Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wow, What a WorldCon!

I really enjoyed my first WorldCon. Similar to Michelle, this is the first non-writing conference/convention that I JUST attended rather than showing up because I'm there to work. All of the cons we've been to as Beyond the Trope have been to provide content for cons and promote the podcast. Before that, I worked for an audio/visual company to provide A/V service to conferences and conventions (I work for this company as a warehouse supervisor, now).

But aside from the RMFW Colorado Gold conference, I've never simply attended a con before. And it was a lot of fun. Very stressful because I felt overwhelmed and alternately excited and discouraged (it went back and forth a LOT), but still a lot of fun. And it was SO cool to meet people who have listened to the podcast but never tweeted or emailed the show. More than that, I got to meet other podcasters who have inspired a great deal of what we do at Beyond the Trope (whether Emily and Michell realize it or not, I've shifted a few of my processes based on some of the things I've heard on other shows to increase the quality of my performance).

It's fairly surreal to meet people I admire and respect who are, not only aware of what I'm doing, but who also enjoy it. For some, this may be inflating for the ego, but for me, it's very humbling. These are people who are changing the face of publishing. People who have amazing, new ideas that are making writers improve their craft and get their work out before an ever-widening audience in an era where the printed word is often SEEN as fighting to hang on.

There's a level of disbelief in it, too. These very kind and generous people are EXTREMELY busy. And I'm recording a podcast with two of my friends. Yes, we enjoy it, and we know so many of our awesome listeners enjoy it, too. But Writing Industry "Insiders"* are too busy, right? Well, apparently not. And that's humbling because it reminds me that this is a community to which I belong and can contribute. More importantly, it's not just the three of us who have put us in this position. It's all of our listeners, other podcasting friends like Patrick Hester and Dave Robison, and ALL of our super awesome guests who take the time to come talk with us for the sake of our listeners. I'm exciting to find out that our guests have gotten so much exposure, and the fact that people would tell US that they like what we're doing made the trip so much more amazing than we expected it to be (and we had HIGH hopes for this convention).

I won't be going to WorldCon next year as it will be in Finland, and I can't afford that flight (unless a LOT changes in the next six months). But I'm hoping to go again VERY soon!

Giles is excited to get back to writing and working on podcasts. It's been an exciting week and a half, but the real world beckons. Not in a bad way, simply a return to "normal" life.

*Industry Insiders is kind of a misnomer on all levels. All of these wonderful people have worked very hard to get where they are, and they are all fans of excellent writers. I admire and respect them, and I would NEVER call them gatekeepers. They simply worked their way into a position to be releasing content on a professional level.

Monday, August 22, 2016

I Know How to WorldCon

I have a lot of not-super-nerdy friends who find the idea of cons absolutely fascinating. Before I started going to cons with the podcast, I had no idea what to expect.. I’ll be the first to admit they're weird—even crazy—but they're also fun, and I think anyone with a bit of nerd in their heart can find something to enjoy at a con. For those of you who have never been, but would like to know what World Con was like, here’s a quick look!

The Location
Kansas City isn’t a city. It’s City’s little sister, Small Town, after Small Town stole City’s party clothes for a night. Seriously, does anyone even live there? I went on a run at 7:30 a.m. and over the course of 45 minutes and 3.5 miles*, I saw approximately ten homeless people and five men and women in business clothes. So…fifteen people live in Kansas City, from my best guess.

You Forget to Eat
At a giant nerdfest like WorldCon, there are a zillion things to do at all hours of the day. This means you spend so much time running to the next cool thing that you may forget basic things like drinking water and eating lunch…or dinner. This leads to hanger. Hangry people don't have as much fun.

A Typical Day is Atypical
I have some friends who went to WorldCon just for the networking**. I know there were a lot of people who stayed in the dealer’s room most of the time, and some split their time between panels and sitting in their favorite chair in the hallway. Everyone goes for a different reason, and while some of those reasons make no sense to me, I’m glad everyone can find their own way to enjoy themselves.

My typical day involved a slow morning of coffee and breakfast, a quick change from pajamas to a dress, and a speed walk to the convention center. We snagged an apartment on 17th and Broadway, and the entrance to the con was up on 13th. It wasn’t a bad walk! I generally went to back-to-back panels from noon until 6, then edited my work-in-progress for four-ish hours. It was glorious. I filled half a notebook with notes about worldbuilding, nuclear fusion, gravitational waves, and making up languages, AND I finished going through three beta readers’ notes for my entire manuscript.

You Will Get Crop Dusted
…and it will be nasty.

Here Be Cool People
On our first morning, Emer, Giles, Emmy, and I strolled through the dealer’s room and happened to walk right past George R. R. Martin. We didn’t stop him, but we did freeze and stare (like the classy people we are). We spotted fellow podcasters, favorite writers, astronauts, and well-known intellectuals. At BarCon (when con attendees converge on a local hotel bar to chitchat), we hung out with old and new friends. Everyone you talk to has something interesting to say.

It’s Fun
Even if you don’t care about learning or networking, WorldCon has fantastic people watching. The dealer’s room is full of art and books for sale. You can meet your favorite authors, attend book club conversations, or just stake out a spot and read or write all day. I loved finally going to a con I wasn’t working—while it’s nice to have an on-site table as home base, it was even nicer to be able to leave whenever I needed to recharge.  

What’s your favorite part of going to nerdy conventions?

Michelle's loves include physics, Bastille, and alliteration. She's absolutely brilliant on Twitter (@redactionaire), but you shouldn't believe everything she tells you...OR SHOULD YOU?

*Holy canoli. I just now clocked that. I only meant to do 3 miles.

**Five days of networking sounds like hell  to me. My introvertedness won’t support five days of talking myself up to strangers. I think it might actually be psychologically impossible. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

World Con

In case you hadn't noticed, we're at World Con this week! As such, I'm writing this quickly before rushing out the door to get some writing done before the first panel of the day (I'm going to an armor demonstration in the hopes of figuring out how to make some lightweight costume armor for a cosplay next year).

Instead of gushing about how amazing it is to connect with people we only see rarely or only know from the interwebs, or how cool it is to sit in a restaurant and have George R.R. Martin walk by, or how fascinating some of the workshops have been, I'm going to keep it short. I've been trying to post at least one picture a day from the con on my personal Instagram feed. Since we're all busy and there are cellular limitations, they haven't made it onto the podcast feeds (we do have some other awsome pictures there, though), but if you're interested in seeing my view of the con, hop on over to eksauthor on Instagram.

We've also, as promised, taken some video for you, so look forward to those shenanigans!

Emer is trying to remember how to be a functional human being. It isn't working so well at the moment. She is, weirdly enough, getting quite a bit of writing done, though. Which is always a good thing. Now let's just hope it's as funny as her con-brain thinks it is. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Thoughts Before Worldcon

I'm sitting in a rented apartment right now with my wife and two of my best friends. It's early in the morning in Kansas City, especially after a long drive from Denver, and I'm drinking a cup of what must be some of the worst coffee on the planet. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but it's pretty mediocre, for sure.

This is going to be an interesting con for me. You see, I've been to conferences and conventions before, and the ONLY one I've ever attended without actually doing work was the RMFW Colorado Gold conference from 2011-2014 (because we actually presented at 2015). For the last 20 years, I've been working conventions and conferences, so even if I get to check out some of the programming, it's interrupted by something I'm getting paid to do.

Worldcon 2016 isn't like that. We're here to have fun. All four of us. We downloaded the app to our phones, set up our schedules for the week, and even blocked out time to hang out with friends, sit down and write, and generally have fun.

And this week needs to be about fun. There are so many people we've met over the last two years, but only over the internet. For the first time in my life, I got to shake hands with Dave Robison of the Roundtable Podcast (though we've been chatting off and on through Twitter for several years), and Michael R. Underwood is going to be here, too. He's absolutely someone we need to meet. As well as Dave Koboldt, an excellent guest, and a few of our listeners who are just absolutely amazing.

But, again, there's going to be a lot of playing. The first four hours of my schedule for the con itself are dedicated to sitting down at a gaming table to play the Star Wars tabletop RPG. And tomorrow I'm doing a playtest of the Mistborn: House Wars game (inspired by the Brandon Sanderson novels).

It's going to be a good week, relaxing and refreshing because, even though we're creating SOME content for the podcast, this is a real vacation.

Giles is tired. Better rested, but tired. He (foolishly) drove all the way to Kansas City without asking anyone else to fill in for him. But they all made it without harm, and the convention will go on!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Artists You Need in Your Life

I love (read: LOVE) DeviantArt. Once you filter out all the creepy over-sexualization, it’s actually a really great place to find inspiration. Here are a few new artists I’ve found while browsing in the last few weeks. You should check out their stuff* and buy prints!

This U.S.-based artist does a exquisite paperwork. Ermahgerd. The way she manages to distill a landscape down to such a simple design…it’s amazing. Some of her pieces aren't just paper, either--she uses all kinds of materials to get the perfect look. 

This artist caught my eye with a few graphic novel snippets in dreamy watercolor. She lives in New Zealand and has a free comic called Thicker Than Blood. Her style is incredibly unique. AND she does fan art and nerdy things in other styles, which is fantastic.

I use DeviantArt to find character inspiration, and it can be hard to find people who draw young women who aren’t overblown Barbie dolls in string bikinis. Chelsea from the Philippines rocks in both style and portrayal of her subjects. Recently, she’s done some GoT fanart that’s simply delectable.

 “Aesth” by munette – Digital Painting

I try not to play favorites, but come on. That handle. That style. Remember Paperman, that Disney short that played before Wreck-it-Ralph? Corinna takes that style and shows it who’s boss. I want her to be my personal character design artist forever and ever.

I’m a fan of anyone who can draw an animal that looks more like a bubble with stick legs (which is how I draw them). Romania’s Christina Manderscheidt draws animals the way I wish I could . Her human subjects look phenomenal, but her animals make my artsy soul say, “Yaaasss!” I want a zoo-themed art gallery filled with pieces by Christina.

I hope you've enjoyed this round-up of incredibly talented artists! Have you found anything recently you'd like to share? Let us know!

Michelle is bad at drawing feet, good at drawing cartoon fire, and ridiculously good at telling other people how to draw things.  

She blogs here every Monday and usually remembers to be on Twitter during the week. Follow her: @redactionaire!

*But really. Thou shalt not steal! Buy their art. I borrowed these pictures to show you how wonderful these artists are—now go out and support them so they can keep making cool art!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Magic Writing Formula

Recently, I haven't written much. Finding a new job, adjusting to said new job, preparing for World Con, trying to retain sanity. You know, the normal. But yesterday I sat down during my lunch break and actually got a few paragraphs on the page. Which felt good. Despite being exhausted and not quite braining well, I'm really excited to get back to it and work on this story again. You know, in between all the cool panels and hanging out I'll be doing at World Con next week.

Apparently my magic formula (not that that's actually a thing, but I'm going to pretend) is:
  • A London Fog latte (earl gray, vanilla, and milk) 
  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Watching my friends do awesome things like finish their manuscripts and participate in Pitch Wars and feeling totally inadequate because I haven't finished a long piece in ages 
  • Being totally overwhelmed by trying to squeeze con prep in between the rest of life 
Wouldn't it be nice if there was actually a magic motivation formula? Something we could use consistently to recharge and kick our own butts back into motion when we're stuck? Everyone's got their own tricks, but none of it's really magic (or is it??) and, at least for me, it tends to change pretty often.

So, what's your current magic writing formula? What gets your juices flowing?

Emer is super excited for World Con and hanging out with so many cool people. But for now, she's going to try to get some more words on the page.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Book Review: His Fair Assassins Trilogy by Robin LaFevers

We all know the old saying: don't judge a book by its cover. Well, in the case of Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin series, it paid off for me. After all, who wouldn't be intrigued by a cover with a girl in an old fashioned red dress, standing in front of a castle, wielding a crossbow almost as long as her leg? 

LaFevers' series is historical fiction set in Brittany, starting in 1485. The first novel, Grave Mercy, follows Ismae, a girl whose father essentially sells her to a local pig farmer as a wife. On her wedding night, Ismae is rescued from her abusive husband by a local hedge priest and smuggled across Brittany to the convent of Saint Mortain. When she arrives, she learns that the daughters of Mortain serve the old Breton god of Death and are trained as assassins. After three years of training, Ismae's first assignment places her as the mistress to Gavriel Duval, a man in the service of Brittany's duchess, who is under suspicion of treason. Ismae has to discover if Duval is actually a traitor. And if he is not, she then has to figure out who is selling the duchess's secrets to the invading French.

LaFevers is a talented world builder. All three books in the series have a strong current of politics and war. I really liked Ismae as the main character in Grave Mercy. She is strong and brave, but has incredible demons that haunt her every waking hour. While Ismae does have a "superpower" because her father is the god of Death, she is forced to train before she is sent out on her first assignment. I like that LaFevers made Ismae more human by making her train, as opposed to Ismae waking up one day suddenly knowing the best way to kill a man. There are so many complex layers to this story and LaFevers' world that I cannot tell you all of them here. While some people may see that as a problem, the author does a wonderful job of touching on each layer often enough throughout the series that it is easy for the reader to follow along. 

There seems to be a trend in the publishing industry where a series of books is composed of multiple stories that take place in the same world but are told from the point of view of different characters. I'll be honest, I'm still getting used to this idea. When I finished Grave Mercy, I was expecting the next book to be a continuation of Ismae's story. Timeline wise, the second book, Dark Triumph, does pick up right where Grave Mercy leaves off. However, instead of a continuation of Ismae's story, the second novel is the story of one of Ismae's sisters at the convent, Sybella. And the third book, Mortal Heart, is told from another sister's point of view, Annith. This is one of the first series of books that I didn't mind the point of view change. All three of the novels in this series are one continuing story from beginning to end. The sisters show up in each other's stories often, and I loved the fact that in the third book, all three sisters fight together to preserve Brittany. 

As an adult, I really enjoyed this series. I would be cautious in giving the second book to a young adult, however. Sybella's story is very dark, and when it is revealed what she went through before going to the convent of St. Mortain, the events in her life even churned my adult stomach. Also, while these books are an adventure/historical fiction/supernatural/romance series, there is a lot of politics, and the politics are the core of the story. Unless a reader has a base interest in politics, they may not like this series. 

While the His Fair Assassin trilogy can be difficult to find in your local bookstore, they are definitely worth the hunt!

Emily spent yesterday helping her sister in law paint the nursery for her baby niece, which is why this review is a little late. She's really excited for World Con next week and hopes that she'll get to meet Kate Elliott and Tamora Pierce!