InConjunction 2019

This past Friday-Sunday (July 5-7) I spent in Indianapolis at InConjunction Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. As usual at these types of events, I was wearing the multiple hats of vendor, panelist, writer, reader, and partner/marketing director in the small press publishing house, Per Bastet Publications. This might seem like a lot of hats, but I’m used to it.

Although my panels were MANY, they were a lot of fun, and a nice mix of readings and discussions. I did two readings (one action scene from my novel The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn and one fun scene from the opening of my short story “She Who Dines on Heavenly Food), swapped book recommendations at the Best Book I Read Since InConjunction 2018 panel, spoke on a panel on world-building, and spoke on a panel about balancing plot-driven and character-driven elements in writing.

I was also very excited and honored to be on two panels with the curator of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library and the director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University (shout out to Doug Powers for the fantastic job he did as moderator)! The first was about science fiction in Vonnegut’s works, and my part was mainly to comment as a Vonnegut reader and as a writer of speculative fiction–although Vonnegut and I do have in common a degree in anthropology, which shows up in the way he writes about both our society and fictional societies in his work. The second panel was about censorship and banned books, which both apply to Vonnegut and Bradbury, but also to another little niche of mine: while I was getting that aforementioned anthropology degree, I did two projects on censorship: one on censorship in general, and one on Soviet subversive literature during the Stalin era. Here’s the thing about being on panels and attending panels: you come away really excited about things all over again. I’ve been away from academia since I graduated in 2015, but being on these two panels in particular reminded me of all the things I miss about it. Not that I don’t talk about ideas a lot, and not that I’m not constantly learning new things in my current capacity as a CRM archaeologist, but damn, school was fun.

It also made me realize that, hey, I have a blog that’s primarily about writing, and that I’ve said very little here about the brilliance, courage, and resourcefulness of subversive Russian writers. Also that I have a lot to say, and that I use my blog far too little for someone who’s as impassioned about as many topics as I am. So, dear readers, although my primary focus at the moment is finishing The Death and Times of Seth McCoy, methinks I’ll try to write a few posts here in the near future about two of my literary heroes, Yevgeny Zamyatin and Mikhail Bulgakov.

If you write, whether you’re published or trying to be or are just starting out, I can’t stress to you enough how good for you it is to attend conventions. Many writers are not people people, or are not good with crowds, or are not good with strangers, or are socially awkward, or all of the above. I don’t exclude myself from at least a few of these categories (one of my dreams is to own a coffee mug that says I’d rather be digging your grave) but there’s this gorgeous energy you only get from conventions, and you’re cheating yourself if you don’t tap into it. Everybody else there is just as nerdy as you are, after all. And once you step into it, you’re family. Seeing friends and welcoming newcomers is part of the joy, and one not absent for me this weekend!

For me personally, there is also always the benefit of sharing even the shittiest hotel room with my crime business partners, T. Lee Harris and Marian Allen a.k.a. Mom, who loves me so much she bought me a plague rat from one of the vendors this weekend. His name is Bubo.

Bubo the Plague Rat. Yes, that is a Wolfman figurine astride Ein from Cowboy Bebop in the background.

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Imaginarium Convention 2016

Imaginarium Convention in Louisville has been my favorite event of the year since it began three years ago, and every year it gets better! It’s the best-run, most organized, yet most relaxed, friendly, and welcoming writer’s convention I’ve ever attended, and on top of that, it’s fun and accessible to not-just-writers, too, since it offers gaming, a film festival, live entertainment, and a free vendor hall in addition to its excellent array of panels and workshops on everything from poetry to documentary film writing to speculative fiction to music. I literally can’t say enough good things about Imaginarium. It’s not just the folks who run it (who are awesome), but the whole atmosphere that makes it magic. Everyone involved, from the staff to the panelists to the attendees, is generous with their time, knowledge, and attentiveness. Truly a special thing in today’s world.

Marian Allen's award

Marian Allen, with Kerosene Kerry’s award

This year was also special because Per Bastet Publishing, which I am now marketing director for and which is one of the event’s sponsors, came away with two awards! One went to Marian Allen (who happens to be my mother) for doing a fabulous job promoting the event. The second, the Sizemore Award for small press excellence, went to the house.

T. Harris with Sizemore Award

T. Lee Harris with Per Bastet’s Sizemore Award!

Coming away from this year’s Imaginarium, I have so many happy takeaways. There’s the momentum of inspiration and ideas from all the great discussions and conversations. There’s the hilarity of cutting up with other writers (especially when we’re supposed to be acting all professional). There’s the happiness of catching up with people I haven’t seen since last year and the happiness of meeting new people I look forward to catching up with next time. There’s the excitement of the great pitches the press got from authors who want to work with us. And great-sounding projects authors might send my way for editing (shout out to Jack Wallen, the best client evarrrrr! for all the recommendations!) I keep asking if we can have more than one of these things a year, but for some reason the staff who work their butts off to make the weekend run smoothly for the rest of us keep looking at me like I’ve grown wings out of my ears when I say it…… 😉

Per Bastet with Jason Sizemore

Per Bastet with Jason Sizemore, award namesake and super-nice guy! Third day of the convention = complete exhaustion, but we’re happy on the inside, I assure you!

Adulting as a Writer, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Chaos

Most people I know, particularly most writers I know, don’t enjoy adulting. I hated adulting so much I told myself I was happy with part-time service industry jobs for 10 years before I finally went to college. At the time, I thought I was going back to college so that I could get on with conforming to adulthood. By the time I graduated last summer at the age of 32, I’d realized, thanks to friends and most of all professors, that being a responsible adult does not mean a soul-crushing 9-5 job, and that my skills as a person are, actually, valuable in the “real world,” no matter what anyone outside my fields of expertise might tell me to the contrary. It has been an inspiring and revealing year for me as a young-30’s writer.

I got a degree in anthropology because I wanted to do archaeology. I got a job with a local archaeology firm before I graduated. I still work for that firm, and people still tell me there are no jobs in archaeology. When people ask if it’s full time and I say, “Not at the moment,” they often look smug, and I look smug right back, because here’s the thing: I never wanted to devote all my time and energy to one thing. The best way for me to go from loving something to being soul-crushingly bored by it is to do it all the time. Granted, archaeology has enough variety in itself that 40 hour weeks would definitely not be a problem. But I get to work in my chosen field with people I get along with, getting exercise and spending time in nature frequently as part of my job. My favorite pastime as a child was playing in dirt and finding stuff to put in my “museum” (i.e. playhouse).

The rest of my work week consists of researching and writing articles for the history website Clio, and doing freelance editing for other writers. Which makes for a nice triad of activities to keep me (1) paid and (2) interested in everything I’m doing. Physical work and research/writing for reports at Corn Island Archaeology, historic research and article writing for the Clio, and reading fiction and working through edits for my own business…it’s a good mix for me. It keeps me a little busier than I’d ever intended to be, and I work more than 40 hours a week, but I enjoy it all and I make a living! I get paid to do things I grew up doing for fun! What better way to adult??? Funny thing is, I still didn’t think of myself as a successful adult until my mother pointed this perspective out to me. (This is one of many reasons I am lucky my mom is also a writer and is awesome.)

Perhaps because I’ve learned to live in chaos and a perpetual state of having something I should be working on, I’ve rePerBastet_tallcatcently added to my agenda the role of Marketing Director for Per Bastet Publications, the house through which my own novel, The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn, is now published. Strangely, taking on more in this case has made me feel more driven to work on my own fiction, something I’ve let slide far too much this year. The more I think of what the press offers (so far, a number of excellent speculative fiction novels and collections of short stories!) the more I find myself wanting to write more stuff, wanting to actively work to share more of the ideas that bounce around in my head all the time with readers.

So, you might be wondering, what am I writing these days? I’ve got two projects in the fire at the moment, both of which I’m actively working on (most days), as my schedule allows. 1. A sequel to Erica Flynn, which I have around 20,000 words on and no title for yet. 2. A series of interconnected steampunk/cyberpunk short stories featuring Penelope and Puddingfoot in post-apocalyptic (no zombies) adventures across America (the first of which was published in the Circuits & Steam anthology). I’m working on the second story now, with a four-story plot arc lined up.

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The Pros of Cons

Last weekend, I attended the first annual Imaginarium Louisville – a convention for writers, readers, and cover artists.  This was easily the best-organized, friendliest, and best-programmed convention I’ve attended in the last 5 years or more.  And it wasn’t just the folks running the event who made it awesome.  I met some intensely creative, fun, and interesting people last weekend that I look forward to seeing at next year’s Imaginarium (if not at another event in the meantime!)  One of the things I’ve always appreciated about being around other writers is that 99% of all writers I’ve met are generous with advice, interested in everything, and respectful of others’ styles and ideas.

The only down side is, now I’m so fired up about writing AND I HAVE NO TIME TO DO IT!!!!!  School, much as I enjoy it, and work (lucky as I am to have two part-time jobs that I love) and all things related to school and work take up pretty much all of my time…and what little I have left is used on maintaining my sanity and doing things like, you know, sleeping, eating, and taking showers on a daily basis.  However, winter break will be here before I know it…  If I am never NOT insanely busy (and I hate being busy, so this is fairly likely), here are the things I want to work on:

1. The second edition of The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn, which will be released through Per Bastet Publications as soon as I finish proofreading it and writing the new “director’s cut” scene in the final 1/3 of the book.  This will hopefully happen in early October!

2. The second book of the trilogy (yes, I said trilogy), which is partially underway.

3. A full collection of post-apocalyptic short stories, all set in the same world as “She Who Dines on Heavenly Food,” my cyber/steam punk crossover starring Penelope & Puddingfoot.  And yes, I want to write a second Penelope & Puddingfoot story…I’ve already written the beginning.

4. Another book of speculative fiction short stories (which I haven’t started) based on pieces of Russian history.

Now, all I have to do is graduate…