Full of Squee

Apparently, this is how you do it. By Zach Reddy. So last week kicked some ass on a personal level.

First off... my brother-in-law saw a post where I said that I'd have no idea how to illustrate a Pajamazon in order to make a logo. Well, he heard that as the clang of a gauntlet.

The other kick ass thing? Well, that requires a bit of back story...

So Friday nights are Game Night in my little tribe. We get together, have dinner, and play some games. Many are the times we play Sentinels of the Multiverse. Sentinels is a deck-based cooperative game where the players are comic-style heroes fighting evil. Each character has his or her own deck with specialized powers and equipment. Together, your team uses these powers to help one another and kick the ass of a villain in a hostile environment. (Both villain and environments have their own decks that run themselves.) Each hero card has a quote of "flavor text" on it that comes from a "comic book" featuring that character. (Those comics don't, at present, exist, but it's amazing and the flavor text is really fun.)

It's a really fun game with immense replay value.

Many are the nights we play this game and speculate what it would be like to make a deck for {insert popular character here}. For example, I'd love to make a PowerPuff Girls deck, a Townsville Environment and a multi-villain deck that includes Mojo Jojo and HIM.  Because we're total geeks, we've spent many Friday nights statting out such ideas.

So last night was Friday and we got together as is usual. And we sat down for Sentinels (again, totally normal). When we sat down, though, my buddy Jeff had this idea. We were going to pick characters in a new way. The person to your right would choose what character you were going to play. Okay, that's pretty cool. Most of us have played several characters, but admittedly have favorites, so it would be nice to stretch out a bit to try someone new. So we pass the box around the table and (making sure no one can see), everyone selected a character. At the same time we all slapped down a deck in front of the person next to us.

Sean had Haka, the Polynesian Power House. Kevin had Setback, the sidekick with a bad luck streak. Jeff had the ChronoRanger, a time traveling hero. Brian had Wraith, a brooding woman with a lot of tech at her fingertips. And I had... a deck still in shrinkwrap?

Huh? And in a white box? What the hell? So I go to open it and everyone's staring at me. I'm not entirely sure why, but they're grinning like idiots. That's when I see "Nerdmaste" written on one of the cards. And the name of the character...

Cat Sharp.

Cat's deck and character card based on the new Wild Card cover.

My friend Jeff had made a deck for Sentinels based on my heroine Catherine Sharp.

Holy. Shit.

We dove into the game and I played the deck blind (meaning that I didn't immediately sift through the cards to see what each of them was, but let myself be further surprised with each draw.) Every time I pulled a new card from the deck, I let out a squee or giggle.

This doesn't appear in the books, but dude, does Jeff know me!

"Mack Truck" from Unveiled.


Cat's flipped character card for if she dies in combat.

Jeff did an amazing job. He used the cover art of the new Wild Card for Cat's main character card, and a zombified version of the old Wild Card cover for the flip side. (When your hero dies in game, the card flips and you as a player have a few things you can still do to help your team). The rest of the cards be built in Photoshop. He took my character and made a spectacular deck that is true to the writing, and even included a couple of special nods to me (the Technomantic Phoenix shown above) and to our friends (a tiny "Easter Egg" on one of the cards, I won't say which.) And to top it off, he used quotes from the books for the flavor text!

Not only was the deck really fun in terms of seeing my character made into a playable, Cat Sharp was effective in terms of game play. Found out that not only had Jeff built the deck, he playtested it with Brian, Kevin and other friends! (They'd been in on the surprise for months!) But they took time to play the deck and make sure that Cat could throw down as an effective character, and wasn't over-powered. She fits perfectly into the game and would be more than just a novelty item for me or a friend. For players of Sentinels of the Multiverse, she's a strong character choice.

How fucking cool is that!

If you are curious and want to see all of the cards in Cat's deck (WARNING: THERE ARE UNVEILED SPOILERS!) and even print off your own for free, you can go here and do just that.

This was an amazing surprise and may take the cake for Best Fan Art Evar! And also, now I'm thinking "what if Flynn/Marius/Karma had their own decks? And a Vegas environment. OOH! Or what about..."

Yeah, this is fun. Thank you so much, Jeff!

Putting the FUN in Funded

tumblr_inline_mnb75mMudt1qz4rgpSo, for those of you who didn't hear the squees of joy last week, the UNVEILED Kickstarter campaign funded! We reached (and passed) our goal of $5500 which means that Cat Sharp 2: Electric Boogaloo will be a real book. One with actual pages, even! We still have a few days left of the Kickstarter. There are some editorial critiques left, a character name, and some pretty neat stretch goals, so please consider tossing your couch and throwing a few sheckles at the C# series. <3 I have to tell this story of HOW the Kickstarter broke through the goal, though.

So a dear friend of mine weaves baby wraps (among her many talents). These wraps are functional works of handcrafted art. Truly something that feels alien to me, a person who plays in the aural or verbal elements. Apparently, she's been plotting... You see, Lissa began weaving a wrap at Estrella War a couple months ago and has been documenting her progress on her website/Facebook. Wednesday she told everyone but me that she would make this wrap available for more than she generally charges...a portion would go toward shipping and taxes, the rest would go to a certain Kickstarter campaign. She posted it online and within 2 minutes it was sold. Fifteen minutes later, Lissa had money in hand, and immediately put that hefty chunk into the UNVEILED coffer.

When I saw the email of her donation (after her husband had already given a generous amount, as well)... I have to tell you that my heart stopped. My stomach did this weird floppy thing, and tears just started falling. Yes, this woman is my Ohana, she's chosen family...but... just.. Holy shit.

I immediately sent Lissa a message to let her know I'd seen her pledge and that I would be tacklehugging her at the soonest available time. She giggled. Apparently, she bounced all damn day because she's one of those people with an elf-like streak of mischief delighting in leaving surprises for others. She was convinced I knew or saw it coming. When I told her that I was blindsided, that made her all the bouncier. She seriously pulled one over on me in the best possible way.

It's no coincidence that her business is called Tangible Daydreams. She started the cascade that helped make this dream of mine real...

Lissa's donation brought us over $5000. After other people saw that the total was so freaking close to our goal...the pledges just started catching fire. People upped their donations. People I know don't have the spare change lying around found a few bucks to toss in and in less than an hour, UNVEILED was funded.

My squee was like unto the sound the Yellowstone Caldera will one day make when it blows. Seriously. colbert high five I didn't do the Kickstarter to shakedown my friends for their lunch money, ya know? I did it knowing full well that a lot of my friends and followers are having rough times financially. I honestly wasn't sure UNVEILED would fund. I mean, $5500 is a lot of money! But... holy shit... it happened.

I was talking with a few of my dear ones Friday night about the whole thing and I mentioned that my 93 year old grandmother had even chipped in some cash to put toward the campaign. I told them, too, that my Dad had added to the bundle even after we'd beaten our goal. According to him, though, his plan had been to sit back and wait until the last day and see how much I needed, then top it off.

Friend 1: That was my plan, too. Friend 2: Mine, too. Friend 3: Yup, that was my thinking on the matter.

*shakes head*

Seriously you guys... I'm so damn blessed.

The Kickstarter gave me so much more than money. Yes, the visible aspect is financial... we see dollar signs and how the numbers beside them get bigger... but each pledge is so much more than that. It's support. It's belief. Those of you who have pledged to this Kickstarter campaign (and those who have told me you would if you could) believe in me. You think I've got something to offer, and you believe I can do it. You want me to succeed. (And some of you just REALLY want to get your hands on the next book.)

I have to tell you that I feel blessed and honored by your support. I feel loved.


Thank you.

Billy Joel Didn't, But I *Totally* Started The Fire

  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*

Madame C -- Crystal Cruz, my Dragon Trainer.

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.

Yup. That's me. Eating fire.

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.

Michelle. That's TWO torches in her teeth. She's a badass.

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.

breathing fire dragon

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.

Life Has a Funny Way...

tumblr_ml7eh6kpwM1r5s8qlo1_250So last year was the Year of Giving It A Shot. I must admit that I didn't give much of anything new a shot last year other than being a published author. Apparently, Life-The-Universe-And-Everything has seen fit to give me a makeup exam in 2014. Last month, I took a "Dragon Training" class where I refreshed my fire eating skills and also learned how to breathe fire. (DUDE!) I'm taking a second one this weekend. Sure, it will probably be a lot of review, but I'd love to get more practice in. Also, hello? Any chance to hang with my friends and play with fire.

While I was looking at some videos about fire eating last month to psych myself up, I stumbled across Brian Brushwood and Scam School on YouTube. Instalove. Since then I've been teaching myself basic magic tricks and some little scams. What the hell, right? I mean, sure I don't have any "marketable skills" but when the zombie apocalypse is over and you need someone who can breathe fire, write a novel in a month and do lame card tricks...well, you'll be sorry you ate me first, now won't you?

(Also, as a side note, I think it's funny that I said that I would be "open to magic" this year. I didn't quite mean sleight-of-hand and such, but whatever. Just go with it.)

Anyway, it also seems that I'm going to need to add a few other tricks to my growing repertoire of skills. My car died. Again. This time it's personal. Or something. Anyway, the VW Bug I got last year to replace my car of 15 years (long live the Stepchild!) gave up its own ghost about three or four weeks ago. I've bummed rides the past 2 weeks to get the kiddo to school, and stalled as much as I can, but it looks like it's time to get a new ride. And by new, I mean something in a more recent model year than the turn of the century. The car I've found that I dig (if I get it, I'll introduce you) is a 2012...and it's a stick. I can't (as of this post) drive a stick. Just like I can't ride a bike. (Yes, it's true, shut up.) So yeah, it looks like there's something else for me to learn if I want this car. (Which I pretty much do. It's all settled but the test drive, ya know?)

Breathing fire, magic tricks, dead car.. . what else? OH! I met my mother-in-law for the first time. That was... fun. Awkward. My husband and I have been together for more than 9 years at this point and I've never met his mom. Part of that is because for the longest time, she lived in Baltimore and we lived in Phoenix. She doesn't travel well due to some medical issues. And we haven't exactly been in a position to do a lot of traveling. However, his mom is moving out here to Phoenix, so she and a few relatives made the road trip from Illinois (where she's been for about a year now) and did some apartment scouting. This also resulted in a bit of a family reunion. My husband and his brother Zach saw their mom for the first time in more than a decade and my daughter met her grandmother for the first time.

visual approximation of that week

Things got rather stressful for a week there because I was selling my car on Craigslist (never again without an answering service, a WWE wrestler and a cattle prod), and trying to juggle communications between husband and in-laws. All while getting over some wicked cough (not related to fire breathing, I might add). I was pretty much a bundle of raw nerves and had zero brain space to devote to fantasy or whimsy in any way.

However, once all that cleared away, I dove headfirst into a new story.  It's still pretty nebulous in my mind, so I don't want to post too much here. But it's outside the C# universe...a stand-alone sci-fi that is--so far--best described as "Ready Player One" meets Tom Clancy...with Geisha. I've posted a series of images that are speaking to me lately on my Facebook page.

So yeah, meeting WiP... shopping for a new car. Plotting and rearranging my con schedule/plans. Looks like I'll be doing CONvergence in Minnesota this summer. That's been my life of late.

How the hell are you?

This House Is Really, Really Great.... An Update

So, as some of you know, last week I went to see a house with some friends that was quite...interesting. I posted a video blog about it, so watch it: yeah. That happened. Well, I have an update on this house.

First of all, we found out that a good portion of the house was built as an addition...illegally. The permits were never completed, so the additions are a crapshoot. The wiring could be faulty. The construction shoddy. Hell, they may have just built on top of the 3 inch patio slab rather than a true foundation.

So there's that.

ovenAlso, the stove that had my buddy Brian drooling and touching himself inappropriately? Well, it apparently came from a strip joint that closed shop. Yes. You, too, can use the same burners that were used to cook poor quality, over-priced morsels that men ate while watching naked women gyrate against a greasy pole. That's why all your omelettes taste like tears and disappointment.

The more interesting news about this house came from a colleague of Ray Dawson (the realtor). While we all think this house was used... FOR PORN... the professional analysis is that it's actually a big ol' pile of mortgage fraud. They bought the house for it's original price, right? Then they took out a loan to do the "improvements" to the house. It *looks* good and they can sell the house for some exorbitant sum and walk with cash. What ended up happening, is that they pocketed the money of the loans for the improvements and walked, letting the house fall into foreclosure. Apparently, they've moved just down the street where they're doing the same thing. Possibly. Allegedly. This is conjecture. Mostly.

So yeah, for those curious why we didn't just buy the place for it's bargain price...this is why. The walls that look like marble are plaster and that's some cheap ass shit. And it was built without proper permits. So it would probably have to come down. Oh, and there's no fence outside and homeless people have been living in the oleander bushes out back. We're still not convinced that there isn't a hellmouth on site.