Monday, May 30, 2016

WisCon Recap

It's Sunday afternoon as I write this. There's still quite a few events left in the convention, but I think by this point my participation will be limited, as I'm drained by this point. Here's a summary of the weekend from my perspective.

After dropping my son off at school on Friday, I drove straight up to Madison, picked up my badge, and set up the Broad Universe table. After lunch and a visit to one of my favorite stores on State Street (The Soap Opera), other Broad Universe members and I opened the table. We had a few snafus at first but were able to get them resolved. Once we were good to go, I hurried off to the "The Fandom Awakens" panel. It was very well attended for a panel at the start of the convention; I'd say we had at least fifty people in the audience. The other panelists were engaging, and it went well. I tended the table until my family arrived and the Dealers' Room closed. We went to a local Chinese place Alex likes and had dessert at the Red Elephant. I snuck into the opening ceremony briefly, but after that I went swimming with my family. We had a lot of fun playing with a beach ball someone had left behind.

I woke up early (5:00) on Saturday, but stayed in bed for another hour or so before swimming laps. We went out for breakfast and visited the Farmers' Market before I had to return to open the table and resolve yet another issue. At least I was able to grab lunch from the con suite before the Broad Universe reading. There were only a few people attending; I found out later that the door locked when we closed it, so some people who stopped by couldn't get in. I read from Chaos Season. It went well, but I did catch a duplicated word in the scene. I'll fix that in all formats as soon as I can. I did have time to stroll through the art show and attend a panel on Food Privilege, but after that I was back to tending the table until the end of the day. We met some local friends for dinner and went swimming again (this time with pool noodles) when we arrived at the hotel. By this point, I was tired and a stomach ache. I checked in on a couple of parties and the gaming room, but went back up to my room without doing much.

I still didn't feel great when I woke up on Sunday, but I was on a 8:30 panel, so I grabbed some oatmeal and headed out to the panel about the scarcity of female action figures and other toys. It went better than I expected. I was able to attend another a reading in a nearby coffeehouse and got to hear Naomi Kritizer read "Cat Pictures Please." I had lunch at the BU table again, but I did have time in the afternoon to attend a self-care panel, stop at the Strange Horizons tea party, and listen to what not to do with female characters (basically, female characters get criticized more heavily than a male with the identical traits). After this, I'll take down the table and go visit more local friends. (I did get more table backup than I expected, and I also sold more books than I normally do.) Still not sure yet if I'll be at the SignOut today. It's time to celebrate my son's birthday and visit my parents.

I hope you had a good weekend. Feel free to share what you did in the comments.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fan Memories of the Crickets

Those of you who've been following me for a long time know I'm a big Beatles fan. Beatles fans often have other Beatles fans as friends, and they tend to enjoy other classic rock bands. One of my Beatles friends is Kristi Phillips Zanker, and she enjoys many other classic bands and television shows. Her memories about meeting the rock band The Crickets (Buddy Holly's group) are included in the recently published work The Crickets: Six Decades of Rock'n'Roll Memories. The Crickets influenced many other music groups, so if you'd like to learn more about The Crickets, you can purchase this book through Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Congrats to Kristi on her first publications. As the Beatles would say, "Gear!"

Monday, May 23, 2016

WisCon Schedule

It's hard to believe WisCon starts this week! This year, I'm running the Broad Universe table, so I'll be driving up Friday morning to get it set up. I expect to spend more time than usual working the table, but I'm also part of the following panels:

Friday (5/27), 2:30-3:45--The Fandom Awakens: Everything is Star Wars and nothing hurts! Let's talk about the importance of casting a woman and two men of color as the leading characters in this major movie franchise. Let's talk about how no one in the cast wants to gender BB-8. Let's talk about General Leia. Let's talk The Force Awakens until episode 8 comes out or we all run out of breath…
(I'm moderating this panel)

Saturday (5/28), 1:00-2:15--Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading (I'll be reading from Chaos Season)

Sunday (5/29), 8:30-9:45--Why Did We Have To Fight For Rey Star Wars Toys: First they left out Black Widow, then they left out Gamora, and then Disney launched their Star Wars: The Force Awakens toy line with nary a hint of Rey, one of the movie's leads. Disney and toymaker Hasbro responded to the outrage expressed in the #WheresRey hashtag with facile explanations and no real apologies, but did finally unveil some Rey action figures and other merchandise at ToyFair. Why did it have to go down this way? Why couldn't Disney have made Rey as prominent on all the merch from the start as they did Finn and Kylo Ren? Why do we still have to fight for women in the "boy toys" aisle and why is there still a divide between "boys" and "girls" toys at all?

Monday (5/30), 11:30-12:45--The SignOut 

Add in seeing local and WisCon friends and celebrating my son's 9th birthday on Monday, and I expect to be a trifle busy.

What are your Memorial Day weekend plans? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Do You Value the Goal or the Process?

Yesterday, I read an article called, "The Most Important Question of Your Life." According to the author, you shouldn't ask yourself what you want out of life, but rather what you choose to suffer to achieve your goals. No goal worth achieving can be reached without effort, often requiring more effort than is apparent when someone first chooses to pursue a goal. There can be physical or psychological pain experienced over and over before someone succeeds. Even then, you may be required to put in effort to maintain your goal, whether that goal is staying at a healthy weight or keeping a relationship strong. I think the author makes some valid points, but I think there's more to reaching a goal than enduring pain and suffering. The bumps are part of the journey, and while it's always important to keep a goal in mind, one has to accept the journey, even learn to enjoy it, to reach the goal.

One of my favorite all-time books is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. There's a passage in there where the author talks about trying to climb a mountain but giving up due to exhaustion. Physical strength and intellectual motivation weren't enough. To quote at length:

He didn't think he had been arrogant but thought he was undertaking the pilgrimage to broaden his experience, to gain understanding for himself. He was trying to use the mountain for his own purposes and the pilgrimage too. He regarded himself as the fixed entity, not the pilgrimage or the mountain, and thus wasn't ready for it. He speculated that the other pilgrims, the ones who reached the mountain, probably sensed the holiness of the mountain so intensely that each footstep was an act of devotion, an act of submission to this holiness. The holiness of the mountain infused into their own spirits enabled them to endure far more than anything he, with his greater physical strength, could take....[The ego-climber] rejects the here, is unhappy with it, wants to be further up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be "here." What he's looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn't want that because it is all around him. Every step's an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.

In other words, if you want to write a book, earn a degree, or accomplish something, you have to value getting there as much as achieving the end goal. Of course, different people have different tolerances and so may therefore need to take different journeys. I don't enjoy running so would never set out to run a marathon. However, I do enjoy the process of researching stories, developing plots and characters, and putting in a day's work on a manuscript, so I can achieve my goal of writing a book. Someone else may be able to run a marathon but loathe having to sit at a computer and write all day.

  What do you think? Does success in reaching a goal depend on accepting setbacks along the way, recognizing the value of the journey, both, or something else? Do you think this could be part of the reason why so many books include a journey as part of reaching a goal? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Chaos Season on LibraryThing

I'm giving away up to fifty e-books (MOBI, EPUB, or PDF) of Chaos Season through LibraryThing. In return, I'm hoping readers will leave honest reviews on Amazon or elsewhere. If you're a member of LibraryThing and would like to enter the giveaway, please click on this link and scroll down until you find  Chaos Season. The giveaway runs through June 4th, but don't leave it until the last minute. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

New Release Date for Chaos Season!

I've spent most of my writing time in the past couple of weeks taking this (the original proof copy of Chaos Season before markup):

 to this (post markup):
and then going through the manuscript, making changes, and removing sticky notes. The fortune I posted with the "before" proof copy says, "You will make many changes before setting satisfactory." That fortune definitely came true. However, after many edits and reformatting issues (somehow, changing two words added four pages to my book, causing a lot of reformatting to bring it back to its original page length), I think I may finally have the paper version set. Hopefully sometime today I will be able to approve the paper version for sale. And if I'm really lucky, I'll be able to bring some copies to WisCon in a couple of weeks.

I find ebooks easier to format than the paper ones, so the final versions have already been uploaded to Amazon,  Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes. There didn't seem to be any good reason to keep the publication date in June, so I moved it forward to 5/20/16. That should give me time to deal with any issues before WisCon and allow me to focus on other things. I still plan to promote the series in June (I already have one ad scheduled and plan to schedule a few more), but hopefully if I can get some reviews on Chaos Season in the meantime, that will help sales. So Happy Early Birthday, Jenna! Time to move on to Books Four and Five.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Stop and Smell the Lilacs

I've mentioned before how busy I am with preparing for WisCon and my son's birthday at the end of the month and the release of Chaos Season in June. In addition to all that, we're also trying to finish assembling a new Star Wars costume for Alex so he can wear it for a big Star Wars event in early June (which will probably be the day before his birthday party). We also have our regular duties during the week and possible other social commitments on the weekends. What should I do to stay sane? Stop and smell the lilacs, of course!

We're about half an hour from a  park with magnificent lilac bushes.  We visit every year during peak bloom. Our schedule unexpectedly cleared up Friday evening, so we drove there. I can't reproduce the smell of lilacs, but here are some pictures, along with tulips. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

IWSG: Use the Force!

It's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. The co-hosts this month are Stephen Tremp, Stephanie Faris, Susan Gourley/Kelley, Bish Denham, Fundy Blue, M.J. Fifield, and Loni Townsend.

When I realized I'd be posting on 5/4 (May the Fourth), I immediately thought I should do a Star Wars theme. After all, May the Fourth is Star Wars Day (because of May the Force Be With You.) I thought about comparing the Force to a Muse, or maybe even going with a Light Side (inspiration) versus Dark Side (writer's block) discussion. I'm sure many writers already know the power of the Dark Side! But these comparisons felt forced and unnatural to me. 

Then I remembered the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi telling Luke to "use the Force" and "trust your feelings." Sometimes one needs to disregard what others tell you to do and write what matters most to you. No matter how many or how few readers you have, the important thing you want your writing to do is establish an authentic connection with them. You can't be real when dealing with other people if you're not true to yourself first. Your instincts may not help you wield a lightsaber or throw Force lightning at your enemies, but they are the Force that will guide you to the end of your story.

Do you have writing mentors who have been like Obi-Wan or Emperor Palpatine to you? Can you think of any more connections between Star Wars and writing? Feel free to share them in the comments. 

Monday, May 02, 2016

Blog Tour for Chaos Season

As part of the promotion for Chaos Season, I'm asking other bloggers to help me spread the word about my latest book. If you're interested, please visit this link to fill out the Google form. You can pick any date in June to post. Since this month is extremely busy for me (I have to plan for WisCon, my son's birthday party, my son's state book report, and Joliet Star Wars Day, among other things), I'm trying to keep this blog tour simple. I'll provide basic information (such as the book cover, blurb, author photo and bio, and social/buy links) to everyone. If you're willing to create a longer post, I can also send you a book excerpt or answer a few interview questions (please keep them short). You have the option to request an eARC of the book in your choice of formats. At the end of June, I'll randomly choose a blog host to win an Amazon gift card. The base value is $10, but if more than ten people participate in the blog tour, I'll increase that to $25.

Any questions? Any issues with the form? Please leave a comment below. Thanks, and have a good week!

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