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Saturday Calm

I had just returned from the grocery store and made all the kids help me unload the car. They were happy to discover that I’d bought some treat cereal, so they sat down to eat it while I stowed all the groceries into the fridge and cupboards.

Then Link turned to me and said, “Where are you going, Mom?”
“Nowhere.”
“Then why did you buy all this food stuff?”

Apparently the pattern lately is that we only stock up on food when Mom and Dad have some sort of big event which means we won’t be around to fix food for kids. Looking back, yup, that’s pretty much how things have gone for awhile. Stock up on easy food. Eat easy food. Stare at bare cupboards and fridge while wondering where all the food went. But we’re entering a period when I’m not going anywhere and the deadlines are no longer imminent. I actually have space in my brain to do things like fold laundry, plan ahead for food, and pick up the house.

I’ve also made some time this week to write fiction. I could get used to that.

Howard still has deadlines and urgencies. He’s got events coming up that will impact his schedule. I know things will come up for me to do as well. (Calendar design springs to mind) But on the whole I get to have six to eight weeks where I can’t see a scheduled business disruption. I mean pre-orders will open for the next book on October 13th for Patreon supporters and October 15th for the public. Pre-order days always throw me off, but only for a day or two. The next major disruption will occur when the books and slipcases arrive. Then my life will be taken over by shipping and holiday stuff until the end of the year.

While I’m having my usual holiday shipping chaos, Howard will be entering a six-to-eight week stretch of few disruptions. It is nice when we can arrange for at least one of us to not be scrambling against deadlines. Makes a huge difference to the state of things here at home.

The family disruptions I don’t get to schedule or control. They happen when they happen. Often they happen at exactly the same time as the business disruptions because ambient stress brings everything to the surface. In the next two weeks we’ve got an Eagle Project to make happen, also we need to stop being sick. Sniffles and fevers abound right now.

Yet despite the illness, life feels poised for a period of calm. Massively Parallel is off to the printer. So are the two slipcases. There isn’t anything more I can do to hurry them up, so I’ll turn my attention to other things. And that feels like a nice change.

Keliana Tayler Freelance Artist

Fifteen years ago I knew a little girl who got a broom for her birthday. She was delighted because it meant she could pack a bag, load up her stuffed cat and play Kiki’s Delivery Service. This is why, when I began this blog and was looking for an online nickname for her, I picked Kiki. Over and over again we came back to the Kiki’s Delivery Service story because it was one about learning to fly and finding your own voice out in the big world. My little girl no longer runs around with a broom. Instead she has taken flight for real. She’s off at college, living on her own and starting up her own business. So in a way I guess she’s still playing Kiki, but then aren’t we all?

One of the things my Kiki is doing is beginning to claim an online identity for her professional self. This is why in the past few months I’ve begun using her real name when I’m speaking of her in a professional context. Though I still use Kiki when blogging family or personal stuff. She is both, really. She is my Kiki girl and she is Keliana Tayler, freelance artist and college student.

Keliana’s art is amazing to me. She does brilliant things with flow and with color. I’m always excited when I hear that she has a commission in progress because I love to see the results. She does everything from quick line sketches to fully-colored character sketches. She’s done book covers and illustrations for stories. Last year she did all of the interior illustration work for a Kickstarted pathfinder book.

All of the images in this post are hers and are used with permission. My job in her story is to be the Mom who waves farewell as she flies off into her adventures. Though in this case I may be the Mom who casually mentions to her friends that her daughter Kiki Keliana has a delivery service freelance art business and could probably use some customers.

If you’re looking for pretty art for your wall, She has an Etsy shop.

If you’re looking for line art for a book interior, she can do that.

If you want an amazing painting. She can do that too.

In fact, you should go look at her gallery on deviant art. She’s amazing and she wants work so that she can fly.

Recovery Day and Schlock Book Printing

Most of my local friends are beginning to emerge from their post-comic con crashes. I had my crash today. I spent 3-4 mid day hours asleep. The delayed crash is a common experience for me, because I always come home to endless evidence of things not done and I scramble to catch up. Until the exhaustion catches up with me. I didn’t really want to crash today. I had other plans, only I was so tired I could hardly remember what they were. Instead I just had a head of free-floating thoughts and worries, which my brain kept assembling into jumbled predictions about how all the things will go badly in the next few months. Sad that my pessimism and anxiety circuits have more endurance than anything else. Possibly because I try not to use them at all if I can help it.

In the last few days before Comic Con, I was scrambling to ship files to our book printer. There was some concern that we would not be in time to ship books to customers by Christmas. Then there were communication delays due to an email server meltdown. But now I have an estimated schedule, which is tight for everyone, but may put books into my hands the week of November 17. Though experience tells me there may be a delivery variance of a week on either side. A week early would be fantastic. A week later lands in the week of Thanksgiving, which is not ideal, but manageable. So now my job is to be extremely efficient any time the process is waiting on an answer from me. Also, I must double check any time I don’t get a response to make sure that we’re not having another email snafu. My brain wanted to gnaw on all of this and tell terrible stories of unhappy holiday customers. Instead Howard sent me to go sleep and then defended my sleeping against doorbells and phone calls.

The sleeping helped. My brain is no longer foggy, but my desire to Accomplish All the Things is still missing. Also, a couple of my kids have come down sick. This means instead of normal normal we’re getting adapted normal, which, when I look back on our lives, may be more normal for us than normal normal.

At least I found the energy to run some loads of laundry. That’s a start at least.

Salt Lake Comic Con 2014

Salt Lake Comic Con is so big that it is impossible to write a single summary which encompasses all of what happens during the three days. (Four if you count the set-up day.) I have friends who were miserable throughout the event and other friends who had a fantastic time. Some of the miserable people were made that way by decisions that were beyond their control. Some of the happy people experienced serendipity that was likewise out of their control. In many ways planning to exhibit at an event this size is like planning an outdoor event. You prepare all you can, but you have to deal with the on-site weather once you arrive.

This is how I plan ahead to figure out what to bring.

I make little papers to represent tables and furniture. Then I slide them around until I’m happy with the configuration. Once I’m at the booth it is just a matter of putting the tables where I pictured them.


Every show we have something that sells better than expected and something that doesn’t move at all. This year the run away seller was the Shadows Beneath anthology. Halfway through the show we had to go and get more from the Dragonsteel folks. The other delightful surprise was how well our booth-mate’s books sold. Brian McClellan shared our space and he sold out of books on Saturday morning.

Here I am with Brian. Howard had stepped out for a minute.

On Thursday Howard was able to get some work done in the quiet hours before the crowds arrived.

For the vast majority of the event traffic near our booth moved smoothly. Things did get pretty crowded mid-day on Saturday.
This was taken from our booth space.

This was taken from the green room looking over the wing where our booth was located. (Ours is far out there in the distance.)

Also taken from the green room, looking across the other wing where the celebrity signings were located.

As is usual for Howard and I, our favorite parts were when we get to participate in interesting conversations. Sometimes those happened in small groups at our booth, other times they were when we participated in panels. I was particularly happy that there was a Writing Excuses panel where they didn’t have to record, they just got to talk. Mary was much missed in the conversation.

I was very fortunate in my co-panelists. They were all interested in sharing good information and making sure everyone got a chance to talk. This is not always the case. The only challenges with my panels were things outside the panelists’ control. They were the “weather” we had to manage. In one a loud speaker next door was booming through our wall. In another we were next to a zombie apocalypse live action roleplay, so we were treated to periodic screaming.

But the super mega challenge was the one where the fire alarm went off. I was moderating and it took me a moment to realize what was happening. Lights along the wall started flashing and a polite voice said “An emergency has been identified in this building. Please cease operations and exit the building.” Within a minute we determined that, no there was not really an emergency, we could stay. (Some child pulled the fire alarm.) Yet the emergency message repeated over and over for the next five minutes as we tried to talk intelligently in spite of it. I think we succeeded and the panel managed to be beneficial anyway.

Really that is the miracle of an event like this. Hundreds of thousands of people gather. They get in each other’s way. They cause problems that others have to solve. But then there are the people who move through the event making it easier on others. People band together to rescue each other; whether it is loaning tape, finding a child, or making a joke to cover fire alarm confusion. The building was full of heroes and many of them were not wearing costumes.

Naturally the costumes were fun.

So much attention and effort goes in to creating them. I’m happy that the creators have a place to come where their work can be appreciated.

This one made my kids very happy.

The final hours of the convention were very busy for me. At 4:30 I had to move my car to where I could easily load it once the show was done. Then I had back-to-back panels (including the fire alarm one). Then it was time to dash back to the dealer’s hall and tear down the booth. Many people stopped by to see if we needed help. There was kindness everywhere at this event. For the most part Brian and I had it handled. The hardest part was me remembering what came next through my fog of tired brain. It was less than an hour before the booth was packed and loaded into my car.

As we walked back to the convention hall for a final check to make sure nothing was forgotten. I saw a crew loading the Tardis onto a truck.

The workmen have the police box…

And the show is done. All that creative energy has scattered into hiding until there is another event to bring it together again.

Moments that Make the Convention Worthwhile

I was the panel moderator and it was the last minutes when everyone was sharing a last thought with the audience. It came to be my turn and I began to talk. I had a plan for what I wanted to say, but by the second sentence I could tell my words were deviating from my intended course. Yet that third sentence was so obviously right, so necessary that I just followed along with the words to see where they were going. I’ve had such moments before, when I’m given the words that I should say. This was one of those moments. The panel was about structuring life to support creativity and this is approximately what I said:

“It is hard to make space in our lives for creative things. Sometimes it is hard to believe that our creative things deserve any space. Yet the act of creation is powerful and important, even if what we create only ever has an audience of one. Even if the only one changed by it is the creator. This is how the world becomes a better place, one transformation at a time. That’s not what I meant to say when I started talking, so perhaps someone here needed to hear it.”

As I left two different people paused and said they thought it was for them. I know it was also for me, because of late I’ve had a hard time believing that my creative things deserve space.

Moments like that one are why this experience of Salt Lake Comic Con is so different. We came home tired and happy rather than drained and depressed, which is a big improvement over FanX last spring and SLCC last fall. We had a better location, a better network of support with other professionals near us, enjoyable panel schedules for both Howard and me, and we brought our kids with us. That last was something I’ve not done before. I usually try to keep the parenting spaces and the business spaces separate because trying to do both broke my brain. Except the kids are bigger now. They came and they helped work the booth. Patch was excellent at it. He loved telling customers about Schlock, taking credit cards, and interacting with people. Gleek liked those things, but she was far more interested in shopping and in negotiating with me for the most possible things she could buy. However once she had her shiny new things, she settled down. Both kids were really good at running errands and trying to be supportive. Patch stayed for a whole day. When Gleek was offered a ride home with a neighbor, she took it. Link opted out of the whole thing, because he knows his limitations with crowds and this event was likely to make him miserable. Kiki was at college and spent Saturday hiking with a group of college friends.

I leave the convention with a list of what to prepare for the FanX event next spring. I also have a list of all the things that fell behind while I was focused elsewhere. Tomorrow I need to hit the ground running and head out into a new work week.

Salt Lake Comic Con: Where to Find Me

For the next three days I’ll be at Salt Lake Comic Con. The majority of my time will be spent at our booth. It is #1600, right across from the Wordfire booth and near a concessions stand. I hope you’ll stop by. The event is much more fun when people do.

This year I’m also on some panels. If you want to hear me talk, come to one of them. Hope to see you there.

Thursday 3pm Room 255C Geek Parenting: Raising the Next Generation of Geeks

Friday 1pm Room 255E From Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind Also Rises: Why We Love Hayao Miyazaki

Friday 6pm Room 255E Writing and Illustrating Books and Comics for Kids

Saturday 5pm Room 150D Structuring Life to Support Creativity

Saturday 6pm Room 255B The Business Side of Your Dreams

Book Design Success and Feelings of Competence

Three weeks ago I looked at Howard across the kitchen counter and told him that we either had to have Massively Parallel done by August 30 or we needed to push it off past Christmas. We decided to make a run for completing the book even though it looked nearly impossible. Howard had GenCon. I had the kids starting school. The bonus story was not complete, none of the marginalia was done, and the cover was only drafted. On my end was all the copy editing, layout editing, and frequent book iterations. We shouldn’t have been able to do it, yet this morning I uploaded the files on the completed book.

It seems like by book eleven we would have figured out how not to have a last minute rush, yet we always do. I think some of it is just the nature of nearing the finish line. Suddenly we can see it and everything moves faster. The rest is just that we always have so many projects running that it takes an impending deadline to bring one into focus.

Some things have gotten easier. As I worked, I kept noting the places where I used to panic or fear that I was failing at my job. This time I knew it would be fine. I used to bite my nails any time I tried to use ftp. I don’t anymore. I no longer have a gnawing fear that I’ve made some horrible mistake that will render the whole project useless. I’m still very aware of the limits of my expertise, but for the familiar format of the Schlock books, I know how to do this.

To add to the challenged of this particular book printing, we’re reprinting the first slipcase and printing a second one to house books 6-11. Designing a slipcase is not something I’ve ever done before. Howard made the first one. Yet I sat down Saturday morning with the template for the first slipcase, a ruler, a calculator and my design tools. Within a few hours I had a draft of the slipcase. We refined it over the weekend and that too is ready to go once the printer confirms that my calculations are correct.

While I had my design tools out, I also made a flyer for Salt Lake Comic Con, and a pamphlet that contains Howard’s story “No I’m Fine” along with my essay “Married to Depression.” We’ll be giving these out at SLCC. I dropped these things off at the warehouse, where I walked around and tried to picture how we would fit the shipment of Massively Parallel along with both slipcases. Fortunately the slipcases are light and can be stacked high. We’ll have to because we don’t have enough floor space for the probable 15-20 pallets that will arrive. Much of that will go right back out the door again, but we need to be able to fit it all inside and shut the doors against the weather. There are times when I’ve laid in bed at 2am being panicked about not having enough warehouse space. Today I looked around and knew we could make it work. We’re going to have to do some shifting around. I may have to purchase some industrial shelving, but there is space enough.

It feels good to have the book under weigh. The rest of this week will be devoted to SLCC. Then it will be time to dive in on the 2015 Schlock calendar and the necessary preparations for book pre-orders. After SLCC my life should slow down for a while. I’d like that.

Reasons Why Blogging is Sparse Right Now

I’ve got Massively Parallel to complete by Monday so that I can upload files to the printer. This must happen so we can have books before Christmas.

I’ve also got a new slipcase to design. This involves nudging things around on my computer, then printing it out on multiple sheets so I can tape it together into a sort-of box shape to see if it works. Then I’m back to the computer to nudge again. This also has to be done by Monday.

I’ve got Salt Lake Comic Con next week, for which I am a panelist. Also we’re running a booth there. And I’ve not even begun all the packing up of merchandise and gear that is necessary.

I’ve got kids with homework who are still in the process of adapting to the demands of school. Also I have to plan ahead so that they have food to eat while I’m away at the convention. And one of them has a birthday that is directly impacted by the convention. We got it wrong last year, so doing better this year is very important.

I’ve put some final touches on the CC PDF. Now I need to find time to put it in front of Howard so that he can put pictures in it.

I’ve got a kid at college, who kept watching for me on Skype so she could talk to me about her first week of school. But I have Skype on my laptop and all my hours have been spent on my desktop design machine. We caught up this evening and she told me all the things, which were lovely to hear about. Only it was already late so the conversation was short.

All of these things fill up my brain. Hopefully there will be more writing in the wake of the convention.

Twitchy

So, no secret that 2013 was a rough year for me and the hard lasted until March 2014. Most of it had to do with mental health and physical health issues. (depression, anxiety, panic attacks, C Diff infection, whooping cough, with accompanying doctors, psychiatrists, and therapy) Things have been better since March. Worlds better. Let the heavens rejoice, better. Yet I’ve discovered that all the challenging things set up some emotional landmines for later. Now that school has started, I keep stepping on them.

It goes like this:
Child expresses a resistance to a homework assignment. I am suddenly mired in the memory of hours-long homework confrontations. For a moment I’m convinced that we are doomed and the next months will be uniformly miserable.

Child has a fight with a friend which reaches the physical altercation stage. I know it is driven by stress and anxiety in both kids. They fight because they both have similar issues and neither one wants to back down. I come away from the discussion/apology very afraid that the stresses which drove this confrontation will then poison the entire school year and we’ll be back to panic attacks at school again.

Child calls home because he’s not feeling well. I am suddenly angry and ready to cry. It is only the second week of school and we’ve barely had time to catch our stride yet we’re already going to have to play catch up.

The reality is that the child did the homework after only a little grousing, the arguement was resolved and then forgotten, and a single day of missed classes is fairly easy to catch up.

In each case my emotional reaction to the event is far out of proportion to the event itself. There are a dozen more examples that have happened in the last week. It feels like I’m jumping to duck and cover at any noise. I’m twitchy and it is annoying. Yet I can feel that a few months of stability will even it out. I really want those months of stability and I don’t know if I get them. The mix we’ve got of mental health issues, business stresses, and school, may just mean a bumpy ride for quite a while to come. Until then, I try to flinch less often and recover quickly when I do.

Back To School Scenes

“So is Patch your youngest?” his new teacher asked. She’d pulled me aside at back to school night for a moment of quiet conversation.
“Yes. He’s the last of my kids you have to deal with.” I said with a tone of voice and a smile that turned it into a joke. Sort of. I thought about it afterward, wondering where the words had come from. I mean them in the moment I spoke them. I was apologizing for inflicting my children and their individualized bags of challenges upon her. The other thing I said to her, which I’ve thought hard about later was “Don’t worry. Patch isn’t like Gleek.” I wanted to reassure her, because she is the teacher who helped me with Gleek’s lowest and darkest moments during her sixth grade year. It is hard for me to picture her facing another child of mine with anything but trepidation. Because that year was hard on all of us and this teacher was on the daily front lines.

I have to stop apologizing for my children. Their existence needs no apology, even if they create troubles for others. I also have to stop trying to reassure the school staff that Patch is not Gleek. The comparison only reminds everyone about the difficulty and it is unfair to Patch. That difficult year is done and I am the only one who has brought it up. I have to let it go. This is Patch’s year. I need to let it be as easy or as difficult as it is without comparison to anything else. It looms so large in my mind that I am still reacting to it and I need to stop.
*
“Are there any states that don’t have g in them?” Gleek asked before realizing it was a silly question.
“How do I tell if a function is odd or even?” asked Link.
Patch did not ask any questions. He just scratched his pencil across pages, getting the work done. All three kids sat in the kitchen during the same hour and did homework. It was an event stunning because of the lack of conflict. Yes, they distracted each other with random out-loud exclamations, but the work got done. I don’t know if this will become the pattern for the school year. Usually I have to separate them because distractions lead to stress and arguments. But it was lovely for today.
*
The email was titled “The List.” It was things that Kiki needs for school which failed to make the trip with her. Heading the list is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Apparently this is a college must-have for her group of geek-girl roommates and friends. Most of the other things are small items, things which can go into the package along with the DVD sets. I don’t mind. I like hearing that she’s happy and has fun plans with her friends.
*
I tore through my list of things to do, eliminating items quickly. Having five uninterrupted hours makes a huge difference in my work day. I didn’t feel it last week, there was too much going on emotionally for me to work calmly. This week feels calm in comparison. I’ll take it.