SDCC 2019!

Every year I intend to tweet more from San Diego Comic-Con and every year I just get absorbed in what I’m doing and forget about it. So here is my annual round-up!

This year my husband and I nabbed Thursday/Friday/Saturday badges. I did not have the energy I usually do. My feet hurt! My back hurt! I kept getting air conditioning headaches from the weird hotel room lighting! Is this my mid-30s acting up??

On Thursday I hit a fun Tor authors panel with my sisters, then met my husband downstairs and poked around the exhibit floor a bit. There are always excellent photo opportunities, of course, and this year I saw a marked uptick of videos/gifs and motion posters as well!

gif of sam riding a mariokart car

ITSA ME BITCH

Here I am very determined to seek justice after my friend, the Pink Ranger, was beheaded:

sam's head on power ranger cardboard cutout

Alas, poor Kimberly, I knew you well

I spent the rest of the afternoon in panels. I was DETERMINED to make it into the Farscape 20th Anniversary panel at 3pm, so naturally I insisted we get in line at noon. BECAUSE THIS IS SDCC BABY! Over the next half hour, the line ballooned behind us and extended outside the building, so I think I made the right choice.

Hubby and I got into the room at 1pm, and sat through two panels before mine. First, a Stargate: Atlantis 15th Anniversary panel (fun! I haven’t watched that one, but hubby is a major SG-1 fan, and the panelists were entertaining). Then a panel on the crowd-funded movie studio Legion M, which was… fine. I’m looking forward to a new documentary on Alien coming out later this year.

And then! Finally! Farscape!!! Claudia Black had to drop out, which was very disappointing (oh no, my faaaaave), but Ben Browder and Gigi Edgley were there, as well as Brian Henson and Rockne S. O’Bannon. There were a lot of fun set anecdotes, a great sizzle reel, and hints that the show might be coming back to life!

actors ben browder and gigi edgley in front of audience

AYYIIIIIII!

On Friday we tackled some of the outdoor entertainment. This year’s FX lawn was pretty great. We got there first thing in the morning and got immediate time slots for both activations we wanted to try: the What We Do in the Shadows vampire house, and an American Horror Story haunted cabin.

sam posed in front of painted vampire bat wings

BAT FIGHT

panorama of interior of vampire house

There were several vampires present but they do not show on camera

gif of sam transforming into a vampire

LEAVE ME TO DO MY DARK BIDDING ON THE INTERNET

American Horror Story didn’t let us take any photos inside the haunted house (naturally) but did make us acknowledge an intense waiver forgiving them for quite a list of potential threats:

list of warnings including being struck, wet, attacked by other attendees

Am I about to be punched in the face?

We then made further rounds on the exhibit floor and I bought some exclusive pins I’d had my eye on. We even found a secret mezzanine level that I’d somehow never been to over the last seven years. It had a nice view out over the floor!

overhead view of exhibit floor packed with people and booths

And that’s only one little slice of it, eek!

On Saturday we had one main goal: get into the final panel for The Good Place. It was our favorite panel last year, and we wanted to see everyone one last time before the show ends. ;_; It was hilarious as usual, with many tearjerker moments. I dressed up as Good Janet and my husband dressed up as Shawn, and there were SO MANY EXCELLENT COSPLAYERS. We did some group photos in the aisle. Um, Good/Bad Janet combo?! TINY BABY MICHAEL??

large group photo of attendees dressed as Good Place characters

Photo by @leleana on Twitter! (shared with permission)

Ahhhh, good times.

All in all, it was a mellow year. Fun, but nothing outrageous. A low-stress SDCC? I’ll take it!

Mrs. Cat gets away from it all

Mrs. Cat has been pretty busy since her adventures with moving and couch-surfing last year, and she sorely needed a break from endless New House fixer-uppering and painting with small children underfoot and learning how to network in a brand new field after decades of toiling secretly behind a computer screen at home.

My friends, Mrs. Cat needed a vacation.

Cue: the third annual Book Club Getaway Weekend!!

I’ve met up at least once a month with the same glorious set of reading-and-drinking-loving ladies for the last seven-and-a-half years. Most of us mostly read every book! But mostly we like to hang out, so our activities quickly expanded to numerous book club field trips, including an annual Friends of Book Club croquet match, boating, painting–

And now a mountain cabin retreat. I missed the first year because I was nearly nine months pregnant. I went last year, but brought my breastfeeding infant, so it was a ton of fun but not exactly a retreat.

This year, however! Oh, this year is on in full force! There are trees! There is a hot tub! There is a basement game room!

And Mrs. Cat is having a lovely time.

mrs cat in mountains

Mrs. Cat enjoys the view from our deck

mrs. cat in living room of mountain cabin

Mrs. Cat especially enjoys reading in the great room

mrs. cat in a hot tub

And the hot tub is especially pleasant after dark!

All in all, this has been a much-needed break, and I even managed to force myself not to do any work (other than a couple of emails and this blog post, of course, but email is an immovable force of nature, it Must Be Done).

Now I have breakfast waiting for me, and a couple of hours of quiet reading before the drive home. Farewell from the mountains, and see you on the other side!

mrs cat on a shuffleboard table

 

samtastic reads january-april 2019

Back in January I started a reading hashtag on Twitter (#samtasticreads), to keep track of some of the books, short stories, and other works I come across throughout the year. And it just now occurred to me I should collect those onto the blog as well! Then perhaps I will be more organized by nominating season next time, though this first batch contains a lot of 2018 I was hastily catching up on. >_>

I seem to have heavily emphasized short stories and nonfiction so far this year? Well, that has got to change! OFF TO THE SFF NOVEL TBR PILE!

NOVELLAS

Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield – A time-traveling highwaywoman! A war over how to redirect History! The sequel just came out in November, so I’ll be snapping that up soon.

Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor – I finally finished the Binti novellas, and greatly enjoyed this weird little ride.

NOVELETTES

“Murders Fell From Our Wombs” by Tlotlo Tsamaase in Apex Magazine – weird and dark in the best way

“The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births” by Jose Pablo Iriarte in Lightspeed Magazine – Murder and reincarnation and comeuppance!

SHORT STORIES

“The Deepest Notes of the Harp and Drum” by Marissa Lingen in Beneath Ceaseless Skies – A quiet, gorgeously written tale of guilt and repentance, and I am 100% always obsessed with guilt and repentance.

“Give the Family My Love” by A.T. Greenblatt in Clarkesworld – A uniquely narrated and surprisingly hopeful look at a seemingly hopeless future. I loled at some archivist humor.

“Rust and Bone” by Mary Robinette Kowal in Shimmer – A lovely story 100% tailored to my love of complex multigenerational female relationships. Moms and grandmas all day, okay!

“Your Mama’s Adventures in Parenting” by Mary Robinette Kowal in Shimmer – Yep, an older one, because Shimmer has a dastardly “see more like this” feature and I went down a rabbit-hole.

“Due By the End of the Week” by Brandon O’Brien in Fireside – This one starts off as a super cute superhero story and then ALSO becomes an entertaining unreliable narrator story. Both!

“The Blanched Bones, the Tyrant Wind” by Karen Osborne in Fireside – Short, lyrical, and a perfect *finger kiss* of an ending. I do love me a twist on a good dragon story.

“Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?” by Matt Dovey in Diabolical Plots – This is exactly what it says in the title, a raunchy send-up of my least favorite type of clickbait!

“Boiled Bones and Black Eggs” by Nghi Vo in Beneath Ceaseless Skies – This one, about the owner of an inn that serves the living and dead and is trying to get rid of a difficult customer, made me HUNGRY. Seriously, great writing, fun plot, delicious descriptions. Muah!

NONFICTION

Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig – Insightful and entertaining, with an emphasis on good storytelling over plot templates. Also: so readable! Too many writing guides read like textbooks, which makes me question the advice. This one was damn fine.

Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin – This is another writing book that is actually imbued with its own techniques, so you can actually feel its advice at work as you read it.

Meaty by Samantha Irby – A collection of essays about the author’s messy childhood, messy adulthood, and even messier struggles with Crohn’s disease. I spent most of it giggling, and some of it CRYING, so I have to rec anything that makes me do both.

Agorafabulous! Dispatches from My Bedroom by Sara Benincasa – A startlingly funny memoir about struggling with agoraphobia. And, uh, I felt the Catholic guilt on a cellular level.

The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee – A really harrowing and illuminating autobiography about exactly what it says on the tin. I was on the verge of stress tears throughout, especially when she went back for her mother and brother. ;_;

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou – Um I powered through this in two days for my book club, and WHAT and WHY and HOW?! This account of a billion-dollar company peddling a blood testing gadget that NEVER ACTUALLY WORKED, hoodwinking major donors and retailers along the way, is a wild ride from start to finish.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Bitch Planet v. 2 President Bitch – The series is beginning to pick up steam, and, dare I say it, are we finally about to take over Bitch Planet??

Lumberjanes v. 3 A Terrible Plan – Yeah it’s for children but I’m saving them up for MY children, because this series is adorable and excellent.

a week in the life

This past week has been a bit of a roller coaster.

I sold a short story to Escape Pod. Woo!

My husband had to work 24 hours of overtime and the kids get wildly insecure when he’s missing. Boooo.

I was solicited for a super cool reprint anthology. Woo!!

I’m sick for no good reason. Boooo.

The medicine is giving me hilariously neon orange urine. Lol woo??

Today is the 18th anniversary of my high school shooting. Boooo, booo, extra boooo.

I’m feeling… contemplative. I wrote about my weird lingering feelings last year, so I won’t rehash that. But my kids are approaching school age, and I’ve been trying not to think about how that will make me feel. My older sister only sends her kids in twice a week and home schools the rest of the time. Another sister, my mother, and both my sisters-in-law work in schools, plus yet another sister and four more nieces/nephews are in elementary.

The dissonance of knowing what can happen and actively just pretending it won’t ever touch our lives again is very real. It comes up once a year, when my community collectively says, “oh man, has it been X years already?” And that’s not even accounting for, you know, every other public space in America. That’s not even mentioning how we wave hello to the police snipers positioned above Comic-Con every year, or Pride. It’s not including the fact that I attended active shooter training at my last job because I worked in *gasp* a museum in a large public park.

I’m mad. I can’t understand why you wouldn’t be.

brief surface from the novella pit

Eek, yes, I have vanished from the blog this month, but for a good cause! I’ve had a book idea noodling around since 2015, and every time I’m ready to start a new project I dust it off, get 30 pages in, and decide it isn’t substantial enough for a fantasy novel.

And then I realized: nov…ella??

So I’m finally doing it! I’m drafting this damn thing come hell or high water (lol I’m in Southern California it’s not gonna be the latter) and then I am going to let the rough draft sit for a while so I can tackle my real goal: THE TWENTY-NINETEEN BOOK.

And yeah, it’s deeefinitely going to need to sit for a while, because I’ve got four years’ worth of hodgepodge ideas crammed into this draft. And YET AGAIN, I have attempted to write a large story that transformed before my eyes into a small, personal story. Will it ever find a home? I’m not sure. But it’ll be out of my head, and that’s worth a couple months of work.

I’m 20,000 words in, with probably about 5,000 to go! It’s really happening this time! And this is a weird length to work in, I’m not gonna lie. It’s feels like a too-long short story, or a too-short book, my opinion flip-flops every day and I can’t tell if I’m being verbose or shallow or what.

By this time next month, I’ll be knee-deep in my comfort zone: extensive worldbuilding for a 100K word book that will never touch on most of that world!

strange waters longlisted for bsfa awards!

Exactly what it says on the tin! “Strange Waters” has been nominated for one of the British Science Fiction Association’s annual fiction awards. You can find the full list here. This month, members of the organization will vote to narrow the long list down to a final ballot, so for the short fiction category 44 stories will be reduced to 5 or 6.

Frankly, I’m so dazzled at being long listed for anything, I’m not even considering the possibility of making a ballot. XD But man, you never know, right??

It’s award season all over the place, and I’m a clueless baby so I only just realized I’m also eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for best new SFF writer in the field. Thank goodness there are two years of eligibility, because my pro sales in 2018 kind of took me by surprise and I didn’t plan ahead AT ALL regarding self-promotion and the like.

Have I mentioned how scary promo is? Because my quasi-Italian fear of malocchio is kicking in hard. I shared one happy post on Twitter about making the BSFA list and promptly received two short story rejections and lost a morning’s worth of writing by shutting Word down incorrectly. And then instead of telling me I’m being superstitious, my mom said it was my fault for not making the sign of the horns and assuring the universe I was celebrating, not bragging.

*siiiiigh*

This is a weird career I’m trying to jumpstart, you guys.

 

[P.S. j/k j/k I love you mom]

2018 holidays: CONQUERED

I’ve done it! I survived the 2018 Holidays! Oh, it was not easy this year, my friends. After moving the week of Thanksgiving, everything afterward was a long, chaotic flume ride through Christmas Day.

Because of the chaos, I’m lumping everything into one post this year. Mea culpa!

About a week after Thanksgiving we hastily threw Christmas decorations around. I’ve got an actual mantle now! Too bad I couldn’t hang the stockings till Christmas Eve cuz my baby is tall as hell and wanted to rip it all down…

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Er, the weird glow is Christmas tree lights, sorry…

Our tree is still pathetically weak on dork ornaments (though I got some good ones as gifts to put out next year). MOST IMPORTANTLY: My traditional facehugger and chestburster decorations were at long last joined by Ripley in a power-loader. Hallmark…. Hallmark you done good, she’s amazing, I love her, there will never be a finer figure upon my tree. :’)

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Get away from her, you–!

I somehow managed to squeeze in a day of cookie making. I only made four varieties this year (maple cream sandwiches; cherry/orange; oatmeal coconut raisin; and tollhouse cookie bars) but it was more than enough for parties and workplaces.

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Santa sternly questioning my decisions

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Santa sternly approving of the leftovers

And I managed to set aside ANOTHER day to make my 2018 Christmas card, which I once again RECKLESSLY designed with a cutout on the front. Meaning, I had to cut out 40 Sauron Santas, paste on 40 Sauron Santas, paste in 40 insert photos, write out 40 greetings, write out 40 signatures, fill out 40 envelopes…. one of these days I’ll learn my lesson.

But, what was that first thing? Sauron Santa, you say?

EXTERIOR

DSCN2132

INTERIOR

card insert

Previous cards:
2012-2013
2014
2015-2016
2017

Many forces conspired to sabotage my actual family Christmas party (car breakdowns! flus! earaches! miscommunications re: RSVPs!) but it all came together, albeit with one sister having to Skype in. And because this is Southern California and it doesn’t get cold till January, we got to eat out on the deck, and then bundle up inside for a truly raucous and foul round of Loaded Questions. Whether you were there or not: you got roasted. As it should be.

MUCH LOVE FROM HILL HOUSE! And so long 2018, you certainly were…a year.

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