Archive for the Events Category

Undertakings

Posted in Events, New release, Non Fiction, Reading List with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2013 by jaclemens

Election Day 2013November has been a big month for author events at the University of Utah.  For the second straight year, I spent Election Night listening to a prominent author.  In 2012, it was Brandon Sanderson at Weller Book Works; in 2013, it was Malcolm Gladwell at Abravanel Hall.  Mr. Gladwell was the esteemed guest for the inaugural Sam Rich Speaking Series presented by the Hinckley Institute of Politics.  Fortunately for the University Campus Store, the Hinckley Institute chose us to provide copies of Mr. Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants for his first appearance in Salt Lake City.  It was easily the largest event I have worked in my bookselling career, and I didn’t do it all on my own.  Fortunately for me, one of our student supervisors volunteered to assist me in this undertaking. Lucy LaPutka’s involvement was an integral part of making this large event a success.  Lucy wanted to learn how events run, and she hoped to meet Mr. Gladwell.  We were able to listen to the closed-circuit telecast of his presentation – he handles his audience with exceptional skill – but we did not get the chance to meet him afterward.  Mr. Gladwell signed as many books as he could before he had to leave for his flight.  It still proved to be a late night, but I didn’t have much time to recover.

Sam Daley-HarrisTwo days later, the Hinckley Institute hosted Sam Daley-Harris, and invited me back to sell copies of the 20th anniversary edition of Reclaiming Our Democracy: Healing the Break Between People and Government. Daley-Harris is the founder of RESULTS, and spoke about his experience in harnessing the enthusiasm of volunteers and directing it into meaningful channels of change. This was a smaller scale event, which is befitting the author’s approach.  He was able to poll the students in the audience about their belief in the efficacy of implementing change, and explained why he remains firmly in the hopeful camp.  It was an uplifting message for those who heard it in person or via radio broadcast.

I was surprised to learn of another event the following Tuesday.  A shipment of books arrived at our store without an order.  I contacted the publisher and was informed of an event that evening!  When I arrived at the venue on campus both the organizers and the authors said they weren’t aware I would be there.  Nor was I!  The topic of discussion was “The Loud Absence: Where is God in Suffering?”, sponsored by the Veritas Forum.  Margaret Battin, a professor of philosophy at the University of Utah, and John Lennox, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, led the discussion.  I was on hand to sell Lennox’s books, such as God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway? and God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?.   For an unanticipated event the sales were decent, but it made for a long bus ride late at night.

A week later I had a fourth event on campus.  I knew about it in advance, but I was one of the few who did.  A miscommunication in publicity resulted in a small audience for Tim Cope, who had spoken to 800 people the night before in Santa Barbara.  Cope is an adventurous Australian traveler, who has cycled through Siberia, rowed a river boat to the Arctic Ocean, and ridden horses from Mongolia to Hungary.  His book On the Trail of Genghis Khan: an Epic Journey through the Land of the Nomads recounts the daring 10,000 kilometer ride through five countries.  In October it won the Grand Prize at the Banff Book Festival.  The title of the book didn’t grab me, but Cope’s personal presentation certainly did.  He sat on the front of the stage and spoke to our intimate group over a slideshow of still shots and video footage from his immense journey.  It was an incredible presentation, and I urge you to visit his website, timcopejourneys.com, to learn more.

David and Goliath has been on my to read list for some time, but On the Trail of Genghis Khan is the book I’m reading right now!

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Geek Week

Posted in Events, Fiction, New release, Recommendations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2013 by jaclemens

It’s been a week since I went to Salt Lake Comic Con, but Friday the 13th seemed like the right time to post about it! This was the first comic con for Salt Lake and the first I’ve attended. I was only able to attend one day of the three, but Friday was a great day to be there! The top item on my agenda was an unofficial sneak peek at The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Immediately after I registered I got in line to wait for it. After some initial confusion about which line to stand in, I found the correct one and settled in for some people watching. This meant missing out on panels on Firefly (a show I have recently come to appreciate), Marvel vs. DC, and a Q&A with Q (John de Lancie’s character from Star Trek: the Next Generation), but I waited patiently – only to have the door closed in my face. I was seriously the next person in line when the room was declared full.

First lesson of first comic con: don’t expect to stick to your outlined schedule. Upon being denied entry to my top choice, I found a suitable alternative in Peter Lyon, the master swordmaker for Weta Workshop. That was fascinating, and would come back into play later in the day. I had intended to go to a discussion of the changing publishing world next, but wound up in the ballroom for Ray Park’s spotlight session.

DSC00619Park, aka Darth Maul, Snake Eyes, and Toad, was truly entertaining! He talked about emulating Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Charlie Chaplin, and he has the personality to go with the physical tools. He also has a Scottish accent, which explains why he didn’t supply the voice for Darth Maul. Park was only 21 when he was cast to play the villain (he always wanted to be a hero), and wasn’t sure he could pull off the integral intimidation until he saw the crew’s reaction to the first fight scene he filmed. He lobbied unsuccessfully for a different death in Phantom Menace (decapitation), but would relish the chance to reprise the role. Rather than the mech legs Darth Maul’s been grafted onto in the comics and cartoons, Park joked that he should have a hover board and use his double-bladed lightsaber like a kayak paddle! After taking questions and adulations from the audience, Park wrapped up the session by bringing young kids in costume up on the stage and teaching them some martial arts poses. He was terrific!

I made my first foray into the vendor floor next. Lesson two: be prepared to spend plenty of time and money shopping the vendor floor. I didn’t make any purchases on my first pass. I wanted a look at everything that was available before I made my selection. I didn’t pay to have my picture taken with any of the celebrities, but I did take photos of a few from a distance. I managed to get pictures of David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca). I didn’t see Shatner or Stan Lee in person, but I did see William Kirchner (Bifur) and Manu Bennett (Azog) from the Hobbit films!

White OrcI took more photos of the life-sized Azog statue on display at the Weta booth than anything else at the con. The whole booth was spectacular. I particularly enjoyed seeing Peter Lyon take the sword Orcrist from a display case and show it to a few lucky fans. That was a serendipitous con moment! I was sorely tempted to get a treasure at the Weta booth, but the answer to the question “What have I got in my pocket?” was not enough for even the smallest knife.

There were some desirable items in my price range, but I decided to give it more thought during the next panel. Unfortunately I showed up too late, and both of the writing panels were already full. So I got in line with friends for the next popular panel on my list, Avengers vs. X-Men. That panel proved too popular for the likes of those of us waiting in the general line, so I went to listen to Brandon Mull and Chad Morris talk about comedy in writing. They were in a comedy group in college, and performed some funny sketches and songs.

They both signed books at a booth following the panel, so I went back to the vendor floor and waited in a line that already wrapped around the booth. Lesson three: be ready to wait in line. I read my advance reader copy of She Walks in Darkness while people paraded by in costumes. The book I asked Mull to sign was also an advance reader copy – Spirit Animals: Wild Born came out this week. It’s a series with an online game component in the same vein as 39 Clues; Mull laid out the full series and wrote the first book (of seven). Getting the book signed took most of the hour set aside for a second pass of the vendor booths, so I stepped out for one more panel.

An Examination of the Hero’s Journey was the only panel on my original schedule that I was able to attend. I was familiar with one of the authors on the panel, having once sat next to him at a signing – that was Dave Farland. The other members were Rhiannon Paille, Brad R. Torgersen, and Bryan Young. Robison Wells did not appear as scheduled, but having heard him discuss his social anxiety on the Writing Excuses podcast, that was understandable. I asked the panel how they address the matter of romantic interest in their writing, given that the examples being cited – Greek myth, Arthurian legend, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars – present only two options for the hero: love ’em and leave ’em or monasticism. The responses from Farland and Paille were noteworthy.

By that time I had come to the conclusion to make a worthy purchase from Artist’s Alley. Lesson four: support the artists who come to the con. I wanted something unique, something I may not be able to buy at a local store or order online. When I returned to the vendor floor the closing announcements started and the lights dimmed. I hurried back to a booth that arrested me on my first pass, hoping the artist and a particular print would still be there. They were, so I bought an X-Men/Star Trek (NeX-Gen) mash up picture from Stewart Craig. Later I located his blog and was stoked to read that it was one of three images he created specifically for Salt Lake Comic Con. It made an ideal souvenir!

I continued to walk the vendor floor, now emptier and darker, and took more photos of the booths I hadn’t seen on the first pass. I wasn’t coming back on Saturday (when the crowd ran between 70,000 – 80,000 con-goers), so I had to make the most of my opportunity that night. I found the Lego booth, one I would not have wanted to miss, among others. I returned home a reaffirmed geek, with photos of acceptable role playing role models for my kids and this great shot of a weeping angel posing with my copy of She Walks in Darkness!Friday the 13th

Open Season

Posted in Events, Fiction, Non Fiction, Reading List with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2013 by jaclemens

WeddleUtah opened the football season with a rousing victory against Utah State last night! In preparation for the season I read No Excuses, No Regrets: The Eric Weddle Story by Trent Toone (another May release). I have another blog where I track the Utes who have gone on to play professionally, and Weddle is definitely one of my favorites. He isn’t going to grace the pages of ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue, but he is the epitome of a professional athlete in my eyes. His determination to make pivotal plays is unmatched, and he deserves to be one of the highest-paid players at his position. If only Toone was as dedicated to being the best at his profession as his subject, this would be a truly great read. This biography discusses Weddle’s accomplishments to date, but it also examines his high character, family life, and conversion to the LDS Church. I was already a Weddle fan, and now I’m determined to get The Man’s Chargers jersey (even if he did admit to reading the Twilight series!).

Billy LynnFor a more complicated subject and superior writing, I turned to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. I’m no fan of the Dallas Cowboys, Destiny’s Child, or the war in Iraq necessarily, but I am a fan of writers who can meld difficult subject matter into an entertaining book, so that makes me a Fountain fan! He deserved to be a National Book Award Finalist for what he did with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. It may not be the definitive literary work of the Iraq war, but I have already recommended it to my buddy in the Navy. I await his verdict as to the authenticity of Billy Lynn’s experiences on both fronts, battle and home, but I thought the book was terrific. And, as someone who recently suffered a migraine, I can attest to the horror of that halftime show!

100 thingsI completed my off-season workout with Patrick Sheltra’s 100 Things Utes Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. It came out in 2011 so it isn’t entirely up-to-date, but I’m familiar enough with recent developments; it’s the history of the program on which I needed to brush up. I was working concessions in the stadium for #17 Yergy’s Drive from 55 in the 1993 Holy War, and I was delivering pizza while listening to #23 Lusk’s Dash in the Dusk. I’ve already written about my reaction to listening to the 2005 Emerald Bowl. But I wasn’t around for #31 The Lost Championship of 1969, or Fred Gehrke painting the first horns on the helmets of the Cleveland Rams. I’ve been tracking Reggie Dunn’s preseason in Pittsburgh for my other blog, and it bears a resemblance to Erroll Tucker’s experience in 1986. These are some of the 100 things I needed to know. Eric Weddle comes in at #19, three spots behind Larry Wilson, the only player from Utah in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Discovery Writing

Posted in Events with tags , , , , on December 1, 2012 by jaclemens

word countI’ve been discovery writing my WIP, and through NaNoWriMo I discovered that I’m capable of writing more than 10,000 words in a month! I didn’t quite reach 50,000 – not even with an 18,000 word head start – but I set a new personal best of 10,831. That represents a 59% increase to my WIP! If I sustain that rate of words per month I will have 50,000 words by February. It’s taken me longer than I care to admit to write the first seven chapters; in the past two months I’ve added eight more! My WIP grew more during NaNoWriMo than my beard grew during No Shave November.

My output for week 4 dropped off a bit, down to 2223 words in 5 days. I finished the month strong with 438 words on Thursday and 1,066 words on Friday. That was my highest single day (not surprising for the day before the deadline!), and only the second time I topped 1,000 in a day. If I could consistently reach 1,000 words a day I could double my monthly total and reach 50,000 by the end of the year.

It’s difficult to predict how many words I can discovery write in a day; in one group scene I wrote four new side characters made surprise debuts. I didn’t know their personalities until I began writing dialogue for them. Their roles could be reduced, expanded, or eliminated as the story develops. Not all of the words I wrote this month will make it into the first draft, let alone the final manuscript. I took some false turns along the way, but those days became writing exercises that informed the back story. My other challenge to increasing my word count is that I am handwriting the story in a journal to get the first person tone right. It’s necessary to the process, but it does divide my time to type up what I’ve written by hand during the day.

I can’t predict how many words it will take to complete my WIP, but I would like to have the first draft finished by March. Thanks to the lessons I learned from NaNoWriMo, that’s only months away instead of years!

Black Friday

Posted in Events with tags , , , , on November 23, 2012 by jaclemens

The third week of NaNoWriMo was my best yet! I wrote 2,900 words in five days! That’s the highest weekly total and the highest per day average (580) thus far. I haven’t exceeded 1,000 words in a single day since day two, but I improved my daily consistency. I’m close to completing another chapter, which will be the sixth new chapter in the past two months. During NaNoWriMo I have added 7,100 words, pushing my WIP over 25,000 words. It’s not the 35,000 words I’d need to be on pace for 50,000 by the end of the month, but it is a 39% increase. With another 2,000 words in week four I could reach 50%. I won’t be out shopping on Black Friday, but, following Utah’s season finale this afternoon, I may go to a certain bookstore to write.

Stamp of Approval

Posted in Events, Fiction, New release with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2012 by jaclemens

I got to the polls right when they opened on Election Day so I could spend the evening at a Brandon Sanderson reading and signing. The event was held at Weller Book Works, and it was my first visit to the new Trolley Square location. I got there early so I could browse and get a feel for the new layout. I’m glad I did, as it is a great set up and because Sanderson volunteered to field some questions before the event officially began.

The appearance was to promote his latest release, The Emperor’s Soul, but he took questions on all of his books. He declined to answer some questions about the Wheel of Time finale, and one woman asked a question on grooming habits that he honestly couldn’t answer. Aside from that he was affable and generous with his time, taking more questions after the reading and soliciting questions from fans as he signed all of the many books put before him (I had him sign my hardcover copy of The Alloy of Law, as it has been awhile since I’ve been able to attend one of his signings). Sanderson is not only a popular author, he’s also a personable author.

Completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series has been a tremendous opportunity for him, but doing so has taken a great deal of his writing time. He was concerned that 2012 would mark the first time he wouldn’t have an original work released since 2005, so he conceived The Emperor’s Soul on a trip back from appearing in Taiwan. He worked on it in the interim while A Memory of Light was in the final stages of editing, and it was released this month in a trade paperback from Tachyon Publications. When I learned of the book’s impending release I contacted Charlene Brusso at Tachyon to request an advance copy, which she sent along with Epic: Legends of Fantasy, an anthology that includes an excerpt from The Way of Kings, and Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip. I got it signed by the author, and he numbered it #45.

Although he was promoting The Emperor’s Soul, he did not read from it. Instead he read from the first draft of the second book in The Stormlight Archive! Now that AMOL is finished he has resumed work on his own mega-series, and we got to hear a section with a new viewpoint character! That was an exciting extra feature for attending the event; Sanderson really goes out of his way to support the brick-and-mortar stores in return for promoting his work. Customers who bought print copies of the book were invited to e-mail proof to Sanderson’s website to receive a free copy of the e-book; he isn’t shying away from digital editions, but he sees the two forms as complementary.

Leading up to the event I listened to the audiobook version of Legion, a novella Sanderson published with Subterranean Press in August. Because audible.com is a sponsor of the Writing Excuses podcasts that Sanderson produces with three other writers, the site is currently offering free downloads of Legion. I took advantage of the offer, and I enjoyed Oliver Wyman’s narration of the story. Legion is about a character with multiple personalities with whom he interacts, and Wyman performs all the voices distinctly without it being obtrusive. The story itself is brief, which is uncommon for Sanderson’s writing. He explained that he originally pitched the idea to Dan Wells, another member of the Writing Excuses team, before deciding to write it himself. It’s written as a pitch for a tv series, so it should be read not as a finished tale, but as a pilot episode. In that vein it succeeds, and I look forward to the series being created.

I finished listening to Legion while waiting in line to have my books signed, so I switched over to an episode of Writing Excuses. It was slightly surreal to listen to a recording of Sanderson giving advice while waiting in line to speak with him, but I couldn’t get enough! When that was over I began reading The Emperor’s Soul (not much in advance, admittedly). That made it difficult to concentrate on writing while waiting for the train, but, in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I compensated. I was able to keep my word count creeping up and still find the odd moment to read, somewhat in the manner that the book was written. Inspired by a visit to a national museum in Taiwan, Sanderson created a system of magic that employs stamps that can rewrite the history of an object. What would happen to a person if their history was rewritten? And what if that person was the Emperor? Shai is a Forger facing execution for her crimes, but an assassination attempt on the Emperor grants her a stay of execution for 90 days while she replicates the Emperor’s soul. Sanderson’s magic systems always impress, but this shorter form forced him to leave out some of his own hallmarks, such as a prologue that showed a conversation between Shai and Hoid, an inimitable character who finds his way into most of Sanderson’s novels. He loved the scene, but it did not fit the story so it had to be cut. At the other end the story has no twist ending, which was hard for me to accept. Only when I listened to his explanation on Writing Excuses did I come to terms with the straightforward ending that satisfies the characters’ arcs.

I rounded out my reading of his short fiction with the e-book Firstborn. Originally released as a Kindle edition in 2008, it was later re-released by Tor in a DRM-free format. I purchased it on my nook color and read it on an iPad. I’m not accustomed to reading on digital devices yet, but it was the simplest way of acquiring this particular story. Firstborn is a different venture for Sanderson as well, as it is short form science fiction. It’s a story about a second son who lives in the shadow of his older brother’s burnished star. The firstborn is a military genius with an unblemished record, while the younger brother has nothing but blemishes and blunders on his record. That won’t cut it for the son of a High Duke; greatness is thrust upon him, only to slip out of his hands and shatter on the floor. He tries to live up to the expectations, but he knows his own limitations. Is it possible he might know the limitations of his unbeatable brother, too? This story does have the twist ending I’ve come to expect from Brandon Sanderson, and he never disappoints.

Loss for Words

Posted in Events with tags , , , on November 15, 2012 by jaclemens

Week two of the write more/shave less challenge was a drop off from week one. I wrote on four days instead of five and wrote fewer words per day. As Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal stated on the Writing Excuses podcast, production tends to decline in the middle weeks. My word count for the week was 1680, which is an average day’s amount for NaNoWriMo. The goal is clearly out-of-reach at the halfway point, but I am not discouraged. I have only added 4200 words to my WIP this month, but I have added five new chapters over the past two months. That’s slower than NaNoWriMo pace, but it’s a significant increase over my usual pace! I’m getting into the habit of writing every day (although I missed a day last week), and that is helping to keep the story flowing. As for No Shave November, I haven’t missed a day!