Friday, September 23, 2016

Falling Out of Love with a Fandom

I've talked about finding new fandoms and falling in love at first watch/read, so to speak. But what happens at the end?

Falling out of love with a fandom is weird. Sometimes it's a slow process based on writing or new actors or the series getting more and more ridiculous. Sometimes you're binge-watching the previous seasons again and suddenly ask yourself "why am I watching this? It's not doing anything for me any more."

I've had this kind of falling out with a couple of my previously hardcore fandoms over the last year or so. I'm not going to name which fandoms they are so as not to dissuade anyone from getting into them, but for me, they've just started falling flat. Which makes it odd to look at all the merchandise I have from these particular fandoms, all the DVDs and figurines and blankets and clothing. I still enjoy the merchandise itself, but I'm not a hardcore fan of those things any more. I can still enjoy a handful of my favorite episodes, but the rest either bore or annoy me, or I spend all my time picking apart the flaws instead of enjoying them.

Of course, falling out of love with a fandom provides more space for new fandom obsessions. For every show I stopped watching, I found three more that I currently adore. For every book series I put down, I bought six stand-alone novels that sound amazing. For every movie I can no longer stand, there's a comic series that I can't put down.

Moving on from a fandom isn't a bad thing. It doesn't make you a bad fan or a bad nerd. It makes you human, with changing interests. Sure, it can be hard to let go of our favorite characters or worlds even when we don't enjoy the source material much any more. But the source material will always be there if and when you decide to go back.

Have you ever fallen out of a fandom? What was your experience like?

In addition to coming to terms with leaving certain fandoms behind, Emer is plugging away at her novel in progress (very slowly), collecting blind box figurines for her new obsessions, and trying to teach herself to cook.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

A long time ago, I was “trapped” in a Barnes and Noble for a school book drive and had about an hour to kill before the event was scheduled to begin. Being the bookworm that I am, I set about browsing the adult science fiction section, just for a change of pace. Ender’s Game was sitting on the endcap of the first row, staring at me. I had heard of Ender’s Game before, but had never read it. So, I scooped up a copy, found a ridiculously uncomfortable chair, and started reading. I got lost in the book. So lost, in fact, people had to come and find me when my book drive shift began because I had completely lost track of time.

When Ender’s Game begins, Earth has already repelled two attempted invasions from the buggers—insect-like creatures who seem bent on taking Earth as their own. The main character, Ender Wiggin, is a six year old boy who has been actively monitored by the International Fleet since he was three years old. Why? The IF monitors, selects, and then trains children at Battle School in preparation for the anticipated third bugger invasion. After Ender is chosen to attend Battle School, he spends the next six years of his life training to be a fleet soldier to protect his home from the buggers.

The above summary doesn’t even scratch the surface of the whole picture of this story, and that’s why I enjoyed it. I loved how deep, disturbing, and layered it was. The reader is treated to a multitude of viewpoints throughout the book. The main story follows Ender through his time at Battle School and his eventual transfer to Command School. The second viewpoint is from his intense, and often times ruthless teachers at the schools, who are deciding Ender’s fate for him without ever involving Ender in their decisions. The last viewpoint follows Ender’s older siblings, his sadistic older brother, Peter, and his cunning sister, Valentine. All of these viewpoints come together into one amazing story, woven with so much intrigue, and so much detail and description that it makes the reader feel they are actually in the heads of each of these characters. The characters are what makes this story worth reading, no exceptions.

I’ll be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with stories that put kids into difficult and dangerous situations. Ender’s Game was no exception. I hated the physical and mental tortures the teachers, other adults, and other kids in this story put Ender through. It becomes even worse when you remember that Ender is only six years old when the story begins. I realize that Ender has to show his willingness to do whatever it takes to win the bugger war, but the adults’ “we’ll see how Ender deals with this” attitude was difficult to accept.

Ender’s Game is definitely a classic science fiction story and a great introduction to the science fiction genre. Yes, there was a movie based on the book back in 2013. If you’d like to watch a summary of the story, the movie is pretty good, but please, after you’re done watching the movie, get the whole picture by reading the novel!

Emily is finishing a wonderful 630-page monster for next week’s review and she’s going to invent a whole new genre! Keep an eye out for next week’s review to see what the book and new genre will be!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What Giles is Binge Watching

I love TV. Not just because I like entertainment that engages me while I relax, but because I wasn't allowed to watch it a ton when I was a kid (depending on the year). Right now, my wife and I are bing watching a show together, and I have a couple other programs that I love to sit through until my eyes bleed. Why? Because they make me smile, excited, and engaged.

So, in order of how "desperate" I am to get the next episode:
1. Supernatural. This show took a couple episodes to get me SUPER hooked, but I had fun right away. I'm not a big horror fan, but the combination of snark, excitement, and characters getting beaten up by supernatural bad guys reminds me of The Dresden Files. So while I'm waiting for the next Dresden book, I'll enjoy this show. With my WIFE, who REALLY doesn't do horror, but loves this show.

2. Peaky Blinders. Season three got released to Netflix a few months back, and I started watching it as soon as I got the chance. Granted, right now I'm only two or three episodes into this season, but that's because Supernatural took over my time. That, and it's not a show my wife enjoys. Since we only have one TV, and I like to spend quality time with my wife (rather than making her figure out something else to do while I watch), we tend to enjoy the same shows when we're in TV mode.

3. The Blacklist. This is one of my favorite shows. It's probably the best drama on the networks right now. It's VERY high up on my "I have to watch this SOON" list. Because, again, Supernatural beckons.

4. Luther. A fantastic crime drama out of the UK with great story, amazing acting, and a tension so tight you could pluck it like a bowstring.

5. Stranger Things. I liked the first few episodes and really want to finish the show, but like Peaky Blinders, it's not generally the first show I want to get into.

What about you? Any shows you're absolutely thrilled about?

Giles can't come to the computer right now because the magic box in the middle of his living room is calling for his attention.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

If you were to ask my sister where she gets all of her book recommendations, she would say, without hesitation, that they come from me. In fact, Molly will rarely pick up a book on her own without my recommendation. (I think she may have a dependency problem.) Firstlife by Gena Showalter was a book that Molly bought on a whim because, if I remember right, she thought the cover was pretty. She’s right, the cover is pretty, but the story inside, it is disturbing and definitely not pretty.

Tenley “Ten” lives in a world where your Firstlife, the life that all of us are living right now, is just the staging area to your Everlife. In this world, your family, friends, and life experiences are all cemented once you choose your Everlife. Ten is seventeen when the story begins and she hasn’t made her decision. There are two choices: Troika and Myriad. Her parents have both signed with Myriad and expect Ten to do the same. Ten isn’t so sure and because of her indecision, her parents send her to prison, giving the warden permission to use any means necessary to convince Ten to choose Myriad. While Ten is imprisoned, both Everlife realms send Laborers, Everlife representatives whose only job is to convince Ten to sign with their side. When Ten breaks out of prison during an uprising, she and her assigned Laborers have one goal: for her to stay alive long enough to make her final decision. Once she does, there is no changing her mind.

There were a lot of things I appreciated about this book. First, Showalter did a wonderful job making both Troika and Myriad seem appealing to the reader. I had formed an opinion very early on about which side I would have signed with, but the author had me switching sides pretty consistently until the end of the story. Second, I didn’t mind the love triangle that the author had in this book. It wasn’t just the “oh, if I choose that boy I’ll break the other one’s heart...poor me” situation that a lot of young adult authors seem to shove their protagonists into. This triangle was “oh, if I choose that boy, I’m going to have to kill the other one someday.” I liked that twist. I also liked the personality quirks that Ten has. She’s obsessed with numbers, and it isn’t just because her name shortens to Ten. It’s just how Ten’s brain is wired, and the author made me believe that was the case. Finally, Showalter did not leave the reader hanging off of a cliff at the ending. I’ll tell you this: Ten does make her choice, and it is literally on the last page. While sometimes I like cliffhangers, I was glad that this particular novel gave me some closure.

While there were many positives to this story, there were a few things that unfortunately dragged me out of it. One, while I believed the premise of Ten’s family sending her to prison to be kept safe until she made her choice, I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that they allowed the warden to brutally torture Ten on a regular basis. The family kept saying that they did it because they loved her, but I just couldn’t believe they did. Two, throughout the story, the reader discovers why the two Laborers are fighting so hard to win Ten to their side. While I realize the author needed stakes for the Laborers, I didn’t quite buy into all the reasons why the Laborers said they needed Ten on their side. Lastly, and I’m sorry that I cannot explain this too thoroughly without spoilers, some of the events that Ten has to fight through after she escapes from prison seemed a little too fantastical. Yes, I understand this is a fantasy, but really, how much does the girl have to go through?

The negative plot points aside, I really enjoyed this story. I’m looking forward to the second book, which is due on February 28, 2017. And yes, the second one has a pretty cover, too.

Over the past week, Emily has realized that she has a tendency to review mostly young adult fantasy novels, which are mostly written by women. While there is nothing wrong with that, she would love your recommendations on what to read next. Leave a comment below and tell her what she should read next!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pushing for Content

I love the fact that Beyond the Trope suddenly seems to have a huge jump in content production. I don't know how it happened, but I realized just the other day that we're releasing something EVERY weekday. That's huge!

While some of our blog posts may be fun fluff pieces, it's not easy to come up with a post every week. Even when they are fluffy. But all three of us, in my opinion, are pushing for nerd-centric and writer-centric topics and discussions every week. More than that, our Awesome Book Reviewer is voraciously consuming literature to come out with reviews once a week. On top of our weekly podcast episode, this means we're putting out enough information every year to put out a decent sized book.

And we're pushing to create more. Obviously, I can't say much right now because I don't want to promise something that may fall through. But the four of us are constantly brainstorming for awesome content for each and every one of our listeners/readers. As volunteers, we have other obligations that could delay some of these products. Rest assured, though: you're gonna love it!

Until then, I think it's going to be a lot of fun to come up with blog posts and new episode through the end of the year and into 2017.

Giles is working hard in every sector of his life, right now. The most exciting part, though, is all the awesome stuff that's coming out for Beyond the Trope in the next month.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Is Your Book Done?

I’m in the exact middle of a major editing overhaul (see last week’s Show and Tell post), and outside of a few tears, it’s going rather well. When people ask me how my writing is going, I can say things like, “I’m almost querying!” and “I cut 2,000 words!” But this morning I received a question I think needs a longer answer.

“How will you know when your book is done?”

I'll write and write and WRITE, and then one day, the Magical Book Fairy will appear before my sleep-deprived blank stare, tap me on the head with her wand, and announce that I’ve just finished my book. Woohoo!

…I wish. Art is one of those things that never feels done. Ever. If I scan chapters I’ve spent hours perfecting, I will still find things to change. I’ve finished scenes on Sunday then ripped them to shreds on Thursday. Ask any creative person if they ever want to change parts of their “final product”—if they don’t, they’re either lying or don’t return to old projects enough.

The process of finishing a book—and knowing it’s complete—can be abstract. On one hand is the desire to reach perfection, and on the other is the desire to sell your work. You cannot sell a book if you never let yourself see it as finished. So, how do you get to that point?

First, if you don’t love it, you’re not done. If there are plot holes or depthless characters or confusing scenes, you’re not done. And if you want to stop working on it because you’re tired of tying your brain into knots, you’re definitely not done.

Second, if your betas/mentor/critique partners keep finding things that don’t make sense, you’re not done. If they disagree with how you wrote a character or a conversation, you might be done, but you may also need to re-examine those pieces. A book is like an elegant timepiece, and those cogs need to fit perfectly and move in unison.

This is why you need beta readers, mentors, and nice friends who love books. These people are sounding boards. Words can always be moved around, but the heart of each scene needs to be in the right place. Sometimes the author is too close to see that an element of their story needs to shift. I know that has certainly been the case with me!

You'll know your book is done when it’s done. I know that sounds like, “You'll know you're in love when you're in love”, but I actually believe it. You are the only person who can tell when you’re done editing and rewriting. Someone else might convince you to stop editing, but deep down, you know when you should keep going.

That's when you take a deep breath, let it out, and get back to work. It’s time to write.

Michelle tends to live life with a CHALLENGE ACCEPTED attitude, which has resulted in a first-person novel, a podcast, and an entire day spent eating nothing but waffles. You should follow her on Twitter: @redactionaire.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Con Wall

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold conference is this weekend. This is the first time since 2010 that I haven't attended. It's kind of weird, knowing that all my writing friends will be hanging out across the street from my day job office and I'll instead be working today, recording tomorrow, and playing D&D on Sunday. It's weird not freaking out about meeting agents and editors and helping my friends practice pitches.

But it's a good weird. It's like a breathing moment, between all the other conventions this year. Between AnomalyCon, Denver Comic Con, World Con, and possibly MileHiCon, I'm kind of (and I never ever thought I'd say this) con-ed out for this year.

Don't get me wrong, conventions are amazing and fun and do wonders for both our podcast marketing and finding people to interview. And I do love me some good cosplay. But they're also expensive and, for an introvert like me, can be totally draining and stressful.

So, for as weird as it is to not be gearing up for RMFW this afternoon, I'm taking the time to try to recharge my batteries without hanging with huge amounts of other writers all weekend. I'm taking the time to get a few words of my own on paper, enjoy the sunshine, and get some awesome interviews with my cohosts tomorrow.

What about you? Are you going to RMFW or another writing conference this year? Will you buy me recordings of any really cool panels you go to?


Emer is currently focusing on that whole breathing thing. Turns out, it helps a lot to take just a few deep breaths. Go figure.