The Post of Everything Reading

First off, in case you missed it, my short story “Earn Your Breath,” is a staff pick of 2018 at Cast of Wonders and has been re-released with a new intro/outro by community manager, Dani Daly. You can listen to/read it here. My happily child-free heart is very fond of this story and I’m grateful to Dani and Cast of Wonders for bringing it to the forefront again.

Also—the Hugo Awards nomination period is now open, and this story is eligible in the short story category. I am also eligible for the Campbell.

Next up, my 2018 reading challenge results. I didn’t quite make it on either the Book Riot Read Harder challenge or the Badass Reading Challenge, though I did get close. For 2019, I’m paring it down somewhat and going with the Book Riot Read Harder challenge because I’m really drawn to this year’s list. I was going to keep it to one challenge, but then the King County Library System announced their 10 to Try challenge, and it almost entirely coincides with the Book Riot one so I figured, why not?

Here’s the list of what I read for each of the challenges in 2018:

Badass Reading Challenge:

  1. A book about a problem facing society today: Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
  2. Author with the same first or last name as you: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer
  3. A book with your favorite color in the title: Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery
  4. A book written by a local author: The Cold Eye, by Laura Anne Gilman
  5. A book about nature: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, by Paul Greenberg
  6. A book written by a person of a different ethnicity than yourself: Unexpected Stories, by Octavia E. Butler
  7. A celebrity memoir: The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher
  8. A book about or has a character with a mental illness: Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
  9. A book about time travel: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson
  10. A book about a villain or antihero: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie C. Dao
  11. A book tied to your ethnicity: Invisible Asians: Korean American Adoptees, Asian American Experiences, & Racial Exceptionalism (Asian American Studies Today), by Kim Park Nelson
  12. A book recommended by someone else in this challenge: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend
  13. A book from a viewpoint of a nonhuman: The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard
  14. A book with a song lyric in the title: The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo
  15. A book written by a male author the same age as you: Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
  16. A book of poetry written in the last ten years: Citizen, by Claudia Rankine
  17. A book set on another planet: The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi
  18. A book that become a movie: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
  19. A book published in 2018: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays, by Alexander Chee

 

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge:

A book published posthumously: Unexpected Stories, by Octavia E. Butler

A book of true crime: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession, by Susan Orlean

A comic written and illustrated by the same person: Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

A book about nature: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, by Paul Greenberg

A western: The Cold Eye, by Laura Anne Gilman

A comic written or illustrated by a person of color: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Vol. 2, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A romance novel by or about a person of color: A Bollywood Affair, by Sonali Dev

A children’s classic published before 1990: Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

A celebrity memoir: The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher

An Oprah Book Club selection: Becoming, by Michelle Obama

A book of social science: Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

A one-sitting book: Deer Woman: An Anthology, ed. by Elizabeth LaPensee and Weshoyot Alvitre

The first book in a new-to-you YA or MG series: So You Want to Be a Wizard, by Diane Duane

A scifi novel with a female protagonist by a female author: Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image: March: Book One, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

A book of genre fiction in translation: Memoirs of a Polar Bear, by Yoko Tawada, trans. by Susan Bernofsky

A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ author: Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley

An essay anthology: All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, ed. by Lydia X. Z. Brown, E. Ashkenazy, and Morenike Giwa Onaiwu

A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60: A Finely Knit Murder, by Sally Goldenbaum

I like the reading challenges because they push me to read outside my comfort zone, and am looking forward to nailing it for 2019. I read 108 books in 2018, and honestly, I’d like to scale that back a bit. My tentative goal is 75 for this year. I read hardly any short fiction in 2018 and have a huge backlog of e-mags to catch up on. Not sure if I’m going to count those in my reading log or not. Feels like I should since most of them are longer than the graphic novels and some novellas I counted last year.

Read harder, friends.

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A Roundup of Links

Let’s be real–you’re all here because you want photos. Here’s a polar bear from my recent trip to Svalbard, Norway.

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Happy now? I took 2400+ photos on the trip and have barely scratched the surface on culling or processing, so it’s going to be a while.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick roundup of links for some of my recent essay publications.

“My Family Isn’t Built By Blood,” an essay on the representation of adoption in speculative fiction. Available in the Invisible 3 anthology co-edited by Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj.

“From Able to Disabled: Seeing Disability on FOX’s ‘Bones,'” an essay that expands on my earlier blog post about how acquired disability and the grieving process is represented on the TV show “Bones.” You can find it at The Learned Fangirl.

“Disabled or Just Broken?” published as part of Uncanny Magazine’s Kickstarter campaign for the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction special issue. This essay will also appear in the issue when it comes out next year. The Kickstarter has already reached its second stretch goal! Please consider backing this amazing project.

We’ll close now with Sleepy Bear.

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Invisible 3 Cover Reveal!

Psst. My name is on a thing. Huge thank you to Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj for this opportunity. My essay on the representation of adoption in spec-fic will appear in the third installment of the Invisible anthologies, due out soon. Click the link to see the cover and list of contributors.

Invisible 3 Cover

My apologies that the blog has been a bit quiet as I have news I’m bursting to share but have to be vague on the details for now. I recently signed the contract for my first pro short story sale to a SFWA-accredited market! More details to come when I’m able to share them.

In photography news, I’ve been plugging along in both weekly themed challenges, but am lagging behind when it comes to the Dogwood one. I’m still behind on getting all the photos from my Yellowstone trip edited (and rather unmotivated since I hate processing).

Here’s a funky shot of one of my angelfish for the Bob Noble challenge. Week 21: Shoot something ordinary and make it extraordinary. Not sure it’s “extraordinary,” but I like how almost bug-eyed the fish looks from this head-on angle.

Week 21- Something Ordinary Made Extraordinary

Cascade Writers 1-Day Recap

A bit late in writing my post on the Cascade Writers one-day workshop, The Business and Craft of Writing, that happened last weekend. I had a great time meeting up with some old friends and making new ones.

I like the one-day format because it’s a lot of information, but isn’t as draining as a 3 or 4-day workshop. Being within driving distance helps. We were fortunate to be graced with the presence of authors Spencer Ellsworth and Mark Henry, as well as agent Sara Megibow. They each offered something different to the workshop, which lent it a nice feeling of depth.

Admittedly, I primarily went for the opportunity to practice my pitch with Sara. It went pretty well, and she gave me some tips on how to focus my pitch better. This was interesting for me as she wanted pitches with a tighter focus than other “formulas” I’ve seen online that were more summarizing/broad. I still need to play around with it, and come up with a few versions/lengths for different circumstances.

The programming was great because I thought that Sara covered a lot of the business/publishing side (duh), which is in its own way more straight forward and no nonsense. As she put it, there are two circles in writing: the art of writing circle, and the business of publishing circle, and they cover distinct aspects of the process. I need to start reading more of the current releases in my genre. *looks mournfully at stack of new YA books*

Mark sort of bridged the gap between Sara and Spencer. His programming (to me) seemed more career/life-oriented, complete with war stories from his writing career thus far. He went over how to manage social media, ways to reach and keep your audience engaged, and in a sense how to not burn out when you reach that inevitable point. If only it were sunshine and roses after getting that initial acceptance, whether that’s an agent or a book deal or whatever.

Spencer covered more of the craft component, with sessions on pacing and dialogue, complete with handouts, a whiteboard presentation, and several film clips. I missed part of the dialogue session because my pitch appointment fell during it, but the pacing segment also included dialogue and how the two work together to progress the story. I liked this approach and the use of film clips because they were great visual examples expressing how good dialogue does what we want it to: reveal character, move the story forward, be entertaining, etc. That programming might be enough to tip me over the edge into watching The Wire. Maybe. Drug dramas aren’t really my thing. I watch Food Network for a reason.

An interesting part of this workshop was that we pretty much stayed together as a group the entire day. Meals were taken as a large group (20ish people) inside the hotel restaurant, which was nice…for the most part. I liked that we stayed together because it made it easier to chat with new friends and the speakers in a relaxed environment without people having to break off into tiny groups (again, for the most part. The hotel restaurant wasn’t really set up to accommodate all of us). The not-so-great part was that the La Quinta restaurant food, while ok, was served at a snail’s pace. It took so long for our lunch orders to come (and we were basically the only people eating at the hotel) that it threw the programming schedule off. Dinner was only marginally better, despite our group number going down as some people had left early.

Still, a fun and informative day. My novel is plugging along, though I don’t know if I’ll have a polished enough draft to submit to Sara, who graciously offered to take the first 50 pages if the manuscript is complete by June 1st.

Photography Fun

A bit of a photo-heavy post here recapping some of my recent photography adventures. Currently mulling over a writing-related post so that will come in the next weekish or two. The novel is finally underway (yay), if also a bit slow-going. First chapter down!

But, on to photography fun: Things I Learned…

Things I Learned Pretending to be a Wedding Photographer

A dear friend of mine had a small courthouse ceremony the other day and asked if I’d take photos during it. Of course, I said. Ermagurd what do I do? I thought. Fortunately, there are plenty of tutorials, tips, and blogs full of advice and “## Things Every Amateur Should Know About Wedding Photography.” So I did some reading, though not a ton of it was relevant since this was a small, informal ceremony. It helped that Dear Friend is very understanding and it’s not like I had a contract with a bridezilla to deliver perfect wedding memories.

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The main thing I learned pretending to be a wedding photographer is that…I’m not cut out to be a wedding photographer. Based on the experience of my own wedding, plus ones that I’ve attended, a good wedding photographer is unobtrusive. They crouch, kneel, climb up high—whatever it takes to get the good shot, without getting in people’s way. The good ones can slip up to the aisle, quietly kneel down next to a row of chairs, get the shot, and back away. The bad ones go into the middle of the aisle and block the guests’ view. Or get in people’s way. Basically, they’re not unobtrusive. Then, there’s me. “Quietly” doing anything like “kneeling” or “crouching” doesn’t happen anymore post-car accident. I’m working on being able to go down on one knee, but it’s one thing to kneel on a yoga mat that’s on top of carpet, and another to try and do it on hardwood floors. I’m also not comfortable being, shall we say politely pushy, to get the shot. Good thing this wasn’t a “real” shoot because I wasn’t in position to get the first kiss. Also a good thing that the couple was happy to kiss again 😉

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All in all, a fun event and a happy one, but not something I’d want to do “for real.” I much prefer candid shots over poses, and think we got some good ones.

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Things I Learned Climbing a Mountain

Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit—we only climbed partway up the mountain. Elevation was around 1850ft on West Tiger Mountain. Dear Friend and I have been meaning to go on the Poo Poo Point-Chirico Trail hike for a while now, but between the weather and random things coming up we kept getting delayed. Last week we finally made it out, and it was a hike full of the glorious and the awful. Glorious: the weather was great—I think it hit the low 60s toward the end of the hike, nice breeze, beautiful views. Not a crowded hike, but we saw many other hikers and there’s a friendly sort of, as Dear Friend put it, hiker solidarity that happens on the trail.

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The not-so-great: well, Dear Friend is a few months pregnant now and this wasn’t the best trail for a couple of noob hikers to attempt. We made it up, but it’s a gain of 1700ft within just short of 2 miles. As we neared the first launch point (paragliders tend to hike this trail often in the spring-fall), the breeze picked up, and it’s a bit unnerving to see the trees swaying and hear the branches cracking as they bump each other. I’ve already had a tree fall on me, don’t need to repeat that experience. None came down while we were there, though there were plenty of fallen trees on either side of the trail.

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The views from both launch points are awesome.

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The awful part: for me, going up the trail was fine, whereas Dear Friend thought it was torture. We were switched for the hike back down. Thankfully I had trekking poles because otherwise I’d still be inching my way down. The trail is mostly rocky, some are wider, flatter, step-like things that aren’t too bad, but other parts of the trail are an uneven nightmare. Descending was really hard on my ankles in particular, followed by the knees. So, I learned that I’ll need to evaluate future hikes’ elevation gain and assess accordingly because even though the length roundtrip and the ascent weren’t a problem, getting back down was sucky.

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Things I Learned Attending the Northwest Flower & Garden Show

Ok, that title’s a stretch, but anywho. Well, first thing I learned was don’t go to the garden show two hours after a monster hike, ugh. However, it was a nice show, though I thought the theme, America the Beautiful, was a bit…I don’t know, I guess vague would suffice. I’m not saying America’s not beautiful, but it’s a big place. Most of the exhibitors went with Pac Northwest themes, which I like because 1) I live here for a reason, & 2) I like green.

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Really, what I learned from the garden show is that it’s an awesome place to see cute ideas for the dream writer’s cottage/shack/retreat. Sadly, I don’t have the pictures I took from last year’s show (they were less-than-great phone shots anyway) because there were some really cool standalone shed-type structures, but this year had some gems too.

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I love the idea of the dedicated writing space. It’s a sort of romantic, dreamy ideal that I love to pieces. The notion of it, anyway. Thing is, I’m enamored with the idea of being spirited away for weeks or months to do nothing but write. I mean, that sounds so awesome, right? Nothing else distracting me but writing, I’d-get-so-much-done. The words would just flow.

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Then I wake up and, you know, remind myself that I’m an adult and know myself well enough that there’s a reason I say that I like the idea of it. I do, it sounds great, but in reality it’s something where the fun factor would wear off really fast—for me. I’m a homebody. I pretty much already have a dedicated writing space…my desk. And, yea, I get distracted sitting at it, but here’s the thing—as much as I like to think that I need a big block of time to get into the groove during a writing session, say 4 hours, I’ve learned that realistically I write in bursts. I’m way more productive if I have a focused 30-45min session (sometimes longer depending on the situation) instead of sitting down with 4 hours of “free time.” If I sit down thinking I have 4 glorious hours, other stuff finds a way to come up. I’ll fall into a social media time suck, or the cats will need snuggling, or maybe I should go practice the violin, or I need to catch up on some reading, or…you get it.

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Actually, this one is probably more along the lines of a writer’s budget.IMG_2316-HDR

There were a lot of cute small spaces that could work as writing spaces, and I adore them. But, at least when I’m in the first draft phase, they’re just an idea that I have to like from afar. In the revision stage, well, now we might be getting somewhere. But, let’s not put the cart before the horse.

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The Dogwood 52 challenge is in its 8th week! Still going strong. Had a quick family vacation in Vegas last weekend and got my Week 8 shot- Landscape: Wide Angle/Panorama. This is a 3 picture stitch of the Colorado River during a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon the husbeast and I went on. Taking off in a helicopter is way more fun than in an airplane. Just sayin’. More photos are on my flickr page.

Week 8- Wide Angle or Panorama

Sasquan Recap- My First Worldcon

Sasquan has come and gone, and I’m more or less recovered in time for PAX Prime this weekend. I’d never been to a Worldcon before, so when I heard that it was within driving distance (4+ hours) I was tempted. I went mainly for the Writers Workshop, but found the entire experience to be a blast.

My husband, our friend the intrepid K (he blogs mostly about gaming here), and I arrived on Thursday afternoon to hazy skies. Much of central and eastern Washington is battling the worst wildfires in recent memory right now, and the smoke often left the sun red and skies hazy.

Sasquan ThursdayFriday was the worst of it, as a change in wind direction sent smoke and ash into Spokane to the point that air quality warnings were issued and signs were posted on all of the convention center doors urging people to stay inside. The smell permeated all of the buildings, and I know several people had to leave or refrain from coming to the con because of the air quality.

Smokeane sasquanWelcome to Smoke-ane.

We stayed in the Davenport Grand (one of 4 Davenport hotels in Spokane. Confusing much?), which was the only hotel “connected” to the convention center aside from the Doubletree. I’ll get to the “connector” later, but I will say that the Davenport Grand was lovely and the food was great. A plus to being in the Grand was that a lot of other con-goers were there, including many of the pros. A braver person would’ve been able to chat with some of said-pros, but alas.

Davenport GrandOn Thursday afternoon registration was a breeze, though I’ve heard/read some horror stories about the One Line to Rule Them All that occurred on Wednesday. We got our badges, and toodled off to explore the dealers’ hall.

Dealers RoomHad fun chatting with some Cascade Writers friends at their booth, and forced urged the intrepid K to take a card on the last day of the con since he missed getting his name on the mailing list. The dealers’ hall had pretty much something for everyone: steampunk gear, lots of jewelry vendors, cosplay outfits, multiple corset vendors, and all sorts of nerdy, geeky merchandise ranging from figurines to fan art T-shirts. Oh, and maybe just a few booksellers: indie/small presses, self-pubs, and larger bookstores were well represented. I may have brought home a book or two.

Sasquan haulEven the husbeast found something.

Steve's Sasquan haul

I was surprised at the breadth of topics represented in the Sasquan programming. There seemed to be something (or many somethings) for everyone: children’s programming, multiple demos and workshops for cosplay, gaming panels, discussions on TV shows, craft demos, and a multitude of panels aimed at writers. There were also several panels running per time slot, and while that did make for a few gut-wrenching time conflicts, it also meant there was something interesting to see all day, and for the most part it meant that the rooms weren’t too crowded. There were some exceptions to that, especially (I thought) on Saturday afternoon, but overall it felt like a well-attended con that still gave you elbow room. There were also dedicated movie and anime rooms with shows or films running morning ‘til night.

The Writers Workshop was a lovely experience, and huge thanks are due to Adrienne Foster for organizing it, the pros who lent their time as moderators and/or to critique the works, and the other participants. I was a little intimidated going in even though I’ve participated in online critique groups and had a great time at the CW event last month, but I needn’t have worried. My moderator was Ed Sullivan, and the three pros were Randy Henderson, Erin Wilcox, and Laura J. Mixon. Our group only had two submissions—mine and Jenna Kinghorn, and the small size coupled with a 3-hour window for critiquing made for an intimate, friendly experience. I received critical feedback for my short story submission and came away feeling enthused rather than ripped to shreds. For $25 (you already had to have an attending membership) I think I got a lot of bang for my buck. Thanks are due to Cat Rambo who suggested I go to Sasquan in particular for this workshop.

I’m not going to comment much on the Hugos except to say congratulations to the winners. There are a lot of posts and articles going around addressing the Hugos, and I have nothing to add. It wasn’t an ideal year, but I hope this motivates everyone who was disgruntled about the outcome (on any side) to go out and nominate for next year. There’s a wikia being kept as a roundup of works folks think are nomination-worthy.

My only grievance with Sasquan was the accessibility, or lack thereof, of the convention center. On some levels, Sasquan was great: wide halls, relatively uncrowded compared to some other conventions, multiple places to sit down, and friendly staff in both the Sasquan volunteers and the convention center staff. The Davenport Grand itself was fairly ADA-friendly. We didn’t request an ADA room, and we found our “standard” room to be very accessible. The only tripping hazard was this raised divider thing between the shower and the toilet, and it was so far from the drain I don’t think it would’ve done much to block water seepage anyway.

The not-so-great side: long walks between the halls, and between the hotels and the convention center. We avoided the Doubletree after encountering the elevator scrum. The elevators inside the convention center were fine and most had a good amount of space around the entrances so there wasn’t a pileup of people clogging the halls. The connector between the Davenport Grand and the convention center was convenient in the sense that we didn’t have to go out into the heat and smoke, but it was a long walk around to the convention center, and it let you out a fair distance from any of the panel rooms aside from the theater halls. And the bathrooms…I don’t think I encountered a single bathroom entrance that was automated. That’s not generally a problem for me even if I am using my cane, but a number of attendees were using scooters. Admittedly, I didn’t even notice the lack of automated doors until I was exiting the bathroom and found a gentleman trying very discreetly to hold the door open without going inside for his female companion using a scooter. Come on, Spokane CC, that’s a problem. The doors aren’t exactly light either.

Overall though, I had a great time and would love to attend more Worldcons in the future.

Attending a Book Launch Party

Went to my first book launch party last Friday. Not my book’s launch. I mentioned hearing Raven Oak read a passage from her recently released novella, Class-M Exile, last month at the Cascade Writers info session. Raven’s novella is “officially” launched (it was a sneak peek at the CW event), and I attended a launch party at the University Bookstore in Bellevue.

A small gathering, maybe a dozen or so in attendance. Not bad for 6:30pm on a Friday. Apparently some people complained about the venue being in Bellevue? Pfff. Parked in two seconds with plenty of space around and didn’t need to pay. Seattle’s hard-pressed to equal that in most places.

I’ve never been to that U Bookstore location before, and it was nice inside—café, UW themed stuff, large art supply selection, nice space by a fireplace (not that we needed it in June) for the reading/signing, and of course, a good selection of books. Considering that the floor space pales in comparison to a giant like B&N, I was pleasantly surprised by how many science fiction and fantasy books the U Bookstore had. Also had a long signing table with plenty of space, and a mix of folding plastic chairs and the more permanent comfy ones.

The U Bookstore staff were good hosts, and it was a nice gathering with wine and cheese. I liked how small it was because it was more intimate, not loud, not much in the way of a line, and conversations flowed more easily.

I’ve mentioned before that Raven’s reading with the southern accent is great. I’ll be hearing her voice when I read it. This is good, because otherwise I’m not sure how well the writing would come across for me, as it’s written to reflect the accent. Ex. “Hell, you could even buy yerself a gen-u-ine religion if you were so inclined.”

Aside from the usual reading and signing, Raven also had a short trivia game for us. She spent 20+ years in Texas before coming to the Pac Northwest, so we had fun playing a game of guessing headlines: Texas or The Onion. The number of times you wished the headline was from the Onion…

For swag, Raven had these cute stickers that are a nod to a line in the book. If you’re looking for fun ideas for a book launch or promotions, these were a nice alternative to bookplates. Cat tail not included.

Raven Oak sticker

Had a chance to chat with her while she signed my book, and spelled my name right! This sounds like a no-brainer, but the number of times someone has asked how to spell my name and still spells it incorrectly…*facepalm. Same thing where I point out how to spell it, or have it written/typed down in view. I hear people with unconventional spellings or ethnic spellings complain and I’m like, dude, people can’t spell my name right—y’all don’t have a chance. However, I do think there are instances where people consciously take better care if they see a name that they’re not familiar with. I need to start saying, “Jaime, like Jaime Lannister.” That presumes the person in question has read the book as opposed to only watching the show, but I’ll try it.

Signed Class M

Also chatted with Raven about some upcoming cons/events and the dilemma of selecting which stories to submit to writers’ workshops. More on that in future posts once I see the results of how it all worked out, but the gist of it was that it’s a tricky line between wanting to represent yourself well but also submit the piece that needs more work since you’re paying for a critique. Constructive criticism is a lot more useful than the ego-boosting of a line of comments just saying they liked it. We’ll see. I have two separate pieces with one going to a CW workshop in July and the other to Sasquan in August.

Closing thoughts on book launches: having snacks is nice. The trivia game was fun, but I can see that being harder to engage in if there are a lot of people in attendance. Small gatherings are nice for more intimate chats. Swag is cool.