Jun 26, 2016

Being an Adult in Chicago

This past month was a bit of a whirlwind.

I had a friend stay for a full week and it was such a life style change for me. I've been living in my house by myself for close to 6 months at this point, and coming home to see someone at the kitchen table was both strange and thrilling.

Granted, introvert me sometimes found our conversations exhausting. Cuz, regularly talking to people? About serious, personal issues? Bit much.

I mean, sometimes, the only person I talk to during the weekend is the cashier at the grocery store.

Still, I loved it. Having someone in the house, constant company, and just reconnecting with someone I haven't seen in a year.

We explored a lot of Chicago. I need to get out into my city more.

Chicago River and River City towers

Buckingham Fountain and chicago nighttime skyline

Merchandise Mart in Chicago at night

Of course, Brexit was fun. My friend's an expat who is huge into social good and plants her flag for issues regarding racism. Lively discussions - when was the last time I had one of those?

Obviously, writing is pulling me away from socializing opportunities. It might pay off soon though. You guys know BookCon wasn't what I was hoping, but I had some success earlier this month with #PitMad that's making me happy. I have a habit of building castles out of rocks though, so I'm not gonna say anything until I actually have good news and not just hopeful potential. 

Not gonna lie though - knowing that someone likes Stars has made the work I've put into it this spring super worth it. 

Regardless, I've had my ups and downs this month. Finished a freelance project, had to deal with fraudulent charges and the inability to buy anything for a week, reconnected with a friend, got good writing news, didn't get a FT job (again), and now have a cat.

You know ocean buoys, how they just bob with the waves and take what's coming? This month has felt a little like that, but I think I'm getting the hang of adulting now. But which I mean, there is nothing to get a hang of and you just go with whatever lands in your inbox.

Here's hoping it's a lot of opportunities and yeses. 

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Jun 5, 2016

Best Read of May

And the book of May is....nothing.

I finished one book, and while I loved it, it was the sequel to the one I read in April and my praise is pretty much the same.

Reading, and writing, has been lax. Having freelance clients on top of a 9-5 job is killing me. I'm actually looking forward to ending this contract so I can have some me time. 
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May 31, 2016

Remembering False Memories

I remember telling my mom about a memory I had once. I'd misbehaved on a road trip, and as punishment I was tied on the roof of the car while my dad drove. Slowly, I'm sure. Like, 5 mph. Just enough to feel the wind. Mom looked at me and said "Gwen, never happened."

I know memories can get warped with time, we recall things differently or what not. But that memory, which is still faintly in my head, is completely fabricated and yet still there.

I had forgotten about it until last week. It was D&D night, so my friends gathered around my dining room table for another week of campaigning. (It was awful. With 15 party members we still only barely made it through the battle with one creature and that was with the DM taking pity on us. Never figured out what the AC was, but it was higher than 20, and had an armor bonus higher than my weapon could dish out.) We spent the first hour or so setting up snacks and re-capping, and I found myself feeling strangely nostalgic about how last week our characters had a drunken bonding night with the elvish army we were helping.

And that was weird. One doesn't fondly remember false memories. And it was the oddest thing, because I wasn't remembering talking and conscripting the event around the table. We never got into the details. I was recalling the feeling of sitting around a bonfire and drinking while conversing in a broken foreign language.

None of which, I should state, I've done at the same time in real life. But I think I picked bits and pieces of my experiences, shoved them on to my cleric, and then pulled them back to the forefront of my mind a week later.

These fake memories are a result of storytelling. Stories that I've told myself and are often limited to my own experience. In that way, I guess you could say it's like remembering dreams - flashes of images and feelings and plot whose impressions stay much longer than the actual details.

Sadly, I've never experienced this with books. Never pulled up a memory of seeing Hogwarts for the first time, or gaping as a knight of Tortall rides by. Despite all my reading and love of words, stories resonate for me instead of creating experiences. Aside from the memories associated with reading - like forgoing meals or frequenting the same cafe for tea and book time.

And that saddens me. I would love false memories of books I reread again and again. To close my eyes while I lay in the back seat of a car and remember hunting for a sign of the Light, or traveling to a sideways universe. I guess I'll just have to remember that fake wind from that fake roof-top car ride.

Do any of you have false memories you look back on?


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May 25, 2016

BookCon Recap

This is a bit overdue. But I put so much time into prepping for BookCon everything I put off came back to double wham me.  Regardless.

BookCon was....well, not at all like I thought it would be.

I mentioned I wanted to use it for professional writing industry stuff - networking, feeling out publishers, and so on.  BookCon is, after all, attached to the Book Expo of America which is a publishing industry event. And while I had a suspicion last weekend wasn't the best place for it, I still wanted to give it a whirl. I was excited about the author guests.

Things sorta....derailed from the beginning.
The event app and 'how to' articles people shared mentioned huge book hauls. Not that I minded that. (I followed advice and brought a carry on suitcase - I needed it to bring back all my new books, as you can see.) But I was in line at 630 and learned that people had been there since 4 - signs of fans and not professionals. Indeed, I meet two parent/child couples in line. The kids were super excited to see YA authors. The parents were just drivers.

I felt a little bad for one dad - he drove from Little Rock to Chicago and his only full day in the city was at Book Con. He was so surprised to learn 'adult authors' would be there too. I have to give him parenting kudos.

The actual convention was...well...a mess. There were a ton of ARCs and galleys publishers gave away, but much of it was gone by 11. And the line was so long that even though doors opened at 10, you might not have gotten in till 10:30. A lot of the event was long lines at big publishers (which I already knew I had to be agented for and thus ignored) or mini-long lines of 20 min to get the chance for other prizes. Not to mention, I stood in line 40 minutes to get Sarah J Maas's autograph.  (It was kinda cute, the young teens behind me squealing 'I see her, I see her!')


Still, Reader Gwen was decently happy. My feet were aching by noon, but by signing up for newsletters I got arcs and small press authors were giving away books too. Most of what I was given however wasn't speculative. Who knows if I'll touch them. But I did find good deals on purchase prices.

Writer Gwen was little miffed. Lots of teens running around - pushing to get into lines and ducking under barriers. BookCon was about readers, not authors.  I did not meet my goal of passing out 25 cards - I passed out 3. And I gave my pitch once. All that work I put into pitches and queries and synopses...I'll just have to use it for the upcoming #PitMad

I didn't have a total bust of a day though - I talked to one publisher for a half hour, got a good understanding of how they worked and they'd read my manuscript for Stars if I'd send it to them. I found an author co-op, for small pub and indie authors, who pool funds and resources to promote their books. I found a publishing house linked to charity - who strives to provide copies of their books to classes for lessons - that resonated with what inspired me to write Stars. And I found another author whom I think I outlined his digital marketing campaign for...dang, he hasn't even sent me that coupon code for his book.

What really caught my eye though was the quality of books. You could tell what was self-published and what wasn't - for the most part. There were a few at the co-op I didn't realize were self-published until I was told. It's not just cover designs, but the finish, the binding, the paper. Self-pub tend to be glossy finish with nothing on the spine, stark white and thin paper. I found myself going through small press booths and just touching books, marveling at the physicality of them. Matte covers in particular. Some of them had a slight fuzziness to the touch. It helped me visualize how I want Stars to be.

All in all, it was a good experience. I'm glad I went. Will I go next year? Probably not. It's in NYC.

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May 23, 2016

Ten Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed

Goodness, it's been awhile since I've done one of these. I'm so bad. But brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish, here's 10 Books I Feel Differently About Now Compared to Then.

  1. Twilight Saga - I remember finding the first one in borders on a shopping trip with my HS librarian after a fundraiser we ran. I remember reading all of these books, quickly and close to their publication dates. I don't remember particularly liking them as books, just liking them as reads, but now I can't actually stand them. I think it's because once I left HS, I understood just how warped Bella and Edward's relationship was.  

  2. The Hunger Games (the series) - This one is quite the opposite from Twilight - I like it more now. I remember being not that impressed reading them. Book 2 was very similar to Book 1, Book 3 was a sideline story. What's changed my mind has been two things that I've mentioned before - the movies and how the story resonated with a Venezuelan classmate.

  3. The Black Cauldron book coverThe Chronicles of Prydain - When I first read these as a kid, I loved the adventure. It's a great story based on Celtic legends that follows the old tales more closely than any other I've read. My reread as an adult still made me love them, but I was shocked by a few things. There was more violence than I remembered. And it's not an adventure, it's about maturing. Not just growing up and being responsible, but finding wisdom. Dang, the whole first book is about career hopping and learning how the lessons of a craft can alter how you live your life. It resonated better with 24 year old me for some reason.

  4. 1776 - History is stuffy, and boring, and a 'dad thing'. And then Peace Corps came, I had free time, and I read this. I still am not a history buff, but I can't say this book didn't have some entertainment value.

  5.  Lord of the Rings- I remember reading these and loving them. To the point where I almost did an 8th grade book report on the Simirillain. I'm super glad my dad made me read the series before I could see the movie, because since then the movie has ruined them for me. Tolkien's prose is not a style I like reading - lots of tangents - and the movie is so much faster to get through. Still love it, but I no longer actively recommend it.

  6. Enchanted Forest Chronicles - I loved these in elementary school. A princess who would rather stay with the dragon then get rescued? Whose trusty weapon is a frying pan? Yes please! Half my childhood forests were the Enchanted Forest. Now however? I barely think about these books. They're only here because I went through my Goodreads list for this post XD

  7. Morlock Night - I remember when I read this for geek cred. I had heard all about it - the first book ever categorized as steampunk. And for that, I loved it. Until I was done and I realized it was a bit of a mess. Too many pieces moving. But it did, I think, help me realize why that despite my love of steampunk I have yet to find a steampunk novel I actually like - I'm more in love with the aesthetics and themes and ideas. The genre if you will than the plot of it. I like the openness of it - just like how Hogwarts!AUs are now fanfiction staples.

  8. Anvil of Tears - This is one of those books I'm not sure how I got. Probably in one of those flashdrives we passed around in Peace Corps. I remember liking it when I read it, but the more it sits in my head the more I admire it and keep thinking I really, really need to find the sequel.

  9. Artemis Fowl - I fell in love with these books as a kid. A 12 yo captures faeries to steal their gold in an effort to restore his family to it's former glory. I just liked that fact that the FMC was a kick ass military woman - in fact the first of her kind. I read the series several times. But now, I'm kinda meh about them. Part of it I think is the later books are no longer as interesting, not was well thought out, and part of it is I think when I reread them a few years back they struck me as super young.

  10. 1984 - I read this book for my government class in high school. Pick it myself for a book report. But I wasn't trilled with it - it was something I was reading partially for the lit cred of reading it, partially because my Dad liked it. I've never reread it either. But there are still parts of it - particularly the idea of doublethink - that have stayed with me for years. Slowly this book's ranking in my mind has been rising.

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