The World’s Biggest Christmas Stocking

If you knit or crochet, or are willing to learn, this is an incredibly cool project for a great charity.

The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation helps kids who’ve lost a military parent in the line of duty pay for college. Caron, the yarn manufacturer, is putting together a project to make the world’s biggest Christmas stocking, and is asking people to knit or crochet three-foot squares and send them in to be assembled. They’re going for an entry in the Guinness Book, which is also cool.

If you buy your yarn from Caron, they’ll give fifteen cents per skein to the CFPF. If you just want to participate in the world’s-biggest-Christmas-stocking project, you can buy your yarn from someone else, or use yarn from your stash, so long as it’s worsted weight. There are knit patterns and crochet patterns you can download and print out. All the crochet patterns are Beginner or Easy, and the knitting patterns are mostly Beginner or Easy, with a couple of Intermediates that use mosaic colorwork. Even if you’re just learning, you can find a pattern that’ll work for you. It might take a while to do a three-by-three square, but if you use a Beginner level pattern, it won’t be hard. If you have a favorite pattern you want to use instead, you can do that, so long as you end up with a three-by-three foot square.

If you’re worried that you’ll be too slow, note that they’ve been working on this since last November, as far as I can tell. They planned for it to go into this year, and sure enough, they’re only 20% through right now. Looks like there’ll be time for fast workers to do several squares if they want, and for beginners or people who are just busy to do one without knocking themselves out. ๐Ÿ™‚

The main page, with a progress meter, is here.

Writers’ Police Academy

The 2015 Writers’ Police Academy schedule has been posted. This is the most exciting event we’ve ever offered, by far. We even have a full-size Boeing 727 jet onsite where you’ll learn to handle unruly and dangerous passengers. There’s time on indoor firing ranges (pistol and rifle), a forensic lab, investigating bloodstain patterns, riding in patrol cars as they skid out of control, performing the PIT maneuver on a suspect vehicle as it flees from your patrol vehicle, door breaches and searching buildings for armed bad guys (yes, there’ll be actual door-breaching and shooting involved this year), lots of fire, sirens, smoke, interacting with police academy recruits and firefighters, and much, much more. And, as always, there’s lots of heart-thumping action, including a few surprises. OMG, this one’s over the top!

Registration opens February 14, 2015

Event Registration รขโ‚ฌโ€œ $375

Registration fee includes lunch at the police academy on Friday and Saturday, including a Wisconsin tailgate party as one of the meals, transportation to and from the academy and hotel, and the Friday night reception.

Sisters in Crime is offering a discount for members. Details are listed on the WPA “Schedule” page. If you are not a member you should join now to receive the generous discount!

* We again anticipate an overwhelming response once registration is open. Space, even though there’s more of it this year, is limited. Therefore, all slots are first-come/first served. You will not want to miss this one of a kind, exciting weekend. Registration begins at 11 a.m. on February 14, 2015. Remember — the event sold out in 6 hours last year so be ready to sign up the moment registration opens.

Click through for a photo of the event site — they’re at a public safety training center with great facilities.


Made it to the Meet-Up, if Only Just

Last week was busy, and most of it wasn’t very pleasant. I was horribly sick with the usual on Tuesday, and it hung around through Friday. Which had me worried because I had a houseguest coming over Friday night, and an event to go to downtown on Saturday, and I was hoping I’d be duct taped back together by then.

Luckily I was, and I got to have Pam Singer over for a couple of nights. She was in town for the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up; we actually managed to get a decent amount of sleep on Friday night, and went downtown together on Saturday.

I mentioned the Meet-Up here before, but briefly, it was a one-day conference for writers, publishers and readers of gay romance. The sessions were held at the Seattle central library, in an auditorium with stadium seating. The Keynote speaker, Marlene Harris, went first.

Marlene is a librarian at the Seattle library, and also reviews books online, including gay romance. She talked about how libraries manage their collections, and what readers can do to influence what books libraries acquire. Most libraries have a way to request books through an online form; if you’re a user of a particular library, you should feel free to request books that you’d enjoy reading. They’re more likely to acquire a certain book, or a certain genre or subgenre of book, if they know they have patrons who want them and will check them out. Note that it’s not a good idea for writers or their families to request books just to get them into the library. First, librarians catch on to this and will figure out what’s up. Second, if your book is requested and purchased, but then not checked out, that’ll make it that much tougher to get similar books — whether later books of yours, or books in that genre if its one they don’t usually carry — in the future. Readers who use the library should be the ones requesting books, but organic requests from actual users can certainly influence acquisitions for a library’s collection.

I’ll admit I haven’t been a big library user in a while, and even longer if we’re talking public libraries as opposed to university libraries, but I had no idea there was a way to request books. If you’re a writer whose readers use their local library, encouraging them to request your books for the library collection, if they’ll check them out, is a good idea.

Marlene told us that the Seattle library acquired over 200 gay romance books before the event, which was awesome to hear. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks to Marlene for supporting us and our genre.

The best panel, or at least the one I enjoyed the most, was the last, where we talked about expanding and diversifying the genre. Some publishers publish only gay romance — only men allowed, although you can have more than two at a time if you like. Some reviewers review only gay romance — only men allowed, and one will review books about only cis-men at that. Other publishers and reviewers deal with books representing other facets of the queer spectrum, but in reality it’s the gay romance, erotic romance and erotica that is published the most, reviewed the most, and which sells the most. And the vast majority of the gay male characters are white, able-bodied, middle- or upper-class, and neurotypical. When religion is mentioned at all, the characters generally come from a Christian background, whether they’re devout or practicing or not. (And given how some religious folks treat gay people, it’s very realistic for a lot of the characters to be non-religious, or at least non-practicing.) Still, aside from the homosexuality (or very occasional bisexuality) there’s a whole lot of privilege on display here.

There’s a lot of room for expanding our character set, though, and this discussion was livelier than the others. One of the major reasons why is that early on, Rick Reed, who was on the panel, turned a question directly to the audience, and from then on there was a lot more back-and-forthing. Up to that point, the panels had been more group interviews than panels per se, with the moderator asking a question, each panelist answering, and then the moderator answering another question. Which works, I suppose, but you can do something like that just as well online as in realspace. The reason to get people together is to have an actual discussion, with people talking together, questioning and debating, and disagreeing sometimes — a real conversation, rather than just a series of answers to a series of questions. Props to Rick for knocking the thing off its rails, whether that was what he intended or not.

There was a book drive for the Gay City LGBT library; each donated book was worth one raffle ticket, and there were a bunch of prizes raffled off, from free books to a couple of Kindles. I won a free book (which I still have to redeem — thanks Amber! — and was one number away from a Kindle both times. ๐Ÿ˜›

After the sessions, we all trooped across the street to the Hotel Monaco for a “Happy Hour” that lasted more like three and a half hours. The University Bookstore (which also hosted my reading last month) was there selling books, at the library during the day and then in the evening at the happy-three-hours. I got some books and had them signed, and signed some books for other people, which was cool. And I did a reading, of the first couple of pages of “Learning to Love Yourself,” which is currently out of print but should be back up by the end of the year. [crossed fingers] We only had five minutes for our readings, which is ridiculously short, but “Learning” is funny and it got some laughs at the right points, and applause when I was done, so that worked out nicely.

I met a bunch of people at the event, some for the first time and some I’d met before. I’m not going to try to remember everyone because I’ll fail miserably, but I spent a few hours in the evening sitting next to Heidi Belleau (we were seated alphabetically) who’s very friendly and bouncy. After the event wrapped, I went out with Pam and Amelia Gormley looking for food. We ended up in a restaurant with a wonderful looking menu, although we ended up sitting in a very loud and crowded bar, it being late at night in the wrong part of Seattle if you’re looking for casual dining. I couldn’t eat any solid food (see above re: sick) but the chef agreed to make me a smoothie. I’m not going to name the restaurant because the smoothie was pretty bad tasting, but I give the chef props for making me something that wasn’t even close to anything on the menu; I’m assuming he just sort of winged it, and had never made a smoothie before. I was hungry enough that I didn’t really care what it tasted like, and drank the whole thing anyway, so that worked. Pam and Amelia got burgers and fries and I was horribly envious — the place has duck fat fries, which I’ve wanted to try ever since I first heard of them. I’m going to have to drag the husband back there some time when my stomach is functional.

We got back home late, and unfortunately had to go to bed way too soon so Pam could get up in time to make her flight. I’m going to have to figure out how to kidnap her for longer next year. ๐Ÿ™‚

And yes, they’re doing it again next year. The event was a wonderful success, and will be happening again on 13 September 2014. This is definitely worth saving the date for, if you have any interest at all in gay romance. It was fun, it was cheap, and it was packed front to back with great programming and activities. Good stuff — looking forward to next year’s meet-up.


A Great Reading

So yesterday evening Jim and I headed downtown to the University Bookstore to do a reading. I was nervous for a day or two leading up to the event, and kind of twitchy-stressed. I’ve never done this before, I was worried no one would show up, I wondered if anyone would like my work, or whether I’d verbally stumble my way through a horrible performance. You know, the usual newbie-nerves one gets about pretty much anything taking place in the public eye.

Our reading time had been cut down by a few minutes, so I spent Wednesday finding a scene that’d work — something that stands sort of alone, was interesting, and was short enough. I picked an early-ish scene from A Hidden Magic and cut some bits out of it, a few words here, a line or two there. When I was pretty sure I had something that’d work, I printed it out, because I’ve noticed at other people’s readings that writers who read from print-outs looked more comfortable than writers who read from books.

Tracy, who organized the event as part of the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-up in September, was there, along with some people from Old Growth Northwest, which is partnering to put on the meet-up. Tracy’d warned us that traffic was awful in the early evening, so we all got there early and hung out until the start. Chatting with Astrid Amara, Ginn Hale and Laylah Hunter was fun. None of us had ever done a reading before, and we were joking around about whether all of us could fit under the draped table, and just pass the mics back and forth without having to be, like, right there in front of the audience. Because writers tend to be hermit-ish, and that was certainly true of all four of us. O_O

Once it got going, though, it was great fun, and I wasn’t nervous anymore, anticipation being worse than the actuality and all that. The bookstore had set up a table and chairs for us, so we sat there in a row the whole time rather than having to shuttle up to a podium or whatever, and there were a couple of mics we ended up ignoring because we didn’t need them. There were probably about thirty-some people in the audience, which filled most of the chairs, with a few people standing around the edges or sitting on the floor. I enjoyed the other readings, and when it was my turn, I was glad I’d printed out my scene; not having to use both hands to keep the book open was nice.

Doing the reading was fun, and I managed not to stumble too badly. ๐Ÿ™‚ Once I got going it just flowed, and the line about the goblin wearing a “Tolkien Sucks” T-shirt got a great laugh. I wrapped up and got some nice applause, which was pretty awesome.

There was a lively Q&A session after the readings. We talked about where we get ideas (of course — I think it’s illegal to have an event featuring writers without that being discussed) and whether we outline or not (I was the sole dedicated pantser in the group). One person asked whether where we started was always the actual beginning of the story, which was an interesting question. My beginnings usually stay my beginnings, except when I’m writing SF. I tend to do a lot of worldbuilding right there in the first few pages, and I do a lot of cut/pasting into another file as I pull the blathering out of the story, before the real beginning of the story shows up.

One young man thanked us for helping to queer SF, which was great. And yeah, that’s part of the point. Writing queer characters in fiction helps normalize queerness, if only a little. People who know queer or GLBT people are less likely to be homophobic than people who don’t (or do but don’t know it). I can’t go around introducting folks to actual GLBT people in realspace, but putting queer characters into fiction, treated just like any other characters who have problems to solve and worlds to save, who go on adventures and kick butt on the villains and get the guy or girl of their dreams? That has to help, at least some, and that I can do.

When the Q&A was over, I signed some books and then the event broke up.

Thanks to Tracy and the Old Growth folks, and the U Bookstore for putting on the event, to Astrid, Ginn and Laylah for plotting to hide under the table with me, and to everyone who came out to hear us. I had a great time, and am very much looking forward to the meet-up in September.


Reading on 25 July in Seattle

On Thursday, 25 July, I’m going to be reading at a Gay Romance Northwest special SF/Fantasy event, at the University Bookstore in Seattle, along with Astrid Amara, Ginn Hale and Laylah Hunter. The U Bookstore is at 4326 University Way NE Seattle, WA 98105, and the event starts at 7pm. It’s free, so I hope everyone in the area who likes SF, Fantasy and/or gay romance will come down to hang out with us.

This event is a lead-in to the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up on 14 September, at the Seattle Central Library, in the Microsoft Auditorium. The library’s at 1000 4th Ave Seattle, WA 98104, right downtown. This is a one day event, with registration starting at noon, the event itself from 1pm to 5pm, and Happy Hour from 5pm to 7pm for folks who can’t stand to leave and want to stay and chat a while longer. (I’ll be there the whole time, and hopefully we’ll get a group to go to dinner after. [crossed fingers])

Early registration for the Meet-Up is $15; it goes up to $25 on 1 August. This is a great price; I’ve been to a lot of conventions and conferences, and I haven’t seen one-day prices this low for a couple of decades. Pre-register here.

Writers attending the Meet-Up in September:

Astrid Amara
Talya Andor
Eric Andrews-Katz
Cate Ashwood
Heidi Belleau
Angela Benedetti
Sarah Black
Kade Boehme
L.C. Chase
Megan Derr
Stormy Glenn
Amelia Gormley
Ginn Hale
Lou Harper
Daisy Harris
Laylah Hunter
Amber Kell
Nicole Kimberling
Morticia Knight
Pender Mackie
Finn Marlowe
Sasha L. Miller
M.J. O’Shea
Rick R. Reed
Devon Rhodes
P.D. Singer
Tara Spears
Andrea Speed
Ethan Stone
Lou Sylvre
Anne Tenino
Piper Vaughn

This event is being hosted by Old Growth Northwest, a non-profit organization working to support a complex ecosystem of writers and readers in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to them for helping put on these events!