Monday, August 26, 2013

Wisdom and bear hugs

To borrow a line from my favorite movie, Surf Ninjas, "I've got nothing." For the first time I actually can't think of what to post about. Shocking, I know. All I can think about is what I have to do before I fly to San Antonio in...thirty-two hours. Yikes! My nerves haven't taken over yet and thanks to a lovely pep talk from Mama Bear, AKA my favorite director, I don't think that will happen.

ACT was in need of ushers for the penultimate performance of Thoroughly Modern Millie so I went down to help out. The show had sold out and I wanted to see it so it worked out well. After a fantastic performance I chatted with the director and my friends in the company. (Since I retired from the theater in order to pursue a writing career, they rarely get to see me. That's why I go down there once or twice a year to usher because no matter how busy I am, it's nice to get away and see old friends. The fact that I get to see a show in my theatrical home away from home is a bonus.) When I told Mama about my trip she said "have a wonderful time." The only response I could give was a strained "I'll try." I tried to walk away because there were a few more people I needed to say hi to but Mama stopped me. She looked me in the eye and said "Be safe, have fun, and don't stress out. You're smart and capable. Show them how talented you are. You've got this."

After hearing that I realized that this was like any audition. As long as I learned my lines (in this case my novel pitches) and present myself as a dedicated professional, it'll all work out. Even if I don't get what I'm after this time, I can rest assured knowing that I did my best and that no one will think ill of me. There's always next time.

I still find it funny that I can hear the same advice, put different ways and from different people, but it isn't until it's phrased and delivered exactly so that it finally sinks in. That's how it was with Write the F*#%ing sentence and Chuck Wendig's succinct motivational messages. Lots of dear friends have wished me luck this past week and expressed how much they believe in me, and I appreciate each and every one of those remarks. They've helped stave off the effects of my own psychic sabotage. But sometimes it takes a different approach to really get through to me. I don't know if that makes me thick headed or simply unique. I'll assume it's the latter. So don't worry about me because I've got this. I'm going to WorldCon and I'm going to have a safe, fun, and stress free week.

Heh. I guess I knew what to write after all. Must be proof that Mama Bear knows best.

In case you missed it, I did another guest post on The Fictorian Era about the writing lesson I learned from my favorite video game.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Waterfowl fellatio

No, I'm not venturing into critter erotica. Since that's now out of your mind I will say that this blog's title isn't a tease.

I've been getting everything I need for WorldCon ready. List of what to pack: done. Business cards: printed. Pitches: in progress. List of panels to attend: getting longer. Confidence: M.I.A.

I'm a worrywart. Always have been. Once my head is filled with worst case scenarios there's no going back. I know myself well enough to recognize the warning signs so I can stop my brain before it reaches critical...most of the time. The times I can't are when the stakes are high. Right now, the stakes are high because I want this BAD. I want to be a full time writer. I've wanted it since high school, which coincidentally was the last time I had freak out like this.

At my high school, not only did we have to pass all of the requisite classes, we had to complete the Senior Project (Dun, dun, dun). I don't remember the specifics of the project (it was a long time ago) but in short it involved writing a very long research paper, a service project, and giving an oral presentation to a panel. Anyone who failed to complete any of these three items with a passing grade didn't graduate. The last item, the oral presentation, was done the last week of class so if you screwed up, you were up a creek without a poodle.

There was no school the day of the presentation so the building was filled with stressed out seniors memorizing notes. I'd memorized mine the night before so I had nothing to do while I waited for my turn. A friend saw that I was unnecessarily freaked out and took it upon himself to provide a much needed distraction -- breaking into the teacher's lounge and pulling up illicit things on the internet. This was in 1997 so that meant logging into Netscape and waiting for the dial-up connection to load the desired content one trickle at a time. So during the half hour we spent in the lounge we were only able to listen to two short audio files. The first was a Thundercat outtake of Mum-Ra talking dirty to Cheetara and the second was of Donald Duck getting a blow job from a goat.

I know, it's unorthodox but it did the trick. I laughed until I cried. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much and I completely forgot about all those worst case scenarios. My hands still shook during the presentation (a panel of judges can unnerve a girl) but I got through it with a passing grade.

So next week I plan to bring lots of fun entertainments for the flight to San Antonio. One friend has already pledged to give me a long awaited chapter to read, I've got Kevin Hearne's books to read, and I've got technology that I can fill with raucous sound bites to take the edge off of my nerves. By the time the plane lands I should be good to go.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The strong, silent type

One of the characters in F & F (Flame and Filch) is very old, very bright, very male, and can't speak a word (ladies and gay gentlemen, feel free to make comments about him being the ideal man). I've had a lot of fun coming up with dialogue for him. No, really. I have. Just because he can't speak doesn't mean that he can't communicate. In fact, he has a lot to say.

So, how did I solve this silent problem? Well it was as hard and easier than you think.

The first possibility that came to mind was to use ASL or a form of it. The problem with that though was how the heck to describe the hand movements. Sure I could have described every finger wiggle and accompanying expression, but a single line of dialogue described in that manner would take an entire paragraph to complete. Plus it would be incredibly confusing if the reader didn't know ASL. I'd hate to force them to have a picture dictionary nearby just to read a conversation, so that possibility got nixed.

The next possibility I thought of was to use telepathy. It's an easy and well established method in fantasy novels so I certainly wouldn't be confusing any readers. However, I also wouldn't be doing anything original. I didn't like this possibility because I felt that this was one of those situations where taking the super easy route would hurt the story. All those italics would make it very obvious that there was dialogue on the page, which may cause the reader to skim, and that would be bad. That doesn't make this option weak -- in fact I've read books where it was used really well -- it's just not a device that I can use heavily.

What I finally decided to use was body language and to treat that the same way I would dialogue. Everybody uses non-verbal cues to communicate -- a nod, a wink, a shrug of the shoulders -- and it's something that's already incorporated into my stories. Granted, I'm more accustomed to accentuating dialogue with it, not replacing it. Non-verbal cues also have a similar problem to ASL in that I have to quickly and clearly describe the gesture or expression, while making it unmistakable what he said.

Describing the non-verbal cues succinctly was easy enough since it's typically one or two motions. As for the rest, I discovered that the dialogue was easy enough to understand because we already know what certain cues mean. A wink = I'm being playful. Slumped shoulders = disappointment. A nod = I agree. I didn't need to add anything to it. It's clear enough on it's own. The one thing I have to be careful of is to not sacrifice his strength for a conversation. Every non-verbal cue that I can think of is used in reaction to something, whether it be something someone said, or a situation, it's still a reaction. I have to walk the fine line of having a reactionary character without making him weak. I may have to incorporate some selective, magical telepathy in order to give him an opportunity to be an instigator. We'll see. For now this method works well enough.

Monday, August 5, 2013


I know there were many people who wanted to go to the wake and couldn't for one reason or another and I count myself fortunate to be a local. There's no way I could have afforded it if I wasn't. Heck, even then I still debated because of the time I'd have to take off of work in the midst of the bookstore's big move. The reason for the wake is a sad one and I'm not close to Jay however, it was one of those rare occasions that I knew I would regret passing up. Besides, I've never been to a wake, let alone a wake/roast and I don't know when or if the chance will come again. I realize it's a strange reason to go, and I'm not eager to see anyone die but there it is.

I expected to only know a couple people there from the local community and there were a lot of people I didn't know. Friends and fans of Jay's came from all over the world to attend. However, there were quite a few people that I did know including Howard Taylor from Utah and Ruth Nestvold from Germany. The event itself began with Jay's casket being carried in by a dozen strapping men. In true Jay style, he promptly popped out of his own casket. Apparently it was hot and stuffy in there.

After an amazing meal the love fest and jibes commenced. A friend from New Zealand sent a hilarious video sharing some embarrassing memories of Jay (beware the Japanese cat poo candy) and because he's an evil opportunist, he Rick rolled us. Another friend asked the female attendees to raise their hands if we hadn't slept with Jay. He then pointed at each of us and told Jay that he couldn't die yet.

The night progressed in this fashion. More jokes at Jay's expense followed by a hearty laugh from all. Occasionally Jay would fire back a witty retort. The Merry Mourners sang songs, recited poems, and told a lot of bad puns. Then another friend would step up to roast Jay. A couple times Team E shared a piece of pilfered writing from Jay's basement, including "How to Buy Toilet Paper". A piece that Ken Scholes wrote for a past JayCon was read aloud by a friend since Ken wasn't able to be there in person. The final speaker of the night was Jay himself who gave his heartfelt thanks to everyone. He also shared the wonderful news that he may have more time left than originally thought.

I spent far more than I should have on merchandise but Jay is worth it. Oh yeah, I also did this:

I'm a part-time vampire. How could I resist the chance to lie in another man's casket? (It's really comfy and I wish I'd brought my fangs.)

Despite the fact that I was very fatigued from work I'm really glad I went. There was so much love and joy and mirth in the room that the solemn moments couldn't overshadow it. If anything can be taken from this night it's that one should always live life to the fullest because we don't know how much time any of us have left.