The Casual Cyclist’s Guide to Last-Minute @RAGBRAI_IOWA Prep #cycling

This happened on the 12th. By day 1 of Ragbrai, I won’t have ridden my bike for 10 days. This is not a disaster, it’s just a recipe for needing Butt Butt’r and ibuprofen.

I have to travel a pretty long distance to reach Iowa, so I’m leaving tomorrow. My packing includes books and gear for MALCon in Denver, where I’ll be August 4-6. Your packing, on the other hand, should not stuff your car full to the brim. Unless you’re moving your own vehicle from town to town somehow, you’re limited to two duffels while on the ride.

Herein is a list of things I’ve found helpful while on Ragbrai, but are not obvious.

  1. A flashlight. You’ll want this in case you ever need to do anything at night. Which you will. I promise. It’s best to have one with a clip of some sort so you don’t have to turn it off in the dark inside a kybo.
  2. Clothespins or similar clips, possibly 2-4 small carabiners. I use these to hang wet cycling clothes after rinsing them out. You may also want a 6-10 foot length of rope. I don’t bother, as I can always drape everything over my tent. The clothespins hold things in case of a breeze or awkward placement needs.
  3. Walking shoes. Probably with regular socks. If your flipflops are super-comfy for walking around, more power to ya. I’ve never had a pair of sandals in which I was happy to walk more than a half mile or so, plus regular shoes means no sunburns on my feet. In most overnight towns, you’ll have to walk a fair distance to get to the expo, the entertainment and/or the food vendors. Even when you use the shuttles, you’ll still end up walking around quite a bit.
  4. Hand sanitizer. All kybos should have either a hand washing station or a hand sanitizer dispenser. Should.
  5. Emergency food substance. Maybe you, like me, have trouble forcing yourself to eat first thing in the morning. Maybe you’re a grazer. Maybe you just want to save a little money. Whatever you might come up with for a reason, it’s in your best interest to have a little something along with you. Anytime you feel yourself powering down between towns, stuff your EFS into your food hole, give it a few minutes to settle, and get back in the saddle. Protein-heavy bars work well for this.

Other than those things, don’t forget your sunscreen, toothbrush and toothpaste, and as much cycling gear as you feel comfortable bringing. I always get a new water bottle at the expo on Saturday for the week. Also, bring a sweater or light jacket, and expect to sleep in a sleeping bag, because it can get cold. You never know. I got mild hypothermia on Ragbrai once. Try not to do that.

I’ll be riding with Pork Belly Ventures, as I usually do, so I don’t have to worry about some toiletries and other things. You should consider how much of that kind of stuff you want to bring. If you aren’t riding with a charter, you’ll wind up showering in a wide variety of interesting locales. Be prepared for cold showers, not warm.

A few other tips:

  1. Keep a list handy with the names of the places you expect to camp every night. This way, if you feel lost, you can ask a local for directions.
  2. Bring cash for food. Gear dealers will generally accept credit cards, but food vendors don’t always, especially in the pass-through towns. Plan a budget and bring a little bit of a cushion if you can, in case you’re way off for how much you’re going to eat.
  3. Follow the basic riding rules and suggestions in the official Ragbrai booklet. Really. They’re designed to prevent problems like injury and heatstroke.
  4. Do not expect the SAG wagon to find you out on the road. This is my fifth time, and I’ve seen one on the route once. Once. They often fill up in the early towns and take the vehicle route to the overnight town. In the event you get hurt, your bike gets trashed, or you absolutely can’t go any further, try 911 on your phone. Flip your bike upside down if you can. People will stop to help you. I promise. If you *can* make it to the next town, do that and seek help there.
  5. The only reason you need two water bottles is if you want two different drinks in them. There will be opportunities in every single pass-through town to refill. Do not panic about water, just remember to drink it.
  6. For day 1-3, take the painkiller before you get on the bike. There’s no point to waiting until you feel pain. Trust that you will and prepare accordingly. By day 4, you should be okay to go without.

Internet and phone service are spotty and questionable all week long, especially since we won’t be going through any large towns this year, so plan to be disconnected the whole time. Don’t expect to hear much from me on Twitter or FB until it’s all over, because I don’t have either app on my phone (on purpose!).

Good luck, and see you on the road!

New Release: A Curse of Memories #ebook #books #fantasy #series

Chavali is back in The Greatest Sin book 5: A Curse of Memories. Eldrack sets her on the trail of the traitor whose actions caused a fellow agent’s death, a mission she accepts with fervor.

The ebook is 99 cents until tomorrow, when it assumes its regular price. If you’re new to the series, you can meet Chavali for the first time in The Fallen, book 1 of the series. She’s a cranky, sarcastic fraud of a fortune teller happy to fleece strangers for the benefit of her clan by telling them exactly what they want to hear.

The world of The Greatest Sin has lost its Creator and hates that fact. Chavali doesn’t care, but she’s about to get dragged, kicking and screaming, into the quest to find the Creator and bring Her back.

Packing for #NASFiC #amwriting

If you’re in the US, I hope you’re enjoying your favorite form of patriotic whatnot. For me, today is the deep breath before the madness. Tomorrow, I’m leaving for Puerto Rico to participate in NASFiC, the North American Science Fiction Convention. This is the convention held in the US when WorldCon isn’t. This year, WorldCon is in Helsinki, so we get NASFiC.

I’ve never been to PR before, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to know anyone there. This is both exciting and terrifying, as I’ve never gone to con where I knew no one. There will be one person with whom I have a passing acquaintance, but that’s it, so far as I’m aware. Everyone I know who would ordinarily go prefers to drive to big sales cons, not fly to small conference-y cons.

I’m hoping it’ll be fun. But also, I’m a cynic, so I know it’ll be awful. At least the weather is predicted to be pleasant, and the hotel is supposed to be nice. As a bonus, like Hawaii, it’s tropical and a chance of pace without requiring foreign currency, which means no currency exchange fees. Yay!

I’ll be participating on several panels about writing, alongside people with more experience than myself. Which doesn’t intimidate me in the slightest. Not a jot. Nope. Really. No vending for me at this show, as I have to fly there and am not hauling multiple copies of 16 titles on a plane. (16!)

And when I get back, I’ll have two days to finish Ragbrai training before shipping my bike to Iowa. Then I’ll have another few days to slave away in the word mines before leaving for that bike madness. From then, it’s an almost nonstop dash to the end of August.

In writing news, ICYMI, the second installment of Darkside Seattle is a thing. Street Doc was a story about an asshole. Fixer is a story about a woman who gets shit done. The Greatest Sin #5: A Curse of Memories releases next Tuesday, July 11. The ebook is currently in pre-order for 99 cents. It’ll go up to regular price of $4.99 on the 12th, so snap that up if you’re at all interested. The entire The Greatest Sin series is also available on iTunes, Kobo, and a smattering of other sites if you prefer those platforms.

I’ve started working on Spirit Knights 5 with a plan to have it ready next March. Darkside Seattle: Mechanic is tentatively scheduled for a December release. And finally, I have no less than 3 super-secret projects in the works. Three!

Happy 4th of July. 🙂

Unnatural Dragons – A Science Fiction Anthology from Clockwork Dragon

writefullywritten

True to it’s premise, this anthology presents four very different stories of dragons. From Lindsay Schopfer’s tale of a planet devoted to entertainment using people resembling creatures of fantasy, to a future imagined by Jeffrey Cook where A.I.’s have taken over and humans create dragons as a weapon to fight them, to a wild story from Lee French involving a portal to another world and mechanical dragons from this one, and finally to Sechin Tower who brings us an emotional story where a young dragon is conflicted by the attachment it feels to humans and the discovery of another of its’ kind and some of the most heartbreaking moments you may ever find in a short story..

Each story is well-paced and full of characterisation and action. More than that though is each story gives a look behind the curtain so to speak on how society works and where that…

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Cover Reveal: A Curse of Memories

The Greatest Sin #5 doesn’t just have a title. It has a cover and a release date! Bask in the glory of A Curse of Memories.

It’s pretty. Pretty epic, amIright? See what I did there? Eh? Eh?

Epic fantasy!

*cough*

Anyway…

Release date is July 11, and the ebook is currently in pre-order for 99 cents. You can find it on Amazon, Kobo, and a few other places. The price will go up on July 12th. Snap it up while it’s cheap!

If you haven’t heard of The Greatest Sin, it begins with The Fallen. Chavali, a cranky, sarcastic, and entirely fake fortune teller, hates people. Her job is dealing with them. Madness ensues. Also death, murder, abduction, magic, and prophecy. With snark. Lots and lots of snark.

New Release: Fixer #books #ebook #cyberpunk

The Darkside Seattle collection is full of grit, grime, and blood. Each novella tells the story of an important character in the setting. This second installment rises above the seedy underbelly of Seattle. Way, way above.

Victoria Godhand’s father built Godhand International Incorporated from the ground up. She’s been his right hand since she was sixteen. Now thirty-one, she’s the Chief Nepotism Officer and busts her ass to get things done in the glitzy world at the top.

As you might expect, things do go as well as she’d like.

Fixer is available on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

This collection isn’t a series. The stories can be read in any order. If you missed the first installment, Street Doc is available on Amazon. I’m expecting to release the third installment, Mechanic, by the end of the year.

I use a separate pseudonym for this collection because it’s different from everything else I write, and it’s not at all appropriate for kids. If you love my YA, this is not that. It’s nothing like that at all. If you want something else like Spirit Knights, try the Maze Beset trilogy of superhero fiction instead.

Cheers!

It’s All About You #amwriting #writingtips

Over the weekend, I chanced to have an interesting chatroom encounter with a person claiming to have multiple neurological diagnoses. I say “claim” because it’s a chatroom, and you never really know. I spend a fair amount of time in that particular chatroom, and most folks seem honest. I try to be when I’m not goofing around or being ridiculous.

I’m going to refer to this person as a male called “D”, though I have no idea of their gender, and this is clearly not their real name. I’m just doing it for simplicity.

D had been in the room before, and wanted help with writing stuff. Being myself, I stepped up and offered to help. During his previous request for assistance, he’d announced he enjoyed writing fanfic, and wanted help with mashup ideas.

To be clear, I think fanfic is great. I don’t spend my time writing it, but I have daydreams and such, and my brain wanders through what ifs for characters I like. To those who write and read fanfic, that’s great. If you ever have the urge to use my stuff for fanfic, knock yourself out. Anyway.

It soon became clear this person had a narrow list of ideas, but couldn’t pick one and wanted someone else to pick for them. Of the things on the list, I didn’t know much about most of them, so I didn’t say much once that list was revealed. I will say that I still think Harry Potter vs Predator would be neat. But I digress.

On this second occasion, the one which prompted this post, D entered the room and posted, “I hate writer’s block.”

If you don’t hang out with writers, you may be familiar with only the basic idea of writer’s block as some mystical creature shaped like a wall that writers bang their head against while producing nothing. Some writers see it that way too. In reality, it’s not a mythological beast or even an actual thing. Writer’s block is just another way of saying that you’re tired, overworked, burned out, need a vacation, should eat, could use some exercise, or have some other problematic issue with self-care. Either that, or you did something wrong in the story and your brain knows it, but can’t figure out what it is.

Whenever people try to cop the writer’s block excuse around me, that’s what I tell them, one way or another. As I did in this case. More or less–do some exercise, take a nap/get a night’s rest, and/or eat, then come back and try again. If that doesn’t work, switch to another project for a while. This is what the professional writerfolk (and, for that matter, most artistfolk) do, because we can’t wait around for airy fairy muses to flutter out of the sky and wave a magic wand around our heads with ideas. We hunt muses and seduce them so they never want to leave in the first place.

If you subscribe to the muse theory, that is. Anyway.

Other folks in the room did what they do, which is offer suggestions, none of which seemed to satisfy or appease D. He then did what I later realized was whining with a post which roughly translated to: you’re all jerks, I don’t know why I bother asking for advice here, this is a waste of time.

To which, I, being me, pointed out that yes, it is a waste of time because he doesn’t need outside ideas, he needs to think about what kind of stories he wants to tell and figure this stuff out for himself.

Which apparently made me sound like a sanctimonious bitch, but that’s not the point.

The point is this: any average human can string together words to make grammatically understandable sentences, draw lines and shapes, or arrange elements on a canvas. These are not especially challenging activities to the average human.

What makes writing, drawing, or design into art is the pieces of yourself that you put into it. It’s the tools you select and how you apply them. In writing, it’s about your word choices, the beats of the plot, the nuances of the characters, the descriptive details. It’s about expressing something in a way that evokes emotion.

What a writer needs from the outside isn’t ideas. It’s a sounding board. Someone to whom you express ideas and they help refine or shoot down the really stupid crap. If you can’t come up with an idea in the first place, taking someone else’s won’t solve the problem.

As a side note, this is why there are some specific challenges inherent in writing with a co-author, but that’s a whole different ball o’ wax.

Happy writing!