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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Riding Off Into the Sunset: A Tribute to Uncle Pete

Yesterday, my Uncle Pete died.

He wasn’t technically my uncle. He was the husband of my grandmother’s cousin. But he’s always been Uncle Pete to me, despite his wife NOT being Aunt Mary Carol. When I was growing up, they frequently visited my grandparents (with whom I lived), and their visits were always full of excursions to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Cades Cove. Their visits were also full of card games and books.

They always brought a blizzard with them, and we’d end up snowed in for days. One of my favorite memories was waiting for the sun to break, for the snow and ice to melt so we could make it up the hill to get out of our driveway. We’d ride to town so Pete could refill the propane tank for his camper, and then we’d hit the mall. Uncle Pete would always pull out his folded up list of Louis L’amour westerns that Mary Carol had made for him, and he’d browse the Western section with care, making sure the books he wanted to buy weren’t ones he’d already read. And he’d always get me a book. Or two.

I loved how he and Mary Carol had a map of the U.S. on their camper, how over the years they colored in each state they’d visited, and yes, they managed to visit all 50 states in their retired years. I loved hearing stories of their travels. I’m still especially enamored of Uncle Pete getting “snockered” in Germany, but still managing to hold out against a German man who was determined to out-drink an American.

It’s been a long time since I’d seen Uncle Pete. Time, distance, and his health have all contributed to that. I’d known for a while that his health was failing, and had learned over the weekend that all treatment/medications had been stopped. I knew it was a matter of time.

I don’t regret that I didn’t get to see him in the end. I prefer the memories I have, seeing him in his element. I remember his big laughs, big smiles, and big hugs. I remember the smell of his aftershave, the way he’d relax into the recliner, feet propped up, the warmth of the yellow light shining on the pages of his latest paperback.

Wherever you are, Uncle Pete, may there be many books, many beers, and many, many adventures.

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?

Aventures In Traveling

On Friday, I hit the road for a workshop weekend, and I just returned home today. It was, in short, a fantastic trip, and I’ve got some very reflective thoughts to share some day, but today is not that day.

Today is the day where I will amuse, amaze, and bewilder you:

1) My very first pit stop on Friday was at a rest area. I was about an hour and a half into driving when nature called, and I debated pulling off the interstate, thinking I could hold it for another 30-40 miles. I decided not to be cruel to my bladder, and did what I had to do. However, it was while answering nature’s call that I received a VERY IMPORTANT PHONE CALL from work. It was of the good news variety, but I’m also, yanno, indisposed. In the process of trying to figure out a way to keep background noise from leaking through the call, I manage to hang up on this very important person and couldn’t call back because it’s not a direct line. Fortunately, the very important person called back, and at this point, I was in far better shape to receive a call.

2) My second pit stop was at a Subway, and of course, in addition to eating, I also had to use the bathroom (I promise, not all of these are about the bathroom). Before I get up to toss the trash, a group of kids (young men, tall and skinny, probably high school/college-aged soccer players or cross-country runners) come in and line up at the counter. A smaller group of the guys head straight back to the bathroom, and when I went to the ladies room, the door unlocked right before I got there and a guy walked out. I figure, why not? Subway only has one toilet for men, one for women, and when you gotta go, you gotta go. However, my rather relaxed attitude evaporated when I saw the guy hadn’t flushed. I seriously, and honestly, do not understand why people don’t flush toilets, men or women. Is it because they’re the product of helicopter parents who do everything for them? If that’s the case, it’s a wonder this guy knew to wipe.

3) First night in the hotel, I decided to try out the heater, simply because I was alone in the room and I could make it as toasty as I wanted. Based on the burnt-toast smell coming from said heater, it was the first time it’d been turned on for the season. I wasn’t worried, because I knew that would go away, so I crawled back under the covers, just in time to hear the smoke alarm shriek bloody murder. At midnight. It’s a wonder the whole hotel didn’t wake up. The good news is I burned nothing down, got the heater fixed, and slept nice and toasty during my stay.

4) On my way home, I stopped at a Chick-Fil-A for lunch. I’ve yet to have bad customer service at this franchise, and today was above and beyond the call of good customer service. It’d just started to rain when I arrived, but while I was eating, the rain decided to level up to monsoon levels. Lots of wind, lots of hard rain. I wait for it to let up, pull up my hood and prepare myself for the sprint to my car, when one of the employees gestures to a stack of umbrellas by the door and offers to walk me to my car. And after determining the offer was indeed genuine, he did. I still got a bit wet (it’s really hard to stay dry when the wind makes the rain sideways), but I was a lot dyer than I would’ve been otherwise. Thanks, Chick-Fil-A!

And those are my random adventures from traveling this weekend, preserved here in the interwebs in case I ever forget.


Reading: Perdition by Ann Aguirre
Watching: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Gotham, Sleepy Hollow