Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fandom Fest

This weekend marked my first Con on the other side of the table and I had an absolutely amazing time.
 My favorite part of any Con weekend has always been meeting other like-minded individuals (read: Geeks), and this weekend was no exception.  From the other vendors and artists,
 to the cosplayers,
 to aspiring writers (who I truly hope check out my blog regarding upcoming contests), I met some incredible people.  One young lady named Annie shared my adoration for Rupert Grint, a handsome gentleman by the name of Thomas knew of the inherent masochism of writing, and I got to hang out for a long time with a professional harmonica player.  Still, though, my favorite part was the kids.
 I can't tell you how many scared, overstimulated, and overtired kids were made to smile by a glow stick and some vampire teeth, and how many hilarious and adorable stories I heard from tiny, lisping voices.
 I did go spend some time on the other side of the curtain, though.  I bought an awesome hat, and spent some time with the cast of the Firefly. Alan Tudyk was as hilariously snide as you would imagine,
and Adam Baldwin was the nicest guy you could hope to meet.
   I also gave a book to Jason David Frank for his daughter Jenna, and we took a second to shoot a video together.  I'm going to pretend I'm not jumping up and down while I type that.
This weekend was something that I have wanted since I was a very small child.  There I was with my publisher, hanging with my kind of people, selling my book.  It truly doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Day At the Beach

Yesterday was a beautiful day.  I packed up the four kids and a dinosaur patterned duvet cover filled with various accoutrement and headed to the beach.  This was only our second time at the beach, living as we do in landlocked state.  Before now, I just didn’t feel comfortable attempting this feat.  As it turns out, I had nothing to fear.  These children are mine, after all, and Lake Michigan is the lake I’ve played in and loved since I was a small girl.  When we went for the first time the lake was as smooth as it ever gets, and novelty created a sense of caution.  Yesterday, though, they were in their minds old pros.  The water was pretty big, though, for the elementary and preschool crowd, with waves at about three feet.  At first I was as jumpy as a water strider in a dish of rubbing alcohol, but after a little while I calmed down.  Once I did, I was able to notice, and revel, the different ways my kids enjoyed the one of my favorite places.
My chubby little blonde headed baby, who we generally call CatDaddy thanks to a slip of the tongue once by his older brother, was utterly unafraid of the waves.  I guess this is unsurprising as he is the youngest of four very rambunctious little monkeys and learned long ago to stand his ground.  As the waves would come crashing in he would roar his best dinosaur roar and dive head first into them.  They were way over his head and far more than he could manage, but he was so sure that he could do it.  Given the slightest opportunity he would dive in, paddle for a bit, and get knocked under.  He would be pulled to the surface sputtering but no less determined to do it again.  My preschooler, Bean, fared much better.  He would wade out to where the water was calmer, then paddle gamely along, playing with the splash ball I had brought.  His only problem was that he would occasionally follow either the ball or his older brother out beyond where he was comfortable.  He wasn’t in danger; he wasn’t afraid, he would just paddle calmly for the few seconds it took me to sprint over and tow him to calmer, shallower seas.  Then there was Diesel.  As I’ve mentioned before, D has some cognitive issues, mainly revolving around sensory integration and communication.  And, well, there’s really no other way to put it, the water healed him.  He would put on some goggles and float face down in the waves, diving down deep and then resurfacing.  I could watch the muscles in his body relax, and soon he was playing – appropriately! – with other children, dancing around, and speaking in complete sentences!  This has lasted.  He is using his words to say how he feels, is more engaged with others.  It is phenomenal.  Then there was my Belly Girl.  My Pearl.  Who informed me long before we ever got to the beach that she would be staying in the sand.  I know my daughter well enough to know what that means.  That means “the water scares me and so I’m going to stay on the sand and I want everyone else to as well so that I don’t have to move out of my comfort zone.”  I understand.  I empathize.  And also, it ain’t gonna happen.  I played with her in the sand for about a half hour.  Then I gave her a big hug, kissed the top of her head, and told her that the baby wanted to go into the water (a true statement) and that I had to go with him (also a true statement) and off we went.  Sure enough, after about another half of an hour had passed, I felt a hand on my leg.  My girl had come out to play.  Soon, she had donned some goggles and was splashing and diving like a little dolphin.  “Mommy,” she yelled at one point, “now I have two fav’rite parts of the beach.”  I grinned.  I thought she might. 
Once I had noticed that, I was able to think about the way I was caring for each of them.  With Cat, I was engaged in a full-body wrestling match; letting him go every now and then, but most often keeping a hand on him to keep him from hurting himself.  Often I was having to actively pull him back.   With Bean I had to be cautious, keeping a watchful eye in case he strayed too far, but mostly just letting him explore.  With my Pearl my job was to gently but firmly pull her out of her comfort zone and help her discover a side of herself she did not yet know existed.  And with D my job was to just sit back, try not to hover and “cramp his style” and let him soar. 

Wow.  How amazing.  How often do we get the joy of getting to fulfill all four stages of parenting at the same time?  I loved it.  I’ve said often that parenting is hard because we are constantly functioning on the micro level to hopefully see results on the macro.  I’m going to sit here until my baby asks to be excused from the table in hopes that he will learn manners and obedience so that he will be a gentle, well-mannered man who can discern when to question authority and when to obey.  No wonder we are exhausted.  But, for a moment, all of parenting was shrunk into this snapshot.  I felt it all – the pain, the joy, the pride, the fear.  I could see the stages all at once.  Then, as I often do when I get by big water, I got to thinking of God and how He must feel this way about me.  After all, he can SEE all the stages of me all at once.  He knows where I have been and where I will be.   I  remember all of the times I find myself pulling, straining, trying to throw myself under water as I feel Him saying “you’re not ready yet.  You’re almost there, but not quite.”  Meanwhile I pant and thrash and fight yelling, “yes I am!”  One of my friends once cautioned me about “praying for a King,” and boy was he right. Then, I thought about all of the times I’ve been put in positions I don’t feel like I can possibly handle, let alone enjoy, only to look back with wonder after I’d made it through.  Only then could I see how much of a giant the situations helped me to become – so much larger and more than I ever thought I could be.  There are the times I am wandering around, exploring, learning, and feel just the gentle touch of His guiding hand.  Finally, there are times where I know He just sits back and watches me soar. He watches the work He has put into me come into fruition as everything falls into place and I become what I was created to be. 

The old saying goes, "Sometimes life is a day at the beach."  Yes.  And sometimes, a day at the beach is life.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Upcoming Writing Competitions

It seems like everywhere I turn I have the good luck to run into someone who wants to be a writer.  I love that.  I love chatting and exchanging ideas; I love the wild, mad-scientist look they get in their eyes and the smile they get on their face as they talk about their ideas, projects, and dreams.  At some point, though, the look on their face changes.  "I would love to write," they say sadly, "I just don't __________."  Sometimes the rest of the sentence is "have the time."  Other times it's, "have the confidence."  Still other times it's, "know what to do."  I've been there.  I empathize.  But, the simple fact is that unless you TAKE the time, unless you write THROUGH your fears, and unless RESEARCH how to get your works out there, writing will always be just something you would love to do.  It will never be something that you love doing.  I find that contests are a great way to achieve these goals.  They create a finite deadline, which is more tangible and therefore more achievable then the ambiguous "someday."  This creates motivation.  They often provide a topic or genre, which may add inspiration.  They have very specific directions, which can eliminate the fear of not knowing what to do, and experience will breed greater confidence.  It is important to be aware, though, that there are scams. I do not suggest, as a beginning writer, that you send your work anywhere that calls for a "reading fee."  Do not send your book to a place where you will be required or even highly encouraged to buy an "anthology" comprised of all of the entries.  This is often referred to as a "vanity press" or a "vanity scheme" and will not give you credibility with potential publishers or agents as the selection process is incredibly lax to increase profits.  Finally, be very cautious as to what rights to your story you are granting the contest promoters.  Because I have had so very many people ask me about writing opportunities, I have compiled a short list of writing competitions that I recommend and often in which I am participating.

First - Wartooth Arena.  This event largely takes place at https://www.facebook.com/WartoothArena.  You write a short story, any topic, and post it on Kindle Direct Publishing for a price of $0.99.  You then post a link on Wartooth's Wall.  You follow up with a bio, a video, and more, and are judged on your story and on how many likes you get.  While you are there, I sure would appreciate it if you would "like" the post on their wall that tags "Amanda Rotach Huntley" and links to a story called "In the Halls of the Nosmo King."  But more than that, try to take my head, if you dare!

Second, I recommend www.ironwriter.com.  This is a great site where you sign up to participate in a weekly writing challenge.  You are given prompts and a short suspense in which to create a short story.  Stories are voted on by visitors to the blog, and winners get to participate in the biannual challenges for great prizes.  You also get some great exposure.

Third is the contest that I am currently running.  This is the Dark Carnival Fiction Competition, in conjunction with the annual Dark Carnival Film Festival in Columbus, Indiana.  The deadline, July 31st, is rapidly approaching.  All that I ask is that is be a speculative fiction piece of less than 5000 words.  Email your entry to fictioncompetition@darkcarnivalfilmfest.com.  Top 15 entries get a prize and a publishing contract with royalties.  We don't have 15 entries yet, so get workin'.  I will send feedback on entries received!

Finally is the That Book Place Authors Fair Story Contest.  The deadline is November 30th and is open to persons from all over the world writing in multiple genres.  The rules are as follows, as taken from the website:  

The competition is open to all, 18 years old or over, regardless of nationality or country of residence.
​Entries must be:
- in English
- double-spaced
- 12 Point Font
- Times New Roman
- No more then 5,000 words for Fiction
- No more then 100 pages for original screenplay
Include a cover-page with your Name, Title of Story, Address and email.
Entries to the genre categories must be entirely your own work and never previously published, online or offline, in any format.
Entries to the Previously Published category must be entirely your own work and must have all rights back to the author.
Entries to the Original Screenplay category must be entirely your own work and never previously published, online or offline, in any format.
​Please submit your story as an attachment in your email. Do not paste it in the body of the email.
Your Submission must show no name or address, just the title of the story. Entries are numbered automatically and cross-referenced with your cover-page. After the anonymous reading and selections, your name and details will be retrieved if your entry has been chosen.
​Worldwide copyright on your entry remains with you the author. By entering you grant permission, to include it in an Anthology if it is placed as a finalist. Winners in each category will receive royalties off the sale of the book. Winners and Finalists will be able to purchase copies for their own use, signings and giveaways, at 55% off the retail cost.
​By submitting an entry you agree to accept these rules in full.

So, make today the someday you are going to start writing.  If you'd like to "talk shop," please send me a line! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

6 word story challenge

My friend and literary stalkee Marian Allen has posted a six word story challenge. The topic, as well as the title, is "Blast." my story:
Still, I couldn't  break the surface.

I'm Going to Camp and YOU Can Come, Too!

Grab your virtual tent!  Don't forget your binary bug spray!  I'm time for camp.  For years, writers and want to be writers have participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, or just NaNo.  This takes place in November and I love it.  Without NaNo 2013, there would have been no "Hunter the Horrible," after all. I'll be honest, though, I love anything that gets people out of the "I'm going to write someday" mindset into actually writing.  NaNo, Julie's endeavor over at A Story a Day, or any of the constant blogging challenges out in the netoverse.  To rock it 90's style  - just do it.  NaNoWriMo has grown in popularity, to the point that they now have two additional months that they deem "camps" that take place in April and July.  And Iiiiiiii'mmmmm goin' to camp!  I have 30 days to write 50,000 words.  I'm a little behind, but I have faith.  I got this! Right?  Someone please tell me I've got this.  . .
Lately I, like some other writerly folk I know, have really been feeling some pressure to get our long-planned dystopian works completed.  Dystopia is defined as "a community or society, usually fictional, that is in some way frightening, oppressive, or undesirable."  My dystopian work is geared towards adults, and is called "Utopia Inside," It takes place after a zombie-causing epidemic has left most of the population of the United States dead, many undead, and  the rest into hiding.  On a college campus in the Midwest, a group of people have created a stronghold and have committed themselves to recreating their little world according to their ideals.  They have a Constitution, and even a name - Utopia.  It may be hell out there, but it's Utopia Inside.  I follow this microcosmic society as it rises to a pinnacle of greatness, and then cannibalises itself.  I'm at about 5000 words right now, so stick with me and let's see where it goes.  And here's something to sweeten the pot: I'm starting a contest!  Have you ever wanted to be immortalized in fiction?  Here's your chance!  Share either this blog or the website www.hunterthehorrible.com on your blog or facebook page.  When you have done so, write "done" in the comments below.  At the end of Camp NaNo, I'll draw one name.  That person's moniker will be hung on either the defecting rebel nurse, or the wanna be police officer who causes a bunch of problems.  So, please, come camping with me!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

No, She Is Not Adopted!

 is my daughter. 
I'm sure that you will notice a couple of things about her; she is absolutely, stunningly gorgeous, for one.  She's a bit sassy, for two.  But there's more that I'm sure you see.  Then we pull the camera back. 
 the Chinese kid with the canes or they're going to eat my brains. It happens all of the time, among small children and adults alike. If you have reached your majority and you engage in this action around my daughter, be prepared to be called out on it. I'll be friendly, but I will address you. I will likely say something like, "Can I help you?" or "Are there any questions I can answer for you?" I try to be gentle because every now and then the ogler is someone who has a younger child with mobility issues, and they are lost and scared and trying to work up the courage to ask some questions or to glean some hope. And I want to help those people. But, curiosity or knowledge-seeking, simply staring has to stop. E feels it. She does not like it.
Sadly, all too often what follows though is, "hey, what happened to her legs?"  I'm sorry, but what business is it of yours? I don't ask you, Mr. Morbidly Obese Man about your eating habits or thyroid function. I don't ask you, Mrs. Unfortunate Hairy Moles about your protuberances. Please, show us the same respect. She is not contagious. The deformities with which she was born and the atrocities to which she was subjected after were inhumane and horrific. And they are HER stories to tell or not tell. She is obviously well cared for. She is getting along just fine. Let's leave it at that.
You know, though, that's the most benign of all of the questions we are asked. Slightly more annoying is, "Is that your REAL daughter?" Now, we all know what they mean. Still, it's irritating. We have found a way to deal with this with good-hearted albeit snarky humor. E just rolls her eyes. I cannot wait for the day when I can teach her to act surprised and horrified, I can just picture her clinging to me crying. “What do they mean, Mommy?” Until then, I try to come up with some sort of witty response. "No, she's metaphorical," I said once. "Who? Which one? " I asked another time, feigning ignorance. Once, an older woman asked me if all of my children were "real." "No," I said, pointing to the baby who bears my eyes and my curls, "That one is a robot." Still, it's a horrible thing to be asked. So, once and for all, let me clarify; this is my daughter. She is mine. She shares behaviors, mannerisms, and even some physical traits. I have loved and raised her as best as I have been able. She loves me and I her. That is as real as it gets. End of story.
Do you know what the worse question is, though? You may be surprised. The worst is the seemingly simple question, "Is she adopted?" Listen, you were born, once, and that is most likely how you came to be in the custody of your parents. It was a singular event, not a state of being. When you come into a room do people yell,' Hey, Such and Such is crowning?" No, because it is over. It is how you came to be, it's not who you are. It's the same for my daughter. Yes, I will try to preserve the language and culture of the country in which she was born and where she spent the first six years of her life. She doesn't want it now, but she will someday. And I try to be mindful of the unique baggage that comes from having been adopted, to reminded and reassure her of how loved she is and that we are hers forever. But she IS not adopted. She WAS adopted.  It was a two year labor (think of that and shudder) that, as soon as she hit the States, was over. It was a singular event. That's why, like many adoptive families, we celebrate "Gotcha Day” on the date that we took physical custody. We have cake, because who doesn't love another reason to have cake, and we celebrate the anniversary of the day that she WAS adopted. But short of that very private celebration, it needs to be allowed to be over. People need to allow it to be forgotten. She doesn't need to be reminded all of the time that she is "different." She needs to be allowed to feel "normal," and to us she is, as normal as any of us get, anyway. This normalcy is important to her. Besides, it's HOW she came to us; it's not WHO she is, anyway. Besides, for Pete's sake, you kinda know the answer anyway.