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Putting in the Time, Effort, and Miles

At the beginning of July, Dale (my grandfather-in-law who I’m writing the biography about) visited us and helped me with the chapters I’d already finished. While he was here, we discussed the need to go to the town he was born in and visit his ranch so I could get photos. Since he lives in Arizona, we had to figure out details of when he could come back. We decided the best time would be September.

Since I didn’t have my calendar with me (I always leave it at work), I had to take a photo of it to send to my husband so he could figure out what weekend was going to work the best. His first remark after seeing my schedule was, “Wow! You’re gone a lot in September.”

And I had to do my best to hold back my snicker. September is nowhere near as busy as July has been.

But he did have a point: I have been traveling a lot—more than I have in the past—and I have several more trips coming up before the end of the year. I even have some scheduled for next year already. Some of them in Wyoming, some across the country.

I’m looking forward to all of my engagements. I always have so much fun when I get out, but it does get tiring. It means I have to take time away from my job, which pays my bills. I’m away from my family and my dogs.

So why do I do it?

There’s several reasons why. Part of it is to increase book sales, but this is a small part. For most of my appearances, the only books I bring are my own that I use for display purposes. I’ve missed out on a few sales because I didn’t have any to sell, but the point of me doing my workshops and presentations isn’t solely to make sales. It’s to get me out there. It’s to give me a chance to talk about what I’m passionate about. Sales are just the cream on top.

And not every workshop/presentation ends with a chance to sell my books. However, some of the best words I’ve heard after giving my speech are, “I’ll have to check out your books.”

In fact, I heard this exact phrase after doing my presentation in Basin. It was said by some parents who attended the workshop with their kids, and it totally made my day.

The biggest reason why I travel and do these appearances is for branding. As an author, you’ve probably heard this about a million times. You brand yourself, not your work. By being an expert in certain subjects and sharing my knowledge with audiences, I’m branding myself. In most instances, I’m branding myself as a zombie or slasher film expert, and I love every minute of it.

Doing these presentations gives me a chance to talk about so much more than the book. I’m not limited to the words I’ve put on the page, but I get to talk about my passions and obsessions. I get to geek out. I get to express my excitement over research or gush about what I learned while writing. I get to network with people who share my passions. I get to be inspired by those at the workshops.

The travel can be difficult. Unfortunately, I live in the least populated state in the nation, so the distance between my town and where I give presentations can be vast. I’ve driven 6 hours before to do a 1-hour presentation. For the conferences I’m attending, I have to drive 2 hours to the airport, then fly for however long it takes me to get to my destination. Again, all of this for a short presentation.

But it’s worth it. It’s worth putting in the time and miles for people to know who I am. Even if they don’t buy my books, hopefully they’ll remember what I talked about. Hopefully I’ll inspire them to go out and find their own answers or write their own books. Hopefully I’ll teach them something new.

The world isn’t going to come to me, I have to go to the world. It’s scary putting myself out there, especially because that means I open myself up to criticism. But there’s also a chance something wonderful and amazing can happen, and I’m willing to take a risk to see what that is.

Learning to Let Things Go

This wasn't my original post.  My original post was much longer, more hate filled.

There was an incident last week.  One that affected me profoundly and left me feeling angry, confused, and sad.  I debated for days whether or not I would actually put it up, then hours before it was scheduled, I changed it to this.  And I'm happy I did.

There was no point putting up the other post.  All it would have done was continued to bring up the memories of what happened.  It may have made me feel like I had the morally superior high ground, but it wouldn't have changed anything.

The world will always be full of asshats.  There's no way to get away from that.  And they can have a profound impact on me.  They can make me feel bad about things, they can make me angry, they can make me weep for the state of humanity.  But I'm the only one who gets to decide if I let them dictate my actions.  It took me a while to get over what happened, and in some ways, I still can't let it go, but it won't rule my life.

Through all the emotions I felt from the incident, one thing became incredibly clear: I am surrounded by loving friends and family.  My family always has my back and is willing to beat the hell out of anyone who tramples my rights.  My friends sympathize with me, and they have my back too.

I can't stop bad things from happening, but I don't have to focus on the negative.  I'm surrounded by people who love me and will always be by my side.  These are the people that matter.  That's what's important.  When the world weighs me down, they are the ones who will lift me back up.


My spouse, friends, and I are going to see Aerosmith tonight at Cheyenne Frontier Days, and I’m super excited!

I’m a huge fan. Not as big as my friend Jamie, who flew in from Oklahoma to go with me, but close. We’ve always gone to Aerosmith together. I can’t remember how many we’ve been to, but when we were in college, if they were playing within driving distance, we went.

One time, in October, we drove to Omaha to see them. From where I live, that’s about 8 hours. Luckily, my grandmother lives half an hour from Omaha in Iowa, so we had a place to stay when we got snowed in. We had so much fun!

I don’t get to see them as often as I used to, mainly because tickets are so freaking expensive (and I’m old and have to figure out what to do with the kids), but I couldn’t pass them up at CFD. I mean, Cheyenne is only 45 minutes away, why wouldn’t we be there?

I will share pictures and the experience later. Until then, please enjoy one of my favorite songs by them.

Good Times in Seattle

When I was getting ready to graduate with my master’s, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I decided I wanted to go into publishing as an editor, but I didn’t want to go all the way to New York. It scared me to be so far from home and in such unfamiliar territory, so I decided to go to Seattle. It has a thriving publishing industry and is close to home. I figured I could handle it.

I had never been before, but I was confident in my abilities to make it.

I never made it to Seattle after graduation. In fact, I didn’t make it there until last year when I attended the AWP Conference. Then, over the summer, I got to go again. This time, it was for vacation, so I got to explore a lot of what the city has to offer.

Yeah, most of it was touristy stuff, but it was still fun. My sister-in-law lives there, so we got to see other sides of Seattle too. For the first few days we were there, we stayed at a house on Vashon Island. This was incredibly relaxing. The TV didn’t work right, so we didn’t watch it. Thankfully we had wifi, so the boys were able to watch YouTube videos, but I filled my time reading or listening to my grandfather-in-law’s recordings.

We crossed a ferry to get to the island, and the boys were thrilled about this. It was the first time they’d been on one, and it was incredibly exciting. We didn’t see any whales, but a bunch of orange jellyfish bobbing carelessly in the water.

We went to the beach and hiked some of the nature trails the island has to offer. We ate ice cream and played cards at the house. It was an awesome trip.

Kayakers who just left the beach.

When we came back to Seattle on Sunday, we checked out Pike’s Market and went to the comic book store. We hiked around the city and went to Gas Light Park. We saw some amazing things at the park, including a medieval club practicing their fighting. I was in awe at the amount of people there and on the water, but it was so much fun!

For dinner that night we went to Ivar’s, and heat exhaustion almost laid me out. All the muscles in my back started cramping, putting me in immense pain. I downed water and got out of the sun and eventually started feeling better, but it was scary for a moment. I thought I might pass out.

On Monday, we decided to go to the EMP Museum, and this was the highlight of my trip. Not only did they have a Star Wars costume display, they had a sci fi/fantasy/horror exhibit. Guess which one was my favorite.

In addition, they had a gaming exhibit that talked about how games are created, and the boys got to play some so they were happy. And they also had a Looney Tunes display. It was seriously amazing, and I totally geeked out. I LOVED IT!

We also made a trip to the aquarium and the Pacific Science Museum. These were all right. We visited these on Tuesday and I was pretty tired, so I wasn’t as enthusiastic. The boys had a great time though, so they were worth visiting.

We wanted to go to the top of the Space Needle, but we ran out of time. That was a bummer. All in all, it was a great trip. We visited some amazing restaurants and I ate some fantastic salmon. I’ll have to make it a point to go back next year so I can check out all the things I missed this time.

Terminator Genisys

On Monday, the spouse and I went to see the new Terminator movie. I’ve been intrigued to see it since I saw the trailer. I wasn’t disappointed.

First of all, my movie needs are pretty simple. I like good fights and explosions. Eye candy is a plus, but having Arnie in it puts it over the top (most of the time. We could name a few of his horrible movies, but we won’t right now). I love that man. I’ve loved that man since I was a kid and watched him in the Conan movies. Which, by the way, I’m anxiously awaiting that film to come out!

However, just because it’s “simple” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a message. They focus on our fear of technology and how we are so afraid it’s going to get out of hand and kill us. In a way, these films are equivalent to zombie films. Seriously, think about it.

The cyborgs target and kill humans, just like zombies. They don’t eat them, but they still destroy them, and they do it relentlessly and without tiring.

They were both created by science and got out of hand.

They look just like us.

They are the cause of the apocalypse, and the survivors find themselves barely scraping by and constantly hiding from the threat. While the survivors can and do fight against the cyborgs, like zombies, the humans are vastly outnumbered and suffer heavy losses.

No wonder I like these films so much.

But I digress. I had a pretty good idea what to expect going into the film because I’d seen the trailer and read a few reviews. Plus, it’s Terminator. There are four in the franchise; there aren’t a lot of surprises in the plot.

I really enjoyed how they paid homage to the original two films and created an alternate time line. One of the best ways to reinvigorate a franchise is to stay true to its roots but introduce a new aspect to it to make it appeal to new audiences. The Star Trek reboot also did this very well.

The action in the film was amazing, the special effects fantastic. The plot was what you would expect—cyborgs from the future come back to kill Sarah Connor to keep John Connor from being born and save the human race—but there are a few twists along the way.

I will definitely be adding this movie to my collection when it comes out. I have a feeling even my boys will thoroughly enjoy this film, and I can’t wait to show it to them!

Has anyone else seen it? What did you think?

Science in Fiction

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be on The Edge with Cassandre Dayne, a blog talk radio show. One of my friends asked a question, and while I answered it on Facebook, I’ve been thinking about it ever since and wanted to expand my response.

Here was the question:

“Question for Pembroke: How important is science education (like the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for Writers) to science fiction writers? And how can good science make an impact in the horror genre as well?”

My response, in a nutshell, was that I think science education for both horror and science fiction is incredibly important. In our work, we authors have a chance to portray science in a fun and entertaining fashion, as well as being educational. By having correct science in a work of fiction, it could possibly get rid of some of the misinformation that exists in the real world.

However, I don’t think that authors are obligated to have correct science in their fiction. First and foremost, we are storytellers, and we should tell our stories in whatever fashion and form we want using whatever type of science (real or imaginary) we want. There should be a responsibility on the part of the reader to be informed about what is real science and what is fantasy.

There are authors who already incorporate real or plausible science into their stories, so this isn’t a new, groundbreaking area of writing, and I don’t want to make it sound like it is. But at the same time, I think that more can be done.

As I thought about this question, I thought about how to most people, science is incredibly boring. More often than not, it’s a scientist in a lab working on math equations or running samples through some machine and recording the results. Or it’s an astronomer looking at a computer screen and recording numbers of what they are looking at in space (rarely do they actually look through the eye piece at what is in the universe). Or it’s an anthropologist observing and recording the daily lives of another culture and how they survive.

The list goes on. The point is that science is pretty routine. It’s exciting for the people conducting it, but for the vast majority of the rest of us, it’s uneventful. Unless something goes wrong. When a creature is created or something comes from outer space or an ancient ritual threatens to destroy the world, that’s when science become exciting. That’s when it becomes sexy.

And that’s when it becomes the bad guy.

Honestly, I never really thought about how important the portrayal of science was in books and film until I attended the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for Writers. And it was fascinating. In one week, I learned so many amazing and wonderful things about space that I hadn’t known before. I wanted to attend other workshops, including one about biology. I thought that would be amazing, and it would allow me to put real science into my zombie stories.

Even though I didn’t have a chance to attend any other workshops, I have the ability to do research and talk with professionals to make sure the science in my book is correct or at least plausible, and I try to do that more often in my stories. But this wasn’t always the case.

Coming from Nowhere, my science fiction book that was published in 2009, has no real science in it. But it was done several years before I attended the workshop. I knew that if something traveled faster than light all you would see was blackness outside the window, but that’s about where the real science ends. It’s been a little disconcerting for me, but I don’t think it distracts from the story. And my goal was to make the story entertaining.

My point is that as authors, we are in a unique position to enlighten readers with real science in our work. We have an opportunity to rid the world of scientific ignorance in a fun way. Again, I’m not saying we have to, but we can, and I think we should at least try.

While science can influence our stories, fiction can also influence science. Jules Verne was writing about scientific breakthroughs long before they came out. He predicted electric submarines, newscasts, solar sails, lunar modules, skywriting, videoconferencing, tasers, and a splashdown spaceship—and he was writing in the 1800s!

The Predator’s camouflage suit inspired invisibility cloaks to be made.

The hover bikes from Star Wars are being developed by the military.

When watching CSI, I am always amazed at some of the stuff they do in the lab to solve a crime. While it’s not realistic to think it would happen that fast, it’s amazing to think how things have advanced in forensic science. The use of DNA to solve crimes started in 1986, but has advanced since. Perhaps one day what we see on this TV show will happen in real forensic labs around the world.

Science is this incredibly amazing thing that influences are lives on a daily basis, but it is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. And a lot of that is because of how it is portrayed in fiction—both in the movies and in books. An opportunity exists to right these wrongs and make science cool again. I believe that we as authors should take it.

The what ifs are what make watching movies and reading books fun. They are also what makes writing books fun. Being able to escape is really what audiences are looking to do, and media gives us the ability to do that. A film/book doesn’t have to be scientifically correct to be entertaining (any of the Jurassic Park films, for example), but they also don’t have to perpetuate stereotypes either.

Science and fiction could work together. Together, they could influence the types of breakthroughs we have, and it could make people excited about learning. But to make it happen, we as authors have to be conscience about how we portray science and scientists in our work.

Focusing on the Positive…and the Adorable!

I think it’s been about a month now (maybe a little longer; I stopped keeping track!) since we’ve had Floki come into our home and a few weeks since we got Siggy. And things have been awesome!

As some of you may recall, after the incident with Rolo, I was really nervous about getting another Corgi. I wanted another fur baby in the house, but I wasn’t sure I could handle it emotionally. I’ll admit, I was pretty bad for the first few days, but things have mellowed out quite a bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I still worry. I watch the dogs pretty closely and every time one of them yips or is quiet for too long, I rush to find out what’s happened. For the most part, I feel like my actions are pretty normal. I mean, they’re still puppies. It’s my job to keep them safe.

In addition to the worry, I’m also happy.

I knew when we got the dogs that they wouldn’t be Rolo. I knew they would have their own personalities and quirks. Still, it was hard not to compare them, and quite a few times, I called Floki, Rolo. But it happens less and less.

I still miss Rolo, and I think about him often, but Floki and Siggy are absolutely adorable! They’re a lot of work—they’re still babies—but they are so sweet. They can’t ever replace Rolo, but they help fill the hole he left in our hearts.

Siggy taking a nap.

Floki and Siggy playing.