Feb 16

“You’re All Dead”

“You’re all dead.”

In my twelve years of teaching, I was in more lockdown drills than fire drills and more lockdowns than school fires, yet nothing prepares you for the sight of a man with a gun walking into your classroom and uttering those words. Your heart tries to run while your brain falters in panic mode. 

This was “only a drill,” but I didn’t know that.

See, our school was participating in a new kind of “active shooter lockdown drill,” where our school resource officer, a police man carrying actual weapons, would be the “active shooter.” He would see how many rooms he could gain entry to and “kill” before the school gained awareness and called for a lockdown. Since my classroom was next to the school’s back entrance and he had the keys, he started with me. 

Computer classroomMy classroom. My 6th grade students who saw a man in black assault gear carrying an assault rifle and pointing it at them. They didn’t know if it was fake. (To this day, I don’t know if it was real or not. No one ever told me.) All they saw was a man walk in, point a weapon, and tell them they were all dead. With all of the gun violence in our country, I understand a school’s desire to practice lockdown procedure. After all, I’ve been in non-drill lockdowns often enough to see the value of practice with children. But what happened that day was terrifying and traumatizing. 

There was no warning to me that this was a drill. Only the fact that he left without shooting us clued me into that fact.

After calling the front office to report it, my classroom didn’t follow lockdown procedure. We couldn’t. I had 28 kids—eleven-year-olds, mind you—who were crying. Kids who didn’t understand what was happening and truly thought they were going to die. One child wet himself.  There was no way they would hide now. They wanted their parents. They wanted to go home. They wanted someone to hug them and tell them they weren’t going to die.

Again, this was only a drill.

computer labWhen you’re a teacher, you’re prepared to put your body on the line for your students. They don’t give us body armor or combat pay, despite the number of teachers who have died protecting their students from a shower of bullets. They don’t give us guns either, not that it would have helped. Our police officer was inside my room with his weapon already drawn before I had done more than blink. 

There was no time to draw a nonexistent weapon. No time to dive out of the way or even in front of my students to protect them. No time to be a hero, trained or not. As is the case with most school shootings, he had a plan, a weapon, and the upper-hand. I grew up with guns, but even if I had had one on me, there was no time. 

To make matters worse, my sixth graders already had a healthy distrust of police officers. Being mostly Hispanic, ICE raids were the norm for families in Texas. Their teachers tried to teach them that their school resource officer was a man who could be trusted, but when he walked into my classroom and told them that they were dead, they believed him. 

I waited for the outrage from parents. How dare he scare children in that manner! Life was frightening enough with school shootings being the norm without a drill of this manner, but the emails and phone calls never came. Whether it was from their distrust of the police or from the knowledge that this was the new normal, I’ll never know. 

When my lunch break arrived, I spent it in tears. This was the new normal. 

Whereas I had taken shelter under my desk as a child to hide from the bombs we thought Russia would drop on us, my students practiced hiding from an increasing likelihood that they might be shot by their fellow students. My students practiced how to die. 

This wasn’t a singular incident either. My first year teaching I found myself in an actual lockdown without knowing it. The school used code words to announce it, only no one had told the new teachers or the substitute teachers what those words meant, so when the lockdown was called, I kept teaching, oblivious to the real danger we were in. 

my classroomAn armed criminal was on the run from the police and had cut through the field near our school. When my 7th graders heard a ruckus outside, I stuck my head out of my classroom window to see what was going on. A man was running towards us, police in pursuit, and for a moment, I froze. Could he climb up to the window? Was locking the window enough to keep him out? Why weren’t we in lockdown? Oh, wait. Was that what the cryptic message had been about?

A million questions in the blink of an eye before I flew into action. Windows closed and locked. Blinds down. Door closed and locked. Students silenced and hidden from view. Panic as we waited, all eyes on the windows. 

In his rush to escape the police, had he seen my head poking out? Would he try to get into the building? Would we become a hostage situation, the breaking news of the day? Would my students become another statistic in a war they didn’t understand?

The man veered away from the school and was captured, but it didn’t keep the terror from our faculty and students. It lived inside of us as school resumed normal schedule and as students texted parents to let them know they were alive and okay. 

My last year of teaching, it was reported that a student brought a weapon to school. When the announcement came for us to go into lockdown, my 8th graders and I flew into action like rescue responders after a tornado. We knew what to do and how to lay silently out of sight, we knew what objects in my classroom could be used as weapons if an intruder made it inside, and we knew how to cry. 

“Is it a drill?” one of them whispered, and when I shook my head, they huddled together, holding one another. Some prayed. Some silently pleaded with me to do something, anything. Some texted on their phones when they thought I wasn’t looking—messages to parents out of fear and worry. 

When it’s not a drill, the questions are fast and furious. What will I do if someone breaks down the door? What can I do if shots are fired? Should I text my husband in case I die today? If I have to die, how can I keep my students safe? How do I put on a brave face in the meantime and help my students remain calm in a situation where calm is the furthest thing from my mind?

It was a false alarm—what was thought to be a knife, ended up being a comb—but it didn’t stop those fifteen minutes from feeling like hours. It didn’t stop us from being terrorized in one of the places we should be safest. When I got home later that evening, my mother told me she was glad I was retiring from teaching.

“You could have died today,” she said.

What I didn’t say in response was that I could have died every day. Every lockdown was a reminder of our mortality, especially in a society that places gun rights before the lives of others. Every day that our country’s priorities are skewed is another day that a teacher, a student, or a coach could die. 

There is no drill that prepares you for this reality. 

There is no weapon that can protect you from the knowledge that your country values its guns more than its children.  

And with another school shooting, there is nothing I can do to get those three words out of my head. 

“You’re all dead.”

Jan 24

Ursula

It was 1989, and I was twelve.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula at a bookstore Q&A, New Mexico, 2004.

I can still smell the dust that coated that corner of the classroom–the corner that served as the reading nook, a corner few (other than me) ventured into voluntarily. Yet that corner was a home to me as we read A Bridge to Terabithia and other books my 6th grade year. It was also the year I picked up A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin by complete accident and fell madly and deeply in love with this fantasy world, and then so many others as I discovered the world of fantasy. It was the first (though not the last!) book that kept me up late into the early morning reading. That series enraptured me in the way that it did so many children, but it wasn’t until later in life that I discovered Ursula the Feminist, Ursula the Poet, and Ursula the Teacher.

She gave back to the writing community until the very end, teaching at numerous writing workshops and conventions, and gave countless advice to those starting out on the career of writing fiction.

She understood what it was to, not just be a writer but a reader as well. She understood the way a creation has more than one creator and how our words impact more than just those directly around us.

As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul.”

She was a master of words and a wanderer through genres as she crafted work after work and spoke to the younger writers aspiring to be her. John Scalzi said it best in his tribute to her in the Los Angeles Times:

The speaking of her name and of her words goes on, and will go on, today and tomorrow and for a very long time now. As it should. She was the mother of so many of us, and you should take time to mourn your mother.”

I attended the SFWA reading last night to hear several friends read and while a room full of writers mourned the loss of such a giant in the genre, I was reminded of the caring nature and warmth of my SFF family. It’s this warmth that lights even the darkest of days. It’s how we persevere when the world around us eats itself.

There are many authors who have had a hand in the creation of me as an early author, but Ursula Le Guin’s hand was a guiding force throughout my career thus far, and I’m sure she will be for many years to come.

She will greatly be missed.

Long ago when I was Ursula
writing, but not “the writer,”
and not very plural yet,
and worked with the owls not the sparrows,
being young, scribbling at midnight:

I came to a place
I couldn’t see well in the darkness,
where the road turned
and divided, it seemed like,
going different ways,
I was lost.

I didn’t know which way.
It looked like one roadsign said To Town
and the other didn’t say anything.

So I took the way that didn’t say.
I followed
myself.
“I don’t care,” I said,
terrified.
“I don’t care if nobody ever reads it!
I’m going this way.”

And I found myself
in the dark forest, in silence.

You maybe have to find yourself,
yourselves,
in the dark forest.
Anyhow, I did then. And still now,
always. At the bad time.

When you find the hidden catch
in the secret drawer
behind the false panel
inside the concealed compartment
in the desk in the attic
of the house in the dark forest,
and press the spring firmly,
a door flies open to reveal
a bundle of old letters,
and in one of them
is a map
of the forest
that you drew yourself
before you ever went there.

The Writer At Her Work:
I see her walking
on a path through a pathless forest,
or a maze, a labyrinth.
As she walks she spins,
and the fine thread falls behind her
following her way,
telling
where she is going,
where she has gone.
Teling the story.
The line, the thread of voice,
the sentences saying the way.

The Writer On Her Work:
I see her, too, I see her
lying on it.
Lying, in the morning early,
rather uncomfortable.
Trying to convince herself
that it’s a bed of roses,
a bed of laurels,
or an innerspring mattress,
or anyhow a futon.
But she keeps twitching.

There’s a *lump*, she says.
There’s something
Like a *rock*—like a *lentil*—
I can’t sleep.

There’s something
the size of a split pea
that I haven’t written.
that I haven’t written right.
I can’t sleep.

She gets up
and writes it.
Her work
is never done.

—Ursula K. Le Guin, from “The Writer on, and at, Her Work”

Dec 19

Anglicon Wrap-Up

This is your Anglicon Wrap-Up!

Anglicon is one of my favorite conventions, and not just because it’s everything Doctor Who and British media. It’s a convention full of great people who really love their fandom. It’s also a convention that I greatly enjoy being a panelist on and running the QI game show.

Friday dawned with an eerie fog that later cleared enough for my husband to take this awesome shot of Mt. Rainier (aka The Mountain™) from his office window. (P.S. You can click the images to see them larger.)

Pretty FridayWhen we arrived at the Doubletree Hotel, a wonderful sight greeted the three of us–the TARDIS and a fully decorated Christmas tree. I felt like I was walking through a Doctor Who Christmas special. Christmas TARDISBelow is our booth, with Jennifer Brozek and I behind it. (Elise is taking the photo.) Yes, those are TARDIS lights across the front of it. Oddly enough, this layout worked very well for us.boothBoth Jennifer and I were selling mystery boxes, though mine were very geeky and included Whovian items. 😉 mystery box

This gentleman created Fe-9, instead of K-9! It was adorable!
Fe-nineA closer look at Fe-9!Fe-nineAn Ood stopped by our booth, and we had to get a photo!Ood

This Ood was wandering around later with another Ood. Caught a quick, albeit blurry shot on the way to a panel.Oods

We sold a LOT of books and chainmaille jewelry on Friday–a lot more than we expected for a partial day.

On Saturday, Dalek Clara came by our booth as well, complete with her reindeer ears. Dalek

Dalek Dale, with handler Shaylee, also came by!DalekThe War Doctor also came to visit, and Elise and I had to pose with him for a photo. War DoctorRonnie, from Sci-Fi Monkeys, stopped by wearing an adorable shirt that has a Totoro ChewbaccaRaven and RonnieBarbara, the Ribbon Queen riding a Weeping Angel, also stopped by. If you ever want to know the what’s what about ribbons at cons, ask her.Weeping Angel

The gentleman who came last year with K-9 also attended this year’s Anglicon. I love his K-9.K-9Ronnie posted on Facebook that Books & Chains were a few of his favorite things.AwwThe corgi from the Dirk Gently TV show was one of the guests at Anglicon, and at one point Saturday, he went for a walk through the dealer’s room. Below, he’s saying hi to the PBS station’s booth. CorgiThen he got really excited and ran over to us.CorgiThere was also a cosplaying kitty who dressed up as The Doctor quite a few times.Cat CosplayThis picture below is technically from Sunday, but it’s the cosplaying kitty posing with her owner and Elise.Cat CosplayShe even has a special button.Cat hairSanta also stopped by. We told him he should go pose for pictures at the TARDIS, and he did!

Santa

The majority of folks were hard-core holiday shopping, which was great for the dealer’s room. My first two days of panels went really well.

On Sunday, Barbara and her husband, Jim, were dubbed the official King and Queen of Ribbons. O_O So many ribbons.

Ribbon MastersOld school Doctor Who villains.cosplay This guy was actually a double for David Tennant!David and EliseElise also went and posed for a photo with the corgis. Elise CorgiAnd we had to get a photo of Elise with the TARDIS, especially with her shirt.EliseAfter a long Sunday of panels (I was hardly in the dealer’s room!), it was time to pack up and head out. The dealer’s room looks so empty after folks leave…The EndOverall, we did better at Anglicon than we did at Rose City Comicon, which is saying something! And despite a few bumps, it is still my favorite convention. <3 Between all the panels I was moderating and the dealer’s room, I didn’t get out to see the two Doctors or any of the guests myself, but I know from all the photos elsewhere that attendees really enjoyed the convention. If you haven’t been to Anglicon, you should check it out in 2018!


Anglicon photos taken by Elise Kreinbring, Raven Oak, or Jennifer Brozek. Photo of Mt. Rainier taken by Erik Carson.

Dec 14

Geek the Halls

I’ll be at Geek the Halls this weekend with Books & Chains, BOOTH 14! Come finish your holiday shopping with geeky chainmaille jewelry and autographed books!

Geek the Halls

DETAILS–

WHO: Lots of geeky artisans and crafters, including Books & Chains at BOOTH 14. Confirmed list HERE.

WHEN: Saturday & Sunday, December 16-17, 2017 from 10 AM – 5 PM both days.

WHERE: DoubleTree Hotel Portland  Exhibit Hall 1000 NE Multnomah St, Portland, Oregon 97232

 

 

Dec 04

Anglicon Schedule!

Below is my Anglicon Schedule for Anglicon 2017, December 8-10th! (You can get more details on this Doctor Who and British Media convention at http://www.anglicon.com)

Anglicon 2017

I’ll also be vending there in the dealer’s room with Books & Chains so come say hello!

FRIDAY

2-3 PM—–Black Mirror: Too Much or Just Enough? in Cascade 2

SATURDAY

2-3 PM—–David Tennant: Serious, Creepy, & Everything In-Between in Cascade 9

SUNDAY

10-11 AM—–13: Should the Doctor Be a Woman? in Cascade 2

12-1 PM—–Graduation Day for the Women in Doctor Who in Cascade 2

1-2 PM—–QI: Quite Interesting (Game Show) in Cascade 2

3-4 PM—–How Do You Solve a Problem Like Clara? in Cascade 2

 

Nov 29

Autographed Copies?

While you’re holiday shopping, if you find yourself needing and/or wanting autographed copies of any of my books, there are two bookstores in the Seattle area that have them and both of them SHIP!

UW BookstoreUW Bookstore Mill Creek*
Mill Creek Town Center – 15311 Main Street – Mill Creek, WA 98012
(425) 385-3530

http://www.ubookstore.com/mill-creek

 

Ada's Technical BooksAda’s Technical Books & Cafe
425 15th Avenue East – Seattle, WA 98112
(206) 322-1058

http://www.seattletechnicalbooks.com/

* UW Bookstore just got a new system and I’m showing up as out of stock. Please call them. They are not out of stock!

You can also purchase autographed & personalized copies via Books & Chains!

Nov 22

Reading/Signing on Saturday!

This Saturday (11/25/17)–Small Business Saturday–I’ll be at UW Bookstore in Mill Creek, WA for an author reading/signing event from 1 PM – 5 PM with Jennifer BrozekJesikah Sundin, and Robert Slater.

More details can be found HERE and HERE.

Young Adult SFF Event

Hope to see you there! We’ll have prizes!

Nov 17

What I’m…Updates

What I'm... Updates

It’s way past that time again! Time for the What I’m…Updates!

  • What I’m Reading: It has to do with a certain Amazonian…
  • What I’m WatchingBesides roaming through the Upside Down, I’ve been checking out a LOT of Marvel stuff as well as some British baking…
  • What I’m PlayingSo much great world-building, plot, and character arcs in this new fav of mine!

Of course, I’m so far behind in updating these because we’ve been in house improvement hell, and I’ve been writing and revising my ass off. But somewhere in all of this I’ve had some relaxation time!

So what are you reading? Watching? Playing?

Nov 10

Jet City Comic Show Wrap-Up

This is your Jet City Comic Show Wrap-Up, 2017!

Jet City Comic Show is a nice little comicon in Tacoma, WA. This year was Books & Chain‘s second year to vend there, this time with guest author Jennifer Brozek. I started my morning nice and early with snow coming down. O_o Normally I love snow, but not when I’m driving to Tacoma, surrounded by idiots who panic when it rains, despite living somewhere where it rains all the freaking time.

Snow

This is a slightly blurry photo taken from inside my car as the snow just began. As usual, you can click images to view them larger.

This is our booth in panoramic view after set up. You can see Jennifer sitting behind the table and the comic shop from Bothell (in fact, just down the road from me!) setting up beside us.

The booth

Here’s a closer look at two-thirds of Books & Chains that weekend.The boothMore views of the booth.The booth The booth The boothLots of great books!The boothJennifer’s nails said READ MORE. Yes! Please read more! (The thing she’s holding is an eBook card for a collection of her books called The Karen Wilson Chronicles, one of her first series.)Read More!

This R2 Trekkie stopped by our booth. He was made completely out of Legos (the exception being the electronic components that can’t be Legos)R2-D-Wha?We had quite a number of exceptional cosplayers stop by the booth as well. The little guy on her shoulder actually moves as he’s a puppet!
CosplayerI was really excited to see this as I love the Fallout video game series. Seeing the mesh of Power Armor and Nuka-Cola was a unique twist. Nuka ColaAt the booth across from us, they were selling T-Rex skeleton necklaces. Elise and I both bought them. T-rex necklaceOn Saturday, Jennifer and I both cosplayed Harry Potter, but I managed to forget to snag a picture. Another time perhaps. She was a Slytherin and I was, of course, a Ravenclaw.

I spotted these two while walking around on a break. Awesome cosplay!

cosplayersAlso spotted this cosplayer roaming around as well. Her hammer said “Bye Felicia!”Bye Bye FeliciaHis armor was phenomenal! He’s apparently a professional cosplayer who goes by Atlas Vanguard CosplaycosplayerOne of the best parts of the weekend though was chatting again with fantasy author Robin Hobb. She also bought a copy of Amaskan’s Blood. Nothing like personalizing a book for an author whose work you admire.

On Sunday, I was on a panel with her on the main stage, which will get uploaded to YouTube sometime soon. Once it is, I’ll post the details here. The panel was on Women in Literature 2: She Has the Power! At one point during the panel, the attention shifted in the room as it started snowing blizzard style outside. Most of it didn’t stick but it was gorgeous (and distracting!) to watch.

Sunday also meant a different set of geeky clothing as we all three channeled Doctor Who at the Books & Chains booth. I had on my exploding TARDIS skirt and scarf, along with TARDIS chainmaille earrings and necklace. And because it was very cold outside and snowing hard when we left, I wore my exploding TARDIS jacket as well. Do you sense a theme here?
WhovianAttendance at Jet City seemed low again, but the convention itself is loads of fun. No extra charges for photos or autographs either. And I learned an amazing answer from Jennifer that I will remember the next time someone asks me to “do it for the exposure.”

People die of exposure. They’re also arrested for it. 

And on that note, this is a wrap.

Nov 10

Bellingham Events!

This Saturday, 11/11/17, I’ll be in Bellingham, WA for two events:

Holiday Book FestivalI’ll be at the Holiday Book Festival from 10 AM – 2 PM with Jennifer Brozek, Jesikah Sundin, and other awesome authors, but more importantly, I’ll be at Village Books Saturday evening for an author reading & signing, along with Jennifer Brozek, Jesikah Sundin, Robert Slater, and Selah J. Tay-Song.

Details on the Holiday Book Festival can be found here: http://www.bellinghamholidaybookfestival.com/

Details on the Village Books event can be found here: http://www.villagebooks.com/event/ya-spec-fic-extravaganza-111117
YA SFF Event at Village Books

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