Driving to Pasco: A Surprisingly Good Way to Spend a Weekend (thanks to RadCon)

Last Friday I drove over Snoqualmie Pass, where I-90 threads its way through the Cascade Mountains, in slushy rain, dodging traffic and semi-trucks and snowplows. The purpose behind this taking of my life (and my friend Keffy’s) into my hands was in the interest of getting to RadCon, a weekend-long science fiction convention in Pasco. Pasco is one-third of the Tri-Cities area of Washington, about three hours east of Seattle.

This was my first RadCon– I’d eyed it with curiosity over the past couple of years, but scheduling and general laziness meant I wasn’t able to go until this year. And I’m pleased to say it was worth the danger.

RadCon turned out to be a large costuming and gaming convention, that happened to feature a writing track. I didn’t attend any writing panels– all the topics were too basic, frankly, to interest me. Instead, I spend my days attending a few costuming and art panels. At one panel that was supposed to be about lighting a set on a budget (which I hoped might lead to some ideas for studio lighting), none of the panelists showed up, as they were busy making a movie at RadCon. But nevertheless, us audience members bravely soldiered on anyway, discussing our mutual experience (one of the audience members was a stage magician; another was a blacksmith interested in lighting for tutorial videos). It turned out to be one of my favorite panels.

At the writing events I did go to– which mostly ended up being after-hours parties in the small press room and similar things– it felt small, comfortable and intimate. I joined in a discussion with Howard Tayler, the artist Guest of Honor, and several other pros, and all in all had a good time both seeing friends and meeting new ones. A lot of the usual Seattle writing crowd wasn’t there, although a few were– but despite that, RadCon honestly felt like the friendliest con I’ve ever been to. Frequently I found myself in interesting conversations with total strangers, on topics ranging from photography, to the con experience, to life as a geek, to BDSM.

Part of the reason for that may have been how the room parties were arranged– in most cons, you can only drink inside the room parties, which are almost universally loud, cramped, and dark. RadCon, however, was able to close off an entire third-floor section to people 21 and over, which meant that people could mingle in a large, wide balcony/hallway area and could actually talk to each other without forgoing their drinks. It probably also helped that this was pretty much the only area to party– the bar was dead, and there was nowhere else to go– which meant that everyone found that their way there. Pros and fans mingled, writers and gamers and costumers mingled, cheap Jell-O shots were abundant and all in all I had a pretty awesome time.

RadCon also trended a lot younger than most science fiction cons– there were a lot of teenagers and college students there in costume, hanging out with friends. Since RadCon is pretty much the entire convention scene in the Tri-Cities area of Washington, a lot of local folks (especially younger folks) seemed to gravitate to it. RadCon seemed to be the cool place to hang out this weekend, which was kind of nice to see. I am all for having enthusiastic younger people becoming more involved in the fan scene, even if they’re primarily anime or gaming fans for right now as opposed to readers– although I suspect many of them are avid readers as well.

That’s not to say I couldn’t things to complain about. The food options are rather limited, for one. (I’m just glad the fan suite was selling pizza for $2/slice, because that’s pretty much what I lived off of… that and granola bars.) Taking pictures at the Masquerade was kind of terrible, because the lighting setup was apparently designed by someone with a deep visceral hatred of photography. Oh, and I woke up with a hangover on Sunday… although, admittedly, that last one was entirely my fault.

Luckily I shook it off in time to drive back over Snoqualmie Pass while it was still light. Despite a few dire warnings, the conditions were actually better on Sunday than they’d been on Friday.

Next year I will definitely be braving the pass to head to RadCon again.

In the meantime, here’s the slideshow of pictures from the con. I spent most of the weekend doing photography, and all in all, I’m quite happy with the results. There were lots of great costumes (thanks cosplayers!), and the weapons demo and fire show made for some very pretty pictures as well.

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On the 1-Year Anniversary of Mom’s Death

I’ll be at RadCon, a sci-fi convention about three hours east of Seattle, at the time this post goes up. Just a sign of how life goes on, I suppose.

But I’ve scheduled this post a couple days in advance, because I feel like February 16th is an important memory to mark. And I suspect on Sunday, my mind will be more dwelling on Mom than on a science fiction convention. Even one that I happen to be attending.

One year ago, on February 16, 2013, at 8:00 pm, Mom passed away from very aggressive, metastatic breast cancer. In fact, we had only stopped the chemotherapy less than a month earlier– and afterward, the cancer took only a few short weeks to end her life.

For me, it not only meant losing my Mom, but it was a very personal reminder not to put things off, to try exciting things and take risks now. Which is partly why I’m at RadCon, practicing photography and networking with writers and other creative professionals, in the hopes not just of making new friends and having a good time, but being successful and maybe even making a living doing things I love.

I’ve posted the video below before. It’s a short memorial video I made with a few pictures of Mom’s scrapbooks; a little side project that kept me distracted while my brother and I finished sorting through her affairs and her belongings.

Next week I’ll be back to photos and con reports, I promise.

Six Weeks of Freelance: The Good, The Bad, and the Lazy

It’s been six weeks since I started working full-time on my own projects. (It’s been almost three months since I quit my job, but it’s only been since the New Year that my travelling has been over and I’ve really buckled down to work.) I’ve already had some successes and failures; places where I’ve done better than I’ve hoped, and places where I need to try harder.

Photography’s been a big highlight so far. As I noted in my last post, I have a page up at www.journeysincolor.net. Since then, I’ve created a Facebook page, and a few weeks ago, I attended Portland Comic Con in a semi-official photographer capacity for Go To Games. And that opportunity only came about because I had gone to RustyCon the previous week, and happened to strike up a conversation with Ashke, a cosplay model who was working the Go To Games booth there.

To think, I almost stayed home from RustyCon because I was tired. For me, that was an illustration of how important it is to always take advantage of every opportunity. RustyCon was an opportunity that created another opportunity. And okay, I hadn’t planned on going to Portland on four days’ notice, but when the chance presented itself I jumped at it. I’m looking forward to see how the contacts and friends I’ve made there will affect the rest of my year.

As for writing– ostensibly the reason I quit my job in the first place– I’ve done quite a bit, although it’s a lot harder to see the end of the tunnel. Whereas with photography, you can occasionally luck your way into cool opportunities and contacts, with the writing, there’s no substitute for sitting by yourself and actually doing a crapload of work first. At least, none that I’ve found.

The novel that I’m writing has proved itself a tricky bastard. I’ve been trying to outline it, because it’s mostly a mystery/thriller type novel, the kind which are often very structured. But by nature I’m a pantser; I prefer writing without an outline, by the seat of my pants. But I’ve already tried that once with the novel and hit a dead end, so I’m debating whether to keep trying or shelve it for a while and work on something else.

In truth, I’ve already shelved it, at least for now. I’ve started sketching out the details of a second novel that’s been in my head for a while, with an eye toward starting writing on it at the end of the month during a five-day writing retreat that I’ll be attending. And I’ve started working on a memoir/retrospective of Mom. I’ve written over 10,000 words of that.

It’s been a little difficult to stay focused, because I’ve moved away from short stories (which are a lot of work, but still offer the promise of near-term gratification) to long-form works, which require much more work before you can even start trying to succeed with them. So far I’ve been trying to stick to writing at least two hours a day every day, which I’ve been mostly successful at, with a few exceptions– like when I got back from Portland Comic Con and was in all-out photography and marketing mode for the rest of the week.

One area where I’ve really fallen down has been the hypnotherapy side of things– I’ve only taken a few tentative steps toward getting the website up and running, although I hope to have that ready by the end of the month. I suppose that’s partly because even though it’s the project that’s most likely to generate income in the short term, it’s also the one I’m most nervous about.

But on the good side, I do have two business LLCs set up now– one called Andrew Williams Hypnosis, LLC and the other called Andrew Williams Creative, LLC. It makes it easier to actually do business and make money, although it also reinforces the fact that I actually do need to make money this year, at least if I don’t want to go back to I.T.

So it’s been a year of ups and downs, both business-wise and personally. I’m pleased to have this opportunity, but I feel like I need to work harder to take full advantage of it. And sometimes I feel like the lack of imposed structure (like an outside job) makes it easier for my depression to flare up. But there’s nothing to do but keep up the meds, try to maintain a steady routine at the gym, and work through it.

Six weeks means the year is more than one-tenth over. Christ, where does the time go? Back to work…