Con Nooga 2015

This past weekend I attended what I consider my very first convention. If you wanted to me REALLY technical, Con Nooga wasn’t my first: I attended Wizard World Chicago back in 2003, but that was a comic con before comic cons got taken over by television and film. Then in 2006, I attended less than 12 hours of Context in Columbus, Ohio: I wanted to meet Gary Braunbeck and take his workshop, and I also got to meet Catherynne M. Valente and get an autographed copy of Labyrinth.

But in terms of attending a full con and going to panels? Con Nooga was my first. And it was a good, safe con to have as my first: not overwhelming, but more than enough to teach me what I need to do and/or pack for my next convention. I’m already eyeing DragonCon in Atlanta this year. Cherie Priest! Carrie Vaughn! YAY!

So what did I learn? How was Con Nooga? Did I get to meet the magical Seanan McGuire? Talk to the legendary Timothy Zahn? Read on to find out!

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A Day Like Today

Thus ends my first week of working four days, ten hours each. Friday is my official Writing Work Day, with a break to get my allergy shot.

How has the new schedule gone? I’ve seen some highs and lows. The week started rather badly, to be quite honest. The doctors think she had a mini-stroke and they discharged her Tuesday evening. I spoke to her Wednesday but wasn’t able to get in touch today, so right now I’m assuming no news is good news. We’re all glad she’s home, but I can’t fight the fact that given her age, she’s probably never going to be at 100% again. The important thing is to keep her as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

But after that, I realized pretty quickly: I like the longer day. Coming in early means I can turn on some music and get some necessary administrative shit done first thing in the morning without any distraction, and staying late means that I can finish whatever projects I’ve got going on without feeling super-rushed or stressed. Yesterday on my way home, I was contemplating how much I liked it, while my brain was heckling me with doubts.

Sure, it says, THIS week was good. But what about two weeks in a row? Three? How’s your body gonna like that?

Only time will tell there.

Okay, fine, my brain says. But what happens if you wake up with a MIGRAINE. Missing any time means either taking a bigger chunk of sick time OR having to divy up your hours and come in on Friday ANYWAY.

Shut up, brain.

So it did. Sort of. Until I woke up at 4:30 am with a migraine. Little bastard. It was an old school migraine, the kind that makes me worship the great porcelain god. How’d I handle it? Vomit once, decide I’ve had enough of this shit, and get ready to go to work. Hot water works wonders, and I took my prescription. Made it to work on time, sans headache, nursed an emergency Coke all day, and got in my ten hours. The day was full and crazy-busy too, but as of now, I’m not kicking myself over the extra time spent there during the day.

Then again, it’s only the first week. And tomorrow’s my first Writing Work Day, though given my current plan, there will be less writing and more reading, analyzing, and thinking about how to whip Codename: Telepathic Soulmates into shape.

In truth, the real test of this four 10-hour day experiment will be in March, because next week has a federal holiday, so I’ll be putting in eight hours a day due to the paid holiday, and then the week after, I’ll be doing four 10s, but instead of writing on Friday, I’ll be hooking up with a dear friend of mine and trekking to Con Nooga for all kinds of crazy shenanigans. But by time March rolls around? I should have a clearer direction for what I’m doing for revision, and that, my friends, is where we’re really see how this experiment works.

In the meantime, today’s blog post comes from Tom McRae’s “A Day Like Today,” from the album Just Like Blood. You can listen to it here.

Told My Troubles To The River

It was a hard day.

My first official and intentional 10 hour day.

My cold is on the way out.

A short story was rejected.

I woke up to the news my grandmother was sent to the ER with chest pains.

It was a hard day.

It could’ve been worse. I learned better today that emotional toll can zap you faster than anything physical. That waiting and not knowing is utterly draining no matter how much you have to keep you occupied.

It was a hard day, but my mother had it worse, and I’m glad she was there to keep us posted, to keep my grandmother company through all the infernal and seemingly infinite waiting.

My grandmother, last I heard, is fine. No diagnosis and from what I understand, her CAT scan and MRI came back clean. Next up will be the results of the Lexiscan, and maybe, just maybe we’ll learn why my grandmother had such a bad weekend that they called an ambulance to take her to the ER.

So it’s time to rest up, start over again tomorrow, and pay a visit after work.

And hope and pray that today’s hard day doesn’t turn into a harder week. Or a harder month. Or a harder year.

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Today’s blog post title comes from “Told My Troubles to the River” from Tom McRae’s The Alphabet of Hurricanes. What a fantastic album title. You can hear the song “Told My Troubles to the River” here.

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Edit: And then I heard this: Melanie Tem passed away. Damn it. I feel like I need a good cry now. Steve and Melanie were our Writers in Residence during Week 5 of Odyssey 2005. A lovely couple, wonderful writers, and Melanie was just amazing. I am so terribly sorry to hear this.

My Story Is Not Done

I’ve been talking for a month now about a BIG! NEW! THING! I’m working out for my day job. Today, we finalized the BIG! NEW! THING! so I’m going to talk about it here, why I’m doing it, and what I hope to get out of it.

What I’m Doing

I’m changing my day job schedule. Currently, I work five days a week, eight hours per day. Starting mid-February, I’m going to work four days a week, ten hours a day. In short, I’m going to give myself a three-day weekend every week. Holidays, vacation days, and sick days allowing, and/or my boss or I decide this just ain’t gonna work.

Why I’m Doing It

My boss floated the idea to me last fall. My first reaction was, “That’s SO not going to work.” I was so convinced that it wasn’t going to work for REASONS that I actually made up a list of pros and cons, and that list ended up being three pages. But for nearly every con, I came up with a solution that turned it into a pro. But I don’t make big decisions quickly or lightly, so I put it on the back burner. There, it simmered and stewed, and I found myself wanting to do it more and more.

Why? Because while I won’t be going to my day job on Fridays, I’m going to go to work. I’m making Fridays my Writing Work Day.

What I Hope To Get Out Of It

I’ve mentioned it before, but I realized this year that I’m not challenging myself writing-wise. I’ve already proven I can churn out a discovery draft of a novel in a year’s time. So what’s the point of doing that over and over and collecting a bunch of novels that badly need revision? I’ve also mentioned before that 2015 is a big year for me: it’s the ten-year anniversary of my attending the Odyssey Writing Workshop. It’s the ten-year anniversary of my deciding to take my writing seriously. It led to my getting my MA in Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program (which now offers an MFA). But I burned out a wee bit after graduation for reasons I won’t get into here, and it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve climbed my out.

It’s time to start taking my fiction to the next level. I want to take my thesis novel from SHU, known here as Codename: Telepathic Soulmates, and start shopping for agents. That requires a lot of work that isn’t churning out new words every day. It requires hard revision, polishing, and research and queries. I want to learn how to manage multiple projects at the same time but in different stages. Why? Because if I ever get published, I’d like to have some good working habits established before I’m thrown in the deep end.

But this is an experiment. Taking a three-day weekend may not always lead to Writing Work Days, but I’m hoping in the bigger picture I’ll start to figure out how to incorporate some of these habits daily and feel productive even if I’m not adding to my daily word count.

We’re trying this through the end of March, and then evaluating the system to see how and if it’s working for my day job. Because if it doesn’t work there, then it doesn’t work and I’m cool with that. Day job comes first, because that’s what’s paying the bills. In the meantime though, maybe I’ll learn something. Maybe I’ll get a new focus and a new motivation.

Maybe this is the year something could happen.

Today’s headline brought to you by Seanan McGuire’s album, Wicked Girls. I can’t find “My Story is Not Done” online, but you can read the lyrics here.

Give Me Something More….

It’s kind of nice to be tackled first thing in the morning with the following question: “Where was your Calico Writes entry from yesterday?” I’ve actually done a crap job updating over the holiday weekend, as I spending lots of time catching up on LOTS of reading. I finally finished the VanderMeer trilogy, and to that end, I’ll say that I want to read the whole trilogy again. The first read is to experience without spoilage. The second, eventual, read will be with a different, more critical eye, now that I have a sense of how the story fits together. If you ask me what it’s about, I still couldn’t tell you specifically: reading the Southern Reach trilogy is an experience, and the comparisons to the television show Lost aren’t unfounded, if you’re someone who likes conspiracies and mystery and crazy science. Whatever faults Lost had, if it inspires more fiction like this, I’ll be a happy camper. A slow reader, mind you, but still happy.

I’m also working on some administrative things relating to my writing. I intend on making BIG CHANGES soon, and those changes will deserve their own special post. In the meantime, I’m pre-planning. One of the results of that is that I’m in the process of shuffling Codename: Magic Twins to the back-burner. Reasons being that it’s a complex world I’m building and I don’t have my arms wrapped around the rules nor all of the characters. It’s something that, while I’ve said it before, I really to to plan out in great detail before I start writing in earnest. I churned out another 495 words over this weekend, but by and large, I think my time will be better spent focusing that energy into a major brainstorming piece: something that breaks down the characters, the magic as I understand it, and then I’ll have some people critique the shit out of it so that I can move forward with a more solid direction in mind.

Besides, the world that Codename: Telepathic Soulmates is in is calling me, and I’ve got some serious work to do.

So I may not be writing every night. Not new fiction or new words, but I solemnly swear I’m up to no good, and I’ll try to keep the blog posted on my progress on a regular basis.

Let’s see, what else? We finished watching the first season of Penny Dreadful over the weekend, and while I enjoyed the hell out of watching it, I couldn’t help but notice some of its more problematic qualities: notably, while the show attempts to empower its female characters sexually, I can’t help but notice those same characters are also thoroughly punished in the narrative. How direct that correlation is depends on the character in question, but for one particular character, the correlation between having sex and BAD SHIT HAPPENING is disturbing. It’s something I’ll be watching with a close eye on when season two premieres, because of course I’ll watch. I heart the werewolf.

I also finally got around to watching Divergent, which was an enjoyable adaptation and makes me want to re-read the trilogy. I almost caved in and watched Beautiful Creatures, because I heard that was also enjoyable, but I promised a friend I’d help on a project, so help I did.

Today was back to the grind at work, and it was definitely a stressful grind. But that’s what happens when there’s a holiday during the workweek, and with any luck, hopefully today was the worst of it.

This post brought to you by a very bruised but healing ankle, an innate distrust of this unseasonably warm and sunny weather, and the sounds of the latest Marilyn Manson album filtering down the hall. Damn, that does not sound like the Manson I heard back in the nineties. It might be sacrilege, but whatever he’s doing now, the sound’s a huge improvement to my ear.

Today’s headline brought to you from Lacuna Coil’s album, Trip the Darkness. You can hear “Give Me Something More…” here.

I Cannot Brain Today….

….I has the dumb.

Seriously, does this cat not say it much better?

cat-meme-i-cannot-brain-today-dumbI did not write yesterday. I came home from an incredibly stressful afternoon at work, brought home groceries, helped the hubby clean up for company and as soon as we finished cleaning up, company was unable to attend. Which was okay: we had the last two episodes of Penny Dreadful to watch and lemme tell you: I was hooked.

But I along with groceries I came home with a headache, and when the jolt of caffeine from a 5 Hour Energy didn’t knock it out, I had to pull out the Excedrin Migraine. I thought the headache was from caffeine withdrawal, but it must have been stress, because it felt like someone was shoving a screwdriver in my left temple when I stood up. Pleasant, right?

The headache did go away, and stayed away. Today has been a day of errands, and I set the mood by trying to walk to the car while balancing on the curb. I got distracted by a very pretty, deep red car (a Dodge Challenger, maybe?) and as I tried to get the hubby’s attention, I lost my balance and fell in the parking lot.

Yeah, falls: not just the purview for the old or the intoxicated. I should note I’m okay. Nothing twisted or broken, though I had to scrap the knee highs I was wearing and repair a part of my shoe. I’ve got a scrape, slight swelling, and a bruise delightedly forming on my right ankle. I can’t remember how I fell, in terms of where and how I landed, so I worry about pain during the night, but we’ll see.

On one hand, my physical therapist would be very disappointed in my lack of balance. Then again, I’d like to see him balance on curbs in heels. The moral of the story: don’t balance on curbs while wearing heels. Or maybe, just don’t wear heels.

But my brain is all kinds of mush, and Word Press has been playing with it (or I screwed something up: if you saw a post about me talking about writing SF, it’s been deleted — it should have never shown publicly in the first place), so I think I’m going to forgo writing tonight and just get some sleep.

Because tomorrow is a busy day: our toaster oven decided to stop working tonight, and we must hunt for its replacement.

Happy Weekend!

New Rules

So I know Bill Maher is a controversial figure. However, my husband likes to watch his show, and if I’m in the vicinity, I’ll perk up for the final segment of “New Rules,” because, by and large, there can be some interesting observations about human behavior and its hypocrisy. Who hasn’t witnessed something and wanted to shout, “You are NOT allowed….” or “You must ALWAYS….” because they’re dealing with something surpassing common sense?

Today, I came up with a few:

1) If I call you and it’s not a good time to talk, don’t answer your phone. If you feel like you MUST answer the phone, even if it’s legitimately a bad time, you have to be as polite and courteous as possible and tell that person you’ll call them back. Don’t be rude and don’t tell THEM to call back later: how do they know it’s not a good time?

2) If you’re returning my call, return the call at YOUR convenience. Don’t call me and tell me it’s a bad time to talk. If I call you and it’s a bad time, there is some leeway for being rude despite New Rule #1. However, if you call me and then tell me it’s not a good time for whatever reason? Rudeness, curtness, and being brusque is not allowed. You called me, remember? Either call me at a good time, or suck it up and be polite despite said bad time.

3) If you happen to be a member of any kind of clergy, if you’re a preacher or pastor or seen as a respected religious figure in your community, you are NOT allowed to be rude EVER. I get it, you’re human, and you have bad days like the rest of us. So if you slip up, we’ll forgive you…. but only if you recognize the error of your ways and apologize to us directly. Jesus forgives and all that, but you’re the face of your church, and if you’re rude to me, that speaks louder than words.

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Currently Writing: Codename: Magic Twins
Last night’s word count: 1404 words
Total word count: 10,027 words
Hey, I broke 10K! The words are crap, mind you. I’m basically brainstorming through narrative. Or it may be more accurate to say I’m brainstorming via info-dumping dialogue. Whatever. I ended up writing more last night than my start time would’ve have foreseen, and I had to stop myself so I could actually get sleep. Go me?

Currently Reading: Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance
Ugh… where did my reading time go? I want it back!

Next up: I think tomorrow will be a normal day. I think. I hope. I plan. I’m contemplating some major schedule changes, and I’ve bounced those changes by a few people and so far the response has been positive. The more I talk about it, the more I’m convinced I’ll do it. There’s a few details to be ironed out though, so for now, I shall not blog about it directly. Yet.

Haunt Me Senseless, Haunt Me Sane

So it’s that time of year when I really, really need to figure out how to allocate my vacation days. There’s a few writing weekends I’ve got on the ballot, and my husband and I usually do SOME kind of big trip together. Last year was Minnesota, and previous years have been Atlanta. This year, we don’t have any plans.

Yet.

A couple writer friends of mine talked about doing the ghost tour at Missouri State Penitentiary. There used to be overnight tours, which is what we were discussing, but even with what’s available now, I have to admit to a singular thrill at the idea of visiting such an old prison, learning about its history, and learning about its ghosts. I’m starting to recognize the need in myself to have eccentric vacations, so that I can command a conversation by saying stuff like, “Oh, I went to prison voluntarily,” so I can get the weird looks, the double-takes, and then I’ll double-down on the weirdness by saying, “Oh, and it’s haunted.

I’m not saying I believe, mind you. I’m not saying I don’t believe either.

I’m saying this is a very, very tempting vacation.

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Currently Writing: Codename: Magic Twins
Last night’s word count: 883 words
Total word count: 5,900 words
I surprised myself by my word count last night. It was Info-Dump-R-Us, but the momentum rolled longer than I expected. But it did impress upon me the need to sit down and lay out my characters, my magic system and world-building to date. If only to keep it straight in my own mind. This story is a weird one, because I’ve been wanting to write an urban fantasy for years now, and my brain’s been testing ideas, running them through, coming up with new ones and mixing and matching and everything’s this synthesized mess in my head. In previous discovery drafts, I had such vague broad strokes that it made sense to discover it as I wrote. Or I knew my world so well that all I was discovering was my characters’ stories. This, not so much. I think I need to discover things outside of the drafting process, if only to ground things a bit, which will allow room for other discoveries.

Currently Reading: Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance
Hoping to get more reading done over the weekend. It’s been a tough week for reading-time.

Next up: FRIDAY!!! YAY FOR FRIDAY!!!! Does anything else really need to be said?

People Think I’m Crazy, But I’m a Different Kind of Sane…..

The only days I worked this week were Monday and Friday. You might think me crazy, just taking the middle off, but if you like Oreo’s, you know why the middle is the best.

I’m actually glad to have gone in today: I had the office to myself and it allowed me to catch-up on everything I missed so that when I come in next Monday, I’ll be ready to go.

That being said, there should be rules against people wanting to do business late Friday afternoons or early Monday mornings. Because seriously, no one’s wanting to do a thing at those times, even if the office IS open, you know?

My luck, the next early Monday morning is going to be crazy. I’ll shut up now while I’m ahead.

Currently Writing: Codename: Magic Twins
Last night’s word count: 569 words
Total word count: 1,579 words
This project was just added to the Works In Progress page, if you’re interested in some background.

Currently Reading: Carrie Vaughn’s Low Midnight
All I have to say about this book is that if the rest of Kitty’s stories were told from Cormac’s point of view, I’d be a super-happy reader. This is just so much fun, and a great new perspective on a series I know so well.

Next up: getting ready to marathon Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy this weekend. Need to do my daily page of writing, and I’m hoping to create a template for daily physical therapy workouts this weekend. We’ll see.

Becoming Janus

Happy New Year’s Eve! It’s the time of year to sit down, reflect on what’s gone by, to look forward to the future, and to attempt to mold that future through a resolution or two. It sounds daunting because we’re talking about, yanno, a year, and it sounds daunting because we usually have BIG IDEAS and BIG PLANS for that year, and often, it’s easy to fall off the saddle before January has even wrapped up.

I have some friends who don’t do resolutions. Not just the ones who don’t do resolutions at all, but those who simply have a different approach. My friend Nu Yang names her years: she gives herself a theme and focuses each year to make sure everything she does is supporting that theme. I love that idea. It’s not one I can embrace for myself, because I need more direction, but I love it. However one approaches a new year, if it works, hats off to you!

As for me, it’s time to reflect: what happened, where I am now, and what I hope to maybe accomplish in 2015. If you’re interested, just click the cut. If you’re not, Happy New Year! May your 2015 be better than 2014.

I sure as hell hope mine is.

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