ArmadilloCon, a retrospective

In 2011, I had just moved away from the arid desert climate of Idaho into the most miserable summer heat I had ever, ever experienced of Texas (yes, THAT miserable summer).

I had completed my bachelors degree in English, and had attended a well-known writers workshop the year before, but still felt like I knew next to no one in the writing world, knew less than a handful of short story markets to submit to, and had never even realized until it was too late that there were conventions I could have attended in Utah.

In moving, I had left all of my dance, yoga, and Pilates jobs in Idaho, and knew that my paychecks would be slow to build to anything substantial, as often happens when there’s a gap between leaving successful setups in one location and moving to another.

In the midst of this, I knew that what I needed, even though it HURT to spend the money, was to go to this event that I’d somehow stumbled across online called ArmadilloCon. I was hungry for friends, I was hungry for knowledge, and I knew that my “can-do attitude” had taken me as far as it could on my journey to being a writer.

So I showed up to ArmadilloCon, not even knowing where I was going to sleep because I knew that I couldn’t afford the convention hotel prices.

And then the convention started. An hour or two in during Meet the Pros, I met someone that is now my best friend (and was very gracious about letting me share her hotel room that weekend -thanks again, Megan!)

I met more friends over the weekend, and formed my first writer’s group with some of them.

Between all these new friends and the informative panels, my eyes were opened to DuoTrope, to other Texas conventions, to new short story markets, to writers I needed to be reading, to OTHER wonderful friends, to ideas that had been hitherto alien to me.

I’m sure there are other things I was introduced to that have greatly improved me as a person and as a writer, but can’t remember them now because memories are slippery things.

All in all, it’s safe to say that ArmadilloCon 2011 was hugely influential.

But the best part is that wasn’t a one-off experience. ArmadilloCon is always awesome (although the years where I was juggling a baby or toddler are… perhaps lower on the list, for reasons).

This year was just as rejuvenating as my first, though obviously in different ways. I reconnected with old friends (some of whom are those first friends I made in Texas, thanks again, guys!), I made new friends, shared my Pilates passion with a roomful of fellow fans and writers (thanks again for coming, guys! Go forth with your Couch Potato Pilates knowledge and conquer!), sold a couple books, had a blast in panels and readings, brainstormed novels, and hopefully didn’t say too many stupid things or talk too much.

There are wonderful people at these conventions, y’all. People with beautiful stories to tell, talents and knowledge to share. I feel privileged to have been among them and, hopefully, give someone a much-needed boost in some aspect of their life.

Thanks to all the volunteers for helping out so we could all come and participate in a Weekend of Awesome. You are The Best, and I salute you. To all the people I chatted with, waved at, taught, gave candy to, thanks for being you. I hope you had as good a time as I did.

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Houston Comicpalooza 2018 Cookie Recipes

Okay, so maybe I need to update this place more often. It’s, uh, been awhile.

So I’ll start with the good stuff. The stuff you’ve all been waiting for.

The recipes of the cookies I gave out at Houston Comicpalooza a few weeks ago.

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I gave out HUNDREDS of cookies in two days time. It was fun, and a little exhausting. If you ever want to run a fun social experiment, bake a bunch of delicious cookies and offer them to strangers. (Please don’t poison anyone.) It’s interesting to see who turns them down, who accepts, who asks what I’m selling, and who takes 5-10 cookies for themselves (dudes, every time).

I baked my own two favorite recipes, because that’s how you show love, right? I could pretend I made up my own recipes for these cookies, but you know what? I didn’t.¬†Maybe when I’m not teaching Pilates four days out of the week I’ll have more time to devote to devising my own recipes. In the meantime, here we are.

So here’s the recipe for Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies, and here’s the recipe for Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yes, there is a pattern to the type of cookies that I favor. The only difference between the cookies I baked and the recipe above is that I nearly always bake my own chocolate chip cookies with mini chips, and I never bake them as large as Sally’s recipe calls for.

The great thing about Sally’s Baking Addiction is that she explains exactly why she’s taking each step to accomplish a particular desired result. If you like a little education while baking your sweets, she’s a great resource. A little wordy on the posts, but I’ve seen worse, and with far less helpful information.

So if you’re inclined toward chewy-type cookies, give one of these recipes a try, and let me know how they turn out for you. I can’t always bake your cookies for you.

 

“The Price of Love” is freeeeeee!

I was just informed that “The Price of Love,” my short story that was published by Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show last November and was previously only available for subscribers to read, is now free to read on the website!

Price of Love illlustration

Of special note – this is my first story to be illustrated. Artwork by Shelby Nichols

This story had its origins last summer after too many viewing of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves with my then-two year old, and I began wondering why the queen didn’t just cut that pretty little snow-white face up. About the same time I was reading about abusive relationships with narcissists, and I was soon frantically typing, trying to keep up with the fully-realized story in my head before I lost it. Very soon after this story was purchased by Edmund Schubert at IGMS for the 10 year anniversary issue, comprised of stories by former Literary Boot Campers, Schubert, and Card.

(And now, looking back, I can’t find a blog post announcing the sale or pointing anyone toward the preview… I’m clearly promoting my stories hardcore. SMH. Anyway. Rectifying that problem now.)

I’d hoped this story would be read more widely, and now I get that chance.

So if you’re interested in a dark retelling of Snow White that explores just why the queen was so concerned about being the ‘fairest in the land,’ follow this link!

Also, on a related note, here’s a quick link highlighting 8 mental abuse tactics that narcissists use on their spouses. If these hit a little too close to home and these tactics have been used on you, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You are not crazy. You are wonderful, and there are communities out there that can help you work through this abuse.

The grouchy ones want to feel special too

Quick story I thought I’d share here, as it’s been running through my mind the last two days:

I’m the music leader for the children at church. Being the music leader means that every Sunday, for 2 hours, I circulate between 4 groups of children and we sing music. Having taught dance for half my life and studied a little about what helps children’s brain develop, we use lots of movement and lots of props. Props include paper stars, felt raindrops, windwands (pictured below), paper plates, rhythm sticks, and so on. The children love the variety.

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Can’t you just hear the wind fluttering through the ribbons now?

Well, most of the children do. Sometimes I offer a prop to a child and they don’t want to take it and that’s okay – the option for them to get one is always open.

This Sunday we used paper plates for one of the first songs (it’s amazing what kind of choreography you can up using two paper plates), and as the children had used them last week for a different song, they were excited to make noise with them¬† again – well, most of them.

One boy sat on his chair with a scowl on his face and body posture that said not to bother him – he was NOT in the mood. He didn’t volunteer or participate in any of the activities leading up, and even as I taught the simple paper plates choreography (I was the only one using paper plates at the beginning), it was clear that, like the week before, he wouldn’t be participating.

It came time to ask for helpers. Normally I try to reward positive behavior and let the grumpy slide by, but my eyes fell on that little boy and I knew he needed to help me. Or, in reality, I needed to offer him the chance.

So I asked him to stand by me and be my helper.

The brightening of his face lit up the room. I asked an even younger boy, equally struggling that day for whatever reason, to be my second helper, and he responded similarly. They loved helping me, and I won’t lie, it felt so good to know I’d helped them feel special.

It doesn’t always work out like that. Sometimes, as a dance teacher, I’d give a child a special part or ask them to help me in some way, and the idea would fall flat. The same thing has played out at church, too. Sometimes people don’t want the special part or to help or to have attention drawn to them, and that’s okay.

But the reaching out is the important part for me, as I could have passed the grouchy kids by until they had a better attitude. This time I didn’t, and it seemed to me that we had a happier group of children after the fact.

So that’s my simple reminder today – if we only bestow kindnesses upon those in our group, or upon those who are already deserving, and withhold it from the ‘naughty’ ones, we may be waiting to reward the ones who need that love and kindness the most for a long, long time. Let’s offer a kindness today to someone who didn’t show up on the obvious list, because they deserve to feel loved and included too.

New stories out! And sales! All the things!

So it’s the end of the day and I just remembered that my latest story, “Troubleshooting Your Doomsday Device,” came out from T Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog, and here’s another link to it! This is my first time appearing on Gene’s blog, and I’m pleased this story found a home there.

“Troubleshooting” is one-half of a conversation entirely from the perspective of the helpdesk operator talking poor Dr Dreadful through properly detonating his doomsday device. The title came from a Title Rummage Sale contest on Codex, an online writing forum, while the POV choice was inspired by “Half a Conversation, Overheard While Inside An Enormous Sentient Slug,” a marvelously funny story that I recommend you read right now. RIGHT NOW.

Also, if you haven’t read “Leslie’s Love Potion #4,” it’s still free to read at Galaxy’s Edge for another week or so. The link won’t exactly self-destruct on September 1, but after the end of August the link will send you to the newest issue and you’ll need to buy issue #21 to read my story, which looks like this:

galaxys edge issue 21

I do not recommend actually trying to make Leslie’s Love Potion #4 unless you’re a fully trained witch/warlock. Sorry, kids.

In other Dantzel news, July was a busy month for sales! It’s feast or famine around here, I’m telling you. Contracts have been signed and all that so I feel free to mention I sold three reprints and three originals. WHEEEEEE! “Troubleshooting Your Doomsday Device” was one of those originals. In the coming months you can find my dark SF story “The Fascinator” in the Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers, and Robots anthology, and “A Vocabulary of Remorse” in the Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities Short Story Contest Anthology, which is another SF story, though decidedly less dark than “The Fascinator.” The announcement for the short list is here. Maybe the Sci-Fi and the Med Hum antho will have a different title – I’ll update when I know.

As for reprints, “Love, Your Wolpertinger” sold TWICE to reprint markets. Soon you’ll be able to read it in Truancy, a lovely magazine that seeks out legends and fairy tales, and listen to it on The Way of the Buffalo Podcast, a super cool podcast that is quite easy to subscribe to. Finally, “Birthing Fire” will be reprinted in the Mad Scientist Journal in the spring. It’s perfect story-to-market matches like this that tell me the world is a decent place.

That’s quite enough updates for now.

 

ArmadilloCon Report

ArmadilloCon, which took place July 29-31, was as excellent as the first time I attended in 2011 – which is to say it was 5 stars awesome. Two thumbs up! Would recommend to a friend!

That’s even taking into account missing all the fun on Friday as I drove all over Texas to get my daughter to my husband before heading to Austin. Barconning made up for a great deal, however, as I got to talk to Paul Abell about exactly why a Pilates Reformer isn’t on the International Space Station yet. Though I can see the main points why (hasn’t been thoroughly tested, pinch points are a concern, and the necessity to change the springs at regular intervals before they get volatile) make sense, there’s something that tells me Pilates should be a thing NASA should look into more.

Just saying. Maybe AeroPilates was more prescient than I’ve given them credit for.

I mean, look at those bungies! I still prefer the feel of springs over bungies when I’m working out, but bungies ARE probably safer on a space station.

ANYWAY, I’ll stop nerding out (unless someone wants to talk about this more. I’ll totally talk about Pilates In Space more.) and get on with the rest of the convention.

My reading Saturday morning was well-attended and I read my story in the upcoming LITTLE GREEN MEN ATTACK! Anthology from Baen Books titled “Good Neighbor Policy,”as well as “Brothers in Stitches,” a sweet little flash about the survivors of a mad scientist’s experiments. This story is somewhat new to the world and has not yet found a home.

I similarly enjoyed my ‘SFF Poetry Discussion and Reading’ panel and the Fannish Feud, though I can’t believe how hard it is to remember my own answers on the survey! First category was naming a British SF author, and I blanked out on Douglas Adams. Ugh. Whatever. I would totally play again.

The ‘Flash Fiction Discussion and Reading’ was my first chance to officially moderate a panel, and I feel like it went rather well. I could talk about flash fiction for a long time. The discussion and the pieces each author read was fantastic, and led to a nice idea of what flash fiction can cover.

Another highlight was when I meshed my dance world with my writing world at Open Mic. Rob Rogers took my offer to do an interpretive dance while he read. He read from his novel Devil’s Cape, and it was a fun collaboration: unnamed It’s a fun and challenging exercise to react to the words as they’re read and turn those words into movement. I miss this kind of stuff – well, and dancing in general. I don’t attend nearly as many classes at Texas Ballet Theatre as I’d like to.

I know many people would balk at the idea of doing interpretive dances,  but why not? Movement is beautiful to experience, whether from the audience or the dancer, and it was a perfect (and unintentional) way to celebrate World Dance Day.

I’ll finish with some much-deserved praise for the other panelists – I love what people come prepared to talk about and read. The readings were fantastic! The science panels, while never long enough for me, covered a great deal of ground, and those panelists deserve mad props for stuffing such broad topics into an hour’s discussion.

ArmadilloCon will always be near and dear to my heart. I met one of my best friends there in 2011 and many, many talented writer, artist, and fans since, and I’m lucky to count them among my friends.

Fandom isn’t dead in Texas.