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Tweets from GenCon

Since the best record I have of my time at GenCon is what I tweeted while I was there, I’ve collated those tweets into a blog post. My apologies to those who already read all of this by following @sandratayler on twitter.

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Jul 29
Gatorade for Breakfast is the name of my GenCon booth set up day. #GenCon2015

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Jul 29
My books got to come to #GenCon2015 this year.
GenCon 1

Sandra Tayler retweeted
Howard Tayler ‏@howardtayler Jul 29
The dice don’t hate you. The dice hate being anthropomorphized. Stop breathing life into them and they’ll behave, you know, randomly.

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Jul 31
Our Planet Mercenary game will be at 630pm in Griffin Hall inside the JW Marriott. 7pm. Should be fun. #GenCon2015

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Jul 31
Our @PlanetMercenary field marshals play at #gencon2015

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Aug 1
Just witnessed the annual Sat morning Running of the Gamers into the dealer’s hall for exclusives. #gencon2015 Impressive.

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Aug 1
I love seeing adults who are passionate about their interests and who understand that play is important. #gencon2015

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Aug 1
Card city #gencon2015

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Aug 1
Backstage at Tracy Hickman’s Killer Breakfast. He’s got an amazing crew making the show possible. #GenCon2015

Another shot from that event:

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Aug 2
I like having a job where sitting around on couches and talking to interesting people counts as working.

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Aug 2
Sunday at #GenCon2015 is 100 “in case I don’t see you again” goodbyes. Some I farewell 3-4 times. Others I miss completely.

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Aug 2
This was my favorite celebrity sighting at #GenCon2015 “are you satisfied with your care?”

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Aug 2
Adorable girl getting an art lesson from @howardtayler at #GenCon2015

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Aug 2
Sir Diddymus rides through #GenCon2015 in service of his lady.

Sandra Tayler retweeted
Jim Zub @JimZub August 2
Howard was at a panel when Tracy had to leave Saturday, but we snapped a quick photo of our authors. — with Tracy Hickman and Sandra Tayler.

Booth crew

Sandra Tayler retweeted
Howard Tayler ‏@howardtayler Aug 2
Layer after layer of illusion magic is stripped away as #GenCon2015 fades under the assault of an impending Monday.

Sandra Tayler ‏@SandraTayler Aug 2
This is all that remains of our #GenCon2015 booth.

There are a few things I did not tweet, though I would have if I’d not been distracted.
Here are our GenCon Field Marshals who played Planet Mercenary with Howard and Alan. They were fantastic and it was a great game.

And there was a thing which amused us all greatly. Here is a shot that our booth mate Jim Zub took on the first day of the convention when the crowds were waiting for the dealer’s hall to open.
Zub & Crowd

This was a publicity shot that showed up on the GenCon site the next day. If you look closely at the escalator, you can see a small figure with arms outstretched. That’s Zub. The official GenCon photographer took this at almost the same moment that Zub’s photo was taken.
Zub & Crowd 2

I had a really great time. I’m excited to go back again next year and I’ve placed it firmly on my schedule. I’ll wiggle all the other stuff around to make that possible. Next year we’ll have the Planet Mercenary book and I want to be there for that.

Returning from GenCon

GenCon 2015 is complete. I’m on my way home now. Once I arrive I’ll need to unpack my suitcases and settle myself back into my at-home life. My head is full of business thoughts, promotional thoughts, conversations I had, tasks I need to accomplish, and dozens of other things. I’ll have to unpack all of that too. These thoughts will need to be sorted and settled into their proper places. Right now my brain is like a Rush Hour game where I have to slide all of the thoughts around each other to attempt to free a single one from the tangle of all the others.

It was very good that I got to come this year. The most important thing I did was spend time with our booth team and cement those friendships. We are very blessed to have fallen in with amazing people who have skills and personalities that mesh very well with each other. The team has been working well together for years, so I had a very light work load in relation to running the booth. This freed me up to extend our professional presence out into other areas of the convention. I got to go play. I participated in the writer’s symposium. I was able to spend time talking with Monica Valetinelli and Shanna Germain who both had very good advice for how to make sure that Planet Mercenary appeals to gamers who are not already Schlock fans. I met lovely new people, reconnected with some Writing Excuses Retreat attendees. I got to hug friends who were having a hard time. I laughed a lot and didn’t cry at all. That last point may seem like not a big deal, but it is. A big convention like GenCon can be overwhelming, and in the last six months I’ve been easily overwhelmed. But I wasn’t this weekend, and that is a triumph all by itself.

Now I must transition from a GenCon head space back to my regular work. It is a little bit daunting. All of the tasks for GenCon were concrete and self-contained. The tasks of daily life are large, complex, and often sloppy. There is a part of me that would like to just stay where things are simple, but that would not help me achieve my long term goals. So I’ll go forward through the complicated and daunting. Onward.

My GenCon Schedule

I didn’t think that I’d have any scheduled events for GenCon, but then suddenly I did. If you’re at GenCon, you can come find me. Most of the time I’ll either be at booth 1935 or floating around at the Writer’s Symposium. But these are my fixed schedule points.

Planet Mercenary Field Marshall game
Friday 6:30pm
location TBD

Panel: Writing Serialized Stories in Comics
Saturday 1pm, Writer’s Symposium Room 242

Writing Excuses recording
Saturday 6pm, Writer’s Symposium Room 242
Not sure yet if I’ll be participating as a guest. Howard is still arranging for guests and planning topics.

Pausing for a Moment at Breakfast

I made waffles for breakfast this morning because tomorrow my sons are getting on a plane and flying far away from me. They love waffles, so it was a good excuse to gather everyone into the kitchen at the same time. They sat across the table from each other taking turns with the butter and syrup while they talked about a game that they’ve been playing. Points and bosses were discussed with smiles and humor. I watched them and listened to the timbre of their voices, they both sound like Howard now. Particularly if I’m upstairs and can’t make out what is being said. They’ve negotiated who gets which suitcase and after church we’ll fill up those suitcases with clothes. Tomorrow they fly to go visit grandparents. I will drop them off and a few hours later I’ll welcome my girls home. Last week it was my girls that I watched knowing they’d be traveling.

Tomorrow I’ll help the girls unpack their suitcases and their experiences. They did things that were fun. Things happened that were stressful. They visited my grandmother who no longer has a clear grasp on who anyone is. The saw an aquarium, went ice skating. Yet I think the whole trip has been a good thing. Even the hard parts. I’ll be glad to have them back where I can hug them.

Being a Little Better

“You seem better since the pioneer trek.” My sister said. I was surprised to hear it, because I hadn’t realized the shift was visible from the outside. Possibly my sister is particularly attuned and able to discern how I’m doing. Yet I can see dozens of things each day which are easier now than they were before. Some of this is because I don’t think that anything else this summer has to offer will be as difficult as the trek. Some of it is because I’ve started taking medication for depression/anxiety.

Today and yesterday weren’t great days. Nothing bad happened in them, but I found it difficult to get things done because in order to engage with tasks I had to push through a cloud of thoughts. Most of them were about how I’m not good at [task], how I’d fail at [task], why [life thing] will only get harder, and how much work needs to be done. For several weeks I’ve not had that fog of negative thoughts. Before that it was thick, dark, and constant. What I don’t have today is the pervasive fear that causes me to over react to small things. When Patch begins to ratchet up in anxiety because something is wrong in his world, I’m able to observe and offer calm guidance. This is in contrast to me crashing into tears because I’m afraid his anxiety is evidence that nothing we’ve done has helped or will ever help. “Doomed forever” is not a very comforting world view and it landed on me a lot.

Naturally part of the brain fog is the thought “see, even medicine won’t help.” Which is a ridiculous thought, because even though I’m having a slog-through-it day, I’m not crying. Since starting medication I’ve had entire weeks without crying in them. I’d stopped believing it was possible to have non-crying weeks. Today’s ambient mood has more to do with some conversations I had in the past few days. The conversations churned up some feelings and thoughts. They reminded me that while things are better, our family still has emotional work to do, and most of that work is outside my direct control. I can encourage my kids to grow, I can’t make them. Even with the emotional churn, the conversations were good to have. They are part of the emotional work that must be done. Also affecting my emotions is the fact that my two daughters are off in California to visit grandparents. I know they’re safe and having good experiences, but the portion of my brain that tracks the status of my children keeps pinging me to tell me that a couple have fallen off the radar. That raises the ambient tension level in my brain.

Despite the brain fog I’ve managed to get quite a bit accomplished today. I focus on one thing at a time and work my way through. And every time a portion of my brain begins to fret about the next thing or things of next month, I reign it back in. One thing at a time is plenty. Or at least a way to get the necessary work done. The trouble is that I need to figure out how to sort and banish the fog. That’s about as easy as it sounds. I’m not even sure where to begin, except to keep taking the medicine for a while, and to feel grief when it occurs rather than to shunt it aside for later. Maybe one thing at a time will gradually make the fog disperse. For this week, I’m preparing for GenCon.

The Purple Wall

In April and May we finished a room in our basement which became a bedroom for my two boys. They love their new space. They even got to pick their paint and carpet. The room they vacated got repainted and turned into Kiki’s bedroom. She decorated with all her lovely things and it became a warm and welcoming place. This left Gleek as the only kid without a new bedroom. A few weeks ago she confessed to me that her room felt a little depressing to her, particularly when compared with her sister’s room. I can’t say I blamed her. The white walls felt bare and the wall hangings hadn’t been arranged, they were accumulated. And many of them had been put up with an entirely different arrangement of furniture.
room 1
“We can repaint your room.” I said
“Really?” Gleek answered with bright hope in her eyes.

So we spent time over the next weeks helping her sort through her accumulation of things. It was past time for this anyway. She’s a teenager now and many of the collections of her younger years were simply clutter in her life. We had to take it in batches because each box of random objects contained both treasures and garbage. The difference between the two was not always apparent to eyes other than Gleek’s. So we sorted and then we talked paint colors. Gleek confessed a desire to have a bright purple wall. We picked a bedspread that would go with such a wall and then we put up test patches of paint.

room 2
Gleek wanted the brightest purple. Howard and I had some concerns about the color, but figured that even if it was terribly ugly the experience picking her own paint would be good for Gleek.

It wasn’t ugly, just bold.
Room 3

It suits Gleek. And it goes well with the bedspread.
room 4

There is still work to do in order to make the room truly Gleek’s space. She needs to open up her box of wall hangings and make decisions about which of them will go up on the walls. We may want to do something about the old, stained furniture. But this is a good start for Gleek to truly take ownership of the room and begin to figure out who she is as a teenager.

I like the purple wall already.

In the Small Details

“How are you today?” She asked.
“Good.” I answered.
The exchange went by so quickly that I almost didn’t notice it. Except some part of my brain sat up and said “Did you just answer ‘good’ without thinking about it?” Yes I had. Which is strange because for months the casual “How are you?” greetings had been very fraught for me. Particularly if the greeting is uttered by someone with whom I have a relationship and to whom I owe truth. The other person really isn’t wanting to open up a big discussion about where I am emotionally. I knew that. And the grocery store or church hallways were not good places for me to open my heart and speak all my fears. Yet for a long time “fine” was a lie. I was not fine. I was struggling with all sorts of overwhelming emotions or I had my emotions clamped down so that they would not spill everywhere. Sometimes I said the lie. Other times I said “I’m here.” It was a tacit acknowledgement that sometimes just showing up is a triumph of sorts. Though usually the other person didn’t quite know what to make of my answer.

But today I answered “good” without thinking about it. And I was telling the truth. Sometimes it is the smallest of details where I can see how things are getting better.

Planning for GenCon

I remember when planning for GenCon was hugely terrifying and stressful. It loomed like a giant in my brain and I was always terrified that I would get it wrong. Yet this year I’m departing for GenCon in less than two weeks and the whole preparation process has felt… uncomplicated. The list of things to do was huge and complex. There are lots of niggling details I have to get right, but they’re all familiar niggling details. I know how this works. I can just do the things and not be afraid it will all fall apart. A large part of why GenCon has become routine is because we have a stable and amazingly effective ground crew who make everything possible. Without them the show would be much harder to manage.

This year is particularly fun for me, because I get to go. I’ll get to attend the writer’s symposium. I’ll get to find game professionals and ask pertinent questions about how I should put the Planet Mercenary book together. I’ll get to wander around and feed my brain with details about how the game industry works so that I can create something that will work in that space. I don’t have any scheduled program items. I won’t be tied to the booth, we have a crew for that. Though I’ll undoubtedly step in to give people breaks as necessary. I’ll get to thank the crew in person. I’ll get to spend hours talking to writer people about anything and everything.

It is going to be a good show and I’m glad I get to be there for it.

Week of Quiet

I like this space we created where trek is complete and I excused the kids from most of their scheduled events. I’ve had three days in a row where I focused on business administration, customer support, accounting, and design work. I don’t think I’ve had a run of three good work days in a row since some time last fall. I think I might get two more before the end of the week, which would be exceedingly helpful. Next week is going to be a strange week, three of my four children will be away on trips. Patch has scout camp and my two girls will be off for their trip to visit their grandparents. This probably means that Link will need extra attention from me as I encourage him to contact people outside our house for company. I might get two solid work weeks in a row.

I’m still untangling the threads of thought from trek and from all the months before. I suspect the process is going to take a while and I need to just let it happen naturally rather than trying to force it to go faster. I suspect I’ll pull together thoughts and stories once I have access to the pile of pictures that Kiki has been processing as the Trek photographer. Until then, I’ll just enjoy the fact that I feel calmer and quieter than I have in a long time.

After the Trek


We’re still sorting our thoughts and our house post pioneer trek. There was a lot of physical clean up because of mud, wet clothes, wet sleeping bags, and all the miscellaneous camping gear. The three adults in my house have spent several long conversations talking about things that happened and how we felt about them. The three teens in my house have dived back into their video games and other familiar activities. I continue to feel scoured out. The inside of my mind and soul feel spacious, as if I’ve gotten rid of emotional clutter. Or maybe the space inside me has gotten bigger. Either way, everything that I can see coming feels more possible than it did before the trek. I still don’t know how all the things will turn out, but I’m less afraid that they’ll turn out badly. Peace and calm are strange sensations after spending so long in daily emotional turmoil.

This next week is a rest period for the kids. We’ve cancelled some things and intend to just let them have an easy week. They’ve earned it. Howard and I will spend the week focused on plowing through work and getting things done. We have two weeks until GenCon and there are things to prepare. This “get piles of work done” also counts as a restful week. We are so glad to have a couple of weeks where we can work unimpeded.