Pining for SiWC

Okay.

First? Not dead.

Second? The Surrey International Writers Conference was amazing. Flat out. Full on. Amazing. It was with great sadness that I cut off the (very hospital-like) participant armband when I got home that Sunday night.

The expected post-con stupor hit me at the same time that my synthroid dose went up and my glasses changed prescriptions to progressive lenses.

passThird? Those glasses were the fucking devil. It was like they sold me a car with the warning, “So the turning radius is terrible and the blind spots monstrous, but just drive it for two weeks and you’ll totally get used to it.” Probably, but why would I want to? Why on earth would I want to ruin my peripheral vision, make half the rest of it sharp, and what remains an eye-screwing, blurry wasteland? (Not to mention that they did have my pupil distance miss-measured and the ‘reading glasses’ portion merely bolded everything but in the end wasn’t necessary as I am blind from about six inches onward anyways…)

With a HELLS NO, I brought the glasses back and swapped them out for a regular pair. And boy howdy, what a freakin’ improvement.

So between being jacked up on a zippier dosage and dragged down by the utterly new-to-me experience of my vision being made significantly worse after a new pair of glasses, I was a very tired, tired yo-yo and all that post SiWC excitement bled away and let some of the way-too-familiar fear-induced paralysis back in.

That said, I’m back on the wagon. Bit by bit. ‘Cause I have to be: I landed two requests from agents while at the conference, and nothing has felt that good, that encouraging, in a very long time. When something like that happens to me, I tend to want to hold onto it. Like the expensive notebook I might splurge on, or the fine set of watercolor pencils, my first instinct is to save it because I may not have it in the future. It’s taken me a long time to break that habit when it comes to physical objects; I am still learning how to use the things that nourish the soul.

The fear of scarcity is something I will always wear around my neck, I suppose, but I must learn to stand, walk and run despite that chain.

The VCON before the SIWC

Got the chance to get my feet wet last weekend with a whirlwind, one-day visit to VCON, the local science fiction and fantasy convention and one of the reasons I moved out west — to have a local Con! VCON reminds me so much of Ad Astra, held in Toronto, that it felt both new and familiar, and a much needed break, to boot. A bit of media, a bit of art, and a bit of writing, with a bolstered writing track thanks to Sandra Wickham (who tackled the job with a get-out-of-her-way zest that should be the standard, IMO, of getting shit done). There were pitch sessions, workshops, and a live slush panel!

However:

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Such a GPOY GIF I can’t even. (But boy can I odd…)

I convinced myself, and I think rightly, to avoid the Pitch Sessions. I just don’t have that glib, five minute, novel-nutshell to throw at people like a peppy squirrel. I did have a great conversation with Aviva Bel’Harod, author of Blood Matters among other titles, who gently coached me on how to approach a pitch. (And to mostly not put my own work down. A duh-tip for anyone else in the Universe but me!) I felt a little better about the whole idea of pitching, but still didn’t sign up for any of the open sessions.

But on no account was I allowed to skip the live slush — Sandra had given me marching orders. I dutifully added my (poorly formatted) page one into the basket and wobbled over to my seat in the back. The panel format? Four editors, one reading and the rest all raising their hands when they would come to the point they would stop reading if it were a submission in their slush piles.

They read it. (Last, too. I nearly died.)

They liked it. (They did what?)

Two of them even asked me to submit a synopsis and first three chapters. (Falls over.)

There is not a GIF in the world that describes my feelings. I don’t even have proper words, but let’s try by cutting to the heart of the thing: it’s the first external encouragement I’ve gotten since Viable Paradise. I’ve got great supportive writing friends that offer me critical, useful feedback on my novels and short stories, and I’ve gotten damn close to a few fiction markets, but I have never gotten to see people reading my work and reacting to it, live, outside of the realm of critique, and liking it.

Now, it’s not a sale, it’s not a yes — it’s a “we want to see more.” Well, good. I can get you more. Damn skippy.

So if I didn’t have a fire lit under my ass as I look forward to and prep for the Surrey International Writers Conference, or SIWC, in two weeks time, I sure as hell do now. This month is all about synopsis, query and pitch crafting. I will be signing up for every additional pitch session I can lay claim to for SIWC and look forward to living and breathing this glorious beast called writing for four whole days. I’ve already started on the formative work for STAR DOOR, my (ineptly, inelegantly titled) urban portal fantasy with strong YA appeal, but will try my damnedest to get the same ready for BLOOD OF WOLVES, my AU gothic werewolf novel.

SIWC will be a huge and exciting learning curve for me. I’ll get to practice my pitches, learn what works and doesn’t work, and leave better equipped to throw myself into the next phase. When I get back, I start sending those packages everywhere.

A Tale Of Woe Told In GIFs

So, from September 20th onward, with no Internet connection, this was me:

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And when I was at work, this was me, eyeing the Internet:

I had an installation date for a week and a half after my move into the apartment. But the Friday before my install I realized that I had an immovable work conflict. So I called to reschedule, knowing this would not be easy but had to be done. Because I deal with a re-seller, they can’t confirm an installation date. It’s gotta be sent off to the other company and then I will find out, maybe one or two days later, if one of my choices is available. I called the Friday before the Wednesday, asking for the 3rd, the following Friday. I get off the phone, having no idea of when my installation will happen.

SO IT BEGAN.

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No contact from anyone on Monday to confirm any new time frame and worried that if I didn’t confirm a tech would show up when I couldn’t possibly be there to let him in, and then cancel the install outright, I called Tuesday. They don’t know yet, but I get an email later that night saying my installation was on Saturday.

Great, if I wasn’t going to VCON the town over and was in no way available for a day I hadn’t asked for.

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And plus, it would make it two weeks since moving in before I got service. A flurry of Customer Service happens as I email and tweet, and reps put me through and are very earnest but, because they don’t interact with the tech scheduling directly, they really can’t do anything. They will call me, they promise.

Days pass. No word.

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Called again on Thursday because no call, no email. “Don’t know yet,” they say, and confirm to me that Friday, my original, original, before the surprise Wednesday and then the unwanted Saturday, is just not available. Fine, I think. Monday, Tuesday, whatever. It’s been this long, another weekend (GASP) won’t kill me.

And at work today, Friday?

Get a call from the tech, outside my apartment.

Dude was great. Totally waited for me to haul my butt a half hour across downtown to get home and let him in. Took five minutes with him at the cable, and five minutes of me double checking the wireless, and I’m back, baby.


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I’m back.

Now, let’s get to work.

Edited to add: The kicker? After lunch today. Got an email confirmation of my installation set for Monday. BECAUSE OF COURSE.

The Great Internet Famine of 2014

I have survived the move. Oh, look, a fluffy place to — BOOM.

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I’ve unpacked every box and set up the kitchen. I keep not-finding things I thought I had, or hadn’t thought about having, and I hit the grocery store nearly every day. I keep buying mustard, which I don’t quite understand. I’ve run the gamut of exhaustion to elation and back to exhaustion again because apparently that’s how I’m wired these days.

Cat tried to escape out the living room window — out a ledge narrower and a floor higher than the last apartment — the first day back to work. Because of course.

Even with everything unpacked, there are great swaths of empty space waiting the delivery of some IKEA furniture. I only have the papasan chair, which is frankly doing terrible things to my already stressed back at the moment, but I’m sort of getting used to having all the extra space. Still, a couch, a table, these things are necessary and good and, fingers crossed, will come assembled.

Still a week to go with no Internet. Great when it comes to breaking the social media habit. I’m more able to leave the phone on the shelf, for example, or in another room entirely, but all of my writing is in the cloud and that’s proving challenging. Very, very challenging. What have I done? What have I done? Aaskhfskdjfhsdkfhs…

Reading, however, has never been better. I am loving Jo Walton’s MY REAL CHILDREN, and should finish it tonight. It does such interesting things, and Walton seeds her hints so deftly. Much love!

Two Nights Accommodation

Two more nights, tomorrow my last full day in the apartment. Boxes are everywhere, full and taped shut, but there’s other bits and bobs of belongings scattered about. Some destined for bags, some carefully bundled in blankets and bubble wrap.

Am I ready for the move?

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No shit, Sherlock.

*fump*

Primer on Packing All The Things

Drink caffeine while packing; do not drink wine.

If you are chatty, don’t pack with friends. If people inhibit you, pack with company, comfortable or not. Pack with people you actively dislike, as the inclination to be brisk with them will carry over into the speed of packing. Friends will do you no good here.

Avoid looking at the things if at all possible, as it inhibits packing. Some of your things are shiny, some neat, or just damn cool. Some things are things you forgot about, making it hard not to linger.  Some things jog entire chains of memories, snuffed desires, and forgotten tasks. Do not look at these things directly, only obliquely. Throw them into boxes if you must. Score yourself on how much in the net they are, if there had been a net, if you had been looking.

Socks are ordinary and not fun, therefore safe to pack. The same is true for silverware, towels, and cleaning supplies. Rest assured that all your shiny, neat and just damn cool things will still possess these properties when they are removed from their boxes at a later date. Some things are things to look forward to, you tell yourself, while you have another sip of wine.

Of tea, I mean. Tea.

Seven days and counting oh my god oh my god.

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You Gotta Read These Books

I’ve been on a really great reading tear this summer. You know the kind — where the narrative threads are so bright, so strong, that the rest of your life gets helplessly knotted up, immobilized, until you finished because you can’t think about anything else.

In particular, there are three novels I’ve read, and two collections, one of essays, one of short fiction, that I must rave about.

In quick succession, I’ve devoured We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, China Dolls by Lisa See, and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. The first is about a young woman’s troubled past with a family that used her as part of an ongoing primatology study, the second an historical coming-of-age tale about three first generation Chinese and Japanese women in California before and during WWII, the third a jazz-era reimagining of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. And as varied as they are, the books have two things in common — they are not SFnal or fantastical in any way and they all have this prose style that begs to be read aloud.

When it comes to the latter, that’s by far my favorite kind of voice. If alone in the apartment, the temptation to read passages, even whole chapters aloud, was often too great to ignore. I breathed in these books while reading; I babbled about these books to friends upon finishing.

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And while diving into these three I picked up and devoured, in an entirely different way, We Have Always Fought by Kameron Hurley. If the novels were air, this collection of essays was bread for a starving woman. Reading this alongside the stunning  June 2014 issue of Lightspeed magazine, Women Destroy Science Fiction, makes me remember why I do any of this — why I keep writing, why it’s important.

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And though I suppose I should expect a lull, looking ahead at what’s skipped to the top of the queue, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed. I’ve got Scatter, Adapt and Remember by Annalee Newitz on the go right now, and soon Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Hurley’s The Mirror Empire and her Bel Dame Apocrypha series. But first, Jo Walton’s My Real Children.

Looks like it’s shaping up to be a great fall reading season, too.