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This week, the chapters actually deal with the same topic: fighting in the dark. There is something about blind fighting that appeals to me. I got lucky in my early years by having fairly good night vision. It help compensate for the poor vision that plagued me until my mid-twenties when I got surgery. However, the appeal of seeing in the dark has remained with me and this chapter reflects that.

Sand and Blood 18: Quiet-Voiced Threat

In general, I don’t like the idea that the night or moon clan is “evil.” I don’t like the idea of evil at all, but it is easy for someone in the sun clan to view the moon clan as evil. I break that notion pretty quickly though since Mikáryo, one of my favorite characters, doesn’t slaughter the group. Instead, her attitude will set the scene for her and Rutejìmo’s relationship until the end of the last book of the series.

Most warriors, both sun and moon clans, can see in the dark. It is needed since their opponents are functional in the one time they are weakest. Likewise, I see the warriors as capable of storing up energy to fight when their respective spirits are below the horizon. This is why Desòchu and Chimípu can use their speed at night through the next book but Rutejìmo can’t.

This chapter is also a chance for Chimípu to show off and begin to explore the powers that only warriors have. The little fighter girl is capable of fighting in darkness with only their powers lighting up the combat. Of course, Mikáryo is a seasoned warrior and Chimípu has only had her powers for a few weeks. And there is only one thing a warrior of the night could do when a young woman of the day clan has been defeated.

Read Sand and Blood 18: Quiet-Voiced Threat at http://ift.tt/29aP4xP.

Flight of the Scions 24: Fight or Flight

As I mentioned before, healers are pretty rare. Outside of the story, they are a crutch. Inside the story, they have far more powers than closing up a wound or setting a bone. This chapter shows some of those additional spells which were inspired by the physical adepts of ShadowRun. Kanéko gets a chance to see what it is like to be boosted.

This chapter also begins to explore the sheer amount of information that Ruben deals with on a daily basis. Now days, I would say it would be a knock-off from the TV series Sherlock, but I’m still sticking with it. He sees the world in quantifiable metrics and I like that aspect for him.

(In a recent Fate game, one of the players had the power of Hyperanalysis which let her see things like measurements and distances in real time. The hard part is that I had to limit that power because it can be too helpful, as long as it isn’t overwhelming.)

This is actually one of my favorite chapters: Kanéko gets boosted, Ruben shows off, Maris learns how to use magic, someone gets to fly, my conlang has a plot-related event, and Pahim gets the crap beaten out of him again. And that whole conversation about red balls is just a setup for this chapter.

Read Flight of the Scions 24: Fight or Flight http://ift.tt/29aP2pK (subscribers)

Patrons

More so in the near future than the past, my writing is supported by patrons and donations. Releasing the books as Creative Commons means you can read it before you buy it. If you like it, then consider donating money or subscribing to have access to all my drafts and published novels.

Patrons can also read the work-in-progress of the final book of the series, Sand and Bone. Everything up to chapter fourteen is now up.

Sand and Ash progress

I got a round of edits for Sand and Ash and I have integrated them. I’m asking for one last round of editing but I should have it by the end of the month which means I’ll be ordering copies for the author signing on July 16th in the beginning of next week. The signing is going to be fun, there are going to be thirty authors or publishers (including three from Broken Typewriter Press) showing off their books.
Both chapters this week deal with the interplay of differing personalities working together. I didn’t intended it to line up, but it was interesting that it did. I like cooperative stories. I love it when people work together instead of infighting or going their own way. That is reflected in some of my writing, more so with these two “three character” novels that I apparently wrote but didn’t realize it until I wrote this.

Sand and Blood 17: An Evening Run

One of the topics I haven’t seen frequently in novels is the idea of addiction. These teenagers (or young folks) gain these super powers and can do tremendous powers. Excluding the ones that just turn evil right away, there isn’t much about what it is like to have these powers. Most of the time we get a short montage training session and then they are off.

In my world, stronger powers are addictive since there is a rush of power and an euphoria that comes with it. For the Shimusògo, the surge comes from running at high speed and having the power of the clan spirit flowing through it. A long time ago, I once was a rather obscure anime about a bunch of girls who raced down a ramp and performed long jobs. One of the major themes in that story was this burst of light as they lost themselves into the run and they had a “perfect” sprint. While Rutejìmo will (probably) never experience that rush, that anime drama does make its mark in this chapter.

This is also the point where “Shimusògo Run” became the clan motto. I may have used it earlier, but this was the first time. They run, it is the only thing they do to touch their spirit and that brief touch with a god-like being is addictive. They find peace in running. If you look through this novel and the next, you may notice that every Shimusògo runs when they are stressed or need to calm down. That is all tied into this idea of joy of running (something I personally never have experienced).

Oh yeah, and Rutejìmo learns how to throw fireballs using a rocks.

Read Sand and Blood 17: An Evening Run at http://ift.tt/28RO5hW.

Flight of the Scions 23: Midnight

There is a lot in this chapter, but one I can’t talk about until book four of this series. There are a lot of little hooks with the rest of the series throughout this book, I have all four planned, but they are (hopefully) subtle ones that won’t be obvious until later. We’ll see if I’m that awesome in three years.

So, you may notice the casual healing in this chapter. It was right before I read a book on RPG design that explained how magical healing was a crutch. I had already established that Virsian has magical healing and decided not to change it. Instead, healing became one of the rarest of magical talents (right up with folding) in my fantasy world and the dalpre is one of those rare individuals. Actually, that ended up leading me into an idea for another book, Her Hidden Claws, which if I write it, would be her story as a little girl finding out about her powers.

This is a world-building chapter in that it talks a bit about dalpre. In my world, they are a crafted race of humans that were spliced with animal features. There are some other traits encoded into them, much like Mercedes Lackey’s Black Gryphon, which I adored. Some of them are obvious, some less so. The biggest is that the child of a dalpre is always a dalpre. They are also vulnerable to mental domination (seen in the “red ball” chapter from earlier) and orders.

This chapter also gives a hint of Kanéko’s compassion when she worries about the horse she injured a few chapters later. The hardest part is that she is a teenage girl, she doesn’t always do the right thing, but she means well. In many ways, she is more heroic than Rutejìmo, but she also treated her weakness as a challenge instead of something to accept.

Read Flight of the Scions 23: Midnight http://ift.tt/28MsiLz (subscribers)

Italics

So, this little micro-conversation showed up on Twitter.

@bbeaulieu I agree with it. I just didn't with my books because I have language dependent plots and use notionally translated pretty heavily

— D. Moonfire (@dmoonfire) June 19, 2016

I never really thought about it before, obviously, and I went back and italicized all of the conlang words in Sand and Blood. Because of that, I didn’t want to go back and remove all those words (though it required a lot more effort on my part). Also, in Flight of the Scions, the language is very important to the plot and I use both notationally translated (“you bitch”) and untranslated words (barichirōma) rather heavily. After a bit of thinking, I decided to keep the italics in place because it was a visual indicator that a different language was being spoke.

The reason I decided to leave it in the Sand series (because everyone is speaking the same language) was consistency with Kanéko’s story.

The hard part is deciding what to do with the telepathy. I foolishly included a lot of that in this novel also and there are times when I have all three languages being used in the same chapter (though I don’t think in the same paragraph). I know that I’m going to use guillemet for telepathy, such as «You can hear this in your mind.» I originally got the idea from Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be a Wizard series which I absolutely adore. She used parenthesis in there but I drifted slightly from the original idea.

Now, the other difference was that when I originally wrote it, telepathy was sans-serif while the rest was serif. That changed two years ago when I wrote Journals of Fedran because I used sans-serif for out-of-world elements and serif for in-world. I’m inclined to keep that convention, which means I’ll probably leave telepathy italicized and serif.

Patrons

More so in the near future than the past, my writing is supported by patrons and donations. Releasing the books as Creative Commons means you can read it before you buy it. If you like it, then consider donating money or subscribing to have access to all my drafts and published novels.

Sand and Ash progress

I ordered the proof of the new Sand and Blood with its shiny cover. I’m also waiting for the editor for Ash. Once I get that, I have a little bit of page shuffling to add some extra cruft at the back (for its license and advertising of the other books in the series). It’s taking a while, but I’m almost there and that excited me.

Missing Files

The electronic copies of the files are still missing, I’m obsessing about getting the books out and I don’t think I’ll have the recovered until after July 16th.

Why I go to WisCon to be uncomfortable

Yesterday, I posted about trigger warnings in my book. I had some short conversations on both Ello and Facebook. The Ello ones were typically against what I was doing, much in the same vein that Jim C. Hines’ post brought up there were people against it. The Facebook ones were more personal (e.g., direct friends). Shannon Ryan pointed out that an author writing a warning was more of a courtesy than censorship because I’m choosing to do it instead of someone warning a reader off. It was an interesting observation and one I agreed with.

The Ello conversation triggered some thoughts, though. This one line in specific called to me:

[…] in our generation we think being alive is an invitation to being uncomfortable with ideas that we find disturbing.

I do think literature (and whatever I write) should be uncomfortable. I think what I write in Sand and Blood and its sequels are probably uncomfortable for a number of people. There is bigotry, abuse, and personal struggles. They aren’t stories of glorious heroes running around saving the world (I break some of that with Sand and Bone). Some of the other stories I want to write will also be uncomfortable for some readers.

I think that is great.

I also don’t think that giving a warning in the front of a book diminishes from that. There are readers who will have triggers toward a specific scene, but they can handle it if they are mentally prepared for it. I’ll use miscarriage for example. It still haunts the women in my life who had lost unborn children. Some of them will never read Sand and Ash because of it. Others will know it is there, prepare mentally, and read it anyways. Knowing that it is there doesn’t mean I’m censoring any more than anyone who struggle with those things will not read it just because they are there. I know at least one rape survivor who read Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, they just skipped chapters.

Side note, I haven’t found a good way of identifying themes on a chapter basis that wouldn’t ruin the plot. That would be the equivalent of “skipping the scene” in a movie, but I don’t know a way of doing it smoothly. Plus some of the themes cover many chapters. In *Ash, the miscarriage is spread out across three chapters but it influences the character until the end of the book, nine chapters later.*

I realized that I seek being uncomfortable in more than a few instances in my life. The most recent is my attendance at WisCon. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am frequently depressed on the last day of WisCon but I keep coming back.

This discomfort is important. I honestly don’t think you can really look into yourself without a mirror. And no physical mirror can really reveal the heart. Instead, the mirror has to be others around you.

Take for example, cultural appropriation. I thought about doing a post about it, mainly because I didn’t see why it was a bad thing or even that it was an issue. But in the process of planning that post, I realized the fact I couldn’t see “why” was actually a problem with my thinking. It was an issue but my blindness toward it was the problem.

As an apparently cis white male, I’m in the majority for this country. Even though I don’t really see myself as having a specific culture, I do. But I couldn’t see it any more than most people don’t realize that every aisle in the grocery store that isn’t “ethic” is the majority culture. We don’t label the aisles as “non-ethic” or “everyone else”, but that is there.

Needless to say, I didn’t write that post. Instead, I have this uncomfortable spot in my head with a sign that says “you are missing something” but no real answers. I don’t have them, I don’t know how to fill in that gap. Events like WisCon that at least let me know they exist. Years later, I might figure it out, but it takes a while to first find the hole and then to fill it up.

One way of filling in that gap is simple, listen. For the most part, I go to WisCon to listen to others. To see the world in a different way than I see every other day of the year. To hear things that haven’t intruded in my reality for over four decades simply because I wasn’t in a position to experience them.

When I hear something that makes me uncomfortable, I fight that initial urge to ask questions or argue against it. It is there, I hate that it is there because there is so much in me that wants to say its wrong, but I know it isn’t. I don’t want to minimize the experiences and observations of others simply because they are just as true as my own. When someone is aggressively ranting against whites or males, they have have something to say and it is just as important for me to hear without responding as it is for others to listen also. I know it is personal but not at the same time.

When that happens, I focus on remembering what caused me to disagree and set it aside to look at it later. To plan but never write a post about it, to use it as inspiration for a story to help me understand something I have a blank spot for, or simply to learn how to fill in those gaps in my thinking.

The reason I get depressed coming home from WisCon is not because it wasn’t fun or because no one loves me, but a simple side effect of listening to others and integrating their views into my own. These are things that aren’t figured out in an hour or a day, it takes a long time. Sometimes it takes years to fill in the gaps and see the world outside of my own senses.

Another reason for depression is that I realize I’m doing something wrong. Either one of my unintended microaggressions is revealed or my reasons for doing something may be well-meaning but ultimately insulting. I’m sure including Kanéko in my story will probably insult someone as will the Japanese/French/First Nations influences I used to create the desert culture.

Some of those revelations change my life. I used to greet almost everyone while walking on the sidewalk. I don’t because someone showed that some women suffer from being greeted simply because they are female. Since I don’t have the ability to say “I like everyone”, they just see yet another guy trying to talk them up. And that’s an honest problem, I only did it because I hated the anonymous work crowds in Chicago where everyone desperately pretended not to be surrounded by others. It is a minor thing to me, but it could ruin someone’s day.

I honestly would say I’m not an ally, a feminist, or anything else. I’m just fumbling through life, trying to be as open and welcoming as I can be. As such, that requires me to go into the uncomfortable places to learn where I have failed.

I love WisCon because it makes me uncomfortable. I like listening to people talk about their lives and reveal something I can’t ever understand. I love when I feel the passion and fire, not only because it scorches my own basis of understanding but because it is a story I haven’t heard. I because it makes me uncomfortable, it changes me, and it helps me fill in the gaps to (hopefully) grow into a better person.

Trigger Warnings

So, I’ve been thinking about Jim C. Hines’ post about Trigger Warnings (http://ift.tt/1MtfJ6c) and writing for a few months now. Coupled with some panels and discussions at WisCon of the years, I’m thinking about putting something on the legal page of Sand and Blood (since I’m redoing the formatting in preparation for Sand and Blood’s release).

“Some themes that appear in this book: bullying, death of named characters, death of anonymous animals, graphical violence, and verbal abuse. There is sexual attraction but no explicit scenes. There is no rape.”

When I review books, I always mention death of children or animals. And rape scenes, if there are any. I think it is reasonable to do the same for my own books, but I wanted to be explict there wasn’t any as opposed to requiring someone to make an inference from my style. This is important because I have previously screened books and movies to make sure those scenes aren’t there because people I love have those triggers.

The death of named character and graphical violence was kind of modeled after the G, PG, R ratings of movies. I do kill off characters in my books and most of them get a proper samurai drama death scene. Not everyone cares for it though. In addition, I keep saying Sand and Blood isn’t Young Adult because characters die, but it is hard to say that when someone is just picking up the book.

The verbal abuse and bullying are important to me. I have had beta readers put down the books because of those two topics, so I thought it was justified.

Sand and Ash will be harder though:

“Some themes that appear in this book: bullying, death of named characters, death of unborn children, depression, graphical violence, personal tragedy, physical abuse, suicide, and verbal abuse. There is sex but no explicit scenes. There is no rape.”

I don’t have a word to describe when people forced the main character back into the desert to die. There isn’t a good phrase, but the fact the story is about being one of the “unclean” in the world and a large section of the population not caring if the main character dies or not. I figured that gives a better warning.

The “unborn children” is because of the miscarriage scene, which I’ve written about previously.

For those who are curious, Sand and Bone’s draft:

“Some themes that appear in this book: death of named characters, graphical violence, personal tragedy, physical abuse, and torture. There is sex but no explicit scenes. There is no rape.”

Not a lot of bullying in this one, he gets through almost all of it in the previous book. But there is violence and suffering in this book, so I think the warnings describe it pretty well.

Interestingly, Flight of the Scions won’t have any reference to death, tragedy, and sex. That one is a proper young adult novel, I have to admit.

The last point is “There is no rape” line. I don’t plan on writing a rape scene by any book. I also don’t have it as a viable fear in the world because it doesn’t happen. Just like some authors use “historically accurate” to justify rape, I’m using “authors prerogative” ignore it. It doesn’t matter how dark or overwhelming a situation, rape won’t happen.

Will having a trigger warning ruin a twist? Maybe. But I’d rather ruin a story than have someone hit something that disturbs them. And “death of a named character” could mean a lot of things, you’d have to read the book to figure out how that character dies or if more than one character dies.

I don’t see these warnings as catering the overly sensitive folks. I see it as being honest about what I write and letting someone make intelligent decisions if they want to go further. It is about establishing trust with readers through honesty.

I think that is the right thing to do.

WisCon Retrospective

Two weeks ago, I went to Madison, WI to attend WisCon. For those who don’t know about it, it is a feminist sci-fi convention which I’ve been doing to for about five years now.

I love the panels and community there, they show a world that I’m cannot join myself. I like seeing other stories, other people, other views that are so different from mine but also inspire me. This is a panel convention, almost all the events are panels as opposed to activities. That also means that there isn’t much to do for the boys or my spouse.

Relationships and Friendship

While I go to Madison with my wife and the boys, I don’t go with anyone to the convention. This puts me an interesting place where I don’t have friends to hang around at the convention. I’m not really great at finding a group of “friends” there, so I end up spending most of the weekend alone between panels.

I did recognized two others there and had brief conversations, but that was about it.

This is probably the most frustrating thing about this convention. I can’t really talk to anyone about what I’m listening to or reading. I just get hints and pieces of it despite doing panels. Some years, this makes me feel rather depressed but this year wasn’t too bad. I think the reason was that someone was interested in what I said during a panel.

My other convention, ICON, is a different story. I have a lot more relationships with people who go there. Yeah, I spend hours just meandering about as they go to their own panel, but there is a chance that I will stumble on one of them and hang around for a little bit.

Art of Book Reviewers (Friday 14:30)

The first panel I went to was the Art of Book Reviewers. I like this panel because they talked about the difference of a book review and a critique. Reviews are teasers, critiques are spoilers. In many aspects, I write a bit of both but I think it gave me a framework for having the review part in the beginning and a critique at the end, which will make it easier to separate the two.

I don’t review very often, but there were some good advice about the difference between the two. Not to mention adjusting reviews for the target audience.

Monsters and Mirrors (Saturday 10:00)

My first panel, a reading. I read the second chapter of Flight of the Scions. There was some rough points, but it is a fifth draft so that was okay.

LaShawn M. Wanak, who I met earlier checking in, had a fantatsic story about wood-like spores in the shape of people. Exterminators use singing and music to break them down. There is a lot in that story. It had a nice noir feel to it and had a lot of promise. I can’t wait to read more.

Gwynne Garfinkle read a number of poems, almost all of them to older horror monsters. I really love the one about loving the Blob and one about Bride of Frankenstein. She has a nice voice to her poems.

Alex Bledsoe read a chapter from one of his book series. It was quirky and music-based which really fit the theme for everyone but me. Characters down on their luck always attraction my attention and his story fit that bill nicely.

Bi-Invisiblity (Saturday 14:30)

I was late showing up and there was only standing room left. I wanted to go to it, but too many people were interested in the same topic. So I went to…

Fat Characters in SF&F (Saturday 14:30)

A very informative panel about fat characters in fiction. I saw different ways of seeing fat, both from labeling (skinny fat verses fat fat) and also how they are presented problems. There was a lot of talk about fan villains, only being fat to present a problem, and talking about how many fictions don’t include fat characters as protagonists.

Writing & Tabletop RPG (Saturday 16:00)

My second panel. I got to talk about writing and role-playing games, how they fit together and how they don’t work. A lot of discussion that I got into was about authors having “one voice” verses RPG where a player will come up with something the author/gamemaster didn’t think about it.

I got to talk about how I come up with three events in most NPCs that determine their life and built up as a series of experiences. There were other tricks for creating NPCs.

I got a few laughs, that was good.

Writing Tools (Sunday 08:30)

This ended up being my favorite panel. We talked about pens and paper, fancy gadgets that I will never use, and writing processes. I talked a bit about using Git and Markdown, which actually got some people excited (and someone actually wanted me to show it after the panel! *squee*).

This was recorded as a podcast by K. Tempest Bradford, so I’ll post a link when it gets posted. I like her insights into WisCon in general, but also the process she uses for writing (and pen lover), though I probably won’t deviate from my own.

I’m thinking about writing up writing using Git and Markdown again, mainly to reflect the changes since my last one.

Family Visit

I didn’t do anything else on Sunday because I went to see my grandma, aunt, my aunt’s husband, and my cousin. We went to McDonalds where the boys had a grand time and I got to talk. It was a relatively positive visit but it is always good too see family.

SignOut (Monday 11:30)

While the rest of the family headed back to Iowa, I finished up with SignOut. Overall, that was probably the lowest point of the convention. No one asked for a signature. I had one person scoff at the cover and another compliment it. Mostly, I chatted with my table mate, Catherine Schaff-Stump who I shared a table last year. We chatted about writing.

Someone I knew from ICON came by. We chatted for a bit and she pointed out why she didn’t like the back of Sand and Blood which eventually led me into hiring someone to write a new blurb for the first three books.

In the end

In the end, it was a positive convention. Yeah, it ended on a low note and I felt out of place most of the time, but I still enjoyed myself. I got an idea for a couple of stories in the process, I’ll add them to my list and see if they ever happen.
I haven’t posted the serial for a few weeks because I was first on vacation, then on a conference, then I cheerfully committed to a book signing in Cedar Rapids on July 16th. Since that is so close to getting Sand and Ash done, I spent a week getting everything lined up. Only a few steps and I can order the proofs for that book and have two books of mine at the signing.

This week, the two chapters have nothing to do with each other.

Sand and Blood 15: A Quiet Conversation

One of my favorite parts about this series is that character development happens between the actions scenes. There aren’t many revelations in the heat of combat but in the retrospective of that fight. Rutejìmo figures out his life when he is forced into his own head or to talk with others.

This chapter is a great example of that. It reveals a lot about the world, such as the risk produces power, but also helps Rutejìmo clarify what is happening. This conversation ends up being one of the bricks of his life, something he remembers as being important. There is the understanding of how magic works, the confirmation that he is following his clan spirit, but also the first points where acts like a man instead of a spoiled brat.

Read Sand and Blood 15: A Quiet Conversation at http://ift.tt/1WE4wmR.

Flight of the Scions 21: Flight

Damagar is my Big Bad for this novel. If you can’t tell from the anime-style wall of wind, the mental communication, Ruben’s foaming at the mouth, or the casual way he plows through someone’s memories, it will become more evident later when he actually shows up. Right now, Kanéko and her new friends are dealing with his psionic scan. He isn’t even physically there, he’s just looking for them.

Which leads into why Kanéko can fight him off since she has no magic and he’s more powerful than anyone else in this novel. The answer is computers, imagine that. The two major telepathic powers in my world are both based on the Internet and computing concepts.

The vomen (Ruben, short people with blue eyes) are a giant network that uses random access memory for communication and affecting the world. Their “magic,” as it were, is rewriting the shared memory and having the telepathic gestalt change reality based on consensus. They also have a real-time democracy where every connected vomen is capable of voting on any change to the votim (the group mind) to determine if they are going to change the world.

Damagar, on the other hand, is a really big microkernel intelligence. Internally, he has a number of personality fragments (kind of like D&D Psion’s crystal familiars) that work together to move its body, cast spells, and make decisions. I did this because its is a giant and I thought a dedicated personality (a “coprocessor”) for each limb made sense.

Personalities take energy and Damagar has a limited amount of processing power. In effect, his consciousness can only handle a certain number of decisions at once before it spends too much time trying to decide something instead of acting on those decisions. If every single one was active, it would just sit there because nothing would have attention to actually get anything done.

There is some more complexity, but Damagar was in “sleep mode” when the teenagers woke him up. Like a worker process, it takes a while to “spin up a personality” and get it active. In addition, if it wakes up too many, too fast, a “garbage collection” personality (Hunger) wakes up. And Hunger (along with Rage) have a tendency to take all processing power.

Through the original story, there was chapters from Damagar’s point of view that showed its reason for hunting Ruben and the struggle to manage its resources along with its fears. There was a reason Damagar was under the rock and that is part of the “sleep mode” it was in. It also references the original version of Damagar (a Western-style dragon) before I changed it into its current form (which is in 3-4 chapters).

I don’t know if I’ll ever write a novella about Damagar’s experience through this event (the taken out chapters). It might be interesting, but it depends on reader’s interest.

The other reason Kanéko can fight him off is that her strength is obsession, visualization, and planning. She doesn’t have magic but she has an active imagination and an analytic mind. These are the basis for receiving telepathic communication (but she can’t initiate it herself).

Read Sand and Blood 21: Flight at http://ift.tt/1PgI4IZ (subscribers)

I also made the rest of the unedited novel available for $4/month subscribers.

Patrons

More so in the near future than the past, my writing is supported by patrons and donations. Releasing the books as Creative Commons means you can read it before you buy it. If you like it, then consider donating money or subscribing to have access to all my drafts and published novels.

WisCon Retrospective

Two weeks ago, I went to Madison, WI to attend WisCon. For those who don’t know about it, it is a feminist sci-fi convention which I’ve been doing to for about five years now.

I love the panels and community there, they show a world that I’m cannot join myself. I like seeing other stories, other people, other views that are so different from mine but also inspire me. This is a panel convention, almost all the events are panels as opposed to activities. That also means that there isn’t much to do for the boys or my spouse.

Relationships and Friendship

While I go to Madison with my wife and the boys, I don’t go with anyone to the convention. This puts me an interesting place where I don’t have friends to hang around at the convention. I’m not really great at finding a group of “friends” there, so I end up spending most of the weekend alone between panels.

I did recognized two others there and had brief conversations, but that was about it.

This is probably the most frustrating thing about this convention. I can’t really talk to anyone about what I’m listening to or reading. I just get hints and pieces of it despite doing panels. Some years, this makes me feel rather depressed but this year wasn’t too bad. I think the reason was that someone was interested in what I said during a panel.

My other convention, ICON, is a different story. I have a lot more relationships with people who go there. Yeah, I spend hours just meandering about as they go to their own panel, but there is a chance that I will stumble on one of them and hang around for a little bit.

Art of Book Reviewers (Friday 14:30)

The first panel I went to was the Art of Book Reviewers. I like this panel because they talked about the difference of a book review and a critique. Reviews are teasers, critiques are spoilers. In many aspects, I write a bit of both but I think it gave me a framework for having the review part in the beginning and a critique at the end, which will make it easier to separate the two.

I don’t review very often, but there were some good advice about the difference between the two. Not to mention adjusting reviews for the target audience.

Monsters and Mirrors (Saturday 10:00)

My first panel, a reading. I read the second chapter of Flight of the Scions. There was some rough points, but it is a fifth draft so that was okay.

LaShawn M. Wanak, who I met earlier checking in, had a fantatsic story about wood-like spores in the shape of people. Exterminators use singing and music to break them down. There is a lot in that story. It had a nice noir feel to it and had a lot of promise. I can’t wait to read more.

Gwynne Garfinkle read a number of poems, almost all of them to older horror monsters. I really love the one about loving the Blob and one about Bride of Frankenstein. She has a nice voice to her poems.

Alex Bledsoe read a chapter from one of his book series. It was quirky and music-based which really fit the theme for everyone but me. Characters down on their luck always attraction my attention and his story fit that bill nicely.

Bi-Invisiblity (Saturday 14:30)

I was late showing up and there was only standing room left. I wanted to go to it, but too many people were interested in the same topic. So I went to…

Fat Characters in SF&F (Saturday 14:30)

A very informative panel about fat characters in fiction. I saw different ways of seeing fat, both from labeling (skinny fat verses fat fat) and also how they are presented problems. There was a lot of talk about fan villains, only being fat to present a problem, and talking about how many fictions don’t include fat characters as protagonists.

Writing & Tabletop RPG (Saturday 16:00)

My second panel. I got to talk about writing and role-playing games, how they fit together and how they don’t work. A lot of discussion that I got into was about authors having “one voice” verses RPG where a player will come up with something the author/gamemaster didn’t think about it.

I got to talk about how I come up with three events in most NPCs that determine their life and built up as a series of experiences. There were other tricks for creating NPCs.

I got a few laughs, that was good.

Writing Tools (Sunday 08:30)

This ended up being my favorite panel. We talked about pens and paper, fancy gadgets that I will never use, and writing processes. I talked a bit about using Git and Markdown, which actually got some people excited (and someone actually wanted me to show it after the panel! *squee*).

This was recorded as a podcast by K. Tempest Bradford, so I’ll post a link when it gets posted. I like her insights into WisCon in general, but also the process she uses for writing (and pen lover), though I probably won’t deviate from my own.

I’m thinking about writing up writing using Git and Markdown again, mainly to reflect the changes since my last one.

Family Visit

I didn’t do anything else on Sunday because I went to see my grandma, aunt, my aunt’s husband, and my cousin. We went to McDonalds where the boys had a grand time and I got to talk. It was a relatively positive visit but it is always good too see family.

SignOut (Monday 11:30)

While the rest of the family headed back to Iowa, I finished up with SignOut. Overall, that was probably the lowest point of the convention. No one asked for a signature. I had one person scoff at the cover and another compliment it. Mostly, I chatted with my table mate, Catherine Schaff-Stump who I shared a table last year. We chatted about writing.

Someone I knew from ICON came by. We chatted for a bit and she pointed out why she didn’t like the back of Sand and Blood which eventually led me into hiring someone to write a new blurb for the first three books.

In the end

In the end, it was a positive convention. Yeah, it ended on a low note and I felt out of place most of the time, but I still enjoyed myself. I got an idea for a couple of stories in the process, I’ll add them to my list and see if they ever happen.

WisCon Schedule

On Thursday through Sunday, I’m planning on being in Madison, WI at the WisCon convention. This is the first of two conventions I’m planning on going to this year.

Monsters and Mirrors: a Reading of Speculative Prose and Poetry

Sat, 10:00–11:15 am

University D

I’m going to be with three other writing doing a chapter from Flight of the Scions. So, if you want to hear me talk about the world and the chapter, please check it out. I’m hoping to double the number of listeners this year, which would make four.

Writing and Tabletop Role Playing Gaming: Intersections and Divergences

Sat, 4:00–5:15 pm

Conference 4

Let’s examine the interface between tabletop RPGs and writing. James L. Sutter’s piece on tor.com, “What Roleplaying Teaches Writers,” is a good starting place, but it’s only the beginning. We will explore what RPGs can and cannot do for writers, what writers do that RPG referees do not, the meeting points and the divergences between playing and writing, the place of rules in both writing and playing, “railroading” versus creative freedom, etc.

Analog and Digital Writing Tools

Sun, 8:30–9:45 am

Conference 1

Writers, bring your favorite writing tools—laptop, tablet, quill, or steam-fueled ideatron—and share the pros and cons of your favored method of writing with others! We’ll talk software, hardware, analogware, old-fashioned methods as well as new. If you’re willing to share your beloved your writing gear, others may be eager to give them a try.

The SignOut

Mon, 11:30 am–12:45 pm

Capitol/Wisconsin

This is one of the final events of the convention. Please consider picking up my books at the A Room of One’s Own table at the convention and I’ll be glad to sign it. And talk about it.

Last year, no one came to my table. Please, break the trend?
I like writing stories about weak characters. Not characters who start weak, but ones that have limitations that pull them back. My main characters are not the Chosen One in the slightest bit, they aren’t going to wave their hand and make their enemies go away.

One of my favorite struggles is the jealousy of those more powerful. I like to see people struggle to become more, or struggle to accept what they are not. It is a hard one that I don’t see frequently in fantasy novels. When it does show up in fantasy, then it is usually a couple chapters away from the characters bypassing the source of their jealousy.

Rutejìmo will always be the weakest. Kanéko will never have magic. The difference is while Rutejìmo never exceeds his limitations, Kanéko will eventually thrive in them.

Sand and Blood 14: Coming Back

In some aspects, I pull a lot of this novel from samurai dramas. I like the idea of honor in the desert. The language, the reactions, the expectations are all part of something I find fascinating. For my world, it is tied into the clans and the desperation to survive that permeates their culture.

The idea of a fifteen year old offering his life to someone in apology comes from those stories also. Rutejìmo knows that he did the unforgivable by leaving an injured clan member, so he needed more than a simple “I’m sorry” to make amends.

Likewise, Chimípu accepting his life says a lot about how people grow up in this world. Could she cut the throat or kill a boy who she grew up with? Would she take his offered life and end it? These aren’t questions we normally think about, but at the same time, they are questions that come up across the world. Not everyone gets a sweet, simply childhood where the most terrifying thing is finding out which car they get when they graduate.

This culture keep children on the edge of innocence right up to the point of their passage, but then expect them to be instantly grown up when it happens. There are reasons (education makes it harder to manifest powers) but it also has some interesting consequences.

Read Sand and Blood 14: Coming Back at http://ift.tt/27ARjyN.

Flight of the Scions 20: Landslide

This chapter has so much packed into it. It ties into the idea of stress creates magic. Actually, this is the first scene where I realized that my world would have this concept of “threat creates power.” The more powerful the threat, the more powerful and useful the magic. It ties into the safety of civilization creates weaker magic.

When Maris falls during the landslide, she knew that she would probably die. There was no question, she knew it was coming, so that single point of time determined how much power she would have. There is also natural talent involved also, not everyone becomes powerful mages just because they fall off a cliff. In her case, falling off the cliff resulted in her gaining air powers (which I think is the most unrepresented “elemental” magic).

This chapter also shows Ruben’s power and shows another aspect of Kanéko’s mental strength. It is a precusor to explaining how telepathy works in my world. It also ties into Kanéko’s talent in visualization and creativity, which I consider a very powerful skill. Just not a magical one.

More importantly, this is the first introduction to one of the two Big Bads in this novel, Damagar. I’ll talk about him later, but right now, big glowing eyes is bad.

Read Sand and Blood 20: Landslide at http://ift.tt/250yvHe (subscribers)

Patrons

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Sixteenth Anniversary

Sixteen years ago, I stood in my living room thinking about the movie Hackers. I was supposed to be paying attention to the pastor but he had quoted Corinthians which is also in the movie.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

When I finally realized I was supposed to be paying attention, I managed to choke out a “I-I do.”

I’ve never been really good at that type of thing. I wasn’t too graceful with the proposal either. It was drawn out over a year of me telling her “I’m going to ask you to marry you, I’m just too scared to ask.” It also ended with “I think I just asked you to marry me. Did I?”

When it comes to people, there aren’t a lot who understand me. I have certain quirks and obsessions that would drive most people bonkers. I’m picky about certain things and (as a coworker once said) I’m rather “self-described.” I like to think it means I know what works for me, but it also means that I get wound up when my keys aren’t in the right place or I spent two hours trying to find something that is right on top. I’m broken and functional.

And somehow she’s remained with me all this time. Through the fights and the laughter. We didn’t have children until eleven years after we got married (my parents may have thought we were never going to get around to it) and they were wonderful years. The years with EDM and BAM in our lives were just as amazing, just different. Different fights, save love.

We always talk about our fifty-year marriage. Fifty years and then we’ll decide if we want to stay married. It was a compromise between me wanting to renew every decade (and to give her a chance to walk away if I got too annoying) and her desire for “you are with me until the day we both die”.

For sixteen years, we’ve said “forty nine to go. Forty eight. Forty seven” and now “thirty four.” Hard to believe that I’ve been with someone for sixteen years (and over twenty that we’ve been “more than friends”).

I’m pretty happy and lucky.

Sixteen years down.

Thirty four to go.