Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Guest Post from Misty Massey

Today, we have a guest post by the wonderful Misty Massey...

From the high seas to the high plains...

Most people know that I love to play at pirates.  I write about them, I dress up like them, I occasionally talk like them (although it takes a shot or three of rum to get the accent just right!)  In fact, Tera and I met because of our shared love of the outlaws of the oceans.  Pirates are cool.

But gunslingers are pretty cool, too. 

I know that real pirates and gunslingers are dangerous criminals who hurt people for a living (and sometimes just for the entertainment of it), so that's not the kind I mean.  I'm talking about the kind who live in fantasy stories.  Sometimes they're bad guys with hearts of gold, and sometimes they're badly misused heroes who need to find their way back to the sun again.  But stories about outlaws, whether in ships or on horseback, are full of thrills, chills and derring-do.  These are characters who fight through the fear to accomplish whatever they've set their minds to do.  Some of the best Western movies are about men who live on the wrong side of the law – A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad and The Ugly, or They Call Me Trinity.  So we have strong characters to begin with...why not throw a little magic at them and see how they react?  I'm sure the Man With No Name would have liked access to a spell that made him invulnerable to bullets (would have saved a lot of time at the end of the movie, don't you think?) 

Both the Golden Age of Piracy and the Wild West period were very short, historically speaking.  And that makes the people of those times even more interesting, since their like were not around for long.  It's much the same as the idea of magic being wiped out by the Industrial Revolution and its fondness for cold iron.  At the end of a day of sorting books for transit between libraries, washing clothes, making beds and cooking dinner, it's refreshing to dive into a story that takes me away from my mundane life onto a journey across a dusty plain under a hot sun.  I can't be a gunslinger in today's reality, but I sure can pretend.

We'd love you to join us in backing The Tales of the Weird Wild West Kickstarter.  We have stories lined up from wonderful authors like Jonathan Maberry, R S Belcher, Tonia Brown, Diana Pharaoh Francis, John Hartness, Gail Martin, James Tuck, and me!  If we can manage to fund to our stretch goal amount, we have more great authors lined up for a second volume of stories – Faith Hunter, Laura Anne Gilman, Devon Monk, Charles Gannon, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Barb Hendee and more!  There are neat pledge rewards and stretch goals available.  And if we manage to fund successfully, we'll be opening up four submissions to an open call, so you might make it into the book your own self.  But this only happens if you help us out.  Please visit our Kickstarter page, and make a pledge.  Then go to Facebook and Twitter and tell your friends to pledge, too. 

Thanks, y'all!  I look forward to bringing you all sorts of wonderful stories of a West that never was!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

So it should come as no surprise, but I’m going to do NaNoWriMo again this year.  I don’t know what it is about the month of November and writing…perhaps it is the camaraderie that comes from so many people struggling with the same issues.

My goal is to finish “The Devil Drives a Porshe.” – I’ve got the basic bones of the story plotted out.  And of course, I have a good start (50K words) from last year’s NaNoWriMo.  And I know technically we’re supposed to start fresh, but I really want to concentrate on this story in particular.  It’s been rattling around in my head for several years now and I really, really want to get it finished. 

Besides, I’ve got an editor on retainer and I’d really like to hand her something! 

So, I’ve done a couple things that I think will help, I’ve plotted.  (Which is really not something I do.)  Granted it’s a very rough plot and I fully expect things to change as I start writing.  I’ve also blocked time to write in my calendar.  Especially my work one.

The other thing I’ve been working on is organizing my 2015 schedule and plans.  I’m trying to find a way to “block” writing into my day on a regular basis (along with all those other "life things" like dinners, exercise (hah!), etc.  

I’m not a morning person so there is no way I’m getting up earlier to write.  Lunch is usually spent running errands so that pretty much leaves me evenings.  Some of which I can definitely write – those days the Geeklet is at Choir and Dance, for example.   It’s the other evenings that I struggle with writing time.  I like being able to read and watch TV some at night…

Anyway, wish me luck and good luck to anyone else crazy enough to do this!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our Bravest Face

In the whole wide world there's no magical place
So you might as well rise put on your bravest face
Oh, you might as well rise put on your bravest face

~Rush, Bravest Face

I debated about this post.  A lot. You see…A lot of people are going to talk about Robin Williams this week.  A lot of folks are going to talk about Depression and Suicide this week.  But then I thought that not talking about Depression is one of the problems.  So this is me…sharing.  These are just my thoughts and they are longer than usual. YMMV.

This has been a rough year for death. We’ve lost family, had friends who have lost family members and dear friends; we lost a great author and friend in Aaron Allston and this week, we lost the comedic icon, Robin Williams to what appears to be suicide.

With death so prevalent this year, it would be easy to fall into a depression…but it’s times like these that I remind myself that “Depression Lies” and try to find ways to cope.

Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, talks about her struggle with Depression here. Jenny keeps the mantra “Depression Lies” to help her.  Wil Wheaton, King of the Geeks, talks about his own struggles with Depression here. Like Wil, I suffer from Depression and Anxiety; like Wil, I take medicine to keep those particular demons at bay.  

I know that there are folks that will read those words and have trouble believing them – believing that I suffer from Depression.  But that is because they only see “the bravest face.”  Those are the people that only know me through the internet or cons or even my writing.  They see the perennially happy, excitable, “Minnie Mouse on speed.”  But that is… for me… my bravest face.

But one of the things I found myself thinking about recently, in light of Robin’s passing, is how hard it is to talk about depression and anxiety. How even in this day and age where modern medicine can do wonders, we still keep our struggles silent. As a society, we don’t talk about mental illness – and it shows. I hear people talk about suicide and they say something like “didn’t he/she know…/how selfish/cowardly.” The thing is that, while a part of them may have known how much they were loved and appreciated, depression can twist the world around you.

So, like many people I respect and love, I’m going to try to talk about it. You’ve probably heard this before but here’s the thing: Jenny’s right…depression lies. It tells you that you aren’t good enough. That you will never succeed. And that you are alone. It tells you that you can’t do anything right. That you are a failure as a writer, a mom, a wife…a person.  But it’s not true. Depression lies.

It takes a lot to get past that… to hear the lies for what they are.  And find your truth… whether that is medication, counseling or whatever. Depression only goes away if we talk about it to someone and get it treated. And even then it doesn’t really go away… it just goes quiet.

But here’s the other side of that… depression also tells you that no one cares, that you are over reacting, that others have it worse and so we have to put on a brave face. Depression lies to the depressed about what others may think. Depression tells us:  he’s got enough on his plate, don’t worry him, or she’s dealing with her own issues, she doesn’t need yours on top of it. And I think that is the hardest thing to overcome.

Those of us that are depressed, struggle to find a way to talk about our depression so that it can be understood by those that don’t suffer and don’t understand it. But it’s hard, because depression lies.  It lies when it tells us that it’s all in our head. It lies when it tell us we can get better on our own.  It lies when it tells us that things will be okay if we’re not here.

The outside world doesn’t hear the lies. I think if they could, they might see how hard it is for someone who is depressed to reach out.

For me, depression always starts with the little things. Life gets busy and I don’t get to write anything for several weeks, then when I try to go back to writing, it’s a struggle to find the rhythm and so I walk away for a little longer. And then it’s a few more weeks and then months and then I wonder why I bother. Then it might be something related to work…a project didn’t go as well as I hoped. And so I feel like I didn’t do your best or that others are thinking poorly of me. And then it’s something else, maybe a fight with my child or spouse or a catty comment from a co-worker. And so I don’t do anything. I disconnect. I find that I am tired. So I watch TV or surf the internet. It’s a struggle to find the energy to do basic things like dishes or laundry. It’s tired… when I’m utterly exhausted and haven’t done anything. That’s how I know I’m facing my depression.

Anxiety is worse for me though than depression. It is like every thought, every “to-do,” every should-do, every want-to-do, every we need you to…comes crashing in around you at one time. It surrounds you like this big giant noisy bubble that you can’t get away from. Your mind jumps from thing to thing to thing and then back again and you find that you can’t concentrate on anything. You start to feel tense and your hands start to shake. You can’t breathe. You find yourself ready to curl up in a corner until things go away. You can’t do anything, so you don’t do anything. 

Medicine helps me. I have one pill I take daily that keeps the depression at bay. I have another pill that I take as needed for anxiety. But for me… it’s a gift when it comes to anxiety.  It takes all those “you need, I need, I should” moments and pushes them back. They’re still there but they are no longer right in front of my head. It gives me the time to breathe, focus and concentrate. It gives me the awareness that it’s Anxiety not me.  It gives me the distance I need to deal with the problems one at a time.

Music helps me too. Music is one of things that keeps me sane when my own demons start to crowd in. I keep an entire list of music quotes on my wall at work:
  • “I’ll be around, if you don’t push me down, I’ll be around, if you don’t let me down.” - Rush 
  • “I am made from the dust of the stars and the oceans flow in my veins.” - Rush 
  • “Hannah, you’re my inspiration, my fountain of youth.” - Styx 
  • "I’ll take the hit but not the fall” – Bon Jovi

I have an entire CD called Roll the Windows Down, Turn the CD up, Music to Scream by. It lives in my car and includes music like Queen’s “I want it All,” “Damn Yankees” by Damn Yankees, “Riding the Storm Out” by REO Speedwagon, and “Armegeddon It” by Def Leppard. It’s music I can listen to when I just need to get away for a few, to push the world away.  I can scream at the top of my lungs and no one thinks I’m crazy because all they hear is the music.

We game, too. Our regular D&D games are an absolute solace for me. I miss the release that comes from gaming when we go a several weeks without one. In gaming, for a few hours, I get to go be someone else and all the “should, woulds, needs,” go away. We relieve stress by killing the bad guys, sometimes even demons and devils – I admit to liking those sessions best.  Gaming also gives us a chance to connect with our friends. We catch up with each other’s lives.  Talk about things we are doing.  It helps to see people caring.

Mostly though, I rely on my family and friends. My husband’s hugs and his smile when I come home from work keep me going every day. The fact he brings me coke and advil when I wake up with a headache.  My daughter’s smiles and enthusiasm for everything! brings a smile to my own face. Many of my closest friends know that I struggle with depression and anxiety. Their encouragement when I think my writing sucks gives me hope. When they tag me on FB with a funny thought that reminds them of me. These are what keep me going.

Many of us that struggle with Depression and Anxiety have resources that we use, words or mantra’s that we keep in mind, songs that we listen to that pull us out.  But fighting mental illness is not easy; it’s not something people talk about.  So that’s why I’m talking about it today.  Maybe my little note will help one person understand that those of us who struggle with this aren’t being selfish or cowardly, but that sometimes we truly can’t hear or see the positive around us… because depression lies to us. And so we put on our bravest face and go out into the world and wonder how long it will be until we can’t.

If you are struggling with depression, please seek help.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Headed to ConCarolina's

So we’ll be headed down to ConCarolina’s tomorrow to brave the mad crush of folks who want to see George RR Martin.

I’ll be splitting my time between the ConGregate table, my author table which I’m sharing with the incredible Janine Spendlove, and doing a few panels.

Breakfast and Books Saturday 9:00am
Writing for Anthologies II Saturday 12:00N
Brigands, Thieves and Pirates Saturday 8:00pm

So, if you've ever wanted to buy one of the anthologies that I'm in, stop by the table, I'll have copies of a couple of them!

And if by some chance, you haven't registered for ConGregate, stop by that table and we'll get you taken care of!

Looking forward to seeing everyone!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happy May!

It’s been an eventful couple of months.  I’ve attended a couple conventions, returned to the HR world full-time and had another short story published.

Con-wise, we attended illogicon, Mysticon and Ravencon so far this year.   There’s been an unusual trend in emergencies in hotels – illogicon had a tornado warning, and Mysticon and Ravencon each had the fire alarm go off.  Not sure what set off Mysticon’s but apparently the Ravencon hotel was hit by lightning.   Certainly makes for exciting conversations! 

Next up in the con-circuit is ConCarolinas which is likely to be packed to the gills this year with GOH George RR Martin.  I will be splitting my time between the ConGregate table and a table I’m sharing with Janine Spendlove.  I’ll actually have books for sale!! 

My part time position at the Center for Creative Leadership moved to full-time in April.  Good in terms of working, bad in terms of time for writing.  It does mean that if I’m ever going to finish a novel, I really need to start buckling down and getting it done.  ::sigh::

I did have my first horror story published.  It’s in DarkFairy Tales Revisited by Horrorfied Press.  My husband describes it as “Not Disney’s Cinderella.” It was a bit of a challenge to write, and while I enjoyed stretching my wings on it, I’m probably not going to be called to do a lot more horror writing. I think I’ll stick with fantasy and SF.

Lastly, my darling husband, beta-reader and webmaster, has updated my WEBSITE!  We’re keeping it clean and simple, but I really like the color scheme.  Is there anything else you’d like to see on the website?

Well, that’s pretty much the extent of the last few months.  Hard to believe we’re already in May!

Have you lived a lifetime today -/Or do you feel like you just got carried away ~Rush “The Stars Look Down.”

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Conventions and Writing and Role-playing

So as my *few* followers know, I adore going to cons. Of course, for the interaction with other attendees and with guests.  But I also love going because ever since we had the Geeklet, con’s mean I get to go back to my room around 9pm, put her to bed, and write.  This leaves my poor Husband to do the party hopping and smoozing (not Smofing!), but the division of labor works for us. 

A few weekends ago, we travelled to Mysticon in Roanoke, Va.  Great con, still a little crowded for the space but the con-runners are very attentive to both guests and fans and the hotel staff (especially the Restaurant) is fantastic!!

I sat on a few panels over the weekend… Nerdiquette 101, Role-playing, Anthologies, Form and Function around Costuming and a Tribute to Anne McCaffrey.  All of which were very enjoyable, and informative.  I really enjoyed the role-playing panel, which leads me into my main topic today.

Writers write.  We know that. It is something that most of us can’t stop doing.  And while I like writing short stories, and I’m desperately trying to finish one of my novels, I find it interesting that I love writing about my role-playing characters.  Especially when I build new ones. 

I’m often the one that has the most detailed, longest back stories.  Part of that is so I have a good feel for the character when role-playing them, but also because I enjoy writing the “story up to here” part of a character. 

When I build a new character, I often start from either a basic concept or an image.  From there I build the stats and such that make the character but then I start to work on their story.   Who are they? Where did they come from? What events happened in their lives that made them make the choices they did. 

For me, writing the character’s backstory and personality help create or explain some of the choices the character may make in role-playing.  I have a character now that is a latent werewolf.  The other characters in the game know it, but I think most have forgotten because the character is also a druid that wildshapes.  As part of her back story, she is running away from the werewolf in her, and the family that embraces the werewolf… so what happens when they catch up to her?
Because most of my stories are character driven, I often do the same thing with my story characters. What happens when an Air Force pilot gets thrown back in history to meet Grace O’Malley?  Backstory for Brianna Ni Rianne: Irish –American, normal happy childhood, military family. 

What happens when a new knight finds out there really isn’t shades of gray in the world? Backstory: Knight who knew she was going to be a Knight from a young age, proud of her study.  Believes the world is shades of gray, everyone can be redeemed.

My most recent story in Athena’s Daughter (you can order here!) is about a woman who is suffering from PTSD and how it affects the decisions she makes. 

In my novel, I realized recently that the action had been happening to my heroine.  In Morgan’s backstory… she grew up fairly quickly and had responsibility thrust on her at an early age. She has always been the driver of her life. She knew what she wanted to do (teach) as early as elementary school.  She pursued that dream even as she side tracks as a writer.  Now, however, she had been thrust into this world of change and confusion and has been pulled along, going from event to event.   I realized that it meant I was stuck waiting for the next event to happen.  But then I thought about the character and realized that she would also realize this and wouldn’t sit and wait. That meant her next step had to be doing something herself, not waiting for someone else to let her know what to do.  Exactly what that is… I haven’t figured out yet.

So, the point of today’s lesson… writing your characters backstory whether for a novel or for a rpg can help determine the characters personality, and reactions.  When you know the history of the character sometimes, it can help drive why a character would do something.

"I run between the shadows/Some are phantoms, some are real." ~ Rush, Double Agent

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Blog Post at The Gamer's Codex

My newest blog post is up over at the Gamer's Codex for Geek Girls Gaming!

I talk to Misty Massey, Jaym Gates, Laura Haywood-Cory and Gail Martin about their experiences playing D&D and how it has impacted them!

40 Years of D&D through the eyes of authors



Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Tribute to Aaron Allston

So I’d had this post all written for Friday about cons and role-playing and writing…and then Thursday night about 10:30am, I got a phone call.

Our Dear friend, Timothy Zahn, had called to tell us that friend and fellow SW author, Aaron Allston, had passed away. He was 53.

Facebook is filled with touching memories and tributes to Aaron. So many that it is truly awe-inspiring to see how many lives he affected as a game designer, a SW author, a mentor and a friend.
I first met Aaron at Stellarcon 23 in 1999. At SC24, he came back along with Tim Zahn and Mike Stackpole and for a number of years, the three of them returned to Stellarcon every other year while I was involved in the con and even some after I stepped away. (26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36) Aaron was also at Scon 25. Poor Aaron though, he did miss one year due to food poisoning at the airport!!

I remember we held the first SW trivial pursuit game where fans teamed up with Aaron, Mike and Tim to answer trivia questions. I’m pretty sure Mike won but I also remember that Aaron was the one that made us laugh.

At Stellarcon 25, in 2002 the Carolina Garrison inducted all three authors as the Legion's first three Honorary Members.

Aaron was at all times a gracious guest, impossibly patient with the foibles of a university-run convention and dedicated to his fans. He was so incredibly fan-friendly. It wasn’t hard to find Aaron in a crowd; he was the one sitting around making people laugh. Or groan with his beyond horrible puns. Well, that and wearing the loudest shirt possible. J

I loved Aaron’s SW stuff, but I liked his Doc Sidhe books best.  They still hold a place of honor on my shelf.  His writing always had this undercurrent of humor.  Much like Aaron, they refused to take life too seriously.

Star Wars, Gaming and Cons will not be the same without him. And those of us he touched will never be the same without him. 

May the force be with you, Aaron. 

"Suddenly you were gone/from all the lives you left your mark upon." ~ Afterimage, Rush