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Comicpalooza 2015 (Houston)

I'll be at Comicpalooza this weekend. It's been a while since I've been in Houston. It'll be nice to see the old city. If you plan to be there, it'd be great to see you!

Here are my panels:

Friday 1-2pm
Discussing Dystopias: Fiction and Film (SF)
What is it about the dreary futures of works such as The Hunger Games; Divergent and The Handmaid's Tale that captures our imagination? Come join the discussion on the popularity of dystopian novels and films.
Rebecca Schwarz (M), Stina Leicht, D.L. Young, P. J. Hoover, Mari Mancusi, and Raymond E. Feist

Saturday 4-5
Want To See Something Really Scary?
Learn about watching and writing horror comics; films and stories. What works and what does not? Review trends in the horror genre. What should you be reading and watching?
Dicey Grenor (M), Stina Leicht, Naveen Ramineni, Leo King, and Alan Cerny

Sunday 11:30am-12:30pm
The Good Habits of Good Writers
The panelists will focus on lessons learned on their journey. We will learn what writers wish they knew when starting as novice writers and what advice did and did not work for them over time. We will also discover how these authors have incorporated these habits into their lives.
Dominick D'Aunno (M), Stina Leicht, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Pamela Fagan Hutchins, Leo King

Sunday 1-2pm
Multiculturalism in Science Fiction and Fantasy
How important is multiculturalism in the science fiction and fantasy of books; gaming; TV and movies? Are we seeing enough positive multicultural role models or too many negative stereotypes?
Dicey Grenor (M), Stina Leicht, Steve Bein, Rachael Acks, Rose Garcia, Ammar Habib

Monday 2:30-3:30pm
Gender in Fantasy Fiction
What role does fantasy literature have in promoting gender equality and breaking gender-based stereotypes? Have fantasy writers of books; television and films done too little or too much? And how has fantasy's portrayal of gender changed over time?
Tex Thompson (M), Stina Leicht, Maeve Alpin, Paige E. Ewing

Monday 4-5pm
Game of Thrones and Epic Fantasy
The HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has enjoyed tremendous success. Has the popularity of Game of Thrones revived interest in epic fantasy novels? And what authors should GoT fans read to get their post-Westeros fix?
Marshall Ryan Maresca (M), Stina Leicht, Clancy Nacht, Tex Thompson
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Don't Be A Hack

It turns out that if you go on a loooong adventure there's not as much time to write as you'd think. [pause] Or I'd think--probably not you. You've a sense of time. (Me? Not so much when in book-mode.) Anyway, new deadlines are in place for Blackthorne, book two of the Malorum Gates series. And hey, I'm busy making with the new words.[1] I'm not going to waste time feeling guilty.[2] Stories happen at the pace in which they happen. Rushing doesn't help. I know. I've forced myself to end novels in a hurry and you (the reader) can always tell when I do. That's one of the things I have trouble with, btw. All the rush, rush, rush to get books out.[3] I keep feeling as if (first) the author isn't given the time to take care and craft their writing to the level it should be and (second) readers don't actually have the time to give any thought to what they read. Maybe it's because I'm a slow reader? I watch my husband read blazingly fast (a book in one day) and I know his comprehension suffers. He's my alpha reader. Trust me, when he's reading my work with intent to give feedback he reads much, much slower. Of course, Dane re-reads the novels he zips through--over and over--because he honestly loves them, and he enjoys discovering new things he missed the first time. Hell, I do this, and I don't read fast. I feel that's a big part of being a reader. Therefore, I've no complaint, but I wonder how many readers do this? Don't get me wrong. "I couldn't put it down." is the best compliment, ever. But after spending years of your life working on something, the relationship starts to feel like this:


I know that isn't how it is at all. It's just my perception, sometimes, because American culture is sooooo focused on consumption.[4] It's also me, settling into the fact that I will never be one of those writers that can whip out six novels in a year.[5] There's nothing wrong with that. I have to remember that, regardless of the pressure. The point is to write something worth reading. Everyone has different goals for their career. I want to write fun, literary SFF, and the truth is... that takes time. It also takes experiences to fuel the words. Travel is important, I think. It's hard to write a convincingly foreign secondary world when you've never been outside of your own backyard. It can be done, but it isn't easy. Anyway, part of the chat I had with Ellen had to do with this very subject. She told me that when she started out as a writer and was lamenting on how slowly she wrote, her mentor, Tom Stoppard, told her, "Don't be a hack." Ultimately, anyone can be a hack. It takes time to make art. I have to say, I agree. So, I'm owning it. I'll be as efficient as I can...but stories need time to stew in my brain. It's just how my brain brains. The layers don't just happen the first time I type them out. I rewrite quite a bit. That's how the layers get in there. I have to be careful, or I miss stuff. Did I mention "meticulous" is my middle name? Of course, I'm trying not to be so rigid with Malorum Gates. Which is the other part of Ellen's advice is so important. "Have fun!" And I will.

Oh, and don't feel guilty if you're a fast reader or even a fast writer. That's wonderful. I actually envy you your skill. Just don't tell me if you're a fast reader, and you don't reread what you zip through. It'll break my heart.

Edit: One more thing... yesterday I ran across this blog entry by Simon Pegg. You know what? I love it. Agree or disagree, I think he's bringing up things worthy of discussion. There's nothing wrong with loving our childhood toys, but the truth is, we're adults... well... most of us are. It's important to think more about what we're into. Again, thinking and exploring is what I believe SF and F are for. This is why SF and F fans aren't infants. It's one of the reasons why I don't get the "You don't like what I like. Therefore, you're a non-person." aspect of geek culture. I never have.
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[1] Particularly after a lovely pep talk from Ellen Kushner.
[2] Well, not so guilty that I can't write. I am an ex-Catholic, you know.
[3] Not that my editor does this. He doesn't. He espouses the "no wine before its time" philosophy.
[4] Want. Buy, buy, buy. Have. Toss. Want Buy, buy, buy. Have. Toss. [spin. repeat.] Things that last? What's that? Must have the NEW! New can be nice. But then it isn't the be all end all. See, my Miata is a '99. My computers are used until they drop. And I tend to buy vintage.
[5] If it takes a month to type a novel, how much thought can there be put into it if you're only putting in two months each? You know? Mind you, there's nothing wrong with popcorn novels. But there needs to be space for all kinds of stories. You know? Variety is what makes a genre rich, alive, and creative.
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Stina's Big Adventure (Part 16)

And now we've hit the final segment of the adventure: NYC round two. It was sometime during my travels that Bo and Ben moved from Dallas (where they were watching my car for me) to NYC. Insert moment of panic here. Don't worry. All was well. They had their super wonderful landlady take over Locksley-sitting. So, my Miata was still save and sound in DFW. Therefore, when I landed in NYC I decided to help with the unpacking and such. All terribly not exciting stuff, but we did venture out into the world where I took this shot outside the firestation that was used for Ghostbusters. (Yes, it really looks like the Ghostbusters firestation.)

While there, I looked down the street and saw that Blade was apparently visiting the Ghostbusters. He'd parked out front. How cool is that?

Then there was the nice merman, sunning himself on the next block over. Oh, NYC. I do like you very much.
NYC Merman.jpg
After Ben and Bo's place, I stayed with Agent Barry and his wife Libba for a couple of nights. Libba was busy with her edits, but we did get some great writer-chat time in at breakfast. And Barry is as always, amazingly amazing. It was during this last part of the trip that I was whisked away by the fairies of NYC and vanished for a long enough period of time that Barry got worried. You see, after having sushi and tea with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman... and then visiting Joan... well... we sort of went to the Kings Theater. And well... lost track of time. You know, like you do when the Queens of the NYC Fae invite you to tea. Kings Theater is in Flatbush and was patterned after the Royal palace of Versailles. It was mind-blowing. I wasn't the only one gawking.


Yes. Once again, crap photos. But brain blown. :)

I had the most wonderful time. That was the adventure of a lifetime, and the longest time I've ever been away from my husband since we got married--quite possibly since we started dating. I'm glad I did it. Very glad. And I do plan on travelling more in the next few years--as much as I can, but I don't think I'll stay away for that long at a stretch again. I really missed Dane.  
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Feminist Monday Oversleeps

But I kind of needed it. Was so nervous about the video interview that I didn't sleep the night before. Anyway... here's your Monday morning cup of outrage. ;)

Today's video:

For the record, I don't have kids. Do people EVER tell men they're selfish for not having kids? I know that no one tells Dane that. They don't even ask if he has kids.

Literary/Entertainment: Our first article is from Forbes--Disney Spent $15 Billion To Limit Their Audience. Remember that whole monopoly thing and how it's a bad idea, even for the monopoly in question? Yeah. In addition, what the hell is up with the seeming ban on Black Widow merchendise? She's even been erased from her own scene. Now, when women talk about being erased from history that is exactly what that looks like. And that, my friend, that is some serious bullshit. This next one is an interesting article about Wonder Woman and the Paternal Narative. Again, I'm not a big fan of WW. I'm certainly not a fan of her creater--personally, I wouldn't call him a feminist. I'd call him a sexual opportunist bordering on abuser, but everyone has their point of view on that one. And you're very much allowed your own. Nonetheless, the article makes some great points that I DO agree with. It's worth reading, exploring, and thinking about. I know I will. And now, Someone Swapped The Genders Of The Avengers And It’s Perfect. And my favorite thing ever: Mad men mad at Mad Max for having mad women and Furious about Furiosa: Misogynists are losing it over Charlize Theron’s starring role in Mad Max: Fury Road. That makes me not only want to see the film 100 times, but it also makes me want to buy tickets for fifty of my friends so we can watch it together for 100 times. Marvel A-Force Writer G. Willow Wilson Takes Issue with Jill Lepore’s New Yorker Op-Ed Calling Her Heroes “Porn Stars”. Marvel Finally Reveals The Identity Of The New Female Thor. I kinda dig that. Of course, I have to wonder how that is going to affect her relationship with Thor? They have to explore that. Oh, and this looks really good. I'll have to watch Ex Machina.

General: From Bust Magazine, have 5 Feminist News Stories You Might Have Missed This Week. I'm going to re-link the one about the female reporter in Canada that had to endure sexually explicit taunts on camera because she handled it perfectly. By the way, at least one of the assholes was fired from his job. And the Canadian Justice Minister backed the reporter up. While I do have some issues with certain instances where people are clearly making a mistake they regret, that asshole wasn't even remotely sorry. I'm certain he isn't now, either. But that action is about deterring other assholes, not that particular asshole. And now Austin is in the headlines. [sigh] Austin Greets Female-Majority City Council With Workshop on How Women Are the Worst, Warning, Austin: Your Female City Councilors Will Talk a Lot, Hate Math, Austin’s city manager apologizes for tone deaf ‘training’ to deal with women being elected to city council, As women take majority on Austin City Council, staff warned to expect more questions, longer talks, and City Of Austin Sorry For Hiring ‘Experts’ To Teach How Lady Leaders Are Different From The Regular Kind. When I talk about how Texas is behind when it comes to gender equality... Austin is the most progressive city in Texas. Think about that a moment. Oh, and for your enjoyment. Yeah, things haven't changed all that much. Let’s call ‘trolling’ what it really is. If men are ‘failing’ we need to look to the future, not at lazy stereotypes. HHS: Insurers must cover all birth control. Lastly, When Gender Stereotypes Become A Serious Hazard To Women’s Health. That is no exaggeration. My own sister nearly died of endometriosis due to the same bullshit gender stereotypes.
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Well, That Just Happened

I'm going to be at Comicpalooza this coming weekend--Memorial Day weekend. In preparation, Comicpalooza did some interviews via the nice folks at the AFK Show. You should check out their channel. They've interviewed Patrice Sarath and well... me too. More interviews are coming soon, I'm sure.

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Stina's Big Adventure (Part 15)

And then... Oxford on the 21st of April. Kari drove us and we met up with Juliette McKenna who showed me some of her favorite parts of the campus. For me, the ultimate for the day came shortly after we got off the bus. I'll post the picture and then give you a hint as to why it's significant because not everyone is as big a dork as me.

For those who aren't complete and total Tolkien nerds[1] this is where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis's writing group, The Inklings, met. This is also where Epic Fantasy was born. It's lovingly referred to as "The Bird and Baby." I got to eat lunch in the spot where they met and everything. My inner 16 year old exploded in the spot. I couldn't stop geeking out, and Jules and Kari were really good about not being too embarrassed to be seen with me. ;) Never in my life did I actually think I'd ever get to go to Oxford and see that. Never. Sorry about the image quality. It reflects the fact that my mind was officially blown.


And there's Kari and Jules, ordering those pints. :) And now I'll skip to the CS Lewis part. Jules took us to a tiny street on campus and stood in the middle of it. First, she pointed to what is in the first photo. Then she turned and pointed to what's in the second picture. "Fawn. Lamp post."

Now for the scenery stuff.




Actually, I lied when I said the Bird and Baby was the first thing I saw. It was the first place we stopped. The first thing I saw was the following.

Suddenly, I don't feel so alone for having eaten many lunches in graveyards. In Texas, they freak out and call security if you do this. England? It's Tuesday. Go England.

Next: New York. Again. :)
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[1] Those do exist, I know. ;)
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Stina's Big Adventure (Part 14)

On April 18 and 19, I spent most of my time chatting with Kari about novel-things, catching up on email, and writing. Phil has a fantastic collection of antique swords and a sword forge. So, in addition to the help Kari supplied as plot-sounding board, Phil let me play with some swords from around the time of the Malorum Gates novels.[1] On the 20th, Kari and I did a walking tour of Cambridge. So far, I think it's my favorite university campus. It reminded me of Austin, but much, much older and therefore, much, much cooler. Even the graffiti on  their wheelie bins is cool. See for yourself.






I'm seriously trying to limit myself to the best shots, and I'm not digitally editing them either. (I'm still under a deadline and I don't have time.) What cracks me up is that when I was taking photographs in Ireland I kept feeling like it didn't matter how I set up the shot. Gorgeousness happened. It was like Ireland was the super model of landscapes. I could've closed my eyes and randomly pushed the button, and I'd still have drop dead gorgeous--often when I didn't think I had. England, on the other hand, was a bit more camera shy. England is absolutely beautiful, mind. She just didn't respond to the camera in the same way. (It's probably just me.) Still, I've a ton of nice photos.


The photo on the right is of what my brain has labelled "The Mathematical Bridge." It's a bridge (originally) constructed without nails in the 1700s I think. (Kari will correct me, if I'm wrong.) It was all done with carefully engineered weight and arcs and such. Then someone came along and decided to take it apart in the 1800s. Because, "curious" and "science!" And "people of the past aren't as clever as we are now!" And then they couldn't put it back together again without the nails.

What was funny (to me) is that I've always, always wanted to go to an Ivy League University or (in an ideal world) an English one like Cambridge but I never thought I was smart enough. (Not that I could've afforded it.) Kari was sweet and told me I totally could've. Then she told me the horror stories of living in a medieval building without sufficient heat or bathroom facilities for women. Did I mention that Kari is amazing?

Tomorrow, Oxford.
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[1] And earlier. They were quite beautiful.
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Stina's Big Adventure (Part 13)

On the 17th of April, I said goodbye to Northern Ireland and my kind hosts. I flew out of Belfast and went back to England. This time, Cambridge, to visit with Kari and Phillip. The very first thing we did (after dealing with The Beast aka my luggage) was eat lunch with one of Kari's friends at a Tudor-era pub, the Queen's Head. (I've no idea which Queen that's supposed to be. I should've asked and didn't, sadly.) That's pretty gruesome. Pub names are kind of mystifying when I think about it.

The Queens Head2.jpg
And here's where I first start hearing the whole "the new annex which was built in the Georgian Era" schtick. The red brick part of the pub is the original Tudor-era building. The bit from the red door and off to the right? The brown brick? Yeah. That's the new addition. The thatched roof house was just something I thought was cool. (And it was next door.) Also, I liked the building below and took a shot of that. The whole place was amazing but Tudor part of the building was particularly interesting


The funny thing is, I think this is where the jet-lag started to catch up with me. All that running around Ireland and Northern Ireland and well... England was where I sat still long enough for it to jump me. That said, sitting around talking plot-things with Kari Sperring was a huge, huge help. She's the best.
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Stina's Big Adventure (Part 12)

Ah, The Crum. Ian and Enid and I visited on the 16th of April[1], my last day in Northern Ireland, and it was appropriately creepy. I understand it was patterned for the prison where In the Name of the Father was filmed. For the record, Enid took these for me. I forgot to download all the photos from the previous day. So, my iPad and iPhone were full up.


There's an underground tunnel (lower right) connecting The Crum to the Courthouse (on lower left.) Once you were sentenced, you were taken through the tunnel to the prison. It's every bit as scary and dank as the image shows.



A number of prisoners were executed by hanging at the Crum, and some were buried in unmarked graves which the prisoners (I seem to recall) labeled by craving the names in the wall.

And that was my last day in Northern Ireland. The whole visit was amazing and incredible and totally wouldn't have happened but for Ian and Enid's generousity. They're wonderful folks, and seriously, buy all of Ian McDonald's books now. Just do. He's the best.

Next up: Cambridge. :)
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[1] Although, it might have been the 15th and the Giant's Ring may have been the 16th. I'm kind of fuzzy on that.
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Stina's Big Adventure (Part 11)

So on the 15th, I went to the Giant's Ring and the Lagan Navigation (a park with a lock system and a lighter/riverboat) with Enid. The Giant's Ring features in the beginning of And Blue Skies from Pain. It's where the Church and the Fey meet to negotiate a truce. The talks doen't start so well. Anyway, I used Google Maps to sort out the scene. It was funny seeing the place for real and thinking of all the fighting and knowing which angle of approach Liam and his uncle Sceolán took to get there. In fact, I stood on the very spot and looked down. It looked exactly as I'd imagined it. (Yay, Google Maps.)


My characters set up a card table next to the rocks there and placed the peace agreement on top. The wind was every bit as bad as I'd imagined too. I've lived in Texas too long. I had trouble imagining anyone would be freezing their butt off in April. The area around the Ring is gorgeous. I stopped and had tea at the cafe by the Lagan River.


The little white house is one that Enid worked on reconstructing. It's beautiful, and although it's tiny, it's very functional. No wasted space in it at all. In fact, all of the Irish cottages I saw were like that. I've no idea what the stacked branches were for but it looked like someone was building a shelter of some kind.

That one looks like an Ent, doesn't it? I couldn't help but see it.

River travel features in the Malorum Gates series. So, I got a tour of the (at the moment) non-operational lock and a river boat on display. I cleverly (heh) figured out the meaning of "two path" on my own, along with a couple of other things. The guide was a little surprised. I guess she doesn't get many folks who are actually interested in lock systems and river travel.


Tomorrow: My last day in Northern Ireland and the Crum. :)