Friday, October 21, 2016

Backup Your Backups!

This past week, the hard drive on my laptop failed. Totally kaput, computer wouldn't boot up, gone. After the initial moment of panic, I realized that I was okay. I had backed up my data only a few days before on my external hard drive, and even more recently when it came to the writing I backup on Dropbox. Everything was safe.

This wasn't the case the first time my hard drive crashed (on a different computer), back when I was in college. I hadn't backed anything up. Ever. I was a hundred pages into the second draft of what would turn out to be my first finished novel (you know, the one I spent 8 years on). I would have lost everything, if it weren't for a data specialist who retrieved most of my word documents for a pretty sum of cash. It was awful. Worst breakdown I've ever had.

With NaNoWriMo coming up, there will be a lot of talk about backing up your work. If I remember correctly, there's an entire week dedicated to reminding you to do it, if you're part of the NaNo communities.

So, here's your early reminder to back up! And back up your backups. Keep them in multiple places, just in case. The advice I heard was at least one hard copy backup and a backup in the cloud, with potentially a second hard copy backup in a different location (you know, in case of fire or something). Multiple backups and archives will only help make sure your work stays safe and accessible. Make sure you back up frequently, too. At least once every other week or so, preferably more often. The more often you back up you work, the less data you'll lose in the event of a crash or other awful thing.

Take from me: there's nothing quite so relieving as knowing the latest draft of your story is safe and sound.

Emer is still breathing a sigh of relief over the fact that her stories are safe. She's also celebrating the fact that the kickstarter for the anthology she has a story in is almost funded! Throw money at it and enjoy her story "Glitter Bomb," plus twelve others.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

And now for something completely different!

So, I don’t have a review for you this week. Why? Because the creepy book I was hoping for at the end of last week’s review just showed up on Tuesday. While I am a pretty fast reader, I’m not a speed reader by any means. Also, I’m kind of weird. I like to read books slowly and actually enjoy the story.

So, instead of a review, I thought I would share a portion of my TBR (to be read) list. Most everyone I know has a TBR list and they can be rather daunting. In fact, the other day I saw an online calculator that will tell you exactly how long it will take you to finish your list. Apparently, it’s going to take me a very long time. 

My list is a collection of books that have been recommended to me by friends, or it could be by an author that I already enjoy, or it may just have a pretty cover. (Yes, I can be that person. Sorry, not sorry.) Above all, does the book blurb pique my curiosity? 

So, without further ado, here is my illustrious TBR list, and why the book made it onto the list! (Disclaimer: This list is in no particular order. In fact, I have purposefully placed it in alphabetical order just for my own sanity.)

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray - There’s a girl in a corset on the cover and the blurb intrigued me.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - My mommy said I should read it. I listen to my mommy.

Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine - Space, automatons, and London. Enough said. 

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir - I really liked An Ember in the Ashes. I’m hoping the sequel will be just as good.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde - I LOVE Jasper Fforde’s writing. One of my all time favorite book is The Eyre Affair.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey - I really enjoyed The 5th Wave and I’m starting to be a braver reader. We’ll see how this one goes.

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix - This one came recommended by a friend at work. I read Shade’s Children a long time ago and remember liking it.

Persuasion by Jane Austen - As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, you’d think I would have read all of Austen’s other works. I haven’t. Must rectify this mistake.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - Michelle said so.

Ridiculous by D.L. Carter - Gail Carriger recommended this one on her blog a while back. I like the idea of a Regency era comedy.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco - When James Patterson starts his own publishing imprint and chooses this book as his first, my ears tend to perk up. When the main character is going against societal norms to become a forensic scientist in Victorian England? Even better.

So, hurray for TBR lists! Bring on more books!

Emily is currently reading Stalking Jack the Ripper. She’ll have a review of it for you next week. Did anyone play the Beyond the Trope drinking game while reading this review? If you’re not sure how to play, keep your ears open in the next few weeks for the rules!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


We've talked with Thomas A. Fowler before about branding, and it's something I've been keeping in mind pretty much since we recorded that first episode. If you listened to this week's episode, you'll know that author brands is something Thomas is passionate about. And personally, I'm passionate about it, too.

Recently, I got asked to help some friends come up with ideas for their own podcast (totally different from Beyond the Trope). The biggest point I hammered home to them (two separate groups) is that the brand needs to be consistent. The group I helped that's composed of professional writers, I reminded them, too, that this will become an extension to their brand. No matter what they do in their professional capacity, it will either mesh with what they've created up to this point, or it will diverge from their brand and dilute it, which isn't always good.

It's something I keep in mind, too, when I'm considering which cons to go to, what panels I sit in on (volunteer for), whether or not I want to approach another podcast to be a guest (for example, I won't go on political podcasts, regardless of their ideology because my brand is a-political).

There's a lot more to branding than just those small considerations, but that's why everyone should go check out Thomas A. Fowler's book. Then start applying those principles.

Giles is still considering his branding, but there are some things already set in stone, like this blog and podcast.

Friday, October 14, 2016


No, Beyond the Trope is not currently running a kickstarter. But I'm part of one!

On a couple episodes over the past year, I've mentioned by short story "Glitter Bomb." It's a fun comedy about a super villainess trying to take over a city and finding out her arch nemesis is someone unexpected.

The anthology it's in, Dangerous Women, is currently running a kickstarter campaign. We're almost at $5,000 (of a $7,500 goal), after launching last Saturday. The money will go toward printing and shipping costs for the anthology.

Our first stretch goal after we make the basic printing goal is to pay us authors more. So throw your money at us! Support Beyond the Trope by supporting my story in the anthology! Make sure I can keep affording to bring cheddar bunnies to recording! And get thirteen stories about queer lady super villains in the exchange. Or every book/comic still in print by Northwest Press. You know, because you need more comics and books in your life.

If you don't want to donate money, at least watch the video to see my dorky face in action. And let all your friends know. Word of mouth is super helpful. That's how we've survived as a podcast--all you amazing listeners!

Emer is super excited to actually see her short story in print. It's a great one. Not that she's biased or anything.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book Review: Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

A while back, Gail Carriger recommended Court of Fives on her blog as a must read. I was looking for a new book at the time, so I checked it out from the library and read it over the course of two evenings. After I was done, I told everyone I knew about it, including Michelle. She said it was ridiculously good and she hated me because it ended on a cliffhanger. Ha! Kate Elliott’s Poisoned Blade was released back in August and is the second book in the Court of Fives series. So, why am I reviewing the second book in a series when I never reviewed the first? Because this is one of those rare occasions where you can pick up the second book and settle comfortably into Jessamy’s world without necessarily having to read the first book.

Before we begin, a little backstory: In the first book, Court of Fives, we find out that Jessamy is born into a family that, according to her society, is not allowed. Her father is a Patron, a member of the ruling class, and her mother is a Commoner, a member of the lowest class. Technically, their marriage is not legal because of their societal divide, and unfortunately for Jessamy, she is subject to the rules and expectations of both classes. One of the activities she is not allowed to participate in is the Fives, an athletic competition that pits Adversary against Adversary for the entertainment of both Patrons and Commoners alike. Jessamy rebels against the expectations of her family and participates in the Fives without their knowledge. Jessamy is incredibly successful in her Fives pursuits, and at the end of the novel, she is elevated to the next rank of Adversary, a feat that has rarely been seen.

In Poisoned Blade, Jessamy’s story forges ahead as she must continue to compete in the Fives to protect her family. Jessamy takes the chance to travel around her world and finds herself in the beginnings of a civil war that will change both her life and her world forever.

It had been over a year since I had finished Court of Fives, and I was nervous that I wasn’t going to remember the details of the last novel. Lucky for me, the author drops hints throughout the first three chapters of Poisoned Blade to remind the reader of what happened in the lengthy climax of the last book.

I continued to like Jessamy throughout this sequel. She is one of those characters who seems almost superhuman. She’s an amazing athlete, brave, and a good friend to the other competitors in the Fives. What I loved about her character more is that her weakness is her family. She’s willing to do anything to save them. I also liked that Elliott continued her building of Jessamy’s world. The traditions, beliefs, religions, and class systems seem like they could exist anywhere. Her characters are forced to struggle with a multitude of injustices, including racism, classism, and barbaric religious traditions. I was impressed that Elliott was able to weave these topics into Jessamy’s world without the reader feeling like they were being beaten over the head with a message that pulls them out of the story. Finally, I loved the ending. Not everything is wrapped up in a pretty bow, but it provides enough closure for the reader to hold out until the next book.

There’s only one thing I didn’t like about Poisoned Blade. When I was reading Court of Fives, I found myself so sucked into Jessamy’s story that I would actually have audible reactions. I believe phrases like, “Oh, that’s just messed up!” and “You have got to be kidding me…” actually made their way out of my mouth. That didn’t happen in the sequel. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but it didn’t give me quite the emotional reaction that the first novel did.

It’s going to be a while before the third book in the Court of Fives series is released, but I am looking forward to seeing how Jessamy is going to survive the inevitable civil war that is coming. Good luck, Jessamy. I’m rooting for you.

Emily is impatiently waiting for two books to come in at the library. One is a comedy and the other is another creepy mystery. It's a race to see which comes in first! (She's secretly hoping the creepy one makes it...)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Activities to Relax

Jumping into the discussion of relaxing on the blog this week (and no spoilers, but we're releasing a "self care" episode in the near-ish future, so keep an ear out for that), I figured I would share some of what I do to chill out when I need to destress.

First, I've been watching a LOT of Supernatural with my wife. We never watched the show when it first aired, and it's been on Netflix for quite a while, now (can't remember when, exactly, it got added). But we never sat down to watch it. You see, neither of us are really horror fans. But my wife watched one episode, and I caught the tale end of it and though, "Hey, this could be a fun show." Then we started watching it. And kept watching. Now we're almost done with season 5 and excited to keep going!

Second, I still play video games. Fallout 4 is pretty much consuming all of my gaming focus when I'm not playing a game for review. I got all of the trophies for Fallout: New Vegas, and I want to try to do the same thing with Fallout 4, which means I have to do at LEAST four play-throughs. Having accomplished two of them, I'm now a few levels into play-through number three. And, of course, I downloaded Star Trek Online for the PS4 and plan to jump on there at some point (played on my Mac for a while, then stepped away when new games caught my attention). Then, in November, I'm hoping to get Dishonored 2. I loved, loved, LOVED the first one and have played through it so many times, I can't even keep track. It's a blast and sucks me in EVERY DANG TIME! High hopes for that game.

Third, podcast listening. I have several non-writing podcasts that I listen to and enjoy, and I keep those on my playlist because, with all the stress involved with putting myself out there, I need something to engage in that doesn't remind me how hard writing can be.

What do YOU do to relax?

Giles is writing and reading quite a bit, too, though not as much as he'd like/should. Still, relaxing and getting into the creation groove is a central focus. As it should be.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Stay Sane With Crafts!

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been around much lately. I’ve been caught between a really amazing thing--one of my best friends got married yesterday--and an incredibly sh$#!y thing--earlier last week, my company announced that they’re moving our offices to a skyscraper in Chicago*.

I’m not usually the one to write about self-care—especially since my advice is normally, “Go work out, and then get back to being productive.” But this time around, I’d like to share something that has helped keep me sane over the years: designing flowers.

I got to make all the boutonnieres for the wedding yesterday. Most of the men couldn’t have cared less about them, but it’s a simple way to tie everyone together. It’s not something many people know how to do. I love crafting things like this—not only do I get to be creative and take my mind off of some of the craziness in my life, I get to give the finished product as a gift. It’s win-win.

Here’s the collection of boutonnieres I made for yesterday’s marriage celebration, plus a quick description of what went into them:

Real calla lilies are dang expensive and fragile. These deep purple ones are 100% fake, but look real (seriously, you have to touch them to believe they're fake). The fathers got Dusty Miller (aka senecio cineraria) and Berries, and the pastors got Dusty Miller and Naked Eucalyptus. 

The ring bearers were both under the age of 4, so I made their boutonnieres out of a Spray Rose bud, a tiny leaf of Dusty Miller, and a little sprig of Naked Eucalyptus. The whole thing was barely two inches tall and the cutest ever. The ushers got a sprig of Myrtle, Berries, and fake Succulents.

Disclaimer: these were the first corsages I ever made that I actually liked. I'm much more comfortable with boutonniers, but I'm happy with how this mix of Spray Rose, fake Succulent, and Naked Eucalyptus turned out. 

The groomsmen were wearing shirts and suspenders with no jackets, so I needed to make something lightweight for them, but the groom was going to have a jacket on, so it didn't matter if his was a bit bulkier. They all had Cedar, Dusty Miller, fake Succulents, and Berries. I added a little twist to the bottom of the groom's boutonniere to add a little flair. 

Here's the final collection (minus the corsages and the groom's boutonniere) in all its glory:

Your artist for the day has been Michelle. She has no idea what kind of Day Job she wants to do next. Copywriting? Floral design? Teaching? Something totally new and different??? Who knows?

*No, I’m not moving to Chicago. Ha. I’ve never even been there! Maybe if they were moving to Paris…