The four Alden children have failed me yet again. Their worthless husks notwithstanding, I return once again for a long overdue update. It will not be lengthy, alas, but surely you’ve come to expect this by now.
Anyway, the biggest update is that I will be appearing on a Weird West panel at Denver Comic Con this coming Friday (May 31) at 3:00. One of the first panels at the con, which probably means we won’t have a huge audience, but it frees me up to follow George Takei around and perhaps bear witness to the coming of The Shat. Besides, I’d rather not have an audience of thousands for my first panel; the experience will be intimidating enough without half of fandom staring at my stupid face. Many thanks to the folks at the Denver Public Library for offering me the chance to participate!
So yeah, that’s the big news. I’ve also booked my flight out to WorldCon in San Antonio this August, so hopefully I’ll see some of you there. Perhaps we will achieve a special sort of oneness as we all melt into a collective puddle under the Texan summer sun. Lastly, I’m hoping to blog with greater frequency now that the semester has ended. I wasn’t in school this time, but there was enough going on at work to drain me of all non-essential life force. My ice-beam-and-missile combo has sent it packing, though, so you might just see more of me in the near future.
There’s something decidedly unromantic about experiencing personal milestones from inside a cluttered university office. Student emails and visiting faculty itineraries have a nasty habit of interrupting the lovely messages from friends about the release of my second novel. The big revelry planned for the day She Returns From War hits bookstore shelves both physical and virtual is to have pizza for lunch instead of my usual ham sandwich.
Granted, celebrating a release day at home in my underwear probably wouldn’t be all that romantic, either. There will be an official release party in the near future, but I learned from The Dead of Winter‘s release to avoid scheduling such things in the middle of the week. Midweek parties have limited available drinking time.
So what are my thoughts on this, the day of my second book’s release? Decidedly different than those of October 30, 2012. I feel like I’ve been traveling through a long, dark tunnel since that day. Some of this tunnel was undoubtedly carved from the cold, uncaring granite of the depression I discussed awhile back, and another stretch was fashioned from the frenetic pace of the past three months. Thus, where The Dead of Winter‘s release was greeted with the exhalation of a long-held breath, She Returns From War feels more akin to getting a surprise visit from an old friend.
Social oaf that I am, unexpected visits are usually greeted with emotions bearing little resemblance to enthusiasm, but Cora and Victoria showing up on my doorstep merited an exception. Cora’s not exactly one to be refused, anyway, and it was a brief visit. After getting into my rum and berating me for not being man enough to own a gun, she stormed out with the bewildered Englishwoman in tow. Her destination was a mystery at first, but I now conclude that they must have made their way to Toronto. Why Toronto, you ask? To that I have no answer, but they seem to have left an impression at The World’s Biggest Bookstore:
My chuffery (or is it chuffedness?) swelled to near bursting when I saw the above. Being a featured author in a famous bookstore thousands of miles away is something I didn’t anticipate ever happening to me. I also completed an interview with them, which you can see in the picture (it’s the two pages on either side of the books). The interview will go live on the Internet tomorrow for your enjoyment. Many thanks to Jessica and company for setting all of this up!
So, while this release event wasn’t quite as much of a hullabaloo as the first, it will still remain an marked occasion. From here, however, the path ahead is unclear.
I quit reading the exploits of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny somewhere between #20 and #30 in the series. Wikipedia tells me there are over 100 titles now, which makes me very curious in a lazy sort of way. I honestly can’t imagine the most placid of authors getting that far in the series without kicking the shit out of Benny at least once. Maybe that’s why the series has multiple contributors. Anyway, even with so many new mysteries to their name, I doubt the four intrepid Alden children would have found much meat in solving what happened to an author who quit posting on his blog the very same day his first book launched.
This is somewhat disappointing, especially when you consider that Violet was my first book crush. Alas, such young love often goes unrequited, and we push onward. Still, I will take this opportunity to be childishly vindictive and spoil the mystery just so no future royalties can be made at my expense.
Where was I these past two months? The answer, dear reader, is quite simple: I stepped out into the author superhighway and got creamed by a truck. A truck carrying a locomotive made entirely out of unhappy thoughts.
Depression is something I’ve fought my whole life. The intensity fluctuates dramatically and without warning, but rarely has it hit so hard and stayed so long. Most of my energy and willpower was reassigned to maintaining status quo at the day job and helping Tori with her post-graduation job hunt, leaving precious little for anything other than the basest of activities (in my case, Skyrim). Until I discover the secret of using liquor as a catalyst to convert a tsunami of depression into a literary masterpiece, I don’t have much choice but to ride out the wave and hope the damage isn’t too bad.
I’m hoping the worst of it is behind me for now so I can get back to actually doing things. Barring that, I could do worse than splitting my time between Tamriel and Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny. Yes, my means of self-medication are pretty lame.
I arrived at WorldCon 2012 with few goals: meet my fellow Angry Robots, don’t make a statistically significant ass of myself, and learn how to behave like a professional writer by observation. Now that the re-entry dust has settled and the respiratory infection has been shown to the door, I can reasonably believe I accomplished those goals. More importantly, however, I came away with a number of lessons that I will take with me into all future conventions.
1. Alcohol-to-food budget ratio should be at least 1.5:1
The first night of the convention, I informed my colleagues that I was looking to learn and adopt a professional writer’s behavior patterns. They immediately told me to get skilled at drinking. Though imparted with joviality, a few nights in the hotel bar taught me the immense truth behind such lighthearted comments.
Once the realization set in, I quickly became the bane of the hotel wait staff by water-logging myself every night. I’m not a teetotaler by any means, but I simply had not included 3-4 drinks at the…generous hotel prices into my daily budgeting. While there is a certain appeal to being the only sober person in a conversation, temperance doesn’t lend itself to a loosening of the tongue. I’m naturally withdrawn, and a few drinks would have put me more at ease in the many unfamiliar social situations. Henceforth, I will plan for this in calculating trip expenses, or I will buy a bottle of rotgut at the corner store and bring a flask into the bar.
2. A reinforced immune system is one’s greatest ally
Con crud is a well-documented phenomenon. One day, a pandemic apocalypse film will depict the initial infection spreading from San Diego Comic Con instead of a casino or airplane. However, the general consensus seems to be that con crud is something that hits you after the fact: you start languishing at the end of the con, realizing with growing dread and resignation that your first few days back home are going to be miserable.
However, things are entirely different when you’re one of the people responsible for distributing con crud. Both Tori and I came down with head colds early into the convention, leading me to believe that we brought them with us. This made for notably lower energy levels, strained breathing, goofy-sounding voices, and fevered hazes clouding everything. None of these are particularly useful when trying to meet new people and have a good time. Said illness even short-circuited my golden opportunity to interrupt George R.R. Martin for a bit of fanboy gushing. My fever had not yet robbed me of enough sense to figure that infecting the man with a respiratory virus wasn’t the best first impression to make. Next time, adequate immuno-defensive preparations will take place well in advance.
3. Stay in hotels with complimentary wifi
While wandering through the lower halls of the convention, I passed by a group of forlorn-looking temporary walls identified by a single hand-written sign: “Message Board.” This inspired a brief speculation on what correspondence between con-goers must have looked like in years past. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of social coordination at the convention this year happened via social networking. Myself not being in possession of a phone with a “data plan” or “apps”, I intended to rely on my Nook tablet and complimentary hotel wifi to facilitate meet-ups with other members of Team AR. These hopes were quickly dashed by the $13/day price tag attached to the hotel’s wireless service.
Thus stymied by my own fiscal conservativeness, I was at a serious disadvantage when attempting to locate people for meals, panels, signings, readings, and glasses of water. Rustic as I am, the hotels I frequent offer wifi and continental breakfast with the price of admission. Until such time as Tori and I deem it necessary to purchase data plans for our phones, I will be searching out such lowbrow hotels for future convention lodging.
4. Everyone I met was essentially fantastic
Sadly, this is not one lesson I expect to stand the test of time. Repeated exposure, increased sample size, etc. That said, the Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry corps and their affiliates are wonderful, friendly, hilarious people. I felt singularly quiet and dull by comparison, and I unfortunately can’t blame this on my illness and sobriety.
Feeling pressured to make an impression is a singularly horrible feeling that I happen to know quite well. The diverse array of clever, intelligent people around me intimidated me into orbiting their conversations more often than not. The writer’s life is not as solitary as I had hitherto believed, and my social skills will need some serious working out if I am to minimize future instances of awkwardly crunching ice in the midst of fast-flying conversations.
With these lessons in hand, I am eagerly anticipating the next convention that comes my way. Despite the illness, the awkwardness, and the expense, I had an absolutely marvelous time at WorldCon 2012. Thanks to everyone who endured my croaking, my sobriety, and my contagiousness to make it such a memorable experience!
Despite my role as a translator in my EverQuest RP server guild (I had a lot more time back then), I am by no means a prodigy at picking up foreign tongues in the big RL. I often think about how great it would be to speak more than one language with any degree of competence, but a sub-par language program at my high school, the cultural attitude of Americans toward other languages, and my own overwhelming laziness all conspired to abolish my fantasies of laughing quietly at the jokes the German guys on the bus seem to be constantly telling.
Somewhat ironically, then, I am taking a class this semester that has taught me the basics of a new language. However, it is not a language that will let me effortlessly blend in among the locals of any human civilization, past or present. It will not win me friends overseas, enable me to resolve conflicts between superpowers, or make it where I can play Minecraft with a language pack randomizer switched on. It will, however, perhaps pave the way to writing my own Minecraft mod to randomize language pack selection on bootup.
Yes, I am learning a programming language. Which one, you ask? Why, the one. The one that is so holy it has no name. The one that deifies the code in a way most ancient civilizations could get behind: inexplicable laws and swift judgment. I speak of C.
In addition to teaching me how to program infinite loops and appreciate code monkey jokes, this class has also shown me just how inept I am as a programmer. Granted, I am still very new to it, but I still don’t think I should take an average of sixty times longer than my instructor to write a program. I like to think I’m not the slowest person in any given class, but that assumption is being sorely challenged. School was never difficult for me, even in high school when I didn’t get to pick all
idiot English courses, so getting my ass handed to me by a 100-level introduction class is a humbling experience. By humbling, I of course mean screaming, wailing, raising-my-fists-to-the-indifferent-heavens frustrating. I admit that enrolling in an entirely foreign subject matter on top of full-time employment, book writing duties, book editing duties, and the occasional need to not do anything for awhile was perhaps not the wisest choice, but that’s the whole point of things, isn’t it? We kill off years of our lives with stress so the remaining lives can be of a higher quality. Provided it actually pans out that way (ie I am able to get a better-paying day job in a field that doesn’t require as much customer contact), it’s close enough to being worth it to merit some effort. Plus, if I actually learn enough code to write my own games one day, I can add a completely new way to pour hundreds of hours into a creative project with no guaranteed return.
If it doesn’t pan out, there’s always Zoloft.
Seriously. Nothing you would want to see, anyway. I have been remarkably testy all week, and I’d rather save this rage up for a well-honed rant instead of spewing acid all over your monitor. Actually, I do sort of wish I could do that. Nothing personal, but spitting acid would be a handy ability to have around the office.
As a substitute for any content of my own, I will direct you to this fantastic deconstruction of Mass Effect 3‘s ending by one of my blogging role models, Shamus Young.