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:

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.

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!

Photo by bogenfreund, used under Creative Commons license.

Photo by bogenfreund, used under Creative Commons license.

So how is everyone else faring in this post-Mayan-Apocalypse world? I have to say I’m pretty pleased the world didn’t end in December. The holidays were good to me, aside from the inevitable fifteen pounds I gained from “things I really shouldn’t eat but family made them, so I’ll just have a taste.” Oh, and immediately after New Year’s everyone in our family got sick. That made it a tad difficult to get back on the work-out wagon, but there’s always tomorrow. Or next month. Pass the Girl Scout cookies.

In the meantime, I’m starting over on my revisions with Palace of Bone. I’ve started the “How To Revise Your Novel” course by author Holly Lisle, and while the process is difficult for me (hello analytical brain, nice to know you’re still in there) it makes so much more sense than what I was doing, which basically amounted to agonizing over individual word choices while covering my ears and yelling “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you!” at the glaring plot holes and inconsistencies.

There’s something about reading your manuscript on paper that makes it look more real. Suddenly I can’t just wipe out an embarrassing typo with two clicks of the mouse. Nor can I delete the three sentences of redundant dialogue that make my protagonist sound like a babbling idiot and blithely pretend I never wrote that drivel in the first place. I have to face my drivel. It’s humbling, and it’s hard to get through it without wanting to give up.

I have faith that the story will emerge from this process stronger and better. Or, at the very least, I will have learned a few things about crafting a story without plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through. Hopefully. Wish me luck, won’t you?

Or send cookies.

Writing Goals:

  • Complete revision on Palace of Bone by the end of June 2013
  • Rework unnamed Earth Warden story for submission by Feb 28
  • Finish draft of “To Eat Dragon” by March 10?
  • Attend Dreamin’ in Dallas Conference March 29 – 30
  • Re-do outline for “Dancer” story, still not working
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!


Yesterday, I asked my brain to get serious about this whole “editing and revising” thing we’re supposed to be doing. Instead, my brain flashed a shiny new 4000 word short story at me.

So we went with that. Now I have two things to edit and revise. I ask you, brain, what the hell was the point of that little detour, hmm?

Still, it did let me work out some world building and details for a character who’s been kicking around the back of my head for a while. Once my brain has recovered from its current puddingy consistency (don’t ask), I’ll write up a bit about Bell. I think you’re going to like her.

Well, I like her, anyway. That’s good enough for now.

Yeah, I totally geeked out on the title there, sorry. Still, some +5 Shears of Editing would come in really handy right about now.

This particular novel wanted to be Young Adult, whatever I thought about that plan (I’m actually quite enjoying it). The average length on a YA novel tends to be on the lower. I’ve seen estimates ranging from 40,000 to 80,000 words with the caveat that only books with speculative fiction elements should be at the higher end of that range.

When I pitched this at Desert Dreams 2012, I couldn’t remember my exact word count after the latest revisions. I guesstimated that it was around 90,000 words–too high, but not ridiculously outside the realm of possibility, especially for fantasy.

Imagine my surprise when I finally sat down to work on further revisions this week and saw the actual word count: 94,000. Whoopsie!

Thankfully I already had plans to axe a couple of scenes. That brought me down to about 90,000 words yesterday. Today I condensed three more scenes, so I was feeling pretty good about my progress. Then I checked my current word count: 90,500.

I’ll be damned if the thing is getting shorter, but it’s definitely getting better.

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.

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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.