Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Motor City Steam Con 2018

I missed the update last week because we were so busy getting ready for this year's Motor City Steam Con. My husband Greg and I were both nervous about how this year's con was going to go after a bunch of completely understandable stuff happened that I do sympathize with and choose not to get into here. 

But we are so glad that we did! We got to once again hang out with fellow authors and all around fantastic people (so click their names and check them out on Goodreads!!) Zig Zag ClaybourneLeanna Renee Hieber, R. S. Belcher, and so many new and old friends that we rarely get to see. Greg debuted his latest panel, "Cults, Communes, and Secret Societies," we made some connections in the podcast community, passed out a ton of bookmarks for Cinema Guano and The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales, and we sold a few of our other books. 

I think we sold our last spare copy of Cosmic Encounters, the science fiction erotica anthology that includes my story "Heaven Ain't Close." (It's still available in paperback at the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor and Think Outside the Books in Ypsilanti, as well as online in ebook format.) I've had many people tell me how much they love my stories in the Valves and Vixens volumes, and I am proud of those stories and enjoyed writing them, but "Heaven Ain't Close" is a story that I wrote many years ago, and I worked on it off and on since the first anthology it was selected for failed to launch. After a few rejections, it eventually found its home in Cosmic Encounters just a few years ago, and I could not be happier. My mother is even fond of this story, and she is not a fan of scifi. (It has lesbians on Mars, what is there not to like?)

But I digress. Greg and I stayed in the hotel this time rather than driving in every day, which allowed us to stay up later for shenanigans and gatherings. If this con happens again next year (and I truly appreciate the time and energy that went into this one, so if there is no MCSC 2019, I will totally understand), I am going to insist on a hotel room again. I can't miss out on late night cocktails and smoking bourbon, and talk about scifi and past lives and writing inspirations!

Sadly, one of the reasons I wanted to stay at the hotel was so I could swim in the pool, and this pool was too cold to swim in. (SIGH.) So I paddled in circles in the confines of the hot tub, which did feel good on my sore neck. The food at the hotel restaurant was surprisingly great. I ate the most Michigan thing I can think of: coney pasties. And it was delicious. If you ever stay at the Sheraton in Novi, give them a try. 

I picked up a very cool zodiac-themed parasol and some new brass jewelry from Ohio Kimono, some delightful milk oolong and Scotch toffee puerh teas from Teaologie LLC (based in Ann Arbor, woo!), and a Slytherin pin that says "Ambition" and a secret present for a friend from Leanna Renee Hieber (we also traded books, and I think she got the last copy of Cosmic Encounter). 

We ducked out of the con before the final events on Sunday so that we could go see a documentary on lost ships of the Great Lakes at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle in Detroit, which I found riveting, and Greg nearly fell asleep because the room was warm and he does not find shipwrecks nearly as enthralling as I do. Then we went home, got dinner, and snuggled with our very needy felines who had thought they would never see us again. 

As about everyone knows in Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor-adjacent, this week is Art Fair (dun dun DUN), so it's another busy weekend for me. There are plans for kayaking the Huron River tomorrow, which I am stoked about, and then wandering Art Fair on Friday, which I have not been able to do at leisure in years because in the past, I was always working downtown during Art Fair, and this week, with my different job, I am not. (It better not storm while I am there...)

I plan to be back on schedule next week with a post about s'mores bars, a terrific summer treat, at the food blog. Bye for now!

Friday, June 29, 2018

From the Coffee Shop: Hyperion

The benefits of no longer having a set schedule is that I can request the same days off as my husband (who gets his schedule for an entire month at a time; I get mine perpetually three weeks ahead). Thus I find myself on this lovely summer day working on writing projects next to Greg at Hyperion Coffee in Ypsilanti’s Historic Depot Town. He is enjoying coffee (they roast some great coffee) while I sip an iced Cascara Soda (little bit fizzy, little bit sweet, totally refreshing). 

I am having trouble connecting to wifi with my laptop, so I am using my phone to do what work I can, and this is being typed up in a LibreOffice document for later posting. Ypsilanti is great in that it offers free wifi that covers much of downtown and Depot Town, but my laptop is just having none of it. (Or at least not enough for it to be useful to me at the moment.) 

...And I think my phone is giving out, too, and that’s backed up by satelite. 

Current projects include my two columns for the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal, articles for Pulp and the Ann Arbor Book Society, and research for a special project with cohort and occasional podcast co-host Kim Gray (aka Kimmy, Kimmeh, and K. Gray). The bulk of the writing can be done off-line (it’s a handy trick that many writers employ to minimize distractions). Surprisingly, a lot of the project research has required me to go off-line, too, and there is a stack of books in my living room next to a notebook and a pen. 

Upcoming, we have the Motor City Steam Con July 13th through the 15th where Greg will be presenting his “Cults, Communes, and Secret Societies” panel, and, if it's available by then, we may be selling paperback copies of The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales if you grab us (we were not able to get a table, and there doesn’t seem to be an authors’ room this year). 

If you can’t make it to MCSC, DON’T PANIC. You can buy your copy of Queen, paperback or ebook, online or special ordered from your favorite local bookstore – yes, even outside the U.S. If your favorite local bookstore orders from Ingram (and most do), they can order this book. If you live near Ann Arbor, check out the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tearoom or Think Outside the Books in Ypsilanti, with possible additions later. I will be doing a big post here when the book is available. Having some printing issues at the moment.

Also, don’t forget to check out our film podcast Cinema Guano on its home blog or your favorite podcast source. New episodes are posted every other week. Episode two with the stellar New Zealand horror black comedy Black Sheep was posted last Sunday! #teamsheepfetus

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Cinema Guano and the Queen of Clocks

Happy June, everyone! I am still hard at work with writing and deadlines, but I am here to announce the launching of two special projects. 

First up is Cinema Guano, a podcast spearheaded by my husband - writer, playwright, and performer, Greg - and co-hosted by myself and a range of rotating guest hosts. In each episode we take on a non-mainstream movie that is "bat poop crazy" and discuss and analyze the film's history, plot, and whatever else comes up. Stream or download new episodes from the Cinema Guano blog, and look for it on your favorite podcast source.

Next, though it isn't available for purchase yet, I want to put in a plug for the upcoming steampunk anthology The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales edited by yours truly. It will be available in paperback and ebook formats on Amazon, for special order at your favorite local bookstore (this includes outside the US), and I think Kobo. I'll let you know for sure when I've got it all ready to go. I am not publishing through Amazon, so there are more purchasing options than Amazon and Kindle. Which means you will also be able to request that your local library carry it! Here are some teasers to pique your interest (click the pics to enlarge them):

Monday, May 14, 2018

Break Time

Wanted to post that since I am hoping to launch a book on June 1st, I am going to put my blogs on vacation until the first week of June. It's crunch time! Recipes are piling up, so I should have plenty of blog fodder when I return! 

Stay tuned for more information on the book launch...

Monday, April 30, 2018

From the Coffee Shop: Electric Eye Cafe

April has been a great, if busy, month for writing (and when I say “writing,” I include writing related things like editing and being invited to judge a fashion show after one of the organizers read an article I wrote). Whenever I grow quiet on this blog, it's usually because I have a lot of projects going on that I need to focus my attention toward. Sometimes it is because something bad happened and I need to focus my attention on that (death or illness in the family), but this has not fully been the case here.

At the start of April, I did pull a muscle in my lower back and I am still recovering. The lower back is one of the worst places to be in pain because it pretty well incapacitates your legs and any kind of movement you want to make on the upper part of the body, as well. Since I am not supposed to take NSAIDS, the kind of drugs one normally takes for sore muscles, this made the first few weeks of April extremely uncomfortable to say the least, and I didn't take any time off of the day job (because who can afford to take an unexpected week off without pay?). 

You'd think being stuck sitting and lying around for weeks on end would translate to a ton of computer work getting done, but not as much as I would have liked. Being in pain is exhausting, so I slept a lot. It's also distracting, so my pace has been snail-like. (If you click over to my food blog, you'll note that has been updating on its bimonthly schedule while this has been skipped.) 

So why was April so good? Well, I'll tell you. For starters, my husband Greg and I have had every Monday off together. In our entire seven year relationship, this has never happened. I've never been able to spend even one dedicated day a week off with my husband, and here we've had one day a week for an entire month. And we've been productive! 

The library (a room in our house that doubles as my office) is almost all put together. The yard is all cleaned up for spring. Books were dropped off at local book resalers and exchanged for cash and store credit (Dawn Treader in Ann Arbor and Think Outside the Books in Ypsilanti). We went to the public library and picked up the last issues of Locke & Key that we need to read. A podcast idea was brainstormed and researched. We've slept in and gone out to breakfast, played board games together, visited to cafes and coffee shops, gone shopping, and basically done the things that I imagine other couples with more conventional schedules do. It's amazing! I wish it could be like this all the time.

Greg and I were able to visit Grand Rapids, something we often talk about doing, and spent a day at the Grand Rapids Public Museum and checking out their special exhibit on Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids (open through May 20th!) with some awesome friends of mine, Dale (a writer and full-time musician whom I went to college with; he once made a song out of one of my poems) and his fiancee Yvonne (who is a writer and great inspiration to aspiring full-time writers like me). 

Also this month, I was invited to participate as judge in a local school's Trashion Show, a fashion show put on by the kids with outfits made of recycled and repurposed materials. Not having children, I have no tie to this school. I was contacted by one of the show's organizers via my Facebook author page after she read my article on sustainable fashion for the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal. It was a hoot! Some of the kids really got creative with their outfits. There was a pikachu, Black Panther, a fairy, high fashion gowns, a tutu made out of used plastic grocery bags, and so much more. I had fun, and agreed tocome back next year if they choose again to invite me. 

As a thank you, I was given an ornamental plant that, unfortunately, is toxic to kitties, so right now it lives in the library with the door closed and we put it out on the front porch when the weather is nice. (My mother-in-law has agreed to take it in since she does not have animals.) My favorite part, though, was when a young writer approached me and asked if I would edit the book he wrote (I had in my bio that I am an editor). I explained that I am not that kind of editor, but instead edit articles for a local journal, but that the Ann Arbor library provides all kinds of resources and support for aspiring writers, and I wrote down some web addresses for him.  

Another fun writing-related activity I took part in was hosting an hour of the online launch party for the new steampunk book Army of Brass that a number of my friends contributed to and edited. A few of its contributors are also contributing to the upcoming steampunk anthology that I am editing The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales, so it was the perfect opportunity to chat with these other authors, as well as make new friends and contacts in the steampunk creative community. 

So, you see, there is a lot more to being a writer than just writing. 

Right now I am working on this plus some editing at a new coffee shop that Greg and I have been meaning to try out, the Electric Eye Cafe on North Main Street in Ann Arbor. It is very chill and takes up the entirety of an old house. Rather than taking down walls, the individual rooms have been preserved and filled with tables and chairs, and there is a front porch and back porch with a fire pit (which is currently unlit because it's sunny and warm for a change). I could see myself hanging out here often, if only it were a little closer to home (we actually took three highways to get here, albeit not lengthy ones). 

Sitting on the second floor with the window open and the traffic going by outside reminds me quite a bit of my early days at the Fourth Coast Cafe in Kalamazoo before the upstairs was converted into the popular Crow's Nest Restaurant. The downstairs, where the coffee shop was (and Fourth Coast still is) was smoking while the open and largely vacant, besides some old wooden tables and chairs, upstairs (now Crow's Nest) was nonsmoking, so we got our drinks downstairs and took them upstairs to write or study. Of course, smoke rises, so I still left with my clothes smelling like cigarettes. Now Michigan restaurants are nonsmoking, so I no longer have that problem, though Crow's Nest is so popular that there is often a line to be seated, making relaxing and hanging out difficult. The food is good, so I am not knocking Crow's Nest by any means – if you ever stop in Kalamazoo, I highly recommend them for breakfast or lunch – but I do miss those pre-restaurant days just a little bit. 

If you are familiar with Portland, Oregon's Rimsky-Korsakoffee House, I am reminded a bit of that, as well, but Elecric Eye doesn't have the gimmicks. 

Ok, ok, I need to get back to editing. I set June 1st as the release date for Queen, so I need to finish editing this story, continue formatting, and look into how I want to acquire an ISBN.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ann Arbor District Library, Neighborhood Theatre Group, and Ann Arbor Book Society - Oh My!

I meant to update this blog yesterday, but life has been pretty full lately - of other writing! (That's a good thing.) 

Not only have I been working diligently on writing and editing articles for the upcoming spring/summer issue of the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal (CWJ) (read current and past issues online today), but my first article for the Ann Arbor District Library's online literary and arts publication Pulp went up on February 12th. Check it out at Fantastic Beasts: Neighborhood Theatre Group's "Cryptic". Hopefully, I will be able to get some more articles for them written soon.

Speaking of Neighborhood Theatre Group (NTG)'s latest production, an original two-act play by local Ypsilanti playwright, and all-around Renaissance man, A. M. Dean, I helped them move their set over to and into Bona Sera yesterday and got to watch the set be built! Then I was too pooped to do more than nap and watch episodes of Ancient Aliens and Face Off on Hulu.

Probably not many remember that one of my first Crysta Goes Visiting columns for the CWJ included an interview with Kristin Danko, artistic director and co-founder of NTG. My ties to NTG do not end there. My husband has starred in two of their Halloween shows, the Black Cat Cabaret, and also twice participated in the yearly monologue competitions (though we have attended all three), all local Ypsilanti productions. 

I've never been involved with theater, so getting to help out, however much, was a real treat (and a lot of manual labor). Everyone associated with NTG is creative and fun, and they put their all into these productions. So please come out this weekend and show your support for local artists and local theater! 

Speaking of support... Were you aware that Ann Arbor is a book destination, home to ten brick-and-mortar, new and used bookstores? Yup! Ten. And there to support and foster this growth is the Ann Arbor Book Society (A2BS), founded by Rachel Pastiva, former manager of the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore, the person who taught me most of what I know about the book industry.  

I pretty much owe my current position working with books and writing to Rachel. If she hadn't hired me at Crazy Wisdom, I never would have met the editors of the CWJ nor learned nearly so much about the publishing industry, book marketing, and the wide reading audience. My writing career would not be where it is today.

So it is with great pride and pleasure that I begin volunteering for the A2BS. Sign up for the newsletter and keep an eye out for my name! Ok, technically, I've already been in it, but I'll be in it even more in the future with longer pieces. And support your local bookstores! 

It's local things like local libraries, theater, and stores that keep every community unique. Think local, buy local, support local. Keep things interesting.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Celebrating Jane Austen in Ann Arbor

Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. (So are Roger Zelanzy and Harlan Ellison, so I'd say she's an outlier, not the standard.) She has informed how I write and plot romance in my own books. In addition to creating unforgettable, three-dimensional characters, she had quite a bit to say about social conventions of her time, wit that often goes over the heads of modern readers (because we are far less aware of how society worked back then, not because we're dense). 

She passed away at the young age of 41 in 1817. That's 200 years ago, yet she's more popular now than ever. Pulp recently ran a great article that clued me into some terrific Austen offerings happening around Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor's Jane Austen Jones is Sated With Many Bicentennial Events). 

I've sadly missed out on many, but last Friday, I was able to check out Hatcher Graduate Library's exhibit "The Life and Times of Lizzy Bennet" (through March 30th, 2018). The room was small, two walls were filled with 200 year old books, clean and clear, many with brightly colored illustrations. I was joined by fellow author and Austen fan, former roommate, and oft' cohort, Kimmy. (Check out her blog here: Haunt Hunters International.) 

Together we ogled the books; discussed all the incarnations of Austen's characters and the fashion of the day, along with its modern interpretations and representations in film and television; and generally geeked out about all things Austen and Georgian. (All things that cause my husband's eyes to glaze over. He's more for the Reconstruction and Gilded Age periods.)

We also learned, from looking at the books themselves and wondering what that funny f-like swish was, that the English language used to have two letter S's, the long S and the short S. From Wikipedia: "The long, medial, or descending s (ſ) is an archaic form of the lower case letter s. It replaced a single s, or the first in a double s, at the beginning or in the middle of a word (e.g. "ſinfulneſs" for "sinfulness" and "ſucceſsful" for "successful")." 

Why did English need two S's? It didn't, and the long S fell out of favor with publishers in the late 1700s (though clearly whoever printed the books we saw that included it either didn't get the memo or were stubborn about change). Why we picked the s over ſ, I don't know because ſ was used for the beginning and middle of words while s was used for the end of and only sometimes the middle of words (so "words" would still look like that). ſ does bear a stronger resemblance to f than S, so I'd pick s over ſ, too, just for simplicity's sake. 

So what else is in store for Austen fans in Washtenaw county? The Jane Austen Book Club Discussion kicks off tomorrow with a discussion of Longbourn, a modern companion book to Pride and Prejudice by Jo Baker at Nicola's Books. I haven't read Longbourn (Pride and Prejudice is not my favorite Austen novel), but I admit to being interested so I may have to pick that up from the library. Austen was only able to complete six novels (seven if you include Lady Susan), which is simply not enough for fans like me. 

Live nightclub is also playing host to Jane Austen LIVE on February 8th which will feature games such as the delightfully named Who Wants to Marry a Single Man in Possession of a Good Fortune? and is open to cosplay.

While the festivities may soon end, I will keep reading and watching Austen's stories. There is so much out there! And what better inspiration can I have for writing romance novels?