem with meals. As it was, we had a gent show up on Friday, hoping he could register for the convention on site. We could accommodate him for classes but not for meals.

Note to self... When we put together the EPICon necessities, purchasing a few extra meal places...with these two eventualities in mind...will go in there. We did it in VA Beach, and we have the money to do it.

The keynote luncheon was grand. I got to meet and talk to Michael Powell of Powell's Books. I found his knowledge of e-publishing a little sparse...which he admitted up front, but he was a great industry source, in many ways, especially on the subject of POD. I left him with some information about the industry to bulk up his knowledge, the contact information for Scott Pendergrast to try and make an affiliate deal with them, and the information for Bob Sanders at Mundania (to try and get our books into his stores). I also presented the certificate for the donation we made to Oregon Literacy ($500 in Michael's name), since he refused an honorarium for speaking.

From the keynote, I segued directly into the paranormal panel. The panel head was Murdoch Hughes, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that the panel itself was rather quirky. The title alone was enough to bring a smile to your face: Bigfoot Has Feelings, Too! He sat the panel in his werewolf costume, complete with chicken that tastes like rubber and a pocketful of feathers. I started out said panel with my fairy wand and circlet, but that started to chafe, so I ditched it. In addition to the pair of us, Frances Evlin and Michele Levigne sat in. It was a round-robin panel, half serious discussion and half tongue-in cheek...and it went very well. We even got to hear "Little Harley," Murdoch's stuffed werewolf, sing Little Red Riding Hood.

We closed down the panel and ran...nearly literally...for the front of the hotel. Since my schedule was so full, Murdoch and I were showing up halfway through the Ooligan Publishing Outreach event (what used to be called e-Fiesta) at Portland State University. Since neither of us were natives to Portland, Arlene set up a ride for us with her husband instead of trusting public transportation. We arrived in good order and took our places up on stage...where Murdoch performed his "change" into Harley Wolf again; I decided to forego the fairy accessories for this venue.

The first thing that caught my eye, while the vivacious and well-informed Connie Crow did her thing on the changing tech of e-publishing, was that the schedule showed me talking about something completely different than I'd be asked to talk about. The schedule said I was talking about what EPIC was and not about the format wars and the search for an affordable reader. But, what EPIC is and what we do doesn't take up a full 15 minutes of base time plus questions, so I did that (off the cuff...always know your stuff inside and out, so you can whip out what's being asked of you, in a flash) and then tackled the questions sent to me ahead of time about formats and readers. We went on to Q&A, and the questions were detailed and well-considered, so I endeavored to make my answers much the same.

I handed it off to Harley...er...Murdoch for his talk on marketing then took the mic again (since we had another twenty minutes or so to spare) and added to the marketing discussion. We did a final Q&A on any and all subjects regarding the industry, and the panel played well off of each other.

We stuck around for a little while after the presentations and answered more questions, handed out the 9-page handout I'd carted along, promised more handouts to be sent from home...and basically enjoyed talking to the students immensely!

We returned to the hotel, the seven adults squeezed into an SUV with a third-row (half folded-down to fit all of the gear from the presentations). By that time, the convention was catching up with me. I could barely walk, because my leg muscles were knotted up. I'd been running and standing for the better part of 4 days, and my body was letting me know it. A hot shower didn't take the edge off. Neither did IB or eating bananas and oranges. So, I resigned myself to finishing the day's work and taking one of the muscle relaxants stowed in my bag.

Friday night was "dinner on your own," and Lisa and Leslie had decided on a little café in Portland that they both knew well, Rose's Deli. I can't fault their choice there; they had delicious food, and the desserts were to die for good.

We joined the rest of the EPICon crew at Powell's Bookstore after dinner. They'd taken the bus over, but we were only a dozen blocks away, so we drove back from Roses, found some parking (not always easy in Portland) and made my legs scream a little more.

Let me introduce you to Powell's Books! It's a reader's dream come true. Imagine taking the four buildings on a city block and blasting through doorways...building ramps and concrete stairs to connect them, since the floors don't line up perfectly, painting each room a distinctive color, building rows of floor-to-ceiling shelves and stocking them (JUST that main store...because they have six stores in the area, but the others are smaller) with more than a million titles. Because...that's what Michael Powell did. The store also comes complete with a rare book room, where people can handle books but not purchase them. And, the used books are right on the shelf with the new, so you can pick up a gently-used copy at half or less the price of new, if you aren't gift-buying.

There are two levels (more or less, since they don't really mate up floor-to-floor, as I noted), and it's highly suggested that you pick up a map at the entrance you come in to find your way to what you want to browse. They also give out stickers that proclaim you got lost in the world's biggest book store.

But, that's not enough. They have employees in every section, always mindful of anything you might need. (I TOLD you that people in the Pacific Northwest were much more courteous than I am accustomed to.) And...as if the human helpers aren't enough, there are customer computers in every room, where you can enter a title or author name and have the computer direct you to the correct color room and row to find your choice.

When I punched in Erin Hunter's Warriors series for my daughter, I went to that isle and found the books...but not the graphic novels. I went back to the information station and those helpful employees and learned that the graphic books were in the "children's graphic novel" section (just a few rows away from the one I was searching). It seems I had, in my excitement, not scrolled down far enough on the search computer. More impressive to me, the women at the desk not only knew the series and obviously enjoyed it personally, they knew without looking at the computer precisely what isle is was in and where on the shelf. THAT is customer service.

It might sound as if I spent a lot of time in Powell's, but thanks to my aching legs, I spent a sum total of less than 45 minutes there and left wishing there was one closer to home. Guess I'll have to shop at their online store. Grinning...

Back at the hotel, I took a muscle relaxant and poured myself into bed at about 10 pm PST, making for a 16.25 hour day, a necessity that night. Unbeknownst to me, Carol and Debi were trying to reach me at about 11:30, knowing my propensity for being awake late, but my roommates (gloriously) told them that, since I hadn't woken up at the sound of the phone, I wasn't waking up for it.

EPICon 2008...days 5-6


The muscle relaxant forced my body into a normal sleep cycle of almost eight hours, so I woke at 6:45 and started getting ready for the 7:15 breakfast. All told, the working convention sleep schedule was up to 24.75 over the first four days. The work hours clocked in at about 76 hours. Keeping track of this reminds me why I'm tired, believe me.

It was the usual fielding questions over breakfast and then off to my second solo class: POV adventures. I got through everything I'd planned for the class in less time than I thought I would and, with the blessing of the students, went on to my other two POV classes...from memory. They seemed to get a lot out of it, and it was a decent class size, so I would call it a raring success.

My game plan for the day was to enjoy a few classes other people were giving, since I had a built-in breather of two class periods in my schedule. It was not to be. This was, after all, a working convention.

Halfway through Liz Burton's delightful and informative Show vs. Tell class, which actually overlapped a bit with the POV class I'd just given, Carol pulled me out of the classroom to deal with last-minute New Voices concerns. I bought and printed out the Fictionwise gift certificates for the winners who were present, while Carol tried to download the news report she'd wanted to show me the night before.

We discovered we couldn't download it, but we wanted to show it at the New Voices luncheon, so our first attempt at resolving the problem was seeing if Carol's computer could pick up a wireless signal in the lunch room. No such luck when you need it. So, I took my company credit card down and requested the broadband be turned on in that room. Even though my name was on the contract and I had the company credit card in hand to pay for it, the hotel refused to move without Jude's say so. Now, on some level, I understand that they want to deal with their contact, but on another, my name was on the contract.

Note for the policies and procedures committee... EPPIE chair, New Voices chair and board members must be added to the list of people who are allowed to request changes to the rooms we'll be using for specific events.

I found Jude and got her to grant her permission for the desk staff, which took all of a few minutes and the rather rambling (lifting her convention badge to eye level) "I'm me. Yes, she has permission. Go ahead and do it." Then she was free to return to the class I'd dragged her out of, ironically the same one I'd wanted to attend, but New Voices had to come first.

I let Carol and Debi know broadband was on its way and ran upstairs to get the binders for the New Voices winners coming to lunch (6 and not the 15 we'd originally expected). Picture, if you dare, me coming down to the lunch room with a pilot case, a backpack and a box stuffed with 15 convention binders perched rather precariously on my shoulder. Let's just say that I was overjoyed to see Debi with the rolling cart and added the binders to that to save my aching shoulder. Note... When possible, carry some sort of wheeled cart that can carry most of your work along with you at a working convention.

I'll note here that the price to get broadband in the lunch room was outrageous, but we were committed to presenting the news coverage of the New Voices and EPIC to the membership present. The refrains of the day were, "It's easier to beg forgiveness...." (not quite true, since everyone involved gave their blessing, whether it was given before or after the fact), "We have the money to do it." and "This is a celebration, and the membership needs to feel this sense of accomplishment, as a group."

And feel it, they did. It was stunning...the entire audience rapt on a laptop screen, nearly silent to catch every word. They laughed at the same time. They clapped at the same time, and they gave a standing ovation to our honored guests (the kids who won the contest) at the same time.

Debi and Carol gave out the awards and binders to the winners, and about half the convention attendees lined up to get signed copies of the CD-version of the New Voices book. Note for the future... We forgot to have gel-ink or marker-style pens on hand for the kids' signing, so authors donated whatever they had on hand. I donated 3 of the 6 alone, since I love gel ink pens.

The leftover binders were offered to the teachers present for their writing classes back home...and then to the Ooligan program. One thing you can count on with EPIC... When we do use paper, we don't waste it, if at all possible. The ads, convention pages and adult classes removed from the kids' binders were recycled, and we found homes for the binders that were leftovers from last year. I was happy to see that two of them made it into the hands of attendees that had to miss last year.

About that time, I realized that we were snapping pictures of the Saturday events. Debi had provided a camera to Stephen Womack of WCP, and Jude (I assume, though I'm not certain) provided a camera to another attendee. We got a ton of pictures of the kids to use on the site and the new brochures. Jude even planned for the stuffed frog centerpieces to be given to the New Voices winners present. We got pictures of them with their frogs, as well.

We launched pretty much directly from the New Voices luncheon into the publishers' forum. On the way from one venue to another, I handed the EPPIE for the category Carol was a finalist in to Debi, so it would get stacked with the other trophies. I kept the Friend and Pat White in my room, since I wanted to carry those up with me. It didn't take long for Debi to figure out that I'd forgotten to give her the envelope for the EPPIE, so I promised it right after the publishers' forum.

The forum itself went smoothly. We joked about some of the things we all have to deal with, and a lot of good information passed to the authors in attendance.

Handing over the EPPIE envelope didn't go as well. My bid to go up and grab it was wishful thinking. It wasn't where I remembered leaving it, and the president's room is usually staging center, almost as much as the EPPIE and New Voices chairs' rooms and the EPICon chair's are, especially when the president is also the PR head and a publisher...and an author, for that matter.

After one toss of the entire room--during which I assured myself that we'd ordered housekeeping not to come in, so the trash and paper trash were still there to be searched--I called Carol and Debi in a panic and left a message on their hotel room phone, telling them that I was afraid I'd lost it somehow and asking if they had a blank envelope, like they usually do, that I could print a new one on. Amusingly, that message didn't even get to them, until the entire issue was resolved.

It turned out that I'd placed my spiral notebook on the desk next to the envelope, and someone shifted the envelope over and into the notebook. A second toss of the room revealed it, and I called their room again to tell them to disregard that earlier message...the message they'd never gotten from me. Note... Don't trust the hotel message system, unless you have no other choice but to.

Debi thought my upset was hysterical. She didn't find my joke of "Thank GOD I remember who the winner was." funny in the least.

I headed down again and found that Jeff wanted to include me in an EPPIE joke. It sounded like fun, so we set it all up, and I was off to my room again--having missed the second panel I'd wanted to sit in on. All told, I didn't get to attend a single panel or class I'd wanted to (the ones for myself and not that I was participating in), but that goes along with the job description.

Getting ready for the EPPIE banquet wasn't as simple as it might seem. Our toilet had stopped flushing earlier in the day. Lisa had already called the customer service folks and asked for someone to fix it. No one showed, and it was a full two hours later when I was using the bathroom sink...and it started pouring water all over the floor. After a squawk of surprise, I tossed towels over it, made sure the water was off and called down again, letting them know that we'd end up flooding the room below, if it wasn't taken care of. There was a guy at our room within 15 minutes.

Note to self... Murphy's rule does indeed apply, and he has a vicious sense of humor. The determination was that, in the renovations they were doing, the toilet had been given the wrong set point...and the sink had been put together with a cheese PVC cap on a metal pipe that was sure to blow again "but hopefully not before you leave. I'll be fixing this again."

I managed to get cleaned up and dressed and got Lisa to the zipping-up point of her dressing before I escaped to the ARe Champagne Reception, where the dresses were even more decadent than usual. Will Belegon was even in a mourning coat and tails...and oh that man is eye candy, I don't mind saying. I'm sure he wouldn't mind me saying it either.

Dinner went great: salad, rolls, red-skinned potatoes, crisp green beans, steak and salmon. The only thing I turned down was the incredibly-rich chocolate coffee fudge cake. Makes my teeth hurt just to think about it.

The EPPIE awards program was to die for. Jeff was in rare form, including his "my wife isn't here, and I need Ginny to Mommy me and get me dressed in my tux opener." For the first time ever, we taped the awards, and I can't wait to get that CD. The two college students taping the event were laughing so hard they could barely do their jobs.

Our skit went off with almost no hitch. The setup was sublime. Before the show began, Jeff and I both reminded people to shut off their cell phones or set them to vibrate. That, in itself, became an impromptu joke, since I picked mine up to take a picture, and someone else's chirped, because it was being turned off. I made a show of the fact that it wasn't mine, which people assumed was the joke.

But, we got to the correct place in the show (the beginning of Romantic Suspense, which Lisa was presenting), and I dialed Jeff's cell phone from mine...under the table. His rang, and he answered it. Once we had a connection, I closed mine and he had a BS conversation with thin air on his cell phone, pretended to lose it then called me back, making mine ring. I picked it up, and Jeff and I had several minutes of conversation, during which people were dying, since he was standing ten feet away from me. He asked if Lisa wanted to present a category, and I said I thought she did, but I'd ask her. Jeff suggested I call her, and I started dialing. Now, mind you Lisa was in the next chair, and the audience was screaming that fact at me, but this was all part of the show. To add a twist of unexpected to the whole thing, Lisa's phone didn't ring. It told me hers was unavailable. Uh...no. It was right next to me, and she wasn't texting or talking. So, amid laughter, I called it again. Lisa was halfway up on stage when it finally rang, so we cut it short with a quick flip of her phone open and shut. Not quite on plan, but it went fairly well.

Unexpected events only add to the show. Jeff was so tired he couldn't pronounce Carol's name right, for instance. And, Catherine Snodgrass produced our "wardrobe malfunction" of the evening. No bodice problems, of course.

As usual, the EPPIE awards passed so quickly that it was almost a heartbreak when they ended. A quick stop at the business center to e-mail a winner who wasn't present later, we were on our way back to the room to pack the rest of our gear (save what we'd need in the morning).

Now, we were faced with two choices. One was to stay up all night. It was already 11:30 pm PST. We had to be up at 3:00, and it was time change day. At best, we were going to get 2.5 hours of sleep. The other option was to try and get the full 2.5 hours. We went for plan C and tried to stay up, but both Lisa and I lost the battle at about 12:30.

That comes out to a 17.75 hour day.


We'd left a wake-up call for 3 am. The cell phone rang, and I got to it, rather bleary-eyed and checking the table clock...which read 2:20 am. The cell phone was my husband, making sure I didn't oversleep. I was probably pretty cranky when I told him we had 45 minutes left to sleep and asked him to call me back. I flipped the phone shut, prepared to crawl back into bed...and locked on the cell phone time of 3:20 am. It clicked that Lisa hadn't reset the table clock as I'd suggested, and the desk had missed our wake-up call. Note to self...never trust that a hotel can get the time change right, when you need them to.

Still keeping track? Day six starts with 93.75 hours on the go and 27 hours of sleep.

Flight of the bumble bee ensued. Lisa called the desk for a bellman and ordered them to make the cab wait, even if they had to pay for it, since it was their fault we would likely be late for the 3:30 cab we'd ordered. We both brushed teeth and hair and dressed, since there was no time for showers. We literally threw the clothing from the night before and toiletries into our bags and did a final room scan for things we might have missed. The desk called up to say we could come get a cart...but they couldn't possibly send someone up with it, though this was their screw-up. Note to self... Complain to the manager of the hotel, when I get home and have time to.

A few harried minutes later, Lisa was back with the cart, and a second cab was ordered. It wasn't that the cab left. Oh no! It was that the cab company was no better with the time change than the hotel desk had been. Note to self... Service industries are incredibly lax about service when the clocks change.

Add in a problem with the ATM and we were finally in the cab and headed for the airport. Check-in went fine, though I had to shift two pounds of weight from my large suitcase to the pilot case (which I checked this time) to avoid an over-weight fee, and TSA confiscated both of our tubes of toothpaste. Strangely enough, in the flight of the bumblebee, neither of us remembered that the TSA considered toothpaste a liquid over 3 oz. Go figure.

Since our gates were only 5 gates apart, Lisa hung out with me until boarding. The first leg of the flight was full (nearly to the last seat), and much as I was exhausted, I couldn't get more than a few minutes shut-eye, as usual.

My layover in Chicago didn't materialize. I literally got to the second gate 15 minutes before boarding, with no stops except a quick bathroom stop. Luckily, I came in and went out on the same concourse. If I would have had to change concourses, I might have been late for boarding.

Saying that the second plane was full would be an understatement. It was so full that they filled the last six seats with stand-bys, when original passengers didn't show on time...and there were no less than three babes on laps. We had a total of five children under the age of 5 on the plane, and three of them were unhappy about the situation. Surprisingly...not all three the babes on laps.

The gate area itself was a mess, because two planefuls of passengers were stranded in Chicago, thanks to the snow in Ohio. It wasn't that we didn't have snow in Chicago; in fact, we spent more than 30 minutes being de-iced, and a plane on the runway before us slid off and had to have rescue crews sent out.

For some reason, people on that second flight were completely unable to watch where they were going. If I had a dollar for every passenger (or gods forbid steward/ess) who hit my left arm during that flight, I'd be able to purchase my entire family dinner out...and I don't mean fast food.

To top it, the woman in front of me wanted to put her seat back. Picture me trying to type this blog with the laptop half-folded and cocked up at an angle. Thankfully, she put her seat back up 30 minutes later. I was seriously considering bodily harm. On a full plane like that, there's really no room to kick back. Manchester couldn't come fast enough for my tastes.

In Manchester, we still weren't home free, unfortunately. My youngest was sick with a high fever, and one of the luggage carrousels was down for the count.

Now, common sense tells me to pull the luggage from carrousel A and toss it onto B, since they are all of twelve feet apart. No. Airlines don't think that way. Instead, the passengers from our flight had to wait another 45 minutes, while they fixed the carrousel we were using. Never mind that our flight had been originally announced to be on the working carrousel, which means they could use it. Never mind that there was a full 10 minutes of down time on the working carrousel, before a flight that came in after us sent its luggage up the ramp. Never mind that they could have, in that time period, brought our luggage up on carts instead of putting it on any carrousel...and, in fact, did that with the skis on the plane but nothing else.

There's a new thing at Manchester, I want to note. It's called a cell phone lot. If you and your ride both have cell phones, this is a godsend. You don't have to pay for parking, as long as you stay in your car. The point is that the person getting off the plane phones out to you and either finds out where you are or goes outside and waits for you to pull the car around on the circle. It's great. No wasted gas, and no wasted time finding each other.

The rest of the day was a blur...home, presents for the family from my trip (including new books from Powell's), dinner, some new Avatar...and dead asleep by 8:30 pm EST. All told, 3:20 am PST/6:20 am EST to 8:30 pm EST was my shortest day yet, thanks to the lack of sleep the night before...a full 14+ hours on my feet and moving, bringing the total to 107.75 hours up and 27 hours down in the six days of the convention.