I survived Orycon 36

The three days of this year’s Orycon in Portland went by astonishingly fast. This was my fourth time at this particular sci-fi/fantasy conference, and my first year as a panelist. I was assigned to an apparently ambitious number of events—eleven panels, plus a twelfth I was invited to join—and by some miracle I made it to every single one of them, and to the launch party for UNDERGROUND, the 2014 NIWA anthology which I edited.

After the “Hacking Biology” panel discussion on Friday night, one young man really made my day when he came up to offer me a hug. I’d been on the panel because of my own history (and knowledge) of living with chronic illness, and that embrace was his way of contributing to my well-being. When I spotted him the next day to thank him again for his kindness, he gave me another big hug. It was awesome.

The “Sherlock vs. Elementary throw-down” panel kicked ass, to no one’s surprise. My fellow panelists Dale Ivan Smith and Wendy Wagner and our moderator Brian Hunt were all in fine form for that very lively discussion/debate, and it was definitely a highlight of the con for me.

The NIWA party, as always, was a huge success, and it was great to see so many of the anthology authors in attendance and signing autographs. I was only slightly unnerved when one of next year’s programming organizers pulled me aside to ask how my panels were going and to let me know that I was being observed over the course of the weekend to gauge my performance. Apparently, I passed.

There were some marvelous readings to attend, and many more which I missed due to my own panel commitments. Wendy Wagner and Brian Hunt were stand-outs. My own reading on Sunday afternoon attracted a decent attendance and went fairly well, even though my flash cards weren’t entirely cooperative. I think I may have been the only reader employing visual aids, but that’s what happens when one of your characters speaks only through punctuation.

I was startled and a bit shaken up when a yellow jacket was discovered hitchhiking on my shoulder, as a recent sting sent me to bed (and nearly to the hospital) for two weeks. (I still need to blog about that. It was a pretty crazy experience and also frightening.) My heartfelt thanks to the young woman who was running The Guiding Tree booth in the dealer’s room for spotting the insect, and for possibly saving my life.

One of the members manning the NIWA booth, however, told me that a Klingon (in full costume) bought all three volumes currently available in the Valhalla series. I don’t know who that was, but if you’re reading this, I heartily thank you and encourage you to get in touch!

Sunday night was a challenge. I made it over to the huge sci-fi/fantasy book signing at Powells—what I always think of as the “Orycon after-party”—for some last conversations with many of the folks I’d seen at the conference. But overnight, I had some rather extreme GI distress. I’d worried at first that I’d picked up a stomach flu or was suffering from food poisoning. Whatever it was, while unpleasant, it was at least short-lived.

It’s nearly mid-day on Monday now. I’m pretty well exhausted and mind-fogged, but not as much as I’d anticipated—which is a huge boon when you consider how bad things can get with dysautonomia when there’s any kind of stress on the system. I chalk this up to the fact that I’ve been hiking several miles every morning, enforcing a strict schedule of rest and hydration, and getting better about saying “No” even when I feel pulled to say “Yes.”

That’s the short report from me. How was your weekend?



notes from the first draft

dissection of article

As I made my way through the first draft of Raven Quest*, I found charming little notes of frustration and commentary I’d left for myself while doing the original writing. I thought I’d post some of these here for your entertainment.

(* Yes, I am behind schedule on publication of this fourth volume in the Valhalla series. It’s been a rough year for me health-wise. I still hope to get this one out before 2015. Wish me luck.)

From chapter 7:
JUST TO GET A LITTLE ANGST OUT… I’M NOT SURE IF I LIKE THIS STORY. IT SEEMS THIN THUS FAR, NOT REALLY GROUNDED OR TREMENDOUSLY PLOT-DRIVEN. TRUE, I FELT THE SAME WAY ABOUT “THE BLACK POOL” AS I WAS WORKING ON THE FIRST DRAFT, AND IT WAS IN THE PROCESS OF REVISION THAT EVERYTHING REALLY CAME TOGETHER. THIS IS A FIRST DRAFT. IT’S NOT THE END-ALL AND BE-ALL OF THIS STORY. BUT I’D RATHER BE MORE EXCITED ABOUT IT AND INVESTED IN IT AT THIS POINT THAN I AM CURRENTLY. I’M HOPING THAT WILL CHANGE AS I CONTINUE WRITING. AND SO NOW BACK TO THE PLOT [OR LACK THEREOF]…

From chapter 8:
SO, YES, I’M SICK AGAIN AND IT SUCKS AND I REALLY DON’T FEELING LIKE WRITING ANYTHING BUT HERE I AM. I’M GOING TO TRY ANYWAY. I JUST WANTED TO STATE THAT FOR THE RECORD.

From chapter 9:
NOTE: GET A THESAURUS AND FIND ALTERNATE WORDS TO “STUMBLE.”

Also from chapter 9:
OR DO I WANT TO MENTION HIM AT ALL? PROBABLY NOT. JUST FORGET THAT SHE HAD ANY IDEA THAT HE WAS AROUND, OKAY?

from chapter 10:
THIS IS STUPID; FIND A BETTER EXPLANATION FOR THIS, OR GIVE MORE EXAMPLES OF HOW SALLY’S SPELL HAS IMPACTED THE SURROUNDING LAND

from chapter 11:
GAH. THIS IS SUCH A WEAK CHAPTER. DO I EVEN KNOW WHAT I’M TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH HERE?

from chapter 14:
BASICALLY, THIS CHAPTER IS A BIG FREAK OUT.

For the record, I do not draft in ALL CAPS. That’s simply how I differentiate notes to myself from the actual work. There have been times when I’ve discovered an ALL-CAP rant that ran nearly two pages in length.



Creative Commons photo: “dissection of article” by Søren Mørk Petersen.



sacrifice

Free Speech for the Dumb

James Foley. Steven Sotloff.

These are not the first journalists to be tortured or executed for their profession, or for their nationality. Not even close.

When I read the news this morning of Sotloff’s death, my heart sank and my stomach churned. I clenched my jaw and my fingers. In those moments there were no words, spoken or written, to express the rage and despair that seeped in.

I am a journalist, not a particularly important one. Reporting has not been my true passion, but I’ve enjoyed the work. I have traveled internationally on assignment—not into war zones, but to research religious diversity. As far as I know, my status as a journalist has never put my life in danger (though other things have). So I don’t claim any particularly deep kinship with the men and women of the press who actively put themselves in harm’s way pretty much every day of their professional lives.

But I am ever grateful to them for their service.

The press gets a bad name, and I understand the complaints. I’ve had some troubles myself in dealing with the media. Just as in any industry, there are professionals and whole organizations who seem to focus exclusively on feeding the lowest common denominator of their market. Many outside the media are wont to paint those of us on the inside with the same, broad brush. Though I don’t cover scandals or deal in sensationalism, I am met with mistrust and accused of seeking to ruin lives by people who have no familiarity with me or my work. Individual journalists whose ethics and integrity are unimpeachable bear the brunt of the public’s bristling suspicion, alongside the “bottom-feeders” of our profession. It’s an occupational hazard.

But beheading shouldn’t be an occupational hazard.

The press, at its best, is a challenging, rugged, and noble institution that serves the public while demanding truly everything from those in the trenches. Yet this last full measure is too much.

I’m a big First Amendment gal. If you want to get into a real knock-down, drag-out argument with me, a sure place to start is with the Bill of Rights. But know that I will dig in like a deer tick on the First Amendment—which includes freedom of speech, the press, and religious expression. These rights, while guaranteed on U.S. soil and in other countries, are not so secure in other parts of the world. And still, journalists travel to war zones and unfriendly states to do their jobs—to tell the rest of the world what’s going on. They do this knowing they might pay with their lives. They do this even after losing friends and colleagues to capture and violence. They do this for the free flow of information, to humanize global events, and to cast light into the shadows.

Sometimes the media gets it wrong—sometimes in a big way—and some may engage in egregious behavior to satisfy the salacious and base hungers of the popular machine. But most of us aren’t like that. Some of us are even sacrificial lambs.



Creative Commons photo: Free Speech for the Dumb by Walt Jabsco.


August 2014: books read

BooksAs promised, here’s the list of books I finished* reading in August:

  • The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
  • A Highly Unlikely Scenario, by Rachel Cantor
  • The Final Solution, by Michael Chabon
  • Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King
  • The Power of Focusing, by Ann Weiser Cornell
  • Losing My Religion, by William Lobdell
  • Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers, by Louise Harnby
  • Dead Wife Waiting, by Dale Ivan Smith

* I’m always reading more than a single book at a time and frequently will put a book down for a few days (or a few months) while I make my way through one or two others.



Creative Commons photo: Books by Chis.



guest post: Voss Foster

Today, I’m pleased to host fellow indie author Voss Foster in this space!


The Jester Prince: Harlan

“Toby.” He stood, no longer an old musician but an impressive figure. When he got like this, his eyes gleamed with such anger they almost glowed. Tobias flinched when he reached out, but Harlan just wrapped his hands over Toby’s shoulders. “Listen to me. I will never use the violin on you. Whether I approve of what’s going on or not, you’re my son. I don’t ever want you to be afraid of me. You don’t need to be afraid of me.” He pointed to the camper behind him, but never broke eye contact. “My violin is not for you. It’s not for anyone in Zirkua. Not the artists, not the hawkers, and damn sure not for you.” Jaw clenched, he shook his head. “If I were to misuse it, you would have every right to tie me to the back of the caravan and drive.” He wrapped his arms around Toby and kissed his cheek. “Come on. We have to get this place torn down. The next town’s a long way off.” He let go, slapping Tobias on the back. “You were wonderful tonight.” He ran his thumb under Toby’s eye, pulled on the skin. “And you’re exhausted. You’re not on tent duty tonight. Go help out with the prop wagon.”

Something finally managed to overtake his anger: guilt. “Dad, really, I’ll be fine.”

Harlan shook his head. “Prop truck, Toby.”
-Zirkua Fantastic

Harlan. Fiddler. The spirit of music. Whatever you choose to call him, he’s an integral part of Zirkua Fantastic and, now, the resistance movement against King jester. But he evaded me for some time. I knew he was music. I knew that, at one point or another, he was in Ireland. Actually, I imagined him as being of Irish origin, since his first memory was of the Fir Bolg.

So, just for the hell of it, I looked into it. I figured I’d give it a chance. And that’s when I ran across The Dagda. He was one of the Tuatha Dè Dannan, who, according to the Mabinogion, defeated the Fir Bolg to take control of Ireland. What’s more: The Dagda was a god of music as well as a fierce warrior.

While I will neither confirm nor deny that I based Harlan on The Dagda, necessarily, I would be remiss not to point out the relationship. I leave it to you, my readers, to decide if he is, in fact, The Dagda.

Read more about Harlan in The Jester Prince, Book Two of the King Jester Trilogy.


With the destruction of Zirkua Fantastic, King Jester, the spirit of discord, has been unleashed once more upon the Earth. Only Toby, a fresh, untrained immortal, and the other former members of Zirkua Fantastic dare to stand against his chaos. But their hold is tenuous, and they are only truly safe from his power within the bounds of their camp. King Jester grows more powerful and more dangerous with each passing day. But he’s made one mistake. That mistake could be his undoing. He’s stolen Toby’s soul mate, Marley. When he discovers Marley’s location, Toby knows what he has to do. He will rescue Marley, even if it means he has to face King Jester alone.

But the others don’t let him go at it alone. Marley has information about the resistance. They can’t afford to let him stay in King Jester’s control. In desperation, the immortals raise an army to storm the compound. But will it be enough to challenge the embodiment of chaos himself? All they can do is hope. Hope and put their faith in love.

Available through Prizm Books.

EXCERPT:
“Thank you, Coyote.” Harlan stomped one foot forward. “Now go.”

He thwacked the back of his hand on his forehead, tossed himself back from the waist up. “Alas, I’m too weak. I’m just a mere half-breed. Traveling so far at such a speed drained me.”

Harlan scoffed. “Then get King Jester to infuse some.”

“I wouldn’t dream of that. He’s far too busy.”

Zerga swooped around to the front, hot anger radiating from her body. “Then take some of my energy.”

Harlan tossed a log on the fire, summoning an army of angry sparks. When he sat, he steepled his fingers, staring at Zerga. “We obviously can’t meet tonight.”

She nodded. “Everyone, listen.” Her top voice spoke at a regular volume, but she’d lowered the double voice to a whisper. It murmured in Tobias’ head. “We’re postponing tonight’s meeting. Don’t mention it again.”

Harlan shook his head. “There’s something more going on here.”

“Obviously.” Dart flipped his coin over the fire and, in a flash of wind, ran around to catch it. He’s more energetic than usual. Dart rushed back to his seat around the fire. “Has Lou come back yet?”

Zerga shook her head. “He should be close.”

“I hope so.”

Harlan scooted forward, eyes widening. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure. But there was this explosion of power. I just caught the very edge of it, I think. Before it dissipated. So I couldn’t tell you where it came from. Not reliably.”

Harlan nodded. “But why ask about Lou?”

He shrugged. “It wasn’t a pleasant energy. And I’ve been waiting for something bad to happen to one of us.”

“We’ll keep on guard.” With a flicker of his fingers, Harlan sent another log flying through the air, landing on the fire. “Toby, how’s your training?”

“It’s all right. I made fire.”

For the first time in too long, Harlan smiled. A real smile. “Good.” He rose and slipped next to Toby. He wrapped his arm around Toby’s shoulders. “Listen, you’re going to be the weak link.”

“Great words of encouragement, Dad.”

“I’m not sugar coating this. Coyote’s going to do something to get to one of us, and you’ll be the obvious choice. Just stay on your toes, Toby.”

Before he could respond, the coyote jumped over them all, landing next to the fire. He spit the rabbit on the ground before melting back up into human Coyote. “That’ll be enough for me.”

“Are you sure?” said Zerga. “It looks awfully small.”

“I’m sure.” He whipped a knife out of the air, kneeled, and set to skinning his catch. “Please, just pretend like I’m not here.”

After a few seconds of silence, Harlan tapped Toby on the shoulder. “Why don’t you tell the others we have company.”



catching up on my reader’s posting promise

At the close of 2013, I apparently promised to post a little something about every book I read in 2014—even the embarrassing ones. Naturally, I forgot about this commitment sometime around March and have only just this evening remembered.

In an attempt to catch myself up, I’m including a list of what I’ve consumed thus far this year—at least, these are the titles I remembered to add to Goodreads. It seems to me there should be a few additional volumes listed here, but it’s nearly midnight and I’m tired and can’t think straight.

  • Dust (Silo, #3) by Hugh Howey
  • The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3) by Deborah Harkness
  • Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! by Rosalind Joffe
  • Shattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #7) by Kevin Hearne
  • The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell
  • Shift (Silo, #2) by Hugh Howey
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
  • Different Seasons by Stephen King
  • Wool (Silo, #1) by Hugh Howey
  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel
  • Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! by Seth Grahame-Smith (and Jane Austen)
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Time and Again (Time, #1) by Jack Finney