The Brilliance of a Sparkling Vampire

I posted a Bitstrips comic of a friend of mine not being sure whether I was invincible, or a vampire. (There were copious sparkles involved.) Another friend of mine made fun of me for being a Twilight vampire. And I thought about it a moment, and thought, If I could have Stephanie Meyers readership and royalties, I would be laughing all the way to the bank.

For all that my hipster friends poke fun at the sparkling vampires, I have had multiple friends admit that they’ve read her books. They read them simply because they wanted to know. They wanted to be a part of something; they wanted to understand the attraction. Now, most of those readers did come away with a lot of poor reviews, but they read the books, nevertheless.

There is a lot of speculation on what made Stephanie Meyers so famous, and mine is this. She did something audacious. She flew in the face of ‘what is known’ about vampires. She kept a lot of what people love, which was also smart, but she had that one thing that drew attention, that created question marks above people’s heads and made them want to know.

It is impossible to know what will sell. Steve Jobs didn’t know how well the iPad would do when he set it loose into the saleosphere. He had a gut instinct and a clever idea. J.K. Rowling was on welfare when she wrote Harry Potter. She was unemployed and had the time. That’s my story as well, although that’s where the similarity stops, of course. Her story certainly resonates will me, but there is no way of knowing if I will do what she did, and come up with that one thing.

The certainty is, that if I tried to write a story about sparkling vampires, that there would be those who would read it, but because it’s a copy cat idea, I would be the recipient of a lot of ridicule and a lot less readership. That, and even though it was the ‘hot thing’ for a while, it’s not really the trend anymore, and people would know that I wasn’t writing about sparkly vampires for the love of them. (Not after this post, anyway.) During my writer’s conference I listened as a woman asked, “What’s the hot trend right now?” My gut instinct was to be horrified that anyone would ask that. I want to be a commercial success, but not more than I want to enjoy my art.

The trick in art is to find the one thing that you love, and base your work around that. That way, the creation process is enjoyable, or at least mostly enjoyable (as it’s always more work than you expect.) At the end of the day, your beloved project may just be that – a pleasant way to spend your free time. You don’t want to have regrets about how you spent your time, after all. Then, if you do manage to get picked up, and other people see how brilliant you are. One way is good, the other way better, but both ways you win.

Geek Girl Con

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As I have mentioned before, I got invited to speak at a panel at Geek Girl Con. I was over the moon about this opportunity. Keep in mind, I have been going to cons for years. Normally I would be too preoccupied to go to panels, but I have seen Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, Neal Stephenson, and Greg Bear speak at various panels. I had at least some idea of what was expected.

The panel’s title was Toward A Universe of Equals: The Past, Present and Future of Gender Equality in Speculative Fiction. We were in one of the larger rooms, which hosted about 250 people, and was almost full when the panel was ready to start. While I was there, I met Phil Brucato, whose work I was familiar with. He developed for White Wolf and helped work on several of the major gaming systems that I was quite fond of playing years ago. He was a crisp, professional gentleman who admitted to ruining his knees and hips in mosh pits. I immediately liked him.

At the other table sat Danielle Myers, April Jo Murphy, and Micheal Shean. Micheal was the moderator and invited me to the panel. Crystal Connor showed up a little late, as the panel began. She sat down next to me, and on a spur I hugged her, and she hugged me back. What floored me is that when she hugged me, I felt like she was hugging me because she hadn’t seen me in ages, not like a hug for show. In no time we were giggling and whispering during the panel like complete children, but no one seemed to mind.

The panel itself.. well, I was in some fairly prestigious company. And we all had differing opinions about ‘feminism.’ And honestly, while that was where the conversation started, it evolved into a simple sense of equality for everyone. It wasn’t boys vs girls, it was race and age and even weight, all the discriminations that belittle people.

I noticed people leave, and I noticed people sneak in. I think at the end of it, despite feeling like I was babbling incoherently, it went really well. Afterwards, Micheal told me that the head of the panels told him that she thought it was the most successful panel of the con so far.

There were those that asked the question, why have a feminism panel at a feminist con? I think what made this interesting was that the panelists had six different opinions on the issue of discrimination. Two of the panelists were men. One of the panelists was African American. Everyone has different takes on how best to achieve equality, which is important because equality is not one size fits all. If it were, it would discount individuals, and individuals are who want to feel equal.

The panel, however, was the first step. After the panel, there were those who wanted to talk to the panelists, and that was very interesting. I was approached by this handsome young man with a cap of ginger curls hidden beneath a helmet. He wore a soldier’s outfit and his name on his tag was a con name, not a real name. He asked me for my autograph, even though I got the impression he had never even heard of my book. I signed his poster and then he asked me about his book. I was a bit surprised by the question he asked, which seemed very basic to me, but it was very important to him. He opened with, “In your professional opinion, what do you think?” He told me about a soldier that appears in his book (no surprise there) and told me he mentioned he was “of Latino descent.” Then he asked me what I thought.

I can only say I didn’t laugh, but took him seriously, as it seemed very important to him. I told him he had the right instincts and he should stay with that. He smiled, and was so pleased that a real author had taken him seriously.

It was then, having a person approach me and feel towards me the way I felt when I met Charles De Lint.. It was an experience like none I’d ever had, but it told me something very important. If I become a known author, someone who people talk about and share with their friends, I will become a public figure. I learned that at the writer’s conference. I knew that in my mind. However, it’s a different thing entirely to learn that I think I am up to becoming a public figure.

The rest of the evening was terrific. We left the con, found a restaurant, and sat down to chat. Everyone really seemed to click, and we had an amazing time. We swapped stories from our various walks of life, and I learned a ton. We all exchanged information, and left the con very pleased with how the whole day turned out.

One year and a month from the time I’ve published The Corsican, and I feel like I have vaulted from dreamer to doer. I have had a taste of what I’ve always wanted in life, and I want more. Getting published seemed like the conclusion of a life’s dream, but it was simply the beginning. This whole month was a demonstration of where I need to go, and now I’m going to keep on going, as far as this ride will go. 

Work It

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Recently I told a friend of mine I was living at 125% capacity, and I wasn’t joking.
This was a feat I was capable of at the tender age of nineteen, when all the world was a stage and I was quite a player. I would spend every evening in the company of a bevy of witty, savvy, brilliant friends who delighted in games both on and off the field. I agreed to nearly every invitation – nearly, because I had accepted every invitation for a while and made a habit of double and triple booking myself to the point of annoying those same witty, savvy, brilliant people who were my friends. I fell out of favor for being flaky, and had to climb my way back into good graces.
I did learn that lesson, but not before I tried a myriad of ways to stuff my days full of activity. The sound and fury that signified nothing, unless you happened to be a teenage girl poised on the steps of being twenty.
Quite some time beyond that, I have learned a whole new set of business. I am writing and learning the additional requirements of being an author – tending a blog, attending conferences, doing public readings. Add this to a schedule that is packed to the brim, and you can guarantee nervous collapse is at hand.
I have also desperately been trying to put off the decision that is so obviously in need. A few weeks ago I emailed four of my girlfriends, asking them what their normal social schedule looked like. They ranged from a bi-weekly lunch with a friend to once every six weeks. Even my single friend, who has less family obligation than I do, still only saw people an average of once every couple of weeks.
At this point I can only pull back. I must disappoint people and turn down invitations and stop being so busy. I have to let go of the limelight to let me finally get something done. The problem with writing is that it is time consuming. For every word that goes on the page, many are altered, experimented with, attempted, and then discarded. Much like movies, novels have ‘original scenes,’ enough to probably eke another book or two from. Much like movies, there are only some deleted scenes that are worth showing off.
It will be productive, certainly, but I can’t help but wonder what I’ll think about my decision come November.

 

A Little More than Symbolic

As you may or may not know, yesterday I got a tattoo. The design of it is a phoenix, who was drawn, colored and executed by Chris Murphy, of Skin Loft Tattoo in Fairhaven. I can’t possibly recommend him enough, but that’s not the focus of this story.

When I chose the site of my tattoo, I put it on my left shoulder, which was injured in a car accident in 1999. The whole joint has been in crisis off and on since then, but for the most part I function fine as long as I don’t overstress it. I was a little concerned about the tat, but as the needles only go in the depth of a nickel’s width, I thought it should be fine. When my tattoo artist began with the outline, I wasn’t sure I could make it. It was intense, and I could feel my muscles twitch. To help reduce the pain, I began to imagine that the needles brought healing energy into my muscles. This helped the rest of the tattoo go smoothly.

To say a word about the car accident, it’s the only accident I’ve ever been in where I wasn’t in my own vehicle. The vehicle I was driving that day was Mark’s. Mark was a very important man in my life, about twenty years ago. When I was married to my first husband, Dave, Mark was the man who treated me like a husband should. I’m not proud to say I cheated on my first husband, but I married young and made mistakes. Not to mention, I never felt like Mark was the mistake. He is a wonderful person, and unfortunately, I was the villain in this piece. I took him entirely for granted, I didn’t treat him as he deserved, and eventually he moved on. I realized too late what a douche I had been, and I tried to make up for my crimes but much, much too late. I have regretted it ever since. I’ve always wanted to apologize and make it up to him, but he ejected me from his life and distanced himself as far as he could. The only way I could ‘make it up’ was by respecting his wish to leave him the hell alone.

Back to present day, I did my reading last night at Village Books with the other authors, and it was great. One author sent me a friend request over FaceBook after the event, and when I approved it, the first person on the “People you may know” list was Mark’s wife, Amy. This has never happened before, in all the years I’ve had a FaceBook. Out of a strange sense of curiosity (I’ve never looked for their FaceBooks before, what with leaving them alone) I clicked her link, and saw a few photos of her. Naturally there were links to Mark’s FaceBook, and I clicked on one. His FB is sewn up very tightly, with few public posts at all, but I saw something marvelous nonetheless. He was cuddling with his newborn daughter on his profile picture.

The only thing in life Mark ever wanted to be was a father, and I couldn’t give that to him. Sadly, I didn’t think Amy could either. I’d run into her at a mutual friend’s wedding five years ago, and she was ill. She had the kind of debilitating disease that I can’t imagine living with. And I was sad for Mark. He was taking care of his wife, just like he would in that situation, but I didn’t think he’d ever have the one thing he wanted most in his life.

I don’t know if the baby is adopted, or if she’s his. I don’t know if she’s Amy’s baby or not. I really don’t care. I saw Mark happy. In his picture, he is the heart of contentedness.

Something inside me uncoiled in that moment. Some knot I had forgotten I carried around with me, some piece that burdened me with the thought that the damage I had done to his life was everlasting.

In that moment, I felt that he’s going to live happily ever after.

None of that will ever matter to him. He’s got his daughter, and his wife, and his life, and he will never know that I am happy for him.

On the other hand, I got my closure, which I had given up hope of ever finding.

Which was far more healing than I expected when I decided to get the symbol of life, death, and rebirth etched in ink on my shoulder.

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Freshly minted 10/12/13

Conference Send Up

I attended my first writer’s conference. I felt like such a grown-up, ready for school with my laptop bag and my shoulder bag slung over one arm. The day was sunny and bright, and the modest building hosted trees that went all in on the autumn foliage. The day began full of promise, and I made it on time for registration.

I almost missed the morning ceremony, however. A well-dressed older woman extolled how amazing this particular conference was, listing kudo after kudo while I juggled my gear and the gratis coffee that I prayed would be drinkable. I was in for a surprising treat on that end, and I fishtailed my way to a seat only to send my drinkable, gratis, lidless coffee sloshing far and wide beyond the lid of the cup. No writers were hurt in the making of this feature, but I was mortified by my unruly beverage. I sat down, shamed, listening to the litany of People Who Are Cooler Than Me.

I looked around the room, and noticed a couple of things. One, that there was a PALTRY number of outlets that I would have to target if I wanted to use my laptop, and I was suddenly grateful for my splitter. I would make friends by extending the warm glow of electricity to their toys. I also noticed that I was not the target demographic of this conference. I was, in fact, a good twenty years younger than the median age.

As the clapping began, I stood up to fishtail my way over to the open outlets, when my drinkable, gratis, lidless coffee did a half-gainer with a twist, and ended up turning the seat I had just vacated into a caffeinated swimming pool. My mortification from earlier was a pale and paltry thing. A lovely woman named Fran took pity on me, offering up her napkins to my disaster. She said she’d never forget me. I pray that she was wrong.

My first speaker was William Dietrich, a PacNW local who is also an NY Times bestseller. I listened avidly and took copious notes.. only to look around and notice that there was only one other laptop in the room. The two of us were of a similar age, which may have something to do with it. Over a sea of gray I listened to William extol his formula for improving his plot.

My next speaker was Alice Acheson, who has been a publicist for 40 years. She’s the person I was most interested to see. I mean, as a writer, one always strives to improve your craft, but if you want to be an author, and get a published deal, and join the ranks of Stephen King and JK Rowling.. you have to be into the marketing aspect of things. You have to understand that you are going to be a recognized figure. You will no longer be obscure; people will make judgments of you and want you to speak at awards ceremonies or maybe the darker side of fame, where you become someone’s imaginary best friend. Now, that’s the best case scenario, becoming that famous, but in this day and age, where a woman managed to get on the NY Times Bestseller list for writing Fan Fiction, you don’t know when it could be you.

Alice spoke about how to focus on that secondary piece, researching Agents and Publishers and how to submit, etc. I listened in horror as one of the attendees asked her point blank, “What’s the hot trend right now?”

Alice smiled, as smooth as a cat, and replied, “It doesn’t matter. If the ink was wet on your contract today, it would take a year, maybe two to get your book on the shelves.”

I love her.

My third speaker was by far my favorite, although I wasn’t expecting him to be. Maybe you’ve heard of Benjamin Percy, but I never had. He stepped up to the podium wearing flannel, well-worn jeans, and equally worn cowboy boots. Not the frilly kind, but the working kind. I know the difference, coming from Wyoming. I wondered how this guy could write a paragraph.

Then, he spoke. First of all I must describe his voice to you, but I never will properly manage. He simply had one of those deep, bass voices like Ving Rhames, Vin Diesel, or Morgan Freeman. At one point a participant told him he should be a voice actor. He grinned and said, “Yes, I read my children bedtime stories. Can you imagine me reading Goodnight, Moon?”

He began with his humble start, and detailed how he devoured mass paperbacks. Anything with a dragon on it, a dragon with a sword was better. He named Robert Jordan and Dritz, and I was hooked. The way he turned a phrase was lyrical, and I was astounded. He made me want to go back to school, so I can do what he does.

In the interest of cutting a long story short, (too late,) the conference was excellent. I’m glad I went. I can also tell you I was exhausted by the end of the first day and opted to skip out on the second, despite how much I enjoyed being there. My brain was full, and I spent Sunday reveling in the ‘nothing to dos.’

Write on the Sound

Write on the Sound

The first step in my October writing odyssey is the Write on the Sound conference in Edmonds. It’s been around a while, but this was the first that I’d heard of it. I am hoping to make a few contacts with writers in the Seattle area. I have made plenty in Bellingham, but my heart still belongs to Seattle. This year I can walk with my head held high, knowing that I have a published book under my belt. It has helped my confidence. I’ve committed to a path that I had spent years avoiding, and I’m getting recognition for what I did.
The irony of it all is that in spending this month deeply involved in the writing community, I’m not writing. I’m barely managing to sneak in 500 words a day, which by my standard is the equivalent of writing nothing. And maybe that’s not fair to myself, but I think you have to have some kind of standard, especially when writing. It’s very easy to say, “I have a great idea for a novel.” It’s very hard to say, “I’ve written a novel.”
Word count notwithstanding, I remain excited about my opportunities. Some classes I’m taking are going to enrich my career. How to Find an Agent, or Using Social Media. Then, there are classes to help work on my writing. How Stories are Told, etc. Then there are the purely fun classes, like “Food and Wine Writing.” (And yes, that’s my idea of fun! Don’t judge me.)
Then there’s been the adventure of getting there. I feel as though there will be a There and Back Again: A Writer’s Story post in my future. I could tell you how I plan on doing it, but I think the fun will be in explaining how well things went according to plan.
This whole month is a month of waiting. It’s the hardest part of looking forward to something. The pure distraction as the event approaches. And I can tell you that when I’m getting out of bed at five o’clock in the morning to get rolling on Saturday, I’m certainly going to be asking myself what I was waiting for, and why not go back to bed. But it will be worth it.
And, if it’s not worth it, then let’s hope that it’ll be funny later, when I’m relating the tale.