WindyCon 45 quick report

I was feeling super-nervy & timid going into WindyCon this year, what with doing panels there for the first time and all, but it turned out totally fab.

So many amazing moments. Shared a dealer table with author friends met at Nebulas and at Gumbo Fiction AND still got to hang out with Rich at Games Plus’s  table and our WindyCon neighbor Richard from Dark River Pottery.

Talked book promotion on a panel with a traditionally published pro and someone who does promotion for a living and didn’t feel (too) overwhelmed.  Swapped stories about my favorite guilty-pleasure reads and watches on an imposing stage with someone rocking a s zebra-stripe mohawk (Kevin Roche, cosplay Guest of Honor, who has MAD costuming skills)  Got to talk about stories by Arthur C Clark, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, and a bunch of other classic authors I haven’t re-read in years. (all tales that left us teary-eyed.) Got to indulge my passion for end-of-the-world fiction with other like-minded souls.

ANYWAY. I digress. Staying at the con hotel even though the con was under an hour from home made a huge difference.  I had time to catch up with friends met at past cons and time to make new friends too.  Among the many people I met this year, I discovered one who lives nearby.  And I mean, RIGHT nearby. (Barbara Barnett, her book is The Apothecary’s Curse, and it’s super-neat, and she already knows one of my best friends from another walk of life. Such is the small world of synchronicity.)  Aaaand I digress again.

Chatted with readers who bought books in past years, wonderful kind people who let me talk about characters and tell me who they like best and inspire me to Just. Keep. Swimming. (so to speak)  I also gained new readers, AND I found good adoptive homes for the last few copies of my in-need-of-corrections first edition paperback. Huzzah.

So I bought myself bling, because I allow myself to buy shiny things when I send books home with people.

Tear-down with Rich for the Games Plus table went swimmingly (my big capital investment in a folding wagon TOTALLY paid for itself.) The drive home was uneventful, and now I’m cozy-comfy, with fuzzy socks on my feet, wine in a glass, and figure skating on the TV.

…and Spouseman bought me cherry pie for dessert.

:happy sigh:

Have a couple of pics of my new shinies. New book, a tee I can wear to work, gorgeous plates from Dark River, & GLOW IN THE DARK glass sparklies!

And have a few pics of Our Authors Corner of the dealer room too. It was neato-keen.

Toni Johnson, Brendan Detzner, and Alice Liddell

 

LED BUNNY
All the magic fits into these boxes
My little corner of Authorland, next to Toni’s Steampunk Cyborg Zombie series

Okay. That’s it for now.

 

Writing Over The Hump

My novel in progress is starting to move at last.

I have worked hard for a long time on this weighty story, hauling its characters and plot up a long track of prose against the dragging forces of distraction and disinterest. It’s gathering power and speed now, the way a roller coaster does when momentum grabs hold at the top of that first great big hill.

I’ve been on this ride before. There’s no feeling like it. When a story slides over the summit and starts that plummet towards completion, my heart jumps into my throat, and it’s a long, screaming, thrill trip to the end of the line.

But I’m not there yet. Enthusiasm is building with every rattling scene completed, but there’s reluctance too. When it’s over, it’s over, and I never want the ride to stop. I don’t even like to open the file these days. Starting brings me that much closer to stopping.

The procrastination stage never lasts. Avoidance can’t hold back a developing story any more than screaming and waving hands will stop a roller coaster’s relentless progress.  At some point soon–very soon–the writing will carry me out of the world .

I am ready. Let creative gravity suck me down, let the twists and curves shake my soul loose and speed me along until I’m wrung out and exhausted. And when it spits me out, crying and laughing and breathless with pride, I will coast to the exit and run back to the head of the line again.

Look, out, here I go.

On Being a Wallflower

As I’m navigating my fourth-ever solo SF convention and my first identifying as a published author, I’m having some second, third and millionth thoughts about being an asocial creature in a social  world. No worries, they’re all good thoughts. It’s just things I think about at times like this, sitting. alone in a room full of folk having fun, feeling contented on the sidelines.

I’m not anti-social, exactly. I like human interaction–but mostly from a distance.  I adore being included in plans and at functions–as a bystander, observer, or helper. I have learned in the last few years that I can suffer paralyzing anxiety unless the environment conforms to certain limitations (Having an active external task to perform helps a lot. Having an intermediate present — who stays present — to serve as a conversational buffer helps. Having a preset topic of discussion helps — especially if the topic is not me. Basically, I’m made for retail-style social transaction. Clearly defined, structured, topic-focused exchanges.  Preferably In a quiet ambiance where I feel protected.

I had a freakout two weeks ago because Spouseman and I were in a restaurant I didn’t expect to be crowded, were seated at a small table on an aisle, and the server moved the table two inches.  Those two inches made the difference between tolerance and heart-pounding, tunnel-vision gotta-go now.  We came back after a walk around the block, and I must’ve looked pathetic on that first departure, because the staff were awesome and put us in a corner booth and it ended up being a major good time.

Approaching, initiating, going out of my way to meet people for its own sake– that’s  a cliff I don’t think I’ll survive leaping  off.  But I can manage, with a wall at my back and a purpose for my presence. I like to hang out, watch, and listen. I can have a good time here on the edge of the dance floor.

Time:  6:30 PM
Tea: Stash English Breakfast in a tea bag
Steeped: technically still steeping in the bottom of my cup.

Otters

02-11-2015 Today’s topic: otters. Specifically, why the otter is my favorite animal.

Much of the appeal comes from my general affection for all creatures small and deceptively deadly. Cute packages wrapped around lethal weaponry are a bit of a Thing for me. Consider that I know practically nothing about Pokemon but love Pikachu with an unreasonable passion. That’s puts a fine point on it.

Otters are hardly the only animal that qualifies. Cats are small and dangerous too (and also beloved of me) and many other animals have those two traits. (goshawks are also high on my list of liking, and little burrowing owls, along with snow leopards and fennecs…but I digress.) There’s more to my love of otters than their being small but dangerous. I feel a unique spiritual similarity with them, for lack of a better phrase.

Let’s pause to look at weasels for a moment. Weasels are vicious and grumpy, they smell bad, they’re insufferably nosy and annoying, and they destroy everything they touch almost as a byproduct of their existence. Hunt, capture, destroy, leave a mess. That’s the weasel manifesto.

Otters are basically water weasels. Scientifically speaking, taxonomically and so on, they’re weasels. They are nature’s worst jerks, but because they clown and goof off and look adorable while they dismember fish and annihilate oysters, their nastiness is overlooked. They have fun even when they’re angry and fighting and very seriously slaughtering things, and so people don’t mind when they growl and grouse and posture defensively.

Otters embody my own traits and hopes better than any other creature. On the worst days, I know myself to be a hateful, nasty weasel. So I yearn to be an otter.
basket of otter

Time: 3:30 PM
Tea: Irish Breakfast
Steeping time: 8 minutes. The spoon is about to melt.

And a picture of otters. LOOK AT THOSE FACES!

O, Frabjous Day

In a week I get to post a sign over my desk that reads, “I’d rather write” and dial back social media presence to pre-publishing levels. I am antsy with anticipation. I’ve already axed Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone and tablet. Next I re-install the blocker on my laptop. Happy dancing will ensue, I assure you.

When I committed myself to mastering what I call “Authoring” (all the non-creative elements of self-publishing)  I knew the task would pull me away from writing. Authoring doesn’t only eat up time, it fills the brainspace needed for dreams and ideas.  I have only missed two writing days the whole year, but I’ve produced mostly ephemera (correspondence, posts, tweets, blog entries) and paddled around in the shallows of creation–revising, formatting, designing graphics etc. The demands of marketing, networking, advertising, and administration sapped my creative energy and shattered my attention span. I knew they would, from past experience with juggling jobs. I knew, and I knew how badly the loss would scrape at me, but I did it anyway.

I had to try, to see if I could. I’m a sucker for a challenge. I also had to make the investment to know if my words were worth it. The publishing world is flooded with writing. I had to breach the inherent barrier of visibility to learn if my work had appeal.  Would it attract readers who came across it by chance or through secondary recommendation? (Spoiler alert: yes. Color me with blushes.)

I know I’m supposed to write for myself, but it’s not how I’m built. No point in lecturing me about external validation. Deaf ears. I’m a competitor by nature. The drive to be best, to claw my way to the top of any ranking, isn’t about winning over anyone else. It isn’t about putting others down. It’s internal all the way. I can know I am good enough all day long–but I will never believe it until I hear it from someone with no reason to placate, pity, or pander to me. So I went hunting.

Turns out I have an audience. My work has fans. I got out there and self-promoted and networked and learned about marketing tricks and channels and shared all I learned in turn.  My audience isn’t big, but its members are passionate, and I cherish them. Their enthusiasm–their willingness to not only make time for my words but also to share their enjoyment with others–inspires me. In a word, they rock.

So here’s the thing. I gave full-time Authoring a year, and I have visibility. I’ve started a fire in the darkness. The flames in the kindling are flickering nice and bright.  I could toss in more branches, promotionally-speaking, and build it higher until my visibility has a bright, wide reach. Or I could bank the hot, glowing coals and let them burn low and slow on their own for a while. Guess which option leaves me time and energy to write. Ayup. I’m banking those fires.

All my major travel for the year is finished. My summer/fall schedule, packed with family obligations, required events, and constant activity: completed at last. Best of all, my resolution to spend a whole “Year of Attempting Authoring” is almost done. This doesn’t mean I become a hermit. I have authoring plans for next year already. (I have postcards to hand out, dammit. And a game I want design) It only means I dial back on authoring distractions and manage the rest with an emphasis on efficiency.

Bottom line: I’d rather write than author. And as an independent artist with little prospect of ever profiting from my work, that’s a choice I have the luxury of making.  So I’m doing it. I’ll stoke my creative fire rather than see my name in lights.

Not this kind of fire. A figurative one.



When I say I don’t want compliments….

Today in Uncomfortable Self Awareness Revelations: I have finally figured out why I end up feeling worse after asking for feedback than when I struggle in solitude. In the immortal words of The Captain from Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” It’s a problem of definitions. To me, feedback means “providing facts, data points, specifics, examples, ”  To so many others, it means, “Say something nice and/or encouraging.”  I ask for honest feedback. I get praise. It makes me weep.

Generalities are like grains of sand inside my mental shoes. They chafe and grate and rub me raw. They require interpretation and are filled with irritating, incomprehensible nuance. I love interpreting nuances of meaning as an intellectual exercise, but as soon as my emotions are engaged, the stress builds high.

Facts are solid, sturdy things that can easily be passed from person to person without much distortion. Praise is fragile and slippery, so it all too easily falls into the deep emotional hole labeled “polite lies said by people who secretly pity you and want you to go away.” Once it’s in that pit of despair,  it feeds the flames of self-doubt.

Facts seal doubt away, burying it under a solid flow of data. The flow will sometimes hammer my ego to the floor at the same time, but that pit of doubt? It’s still filled. 

I cannot reliably interpret general compliments, however honest they may be. They’re indistinguishable  from polite lies or veiled insults regardless of their objective truth. I can’t tell them apart from their painful cousins, so they end up in the same place. The emotional moat praise must cross to reach my heart is life-deep.

Building a bridge over that gaping pit takes a lot of specific fact-bricks and a LOT of trust. I have to deeply trust people before I believe praise from them–and that trust has to be built and rebuilt with lots and lot of fact bricks every time an ego quake brings all the confidence crashing down. It takes tireless effort to build a bridge strong enough for compliments to safely cross over.

I can only think of five people who’ve built a bridge like that, ever. I married one of them.
I can adult when necessary. Except in extreme circumstances, I will manage courteous thanks and a polite semblence of gratitude for praise-y generalizations. But since you’ve gotten this far, I’ll tell you a little secret: I’m usually not thrilled. I’m not grateful.  I’m often bruised deep inside, and my trust will take a long time to heal.

Give me specifics, or give me silence. I’m entirely unreasonable that way. 

Negative Space Can Be Positive

I sometimes tell the world I want to ignite my writing with napalm, nuke it from orbit, or otherwise never see a word of it again in my life. Those of a steadier nature often construe these declarations as weepy despair, attention-seeking melodrama, or raging rejection.  Wrong. These statements are none of those things.  Since it isn’t fair to define something by what it isn’t, I suppose I should tell you what they are.

They are factually-shaky truths that help me traverse a necessary emotional transition between disappointment and adaptation. There. I’ve now used all my big words for the week. Here’s the plain-spoken Stephen-King-approved version: I get the energy to do new things by admitting that I don’t like where I am. I say certain things out loud because the magic of voicing them makes them lies.

Frustration and discontent are normal, healthy outgrowths of failure, the seeds from which determination and inspiration grow. For some people, those seeds are as light as spores and scatter as fast. Other people can displace or crack through the hard emotional shell and tease out sprouts with the amazing speed of a macaw given a bowl of walnuts. Some of us, though–some of us need to soak the spiny shells,  file off the sharp points and give those seeds a lot of verbal polishing first.

Failure isn’t the only thing to trigger seeding behavior. It’s simply the biggest external one. Internal conflicts cause it too. So does insecurity. And self-doubt. (No, insecurity and self-doubt are not the same. They’re a bit like conjoined twins, but entirely distinct in their personalities and effects.)

Seed polishers welcome any help that gets the nasty little things buried faster. We can always use assistance spreading soft loam over them, adding a sprinkle of water, and giving them a little sunshine.  That’s all that’s necessary. Time takes care of the rest.

If you are brave enough to lend a hand to anyone dealing with the spiny sharp emotional seeds of creative failure and insecurity,  please remember that this is not the right time or place for offering practical advice. If you drown seeds in water and bury them in fertilizer, they do not survive. Yeah, I’m milking the analogy there. Milking it hard.

Emotional honesty is important to me. I’m not going to pretend my life is all highs. I will make valid statements of raw pain and pride in survival. (Look at my owie. It’s a doozie! Let’s amputate at the shoulder and cauterize the sucker!) I will make them a lot.

Warm fuzzies, kind praise, affirming anecdotes — all those help the transition go smoothly and with a minimum of anguish and upheaval.

Lists of practical coping strategies and encouragements that focus on not being a loser-quitter-whiner-negativity-thrower? Not so useful.

That’s all I have to say on the topic. I may revisit it later. For now, let’s wrap with a happy graphic and a happier thought: negative signs become positives when you cross them off.