Accomplished: first convention of 2021!

Capricon 41 took place over the weekend. I was going to pass on it this year. I’ve been running on fumes for ages and saving my small energies for Finishing The Book. The deadlines for submitting panel ideas and for interest in programming came & went while I was still fully mired in the midwinter mental mire. I planned to buy a membership to support the incredible, generous, hard-working people who were making the con happen despite stick-in-the-muds like me, but I was going to steer VERY clear of the chaos created in my brain by attempting online interaction over multiple, simultaneous channels.

Meh, I thought, and blergh. I don’t have it in me to deal with All The Virtual Things.

Then I found out at the last minute that Michi Trota was going to be one of the Guests of Honor. C’mon, self, you canNOT miss out on that, I told myself, and I asked myself in my most persuasive inner voice, How hard could it be to simply attend the virtual con? No responsibilities. Zero expectations. Nothing to panic over.

My argument was simple but convincing. I boxed up all my freakout fears & scraped up all my post-hibernation energy and registered, bullied my tech into cooperating, and got online.

…nd promptly freaked out and panicked and had a Really Bad Day over the ordeal of dealing, but! BUT! I collected some support (THANK YOU ALL MY SUPPORTIVE ONLINE FRENZ) applied warm fuzzies to the anxiety prickle wounds, and in the end it was an amazing good time.

I learned a ton of new things. How one person’s utopia can be another’s dystopia, what makes space opera space opera, the need for shaping society with hopeful, inclusive, personal narratives that go beyond reflecting and amplifying existing systems, and much more. My TBR list has exploded with new titles both fiction & research-related. The affirmation of hearing Real Experts validate the importance of stories like the ones I write–ones with complex, flawed characters, with resolutions based on cooperation & collective action, where erasing a villain doesn’t fix systemic ills, but determination and hope make improvements that are framed as worthy, achievable goals–well! That alone was worth the emotional price of admission. (and that was just the start!)

It’s post-con now, so of course I’m wrestling with residual weasel-whispers of, “You weren’t really freaking out, you just want attention, you’re a weak, whiny, lazy little coward who has all the privileges in the world but can’t be bothered to work hard, so you’re making excuses and posturing and claiming victimhood, you should be ashamed of yourself, other people who have it much worse than you do and manage to do so much more.” Stupid weasels. Good thing I have on my big, spiky weasel-stomping boots.

One extra-grand thing about the con being virtual was that I could bake bread, make oatcakes, and also get a lot of words written in the same weekend I was attending panels and engaging in inspiring discussions. I streamed the filk circles & performances while I was working on Ghost Town more than once, and that was particularly enjoyable.

And now, have pictures of the bread I baked. Because stress baking is a thing in this house.

gooey bread dough in steel mixing bowl
apricot toaster bread is not pretty when it’s in the process of becoming.
sliced loaf of apricot bread on a wooden bread board.
it looks much more appetizing after baking
toasted apricot bread on a blue-patterned Calamityware china plate with gratuitous bacon.
Glamour shot of the final result with gratuitous bacon
A small red dragon guarding a paperback copy of The Sharp Edge of Yesterday in a wooden yarn dish filled with glass beads.
Still here? Here’s a peek at my office dragon’s current hoard.

Mental quirks again

Imma talk about another aspect of my brain’s Escher-esque architecture in this post. Today’s stray personal oddity: on top of being face-blind and conflating all context-related memories into one, I lack a tagging system for remembering readers.

Neurodivergence is FUN! Data storage? Plenty! Randomizer that shuffles data together? Top-notch! System for relating data points to origin? Non-standard. Long-term associative storage? Faulty.

Without regular, consistent replacement, memory connections between source & data fray, get impossibly tangled and snap.

This is not cool in many ways. Case in point: even if I know you well in real life (no, honestly, especially if) chances are excellent that I do not know if you’ve ever read any of my books or if you did, whether you liked them.

It isn’t a matter of what I want. I LOVE knowing people love my stories. It is pure happiness. I have given years of my life to my characters & their crises and conflicts, and knowing others also love them is a joy and an honor, and I am beyond thrilled whenever readers tell me what they like about my worlds. It is EXCITING. it is WONDERFUL. AFFIRMING. GLORIOUS.

But there’s a difference between that goodness and getting it to stick.

Seriously. You could tell me my books changed your life, creating a memory I would keep forever and use for encouragement during Bad Writing Times..but three hours/days/weeks/months down the line, my ability to associate that memory with a specific who will be lost.

A few special folks make a point to strengthen and refresh their book connections by reminding me of them–repeatedly and often–but that’s a gift I accept with gratitude, but an expectation. The default for everyone else is “not interested or read them and did not like them.”

This is a thing I felt was important to share with readers & friends– especially since those groups overlap–for two reasons.

1: Uncomfortable updates. If you’ve ever told me you were going to read one of my books? Please stop nervously waiting for me to ask about it. I won’t. Ever. Please stop reporting to me that you haven’t finished it, or got busy, or…whatever. Leave me ignorant. I’ve forgotten, and I loathe the idea of reading from a sense of obligation. Hearing you are forcing yourself to read my story despite thinking it’s too “meh” to make you stay up late finishing? That hurts. Skip it.

2: Accidental secretiveness. I put detailas onto social media in dribs and drabs as my self-confidence allows, but I rarely volunteer details about writing in real life. It’s hard to bait me into talking about my work, and I find ways to quickly change the subject when I realize I’ve wandered into those weeds.

Don’t I want to talk about my imaginary friends & villains & my clever plot ideas & plans for maybe-books? OHGAWDOFCOURSE. I’m dying to yammer on. Get me wound up, and keep asking me questions or pose hypotheticals and I could go on for hours. Blissfully.

But while I know some of my friends online & off have read my books, I don’t know which of you would rather be boiled alive than be subjected to discussion. And I am Not Good about social interactions in the first place.

Most questions containing the words “writing” or “book” fall into the same conversational heading as, “How are you?” People want a quick call-and-response social interaction, not an information dump. When the subject comes up, I will reach for a canned response from my polite-interaction playbook, not an armload of plot bunnies and funny character quirks from my series bible.

And because the questioner or other listeners might be someone who thinks my beloved fictional buddies are made of MEH, I’ll lob the conversational ball away ASAP.

I’m not reticent because I lack faith in my writing. I think it’s fabulous. I’m quiet because talking about it hits an unfortunate intersection of brain idiosyncrasies.

ANYway. If you ever wonder about the mechanics of T-series rampages, or how R-factor activation works, or you want to know all about Colonel Galloway’s backstory and why the hell Kris married a jerk like her ex-husband, or if you wish I would share what adventures I have in store for Serena & Justin & Felicity…hit me up.

I’m not snubbing you. I’m navigating social shit as best I can with uncooperative hardware. If you want to know the workarounds, they’re pretty simple:

  • ONLINE:
    • respond to work in progress updates with questions. Regularly. Eventually it starts to sink in.
    • comment on writing-related posts that you liked a book & why. (that second part is critical because a 2nd connection = 2x the sticking power )
    • All this assumes the social media platform cooperates by showing you posts, but the more we interact, the more likely that is.
  • IRL
    • drop book-related trivia on me, or ask questions
    • be persistent when I turn the conversation to something else. Deflection is a deeply-rutted habit.
  • BOTH
    • resign yourself to me still not remembering you’re a happy reader the next time
    • Maybe think of it as an easy way to give me a nice surprise

In other news: I’m about 55% of the way through the edits on Sharp Edge of Yesterday now, and while working speed will slow down again when I near the end where things need more polishing, it’s a blast to be racking up multiple chapters a day right now. GOOD TIMES.

That’s all until later!