Wednesday, May 31, 2017

WisCon Wrapup

This has been one of the quieter cons for me. Some of the friends we used to meet every year no longer come to WisCon, and I didn’t connect with others that I expected to run into. (I suppose that’s what happens when you leave it to chance instead of planning something ahead of time.) I didn’t even go to any of the evening events. That’s mostly due to a combination of spending time with my family or Madison friends and not having the energy to mingle—or even bother to go to the writing salon when I could write in my room instead.

Another unusual thing about this con is that I wasn’t able to sell books. Broad Universe recently changed their rules to require members have a state sales permit to sell books and work at the table. Due to tax issues, I had cancelled my Wisconsin seller’s permit before the rules were published, so I can no longer sell books at WisCon. Only two Broads were able to sell books this year, so that was a big burden for them managing the table without more help. I set up and took down the table, but technically I’m not allowed to handle the iPad we use to track sales. Therefore, I’ve resigned from my role as events coordinator for Broad Universe. I’ve done it for several years, and honestly, it’s nice having one less responsibility in my life.

 Anyway, here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

I left right after dropping Alex off at school on Friday and arrived mid-morning in Madison. I set up the Broad Universe table with the help of another member before checking in. After a quick lunch, I attended a panel on socialism, then joined the Fiber Circle (crafting with textiles) before watching the table for a while. Once my family arrived Friday evening, we went out to dinner and then to Barnes and Noble. I discovered a new subgenre: gaslamp, fantasy set in the 19th century. The Season Avatars series has Victorian-era technology but is in a secondary world, so I added “Gaslamp fantasy” to the description to see if that will help readers find the books.

I was on a panel at 8:30 on Saturday, so my traditional trip to the Farmer’s Market was very short. The panel was about Star Wars and resistance. It was well-attended for an early panel, and the audience liked it. After that, I attended another panel on everyday forms of resistance, but it wasn’t as practical as I expected. The first afternoon panel was the Broad Universe rapid-fire reading. Six of us read for about eight minutes each, then we talked briefly about the organization. A few of us read again, so I ended up reading from both Fifth Season and Lyon’s Legacy. Following that, I attended a panel on “firing” the traditional white male SF canon. I skipped the last afternoon panel so we could meet local friends for dinner and walk around Madison for a while. When we returned to the hotel, we visited the pool.

Sunday I attended panels on lazy writing and oppression, living with climate change, and breaking down masculine stereotypes. I was also on a panel about feminist science fiction for beginners. It was a relative large panel, so I didn’t have to say much. At the end of the day, I took down the Broad Universe table before my family and I went out to dinner.

After a Monday brunch with one of the Wisconsin troopers, we said goodbye to Madison and made our way home.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Happy 10th Birthday, Alex!

 My son turns ten years old today! I was able to find the original blog post announcing his birth here. What better way to celebrate than by looking back at all the adorable pictures we have of him? Don't be surprised if this post gets a little long...

Friday, May 26, 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WisCon Schedule

If it's late May, that means it's almost time for WisCon, my favorite convention in my favorite city. I'll be arriving Friday during the day so I can help set up the Broad Universe table. (I'm not running it this year, but since I'm event coordinator for the organization, I keep the table supplies between conventions. It's easier to bring them to the convention myself instead of shipping them to the table manager.) Here's a list of the panels and readings I'll be participating in this year:

Saturday, 8:30-9:45--Rebel Scum: Finding Hope In Resistance: Feeling glum about the current political climate? Join us for an hour of discussion about two of the key themes of Star Wars: "hope" and "rebellion. What can we take to heart from our favorite characters from the films and related novels, particularly the Rogue One movie? We'll talk about outright rebellion, uncivil obedience, and how you too can participate in making the galaxy a better place for all sentients (clones included!). 

Saturday, 1:00-2:15--Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading: I plan to read from Fifth Season.

Sunday, 2:30-3:45: Are you new to feminist SF and feeling overwhelmed? Do you wish there were a starter or beginners panel? A panel that talked about people you should know in this field and works that have changed this field. If you're trying to research all the names and little bites of important history that panelists talked about, bring your questions here!
Of course, I'll be attending other panels, browsing the Farmer's Market, catching up with Madison and WisCon friends, taking a turn at the Broad Universe table, and in general being very busy. Expect a full report next Wednesday.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Star Wars Crochet

Although my mom used to crochet, she didn't teach me how to do it since I'm left-handed and she's right-handed. I finally taught myself how to do it from books. It was easier to learn how to crochet right-handed than figure out how to reverse patterns, so that's what I do. I've made sweaters, pillows, an afghan, a baby outfit for Alex, and even a stuffed cat, but lately I've moved onto smaller projects: stuffed Star Wars characters.

Since I don't know how to create a crochet pattern, let alone for something as complicated as Yoda, I use crochet kits such as this one and a sequel. The kits come with materials to make two of the patterns, but you have to buy your own yarn to make the others. I think the red yarn is a different weight than the other two, which is why the red stormtrooper is bigger than Yoda and the regular stormtrooper. (If you're wondering why I made a red stormtrooper, it's supposed to be a magmatrooper from the Battlefront game. My son has a red suit of armor.) The books provide step-by-step instructions for not just the patterns, but also the stitches used, so even a beginner can figure out how to make them. It does take some practice getting the expressions right, however. They work up pretty quickly, so even with my busy schedule, I can create one in less than a week. Currently, I have another stormtrooper and a Jawa in the works.

I plan to make several of these for my son, but others will be given away as gifts to other kids. Currently I'm working on a Jawa and another stormtrooper. There are patterns for Princess Leia (I made one, but I don't have a picture), Luke, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Darth Vader (IMO, his face doesn't look like the character), R2-D2, Rey, Finn, BB-8, and several other characters. I'll sure be busy making them all!

What character do you think would be hardest to crochet? Who's your favorite Star Wars character? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Short Story Balance in Collections

I'm taking a break from Summon the Seasons so I can get a fresh perspective on it. In the meantime, I'm editing the Young Seasons collection. I think I've discussed that project before, but in case you don't remember it, it's a collection of four short stories, each featuring one of the Season Avatars (Gwen, Jenna, Ysabel, and Kay) at a critical point in their lives before Scattered Seasons. It's both supplementary material and an alternate entry point into the series (since there's about eight hundred years between the prequel Seasons' Beginnings and Scattered Seasons.) Right now, the word counts vary widely. Here are the ranges:

Gwen's story: 4,500 words
Kay's story: 2,100 words
Ysabel's story: 9,400 words
Jenna's story: 2,700 words

I'm a bit worried that the stories may seem out of balance. Gwen's story seems to be close to "ideal" short story length. (Five thousand words seems like average short story length to me.) I do have more material I can add to the second and fourth stories, and I'll have to see if I can tighten Ysabel's story.  In the end, though, I'd rather focus on making each story as good as I can rather than trying to shoehorn them into a predetermined story length or balance. Hopefully the readers will agree once the collection is done.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Summer Writing

As the weather gets warmer and sunnier, it's tempting to spend time outside, away from the computer. I have the window open in my office, but it feels like a waste of a nice day to be indoors. (Though since my son is sick, we can't do anything today anyway.) Once school ends next month, we won't have to worry about homework or school activities, though there will be other things to replace it.

They say the best way to deal with temptation is to give into it. One way I cope with summer's call is to go for a walk in the morning. It's cooler then (an important consideration as summer progresses), and that way even if it's a workday or we have other plans, I've been outside at least once. 

Although I have tried bringing my computer outside, screen glare makes it difficult to see anything. Finding a shady spot helps. My smartphone has an outdoor setting; perhaps newer laptops have something similar. Alternatively, I could always write the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper.

Do you have trouble focusing on writing when the weather is nice, or do you shut yourself away from the weather and ignore it? Do summer schedules make a difference in your routine? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Formatting Fun

I've gone through Summon the Seasons once for a developmental edit, though I have a feeling there may be scenes that I'll want to revise again before I'm satisfied. In the meantime, I've been formatting the manuscript. I use a template that I bought from Book Design Templates. It's simple to use and works for both eBooks and paperbacks. I still have to comb through the manuscript to make sure everything looks right, and I always order a paper proof to check formatting. Formatting gets easier with practice, though.

How do you format your books? Do you use a special program or work with Word? Do it yourself or hire it out? Feel free to share in the comments.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Lilacs (and Tulips) of Lombard

Lilacs are one of my favorite flowers, both fragrant and fleeting. Every spring, I go on a orgy of flower-sniffing. There's a park near us that's filled with lilac bushes and tulips. It's one of our  traditions to visit it every year. Last weekend was rainy, and this weekend I was sick. However, I was determined not to miss out on the bloom peak, even if my stuffed nose isn't up to appreciating the wonderful scent. Here are a few pictures from yesterday:

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

IWSG: Research

Since it's the first Wednesday of May, it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. You can learn more about the group on their website and Facebook. This month's hosts are Michelle Wallace, Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet, and Feather Stone.

Before I get to this month's question, I want to follow up on last month's question, which asked if you'd ever used the A-Z Blogging Challenge to promote your work and if it was effective. Now that April is over, I can say that yes, I've seen an increase in downloads and sales. Some of that is due to paid ads I ran to promote sales, but overall April was more active than previous months.

For May, we've been asked the following question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story? 

I don't want to match stories to specific research areas for fear of spoilers. However, I've researched IVF techniques; the physics of time travel; Victorian homes; and ways to kill characters with various poisons, diseases, and injuries. Other research I've done has actually been part of daily life or my own interests. For instance, my son's interests have led me to pick up knowledge of prehistoric cities and dinosaurs, which I've then used in stories. My own interest in the Beatles has influenced my work in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. I look at every non-fiction book or every new experience as a chance to research something for my writing. If I can't always be in front of the keyboard typing away, at least I can be accumulating topics for my work.

What's your approach to research? Feel free to share some of your research topics in the comments.

Monday, May 01, 2017

The News You Missed

April was obviously an active month for blogging, but my family and I were busy with other activities too.

We dozed with the dinos again at the Field Museum. (This time, we found a better spot to sleep--though Alex didn't get to spend the night on his favorite bed in the Egyptian marketplace.)

We also got to go behind the scenes and see dinosaur fossils that aren't on display. They have so many some are still in their field jackets, waiting for preparation.

 I marched for science in Chicago. Due to poor weather, lack of energy, and my plantar fasciitis, I skipped the climate march.
 The March for Science was the same weekend as C2E2. I hunted droids, including this oddly shaped one that was looking for a doctor. I walked over 19,000 steps on April 22nd, my second highest distance since I started tracking my steps. No wonder my feet are so sore!

My husband and son had a blast getting blasted at...

So I awarded Alex the Dark Side Cookie Award. I'm wearing my Imperial Staff Officer costume, which was just approved by the 501st Legion.
Here's a better view of the costume. (Humm, maybe next year I'll do Star Wars Costuming A-Z.)

Oh, and I finally finished the developmental edit of Summon the Seasons. Now to format it and maybe give it a quick sentence-level edit before I send it to the beta readers.

So, what did you do this April? Feel free to share in the comments.

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