Monday, August 6, 2018

ArmadilloCon Wrap-Up

I got to do one of my favorite things this week!

Not snuggle a baby, although I did get to do that too, so maybe I should say I did two of my favorite things. The baby part was extra sweet since he's the "new model" of Dzierwa, as in my good friends James and Julia. I had a wonderful time seeing the three of them, and after chatting with Julia I think I worked through a personal roadblock that's been hounding me for years. It sure is good to have good friends.

But the favorite thing I mean in particular is ArmadilloCon. It's a writing conference, and folks... it's by far the best one I've been to. In large part that's thanks to the pre-con workshop, which not only lets unpublished writers get their work critiqued by professionals but also automatically sets up a built in group of people to hang out with for the rest of the weekend. I hadn't been to this particular con in about eight years since it's all the way in Texas, and it was so so good to go back.

The two mentors in my workshop group this year were Deji Bryce Olukotun and Patrice Sarath. I read Deji's book After the Flare ahead of the con, and found it original and compelling.

Of course, Patrice has been a friend since my first ArmadilloCon over a decade ago, and I've read all her novels. (Go check out her latest, The Sisters Mederos!) She is such a generous soul. I tend to find that at every con there's one person who gives their time and energy to make sure other people have a good experience, and at ArmadilloCon that's Patrice. She's great to talk to, and she always has excellent advice for me. I'm very fortunate to have her in my life.

On the night before the workshop Patrice invited me out to dinner at Fonda San Miguel, the most atmospheric restaurant I've ever been to. The decor was exquisite and the food most excellent. We walked in the door to be greeted by this fellow, and the whole rest of the establishment was no less captivating.

On the way to dinner I got to meet Holly Black, who rode with us to and from the hotel. She's incredible, and listening to her read from The Wicked King later at the con was such a treat. She's a phenomenal story-teller.

And look! Proof! (She's the one in the blue hair.) On the left in this picture is my new friend April, who was one of the other students in my group. We both write (and enjoy!) the same sorts of books, and I had a great time palling around with her all weekend. She'll be one to watch! I look forward to seeing where her writing career goes.

Other highlights: new friends, old friends, fantastic panels.

I met a really awesome artist named Rosemary Valero-O'Connell (one of the guests of honor), who was incredibly sweet and great to chat with. I wish I had gotten a picture with her! I picked up her graphic novel, and the art is lovely.

One of those old friends (Marshall Ryan Maresca) is someone I've gotten to watch transition from unpublished writer to published author to prolific author. I went to his reading (which was excellent--The Way of the Shield is coming up soon, and the first chapter is great!) and saw him on several panels.

My very favorite panel of the con was one that he moderated. It was on managing a writing career, with Holly Black, A Lee Martinez and Rebecca Schwarz. The whole panel was a strange but wonderful blend of hysterical, sobering and reassuring. At the very end Holly shared about how the fear of the next book tanking never goes away, even for someone as brilliant and successful as she is. As time was coming to a close, Marshall wrapped up the panel with "And so to sum up: fear is a motivator, play video games, your life will be terrible. Thank you and have a good night." The whole room lost it laughing.

I'm back home now--got in at 2am last night, in fact. I'm still feeling a bit foggy from traveling and sleep disruption. But I'm processing all the good things that happened this week and looking forward to going to ArmadilloCon again some day... hopefully before another eight years go by.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


I saved my last pitch this month for the book I'm editing right now. It's nearing completion, and soon I should have it ready to release into the wilds. My fingers are crossed that this book will one day be published.


Kai is a gladiator in the Neverwas, a world where government policy is determined through combat in the arena. Laws are made based on who prevails in these magical fights to the death, and the winner receives a life-extending drug. After witnessing the destruction of a whole community in the far reaches of the world, Kai has come to the arena to find some semblance of control. Instead, the arena offers only chaos and confusion.

While fighting, Kai remembers a fragment of another life—a life in which Kai shared a kiss with an arena official named Quin in a place called Iowa. To remain near Quin, Kai resurrects a long-dead political coalition. But delving deeper into the intrigue of the arena only brings more questions—about the running of the government and the origin of the life-extending drug, about memory, and about the nature of the world itself.

Kai’s greatest battle of all won’t be on the sands of the arena—it will be proving to Quin that just because something is forgotten doesn’t mean it never was.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


As promised, today I have a pitch for my second NaNovel, called FUGUE. It was a little less derivative than The Empire Project, but still not the strongest concept.

I admit it's kind of fun to go back and chuckle at my early work. It's always nice to have a reminder of just how much my writing has changed.

Here's the pitch:

Jacob Brown has finally written a masterpiece—a perfect fugue worthy of Bach himself. He hopes the piece will finally earn him some money to pay his mother’s medical bills. But the first time he plays it, the music summons Hope, a ragged Spirit of Christmas—the only one of four such spirits that remains on Earth.

To bring back the other three in time for Christmas, Jacob must work with an opera singer and her mathematician brother to mutate the fugue into three other variations. If they can bring back all four spirits of Christmas, Jacob will have his own Christmas miracle—healing for his mother.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


In honor of it being NaNoWriMo, my pitches today and tomorrow will be for the first two NaNovels I ever wrote. They were truly terrible, but everyone has to start somewhere. (The first was particularly derivative.)

Without further ado, here is the first pitch:

Vidar is a child born and raised to be brilliant. At six years old, after intense training in language, sociology, politimetrics and the like, he’s ready to join the other children his age in ruling the Earth. But even as he makes new friends among the others in the program—including two who share more in common with Vidar than he ever expected—he begins to notice cracks in the utopia all around him.

Older children keep disappearing. Anyone who asks too many questions soon vanishes. For all their brilliance, the children in the program have never asked the most crucial question of all: Who really runs the world?

Monday, November 27, 2017


We're nearing the end of the month and the end of the pitches. Obviously I have lots of ideas I could work on when I'm finished editing my current manuscript and writing The Lies of Lochan Duvh. But the one I've been leaning toward is this one, THE SOULSPEAKERS.

I've always wanted to work with animation magic, and that's a big part of this book. I'm also really intrigued by the way labels affect people. Children tend to think of themselves as how they've been labeled. When I was younger I thought of myself as shy--even used my "shyness" as an excuse--simply because I'd heard myself described that way.

And I don't think it's only kids who react in this way. I really want to explore how thinking of ourselves in a particular way can make our weaknesses even more difficult to overcome.

And with that, here's the pitch:

In Sunny’s world, all seventeen-year-olds go before the Staff of Souls to be told their greatest weakness. If they can conquer their weakness within the following year they will become Imbuers, capable of imbuing one object with a magical soul. But when the staff labels Sunny as Cruel, Sunny spirals and loses control of the animation magic all children gain when they discover their greatest strength.

Nevertheless, Sunny is forced to compete in the annual Conqueror’s Trial, designed to make contestants face their weaknesses over and over. Sunny is placed on a team with River, who is Faithless, and Ember, who is Merciless. The three must work together, putting behind them their shared history of romance and betrayal, if they have any chance of surviving, much less conquering their weaknesses.

But as the three fight against the harsh labels they’ve been given, Sunny makes a startling discovery: the Staff of Souls can lie.