Tuesday, December 02, 2014

World Fantasy 2014

So this post is a bit late, I know, but I did a cool thing a month ago. I went to the World Fantasy Convention for the first time!

It was fantastic. I met up with Joshua Bilmes, the president of the agency that represents me, and he was great. He introduced me to about a thousand people and bought a giant chocolate capitol building. It was great fun, and really cool to meet so many authors, editors, agents, and fans. World Fantasy is about as close to a "professional" convention as we have in the SF/F community, and I was a bit worried that I'd go out there and sort of lurk in dark corners and not really talk to anyone. Fortunately, that was not the case. Also, pictures:

The bag o'books they gave us was massive.

And happened to include two books that I've been meaning to buy all summer...my excitement level was through the roof for these two.

The aforementioned chocolate capitol building. It was sort of uncomfortable smashing into the capitol building like that, but also: delicious. Jokes were made along the lines of "you haven't officially been to DC until you've attacked a capitol building." Myke Cole's reaction was a bit more patriotic: "Tastes like freedom."

Got a some brief sight-seeing in while I was there. I'd been to DC before, but it was good to walk along Penn. Ave.

More of the sight-seeing thing. Also, weird lips.

And of course I was able to get some writing in while I was there. This was my command center in the hotel lobby.
So I count my first World Fantasy as a success. I'll definitely be returning next year!

Otherwise, things are going well for me. I'm plugging away on Book 2 of the Chaos Queen series. And some good things are in the works, I think. I'll tell you all about them in the near future.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Portland Marathon 2014

So about eight months ago I decided it would be a great idea to sign up for the Portland Marathon. Running a marathon has always been a bucket list item of mine, plus I've got some family up in Portland who were planning on running the half marathon, and it sounded like fun to all run the race together.

Well, I conveniently forgot about the fact that I'd signed up for this marathon until about halfway through June. After a brief panic, I came to my senses and laid out a training plan. I'm not what you would call a faithful runner by any means, but I'll go in spurts where I run consistently for 4-8 months, and then take a break for about the same amount of time. I've done five different half marathons and a dozen or so other races, so I'm not a complete noob. But until last weekend I'd also never run a full marathon before, and 26.2 is a lot longer than 13.1, I'll tell you what.

So anyway, I started training. Some of my long runs went well, and some didn't. There was a brief period where I was seriously considering dropping out of the race, or trying to slip into the half marathon instead (which wasn't possible anyway). But I didn't. And I'm really glad. Because the race was actually quite fun.

The lower altitude and race-day adrenaline (15,000 people running a race at the same time provides a whole lot of energy) more than made up for my less-than adequate training. I didn't get a competitive time by any means, but I finished, and that's all I really cared about this time around*. Also, it was a lot of fun to run the race with family. One of my uncles ran the marathon with me, and seven others--including my grandma, so, yeah, amazing--ran the half. It was a fun weekend, fun to see family, fun to do something relatively healthy, and fun to be part of such a great race.

Anyway, I was tempted to write some expose on how running is a lot like writing a book, or reading a book, or a character's arc (David Farland actually shares a great example of how running is a lot like a character's arc in his book Million Dollar Outlines), or something else. But I'm not going to do that. The truth is, running is like a lot of things. Writing is one of them, and so is reading. But this time, for me, running was running, and that's all I'm going to say about that. Now, for what really matters: pictures!

We didn't get to see nearly as much of Portland as we wanted (because walking around for miles and miles didn't sound particularly appealing the day before the race), but we did get to hit up Voodoo Donuts. Worth it.

Getting ready, early in the morning, on race day.

Walking to the starting line. SOME people wanted to walk the entire mile and a half from the apartment to the starting line. And I was like um no we are driving as close as possible. So we did, and cut about a mile from that walk. Also worth it.

Pre-race fix.

Me on St. John's Bridge, around mile 17. I was feeling pretty good at this point.

View from St. John's bridge--that's Portland in the background.

Me, about .5 miles from the finish line. That's my aunt cheering me on like a boss.

Post-race view from my uncle's apartment. That's the Fremont Bridge in the background. Also, notice my bling for finishing the marathon.

All the runners. Two marathoners and seven half marathoners. That's my grandma in the middle, in the orange.

Aaaand the whole family who went to Portland (or already lived there) for the race, or just to hang out. It was great fun. 

* Will there be a next time around, you ask? I can't say for sure. I could go either way on whether I'd run another marathon or not; only time will tell I suppose.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Head Shots*

So, my agent asked me yesterday whether I had an "author photo." I briefly panicked, responded that I did not, and then scoured my Facebook photos and the photos on my hard drive for anything that might pass as a head shot. Turns out I take very few photos of myself, alone, that are remotely serious or professional in nature. The following are what I came up with:

This one was actually cropped from one of my engagement photos with Raych. So, in addition to now being deprived of the best part of the photo, it's also, like, 7.5 years old. Otherwise it was a pretty good option. Notice the very natural, effortless, not-awkward-at-all way in which I am diagonal.

Ok, I actually love this picture. Look at that eyebrow. Botox accident? Dwayne Johnson impression?** Who knows. But, again, this picture is just as old as the previous one, and I'm just not that same little boy anymore.

So I sent this to my agent as more of a joke, but he didn't comment on it so maybe he thought I was serious? Who knows. Also, I'm trying really hard not to pun on the "joke" and "serious" parts of that previous sentence. Must...resist...punnage...

Um, because I'm awesome, and top hats are totally in right now. As are blurry photographs.

Also more of a joke (because who DOESN'T want to think their favorite author is a a white walker???). But, even if it wasn't all weird and inverted, color-wise, it's got me with long hair. And I ain't got long hair no mo. :'-(
As you can see, the first batch I sent my agent was abysmally*** slim pickings. Unsurprisingly, he asked if there was anything else. So I took the following improvised selfie:

The resolution isn't that great, and I find this photo unsubtly ironic  in many ways (even if only to myself), but it's a good representation of the current Me, and isn't awful. 
So, yeah, that's my temporary author photo. (No need to panic--this photo won't actually go in any books, it's just something my agency needed on-file for some stuff.) On the to-do list now, of course, is to get one professionally done. I can only imagine that being awkward. To me it just sounds like taking school photos all over again, and to that I say: ick.

* Not FPS shooter head shots, mind you, or the type of shot that kills zombies. Just photos, people.

** Full disclosure: I stole both of those jokes from Facebook comments. ...thanks, Aunt Jeanne. And Dad. (No, seriously, look:)

*** "Abysmally" is one of those words that suddenly becomes hilarious when you look at it long enough. Amiriteoramirite?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Your friendly local desultory blogger, here...

Because this defines my blogging habits in all the ways:

desultory |ˈdesəlˌtôrē|adjectivelacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm: a few people were left, dancing in a desultory fashion.• (of conversation or speech) going constantly from one subject to another in a halfhearted way; unfocused: the desultory conversation faded.• occurring randomly or occasionally: desultory passengers were appearing.
Also, I'm hard at work on Book 2 of the Chaos Queen series*, and it's going well. It's actually been quite fun to get back into the characters of Knot, Winter, Astrid, and Cinzia. It's been so long since I've written actual new material for them (I wrote the first draft of Duskfall in 2010, believe it or not) that I thought it would be something of a disaster. But I'm happy to see that is not the case. So, that is happening, and it's making me happy.

My other Chaos Queen project, which was tentatively titled Dark Immolation but has now been tentatively changed to Deadnight, is on the backburner for now. In fact, that project may become something closer to a series of novellas/novelettes, depending on Things.

And, finally, I'm pretty sure I'm going to attempt a D&D-style campaign in the Chaos Queen world. It wouldn't happen until Christmastime-ish, but if it goes well it might be the first in a long series of similar campaigns. I've never GM/DM'd before, so this will be my first experience telling the story, but I'm looking forward to it. Fun times ahead. (And it's not all for fun, either--the idea is that it will help me explore different facets of the Chaos Queen world. Okay, you're right, that actually does sound fun to me. So it is all for fun.)

Anyway, that's me lately. And, in the spirit of D&D, and one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, enjoy the following laugh:

*  Did I mention I changed the series title from The Blood Queen to The Chaos Queen? Well, I did. It fits a lot better. Also, there are no WoW NPCs named Chaos Queen, so, added bonus.

Friday, August 01, 2014

I'm Not Dead

I'm really not. I did just finish the most recent revisions on Duskfall, though. Just the other day I sent the most recent version of the manuscript to my agent, so that's neat!

Now, I'm working on the sequel to Duskfall, tentatively titled Dark Immolation--not to be confused with my previous project, Dark Immolation, which is now tentatively titled Dreadnight. I'll explain more about that soon, but long story short, I'm really excited about my upcoming projects.

The good news: now that I finished that batch of revisions, I'll hopefully have time to blog more! So, that might be a thing. Hopefully. :-)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Italy Round-Up

For your convenience and pleasure, here's a round-up of my recent posts from the trip to Italy Rachel and I took a few weeks ago. Enjoy!


Calabria and Puglia

Rome and Florence

Cinque Terre, Milan, and Venice

And last but not least, THE FOOD!

Why "Strong Female Characters" Aren't Enough Anymore

If you haven't read this article about how lazy writing is destroying the 'strong female character' stereotype (which became flawed when it became a stereotype to begin with), you should check it out. Like, now. And if you're doing any kind of creative work, you should ask yourself the questions   posed at the end of the article. They're worth asking.

Tasha Robinson, the author of the article, states that
"Strong female character" is just as often used derisively as descriptively, because it's such a simplistic, low bar to vault, and it's more a marketing term than a meaningful goal. . . . It's still rare to see films in the mainstream action/horror/science-fiction/fantasy realm introduce women with any kind of meaningful strength, or women who go past a few simple stereotypes.
Now I've been a "strong female character" (how about SFCs for short?) advocate for a long time, but there is a lot of truth to Robinson's statement. Many of us (authors, filmmakers, screenwriters, fans, readers, you name it) have become so obsessed with creating SFCs that we've forgotten why we wanted to make them in the first place--or, on the more sinister side of that coin, we attempt SFCs because that's what the market tells us to do, or that's the best way to reach a certain demographic, or whatever.

Unfortunately, SFCs have become as much of a stereotype as the stereotypes they were meant to combat. But it's the fact that SFCs even exist--that I have to create an acronym for such a term in the first place--that is the real problem. Because strong women existed long before SFCs were ever coined. Strong women have led nations, fought wars, survived crazy things, and died for what they thought was right. But, for some reason, we've shied away from portraying such women with even a fraction of the zeal with which we portray strong men in film, literature, and TV. Are there great films/books/etc. that portray SFCs? Of course there are. But (1) those works are far too few, and (2) the creators of said works are constantly bombarded with questions along the lines of "why do you create such strong female characters?"

Let's think about that question for a moment. "Why do you create such strong female characters?" Can anyone else see something off here? Why do we ask these creators why they make such SFCs when we could just as easily ask the great masses of people who neglect to give their female characters strength, intelligence, personality, leadership skills, wit, or any meaningful part of the story in general why they don't write SFCs? Do you see the disconnect there? Do you see the glaring inequality implied by that question?

Creating SFCs isn't about making women into men; women can have physical strength, to be sure, and can even act like men and have other masculine qualities and that is great and there is a place for those portrayals in fiction. But women can also be powerful through their intelligence, their sexuality, their strength of will, their cunning, their femininity, the sheer strength of their presence, and just about any other attribute you could come up with. That's what writing SFCs is about--or, at least to me, that's what it should be about. It's more than giving women equal screen or page time; it's more than making sure women kick bad-guy ass every once in a while. It's giving women--and men, believe it or not, because we can value and look up to women, too--female characters to admire, to aspire towards, or even to question and study and analyze.

Look, don't take my word for it. Listen to what Joss Whedon has to say about the whole thing--in fact, a lot of this blog post is drawn from what Whedon says about equality and "strong women characters" in this speech. Jump to 2:05 to hear him start talking about his responses to the "why do you write such strong women characters" question. His responses are some of the best I've ever heard.

Is the SFC movement broken? I don't know. It does seem to have lost perspective. I still think it's silly that it has to even be a thing to begin with. But that's what's so crazy: it does have to be a thing. Because the way things are now is not cool. It isn't right. So I can say that I, at least, am going to continue writing female characters, and they're going to be strong*.

* And, in this case, strong may refer to any and/or all of the following (pilfered from the OSX Dictionary App):
strong |strôNG|
adjective (stronger |ˈstrôNGgərstrongest |ˈstrôNGgist)having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks: she cut through the water with her strong arms.• attrib. ] able to perform a specified action well and powerfully: he was not a strong swimmer.• exerting great force: a strong current.• (of an argument or case) likely to succeed because of sound reasoning or convincing evidence: there is a strong argument for decentralization.• possessing skills and qualities that create a likelihood of success: the competition was too strong.• powerfully affecting the mind, senses, or emotions: his imagery made a strong impression on the critics.• used after a number to indicate the size of a group: a hostile crowd several thousand strong.able to withstand great force or pressure: cotton is strong, hard-wearing, and easy to handle.• (of a person's constitution) not easily affected by disease or hardship.• not easily disturbed, upset, or affected: driving on these highways requires strong nerves.• (of a person's character) showing determination, self-control, and good judgment: only a strong will enabled him to survive.• (of a market) having steadily high or rising prices.• firmly held or established: a strong and trusting relationship.(of light) very intense.• (of something seen or heard) not soft or muted; clear or prominent: she should wear strong colors.• (of food or its flavor) distinctive and pungent:strong cheese.• (of a solution or drink) containing a large proportion of a particular substance; concentrated: a cup of strong coffee.• (of language or actions) forceful and extreme, esp. excessively or unacceptably so: the government was urged to take strong measures against the perpetrators of violence.

Viva l'Italia! (Part 5 - THE FOOD)

Ok folks, now for what you've all been waiting for...THE FOOD. Because what is a trip to Italy without loads of delicious food??

Rachel's first meal in Italy: prosciutto e melone (ham slices and melon...that sounds kind of gross in English).

My first meal: a margherita pizza.

Gelato! For those who aren't aware, gelato is like ice cream but more creamy, more delicious, and more better.

Gelato in a brioche! (Gelato in a sweet roll.)

Arancini (or arancine if you're from Palermo) - deep fried rice balls filled with cheeses, ragus, and other deliciousness.

La cioccolata - Italian hot chocolate, thick and dark.

One of the few disgusting things you'll find in Italy--Chinotto is truly an acquired taste.


Perhaps the most cost-effective meal we ate in Italy, and it's a lot more interesting than it looks. That far thing is a calzone, the middle thing is filled with mozzarella and salame piccante, and that one with a bit missing is filled with wurstel.

Behold: the most delicious pizza in the world, the Ferrari. Toppings include: tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, salame piccante (their pepperoni equivalent), bruschetta, speck, parmesan cheese, fresh origano (who am I kidding, all the ingredients are fresh), and pepperoncini oil.

More gelato. That dark stuff is basically chilled nutella.

Eating pizza on our hotel balcony in Taranto.

Focaccia! Delicious bread, salted and spiced and olive oiled, with fresh tomatoes and olives cooked on top.

Panzerotti! Basically, deep-fried calzones.

Una frappe--an Italian milkshake.

The most delicious focaccia in the world, in Bari...

...from none other than the Paneficio Fiore.

Pasta alla carbonara in Rome.

Pasta all'arrabiata, also in Rome.

We had gelato at least once a day. Usually twice. And, one time, thrice.

Tartufo - a delicious dark Italian chocolate cake thingy.

Eating dinner in Rome across the piazza from the Pantheon.

Bruschetta! Check out that basil....

Gnocchi and ragu.

More carbonara.

More cioccolata italiana.

Fruit! Fresh fruit everywhere!

Eating dinner by the sea in Monterosso al Mare.

Pesto genovese.

Fish ravioli with shrimp and zucchini.

Pesce di spada! (Swordfish!)

Focaccia in Milan...but let's be honest, nobody does it like they do in Bari.

Perhaps the most delicious gelato I had while in Italy, drizzled with nutella.

Sipping chocolate...basically melted chocolate in a cup.

The only thing I remember about this meal is that it was far and away the most expensive meal we ate in Italy.

These shoes are made of chocolate. These. Shoes. Are. Made. Of. CHOCOLATE.

Last pizza in Italy--that's mozzarella burrata, basically a hyper-creamy, buttery mozzarella.
That's it, everyone. To sum up: Rachel and I went to Italy, saw a million cool things, ate a billion delicious things, and had lots of fun. It was amazing and we're already planning a return trip. The end.