Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Movin’ to the Country

imageGonna eat a lot of peaches.

Oh, wait, no. Not moving. Sorry. What was I talking about? Oh! Right, we’re off to the country to visit the hubby’s family and celebrate some birthdays, including L‘s Ninth.

Nine years I’ve been somebody’s Mama. Nine years. Nine. Number nine, number nine, number–what? Sorry, got distracted again.

These trips are always a little strange for me. We sleep in, there’s generally no set schedule for any given day, and even when there is a schedule there’s not much emphasis on keeping it.

You’d think I’d get a ton of writing done, right? I thought so. I even optimistically packed my primary wordsmithing equipment, my laptop.

So far, nothing. And I’m okay with that. Rest is important. Relaxation is important. I’ve gotten a little tightly wound since having these two little humans underfoot whose very lives depended on me being all responsible. Having a little time to just ‘be’ is sort of…nice.

Swimming

State of the Writer

See this? It is your nemesis. Fear it.

See this? It is your nemesis. Fear it.

I’m still alive and kicking, despite being constantly sore due to a harebrained “get in shape” scheme called going to the gym. By the way, if somebody hands you a kettlebell and says “deadlift this fifty times,” hit them with it and run for your life. However, if the word “windmills” enters the conversation, you’re probably already too far gone to escape. Just accept the inevitable suffering as the price of your past sins.

Aside from the pain of healthy living, I’ve been dealing with the pain of creative drought. Not that I was lacking in ideas. I just haven’t had the time and/or energy (sometimes I have one or the other, but rarely both) to pursue any of those ideas since school started for my boys. Ironic, eh? For years I’ve been repeating the mantra, “I’ll have time to write when both boys are in school.”

Sure, right. The first month of school is a one-way ticket to Crazytown.

Surprisingly, it’s not actually twice as difficult to get two boys dressed, fed, teeth brushed, and out the door with two packed lunches, all their assorted homework, permission slips, fundraising forms, and remember special days.

It’s purple day! But you don’t have a purple shirt, so…here’s a purple sticker. Look, kid, I’m trying.

It’s actually three times as difficult. Plus the bonus extra credit difficulty of riding our bikes every morning, no matter how sore Mommy is, and perhaps it becomes clear why I’ve been lagging on the creative end.

Now that things are settling down a bit, I have a short story out on submission. So far it’s racked up four rejections. I like to tell myself that story submissions are like house hunting: You don’t always find your home on the first try. So I bundled it up with love and sent it off to a new place this morning. Godspeed, little story.

Could this be a city in our new project? Maybe!

Could this be a city in our new project? Maybe!

This past week I started on a joint project with my husband. He had the idea to work together on a world-building project with an eye toward creating a setting for use across multiple media: Stories, tabletop RPG modules, maybe even some form of app (an area he’s been dying to get into). It’s interesting how the creative process changes when you’re working with a partner. Especially when their process is nothing like your own.

For me, creating a setting is like lighting a string of firecrackers. I have an idea, which sparks another idea, and another, and “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if” and “Oh, I know how to explain that!” Pop-pop-pop, one loosely-related idea after another until I’m exhausted and have to put it away. His brain goes over things much more slowly, and he tends to focus on one subject at a time. Between the two of us, I have a feeling we’re going to produce something pretty cool.

Or we’ll reach the point where we can’t stand the project and throw it all away. Either way, it’s fun for now!

 

“Woman with kettlebell” image courtesy of Ambro at freedigitalphotos.net.

Phoenix Comicon 2014: Redux

Bumblebee!

Bumblebee!

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime

There was so much going on at Phoenix Comicon that I’m still recalling bits and pieces, and here are a few that I left out of the last post.

Good Mom

For example, I totally forgot to mention taking Transformers photos for my boys. They were extremely impressed that mommy got to hang out with Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. Because obviously I’m awesome like that.

Good Food

I know I mentioned Taco Guild and The Holy Taco Church, but have I mentioned all the good pizza I had while I was there? I love pizza to a wholly ridiculous degree. We split a Pizza Bianca at La Piazza Locale, which was amazing, and so was their bacon and spinach salad. Yes, I put bacon first. Because bacon, that’s why. Also there were roughly equal amounts of bacon and spinach in the bowl. It’s like they knew me or something.

Beth also took me to a place called New York Pizza Department. You don’t get much New York style pizza in any of the areas I’ve lived in (for those not following along, that’s the west coast and Texas) so that was kind of fun. Also very tasty. Can someone convince them to open up a location near me? Thanks.

Booth Bane!

Booth Bane! Don’t even think about messing with Chuck Wendig.

 Good People

I met a ton of awesome people over the course of the weekend. I’ve already listed all the crazy writers, but I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t mention Kristin Sullivan, who cheerfully contributed a great deal of snarky wit to the weekend. Hats off to you, Govneh! She also makes one impressive Booth Bane. Seriously, don’t mess with her.

I mean it.

You will get stomped.

 And More Author Batsu

So, to round out the ridiculousness, I discovered that I actually captured some video during the infamous Author Batsu Game. To put it into context, the contestants had just been asked to write the sexiest sentence they could think of. Meanwhile, Patrick Rothfuss was still chewing the napkin he decided to eat during the previous question:

Phoenix Comicon 2014: Holy Crazy Authors, Batman!

So, Phoenix Comicon. Let me explain–no, there is too much to explain. Let me sum up:

It was fantastacular.

(Which is fantastic and spectacular, for those who don’t speak portmanteau.)

My dear friend, author Beth Cato, is anxiously awaiting the release of her debut novel, The Clockwork Dagger, on September 16, 2014. In the meantime, she had the brilliant idea of attending Phoenix Comicon to promote it–when she asked me to come along, how could I say no?

Sam Sykes, molester of bearded men. Not that Chuck Wendig seems to mind.

So, this happened. I didn’t ask.

That’s a trick question, as obviously I couldn’t. So I packed up my comfortable shoes, my steampunk gear, and my inner glee for all things geek and flew my giddy little self out to Phoenix, AZ.

Most of the fun I had wouldn’t make sense if you weren’t there, so I’m just going to hit the highlights here. Thursday started with a trip to the local art museum to appreciate some culture (jazz hands!). The jazz hands, you see, are how we differentiate culture from the pop culture we planned to indulge in for the rest of the weekend. Or something. Just go with it.

Afterward, we picked up some passengers and headed off to an excellent meal at Taco Guild, along with many members of the Holy Taco Church: Kevin Hearne, Chuck Wendig, Delilah S. Dawson, Sam Sykes, Leanna Renee Hieber, Brian McLellan, Stephen Blackmoore, Jason Hough, Django Wexler, and Wesley Chu–as well as not-actually-official-members-but-happy-to-eat-tacos-anyway folks like Myke Cole, Ty Franck, Priscilla Spencer, Jamie Wyman, and Olivia Kelly. Apologies if I missed anyone! If you think that sounds like a ton of people, you’re right. And yes, we took up half the restaurant. Many tacos and drinks were consumed, inappropriate jokes were made, much fun was had by all. Sam apparently enjoys a very affectionate relationship with other men’s beards. Beth may or may not have challenged Wes to a push-up contest. There was also an incident with a daisy-wheeled Volkswagen Beetle which lead to a new driving term.

Pulling a Daisy: Turning right from the center lane regardless of cars traveling forward in the right lane.

On the way back to the hotel, Olivia taught everyone in our car the proper pronunciation of “challah” and inadvertently signed herself up for a new greeting for the rest of the weekend.

Friday Beth and I split our time between casing the joint checking out the exhibitor hall and attending literary track panels. I picked up as many books as I thought I could pack back home (only a tiny fraction of what I wanted). We escaped before shenanigans got underway that night, so I sadly have no incriminating photos to share.

Saturday kicked off with a panel on speculative poetry that was entertaining but oddly confrontational (odd audience member is odd). Then we learned about the secret passages of the Phoenix Convention Center. That was where Beth and I met up with the always-entertaining Jaye Wells, and the three of us came face to face with Adam West and Julie Newmar as we exited one of the hidden elevators.

Biggest celebrity sighting at PHXCC was when I got off an elevator and Adam West and Julie Newmar were standing there with Chewbacca.

— Jaye Wells (@jayewells) June 9, 2014

After that we were all off to the ridiculously-named “Fantasy That Defies Description” panel, which would have made for a really short discussion had it been accurate. Thankfully the members of the panel were all hilarious and managed to point out the difference between defying description and defying the artificial construct of genre.

This panel, however, defies description. Left to Right: Django Wexler, Zachary Jernigan, Brian T. McClellan, Beth Cato, Myke Cole, Jaye Wells

This panel, however, defies description.
Left to Right: Django Wexler, Zachary Jernigan, Brian T. McClellan, Beth Cato, Myke Cole, Jaye Wells

Now, realize that we started the day with two goals: 1) Get Beth to both her panels on time, and 2) Stalk Nathan Fillion. Not in a creepy face-wearing kind of way. I just mean that we planned to show up early for his spotlight to camp some seats and didn’t care if we missed other cool panels in the meantime.

However, we also had to eat. I get hangry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry. So, with saving time in mind, we made good use of the hidden hallways (catching a few minutes of Bruce Campbell’s spotlight from backstage) and made a quick round of author alley to invite some people out for lunch. The adorable Lela Gwenn joined us for delicious pizza at La Piazza Locale a few blocks from the convention center, which was great fun but a tactical error: By the time we returned, staff members were already turning people away from the ballroom where Nathan Fillion would be appearing an hour later. Silly us. Apparently there had been people camping the ballroom from the time the con opened on Saturday, waiting to see him.

Scalzi feeding Rothfuss salsa. Like you do.

Scalzi feeding Rothfuss salsa. Like you do.
Leanna is not amused.

Which brings us to Author Batsu.

Clearly, when you’ve been denied Nathan Fillion, you go watch a bunch of authors torture each other for fun. This game was a Sam Sykes brainchild, and as such, guaranteed to be weird, funny, and potentially dangerous. It exceeded everyone’s expectations. There was only one rule: No matter what kind of goofiness Sam, the audience, and the other authors get up to, Don’t Laugh. There was also only one punishment: Taking a shot of salsa.

Easier said than done. Over the course of the game we discovered that Patrick Rothfuss makes both a damn fine wizard and a decent goat; Myke Cole has no tolerance for salsa; John Scalzi is amused by everything; and Aprilynn Pike is amused by nothing, ever. Delilah S. Dawson and Leanna Renee Hieber also managed to stay stone-faced for much of the proceedings, proving that they are either inherently less humorous (not bloody likely) or that women are just generally better at this sort of thing. Which doesn’t explain how Chuck Wendig managed to escape punishment for so much of the game. I suspect that his beard may have something to do with it, though that rumor has been neither confirmed nor denied.

We finished up both the night and our Phoenix Comicon experience with the Drinks with Authors party. There were themed drinks, book giveaways, and as promised, lots of authors. Beth seemed sort of shocked when people wanted to stop and talk with her, until I pointed out that she is also an author. Good times. Now, since I really need about a week’s worth of naps and a foot massage, I’ll wrap this up. Just one last photo. No context for you!

And then this happened.

And then this happened.

Help Wanted

I’m asking for some help, Ladies and Gents, but not for myself. Let me introduce you to my friend Janesta and her family:

Janesta Violette is a dear friend, a devoted wife and mother, and was pursuing a college degree in game design and software development until she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Stage IV oral cancer late last year.

At the time of diagnosis her cancer was deemed inoperable because the surgeon would need to remove her entire tongue as well as a number of the lymph nodes in her neck. Given the aggressive nature of the cancer, other alternatives were considered. Radiation and chemotherapy commenced. All seemed to be going well, and the tumors shrank. Hurray!

Unfortunately, after Janesta’s treatments ended, the tumors began to grow again. Her body can’t take any more radiation or chemo at this point, so surgery is the only answer and it must be as soon as possible. The tumors must be removed before they can spread further. Unfortunately this still means the loss of her tongue.

Right now, Janesta’s husband is stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. The nearest oncology ward with a surgeon capable of helping her is at the San Antonio Military Medical center. That’s roughly a ten to twelve hour drive. It also means that the family member accompanying Janesta needs a place to stay while she’s in the hospital.

So here’s the deal: Normally their insurance can reimburse travel costs related to medical procedures, or even advance them the estimated cost to make that trip across the state for surgery and treatment possible. Due to the recent government shutdown, the Violette family has been informed that there are no funds available, and that it’s unclear whether that funding will become available again in the future.

Let me make that clear: Due to the Congressional showdown over affordable healthcare, our active duty military personnel and their families are not receiving healthcare benefits.

The shutdown has also placed strain on the family’s already tight finances, as basic necessities like groceries and gas were no longer available on base. They just don’t have the spare money right now to make this trip.

So we turn to you, friends, family, and even complete strangers, in the hopes that we can raise enough money to cover the costs for a family member to drive Janesta to San Antonio and stay in a nearby hotel during her surgery.

Spring-Sprang-Sprung

Texas Redbud in bloom.

Texas Redbud in bloom.

I seem to be starting a new tradition of only posting on the last day of the month. I’ll be hard-pressed to keep that up, with Easter falling on the last day of March (and how crazy is that, anyway?). So maybe I’ll get into a more frequent posting groove.

Or not.

Spring has…sprung. Sprang? Sprung. Sprung. Is that even a word now? Sprung. Ahem. The skies are blue, flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and our children have gone stark. Raving. MAD.

What is it about Spring that makes them so completely insane? L can barely get through a school day without being reprimanded for goofing off and distracting the other kids lately. M is…M, but moreso. Those of you who know my children personally will understand how trying that is.

Meanwhile, my husband has escaped by taking a business trip to San Diego. I can’t wait for him to get home in a few hours so I can flee the house  let him get some quality time with the boys. Maybe then I can relax enough to get some work done. I need to update my goals, because I’ve had zero luck sneaking in work time between refereeing the rodeo of Spring Madness and preparing for our Spring Break plans.

Writing Goals:

  • Complete revision on Palace of Bone by the end of June 2013
  • Rework unnamed Earth Warden story for submission by Feb 28 (This so didn’t happen–try again!)
  • Rework unnamed Earth Warden story for submission by end of March
  • Finish draft of “To Eat Dragon” by March 20
  • Attend Dreamin’ in Dallas Conference March 29 – 30
  • Re-do outline for “Dancer” story, still not working

The new timeline is all wishful thinking. Between Spring Break right around the corner, M‘s birthday right after that, and then the conference and Easter right at the end of the month, I figure I’ll be lucky to get one of these done. But hey, you never know until you try!

Goodbye, Summer!

Photo: Running With Seagulls by Ed Schipul

Photo by Ed Schipul, used under Creative Commons License

I know it’s still actually summer. And for large swathes of the country, it’s even still summer vacation. Not here, baby! Yeehaw!

L went back to school on Monday, M is in preschool three days a week, and all the crazy running-around-to-visit-family is behind us for a while. Not that I don’t love visiting. It just plays merry hell with any attempt at scheduling, routine, and writing.

This has left me a little depressed, to be honest. I feel like I’m falling behind (weird, since I have no deadlines as such). There’s a sort of pressure that builds up inside when I’m not actively working on anything, and it tends to come out as…crazy. Yeah. So, time to let off some steam!

So, with that in mind, here are my goals for September:

  • Finish revisions on unnamed Bell Hunter story.
  • Complete current revision pass on Palace of Bone through at least chapter 10.
  • Rough draft of “dancer” story.
  • Use more unordered lists on the blog because I love those cute little spirals!

Desert Dreams 2012

Beth Cato and I stealthily blend into the landscaping.

So for those of you following along at home, Desert Dreams 2012 was a writers’ conference in Arizona, hosted by the excellent ladies of the Desert Rose chapter of the RWA. They did a fantastic job.

This was my first writing conference, and a chance to go somewhere sans children, so I was very excited. I planned to pitch my novel to an agent for the first time. I got the news late in the week that I’d be pitching to my friend Beth Cato’s agent, Rebecca Strauss. So yeah, I was a nervous wreck.

Complicating my plans was the fact that my older son came home sick during the week before the conference, severely cutting into my preparation time. Okay, I also discovered a tendency to panic and find a dozen last minute chores to take care of every time I sat down to work on my pitch, so that may have impacted my productivity as well. But hey, my cats are nicely waxed, so at least I have that going for me. Thankfully my travel plans went smoothly, kicking off with two of the women working the security checkpoint complimenting my hair. It was a weirdly auspicious start for the weekend. Anyway, here are a few notable moments from my trip to Desert  Dreams.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Bends

That pretty much describes how I’m feeling post-conference. I came up too fast from my dive into the publishing world and tried to hit the ground running in Mom/hostess mode. Yeah…not so much.

Desert Dreams was a fantastic experience! It was inspiring to spend so much time around other people who understand where I’m coming from and why I spend long periods of time making things up for fun. I will write a more comprehensive post about the conference when I’ve recovered a little.

It will be a daring tale of cheese ninjas, blood sacrifice, and why you should always always drink the wine at the “Practice What You Pitch” panel.

No really. Seriously. Drink the damn wine.

On Writing…
Rough drafts are crap. They are supposed to be crap. This is fertilizer for prettier drafts to come.~Beth Cato
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