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ConDFW 2016 Recap/Post Mortem/Summary

Doing a post mortem on a convention sounds awfully grim, doesn’t it? But I suppose recap sounds like we’re talking about sports, and a summary just sounds boring.

Anyway, ConDFW ended yesterday and I’m still recovering. I got to meet up with lovely friends and meet new ones. My reading and signing, while not swarming with people, were pleasant. I got to sign a couple of my books and read some of my stories, and that’s all I need, really. I didn’t spend as much time socializing as I’d planned to, because I had deadlines I was trying to hit and it was just too tempting not to take advantage of a little of that time to get some writing in.

Speaking of new people and signings! Seanan McGuire, one of the GOH, was a treat to listen to. I never got to any of her panels, though, which I was disappointed by. Somehow I didn’t make it to any of John Scalzi’s events, either. I’d wanted to ask him to sign one of his books for me, but everything I have of his is on Audible, so! Alas. That’s what I get for saving shelf space.

Oh, and that slam poetry contest? I won 2nd place. (woot!) Rie Sheridan Rose won with a fun bawdy poem about Jenny the pirate, I believe, which seems appropriate as first place, especially considering the Seadog Slam was hosting the contest. Not that I didn’t love my own piece, “Livecasting My Descent into the Martian Underworld,” but it makes sense, doesn’t it? Now I’m trying to decide if I should send it out to markets as a poem or as a weird little bit of flash.

I was quite pleased with my assigned panels: Worldbuilding in Steampunk, How to Brainstorm a Story, and The Short Story: Advantages and Benefits. I love reading and writing steampunk, and I left the steampunk panel with even more books to add to my list. In particular I’m looking forward to reading Shanna Swenson’s Rebel Mechanics.

The panel on the advantages and benefits of writing short stories didn’t go as I expected it would – we spent precious little time on talking about the advantages and benefits of writing short stories – but we covered that eventually, and I think it was still an interesting panel for the audience members. We covered quite a bit of ground on quite a few topics, including resolving issues with writing short stories, deciding how to utilize critiques, and finding markets to submit to. I love what Rhonda Eudaly said about the markets available, pro or semi pro.

BTW, if you were there and you have any questions about something we talked about, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As to the resources I mentioned, here is the link to The Submission Grinder, and another for I’d post a link to Duotrope, but the Grinder is a better, cost-free version of Duotrope with more tools, so I feel confident someone can find it if they really wanted to.

Final thoughts: I want to mention Patrice Sarath’s post yesterday (link here). I DID have a good time, but everything she wrote matches what I’d felt at different points over the weekend.  Her thoughts are kind but blunt, and I love how she summed it up at the end:

“We’re all in this together. The pressure from media cons and the aging of fandom means that cons are threatened as never before. We need to bring in the anime fans, the cosplayers, and the media fans and show them that they can have as much fun here — and for far less money — than at a big ComiCon or Comicpalooza. For most of us, we were fans first. Let’s remember the excitement of our first cons and try to recreate that. It’s not always easy, and I will be the first to admit I didn’t exactly bring my game this weekend. But let’s try to get our mojo back, hmm?

Because the alternative is not that much fun — boring conventions with a dwindling fan base.”

I want these local conventions to stick around for a long, long time, but they need a little more oomph from all of us to keep them so exciting, thought-provoking, and enticing that the younger fans can’t help but come.


ConDFW 2016 Programming – it’s here!


ConDFW is tomorrow! I knew that, but somehow that didn’t translate to sharing my programming schedule with anyone.  I’ll have copies of Cats in Space AND Funny SF with me for my signing, and there will most definitely be cookies at my reading. (Likely chocolate chip. The soft, super chewy kind, like a cookie should be.) It’s possible I’ll have them ready for my signing as well, but we’ll see how tomorrow morning with my toddler goes.


3pm: Jeff Dawson, Dantzel Cherry


Friday, 4pm: World Building in Steampunk

Panelists: Shanna Swendson (M), Rachael Acks, Stephen Sanders, Rie Sheridan Rose, Ava Morgan, Dantzel Cherry

The steampunk genre usually covers an alternate version of Victorian England, but it has been used to create versions in Imperial Japan, and in a straight fantasy setting. Our steampunk experts discuss how to build a world that incorporates steampunk elements into it.



Saturday, 1pm: How to Brainstorm a Story

Panelists: Julia S. Mandala (M), KM Tolan, Rachael Acks, Michelle Muenzler, Dantzel Cherry

You’ve just finished the blockbuster of your dreams. Your fans are clamoring for more! Then you wake up and realize you haven’t got any ideas. Our writers discuss how they came up with their original stories. Perhaps you too can realize your dream!


Saturday, 2pm: The Short Story: Advantages and Benefits.

Panelists: David Gray (M), Mary Gearhart-Gray, Rhonda Eudaly, Barbara Ann Wright, Larry Atchley Jr., Dantzel Cherry

The short story is often overlooked by the average reader unless they read certain literary magazines or short story collections. However, they are a gem that should not be discounted so readily. Our short story writers talk about the benefits of writing short stories as opposed to writing novels.

Saturday, 6pm: Dantzel Cherry, Larry Atchley Jr.
There will be cookies!

Also, the programming includes the 1st Annual Adventure Poetry Slam, Saturday at 8PM.

I CAN’T EVEN. I love slam poetry. I have a piece that should be tweaked and ready to read by then, so barring any unfortunate scheduling conflicts that kills my editing time, I should be up there competing for the $50 first prize. Or the 3rd place box of Girl Scout cookies – as long as they’re Thin Mints or Samoas.

Clearly this is all right up my alley. Great panels combined with great authors is going to make for a lovely weekend. Hope to see you there!

The Little Ballet Books of Indoctrination Still Work


Many moons ago, probably starting somewhere around 2005, I collected ballet books to keep in the foyer of one of the dance studios I taught at to entertain my little dancers while they waited for their class to start. They were simple, charming books like Emily’s Dance Class, Katy Duck Goes to Ballet Class, Ballerinas are Special, Gallop! and so on. Not only were these great distractions for small children, it was yet another injection of “YOU LOVE BALLET YES YOU DO” that I could give them outside of class time.

I was pretty proud of the library I’d been able to build up, and lucky me! The parents kept my books relatively rip-free. Even the sticky fingers were at a minimum.

Fast forward to today, when I have my own toddler to rear. This evening was one of those rare moments when I didn’t have to teach, dinner was simple, and I wasn’t taking on another ambitious baking or sewing project during my daughter’s waking hours. This meant that I had the presence of mind to ask her if she wanted to read extra books before bedtime.

She asked for “Cindalella,” but as I pulled that book from the shelf, another book slid out with it: Emily’s Dance Class. Roz had forgotten this book existed, though we’d read it several times within the last year. She was already wearing her tutu and ballet slippers, and she was intrigued. “Cindalella” was quickly forgotten. Emily’s Dance Class earned 2 reads before we moved on to 4 or 5 other ballet books. Each book was well received – even the ballet history book that’s oriented more towards 7-10 year olds.

I’m not sure I can explain how much my heart swells to see my own daughter so excited about two things I love – ballet and books. I’m pretty sure I won to child lottery on this one.

Then it was time for bed, and she carried the new beloved books to her bedroom. I think this was a way to have her morning reading material ready to go as soon as she woke up.

Now I don’t know who has the ballet bug more – me, or her. There was a great deal of YOU LOVE BALLET YES YOU DO NOW SIGN YOUR DAUGHTER UP tonight. I was planning to wait until at least this summer before signing her up for an official ballet class, but it’s hard to exercise patience on sweet nights like this.

Character Motivations and Growing as a Writer

Sometime in the recent past (I haven’t kept track, so this could have been over a year ago) I realized that the reason I was usually struggling with writing my stories was because I didn’t really know the characters’ motivations. I looked back at my stories written thus far, and found that the stories in which I figured out the character motivations early were the stories I had less frustration writing, tended to be written quicker, and I considered them to be my strongest stories – not just for understanding the characters, but plot and such too.

This was a very important revelation to have, and it’s a sign that I’m growing as a writer.


It’s also made it extremely aggravating to write when I don’t know the characters’ motivations. Now I know the reason why some stories are written with ease and others aren’t; my trouble is knowing how to find the character motivations for the works-in-progress that I don’t fully understand yet (which is a bit of a ‘chicken and the egg’ conundrum). Like all things in writing (and all facets of life) the hard things seem hard and nearly impossible until you’ve done it enough that it feels easy, or at least doable – and often that doesn’t come until some new hard thing reveals itself and then you stress over improving that.

Still, there’s no way around it, is there? Shining a light on our weaknesses is the only way to make the changes we need to improve.

Onwards and upwards.

In which “Miss Darcy” receives some nice reviews

“Miss Darcy’s First Intergalactic Ballet Class has reviewed a couple nice reviews now, both from SFRevu and from Tangent Online.

Both were favorable, which I love, but I’ve got to admit that a sick little part of me has ‘Lois Tilton reviews one of my stories’ on my bucket list. I know many authors struggle with poor reviews, but getting a Tilton review, complete with sarcasm and disdain (or actually receiving praise, I suppose) would be a badge of honor I wouldn’t mind wearing.

Speaking of, someone should make that badge a thing.

Funny SF TOC announced!

Alex Shvartsman, publisher and editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies, has announced the next installment of funny science fiction stories, reprint edition.

It’ll be released September 1, 2015, and doesn’t that table of contents look pretty? I’m honored to be included among such a great list of authors and stories.

In other news, ArmadilloCon starts tomorrow. I’m looking forward to my panels, signing, and reading, but most importantly all the time I get to spend hanging out with some of the coolest people I know.

The best part is that, even though I dearly love my daughter, I very much look forward to attending this convention without any concern over how loud she is during a panel or how much she runs up and down the aisles. Not only that, tending a baby/toddler by yourself in a hotel room means that you’re probably not going to attend any of the room parties. So while I very much look forward to teaching her to enjoy the finer things in life – like SF/F conventions, Fred Ferkel gummies, and the Lego Star Wars game -that won’t work for a couple more years.

In the meantime she’ll have to make do with a homeschool SF education, while I’ll make do with awesome panels and parties this weekend.