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!

Author Interview: Jack Wallen’s Suicide Station Kindle Scout Campaign

Would you like to experience the godlike powers of a publisher, to choose whether to make an author’s heart sing or crush an author’s hopes and dreams? Well, Amazon’s Kindle Scout publishing lets you, the reader, do just that! My client and fellow author of genre-bending fiction, Jack Wallen, has submitted his novel Suicide Station to Kindle Scout, and you have until April 7th (if my math is correct) to read the preview excerpt and nominate the book, if you so choose, to be published. Oh, and nominators get a free e-copy if it goes to publication! “What kind of book is Suicide Station?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ve read it (and edited it) and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I can promise you it’s not quite your average romance! Here’s the blurb:

PROJECT_COVER_IMAGE_1._SX800_A romance with a twist of Grim Reaper.
The world of stand up comedy was too much for Foster Donovan. Leaving a note behind for his wife, he wrapped a noose around his neck, and changed his life by embracing death.Turns out, the after life was nothing like he’d expected. Those who’ve taken their own lives find themselves temporary residents of Suicide Station, where they receive counseling, friendship, and (for Foster) the prospect of love. Suicide Station is a paranormal romance with a twist even the Grim Reaper wouldn’t see coming.”
And now, without further ado, I give you an interview with the author himself, Jack Wallen!

 

SM: Suicide Station is pretty different than your other work. What sparked the idea for this book?

JW: Believe it or not, it was a nightmare that sparked the idea. I dreamed that I’d died and, in the dying, realized the worst part about it was that I’d never get to spend another second with my lovely wife. That led me to wonder what happens to love when we pass on. Not knowing if there is an “afterlife” or not, I decided to answer all the questions the nightmare brought up. There’s no better way for a writer to answer the big questions than to write about it. In the end, I realized that death was not the end of love.

SM: You’re a very versatile writer, with quite a few genres/subgenres under your belt. Was there anything about writing this book, branching out into paranormal romance, that was challenging for you? Or was the story just “there” and the genre was secondary?

JW: To me, genre is always secondary to telling a good story. If you consider reality, you’ll find the horrific in romance and romance in the horrific. I’ve always found books that set aside the multi-dimensionality of reality to be rather 2 dimensional. With regards to romance, it’s not all about steaming passion, abs, long legs, glistening skin, and the soft moans of seduction.

Pant, pant.

If we’re going to escape, let’s really escape from reality and twist the narrative to better match the landscape of our dreams…not our wishes. Dreams can be gritty, dirty, even ugly. That’s life.

To answer the other part of this question…this story really wrote itself. I think the imagery that so quickly developed (as I wrote) helped this story to flow out of me with incredible ease.

SM: Do you think you’ll write a sequel, or other books set in Suicide Station?

JW: Initially this was going to be a one-off. But shortly after I dove into that other-worldly realm of the Suicide Station, I knew this had to continue. This book barely scratches the surface of possibility for what I’ve created and I’ve no intention of letting it die. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this world as well as the characters within. I want to explore and develop the relationship between Foster and Candy and (especially) visit some of the other Stations.

SM: How did you go about setting up the world and the rules and workings of the afterlife?

JW: One of the best parts about being a writer of fiction is that we can toss aside the constructs of reality and forge our own worlds. Before going into this, I knew one thing and one thing only – that Foster Donovan would have to go through counseling in order to move on to his “Forever Station”. That was the original intent. I had no idea this would turn into a love story. The second I started writing this book, in my mind it quickly evolved into a sort of Tim Burton-esque world where anything was possible. So…I allowed anything to be possible.

I’ve always found it unfair that we writers expect readers to suspend their disbelief, when often we’re hesitant to do the same while writing. I pretty much suspended every ounce of disbelief I had for this one.

SM: As a book set in a sort of purgatory for suicide victims, this could have been a very depressing read, yet it’s actually very hopeful, sweet, and funny. How did you maintain the balance between tastefully addressing depression and suicide and keeping the book upbeat and romantic?

JW: Confession time. I’m a helpless romantic at heart. I truly believe in the human heart and the power of connection.

Suicide has such a stigma attached to it. For some, the challenges of existing are simply too much to bear. There’s always help to be had; and I highly recommend anyone flirting with suicidal thoughts to reach out for help. But being that helpless romantic, what I really wanted to address was that the power of love reaches beyond the veil of death. When we pass, people will remember us fondly; they’ll tell stories about us, smile and weep for the loss. To me, that is the afterlife…those memories. There’s a sweetness in that. I can pass from this mortal coil knowing my wife and my friends will smile when they think of me, that I will continue to bring them some form of joy.

So to me, it wasn’t so much about the act of ending one’s life, but of moving beyond that and dealing with whatever might come next. And underneath it all, it’s about knowing your own truth and that things can always work out.

SM: What was the most fun about writing this book?

JW: The interplay between Foster and Candy was so much fun. Considering what I usually write, I don’t often get the chance to make with the flirtations. This is one of the reasons why I also enjoy writing my steampunk series…because underlying all that heady stuff, there’s a sweetness to power it along.

Also, in this book, I found David David to be so much fun to play with. Not being a stoner, it was pleasure to dive into that skin and see how far I could take it.

SM: What’s next for Suicide Station?

JW: I have entered the book into the Kindle Scout program. Kindle Scout is a new program, started by Amazon, that puts the weight of Amazon promotions behind those books they’ve accepted for publication. What this means is that readers can go visit the Suicide Station campaign page, read the sample, and (if they think the book is worthy) nominate the book. Amazon takes into consideration how many nominations a book gets, how much traffic is directed to the book campaign, as well as the quality of the book and the ability of the author to promote the book.

Should Suicide Station win a contract, everyone that nominated the book will get a free ebook copy! Win-win!

SM: How can we find out more?

JW: I’ll be releasing blogs and videos so you can keep up with the progress of my Suicide Station campaign. Find out more on my website.

 

Now, go forth and READ!

Working for History

I’ve added to the mix of archaeology, editing, research, and writing I’m normally up to by getting a part-time job posting at The Clio, an online non-profit educational resource for historic research. (Read between the lines: it’s FREE to use). I’m writing about five entries a week, and having a blast finding out about historic places and cultural centers all over the country (so far I’ve mainly written about the DC, NYC, and Providence, RI areas). Here are links to some of my posts on The Clio:

New York City

Washington, D.C.

Providence, Rhode Island

Why I Decided to NaNo This Year

It’s November – National Novel Writing Month! This is the second (not consecutive) year I’ve participated. Given my experience the first year (2011) I wrote a NaNoWriMo draft, (I “won”, but the manuscript was a mess I haven’t been able to face cleaning up), I wasn’t sure how I felt about doing it again. And for four years, I was busy going back to college for a belated bachelor’s degree, so November was a lot less “novel” and a lot more “OMG, how am I going to write four papers and study for four tests in the next two weeks?!?!?!”

Why did I decide to try NaNo again?

1. I already had a book in my head – the sequel to The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn – and I’d already started working on it…including a skeletal idea of the plot and structure.

2. I’d promised myself after I graduated in May that I’d throw myself into my writing projects and finish a rough draft of this book by the end of the year. Well, here it is November, and I wasn’t anywhere close to being done with a first draft.

3. Four years for undergrad is the longest I’ve gone without writing on a semi-regular or constant basis. Ever. In my life. It was never just a habit with me – it was a good chunk of what defined my life, my time, and my sense of myself. While it’s been nice to find out that I’m good at being things other than a writer, it’s also been hard to face a blank page again. Or even a half-written page. Since NaNoWriMo sets a goal (50,000 words written by the end of the month) and breaks it down into a daily, bite-size chunk for me (1,667 words per day), it seems like a good way to bring the habit back, especially since you HAVE to break through the second-guessing stage and just get on a roll to churn out that kind of word count every day.

I made this clock about 5 years ago. Acrylics, playing cards, and clock kitYes, it’ll be nice to “win” NaNo. But the important thing for me is to get back to being a writer – by actively writing, by consciously thinking about my story, and by being in the mindset of writing in my head all the time, even when I’m driving or doing the dishes or listening to people talk while I’m waiting in line. And although I’ll be thrilled to have 50,000 words toward a working draft down by the end of the month, I know the work doesn’t stop there. For one thing, I’ll probably need closer to 60,000 words to finish this story up – but I can do that by the end of December, if I keep up the good habits I pick back up from NaNo. For another, a first draft is the easy part, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Knowing me, I’ll be another year on the rewrites, because I need time between drafts to get perspective before I look at my stories again. That’s my process, and it works for me.

Now, back to writing this draft……

I Refuse the Winter Blues

Sooooo, it’s November. And that means (1) October, my favorite month, is over, (2) Halloween, my favorite holiday (aside from my birthday) is over, and (3) those of us who live in very silly places such as Louisville, Kentucky, have, through some clumsy arrangement, probably owing to an ill-natured fairy, been subjected to the sadness of Daylight Savings Time, which means now it gets dark at, like, 6pm, and will be dark by about 4:30 by Winter Solstice. BUT! I refuse to submit to being miserable just because it’s going to be dark and cold and rainy and…well…miserable for the next 4-5 months.

So here is my list of things I love about winter, in case I forget the bright side of the dark season:

  1. Appreciating the fact that you have heat, light, and hot food to get you through the winter. It’s nice not to freeze your ass off with nothing but candlelight to read by!
  2. No chiggers, no ticks, no mosquitoes, and barely any spiders. In my line of work, this is especially joyous.
  3. I don’t have to worry about heat exhaustion in the field. Again, as an archaeology tech, this is a big bonus.
  4. Hot chocolate, hot cider, hot chai, hot tea, hot APPLE JACK (heat apple cider, add desired amount of whiskey). AND SEASONAL DARK BEERS ON TAP…someone pass me a bourbon barrel stout, please? Or an Old Rasputin?
  5. All the excuse I need to hunker down and read/write/build up my guitar chops/draw. Why do you think Russian literature and folk art are so amazing?
    IMG_1982IMG_1964IMG_1974IMG_1958
    Hand-carved bone picture frame, hand-carved wooden toy set, hand-carved wooden sculpture, hand-painted bracelet, all in the Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  6. I can take my chinchilla out to the park in her runabout ball, and she won’t overheat while she’s playing!
  7. Snuggling, space heaters, blankets, wool socks, sweaters, and the opportunity to wear an array of jackets. Plus, nobody gives a damn if your layers match or look good on you by February.
  8. Christmas cookies, pot roasts, and other comfort foods.
  9. Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you & your family and friends celebrate) and New Year’s and camaraderie.
  10. Striking winter landscapes, especially with snow on them.
    snow14ice
  11. Looking forward to spring again and planning your next garden.
  12. Watching the light come back after the solstice.
  13. Learning to appreciate sticky-hot weather you know is gonna come in the summer.

Back to the Blog

Hello, blog. I remember you from before my school-induced hiatus! Now that I’ve finished my degree, it’s time to dive back into the writing world with gusto. While I often felt uncomfortable with going for so long without writing fiction, I have to say that, now that classes are over (until/whenever grad school happens) I find myself with more story ideas than I’ve had at one time in years. My sneaky writer-brain has never, it seems, stopped working, even though I’ve mostly only been aware of my student-brain over the last four years. While student-brain was constructing research papers and analyses, writer-brain was hiding in the basement with a chemistry set and a maniacal laugh, getting weirder and weirder the longer it stayed down there in isolation with its experiments. At least, that’s how I explain to myself why I had a dream last week that I was a blue, antennaed, inter-dimensional spy working as a bus-boy at an airport in Russia, with some weird little girl singing a haunting tune following me around everywhere.

So what am I doing with myself now that I’ve graduated? Answer: (a) working as an archaeology field technician, (b) freelance editing, (c) starting to pick up the threads of a couple of writing projects (including a sequel to Erica Flynn), and (d) staring happily in to space, daydreaming, and listening to music, because I didn’t have time to do that for most of the last year.

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…

Upcoming Event: Imaginarium Convention

Friday, September 19 – Sunday, September 21 is Imaginarium Louisville! I will be there all three days (in the vendor room with copies of Erica Flynn!) and will also be speaking on the following writing panels:

Saturday 11am: Cover Lovin’ (cover art and first impressions)

Saturday 1pm: Sword & Sorcery Vs. Fantasy (the differences between)

Sunday 9am: Lone Hero Vs. Heroic Group (which works best?)

Sunday 11am: Into the Wastelands (post-apocalyptic fiction)

Sunday 1pm: Finding the End (how to end a story)

Sunday 2pm: Unconventional Fantasy (avoiding tropes & cliches)

For a full schedule of the convention programming & events, click here: