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I launch at noon. Wish me luck!

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Good news: I almost sort of understand Camtasia now, at least enough that I’m no longer intimidated. I’m still slow, though. So Jen’s saving my butt.

Bad news: I was up until nearly 3am reshooting the entire Kickstarter video so I’d have the footage Jen needs for the saving of my butt. Now sleep deprivation has me so cognitively impaired, I doubt I’ll get any more useful work done until tomorrow.

My kids think Kickstarter is somehow guaranteed to make me rich, so they want me to run a vegetillion campaigns. (Apparently a vegetillion is an order of magnitude larger than a gajillion.) When I try to explain that it’s not a sure thing, and we couldn’t live with me in a constant state of deadline rush even if it were, they argue that they knew I’d win the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, so now they must be right, too. Well, that would be a good problem to have.

At this point, I’d just be relieved to make the starting goal, and thrilled if we managed a few interior illustrations. My respect for people who work in traditional publishing increases with every task they do that I try for the first time.

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The feedback I got on the Kickstarter draft was immensely helpful. Also daunting. I’m curious to see how I’m going to have all my ducks in a row by the 20th.

As predicted, I do not have a knack for video editing. I figured I’d have to cut down what I had by about half, and at worst I’d have to reshoot it from scratch. That involves wearing makeup. Really, isn’t five days a year of wearing makeup more than enough for anybody?

Only it turns out that, in addition to wearing makeup again to shoot it from scratch, I need to learn to use an entirely different video editing application because what really makes this campaign is not my smiling face, but rather Kate Baylay’s amazing art.

With good reason, Kate’s art is the biggest item in the budget, and it’s my fervent hope that we can make her slice of the budget even bigger so we can commission more illustrations. So of course me being charming at my cellphone camera will not do. Including one illustration on the Kickstarter page and telling prospective backers to go look at the artist’s website is no way to go about it. And I knew that.

What I didn’t know was the name of the right video editing application for the job or that I could get it for free for 30 days (Thank you, Jen!). And I need to tinker quite a bit with the rewards structure (Thanks, Sarah and Jen!). It might not have occurred to me to make the project description more user friendly by adding headings, but once the possibility came up, it seemed obviously necessary (Thanks, Ian!).

So, back to work.

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Kickstarter has approved my campaign to go live whenever I’m ready. As far as I can tell, that mostly means I filled in all the blanks on the endless webform, because the approval came back almost instantly. In a day or two, I can hope to see feedback from their staff of live humans.

I’m hoping those of you who have experience backing or running campaigns will take a look at the page in preview and advise me on how to improve it.

If people who are definitely planning to back the campaign were to post their pledges on the first day, that would be immensely helpful. If the project has legs right away, Kickstarter might make it one of their staff picks and promote it to people who otherwise might not see it.

I had planned to go live on the 13th, but that didn’t leave much time for implementing suggestions, and would have meant asking people to rush to take a look at it. When I ask favors, I generally try not to ask people to hurry about them.

So it looks like we’ll go live on Tuesday, October 20th. And then I’ll have as frenzied a 30 days as I ever did for National Novel Writing Month.

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Come check out my new post on Black Gate. It’s an essay on awards and the psychology of motivation, with a studies-have-shown riff about why motivation doesn’t work the way most of us have been led to think it does, and a pull-the-wool-over-your-own-eyes riff about preserving self-motivation from stuff that might deplete it.

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It’s a lovely little convention, not overwhelming in scale, with an unusual emphasis on short fiction. When I meet a writer who hasn’t tried the convention circuit, I propose Capclave as a good first experience.

I love it, too, when a convention comes within bicycle range of my house. In this case, it’s more my husband’s bicycle range than mine, but I’ll count it. Anyhow, although I won’t be sleeping at the Hilton Washington DC North (a disingenuous name for a hotel way out in Gaithersburg), I’ll be on premises pretty much from the start of programming to the end, every day of the con.

The programming volunteers have sent me the current version of the schedule. I’ll post an update if anything changes. Here’s where I’ll be:

Friday, 9 October 2015
5:00 PM-5:50 PM
Writing in Series

8:00 PM-8:50 PM
The Right Length For Your Story

Saturday, 10 October 2015
2:00 PM-2:50 PM
The Epic Blockbuster

3:00 PM-3:50 PM
Creating Your Setting

Sunday, 11 October 2015
12 PM-12:25 PM
Reading – Sarah Avery
(I’ll be reading from The Imlen Bastard, since I’ll be launching the Kickstarter to self-publish it two days after the convention ends.)

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There are funerals that are totally unabashed about being funerals, and that can be perfect. There are funerals that try not to funerals, that want to be celebrations of the life of the beloved dead, but they don’t quite take off, and turn out to be funereal celebrations — that can be what needs to happen, sometimes, too. And then there are memorials in celebration of a life that’s ended that really flower into jubilation. Jubilation punctuated by people taking turns breaking down in tears, but still. It doesn’t sound quite right to call those celebratory funerals — a celebratory funeral would be something else, I suppose, and I’m lucky that I’ve never been to one. But this thing that happened yesterday, it was like nothing else.

I’m just home from a memorial that broke, for a little while, into a dance party.

After the ritual was over, with its storytelling and singing, one of the mourners who’s a wedding DJ by profession set off a playlist of the music Keith had loved. It was quiet enough for everybody to converse over, just loud enough to give us a steady stream of Keith’s aesthetic as a sort of undercurrent.

Until we came to Delta Rae’s “Dance in the Graveyards.” Now, before you run off to YouTube to hear the most joyful song I’ve ever heard that also deals honestly with loss, consider whether you have some tissues handy and you’re someplace where it’s okay to have watery eyes for a few minutes — in which case, watch this heartbreakingly beautiful video. If you’re someplace where you can’t let your hair down quite that much, here’s a version that gives just the audio and the lyrics. It’s okay to go check those out. I’ll be here when you get back.

So you see why dancing erupted.

We were under the stars, with candles lit in the hundred or so candle holders Keith left behind (because that’s how we Pagan hoarders roll). “Careful of the candles!” said some wise person. The only word that made it through the burst of perfect song was candles, so we all found ourselves picking up those hundred candle holders and holding them aloft while we danced.

Our resident DJ being awesome, he put the song right back on, louder, and we sang along at the tops of our lungs, improvising harmonies as we went.

So many moments in the shockingly brief time between Keith’s diagnosis and his memorial have unfolded perfectly — perfectly except for happening about forty years too early. Keith would have made an excellent octogenarian. Aside from that one rendingly wrong thing, I’m thinking what most of us are: when it’s my time (long and far may it be), if you can’t find my instructions and I can’t tell you how I want things, just ask the people who were there what they did for Keith.

And if you’re reading this, you are cordially invited to dance in my graveyard.

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My website is now faster to load, easier to use on a wider array of devices, and subtly more intuitive. The things that worked about it before it crashed work again in approximately the same way, at least from the user’s point of view, as they did before. So the homepage picks up my blog posts from Livejournal automatically (which is much less time consuming for me than posting it on my website first and having LJ pick it up), and the overall aesthetic is the same.

The email list subscription works now — I know because some of you have subscribed in the past few days. Thank you!

We’ve got plenty of updating left to do, especially of content. The bio, biblio, and event calendar pages still need to be caught up, and we’ll be adding a new section for free reads. Dan is working on making the site mobile-friendly. There may be technical problems that don’t show up in our humble testing environment. We just have to survive the first week of the school year and hosting a child’s birthday party, and we’ll be able to turn our attention back to the website. (Have I mentioned recently the awesomeness of my spouse? He’s devoted just about every second of his free time over the past three weeks to this project.)

Meanwhile, if you feel so inclined, please go poke at sarahavery.com. If anything breaks, doesn’t look right on your hardware or in your browser, or could otherwise use improvement, I’d take it as a great kindness if you’d let me know.

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My website’s nearly done getting a major overhaul, and it’ll go live probably in the next week or so. The most significant change is that it’ll put all the links to stories available for free online in one place, and I’ll be offering an e-reader friendly version of a story never published elsewhere to anybody who signs up for my email list. This offer will include people who are already signed up. I haven’t used the list yet, so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with it.

I’ve also chosen a start date for my first Kickstarter campaign. Tuesday, October 13, the day after I get home from Capclave, I’ll be… do people really use the expression “pulling the trigger” about crowdfunding campaigns? Weird. I’d like to have a way to talk about that phase of the project that doesn’t sound like I’m deploying a weapon at people who are helping me bring a book into being. Anyhow, October 13, definitively, with hopes of getting the book itself out in the early srping of 2016, subject to the artist‘s availability and how many illustrations we end up commissioning from her.

Meanwhile, I’m acting on some excellent and friendly advice on how to fix one of the Beltresa novellas. Apparently, if I take the last 5,000 words and cut that part back to 1,000 words, it will no longer feel like a fragment of a larger book. Okay, let’s see if that works. I get all the best personalized rejection letters!

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(You may wish to read the first episode, in which Sir Percival and his companion set out on the River of Story to bring the Grail to a Fisher King in need of healing, and the second episode, in which our wanderers brave rough waters. You may also wish to read Percival’s first appearance in 2006.)

The knight and his author made their way down the Delaware River, across two centuries, and catty-corner from winter to summer. “Is it this one?” Percival asked when the next creek poured in from the west.

The author squinted upstream, tasted the wind. “No.” They paddled on. “Look, I’ve got no quarrel with your king. He was probably the best game in town at the time.”

“I just don’t see how you can disbelieve in kings after seeing your General Washington for yourself. If any man after Arthur was kingly enough to have pulled the sword from the stone, it would be…”

“This one,” said the author. She leaned west to listen for something. “Yes, this is definitely our tributary.”

The creek poured from a concrete pipe whose diameter beat Percival’s height by two handspans. “Do we go in?”

“Let’s try portaging first.”

So they stepped out into a gulping mud that swallowed the author’s right shoe and left both travelers mud-spattered to the waist. Hefting the boat shoulder-high, they followed the outside of the concrete pipe to its start, where the tributary sparkled over its bed of smooth stones.

“Upstream,” sighed the author.

“Of course,” Percival said brightly. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Their muscles burned. Their elbows crackled. Summer air, wet with the green breath of trees, clung to them.

Trees, and gardens. The creek marked the line between two endless rows of suburban backyards.

It shallowed and shallowed as the travelers hauled their way upstream. At last, when the kayak scraped bottom with every paddlestroke, they passed under a footbridge, and a voice hailed them. Then many voices.

On a broad lawn stood a crowd of people in mourning black, some of them bedecked in the jet and amber beads of responsibility. Percival knew them. The Fishers.

“Oh, no,” said the author.

“Too late,” said Percival.

Three women he recognized from the quest at the old Grail Castle stood at the water’s edge. They reached their arms down to steady the boat, and then to steady the author, who staggered muddily into their embrace.

“I thought I’d bring…” she stammered. “I was trying to… What took us so long was…”

“Stop,” one of the queens said, her smile kind and weary. “This isn’t the El Mundo Bueno any of us expected, but it does seem to be El Mundo Bueno after all.”

Percival thanked a young man for stepping into the shallows to steady the boat, and let an older man give him a hand up. They knew him, welcomed him, showed him to a table heavy with summer’s berries and homemade bread.

He offered them the Grail in turn, and they raised toasts of starwater, one after another, to the man who had blessed them with the most peaceful, most loving death any of them had ever witnessed. When I go, let me go just as he did, said the Fishers. When I go, do for me what we did for him. And they told stories of the songs they’d sung in hospice, the care they’d given the Fisher King and one another in the last long hours, the fragrant oils with which they had anointed his body. Going gentle into that good night looks pretty good after all, one of them said. And another: I never saw anything like it, nor expected to. I’ll always miss him, but this was right.

When the cup came to the author, all she could say was, “As he liked to tell us, what is remembered lives.”

Hours later, with enough stories told and all the summer berries eaten, someone sang “The Parting Glass,” and the mourners began drifting home.

Percival still held the ultimate parting glass. The Grail was full. The Grail was always full. The starlight from that place with the great stone kings lingered in it, and he hoped the light might become canonical, or at least a variant he could count on in times of need.

What need that might be, he was no longer sure. He went to confer with the author, who had flipped the kayak onto the bank to examine a long, leaky split up the blue plastic hull.

“I think that…” he began. “That is, I wonder. For your people, I seem to be more psychopomp than healer. Maybe you shouldn’t call me again for anyone who stands a chance at recovery.”

“I’d been wondering the same thing,” she said, peering up at him, her spectacles speckled with mud. “But if a day comes when I’m struggling for breath in hospice, when the people who care about me need you…”

“Long and far may that day be.”

“Yes,” she said. “Long and far. Will you come then?”

“What was true the first time will always be true. You can call me to bring the Grail. All you have to do is tell the story.” He poured starwater over the hull of the kayak, and the split healed smoothly over. “Good little boat.”

“It’s yours,” she said. “You’ll want it, to get home.”

“And to paddle for the cure. Would it be all right if I joined your kin for that again?”

“Any September you like.”

She held the boat steady one last time for him. With just one paddler’s weight to carry, the kayak skimmed lightly above the pebbled creekbed. He ducked under the footbridge and let the current lend him speed.

Percival took a deep breath, then threw his weight hard to the side in a half Eskimo roll, to see what story waited for him on the other side of the surface.

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