Monday, June 30, 2014

Concerning My Nerd/Dork/Geek Points

For anyone who is keeping track of nerd/dork/geek points, I’d like to petition that at least a few thousand be added to my account. I have some really, really good arguments, so I think I deserve a lot of points.

Argument No. 1:
A few days ago when I was hanging out with my littlest sister, I said these words: “And then I had this dream that she fell out the window and didn’t get hurt, so I just had to write a book about it, and then I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, what if they all had really sucky super powers and things blew up when you touched them?’”

Argument No. 2:
When I found out the release date of the fresh season of Doctor Who (AUGUST 23, PEOPLE!!!) I grinned and bounced in my office chair. At work. With people around me.

Argument No. 3:
I just finished reading Of Neptune, a YA fiction book about mermaids. (Because mermaids are cool.)

Argument No. 4:
I started my run by a creek the other day, and for the first quarter of a mile I sang Colors of the Wind. While running. And leaping over bushes. And pretending I had Pocahontas hair waving in the breeze.

Argument No. 5:
I may or may not own these items:                                             

(I do. I do own these items.)

Argument No. 6:

These hipster princesses happened for Denver Comic Con (minus the see-through dresses, of course):

What have some of your dorkiest moments been the past few weeks? And how many nerd/dork/geek points do you think I've earned? I hope it's a lot -- I'm saving them up for something ginormous. :)

This message was brought to you by Michelle, who once was convinced that sharks lived in the underwater lights of swimming pools. She hates audio books that don't have a track that tells you the disk is over. If you, too, have The Princess Bride memorized, she will gladly trade quotes with you. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo

I bet you're expecting yet another Denver Comic Con freakout post. Well, you'd be wrong!

Today, I'm going to talk about Camp NaNoWriMo, because I made the decision to participate today (hahaha I'm going to die).

For those of you who don't know, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an annual challenge to writers--write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. It's designed to help folks get over the fear of making things perfect and just get words on the page. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't, but the point is in trying and seeing what you can come up with. (There are also a lot of criticisms about the challenge among some circles, but we'll leave that for later).

Camp NaNoWriMo is, basically, the same general idea, but during the summer months (there's a session in April and one in July), and not limited to writing novels. Organizers encourage participants to work on whatever project they want--a script, short stories, revisions, whatever.

Because I'm not the most sane person in the world, I've decided to try and take part in the upcoming July session of Camp NaNoWriMo with a series of short stories. I chose shorts because I had success with Colfax Kitsune (remember that one that's getting published?), I need a break from the novel I'm working on, and I need more short story practice anyway.  Camp NaNoWriMo is just going to be my kick in the butt to get going.

How do you find inspiration and keep yourself moving on your own creative projects?

As a pantser who doesn't like much planning anyway, Emily loves the challenge of events like NaNoWriMo, even when she doesn't get anywhere near her word count goals. She doesn't love the editing that comes afterward, but that's a different story entirely.

Find her at

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Falling Flat?

A couple weeks ago, I talked about taking risks and the potential for falling flat on my face. Well, if you listened to this week's episode of Beyond The Trope, you'll hear me do just that. I saw someone I recognized. Someone I'd seen at a writing conference, and someone I'd spoken with in person. We were recording, and I wanted him to come over and say hi.

And I could not, for the life of me, remember his name. I knew his name, I'd talked about him with other people (mentioning books he'd worked on, not gossip), but I could NOT make my face spit it out. BUT, I think it makes for great radio. And great content. He gave us some awesome information, and I gave a prime example of why it's important to take risks. Yes, I fell flat, but the podcast didn't suffer. And so what if I made myself look a little foolish?

Forgetting someone's name is NOTHING compared to some of the idiotic things I've said and done over the years. And not just in my youth. I learned something. And that something will make the podcast better in the future.

All in all, Denver Comic Con was a great event. We had fun, met awesome people, and overall made a good impression. I think.

I know the people we interviewed liked us.

Giles has a long week ahead at his day job, so his brain won't come up with ideas for clever things to say. Sorry, but he's just focussed on other things today.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Strong People

I heard about lots/tons/gazillions of cool things while Beyond The Trope hung out at Denver Comic Con (DCC). I met artists who made beard-printed t-shirts. I talked to writers who crafted some of pop culture's most-loved icons. I hung out with LeVar Burton (sorry, I had to throw that in there).

But a week has gone by and now I’m left with a handful of only the most intense moments. Watching a room fill up with 800 people before I grab a microphone. Interviewing the creator of one of my favorite childhood TV series. Giggling at kids dressed as Daleks trailing their Thor and Catwoman parents.

And then there was the moment we got to chill with Ellie Ann. She was one of the first people to agree to interview with us, weeks before DCC was even upon us. Mom of three, editor, writer, producer. Her About page is a treasure-trove of awesomeness.
We share a love of fairy tales and slipping zombies into regular conversation. Her dentist and her bff made it on her website with quotes of praise. She has blue streaks in her hair, smiles a lot, and is insanely easy to interview.

One of the most impactful things she said was during the Strong Female Characters panel, not during the interview you’ll hear tomorrow. Imagine a stage packed with writers describing how they write strong women into their books. Confidence, growth, decisions that matter – the list of “strong” qualities quickly added up. And then Ellie grabbed the mic and just said, “The same as a strong man.”

I loved the reaction of the room. That “Oh, my gosh, she is so right” hush was fantastic. But most of all I loved how she said those words. I’ve always wanted to create “strong women – the damsels who don’t need saving. But now I have an even better way to describe how characters should be written: As strong people.

Thanks, Ellie, for putting words to a fact that has eluded so many people in the industry. Listeners, make sure you download her interview – it's totally worth it. 

There’s a reason Michelle chose the non-distressed damsel for her BTT avatar. She loves twisting fairy tale tropes into knots and giggling at them. You can find her here on Mondays.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Artistic Balance

Obviously, this week has been all about Denver Comic Con because we had a blast, got to talk to some fantastic people, and both Michelle and Giles experienced their first fan convention ever. It was a pretty mind-blowing weekend.

Several of the authors we interviewed talked about having to pick and choose which conventions and events they went to in order to still be able to write and produce their art. That got me thinking about balancing writing with the rest of life, especially when opportunities like DCC come along, followed closely by a head cold (ew).

Most people say that, to be a writer, you have to write every day no matter what. I can definitely see the merit in that, but I'm also a strong advocate for living life to its fullest. How else are you going to get any good ideas for stories?

It's an interesting balance we artists have to find, I think, and I'm definitely not there yet. But I think some of the folks we talked to at Comic Con have found their balance between interacting with their fans, getting stuff written, and still managing to explore and enjoy the rest of the world.

Then again, they don't tend to sleep, either. Maybe that's where I'm going wrong.

How do you balance artistic pursuits with the rest of your life? I'm looking for tips here, people!

Emily is still recovering from Denver Comic Con, but she wouldn't have it any other way. She's typically pretty bad at balancing things, and winds up doing entirely too much. But she's working on it.

Find her at and on Twitter (sometimes) @emilyksinger

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Denver Comic Con Wrap-up

When I sent in my application for Denver Comic Con's Podcast Peak, I genuinely expected to get rejected. At the time, we had two (maybe three?) episodes up on our feed. Who were we? Nobody. But they said yes.

I don't know if it was a huge boom for us as far gain listeners, but overall, I'd say the weekend was a success. We got to meet and interview some awesome people. They told us about their craft, laughed with us, and shared great information that I don't get to hear very often.

We got to have fun. We got to introduce amazing people. We had a once-in-a-lifetime experience that could morph into a second career, if we continue to pursue it the right way.

So what did we do?

Michelle introduced LeVar Burton at his Reading Rainbow event. And we got to record it.

I introduced Max Brooks when he came up to talk about his new projects Harlem Hellfighters and Extinction Parade. And we got to record it.

I moderated an event with Sherry Ficklin and Tyler Jolley, where I learned about an AWESOME steampunk novel called Extracted. Again, we got to record it!

Emily moderated the Strong Women in Fiction panel, and right after that, Michelle moderated the Setting in Sci-Fi and Fantasy panel. Both of which will be up on our feed by the end of the week.

And, again, interviews. Amazing interviews. With people who I respect, admire, and who I hope to meet with in the near future.

I can't describe how excited I am about last weekend. It's beyond me! I never thought I would have the opportunity to do something like this, even if I topped the bestsellers list for months on end. I never planned on being involved with such a great event. Where it goes from here, I don't know. But does that matter?

It was fantastic. I hope we get to do it again next year. And stay tuned, because someone approached us about doing some other awesome things in the near future.

Even though he didn't cosplay at Comic Con, Giles is still a big geek. He loves all things geeky, and Comic Con fed that craving rather well. He blogs sometimes over at High Aspirations, writes novels on a couch much like Sheldon Cooper's, and listens to weird music that belongs in a comic book store. Not a warehouse.

He wants to give special thanks to Denver Comic Con and Comic Book Classroom for providing such an awesome opportunity for Beyond the Trope. It was a blast!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Exhausted: A Look Back at Denver Comic Con 2014

If concrete floors could write, the ones in the Denver Convention Center could craft a boxed set of novels, each of which could rival the length of À la recherche du temps perdu. This past weekend, the Convention Center packed itself to the brim with comic lovers of all ages.  

My podcast partners and I were given the amazing opportunity to have a table at this event. It was my first comic con ever. While I still don’t understand the people who wore mascot-style animal suits or the girls who showed up in body paint and some sort of miniscule cousin to a pair of underwear, I totally get the thrill of going to a con.

For those people who have never been, here’s how I explained it to my best friend (a jazz addict who fangirls over calving season and rodeos):

A comic con is a giant party where people who love comics, movies, books, TV, and anything deemed “geeky” or “nerdy” by the “normals” can hang out, learn more about what they love, and celebrate the power of creativity.

Some only see the costumes – intricate works of art that must take months or years to complete. Others have blinders on for the merchandise or the celebrities. I, on the other hand, tried to take everything in. I wanted to appreciate every element of awesomeness I could.

Long story short: I had so much fun I would do another con in a heartbeat. LeVar Burton gave me a hug. Frank Beddor remembered my name. Ellie Ann promised to make me a friendship necklace out of her leg hair (TMI?). I could go on for hours about all the wonderful people I met and spoke to. Most of all, going to DCC gave me hope for a world where everyone – from “nerds” to “geeks” to “normals” – celebrates talent of all shapes and sizes.

So why did I love Denver Comic Con 2014?
  • Little kids dressed as daleks. And Thor. And Mystique. And Spider-Man.
  • Making new friends / Artist, writer, producer (etc.) interviews
  • Janet Lee’s decoupage graphic novels
  • Dressing up as a different hipster princess each day
  • People watching (ermahgerd people watching!)
  • The art
  • All the things

Check out our website this week for exclusive Beyond the Trope interviews and DCC panel recordings.  

If you were there, what did you think? I want to know!

The only thing Michelle regrets about DCC is taking too few pictures. Today she is super stoked to get back into blogging, painting sunglasses, and crushing her day job as an undistressed damsel. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Party Hard at Denver Comic Con

Today is the first day of Denver Comic Con (DCC), so instead of a thoughtful, funny post, you're going to get a whole bunch of nerd feels. I should probably be more sorry than I am.

In case you haven't heard, all three of us at Beyond the Trope (plus our amazing producer, The Other Emily) will be at a booth at DCC, hosting panels throughout the weekend, interviewing some fantastic people, and walking around having a great time.

Michelle is planning on being three different hipster princesses (today's costume is Snow White, so try to find her). Emily has two Doctor Who dresses and the mostly-made-by-hand Kid Loki dress debuting on Saturday. Giles is going to be…Giles. Next year, we'll get him to dress up as something, I swear.

Whether or not you find our costumed selves, please do stop by the booth and maybe sit in for a quick interview! We'd love to talk to normal con-goers as well as the authors and artists we already have lined up. And, if you don't want to talk to us in person, try and stop by one of the panels we're moderating--there are some really cool ones on the list, including a super-special one at 5:45 this afternoon.

Seriously, it's going to be a fantastic weekend and we are all so excited to be at this con! Thanks to the DCC staff for this opportunity, and don't forget that Denver Comic Con benefits the wonderful Comic Book Classroom organization, that promotes literacy through comic books.

Emily is so thrilled that Beyond the Trope is at DCC that she can't really think straight. Therefore, this bio will be incredibly short and unhelpful.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Taking Chances

As we talk Improv this week, it's important to note that any time an improv actor makes a decision, they're taking a risk. The decision could turn out well, and it could make them fall flat on their face. Unlike novel writing, most areas of live to give people the opportunity to edit out the less-than-perfect choices.

And that's a lesson for life, too. I'd love to go into more details, but I have a very specific example coming up this weekend.

General information I can give you: months ago, I learned that Denver Comic Con had a section on the floor called "Podcast Peak." My first thought was, "There's not point in signing up because we're too new. There is NO WAY they'll offer us a spot."

Well, I listened to the voice that replied. The one that said, "So what? If they say no, what do you lose? The time to fill out the form?" I made a decision. One that I expected to land me flat on my face.

They said yes. So we have a table at Comic Con. AND, we're moderating panels, including two author panels. We get to interview guests, talk to amazing people, and spend a weekend together at an event none of us could've afforded to do without taking this chance.

And some of the events we'll be involved with put us up in front of a lot of people. We could make this into a great event, or we could mis-step and, yes, fall on our faces. But we're taking the chance. We're risking our comfort for an opportunity. And I say that, no matter what, it's worth it.

Just in the same way that improv actors take chances. When they fall, it's not a disaster. But when they succeed, it's usually great! If we fall, maybe it'll be spectacular. But who cares? The payoff if we succeed is far greater than the potential fallout.

So take chances. Think ahead, but make the choice and take a risk.

Giles is excited for comic-con. He's not big on performing improv, but he loves watching it. His personal blog is down for the week, but follow him and Beyond the Trope on twitter to get updates on Denver Comic Con.

Monday, June 9, 2014

On Saying Yes

If I hadn’t chosen a high-paying, exciting career as a world-famous novelist, I would have been an astronaut. Wait. I got that mixed up. Let me try it again: If I hadn’t chosen the mostly-paid, often-dull gig as a copywriter, I would have been a starving artist.

Ah, yes. That makes more sense.

I decided a long time ago that in order to be happy, I had to choose fun over money. And then I realized that fun actually costs money, so I fudged a little and combined the two. Fun + money = Not as much fun, but more money. But now that I’ve been writing a while, I’ve discovered something else. Being good at what I do isn’t always a matter of talent or free time. It’s about being well-rounded.  

No, I don’t mean I’m cooler than everyone else. I mean that if my writing is ever good, it’s because I want to experience art of all kinds. This week on the podcast we talk about improv and how it applies to writing and other creative work. Some people look at acting and think it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with writing. Well, neither does taking an art class in college, but I did it anyway.

I’ve taken pottery throwing classes, learned languages, talked to bus drivers, explored museums, and read brick-sized non-fiction about lasers. Why? Why learn all this stuff if I’m just going to make things up anyway? For one, I love making things. Some girls collect shoes or clothes. I amass great quantities of art supplies and doodads. For another, every new thing I learn makes me a better writer. Google is smart, but it can’t describe what it feels like to want desperately to make an audience laugh. It can’t give me the perfect adjectives to describe the feeling of hours perfecting a plié.

Improv is one of those things that can only improve your writing. It’s learning to say “Yes!” to all the things you might be afraid of doing. My work-in progress is an exercise in improv writing. There are things in there that, had I been given the chance to plot, I would have never have given a second glance. But you know what? They work. And not only do they work – they’re addictive.

Adding spice to your art, whether it’s painting, drawing, writing, or acting, is the only way to keep it real. I don’t want to Wikipedia’s version of stage fright or butterflies in my stomach – I want to hear it from someone who experienced it. So if you’re any kind of artist and you want to get better, learn to say yes. Go master Spanish or learn the proper way to shoot a bow and arrow. Every day is a chance to say another yes, and every time you say yes, your art wins.

One of these days, Michelle is going to say yes to acting classes, and then you will never see her again. What she really wants is to take more drawing classes, though she could definitely pass up the assignments that involve sketching sweaty naked people (yes, it happened. It wasn't pretty). 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Cosplay as Adaptation

I have to be honest--I completely forgot yesterday was Friday (and, thus, my day to post). I've been having some day displacement issues with everything going on in my life, so my apologies for the late post!

With all this talk about adaptations, and Denver Comic Con coming up next week, I figured I'd talk a little about one of the adaptations we didn't talk about a whole lot in the episode: cosplay!

What does dressing-up and playing pretend have to do with adaptations? Well, most people who cosplay are creating costumes from works that already have strong visual elements--comics, movies, video games, etc. That means there's already a template (often physically impossible in the real world) that the cosplayer wants to emulate. Not only do they have to figure out how to sew their costume and craft their props, they also have to focus on making the costume both work realistically (aka, not fall off their bodies, or defy gravity, etc.), be recognizable as the character, conform to Con rules, and be comfortable enough to wear for at least a full day.

I have great respect for cosplayers. I think their work is amazing, and it shows a huge admiration for the characters and the craft. And it's really hard to adapt a two-dimensional costume into something actually wearable! Honestly, cosplay is as much an admirable form of adaptation and fanwork as creating a movie based on a book, only done on personal budgets and time--and that's amazing to me.

Cosplay on!

Emily is currently working on a dress inspired by Kid Loki in the Marvel comics to debut at Denver Comic Con. Assuming her hand doesn't fall off from all the sewing, she'll be at the Beyond the Trope booth most of the Con (June 13-15), so come say hi!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Adaptations are an extension of our fandom. Look at how successful the Harry Potter movies were. And Twilight. And The Hunger Games.

I want to belabor this point. For those of us who are mega-fans, we want to experience the events in our stories time and again. And again. And in as many ways as possible. That includes movies, books, video games, and (for me) tabletop RPGs.

When I watched the Lord of the Rings movies, I finally had an opportunity to experience someone else's vision of Middle Earth. And while I disagreed with some of the portrayals, it turned into a SHARED experience. A camaraderie that ignores space and time to unify enormous groups of people.

I love this because, the older I get, the less I think it's okay to close myself off from the world around me. Not that I did that intentionally as a youth. I craved a community I could belong to. And geekdom helped me find that.

Many people may cry out in fear when their favorite book is slated for the big screen. Or they may scream when a film they adore gets turned into a stage play. And, yes, many of these adaptations are bad enough to justify the fear. But they also draw other into the conversation.

Ultimately, is that what entertainment is all about? Joining in a community conversation? Even when that conversation spans the globe and a few decades?

Giles is typically better-thought-out, but he's so excited about Comic Con and great adaptations. He actually blogged this week over on High Aspirations, and if you drop by on Friday, he'll tell you about a great charity that does awesome work for the betterment of mankind.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pride & Prejudice

Turning a book into a movie (or a TV series, or a collection of plush dolls…) might seem like the simplest thing in the world, but it really isn’t. Just ask the book fans if the director and actors did a good job turning their beloved story into a motion picture.

I have a very good friend who loves to rant about the differences in the Lord of the Rings books vs. the movies. Other people I know critique Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and The Notebook. So many books have jumped to the big screen that I’ve completely lost count. Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood has run out of ideas or if they just know where the money is. Maybe it’s both? One thing is obvious: the world adores adaptations. 

Of all the adaptations I love the most, Pride and Prejudice is at the top of my list. Yes, I am that girl. There are few things I turn into a giggly fangirl for, but by golly, Collin Firth in Regency getup is one of them. No summer feels like summer until I have A. Purchased a green tea frappuccino from Starbucks and sipped on it at a park and B. Watched all of BBC’s Pride and Prejudice in one glorious sitting.

Why do I love this P&P so much? It’s accurate. It’s charming. The acting is wonderful, and the setting is quaint. It makes me want to be Elizabeth Bennet even more than I generally do (some friends would say I already am, but I think it’s still up for debate). And, honestly, I think Jane Austen’s work translates so well to the screen that you could almost create a word-for-word screenplay from her novels and it would be glorious and awe-inspiring. In short, it just works.

Yes, I also love the “Kiera Knightley version”. I might even venture to say that in that 2005 film, they were a tad better at showing what daily life in Regency England probably looked like. And how could you not love Caroline Bingley’s (aka Kelly Reilly's) costumes? But the BBC’s take on the classic story will always have a very precious place in my heart.

Watching BBC’s Pride and Prejudice isn’t just watching a movie. It’s an experience. If you haven’t seen it yet, something amazing is missing from your life.

What are your favorite, unmissable adaptations?

Michelle is a closet romantic (shhh, don’t tell) who also loves watching The Holiday and Kate and Leopold, and she’s currently binge-watching Once Upon a Time. She is a complete dork and is super excited about three things: her new Wonder Woman tank top, Denver Comic Con, and the RMFW Colorado Gold contest, which she just submitted her manuscript to.