Filing Off The Serial Numbers: Making the Transition from Fanfic to Original Fiction by Sarah Madison

crumpleWow! It’s been far too long since I’ve posted here, it would seem! Well, December flew by in a whirlwind and 2015 is just around the corner. So what have I been up to? Ah, let me share that with you!

First, I’ve been working madly on the next installment in the bestselling Sixth Sense series. I’m about two thirds of the way done with my first draft, a wee bit behind on my self-imposed schedule of finishing before the end of the year. I still have a little time left, but I suspect it will take me until the end of January to complete the WIP, tentatively titled Truth and Consequences. I left things on a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of Walk a Mile, so I wanted to be sure readers didn’t have to wait forever to get the next story!WalkAMile

Part of the reason I’ve been pushing myself to finish this before the end of the year, however, is because starting Jan 5 and running through Feb 1, 2015, I’m conducting an online seminar through Savvy Authors titled Filing Off the Serial Numbers: Making the Transition from Fanfic Writer to Pro Author. I’m very excited about this course! I hosted it as a panel discussion workshop in conjunction with fellow author Anna Butler at the 2013 Galacticon convention in Houston, and it was so well-received that Anna and I were both invited back to host other workshops by the people at Galacticon! I’ve greatly expanded the original material, and will be touching on some of the pitfalls of turning pro, as well as some of the basic things every new writer needs to know. I like to think I made all the little mistakes so you don’t have to!

Even if you’re already an established author, you might find the course beneficial if you’re considering revising some of your previous fanfic into original works. If nothing else, I’d appreciate you passing on the word to those who might be interested. This is my first time conducting a webinar with Savvy Authors, and I’d like for it to be a success! You must be a member of Savvy Authors to participate, but you can sign up for a basic membership for free! Savvy Authors is an excellent online resource for new and established authors–with articles, webinars, how-to classes, and more!

DSP post Christmas saleWhile I’m here, Dreamspinner Press is currently conducting a post-Christmas sale: 20% off all e-books in the store from now until Dec 31st! Got a new e-reader for Christmas? Time to load that baby up! Dreamspinner allows you to buy from them directly and send your download to your device of choice. You can find all my Dreamspinner titles here.

I’m excited about what 2015 is going to bring–how about you? πŸ™‚

The only piece of writing advice you’ll ever need. Seriously.

spitfire bottom viewWell, The Boys of Summer Book Tour is winding down into the last couple of days, but there is still plenty left on tap to do and see!

Today, I have a post up about writing advice. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me there is a lot of advice floating around out there. Some good, some bad. How do you know which to follow?Β  Logic would dictate that advice from a best-selling author would seem to be the best advice to take–but that author may not live in similar circumstances to you, or may not have a similar life philosophy. What he or she proposes as the ONLY way to succeed may not work for you. You need to find your own path.

Acting From the Heart with Richard HatchBack in May, I attended Richard Hatch’s Acting from the Heart workshop at Galacticon. I’ve posted in greater detail about my time there, but the experience of the workshop was an enjoyable one for me. Much of what Richard Hatch had to say resonated with me, and yet it seemed like a tantalizingly brief period of time to take an epiphany and turn it into something you could make a foundation for the rest of your life. Later during the weekend, I had an opportunity to speak with him about the workshop and some of my reactions. It was Mr. Hatch who gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received–find a teacher whose philosophy resonates with you and learn from them. I share that and more on my guest post over at Eden Winter’s site: Magnolias andΒ Men. Do stop by and leave a comment to be entered for a chance at a $50 Amazon gift card.

sausage balls resizedIn the meantime, I’m working feverishly to finish a free short holiday story featuring Rick and David from The Boys of Summer! It will be posted Sunday Dec 22 in time for the last day of the book tour. I’m also baking more sausage balls–the first batch was such a hit that there aren’t any left for Christmas! I’ll be sharing the secrets of my famous sausage ball recipe on Sunday as well.

For right now, every time you leave a comment on one of my previous blog posts, you’ll increase your chances of winning that gift card–just follow the Rafflecopter instructions!

Speaking of finding someone with a similar life philosophy that you want to follow, I loved Kate Sherwood’s response to my question as to whether she’d ever been intimidated by reviews. I think she’s got it down cold–and that’s going to be my goal from now on!

 

 

Why We Need Heroes

Steve MedallionI’m a geek at heart, I’ll admit it.

I grew up watching Star Trek, Star Wars and the original Battlestar Galactica. I once won a contest for tickets to a science-fiction convention by answering a Star Trek trivia question on a radio show. I have a Next Gen costume that I made despite the fact I possess no sewing skills whatsoever. That’s what fandom love will do for you. πŸ™‚

I graduated to Babylon 5 (which I still say was among the best sci-fi television ever on the air), the X-Files, and Firefly. When ‘television’ became live-streaming and broadband, I was there, watching my shows: Torchwood, Doctor Who, the Stargate series…

What attracted me to these shows was something I am finding scarce among television shows today. It’s the sense of Team. It’s the group of people who somehow, together, supersede their individuality. It’s the notion that this group, be it the Pegasus expedition, or the crew of the Enterprise, or Misfit Toys band of characters on Serenity, are people you want at your side and covering your back. They are better together than they are alone. I miss that in this wave of reality television, gritty cop shows, and post-apocalyptic, Lord-of-the-Flies type shows that are predominant today. I don’t want to see back-stabbing and small-minded pettiness. I get plenty of that in real life.

Peggy's CompactI know why this kind of show is the driving force in television right now. Science fiction television is expensive to make and usually has a fierce, but smaller than national average of viewers. We are a jaded and cynical audience as well. It is easier to believe in the dark universes of fairy tales and vampires than the optimistic universe of Gene Roddenberry. But there is little out there that can make me drop everything and tune in week after week. Little that compels me to weave further stories about these characters or that universe. That makes me fly across the country to meet the actors, that drives me to spend months putting together a costume.

I think it is because science fiction and fantasy lend itself more easily to people spinning off their own stories in their minds. I’ve been writing ‘fanfiction’ in my head for as long as I can remember–I just didn’t know that’s what it was called. In fact, I thought I was strange because I did this, and on more than one occasion, tried cutting it out of my life. Little did I know that I was purposely uprooting my passion and throwing it in the dust heap. Fortunately, the roots of true writers are tenacious and tough, and the little bastard of creativity kept sending out new sprouts.

But I also think it is because science fiction leads itself more to role models I can identify with myself. Strong female characters who can take names and kick ass along with the boys. Strong male characters that are a little bit better than you are. That give you something to look up to, to strive to be. I don’t want a hero who’s perfect–but I don’t want one with feet of clay, either. I don’t fall in love with characters that are like my boss, or my co-worker, or me.Β  I want something better than that. A higher standard to hold up and live up to. I can deal with heroes that need redemption–as long as you show me that spark worth saving is there.

Peggy Carter's ShoesRight now my current hero is Peggy Carter from the 2011 Captain America movie. She is the embodiment of everything I love in a heroine: she is tough as nails but she never loses sight of her femininity. She plays by the rules, even though she doesn’t agree with them, unless something so important comes up that she willingly breaks them. Actress Haley Atwell, who played Peggy Carter to perfection, is quoted as saying this about her: “I likened her character to that famous Ginger Rogers quote. ‘She can do everything Captain America can do, but backwards and in high heels’. She’s an English soldier through and through, although she always looks fabulous. She might stand there with a machine-gun shooting Nazis, but she’s obviously gone to the loo beforehand and applied a bit of lipstick. She doesn’t need to be rescued. That’s exciting to me – her strength. I think she’s quite stubborn, a slightly frustrated woman who struggles with being a woman in that time. But more importantly she’s a modern woman and she sees something in Captain America that she relates to, and becomes kindred spirits. He treats her very differently to how she’s been treated by lots of men, in this kind of dominated world she lives in. So she’s very much a fighter.” (Wikipedia)

Victory RedI adore Peggy Carter as a character. I loved her relationship with Steve Rogers in Captain America–she liked him before the transformation, but she was a little gobsmacked by the transformation, you could tell. Still she kept her cool and downplayed her attraction until the point at which she saw another woman flirting with him. Just after she catches him being kissed by the aggressive flirt, there’s a scene in which Rogers and Stark showed her the shield they were testing. They ask her what she thinks and she pulls out a gun and shoots point blank at the shield while Steve is holding it. She puts the gun down and says the shield seems to work just fine to her. Simply. Awesome. She is a wonderful character. I was sorry to realize that we probably wouldn’t see any more of her as the series franchise has left WW2 behind and moved into our own time frame now.

Then I heard that Marvel had made a short film with Atwell reprising the role of Peggy Carter as part of the Blu-Ray DVD extras. Well, I don’t have a Blu-Ray, and my ability to see the film was nil, but it got leaked on the internet and thanks to an eagle-eyed friend, I did get to see it. You know what? Peggy is in mourning because she thinks Steve is dead–but she is going on with her life too. She is fighting a system that doesn’t value her because she’s a woman, yet she is not only doing her job but better than everyone else too. This is what women have been doing for decades to make it possible for women like me to work in the profession that I do. And though I know she is a fictional character, wondering “What would Peggy do?” helps me straighten my skirt (when I happen to be wearing one) and lift my chin and get on with my life.

Maybe that makes me the geekiest of geeks. But I’d rather live my life with my fictional heroes to guide me than a dark, colorless existence without them.

Peggy Carter Sun-2_resizedNo, I’m no Hayley Atwell. That’s not the point. The people who celebrate International Walk Like Beckett Day are not trying to look like Stana Katic. They are embracing the power that the character of Kate Beckett gives them. For you, it might be Ivanova from B5, or Brenda Leigh Johnson from The Closer. Maybe it’s John Sheppard from Stargate Atlantis or Mal from Firefly. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that if your heroes give you the strength to make it through the day, if you are a little better at the end of the day because of them–embrace the power they give you. πŸ™‚

 

I do think in small part the reason Peggy Carter resonates with me so much is the amount of time I spent researching WW2 and the Battle of Britain in particular, for my most recent M/M romance, The Boys of Summer. If you’re looking for a hot summer read, then you might want to check it out!

The Boys of Summer400x600

At a Crossroads… Writing, Life, and Why You Should Never Give Up

View from Sky Lounge resizedI should start out by mentioning that I got very little sleep last night. About 2 hours, all told, which simply isn’t enough. I have this personal motto which says, “Make no major life decisions without at least eight hours sleep and a good meal.” I still maintain that it’s a good philosophy, but that means you should take anything I say here with a grain of salt.

Earlier this evening, I thought a lot about what I was going to say in this blog post. I had it all mapped out. I was going to finish my report of Galacticon3 with my reading that I had with the Oracle–a young woman named Kar Davis, whom I met at Richard Hatch’s Acting From the Heart workshop on the first evening. I was struck by her sense of self (she ‘owned’ her name–having chosen one for herself to suit herself–one of the things discussed at the workshop) and she mentioned that she had made BSG Tarot cards and was going to be doing readings all weekend. (She’s written some wonderful recaps of her experiences at the convention–you should check them out here.) A lot of what Richard Hatch had to say at the workshop resonated with me–her summation of it is excellent.

I should probably mention here that I have strong spiritual beliefs. I grew up in a household with foundational ties to the Church. I believe in the power of prayer–of visualizing your wishes and intentions and putting them out there before the universe and God. What I no longer believe in–what I’ve lost faith in, if you will–is the Church itself. My struggle began when I was in my mid-twenties, living alone and living for The Career. I had relocated to a new town and was having trouble finding a church I felt comfortable attending. I’d noticed a shift in philosophy away from ‘here is what your daily walk with God should be’ to ‘here are the social issues and political candidates we think you should support.’

I’m not naive enough to think that religion and politics haven’t been bedfellows since the first religion was created. I have read Will Durant’s Age of Faith (vol. 4 of the The Story of Civilization), after all! But in my own church, in my own community, this was not something I saw growing up. It crept in over time, as politics in this country changed. By the time 9/11 occurred, I could no longer bear going to church at all–something my mother cannot understand. The Us against Them rhetoric was so ugly, so hateful, so very much against everything I believed, that I could no longer attend church services. I don’t think all that much has changed since then–not with the rise of the conservative moment in this country and the co-opting of Christianity and American as terms only fit for a select group of people with a specific set of beliefs.

Richard Hatch at the Opening Ceremonies

Richard Hatch at the Opening Ceremonies

So when I say I have strong spiritual beliefs, I mean that I believe in God, just not in the Church as it has come to be. With my experiences with other forms of spiritualism, I try to be open-minded. I think that when we enter into an experience with an open mind, we have the capacity to learn something from it. What I find the most interesting from the few experiences I’ve had is that I seldom learn something I don’t already know. I connect with something I do know very well, only I’ve buried it and neglected it for so long that I no longer feel it–not until that little light-bulb moment occurs and I recognize what I’ve always known. I know, that sounds very ‘whoo-whoo’, doesn’t it? I can’t explain it, but that has been the case of nearly every life-changing ‘ah-ha!’ moment in my life. But it is what I’ve discovered to be true for myself over time. That was certainly how I felt about Richard Hatch’s acting workshop–which less about acting and more about living. Owning your name. If your name isn’t who you are–change it, and own *that* one. Tapping into your experiences, no matter how painful, to give the best performance of your life. Since another one of my mottoes (particularly when it comes to writing) is ‘everything is grist for the mill’, much of what Hatch shared with us really resonated with me. Namely, that we are our biggest roadblocks and that to truly be ourselves, to unlock our potential as human beings, we have to let go of life experiences that tell us otherwise. We have to use those experiences, not be mastered by them.

Onstage with Richard Hatch and another audience member doing improv

Onstage with Richard Hatch and another audience member doing improv

I believe this. I really do. I believe that when we put out there what we want, doors begin to unlock and pathways open to allow us to move toward our goals. I believe if we stand around carping negatively about the crap in our lives, then crap is all we’ll ever attract. I believe we are responsible for our destinies within the hand of cards we are dealt. What I do not believe in is what I call ‘quantum mysticism’. This idea that if we only *believe* hard enough, money, fame, and good health will magically enter our lives. I know magnificent souls with terrible chronic health conditions and disabilities. I do not believe that they in some way brought their health issues on themselves because of the way they think and feel about themselves. I think most of them are living phenomenal lives of giving and caring despite their problems–circumstances that would leave me crumpled in a ball of self-pity and weeping in the corner. Anyway, I get angry at the Positive Thinking Movement that suggests we can just go around saying mantras to get us out of whatever hell we live in. No. We can’t. All we can do is control how we react to it.

I did speak to Hatch later in the weekend about his philosophy–after all, one workshop isn’t going to change someone’s life overnight–because everything he said sounded like a gong within me, a clear, pure tone that rang ‘yes‘. But how do you get there? How to do stop the self-sabotaging process? What he said was that it is a continuing journey–that you had to find teachers and philosophies that echoed what you knew to be true for you and continue on down the path. Made sense, though a part of me was a little frustrated. I know I’m my own biggest roadblock. I allow myself a certain amount of success within a prescribed script, written out by the things I believe about myself and life. I want to learn how to get around that block–how to prevent me from sabotaging success every time it comes within my reach. How to move forward with my life (and the cards I’ve been dealt) and stop mourning losses that have no yet occurred.

Warriors and ToastersWell, I’ve only had a reading done once or twice in my life, but I’ve always enjoyed the experience, so I made a point of looking for Kar Davis’s table. Unfortunately, it would seem that every time I had a moment to look for her–she was either occupied with someone else or away from her booth. I was starting to think I might miss her altogether. I got to see a lot of cool things–some wonderful artwork, some amazing models, fantastical jewelry, costumes, props, and comic books galore. I wish I hadn’t been on such a tight budget! There was so much there I wanted to take home with me! I loved seeing how creative people were with their costumes–and above all, I loved how free everyone felt to be themselves. It was as though being in costume let them be the person they always wanted or imagined themselves to be. I understood for the first time how powerful cosplay could be, and found myself wishing that I wasn’t there as Sarah Madison, author, but as Sarah Madison, fangirl.

A blast from the past: Star Trek TOS

A blast from the past: Star Trek TOS

I finally caught up with Kar Davis as I was heading off to something else–she was finishing a reading and someone was waiting in line, so I just paused long enough to ask her if she’d be there later–and the person waiting volunteered to let me go in front of them.

I hesitated. I didn’t want to cut in line, I didn’t want to feel like I had to rush through the reading because I needed to be somewhere else shortly. But I’d been to her table three times already, and given the chaos that wasΒ  the convention so far, I was concerned this might be my only chance for a reading. I don’t know why it was so important to me–it just was.

The very nice couple assured me they were happy to wait, and so I got my reading.

I’d like to show you a picture of my cards–I took one so I could remember them myself and the message with them. The cards aren’t really mine to share, however, so I’m going to continue to regale you with con pictures instead. πŸ™‚

T shirts resizedThe cards were beautifully done. Kar had selected images from the series and assigned words and meaning to them like a traditional deck of tarot cards. She spread them face down in a line and asked me to select five, leaving them face down as I chose them.

Well, I have to tell you, I closed my eyes and let my hand hover over the cards. It was as though I could feel a certain heat coming off some of the cards, and my hand kept wandering back to linger over them. I can’t tell you where I dredged that up from–it’s been years since I had a reading and I was given the cards to shuffle at that time. Something of that experience must have stayed with me though. I held in my mind a single thought–writing. And I let my hand choose the cards. It was interesting how I kept coming back to one end of the spread to choose. At one point, my hand dove down on a card, touched another one first, and pushed it aside to select the one it wanted. Yes, I’m writing as though it had a will of its own–that’s what it felt like.

Kar asked me if I’d had readings done before–that I obviously was feeling for the energy. That’s when I realized that I’d done so automatically–and I suspected this was going to be a fun read.

The first card was Starbuck as played by Katee Sackhoff. I have to say, I’m a huge fan of the original series (the main reason I didn’t watch much of the reimaged series was I was in a dark place when it aired and it was a dark show) but I thought Sackhoff did a phenomenal job capturing the essence of this darker, more tortured Starbuck. The card was labeled The Warrior. Kar was pleased–she said this was the first time that the Warrior card had turned up. She said it could be interpreted as someone who knows what they want, and once they’ve made a decision, they would go after it full force, but she said it could also be seen as a warning against Starbuck’s impetuous side and that I would need to look at all the potential ramifications of a decision before acting on it.

Cylon resizedThe next card was titled Barrier. How appropriate, I thought. Kar seemed pleased by this one too, which kind of made me feel like I was performing up to expectations. πŸ™‚

The image she chose was one of Kara Thrace and Lee Adama with their backs to one another, and she mentioned that Starbuck could have had the relationship she wanted with Apollo–it was hers for the taking–only neither one of them could get past their own personal barriers to take it. She also said that there were obviously barriers in my own life preventing me from having the things I wanted, and I would need to learn how to get around them–but that this was the important part of the card’s message–there were *always* ways around obstacles if you looked for them.

The card after that was Home: an image of the Galactica flying through fluffy clouds in a blue sky. This card delighted Kar as well. “Oh, this is my favorite card! I almost never see it, or certainly haven’t seen it during the readings I’ve been giving here. It doesn’t have to mean a physical home, it can be–”

I finished her sentence for her. “A place that feels right.”

“Yes!” She was pleased that I got it. I know she told me more about home’s meaning, but I found myself looking at the card and thinking, Yes. Writing is my real home now.

A President Laura Roslin Fan

A President Laura Roslin Fan

The card after that was The Leader. It was a picture of President Laura Roslin as played by Mary McDonnell.

“Are you in a leadership position at work?” Kar asked.

“Yes and no,” I said. I explained the nature of my work, and that because I worked at so many different locations, I was essentially boss-for-a-day to a certain extent, in the leadership role that day, but often without the full power of authority to make certain decisions.

Kar seemed taken aback by that, and sympathized on how this wasn’t an easy role–something I’d never really thought about before. We talked about leadership and delegation–she said she normally talked about how this card reflected someone’s role at work but that it could also mean taking leadership within your own life. Huh. It had never dawned on me before the similarities between the way I handle my own life and the role I have at my various jobs.

The final card, the one she turned over and placed above all the others, was Crossroads. In it, Colonel Tigh has revealed to Commander Adama that he is a Cylon–they’ve had a knockdown drag-out fight, and like a lot of guys I know after such a conflict, are now sharing a drink together. Something that wouldn’t have seemed possible, if you know the context of the BSG story. Kar smiled and tapped the card as she explained the background of the picture.

“Are you at a crossroads in your life?”

I nodded. Because yes, I am. I did the reading with ‘writing’ in mind because writing stories has become my passion, the thing I want to do more than almost anything else. The thing I choose to do over the multitude of other tasks awaiting me every day. When you’ve spent your whole life looking for your passion, and then you suddenly discover it was there all along, hiding beneath your feet where you kicked dirt over it, that rediscovery is like magic–but it’s like a drug too. I’ve spent the last five years rediscovering my passion–to the detriment of nearly everything else in my life.

I am at a crossroads. I can either accept the fact that my writing appeals to a small group of people and keep writing stories for my own pleasure and that of a few die-hard fans, or I can continue to plug away at writing, putting in the hours not only writing itself, but the promotion, the social networking, the blogging,etc. and hope that one day, I will have a big enough following that I can breathe a little easier at bill paying time. I can either continue to write the kinds of stories I love, or I can try and write something more mainstream marketable. I can accept that my writing is never going to be the kind of career that will allow me to cut back on my day job and I can go back to treating it like the hobby that it probably is. Or I can stop writing altogether and pour all that time and energy back into my primary career, returning to the level of devotion I haven’t given it in the last five years.

Not writing isn’t an option, thank God. Writing is a compulsion. But last night, after crunching some numbers and looking at what I’d spent in promotions (as well as time, a precious commodity for me) versus what I’ve made in sales this past quarter, I’d have to say that I haven’t reached the Breakout point yet. Money is tight enough that working less hours in order to write more isn’t an option either. In fact, plugging away at my slow rate is about the only option I have–other than accepting that this is all my writing will ever be.

And you know, when I drafted this blog post in my head, I was going to do just that. I was going to announce that I had a ‘realistic’ grasp of what kind of audience my stories had, and that I was okay with just being a hobbyist writer. After all, it fit in with my mental image of myself. But when I sat down to write these words, when I looked at the photograph of the spread of cards Kar laid out for me, a small ember of anger burst into flames.

Wasn’t that just me giving in to the preconceived script I have for myself? Wasn’t that just me, once again, cutting myself off at the knees just as I was rounding the corner into the homestretch? The Boys of Summer has gotten terrific reviews. No, it hasn’t rocketed me to the top of Amazon sales, but you know what? That doesn’t happen to very many people. Most people write stories from their heart, publish them, and get to work on the next one because telling the story is the most important part of the process. And I have seen a bump in sales for my backlist too.

So maybe slow and steady does win the race in the end. Because you can never cross the finish line if you stop moving toward it.Tortoise resized

An Embarrassment of Riches…

I’ve been without the internet for most of the last 24 hours, only getting back online late yesterday, which means I have a lot of catching up to do! Funny how we’ve become *so* dependent on the internet to do all our communications, isn’t it? I was at Galacticon 3 this past weekend with Anna Butler and it was her birthday on Saturday. I wished her happy birthday…VIA FACEBOOK. *facepalm*

I’ve received another outstanding review for The Boys of Summer from Rainbow Book Reviews and their reviewer Lena Grey. I also received notice this morning for a glowing review from Hearts on Fire and their reviewer, Vivian (my apologies for the mix-up in names earlier! I can’t have any caffeine any more and sometimes the brain is foggy in the morning!) The reviews have been so overwhelmingly positive that it is really a bit staggering. Ironically, it makes me worry if I can ever write anything to match the reception of this novel or if everything else will be an anti-climax for the reader. Yes, that’s me. I need to learn to enjoy the moment and not leapt ahead to imaginary problems before their time. In the meantime, I’m walking around with a goofy grin on my face at work and no one knows why. πŸ™‚

spitfire clear blue skies

I have a bunch of contest winners to send books out to: Chelle, Maya, and Lasha are all recent winners and I’ll be getting your copies to you ASAP. Also, the Summer Sizzling Reads Fest begins tomorrow on The Romance Review site–be sure to register to enter into the contests–over 400 participating authors and prizes! Also, come back and check this site for the answer to my Q&A so you can have a shot at winning your own copy of The Boys of Summer! The month of June is going to be HOT! πŸ™‚

Embracing the Courage to Follow Your Dreams…

I’m starting to get a good idea now why people travel. As someone who hasn’t traveled a lot herself, I’d always assumed it was about the journey to see things you’d never seen before. Stained glass in a cathedral in Rome. A Saturn 5 rocket in its entirety. The Hope Diamond. The Greek Isles. A quintessential British fishing village in Cornwall.

I’m beginning to see that it really about the journey itself. Like the poem, Ithaca, which I’ve always loved but never fully appreciated, the story is in the journey.

You might think the title of this blog post is cumbersome. Well, it is. I chose it because while I know many people with the courage to follow their dreams, I don’t know all that many with the courage to *embrace* what that means.Β  Case in point: I came across this wonderful cartoon illustrating the words of Astronaut Extraordinaire Chris Hadfield (my new personal hero, in case you hadn’t noticed). What a wonderful cartoon about the sacrifices we have to make when we set out on the path of following our dreams. But what amazing rewards are there for us if we do so. I confess, however, when I set on the course to become a writer, I wasn’t prepared for the sacrifices I would willingly make for my passion. Less time riding the horse. Annoyance with the dog when he still wouldn’t lie down and be quiet after a long run. Watching an hour or two of television a week instead of my usual shows nightly. Telling my boyfriend I’d be along to bed in a few minutes as I am typing and when I glance at my watch next, two hours have passed. And the guilt. Oh, the guilt. Sometimes it hurts knowing how much of the brief time I have with my animals that I’ve wasted these past years. I’m conscious of that in general, having made choices that hurt me professionally, personally, and economically because they were the right thing to do at the time. What was less apparent to me was how much I resented the fact that I’d made some of these choices. How much I resented that I’d put my life on hold for so long and now it was taking me a long time to really find my way, what I was meant to do with my life.

I just came back from an amazing weekend at Galaction 3 and ComicPalooza. What an experience! 20 K plus fans from all over the world, gathering together to celebrate their love of their fandoms. One of the important things about fandoms is that they give us permission to think big, dream big, and act out on these fantasies even when the reality is not possible. No, I will never pick up everything and head through a Stargate into the Pegasus galaxy as part of an expedition but I can take the lessons learned from my favorite characters and work hard to follow the dream that is a bit more within my reach. I can emulate the characteristics that make a character a personal favorite–the courage, the toughness, the honor, etc. and use them in my daily life to achieve my goals. That’s what heroes are for, after all.

A Black Widow Fan!

A Black Widow Fan!

One of the things I’ve discovered about traveling is that it takes you out of the hum-drum everyday existence of our lives and puts us in new situations. I try new foods when I’m on vacation. I talk to people I’ve never met before, I have the most interesting conversations. When you are mired in the day-to-day routine of your life, it is difficult to have much to say sometimes. I think social media is a bit to blame for a creeping dissatisfaction that I’ve experienced in my life recently. When I was new to the business of social media, I wrote a post titled Does Facebook Make Us Depressed? While my views have been tempered through the years, I still feel the same about many aspects of social media.

After all, I haven’t lost 50 pounds, won 50 million dollars, or had a number one book on the best seller list for 50 weeks. I rarely go anywhere special. While I love taking pictures with my little point-and-shoot camera, they’re nothing spectacular and there’s a limit to how many pictures of horses, dogs, and flowers people want to see. My day-to-day workday is emotionally draining (and not something I want to relive in a blog post unless I do so to be rid of it). The fact is, my life is pretty boring most days. It’s hard to find something meaningful and worthwhile to blog about on a regular basis. And yet social media is how most of us interact with our friends these days, so we tend to natter on about the minutia of our lives just so we’re there with our friends. I misplaced my phone earlier today and you’d have thought I’d lost a thousand dollars with the way I panicked and began searching the car for it. The relief I felt when I found it was enormous. Not because I found my phone. Because I found my *connection* with my world.

But I learned some interesting things about myself this weekend. I met a lot of people from all walks of life (and I do have more to say about my experiences at Galacticon). And a couple of things struck me. Most of the people I know don’t have it easy. Many of my friends and acquaintances are just squeaking by. For a long time now, I’ve felt bad when I want to whine about the circumstances in my life because I know so many people who have it ten times worse. I also know that just because my problems are comparatively mild, that doesn’t discount the impact it has on my life.

However, a chance conversation with a woman beside me on the flight home really opened my eyes to this idea of embracing the courage to follow your dreams. At first glance, someone who decided she wanted to compete in dressage on an international level might seem like someone smoking crack. But this woman had a plan. She was giving it her all. She’d committed to it in the way that my favorite quote about persistence had done:

Nothing in the world can take place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. ~Calvin Coolidge~

And she embraced it. She sat there in the seat beside me, saying, “Sure I could have taken the corporate job working 80 hours a week for $40 K a year, but I’m making almost that much now and I’m happy. I have health insurance, I have a Roth IRA. I’m not being stupid about this. Just because it’s not putting me on a fast-track to making more money down the line doesn’t mean that I’m crazy. Well, okay, maybe the riding horses part does.”

She showed me on her iPad the lovely photos of the horses she’d gone to look at that weekend as she shopped for her next FEI prospect. This is not one she looked at, merely an example of what an FEI dressage horse entails.

We talked of sport horses and science-fiction, of corporate America, and of personal happiness. And I realized that while I was very good at comparing myself to others and seeing where I didn’t stack up, I was forgetting some of the most important things.

I made these choices. I chose to make less money working for myself than to stay in a job where I was expected to work 60-70 hours a week for 9.5 vacation days a year that I could not ever take consecutively. I chose to move to a small rural town where I could keep my big horse and my big dog and enjoy having the things I loved around me instead of working in a big city for more money in a job that made me suicidal. I made a choice to stop competing my horse because I wanted her to still be around for me to love more than I wanted another ribbon or trophy on my wall. Yeah, my life can be tough sometimes, but I chose it. I chose to start writing again and I allowed it to consume my life. And you know what? I can also chose how I feel about this. I can either piss and moan about my troubles and the incessant, grinding toil that is my life, or I can embrace it, cracking the bones and sucking out the marrow because it’s mine.

No, it won’t make it possible for me to magically pay the bills if there’s no money in the checking account. No, it won’t erase the weird food intolerances I’ve developed in the last few years or prevent me from getting cancer, or make me look like I did when I was 23. But I do have ultimate control over my attitude and I choose to embrace the choices I’ve made to become a writer.

Oh! Speaking of which, I just found out today that The Boys of Summer has been listed on Goodreads Best M/M Romances Published in 2013! (How’s that for a sneaky segue, but it’s true, I just found out a little while ago!) How astonishing is that? It’s been out only six weeks! I am delighted and terribly flattered too!

The Boys of Summer400x600

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Condit gives The Boys of Summer a 5 sweet pea review!

The Boys of Summer400x600

I’m headed out the door for the airport to return home to the daily grind, leaving behind the wonder and excitement that has been Galacticon 3 and Comicpalooza this weekend, but I had to stop for a moment and share this terrific review for The Boys of Summer!

Josie Goodreads of Mrs. Condit Reads Books has given The Boys of Summer a glowing 5 sweet pea review!

Do drop by and leave a comment to be entered into the running for a free copy!

Lessons learned from a post-apocalyptic society…

I have to confess up front: I don’t like post-apocalyptic stories. I don’t like them because watching my favorite characters struggle for survival hits too close to home. My daily experience is one of life and death in a microcosm–work can be very stressful at times. I have to make decisions and live with the consequences. So while I can appreciate finding common ground with favorite characters within a television show, I typically look for something lighter in my home entertainment.

I might be changing my tune soon.

A Wolverine Fan

A Wolverine Fan

I’ve spent this past weekend immersed in the fandom of Battlestar Galactica, and though I can legitimately call myself a fan through my love of the original show (which had me writing fanfiction for it, though I didn’t know at the time that this is what I was doing), I had some qualms about coming to Galacticon 3. Would it be all about the new series–of which I’d only seen half? Would it make fun of the original series that I adored so much, even as I can see now the inherent cheesiest within? I didn’t know.

A fan cosplays as Cylon Number Six

A fan cosplays as Cylon Number Six

I needn’t have worried. I met some of the most interesting people that I’ve ever encountered at a convention before. Young fans, even people who couldn’t have possibly watched the re-imaged series when it was on five years ago. Old fans, who embraced the original series with the same love that I had done. Science fictions fans have always struck me as being some of the most open-minded and tolerant people I’ve ever met–and I think it is because fans of the genre are open to the concept of alien cultures and different ways of thought. However, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the conversations I had with the most unlikely of people.

On a bus ride to the Johnson Space Center, Anna and I had a conversation with a fellow writer and historian, who despite being a native Texan and a white male of a ‘certain age’ decried the actions of the media and the GOP in demonizing the President and how everything boiled down to the protection of privilege and power—and that the things the GOP is telling us that Obama is trying to do cannot happen–there are checks and balances in places to prevent one man from making these kinds of sweeping changes that the GOP insists Obama is trying to do. The fact that he is African-American adds a frisson of terror to the scare-mongering–the threat that the era of the White Male Supremacy is over. It was an astonishing and enlightening conversation to have–but I did discount it slightly because, well, he was riding a bus on a Galacticon tour.

Hope for the future

And yet, astonishingly, I had another conversation with a native Texan that completely blew me away. Anna and I had entered the crowed bar the first night on our arrival–and not finding a table, she’d asked this man and his young adult son if we could join them. We’d covered the usual ground (what we were doing there, where we were from, etc) by the time his wife joined us–and then Anna boldly stated that we wrote M/M romance and were there to promote our work while hosting a writing workshop.

I could have died.

A President Laura Roslin Fan

A President Laura Roslin Fan

I wanted to take her by the arm and tell her we didn’t do that sort of thing in America. Not in Texas. To my utter surprise, not only were the parents receptive (the son was definitely distancing himself from the whole thing) but the wife took our contact information to give to her daughter who wanted to be a writer–and the father stated that his brother was gay. The next thing I know, we’re discussing why we write M/M romance and how yes, his brother might potentially want to read it.

Wow. Just wow. Because of my own blind spots, never in a million years would I have broached such a subject. Because Anna is from the UK, it probably didn’t occur to her to be circumspect about the sort of writing we do. And if I’d followed my own prejudices and biases, I’d have never had this conversation. And I’d have missed out on a wonderful opportunity to share with someone that there is a whole genre out there that his brother or daughter might be interested in learning more about. I found myself handing out business cards to someone that I would have assumed on meeting that he and I would have nothing in common–and I would have been wrong.

I’ve never been so glad to be wrong in my entire life.

Iron Man Fans

Iron Man Fans

 

 

Cylons, Colonial Warriors, Geekery, and Review News!

So here I am in Houston enjoying myself tremendously at Galaticon 3 and Comicpalooza! What fun I’m been having! I’ve never considered myself a part of the BSG fandom, though I wrote fanfic for it a long time ago. Man, have I been missing out!

 

A fan cosplays as Cylon Number Six

A fan cosplays as Cylon Number Six

Nicki Cline, on being asked if she’d ever felt overwhelmed by fans at a large convention like this commented on the fact that she’d heard from fellow actors how fans in some fandoms didn’t respect an actor’s personal space, but that she never felt intimidated or threatened by the fan’s love of this show and their enthusiasm to discuss it. She went on to say that she found the fans to be some of the nicest, most respectful and generous people–and that since she had no other point of reference, she couldn’t say if it was particular to the BSG fandom, but she suspected it was true of sci-fi fans in general.

I had a fantabulous time at Richard Hatch‘s acting workshop–but it was so much more than that. Hatch brought his own personal experiences to bear on this metaphysical journey to teach us how to tap into our inner selves and act from the heart–and despite the lateness of the hour due to program delays–gave the participants of the workshop 110% of his energy and enthusiasm for the subject. He spoke of how most of us are like Cylons, with pre-set programming that we learned quite young–impressions and false notions embedded into our psyche through life experiences and the things that might have been said and done to us. These false ideas often lead us onto the same paths of self-sabotage and blocking our own success in life because fundamentally, our life ‘coding’ doesn’t allow for happiness or success. It was a powerful, energetic presentation about how we needed to first recognize that we were doing this in the first place, and then how we must begin asking ourselves the right questions and seek out the right information and teachers to help us change the programming. His passion for helping people to break free from destructive patterns of thought was deeply obvious. His class resonated with a lot of the audience, myself included. Of course, the fact that I went on stage during one of the improvs and got to use some life experiences to mold a scene might have something to do with the impression the class made on me! I had fun and I learned something too. πŸ™‚

The actors themselves have been a delight. Everyone is so down-to-earth! Dirk Benedict is ever-the-charmer, and he came late during the opening ceremonies, running down the line of actors on stage and slapping everyone’s hands as though it were a sporting even as he went. This morning, he showed up at the press conference wearing a Starbucks T-shirt. Some thing never change, which for some reason deeply satisfies me in a way that is hard to explain. Like all is right in the universe or something. πŸ™‚

A lot has been said by the actors for the gratitude they feel for the fandom and the power of the love of the show and what it has meant to Battlestar Galactica as a whole. Edward James Olmos has the ability to command a room, and that’s no lie. He just comes in, starts speaking, and we all sit up and listen. And when he says, “So say we all!” in no time flat, the crowd is chanting–no, roaring–the words back at him, pumping fists in the air. It’s kinda amazing and very cool.

Showdown

I decided today to capitalize on a slight resemblance to Mary McDonnell and dress as President Laura Roslin today. It’s been funny to get a few double-takes! Everyone is having so much fun that it’s hard to remember that Anna Butler and I are here to do a workshop and panel discussion on fanfic! Aside from catching up with old friends and chatting with the actors about the things they are passionate about in life, there’s so much to see and do! The exhibition floor is pretty amazing, with a half scale model of a Cylon Raider and all kinds of wonderful vendors (steampunk hats! Corsets! Comic books! Jewelry! Must. Keep. Checkcard. In. Room.). One of the most amazing vendors we’ve seen so far has been this table–the artists are twins who’ve been drawing for years and finally decided to start their own business. They’re called Reinke Arts (you can find them at reinkarts@yahoo.com) and they sell fandom art and do commissions as well. Aren’t they astonishingly good?

 

Reinke Arts

Reinke Arts

I’ll have more as the weekend unfolds, but it’s time for the Ambrosia party now! And I hope to get a ‘reading’ done from someone who’s created Galactica tarot cards! And pictures of the steampunk hats! I have to get a picture even if I can’t afford to buy one! Oh yes, and I’ve got that panel discussion tomorrow! In the meantime, I received the most awesome reviewΒ  today–The Boys of Summer has been Gaylisted! Do check it out! It is really a delightful review–I’m very honored and pleased by it! πŸ™‚ I almost forgot too, it’s now available in print form on Amazon and other outlets.

 

Sarah Madison: Reader Appreciation Day on The Sweet Spot and Book Giveaways

The Sweet Spot hosts RAD: M/M Reader Appreciation Day and I’m going to be there along with a bunch of your favorite authors!

Old books

 

When: Saturday, May 18th from 8 am – 8 pm EST
Where: The Sweet Spot Yahoo Group

You must be a member of the group–but all you have to do is ask to join!

The following authors have generously donated these books or other prizes:

 

 

Anna Lee – ebook copy of THE PRINCE OF GALERIR
Tyler Robbins – ebook copy of A BEAUTIFUL LIE
Willa Okati – ebook copy of IT TAKES PRACTICE
Willa Okati – ebook copy of MIGHTY CASEY (releases at the end of May, winner will receive their copy at time of release)
Lori Toland – winners choice of ebook copy of THE LONG CON or DANGEROUS SUBMISSION (also check out Lori’s free spring fling read this weekend: ENGLISH CHAPS)
Michael Mandrake – ebook copy of winner’s choice from backlist
JM Cartwright – ebook copy of BRAINY AND THE BEAST
Sarah Madison – print copy of THE BOYS OF SUMMER (if winner is in Continental US, otherwise e-version outside the US)
Amanda Young – ebook copy of RECESSION
Vicktor Alexander – ebook copy of THE ALPHA KING
L.M. Brown – ebook copy of TO SEE THE SKY in pdf format
J.P. Bowie – winner’s choice of ebook copy of FLY TO HIM from the anthology Promoted by the Billionaire or A HIGHLANDER IN LA
Tara Lain – ebook copy of BRUSH WITH CATASTROPHE (THE ALOYSIUS TALES)
Diana DeRicci – ebook copy of HEALED BEGINNINGS (releases next week, winner will receive their copy at time of release)
ebook copy of Featherweight Press charity anthology LOST AND FOUND edited by Kris Jacen (stories by DH Starr, Michele Montgomery, Dakota Chase [aka Kiernan Kelly], Tom Webb, Caitlin Ricci, MF Kays [Freddy McKay], Diane Adams, Tabatha Heart, DC Juris, and Jeff Erno) – ebook donated by Jambrea Jo Jones
Jambrea Jo Jones – ebook copy of winner’s choice from backlist
Sloan Parker – winner’s choice of $15 Amazon.com gift card or All Romance eBooks gift card
S.J. Frost – ebook copy of winner’s choice from backlist

We’ll be dropping in all afternoon with excerpts, prize giveaways, and conversation! I’ll also be busy packing for my trip to Galacticon 3, so I will definitely be popping in and out. I’ve got some last minute shopping and laundry to do!

But hot boots are very cool...

But hot boots are very cool…

And in case you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, there is still time to leave a comment on The Armchair Reader on my post The Money Shot in M/M Romance. A comment will enter you to win an autographed copy of The Boys of Summer–but only until midnight on Sunday May 19th! Ditto for getting any of my backlist with Dreamspinner Press at a discount–this week only! That also ends on Sunday. Anyone buying discounted books this week at Dreamspinner is also in the running to win either a Kindle or a Nook–so what are you waiting for? πŸ˜€

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