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Here I Am!

Letter A. Just Because.Here I am! With two whole weeks before I hit the road for Alt*Con, my task list is almost manageable. I’m steadily chipping away at the fifth book in the Children of the Desert series, setting up lots of promotions and free fiction offerings for The Scribbling Lion, reviewing my stack of books from The Sleeping Hedgehog, working through my To Be Read pile… and finally, finally, returning to this long-neglected blog. The price of adding on more and more tasks, I suppose–something had to slide, and this blog was the target this time around.

Let’s see…so much to tell you about, where do I start?

Well, how about with the Virginia Festival of the Book, which was a lot of fun. The weather was absolutely gorgeous for walking around the city, and I took advantage of that as much as possible, discovering fabulous chocolate shops and toy shops and bookstores (yeah, surprise!).

The SFF panel on Friday night, led by Chris Oakley, featured myself, R. S. Belcher (Six Gun Tarot), David B. Coe (Rules of Ascension, many more), and Colleen Doran (Vampire Diaries, Absolute Sandman, many more). I’d met Rod and David before, but this was my first encounter with Colleen–and I’m pleased to say that it was very rewarding. She’s sharply intelligent, passionate about her career, knowledgeable about her field, and articulate. Definitely someone I’d recommend as a panelist, and she’d make a wonderful artist GoH.

The panel went to audience Q&A right after our introductions–and, predictably, the majority of the questions involved making money as a writer, self-publishing, the impact of ebooks, and so forth. They weren’t in any way bad questions, mind you, and it was a very good discussion overall. It’s just that I hear the same line of questioning over and over at conventions: how do I make it big as a writer? Do I need an agent? An editor? What about self-publishing? How do I “win the game”?

(Hint: the answers don’t change that much at the end of the day. They could best be summarized as–Write a lot, then write a lot more. Then keep writing… Sometimes…. ALWAYS … It’s a shitload of heartbreaking work; and There is no game to win. There is just you, the keyboard, and your vision.)

To me, if you’re going to attend a panel of smart and talented creative folks with a wide array of experiences and backgrounds and skill sets–why the hell would you ask a question that you can answer for yourself within twenty minutes of searching online? Why not ask questions that the panelists are uniquely qualified to answer?

But at the same time, in every audience, someone usually comes up with good, challenging questions that are a delight to answer. So it balances out in the end. And to be totally fair, Colleen is uniquely qualified to answer those sort of questions, and did so with an admirable, precise clarity.

Moving away from my not-enough-coffee grumpy grumbles and into something more interesting, I’ve recently discovered an intriguing blogging challenge: the A to Z challenge. Essentially, it asks you to commit to writing a blog post of at least a hundred words a day for a month (weekends off), subject chosen by consecutive alphabet letters. Since I’m not currently feeling broken-down-overwhelmed, I’m considering taking up this gauntlet. It does mirror my own research-for-fun model, after all; I love using the alphabet as a guideline for random research topics.

Of course, I’m looking at the calendar…and at the April 1 start date of the challenge…and at the free fiction I’ve committed to putting up over on The Scribbling Lion…and the support I’ve pledged for Gail Z. Martin’s April 1 book launch…and the visit to see the grandkids that I’ve promised myself this weekend…and the editing job on my desk…and the 500 words a day I’ve promised myself to accomplish on Book Five…and the work I need to do on my main web site…and the work I need to do on sprucing up and smoothing out wrinkles in TSL’s web site…and….

Hmm. Maybe I’ll pick up that challenge in May…

Hey. I’m learning. :DZ. Just Becauzzz.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in promotions, Research, Writing Fiction

 

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Dancing Like A Mad Monkey Time

Dance Like A MonkeyI’ll let you in on a little secret, something I never tell anyone.

My dad used to call me “monkey”. When he went on business trips, sometimes he’d come home with monkey hand-puppets or stuffed monkeys or something similar. I always totally adored those toys, even when I was an angry, sulky teenager in constant conflict with my dad and everyone else around me. I was so embarrassed to admit that. I still am. But I’m telling you now anyway.

Why?

Because of parallels. Two years ago in March, my dad died of a ridiculously aggressive cancer. This March, right now in fact, there’s a monkey-themed anthology on Indiegogo that aims to support a writing friend of mine who’s been battling a different, but equally aggressive cancer. This writing friend is about my dad’s age, and he’s been really damn cool about boosting my confidence and giving me advice on how to be a professional writer.

One of this writer’s favorite sales pitches is “I’ll dance like a monkey for a nickel.”

If you haven’t already guessed, the writer in question is C.J. Henderson. And yes, I’ve been pushing and shouting about sending in donations for a while now. And I’m gonna continue to do so, because while we thought he had the damn cancer licked once–turns out it’s still there, bigger and badder than ever. He’s in a LOT of pain, folks, which means he can’t write, can’t go to conventions to sell his books–can’t, in short, make his normal paycheck happen.

I’m not going to let this go. Too many of us writers live right on that line, terrified of being in that same situation.

If you can donate, even a dollar, please do so; if you can’t, please spread the word on your social networks. While the previous campaign I’ve talked about is through Youcaring (and that one still needs every penny of support it can get–the funds donated go directly to CJ and his medical bills), this campaign is run through Indiegogo, which has somewhat less popular reach than, say, Kickstarter. So if you haven’t yet reposted the Youcaring campaign link, please do so; if you’re more interested in getting a reward for your donation, that’s perfectly OK! Back the Indiegogo anthology fundraiser.

(By the way, the writers involved in the anthology form a fairly impressive list: Kevin J. Anderson, Danielle Ackley McPhail, Mike Resnik, Gail Z. Martin, and many, many more.)

Please don’t stand aside and ignore this. Even a simple “share” or “like” on FB, Twitter, Google+, or whatever social network you frequent is a huge help.CJ Dances MonkeyStyle

There are always reasons not to donate. There are always reasons not to help. I don’t know this person, I don’t have the money, I don’t have the time

When I sat by my dad’s hospice bedside, I thought of all the reasons I hadn’t talked to him, all the fights that made it easy to avoid one another over the years. I had a lot of very good reasons. I still stand by a lot of those reasons. We did not get along well at all.

But at the end of the day, the years of distance left me sitting by his bedside with nothing left to say, no way to show him that I really did care….

….except to bring him one, small, stuffed monkey that I set on his bedside table. I don’t even know if he understood the significance of that toy. I never explained it to him–by that point, he wasn’t really coherent enough for that kind of conversation. And I was always too close to tears to even risk speaking, let alone talk about anything emotionally sensitive.

I’m certainly not saying that CJ is a father figure to me–not even remotely. But the parallels in this situation are making me think about my dad a lot these days. Making me remember how damn tough the last couple years of Dad’s life were–not only on him, but on everyone around him who helped as best we could. How sometimes, the little things were the biggest: a hug, a single flower, someone else picking up supplies at the store, a phone call. A few moments of time and a couple dollars spent on a goofy gift. Essentially, the nickels and dimes added up to a huge sum of being a family.

And one of the things I love the most about the SFF community as a whole is that, for all of our bickering and fractiousness and factions and infighting, we are a family.

So yeah. I’m not going to let this go.

It’s time to be part of the family; time to drop a nickel in just one of these buckets.

Time to help CJ keep on dancing.

The links, one last time:

Indiegogo campaign: Monkeying Around For A Good Cause

Youcaring campaign: Society For The Preservation of CJ Henderson

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Further Grousing

Twenty minutes ago I felt healthy and coherent enough to write a series of blog posts. By the time I sat down in front of my computer I was a zombie again. So this post is going to be a whiny rant about how frustrating it is to be sick. No, actually, it’s not, because that would take too much energy. I’m just going to retreat to bed and sleep some more, and curse my effed up respiratory system/allergy issues that keep landing me further and further behind on all the fantastic things that I want to do soooo badly. It’s been six days since Ring of Fire. Two weeks since Mysticon. I want to send out thank you notes, I want to catch up with two dozen interesting people I met along the way, I want to write blog posts about, well, writing, and developing background, scenery, details, descriptions, family ties–I have so many ideas bouncing around through my head! I have newsletters to write and new subscribers to welcome to The Scribbling Lion, four different time sensitive fiction projects to work on (three of which are already overdue)….I want to post first chapter segments of my books, and Q&A stuff, and do the same for the other folks teaming up to support The Scribbling Lion…

And I have this tiny window of useful brain time to work with, and it’s all gone by the time I’ve reached my desk. SO. FRUSTRATING.

Hm. I seem to have managed a whiny blog post about being sick after all…. well, never mind. I’ll see if I can get something done on the laptop between naps…

Thank you, everyone, for your patience. I’m doing the best I can. I promise. And I’m doing BETTER. I was able to write this much, which is more than I’ve managed for the past week.

“Just” a cold? hah. Right.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

I’ll Get Back Up…

…sorry for the long delay here, folks, I’ve been alternately busy with conventions, setting up The Scribbling Lion, and being horrendously ill. Every time I get up, I seem to get knocked down again. Here’s to heaving myself to my feet and charging at the windmill once more… and thanks for your patience!

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Harrassment and Housecleaning

Wow, hey, it’s been a while. Sorry about that. I’m beginning to see the surface of my desk at last…

One of the things I want to make a great big whooping noisy deal about is the way so many conventions are picking up the pace on harassment policies. Arisia recently showed that their revised harassment policy now has serious teeth, which is a GREAT advance from previous years, judging by what I’m seeing across various comment threads. (And I have more to say about this particular incident, as well, but I’ll have to come back to it later…)

I’m very happy to see that the convention I’ll be at soon, Mysticon, also has a very nicely laid out policy; you can check that out here. The only bit in that policy that bugs me a little is the profanity restriction, because, yanno, I swear a lot. But I try not to do so when I’m in professional mode, so I ought to be okay… :)

Unfortunately, another convention I’m headed out to soon, Ring of Fire in Virginia Beach, does not appear to have a specific harassment policy in place yet. Their general policies also strike me as slightly overboard in some respects, but I suspect that the occasionally odd wording has more to do with the laws in VA Beach and the fears of the host hotel than with the real feelings of the con-com. VA Beach is a … well, a unique sort of town, with rather stiff and starchy laws and policies, in my experience. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens at this convention!

I’m in the process of going through all the other upcoming conventions on my schedule so that I can talk about their policies. I also have plans to get more involved in training for crisis/harassment situations, so that I and my minions at conventions can be proactive in helping out when (not if, sadly) incidents occur.

Be patient–I’m making more progress behind the scenes than it may look like from the front counter…. :) More updates and info coming soon!

 
 

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Research Time!

Well, really it’s cleaning-off-my-desk time, but whatever. :D In the process of cleaning up my office, I came across a list of questions that I’ve been meaning research. If I recall correctly, I started the list one day when I was tremendously bored during a very slow book signing slot…so that might give some insight as to where the questions came from.

The list is titled “100 Questions”, but I apparently never got that far. Some of the questions are quite banal, others more interesting. Some are easy to answer with a five minute internet search, others require a more structured approach. It’s a prime example of brain lint from a bored writer.

Enough blathering. Here you go:

1. How is glass made?

2. How do planes fly?

3. What is laughter (mechanics of)?

4. How have fashions changed over the past 100 years? (Note: this would require picking a given culture/community to focus in on.)

5. How many bones are in the human foot?

6. Why do people lie?

7. How has the most popular color changed in the last 50 years? (Note: this would require picking a given culture/community to focus in on.)

8. How is paper made?

9. How are books bound and printed?

10. What causes waves?

11. Learn to dance: something classical

12. What constellations show up in winter? How do they change throughout the seasons?

13. Why does hair go grey?

14. What are the differences between English & American spelling & grammar? (Is there a chart that lays it all out side by side?)

15. What did taverns actually look like in the 1200s?

16. When were riding skirts developed, where did they originate, and what did they look like?

…. at this point I apparently found something more interesting to do. Aren’t you glad I never finished the entire 100 question goal? I sure am! :D

Let me know if you actually research any of the questions above. I’d be interested in the answers. I’ll try to come back to this post and supply answers myself now and again, as time and energy permits–just because, like Idisio, I don’t like unanswered questions. :)

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2013 in Questions For Readers, Research

 

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What I Believe In

There is always a flurry of contradictory posts on my Facebook and Twitter feeds; news jumps from a birth to a death, from vehement arguments over religious definition to a New-Agey “can’t we all just get along” creed. Pro-gun and anti gun-control proponents post links, each supporting their side; small press writers feud back and forth with the Big Press holdouts. If an issue has two sides, six sides show up on my Facebook newsfeed within twenty-four hours of an inciting incident.

That’s the way I like it. I don’t just want to hear stuff I agree with. I want to be constantly challenged to think through opposing and alternate viewpoints. I want to see as complete a picture of any given issue as possible, and then decide for myself what I believe–and I always want to be open to new information that might change that belief.

Sometimes this can be a bit disorienting. Holidays especially, it seems that everyone cranks up their belief shout-o-meter to eleven, and for some reason the snark and superiority emerge more distinctly than usual. Often the snark edges over into cruelty or barely masked bullying, even among people who are saying things that I essentially agree with.

I listen to it anyway, and think about it anyway; I ask questions on occasion, and stay out of the arguments, by and large, until I’ve weighed it all out in my mind. Here’s what I have gleaned so far this holiday season:

I don’t like snark. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s fast; it’s like hanging with the cool kids and kicking the loser around. It’s addictive–instant rush, instant gratification, lots of shares and likes and comments and retweets–after all, everyone is doing it, how can it be wrong…? But no. That’s not who I want to be. I don’t want to make myself look good by making fun of someone who’s different. Silly, goofy, yeah, no problem. Hurtful and snarky? Not so much. This is going to have to be a work in progress, because it is so very pervasive in our internet culture; but a few recent instances have made me sit back and think.

Tangled in with snarkiness is hastiness. Fast humor is often cruel, and relies more on the speed of being the first to get the words out than on the actual humor level of the comment made. Slowing down and thinking a question through kills the ability to snark fairly comprehensively; a deeper understanding of any situation means it’s much harder to make accidentally mean-spirited jokes about it.

I’ve noticed a correlation between intelligence and hastiness. When one grasps facts or processes calculations of any sort very quickly compared to one’s companions, it’s easy to slide over into pushing slower people out of the way and just get the damn job done properly without interference. Or, in the case of online discussions, to slip into snarky cruelty toward people who aren’t following along at the same speed.

It’s very easy, I think, to start believing that because you are quicker to learn and understand a concept, that you have a firmer grasp on Ultimate Truth–and if your putdowns are fast and sharp and popular, very soon nobody will dare stand up and challenge you for fear of being put in the corner with a dunce’s cap on.

Living in one’s head is dangerous. It’s so easy, so rewarding–our internal reality is so comfortable… but it’s also dreadfully isolating, if left to run unchecked.

Fortunately, compassion and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. And even more fortunately, the wonders of the internet and the modern age allow us to stretch for a broader and deeper understanding of the world around us, if we but care to try, very nearly any moment of any day of our lives.

I have a lot more thoughts along this vein, but I’d really like to hear from you folks first. How varied is your Facebook feed? Do you routinely seek out opposing opinions and viewpoints to make sure you’re seeing the whole picture? Is someone that you agree with nonetheless acting like a bully in pushing his or her opinions? Is snark ever okay–how about when it’s aimed at someone other than an ally?

Creative crazy people wanna know…..:D

 

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