An Illusory Absence

Hey, super happy people!  Just a quick note to say:

1.  I ain't dead!

2.  Life is grand (my career is officially pregnant - I'm gonna have a book!)

3.  I'm trying to get less terrible at online social things, part of which includes streamlining my various accounts.  If you'd like to keep up with me (and I'd love it if you did!), please head over to The Tex Files and follow me there.  I actually do update!

I'm going to keep this account active, cuz I actually do check LJ daily and would never want to lose track of any of you fine folks.  Carry on!

--You've all done very well!
--Thank you, Mr. Grace.

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An Impending Burst of Gramma' Radiation

As some of you guys already know, I have the singular honor of presenting a class at this year's DFW Writer's Conference.  It's called "No Mustard on Your Shirt: Spill-Proofing Your Grammar and Style."

Here's the description:

It's a truth every interviewee knows:  there's nothing more tragic than missing out on your dream job because the interviewer can't see past the stain on your collar.  In this class, we'll tackle the grammar and style mistakes that even experienced writers make, and highlight winning strategies for scrubbing them out of your manuscript.  Don't give your reader even one easy reason to toss your work aside: come learn how to put the "pro" in your prose!

(And now a brief pause for pimping: the conference is going to be PHENOMENAL.  I am so pumped about the class line-up this year, and they've got enough agents and editors to choke a horse.  Get it on this quick if you want to go: regular registration ends on Thursday!)

Anyway, in anticipation of the conference, and in tandem with this year's Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I'm doing something I'll probably regret.  Each day in the month of April (Sundays excluded), I'm going to write about a different grammar issue.  (In the interests of people's friends lists, I won't copy the entries over here - pop on over to The Tex Files to check 'em out.)

"Tex, you mad fool!" you may exclaim.  "You'll never make it!"

Possibly not.  But I'm going to try!

"Well, good luck, I guess," you might concede.  "But all that wittering on about commas and prepositions - isn't it going to be ruinously boring?"

I'll let you be the judge of that...

Am I jumping the gun, Baldrick, or are the words "I have a cunning plan" marching with ill-deserved confidence in the direction of this conversation?

The Unbearable Likeness of Beans

See, my sister and I each got a bean plant as a present from our mom in January.  They're "magic beans", like you can order from a catalogue, that have a little message branded onto the seed pod.  Don't judge us.

So we each set up our plants on our respective windowsills, watered them, the whole nine yards.  (Though given that we're talking about bean plant maintenance, that should maybe be "the whole two inches.")  Eight weeks later, here they are:

Yeah, you can probably guess which one is mine.  (Though I will have you know that I do own an identical armadillo statue, and it is being used for God's intended purpose, which is the holding of a souvenir beer bottle.  I said don't judge us, dammit.)

As you can see, my pathetic plant has pasted itself to the glass, consumed by solar frustration.  Hers sprawls out in an orgiastic display of chlorophilia, wantonly flashing its under-leaves like a celebutante stepping out of a Bentley.

And I've had a hard time looking at these little life-forms, because they keep reminding me of what I could have, should be, must get to doing.  "Look," they say to me in their tiny leguminous voices, "it's not rocket science.  If you put it in the sun, it will grow.  The longer you leave it there, the quicker it will happen.  If it's not in the sun, it's in the shade - there's no such thing as in-between."

I know, right - big talk from somebody whose major life goal apparently involves seducing the paper towels.

So anyway, there I was, my magic bean a flaccid symbol for my every personal failing.

Then I had a great chat with Jenny Martin (who's awesome enough that she probably shouldn't be talking to me, but does anyway.)  Read INTERN's Real Actual Hilary's "Writing is A Job Like Any Other, and Other Angry Ghosts."  Followed that up with an e-mail from a friend of mine, who is making a veritable Charge of the Light Brigade against a whole slew of health problems and striving like the dickens for standard human functionality.  Got to thinking some more.

I don't blame my plant for not growing.  It's living in a second-floor apartment with no east-west windows, so of course it's not getting enough light.

And yet it's so hard to forgive ourselves likewise.  There's this notion that since everyone has the same number of hours in a day, we all have an equal opportunity to get things accomplished.  We seem not to account for the fact that our little window-shelves don't all face the same way, that hours in a day aren't the same as daylight hours, that we aren't all issued identical quantities of fruitful, useable, potentially productive time.

So I've decided:  I will continue to feel bad when I waste my own personal daylight - when I have the time and energy and choose to squander it on Nothing Especially.

But I will not be guilted by other people's success, and I will make damn sure that I don't get haughty about mine.  All we can guarantee is that seasons do change, for better and for worse, and the success we've had to date says as much about the conditions we grew it in as it does about us personally.

Plus, you don't want to be the cheap tart flashing your axillary buds at every passing poinsettia, because oh my God, gauche.

The human bean is not a vegetable.

And Sometimes They Even Let You Feed Them

You know, it's hard to write about cons without it being all "So this one time, at band camp..."

But in the spirit of the exercise, here's the quick summary of ConDFW:

1.  Jo Walton

2.  Jo Walton

3.  Jo Walton

Look, if you've been to a local con, you know how it is.  By day 3, some of the after-parties are showing: the panelists seem sort of bleary-eyed, and some might wonder dimly to each other who's supposed to be moderating, until someone peers owlishly at the paper to discover the subject at hand, and someone else marvels at having been put on a panel for which s/he has no evident qualification, until finally one of them offers to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.  Kind of like substitute-teaching by committee.

And you know what?  That is absolutely fine.  I paid $30 for a three-day all-you-can-listen smorgasbord of fantastic industry pros, all of whom are volunteering their time, health, and sometimes dignity to make themselves accessible to the unwashed enthusiastic masses.  Kind of like a petting zoo for nerds.

But let me tell you about Jo Walton.  Of the 13 panels I made it to, at least seven had her front and center - not merely present, but sharp and on-topic and entertaining throughout - and I'm sure I missed several more.  They worked her like a Welsh-Canadian dog.  And when she wasn't panellating (that's a word now, and I want a quarter every time you use it), she was out in the hall, signing books and chatting and and basically treating this entire event as both a profession and a pleasure.

At this point, I have to admit that I've used you for my own selfish ends, because 80% of the purpose of this entry is to remind me that that is what I want to be.  Any time I go out into the world in some sort of writing or authorial capacity (even as an undistinguished badge-tagged face in the crowd), it ought to be consistently obvious that I consider it an occasion both serious and delightful.  This is the mission.  This is the goal.

And to conclude:

4. I urgently have to acquire textbooks and make brown paper book-covers, so that I can write Rachel Caine's name 500 times on each of them.  (This is the other, funner, glitter-gel-pen mission/goal.)

5. Hearing Stina Leicht talk about cultural appropriation is like pouring Drano down the rancid pipes of your ignorance.  Listen, learn, and resolve to stop clipping your toenails into the sink.*

*the impersonal you.  Not the actual you.  You're terrific.

More soon.  More blog posts, more awesome authors, and definitely more cons.  I freaking love field trips.

--Well, I've got this story, and I don't know if it's more science fiction or fantasy...
--Does it have spaceships?
--Is there a holy grail?
--Well, sort o-
--It's fantasy.

No, He Really Is a Cunning Linguist

Okay, I'm like... six weeks late to the game, but I finally saw Django Unchained last week. I won't write a whole review here, because the movie's too big and I'm too dumb (I need to see it at least two more times to get even half a grip on it).  Still, I'll get in line behind my hip compadre Matt Borgard in saying, "Loved that it was a movie about slavery that said more than 'Slavery sucks, aren't white people awesome for ending it?'" But let's scoot over out of the massive shadows of racism and history for a sec.  Let me tell you what was really exceptional and interesting and surprising as hell. Collapse )--I am simply trying to ascertain - --Speak English, goddammit!

The Agony, the Ecstasy, and the Drudgery

Two events have dominated my personal cosmos this week.

1. My fellow Red Sofa colleague (Sofette?) Jamie Wyman Reddy signed a contract with Covet Books, an imprint world in the Entangled Publishing star system, to publish her debut novel, Technical Difficulties. (That is a lot of modifying clauses, which gives you a sense of the excitement for this occasion!)

2. Without going into too much detail, one of my nearest and dearest has been diagnosed with an illness of the It's Pretty Much Downhill From Here varietal. This hasn't shattered my world, but has left a sizable crater, and prompted a modest remains-of-my-innocence extinction event.

(Y'all don't be reaching for the sympathy cards or anything - this is not cancer or Alzheimer's or anything else to make a Lifetime movie out of, and it's far less of a game-ender than an eventual game-changer.  There is still plenty of joy in Mudville.)  

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You know the old saying, "Time flies when you're having fun?"  This is the dire half-dragon version of that.

Chicken Dumplings for the Spleen

Today, I made a new recipe for lunch. Loved it. (Which is good, cuz I'm going to be eating the leftovers all week.) But as I was chopping veggies and mixing dough, I kept thinking, "somebody I know is having one of the worst days of her life today, and here's me getting raunchy with a pot of chicken and dumplings."

A thick, sordid, Depression-era gravy tryst.

I might be about to have a pretty god-awful day myself. Won't know until Saturday. And if I do, there'll be some good friends of mine who carve a slice out of their day to listen and sympathize, and then get on with their own lunch-oriented endeavors.

Because what else can you do?

So here's my two thoughts:

1) Real life needs a job/quest system, like in RPGs. Sure, every now and again you get a Helpful Thing To Do - you can bring a casserole or give someone a lift or administer insulin to their diabetic ferret - but even then, you aren't so much relieving a person's suffering as freeing them up to give it their undivided attention. This is horseshit. I should be able to collect five Immaculate Cards of Sympathy, play the Dance Dance Consolation mini-game, craft Legendary Item: Emotional Equilibromide, and make you feel 65% better by doing so.

2) It can't be an accident that all the best story-driving emotions for fiction - gut-wrenching heartbreak, edge-of-your-seat suspense, knife-edge desperation - are the absolute shittiest to slog through out here in the real world.   I know we read/play/watch as a form of relaxation and escapism, but sometimes I wonder if we aren't also visiting the Land of Make-Believe in order to practice our feelings for the Land of Random, Soul-Bludgeoning Shit-Blizzards.

Anyway - take care out there, folks, and try to hang on to your hat, your horse, and your happy.  Some days that's about all you can do.

It's all right to be afraid, David, because this part won't be like a comic book. Real life doesn't fit into little boxes that were drawn for it.


Being Malton Milquetoast

Well, as of yesterday, it's official: One Night in Sixes is out on submission.  I would say something here about taking up a position at the punch bowl and waiting to be asked to dance, but that is exactly the wrong kind of metaphor.  Better to say that I've already got my dream date, we are already cutting one hell of a rug, and we have no plans to pause until the the lights come up and the judges are ready with their scorecards.

In the meantime, here is another thought that's been a few months in the making.  (Yes, I suck at topical timeliness.)  Let's talk about these guys:

Just in case you didn't catch them in theaters, they're the Sugar Rush racers from Wreck-It Ralph.  And I bet you can spot their pattern even if you didn't see the movie.  Shoot, you could probably make up your own glucose-fueled NASCAR cherub, if you wanted to.

As it happens, that is exactly what Ronald MacKinnon did.  He saw the movie, came home, and drew up his own Sugar Rush character on the spot.  Collapse )

A Timely Notion

"Life gets so much better when you give up on Perfect and set your sights on Better Than It Was Before."It's not my failure to post a new entry that depresses me.  It's my failure to even realize that I hadn't.  I feel I'm descending to a whole new level of depravity, here.  Pretty soon I'll be pouring Wild Turkey over my cereal, eating it out of a frisbee at 4 AM while arguing with the teevee, and wondering dimly who wet my pants.

But!  Until then, here is a piece of word art that my fantastic and totally undeserved buddy dr34mr made out of something I posted a little while ago.  (Y'all check her out - she is so unbelievably real.  The kind of gal who can tell a stain from twenty feet, and wear Cheerios in her hair with more class and style than ever came out of a bottle of Clairol.)

Anyway, I think it is especially appropriate here over the holidays, when things often don't turn out as splendid and lovely as Norman Rockwell promised they would, and it is too easy to blame yourself for letting down Martha Stewart, Bing Crosby, and the good people of the KISS Christmas Special. 

So here's to love, imperfection, and contentment, y'all.  Let's see if we can coax our ambitions out of that fancy get-up and into a nice pair of gravy-stained sweat pants.

--Hang on, Santa. We're coming.
--Hurry, boys. The eggs are hatching!
--What do we do?
--Wait a second. Everyone knows pterodactyls can't stand the screech of a guitar!