You Can’t Go Home Again

I had to make a hard decision this week.

When I’m not writing, there are other things I like to do.  I lift weights with my husband and son.  I cook.  And I belly dance.  Yes, you read that right.  I’m 52 years old and nowhere near a size two, but I belly dance.  I’ve performed solo in a number of shows, and I’ve danced as a member of a troupe.  Learning to move my body in ways that properly interpret music has been one of the joys of my life, and I’m not at all ready to stop.

A few years ago, I discovered that I was feeling burnt out, so I resigned from the troupe and took a break from dance.  When I was ready to return, however, I discovered that the troupe didn’t want me anymore.  I went through the tryouts that all new people have to participate in, and was turned down.  I can’t even explain how shattered I was.  I had practiced hard, and put every ounce of my soul on the floor at the audition.  Afterward, nearly everyone I knew in the world of belly dance made a point of telling me how cheated I’d been.  I suppose that should have made me feel better, but it didn’t.  I stopped dancing for a while after that, feeling that I needed to grieve on my own.  Slowly I found outlets to allow me to express my dance again.  But the one thing I’d lost that I could not retrieve was the chance to dance at the Renaissance faire.

belly dance creative loafDancing at faire is different.  You can see every single audience member, because there are no stage lights to blind you.  You can encourage them to have fun, by smiling and winking at them, drawing them into the show.  It was the highlight of my year for a long time, and when I lost the chance to dance at faire, I wasn’t just upset.  I was broken.  I couldn’t watch my former troupe dance without weeping from my spot in the audience.  I wore a smile, of course, because I was damned if I was going to let them see me suffer.  But it was never not crushingly painful.

About a month ago, I was alerted that there’s a new troupe director, and she would be having tryouts for this year’s crew.   At first I was delighted.  Here was my chance to get back what I’d lost!  I started working on an audition video.  But the more I practiced, the more I began to realize that perhaps I was doing it for all the wrong reasons.  I don’t want to perform to spite anyone, nor do I need to prove that I’ve still got it.  This fall I have at least two cons to attend, and possibly a weekend-long book signing – it would hardly be equitable to the other troupe members to join up only to have to ask for at least two weekends off out of an eight-weekend run.

So I decided not to pursue the spot in the troupe.  Instead of feeling sad about it, I feel somewhat peaceful.  You can’t go home again, they say, and they’re right.  I can’t recapture that old feeling.  It’s gone, the same as my belief in the Easter Bunny.  But it’s okay.  I think what I really wanted wasn’t to get back in, but to know that I could if I wanted.  So I wish the auditioners well, and I hope the dancers who are chosen enjoy the magic that comes from dancing with a wonderful troupe in a marvelous venue.  And perhaps this year when I go to faire, I’ll be able to watch the show without tears in my eyes.

 

Amelie’s or Taking the Writing On the Road (26 Week Blog Challenge #1)

Today is the first day of the 26 Week Blog Challenge, and my letter is A.  Hence the title of this post!  If you’re interested in joining us, you still have a little time to dive in before it’s too late.  Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/326791970838294/ for all the rules and regs and such.  I think there’s even a prize at the end!

Most of us have a specific spot in the house that is designated for working.  I have a desk in the corner of my great room, positioned so that I can’t be distracted by the television or whatever’s going on outside the window.  Other people curl up on their couches with their laptops.  Wherever your spot is, it works for you, and that’s perfect.  But sometimes that usual spot becomes a swamp of doldrums, where it seems that nothing you write is worth reading.  That’s when it’s good to change your location.  Sometimes all it takes is a walk around the house, or through the park.  Occasionally something more drastic is necessary to jumpstart that creativity.

My pal Faith Hunter and I trekked northward last week to meet up with the Charlotte Writers, a great group of friendly people who get together once a week, buy themselves hot beverages and write.  Faith and I like the idea of writing in a place that’s not, you know, home, so we hoped to join the crowd.  The only trouble was that Charlotte is a bit of a distance from our little town, and driving 45 minutes each direction was going to make for a long night away once a week.  What to do… That’s when it hit us, that we have coffee shops in town.  Coffee shops with tables and comfy chairs, that are ten minutes away from our homes instead of forty-five, that stay open reasonably late and probably won’t mind people coming in, buying coffee and snacks and then quietly writing tales of murder, magic and mayhem now and then.

Which means that this Wednesday, starting at 6:30 pm, Faith Hunter and I will be invading Amelie’s Bakery on East Main St in Rock Hill SC.  We plan to buy ourselves a hot drink, claim a table and then spend the next two hours or so NOT chatting or gossiping, but writing.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s a known fact that creativity can be reignited by a change of venue, and we want to test how well that change might result for us.  If you’d like to join us on Wednesday (that’s Feb 4th), you’re welcome to.  Just remember, this is not a party, nor a reading, nor a signing.  This is people coming together to work.  Don’t come if you’re not planning on doing some writing yourself, because when writers are deep in the zone, they can be snippy to people who try to pull them out again.

I’m excited to try this.  I’m also excited to nibble on a macaron at Amelie’s while I write.  Just because we’re working doesn’t mean we have to deny ourselves a treat.

Yee Haw!

We did it!   The Weird Wild West Kickstarter funded successfully!  If you were one of the wonderful backers, thank you so very much!  We couldn’t have done this without you, and we’re so excited to bring you a book of incredible and thrilling stories soon.

But here’s the really good part…we managed to reach two of our stretch goals, which means that we’ll be opening SIX submission slots!  We’re accepting submissions now, so if you have an idea for a great weird western story, now’s the time to write it, polish it, and send it to us.

All submissions should be in Times New Roman, 12 point, in .doc or .docx format. Stories should be between 3,000 and 9,000 words. No multiple or simultaneous submissions, and please, no reprints.

We seek stories of the Wild West in all its glory but with that delicious left turn into weirdness.  The stories must be related to, inspired by, or set in a Western setting, whether on Earth, in a fantasy world, or on another planet. Let your imagination run free figuring out what dangers the frontier folk might face from magic or science (or both!)

A couple of disclaimers here – we’re definitely not looking for hard erotica.  If there’s sexual behavior in your story that drives the plot along, that’s fine.  If the only point to your story is sex, please reconsider submitting it.

eSpec Books and its editors do not support the marginalization or discrimination of any individual or group due to any trait, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, age, gender, or orientation. We seek to produce fiction that is respectful and in good taste. While individual characters in that fiction may be shown in or see others in a less than favorable light, as any individual might in life depending on their choices and behaviors, our projects will never support the derogatory representation of any particular group or messages that encourage such viewpoints

Authors receive a 1% royalty share of the profits from both the kickstarter and on-going sales, plus 2 comp copies and a 50% discount on purchased copies. Submissions close March 31, 2015.

Email submissions to weirdwildwestsubmissions@gmail.com

Emily, Margaret and I are looking forward to the wonders you all can imagine!

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Home From Illogicon

It was a great weekend in the Triangle, and we had a lovely time.  Saturday night we hosted a party in order for Margaret McGraw, Gail Martin and me to flog the heck out of the Weird Wild West kickstarter (have you backed us yet?  Why not???) and we managed to bring our total over $4000!!  Our goal is in sight, and I’m so excited.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dackley-mcphail/tales-of-the-weird-wild-west

I wandered the dealer room, looking for a present for my son and my nieces, but I ended up getting something for myself instead – this little guy!  He’s actually bright scarlet with glittery bits, about two inches tall, and he’ll be joining my desk population.

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I was lucky enough to share two panels with the amazing Jacqueline Carey, author of the Kushiel’s Legacy series and more recently the Agents of Hel series.  She was a delightful lady and I’m so pleased I had the chance to meet her and spend a little time together.  And she could not have been more open, kind and welcoming to her fans, some of whom brought whole piles of books to be signed!  Jacqueline never lost her smile.

jacqueline carey

And now I have to finish one story, keep promoting the kickstarter, finish another novel, and possibly fit laundry and dishes in the mix somewhere.  So good night my friends, and I’ll see you soon!

 

The Weird Wild West!

Have I mentioned I’m editing an anthology of weird western short stories, called The Weird Wild West?

I am.

Or at least I hope to be.  We’re running a Kickstarter to fund the project, so we’d love your support.  We have an amazing lineup of authors for the initial volume – R S Belcher, Tonia Brown, Diana Pharaoh Francis, John Hartness, Jonathan Maberry, Gail Martin, James Tuck and me!  If we manage to reach our stretch goals, we’ll add stories by Robert Waters and David Sherman to the first book, and if we overfund, we’ll offer up a second volume with stories from Beth Cato, Charles Gannon, Laura Anne Gilman, Barb Hendee, Faith Hunter, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Devon Monk, and more!  We’re also going to make available a few open submission spots, so you have the opportunity to appear in the pages with these illustrious folks your-own-self!

But it won’t happen without help.  If you’re still looking for a way to spend that holiday money, you could do worse than to toss a little our way.  We have some awesome pledge levels and stretch goal rewards, so take a look.  If you are absolutely broke, though, you can still help – share the link and help us convince other people to pledge!  The more noise we make, the better our chances!  And yours, since you don’t have to pledge for us to consider your story for publication (although it would be awfully nice of you just the same.)

We’re also running a little contest right now – if we get 200 backers by New Year’s Eve, everyone who pledges at the $5 level (or higher) will receive a bonus DRM-free Deadly Curiosities novella from Gail Martin, and a digital deed to their very own weird western homestead!  Five dollars is all it takes, y’all!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dackley-mcphail/tales-of-the-weird-wild-west

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