The Surrey Adventure-Part Two

Surrey, day two.

I had planned on buying some cereal for breakfast as I love cereal, it doesn’t make me sleepy like a big breakfast does and, let’s face it, I’m cheap. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to buy cereal, but they hotel did furnish us a mini-fridge and Lisa brought along some little cartons of milk that don’t need to be refrigerated until you open them. I still like cold milk, so the refrigerator was a blessing.

So, we wake up bright and early and shower, get dressed, put makeup on etc and head down to the restaurant. Beth and company see us and wave us over. I get the breakfast buffet. $18! Oh, yeah, I will be shopping for cereal later.

However, the company was stellar and it was really like a family reunion only with people you like.

Donna Rubino is hilarious and I fall in love with her immediately even if she is a ****. Four letter word deleted, but it starts with y and ends with k. (Whispers softly, “Yank!”) Jenny, Beth, Tara, Sheila, Susan, Julie K. and all the rest are awesome.

We all discuss the workshops and master classes. I still have a gut feeling I should go to Janet Reid’s workshop, but I doubt she will miss me and Jack would most likely notice if one of his chosen ten is gone. Someone tells me I am supposed to have a copy of the excerpt I sent to get into the workshop and I panic. I don’t have one, but I do have ten copies of my query letter. That was another sign and I’m usually good at noticing divine signs.

Everyone pays out at breakfast. I am still trying to sort out the exchange rate and money and I think I’ve wound up with an extra five when I gather all my money up off the table. I think nothing of it until later and wonder if I picked up someone’s tip. I was sitting next to Beth, but Lisa thinks Beth charged it to her room. To be on the safe side, I do some extra tipping later.

Sheesh! What a way to start out a conference, stealing tips. What if an agent saw me?!

Jack reads from one of his books and then we discuss what makes the minor characters stand out.


Well, if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s details. So good I drive people insane with them. I especially drive people who aren’t familiar with fantasy world-building insane.

Reading from the book did give us a glimpse into an excellent setting and making secondary characters come to life, but I have to confess I came away slightly unsatisfied. I hoped we would have more varied examples and possibly even some comments on the various works that got accepted and why. Gleaning things from an assortment tends to drive an idea home more firmly for me.

I went to Donald Maass’ master class in the afternoon. Maass is an excellent teacher and I would highly recommend him if anyone gets a chance to attend one of his classes. His class was the tornado effect.

The tornado effect was taken from a book, and I can’t remember the title, but it was intriguing. The theory is you take an event and describe it from various points of view of people who are there. We did an exercise where we picked out a scene we weren’t happy with or were thinking about cutting.

Write out the scene without looking at it and then write it from three different points of view. Sometimes throwing a different point of view in there makes you notice details you wouldn’t normally notice.

Write down things only the pov person would notice. The smell of an herb their mother used in cooking. A flower growing through a crack in the wall and she notices it because it’s the same color as the spread on her bed at home. When you go from the generic descriptions to the specialized descriptions that make your character more real, you draw the reader in.

Now, if you have room, tossing in these other pov descriptions of a scene makes it more multi-dimensional. I’m already over word count so I will use the exercise to bring more detail to the pov character when I can without adding another pov.

I have to admit this kind of confused me because switching pov has been a horrible habit for me to break. Now we have an agent and author telling us to switch pov. I think it depends on the story and the writer.

In doing the exercise, it was like a light came on. Gentyl noticed things I hadn’t noticed. The young man standing behind her in line noticed how she was watching everyone else to see what they were doing so she would know what to do.

As I said, it’s an interesting exercise to bring your world alive with…detail.

Detail seemed to be the theme of the conference.

Since the master classes aren’t part of the conference package proper, we were on our own for supper. That’s when the reports started trickling in about Janet Reid sending people to hunt me down.

It was really quite funny. She apparently put my query up on the overhead projector and then asked where I was. Several of the forumites knew I was in Jack Whyte’s class and I guess their expressions gave them away. However it happened, she wheedled out of them where I was and told them to go get me. It would have been kind of funny if they had.

So, I kept getting messages about Janet Reid being very unhappy with me. Oh, no! I’ve made She Who Shall Not Be Irked irked.

We took a break and then appeared in the bar that night. Rachel Vater was sitting down at the end of the gathering of sofas, chairs and ottomans we had going. I was at the other end of the oval. I recognized her, though she is much prettier in person than she is in the picture. However, I wasn’t going to bug her so I didn’t say anything to her until she moved down to our end later.

Lo and behold. Agents are human!

We discussed her home in Kentucky and how she got into publishing. She’s a fascinating lady to just visit with. She was an absolute gem and I was really surprised at how well we hit it off, but in talking to everyone later, I think she was like that with everyone. She has one of those personalities that everyone loves. Kind of like a Persian kitten. Who can resist?

Needless to say, we closed the bar down, but I can proudly say, I did no dancing, singing or falling down.

Yay me!


  1. Ah, details. The bane of my writing. I think because I’m a packrat in general — you wouldn’t believe the junk on shelves around my desks at home and work — I think I tend to be like that when I’m writing, too. Maybe not so much like a packrat as a crow, always fascinated by the next glittery trinket and never sure I’ve found the last one before moving on to another scene. Like, “Wait, don’t leave yet — did I look under the calendar hanging on the wall? I bet there was something interesting scratched in the plaster… I better check…”

    POV feels like less of a problem for me, because I often have a clutch of main characters anyway. Kinda like an ensemble sitcom… “3rd Rock” rather than “Raymond,” y’know?

  2. Ah, details. The bane of my writing. I think because I’m a packrat in general — you wouldn’t believe the junk on shelves around my desks at home and work — I think I tend to be like that when I’m writing, too.

    I see we are alike in that. I love details.

    POV has been horrific for me, but I think I finally have it under control.

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