Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Delayed Due to Cake

So, yesterday was my birthday! And I promise, I meant to post, but, you know. Sugar.

It was a nice birthday, though.

(I turned on the radio in the car, and Jack & Diane by John Mellencamp was on, which was apparently the number 1 song the week I was born. Weeeeiiirrrdd.)

I also drew you a birthday landsquid.

(Plus bonus turtleduck.)

I hope you have a lovely fall weekend, squiders!

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And Now, In Solemnity…

I apologize for the lateness of this post, Squiders. Our dog died suddenly on Sunday, and this week has been a bit rough.

R.I.P. Riley, 2008-2017

I am not a dog person, in general. They require a lot of work and a lot of attention, and in general I just don’t have enough spoons to deal with that. Also they’re messy and drool-y and…well.

But Riley was the ideal dog. He rarely barked and was never destructive, he was super patient with the small, mobile ones (though he did like to still their food), he was willing to walk and play but also willing to nap in the middle of the floor. He loved to have his tummy rubbed and his ears scritched, but he would be okay if you only did it for a minute and then wandered off.

He did shed more than every animal I’ve ever owned combined, but hey, in the great scheme of things, that’s not so bad.

It’s never easy to lose a pet, especially one that’s been an integral part of your family for several years. But I think what’s making it so much harder is that it was unexpected. Riley was not old. Riley was not sick. Riley showed no signs of anything being wrong and, in fact, had been in an excellent mood all week.

And then poof, suddenly gone. His heart failed. Why? Who knows? We don’t, and we never will. Was it a heart attack? A stroke? Did he eat something poisonous? Did he get bit by a rattlesnake (despite it being 50 degrees and raining)? Was there something we could have done differently that would have saved him? The ER did everything they could to get his heart going again, but nothing worked.

Sometimes that’s the hardest part, I think–being left behind and not having the answers.

It’s rained since he died, which matches the mood of the family.

Anyway, we’re coping. Everyone’s been very nice about it. His vet even sent us fancy flowers, delivery from a florist. But it’s been hard to get the creativity flowing.

I hope your week’s going better. See you Friday.

Ode to My Osprey Bag

We’ve been in Iceland! Sneaky, I know. And I wanted to highlight an MVP of this–and several other–trips: my Osprey Porter 46 backpack.

(Oooh, I see it comes in colors now! Back in the day it only came in black.)

This bag has been with me on four continents over the past seven and a half years. You see, back in May 2010, my husband and I were about to embark on our first big trip as a couple, a 17-day trip across Germany, Denmark, and a tiny bit of Austria. We’d found our guru in Rick Steves, who recommended packing in a carry-on sized backpack so a number of reasons, which, off the top of my head, were:

  1. If you’re wearing the bag on your back, you don’t have to worry about dragging your bag through whatever is on the road, if there’s a road.
  2. Roller bags = tourists, which in some parts of the world is not something you want to be promoting.
  3. By using a carry-on sized bag, you didn’t have to worry about your bag getting lost/stolen/rifled through while it was out of your possession, because it would never be out of your possession.

We took this advice to heart, bought a few different bags to try, and ended up with the Osprey based on comfort (I’ve worn the bag, completely packed, on an 8-mile hike over a mountain in Japan with no issues), storage space, and general awesomeness. (For example, the backpack straps can be folded in, essentially turning the bag into a suitcase.)

Ugh steep

(Here I am wearing the pack on our first day in Germany–in a little town called Bacharach. You can see my thoughts on the steepness of the hill.)

We’ve used these packs exclusively for all our international travel. They’ve been with us in Copenhagen and Berlin, in Cuzco and Lima, in Toyko and Kyoto, and now in Reykjavik and the countryside beyond. We’ve never had issues getting everything we needed into them, though we were a bit worried this time, with the amount of layers/boots we were taking. But everything worked fine.

The bags have weathered well too. One of the clips to help tighten the straps on the outside of the bag broke on my husband’s bag after Japan, but Osprey sent us a replacement for free.

Anyway, this bag is great. I highly recommend it. Everything fits great (we use packing cubes to keep things organized), there’s always room for souvenirs, they’re super comfortable, and we never have to wait to go places.

Do you have something that’s been indispensable for traveling, squiders?

Camel Interlude

Ah, squiders, it’s been a long time since we’ve visited with Landsquid and Alpaca and those lot, but I found out today what a baby camel looks like, and it is amazing.

Photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Look at those legs. They go on forever. It’s a fluffy, ungainful mess.

I mean, look at it.

Photo credit: Taylor Weidman / The Vanishing Cultures Project – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24648541

They’re adorable. And will still probably spit in your face.

This has been your camel interlude. See you Thursday, squiders.

Looking at the Next Month

Good morning, squiders! The next month is crazy busy around here, so I thought I’d give you a heads up on what to expect here at the blog during that time (from now until approximately mid-September).

  • I’d like to do at least one Library Book Sale Find. We haven’t done one since March and I still have a whole shelf full (plus I bought a new one at a library book sale I stumbled over a few weeks ago with some truly “epic” cover art. Ah, early ’90s).
  • We’ve got the final readalong for the Finnbranch Trilogy (Winterking) on August 24. I should probably get on that though I am still a little grumpy from Undersea.
  • I’m going to do a short series on awesome scifi/fantasy tropes, such as alternative universes and time travel. I’ll do one a week there, so other stuff will be interspersed so we don’t overload on the concept.
  • I may also start poking at the next nonfiction topic, which will either be outlining or common writing problems, so if you have a preference (or if you have topics related to either you’d like to see discussed) please let me know!

As always, if you’d like me to cover something specific, please feel free to contact me. I’m pretty open to whatever!

In other news, I’m going to be speaking at a local author showcase on August 20. I did one for Shards some time ago but heck if I remember how exactly I set it up. I’m hoping to be able to find my notes from the last time so I can see what I talked about/timing, but that may be wishful thinking. Also, I believe I get less time than the last time as well. Has anyone done a talk/reading lately and have advice to give?

I’ve also been working with MileHiCon for this year’s convention. I’m dropping the table in the Author’s Row after last year’s disappointments and instead focusing on doing panels, which should help both from a visibility and a networking standpoint. MileHiCon also offers co-op tables, where you can sell books/sign for a specific time as opposed to manning a table the entire weekend, so I’m also looking at doing that.

Everything else continues a pace. How are you all?

PPWC Session Wrap-up, Part 2

I always wonder if you can piecemeal PPWC. There’s always notes about what to do if you’re missing a meal (and if you’re at the conference for the whole weekend, why would you? It’s included in the price and the food is really good) which always makes me think maybe you could just come for, say, Saturday, but I don’t know if that’s an actual thing.

(I believe, if you’ve won the writing contest, you can come for just the banquet Saturday night, but I am also unsure about that.)

(I wonder about these things, but not enough to do any actual research.)

Let’s dive into the sessions from Saturday.

(I got up early and worked out before breakfast/conference, and later walked in on my sister talking to my mom on the phone. She was telling Mom about me working out like it was the strangest thing she’d ever seen.)

Eight Weeks to a Novel (Becky Clark)

Like Friday morning, Saturday morning ended up a bit themed, and in this case it was time/project management. This isn’t really an area where I am deficient, but it is a subject I like to talk about and see how other people do things. In this case, Becky spends a week making a massive outline/synopsis (which she sends out to betas to get feedback on plot and whatnot because it’s that complete) and then spends the next several weeks writing and editing. Some neat organizational ideas which I will probably try out.

Agile Project Management for Writers (David R. Slayton)

Ironically, the example he used was also an eight-week novel, which I found hilarious but probably no one else did, because normal people probably didn’t go to two time/project management sessions in a row. This method made my engineering side very happy, but from a basic standpoint was also very similar to other writing management processes I’ve seen before. I enjoyed it. I do need to get in touch with the presenter and ask some questions (mostly about throwaway things on the slides which caught my interest, or something he said, and not about the actual subject matter of the presentation).

Constructing the Great Action Scene (M.H. Boroson)

M.H. Boroson wrote the bestselling historical fantasy novel The Girl with Ghost Eyes, which I have not had the opportunity to read but understand is awesome. This panel was also pretty awesome. We talked about the basics of action scenes (which are not just fights), broke them down into their components, and went through examples so we could see the basics put together. My other favorite panel aside from Stant’s on Friday.

And then we had lunch, which was a massive roast beef sandwich. With a pickle. Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid series) was the keynote speaker.

Query 1-on-1

Sometime between the last time I went to PPWC (2012) and now, they’ve switched from your straight pitch session (where you would memorize a verbal pitch and get to pitch an agent/editor) to the query 1-on-1 format. You bring your query letter, agent/editor reads it and gives you feedback, and may ask for more materials if they’re interested. I met with Mike Braff, who is an acquisitions editor at Del Rey (at the very odd time of 2:24 PM). He asked some questions about the main character and said I should focus more on her character arc and the twist of the story in the query. He also said it wasn’t really his thing, alas, though I kind of suspected that there wouldn’t be enough explosions based on some of his recently edited books (The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown, Sleeping Giants by Slyvain Neuvel) and my sister went to an editor panel earlier and later told me he’s pretty much only looking at scifi right now. So, in retrospect, I probably should have signed up for someone else.

Serious about Series (Kevin Hearne, Gregg Taylor, Carol Berg, Tess Gerritsen, Jennie Marts)

I’ve found that the panel sessions can sometimes be less helpful than the one or two presenter ones, and I think it’s because they’re not really planned out in advance. I mean, I assume, but I don’t know, but from what I understand the moderator has normally come up with questions in advance and then the panel answers them. I mostly learned about various authors’ planning processes, which is interesting, but not necessarily helpful.

Building Better Beginnings (Todd Fahnestock/Chris Mandeville)

This was a good panel! Chris and Todd focused a little bit on what your story needs at the beginning and how long you have to hook a reader/agent/editor, but we spent most of the time going over the beginnings of published books and looking at what worked and what didn’t, and also did an example where we took a bad beginning and made it better.

Dinner Saturday night is the awards banquet, which is supposed to be dressy but I had a wardrobe malfunction (speaking of which, has anyone had a piece of clothing that started smelling after you washed it for the first time?) and so was under-dressed. Tess Gerritsen was the keynote speaker (and I learned that Rizzoli and Iles is a book series, woo) and shared rather a lot of disturbing things, which is why, I guess, that I don’t write thrillers. I mean, she was awesome, but D:

Dessert was not as good as Friday night, alas.

My sister and I hit BarCon now that we’d done our Read & Critiques and Query 1-on-1s and no longer had anything to stress out about, but it turns out that we are actually terrible at networking aside from people we already know. And then I had a crisis of purpose (which, from talking to people since PPWC ended, seems to be common at writers’ conferences) and had to go to bed.

Sunday sometime next week! Also, I will have a guest post for you, probably on Tuesday. It is about ten degrees warmer than it is supposed to be, Squiders, and I think I shall go take a walk.

And Now For Something Completely Different

We’re about a week away from PPWC (oh God, I just realized that and I am not ready! ::flails about::), so on top of the writing and the getting ready for pitching and whatnot, I’ve also been working on my costume.

I believe they either started the costume dinner tradition five years ago (which is the last time I went, if you remember) or maybe they only do it every five years (on the 5/10 anniversaries), but one night everyone is encouraged to dress up according to the theme. Not sure what it was last time. I was eight months pregnant so I went as Mother Earth, but my sister and friend went as Capital people from the Hunger Games.

This year is Heroes and Villains, so my sister called me up to ask me if we should do Murky and Lurky from Rainbow Brite (which was a cartoon show from my childhood that my sister and I both remember fondly). They’re both villains, and we ran into issues with who would be who, and eventually settled on me doing Rainbow Brite and her being the evil princess from the Star Stealer movie. (You look at that princess and you know exactly what era that movie is from.)

In the olden days, I would have made as accurate a costume as I could manage, but I don’t have time for that anymore (especially since I didn’t realize there was a costume dinner until my sister called), so what I’ve done is bought a white sleeveless dress and dyed it blue (more on that in a moment), and have ordered rainbow socks and arm warmers, which should get here today.

And then I will need to make a rainbow belt and get a purple ribbon for my hair, and probably hunt down a purple facepainting crayon. I’ve seen people typically wear red converses with Rainbow Brite costumes, but I don’t have red shoes (I can buy a pair for $20 at my local Payless) and am not sure I can be bothered.

Tuesday I went up to my mother’s to dye the dress (my kitchen is currently MIA) which proved to be a bit more work than expected. (Also, my fingers are still slightly blue on one hand.) I bought supplies from Dharma Trading, which is a lovely company that specializes in dyes and things to dye (I suspect their target consumers are artists that dye large amounts of things to sell) and specifically got what looked like their least complicated dye (pour in water, put in clothing, stir for a while), but the powder was a bit messy and a single grain made an awful lot of dye.

The color is perfect, though, I did notice a small hole in the back of the dress. Oh well. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that.

It’s been kind of fun to work on something creative that isn’t writing, even if it’s just making a mess of my mother’s kitchen and ordering stuff off of Amazon.

I wonder how my sister’s costume is coming along.

What have you been up to lately, Squiders? Any fun projects?