The Great Penguicon Brain Dump!

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Penguicon, an open source convention in Southfield, Michigan. It was great to go home, and to see friends (and family!) there. New people, too! Here’s a rundown of the panels I was on, and the takeaways from each.

Social Media for Writers

A lively discussion about our most popular means of communication – not just for fans, but fellow authors, agents, and even publishers! We came to the consensus that Twitter was the most popular, a “watercooler” of sorts for writers. Plus, as I’ve mentioned on my blog before, a GREAT resource for authors ready to submit their work! We also discussed  how NOT to behave on social media (i.e. constant self promotion but no substance, harrassing agents/publishers/other authors, etc.).

Screenwriting Tips

Oh, this was a doozy! I haven’t worked on a screenplay in some time. My panel partner, David Kilgore, wasn’t as seasoned. Imagine our dread when our third, and FAR more experienced co-panelist didn’t show up! We held our own for the first of the two hour block, and our third panelist came in for the second (he’d been caught in traffic thanks to a car accident). We discussed different screenwriting software, formatting, and even a bit about legal matters.

One audience member, a writer, was very reserved at first. When he started explaining his book, he lit up! He got so excited. I loved seeing that. That’s the magic. Always keep the magic!

My Reading/Book Signing!

Jen Haeger and I had a full room! The brand, spankin’ new Writer’s Block was awesome. The reading room was small, but comfortable. The “bookstore” was amazing. All the attending authors had their work on the shelves. Made some sales for The Maiden’s Courage! Cha-ching! I also gave the audience a taste of the soon-to-be re-released Jericho Rising, which was very well received. I’m excited to see it go to a better home. The only problem was that I almost lost my voice. Having a two hour panel just beforehand was rough on my throat! But I powered through it. Glad I had the opportunity!

Character Problems

This panel discussed the not-so-nice traits of our characters, and how far is *too* far when it comes to writing them. We also touched on characters from different television shows, and how they change for better (or worse) to illustrate our points. Also discussed were redeeming…and not so redeeming…qualities in characters, and how they might advance the story.

Finding an Agent

My favorite panel! The ladies were wonderful! We had two agented authors (Merrie Haskell and Ann Leckie), and two unagented-but-with-full-manuscripts out (myself and Christine Daigle). We discussed how NOT to approach agents, how TO connect with agents, our experiences, and what to do about rejections. Several audience members came up to thank us, with one telling us she, too, was waiting with a full out! She had been feeling down, and we reminded her (and ourselves!) how she’d beaten the odds by having full manuscript requests. She left beaming! That’s one of the best parts about being on panels at conventions: helping and encouraging people.

It was a pretty good year for Penguicon. 🙂

My Penguicon Schedule

Penguicon is coming! The one time of the year I get to head back to my home state of Michigan. It’s a great con filled with TONS of awesome programming (okay, and room parties – my personal fave being the karaoke party). This year, I’ll be a panelist on a mere four panels (my personal best is seven – I like to be busy!) in both the Literature and Media tracks.

Penguicon takes place at the Westin Southfield the weekend of April 29th – May 1st.

Panels, Dates, and Times

April 29: Social Media (for writers), 6pm
April  30: Screenwriting, 11am
Character Problems, 3pm
Finding an Agent, 4pm

 

Upcoming Information

This year at Penguicon, there will be a place called the “Writer’s Block.” Books by attending authors will be available for purchase, and there will also be signings throughout the weekend. I don’t have my schedule for that, yet. When I do, I’ll share that, too.

 

My Pinterest Obsession

My name is Mary, and I’m a Pinterest addict.

I’m totally unashamed of that. In fact, I’d happily sing its praises. I’ve got *quite a few* (haha…way more than “a few”) boards filled with pins I’d like to try, things that inspire me, and things I’ve tried/made/written. It’s a great way to help keep goals, and organize your thoughts.

Goal Keeping

One of my goals this year is to try something new at least once a week. Pinterest’s been great on that front! Right now, I’m forcing some bulbs in a glass vase, and I was very excited to see them start growing. I’ve tried (and liked!) a cool recipe for Peanut Butter Energy Bites. I’ve even found some helpful exercises for THAT goal. I’ve saved pins for gardening, jewelry making, and…of course…writing! There are some fun writing prompts to try.

Thought Organization

I fully admit to being creatively scatterbrained. If I don’t write stuff down, I’ll forget. I use Pinterest to help me with that. The boards and pins are all right there, waiting for me. Much better than on a bunch of sticky notes all over my desk.

A new trend for authors is to have inspiration boards for their works-in-progress. It’s FUN to put faces to  names, and places to settings. It also helps when you need to describe something, and it’s right there in full color. I recently needed to describe a mausoleum and used a couple of pins I found to do it.

Warm Fuzzies

Another fun thing to use Pinterest for: Memories – items from your childhood, or happy times/places. Oh, and things of beauty. Like puppies? Make a board! Love flowers? Make a board! Love dark, creepy houses with gorgeous architecture? Make a board!

That reminds me. I really need to make that house board.

So, what do you use Pinterest for?
Be sure to join me! I’m Pinterest – AuthorMLGibbs

An Air Fryer? What’s That?

After hearing glowing reviews from others (including a friend), we decided to try out an air fryer. They are a convection hybrid that uses only a spoonful of oil as opposed to deep frying. I admit, I was curious. You can cook entire meals, side dishes, or even snacks. We bought the T-Fal brand, which comes with its own measuring spoon, but there are others available. This one happened to be on clearance.

airfryer
T-Fal Air Fryer (cooking steak)

The first test: stir fry. I found a suitable recipe on Pinterest (of course!), and off we went. It was very easy to make, and took a total of 15 minutes to prepare. The results?

stirfry
Stir fry. Cooked in sesame oil, tossed in hoisin sauce, and served with lo mein noodles

Success! Everything was cooked just right, and tasted great. Clean up is super easy, too. Just pop the pan out of the machine and wash it in the dish washer.

Our next project? Fajitas!

 

GOAL(S)!

Every December, at the beginning of my planner for the new year, I write a list of goals instead of the usual resolutions. Some are big. Some are small, but lead to the bigger ones. All are attainable. I make a line in front of them to check off once they’re completed. Checking them off is a visual reminder of what I’ve accomplished. Last year, only six of fifteen were left unchecked. Not bad! Definitely room for improvement, though. I hope to do better this year.

I try to make my goals based on the the following subjects: home (improvement or otherwise – like “plant a garden” or “clean out closets”), personal (“exercise x number of days” or “try something new”), family (“take a trip to ____”), and writing (“finish manuscript” or “submit x number of queries”). Again, all attainable. That’s the key.

One of my goals for this year was to make paczki (POONSH-key) for Fat Tuesday. My mom’s side of the family is Polish (and Catholic), and we’re from Detroit, so paczki are a well loved tradition.

What’s paczki? They (because “paczki” is plural…the singular is “paczek” (POONSH-ek) are what I like to call “donuts on steroids.” They’re huge. They’re fried. They’re filled. They’re awesome.

Living up to my Polish roots was a bit daunting. I’ve never even made donuts, much less paczki. But a goal’s a goal, right? And if you aren’t brave, you won’t get anywhere in life. So…I collected what I needed, and got down to work. It took all day, but I did it! I made paczki! Don’t be afraid to try something new this year. Make goals, then bust them wide open!

paczki
Apple cinnamon filled paczki, dusted in cinnamon sugar. Wrong sized cutter, but I worked with what I had!

Brain Dump

Sorry for my silence for the past couple months. The end of 2015 was little crazy in Mary-land. Between two novels (a YA fantasy and adult paranormal), I’ve been querying and editing like crazy! Can’t forget the holidays, either. Then…

January happened.

The entertainment industry suffered several losses, but so have I. My Angie-cat (aka “Angelina Kitterina”) died after her bout with cancer. She was a funny cat. Hated treats (she thought we were trying to poison her) but loved potato chips. Tolerated me, but adored my (allergic) husband. Liked to eat my and my daughter’s hair. As a kitten, she used to steal drinking straws. She loved to talk, too. She was always the one who “told” me when the community water dish was empty. I’ll miss her.

I’ll try to be a little more present on the blog. I really hope 2016 is kinder!

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Angie at Halloween. She wasn’t thrilled with her costume.

 

Fear, Itself

Yes, I’m a Buffy fan. No, this isn’t going to be a post waxing poetic on how awesome the episode of the same title is.

Today, I want to discuss fear.

On Friday, November 13th, something terrible happened in Paris, France. We already know the story, so I won’t rehash. Several other instances of terror happened as well. Terror. Terrorist. Fear.

I’ve seen my friends…decent people who are normally loving and giving, turn angry and frightened. I don’t blame them. We should be angry and maybe a little frightened – but directed at the right people. It shouldn’t stop us from being who we are normally.

Fear does a lot to us. It paralyzes us. It keeps us from living up to our full potentials. It keeps us from becoming…more.

Today, I challenge you to be more. Do something brave. You don’t have to put yourself into mortal danger, but do something extraordinary. Don’t let fear hold you back.