The Nazis carrying torches and confederate flags don't speak for me. Nor do the politicians crying out for unity when they not only benefited from but directly incited division. We may share skin pigmentation or citizenship, but they do not speak for me. We are none of us equal until we are ALL equal. We are one race: human. Our diversity is a strength, a feature not a bug.
So yesterday was the "Presidential Preference Election" (we don't call it a "primary" for some reason) for my state of Arizona. While my personal experience at the poll was smooth, I was in the minority. To put it bluntly, election day in Arizona was a fiasco.
So last week was Phoenix Comic Con. I love PHXCC, and not just because it's a good show--which it is. PHXCC is my home show. Not only is it where I live, but a lot of the volunteers and congoers are personal friends. So when I see people I respect from my professional life flying in to hang out at this show, I feel like a very proud hostess. Check out my city, my people, and let us hang out for 4 straight days of geekery. (Unfortunately, it's hot as balls, so you get that part of my city, too. Sorry 'bout that.)
I had a very active, very productive and flat out FUN convention, so let's break it down.
My family and I checked in late in the afternoon. Registration seemed to have their collective shit together (for the most part), however, it did bother me to see people practically sitting on their thumbs just staring at lines get bigger. We did a quick pass through the exhibitor hall's back corner to see the Mysterious Galaxy booth well-stocked with all manner of books (including WILD CARD and UNVEILED) that I wanted to take home with me, and to visit the amazing Emma Lysyk at her booth.
That evening I had the pleasure of being on a Books and Authors kickoff panel with about 10 other Arizona authors including Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, Aprilynne Pike, James A Owen, Austin Aslan and Amy K Nichols. I've met and spoken with Austin and Amy before, so it was a treat to see familiar faces. Also lots of fun getting to meet Yvonne and her husband Weston in person finally. Aprilynne started off by telling everyone she writes "fantasy and kissing" and it just snowballed from there. Next thing you know, Weston is touting his books as "military sci-fi and kissing". From there it just got loopy.
After that panel, I went to the Phoenix gastropub of the gods, The Taco Guild, to meet up with a metric fuckton of authors. The place was packed with penmonkeys of one stripe or another. Finally got to meet copyeditor Richard Shealy, reconnect with Stephen Blackmoore, Chuck Wendig and Leanna Renee Heiber.
Probably the most special part of the evening, though, was sharing it with my 9 yr old daughter. I was pointing out people to her to put faces with the names she's seen on my bookshelf.
"That's Cherie Priest," I said. "Oh! BONESHAKER. "And that's Chuck Wendig." "Blackbirds, right?" "Yup. Now you see that guy? That's Paul Cornell." She scrunched up her face. "I don't know what book he wrote." "Remember the episode of Doctor Who where 9 and Rose go back and she saves her dad... Father's Day?" "Yeah." "That guy is the reason that episode made you cry." Her eyes got huge. "Shall we go talk to him?" She just shook her head and hid.
Later in the evening, Mr. Cornell had a moment free and I pounced to thank him for his great stories. I mentioned that my daughter was being particularly shy. His eyes lit up, "Can I go say hi to her?"
That was awesome. He went over to where she was sitting, spoke with her for a few moments, but she was rather starstruck. My husband and I geeked with him about his books for a bit before Paul went off into the throng again. If you have the chance to meet Paul, I highly recommend it. He's a very sweet gentleman. (And he'll be at CONvergence, too. Hint hint.)
Day 2 of PHXCC began with a panel given by local author Eric Tozzi about adapting screenplays into novels and vice versa. It was very informative and Eric was a pretty cool guy. I'm interested in picking up his sci-fi novel THE SCOUT.
Afterwards I skeedaddled to a panel I sat on about Writers' Block with Andrea Phillips, Melissa Marr, Max Gladstone and David Lee Summers. The five of us talked with the audience about how we approach blocks and writing in general. It was a treat to hear that each of us have such varied styles and processes with what is essentially the same job.
Max, Melissa and I then boogied down to the exhibitor hall for a signing with Bennett Coles, ML Brennan and Wes Chu. Connected with some readers, talked with each other... but being down in the exhibitor hall is in and of itself a trip. There was a guy playing geek themes on an accordion, another gentleman walking around with a live macaw on his shoulder, one guys had a Darth Vader helmet with an Iron Man face and Mickey Mouse ears. And a small child who called me Pinkie Pie. (*glee*) Weirdest thing? Someone pointed to me and said, "OH! That's Jamie Wyman!" *shudder* Still feel like that means I've done something wrong and will get hauled off to the principal's office. Does that ever change?
Lunch with Melissa and Aprilynne... hang time and dinner with family and local friends.
I spent the morning roaming the halls like an uncaffeinated, pink-tressed specter before hitting the First Page Critique. Ann Leckie, James A Owen, Tom Leveen and myself sat and listened as about 10 authors read their first pages for us to critique. This was pretty damn awesome, really. Everyone in that room was a badass for even showing up. One girl was probably 15 or 16, and while she didn't get time to read, she was visibly terrified AND STAYED. (I'd seriously liked to have heard what she had written.)
That panel was interesting not just to hear what others have written, but to share opinions with the rest of the panelists. Sometimes we'd all agree, sometimes we'd discuss a piece for a little longer than the time allotted because there was so much to dissect. Very good panel for the brain matter. (And it even helped me figure out what's wrong with one of the stories I'm wrestling with at present. Thanks, gang!)
IF YOU CAME TO THIS PANEL AND HAD YOUR WORK CRITIQUED: Please connect with me on Facebook or Twitter. I can't promise to look at your work further, but I'd love to talk to you more. Especially you, young Ravenclaw in the second row!
Had another signing after that with Chuck Wendig, Stephen Blackmoore, Naomi Novik and Max Gladstone. Then we intrepid authors traipsed to the Sheraton for a Drinks with Authors event. Books were given away, conversations had, and livers destroyed. I was pleased to see many people from the earlier critique session come up and talk more about their works.
When they kicked us out of that ballroom for a Red Wedding event, a lot of us just went down to the hotel bar to continue the shennanigating. (It's a word.) Some goodbyes had to be said then as some folks were getting up early to head home on Sunday, but many were the slightly inebriated huggings. I knew it was time for me to leave when the following exchange occurred:
Random lady to friend with a pink wig: *points at me* Hey! She has the same hair color as you! Me: Isn't it embarrassing when two women show up to a party wearing the same tresses?
Fourth day of Con... that point where you're tired, loopy and running on little more than the last ergs of a high that can only be maintained with caffeine.
Weston Ochse, Yvonne Navarro, Bennett Coles, Kelley Armstrong and I started our day with a panel that was allegedly about Outside Influences. However, everyone in that room was more than happy to diverge into a free-for-all of conversation with the audience about any number of topics. We learned that Weston needs to produce t-shirts that say, "It's Billy Picket Time", and that when you've got a group of tired authors, wackiness WILL ensue.
Now, I was going to go get lunch, but I saw a friend pop into a panel about Social Media with Kevin Hearne, Chuck Wendig, Sam Sykes and Myke Cole. Knowing that I've got more I could learn about social media, I thought, "Hey, I'll munch on some trail mix and stuff while I learn something! Cool!"
Well, I sat down in the crowd while the panelists were in pre-panel mode and they mentioned that Delilah Dawson was supposed to be on the panel, but couldn't make it due to her travel plans. The guys were apologizing that they were four white guys and that the panel had a distinct lack of diversity when I heard Chuck say, "Wait, Jamie's here. Let's get her on the panel."
There went my lunch. (My husband later gave me a side-eye when I told him I'd skipped said meal.) But it was so fun. I was the only one on the panel without a beard, so I made a bit of a pink beard for myself.
Radagast the Pink. That's what they call me. Fear my power and sleigh pulled by indignant cats.
Seriously, very special thanks to Myke, Sam, Chuck and Kevin for including me at all, but for also being welcoming panelists who didn't then just treat me like the token girl on the panel. Good times paneling with you.
After that, I stayed put for the Mythology panel with Kevin, Greg Van Eekout, Melissa Marr and Austin Aslan. At this point, I feel I should apologize. I was exhausted and my blood sugar was plummeting, so I stopped being able to word well. There were some great conversations, though, about cultural appropriation, privilege. We could've talked for hours about such a broad spectrum as "mythology", but we only had the hour.
I called my con done shortly after that and headed to a friend's house for a home-cooked meal. Ended up crashing early. Good thing I had a guard puppy.
Cons are always interesting to me. They're where I really feel like an author, not just some struggling scribe. I get to talk to others like me, see the people who have the kinds of careers I aspire to and get better ideas of how to improve what I do and how I do it. At the same time, it's easy to feel hilariously outclassed and small in the presence of creators like Paul Cornell, Cherie Priest and Ann Leckie. We spend 4 days geeking, sharing, drinking, talking, making connections... and at the end of it we're exhausted, but hopefully we've all taken something more than a business card or two.
I'm really looking forward to seeing Paul and Wes at CONvergence next month, and hope to keep building ties with some of the local authors I connected with this weekend.
If you were there, SAY HI! And now? I'm going to have some chai and fall down. And write. I've got stories to finish.
So, if you follow my blog or social media, you'll know 2 things:
1) The past few weeks have been psychotically stressful for this Pajamazon. 2) I love fire.
Between this, that and the other, I really needed to blow off some steam. Everyone has their own way to let loose. For some it's scrapbooking, rock climbing or yoga. Sane things. Relatively safe things. Me? I put fire in my face (or expel flames from it). This time, though, I upped the ante a little and did so on live television while a former star of Little House on the Prairie looked on. All before breakfast. *flexes*
One of my fire teachers was advertising her Dragon Training class on a local morning news show and asked if anyone would be interested in helping her demonstrate the skills being taught. I said sure, got a ride lined up and boom: in like Flynn. Not only did I get to play with fire, I got to engage in one of my other favorite passtimes... It's a little game I like to call, "Scaring the Straights". You know those normal people? I like to freak them out when I get a chance. It's been one of my favorite games since at least junior high when I embraced my weirdness. The tv personalities (I don't know that I can call them "news anchors" with a straight face) gawked at me and my fire partner while Madame C explained what we were doing and participated in the interview. I was focused on my work, but I loved hearing "Oh, my god! What is she doing?!" almost as much as I loved the "woosh!" sound of breathing fireballs.
Something hilarious that happened because of this... Saturday night I got home to find a message on Facebook from a woman I went to college with. We weren't close friends or anything, but we were in marching band together for a few years. Anyway, apparently she lives in the Phoenix metro area now as well because she saw the tv spot!
"I thought that was you," her message said. "That looked so crazy. That's how I knew it had to be you!"
*blink* Did I really have that much of a reputation in college for doing weird shit? Because I didn't do weird shit then other than say things to freak out the uber straight-laced girls in my classes. Anyway, I got a great laugh out of that one. That's quote of the day, right there.
Saturday night I went to the Dragon Training class and learned more tricks. Favorite new trick involves transferring the flame from one torch to another...while the lit one is in my mouth. I wish I had video of me doing it because it looked beautiful from my point of view. Got more practice with eating. Improved at vapor tricks and "dragon spit" (not the same as breathing). Breathed some more. (Funny, for someone who said a few years ago "I will never breathe fire", I certainly have taken to it.) Once again, it was thrilling for me to get to play. It was doubly fun to watch friends discover fire art and develop their talents.
It's interesting to me. There are a lot of things you can do with fire. Hula hoop, poi spinning, staff spinning, diablo, breathing, eating, palm flames, sword dancing, candling (a vapor trick with the mouth), fleshing (doing fuel/flame transfers on flesh)...lots of room to play in fire arts. I love watching people find niches. I enjoy seeing how one person can love this trick, but hate another.
For example: I've tried fans, but it's just not my thing. Likewise with palm flames. I have friends who perform those, but I lack the belly dancing skill and sinuous grace to make palm flames interesting. I have a friend who lights a scimitar on fire and puts it on her head. I have some friends who spin staves. Again, I've tried these things but for one reason or other, it's just not mine. Me? I love my poi spinning. It's rhythm and motion and I excel at it. And I dig on torch work. I like some fleshing tricks for flare and I love candling. For some reason, I really like the tricks that involve me lighting my tongue on fire. But I can't hold a torch in my teeth. The heat is too intense and though I've tried it a few times, it's just not something in my bag of tricks. My friend Michelle, though, *loves* this trick and performs it well.
I loved looking at the pictures and video of Saturday's escapades because there was something I saw about myself that pleased me. I was so peaceful and comfortable playing with the fire. I look so calm, and--oddly enough--I am. Don't get me wrong, I'm scared of doing some of these tricks. There is some pain involved (but no more than drinking a cup of too hot chai, or touching a car that has been sitting out in Arizona summer), and the danger factor is high. I could seriously injure myself, and every time I'm about to do a trick I think about that.
There is an odd sort of focus, though, that comes over me. A tunnel vision of sorts. My hearing is keen. Listening for a safety to tell me if something is wrong, listening for movement of others. And, admittedly, taking in the gasps or "Holy shit!" from the people watching. Kinesthetic awareness goes up so that I can know my surroundings--who is around me? where are they standing? where are trees? are there divots on the ground?--and my vision narrows to the immediate task in front of me. How long has the torch been burning? Where is the wind coming from? Breath control. How much fuel do I take into my mouth? Don't swallow. Lips pursed--wait, how do I do this again? Oh yeah. Hold the fuel away. Bring up the torch. Blow. Open your eyes and watch the fireball filling your vision.
It all happens in a second, blink and you'll miss it. And while all of these things are going on in my mind, I'm at peace. There is a strange relaxation that comes with heightened focus. Perhaps that's the essence of meditation?
Anyway. This is how I recharge and let off stress. It's something that I love to do and while I don't feel the need to get back into full on performing again, I'm happy to have the time in my friend's backyard with a can of fuel and a few torches.
And now it's back to the real world with me where I have to think about cars and numbers and medical stuff all the shit that stressed me out in the first place.
DON'T FORGET: Tomorrow I'll be over at Bitten By Books for an all day Q&A. We'll be talking about WILD CARD, Vegas, Satyrs...whatever you want to chat about. And I'll be giving away an Amazon gift card and some more poker chips! RSVP NOW for an additional 25 chances at the swag.
TODAY IS THE DAY!!! WILD CARD is unleashed upon the world, and already Amazon numbers are shooting upward. I have no idea what all that chicanery means, but I'm told it's awesome. (Much like the book itself.) As part of the celebration, I am over at Literal Hotties talking about Marius. AND If you click here you'll find all of the pertinent links of where you can buy your own copy of WILD CARD. As if that's not enough you can enter to win a $25 Think Geek gift card AND 3 custom made poker chips as featured in the book. Dude, it's madness around here. I've only been awake like 2 hours and already I'm overwhelmed by the caliber of awesomeness being shown this day. Seriously, it's a flood of love out there and I can't help but be knocked over by it. That being said, I can't possibly retweet or respond to everything. Please know that I've seen your posts, kind words and tweets and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Don't worry, though. My cat is making sure I know my place in the world. Little dork jerkface escaped into the neighbor's yard (again), so I was out there padding around their house in a bathrobe like a very lazy skulking idiot. Damn cat.
I'm just coming off of a terrific weekend. My dad and stepmom are visiting from Indiana. Now, my parents divorced when I was 8 or 9. And I've been living in Arizona (1800 miles away from my dad) since 2004. I cannot begin to tell you how much it meant to me to be able to sit at a table yesterday with my mother and father (and husband and daughter as well as others) to celebrate this very special milestone. Seriously, that's worth more than Amazon rankings. Sharing this delicious moment with both of them--together--was priceless. Also, my daughter told me how cool I am today and immediately told everyone at school about the book. *beams*
Holy crap, you guys, I've got a published book in the world. *screams* This is something I've wanted since I was a kid. I have a picture (it's really blurry, or else I'd show you) of me at the age of 3--THREE!!--with a typewriter on my lap. My grandmother (who isn't here, dammit) used to record me telling stories. It's just... dude. Today is here. "Someday" is now. And it feels fantastic. Overwhelming. Mindnumbingly awesome.
And it was a shitton of work to get here. And it was a group effort. WE did it. I cannot possibly begin to express my gratitude right now. To all of you. The words "thank you" fall short.
We did it, guys. WILD CARD is finally here.