On Hiding, Taking Care of Oneself, and stepping down from Podcastle

Hey, remember back in December when I said I was going through some stuff and at some point I’ll write a blog post about it? Looks like today’s the day. I wrote about it at my dayjob’s blog entitled Peace in the Changing“.

For those who want the shorter, less Christianese, tl;dr version: I had an early miscarriage back in December. It happened smack dab in all the Ferguson and New York turmoil. And it pretty much messed me up good.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the writing community, it’s that we are serious when it comes to taking care of ourselves mentally. When I realized I was at a point I couldn’t deal, the first thing I did was talk with a couple of professionals (read: doctor and chaplain). I also gave myself permission to lay low…real low. Played a lot of video games. Read a lot of books. Stayed away from Twitter, although I did a little interaction on Facebook. I also realized that there were a lot of things I were doing that were just too much for me, so it was time for me to let them go. One of those things were, sadly, Podcastle.

So if you listen to today’s podcast, you’ll hear that, yes, I’ve decided to step down as Associate Editor. A bummer, because I looooooved being part of the Podcastle family. But it was a good time to go–Dave and Anna are also stepping down (and if you haven’t heard Dave’s love letter to Podcastle readers, please, have a listen. It reduced me to a puddle of gooey tears, but in a good way this time). It’s been an awesome run. I had so much fun at Podcastle, and it gave me insight into the editorial process. I still might do a narration every now and then, but for now, I’m gathering the little time I have to redirect it towards finishing the novel, and I’m getting close. I’m getting surprisingly close.

At some point, I’ll talk more about the miscarriage. Yes, yes, I know, there’s a culture of silence that should be broken about it. But you know what? I don’t feel like talking about it in public yet. As I said in the blog above, I’m still healing. But you know what I would like? Stories about ‘onlies’. I think that would help tremendously. 

Also, let me tell you this. My son has been an absolute trooper during this time. He’s been sweet, helpful and caring. Just like his father. Who has also been absolutely wonderful. I’m going to slip back into Christianspeak and say that God has blessed me with two wonderful guys who took good care for me. And it was God who kept me sane throughout that entire time. Well, okay, there was that moment when I had that breakdown on Christmas Eve…but there were reasons for that…ask me about it offline if you want to here me go off on a nice long rant).

So anyhoo, that’s all I wanted to say. I’ve been easing myself back onto Twitter again, slowly. And I’ve been writing a lot. A LOT. So thank you all for being patient. Oh, and other thing about taking care of myself? Shorter blog posts.

“The Danger of the False Narrative” up on Jim Hines Blog

Jim Hines has been running a series of guest blog posts on Representation in SF/F. And oh, hey, look at that, here’s my contribution on black representation, “The Danger of the False Narrative“. Check it out, and definitely check out the other essays on there too.

Oo, short post. I should do this more often.

ETA: Oh, and I updated the nonfiction section of my “LaShawn’s Works” page to include links to this and other guest blog posts I’ve done. Because, yeah, I did those things. Also I suck at updating things.

ETAA: Well, no, I don’t suck. I just forget and…crap…this was supposed to be a short post. Never mind. Forget this. You’re not reading this. YOUUUUUU ARE NOT READING THISS…..

::performs handwavy gestures::

::runs off::

2015 WizardWorld Madison Comic-Con Report (with PICTURES!)

So Wizard World finally decided to stick a Comic-con in Madison and see how it goes. Now mind–I’ve been going to cons since 2008, butI’ve never been to Comic-con, so seeing that there’s one now pretty much in my backyard. I had no excuse. I had to go see it. I also took my 10 year old son and his friend, because kids 10 and under were free. Couldn’t pass that up.

 Boys at Pokemon booth

Size: So, obviously, Comic-con is larger. Much, MUCH larger. I don’t know what the final total was, but I can easily see 10,000 people alone being at the con. 

Venue: They held most of Comic-con in the large Alliant Center exhibit hall, which is pretty big until you realize what it really is: A gigantic Dealer’s Room. I mean, big, big biiiiiiiiiiiiig Dealer’s room. And I’ve been to Chicon, and that was pretty huge. But at the same time, they had things in there that you wouldn’t necessarily find at a regular con’s dealer’s room. For instance, they had a gaming area towards the back where you could do board and card games. I had read in the programming that they would have Pokemon card battles, but I didn’t see anyone playing it, so I was disappointed. But the boys and I had a rousing game of Clue, so it actually turned out all right. 

The rest of the floor was devoted to dealers, comics…and celebrities.

Celebrities: So this is something that I absolutely have not experienced before. When I first started going to cons, most were all literary, so there were many places that had my favorite authors right there. In fact, the very first person I met at my very first con was Nisi Shawl, where I proceeded to have my very first fangirl experience (and startling her in the process, I’m sure). But most of the cons I’ve been to have been literary, and my celebrities–famous authors–were mostly down to earth folk who were easy to approach, and love hanging out in bars. 

Comic-con is so very different. It’s a pop-culture con, so no literary folk. Heavily media oriented, particularly film and TV shows. And they had stars. William Shatner and Edward James Olmos stars. And we saw them all from a distance. Because the difference between authors and celebrites are a good $50 to get even close to a celebrity. 

That had to suck for them. Because for the most part, you had to pay to even get in line to talk to them. Which worked I guess if people are watching your show, or if people still love you. But if you’re a nobody, or worse, a has been, well, no one pays to see you. I saw a lot of celebrities sitting there, looking bored, playing on their phones. (Omigosh, George Wendt. For the longest time I was trying to figure out why the heck George Wendt from Cheers was there. I learned that he had actually done a lot of cartoon voices, but come on. George Wendt? Really?)

That said, I was able to wave at Ernie Hudson. And shoot, I totally missed Billy Dee Williams. But really, ain’t no way was I going to pay to get up close to them. Which is sort of sad.  But I did get to see Shatner and Olmos.

Panels: So Panels were held in the meeting room portion of the Alliant Center–meaning one large room and two smaller rooms. Which means the panels were pretty much held one after another. I actually liked that. Single panel programming made it easier to attend. The panels with the celebrites were short–only 1/2 hour long. 

We got in line for the first panel, which was Edward James Olmos. I was thinking that would be packed, but surprisingly, all of us was able to get in with room to spare. I really enjoyed Olmos’s session. He talked about not just Battlestar Galactica, but also Blade Runner, West Wing, and other shows. And he also talked about the value of diversity in shows and even a bit about how BSG was used to explore racial tensions, which could be used in Ferguson (I was deeply, deeply impressed by that. Even Olmos gets it).

After Olmos’s time was up, Shatner was next in the same room, so we basically stayed put. Which was awesome. Okay, yeah, I did feel a litttle bit sorry because I heard the line for Shatner coming into the room was twice as long. But NOT SORRY ENOUGH.

Besides, they showed Shatner’s session on a big screen TV in the food area, so it all worked out in the end.

Shatner. Well. What can I saw. With Olmos, he and another guy sat on stage across from each other and talked in an interview format and also took questions from the audience. Shatner came out and dragged a stool out to center stage, where he talked to the audience–well, monologued the audience for most of the session. But he’s a showman, first and foremost, so while it wasn’t much about Star Trek, and more about this motorcycle he’s building he still had us rolling in laughter.

There was a moment thought that I considered to be my favorite part of the day. As I mentioned, I had brought along my son and his friend. So whereever I went, they had to go with me. This included Olmos, which neither of them had heard of (because no I did not to show my son the rebooted BSG. What’s wrong with you?). So while I was listened to an engaging, thoughtful commentary on race in media, they were bored as rocks.

My son, on the other hand, did know Shatner from watching the old episodes, so he was quite excited. So he clapped and cheered when Shatner came. Then he started talking, and he’s talking about UFOs and riding his motorcycle in the desert and hallucinations and quantum physics and so on, and at about a good seven minutes into his monologue my son, my beautiful, darling son, heaves a sigh and says in a whisper loud enough for everyone around us to hear: “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT.”

Which, let’s face it, we were all thinking that.

The evening panels were more indicative of ones I was used to. Attended a hilarious comedy show put on by Cthulu’s Comedy Collective, and I checked out the costume contest, which was fun. Speaking of which:

Costumes: I like this part of science fiction cons. The ones I go to are usually geared towards serious discussion (and there are a few who outright discourage wearing costumes). So was neat to go to Madison Comic-con and satisfy that part of my inner geek. Not just seeing all the awesome costumes, but participating in it myself along with my son. It’s not everyday that I get to dress up as a delinquent catholic school cat girl.

  

But the costumes were phenomenal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, many selfies:

 

And of course, Dr Who. 

The boy was in heaven. There was a moment when we came to an intersection in the exhibition hall right at the same time as two other Dr Whos and a walking Tardis. My son and the other Dr Whos all looked at each other, then whipped out their sonic screwdrivers and pointed them at each other. I’m still trying to decide if that was a geeky Dr. Who thing or a male thing in general.

 

Also, for some reason, a whole lot of Harlequinns. Which is interesting, because none of the movies have featured Harlequinn. But a lot of women apparently like dressing up as her. Huh.

Overall: I had gone to Comic-com with low expectations and left pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had. Would I do it again? Hmm. I don’t know. The steep membership (or weekend pass, however they call it) and all the add-ons you have to pay for to get like VIP access to events to me wasn’t that much worth it. I’m not a big TV person, so I didn’t care much about the celebrities who were there, and the ones I did know, I was like ‘meh’ (well okay, I was bummed I missed seeing Billy Dee Williams, but even there I would’ve seen him from a distance.) Also, there was the fact that there were TOO MUCH PEOPLE. There were no quiet places for introverts like me to go and recharge. I also missed my standard author hangout at Barcon. In fact, the Comic-con pretty much shut down after 9pm. There were several bars that hosted afterparties where you could get in free with your wristband, but by then, I was so burnt out, I didn’t want to hang out with a bunch of other strangers at a bar blasting loud music. I just wanted to go home. And finally, yeah, the comic-con felt pretty…commercial. Many of the emcees were obviously not from Madison, and they were pretty blatant about it. It got irritating after a while. Most of the panels were celebrity based. There were only a few panels that had local people–the aforementioned comedy troupe from Milwaukee, for instance. (Okay, Milwaukee isn’t considered local to Madison, but I’m not complaining).

That last reason, though, is something that absolutely can be fixed. I think the good thing about the WizardWorld comic-cons is that they conform to whatever cities they’re in by the use of local volunteers. For instance, I know at the Chicago Comic-con, there is a whole group of authors who appear as special guests, and the panels are more numerous and diverse–heck, they even had a few panels that discuss diversity in fandom. So if I do go back, I wouldn’t mind going in as a volunteer panelist or something. The thing I liked about Madison Comic-con was that it pulled in a bunch of people who aren’t necessarily into the local con scene, but want that con experience. And if they come back next year, that might actually boost attendance at the local cons. Win all around. So yeah, I’d go back to WizardWorld Madison Comic-con in 2016.

Especially if Jesus comes again.

 

 

LaShawn’s 2014 Year in Review

So, um…stuff happened in 2014. Lots of stuff. Some good. Some bad. Probably the worst of it was during December. Don’t worry. The boy is fine. Hubby is fine. I, physically, am fine. My mental health…still in recovery mode.

It’s why it appeared that I dropped from social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, during November and December of last year. Too much for me to deal at that point. There’s a few people who knew what’s going on and been walking with me and my family through it (to use a Christianese term). At some point, there will be a blog post going up that goes more into it, but it’s still a little raw right now. Sorry for the vagueblogging.

That said, I’m doing better. Not great, mind, but better.

So then, how did 2014 fare for my writing?

Well, that year saw my most popular story to date, 21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One). Seriously, I had no idea how many people would love this story. So much so, it made 3rd place in the Strange Horizons 2014 Readers Poll. How crazy is that? I wasn’t expecting that to happen–I was just having fun with spiral staircases.

Interestingly, a month after 21 Steps came out, my other short story, Sun-Touched, was also published. That one dropped like a stone in water. I’m still puzzling over it, because I would consider that one the more ambitious story. I was trying hard to push myself out of the fantasy box and stretch my imagination. But ah well. Ultimately, I have no real control whether a story is liked or not. The only thing I can do is to keep writing and putting stories out there for people to read.

That grew more challenging in 2014 when I moved to full-time work. Writing during a set time period dwindled to writing in short bursts. I’ve already written about that, so I’m not going to rehash it. Nowadays, I’m taking the advice of Jeff VanderMeer in his awesome book Wonderbook: write whenever I can, however I can, using the least obstacles to get my words to the page. (And here’s a plug–if you’re a writer, get Wonderbook. Get it now. Omigosh it’s so AWESOME.) Currently, my writing media is 8×5 notepads. Not as daunting as full spiral notebooks and easier to carry. I write at home. I write at church. I write during breaks at work, when I’m waiting on the phone, when I’m cooking dinner (I’m simmering chicken korma curry as I write this up at hand). Evenings I enter my handwritten work into Scrivener, rinse, repeat.

I grant you, it’s slow–work has gotten extremely busy for me, and there are days when all I can get down is ten words. But I’ve made it a rule now that I write something–anything–every dayIt may be only a tidbit, but get enough of those going and…well, in September, I was able to finish the first draft of a new short story, which was something I didn’t think I could do. Right now, I’m working on the second draft of another story. And I’m still working on Willow.

So, writing wise, 2014 was a year of changes, even for my writing. I’m hoping they’re good changes though, in that it’s forcing me to write tighter and better. We’ll see how it goes this year. And, just to remind you, 21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One) is eligible for awards. Let’s see how far this baby goes!

Review: The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth

The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth
The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth by Madeleine L’Engle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Originally when I bought this book, I had gotten it thinking that this would be a book on the nature of story exploring elements of truth. Instead, it was more of a memoir, with L’Engle sharing personal stories interspered with her thoughts on Christianity, and how the nature of story binds both. Don’t get me wrong–I liked it, but I wanted something more scholarly, not reflective. So that’s the only reason I’m marking it 2 stars.

That said, as always, L’Engle’s writing speaks to me. I found her words intensely comforting, since I was going through a rough patch. It was good to get her take on things. I will confess though, towards the end, it felt like she was repeating herself, and I felt it didn’t bring anything new to my mind on the nature of story. The periods where I wouldn’t read the book got longer and longer. At this point, I’m going to mark it unfinished and put it back on the bookcase, since I have other books to read.

View all my reviews

21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One) Eligible for 2014 Awards!

So I’m beginning to see people listing the works they’ve done for 2014 that are eligible for awards. My short story “21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One)” , published in February 2014 by Strange Horizons, has been generating a lot of buzz, so I thought I get it out there. (and hey, I’m actually on time on making this type of announcement, too!)

You can both read and listen to it on the Strange Horizons website. Also, if you are a Drabblecast B-Side subscriber, you can listen to a reading there as well as view new art!

You may also want to check out my story “Sun-Touched” published by Kaleidotrope in March 2014. 

Thanks for reading!

ICON 39 / Paradise ICON 3 report (w/PICTURES!)

Via Tardis, no da.

So I’m back from ICON 39. It was wonderful and intense.

The intense portion was more due to the fact that I was taking part in Paradise ICON, a mini-workshop for neo-pro writers. Basically think Viable Paradise shrunk into two days. The first day we spent critiquing each others’ manuscripts; the second was spent being taught by the Guests of Honor, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch (my instructors at VPXV) and Toastmaster Jim Hines, whom I met at Mo*Con. 

But really, I was there to learn how to be author.

The day before the con started, there was a Barnes and Noble signing that was sponsored by the con. I was asked to attend and to bring books to sign. This was something I’ve never really done before. The only books I’m in are anthologies. Normally, I’d get a reader’s copy along with my pay, but I never really thought to actually purchase more copies to sell at cons. I knew people who’ve done it though. If I did this, it would involve spending my own money to buy copies to sell. And I always had that adage beat into me: money always flow towards the writer.

But in this case, would it be profitable? Would it be worth it? 

I decided to do an experiement. I bought five copies from my publisher to take with me. I figured, at the worst, I’d sell one, maybe two copies. The rest I’d either give away or sell at other cons. At the end of the con, I sold not one, not two…but three. Yes, they were to people in my workshop, but still…three copies!

My first book event!

It was a good learning experience. Made me think, okay, maybe I can handle the book thing. Which means I need to finish it.

It was wonderful to hang with Bear, Scott and Jim, as well as make new friends. I really enjoyed meeting the Paradise Icon folk. They’re great writers, and hanging out with them was such a delight.

Because I was busy with Paradise Icon, I only saw a little of ICON itself. But I did see some great costumes:

I also met this wonderful lady, Felicity, who was selling hats she made in the dealer’s room. 

It’s becoming a tradition now that whenever I go to a con, I get a tiny hat. I was most delighted to purchase one from Fine Hats by Felicity . After purchasing it, I had gone to talk with some writer folks. We were standing outside another room which was being used for a wedding reception not related to the con. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see two young black girls in waiter uniforms who were standing at the door of the reception, ushering people in. 

“Excuse me,” they said. “But we looooove your hat! Where did you get it?”

Grinning, I pointed to the dealers’ room.Their faces fell. “We’re on duty, so we can’t go in.”

“No prob,” I said. Went back to the dealer’s room, grabbed a few of Felicity’s business cards and gave them to the girls. “She sells the hats online. She has an Etsy shop. And…” I lowered my voice. “She’s black, too!”

Oh, you should have seen their faces light up. I wished I could’ve talked to them more about the con, but they had to go back on duty, but it was nice to see them geeking out over the hat.

So, all in all, it was a good time. I had lots of fun, and who knows, maybe at some point I’ll visit again, just so I can see Sailor Bacon.

If that’s not a sign of a fun con, I don’t know what is.

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