Thursday, July 26, 2007

Conestoga Convention Report

Every year, Tulsa, Ok holds a Science Fiction and Fantasy convention called Conestoga Con. One of my three publishers has always had a huge presence there and since I got included in attendee lists for the publisher two or three times last year when I was NOT going, I figured it was fate giving me a hint I should go. So I did!

The con was held on 7/20 thru 7/22/07. Guests of Honor were Laurell K Hamilton and Eric Flint. John Picacio was the Artist Guest of Honor (His stuff rocks!). Elizabeth Moon was the Toastmistress.(She sings!):P

The dealer's room is rather small, so no individual tables were being sold to authors. Luckily, Yard Dog Press buys two tables, one which they use to rent space to their authors to show other books by them, so I was able to squeeze a spot.

As I understand it, there were less programming tracks than in previous years, but the ones I was part of always had plenty of folks attending and looked to be well received.

Got to meet several people I know online but had not met face to face - Jim Burke, Robin Bailey, Glenn Sixbury, Mel Tatum, Allison Stein (All Yard Doggies!), as well as Carol Hightshoe (Who runs the Lorelei Signal and is also a fellow Broad from Broad Universe). (I have a story in their July-Sept issue! Go check it out! Plug Plug!):P

Yard Dog had a big party on Friday night. The Theme was Ho's Through the Ages - as in famous people who pushed their work or art. I did mine on Weird Al! Heh heh heh. Puns and jokes abounded as well as posters to all these Ho's. Hurtling Monkeys were the drink of the evening.

The hotel had all sorts of problems - I think it was their jinx weekend. Friday - their entire phone system was down. Friday thru Sunday - Major air conditioning issues down in the convention area - dealer's room was a sauna! (I've never been as grateful for a hand fan as I was during this thing! :P) Sunday the hot water went from hot to cold to hot again - the cold lasting a minute or more. (Was I surprised!) Then down in the breakfast buffet restaurant the lights in the seating area went out. Jinxed I tell ya! Luckily everything else seemed to work okay (aside from the elevator car that tried to eat me...)

Con Staff was very friendly and all seemed to have everything well in hand and running pretty smoothly. Utterly loved their guest packets. They had a program grid, a personalized paper just for my stuff, a sticker with room and times on the back of the badge, and the con program book, and not one but two name cards for the tables! Yay for organization!

Yard Dog Press released "Houston, We've Got Bubbas" at the convention and they flew off the shelves. Think Bubbas in SPACE! This is the 4th installment in the Bubba Comedy anthology series dealing with a post apocalyptic earth where the Yuppie 2025 virus wiped out all of mankind except for two types of people. Bubbas, as they proved immune due to their consumption of large quantities of BBQ sauce, and Yuppies, who due to their constant exposure to CRT screens, mutated the virus and got turned into zombies, known as Yumbies. Lots of fun!

I bailed on the con and all on Saturday evening after sitting in the sauna of the dealer's room most of the day. (Stupidly didn't look at the schedule to realize the masquerade and other things were on. Doh! You'd think I'd know better by now...sigh...) But to be honest I was not feeling too good and thought retiring early would be best. Felt loads better Sunday!

Got to ride with pilots on the way to the hotel and airport, so had some interesting conversations going on in the hotel shuttle. So that was fun too.

Trouble hit on the way home though. We're almost to Dallas on the short 45 min airplane ride when the plane is made to circle due to severe weather. Now, I've never had issues on a plane, but I almost had to avail myself of the handy dandy barf bag. Though we were circling in a big circle, it still got to me. I was so glad I had had that coke before! Made sure to locate the barf bag just in case. Luckily about the time I thought I could take no more, we were running out of fuel and so got sent on to Oklahoma City to refuel. When we got there, the weather had eased, so we were able to fill up and go back. A 45 minute flight turned into 3 hours. Felt bad for my daughter who sat at the airport for over 2 hours waiting for me! Eek!

Overall though, I had a good time, even sold a few books on Sunday (yay!), and it was fab to meet all those new peeps, both writers and fans. Hope to get invited again next year.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Weird Al Yankovik Concert

For those who may not know, Weird Al Yankovik is a parody song performer. He creates parody lyrics to popular songs as well as creates new songs of his own, all with a comedic slant. (If you've never heard any of his music, he has several free videos on his site, so you can get a taste of his music and showmanship!)

I've listened to his music for over twenty years. Never once did I ever think he either toured, or that he would do so in Dallas! (I've gotten to see so many people I never thought I ever would in the last couple of years, it's mind boggling.)

As most things tend to happen, where I am concerned, I only learned about the concert by accident. My daughter's fiance had been invited to go as part of a birthday party celebration and she happened to mention it offhand in a wistful tone. She, like my husband and I, really enjoy Weird Al's music. So I got to work! (Hubby has to coaxed to decide he wants to go out into the world.) And low and behold, Weird Al really was going to be in town and they still had tickets!

Originally, the venue was to be at the Myer's, an open air theater. The ticket website declared clearly that rain or shine, the show would occur, unless the weather was extreme. They suggested you check the weather before coming and bring raincoats or umbrellas if required. It being SUMMER in TEXAS, an open venue didn't sound great, even though it was at 8Pm, but this was Weird Al! We had to go!

For June 2007, Texas broke all sorts of records for rainfall. There were almost 20 straight days of not seeing signs of the sun. (Daystar? What's that?) Flash flooding, storms, we pretty much got it all in June. And I guess a lot of people weren't feeling too confident on July being any better as a week before the contest we got a notice of a venue change. Seems they tried to move it to McKinney first, but it clashed with something else going there that weekend, so instead we were moved to Garland, to a new student activities center - awesome for us, as it was closer, enclosed, and air conditioned!!!!

Being the paranoid and must be on time beings that my family and I are...we left to go grab something to eat in the car and make our way out to the show at 6pm, giving us a 2 hour window. When we got there about thirty to forty minutes later, the line was already forming and had a twist or two. Luckily we came prepared, so all three of us whipped out a book to read while we waited. The line got longer and longer.

At about 7:30PM I start wondering what is up as they've yet to let us go into the building. (Good thing it wasn't raining or we would have been soaked! It was hot, but thankfully not too hot.) They didn't actually open the doors till 8PM. Then you had to go through metal detectors, which made like a bottleneck in the hallway. Since all the seating #'s on the tickets got hosed, they pretty much sectioned off the areas by type of ticket, so first come first served within your area - we got way lucky as we were near the front of the line so seat choices weren't bad, unlike the fiance and his group! (Bwahahahaha)

Got some about halfway up and at the isle which ran down the center. Guy in front of me was tall, but not terribly so. (Hey, us short people have problems with tall peeps in front. :P) And with my binoculars handy, the seats were awesome!!!!

At 9Pm we finally got moving!

The stage held all the equipment for the band and also above it were three television screens. These came in way handy as they used them for all sorts of things, including to show AL TV to keep us occupied while they did costume changes.

We started out with one of the polka montages and it just got better from there. One song was like the video where you have someone with cards and the cards are the lyrics. Well, the guy with the cards was on the TV while Al sang the lines. The timing was amazing! There were pauses by the man on the video coinciding with a harmonica solo or two, also gestures and commentary. It was totally impressive! One little hiccup and it would have been totally off.

Got several of the Star Wars songs, for which all the crew changed for. So Al, the two guitarists, and the drummer all had Jedi Robes on and the pianist/organist had a purple cowled robe which was used to great effect as he played pieces of the Darth Vader theme then went into a quaint piano ditty. The two guitarists and Al also did a weird movement/sound routine that was bizarre yet super duper due to the timings involved!

The Al TV sequences were from all over the place and time, as you could tell by Al's different looks. Many were interviews with music people, changed so that it appeared Al was the one interviewing them, and hilarity ensued.

Several times, Weird Al dressed up as the original singers for the songs he was doing a parody on and the videos. And he looked just like them! AMAZING work!

'White & Nerdy' was accompanied by video with pics of the things he sang about. My husband was totally tickled when he saw the picture for Captain Kirk was of William Shatner as Denny Crane. (Love Boston Legal!)

The TV came into play again as they played the intro to "I'm FAT" as you got to see the confrontation in the subway and then the beginning of the dance sequence where Al starts to expand. Then he jumped on stage wearing the fat costume and gyrated all over the place!

One song about picking up women he actually went into the audience singing to females and a male or two. And his facial expressions were a total riot. A true showman!

People sang the songs they knew and danced in their seats (I know I did!:P), not that you could hear them as the volume was PUMPED UP. (Hubby said he was deaf for 2 days! Heh heh.)

Everyone clapped like mad at the end and they graced us with a twenty plus minute encore. One song was about cellphones, which tied into a joke he did on the AL TV sequences and then did the song 'Albuquerque' which had everyone doing the chorus.

The concert, despite changes and delays, was totally AWESOME!

If Weird Al does a concert anywhere near you, I would heartily recommend you go! You will have a BLAST.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

June and July Madness

2007 has proven so far to possibly be one of the weirdest years ever for me. Between the obsession, unexpected upsets on things that have been pretty straight forward for years, the weird rash of coincidences, and more, it's been pretty odd. And now there is more!

Over four weeks ago, the building where I work got hit by lighting at 4:44Pm on Friday. The lightning hit one of the numerous air conditioning units, and the sucker caught on fire. We got sent home about 10 minutes early so the fire department could come do their thing. On that Monday, the units were all off, so it was hotter than hey in there for 1/2 of the day, but there was an extra surprise - someone had come by the building and thrown a couple of raw eggs close to the windows by my boss's office - kind of like insult to injury.

Well, then we move on to two weeks later.

On this Friday, the credit group picked up the mail from the PO Boxes for out client's mail having to do with their products as they do daily. Normally included in the PO Box are checks with orders and also requests for refunds. One of the envelopes was opened in a hurry, and sprayed white dust all over the poor credit person. Inside the envelope was a threatening note. This got escalated and the police were called.

Once the police got there and surveyed the situation, they escalated the matter and called the fire department. Everyone got sent downstairs and away from that whole side of the building, and the air conditioning units were turned off to keep anything from being spread further. The fire department called in the hazmat team was. (Yep, I got to see the dudes in the laters of duds just like TV.)

Though no one felt there was anything to the stuff in the envelope, it was still safer to take no chances. And aside from giving everyone a very excitement filled hour, all was well. In the end it ended up just being corn starch. Still, even knowing it was probably nothing, just that 1% chance it could be something does eat away at the pit of your stomach as you sit and wait. The poor credit person got put in a room by herself and watched from afar, in case she showed symptoms of anything. Rather sad really that someone dissatisfied by a product could be so selfish as to put so many people (who have nothing to do with said product) to such worry and trouble. At least 50 people were affected by this one individual's actions. Yes, a sad thing indeed. (And the FBI will be looking for him too. Wonder if he considered the effect of his actions not just on us but on himself! His tasteless joke could get him messed up for a long time.)

Now for the weird parts...(Not that the whole thing wasn't weird enough, mind you!)

The first involves one of the two officers that came to the scene. Both were very nice, and actually quite comedic. Did a good job keeping people calm, even entertained, as the business went down. As I looked over at them, I realized I recognized one of them. After a few minutes of wracking my brain, I remembered from where! This man was one of two officers normally assigned at a specific intersection on Preston Road to direct traffic at rush hour. I had seen this man for 7 plus years when I worked on 635. Out of all the Dallas Police officers out there, what are the odds we would get someone (In a manner of speaking.) that I knew!

The second had to do with one of the men connected to the hazmat team. When he walked in I had to do a double take. The dude was a dead ringer for Jim Beaver! (Plays Bobby in Supernatural - yes, yes, the obsession again!) I was actually staring, he looked so much like him. Had the mustache, the low square cut hair in the back. His voice was totally different, and of course an actor wouldn't be able to hold a service full time job in Dallas when some of his gigs are for shows filming in Vancouver. But I decided to do a little research on Mr. Beaver later anyway... Though born in Wyoming, I found out he was raised in Irving, Texas!!!! So though I couldn't garner the courage to talk to the seeming clone, there is a high possibility he could be related to Jim Beaver's family. Weird weird weird!

On Monday, just like we had had the eggs on the same day two weeks before, we got an extra treat. The building has a kitchen and seemingly it overloaded a breaker which made the lights flicker, and also set off the ear piercing fire alarm. So while some people ignored it, others were packing up their stuff to get outside. Until we found the facility guy and he told us it was a false alarm. So we had two for two.

Now I am wondering what will happen two weeks from then. They do say things come in threes. (Luckily I will be out of town attending Conestoga! lol!) *meep*

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Coincidence - Per 1) The state or fact of occupying the same relative position or area in space. 2) A sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged.

Coincidences have followed me around for a long time. They occur so much in fact, my husband has ceased to be amazed by their frequency. For me, they cover all sorts of things. Seeing the same type of unusual car several times all in a few days. Looking at the clock and the time being all the same digits. 5:55 is my most prevalent, but I see a lot of 2:22, 11:11, 1:11, 3:33, and 4:44 (These are either coincidences or I have some weird innate time sense thing going on.) :P Heck I won't even mention the lightning strike at work 2 weeks ago that did happen at 4:44. Heh heh.

Some coincidence chains happen over a very short time, others over months. They don't normally have a rhyme or reason, at least not one I can see anyway. I've been told my great grandmother was somewhat of a psychic. I've often wondered if these weird coincidence streaks are but a super diluted version of her gifts.

Anyway, the last several strings of coincidences have had to do with (No, not again! Can't she stay away from this? What is she obsessed?) the show Supernatural.

The first one was incredibly fortuitous for me. It was back in the early part of the year when I got the idea that maybe I wanted to see if there were any Yahoo groups on the show. So on a lark, I went looking and sure enough, there was one. I joined. The first set of posts I laid eyes on were the guys talking about some play one of the actors was going to be on. I had to go back and find previous posts to get all the info, but when I did, I got to freak since it was Jensen Ackles and he was going to appear here in Texas! Ft Worth, even! My backyard! If not for these guys and my just timely entry into the group, I probably would not have ever heard about it.

The second set has had to do with Jim Beaver (Bobby). Over the last few months I've been running into this actor on shows all over the place! First time it was while on the cruise in April, when we watched an airing of the movie Deja Vu. And there, much to my surprise, was a very cleaned up Bobby. Once we got back, he showed up in an HBO show we were trying out called Deadwood (saw him just in time to watch his character get killed! Heh heh.) Then more recently, I learned he would be on a show called John in Cincinnati. And sure enough, there he was. Then out of nowhere Deadwood gets restarted from episode 1 and I get more Bobby.

The latest Supernatural encounter was this past Tuesday. Went to go see the movie Transformers. (Kick ass movie too by the way!) And within the first few minutes there is Samantha Smith (aka Mary Winchester) pretty much playing the very part she did in episodes 1, a young mother with a 6 month old child. Talk about unexpected!

Like I said, this type of thing happens to me all the time!

They say that there's no such thing as coincidence. Heck, if there's not, wish someone would tell me what this was! lol.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Book Review - Black Powder War

Black Powder War
by Naomi Novik

Premise: Now that the troubles with China have been mostly resolved, Laurence and Temeraire will get to go home. However, before they are able to leave, orders arrive that they must retrieve three eggs purchased from the Ottoman Empire. With their ship disabled, they have no choice but to take the more dangerous overland route, as time if of the essence.

Review: Deserts, marauders, and war are but a few of the things our intrepid heroes must face on their way to their goal. Not only is their path filled with peril but they find that one of their enemies, the albino dragon, Lien, has followed them from China and thrown her lot in with Napoleon. Things grow worse as when they reach Istanbul, and they are told the eggs will be denied them as payment was never made. As if things weren't complicated enough, Laurence is still having to deal with Temeraire's enthusiasm to find ways to liberate British dragons from servitude and makings things more like they found them in China. A feat, Laurence believes to be doomed to failure.

Once again Naomi Novik has created a fun work with intrigue, excitement, and woven history. Several cultures make the scene and we're made to feel the agony of encountering the onslaught of Napoleon's ever advancing army. ***1/2!

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Book Review - Throne of Jade

Throne of Jade
by Naomi Novak

Premise: The Chinese have come to demand their stolen dragon back. And the British Empire seems inclined to kowtow to their demands. Laurence defies them when he refuses to lie to Temeraire just to make his kidnapping back to China any easier. In the end, there is no choice but to take him along as well.

Review: Still in the midst of the war with France, Laurence and Temeraire are forced to leave their friends and embark on a long ship voyage to China. Yet within days, there are problems, their ship is unexpectedly attacked, series of seeming accidents. And when they reach China itself, there is the issue of the totally unexpected and different treatment of dragon kind in the Asian country - here, dragons can own property, shop, walk the streets. They even are allowed to mature for a time before choosing their human companion. With Temeraire's exposure to the slave trade on the way there and then his education of how dragons are treated in China, Laurence finds himself in the midst of questions and moral issues he never had thought of or expected. Worse, he finds himself the continued target of assassination attempts. Will they be able to find a resolution to the dilemma of Temeraire keeping Laurence as his companion, or is the decision to be taken from their hands and made for them?

As with His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik continues weaving a wonderful world mired in our historical past, but integrated with dragons as a norm. It was a lot of fun watching her show us the clashing of two distinct cultures not only on the human but also dragon level. Thoroughly enjoyed this second romp into this world. ***3/4.

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Book Review - Summerworld

by Serdar Yegulalp

Premise: Dr. Hirofumi Gô received a postcard from a patient who has been dead over three years. In the card, Masuda invites Gô to join him for a couple of days at a resort in Echino. Though totally impossible, Gô recognized the hand writing as legitimate. Masuda - Gô's one truly heartfelt failure as a psychiatrist. He feels he has no choice but to go find out what's going on.

Review: This is a fun psychological and action packed tale. When Gô goes to the resort, he finds that somehow he has managed to enter an unexpected world, one which can be shaped by the survivors into amalgamations of past and present. Gô gets pulled deeper into the mysteries, embroiled into politics and maneuverings for power as he seeks to find his friend and also learn more about what is happening to the world he knew now that the veil between realities has broken. Mr. Yegulalp does a wonderful job with descriptions and giving you a real sense of this new Japan. His characters live and breathe, and their sentiments come through as they and Gô unexpectedly shape each others lives. A neat look into expectations and what makes people tick, as well as things gone terribly wrong. Looking forward to where Mr. Yegulalp will decide to take us to next. ***1/2

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