Unexpected Conference

People blog for lots of reasons. Mine was to set my subversive short stories free so they could find whatever readers needed the ideas peeking out from behind those streams of words. It was a conscious decision. I could either tuck my stories away while pitching them, one by one, to editors intent on finding killer content for their publications, or I could forget about trying to earn a few cents for each word, set them on my virtual Internet windowsill to cool, and move on to the next project. After all, most of my stories are triggered by something that happened in the world, making them a product of the moment. That’s why I include with the by-line the date I started writing each one.

But then, something strange happened. A few of the stories that I thought I’d finished came back to haunt me, and demanded that they be turned into a series. This made my decision to offer the stories for free even more interesting, because I pursued the idea purely out of curiosity, with no thought of whether they fit the needs of whatever publication might have purchased the first one. One series was even based on some minor characters in my second novel, “Burnout Fever”, which I’ve self-published as a Nook ePub at Barnes and Nobel.

As you might imagine, going to a writers conference, where I could attend seminars and pitch a manuscript at agents and editors, was the furthest thing from my mind. I’d even passed on attending the Westercon 65, the roving western-US regional science fiction convention, which was held earlier this month near where I live, because it didn’t pique my interest, even though I’d been the Director of Programming at Westercon 50 in 1997, and crafted the time-travel theme of that event.

So naturally, I got a phone call from my doctor one night last week, and it wasn’t about my health. She’d bought a membership to the conference before becoming disillusioned with the project she was working on, and decided not to go. It was too late to get a refund, so she asked if I’d be interested in going instead. Much to my surprise, I said yes.

One of the events I attended on the first day of the conference was about how to write a pitch. It was intended to help those interested in presenting their ideas to agents and editors during the conference, and included time to write and try pitches with whoever was sitting nearby. I knew I wasn’t going to make a pitch, but took out pad and pen anyway, just to play with the idea. Here’s what I came up with:

Barry Lieber watched helplessly when his wife Melanie’s mind slipped a cog and trapped her in a mental hall of mirrors, where every conversation had to be about angels. In “Burnout Fever”, Barry resolves to move Heaven and Earth to find a cure, or at least an explanation. But Melanie wasn’t the only victim, and the key to the salvation of both Heaven and Earth lay in the reason why the angels in her sketchbook were rapidly going to hell.

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