Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Strange Days Are Here

A high school football star whose drinking problems require drastic intervention. A scarred soldier returning from war and an assassin with an unknown agenda on a collision course with each other. A spurned love seeking revenge. A man who stares death in the face, and loses. A new town sheriff consoling his mourning daughter. Three friends who dare trespass where they shouldn't be, and a tired warrior fighting to survive, though he wants nothing more than peace and rest. All this and a collection of essays on horror and writing in general. Spend a short season in the odd town of Clifton Heights, New York, and in the odd mind of Kevin Lucia. - Strange Days

"Kevin Lucia's writing is both scary and smart, a lethal cocktail that makes for mesmerizing storytelling." -- Tosca Lee, New York Times Bestselling Author of Demon: A Memoir 

"Lucia is a true craftsman of the horror story, with a fine sense of the genre's best traditions." --Norman Prentiss, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Invisible Fences and The Fleshless Man


From the Introduction:


The reasons behind this small collection are twofold: First, several of my short stories didn’t fit into the framing narrative of my first short fiction collection, Things Slip Through. I felt they were good enough for an audience, so I decided to assemble them – along with a few poems – into a small collection.

Secondly, over the years many folks have mentioned how much they’ve enjoyed reading my blogs, especially those who have followed me from the very beginning. Good friend and excellent author Richard Wright once told me he liked reading my blogs because they’ve charted my development as a writer, that through them you could see a progression in my thoughts about writing and the horror genre. I decided to gather several of the essays I’ve written for different webzines over the past two years along with some of my more popular blogs to create a nonfiction section to Strange Days.

Rounding out this collection are two projects that unfortunately fell by the wayside, my desire to create several standalone graphic eBooks, and a graphic novel serial, Asphalt Oceans by Midnight. I offer them as curiosities, and hopefully you’ll find them interesting.

These aren’t “trunk stories.” They’re stories I enjoyed writing, stories I sold along with my other stories. I feel comfortable in their quality, though several of them represent my earliest stages of writing. And these essays don’t offer “writing advice” trying to tell everyone how to write. They’re me trying to figure out how I want to write, trying to figure out what horror fiction means to me, with a healthy dose of real-life stuff thrown in.

As always, thanks to those who’ve supported my work, offered me a guiding hand, or even cheered me on from the sidelines. Thanks also, as always, to my wife Abby, for all your unfailing love, support and patience.

Enjoy, and thanks again.         

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Narrators Cast for DEVOURER OF SOULS Audiobook

So I received the official casting news the other day for the audiobook version of Devourer of Souls, which is currently in production at Audible.com. Needless to say I'm very excited. This development came about as a compete surprise a few months ago, and it has turned out to be a big milestone in my career, indeed.  

Also - I'm blown away with how much detail they're putting into this. Devourer is comprised of two novellas connected by a wrap-around narrative featuring Sheriff Chris Baker and Father Ward, characters from the narrative frame of my first short story collection, Things Slip Through. To mirror that structure, three different narrators have been cast, giving all three bits of narrative three distinct voices. As I've said, I'm beyond excited for this.

Check it out, below, the narrators for Devourer of Souls:


Kevin T. Collins:

Kevin T. Collins is an actor, singer, and recording artist. He has been seen Off-Broadway in Made in Heaven, Angels, and City of Angels; on TV in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and As the World Turns, in recurring roles on Guiding Light and Law & Order, and in the feature films Aunt Rose, Last Rites of the Dead, and Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock. Kevin works extensively in the anime world as a voice-actor, has won two Audiofile Earphones Awards, and is also a singer/songwriter. For more informaiton, visit www.kevintcollins.com.

Scott Aiello:

Scott Aiello is a recent graduate of the Juilliard School Drama Division.  On stage, he most recently appeared in Much Ado About Nothing with Barrington Stage Company.  On television, Scott has appeared in shows such as CBS's Person of Interest, Elementary, and HBO's The Newsroom.  Before Juilliard, Scott was a regular in the Chicago theater circuit, performing with companies such as Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, and Timeline Theater Co.  He has narrated over two dozen audiobooks with Audible.com and was a 2013 Audie Award nominee for his non-fiction narration of Sex and God at Yale by author Nathan Harden.

Jesse Einstein:

Jesse Einstein is a professional actor, filmmaker, and a passionate storyteller, living in Los Angeles. Recent television credits include Kroll Show (Comedy Central) and The League (FX). He studied acting at The Atlantic Acting School (NYU), New World School for the Arts (Miami, FL), Upright Citizens Brigade, Second City, and graduated cum laude with a degree in theatre from the University of Southern California, where he was awarded the David Dukes Scholarship. In 2007, Jesse circumnavigated the globe while studying with Semester at Sea, participating in home stays and community service while attempting to master 10 words in the native language of each country that he visited. He also taught flying trapeze for 5 years.

More news as it comes...

Monday, August 4, 2014

On How I Need to Stop Looking At Amazon Rankings, Comparing Myself to My Peers, and Slowly Driving Myself Insane

So, I promise - I'm not whining on this blog. At least, I'm not intending to. And I'm not looking for any advice, really. There's been a lot of "rah-rah, yay me!" on here lately, so I'm kinda returning to form with some very transparent, "this is what's on my mind today" kinda format. 

Anyway.

This has been a productive year. I compiled my first short story collection and saw it published by what has turned out to be a stellar small press, Crystal Lake Publishingto excellent reviews and good sales. I sold my first two pro-rate short stories. I finished off a stint as submissions reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and have now leap-frogged to a position as Associate Fiction Editor at The Horror Channel

I also saw a linked novella collection published by another stellar small press, Ragnarok Publications, in late June, once again to excellent reviews. The sales seem to be a little slower on that one, but more paperback copies seem to have moved than of the collection, and we also didn't do the count-down sale, so whatever sales I HAVE made, the royalties for each have been higher than for the sale on the collection, so it'll be interesting to see what the first royalty statement looks like. Also: an audiobook deal was landed with Audible, which will eventually lead to my first advance ever.

In addition, my BILLY THE KID WEIRD WESTERN entry made it to the quarterfinals of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest, where it sorta got slammed by a Publisher's Weekly review, which sorta bummed me out until lots of really qualified people pointed out that PW reviews aren't always reliable, and mine in particular sounded like it had been written by someone who hated genre fiction in general, so it might not have been the most objective review either.

To round out the year, I've gone on a summer writing blitz that has seen the most productivity from me, yet: a serial novella to be published in The Midnight Diner this coming year, and three completed first draft short stories/novelettes with a fourth in progress. Also, my serial novella And I Watered It With Tears, initially published in the first volume of Lamplight Magazine, will be republished in the near future by Ragnarok. 

I should be over the moon.

And, in most aspects: I AM. I've come much further than I ever thought I would a bare seven years ago. I've made advances. I've climbed the ladder. Strangers have emailed me telling me how much they enjoy my work. And yet...if I'm not careful...something could very easily spoil all that. As the last few months has worn on, I've found myself doing several things that I need to stop, RIGHT NOW, before I spoil everything for myself, and drive myself INSANE.

1. Stop Looking at Amazon Sales Rankings

It's pretty heady stuff to see your work debut and shoot up the Amazon sales rankings. Even after you come to understand it just reflects the frequency of purchases in a short span of time (one purchase is enough to shake things up), it's still exciting, especially to a green newbie like me. One day, you're nobody. Next day (even if it's because of a .99 sale) you're #4 on the rankings,  next to Stephen King.  

Eventually, of course, the sale ends, you drop off the top 100, and things go back to normal.

Except, they don't.

Because now you're hooked. Or, at least, I was. Maybe all other authors everywhere are utterly secure, confident people full of perspective, and they don't get hooked. But hey, I'll admit it: I got hooked on seeing my work rise in the rankings. So hooked, that I've found myself checking the rankings of both my works sometimes up to three or four times a day.

And that's gotta stop.

It's one thing to be aware and up-to-date on things. It's another entirely to be obsessed. I feel like I'm bordering on obsession. Every author gets a little smile when they see a bump in sales. Any author who says they DON'T care about sales is either an excellent liar, or a way better person than I am. 

And in the end, it isn't really about the MONEY, because you don't end up getting all that much. It's the thought that people have heard good things about your work and are seeking it out. And I've found myself worrying too much that my work is going to sink into obscurity. It's completely natural to be happy about a sale. To be utterly depressed and defeated when sales slow down?

Geez. I'm not gonna last long in this gig if I don't kick that little bug-a-boo.

2. Stop Comparing Myself to Genre Peers, Stop Comparing My Sales to Theirs

Probably one of the biggest things I didn't expect happening was for me to be always comparing myself to others. And I'm not jealous. God, I hope not. It's more like: What are they doing I'm not? Do I really suck that bad? Am I too shy and withdrawn at conventions, and not forward enough, not meeting enough people? How come so many people seem so popular at conventions, and I'm not? Am I that weird and awkward? Is that hurting my career, that I can't travel to as many conventions as these other folks, who seem to hop the whole freakin country? Why are no "big names" sharing my work with everyone like they seem to do with others? Again - do I suck that bad?

Careers move at different speeds.  I know this (in my head, anyway). Just recently, I was praised in a review by a fellow colleague for my slow, steady pace. So why do I worry so much about where I'm going, what I'm doing wrong when I see other peers land these big deals? Why am I so - alright, I'll belly up to the bar and face the music - jealous when I see genre greats gushing about peers' works?

 I SO NEED TO STOP THIS. I'm going to drive myself insane. Part of this, admittedly, is from some advice I received several years ago about sales, and being the type of writer who sells well, and doing all these things at conventions and on Facebook to assure that I "sell well."

What a bunch of crap. That's gotten under my skin, now, making me worried about what I post on Facebook, if I post about my writing too much on Facebook, worried about which publisher I should submit to and why, and yaddia yaddia yaddia. The only thing I can control is what I put on paper every day, how intensely I edit it, and where I chose to send it. 

I can't control who likes my work, who talks about it, what big names endorse it and which ones ignore it, I can't control who likes me at Cons and who doesn't, or control our finances and magically make it so I can afford to attend every genre convention every year. The only thing I can control is my writing, every day, and that's it.

I used to be content with that. And I need to get back to that place.

So, starting today: my simple goal is not to look at my Amazon Rankings at all today. And then tomorrow, not look at all. And then the next day. My goal? That I'll forget about them entirely, and just focus on writing.

Also: less time on Facebook. Pop in to check stuff out, pop out. Focus on life, and writing.

Because I'm not insane, yet. I'm still very happy with all the success I've enjoyed thus far. 

And I need to keep it that way.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

On The Social Media, The Sharing of The Reviews, and The Author Self-Promotion

Here's a blog I kept going back and forth about writing. Should I bother, or no? Is it a worthwhile topic, or is this just more navel-gazing? Is this important to anyone else besides me, and will anyone care? Maybe I shouldn't even touch it, and go about my business.

However, much as I kept trying to push the thought away, it kept springing back up, which - following my intention of this blog, to thresh out whatever's on my mind - meant it's obviously something that bugs me, hence, should be blogged about. Problem is, my thoughts on the matter are so diffuse and rambling, I'm not sure how coherent this whole blog will be.

So.

Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram). Sharing reviews and author self-promotion?

Where's the line?

What's considered spamming? When is it all too much? Of course, if you can get around the impossibility of that statement - taking in all the varied and diverse opinions of all the folks on the interwebz everywhere - here's another one: should authors feel bad about sharing reviews and promoting their own work?

Here's my rather clumsy, uncoordinated views on the matter: 

Take Author A: who posts every single day, every single update about their book, where to buy their book, reviews of their book, random passages from their book, sends PMs to other social media users about their book, and posts about nothing but their book. If you scroll down their FB wall for a few days, all you'll see is endless posts related to their book. They belong to an infinite number of Facebook Book Groups, and will post two dozen updates about their book in each group all in one day, so that's all you see in your feed. In the extreme? That Author Whose Facebook Profile Picture Is Of Them Reading Their Own Book.

Nobody wants to be that author. I think most authors are definitely afraid of being that author.  But, I've noticed another extreme on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Author C: who doesn't feel like they should ever post about their work, ever. They also don't think other authors should post about their work, ever. Maybe they're veterans who've built up enough of a readership, they don't need to post much about their work.  Maybe they've got a solid pool of reliable readers who are already looking out for their next book, social media regardless. Either way, when they have a new book coming out, or a short story in an anthology, they will at most offer one post about it, and that's all.

Let's also name another group of authors which I've observed (and granted, these are my flawed, subjective observations and nothing more), which I'll tag Author C-1: those who feel very stridently that other authors promoting their work are nothing but spammers or shills, or, on the flipside, often lament about how they don't feel comfortable sharing their own work for fear of being Author A,  and that's probably why their sales are low, or they don't have readers, but they've just accepted that fact (or, maybe not so much) because they just don't feel comfortable talking about their work or themselves at all.

I'm definitely not Author C. In many ways, I don't get that position at all. I mean, no one wants to be Author A, (and I sometimes, like many others I'm sure, feel like I dance on the edge of that one) but I don't see anything noble or especially worthy about never saying anything about your work, or a review, or something positive like that.

So, can there be an Author B: who is not at all shy about sharing their work or where it can be purchased, definitely shares good reviews and news when they come in, maybe posts once a month "updates" for new followers about where to find their work....but when it's all said and done, they know when to stop and move on to Other Things?

I hope so. I hope that's where I fall. I do worry sometimes I tread near being Author A, but at the same time, I don't see anything wrong with sharing good news. I mean - it's exciting. Maybe I'm a little insecure and in constant need of reassurance that I don't suck, but when a good review comes in, I do a little leap, a fist pump, a "Yay!" and it brightens my day. 

So, I then share it on The Social Media. Which seems very natural. My bios for all these networks lists me as a: father, husband, teacher, writer and reader.  It follows that I'm going to share stuff about ALL these things on a fairly regularly basis. For instance: I shared a new review for Devourer of Souls this morning. The next status update may be about something funny my kids did, or something the dog or cat did, or maybe a picture of the dog or cat doing something.

I post updates about my family. My thoughts and inspirations about teaching and writing. The ups and downs of both. I avoid politics and religion, but I' m often whimsical and philosophical. Facebook can be SUCH a well-sink of negativity, I try to be as positive as I possibly can (not hard, because I'm generally an easy-going, optimistic guy).

And then, in there: you will hear about my book. Or a short story I sold, and where to buy it. Or a self-publishing project, or a new review, a new contract, a new project, or maybe - during sales and stuff - cool screen shots of sales rankings. And then, when the hub-ub dies down, there'll be more silly posts about my cats, something my wife said, something dumb I did, or pictures of me reading on the beach.

Maybe I'm alone in feeling guilty about posting stuff about reviews and all. Maybe it's my own complex. But I really shouldn't feel guilty. I post about my life on social media (at least, stuff I wouldn't consider immensely private. Some things definitely SHOULDN'T go on Facebook and Twitter), writing and publishing and reviews and reader reactions and, yes, I won't shy away from it -  SALES  - make up a substantial part of that life. So why not share?

And yet, I still feel a twinge of guilt whenever I post a review or a link or something. When I lose a follower for whatever random reason that probably has nothing to do with me at all, I automatically think: "Crap. They probably got annoyed with me posting about my writing so much."

So, anyway: I try not to spam or overpost about my work, reviews and such. Mostly, I'm just like an excited kid, holding up that crayon-doodled stick figure and saying, "Lookit what I did!" I'm pumped and I want to share, and sometimes, I need to share, to help me keep going.

I'm not trying to spam, nor am I on a mission to try and sell as many copies of my work as possible. And yet - I do want to sell copies of my work. I want new readers. I'm not going to deny that.

Is there some middle ground? Can I be Author B without slipping over into Author A? 

I hope so. And if I get too spammy on The Social Media, please forgive me. I'm just excited to be doing what I've wanted to do since the 8th grade, and sometimes, my excitement gets the best of me.

Now.

Let's go see what those persnickety cats of mine are up to...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

On Writing Fast and Loose and Having FUN Writing: Short Story Blitz Update: Moving On to Story #4

As I'm sure you've seen me blathering about on Facebook and Twitter, I'm engaging in something of a "short story" blitz this summer. The goal is to write one short story a week, hopefully resulting in 7 or 8 editable short stories by the end of the summer. There are a variety of reasons for undertaking this exercise. 

One, the most practical reason: I'm in a nice "cushy" spot between Devourer of Souls' June release and my serial novella for The Midnight Diner, Suffer the Little Children Come Unto Me, which isn't due until November. The perfect time, it seemed, to go on a short-story writing spree.

Also, I came to a few recent realizations that's further encouraged me to spend my summer on short stories:

1. I write my  best short stories over the summer, because I have the free time to "blitz" them out of my system. Ergo: the longer I spend writing a story, the more likely it turns into novella length or longer

2. The two stories I wrote last summer, I sold for pro rates

3. I need to get over my "one rejection and out" mentality for pro rate story submission

4. I can't sell short stories if I haven't written any

Probably the most important realizations are the last two.  I so, so DESPERATELY need to  build up a thicker skin. I need to soak up a rejection, and send that story back out, over and over, five or six or even seven times, if need be. 

AND, in the middle of my lamenting my very few short story sales,  I realized: I haven't sold many short stories because I haven't written many, I don't COMMIT myself to writing short stories like I do novels and novellas. So this summer, I decided to eliminate that excuse.

I'm also, in my own way, trying to increase my production. Which DOESN'T mean I'm suddenly looking to reverse my publishing strategy. BUT, I'm realizing more and more that to make good and great stories, I need stories first - most likely really rough, bad stories.

Hence the summer short story blitz. My aim? To write one short story a week. When I finish said story, I simply move on to the next story. I won't come back and edit these stories until the summer ends, after I've turned in my final draft of Suffer the Little Children Come Unto Me. How's it going so far?

Splendidly. I just finished story #3 (Abby's appendicitis threw me off stride a bit, but I think I'll be able to make that up), and I'm moving on to story #4 tomorrow. This has been, I have to say, the most fun I've had writing in awhile, because I'm finally seeing concepts I've held in my head for over a year turning into actual stories. Will they be any good?

I dunno. And I don't care. Right now, all I'm concerned with is write, finish; repeat. Here's the recap so far. Note: the titles are merely placeholders for now. I, notoriously, SUCK at titles.

Story #1 "Out of Field Theory"
Story #2 "First Kiss, Deferred"
Story #3 "Yellow Cab"
Story #4 "Bobby Lee Gets Inked" - starting tomorrow.

And there you go. Now, if you'll excuse me...chores beckon, so I can start brainstorming for tomorrow's story....

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On "Publishing Sparingly But Well," a Comparison to Brian Keene's "GHOUL" and Where I Go From Here


With all the madness that spawned last Thursday/Friday with my very short trip to NECON and my wife's emergency appendectomy, two awesome reviews popped up on Amazon for Devourer of Souls that I didn't get to acknowledge. One of them said something particularly interesting about me in general, and I've sorta been thinking about it all week.

The first review comes from T. L. Barrett, who says this:
I can't choose which tale I love more, as they complement each other and allegorically reveal how as young people we are subjected to the legacy of pain and insanity of our communities and families. With a pitch-perfect balance of nostalgia, darkness, and pathos Lucia has looked back on the world of yesterday, a world so technologically different then today, yet so hauntingly close for some of us. This reminds me of Keene's Ghoul...
Of course I've been blown away by the repeated references to Stephen King (perhaps my favorite writer, period), but it's also immensely gratifying to have Devourer compared to Ghoul, one of my favorite Brian Keene (another favorite writer, and friend) novels. It's certainly been an influential work (cause I'm a sucker for the coming of age tale. Can you tell?).

Second comes a review from writer and long-time friend, Lincoln Crisler:
Lucia does an excellent job of creating characters that are real, scarred and flawed and putting them into situations that test them; not physically, because that would be too easy, but on a spiritual level, at the very fiber of their beings. There's also a lot to be said for his economy of language and tight storytelling; there's nothing wasted here. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good, solid horror writing.
One thing Lincoln mentioned in the opening of his review, however, got me thinking. He said this:
I've been reading Lucia's work for about seven years now, and it's always struck me how sparingly--but well--he's published. And between this and his collection, THINGS SLIP THROUGH, it's apparent that he's waited to come out of the gate full-force until he's had a killer body of work to present from the get-go.
I've never really thought about this, but I suppose it's true. Since I really started taking my writing seriously back in 2006, I've seen the following works published:

Hiram Grange & Those Chosen One - novella, Shroud Publishing: 2010
And I Watered It, With Tears - serial novella, Lamplight Magazine, 2012-2013
Things Slip Through - short story collection, Crystal Lake Publishing, 2013
Devourer of Souls - linked novellas, Ragnarok Publishing, 2014

And with exception of a handful of short stories, that's it. Four works in eight years. Not exactly prolific. Yet, I write  roughly two hours a day, every day. Have for the past eight years. Sometimes I write a lot more than that. But for one reason or another, I've haven't seen a lot of that published.

There are many reasons for that. One would be a year and half spent almost exclusively on my Billy the Kid Weird Western. That's in final editing stages. Another reason would be a year spent on a 600 page novel that fell apart under its own weight. And another reason would be the six months I spent on my Creative Writing Master's Thesis, a 40K novella that I haven't seen fit to re-write, yet.

Also? Last count...

- Four unfinished novellas, one of which I'm currently working on right now
- a handful of partially begun short stories
- two first draft, completed short stories
- the beginnings of another novel
- a solicited serial novella for The Midnight Diner, which is in the final editing phase
- a yet-to-be-announced novella entitled Mystery Road that has been accepted "unofficially" for ebook and maybe print also

Despite only having three solo works published, I'm always writing, all the time. Sometimes I get called away in the middle of a project - to finish BILLY, to write the solicited novella or short story, to compile the collection, etc - and sometimes I hit knots  I know only time will unravel, so I put those works aside and start working on something new.

I'm really not sure if publishing so sparingly has been a conscious decision, or simply the way things have worked out. I can say I've purposely been slow to explore self-publishing. I'm still a proponent of traditional publishing (for me, anyway), and I still need the satisfaction of passing a gatekeeper's muster. I plan on continuing that strategy. You won't see a slew of self-published novels from me anytime soon.

I have, however, released a few short stories on Kindle, and I will be releasing a mini-collection of previously published and unpublished stories not compiled in TST, called Strange Ways,  October 2014. Also, I plan to release a collection of my previously published non-fiction, "slice of life stories" sometime in the future, too.

Another thing to consider is I haven't yet developed a "relationship" with just one publisher. So, I don't have an editor asking me, "What do you have for me next?" And I Watered It, With Tears will be getting an ebook re-release as Drowning from Ragnarok in the near future, but that's the only publisher to publish more than one work of mine. 

I can say, with great satisfaction, that I believed I have published well, at least. I remember a long-ago blog by author Maurice Broaddus, in which he said it was "better to not be published at all, than be published badly." That made a huge impact on me. It made me slow down, stop rushing, and become much more careful about whom I sent my work to. 

I've loved working with Shroud, Lamplight, Crystal Lake, and Ragnarok. They've been very professional, have produced excellent products, have also published other great authors, putting me in excellent company. The covers have been beautiful, as well as the fine details.

Where do I go from here?

Well, I've always maintained that wherever I published my work next, I want it to be a step higher than I was before. That, of course, means the possibility of rejection. I was recently rejected by DarkFuse, and that's okay. I'll hit them again in the future. Dark Region Books is on the hit list, as well as Medallion, Samhain Horror and Angry Robot Books.

Higher. Always higher, one rung at a time. Until I suddenly become flush with the cash flow (unlikely) to afford professional editors and cover artists for self-published works, that's the way it's going to be for me. One step at a time, writing every single day along the way.

So, yeah. I guess "publishing sparingly but well" fits the bill....

Monday, July 21, 2014

NECON/INTERRUPTED

Left to right: Rob Davies, Myself, Jacob Haddon, Dave Thomas
This past weekend, I attended the 34th annual NECON - a speculative convention that is, in many ways, a Mecca for speculative fiction writers - in Bristol, Rhode Island. 

Sorta.

I rode up with Lamplight editor Jacob Haddon, and we talked about tons of stuff - writerly stuff, industry stuff, personal stuff - and the ride itself was almost worth the trip. Soon as we arrived, however, a slight monkey wrench slipped into the works.


I Skyped home to talk to my wife and the kids. I was expecting to see my daughter and son crowding the screen, jubilant and excited. What I saw, however, is the last thing any traveling husband wants to see: my wife, pale, sweating, in pain, and crying.

Long story short: she'd just thrown up twice, experiencing severe abdomen pain. Guesses ranged from appendicitis to gall bladder infection, and I was six hours away, having just arrived at NECON, and powerless to do anything.

Abby's nausea lessened, and the pain eased. Once I made sure her sister and mother were standing by to help her, we decided to wait until morning for her to visit our family doctor. I then went out and tried to enjoy my first night at NECON as best I could, and I managed okay.

The next morning, Abby woke with a moderate amount of pain. She made arrangements for the kids, then headed to the family doctor. I spent the morning finishing a short story, checking out the dealer room, watching panels, trying to enjoy myself as best as possible.

Around 1:30, Abby called me with the news that our family doctor believed it to be appendicitis. She then went to the hospital to await an official diagnosis. Meanwhile, I was stuck. Jacob was graciously offering to take me home, but he'd driven a total of 12 hours to NECON, and I didn't want to make him do that. Then, in the ultimate measure of grace, good friend Ron Dickie - from Canada, on a direct return path past my house - offered me his car.

That said, I then waited for a final verdict. Around 2:30, I decided not to wait any longer. If Abby called me with the news she DIDN'T have appendicitis, I could always turn around and return to NECON if the diagnosis wasn't serious. However, if I left before hearing and it WAS appendicitis, MAYBE I'd make it home in time for the surgery.

I packed off around 2:30. Around 4, Abby called me, confirming the diagnosis. I motored my way home and walked into the hospital waiting room at 8:30 PM. Ten minutes later, the surgeon came in to tell us the procedure was done, and Abby had come through it fine. She's resting comfortably now, and on the mend.

SO, how do I feel about all this?

Well, most importantly, I'm thankful Abby's okay. Also eternally grateful to Ron for the use of his car, and for the deluge of well-wishes and prayers offered on Facebook. Underneath that? 

I'll be honest and admit there's some emotional turmoil, though it's beginning to simmer down. I'd been looking forward to this for weeks, returning to NECON for the first time in almost four years, under special circumstances. So, I was pretty gripped by "I feel bad about missing NECON, but feel worse about feeling bad about missing NECON, because that makes me pretty selfish, right?"

Things are starting to get back to normal. Madi's got basketball camp, I've got a writing schedule to keep, Abby's mending, and soon, we'll be heading out to vacation. One thing I can say for sure: it was wonderful seeing everyone again, even if for only a short time, and I'm now committed to saving funds in order to attend NECON 35.