Tag Archives: weekends

I Accidentally a Whole Stack of Research Books

When I finally knew for sure where I would be moving to, I started looking into Local Stuff. Restaurants and grocery stores and movie theaters and museums. If you’re on the mailing list, you’ll know how I feel about museums. (Just imagine me with heart eyes and a misty filter and animated glitter on the edges of the frame. That’s how I feel about museums.) So when I have a chance to go to an air and automotive show at a museum, yeah, I’m there.

Which is how I ended up with a slight sunburn, brain freeze from a shave ice, and a whole stack of research books.

WWII Research Books

They’re second hand from the museum library’s collection of duplicate books. They only wanted a small donation for a whole set. It’s eight Time Life books from 1977, with titles like “The Battle of Britain” and “Russia Besieged,” and I’m in love.

WWII history is my secret passion. I grew up with the occasional story from grandparents about coastlines without a single light at night and about sailors who had battleships blown out from under them. Mostly, though, it was the Pacific theater and I could never quite cope with the politics of it. The internment of Japanese-Americans makes smoke come out my ears when I think about it. Having virulently racist grandparents telling these stories did not help. So it was always safer to focus on the European front. My love of the home front stories, though, keeps dragging me back to those ugly social politics. This is what I get for taking a special interest in war, of all things.

Someday, I’m going to feel confident enough in my knowledge base to start writing historicals. I’ve got a few ideas rattling around, of course, but I haven’t gotten up the guts to do anything about it. My experience is in writing either the mostly-right-now or the never-happened-at-all. Those are easy. Historicals, though? How can I ever sink deep enough to feel ready? It’s the perfectionist in me and maybe it’s just that someday, I’ll want to write badly enough that I’ll say to hell with one more day of research.

For now, I’ve got Pandora serenading me with Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. I’ve got the rumble of engines and the whirr of props still in my ears. I’ve got the smell of old books and the dusty feel of paper and the gleam of restored chrome. For now, I’ll spend another day letting half-forgotten slang and tales of heroism burrow under my skin. For now, I’ll give my heart to history.

Elders of Fiction: A Love Letter from #BookFest

Dear Elders of Fiction,

I hope you don’t mind me calling you that. It’s just that I’m still a baby, really, and you have been writing for a long time. I just wanted to say how much I like listening to you. Every year, I go to the LA Times Festival of Books and I listen. I listen to you talk about feminism and board games and switching mediums and raising children. I listen to two-person interviews and four person panels. I listen because there is so much I don’t know yet, so much I want to have for myself.

Yesterday, I listened to Margaret Atwood and Orson Scott Card and a panel of science writers that included K.C. Cole (okay, so that should read “Elders of Fiction and Nonfiction,” but let’s not get too prosaic here). The thing I took away from this year is the idea that we make up our lives as we go along. I listened to all of you and I heard you writing lives of joy. You are, if you don’t mind me saying so, kind of geeky people. I am too. You talk about ideas with such affection and excitement and baffled joy. Look, there are so many neat things in the world, isn’t that swell? I think so too.

I’ve been having a hard time lately. I needed someone to tell me that I can write a better life for myself. I needed someone to tell me that the real world is really a fiction we make up. I needed someone to tell me to break the rules and do what I want. Maybe none of you really said any of those things. Maybe the themes you thought you were talking about are not the themes I heard. I needed to hear them, though, and there you were. Full of joy. Undeterred. Cranky and geeky and in love with your work and your world.

I am making a place for myself in the world of fiction. It starts at your feet, listening to stories. I love to listen to you. I love what I hear. Thank you.

ETA (8/14/13): For f**k’s sake. This is what I get for living under a rock. If it seems odd that one of those people is on my list of folks I liked, well, that’s because I’ve only read nonfiction writing advice from that person, live under a rock, and always hear about everything six months to a year late. (Or longer…)

This happens with embarrassing frequency to me. In the future, I would like people who pass a certain batshit threshold to wear a friggin’ sign or something, okay? Let’s call that threshold “paranoid, vicious, and incoherent.”

WonderCon 2012 Experience

I spent the weekend at WonderCon and, like everything else, my con-going experience consisted of equal parts self-improvement and self-indulgence.

I attended Wonder Con for the first time this year largely because it was free. As part of the Comic-Con triumvirate, WonderCon offered me free passes as a professional and, seeing as it was taking place in the far more convenient Anaheim area, rather than San Francisco, I figured, what the hell. Between the first proper rainstorm of the California winter and unusually onerous work schedules, it ended up being perhaps the least convenient weekend I’ve ever experienced. That being said, my experience of the so-called “Comic-Con lite” was both positive and informative.

I have a strategy when I attend conventions. I love going to them, but I can usually only manage two or three a year, in terms of finances, scheduling, and physical tolerance. I’m an obsessive pre-planner and nothing distresses me more than when a convention only releases the schedule a few days or a week in advance of the event itself. I’m not kidding about the preplanning. There are spreadsheets involved. The only thing separating me from a level of work normally reserved for the people actually running the convention is that I know precisely what I’m looking for.

Writing Craft:

The first thing I always look for are panels for writers and about writing. These conventions always have programming intended to help people make the transition from fan to professional. That was the concept behind the Goal Setting for Creative Types panel. Put on by Douglas Neff and Toucan Learning Systems, the panel was heavy on audience participation and had a light, fun feel. The material on goal-setting itself–make it specific and measurable, primarily–I had heard before. What I found most helpful was his breakdown on your support team. This is the first time someone explained the importance of having each role (coach, cheerleader, and scorekeeper) filled by different person. It explained the love-hate relationship I had with telling my mother about my projects: what I needed most was a cheerleader and so unanticipated criticisms were unusually debilitating.

I also love panels in which writers talk about their own storytelling process. In Monsters Anonymous, Amber Benson, Mike Mignola, and Christopher Farnsworth talked about world-building choices as they related to public awareness of the monstrous in their respective worlds. Rewriting History featured Naomi Novik, Todd McCaffrey, Rob Reid, and Ernest Cline using and abusing history for their own purposes. I’ve written futuristic fiction and even reimagined the 80s, like Cline, to create an alternate present, but what I’m really hungry to do is follow in Novik’s footsteps. Rather than Napoleonic Wars plus dragons, I’m keen to World War II plus fairies. Finally, Shivers, Shakes, and Swoon gave me another look at my favorite genre I’m not writing in (yet): Young Adult.

I branched out a little more this year, now that I’m getting more heavily involved in self-publishing. Cover Story was a chance to listen to comic book professionals talk about what made good cover art. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll be attempting to make my own covers or hiring someone, but I want to understand either way. Mike Mignola, in particular, was very helpful. While he was mostly willing to write off his own covers as hopeless, he offered concrete commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of others’. To round things out, I attended the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s panel on the history of censorship and comics, which was at once sobering and inspiring.


Arguably my favorite part of any con are the research panels. Conventions are fantastic place to get a primer in subjects about which I know nothing. I saw several fantastic science panels this year. Iron Man, Robopocalypse, and the Future of Humanity and Science in Science Fiction both focused on a combination of physical enhancements and mental integrations through technology. E. Paul Zehr and Daniel H. Wilson presented a delightful image of future Olympic and professional sports enhanced by superhuman prostheses (and the possibility of deliberate-amputation-as-competitive-edge). Kyle Kurpinski and Terry Johnson were great fun to listen to, though I kept spacing out as my Muse started playing with ideas about duplicating human minds as programming and being in two places at once with robotic body doubles. Also, their book, How to Defeat Your Own Clone, is funny enough to injure the unprepared. (Also also, Terry looks smashing in Dr. Who cosplay.) The panels were particularly well-suited to my research for Incognito. Does it worry anyone else that phrases like “Robopocalypse” fill me less with dread and more with giddy anticipation?


Of course, it’s not all business. Sometimes I’m just there because OMG! The people. The things. The other people. Squee! Both the Monsters and History panels were also happy excuses to see people like Amber Benson and Naomi Novik, who make my heart do flip-flops. The Young Adult panel was an excuse to find more people like that. (I didn’t realize it beforehand, but I had previously seen Gretchen McNeil in her other life as a singer in Cirque Berzerk.) Maybe it’s strange to go to panels with authors you’ve never read, but this is one of my favorite ways of finding new books. Listening to authors talk about their books, their inspirations, and their interests, I get a window into who they are as people and how much that might overlap with who I am. A good panel can get me to take the plunge on books outside my normal genres and interests just because I want to spend more time with authors I got to know at a convention. The ultimate indulgence, for me, was the Steampunk 101 panel. The costumes on display all weekend were fantastic and have me itching to get sewing again.


I was more conservative with my spending this time, so I have a little less booty to show off than usual. I’m currently being given the dubious look by Laurie, my disapproving Squid Kid. I have costuming goodies from Crimson Chain Leatherworks and Legendary Costume Works. I bought a few books, including How to Defeat Your Own Clone, from Mysterious Galaxy, the best independent bookstore, period. My favorite thing, by far, is the Transmetropolitan art book, All Around the World, from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund booth. The book, like the whole comic series, is the perfect combination of gorgeous and appalling.

I make conventions work for me. Each one is a long weekend’s glut of information and inspiration. I might be there for odd reasons, but I leave more with my head filled up than with my wallet emptied.

And like the chocolate-flavored broccoli of the future, I know with every fannish squeal that I’m helping myself get closer to being on the other side of that microphone.

(P.S. Wherever possible, I’ve linked to the artists, writers, and craftspeople in question. However, a few people don’t seem to have websites, which left me scratching my head. Really, folks? Just…nothing? Not an electronic sausage?)

Return of the Con

(So, I’m just going to pretend that I haven’t been absent from here for six months and plan on talking about what I’ve been doing later.)

Anime Expo 2011 starts tomorrow and I am once again an attendee. I hadn’t realized just how much I missed it when I skipped last year to go to Comic-Con instead. I’m not cosplaying, mostly because my idea for a Katamari costume hit some technical snags, i.e. how do I sit if my body is a big round Katamari with cousins stuck to it? But I did make a cute bag, just so I would have something homemade to adorn myself with.


Homemade Bag

SERPENTS do it for the knowledge

The design and text are taken from the t-shirt of a background character in my story, ApoC. It was con-themed, at least in my mind, and I think it’s cute, so I turned it into a bag. I used an old white button-down shirt for the body of the bag, which worked out better than I could have hoped. The snake and apple are felt appliqué; the lettering is embroidered, then felted to fill in the outlines. It took me four days of light to moderate work. It’s not strong enough to do any heavy-duty carrying; that will be left to one of my combat-level backpacks. I’m just going to use it to carry programs and schedules and such.

I’ll check in again with post-con commentary. They have a new Anime and Manga Symposium, with papers being presented and keynote speakers, so I’m planning to go at least Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to catch all of it. Fan academia, here I come!

Comic-Con => Zombie!Joyce

Five days, way too many lines, and one lost bracelet (dammit!) later and I’m home from San Diego Comic-Con 2010. Even after twelve hours of sleep last night, I’m still reeling, unsure if I had a good time and why. Friday, the day of suck, saw the lost bracelet (dammit!), a three and one half hour line to get into a room, and the resulting one and a half missed panels. I really, really didn’t like that day.

But on either side of the day of suck, I got to see: the cast of Castle, plus extra Nathan Fillion at another panel; some writers I’ve read and a lot I haven’t but now want to; previews of excellent-looking shows, including Nikita; James Marsters at a table in the exhibit hall; Anthony Stewart Head, who laughs like he’s dying ALL THE TIME, wiping tears from his eyes and giggling; and a panel on zombie fiction that actually makes me want to read it, despite my utter loathing and the not-fun kind of creeping horrors for zombies.

I got books signed by Naomi Novik, both the writer and artist of Leviathan, and a bunch more whom I’ve never read, but who were awesome to listen to on panels. I started reading a book I had never heard of but now LOVE (Blood and Ice, by Robert Masello). I stocked up on comic books. I chatted with vendors about books I like and authors and the whole con experience.

So even though I lost a bracelet (dammit!), got lost–rather a lot really, because my e-nav hates me–around San Diego, stood in so many lines my grandchildren will be having sore knees, and spent the days starving at the con until going out for dinner (oh, how I long for home-cooked food now), I think I had a good time. Whether or not I enjoyed it enough to attend for a third time next year remains a subject of some debate. But I’m pretty sure I’m happy I went this time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have books to read, swag to sort, and joints to ice.