Lillian Csernica on May 25th, 2014
Busy busy busy day! For some insane reason I was awake by 8:30 a.m. It might have had something to do with the somnolent sound effects from Pat’s side of the room, but maybe what I heard was just some maid being a little too enthusiastic with a vacuum. That’s all right. I took a shower, made myself presentable for the public, and got a good head start on a problem I discovered when I checked my panel notes for today. I’d forgotten to print out the latest update of my notes for the “Steampunk in Japan” panel. I knew the hotel had an Office Center, but I did not think it would be open on a Sunday. I was right.
So off I went to Guest Services. That’s such a plain phrase. I much prefer the term “concierge,” don’t you? Guest Services is a department, but the concierge is the Person Who Handles The Problem. Sure enough, the nice fellow there directed me to a PC complete with printer in the lobby. Once I figured out which USB port was the right one, I opened the file, printed my notes and all was right with my world. The Hilton now owns the Doubletree, and I must say the new management has made some good improvements. Anybody who makes my life easier is a winner in my eyes!
Now it was time to continue Map Quest! Off I went to the Caravan Bazaar, determined to hunt down the last two stamps I needed. I found the Handmade by Droids booth. I had to pass their challenge in order to win their stamp. They asked me to do my best impression of “a steam-powered penguin in a mad rage.” Oh wow! Good thing I’d taken that Improv training with the commedia dell’arte troupe back in the days when Northern Ren Faire made you take workshops. Imagine me waddling side to side with my arms flapping stiffly while I alternated “Squawk squawk squawk!” with chuffing and hissing noises. Did I get the stamp? Oh yeah!
My final destination kept eluding me. I learned later that I kept missing the booth because “The sign was hidden behind the shrunken heads.” I went back to the Sacramento Steampunk Society table to throw myself on the mercy of the lady in charge. I pled my case, mentioning that I had lived up to the challenge of the steampunk penguin impression. You know what happened next, right? That’s right. I had to do the penguin impression again. I won the badge ribbon of white satin with a metallic red trail leading to the X that marks the spot. Two high quality chocolate coins came with it. The dear lady brought out the “special prizes for the people we really like.” In a variety of small ornamental tins were tiny sewing kits, just what attendees of this costume-oriented con would enjoy! I chose the ginger tin because that enabled me to return the lady’s kindness by reaching into my purse and pulling out a ginger candy. She was delighted. I now sport a Society pin on my badge lanyard.
I came back to our hotel room around 1 p.m. Pat was up. I was torn between calling the maid to tidy the room and just falling over for a nap. I did call the maid, and she turned out to be this really sweet older lady from the Canton area of China. We got to talking, and she asked me if I spoke any Chinese. I can say “Nihao,” “shay shay nee,” and “doh jay sai.” (They mean “Hello,” and “thank you” in both Mandarin and Cantonese. Please forgive my transliteration. It’s the best I can do.) The maid gave me an approving laugh. I pulled my cross chain out from under my blouse to show her the small piece of jade I wear, Taiwanese jade that my mother gave me. The length of the chain allows the jade to rest next to my heart. When the maid saw that, she threw her arms around me and hugged me. I love meeting new people, I really do, especially people from other countries.
Soon it was time to get some food into me before my panel at 5 p.m. The menu in Sprigs was the same as the bar, which makes sense during a con. That meant I had the linguine and meat balls again. Hey, I know what I like. Jeffrey went dashing by again in his attire as The Phantom of the Opera. Since he was in character, I called out “Eric!” but that didn’t work, so I tried “Jeffrey!” There’s something about his presence that demanded I rise to meet him. We chatted for a few minutes and he was off again. At some point in the day I had an opportunity to tell his wife Sharon how much I appreciated the talk Jeffrey and I had yesterday. She was very pleased to hear it. She knows what a gem she has in him.
Then it was Magic time! I was worried about what size audience I might have because it was in the window of dinner time. Fortunately, at least a dozen people turned up for “Making Magic Meaningful.” (I am now OUT of bookmarks. I knew I should have made the wine-colored set!) Creating magic systems for fantasy fiction and gaming is one of my favorite subjects. Programming gave me 90 minutes for the panel, and I needed it. Each section of my panel notes corresponds to chapters in The Writer’s Spellbook. I can go into as much or as little detail as people want on any of the many aspects of creating a strong, consistent magic system. We had a good time. I called on Pat to speak at points when her particular adventures in fantasy and forensics have led to either knowledge or experience by turns fascinating and freaky.
After the panel we went out into the hallway so Con Ops could pack up and secure the room. A cluster of folks stayed with me, including Matthew and Mark. Matthew is a delightful 15 year old boy who kept thanking me for helping him see what he needed to think about to fix his story. I encouraged him to tell me about the plot. As he went along I asked questions about cause and effect between events, character motivation, the real problem at the heart of the story, and who hired the bad guys. As we went along, Matthew began to understand the importance of backstory and the details of how his world works. Bright kid, very excited about what he’d learned from my talk. I made sure he had my blog URL and told him I’d be happy to answer questions and talk writing with him. I’m all for helping young writers who are just starting out.
Mark was closer to my age group. He’s a member of RWA! We got to talking about a very complex storyline involving shapeshifters and a secret temple in the wilds of Turkey. Pat and I directed Mark to some books and movies that might provide more ideas and some different angles on the issues he wants to address. He plans to get “The Writer’s Spellbook,” which is always good news to me.
In a surprisingly short time, 9 p.m. was upon us, time for Pat to present her talk on “Sky Warriors.” It was just the two of us sitting there, wrestling with the Power Point projector as usual. Around 9:15 p.m. we were joined by a couple that boggled my mind. All in black, a cross between Elizabethan, steampunk, sky pirate, and a dash of Goth, they made an impressive pair. I can now say I have seen a steampunk codpiece. Pat gave her talk, and the gentleman of the pair asked some knowledgeable questions. He’s a pilot, so he knew some of the more modern history of airships, dirigibles, blimps, etc.
My feet were ready to give it up for the day. Pat made the night’s cookie raid on the front desk, and now here we are, snug in our hotel room, ready to watch some action movie or more episodes of “Forensics Files.” Tomorrow we have “Steampunk in Japan” and “Steampunk CSI” back to back, and then I’m going to see the Japanese sisters do their naginata demo. That should be great!