Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Beginnings?

On the one hand, I like the idea every new year is a chance to start over, to do things that didn't get accomplished in the previous rotation around the sun.

On the other hand, I don't like New Year's resolutions. If something needs to be changed, NOW is a great time to change it! Make goals right away, as soon as they need to be made. I do understand that New Year's Eve is a great time to set goals with a specific "Achieve-by" date (the next year), and that's great. Just not how I like to roll.

So is this year a year of new beginnings? In some ways, yes. Much by coincidence of timing, and much by design. With this podcast hopefully going in new, exciting directions, we'll be able to mark our progress throughout the year in an orderly, calendar fashion. But overall, I'm going to continue to pursue goals, regardless of what month it is.

Stay safe, have fun, and happy New Year!

Giles met with an advisor today, along with his wife, to help make good decisions over the next few years. Something everyone should consider, on this the day of resolutions.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Whole New Year [of Toiling]

Please feel free to get A Whole New World stuck in your head for the entirety of this blog. It’s stuck in my head right now, and I can’t get it out. Except…I may have changed some of it:

A whole new yearA new year full of things to doNow that my book is doneIt’s time for fun“Fun,” which means some toiling

So yeah. That was just a little taste of me being weird. Actually, I really like my version of the song. Kind of catchy, you know? I especially like the trade of “dreaming” for “toiling”, because both words could technically be used. But “toiling” is way more appropriate. You see, I just finished the first draft of what has to be my favorite thing ever.

Supercurses and mountain lions. Quests. Unrequited love and traitors and a revolution.
If it was a person I would marry it, but then our relationship would be fraught with awkward moments, and a crazy general would try to kill us during a race for superpowered healing.

Now that it’s done, it’s time for beta readers and editing and the ever-looming Writing of a Synopsis and a Query Letter. In short, now is when the toil begins.

It’s crazy to think that I began this project a little over a year ago, and now I have a product ready to refine. Hands down, this is the fastest I’ve ever finished a first draft. Heck, it’s the first time I’ve actually finished a first draft with an ending I liked. It’s awesome.

Which brings me to another song…

Everything is awesome!Everything is cool when your first draft is done!Everything is AWESOME!But my work is never done!

Much like a Disney princess, Michelle tends to break into random song. 
It creates a lot of awkward moments. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

I know today is Christmas Eve, and all of you are busy. So I'll just say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and have a safe, fun week!

Mini-bio that nobody reads. Just kidding. Go have fun!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Wars

Some people hate Christmas. Some people ignore it, and some people go all-out crazy (I’m talking to you, house completely covered in twinkly lights and blow-up decor). For my part, I really like Christmas. 

When I was little I loved it for the presents, because…well…presents. Then I got a little older and was able to look at Christmas – and all holidays, really – as a time to just chill out and enjoy the moment. I don’t get to do that very often, since I’m generally in uber-productivity mode any time I’m awake. So the respite of a holiday is always welcome.

One of the things I love about Christmas is the menagerie of holiday traditions my family has come up with. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we go and cut down a real tree in the mountains, sometimes hiking for hours to find one that my sisters deem “appropriate”. About a week later, my mom makes cinnamon rolls and finger foods and we decorate the entire house.

But of all the traditions that I get the most excited for, besides the stockings or staying up until 2 a.m. finishing handmade presents, I think my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE THING is the wrapping contest between me and my youngest sister.

Oh, it’s not just a wrapping contest. It’s a war. Not for Prettiest or Coolest or Most Inventive, but …(drumroll)… the Most Difficult to Unwrap.

Yeah, we’re kind of weird. One year it literally* took us both two hours to unwrap our presents. Two. Hours. We have rules like “No knives” and “No outside help”. I have spent an hour wrapping a gift only to see it ripped apart in five minutes flat**.

The best part is that I don’t even remember who holds the record, or even who won last year (I think it was me. I think). It’s just the best thing ever to see my family’s faces when Stephanie and I pull out our presents for one another and smile at each other like this:

What kind of awesome holiday traditions do you have?

When it snows enough to build things, Michelle and her two awesome sisters create Calvin & Hobbes style snowmen. And an igloo. It seems random in hindsight, but in the chill of the moment it’s totally appropriate. 

*Yes, literally. I'm not exaggerating or joking. Literally two hours. 
**Duct tape, while appearing “tough” and “impenetrable”, is actually really easy to tear, just fyi.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


As I think back on this first year of podcasting (even though we're still a month away from our anniversary), I find myself awed at how much we accomplished. Don't let that fool you, I'm humbled by it all, too.

In the last eleven months, I've had the opportunity to go to Denver Comic Con and introduce Max Brooks, moderate a Steampunk panel, a YA Fiction panel, and interview three amazing Fantasy and Science Fiction authors. I was honored to bring friends on the show to talk to them about their careers (thanks Angie, Warren, and Aaron!). I interviewed my favorite author, Jim Butcher, and didn't do a bad job. We also met an awesome band, went to TWO of their awesome shows, and spread the word so well that a navigator on a U.S. Navy destroyer gets to geek out about their music while steering a ship IN THE OCEAN!

But I think my favorite opportunity this year is still getting to see and review The Frame. More than that, the episode where we interviewed Jamin and Kiowa Winans (the creators of The Frame) is probably my favorite interview of the year. They're both SUPER passionate about what they do, and that came through so well in the interview that for several days after we talked to them (and after I re-listened to the episode to make sure I didn't need to edit it), I was pumped, inspired, and excited about my own passions.

Over the next year (as with the last), I'm going to pursue opportunities that are supposed to help launch my career. I'm going to take risks (like going back to school and pitching workshops to local cons). I'm going to agree to help out at events (announcements to come). And I'm double-down on this podcast and my writing to build an audience and spread the word about art in genre fiction. This is what I'm passionate about. This is what I need to pursue. Jamin and Kiowa made some big decisions when it came to their filmmaking. As I move forward, I want to be prepared to do the same.

Finally, I couldn't let a post like this end before taking the time to thank my awesome co-hosts, Emily and Michelle. It's been so much fun, and I'm looking forward to more fun and more work in the next year, and hopefully for years to come. Thank you.

Giles will be back next week with a brief message. For now, go listen to the interview with Jamin and Kiowa. You won't regret it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Just Some Melodrama

A few days ago I talked writing with a friend, and part of the conversation has stuck with me. I keep thinking about it because honestly, my day job is not going too well this week. It makes me yearn for fun writing I actually like, which makes me think about how hard work is. And how hard it is to stay sane amidst it all. Here’s a snippet of the conversation (I'm the italics):

Sigh. Thinking about agents makes me nervous for querying. 
Querying sucks…but you can do it!
Haha there is no “can”. Only “are required to”
Well…yeah, there is that.
Why do we do this to ourselves again? 
We would die if we didn’t.

All right, so writers wouldn’t actually die if they didn’t write or query agents. I was being melodramatic. But I do think that if writers don’t write, or if painters don’t paint, etc., we lose a part of ourselves.

Sometimes we creatives need to remind ourselves just WHY we do what we do. Why, in the name of all that is holy, do we drive ourselves crazy trying to create something everyone in the world wants? Why do we keep toiling even through depressive funks, discouragement from the trolls, and even discouragement from people close to us? It’s enough to make us pack up shop and call it quits forever.

I needed to be reminded why I do this to myself. Amusingly enough, just hours after the above conversation, someone else asked why I love writing. It took me a solid two seconds to come up with an answer:

It’s like tapping into a soul charger that makes me excited about everything else in life. It’s pure creation and I can do anything and learn to become just about anyone…and I’m addicted to stories.

My response is melodramatic* and completely true. I never feel as comfortable or as right-with-the-world as I do when I’ve written something good**. I love the research it takes to put together a believable story. It’s work. It’s painful work, but it’s fulfilling, too.

Why do you do what you do?

Michelle has been very philosophical and melodramatic this week, which might explain why she suddenly wants to spend all her time writing angsty poetry and baking sugar cookies. 

*Apparently I get really melodramatic where it comes to writing. I wanted to think of a synonym but it’s such a perfect word I kept using it.
**Keyword: “good”.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Guest Blog: Bwillett Talks Holidays and Comics

Bwillett again, and thanks again to the good people of Beyond the Trope for their awesome opportunity to write for their blog. 

I love the holidays. Starting from about the first week of September when the back-to-school stuff is shipped off and the black and orange decorations are brought out, to the prematurely displayed Christmas stuff, I can't shake the goofy smile on my face. And like every nineties kid I grew up watching just about every animated Christmas special (and the even rarer Halloween specials) known to man, from the original Simpsons' Christmas special with Santa's Little Helper to every possible iteration of Dickens' The Christmas Carol. 

As such, I have a certain fondness for comics and cartoons that continue the tradition and attempt to incorporate the holidays into their story. I would love to do the same thing, but web comics are a hard thing to coordinate with any given holiday. Mostly this is due to the kookiness of an update schedule. When you release a page a week, or even do monthly updates of entire chapters, it takes incredibly good timing, or even putting your regular story line on hiatus in order to make it work.

Which is why, despite my affection for all things holidays, I rarely incorporate the current holiday into my story line. It's sad, I know. While for Midnight Menagerie, my horror series, Halloween will be a reoccurring theme, the first Halloween-based chapter won't show up for at least another two years (like I said in my earlier entry, when you do web comics get ready to plan things out long term). Instead, to celebrate the holidays I usually just produce some festive art. Between running two active series, commissions, paid projects and the day-to-day nuisances of real life, sometimes that's all I really have time for. 

But by all means, if you little miracle workers can find time to have your characters celebrate a holiday beyond embarrassing them in dorky costumes (as I am wont to do) go forth and be well.

Bwillett lives and works just outside of Denver, where she reinvents genres and character tropes in her web comic series. She does all of her own writing, art, and post-production work (whew!). And in photos she poses with a squirty toy fish named Icthyus Ignatius Bonaparte Fisherton III. Seriously, you just can’t beat that. Her work is a fantastic blend of anime and Western styles, and lovers of 90s-era anime will find a kindred spirit in Bwillett’s creativity. You can find her online at, on Facebook at /BwillettComics, and on Twitter at /BwillettComics

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Guest Blog: Bwillett Talks Writing and Planning for the Long Haul

Hi, I'm Bwillett, and I was asked by the gang at Beyond the Trope to do some guest writing. For those who have never heard of me, I've been doing web comics for over ten years, starting with fan comics before moving onto my own original series: Midnight Menagerie and Sorcerer's Apprentice. I have a LOT of experience working on web comics and a lot of my fans come to me asking for my advice on writing and drawing their own series. So I've decided to talk here on Beyond the Trope about what it's like to write web comics.

Most of what these guys talk about has to do with the tropes more commonly used in books, which, along with movies and graphic novels, where you get big ol' chunks of plot all at once, is a completely different animal than working on a monthly series. Those differences are even more apparent with the frenetic pacing in the world of web comics. As such, this style of writing has developed its own set of tropes, good or bad, that an aspiring writer has to be aware of. While people tend to think of web comics as more akin to the daily gag strips more commonly seen in newspapers like VG Cats or Penny Arcade, there are just as many web comics that have an ongoing, engaging, long-term plot. It's just as possible to produce award-caliber writing with a strip that updates only weekly, or heck, even only when the artist/writer/team/what have you has time, as for someone who created a graphic novel. It just takes a bit of thought. And a heckuva lot of planning.

On one hand, you have to make sure that each and every page you put up is at least somewhat engaging. You might be in the middle of a dramatic scene, but a new visitor may only see your newest page. If you want them to start checking out the archives, each page counts. The other thing you need to remember, especially if you only update once a week or so, is that important plot points may not pop up for months or even years while the story is playing itself out. So a big dramatic reveal that would seem very sudden in a book or movie may take a few weeks to play out. People have short memories. A good device to use is recaps. Either have a 'story thus far' page or within the story itself remind your readers who people are and why things are important. From your angle you might be repeating yourself a lot, but from your readers' you are reminding them who someone is and what's going on. If you're lucky enough to make it to print editions, you can always edit these recaps down a bit.

Another thing you need to keep in mind when you create a web comic with an ongoing plot, especially one you plan as one big long story rather than a series of story arcs, is to always remember what direction you are going. The most common piece of advice I give my own readers is to always know how your story begins and how your story will end. This way you avoid painting yourself in a corner. Even if it takes years before you get to that point, as long as you have a fairly sure destination you'll avoid head-scratching changes in a story that will make your fans rage-quit. You can always change details along the way, especially if you get new ideas or if characters become more or less popular with fans, but a fairly concrete ending in mind will keep the ship on its course. I knew how Sorcerer's Apprentice will end, down to the last line of dialog, even before I posted the first page online.

Once you have your ending set and keep things engaging, the sky's the limit. One of the greatest freedoms of web comics is that absolutely no one can censor or change your work. You don't have to worry about genres or demographics or what an editor will tell you will sell. No one can ever really tell what will take off or why. Just look at the explosion of the Homestuck fandom. Write what you think is good, think beyond what's already being published, and do what you think will do the story justice.

Bwillett lives and works just outside of Denver, where she reinvents genres and character tropes in her web comic series. She does all of her own writing, art, and post-production work (whew!). And in photos she poses with a squirty toy fish named Icthyus Ignatius Bonaparte Fisherton III. Seriously, you just can’t beat that. Her work is a fantastic blend of anime and Western styles, and lovers of 90s-era anime will find a kindred spirit in Bwillett’s creativity. You can find her online at, on Facebook at /BwillettComics, and on Twitter at /BwillettComics

Monday, December 8, 2014

Introducing our Guest Blogger: Bwillett

New things are brewing at Beyond the Trope, and one of the first things we’re changing up is the way we do blogging. Don’t get me wrong – we love blogging. It’s awesome. But while we’re all about pounding out words and getting our own thoughts out into the great unknown, we’re more about hearing from other people! We also love to introduce our fans to other creative people we think they might love. So, instead of our regular blogs this week, we’ve invited local artist Bwillett to join us in the Interwebs as a guest blogger.

To jump-start Bwillett’s week of blogging, we did some fun Q&A to get to know her a little better. Read on!

Q: What kinds of things do you fangirl over?
A: I'm a huge Magical Girl junkie, I pretty much give any new series out of Japan a chance no matter how cheesy it looks. Right now I'm super stoked about that new Sailor Moon anime. I'm also a huge DC comics nerd, especially Batman Beyond. That show just did so many things right in terms of story. I am also the biggest Egytology freak. If I didn't end up doing comics I'd probably be an archeologist.

Q: If you could go back and give your middle school-aged self a superpower, what would it be and why?
A: My first instinct would probably say Magical Girl powers. Cute outfit, awesome powers, fighting evil by moonlight, and middle school would be the right age for it. But in reality I'd probably want invisibility or something. Middle School SUCKED. Invisibility would be vital to survival.

Q: If you could be a character in someone else's comic, who would it be and why?
A: God, there are so many series and universes I'd love to be a part of, but I'd say my true fictional home would have to be...Death City from Soul Eater. I love the universe  Atsushi Ōkubo created and it seems for the most part it'd be pretty safe. Gotham has Batman, but also really bad crime, and pretty much any swords and sorcery world I'd more likely be just one of the anonymous peasants that always gets eaten by the monsters or something. Second place would be Berk from How to Train Your Dragon. I think having a pet dragon would be pretty awesome.

Q: Will you ever sneak out of the anime genre and create a different type of comic?
A: I like to think of my style as more of a hybrid than strictly anime, since most anime fans say my work looks more western, while western comic book fans tend to say I'm more anime. My style is an influence of all sorts of things: CLAMP, Disney, Will Eisner, Kazuki Takahashi, Bruce Timm. But I have to say that so far Midnight Menagerie is way further away from my earlier more 'anime' style. The expressions and backgrounds are more realistic, and it's actually in color, which is a new thing for me.

Q: What is your all-time favorite trope?
A: I am a sucker for the burly broad and femme boy relationships. I think it's really cute when a writer puts together some tough, burly, no nonsense women with a slightly wimpy or feminine man. And I really think it's cute when that man still thinks of this kick ass woman and the most beautiful thing ever. I'm talking like Astrid and Hiccup, Fix-it Felix and Calhoun, etc.

Bwillett lives and works just outside of Denver, where she reinvents genres and character tropes in her web comic series. She does all of her own writing, art, and post-production work (whew!). And in photos she poses with a squirty toy fish named Icthyus Ignatius Bonaparte Fisherton III. Seriously, you just can’t beat that. Her work is a fantastic blend of anime and Western styles, and lovers of 90s-era anime will find a kindred spirit in Bwillett’s creativity. You can find her online at, on Facebook at /BwillettComics, and on Twitter at /BwillettComics

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sick Day

Sorry everyone! No post today; Emily's too sick to concentrate on this thing called words. Be back next week!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Brain Drain

With NaNoWriMo officially behind me, I feel comfortable in saying that my brain is melted. In January, I'll go over more specifics of what I learned throughout November, but for now, let me say that it was a lot of work that taught me many great things.

I'm back to working on my "finished" novel. I say "finished" because, in it's current state, it is polished and something I would be proud to send out, if asked. I'm working on it, though (in a new document), to see how I can improve the opening pages. With previous books, this would be the point where I look at it and say, "This is done. I'm not submitting it anymore, time to go in a trunk."

But now that I've returned to it, with more than a month between even thinking about it, I believe there's still something there worth working on. In the last two days, my going has been slow. My mind is still in "first draft" mode from NaNo, but as I recollect my brain, I know I'm going to get moving in a hurry.

There could be a lot more worth exploring in this post today, but as it's Wednesday, and (as previously mentioned) my brain is draining, I'm going to leave it there. Go check out Epic Rap Battles of History if you want something cool to do in the meantime, and we'll see you on Friday!

Blah blah blah, blah blah, argle-blargle, duh. Something something, musings of broken brain, blah blah blah.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I Can't Handle the Tension!

Tension is everywhere, and there are about a gazillion ways it shows up in the things we read and watch. Some of my favorite movies have such tense moments in them that it’s physically painful. There’s this part in While You Were Sleeping that is so embarrassing for Sandra Bullock’s character I spend the five minutes leading up to it with my knees to my chest and my hands over my mouth.

Then there’s the tension in books. Oh, man, book tension is the worst. For me, seeing tension in a movie is painful, but you can often see it coming before anything happens. Movie tension leans more toward the “Oh, please, God, don’t open the door…don’t…no…don’t open it!” side of the spectrum, and book tension leans to the “WHAT?! HOLY CRAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED?! WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN??” side.

It’s a subtle difference, where the line is drawn between seeing it about to happen versus suddenly realizing it’s happening around you. Of course there are a multitude of exceptions – books that use lead-up tension and movies that suddenly surround you with immediate tension. I love tension of all kinds, and it’s often what drives me through to the end of the book. Even predictable books are enjoyable if the author knows how to wield tension.

Here are a few examples: Everyone knows that Charles Xavier ends up paralyzed, that Rapunzel’s long hair gets cut short, and that Westley is the Dread Pirate Roberts. Yet we still let the tension get to us. Why? We love it! It’s like an adrenaline rush. The tension is a thrill, and it fills us with the feeling of the story.

Take the Harry Potter books, for instance. I’m assuming everyone here has read them (if not, mild spoiler alert!). I read all the books in one go, so I can’t separate any of the books from the entire storyline, but I do remember a certain rhythm that repeated in each book. JK Rowling is a certainly a genius. But Harry Potter books can be counted on to begin in the summer, feature a holiday celebration, and end at the finish of the school year. It’s kind of like the original Pokémon episodes* – Ash and his friends find a problem no adult can fix, Team Rocket shows up to make things worse, and Pikachu saves the day.

It’s the tension in each story that pulls us from the beginning to the end (not to mention glorious writing on Rowling’s part). Even though we are pretty certain of the impending outcome, we have to read to the end and we need to watch all the way to the credits. Without story tension, readers and movie-goers have almost nothing to connect to. You might have the most fascinating character on the planet, but if we aren’t worried about the situation they’re in, none of that complexity matters.

What are some of your favorite tense story moments from books or movies?

Michelle lives in Colorado, which is disappointingly empty of snow, and now that she is a grown-up she gets excited about silly things like fancy puppy-proof trashcans, wall-mountable paper towel holders, and free kitchen utensils. 

*I haven’t watched any Pokémon since my high school days, so I have no idea if the stories are still laid out like this…I’d bet they are, though. Anyone know?