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Adrian, a spy for the King, sees a nobleman murder a servant. His desire for truth is pitted against the dangers of a high-stakes political game. When his friend Draken insists on pursuing justice, Adrian must protect those he cares about as the political games of powerful men alter the lives of everyone around him.

Friday, February 23, 2018

LTUE 2018 Report

Life, the Universe, and Everything was a great success. For those not in the know, it's a writer symposium held each spring in Provo, Utah. It's growing and has expanded from the Mariott hotel to include some rooms across the street in the Provo Convention Center.

I attended several panel discussions and was a panelist on three this year. I'll go through everything in chronological order.

One bit of sad news is that my new phone doesn't take pictures as well as my old phone did, so you'll have to deal with amateur photos from a bad camera.

Write like you're running out of time

The authors on this panel shared ideas on what being productive means. For some, it's a book or two a year. For others, closer to eight books a year. Everyone needs to find the path that fits them and matches their goals.

So you want a revolution

These folks covered the differences between uprising and revolution and talked about how control of power (including magic in fantasy settings) gives control of the government. Any good revolution needs publicity, a plan, and an idea of what they'll do next. One of the more interesting topics was that of strategic losses. George Washington had a horrible record of many losses and few victories, but all of his losses gained important benefits.

Kaffeeklatsch with Larry Correia

Larry has an endless supply of personal funny stories even without delving into his books. He also took a lot of questions. I asked about what to look for in a publisher's marketing plan for a book release. His response was, "Don't expect much." Unless you're one of the big names, publishers won't put a big push behind a new book, especially from a new author.

Kaffeeklatsch with Sarah Hoyt

Sarah talked about a wide range of things including the process of how some of her books came to be. She also answered questions. We had a great hour hearing about collaborations and success stories.

Andre Norton: Grand Dame of science fiction and fantasy

This panel was a lot of fun to be on. I had a ton of notes, and I'd read "The Jargoon Pard" and another book or two as homework. She had a love of time travel, cats, crystals, ESP and other mental powers, mysterious alien races, and had a strong sense of good guys vs. bad guys.

Writers of the Future gathering

I've got a stack of "Honorable Mention" certificates and one "Semifinalist" from Writers of the Future, so I showed up to a little meet-n-greet set up to honor yet another winner from Utah. There were no real presentations, but Dave Farland talked to us for a bit about the contest and how Utah always seems to have a disproportionate number of people in each category.

Write what you know

Unlike what you might expect with that name for a title, there was a lot of discussion on how to write stuff you might not be an expert at. Of course, L. E. Modesitt has a diverse history with an amazing range of skills, and he's used them in his writing. But nobody here had experience with riding in space ships. Take what you know, extrapolate where you can, find experts to help you, and make up something that sounds good for the rest.

Writers of the Future: Utah's 20th winner

Dave Farland talked along with three past winners about what goes into a winning story. Some of it was reminders of the basics like including try/fail cycles, and making sure you have good character, setting, and conflict in the first two pages (or less). The idea, the story, and the style are each graded when they evaluate submissions.

Jo Walton Keynote

And here's the evidence that either my camera stinks or I don't know how to run it. Sorry.

Jo talked about what an individual can to as a genre writer to improve the field. This included loving what you write. This doesn't necessarily conflict with writing to a particular market or audience.

Writing science fiction tropes

I was on this panel, and forgot to have someone take a picture. I know this may crush your deprived soul, but I think you'll get over it.

We talked about how tropes are not always bad. In fact, tropes are not only useful, but necessary to writing fiction that resonates with the reader. Tropes are a wonderful shorthand to get ideas across quickly. You have to be careful not to use the old cliche tropes in the same old boring ways is all. You can even use the old cliches if you put a new and interesting twist on them.


Both Melissa McShane and Dave Butler are friends, so this one was a fun panel to attend. I seem to have shown up to several things with Dave Farland, as well.

Prewriting is an interesting topic since some people do without it entirely (called pantsers), while others may obsess over it so much they never get to their writing. Based on your writing style, it can help to have an idea where you're going and have that in writing so you can refer to it.

Writing Steampunk

I remembered to hand off my camera for a picture. It seems other people can take better pictures with it than I can. It might be time to experiment with taking pictures to figure out how it works best. You can see I got out my wooden bowtie with the spinning gears for this panel.

We had some differing opinions on exactly what steampunk was, but for the most part we agreed that it was a very welcoming umbrella which included a lot of ground. The sub-genre of steampunk has only been named fairly recently, but the community and ideas grandfathered in several works by H. G. Wells and others who died before the term was invented because their writing (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) fit perfectly.

When the term Steampunk first popped up, some people wanted it to be a dark, gritty afair. The costumers got ahold of it and spun the idea on its ear and made it bright, shiny, and full of hope for a world with Victorian manners and futuristic technology as someone from the 1800's might see it.

Book Signing

We had a book signing Friday night, and I met an online acquaintance, Kal Spriggs, face to face for the first time so I had to get a picture. My wife took the picture, and my camera must like her better than it likes me.

Then there was the incident when I had Sarah Hoyt sign three books for me. She was about to sign the first book when Larry Correia distracted her somehow. The small print here says, "This book has the wrong inscription. It's Larry Correia's fault." Then she made Larry sign it as if it were a written confession.

Powered Armor: Design and tactics

Yes, me taking another fuzzy picture. I must figure this out.

I attended this one specifically because I'd just had one of my short stories, "Unacceptable Losses," accepted for an anthology. It has powered armor as a major part of the story. It turns out that most of what I did matched up with what these guys (three military guys and a scientist) had to say about how powered armor would likely work and what you would need to watch out for. That made me happy. One thing I may have forgotten to address is the problem of managing heat, particularly from weapons.

Short Stories in a nutshell

How do you cause an emotional response in your reader with something as small as a short story? There are some tricks you can pull such as putting children in peril, but you can't do the same thing every time. you have to build investment in a character quickly. One way is to show the character holding back their emotions (just barely) so the reader is free to bust loose for them.

You need to get quickly to where interesting characters are doing interesting things. One trick I heard is that editors may skip to the end of even a story that starts really well just to see if it's been botched at the end. Eric James Stone said those good stories with the bad endings are the worst because the editor has now wasted the time to read the whole thing before rejecting it.

Todd McCaffrey keynote

Oops, forgot a picture again. Todd talked about a lot of things, including writing with his mother. He told some fun stories about how they'd agreed to collaborate on something, and to do so, she would kill a dragon to set up a storyline he was working on. She called him in tears. "I can't kill the dragon!" Sometimes you have to work things out in a different way.

He talked a little about old Chinese curses, only two of which I was familiar with.
  • May you live in interesting times.
  • May you be noticed by people in high places.
  • May you get what you wish for.
  • May ALL your dreams come true.

Trace the Stars benefit anthology

I went to a little open house for this benefit anthology designed to help finance the LTUE symposium. I've submitted a story to it, and I've made it past one editor. I have my fingers crossed. This would be a nice one to get into even though it won't pay the authors. It's good to give back to LTUE, which is one reason I like to help on panels. It would also be really cool to be in a book with the authors already on board.

Writing Children

Huh. Another missing picture. I must have been distracted.

This is writing characters who are children, not children who write. It can be annoying to have little kids who behave like undersized adults, but it can also fail miserably if you make the character too realistic since most children wouldn't deal with situations writers put their characters into. They need to be believable even if they're extraordinary in some way.

The concept also varies based on who your audience is. If you write for kids, you may write differently than if you're writing for adults and have kids as side characters.

Writing Battle Scenes

Hey, that picture wasn't half bad. Maybe I'm getting the hang of it.

I've addended several panels on action scenes in the past, but this was geared specifically to battles. I wanted to beef up my knowledge base since the next book I'm writing (Crystal Prince) is going to include a war with six kingdoms. That's a lot of complexity.

Skirmishes are more hit and run while battles are more organized and planned out (at least until it starts).

Pacing can vary from the overall panoramic view a commander might see all the way down to the sheer panic felt by someone on the front line.

Two suggestions I picked up are to avoid the blow-by-blow of an entire battle since that would take forever. Also, avoid descriptions that are all I... I... He... He... since that comes off as checklisting the fight to make sure you've got all the actions in the right place. It's better to hit a couple of details, then zoom out and shortcut the fighting.

For dialog, remember that dangerous jobs often lead to odd humor and coping skills.


So, there you have it. Another LTUE is in the books. My next appearance (aside from teaching calligraphy at Wizarding Days tomorrow) will be the League of Utah Writers spring conference.