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October Happenings

This weekend (October 6-8) I’ll be at Capclave in Gaithersburg, MD, which is a small, literary-focused convention. This year’s guests of honor are Neil Clarke and Ken Liu. It’s a relaxed, laidback, con, and every year I’ve attended it’s been a lot of fun – good friends, tasty food nearby, people saying smart things on panels, and of course, lots of books. In between my panels, I’ll be hanging out in the bar area, attending friends’ readings and panels, and browsing the dealer’s room. As to the rest of the time, here’s my official schedule for the weekend.

10am – Saturday – Rockville/Potomac – Doctor Who, End of an Era, Beginning of a New One.

Moffatt’s era ends and Chibnall’s era begins. What did we think of the Capaldi era and Clara and Bill as companions? What do we want from Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor? What are our hopes for Chibnall as showrunner? Moffatt era vs. Davies era?

Victoria Janssen, A.C. Wise, Hildy Silverman, Vanessa Phin (m)

11am – Saturday – Rockville/Potomac – Reimagining Fairy Tales

Who doesn’t love a fairy tale retelling? Part of the universal appeal of fairy tales is that they were never a static form, at least not as an oral tradition. Re-tellers have used these archetypes and modes to spin new variations ever since these stories first came to the page. Angela Carter once said that “Ours is a highly individualized culture, with a great faith in the work of art as a unique one-off…. But fairy tales are not like that, and nor are their makers.” We can find fresh insight into our own lives and connections through these age old tales. This panel will focus on a variety of approaches in reconstructing fairy tales with a modern bent, both in their favorite respins and in their own work.

Margaret Ronald, A.C. Wise (m), John Skovron, Michelle Sonnier, Marylin “Mattie” Brahen

6pm – Saturday – Frederick – Writing for Anthologies

Anthologies are an excellent opportunity for writers to get their work out to new readers. Where to look for submission opportunities, how to write to a theme, tips on catching the editor’s eye (in a good way), and a what-not-to-do list are some of the things to be addressed.

M’Shai Dash, Hildy Silverman, A.C. Wise, Alex Shvartsman, Larry Hodges (m)

Saturday – 10:30 pm – Rockville/Potomac – Superheroine to Wise Woman: Creating Powerful Female Characters

What goes into creating strong, compelling female characters in fantasy worlds? Speculative fiction authors discuss how to approach elements such as world-building, magic, special powers, and plot when crafting a multi-dimensional character, and how to avoid the pitfalls of the “Mary Sue.”

Joshua Palmatier, Michelle D. Sonnier, A.C. Wise

Noon – Sunday – Frederick

Reading – Beverly Haaf (12-12:30pm)

Reading – A.C. Wise (12:30-1pm)

2pm Sunday – Bethesda – Why Do We Like Being Scared?

Fear probably developed as a survival mechanism. We fear things that might hurt us. Yet many read horror, go to slasher films, ride roller coasters, and climb cliffs. Why? What does this say about us and our psyches?

Dina Leacock, Darrell Schweitzer, A.C. Wise, Hildy Silverman (m), Scott Roberts

October generally seems to be a good month for literary things, so later in the month, on October 18, I’ll be reading at Noir at the Bar in West Chester, PA. The event is being held at Timothy’s from 7-9pm. A group of us will be reading. If you’re in the area, come join us!

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Leveling Up and Measuring Success

Ding! Level! It’s a satisfying noise and a satisfying feeling. You’ve put in the time, now your efforts have been rewarded. Whether it’s a noise, or pretty sparkles on the screen, video games tend to celebrate the achievement of leveling in a tangible way. They’ve also conditioned players to expect that with leveling comes other rewards – more powerful attacks, new skills, better gear, an increased chance of winning the next fight, and so on. It’s hard not to want to apply that same metric to other areas of life, for example writing. You pour your heart into your work, tear yourself open, bleed on the page, bang your head against the wall trying to get that one sentence, one word, one punctuation mark, right. And slowly, ever so slowly, you improve your craft. Ding! Wait, no ding? What’s happening?

Mario Level UpHere’s where things get tricky. That tangible reward system, that outside sense of validation, isn’t always there. It’s hard to write about things like this without it sounding like sour grapes or meaningless platitudes. This post isn’t intended to be either of these things, or to be dismissive of tangible rewards. Consider it a companion post to one I wrote three years ago: Permission to Fail, Permission to Succeed. It’s something I need to remind myself of every now and then, and maybe other people will find it helpful too.

As authors, we all love our craft, right? Otherwise why would we keep banging our heads against that metaphorical wall, agonizing over that one sentence? We’re passionate and most of us would keep writing regardless of reward or recognition, but deep down, wouldn’t it be nice if someone noticed? If a lot of people noticed? If enough people noticed to result in an award? Applying the video game metric, the logical conclusion is that as long as you put in the time, keep grinding and leveling up, an award nomination or even a win will be the end result. Level. Ding! But there are a lot of factors that go into award nominations, and nothing is guaranteed.

Every year, many wonderful, worthy, and amazing works get nominated, but only one can win. Does that make the rest of the ballot any less amazing or worthy? No. Many more works don’t get nominated – they just miss the ballot, or they miss it by miles. Does that make them objectively bad? Not worth your time? No. There are so many works published each year, no one can keep up with all of them. Incredible work gets overlooked and missed all the time. People make hard choices when deciding what to include on their ballots. The works and authors that don’t end up on the list aren’t failures.

Leveling up in writing, unlike video games, is not a strictly linear progression. Some people seem to burst onto the scene with immediate awards success, and from the outside, it looks effortless. We don’t see the years of work behind the “instant” sensation, the days when they too stare at the blank page and the words refuse to come, the days when they doubt anything and everything they’ve ever written, and doubt themselves most of all. Some people work steadily for years, build a career of small victories, then larger ones, and then finally, at last, they earn a coveted space at the top. Ding! Others zig-zag  all over the place and take unconventional routs, and others still put in the time, steadily improve their craft, and that ding never sounds. Sometimes, the cake is a lie.

Does that mean you’re doing something wrong as an author? No. Maybe there is an award further ahead in your future, and when that nomination comes it will be incredible and well-deserved and you will celebrate with glee. But there might not be. Awards aren’t a guaranteed landmark on your journey. If you don’t hit that way point, it doesn’t mean you’re lost. Again, it means the rewards, the way points on your journey, the proof you’ve leveled, aren’t always tangible.

There are other markers along the way, and sometimes it’s hard to see them. You’re running so fast toward that next level, that perceived endpoint, that sometimes the scenery starts to blur. You don’t always see that one person your words touched, or that your work meant the world too. You don’t always notice the improvements in your craft, or how far you’ve come from where you started.

The temptation is there to think if I could just win an award, I will have finally made it. I will be able to leave the self doubt behind. The dirty secret is, it’s never enough. Those people who win awards? They doubt themselves too. We all do. It’s what keeps us writing, keeps us striving. Even when you win, there’s always another level. The cap keeps rising. So what do you do? Keep writing. Make more words. A torrent of them. Don’t stop, but do look back every now and then. Give yourself permission to succeed. The metric may not be what you thought it was, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t made any progress. You may just need to learn to measure the journey in different ways.

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An Unlikely Holiday

FoolAs I mentioned in my last post, Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix is officially out in the world. That being the case, Unlikely Story has moved onto its next adventure. This time, we’re exploring the roots of April Fool’s Day. It’s a strange holiday, unlikely even. Peasants become kings, the earth is renewed, and tricks are played. Can you write a story encompassing those concepts in less than 2,000 words? If so, we’re the venue for you!

The guidelines for The Journal of Unlikely Observances can be found here. This is a mini issue, so we really are looking for flash fiction. As the guidelines say, we’re willing to be a little flexible, but by that we mean it’s okay if you go over by a few words, not a few hundred words or more. As the old saying goes – kill your darlings. Give us a story that’s lean and mean and encompasses the spirit of April Fool’s Day. There are more details on our website. We can’t wait to read what you send us.

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Top Secret Glitter Squadron Swag!

Well, it’s not really all that secret since I’m telling you about it, but still…

Do you want your very own customized cocktail recipe, designed for you by the Glitter Squadron’s Bartender Supreme, Sapphire? Of course you do! As you may know, Bob, the Glitter Squadron Collection stories are interspersed with cocktail recipes, with a drink matched to each of the characters. So I thought to myself – what can I do to a) give something special to folks who preorder the collection, and b) drive people to drink? Why, I can get Glitter Squadron coasters, and write recipes on the back of them. So that’s just what I’m going to do!

If you preorder The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, I will send you your very own customized cocktail recipe. But wait, there’s more! I’ll even send you a nifty bookplate to stick it in the book when it arrives. (It’s possible I’ve seen too many infomercials.) Here’s a peek at what said bookplates and coasters look like.

Glitter Swag

The bookplates will be available to anyone, but the coasters and recipes are only for those who preorder… Something a little extra special to say Thank You!

In case you’re wondering, the art on the bookplates and coasters is by the amazing Staven Andersen, who did the cover for the collection. Staven’s work is seriously worth checking out. If you’re still on the fence about the whole Glitter Squadron thing, the first taste is free.  You can head on over to Ideomancer and read the original version of Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron, the story that started it all.

So, if you want your own Glitter Squadron recipe, drop me an email at a.c.wise [at] hotmail.com with proof of your preorder, and where you’d like your swag sent. If you’d like, you can prompt me with a particular flavor, base alcohol, or theme you’d like your cocktail built around. If not, well, I’ll just let my imagination run wild. If mixed drinks aren’t your thing, or don’t drink in general, just let me know. I’m more than happy to suggest a non-alcoholic, or non-mixed drink pairing. Otherwise, I look forward to getting you drunk!

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All That Glitters is Fabulous

LipsThis is a scary post to write. Because it’s about something amazing and terrifying that doesn’ta feel quite real yet. Part of me is afraid that saying it aloud will make it vanish – like the opposite of Beetle Juice or Bloody Mary. Talk about it too much and it will just go away.

… But, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Collection is going to be a real thing. A. Real. Thing!

The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron started with a short story in Ideomancer: Operation Annihilate Mars! Or, Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron. It was so much fun to write, but I thought that was the end of it. Then Bunny had different ideas. She stepped up and insisted her story be told. And so, there was How Bunny Came to Be, which appeared in Shimmer #17.

And after that, I fell in love. These incredible, fierce, amazing characters kept stepping up and insisting their stories be told. Their armor is glitter and sparkles and they are all the things that so many narratives tell us is the opposite of what ‘strong’ is supposed to be. They wear dresses and nail polish and high heels, and they fight and save the world over and over again. They think gender check boxes are stupid.  And they kick ass harder than you’ve ever seen ass kicked before. Did I mention I love them? I may be biased.

I was afraid no one would ever care except for me. But other people did, and as it turns out, Steve Berman of Lethe Press happened to be one of them, and is willing to take a chance on my gorgeous, glittering girls. I will be forever grateful. (Lethe Press is wonderful, by the way, and you should run out and buy books from them.)

If all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to read all about The Glitter Squadron in Summer 2015. I’ll post more details as they’re available. But for now, I wish glitter to you all.

 

Image from flickr user Snowkei, cropped and used under Creative Commons License.

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World Fantasy 2014

Next week, from November 6-9, I’ll be attending the World Fantasy Convention in Washington D.C. This is my first time attending, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m even on programming, which is pretty exciting. Here’s where I’ll be:

Fantasy Food: The Food in Fantasy
Time: 8 p.m.-9 p.m., Saturday, Tidewater 2
Panelists: Fran Wilde (M), Brenda Clough, Diana Peterfreund, A. C. Wise
Description: Elaborate feasts versus alien worms: is Fantasy Food really better than science fiction food. Adults report a life-long love of mushrooms dating back to an early reading of the Fellowship of the Ring. Meanwhile, the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, featuring butterbeer and pumpkin pasties, has sold more than 150,000 copies. There are also cookbooks available or in the works for The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Tolkien’s works, and Narnia. Why does fantasy literature often have a gourmet palette?

Unofficially, I’ll be taking part in the mass autograph session starting Friday at 8 p.m. in the Independence Center, where several of the authors whose stories appear in Nightmare Carnival will be sitting together in case you’re so inclined to have us sign your book. I understand there is also a cash bar involved in the mass signing event.

Also unofficially, I’ll be part of the group signing for The Cutting Room, along with several other authors in the anthology. We’ll be at the Tachyon table in the Dealers’ Room from 2:30-3p.m. on Friday.

If you’re curious, the full schedule for the convention can be found here.

Outside of programming official and unofficial, I plan to attend panels, go to the ice cream social, because freakin’ ice cream social, hang out in the bar, eat food, spend time with friends I don’t get to see nearly often enough, and buy books. I hope to see you there.

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All Hallows Read 2014

All Hallows ReadSomehow it is not only October, it is mid-October. I suspect gremlins, or possibly mice, of sneaking in and stealing time when I wasn’t looking. Regardless, mid-October means it’s high time I put together another All Hallows Read Book Exchange! If you’ve not heard of All Hallows Read, in short, it is a glorious holiday dreamed up by Neil Gaiman where you give books and receive them in return. The original idea was to give scary books, but I know horror isn’t everyone’s thing, so the way I run my book exchange, you can send any type of book at all. It doesn’t have to be new. It can be something from your shelves that you want to pass on to someone else, or if you happen to be an author, it can even be one of your own books.

It’s good fun. You get to share a book you loved with someone else, and get a book someone else loved in return. It’s a great way to discover books and authors you might not ever have picked up on your own, and as a happy bonus, you get to connect with other readers. If you want to play along, drop me a note in the comments, or send me an email at a.c.wise [at] hotmail.com by October 24th. I’ll arrange a highly scientific flow chart so that everybody sends a book and receives one from someone else. Let’s swap some books!

All Hallows Read poster courtesy of Introverted Wife. Visit the website to grab your own.

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(Finally) Announcing…New Bugs!

We had a lot of fabulous submissions, and a lot of very tough choices to make, but I’m pleased to say we’ve made our final selections for Unlikely Story #10: The Journal of Unlikely Entomology. In no particular order, the issue will feature:

Miranda’s Wings by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
Bookends by Michael Wehunt
Prism City Blues by Naim Kabir
Gemma Bugs Out by Victorya Chase
On Shine Wings by Polenth Blake
Coping With Common Garden Pests by Will Kaufman
Meltdown in Freezer Three by Luna Lindsey

I know I say this a lot, and I mean it every time, but this is an incredibly strong issue, and I can’t wait to share these stories with you. Unlikely Story #10 will be available sometime in November. In the meantime, we continue to read subs for Unlikely Story #11: The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography. If you’re interested, you can find the guidelines here. Come October 1, we’ll be reading stories for our next mini issue, The Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia. So if you like clowns, or computers, we’re everywhere you want to be.

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Fixed!

Aaand comments are back! Thanks to my “in-home tech support” aka spouse, comments on the site appear to be functional again. Unfortunately it looks like any comments left while the comment function was broken have permanently vanished into the aether, but going forward it should be business as usual. As long as nobody looks at them funny. Or breathes too hard near them. Or doesn’t breathe hard enough. I forget how it works with you robots.

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Technical Difficulties: Please Stand By

Comments on the site appear to be broken. It took me a while to notice, but I’m working to fix it. Apologies to anyone who has tried to comment recently and seen their comments vanish into the aether. Hopefully I’ll have things back to normal soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture.

Raptor

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