PTSD the utopYAcon Way

I know what you’re thinking. “Odd title.” “She’s gone off the deep end.” “Is she medicated?” The quick answer: perhaps I should be. *snortle*

PTSD generally has a negative connotation. Not ’round these parts. For me it’s Post Transcendent Squee Disorder, a condition that rears it’s ugly head the moment you realize the next utopYAcon is a WHOLE FREAKIN YEAR AWAY! An ailment afflicting con attendees who fell victim to the magic that IS utopYAcon.

Last year, the virgin voyage of utopYAcon, was my first wee con and you can read my uber mushy PTSD blog post here. And when I say I cried, I totally did. Almost the ugly kind. But that’s what happens after utopYAcon! After two and a half days of complete immersion into a world of squishy community awesomeness, you sort of get addicted. Then the weekend passes and you come down off the utopYA high. You’re back to the real world, back to the writing task, the endless books, the same computer screen that mocks you with its blinking cursor. That’s where the PTSD kicks in.

As an attendee last year, I felt all the magic. It saturated the air much like Tennessee humidity. The whole ‘help you rise as I climb’ mentality soaks into every pore, urging you to be a part of that enigmatic world of the writing community. The thing is, it only feels enigmatic at OTHER cons. Not at utopYA. The community is very tangible, welcoming even, and will quite frankly snatch you by the lanyard if you linger too long in the corner. I felt it. I was part of it. It was part of me.

Then a couple months later, something amazing happened.

After one of our KidLit critique meets, Janet Wallace (aka: mama of the amazeballs utopYA) asked if I wanted to stay for a utopYAcon meeting. Of course I stayed. Pah-leeeze! Suddenly, I was a part of this amazing con and had the privilege to see how it all came together. Only 2013 was on track to be GINORMOUS compared to 2012. Lots of planning splattered the menu and, after a few shorts months, I became part of an amazing team.

Then something even more amazing happened.

The weekend of June 28th, 2013, as part of the utopYAcon staff, I got to see the magic happen for 320-something other people. Facebook friends united, Twitter stalkers united, bloggers, readers, writers, and authors united. They all came together, again, to embrace each other and their individual journeys. New friendships formed, old ones grew stronger, and despite the stickiness that is Tennessee, hugs and squee-ing filled the air.

Not only that, but I got to experience the magic…again. Seeing some of the utopYAcon alumni rocked my socks in a HUGE way. Chelsea Fine and Carol and Adam Kunz remembered me and had hugs to spare. M.R. Polish came stocked with an exhibitor table filled with her now published books. CJ Redwine sat on several panels and wowed with her humor and knowledge (I bow to thee). Even Myra McEntire hugged me, HUGGED I say, before hopping onto the panel pony. Jennifer L. Armentrout came as keynote speaker and totally knew me from Twitter! I got to sit next to her at dinner and get some serious fangirl on. Not the psycho-crazed fangirl kind, but the I-heart-you-and-I-suddenly-don’t-know-how-to-speak-properly kind. Others thought it was cute. Me? Sort of mortified.

At the close of the weekend, during the final thoughts, when the floor is opened to all, it happened again. The magic that is utopYAcon. Those who got up and shared their experience brought tears to my eyes and goose-pimples to my flesh. They felt it too! The magic lives on!

UtopYAcon may not be a hard-core intensive powered crafty con, but it has something that the other cons don’t; Community. No invisible lines, no expectations, no drama. Just the equal love of books, the written word, and a deep love of encouragement.

So what do us little utopYAcon goers do during the months we’re without the magic? We write. We befriend. We encourage the next in line. We support those who encouraged us. We READ! We dare to dream and dare to see them come true. PTSD is not to be taken lightly. It’s a condition that lives within all who have experienced the magic of utopYAcon, the little con that could. It urges us to carry on, to “Expand our Clumps¹,” and to “Dream Out Loud².”  “UtopYA is what you make it³,” so make it yours.

UtopYAcon is a tangible unicorn. Touch it, and you too will carry the magic.

utopya2014

 

¹Quoted by Angeline Kace
²Quoted by Victoria Faye Alday
³Quoted by K.P. Simmon

 

 

Holy Mother of Alien Babies! ORIGIN Cover Reveal!!!!!

That’s right y’all. Hope you don’t have your good undies on ’cause you’re about to pee all over them. OBSIDIAN, ONYX, OPAL…and now ORIGIN. Can you feel it? That massive squee building in the pits of your innards like a corked volcano? Oh yes. Me too.

The time has come to dance in the light with your favorite ET. Nooooo… Not that little dude with the bendy straw neck and weirdly long index finger. I’m talking about the Luxen, y’all! And more importantly, Daemon. Did I just hear a collective sigh? Maybe a growl or two? I know, I feel your angst.

SO!

Without further ado, I bring to you, courtesy of the FAB folks over at Entangled Teen, the beyond amazing cover for ORIGIN, book 4 of the Lux novels from the SUPER amazing Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Ready?

Breathe!

I'm coming for you, Kitten!
I’m coming for you, Kitten!

 

TELL me that’s not one deliciously edible cover like whoa! Let’s all take a moment to just drool, but not on your keyboard ’cause that may get weird, and messy. AND! Did you see the tag line? Oh yes, I do believe we may have Daemon POV, y’all. By show of electronic hands, how many of you just gasped and looked at the cover again?

Ha! Yup. Thought so. Can we hope? Will you bounce in your chair and much as I will?

To add to the all around awesome of this cover, allow me to treat you to an equally delish blurb tease…

 

Daemon will do anything to get Katy back.

After the successful but disastrous raid on Mount Weather, he’s facing the impossible. Katy is gone. Taken. Everything becomes about finding her. Taking out anyone who stands in his way? Done. Burning down the whole world to save her? Gladly. Exposing his alien race to the world? With pleasure.

All Katy can do is survive.

Surrounded by enemies, the only way she can come out of this is to adapt. After all, there are sides of Daedalus that don’t seem entirely crazy, but the group’s goals are frightening and the truths they speak even more disturbing. Who are the real bad guys? Daedalus? Mankind? Or the Luxen?

Together, they can face anything.

But the most dangerous foe has been there all along, and when the truths are exposed and the lies come crumbling down, which side will Daemon and Katy be standing on? And will they even be together?

 

All together now… SQUEEEEEEE!!!! Right? Daemon–freakin’–POV??? And Katy getting down and dirty with the big bad all Murder She Wrote style? Sa-weeeet!

Before your possibly semi-soiled undies get further into a wad, let me share with you that this lovely little diddy will be available 8/27/2013!!! Get your preorders ON y’all! I know I am. Hit up your nearest and dearest Barnes & Noble OR Amazon to lock in this treat for all five senses.

Be sure to join in on the fun and hook up with Jennifer via the interwebs on The Twittah or ‘Like’ Jennifer on Facebook to keep up on the awesome.

Author-photo-200x300

# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer Armentrout lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell, Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen.

She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

 

 

 

Artist at a writer’s workshop

IMG_0691 Wow. There have been some serious cricket orchestras playing around here. My apologies. I’ve been meaning to blog, really I have. Just as I’ve been meaning to scrub down the guest bath, trim the lilac bushes, sand down a desk for my son, help my aunt with her website, and a multitude of other things. But none of them happened. I suck, I know.

So what have I been doing with my time? Well, the day job has been a HUGE time-suck lately. My company is growing, which is good, but that means more work. My son has also discovered that mom tunes everything out when the laptop is open so he does his damnedest to get all up in my grill when he sees it open. He’s too cute to pass up.

There was also a couple online synopsis and query workshops I took with the fab C.J. Redwine. She’s awesome. DO IT!

The reason for this post today however, is the recent trip I took up to Honesdale, PA. I’m an equal opportunity SCBWI member and buddied up with my pal Carli for the Eastern PA SCBWI Retreat Workshop. In short, it was amazing. Quite literally in the middle of nowhere, we stayed in some too cute cabins at a facility owned by the Highlights Foundation. A full kitchen staff was on hand for all meals and unlimited supplies of cookies, ice cream and coffee!

The workshop was amazing. Miss Darcy Pattison headed up the UNfinished track I attended. Her tricks for writing will certainly come in handy. I really enjoyed the bit we did on writing a letter from one character to another. It really fleshed out my other character’s motivations; stuff I knew was there, but hadn’t written from her POV. Another bit that I enjoyed was to take a scene from the WIP and flip the feel of it. For instance, the scene I chose is where my guy, Luc, is totally freaking out over the crazy things happening around him. To flip it, I wrote the same scene as if he thought everything where totally lame and predictable. The result? It was hard! But I can see where something like this would help with a pesky block or if you can’t quite get the feel of a scene.

The crowning moment for the weekend, though, did not come from the writing world, but the illustration world. You may, or may not, know that at my core, I am an artist. Or at least I used to be. I seriously think I was born with a set of crayons up my tush. I drew ALL THE TIME when I was a kid. Once, my mother (whom can draw a mean stick figure) asked me how I knew what to draw. She said I told her, “You make a picture in your head, and then you put it on paper.” I was like four or five.

I dreamed of going to art school, maybe doing illustrations for children’s books (before I even knew a writer lurked inside). Then in high school, I had an advanced art class my sophomore year. You had to get an ‘A’ in a prerequisite class to even get IN the class so I was beyond happy. My previous art teacher was nothing but supportive and I knew I was going somewhere.

But he wasn’t my new art teacher; Ms. Yanes was.

Ms. Yanes was the most unsupportive art teacher. Maybe she was trying to push my boundaries or make me ‘see’ more than my trusty sketch pad, but there are only so many “It’s wrong, do it again”s a kid can hear before it starts to chip away at your confidence. In my case, it chipped a lot. After my sophomore year in high school, I stopped drawing. On occasion I would pick up my sketch pad, but I no longer liked what I produced. I stopped showing my parents my work, and my friends. And eventually, it all stopped.

As an adult now, I have a need to reconnect with that inner artist. I know she is still in there. I’ve seen her rear her shy head in various doodles during work meetings or ideas for a book that I need a visual for. But doodles aren’t enough. I want more. After setting my Arwen free, I’ve had an idea for a picture book inspired by my son. The thing with picture books though, is that they include PICTURES. How can I create a picture book if I can’t reconnect with my artist?

So at the EPA SCBWI, I dared to ask. On closing day, I walked up to author/illustrator Selina Alko, with stomach in knots the size of Mt. Everest, and asked what she told artists who’ve lost “it” but want to get it back. After some background info, Miss Selina said the most amazing thing ever, “I believe there’s an artist in all of us.”

Out of nowhere, I started crying.

I apologized, feeling like a total tool, but I think Selina understood. She said to carry a sketch pad with me always. I tend to doodle on note pads, but it’s not the same. Selina said to just let the moments take me. When I felt the need to doodle, doodle in the sketch pad. Which is funny, since what are we told to do when experiencing writer’s block? Yup, we write. Doesn’t matter what it is as long as you’re writing.

The clouds parted and I felt a new sense of peace inside. Then I couldn’t STOP crying. Poor Carli had to deal with the emotional me. But I will remember Selina’s words always. When I got home, I went to JoAnne’s and bought a small sketch pad and travel case for sketch pencils and such. They are in my bag as we speak, right next to my writer’s note pad. Have I drawn anything yet? No, but I know I will.

It was amazing to experience this emotion. I knew I resented Ms Yanes for what she did to me, but I hadn’t thought how deeply it went. Apparently, REALLY deep. As one of those ‘had I known then what I know now’ scenarios, I would have told Ms. Yanes to kiss my ass, but I was an impressionable teen with little confidence in my art. I still don’t have much confidence in my art, but as an adult I know that the best part of my art is that it IS MY ART, not any one else’s. My art, just like my writing, is an extension of who I am. Just as every writer has their own voice, every artist has their own style. No one is perfect and what one person thinks is trash is the most awe inspiring piece of art to another.

In my heart, I have told Ms. Yanes to kiss my ass. It will be a rocky road, but I will reconnect with my artist. I want to create a picture book. I want to be a writer/author/illustrator. That is who I am, and I won’t let her go again.

 

 

If I could walk 100,000 miles

IMG_0599

February 1, 2013, I crossed over 100,000 miles on my car. Some may think this is a tedious thing to track, but not me. See, those miles are all mine. Damn near every single one of them.

When I drove my little Toyota Matrix off the lot, she had six miles reading on the odometer. That was AFTER my test drive. Pre test drive, I think there may have been two miles, if that. When I test drove my baby, the Toyota folks had to take plastic off the seats and that protective paper stuff off the hood and such. It was THAT new.

I’ve had new cars before, but not for this long. One even met with an untimely demise after a confrontation with an ’82 New Yorker that ran a stop sign. This is the first time in my life I’ve crossed the 100,000 mile milestone and it all — be — mine.

It got me thinking. On my way home that centennial night, I thought about the things that have happened in my life during those 100,000 miles. There have been huge highs and huge lows.

Some of the highlights of those 100,000 miles…

I reconnected with my father, whom I never had a great relationship with. I said goodbye to my Granny. I got married. I said goodbye to my TazzTazz (the most obnoxiously wonderful cat ever). I drove cross-country with my Lab-mutt, Arwen, who was ever patient with the week long adventure. I moved to Tennessee without a job and one friend (besides my hubs). I became a home owner. I worked for the worst company ever in existence (ever) for six months. I landed a job at a great biofuels company (and still work there). I befriended some of the most amazing people ever; I’m looking at you Rachel, Cara, Dana, and Amber! I said goodbye to my G-ma. I said goodbye to Grandpa Wilgus (in-law) who was quite possibly the most big-hearted man I’d ever come to know. I brought home my baby boy after 36 hours of labor. I found my inner writer. I wrote a book. I flew to New York City (had never been there before, by the way) by myself to attend an SCBWI conference where I knew not a soul. I met my first critique partner/writer-friend, Carli (HUGS). I met another awesomesauce critique partner/writer-friend, Alisha. I wrote several short stories and one resulted in an honorable mention in Writers Digest. I learned that chemical addictions can always sneak up on you no matter how well you think you know someone. I learned that sometimes you cannot depend on the one’s you need to depend on most. I also learned that the one’s you thought you could never depend on were the most dependable. I started two more books and know I will one day be published. I said goodbye to my sweet Arwen after a short, but horrible, fight with Cushing’s Syndrome. I invested in my dream computer (hello Macbook Pro). I learned that the infallible love of a child is the most precious gift in this world.

I also, after these 100,000 miles, have learned that my journey as a writer is just beginning. She may have always been there lurking under the surface waiting for her chance to burst onto the scene in a shower of glitter, but she’s still new to me. My journey as a writer will undoubtedly be as treacherous, ugly, rewarding, exciting, crushing, and as anxiety filled as the last 100,000 miles in my car, but that is the beauty of life.

Life is a journey.

Writing is a journey.

And both will leave tread marks on your soul.

 

New Year’s Remembrance

On the eve of 2013, I’d like to take a moment to remember the best friend a girl could ever have…

A true friend is so very hard to find.
One who is loving, supportive and kind,
A welcome grin and energetic hello’s,
With power to heal all of life’s woes.
A shoulder to lean on when in need
Being the rock is in their creed.
To love when our hearts are surely broken
To heal all scars without a word spoken.

To make us laugh with unending joy
When enthralled with the simplest of toys.
Sticks and balls and a tug rope or two,
A Frisbee, a bone; whatever you choose.
Maybe a squeaky toy or maybe a cat
To chase ‘round the house, as a matter of fact,
They’ll encourage a walk, or better yet, a run;
Just grab the lead and it’s all about fun.
A trip in the car is the biggest way to please
These creatures so dear to our hearts, don’t you see?
Front seat or back seat; it matters not
As long as their human is the one they’ve got.
Being our partner in life is always their goal
And maybe a treat and a heaping food bowl
‘Cause a head scratch and a thorough belly rub
Are prices gladly paid to be part of this club

Of a human and her dog, twin souls forever.
No matter how hard life is to weather.
“Where you go, I go!” She wags with a wiggle
Of her body and I can’t contain my giggle.
“Mountains, or deserts, or rivers, or streams,
We’ll tackle them all ‘cause we are a team!”
“New houses, new yards, new pee-mails to check,
New cats, new humans; well, oh what the heck?
Even the little human, who I never asked for,
Can be part of my pack while we roll on the floor.”

So you see, it’s rather quite simple and true,
‘Man’s best friend’…a dog, and then you.
Bonded together, no matter how little the time,
‘Twas time well spent, with that best friend of mine.
From puppy years of chewing and barking and more,
Potty training, digging, vet visits and snores,
Slobbering on windows, yanking the leash,
Licking my face every time you could reach.
Sitting on feet, leaning against my leg,
And listening to me when I said, “Don’t beg!”
Howling at fire trucks, bouncing at the back door,
Hysterical ‘bath time theatrics’ that made my gut sore,
Hiding from the vacuum, ‘clean up the mess’
Rawhides were okay, Nylabones were the best.

Being allowed on the bed was a super special treat
You’d run ‘round crazy in a furry blonde streak.
A decade of memories tucked away in my heart.
How much I miss you? Don’t know where to start.
Best friends can be human for some, I believe.
Mine? A goofy lab mutt who refused to retrieve.
My imperfect diamond, my flawed little pearl,
My best friend, my Arwen, always my ‘Baby Girl.’
Rest easy, my sweet Arwen… 12/25/01 – 12/06/12