SDCC 2018!!

Yes, it did take me a week-and-a-half to recover from San Diego Comic-Con this year, why do you ask?? I’m only packing and deep-cleaning my house and taking care of two kids under three and I never go out anymore, much less three days in a row ahahaha anyway.

This was the best SDCC I’ve had in years. It was so low-key and relaxed. I only endured one long line (for The Good Place panel on Saturday, which was amaazeballs) and otherwise only committed to panels I could stroll up to half an hour beforehand. There were more authors this year, so I got a good dose of book content and signings, and my husband peeled off for his usual comics.

There was, of course, fab cosplay all around.

Frankly, the departure of major Disney properties (*sigh* goodbye Marvel and Star Wars) is kind of good for the SDCC vibe. There was no Hall H mania this year. I felt no desire to camp out, and I was shocked to discover on Saturday morning that there were still wristbands left for the big room. You’re telling me…nobody needed to camp?? I mean, they did, because you kind of do it for the perverse badge of honor and also to scramble for front-third seats. But you didn’t have to?? How the mighty Hall H has fallen.

Even though the major panel rooms weren’t soaking up thousands of extra bodies in line, the Exhibit Hall was not outrageously overcrowded as a result! (Another problem in previous years.) The external programming has expanded considerably, drawing bodies outside of the convention center. And, perhaps even more importantly… SDCC finally instituted an online raffle system for folks to win shopping time slots at the major toy booths!

This sounds convoluted but oh my goodness what a relief. The entire middle of the hall was usually impossible to squeeze through due to layer after layer of lines circling Funko, Hasbro, and UCC, and this eliminated them. It was always a gamble whether you managed to walk by at the exact moment they opened the line for a new chunk of bodies, so the element of chance was already there. The raffle just decided the chance in advance.

So! My accomplishments! I scored a signed arc of Robert Jackson Bennett’s new book, Foundryside, which I’ve been coveting for months. I bought Spinning Silver, the new Naomi Novik book, and also got it signed.

I went to some really fun book panels, including one on apocalyptic fiction with Emily Suvada, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Hand, and Scott Westerfeld, which was surprisingly funny and gave me a lot of food for thought. I also went to a fantasy panel just to see Nalo Hopkinson and was not disappointed. 😀 😀

nalo

Then Saturday was TV day, with the hilarious aforementioned The Good Place panel, and later Cosmos, which was also hilarious and thought-provoking and very, very tactful when discussing science in politics.

Outside the convention center we found a Good Place activation with flying shrimp carousel; a Shark Week shark; a Hulk hug photo op; and the original Ecto 1 ghostbusting car with grody jumpsuits to put on!

hulk hug

Oh, and of course: ALLLLLL THE BUTTON AND PIN SWAG!!! Including this sweet Out of Print library card pouch to keep my buttons safe while shopping. XD By the way, I waited half an hour in line for that San Diego exclusive Golden Girls pin, ahaha oh San Diego Comic-Con, you do drive us to do ridiculous things.

sdcc 2018 swag

sooo i’m also a sucker for cats and Star Trek and therefore Star Trek cats

Til next year!

convention center

pre-SDCC 2018!

It’s here, it’s here, San Diego Comic-Con is here!

July is second Christmas for San Diego, because July means all of downtown and a perplexing amount of not-downtown transforms into a pop culture wonderland for an all-too-brief and all-too-traffic-congested period of time.

SDCC programming alone overflows the convention center, the baseball stadium, multiple hotels, the public library, and a theatre. All of the nearby bars, restaurants, art galleries, and other businesses at least decorate for the occasion, if not put up displays and tie-in specials. The tallest buildings get covered in enormous advertisements for new shows. The buses and trolleys put on skins, plus SDCC runs an elaborate shuttle system all weekend to transport folks to Hotel Circle out in the valley. It’s…gloriously excessive.

The convention’s official attendance maxes out at about 130,000 due to fire code, but huge numbers of non-attendees also flock downtown, to people-watch, to sight-see, and to engage in the growing number of off-site attractions that are open to the public. Bye-bye parking lots, hello additional sitcom activation sites.

One year I was trying to sleep in an overnight line along the waterfront, and some girls laughed at us as they drunkenly departed a Youtube yacht party. Excuse me, there would not have been a yacht party if not for us doofuses sleeping on the concrete, thank you!

What I’m saying is, Comic-Con has something for everyone. Sometimes you end up sleeping against the wall of a park bathroom or in front of a haunted maze to see it, that’s all.

This year I’ve got some book panels on my itinerary, plus a couple of signings, off-site events, and my usual merchandising scavenger hunt. My button bag will soon be groaning with the weight of additional enamel pins.

Most of my panels should be fairly easy to get into (most of the impossible crush is reserved for movies and TV; books, comics, and the educational bits are more accessible). The only one we’re going to spend hours in line for this year is The Good Place on Saturday. I know the Indigo Ballroom well, and I believe our crack-of-dawn plan is sound. Wish us luck!! We also pre-registered for The Good Place off-site activity, which HAS BEEN SPOTTED IN THE WILD:

good place

GET ME SOME OF THAT YOGURT

I’ve got my badges. I’ve got my parking pass. I’ve got my button bag. I’ve got lunch supplies, a water bottle, suntan lotion, and reading material.

The only thing I don’t have is… ANYTHING GOOD TO WEAR!! X( I’m still shedding baby weight, so none of my costumes fit. I’ve got comfy shoes that don’t go with my clothes, or comfy clothes that don’t go with my shoes.

So I suppose I better run out to the store for better shoes! And my costumes shall wait at home, pining sadly for 2019.

received_10103638606784684

Next time, dear friends, next time

one year in the doldrums

Yikes, as of last Friday, I have been staying-at-home for ONE YEAR. Certain individual months took an eternity to pass, yet somehow the year zoomed by. My squalling infant is now climbing and crawling and aggressively hugging cats. My chatty toddler is even chattier and the size of a grown man, bless their tall dad genes.

UNTITLED

BEFORE and AFTER

In the past year I…had that second baby! Fed her approximately 2,000 times! Changed a comparable number of diapers! Made my first two professional short story sales! Saw the first one go live! Eagerly started chasing the third!

I edited my 2017 book! Then I spent a great deal of time making a query package for my 2016 book! Then I heavily edited my 2016 book again to tackle weaknesses made apparent by the query package! And I did it all with very little sleep!

Okay, so, after working for two years when my first child was tiny, and staying home for a year after my second, I conclude: BOTH WAYS ARE HARD AND I HAVE NO PATIENCE FOR ANYONE DISMISSING EITHER PARENTING MODE AS EASIER. Same for “natural” birth versus C-section. I am here to tell you I have done both and THERE IS NO EASY WAY OUT.

I suspect there is a grass-is-greener tendency to pine after the good bits on the other side and ignore the bad bits. When I was working, my day ran 6am to 8pm with minimal breaks, my attention was fractured by multiple Sam modes, and I felt a lot of guilt for not seeing my kid enough. Once I was home, my day ran 6am to 8pm with minimal breaks, I became painfully cabin-feverishly bored by NOT having multiple Sam modes, and I felt a lot of guilt for not contributing to the finances the way I had before.

When I was working, I could actually relax a bit and take bathroom breaks by myself, I got positive reinforcement from grateful library patrons and colleagues, and there was so much quiet. Now that I’m home, I don’t have to put on customer service face after a sleepless night, I don’t even have to get out of my pajamas if I don’t want to, and I get to sprawl on my own couch during nap time.

This is obviously based on me having had a convenient morning day job that I enjoyed, and two fairly well-behaved kids that I also enjoy. If I had good kids and was still in the hellscape of retail shift work, I’d have fled to the home life as soon as financially possible. If I’d had a lucrative ladder-climbing career and colicky nightmare babies I’d have guiltily but steadfastly clung to the job longer.

I’m supremely lucky that after a couple years of scrimping we could afford to make this arrangement work. Most folks don’t have the option of weighing pros and cons, they just…do what they have to do. Sometimes you can’t afford to leave work–or, even more perversely, sometimes you can’t afford TO work because of childcare costs. Either way you’re penned in by circumstances, and that can be grueling.

So in conclusion again: everyone does what they need to do, if they’re lucky they get some choice in the matter, and everyone else just mind ya bizness and resist the backhanded compliments. You know the ones. “Ah ha, that must be nice [getting away to work / getting to stay home all day].” Yeah I see you.

Now. We’ll see how my opinion shifts when we enter…The School Years!

17 years

Is there a MeToo for school shootings? Because ours happened seventeen years ago, and I’m grappling with it in a very different way today than I did at the time.

Yesterday I took my kids to a birthday party. Then I spent all afternoon on the verge of tears looking up photos and statements about the March For Our Lives events all over the country, millions of people supporting the high school students who pushed this miserable debate into high gear.

I had an opportunity to join the march here but couldn’t finagle the time constraint to get to my other obligation (I’m sorry laaadiiiiies). The scheduling woe was real, but if I’m being absolutely honest, I also leaned into the problem as an excuse to chicken out of a high-emotion atmosphere. If Twitter could bring me to tears, going in person was gonna be a mess.

I should have just let myself be a mess.

Our school shooting happened in the early days of this nightmare, 2001, when it genuinely seemed (to us, at least) to be a fluke tragedy. Something wild and unpredictable and how-could-it-happen, but rare, at least. With two dead and thirteen wounded, for a little while we were called the second-worst to Columbine, and wow have those numbers become commonplace. Hardly even newsworthy.

Our shooter (I won’t even bother naming him, let’s just say Some Piece of Shit) ran with a group of bullies, so the media latched on to the theory that he was being bullied by them. But, uh, according to my classmates he ran with bullies because he was a little bully himself. Next theory, plz. (The Columbine shooters weren’t bullied either…but that story was bought into so heavily it has shaped twenty years of rhetoric on this.)

We didn’t do anything about it except try to move on. The adults were supposed to take care of it. Now we’re the adults, and we’re still not taking care of it. So oh my god, these kids are so brave. They weren’t even born when this started. This fear has been hanging over their heads their entire lives. And they’re right to be furious.

My feelings have always been a muddle. I was lucky–didn’t see anything, didn’t know anybody, though I would eventually see the toll it took on my friends who did. I was in a classroom on the opposite side of campus at the time, stayed in there during the lockdown, and evacuated via a route that prevented us from seeing where it happened.

I remember being very calm during the evacuation. They led us to a massive grocery store parking lot across the street, where the lines all immediately lost structure, and everyone bolted to search for their friends, and parents started showing up. I found my bestie pretty quick, but it took forever to find my older sister. I was just starting to panic when we spotted each other. That is my clearest memory of the whole thing.

I barely remember the aftermath, on the other hand, and that is just bizarre. Kids started getting cell phones (this was 2001, babyyy, teens didn’t automatically have them yet). They had us do weird art projects to express our feelings. We got a therapist on campus and a permanently stationed deputy (I interviewed him for the school newspaper, dweeb that I was).

But otherwise: big blank. I know there must have been huge amounts of emotion permeating the school, but either I walled it off at the time or I’ve walled it off since then. I do remember thinking I should reach out, friendship-wise, to a boy in my class who had been directly affected. We did eventually become friends, mostly because some of our friends became friends and our groups merged. Ten years later we got married. So add one more convoluted layer to this mess, because despite not touching me at all, this incident subtly shaped the course of my life anyway.

I’m always hesitant to mention it, because it never felt like my experience. It wasn’t “my” shooting. It was a Thing That Happened in my vicinity, a thing that hurt other people so badly it seems ghoulish or disingenuous to make any kind of emotional claim to it. It’s a disorienting mindset. I might never untangle it.

I didn’t even realize I had any remaining deep-seated feelings until I had babies, and now every news story has me reeling. I imagine my kids there, and I imagine myself driving like a maniac to reach the school like my mom did, and I break out in a cold sweat. I don’t want them to grow up with this fear. I cannot comprehend the mindset of people who think it’s worth the risk to keep their arsenals. I could rant all day about how there’s no such thing as responsible ownership.

I don’t have a good ending for this blog post. I just felt compelled to write something down. I’m mad that this is still part of the tapestry of our lives. No, I’m furious.

papa lindsey strikes again

I’ve mentioned Papa Lindsey before: the demented handyman haunting our property. He keeps tabs on what we’re doing through his army of spiders. No matter what we do, there are daddy long-legs on the ceiling, black widows in the sheds, some enormous hideous monstrosity we call Aragog in the mailbox. Clearly they are all reporting back to Papa Lindsey, warning him when we decide to replace one of his precious power outlets or mismatched light bulbs.

But it turns out, the spiders might be protectors more than spies.

It turns out, Papa Lindsey was worried about worse problems than the sufficient proliferation of power outlets. Perhaps my home is a sort of Southern Californian Winchester House, and Papa Lindsey had to keep hand-building crummy additions to keep other ghosts at bay.

shack

Seriously, this hell shack was going to be your un-permitted laundry room?

This month we finally took action on a crack in the foundation beneath our dining room (these tears I’m shedding are made of dollar bills). The entire room was carpeted when we moved in, so if the damage was already there, we missed it in the home inspection.

Upon peeling back the carpet, we discovered THIS in the concrete where the dining room was added to the main house:

house

“As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”

EXCUSE ME? This is far too insistent. Was my house the site of a religious cult? Or was this the work of a pious handyman trying to expel demons?

Upon seeing the ominous inscription, it occurred to me that when we first moved in, there were nails driven into the walls above the windows and doors. Is it possible that these were not the World’s Worst Curtain Fixtures, but in fact iron spikes intended to repel faerie creatures??

Before you accuse me of overreacting, consider this:

Within days of demolishing this piece of concrete and its aggressively protective carving, my sister broke out in all-body hives, my husband threw out his back, and my toddler dislocated his elbow.

DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS.

childhood bucket list

Previously I’ve written about matters of vital importance, those things that children take extremely seriously–you know, things like quicksand, favorite colors, and how to stop, drop, and roll.

Well, my childhood obsessions did not end there. I read books like crazy, including a bunch of monthly series like The Baby-Sitter’s Club. I also consumed enormous quantities of television (Thank Goodness It’s Friday!).

Long-running series tend to recycle scenarios, so the more you read/watch the more you begin to believe these scenarios are common occurrences. Well, maybe you don’t, but Baby Sam sure did. I was convinced that, at any moment, the following situations waited right around the corner.

And I aimed to be prepared.

Without further ado:

THINGS MY CHILDHOOD MEDIA CONVINCED ME I WOULD HAVE DONE BY NOW

More extremely specific first aid

In addition to previously mentioned catastrophes such as getting a pencil in your eye or catching on fire, Baby Sam was also convinced that people choke on large pieces of food practically every week, and therefore I must be prepared to do the Heimlich Maneuver. Did I have professional training? No. Did I have any practice? No. But I watched Mrs. Doubtfire a bunch of times so I was definitely ready to step up to the plate.

It was also extremely important that I know how to splint a broken leg or apply a tourniquet (I didn’t say all of my books and television were aimed at children). Also, I was vaguely aware that I should keep candy bars around at all times, just in case a diabetic person had a dangerous sugar drop. You can thank The Baby-Sitters Club for that one.

Survive on my own in the woods

Is every child obsessed with children-surviving-the-wilderness narratives? Island of the Blue Dolphins! Hatchet and it’s even shittier sequel, The River! My Side of the Mountain! The Swiss Family Robinson! Even Stephen King wrote one: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. She was really into baseball. And she had to fight a bear.

These books taught me that, despite the fact that I never left my quiet suburban neighborhood, I might, without warning, be stranded in the woods, on an island, or even on a distant mountain. In order to survive this scenario that was definitely going to happen one day, I needed to know how to start a fire with sticks, how to account for light refraction when spear fishing, how to build a shelter, and of course, how to splint a broken leg.

Nurse a baby bird back to health

According to my childhood media, everywhere you looked there were baby birds straight up dropping from trees. When this definitely happened to me one day, it was going to be impossible to simply return the baby bird to its nest. Either its mother was dead, or its mother would cruelly reject it for smelling like asphalt. I was going to have to build a nest in a box and feed it worms until it was big enough to fly away. And then, obviously, it would be my friend, because imprinting.

Call 9-1-1

Okay, this one is a little more feasible and I suppose I have been involved in a couple of 9-1-1 calls over the years. However, my real calls have been stressful welfare-check situations, and not the cool, dramatic, dare I say heroic 9-1-1 calls of my imagination. Nobody ever got trapped in a well, or a basement (we don’t even have basements in earthquake country), or broke a leg (in which case, obviously, you should devise your own splint instead of waiting for paramedics).

What a disappointment.

Win something at a carnival

Clearly, every kid in the country had fall festivals and traveling circuses and holiday carnivals EXCEPT ME. There would be hay rides and elephants and big top tents and also apple picking and also a freak show and an aisle of barkers exhorting you to throw horseshoes or something (I was confused and these were all one massive combo community event). In retrospect, these all totally existed and my parents just never took me, because they knew the truth: carnivals are money pits of ride tickets and game tokens, and you’re never going to win anything because the carnies have rigged the games.

HOWEVER. I’d have liked the chance to try!!

Sneak into a haunted house

Where the hell are the haunted houses, I ask you? Where is that one house that everyone in the neighborhood knows was a total murder house, and now nobody will buy it, so it is slowly moldering away, covered in creeping vines and padlocks, except that there’s a broken window in the back and the sociopaths in your best friend gang won’t respect you unless you sneak inside and bring back a token to prove you did it, except the token is also haunted so now you’re totally haunted.

Where is it?

Snow day

Winter was supposed to mean snow. Snowballs, snow angels, snowmen (snowwomen), sledding, Christmas cheer, snow shovels and snowplows, mittens that you attach to your coat, hats with ear flaps, rosy cheeks, diabetic babysitters trapped in cars during blizzards and desperately in need of a candy bar.

But Baby Sam, you grew up in San Diego. Not the mountainous bit. The bit bordering the desert. We don’t even get snow.

What an uneventful childhood.

hello 2018

Well, well, well. It’s the year two thousand eighteen, and everything surrounding my life is chaos, but everything IN my life is beginning to take shape. I’m fretting for my country and I’ll probably gnaw my arms off come November, but as far as personal goals go I’m feeling pretty good!

I don’t want to make compleeeetely  outlandish New Year’s resolutions, but I do want to challenge myself. I’m feeling UNREALISTICALLY OPTIMISTIC right now, because, you guys… MY BABY SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT FOR THE FIRST TIME! Okay, I had to pat her down once, but I didn’t pick her up, and that practically feels like sleep.

This slight amount of extra energy has me bouncing off the walls. I did yard work! I made banana bread! I promptly had a caffeine crash because I attempted too much, too fast! Work hard, play hard, collapse hard! That’s the samtastic way!

So bear all of this in mind as I lay out my goals for the year.

LIFE

My boy will be turning 3 and my girl will be turning 1, so fill in all the appropriate milestones and setbacks you’d expect me to be engaging with this year. Scurry off to my Twitter account for the self-deprecating jokes that mask my tears!

Goal: Survive.

Mr. Sam and I also have a very vague goal of tentatively beginning to maybe look for a Settle Down House in 2019, which means 2018 needs to be the year of Fixing All the Dumb Little Things That Were Wrong When *We* Bought This Place. Goodbye, savings account.

READING

Nothing fancy here. I want to hit my usual book-a-week , but I’m not going to go wild trying to outstrip that because of the other pulls on my free time. I do want to read more strategically though, because those 52 selections seem to whiz by and leave me wailing at my TBR pile. Goal: Read more SFF new releases and finish the series I started over the last couple of years for goodness’ sake.

Additional goal: Read more short fiction! This year I really committed to reading SFF magazines and I did not regret it. So! Much! Good! Stuff!

WRITING

This is where I go overboard, fail to meet my goals, and rend my garments/gnash my teeth/shake people by the shoulders yelling, “I could have done so much more!”

So let’s be reasonable, Sam.

Goal: Finish editing my 2017 book. It should have been done by now but OH WELL, instead it ought to be done by the end of January, which isn’t the worst.

Goal: Write my 2018 book. Not too crazy, I do tend to finish a book each year. And if I stick with the one I was planning to do next, it should fall more in the 80K range than the 100K range because it’s a more literary kind of fantasy.

Goal: Put at least two more short stories on submission. I won’t make publication the goal, because that isn’t in my control and in that direction lurks self-recrimination. So I’ll make submission the goal, with publication being the obvious desire.

Goal: Put my 2016 book on submission! Ahhh! This is what I was supposed to do in 2017, but ah, life. The extra year gave me excellent time to research, reflect, and refine my approach. Again, I’ll make submission itself the goal and if all else fails I can be proud of the effort, then take everything I learned and apply it to the next book.

Or, you know, it could happen??

So there you have it. I have other intentions as well (join a writing group! spring cleaning! family activities! holiday plans!) but these are my core 2018 wishes and wants.

Wish me luck!

Nay!

Wish me persistence!