Friday, December 28, 2012

E-Book Winner Announced!

Congratulations bhskittykatt, winner of a .pdf copy of my short story "Buster"! bhskittykatt's favorite dinosaur is the brontosaurus, better known as the apatosaurus, although neither name is technically wrong to use.

I used the highly scientific method of selecting a winner by writing all the names on little pieces of paper, putting them in a Santa hat I had lying around, and then drawing one out.

Don't forget, you can still buy a copy of "Buster" at the Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook stores for the low, low price of .99!

And if SF is more your thing, check out my short story "Christmas Eve in New London" in the anthology Dark Stars!

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season, and I'll be back in 2013!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Dark Stars by Earthbound Fiction and the Christmas Spirit

My latest release is not only the only read SF story I've ever written, it's also seasonally appropriate!

"Christmas Even in New London" just came out in Earthbound Fiction's anthology Dark Stars. I've read through the whole anthology and I have to say, it's pretty damn sweet.

"New London" actually grew out of my response to a challenge from Writer's Weekly; a couple years ago I tackled one of their 24-hour short story contests. While I strayed pretty far from the prompt (and didn't win the contest) I felt the story had potential so I expanded it and came up with what I feel is a decent little SF piece that explores loss, longing, and doing wrong with the best intentions.

You can find it here!

And remember, there's still time to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win an e-copy of my story "Buster", a madcap romp- with dinosaurs!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Friends!

Merry Christmas! Here is my gift; a clip from the greatest Christmas movie ever. Because nothing says love and cheer and goodwill toward men like killing the nasty old lady who bullies everyone in town.

And remember, get yourself a Christmas gift by leaving me a comment on my previous post! If your name is drawn from a hat this Friday, you get a FREE .pdf copy of my story "Buster", currently available for the Kindle and Nook!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Win a Really Cool New Story! About Dinosaurs!





IT'S OUT! My longish short story, "Buster" is now available on Amazon's Kindle Store and on Barnes & Noble's Nook Store. It has been a long road to publication for this one, and I want to thank my editor, Darwin Garrison, for his tenacity and hard work (and I want to thank Jennifer Miller for that sweet-ass illustration!).

Here's a summary of the story, from Amazon:

Matt Conway never expected his life to shift into high gear just because he rented a car. When a curious sound from his trunk leads to a discovery of massively avian proportions, though, suddenly he's hanging on for all he's worth just to avoid getting run over by the possibilities. From his relationship with his best female friend, Jane (who is anything but plain) to scrambling to outwit creepy corporate mad scientist wannabes, Matt had better keep his wits about him as he races to keep his new best friend, Buster, off the dissection table!

It's a bit funny, a bit madcap, and hopefully a pretty good read. And it's a whopping 99 cents, which at around 9,000 words works out to...I don't know, I hate math. But it's a lot of words per penny!

But wait, there's more! I'm giving away one free copy of "Buster" on this blog, in .pdf form so even if you don't have a Kindle/Nook/e-reader app on your PC, you can still check it out. All you have to do it reply to this post with a comment telling me what your favorite kind of dinosaur is. I'll let this contest run for one week, and next Friday I will put all the names in a hat and let my toddler pull one out.

My favorite dinosaur is, oddly enough, not the oviraptor, but the triceratops (yeah, yeah...torosaurus. I KNOW.).

So pick a Mesozoic favorite and win a copy of "Buster"! Well, one of you will. The rest have to pay cash money for it (and if you do read it, please leave a review wherever you bought it! Even if you hated it, let me know). Good luck!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Icecapade!

This is not particularly writing -related, but I am sick and Simon's cat never fails to make me smile. Here's the newest one, in which Simon's cat is outsmarted by Simon's kitten (you'd think after all his trials with one cat, Simon would have been bright enough not to acquire another...but cats, like dust bunnies- and books-, have a tendency to just start piling up).


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Help a Broad Out!






Hey friends! As you may or may not know, I am a member of Broad Universe, an organization devoted to promoting the work of female specfic authors (ha, Broad Universe...get it?). Recently one of our number revealed that she's facing a rough upcoming personal battle (she has pointed out that she doesn't usually reveal personal details to people on the Internet, so I won't go into specifics) and will need a lot of support, both emotional and financial.

S.A. Bolich doesn't want donations, but you can help out by buying her books that are available on Amazon: Firedancer and Windrider. I haven't read them yet but the reviews are great and the series' summary sounds really cool.

You can buy her books here and here, and her official website is here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Writing and Music: Two Great Things That Go Better Together

When I write, I usually have some background noise to soothe my brain into thinking of only one thing at once. Sometimes it's music, sometimes Law & Order (since I discovered that Netflix has the first eight seasons on Instant Stream...I love me some Lenny Briscoe). I've found that some music can definitely influence what you write though. Sometimes that can be a good thing.

For instance, Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell albums are so fantastically overwrought that if you can listen while writing and siphon off just a fraction of that emotion, you can construct a pretty damn good scene of despair, angst and, eventually, hope.


I LOVE THIS VIDEO. Shut up. I love it and I don't care who knows it.

Now, I don't like sappy, drooly love scenes. So if my love scene looks like it's getting slobbery, I remind myself to write it straight with The Pretenders.


Need an angry character? Linkin Park. Oh, yes. Linkin Park.


Writing horror? Try Apocalyptica's terrifying version of Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King. It kind of makes you think you're probably not leaving this mountain alive.



But if you're writing epic fantasy, you might to have a listen to...Epica. I actually saw them in concert a few days ago. I hadn't been to a concert since my son was born, and I'd forgotten how metal concerts make the walls tremble and the floor vibrate.

I think my hearing is almost back to normal.


And if you want someone to die in a terribly tragic manner, you can't go wrong with Queen.



And I'm throwing this in just because it's awesome and I think it's hilarious. With as many members as The Black-Eyed Peas has (there's like six people in that band) you'd think at least one of them would have talent. But it's like a perfect storm of suck. This video not only makes them better, but reminds us of how to tell the difference between a human and an android, which will be important to know during the coming machine wars.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Boris Strugatsky Dead at 79





Boris Strugatsky, one (and the surviving) half of the legendary writing team the Strugatsky Brothers, passed away yesterday at the age of 79 (his brother Arkady died in 1991).

They were barely known in the US, but these Russian authors were, in my opinion, among the finest SF writers of the 20th century, writing thoughtful, original, compelling stories.

If you're interested in checking them out, I highly recommend their most famous work, the novel Roadside Picnic (which was made into a Tartovsky film called Stalker). The latest US edition is a trade paperback that includes a fascinating afterword by Boris, describing the novel's torturous route to publication in the former USSR.

The book tells of a slightly-future world, in which aliens have abruptly descended and just as suddenly left, with no explanation of their brief presence. In their wake are large areas in several parts of the world filled with their leavings; strange alien technology. Only scientists are legally allowed into the zones to retrieve items for study, but most of the scientists (and some private collectors) are happy to hire stalkers, men who are reckless or desperate enough to enter and face things that make no sense in a human world and have no application they can figure out. Many of them end up dead, zapped by objects they can't understand.

The novel follows one particular stalker, and through him shows us the most poignant part of the story: that even the surviving stalkers don't escape unscathed; in fact, their children pay the price for their parent's exposure to the zone.We must watch as our main character's daughter slowly devolves (evolves) into something less (or more?) than human.

It's an amazing book, but is also just one amazing story among many the Strugatskys authored. Give them a chance, and you'll be sucked in as surely as I was.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Obsessions







There's three stacks and another bookcase I didn't photograph, because they were too messy. Even worse than my manga bookshelves there. >sweatdrop<

Friday, November 9, 2012

In the Rainforest, Everything Wants You Dead

Sorry to any arachnophobes who stumble upon this. I used to be a massive arachnophobe until I had a kid and a husband who is rarely home. You learn to get over stuff real quick because you don't want your children to learn your phobias. I still don't LIKE spiders, but I can tolerate them (or squish them if they are unusually large and/or aggressive- I can live with spiders in the corners, but if they're strolling across the living room floor and give me the 'wassup' head nod...that's a little cocky).

All that to say, I have a new story available! "Spawn of the Spider God" is now out in Fantastic Horror's new "Mythos Revisted" issue now on the Amazon Kindle store and in paperback from Createspace. My husband said this story of mine is particularly disturbing because, being a cringing arachnophobe at the time I wrote it, I knew exactly how to describe my beasties for maximum reader discomfort.

What's it about, you say?

Hundreds of men have vanished into the Amazon while searching for the fabled Lost City of Gold. Perhaps that's because...they found it.

The idea struck me while reading The Lost City of Z, a book about famed explorer Percy Fawcett who, along with his son and a friend, disappeared into the jungle around the turn of the century. It's a great book if you like vanished explorers. In addition, after reading River of Doubt (about Teddy Roosevelt's near-disastrous jaunt into the Amazon) I became consumed with the idea that, in the rainforest, everything wants you dead. Every animal, every plant, every bacterium, every speck of dirt that will work its way into a wound, infecting it so you die painfully and slowly.

In my story, the things that want you dead are a little bigger than a speck of dirt.

But enough about me. What do you think of me?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Triumphant Return

So I spent Halloween day to this past Monday taking part in the Greatest Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. It was created last year by Misha Collins, who is apparently in Supernatural (he plays an angel or the devil or God or something). The goal was to break the Guinness record for largest scavenger hunt. Well, they did, and it was so successful they did it this year too.

Now, my BFF is a huge Supernatural fan, so she joined up last year and asked me to help with a couple items. The challenges on the list (there are around 200) are insane; last year I had to make a copy of The Last Supper with action figures (Hulk Hogan was Jesus) and take a big bite of a meatball sub with mint chocolate chip ice cream on it. But it was fun, so fun I decided to register myself this year and become an official team member. If anything, the items were even weirder this year than last year, but here are the ones I completed (the BFF persuaded a firefighter to pose in front of a fire truck wearing nothing but a loincloth fashioned from kale, so she's a GISHWHES goddess...my contributions are as nothing compared to hers!).

One item called for a picture of a flea strip club. FLEA! Get it? I crack myself up.

This diorama is one of the most disturbing things I have ever created, actually.

In another, two people fighting in armor made of kitchenware. Here a friend and I (I'm on the right) go all gladiator and shit.


Here the husband and I kiss with twelve food items between us (Hershey's kisses, harhar).


The last one I'll post (the others have images of my kid, or personal information, or are GISHWHES in-jokes). My conception of what the most secret storage room in Area 51 looks like. Poor Mulder.

So I am back now. And tomorrow I should have a new story available, so I'll let everyone know. Looking forward to GISHWHES 2013!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!





Happy Halloween from Iron Man and Black Widow! They are taking time out from saving the world from Thanos' freaky armies to trick-or-treat at the zoo! Even though Stark could buy all the candy in the world if he wanted.

And my newest issue of The Fortean Times came today, so I get to read it (by flashlight) while freezing my ass off in the driveway waiting for kids to come get free sugar.

I LOVE HALLOWEEN!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tales From the (Former) Day Job




These days I'm a stay-at-home mom, but I used to be a full-time bookseller (I still cover shifts at my old store. It's so much easier to be nice to customers when you only work a couple days a month!). This post on Publisher's Weekly made me recall the crazy questions I got.

Most customers were fine, but some were one of two extremes: either they thought the booksellers were subhuman because we worked retail, or they thought that because we worked at a popular independent bookstore, we were gods with all the knowledge in the world. There were so many "I need a book, I heard about it on NPR three weeks ago and I think it was about a war but I can't remember which one"-type requests that they're not even worth mentioning here. But we got some doozies.

There was the kid who wanted The Anarchist's Cookbook. We didn't have it, but could order it. He didn't want to give me his name and address for the order. "I'll just go to Amazon," he smirked. Yes, because when you order things online they don't require your name and address. >rolls eyes< At least I am reasonably sure he never got it and didn't pipe-bomb his school.

There was the man who marched up to the information desk and barked, "The World is Flat!" (a popular title at the time). Since he couldn't be bothered to act like a civilized person, I grinned and said, "That's not what I learned in school!" The other customers nearby laughed. He did not.

Another woman asked, "Do you have the Holy Grail?" (I knew she wanted Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which was popular after The Da Vinci Code came out). She wasn't being rude, she was just flustered, so I didn't reply, "If I did, would I be working here?".

Once a woman called and said, "What's the name of that song they play on >radio station< all the time? It's like, "Craaaaaazy...". I had no clue. I found the number of the station for her, but she couldn't believe I didn't know what song she wanted. Later a co-worker heard the story and identified the song as being by Gnarls Barkley.

There are hundreds more that I could never remember, but the above are my favorites. Are there any other booksellers out there with awesomely weird customer questions to share?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bear in Love and Painting the Basement- a 2 for 1 post!

The other day I took my son to our regular story time at a local bookstore. That day they happened to have Will Hillenbrand- a popular local kids' book illustrator- there to read his newest book, Bear in Love. It's a sweet little story and the illustrations are gorgeous, so I bought a copy for my friend's daughter, who has a birthday coming up. This is how Mr. Hillenbrand signed it when he found out it was a birthday gift:






Very cute. I love it when authors do something extra when signing. Of course, if you're Stephen King, you probably don't have time to personally sign all 4,000 copies of your latest novel for all the fans in line, but if it can be accomplished, it's something most people will never forget.

In other news, I have been painting our basement. After an unfortunate sewage drain backup (guess who got to clean the initial grossness up?) that soaked into the basement carpet, the insurance company decided to pay to recarpet the entire basement plus stairs- because our original carpet was SO OLD they couldn't find a match anywhere. Works for us! I'd been wanting to paint the basement for a while (it was industrial gray) so this was the perfect opportunity- and I don't have to use a drop cloth since the carpet is done for anyway.

It's been almost a week and I am nearly finished (I am doing every step of this solo, and the basement is about the same size as the entire upper floor, so...yeah). While I was working the other night I thought that painting is kind of like writing. You get it finished, realize there's a bunch of missed spots and places where the old pain shows through and where you got new paint on the ceiling, and have to go back and cover them up. And then you notice more after that and do it again. Which is great, you don't want to do a sloppy job. But at some point you have to say 'good enough' and put a bookcase in front of that chipped spot. Otherwise you'd be working on this paint job forever and never move to another. At some point you have to stop worrying your story like a terrier with a rat and say, "Good enough."

Of course, in writing more than likely an editor will come back at you with more changes and things you STILL missed after 14 read-throughs. And that's their job and you should take them seriously. But initially, when the project is all yours, at some point you have to let go.

Personally, I'm glad we have a lot of bookcases in the basement.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Snoopthulhu





Check out my awesome new shirt. It's H.P. Charlie LoveBrownCraft and Snoopthulhu (yeah, I am wearing it in the picture).

Like it? Sorry, it was a Teefury shirt and only available for 24 hours about a week ago. But check out their site, they have lots of Lovecraftian shirts off anf on!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

R.I.P. Clementine Limberdark





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I lost my first RPG character last weekend. It was my first loss, and also my first RPG character; yes, I went down in my very first campaign. The game was Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which is similar to D&D but weirder and more vulgar (there's a campaign-level monster called The Time Fucker. Seriously.). Our GM chose a campaign called The Grinding Gear for my first foray into tabletop gaming. The Grinding Gear is what is popularly known as a 'fuck you' dungeon.

Thanks, Ed.

Her name was Clementine Limberdark, and she was a halfling. She left her village shortly after two of the other party members (who had played a campaign before with the same characters) unleashed a zombie apocalypse upon the world of Lamentations. She was searching for adventure, and found it when she was napping a tree and fell out of it right on top of the party, who happened to be passing beneath it.

I won't go into the grisly details, but in the course of four sessions poor Clem was volunteered by the others to check out every narrow hole and crevice no one else could fit into. She was terrorized by blood-sucking bats, attacked by a giant face-eating spider, nearly melted by green slime, tossed into a hole filled with headless zombie corpses, bitten by venomous centipedes, and finally, while fleeing something called a gelatinous cube, fell and hit her head, knocking herself out. At this point she had negative HP, which I didn't know was possible, and was unconscious, carried by my husband's demon elf from a hell dimension. While still comatose, we encountered a puzzle that meant the party had to recall some trivia from an earlier encounter. The surviving members (our thief having been taken out by poison gas earlier) couldn't recall the right answer. This resulted in all of us being electrocuted. And since Clem was already weakened...she bought the farm. The two losers who couldn't answer the question survived the entire game (well, since I was trying to help- from beyond my coma whoooooo- and I couldn't remember either, I guess I am also a loser), which was remarkable since the dungeon was basically designed to kill people quickly and brutally.

Rest in peace, little halfling. I'll have to reboot for the next campaign with Clem's cousin, halfling Cornelia Whistlebottom.

This entire episode brought to mind a panel I attended at Gen Con. It was a live taping of the podcast Writing Excuses (co-hosted by writing GoH Brandon Sanderson). They spoke to a writer/editor who complained of people trying to turn their RPG campaigns into novels. I had to snicker because, even though I was only three-quarters of the way through my first game, I knew that idea was ridiculous.

For instance, my friend's character in this game was the brother of his earlier character, who died while bringing about the zombie apocalypse. That guy was Hawk Aeonseeker. In keeping with the bird theme, Hawk's illustrious brother was Cockatiel Aeonseeker. Cock for short.

Cue two hours of cock jokes (the best: we were being attacked by mosquito bats, which suck blood. One landed on Cockatiel Aeonseeker. The thief cried, “Stop sucking on Cock!”). Sadly, my friend is a lunatic when it comes to these games and will press every button, pull every lever, and open every door he finds. So Cock didn't last long in the Fuck You Dungeon. This necessitated a replacement character who happened to wander in through the dungeon door we had left open...and later, another replacement who also wandered in through the same open door. This is highly amusing in an RPG. Not so much in a novel. The readers are going to rebel against such a nonsensical entrance, as they should. And while it's fine to kill off main characters in order to keep your readers on their toes, it's not really okay to go through them like tissues.

Also- and this probably isn't true of every campaign- The Grinding Gear was very, very repetitive. Clem's electrocution came after going through four identical rooms wired to kill, each with a trivia question. There were endless corridors, oubliettes, rooms we had to examine minutely. It's interesting when you're doing it, but reading about it is going to put anyone to sleep.

So don't novelize your campaign, for God's sake. And pray for Clash Nemesis, successor to both Cock Aeonseeker and Purity Grimoire. With Alex controlling him, he's going to need all the help he can get in our next game.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Before Gangnam Style...

YATTA!

For some reason I was thinking of this in the car as I drove back from the grocery. It never fails to make me laugh. This time I was laughing to myself so hard I almost screwed up on the roundabout by our house.

I think my favorite part is when the man gets blown off by the chick on the sidewalk and all his friends run out to comfort him in their sneakers and underpants. And no one on the street even seems to notice.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Literary Pin-up Girls!

I think I am the only person in the world (well, among my friends anyway) who wasn't particularly impressed by Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind. I won't go into why, but I'm not a drooling fan like everyone else I know. Yet today I happened across this post on his blog...and I just e-mailed the husband to tell him we need this calendar.

Literary Pin-Up Calendar

I love books, and I love many of the authors in this year's calendar, and I love pin-ups (they're so playful and cute!- and I like a nice rack as much as the next girl). I can't wait to see the Bradbury girl, the Beagle girl, the Martin girl...well, all the girls.

I do have to say I am glad this calendar doesn't feature the authors dressed as pin-ups though.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Stan Lee!

I don't do this very often, but I'm presenting to my followers a chance to help a kid meet his hero.

I became acquainted with David Wilde through the Gen Con forums. He writes an ongoing SF epic on his blog, and also blogs about the daily challenges of being high-functioning autistic and living with a son who has the same diagnosis, plus possible bipolar disorder.

This poor kid has had a rough couple years, and David thinks that meeting his hero will make a world of difference. I honestly don't know much about autism, but I do have a son, and I know if he had a chance to meet his hero I would do whatever I needed to do in order to make it happen.

(Of course, it helps that the kid's hero is Stan Lee, comic god of awesomeness. I can always get behind that).

So if you have a few extra dollars, please consider throwing them David's way so he can make his son's dream come true.


http://thewildeman2.blogspot.com/2012/09/send-this-autistic-10-year-old-to-meet.html

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Eureka!

Every once in a while, in writing, you have one of those "Eureka!" moments. It's when something comes together in your head, or you have some awesome revelation that opens up a character. They're uncommon but when they happens it's like God Himself just poked you.

My favorite Eureka moment occurred a few years ago when I was working on my first novel. In the story, my main character is seeking revenge. However, he is completely, utterly unsuited to violent acts of vengeance; his temperment is gentle. Everyone in the novel sees this but him. Still, he thinks he wants revenge.

I knew that wasn't really what he wanted, but I didn't know what he did want. I puzzled and puzzled 'til my puzzler was sore, with no luck.

At the time I worked in a bookstore. One day while straightened kids' pictures books I came across a (then)new title by Patrick McDonnell, cartoonist and animal activist who created the adorable strip Mutts. He had done a couple books before and I thought they were sweet, so I skimmed through the new one, Just Like Heaven.

In the book, the cat Mooch falls asleep under a tree. When he wakes up he is surrounded by fog, and since he is a cat and not really capable of critical thinking, he decides he must be in Heaven. He then takes a tour of 'Heaven', seeing his familiar places with the idea that they must be Heaven. The idea, of course, is that Heaven is a lot like home.

Reading it, I realized what my character secretly wanted. He wanted Heaven. More specifically, he wanted home. 

It was brilliant. I was nicer to customers than I had been in weeks. I couldn't stop smiling. EUREKA!

As much as writing can feel like banging your head against a brick wall, these rare moments of clarity make it all worthwhile.  So keep on truckin', waiting for the next Eureka moment.




Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gen Con Report Day 4: The End




Sunday we hauled ourselves out of bed and started packing. Even though we hadn't bought much, it still seems like we had way more stuff than we came with, which always happens.

I put on my favorite outfit- cute skirt, Hello Kitty t-shirt, Hello Kitty shoes (no, seriously), knee socks, adorable lion necklace, and braids. I was like a pastel Sanrio nightmare. I hit the only panel I planned on for that day: a 9 a.m. discussion on how to end your stories. Once again, I was entertained but not particularly informed, as most of what the panelists suggested was pretty basic stuff.

My husband had been waiting outside the dealers' room with a ton of other people until it opened at 10. By the time I got there around 10:10 the crowd was clear, so I waltzed in and over to Meg Lyman's table. The cuttlefish print I bought on Saturday made me so happy that I decided I needed more. I told her this, she seemed touched and I think she actually gave me a discount on the other two pieces I purchased.

I met the husband outside True Dungeon (we'll have to do that someday, maybe when the kid is old enough to come and enjoy it). He had a massive pyramid of Warhammer miniature boxes. He'd already bought a new rules book which is REALLY pretty, at least, as pretty as 40K could ever get. He spent a couple hundred but it was still far cheaper than buying his army elsewhere. I don't remember what they are exactly. Death Angels? Something like that. They look like robots.

We traipsed back to the hotel, checked out with a minimum of fuss and sat down to wait for the valet to retrieve our vehicle. And waited. And waited. Half an hour we sat outside with out stuff, among others all waiting for their cars as well, most of them toting much larger amounts of stuff. It appeared only two valets were actually working. They were apologetic about the wait and of course we didn't hold it against them, but you'd think the hotel would schedule more employees on a day when lots of people are likely to be checking out.

And that was the end of our Gen Con 2012 adventure. We'll be back next year, hopefully with me in a new costume (hee hee...>evil twining of fingers<). See you then!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gen Con Day 3: SHAZAM!


Saturday came after Friday, as it usually does. Saturday I couldn't drag my butt downstairs to the treadmill; in fact, I didn't even get up at the time assigned to the alarm clock, which is why I missed my first panel.

That say I costumed as one of my favorite superheroines- though she's partly my favorite because she has a costume that isn't made of spandex or particularly slutty-looking. Mary Marvel is the twin sister of Captain Marvel, and if you want people to yell “Shazam!” at you all day, wearing a Marvel Family costume is the way to get it done (there is also Captain Marvel, Jr.). Now, I wore her original costume from way back when- and by that I mean the 1940's- not her white costume from The Power of Shazam or her black latex costume from when she accidentally acquired Black Adam's powers. It's simple, comfortable and shockingly recognizable- last year I was surprised and pleased how many people professed to be Marvel Family fans. This year was not different. I posed a LOT and got to talk to some very cool people, including one guy who was taking pictures with all the superheros he saw to show his nephews that he really knew superheros, then asked me to sign a card for them as Mary Marvel! 



(and only one person called me 'girl Flash'...I can forgive that since the Marvel symbol and the Flash symbol look very similar)

The panel I missed was The Business of Writing. I actually hate the business of writing. I like writing, but I hate submitting, researching, networking, reading contracts...all that practical crap (which is probably why I needed the panel). I did attend the same panel last year, though, and if the other panels were any indication it probably wasn't going to tell me anything I didn't already know (but didn't want to hear).

My next panel was Big on Small Press. I am already big on small press; in fact, I decided some time ago to skip the big presses and market my stuff solely to small presses. I like the tight relationships between editors in the small press world, the way everyone seems to know everyone else, or at least their names. I like the fact that there is less bullshit (less money too, but if you write for the money you're better off selling your body. You get more money that way, at least if you're reasonably attractive and have a generous pimp). I also ran into Steven Saus of Alliteration Ink. I knew Steven from Millennicon a couple years back, and Gen Con 2011, and Fandomfest 2012. I was the only person to show up at his Read & Critique panel at Fandomfest, and he read the beginning of a novella I had. Then he generously offered to read the rest of the novella (he does this for cash money, so it was quite a generous offer). We did the exchange, chatted a bit, and then I skipped my next three panels in favor of the siren call of the dealers' room and lunch.


 
First, let me explain something about my feet at this point. My Mary Marvel boots have three-inch chunky heels and are just slightly too large. Last year I put on socks over my nylons, preventing my feet from sliding too much. This year I forgot (!) and instead spent hours wondering what was different about this year.

At any rate, by 10 a.m. my feet hurt. A LOT. I have had a c-section and I think walking in these boots was roughly equivalent to walking the day after my surgery, the pain was just in a different place. I was literally limping but hey, I'm a stoic. And a huge attention whore. No way was I taking off the costume on the busiest day of Gen Con.

And it was fortuitous that I didn't. Because while I was wandering the dealers' room, I caught sight of something amazing.

“Oh my God!” I shrieked to my husband. “An Uncle Marvel!”

In the old comics, Uncle Marvel was a man who pretended to be one of the Marvel Family- but when it came time to swing into action, he always had 'shazambago' and couldn't fly, so the others would give him a lift. Amazingly, he sometimes did things to really help out, like tricking Black Adam into saying the magic word so he turned normal again. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would see an Uncle Marvel. I RAN to him (not easy in those boots) with a huge fangirl squeal. We got several good pictures. Sadly, I didn't see him again that day. But from other people's galleries I saw that Uncle Marvel was in the costume contest, and now we're blog friends, and he's an awesome guy. That pretty much made my Gen Con right there.



I also found some new dice. I LOST my old set, which made me really unhappy as they were a gift from my husband and a very pretty blue. The new ones are red and blue and shiny. The Husband calls them my Superman dice. When we got home I tied my blood-red bag to his bag of dice so they won't be lost. My other acquisitions were a Hello Kitty shirt (surprise...), a Hello Kitty figurine, a Jesus Loves Gamers sticker for my laptop, and a stuffed goblin for the man-child. I very nearly fell prey to a fuzzy hat with fox ears but instead was beguiled by the artwork of Meg Lyman. Meg Lyman loves cephalapods almost as much as I do. And I really, really love them. I bought a postcard-sized piece (cuttlefish holding a rose...so romantic).

The Husband and I had lunch with three friends at a place called Scotty's Brew Pub. I don't drink (they were all trying different beers) but they had Arnold Palmers there, so it was A-OK. I had some kind of enchilada (that sadly came with black beans, which was not mentioned on the menu, but I managed to eat around them). Our waiter asked us about Gen Con and said he had recently begun playing D&D with some friends. Of course we gave him a big tip- gamer solidarity- and it wasn't until several hours later we considered the possibility that he just said that to people with Gen Con badges to get bigger tips. Not like he even needed to- gamers are some of the most generous people I have ever come across.

I made it to my 2 p.m. Panel- Writing Excuses Recorded Live. Writing Excuses is a podcast partly hosted by the Gen Con Writer GOH, Brandon Sanderson. It was entertaining to see other podcast hosts doing interviews and talking about stuff while actually staying on topic, something we at The Yellow Menace Podcast can't do to save our lives.


After that it was seven hours of people-watching, hall-wandering, picture-taking, Husband agonizing over whether to buy a shitload of Warhammer 40K stuff, and dinner at Johnny Rockets (it was all right but it did have places to sit, unlike the rest of the mall food court). Our server's nametag said “Kentucky” but when we asked what part of Kentucky she was from, she said she wasn't really from there and her manager had randomly put it on there. Strange. I had pictures made wit Powergirl and the best Phoenix I've ever seen, AND met a guy who showed me a picture of the Black Adam costume he wore to a local comic convention, but HADN'T worn to Gen Con. It was terribly disappointing, we could have had epic photos with Uncle Marvel. Dude, if you read this, wear it at Gen Con 2013 on FRIDAY. 



At this point I was in such horrific pain that I had to go back to the room and change into tennis shoes and my Game of Thrones Clegane t-shirt. Oddly enough, the first day of the con I had seen a man wearing the same shirt. I almost yelled “I have that shirt!” at him, but he was talking to someone so I didn't.

I had bought tickets to the Tom Smith concert at 10 p.m. Tom Smith is the only filker who consistently makes me laugh and who seems to hate fairies as much as I do. We had to walk to another hotel about a block away. The first song he performed was actually Smash the Fricking Fairies, my favorite! There followed a mix of old and new for an hour, including new songs about how watching Death Trap turned a redneck onto his potentially homosexual side (seriously, it's not even that hot of a kiss) and the Mighty Thor's version of John Denver's “Rocky Top”.

We later stopped by to see the ruins of Cardhalla, which had been speedily cleared away so there wasn't much to see. Then, bed.











Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gen Con Day 2: Everybody Loves Owls


Friday I actually managed to drag my lazy ass out of bed at 6 a.m. and hit the treadmill in the hotel's exercise room. It's a really nice place; the treadmills even have little TVs with cable on them. There were some guys already working out, which was kind of annoying as I like to work out in privacy (since I probably look like a moron doing it) but was also good, because when there are other people there you don't want to look like a pussy so you try harder.

Then I hauled myself upstairs and put on Friday's costume: Athena, complete with laurel leaves and owl. The owl was a burrowing owl puppet by Folkmanis (burrowing owls = not native to Greece, but he look liked an Athenian owl). I just tucked his legs into the hand-pocket and safety-pinned him on. He stayed up surprisingly well. I discovered two things during the 14 or so hours I wore this costume:

 
  1. If you want people to like you, just pin a stuffed animal to your shoulder

Seriously, walking along, people kept glancing at me and smiling. I thought, “Wow, people really like Greek mythology!” Then I realized they weren't smiling at me- they were smiling at the owl! Every time I stopped for a picture the photographer commented on my owl. Kids loved it. I heard one girl say, “She has an owl! I want an owl!!” (sorry parents, I didn't mean to). So if you're kind of socially awkward and want to make friends, pin a stuffed animal to your shoulder and you will instantly be Mr/Ms Popular.

  1. Corsets, worn for 14 Hours, Hurt Like Hell and Leave Marks for Days

Although my friend Kim, who is well acquainted with corsets, told me that quality ones with steels stays don't do this. Guess I better shell out next year for a real one. Also, I've complained about women wearing corsets before, so I will only say this once: back panels, ladies. They do exist. And also if your breasts are hitched up so high that if you look down you would suffocate, you might want to reconsider how tight you have that thing cinched.

My first panel was 9 a.m., Mano-a-Mano. This could have been about gay sex in fiction, or fighting, and it turned out to be about fighting. Ah, well. It was very entertaining and pretty helpful for someone like me who sucks at writing action. Next I had a panel about Alexander the Great (speaking of gay sex...). This panel was a bit of an ordeal to find. I didn't know there were actually two Marriott hotels connected to the ICC (TWO? Overkill a bit?) and so ended up in the wrong one. I had to cross a parking garage to get to the correct one, and then ask for help finding the room. I know the most popular events will be held in the highest-traffic areas (and I am grateful the writing panels are!) but I actually skipped a couple panels later in the weekend because I didn't want to have to track them down in one of the hotels. I don't blame Gen Con; I need to be more proactive about finding where things are, I suppose.


 
I checked on the Husband in the gaming hall (he was playing some sort of massive 100 hour Battletech game) and wandered the Dealers' Room, picking up two books from Chaosium (weird tales of Arthur Machen volumes 1 and 2; I am grateful to Chaosium for keeping a lot of awesome stuff in print, but I only pick up their stuff at cons because I have heard stories about the difficulties of actually receiving the things you order from them).

I hit my next panel, the Structure of Scenes, around 1. And here is something about the Writers' Symposium that I noticed this year: a lot of the panels I attended had the same panelists as last year, and several were on the same subjects I saw last year. I really like the authors, so no quarrel there, but I didn't feel this year like I was learning much that I didn't learn last year. Not all the panels were the same, of course, and I enjoyed them regardless, but much of the advice given is aimed at new authors. I certainly don't believe I can't learn anything new; as a writer I am always learning and improving. But 'new author advice' is something I've already heard quite a bit. Next year I would like to see more panels aimed at specific genres: horror writing, taboos in various genres, the use of folklore in fantasy etc. But that's a suggestion to send to the Symposium director...

I grabbed lunch at Subway, knowing I wouldn't have another chance to eat that day, ate in on a bench next to a man who kept checking his phone (and didn't smile at my owl. Strange). Also ran into a Deadpool in the dealers' room. Luckily he didn't talk nearly as much as the real one.

 
I spent more time people-watching, and skipped a panel called Ghost Ships (a shame as I love ghost ships!) because it was in a hotel I had never even heard of before- later I found it was the Crowne Plaza, about a block from the ICC. I will know for next year!

My last Friday panel was another Read & Critique. It was run by the same crew who ran my Friday R&C last year- all friends (two are even married) who have no problem squabbling over their opinions. Luckily, they are always entertaining. I ended up being the last to read, was not quite ripped apart, and got some very good publishing advice from the group, which I really appreciated as at this point it was nearly 10:30 p.m. and we were all running on fumes.

I met up with the Husband, realized I was hungry, realized further that nothing was open (Husband had eaten out with some friends and regaled me with stories of a motorcycle rally that was happening on the same weekend, including ladies serving at a bar in their undies to a crowd of bikers- sorry I missed that). I settled for a hot chocolate from the Starbucks in the JW Marriott. We also checked the progress of Cardhalla.


I watched part of a Law & Order episode (told you- ALWAYS ON) and crashed my aching, corset-marked body into the comfy Courtyard bed.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gen Con Report: Day One: Safety Razor My Ass


This year's Gen Con really fucking hurt. Well, most of it was my own damn fault, but not what happened Thursday. And it wasn't just me, either. The Husband had his share of Gen Con agony.

So we get to our hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott, around 3. It's about a block or two from the convention center where the bulk of Gen Con events are held. It's pretty swanky (see picture below) with a couch and a tiny fridge and everything. Sadly we weren't in there very much to appreciate the selection of cable channels, but they were probably all playing Law & Order reruns anyway.



Once there I reached into my suitcase front pocket to grab my lipstick. And you know what? The cover thing on my safety razor, which was also in that pocket, had somehow come off. OWOWOWOWOWOW. There was a great deal of blood and a great deal of stinging pain. I wrapped my poor index finger (on my right hand...and I'm right-handed) in a tissue and managed to button my dress one-left-handed, which takes mad skills. It seems I took a sizable chunk of skin off my finger (which makes me wonder what happened to the gouged-out flesh. Is it still in my suitcase pocket? I am afraid to look), so it was still bleeding when we went downstairs...and still bleeding when I asked the guy at the front desk for a band-aid. He provided one promptly and I put it on, preventing me from bleeding all over their lobby and leaving a trail to the convention center. Because neither rain nor snow nor hail nor gruesome hand injury will keep me from my Gen Con.

We arrived at the convention center about 4 p.m. and picked up our badges and tickets with no wait. There was a slight hitch because my husband uses his middle name, so what I put on his tickets didn't match up with his license, but they let us go...this time. What? I forget he has a real name sometimes since he never uses it.

We wandered about to refresh our memories from last year of where everything was, then met up with my friend Kimberly Goldstein (proprietor of Smoldering Wick designs). We headed to the food court in the attached mall for dinner- the last time that weekend I was able to find a vacant table there, and even on Thursday we had to sit back in the corner.

My first panel of the weekend was 6 p.m. Thursday, Read and Critique. How this works: a group of writers gather in front of a panel of authors/editors. They have 3-5 minutes to read a piece they've written, and then the authors/editors tear them to shreds. It's awesome.

No, seriously. As a writer, you have to crave criticism. It's the only way to get better. Last year and this year I signed up for two Read & Critique sessions at Gen Con. Last year they were free; this year they were $4 apiece, which I didn't mind. The only problem was that at the Thursday session, one of the four panelists was a no-show, and one of the remaining three had been double-booked and had to leave only an hour or so in. So by the time they got to me, they were down two critics. I really like having a variety of opinions and suggestions and it was a little disappointing to lose two from the get-go. It wasn't the fault of the panelists or the Writers' Symposium but some sort of general scheduling glitch.

I brought a short story I have been having a LOT of trouble with. It's been revised half a dozen times and I'm still not happy with it, but at the Read & Critique I got some fresh perspective and solid advice. Since that was what I was after, I consider it a success. The session ended unusually early (while the program claims Read & Critiques run from 6-8:30, last year I didn't get out of either of mine before 10)- winding up right around 8:30. Certainly the small panel and their relentlessly keeping things on track helped a lot!

Shortly after meeting up with the Husband, we ran into Ed and Steph McWalters, who invited us out to dinner, and were shortly joined by Alex Mayo and Greg Harris. On the way to Buca di Beppo we came across some more friends of Alex, who also joined us for late munchies.

Buca di Beppo is a family-style restaurant, which means you order a bunch of crap and every passes it around. Thanks to this policy, and to everyone ordering large portions to share, we ended up with what can only be referred to as a metric fuckton of Italian food. And since I had eaten earlier, I didn't partake...much (except the garlic bread, bruschetta, carbonera-type pasta, and pizza). During dinner I was charmed by a conversation about the variety of ways hemorraghic viruses can kill you (Ebola FTW in that case). Even with such a large group, we ended up with pounds of leftovers, which we packed up and sent home with the only local, Greg. Hope his family enjoys Italian food.
 
The Husband and paused to check out the progress of Cardhalla- very impressive even on Day One- and staggered back to our swank hotel room where we watched a rerun of Law & Order and rested up for the next day.

Well, the Husband ended up waking with a pinched nerve in his neck, so he definitely didn't sleep, and I didn't much. But it didn't really impact Day Two. 


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Maze!

E-books are all fine and good, but I quite literally feel nauseous at the thought of ever getting rid of my physical books. After all, they are good for all kinds of things besides reading:

1) Doorstops
2) Makeshift coffee table
3) Lash them together for a raft in case of flood
4) Build a fort
5) Maze

Maze?

I can see it now.

Me: "Oh, this title near the bottom looks interesting, maybe I can angle it out realllllll slow and-WAAAAH!"  >CRASH<

Book mazes: not for bookworms.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fifty Shades of...Station Wagons?

I haven't said much about 50 Shades of Grey since I haven't read it all (oh wait, I think I said it was shit. Never mind). Someone recently sent me a link to a tumblr thing (I am not sure what tumblr is, if it is a site or what) with quotes taken directly from the books.

While there is some incredibly awkward writing, my favorite quote so far has the main character referring to her boyfriend's (master's? Whatever) Audi SUV as a 'beast of a car'.

This makes me think E.L. James, the author, has never actually seen an Audi SUV. Here is a picture of one. In America, we call these 'station wagons'.





Also in these quotes this Grey guy is continuously referred to as a 'Dark Knight', which makes me think he sounds like Christian Bale's dopey gravelly Batman voice. Not like Michael Keaton's Batman voice. His is too good.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

ERMAHGERD

I don't usually get too into memes (like everyone else on the planet I loved LOLcats until they kind of took over the Internet, now I am sort of 'meh'). But for some reason "Ermahgerd" cracks me up (if you haven't seen it, type 'ermahgerd' into Google- the meme just has pictures, with the caption "Ermahgerd >something<" but written like the Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show talks).

So I made a couple of my own.

I love cyptozoology. And like most crytozoology buffs I have a special soft spot for the thylacine, probably because its extinction (supposed extinction!) wasn't due to climate change or destruction of its habitat, but was caused by pure, simple human selfishness.

So:

 

And another, showing my devotion to the Highlander universe (well, I actually like the series better but it is surprisingly difficult to find a picture of Adrian Paul making a funny face).






So now you know the truth about why I am such a slow writer- it's not due to my having to write longhand, or my busy life...it's because I can't stop looking at and contributing to stupid Internet memes.

I hate myself.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to Handle a Bad Review


I recently came across this blog post about an author who received a middling review on Amazon from another author, then announced his intention on his own blog to go and give her a bad review as revenge, then did so.

What a moron.

In the incriminating blog post, the author, Phil Torcivia, declares that by forgiving 'bad behavior', we are encouraging it, and so he has a God-given duty to punish those whom he believes to be misbehaving. Because writing your honest opinion of a book is somehow misbehaving.

Let's look at some other people who feel it is their right to punish people who, by their standards, behave badly:

1. Hannibal Lector.

In the film Red Dragon, Lector says that he kills people who are rude. I also dislike rude people, but I have neither the inclination nor the energy to kill them.

2. The Punisher.

Frank Castle has a good reason to be pissed. But he's spent the last 30 years or so killing naughty guys. Look where it got him: alone, covered in scar tissue, and full of bitterness. I love me some Punisher comics (movies, not so much) but no one really wants to end up where he is.

Poor Phil. Instead of manning up and swallowing this 'bad' review- because the proper way to respond to any bad review is TO DO NOTHING (if the review was somehow maliciously motivated- LIKE HIS WAS-, it always is obvious in the review itself). Instead, he is wasting valuable time when he could be writing to play silly Internet games.

To summarize:

Everyone has a right to their opinion.

When you put your work out there, you will receive their opinions.

Not everyone will love you and give you five stars, except maybe your mommy.

When someone criticizes your work, shut the fuck up and smile and nod. Whether you think it is warranted or not.

Otherwise you will end up in a Plexiglass cell in the basement of a prison, or miserable and alone in a series of shitty apartments in New York.

And no one wants that.



Monday, July 2, 2012

No Peeing in Fiction

I think one of the reasons that fiction is fiction, is because in fiction no one ever goes to the bathroom.

One of the things that struck me about Curt Benjamin's Seven Brothers trilogy (which in the way of fantasy trilogies is actually four books) is that every couple chapters, the main character would wake up in a tent somewhere and have to pee. Which he did. It was a just a sentence or two, but it added a touch of reality to a fantasy story.

Unfortunately, it was kind of boring. I mean, the reason that very few people in fiction ever have to pee is that it's not very interesting. You go in, do your business, and that's it. Even devoting a couple sentences to peeing or whatever can slip a tad of doubt into the reader's mind- "Really? We're interrupting saving the world to take a piss? I just assume every once in a while the characters go behind a tree or something."

I'm not particularly grossed out by bodily functions- I'm in the middle of potty training a toddler, so nothing icks me out anymore-, it's just that while they're important in real life, they're not really in fiction. Unless you're writing erotica, in which case there are a couple bodily functions that could be important to your story. Maybe if you were writing about a pregnant woman, peeing and vomiting would be important because you have to do it constantly when you are pregnant, but that's about it.

So no, people in my stories don't pee. I hope you can live with that.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Audio Books...More or Less


So there's this book called Fifty Shades of Gray. The husband and I read an excerpt online, and you know what? It did bring us closer together as a couple. Because we were laughing so fucking hard we had to hang onto each other to keep from collapsing to the floor. Seriously, this book is shit. But I might still buy an audio copy if Gilbert Gottfried actually did read it.

(I keep hearing women are enthralled and intrigued by this amazing new thing called BDSM. Where the fuck were they living? Under a rock on a desert island somewhere? That's shit's on CSI, it's so mainstream now.


Here's a better book: Go the Fuck to Sleep, which every parent should be able to relate to, unless their kid sleeps all night since they were born, in which case their child is a freak who will probably murder them in their bed one day. It's read by brilliant lunatic director Werner Herzog, who seems like a cool guy to hang out with until you really think about it and realize he'll probably make fun of you later to his intellectual director friends.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Gen Con 2012 and Fandomfest

The main reason I have this blog is that when I attended the writers' track at Gen Con last year, all I heard was "Social media self promotion blah blah blah." So here I am.

Last year was my first year at Gen Con (went to Dragon*con before, but man was that getting too crowded for my tastes). I adored it. I game very, very casually but there are so many other panels and subjects (plus the above-mentioned awesome writers' track) that I am kept continually busy anyway.

I also post on an Asian pop culture blog called Yellow Menace, and am part of the YM podcast team. They also do a gamecast minus myself. And the really cool thing is, the YM gamecast hosts have been selected to produce some of the This Just In...From Gen Con!

This is a huge deal. This Just In...is required listening for all Gen Con attendees so they know what is happening and what is going to be happening, and for all the poor people who couldn't make it so they can vicariously live some of the thrill of Gen Con. It's a big honer for my friends to be selected as hosts, and I know they are going to work their asses off to make it awesome. They need some new equipment to pull it off right though, so if you want to throw a couple bucks their way they have a website where you can do so (and I hear the guys will do a striptease if you give them enough):


http://thisjustinfromgencon.com/2012/06/18/we-need-your-help-make-this-best-tji-ever/

As for me, I have my own stuff going on. But I'll be dressed as Athena (complete with-fake, sadly-owl) on Friday and old-school Mary Marvel on Saturday, so I should be easy to spot unless we're in a crowd because I am only 5"5.

In addition, the husband and myself will be attending Fandomfest in Louisville, KY the last week in June. It started out a couple years back as a horror film festival but has developed into a full-fledged con, complete with awesome writing guests like John Scalzi and Robin Hobb (although I bear a grudge against her for the shitty last book in the Assassins' Trilogy...sorry Robin, you really dropped the ball on an otherwise enchanting series). Some guy named Bruce Campbell is also going to be there, so whatever. We'll be there only Saturday, though. If you want to meet up or something give me a holla (I am so with the modern slang).


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

SF in "Nature"...But Not by Me

So there's this guy I know. He's an OK guy, and sometimes he writes too, and his stories are OK. He wrote an SF story and sent it to Nature. You know, the most prestigious scientific journal in the world? They have a back page feature called "Futures" where they print SF. Frederik Pohl has been on it. So have some other famous people, but I only care about Frederik Pohl since I love him so very much.

Anyway, this guy got in, and here is his story.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v486/n7402/full/486286a.html

It's a pretty amazing story, actually. And to be honest he's a pretty amazing guy too.

That's why I married him.