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What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
Oh, man, what a fun con, seriously. I had a great time. It didn’t start out that way, but it certainly ended up that way.
Why did it not start that way? Because of a train derailment. I was supposed to travel from London Euston to Chester, and from there catch a train to Prestatyn, where the con was being held. Yeah. Nothing was going out of Euston on Friday, so instead of my happy little three-and-a-half-hour or so trip I ended up spending seven and a half hours either standing in crowded train aisles or perched on the edge of a seat (my suitcase took up most of it). Or just standing around in the freezing cold; the train out of Derby I was told to take was so full some of us had to wait an hour for the next one.
But I finally arrived, and after some confusion found where I was supposed to check in (which I did, along with the female Holley from Red Dwarf, who was so nice. Then I went back to get my key–they had to cut me a new one–who did I find standing there but the male Holley, who was also very friendly and nice and we had a lovely little chat. So I met both Holleys in my first half hour there, which was pretty cool).
I don’t know what it is about me and cons, but I always seem to end up rooming with these gorgeous curvy brunette sex goddesses. First, of course, there is my wonderful friend Caitlin Kittredge, with whom I room because we plan it that way. But Caitlin wasn’t at this one (and I missed her!) and SFX was handling my accomodation, so they had me rooming with Maria Dahvana Headley, who–guess what?–is a gorgeous curvy brunette sex goddess. Seriously, the woman could stop traffic. See how stunning she looks on her website? Doesn’t even come close.
Anyway. The con was held at a Pontins, which for those unaware is a “holiday camp.” It looks like a gulag with exclamation points. But our “chalet”–actually just a pretty standard little one-bedroom apartment in a block of them–was clean, which was more than I expected, and the electric radiators worked fairly well, although there wasn’t one in the bathroom. And the bathroom door wouldn’t stay closed. And the smoke alarms beeped randomly and irritatingly, at least until Maria, um, fixed them.
We did not have a mirror in the whole place.
I ended up staying in the room Friday night–I didn’t know anyone there–and doing some work. Or, well, I was supposed to be working but I ended up watching The Untouchables. Oh, and standing up every fifteen minutes or so to lean over the radiator and warm up.
Saturday was the Big Day. Of course, I totally forgot about the shiny red jeans I bought specifically for that con, so they languished in my suitcase, dammit. And it was COLD. So very, very cold. It also rained. And the “chalet” was so very far away from the main building.
My first panel was “What is Urban Fantasy?” And dude. Most cons I go to have maybe a hundred, hundred and fifty people at each panel. This one (and the later one)? In a huge room. A huge full room. I saw someone estimate the capacity at a thousand, but I think it was probably closer to half of that; then again, I wouldn’t know, because the room was dark and we had lights aimed right at us so I couldn’t see the audience (that’s important later; I couldn’t see beyond the front row).
So “What is Urban Fantasy?” was me, Paul Cornell, Ben Aaronovitch, Benedict Jacka, and Sam Stone. And it was awesome. A really interesting, in-depth look at the genre, and not one person suggested it was just chicks in leather fucking vampires. We talked about the nature of monsters and the darkness inside all of us and whether UF is sort of like horror where the protagonist lives (I LOVED that definition, as you can probably guess). Just such a cool panel, and so much fun to be a part of. I felt a little weird being the only American there, but it didn’t seem to matter at all. (There’s a picture of that panel on the Orbit blog.)
Next I signed books at the Forbidden Planet booth (Forbidden Planet is a huge UK SFF bookstore chain) with Maria. We had a great time, and she fixed my lipstick. Somewhere there should be a picture of us together but I don’t know where or if it’s up yet. Unfortunately–or fortunately, I’m not sure which–FP ran out of our books in the first 15 minutes or so. I’m hoping that’s a good sign but for all I know they only had five copies of each, so who knows. And what matters is that it was fun; Maria and I had some laughs, we got to meet some great readers, and it was just cool all around.
Then we had the “Ready Steady Flash!” panel. Okay. This was basically, the moderator–Lee from Angry Robot Books, what a cool guy–gave us a topic and we had five minutes to write a flash story about it. I have never written flash fiction before, but figured hey, why not? And it meant I got to be at a table with Juliet E. McKenna, Paul Cornell (again, and let me tell you he is awesome), and Tony Lee. One of these things (read: me) is not like the others…
(My flash pieces and the rest of the con under the cut) Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Monday, January 30th, 2012
Okay, first? Indulge a Mommy for a minute, because this is seriously so cute it hurts.
I was in the car with both of my babies (Princess is ten, Faerie is just-turned-seven, for those unfamiliar) and the subject of Pluto came up. Pluto the suddenly-not-a-planet, not Pluto-Goofy’s-dog. I mentioned how it’s not a planet anymore, and Princess said that it’s a dwarf planet, and I said how disappointing that was because I’d always liked Pluto and was sad when it was demoted.
And then Faerie pipes up, in this thoughtful little voice, “Maybe they could find another planet for all the dwarfs to live on, and then Pluto can be a regular planet again.”
I am not making that up.
I told you, so cute it HURTS.
(It reminded me of when I was eight and being tested for the Gifted program at my school, and they asked me to define the word “dilatory,” and I figured, well, a dormitory is a place where they keep people, so maybe a dilatory is a place where they keep pickles? [That’s not correct, btw; dilatory basically means “slowpoke.”]) So according to my Faerie, a dwarf planet is a place where dwarves live. I almost died from the adorable.
So, beyond the cute…
I’ve written three blog posts, about the whole writer/reader/reviews etc. thing, and not posted them, because frankly I don’t have the stomach for whatever misinterpretations and controversy would erupt from them. I do have something more to say about that whole thing, though, so I’ll try to get that up this week.
In the meantime, I have my schedule for the SFX Weekender, which is this weekend, Feb 3-5. It is:
Panel: What is Urban Fantasy? 11 am
Signing: 12 noon
Panel: Ready! Steady! Flash! 1 pm
The Ready Steady Flash panel is frankly terrifying, since I’ll be given a topic and then five minutes to write a story about it, and given my over-reliance on the word “fuck” in my first drafts…well, let’s just say I’m a bit nervous. But, if any of you are going to be at the Weekender, please, please come introduce yourselves! I literally only know one person who’ll be there, the very awesome Suzanne McLeod, so I anticipate a weekend spent almost entirely alone, working in my little room (which online reviews assure me will be filthy and stink of urine, though I’m trying to be optimistic). I’m not even really allowed to drink because of this stupid fucking ulcer I still have, so that pretty much kills any thoughts of fun for me. (Seriously? I’ve had maybe three Cokes since I had my surgery. I’m not supposed to have caffeine or alcohol. You cannot imagine how much this blows. But, you know, I’m not really ready to die yet.)
I am considering venturing into the town of Prestatyn for a proper butcher etc. on the Saturday, though, and maybe even making a nice come-one-come-all meal on Saturday night like I did at Dragon-con a few years back. Hey, Brian Blessed follows me on Twitter now, maybe he’ll come and we can all listen to him recite Shakespeare. Who knows? It’s North Wales in February, baby! WILD TIMES.
I have just painted my nails a dark teal for the occasion. Not sure I’ll keep it.
Oh, and here’s the cover for CHASING MAGIC:
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012
So. Yesterday I ranted a bit, and I’m going to do it some more now. As with yesterday’s post, I’m not entirely sure where this is going to go. As with yesterday’s post, this is my attempt to get some things straight in my head and to explore this subject, so I may be a bit harsh; I may say things as part of playing Devil’s Advocate; I may go off on little tangents (probably will, because let’s face it, that’s what I tend to do).
First, a couple of things I forgot or didn’t get to say yesterday. First, authors? Don’t review your own books, either on Amazon or Goodreads or anywhere else. Don’t rate them on Goodreads, even if your “review” says something like, “Well, I wrote it so obviously I think it’s good!” Like that’s funny or charming or something (hint: it’s not).
I was going to say that reviewing/rating your own books under your own name just makes you look like a tool, rather than being actually sleazy, but then I realized that your rating shows up as part of the book’s overall rating; I can think of a couple of books (all by the same author, what a shock) who have pretty decent overall ratings on Goodreads, but then when you look at them you realize that’s only because the author and his/her (not giving you clues as to who it is) “agent” and/or editor have all given the book five stars, whereas the two readers who rated/reviewed it gave it two or three. So, sorry, reviewing/rating your books under your own name is sleazy. Having your agent or editor review/rate them is also sleazy, and honestly, I’m not aware of any editors with major houses or the big epubs who do so (there could be some, but I’m not aware of them).
I do have my own books on my Goodreads and LibraryThing “shelves.” I didn’t intend to do so, but both sites said specifically that I should. So I do. I’m not entirely comfortable with it, but it does seem to be standard and expected. I rarely visit Goodreads, to be honest (more on that in a bit) and as I’ve said before, I *never* visit/read posts in the “Terrible Fever” Goodreads group or the Downside Shelfari group. Those are reader spaces, for you guys to discuss the books; they’re not for me and I actually think it would be creepy for me to lurk over them watching you all. And might make you feel uncomfortable or inhibited. So I stay away. I believe that’s the right thing to do.
I don’t think I have to say that reviewing your own books under a sockpuppet account makes you scum just like pressuring/begging your friends and family to do so does. Anytime you’re lying to readers, anytime you’re attempting to jerryrig your reviews or rankings, you’re doing something unethical. And, you’ll probably be caught, and that will be bad. Really bad.
Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Thursday, January 5th, 2012
I do apologize for not updating for so long; I am fine and feeling great, I’ve just been extremely busy finishing edits on CHASING MAGIC, working on edits of the short Downside story HOME (which will be published on Tor’s Heroes and Heartbreakers website), and working on a new project, in addition to the whole holiday thing.
Which was awesome. I cooked a lot. I made chicken stock from the carcass of our Yule roasted chicken. I made our now-traditional beef bourguingnon for Christmas day. I made a lasagna bolognese from scratch–long-simmered bolognese sauce and bechamel sauce–for New Year’s Day that was so gorgeous I wish I’d taken photos. I made a couple of batches of fudge crinkle cookies; I made Snickerdoodles; I made molasses spice cookies, some with white chocolate glaze and some with orange-flavored white chocolate glaze; I made pumpkin spice cookies with a vanilla-cinnamon frosting.
And we went out, a LOT, to do all of the shopping which had fallen by the wayside because of my recovery and the fact that hubs had to take a lot of unpaid time off work when I was in the hospital.
But it was a lovely holiday overall, a more fun and relaxing one than I’ve had in a while.
Oh! And, I played Dungeons & Dragons for the very first time! See, when I was a kid my big brother was a huge D&D head, but of course he never let me play with him and his friends. And I had the occasional boyfriend who played but generally when I’d go to their games they spent four hours creating characters, at which point I was bored.
But the hubs and I have a dear friend who used to play it with hubs when they were kids and he–the friend–still loves to play (he’s a Dungeon Master, which means, for those unfamiliar, that he “runs” the game), so he and his wife (also a dear friend of course) came over for spanakopita and adventure. He’d even created some characters for us in advance, which was so sweet of him. I was Lola Dragonslut, a warrior with semi-low intelligence but great charisma, and we explored a bunch of tunnels where there was supposed to be treasure. We didn’t finish the game, but we had a blast. Tons of fun; I’m looking forward to playing again.
Also, I got lots of pretty new nail polish for Christmas, so I’m hoping to start the fingernail posts again! This week my nails are peach with sparkles.
And…this morning I had an endoscopy done, a follow-up from the whole surgery thing. I’d warned them about my horrible gag reflex, and they’d promised to sedate me since the whole idea freaked me out. The upshot of all of this was that I don’t remember a thing from “You’ll start to feel drowsy in twenty seconds or so” to “Time to wake up!” But according to the nurse I talked the whole time, although they couldn’t understand a word (she said this with a bit of a giggle, which worries me. Could they really not understand me, or was I saying horribly dirty and rude things?). And according to the “Findings and Actions” sheet I was given, the intubation was “poorly tolerated” and they had to do it a second time, so there’s that gag reflex.
The bad news is the ulcer isn’t completely healed, so it’s back on ulcer meds for Stacia for another ten weeks, and another endoscopy when that ten weeks is over. Which sucks.
But again, the good news is I feel just fine and am back in the saddle. Well, it’s good news for me, and hopefully you think so, too.
There have been quite a few rant-worthy things happening lately, and I may blog about them soon. For the moment suffice to say that readers and reviewers have every right to express their opinions about books without authors responding in comments to tell them how wrong they are. (This also goes back to my posts about how once you’re published you can no longer use the “but I’m a reader, and I’m commenting as a reader” line, but again, something to possibly be blogged about later.)
So for now I’ll just say I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and I’m hoping 2012 is a great year for all of us!
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
What Happened When My Intestine Exploded
First, of course, I have to say a huge enormous Thank You!!! to all of you. Your emails and comments, your cards and letters and packages, were just incredible; you have no idea how much they meant to me and how much I appreciated them. Really, thank you so much. I haven’t replied individually yet–I’m still trying to get back on my feet a bit, and I came back to over a thousand emails–but I will. In the meantime, please accept my enormous gratitude. It was and is really incredible to see how many people actually care.
So, what happened? I’ll tell you what happened. This story gets a bit icky, guys, just as a word of warning.
I woke up in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday, October 26th, with the most incredible pain in my abdomen. It felt–to be rather crude, sorry–like the worst gas ever, moving all around my abdomen, not localized in one place. Just this horrible stabbing pain. It was hard to walk, it hurt so bad. It was hard to lift things, it hurt so bad. It was hard to drive, it hurt so bad. I drove to the pharmacy to buy some sort of gas-relieving medication, and the woman there seemed to think something was terribly wrong with me, I thought from the way I appeared in obvious pain but I was told later that I was so dehydrated I looked like a skeleton.
Anyway. Wednesday I was supposed to drive to the Southwest to look for a new home near Mr. K’s work. But I was still in horrible pain, so I canceled. This worried Mr. K so much that he left work and drove the several hours back here, insisting that I go to the hospital. I didn’t think it was that necessary but I was starting to worry a bit, yeah, so I finally agreed.
We reached the ER (or A&E as they call it here) at Lister Hospital at around 3 pm. They saw me right away. They palpated my abdomen which hurt a ton, even after giving me oral morphine. They put me in a gown and sent me to be X-Rayed–at this point it was probably about 5, given the time to wait for the X-Ray and talking to the docs etc. etc. We waited for the X-Rays to come back and the blood tests (and man, my veins are hard to find anyway, when I’m dehydrated it’s almost impossible, so that was NOT pleasant and would only get worse).
That’s when the fun happened. All of the sudden I was taken into this other room, and greeted by about seven surgeons, who informed me that my X-Ray had shown air under my diaphragm, which indicated a hole in my intestine. An ulcer which had eaten all the way through, to be more exact. Apparently this is very serious and can be fatal thanks to dehydration and peritonitis and such–who knew?–and I’d already delayed longer than I should have, so the surgeons bumped their other surgeries so I could be the very first one in when the OR opened at 7 pm. The head surgeon said, “This is major surgery, so whatever else happens, you are going to be one very sick young lady for the next two weeks at least.” Yay me!
So into the OR I went. I remember being told I’d probably feel a little dizzy, and the next thing I remember is seeing Mr. K. telling me it was all over and I was fine, and then I was in this special intensive post-op care unit. I spent five days there, mostly sleeping and pressing the little button that would give me more morphine. I had a gnarly row of staples down the middle of my stomach and tubes poking out of me everywhere: my nose, my stomach, a catheter (of course), and a bunch of IVs and lines in my neck and hands/wrists. They were also coming to take blood just about every day. LOTS of needle sticks.
I was in the special post-op ward for five days. It was generally nice and quiet, except for the night we had a woman in there moaning constantly and asking the nurses–in the middle of the night, mind–why they wanted to kill her. Oh, and there was the older gentleman who was very angry a lot of the time; when the phone rang he’d become enraged and shout that they shouldn’t answer it, or if they did to “Tell them I’m not here! Tell them I’m still in hospital!” To which the nurses would ask if he knew where he was, that he was in fact still in hospital, and that they had to answer the phone because it was the hospital’s phone.
But anyway. On the fifth day they moved me into another post-surgery ward, where we weren’t monitored quite as closely. Because the ward was full of men I actually got a private room, since I am not a man and rules say a lone woman can’t be put in a ward full of men. That was nice, the private room, but let me clarify something for my American friends, since those I spoke to on the phone were utterly shocked by this (and to be fair, so was I, a bit). I had a private room, yes. I did not have a private bathroom; I used a commode (basically an adult potty seat the nurses would wheel in) or, once I was able to walk, the public bathroom in the hall which all the patients and visitors used. (Yes, very sanitary, I know.) I did not have a TV in my room, or a phone. I was not permitted to plug in my computer or cellphone, so I wasn’t able to use the internet at all or really get any work done–not that I was up to working, but still. Stephen had to charge stuff for me at home and bring it in, and the hospital didn’t want me to keep valuables in my room anyway, so generally he’d bring my laptop and a DVD and we’d watch it until they made him leave. All I did for most of the time was sleep, stare into space, or look at magazines, since I didn’t feel up to getting involved in a book (which should tell you how bad I felt).
So. On Wednesday 2nd November, one week after the initial surgery, I woke up around 2 am and noticed my stomach felt a bit wet. It felt wet because it was wet, with blood. Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Sunday, November 20th, 2011
Hi all, Mr. K here…
Just wanted to let you all know what’s been happening since my last update:
I know that Stacia was looking to rejoin the online community this past week, however, since being released from hospital she had been having some problems with her prescribed medication (it she turns out Stacia just happens to be the “1 in a 1,000” who could have the side-effects associated with it.)
Unfortunately this situation got serious late Thursday night and she had to go back into hospital. However, she is home now, resting and reacting to her new medication well, so hopefully this will be the end of it.
Stacia will be back online later this week if not earlier. She has lots and lots to do, so if you’ve sent her a direct message please be patient as she begins the long process of catching up.
My best to you all and thanks for the well-wishes.
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
Stacia’s doctors/surgeons are pleased enough with the progress of her recovery that she has been released from hospital to continue her recuperation at home. It’s early days yet, and she has a long road ahead of her, but it’s a step in the right direction.
At some point I know Stacia will be back online but for now she is resting and taking things easy. Therefore, any urgent questions or messages should continue to be sent to downsidearmy AT gmail.com until further notice or when Stacia returns here.
My best to you all.
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011
This is going to be short, but I wanted to let you all know that Stacia is doing much better. She is still in the hospital, and it looks like she’ll remain there for a little while yet, but she has been moved out of intensive care into an acute-care ward (which is a good sign) and her doctors/surgeons are pleased with her progress.
At some point soon, no doubt, she’ll be back online, but for now rest, rest and more rest are the top requirements for her recovery.
I will update here again soon. Till then, may I just add a heartfelt Thank You to you all for your kind words and thoughts during this situation. They have meant so much and my family and I really appreciate them.
What Stace had to say on Sunday, October 30th, 2011
Hey All, Mr. Kane here, just wanted to let you know what’s been happening to Stacia over the past few days. On Wednesday she was taken to the hospital whereby it was discovered she had something wrong with her stomach. Emergency surgery followed and she is OK but will be out of action and off-line for awhile. Her hospital stay shouldn’t be too long, we hope, but they have to keep an eye on her right now.
I’ll post updates when I can. Till then if you need to contact me please do so via the Downside Army address at downsidearmy AT gmail.com.
What Stace had to say on Monday, September 26th, 2011
Okay. Maybe someone can explain this to me.
In the past few days I’ve seen two of these display-site/make-your-books-go-viral/readers-can’t-wait-to-read-your-unedited-unpublished-book sites. Slush sites; also known as YADS (Yet Another Display Site), because yeah, this is an idea that people have been trying and trying for years now, and which has never to my knowledge resulted in any sort of publishing deal for anyone.
Anyway. The two I’m thinking of offhand are PUBSLUSH (read more at AW and Writer Beware here and here) and the not-yet-unveiled ViralBestseller.com (link goes to the AW thread).
Here’s the basic idea behind these sites. The PUBSLUSH people or the “agents” at ViralBestseller will post your book on a website. According to them, what will then happen is that thousands of eager readers will flock to their site, desperate to find something new to read that hasn’t been touched by those horrible editors (ViralBestseller refers to “unedited glory” and reading “the author’s original intensions[sic],” which frankly to me displays a deep misunderstanding of the editing process, but whatever) or professional publishers or, well, anyone who can determine whether or not the work in question is actually readable. Readers, they claim, are desperate to wade through thousands of manuscripts looking for one that they might like. In the case of PUBSLUSH, their plan is for readers to actually pledge money to preorder the book, based on a ten-page sample, and when a certain amount of supporters/cash is reached the book will be published.
Now…okay. Maybe the problem here is me (I am the “lazy reader” referred to in the title of the post). I fully admit that may be the case. I certainly think of myself as a dedicated and avid reader; I don’t have as much time to read now as I used to, seeing as how I spend so much time writing them these days, but I certainly still read and buy books and read some more. I read a lot. Probably not as much as any of you, but certainly as much as I can. I’m always looking for book recommendations. Those of you who’ve reviewed my books favorably in the past may be surprised to know that based on that (by which I mean your obviously excellent taste in literature), I visit your sites to see what else you’re reading that you like, and check those books out at the bookstore. I write down titles; I look to see who you’re talking about (I also grit my teeth because, you know, talking about other books means you’re not talking about mine, but still). (That is of course a joke.) (Mostly.)
But I look at sites like these and I think, man…I just don’t want to have to work that hard, you know?
I have a big enough TBR list; I have books by my friends whose writing I love that I don’t manage to get to fast enough for me. I have recommendations I’ve found on your sites, if you review. I have research reading to do; my nonfiction library is ever-growing. I have books I saw at the bookstore that I bought just cuz they looked cool that I haven’t gotten to read yet. That adds up to a lot of books.
So when I’m thinking of looking for something new to read (if I’m not just picking something from my TBR)…I dunno, I just never think to myself, “You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to spend several hours hunting through digital slushpiles to see if maybe there’s something in there I might want to read on my laptop.” In the case of PUBSLUSH, that would be “I’d like to spend several hours looking through ten-page samples in hopes of pledging to pay $25 to maybe get the whole thing in a few months’ time.”
All of the YADS play on–most of them have little screeds written to the effect of–the idea that commercial publishing as it is is “broken” and isn’t serving readers. I disagree with this; sure, not every book is to my taste, but in general I find there’s plenty of variety out there to keep me happy and interested. And the idea that publishers have no idea what readers want puzzles me, too, frankly. You and I might think TWILIGHT isn’t very good (or we may love it; I’m not saying anything one way or the other) but the fact remains that an agent and an editor read it and thought “This book will appeal to lots of readers,” and they were right, and that happens every day. Yes, bad books get published. I can certainly think of a few. But good ones do, too, every day.
But to get back to the main point…am I just lazy? Is this something readers actually want to do? Do you find yourself hunting around odd websites looking for something that might be interesting to read? Do you look at sites like those?
Or do you, like me, and like–I believe–the majority of readers, still prefer to find and read books from bookstores, from reviews on trusted sites, from friends who’ve read them? Books that you can be fairly certain are at least up to a certain standard of readability?
I’m genuinely curious. Because like I said, I just don’t want to work that hard to find something to read, and I just don’t have that kind of time.
BTW…I now have a Tumblr. So if you’re on Tumblr, let me know! I have plans for something fun on Tumblr soon, which I’m working on at the moment, so…there’ll be more on that later.