Monday, May 1, 2017

Malice Domestic 2017 AKA The Nicest Group of People in the World

I'm lying in bed, utterly exhausted, attempting to write about what an amazing weekend I had, while my dog Max does his best to thwart my efforts by demanding belly rubs.

Where do I even begin? I attended Malice Domestic for the very first time, which is a convention held in Bethesda, Maryland dedicated to celebrating traditional mysteries (probably my favorite genre). If you're wondering what constitutes a "traditional" mystery, it's loosely defined as a mystery with no explicit sex, excessive violence, or gore. The amateur sleuth reigns supreme in most traditional mysteries, and I just love reading about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances and seeing how they measure up (or don't).

I was lucky enough to be named the 2017 winner of the William F. Deeck - Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, which in addition to a $2,500 grant also includes free registration to the convention and the awards banquet, as well as a 2-night hotel stay. You best believe I jumped on that opportunity, and dragged along my poor husband who spent almost the entire weekend squirreled away in our hotel room writing or playing video games (we packed the PS4. Because of course we did). He did come out to breathe during meal times and was there to document the Agatha Awards Banquet, where I gave a short acceptance speech.

I'm in great company

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The most important thing about this convention (other than the books, obviously) is the people. I already knew that mystery writers were among the coolest and nicest people in the world, but Malice is like the purest distillation of these wonderfully kind and supportive people. The entire weekend, whenever someone saw (incredibly awkward and rather introverted) me standing alone, they would come up and talk to me. Ask me how I'm doing, where I'm from, what I'm writing, etc. And you could tell they genuinely cared about those things, they weren't just making small talk to pass the time.

After I gave my speech at the banquet and people realized I was the grant winner, the outpour of support was almost overwhelming. I spent the rest of the weekend grinning like a fool while thanking the many, many people who congratulated me. I know that I'm super awkward at accepting compliments, but I genuinely appreciated each and every person who reached out to me. Writing is such a solitary pursuit, and to receive validation from people whose opinion I truly respect is just...I have no words.

James and I arrived in Bethesda Friday morning, after being cooped up on a plane with an 8th grade class on a trip to Washington D.C. who had WAY too much energy for that early in the morning. The plane ride was blessedly short (about 2 hours), but did nothing to change the fact that the kid across the aisle from us got sick all over himself on the flight and the kids directly behind him were wearing "Make America Great Again" caps. Not sure which disgusted me more.

I missed most of the panels on Friday, but was lucky enough to make it to the New Kids on the Block: The Agatha Nominees for Best First Novel. I was excited about this panel because it was moderated by Harriette Sackler, the Malice Grant committee head (and overall amazing person), and included Marla Cooper (the first person I talked to at BoucherCon) and two previous grant winners. I wasn't familiar with Nadine Nettmann's work, but it sounded great (wine makes everything better). The panel was full of laughs and gave me something to dream about for the future (I can hope, right?)

Harriette Sacker (m), Nadine Nettman, Marla Cooper, Cynthia Kuhn, and Rosemary & Vince Keenan (as Renee Patrick)
Unfortunately, I had to skip the next panel about the historical mystery nominees because I needed to check into my hotel room (poor James had to hang out in the lobby alone since our room wasn't ready), and we both passed out until dinner time. I managed to rouse myself in time for the Malice Domestic Anthology signing, but then knocked out again almost immediately afterward.

I woke up stupid early (adrenaline kept making me wake up before my alarm went off) and got dolled up for the Sisters in Crime breakfast. In true Guppy fashion, I wore a purple feather boa which looked great, but shed feathers all over the place (including my plate of food).

Guppies (members of the Great Unpublished from Sisters in Crime) traditionally wear boas to the breakfast
I was lucky enough to be paired with Edith Maxwell as my Malice mentor, and we sat together at breakfast. Also at the table was Eileen Rendahl, who I met at BoucherCon, and I was so happy she remembered who I was! After we finished eating, all the Guppies got together to take a group picture, and I ended up next to Cynthia Kuhn, past Malice grant winner and Agatha nominee. When she found out I was the current grant winner, she got so excited, she literally started tearing up. She was just the sweetest, most enthusiastic and demonstrative person I met that weekend, and I couldn't be happier that she won the Agatha for Best First Novel.

Grant winner buddies!
After the breakfast, I attended a couple of panels, bought a TON of books and got them signed, and hung out with James for a bit. 

Just Die Laughing: Humor in Mysteries
Karen Cantwell (m), Donna Andrews, Jessie Chandler, Nancy J. Cohen, Nancy G. West

Thrilling Suspense
Doris Ann Norris (m), Lee Hurwitz, Lori Rader-Day, Eileen Rendahl/Kristi Abbot, Sarah Shaber, Judy Penz Sheluk

I also met up with Harriette and Janet Reid AKA the Query Shark so we could chat about what my next steps should be now that I won the grant. Janet was awesome; completely honest and straightforward, no BS, and happy to answer any questions I had about how to find/query/vet agents. As she left, she gave me her card, and I kind of held it gently in my palm for a moment and stared at it. I swear it was glowing. Then I put it in my card case and met up the MWA Midwest members for our happy half-hour. I enjoyed a tasty cocktail and shmoozed a bit, then went back up to my room to get ready for the Agatha Awards Banquet.

The food was good and the dessert adorable, but I was way too nervous about my speech to eat much (I KNOW. That's how you know it was serious). Harriette had to put her hand on my leg and tell me to relax because I was so jittery.

Some sorta yummy chocolate mouse cake

I had typed up my speech on my phone literally an hour before the banquet, so I kept checking my phone over and over, praying technology wouldn't fail me. When it was my time to go up, all I could think about was, "Why did I wear heels? What if I trip and fall in front of this entire ballroom? What if my phone magically deleted my speech in the last 15 seconds?" But I pulled it off! Adulting ftw!

After all the awards were presented (you can see the list of winners here), it was all a blur of people congratulating me and me congratulating other people and taking pictures and being handed business cards by people saying they loved my premise. IT. WAS. AWESOME.

Kellye Garrett of Hollywood Homocide (out 8/8/17)
Doing our best to represent for diversity in the mystery genre. Definitely check her out!

Rosemary & Vince Keenan (AKA Renee Patrick)
Previous grant winners and authors of Design for Dying

Me & my husband James
The best, most supportive person ever (he'd want me to add "funniest" too, but...)

Gigi Pandian
Previous grant winner and author of the Jaya Jones series and Accidental Alchemist series

Catriona McPherson
Agatha Award Winner for Best Historical for her novel, The Reek of Red Herrings

Lori Rader-Day
My former writing teacher (yes, she's the one who got me writing mysteries)
Author of The Black Hour, Little Pretty Things, and The Day I Died (get them all. You won't regret it)
Me and my Precious...

The Malice Domestic Grant Committee
My eternal thanks. You have no idea what this means to me

After the craziness of Saturday, I still managed to get up early to attend the New Authors Breakfast. I sat at Alexia Gordon's table, whose book Murder in G Major was on the shortlist for Best First Novel. It was really cool getting to chat with everyone and listen to all the new authors have their time in the spotlight. I added quite a few authors/books to my TBR list.

Alexia Gordon
Author of Murder in G Major

Radha Vatsal
Author of The Front Page Affair

Hank Philippi Ryan
Would've worn makeup if I knew I'd be taking a picture with Hank. Perfection as always.

Keenan Powell
Previous grant winner and author of the Maeve Malloy mystery series
After the breakfast, I attended two panels, ate way too much at lunch, then fancied myself up for the Agatha Tea & Closing Ceremonies.
Ghostly Murder
T.J. O'Connor (m), Alice Loweecey, Micki Browning, Casey Daniels, Alexia Gordon

Extra! Extra! Newshounds and Murder
Patricia McGlinn (m), LynDee Walker, Lynn Chandler Willis, Radha Vatsal, Christina Kovac 

Church lady hat! It's tea time!

Agatha Tea Party

Murder on the Orient Express movie coming out later this year
And so ends my enchanted weekend. 

Although maybe not so enchanted, because we somehow ended up on the same plane as the class trip from Friday. THE SAME KIDS. And one of the kids upgraded from a Trump cap to an American-flag-decorated bucket hat emblazoned with "Make America Great Again."

...yeah, I know.

In other news, I made sure to deposit my grant check during my lunch break today since I'm super paranoid. Which is good since I technically already spent the grant money. Next weekend, I'll be in San Antonio for the Writers Workshop Retreat from May 6 - 13th. A little nervous, but super excited to have such a long, intense period of time to dedicate to my writing. Maybe I'll make it after all...

How about you, dear readers (who I'm assuming exist)? What was your first Malice like? Have you ever gone on a writers retreat? What was it like? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

C2E2 2017: A Weekend of Geekery and Research

I'm busy getting ready for Malice Domestic this weekend (so excited!), which reminded me that I hadn't written about my experience last weekend at C2E2.

Chillin with bae

C2E2 (Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo) is where I'm loosely basing the setting of my novel, so even though I've been going there for years as a fan, this was my first time going with a very specific POV and purpose. This was also the first year I attended panels and other events, and it was so hard choosing which ones to go to since there were so many interesting ones! The amount of panels based on diversity, race, gender, social justice, etc in the geek sphere made me so happy.

One of my favorite panels was the last one on Friday night, More Than a Sidekick: Expanding Visibility for Asian American Characters and Creators in Comics. It was AWESOME. Honestly, it was the first time I've heard people talking about the issue of diversity in a way that I completely identified with. One of the things that I loved was that it was a mix of East, SE, and South Asian speakers. Too often, AAPIs are left out of the conversation, but this panel was organized by a fellow Filipina, so it spoke directly to me. Ngl, I might have gotten a little teary-eyed during the talk.

Draven Katayama, Gene Ha, Mark Martell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Michi Trota, Natalia Roxas

My childhood heroes (yes, the Psylocke thing is problematic)

So Friday, I pretty much hit the ground running and continued on to Saturday. I went to the Image Comics Presents: Storytelling Essentials panel with my husband (a screenwriter) and my friend Jumi (an artist and animator). This was a really fun panel that got me thinking about the way I approach stories and all these different elements I'd love to integrate. In fact, the whole weekend had a rejuvenating effect on us and made us so excited to start creating again. I want to do ALL THE PROJECTS. But maybe I should actually finish one first. Maybe.

Skottie Young, Jordie Bellaire, Declan Shalvey, Jamie McKelvie, Greg Rucka
I spent a ton of time wandering Artist Alley, spending way more money than I should've, but you've gotta support the creators you like, right? Damn right. Which means getting several trades signed by Greg Rucka:

Greg Rucka after signing my Batwoman and Wonder Woman trades
(with WW artist Liam Sharp photobombing in the background)
And also buying the first volume of Mae by Gene Ha, who is just awesome. Look at the sketch he drew for me! I originally asked for Wonder Woman (obvi), but realized there's a real lack of Kamala Khan merch. She definitely deserves more love.

Kamala Khan! And Gene Ha's newest comic, Mae

Of course, I also had to support my fellow mystery writers and attend their panel, Grisly Chicago. One thing I learned: It's possible to get shot in the heart and live, but your heart had better be contracting at that exact moment. There's a whole long story that goes with that, but that was my takeaway. Truth is usually stranger than fiction.

Erica O'Roarke, Alex Gordon, Nicole Joseph, Lori Rader-Day, Susana Calkins

For research purposes (seriously!), I attended two geek speed dating events that day; one in the afternoon and again later that night with my husband (though obviously we didn't let it be known that we were together). My WIP features a geek speed dating scene and I wanted to see what it was like since I've never done it before, geek or otherwise.

I suck at small talk, but because we were all at a convention together, it was easy to find talking points. Everyone there was a fan of SOMETHING. Considering the fact that I was wearing a Mass Effect cardigan, carrying around a Wonder Woman print I bought at Artist Alley, and have a fairly prominent Bitch Planet/Captain Marvel tattoo, there was always something to talk about.

No real connections (which is good for my marriage, I suppose), but the general experience will definitely help me a lot when I go back to edit that scene. Lots of little touches and references to make it a bit more real. And it was definitely good practice at general socializing, which I suck at. So yay.

The last day, I briefly popped into the Power Rangers panel with Walter Jones and David Yost, since that show heavily influenced my story, but left fairly early when I found it was just audience Q&A. I'm sorry, but Q&A is always my least favorite part of panels and live podcasts. 

"Talk to the audience?"

So yeah, more wandering around with friends, more damage to my credit card on the Exhibition Floor, and then I ended the weekend with Pitches and Portfolios: How to Get the Attention of Editors and Get into Anthologies. This was great because although I have a good idea of what's necessary in the novel-writing world when it comes to publishing, I have no idea how to break into comics, particularly as a writer. The majority of the panel were editors for the Ladies' Night Anthology, which I would love to be a part of, but pitches are due soon and I already know I'm too busy. Never commit to anything that you know you don't have time for. 

As one panelist put it, in this industry, you could be nice, fast, and/or talented, and the one part of that equation that's optional is "Talented." So again, yay for me?

Megan Byrd, Zach Lehner, Hanna-Pirita Lehkonen, Lauren Burke, Caitlin Rosberg, Summer Sparacin
And that pretty much wraps up my weekend. I usually buy lots of prints and things like that, but I only bought one print, an illustration of Wonder Woman done by Jen Bartel, which I not only forgot to take a pic of, I also spilled water on, sooo...Enjoy these pics instead?

Giant stack of trades I bought. Coke can for reference

How adorable is this?! Help me name him: Bearon von ________?

I'm not the best at updating, but I'll definitely be posting about my experience at Malice Domestic this weekend. CANNOT WAIT.

P.S. Remember my last post about Camp Nanowrimo? Yeah, totally not meeting that goal. Yet again, I chose an insanely busy month to try and hit that kind of word count. But I'm 30k+, which is more than I've ever written before, so go me! I'll get there. Eventually...

P.P.S. Names I included in the captions are taken from the C2E2 schedule app, so if I forgot anyone, spelled it wrong, or mislabeled someone, I'm sorry.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Camp NaNoWriMo & Non-Compliance!

Yesterday was the start of Camp NaNoWriMo, which is an online community where you pledge to write a novel (supposedly, but it's really just a certain word count) in one month. It's the same as regular NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November where you pledge to write 50,000 words, but for Camp NaNoWriMo you can set your own goal. My goal is 50,000 words, which should be very doable since I'm revising my zero draft, not starting from scratch.

I like the idea of Camp NaNoWriMo because camp always makes me think of these gals:

Lumberjanes. Love love love this comic

Also, November is a terrible month to do a writing sprint because it's one of the busiest months of the year. Last year was my first time attempting NaNoWriMo and it was a total bust. Part of it was because of real life obligations getting in the way, but mostly it was the election; I sank into a bit of a depression that was really hard to pull myself out of. Every time I sat in front of my laptop, I just felt so defeated and wondered what the point was.

I'm happy to say that I finally snapped out of it and am back in the fight. In fact, I'm so fired up that I declared my non-compliance with this bad-ass tattoo:

Bitch Planet/Captain Marvel tattoo; both written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
I got it yesterday and it's still oozy and tender, but I love it so damn much. If you're ever in the Chicagoland area and looking for a tattoo, I highly recommend Speakeasy Custom Tattoo. I went with Sean because he worked on my friend Robbie's amazing comic book sleeves, so I knew his style was what I was looking for.

So April is looking to be a busy. busy month for me. Persona 5 comes out April 4th and I already know it's gonna be a problem. I told my husband that I'm not allowed to play unless I'm averaging the correct daily word count (meaning I can write less one day, as long as the previous days I've written enough to keep me on schedule). I warned him that I'd probably get mad at him, but he has to hold firm and make sure I keep writing, or else I'll sink into hours and hours of JRPG bliss without any hope of coming out.

I've also got multiple book launches and author events to attend, which I'm definitely looking forward to, plus C2E2 and Malice Domestic at the end of the month. So many writerly and geeky things to look forward to ^^

P.S. Quick writing tip: Save your work CONSTANTLY. I got up to 1300+ words yesterday when my laptop randomly reset itself. Thank Jebus I'm paranoid and save every 5 seconds, or I would've cried.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Video Games, Belly Dancing, and Fire-Spinning, Oh My!

Friday night was a pretty typical girls' night out. After work, I went out with my friend Miranda for dinner at Demera Ethiopian Restaurant (so damn good) and to watch a show at the Uptown Underground involving video game-themed belly dancing, burlesque, and fire-spinning routines. You know, same ol' same ol'.

Miranda's the inspiration for one of the main characters in my WIP, actually
The show we watched was Ready Player Two by Raks Geek, and it was so much fun. I was a little worried since Miranda's not into geeky stuff (just a good friend willing to indulge my oddities) and I had no idea what to expect (seriously, go to that website and see what you think). But you know what? We both had a a fantastic time.

I managed to get at least one picture of each performer, but honestly, I'm not a great photographer. I'm the kind of person who has so much fun at an event that I forget to take any pictures, then kick myself afterwards. These are the best quality ones I took. I wish I could've taken more, but I was seriously so enthralled by most of the performances that I literally forgot to clap and cheer sometimes, let alone take pics.
Diana Xiana Moon as Elizabeth from BioShock

Kamrah as Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII
Watching Sephiroth belly-dancing to One-Winged Angel (his theme song) was surreal and amazing.

Lee Na-Moo as Ermac from Mortal Kombat
I couldn't get more than one picture because he was so fast and the choreography was so cool, I gave up trying.

Michi Trota as The Assassin from Assassin's Creed
Assassin Fire-Spinning

 I was so tense throughout this routine! So freakin' cool.

Gaea Lady as Poison Ivy (Batman villain)
 So, so mad that I only have this one picture of Poison Ivy because her costumes (there was a burlesque bit where she shed this dress) were AMAZING. Absolutely beautiful and the routine was fantastic too.

Lee Na-Moo as Mario 
 The audience laughed when he came out because that Super Mario hat seemed so silly, but when he started to dance...OMG. Another time where I was so into the performance, I forgot to react.

Michi Trota as the Last Starfighter
More fire, more fun, more tension.

Kamrah as the Nurse from Silent Hill

THIS PERFORMANCE. I never thought that the carefully controlled movements of belly-dancing would pair so well with the terrifying movements of the nurse from Silent Hill, but holy crap. Miranda literally had her mouth hanging open this entire performance. Ah-mazing.

Gaea Lady as Jade from Mortal Kombat
Seriously, Idk why I was terrible at taking pictures of Gaea Lady. Another gorgeous costume and wonderful performance.

Diana Xiana Moon as Wookie
The showstopper! The last performance of the night was this hilarious and fantastic belly dancing Wookie routine. The audience couldn't stop laughing the entire time and it was a great way to end the night.

I was really excited to see Michi Trota there, because she's a contact I've been wanting to make for a while. A feminist Filipino woman heavily involved in the geek community and using her platform to push for more diversity and #ownvoice creators? Sign me up. I managed to introduce myself and give her a business card without being too awkward (I hope). Since my WIP is about a Fil-Am amateur sleuth solving a murder at a comic book convention, I'd love to get her insights. Fingers crossed, but I know she's a very busy woman.

The girly bonding, nerd-themed drinks, and geeky dance performances were enough to make a pretty fantastic night, but what I loved most of all was that this was a charity event with partial proceeds going to I Need Diverse Games, a non-profit I hadn't known about, but now wholeheartedly support (donated on Patreon). The founder of I Need Diverse Games came out to explain what the organization was, and I not only loved her passion, I also loved that she was decked out in Mass Effect swag.

In case you were wondering, the Mass Effect series is my 3rd favorite video game series, with the first two positions being held by the Persona series (Persona 4 Golden is my shit) and the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney series (maximum ridiculosity).

...nobody was wondering, were they?

Anyways, their next show is in June and has a space/sci-fi theme. Think I might have to check that one out as well ^^

Malice Domestic 2017 AKA The Nicest Group of People in the World

I'm lying in bed, utterly exhausted, attempting to write about what an amazing weekend I had, while my dog Max does his best to thwart...