THE Fishtrap post

So clearly I ran out of steam when it came to Fishtrap live-blogging. It wasn’t for a lack of things to write about; instead, there was a lot to pack into the day so that by 10 pm when I got home, I’d had enough and just wanted to vege out.

But it was a different type of intensity from going to a weekend science fiction convention. At the cons, I’m usually rushing to meet people, rushing to do panels/signing/reading, rushing to catch something in the dealer’s room before it goes away. No rush at Fishtrap, not really. All of us weeklong participants had morning three-hour workshops to attend. Then the afternoon panel or presentation, followed by open mic readings, followed by faculty readings after dinner. With a couple of exceptions, everyone went to the workshops, while not everyone went to the panels/presentations/readings (or at least every one). That meant the pace was slower to begin with.

The other big difference was that this was a forum to discuss craft, not business. There was only one editor from one press present; the rest of us were equally all writers. Now business did start creeping into discussions later on in the week, but for the most part we were focused on craft. It was about us being writers, not selling our writing.

Then most workshops had some sort of daily writing work. I think my workshop–the Uncanny, with Marjorie Sandor–had the most writing involved, but everyone was working on some sort of writing assignment throughout the week. My workshop had three evening writing assignments (as well as reading assignments), as well as several in-class assignments. None of the writing work was finished product but I definitely left with either starts or ideas for something like six or seven short stories or essays, as well as ideas for worldbuilding and structure for Netwalking Space.

Most of all, it was about words, and writing, and thinking about writing. Robert Michael Pyle has been a favored nature writer of mine for Wintergreen and The Dark Divide, but after this past week talking to Bob and listening to his keynote speech and listening to his prose and poems, I think he’s now my favorite living nature writer. We shared a thrill over pretty book covers (he liked the Beyond Honor cover), and talked a wee bit about the Klone’s Folly story I’m still developing. I didn’t know about Marjorie Sandor before this Fishtrap, but by golly I’m definitely a fan now. She is one of the best critique leaders I’ve worked with and her insights into the uncanny helped me pinpoint some developments in Netwalking Space. Plus she has written the best damn and uncanny second person present tense story EVER. Joe Wilkins turned me onto short prose poems, and Justin Hocking made me think about the power of lists in my writing. There were many more faculty members who shared lots of gems.

In any case, I took detailed notes during our workshops because Marjorie came up with observational gems including looking at expanding stories in the unplumbed gaps within scenes–instead of writing more and longer, she talked about going into various hot spots of the pieces we wrote and expanding those sections within what we’ve already written to make it longer. Lots of good stuff. I’ve gone back through those notes already with a highlighter, to help me identify key points.

But even though the flow is a different pacing from that of a three or four day con, there were still some similarities, just more subdued. Con glaze didn’t hit until day five of seven. And imposter syndrome set in about day four. However, unlike at a convention, while I was sitting in a swing between two trees looking up at the steep slope of one end of Chief Joseph Mountain and thinking imposter syndrome thoughts, a woman who had heard me read here in Enterprise back in December came up to me and complemented me on my reading then. We talked, and it came out that she also was feeling a touch of imposter syndrome. So we shared, reassured, and moved beyond that brief attack of imposter world.

Bob Pyle’s keynote speech warmed the cockles of my activist heart. I couldn’t get all of his good stuff, but here’s a few paraphrases of what he said:

* When fences and frontiers become one and the same, that’s when we get sealed off from each other.

* Walls haven’t worked in the past–why will Trump’s wall be any different?

* The walls between people and nature are as toxic as the wall Trump would build.

* When we think of nature as something other than us, that sets up a wall.

* There is no “nature writing”– it is all natural and environmental writing

* Natural does not mean good–natural just is.

* Most things can’t be easily divided, which is why most walls break down.

* It is only our silence that allows divisions to remain.

One panel discussed memoir and the differences between memoir and autobiography, with some good insights there. But rather than go on longer, maybe I’ll put those observations in another post. Or not, as the case may be.

One thing that I did definitely notice was the high ability level of most of the participants. Most people I talked to were writing at the intermediate or advanced level, with some sort of publishing history or professional writing background. Not saying that beginners wouldn’t benefit from this workshop, but it would definitely be of more value to someone at the intermediate or advanced levels. A fair share of attendees either had an MFA, were in the middle of getting their MFA, or were starting a program.

Would I go again? Heck yes. My stated goal at the beginning of this conference was to learn ways to take my writing to the next level. I think that has succeeded–or at least, we shall see if it has. For one brief moment I toyed with the idea of getting a MFA myself…and then sanity returned. That said, I am definitely keeping an eye out for more conferences and workshops like this to attend–both in and out of genre. I learned a lot by moving outside of the speculative fiction genre gatherings, and I think there’s more to be learned. My “to-read” pile has grown by quite a bit…and I have some things to think about.

Marks of a successful con, for certain.

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Fishtrap, Day 2.5

Whew. Now that I’ve somewhat recovered from the Incident, I can attempt to come up with a semi-coherent and possibly flowing description of Fishtrap so far.

TL:DR—WOWWOWWOWWOW COOOOLLL.

Well, maybe not quite that many wows. Still, I have met a couple of writers whose work I squee over, been listening to some excellent writing by both faculty and participants, and will not only leave this workshop with some good nubbins to develop into stories and essays but have gained quite a few insights into how I plan to develop Netwalking Space, the (probably) final book of the Netwalk Sequence.

So. Some details. Fishtrap happens at the Methodist Camp at Wallowa Lake. Most of the activities take place either in the camp’s lovely A-frame lodge or in instructor cabins. It starts on Sunday afternoon for most participants (Saturday if you are part of the isolated Outpost workshop that’s happening out on Zumwalt Prairie; Thursday if you’re doing the short version, and then there’s a year-long workshop). The program starts on Sunday evening with instructor/class meetups and discussions, then introductory readings. Classes meet every morning from 9-12 and writing happens as part of those classes. Afternoons feature either a presentation or a panel, then open mic readings. Then in the evenings faculty present readings from their works. The faculty are an eclectic mix of poets, essayists, fiction writers, and a book artist.

Based on what I’ve heard in my workshop and in the open mic, the skill level of most participants starts at the intermediate level and runs all the way up to potential instructor material themselves. The ability level of my workshop on the uncanny with Marjorie Sandor is pretty much uniformly high with regard to the use of sensory detail, sentence formation, and idea development. Not all of us write fiction; there are essayists and poets in the group as well. For the first two days, our process has included an in-class writing period and an out-of-class overnight writing assignment. We write, and then we discuss each piece. I’m impressed with how Marjorie handles this group–at thirteen participants, it’s the largest workshop of the whole week-long session. She guides and directs the critiques focused on specific and particular aspects of how the uncanny manifests in our responses to the prompts, with an eye toward getting us to think and process just how to shape those apparitions in our work.

Robert Michael Pyle is giving the keynote speech on Thursday night this year, and I’m looking forward to it. I first fell in love with his work when I read Wintergreen, and I hoped to have the chance to talk to him. Well, not only did I get to talk to him, but he admired the cover of Beyond Honor (he had talked in his reading about how fortunate he was to have pretty covers, so I had to brag on my pretty covers. He did admire Pledges of Honor and Alien Savvy as well). Then, as we discussed my work, he gave me a look and commented on how prolific I was. Definitely a wow moment.

Then, tonight, Erika L. Sánchez read some of her poetry. But I didn’t realize until she was introduced that she was also one of the writers I follow in the Guardian. So after the reading tonight, I had to do a little fangirl squee and tell her how much I loved her work. An unexpected coolness.

But overall, the atmosphere is less likely to impose con glaze quite so quickly (though I think after tomorrow I will be dragging a little), and there’s a lot less intensity with regard to marketing. I’ve enjoyed meeting different types of writers and talking about our different works, and the focus on the writing itself is something I really needed.

There’s more to write about, including some odd encounters on the drive back home tonight. However, I think I will save that for another post…it’s getting late and tomorrow will be here soon enough.

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Fishtrap, day 1.5

The last way you want to start out a week of writing workshop is to wake up at oh-dark-thirty the morning before with a case of food poisoning. Epic though it was, however, once I had paid my respects to the white throne and went back to bed, I was okay other than feeling drug out and tired. Not sure what the cause was, or if it was even just a case of irritable bowel rebelling, but…whatever it was, I was grateful. But I’m still paranoid about food right now. Carbs are my friend, anything fatty or spicy gets eyed with suspicion, and…yeah. Bland is good. Fortunately, the Safeway in Enterprise has dairy-free yogurt, so I was also able to get things settled somewhat.

The other good piece was that formalities at Fishtrap didn’t start until late afternoon so I had plenty of rest and recovery time. So about mid-afternoon, in the face of a driving rainstorm more typical of March than July, I hopped in the Subaru and drove up to the lake.

IMG_1615

Yeah. Shucky darn. My commute for the next week is gonna look like this. Fishtrap happens at the head of Wallowa Lake, in a church camp nestled between two great ridges. This time of year the mock orange is still in bloom, deer prowl the camp, and even when it’s pouring down rain it’s gorgeous. Morning workshops run from 9-12, with afternoon panels and readings, and an evening reading.

This is the first conference I’ve attended where it’s about the writing–actual workshopping rather than a pitch conference or all lectures. It’s also more literary than any other conference I’ve attended before, with much less focus on marketing or self-promotion. Fishtrap’s emphasis is on Writing and the West, so much of the conference focuses on writing that evokes a strong sense of place. I’m doing a workshop on the uncanny with Marjorie Sandor, and so far I’ve found it to be productive. We did an in-class exercise this morning which led organically into a discussion of how physical setting can produce a sense of the uncanny and the meanings of various spaces.

For whatever reason, it often seems that I stumble into craft stuff just when I need it. Right now I’m nibbling at the initial outline, worldbuilding, and planning for Netwalking Space. Much of what we discussed this morning will end up going into shaping what I do with the building blocks for that story. It’s amazing how that works.

Tired now and realizing that I am writing jerky and nonflowing prose. Rather out of pace for a writing conference report, hmm? Oh well. Something is better than nothing.

Onward.

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[Rantage] These things keep happening, and I want to scream

2016. Two things keep happening that I never thought would become so damn commonplace and continue to be a problem when I was a younger and more idealistic woman.

1.) Mass shootings and

2.) Murder by cop of black men.

Granted, #2 has been going on since way before my birth, and it’s only now that it has become news. But for the love of all that’s divine, why is it still going on? Why didn’t we learn from earlier incidents? Why is this behavior still justified? Why should black men who are doing nothing different from their redneck working class white male counterparts (wait a minute, the black man is probably being more careful and polite) be living in fear? After all, dear Lord, our President is a black man. Why should his counterparts be living in fear?

In case you’re wondering, every. damn. one. of those questions is rhetorical. I know the answers and I don’t like them. Racism exists. It benefits the Powers That Be. Do we need to say more?

And then there’s the mass shooting piece. Why do they keep happening like this?

I have no answers, save that perhaps we need to be thinking about a new and better world where we figure out how to get along with each other instead of fighting. That seems to be so obvious…and yet so many remain so clueless.

Meanwhile, Ammon Bundy whines about poor treatment when it’s been clear that he and his compatriots have been handled with kid gloves and catered to. Does anyone think at all that Bundy would have been handled the same way if his skin was anything but white? ARRRGH.

This is not a post with answers. This is pure rantage out of frustration.

Faugh.

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Summer harvest begins

One of the things about our friend’s place in Clatskanie is the amount of food already present in the form of berry bushes, fruit trees, and wild forage. All the berries are coming on strong, so while the guys worked on weeding the garden yesterday, I picked berries. I started with raspberries in two locations and got a gallon. Next came loganberries, about a third of a gallon. Then I moved on to mountain blackberries. Our friend has an amazing rhododendron thicket just filled with these little wild Pacific Northwest native berries. He set up a three-legged ladder and I was able to pick a gallon of these little darlings (mmmm, mountain blackberry jelly this winter….). After that, I got a cup of blackcaps, a pint of red huckleberries, and a small pint of red currants. All but the blackcaps ended up in the freezer for processing later on during wintertime, during cool weather when we can use the processing heat to warm the house.

However, during the huckleberry harvest, I accidentally sat on a pitch stump. Fortunately our friend has the appropriate dissolving gunk, so I didn’t lose those plants. But it did take a couple of treatments…that’s one pitchy stump!

Today, I harvested a big bowl full of lamb’s quarters from the garden. We use these a lot in stir fries. Earlier, we harvested and froze a batch of rhubarb. Meanwhile, everything is growing great guns except the parsnip. It’s taking its own sweet time to germinate, which is driving all of us crazy. But potatoes are growing, corn is growing, we’ve got lots of cabbage and squash…mmm, another year of garden harvest lies ahead.

This year it’s looking for sure like zucchini relish is going to be a thing. Yum. About time, too.

Enough procrastination, time to get to writing….

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Beyond Honor now ready for pre-order!

Beyond Honor front cover

It is live on CreateSpace as well, and I have hard copies in my hands. It’s a gorgeous book (shout out to Roslyn McFarland for a lovely design).

What’s it about?

Aireii sorceress Alicira, last magician of the house of Miteal, has escaped the clutches of Zauril, murderer of most of her family and usurper of the Leadership of Medvara. She struggles to remain free of his control, especially since her unborn daughter, Zauril’s child, may have inherited his magic instead of hers. Will she be able to find a safe refuge to rear her child free from Zauril’s influence and wreak her vengeance on him, or will the Gods interfere? Her only surviving sibling swears such a place is in Keldara. But will she be able to reach Keldara without losing all she holds dear?

Release date: July 1.

Preorders now available on Kindle, Nook, Apple, and Kobo

 

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Bee sting

Last fall during hunting camp the yellow jackets were so thick that I had to eat inside of one of the pickup cabs to minimize the risk of being stung. Our non-bee-allergic friend camping with us had accidentally gotten stung so we weren’t taking chances. I’m one of those who carries an Epi-Pen, has a stash of Benadryl around, and keeps an eye out for possible nests, especially in warm, dry fall weather. A sting for me means getting loaded into a car and heading for the nearest ER, Epi-Pen handy. I’m aware and alert, but I don’t let it stop me from going outside too much. Usually eating inside a vehicle in this season is enough for me to be safe, as long as I’m cautious about what I’m doing and clean any grouse I shoot quickly, away from water sources and other places where the bees/wasps/ yellow jackets hang thick.

So last Friday at CampCon, a camp and writing retreat up near Hood River, I wasn’t really thinking about bee stings. Unlike the previous year, this camp was cold and wet. Not bee sting weather. We set up our tent between rain showers and I huddled in the writing area under a pop-up canopy, working hard to finish Birth of Sorrows, the Goddess’s Honor short story I plan to release this September. I’m getting around to writing Alicira’s story, and yes, it is a challenge. I was focused hard on my words when I felt something crawling up my right leg. Bee was not my thought. Spider, possibly tick. I shook my leg and it stopped. I got back to writing, contemplating the finish of the story. The crawly sensation started up again. I decided to get up, shake it out more aggressively, and get those last two sentences down before calling it a night and drinking some absinthe cocoa. I was right on track for what I planned to do during the retreat.

Except. As I stood, I got stung. I knew what it was, of course. Pinpoint needle-sharp hammer slugging the back of my knee. “Shit, shit, shit, I’ve been stung!”

The husband came running while I ran through scenarios in my head. Yes, bees were out despite the cold, but could it have been something else? No, not from the sickish way I was already starting to feel. I hit the Epi-Pen, only to feel crawling again. Great. I dropped trou and this time shook the damn thing out. A small yellow jacket, about an inch long. Got into the car, and hubby raced me to the ER, whereupon I got lectured for maybe hitting the Epi-Pen too quickly and not eating Benadryl instead. Okay fine, different from what I was told before, but whatever. The ER doc wanted to give me Prednisone. That became a discussion point.

Pred and I have a dubious acquaintance. Besides bee sting treatment, a short burst of Prednisone is called for when asthmatics like me get into a nasty round of airway problems due to infections. For any long-term treatment Prednisone is recommended to be tapered down, not abruptly stopped, because of the way it interacts with the adrenal glands and cortisol production. However, a “burst,” or short-term, low-dose treatment, usually does not involve a taper because it doesn’t trigger the same reaction. Usually.

But.

Years ago, I got put on a Prednisone “burst,” with no taper, for the first time because a nasty bug left my airways reactive. Breathing is good, so I took the Pred. When I came off of it I had serious shakes, blood sugar problems, fatigue, all the lovely side effects you get from dropping Pred fast. Since then, I’ve tapered off of even a “burst.” Now this ER doc wasn’t thrilled about that notion, so she gave me another cortisone that supposedly would linger in my system without the effects and I wouldn’t need any more doses than what I took there. Supposedly.

Yeah, the modifiers are in there for a reason. Sometimes you need the adverbs.

Yesterday the steroid crash hit. We’ve been hauling Mocha to the house for Town Training time while the husband paints the house. I was feeling rocky in the morning so didn’t want to bring her in early. She’s fat and sassy on grass, and still gets pretty excited by town sensory overload. By the time we set to bring her in, I knew what was going on. Fatigue, chills, and shakes. Unhappy stomach. Blood sugar yucks. The sting site blotchy and itchy. Steroid crash. Ugh. No horse coming to town this day. I nibbled on peanut butter, grabbed some books, and read/napped the rest of the day, riding through it.

I’m better today, of course. But grumpy from Benadryl last night and a little fuzzy.

Dang bee sting allergy. And dang cortisteroid sensitivities.

Plus I still feel psychic crawlies on that leg.

Of course I would be one of the few people to get stung in this season, while writing, from a bee crawling up my leg on a cold and wet day.

I did finish the story, though. In the ER that night I remembered that I hadn’t saved it, and worried about losing the 2000+ words from that afternoon. Fortunately the interaction between my Mac and Word was such that just closing the lid down kept the story up. The husband got me the laptop and I saved the story. We went back out to camp the next morning and I finished the story, plus outlined a new one, so I’m not too far behind in writing. Yesterday I got Beyond Honor formatted for both ebook and paperback production, so we’re on target for the July 1 release date. The town horse days are doing more to mess with my schedule than anything else. Still, it’s crazy-making to have something as small as this interfere with plans.

Ah well. Just another day in the life of a writer from the wide open spaces.

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Miscon

Well, posting about a convention almost exactly a week after it ends isn’t exactly what one would consider a decent con report. Nonetheless, it’s the way life has been rolling, so there. Life has been busy. Did I think things would slow down once I no longer had a steady Day Jobbe and we got moved? Boy, was I mistaken. Granted, most of this is self-imposed, but if anything, our lives are busier and more involved than they were before. So. Busy. Life.

Well, and maybe a touch of con crud when we got back to Enterprise….

Anyway, this year the trip to Miscon did not feature a suicidal deer or a newborn fawn. It did, however, feature some rather epic eagle sightings. We drove from Enterprise to Lewiston and on to Missoula through the Lolo Pass, which meant we followed first the Clearwater River and then the Lochsa River up over the pass. During one curve along the Clearwater, while we were still on the Nez Perce Reservation, a bald eagle curved over the road and back over the river…about 40 feet from my windshield. Sweet.

Further up the pass, I started to notice horse poop on the road, in places where I a.) didn’t see horse pasture nearby and b.) would not consider to be rideable road horse placement on the road. As we ascended the pass, I could see the poop getting fresher and fresher. I started to suspect that we might come around a corner and encounter a horse-drawn wagon. Considering how tight those corners are and how narrow the turns (with big truck loads running over the road, geez, takes me back to the day of big log loads on the Mohawk), I wasn’t too thrilled about encountering a wagon. Fortunately, they were still in camp (we drove by them).

The drive over Lolo is pretty darn gorgeous. There’s lots of trail access from the highway and the rivers were running high enough to support good-sized raft parties. There’s always the opportunity to see wildlife–and on the downhill side, we spotted a spike bull moose hanging out in a swamp.

Miscon this year was in a new hotel, with overflow space into a small park and a couple of downtown facilities. The Clark Fork River runs right behind the hotel, so we still had the meadow and river ambiance…only bigger. Instead of a small handful of food places available, there were some pretty good options within a decent walking distance. Plus a stunning 50s-era building that is both well-preserved and absolutely hilarious in its adherence to 50s-era design. Did I get pictures? Nope. I intended to, but….

The con itself went well. I sold a couple of books, handed some out, and met some cool new people. Somehow the alternative comics panel managed to span everything from the 60s to the present day in one hour, while touching on offshoots affected by alternative/underground comix such as comics/graphic novels in education and literacy, a brief nod to feminism in early underground comix, regional comix, political comix, and the influence of 60s-70s comix on the development of contemporary series such as the Simpsons, Girl Genius, and so on. It was fun but intense.

Our return was nowhere near as dramatic with regard to critter sightings. I did see quite a few swallowtail butterflies hanging out by the road as we drove down the Lochsa in particular, fluttering around certain puddles. The car collected a healthy dose of bugs, and we had a gorgeous view of the hillside above Asotin that was glowing purple from the fresh-bloomed vetch in the late afternoon sun.

So, as always, Miscon was a marvelous time, with marvelous people, and lots of opportunities to meet up with good friends. Already looking forward to next year.

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Beyond Honor release date and cover reveal, plus Birth of Sorrows

So the release date for Beyond Honor is going to be July 1, perhaps sooner but that’s going to be the official date that it will be available on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Apple iBooks, and etc. I have a lovely cover designed by Roslyn McFarland, and as of yesterday I put down the first 1000 words of the short story that is going to be featured in the Coming Soon pages at the end of Beyond Honor–“Birth of Sorrows,” a short story about the birth of Alicira’s daughter Rekaré, which follows about six months after the events of Beyond Honor.

Here’s the cover:

Beyond Honor front cover

Isn’t it a lovely little thing?

And as for “Birth of Sorrows,” well, that’s a lovely thing as well. Here’s an excerpt:

*************

It could be forgivable to assume that the shimmering of the air over the high mountain ridge’s grassland was nothing more than early summer’s heat. But edgy silence accompanied the flickering air as the midafternoon sun beat down on the broad, flat expanse. No crickets chirped, no hawks screamed. Even the camp of Keldaran and Clendan kinfolk summering on the high ridge lay mute; no children running, the camp herds clustered together, adults doing only what was urgent. Otherwise, they, too, watched as magic spread out from the large mat lodge belonging to their leaders, Heinmyets of Keldara, Inharise of Clenda, and Alicira the Outcast.

A long shriek echoed through the camp. The air on the open flat quavered stronger than ever and the strong, thrumming vibration that announced a God’s impending arrival even to the uninitiated and magicless rolled over the ridge in response to the cry. Another scream burst from the lodge, followed by sobbing gasps for air. Magic thickened around the camp, its heavy hand spreading fear even among the adults so that they signed protections for themselves and their children.

Orlanden en Selail’s fingers itched to pull his bow out of its case as he stood head of the guard around the Leaders’ lodge. He was no stranger to powerful magic, but this high sorcery of the Seven Crowned Gods made his skin prickle as if venomous centipedes were crawling all over him. His normal response to this sensation would be to prepare for a battle.

But not this time. Not when a sorceress of the Miteal gave birth to another sorceress of equal or greater potential power. Alicira the Outcast, exiled though she might be, still carried significant magical power that she had needed to put away during the last part of her pregnancy. Now, with the impending birth of this child, Alicira’s magic rebounded with renewed strength to protect her against the uncontrolled fledging power her daughter would wield in her first breaths.

What was the old saying? When sorceress gives birth to sorceress, the Gods themselves may tremble. Given that the sire of this girl was none other than Zauril the Usurper, a strong and powerful magician with aspirations to join the Seven’s pantheon by overthrowing one of them, there was no doubt in Orlanden’s mind that the Gods were trembling. No doubt that at least one of the Gods, if not all of them, would come to witness her birth.

****************

I’m thinking that I may read from this at MisCon, possibly also a snippet from Beyond Honor. Sound intriguing?

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Miscon

So my MisCon schedule is pretty minimal this year. Not sure what happened, but oh well. I have one panel that is cross-scheduled with my writer’s workshop so the workshop has to take precedence. Just the way it works. Otherwise, I have a signing, a reading, and one other panel.

Signing: Friday, 3:00-3:50, Hotel Lobby of Doom

Reading: Saturday, 11:00-11:50, Tent by the Trees, (1). I’m in a group with Christopher Paolini. If I were still teaching middle school, that would probably evoke huge SQUEE moments amongst some students. It may still do so for some former students….

Panel (nonconflicted): Alternative Comics–the 70s until now, Sunday 11:00-11:50, Madison. Ever since the 70s there’s been a strong alternative comic world populated with inclusive, varied characters such as The Checkered Demon, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and Honkytonk Sue. Find out about this fascinating industry, its colorful past and how to jump into exploring everything it has to offer.

I’m  hoping to get on some other panels, but if not…well, I’ll have fun anyway at the new and larger MisCon.

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