July 19, 2014, I did my first live reading from my novel ELFKIND at the most amazing event: Shades & Shadows.
If you’ve never attended a live reading in LA, you definitely need to check one out. The California Institute of Abnormal Arts is a wild choice for this kind of thing—like Beetlejuice’s imagination come to life in a quaint North Hollywood house-turned-venue packed with rare circus artifacts and sideshow oddities. I’d done some dance shows at this location in past years, so I was excited to return to their stage.
Seeing my name on the marquee reduced me to the emotional stability of a two-year-old child, because I honestly thought I’d go my entire life without experiencing anything like it. I had to photograph it for posterity, given the likelihood of it ever happening again.
Our hosts, Xach Fromson and Lauren Candia, are fantastic writers in their own right. And I’ve just adopted Lauren as my new style guru, with her retro chic hair and makeup, and flirty fifties dresses. She’s the pride of pinup girls around the globe.
Bram Stoker award winning author Eric J. Guignard was first up at the microphone, reading an excerpt from “Midnight and Jefe Bowman”. Rather than me tell you about it, I suggest you experience it for yourself on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVJi5NXIXOs. He was terrific with his narration and the many voices of his characters.
It intimidated me to follow such a talented artist, and this was my first time reading. I also made the fatal mistake of practicing one excerpt during the week, only to change my selection immediately before taking the stage, thinking it would be more exciting. This only added to the butterflies tearing up my stomach. And needless to say, I completed a seven minute reading in under six. My apologies to the audience!
After my six minutes, it was nice to relax again, and enjoy Scott Tarbet read from his story “Tombstone”. It was another inspiring performance with Scott’s great voice and fun characterizations—definitely something for me to strive for.
Our host, Xach Fromson, read from one of his new shorts next. I enjoyed the story a lot. He’s a great writer. And considering it was only his second time reading, he did so well I was convinced that I could come back for a do-over that I could be proud of.
Jeff Eyres can easily double as a standup comedian. The man is completely entertaining, and utterly funny. The pages you see him holding here are blank, as his first instinct was to complete the audience’s expectations for a “reading”. But since his printer prevented the actuality, he gave us a rote recitation of his short story “Bugs”. I promise you the entire audience walked away feeling like kings and queens of the cockroaches.
I warmed to Mere Smith the moment I saw her, because she is the spitting image of a dear friend of mine. I almost grabbed her into a hug before remembering my friend had moved away. And if that wasn’t enough, the woman wrote for one of my favorite shows, Angel. At CIA, she read “Dead Girl” from her book COWFACE and other hilarious stories about death. I laughed the whole time and freaking loved it.
Suffice it to say, me and my girls were mesmerized by the talent surrounding us Saturday night.
My author friend, Sophia Ann Montoya, later commented she’d never seen me nervous before, despite the many times she’d seen me take the stage as a performer, speaker and show producer. I pondered this further, and came to the conclusion that I should have approached the reading as a performer rather than as myself at a mic, exposing something as personal as my own words.
Perhaps only another writer can understand how daunting it is to strip away everything else so as to bare one’s soul beneath a spotlight. We publish our books in hopes of everyone reading our stories, after all, so what is the fuss over reading a few pages, right? But I think there is something more to reading your own pages than there is to bringing any other kind of performance to the stage.
Theatrical productions require the performers to don a persona, complete with costuming, hair, makeup, and more often than not, someone else’s words. Tribal style dancers sport ten pounds of hair and makeup, and lavish costuming that would make anyone feel like a completely different person. We use props and layers of silk fabrics in every color you could imagine. Story-telling dance takes it a step further as the performers bring fanciful tales to life. And announcers are still a part of the act, with their own personas to share.
Public speaking strips a lot of that away, yet still, you step out of yourself a bit into the story of whatever topic you’re presenting, and again it feels like play-acting. For us teacher-types, sharing what little knowledge we possess, the stage becomes a mere broadening of the classroom.
In the end, I discovered something as a result of this new experience: I have a profound and unmitigated respect for anyone willing to step in front of a mic with their own words. Each and every one of my fellow readers impressed the hell out of me Saturday night. I’ll definitely be back for more. You can count on that. I may or may not bring it to the mic again myself (hold the applause, jokesters), but I am certainly down for more of them.
ORIGINALLY POSTED: May 23-26, 2014
How do you spell Triskaidekaphobia?… Memorial Day Weekend at BayCon in Santa Clara, CA
At least, that’s what I found myself asking over the holiday weekend. I’m not sure I ever gave myself a satisfactory answer…
I’d been looking forward to BayCon for months, given that my GLAWS author friends go on and on about the event with glowing excitement, especially regarding the BayCon goers who tend to be avid readers and SF/F/H aficionados.
In other words — the BayCon peeps are my kind of peeps.
I dare say, the convention did not fail to live up to their praise, despite the unfortunate drop in attendance due to a rash of newly competing conventions in the Bay area over the holiday weekend.
I spent most of the weekend manning the signing table, meeting lots of fun and interesting people, and sold a respectable number of books, book bags and T-shirts. My favorite visit was from Wiggles, the trained assitance pup — a sweet little black lab who reminded me of my childhood pet, Lady.
Saturday night was awesome. After the Dealer Room closed, I found myself immersed in Star Trek culture, complete with drinks at the Klingon bar, a Klingon slave auction, and even Captain Kirk on the sales block. All the money collected went to charity, including the $5 I threw down for a drink called “Revenge” served to the tune of a room full of Klingons shouting, “Revenge is a drink best served cold!”
I even got to enjoy some Taiko drumming!
I will definitely be back next year if they’ll have me. =)
ORIGINALLY POSTED: April 18-20, 2014
WonderCon 2014 seemed so much larger than it did in previous years. It’s just a matter of time before it’ll be as difficult to score an Anaheim ticket as it is to score one for San Diego. It’s no longer the well-kept secret of San Diego refugees. That, or there are just so many more of us shut out of the San Diego con, despite our hours lurking in the virtual waiting room on ticket-purchasing day.
A huge, heartfelt thank you to my dear friend Rebecca for my San Diego ticket this year. It’s been 6 years since I’ve been able to get in. I can hardly wait. She was the first one to go with me so many years ago. It’s apropos she’s the one to help me get BACK IN.
Meanwhile, WonderCon was a completely different experience for me this year, because I spent half of it behind a book signing table. The whole weekend was a payoff for all of those grueling hours I spent working on ELFKIND. I felt as if I’d finally grasped some of the stars I’ve been reaching for.
Thank you to my friends, and everyone else who stopped by to say “hello”!
I did manage to squeeze in a few wonder-filled WonderCon moments when I wasn’t manning the table…
Most memorable was the Salem panel, complete with Shane West (nice!) and the show runners, Adam Simon and Brannon Braga, answering questions and giving us a sneak peek at the new WGN series. I’ve since been watching it air on Sunday evenings, and I’m truly impressed with the writing. I’m pleased they are incorporating so much research into the dramatization. The actors are amazing, bringing it all to life, with fabulous costuming and dark, gritty cinematography. I’m crossing my fingers they get a second season!
Any other Faceoff fans out there? I’ve been watching this SyFy show from its inception. Cat and Nico were on the most recent season. They were at the con, showing off their skills, and I even got a fun greeting from Nico, who almost made it to the finale show. Both he and Cat are impressive artists. I enjoyed watching them on the show, and now I can say I watched them live in action as well!
I squeezed in the Nerdist Panel and a visit to the Nerdist booth, since I’m always all about Chris Hardwick and company. Unfortunately, I didn’t get his autograph due to my own book signing commitments, but I got one from Jessica Chobot. Yay! =)
Star Wars definitely represented this year, including a visit from my friends, The Darkside Riders!
And of course the Dealer Room abounded with excitement as it always does. Some of the shots I collected are down below, including one of the artist who created the little Minion I took home with me. =)
ORIGINALLY POSTED: April 12, 2014
The start of my spring book signing tour for newly released ELFKIND…
After the USC Trojans opened the ceremonies with an impressive display of brass and tympony, I spent the morning checking out the other booths and buying, well, BOOKS.
Then it was my turn to take a seat at the GLAWS booth signing table. It wasn’t an event geared toward genre fiction, or SF/F/H in general, so I expected it to be slow. So imagine my surprise when one of my co-workers stopped by my signing station to buy a book and say hello. (Thank you, Taffy!!!)
I sold some book bags to the poor folks lugging stacks of books around, and handed out a lot of postcards that afternoon. And my Amazon numbers went up the next couple of days, so the e-Readers definitely followed through.
I truly appreciate the folks who came back for a second look and bought themselves an e-Book. I feel so blessed when anyone gives me a chance!!!
I Read, Therefore I AM…
I hopped the Blue Line to USC’s campus early in the morning to partake of the largest book festival in Southern Californial – the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
While there, I spent most of my time wandering up and down rows of vendor booths and meeting with friends and collegues. In previous years, I was able to attend more panel discussions and autograph tables, and I wish I’d had more time to do that this year as well.
As it was, I had my marketing cap on as I perused what other authors, editors and publishers were doing to promote their work. These days, authors have to be marketers and publicists as much as anything else, and we often lament the writing time lost upon the altar of self promotion.
I spent some time at the GLAWS booth with my fellow Greater Los Angels Writers Society folks, just taking in the activity swarming around the booth (it was busy!) and helping out what little bit I could.
I was thrilled to celebrate two new book releases from fellow GLAWS authors, Ace Antonio Hall and Mike Robinson. I got my personal copies signed, giddy with excitement for their accomplishments, and eager to partake of their good fortune myself in the future. (Which is no small feat when you’re patiently awaiting word back from your editor!)
There were a lot of small press booths making a good showing this year. It appears the old publishing paradigm is continuing to shift, not unlike the music industry in recent years. Red Phoenix Books was one such booth, where I paid a visit to a couple of my author friends, DeAnna Cameron and Claudia Alexander.