I haven’t been blogging much this year. The truth is, I have been in a very deep depression and my anxiety is out of control. I finally went to see my doctor about a month ago and we’re trying a mix of meds and therapy. So far, it is helping a little bit, but not a lot. I need to completely unlearn almost forty years of unhealthy coping mechanisms and replace them with healthy ones. But what I haven’t been doing much of is writing.
Secret Magic is still coming, but right now it’s on an indefinite hold while I work through the worst of my issues. I did manage to write a few short stories during my black times, though, and those will be coming out later this year. The first one is called “A Change of Heart” and it will be out in July in the anthology Born to Love Wild. More on that in a few weeks, but for now, check out the cover to the left and click this link to reserve your copy on Kindle!
In the meantime, I am still making my annual trek back to my favorite place on earth, Seton Hill University, aka Hogwarts for Writers. I graduated with my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction in 2012, but I miss it so much I go back every year for the alumni workshop, In Your Write Mind. If you’re looking for a small but very craft- and business-focused event where you can make connections with other authors as well as industry professionals like agents and editors, check out In Your Write Mind.
And if you’re going to be in the Pittsburgh area this Saturday night (June 23rd) from 5:30-9:30, you can come see me! I will be at the Seton Hill Performing Arts Center in downtown Greensburg, PA at the mass booksigning. I’ll be signing from 5:30-7 and 8-9:30. That hour break isn’t for dinner, either—it’s to hear amazing historical romance author Beverly Jenkins speak!
I will have copies of all my books, including Kindle download codes for cheaper than what you’d pay online! So come see me, pick up a book, and then stay to visit with all of the other awesome authors who will be there. I hope to see you!
I had a lovely time over Memorial Day weekend at Balticon, the Maryland Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. The link there goes to the 2017 Balticon, but if you go to balticon.org you will be redirected to whatever the current year is.
The first thing I did was check in to the Broad Universe table in the dealer’s room, drop off my books, and sign up for a few hours “broadening” the table (thanks to one of my fellow Broads for that one–sadly I can’t remember who!). I also said hi to some friends, and then headed off to attend a panel on cover design.
I already knew most of the things discussed in the panel (which isn’t to say that I execute any or all of those things well/perfectly!), but I did learn something new about fonts and textures (or rather, when not to use special effects), so that was valuable.
I then went to a series of panels about podcasting and audiobook narration. You might be able to guess (and you would be right!) that there’s a reason for my interest. I haven’t finalized all of the details, but I am planning to start a monthly podcast either this month or next month, depending on how quickly I can get things up and running. I plan to use the material from my romance pet peeves and sex and romance blog series as most of the initial fodder, but I am also going to open it up to any questions about writing, books, publishing, or anything else you’d like to hear me talk about!
The next thing on my agenda was the Rapid Fire Reading with Broad Universe.
Each author had about 4 minutes to introduce their material and read. I was the only one who picked a passage short enough to stop before the moderator cut me off, which was nice because I got to end on a dramatic note. (I read the first scene from Memories of Magic, up until the point were Olivia opens her eyes).
On Sunday, I spent most of my time hanging out in the Dealer’s Room with the Broads, chatting with passersby about books and other things. I also caught another panel about podcasting (this one talked about crowdfunding, specifically through Patreon, which is something I’ve been considering for a while anyway). After the panels were done, I got to go to dinner and chat with some writer friends, which was fantastic.
On Monday, I once again spent most of my day in the Dealer’s Room. I only left to chow in the con suite and to check out J.L. Gribble’s reading. But, I sold a book, so that was the highlight of the convention for me. Sadly none of the authors sold much at our table–or anywhere else in the Dealer’s Room. All of the vendors complained at the low sales this year. But I don’t mind–that was one sale I didn’t have before!
So in all, a great convention. Next time I’ll either stay in the hotel or find someplace closer to sleep so that I can attend more early and late panels.
Leave me a comment about what you’d like to hear on a podcast, or send me a message on Twitter or Facebook. If you want to hear about it, I want to talk about it!
Last weekend was this year’s World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio. I had a fantastic time!
I drove in on Wednesday with my business partner. The ride out was easy, but once we got to Columbus we drove around in circles for a while trying to find the entrance to the parking garage for the Hyatt. We finally found our way after a mire of one-way streets going the opposite direction of where we wanted to go.
We then checked into the hotel and I took some pictures of the awesome view:
In the one picture, you can just make out the fountain from my selfie. 🙂
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for my picture-taking all weekend. I did manage to snap a pic of Guy Gavriel Kay during his reading, but it isn’t the most flattering image so I won’t post it.
In any case, I finished up Wednesday by joining several of my fellow SHU alums in helping to bag books. One of the awesome things about World Fantasy is that every attending member gets a giant bag of books at registration. The selection is random, and is based on promo copies sent by publishers. But when you volunteer to help, you get to make your own selections!
After that, we had dinner at a nice restaurant across the street (we got a little turned around in the hotel trying to find it) with Lee Modesitt (two of his books are pictured above).
Thursday started slowly. I spent much of it in the food court beside the hotel lobby, where renovations were ongoing. I got to chat with many of my friends from Seton Hill, as well as other writers and editors (particularly Joshua Palmatier, who was rooming with a friend from SHU). Then I went to a panel on alternate history, but didn’t learn much that I hadn’t already figured out as a consequence of writing it!
My two roommates got in late that afternoon and we went to dinner at a place called Gordon Biersch, which had very tasty food (so tasty we went back again the next night). After dinner, we hung out at the bar until closing time, talking shop with fantasy author Michelle Sagara/West (she writes under both last names). My roommate Erin and she are both pantsers (which is to say that they don’t plan their stories first). I am stolidly a plotter. I must outline!
I only managed to make it to the first Friday morning panel because we forgot to put the privacy sign on our door and room service knocked at 8:30. That gave me time for a quick shower and a cup of tea before a panel on the 1890s. It was supposed to also be about the 1990s, but most of the panel felt there weren’t very many comparisons between the two decades, and I was (obviously, if you’ve read my series!) more interested in the 1890s anyway.
After the panel, I chatted with fantasy author Elizabeth Crowens (author of Silent Meridian) about primary research and the late Victorian period. The next panel was about long-running series, and there were some arguments in the group about series that were effectively a single story broken into multiple segments versus stories that simply take place in the same world. I would argue that mine is a kind of hybrid between those two types–you can read each book independently, but there’s a shared “meta-story” that continues to be developed in each novel in the series.
After that I outlined book three for a while, and then listened to the lovely Carol Berg read from her new book. Following that was Ellen Kushner reading from the Tremontaine serial (check it out over at SerialBox.com), as well as a new short project set in the same world. And after that was a fantastic reading by Sharon Shinn from the latest installment of the Elemental Blessing series. She had a drawing for some swag, and I got an MP3-CD of the second book in the series, Royal Airs. Score! (I’ll update this when I can take a pic of it–my roommate borrowed it to listen to on her drive home). She also handed around a box full of blessings. In the series, during important times in people’s lives, they will go and draw out a blessing (or three) to help them figure out their problems. This is similar to tarot or runic divination, which anyone can tell you is more about helping people discover their own truths than it is about telling the future. Anyway, I drew out the following:
I was happy to get those, as that’s how I feel about my writing career at the moment. I only hope that I can live up to that last one, and always act with grace, empathy, and honor. She also gave out sheets of blessings, and I’m going to make lots of copies and start pulling them at the beginning of each day. I may even tweet about them!
That evening we hung out at the bar again, and I had a lovely conversation with Greg Tremblay, an audiobook narrator and voice actor, about romance, representation, and religion. Once NaNoWriMo is over, I’m going to check out some of his work with Rhys Ford, which he highly recommended as a source of well-told gay romance/spec-fic.
Saturday I went to more panels (Sword and Sorcery, Archaeology) and listened to Guy Gavriel Kay read from Children of Earth and Sky. We had dinner that night in the bar, and my roommate Erin Bales invented a new dessert. She ordered a burnt lemon panna cotta and I ordered sweet potato fries, and she had the wild idea to dip the fries into the panna cotta. It was delicious. Another writer at the bar with us (Evan Braun) accidentally called it a terra cotta, and then we realized that was the perfect name for this brand new dish. Thus the Terra Cotta was born, and culinary history made.
Sadly, Sunday was the final day. We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant where I once again got to chat with Greg Tremblay and renewed my convictions to write more LGBT-inclusive stories. I’ve already got minor characters of varying sexualities, but I’m going to up my game starting from this book, with major characters from many different ethnicities, races, sexualities, and ability. Representation matters!
My business partner and I drove home using a different route than we had on the way out, and got to see some very lovely mountains covered in brilliant red, gold, and yellow foliage. I would have taken pictures, but it was also quite overcast so not as gorgeous as it could have been.
We ended up being stymied by the town of Cumberland, MD, which had zero open restaurants on a Sunday evening except for fast food. So we got peanuts at the gas station and continued on our way.
Now I am home, and I really, really wish I could go to WFC next year in Texas. Not only do I love this convention in general, but my favorite author Martha Wells is going to be there! Alas, I can only afford one plane ticket next year, and it’s going to have to be to RWA in Florida. Maybe if I can sell several thousand copies of the books between now and next October…
It was a great con, I miss everyone already, and I’m excited to be diving right into book three, Memories of Magic, now that I’m home!
I can’t believe I haven’t already waxed enthusiastic about Seton Hill on this blog, but let me take a brief moment to say: if you are an aspiring writer, or a published writer looking to up your game and make new connections, consider Seton Hill University.
The Writing Popular Fiction MFA program is a big investment in terms of time and money, so if you aren’t sure if you want to take the leap, every June the alumni of the program host a writing workshop called In Your Write Mind. We bring in agents, editors, and guest authors to give workshops and be on panels, as well as accepting pitches from attendees. Alums of the WPF program and current instructors in the program also present workshops, and next year they are planning to schedule an “unscheduled” day of writing sprints, pitch practice, critique workshops, and more.
If you can’t tell, I absolutely love the Seton Hill experience, and keep coming back for In Your Write Mind. There’s a reason that alums call SHU “Hogwarts for Writers.” But why might you want to give the workshop a try?
For one thing, it’s low-key. We come here to have a good time, and there’s no sense of a hectic pace or the need to be somewhere or do anything. If you want to hang out and talk shop with other writers, you’ll have lots of opportunities. But if you like go to go classes, the programming tracks focus on craft and networking, and there’s a good mix of information about writing a better book and being smart about the business side of the industry.
Here’s what I did this past weekend, to give you an idea of what the workshop is like:
I had some childcare issues and so I wasn’t able to arrive early on Thursday. But I drove in on Friday morning and went straight to campus. I planned to move in to my dorm room* right away, but I immediately started talking to people and got pulled along for the first two workshops of the day.
I took Plotting the Mystery with Victoria Thompson, author of the Gaslight Mysteries, and The Zero Draft Approach to Novel Writing with Symantha Reagor (who runs the social media for the workshop) and my very own editor, the lovely Anna LaVoie. Plotting the Mystery reminded me of where I’d lost my focus when I wrote my cozy mystery about a kitchen witch, and the Zero Draft module gave me permission to write a crappy draft just to get the story on paper. A blank page can’t be revised!
In the afternoon, I pitched to all three agents and editors: Diana Pho from Tor, Kimberly Brower from the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency, and Eric Ruben of the Ruben Agency. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I want to be a hybrid author, with books both traditionally published and self published. I got some requests and will be sending queries out next week. Cross your fingers!
I also went to a workshop about method writing (using the tenets of method acting to better understand your characters) and a panel on freelance editing (to support the best editor EVER).That evening was the mass booksigning on campus. I idiotically forgot a handcart and had to lug a million-ton box of books from my car to the gymnasium, but I survived, and sold some books, so that was awesome. There were over 40 authors there signing books, and I got to be at the table next to my mentor, Maria V Snyder! I love her to death, and it was awesome to be between her and Andi Adams, who recently hosted me on her blog and will be featured here in a few weeks.
Saturday was the guest presenter day! First, I got to hear Kimberly Brower talk about the things that grab her – or turn her off! – in a query. Then Eric Ruben broke down some legal issues for writers and was very entertaining in the process. Everyone got to have lunch with guest author Daniel José Older, who has a magnetic personality and sold me on his books within five minutes of being in the same room. Then came another fantastic and fun panel with Eric about the future of the industry (takeaway – nobody knows!), and a presentation about Writing Across Difference by Diana Pho that was informative and eye-opening. The workshop sessions for the day closed out with an AMA-style panel with all four guests. They gave thought-provoking and often hilarious answers, and the whole room was filled with laughter. It was a blast!That night I went out to dinner with my editor and then we descended on a local restaurant for the yearly costume ball! That’s right – this workshop has a costumed event every year! This year’s theme was “Trope Your Genre” and we saw many interesting interpretations, including a billionaire romance hero, a ripped bodice, and a secret baby! Next year’s theme is “International Persons of Mystery” so start planning your spy-themed garb now!
Also at the party they raffled off baskets donated by workshop attendees. The proceeds go to a scholarship fund for the WPF program, and the baskets are always awesome. This year, I won one! I forgot to take a picture of it before I dismantled it, but it had a bunch of kitchen tools and recipe books. If you follow my other pseudonym, you know that I’m into cooking and baking and have written a cozy about a kitchen witch, so I was very excited to win.
I’ll be honest. Except for the fact that the booksigning was on Friday, Saturday was my favorite day of the workshop. The guests were amazing presenters, I learned things I had never known before, and I got to go to a fancy dress party!
I may have chosen to sleep on Sunday morning instead of getting up early enough to go to the 9 am workshops. I’m sorry! By Sunday I was so exhausted that I needed the extra rest. Note to self: next year, do not schedule your book release for the same week as IYWM!I did, however, go to two fabulous workshops later in the morning. The first was on strengthening character by exploiting flaws by Symantha Reagor, and the second was a scorching-hot workshop on erotic romance by the amazing Anna Zabo.
Every June we have a fancy lunch where the alums welcome the graduating students into the alumni association, and that is always good times. Then we have a business meeting, which sounds super boring, but isn’t because our committee rocks.
I didn’t want this year’s workshop to end, but it finally did, and I had to say goodbye until 2017. But many of us are going to World Fantasy in Columbus in October, so that’s only four months away. I can’t wait!
*One of the nice things about IYWM is that you have the option to stay in the dorms rather than booking a hotel. Now, they are definitely not glamorous. They’re your typical college dorms with very few amenities. But there’s a bed, WiFi, a shower, and electrical outlets for my devices, so it’s all good. And they are much, much cheaper than a hotel. So if you need to save a little cash – consider the dorms.