Friday, May 29, 2015

Comic Con and Comic Scripts

Different writing formats have always fascinated me. A while ago, I tried to turn one of my old novel ideas into a screenplay for fun, but never quite figured out how to master the transition. 

Several of the authors we've talked to on Beyond the Trope write in several different mediums: comics, novels, short stories, screenplays for movies and/or television. If you're a regular listener, you've probably heard me asking how they manage it, if they have a favorite format, and what they see as the differences.

I guess it was really only a matter of time before I attempted to follow in their footsteps.

Confession time: I've been having a hard time enjoying writing short stories (like I'm supposed to be doing) for a bit now. I open the document or flip open the notebook and just kind of stare at the page, trying to figure out how to word, or if my idea has a small enough scope for a short. Needless to say, I've wasted quite a lot of time on that.

After the incredible Women in Comics NOW flash panel at Denver Comic Con on Monday (which you can listen to right here), I started thinking about what I would do if I was actually a comic creator like the incredible ladies sitting next to me. After a few paragraphs of free-writing on a new potential short story idea, I thought "hey, why not try to write this as a comic script instead?"

So, that's what I'm doing! I don't know if it'll go anywhere or if I'm spending time on something I'm not even any good at, but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that shifting the format of what I'm working on has suddenly gotten me excited to start working again.

Sometimes, I think, it's good to shake things up.

Emily has, apparently, turned into the resident Comic Nerd of this podcast and she has no regrets about it whatsoever. Bring it on! If you really need her, she'll be under the blanket fort catching up on Ms. Marvel and The Wicked + The Divine.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

World Building Problems

Years ago, I savored world building. The opportunity to info dump all of the fantastic crap I'd dreamed up made me giddy with delight. That's what great stories are made of, right? All of those little details that have nothing to do with the characters or story that make the world SO real!

Now, it makes me cringe. I'm writing this in between a section of my WiP that needs some setting descriptions that are specific to this world, and because there's nothing HAPPENING, it's making me bored. Not a good sign. Except this is the first draft. Where I should be throwing crap on the page with the FULL intent of cleaning it up later.

So what to do with junk? Mental feces? Pathetic minutiae that will neither enhance the reader experience nor add depth to the story itself?

Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to get it on the page. I need these thoughts out of my brain. I have an outline and some characters, and a vague idea of the universe, but some info dumps that I can cut like weeds in a cornfield will actually help to move my story forward. I think.

This isn't necessarily an advice blog, but this post (at least) will contain two tidbits of advice:
1. In the first draft, just write it. You can cut it later.
2. Don't worry about word count.

That's what bugs me. I don't want to waste words on useless crap. It's artificial padding. But I don't want to reach my first draft "goal" with only half the story itself written (a problem I've NEVER had before).

Time to get out of my head and get my ideas on the page, whether good or bad.

Giles is writing a WiP, but it's a new process. He's learned a lot over the years, and he's going to apply what he's learned. The problem is, there's still much more to discover. New techniques to apply. He'll make it happen, but it will take time.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Thank You, Nerds!

This post is going to be quick, because this whole "brain" and "thinking" thing is incredibly over-rated. I mean, really. We shouldn't be expected to return to our normal lives after experiencing the awesomeness that is Denver Comic Con.

I simply want to say, on the behalf of the entire Beyond the Trope team, that we love you. It was amazing to talk to all the glorious nerds who came out for any part of the weekend.

Thank you to Pop Culture Classroom for putting together such an amazing convention.

Thank you to every artist and merchant for offering so many geek-out moments we could hardly contain ourselves.

To everyone we interviewed: wow. You blew our minds with brilliance. We learned so much from you, and I've been sitting here for about ten minutes trying to express exactly how grateful we are. I don't think I can. It was so much fun to spend time with you!

Everything we recorded should appear sometime in the next two months...we hope. There's a lot of content to go through, and we all have these things called "day jobs". Silly, I know, but sadly necessary.

Here's to DCC2015 and the nerds who made it so great!

It took Michelle about a quarter of Pitch Perfect to write this post, because she just... can't...

That and Pitch Perfect is just so awesome.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: Waterfell by Amalie Howard

You met Amalie Howard earlier this week. Now it’s time for a look at the first book in her Aquarathi series. WATERFELL can be found  at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at your other favorite booksellers.

WATERFELL is not for people who want a happy-go-lucky, flawless heroine. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes a light YA romance is just what you need, but I wouldn’t call Waterfell “light”. Nerissa, the protagonist, has issues. From a reader and writer standpoint, I think that’s fantastic. Those perfect characters can grate on you, and Nerissa is a refreshing change. She has a temper and retains bitterness with the best of them, but she still loves her friends and has a strong sense of honor.

I wish I could talk more about the premise of the book, which is just so dang cool, but that would mean spoilers! Suffice it to say that Howard’s ideas are unique – don’t expect this book to go exactly the way you see it going. There are a few things that are givens, such as the “I hate you no wait I love you” romance, and the loyal best friend. The sci-fi/fantasy elements in the story kick butt.

One of the really brilliant things about this book is the relationship Nerissa has with her guardians. I know, I know – it’s kind of a random thing to like. But Nerissa is essentially a queen, but she’s only a teenager, so in the human world she has to have guardians. It’s so interesting to see the back and forth between a queen and the two adults who are tasked to keep her safe.

This book deals a lot with knowing who you can trust, and the friendships depicted are very well done. It’s the perfect read for a long, rainy weekend, or just to decompress after a long day at work. Check it out!

Amalie Howard’s WATERFELL is Book One of The Aquarathi:

Nerissa Marin hides among teens in her human form, waiting for the day she can claim her birthright—the undersea kingdom stolen from her the day her father was murdered. Blending in is her best weapon—until her father's betrayer confronts Nerissa and challenges her to a battle to the death on Nerissa's upcoming birthday—the day she comes of age.

Amid danger and the heartbreak of her missing mother, falling for a human boy is the last thing Nerissa should do. But Lo Seavon breaches her defenses and somehow becomes the only person she can count on to help her desperate search for her mother, a prisoner of Nerissa's mortal enemy. Is Lo the linchpin that might win Nerissa back her crown? Or will this mortal boy become the weakness that destroys her?

This review was written by Michelle, who is so excited for Comic Con she almost forgot to go to her day job today. Whoops. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Guest Post by Amalie Howard: Multifaceted Heroines in YA Fiction

Let’s talk about the writing “strong” female characters phenomenon. As a writer, I enjoy creating multilayered characters, especially characters that show growth over the course of a story. However, I don’t necessarily set out to write a character that is strong (physically and/or emotionally). I try to craft my female protagonist to be intuitively recognizable to my readers—meaning that they can in some way identify with her. She’s tangible and authentic, just as they are. Heroines in books especially for teens become role models, whether we want them to be or not, and I think writers have some responsibility to be conscious of that. People look up to these characters and connect with them, or sometimes, it’s the opposite. That said, I don’t write to teach or preach—that’s a parent’s job! But I would hope that my material would inspire great conversation and/or open doors to communication between teens and parents or within discussion groups. I'm an avid reader of books, young adult books especially, and when I started writing, I knew that I wanted my heroines to be independent, but relatable, because their growth in the story has to be believable. As a reader, you have to connect with the heroine and be willing to be a part of her journey. The heroine’s story has to encompass elements that any reader/teen can accomplish, even if they're not the most powerful witch in the world or a cybernetic super soldier or an alien sea princess. For me, the perfect heroine has to be multidimensional so that readers can find some part of themselves in her.

Since every writer has their own vision of what their heroine is going to be, I can only talk about what I like in my heroines. First off, I’d have to say she would need to have a strong sense of self—she knows exactly who she is (for better or for worse). She has to have confidence, or least gain some along the way through the course of the story. I’d prefer her to be feisty, and have some spunk, but it could turn out to be a front/defense mechanism to hide a fatal flaw. She would be the kind of girl who saves herself, but doesn’t realize that she may also need saving. I like a strong but vulnerable protagonist—one whom the reader can root for when she’s in the middle of a kickass fight scene and empathize with when we start to peel back her layers. Last, but not least, she has to have heart. Some of my favorite heroines are Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Fire (Fire), Katsa (Graceling), Arwen (Lord of the Rings) and Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables).

Like all of these amazing, multi-faceted heroines, I wanted to create dynamic characters in my writing who are forced to question everything they are and everything they know. They may be born with special gifts, but learning to accept and use those gifts is part of the challenge. The perfect heroine isn’t necessarily perfect. She’s likeable, she's funny, she's smart, she has a lot of empathy, but she also makes mistakes and does stupid, reckless things sometimes. She is not going to give up even when the odds against her to fail are great. In the end, it’s about celebrating who she is, no matter what. She's a normal person who evolves into someone extraordinary, and that is what makes her strong … it’s the same strength that’s in every girl, the same strength that will inspire all of us women, young and old, to be unique, fierce, and fearless.

That said, not every character is written to be perfect from the get-go. Nerissa from Waterfell is a ruthless, selfish alien princess who wants nothing to do with her people and her throne. She just wants to live and enjoy life without responsibility. This is a teenage phenomenon. I remember being sixteen and terrified of having to live up to my parents’ expectations. Deflection and an indifferent attitude became my best friends. As a writer, I really enjoy being able to explore the flawed and more real facets of my protagonists, especially early on. After all, it’s not only our strengths that make us heroes, it’s also how we handle and overcome our flaws. Nerissa is not perfect by any means. But she really evolves between Waterfell and Oceanborn become someone you can respect and believe in—she becomes the queen she was always destined to be. What I love about Nerissa was her willingness to change the things about herself that needed changing. It’s hard to step back to take a long hard look at yourself and find yourself lacking. She evolves from a selfish princess to a queen her people can be proud of. To me, that takes insane courage because facing and acknowledging your imperfections can be terrifying. As a reader, I enjoy when character arcs show that kind of development. The thing is people are flawed. Many of us are not born to be perfect heroines. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t become them. Like Nerissa, we can evolve. Someone once asked me who my favorite heroine was, and my answer was the Phoenix/Jean Grey. I have no doubt she’s had a lot of influence on the character development of several of my heroines. I love that she embodies life and passion, and as a character, she fascinates me because she is so consumed by her own state of being, which is really neither good nor bad. She defines herself.

With The Almost Girl when I was initially doing my character study for Riven (whose name by the way means ripped apart), I knew that I wanted her to be fierce. After all, she becomes a legion general of an army at the tender age of fourteen (tender by our standards, of course). She comes from a very tough universe, so she has to be the result of that. In Neospes, there’s no room for softness and emotion. Those are the things that can get you killed. As a result, Riven is the perfect product of her environment. She’s a very intense character. I wanted her to be powerful, highly skilled, focused and mature. A soldier first, Riven is hard on the outside but still vulnerable on the inside—I hoped that readers would relate to her struggle throughout the novel to let go of all her rules and be a girl. We build so many walls to keep from being hurt that we don’t allow ourselves to connect with others. As a character, Riven has to dig down deep to embrace her emotions against everything she has been taught. Highly trained, she knows who she is and what she can do, but she comes to understand how to be judicious and compassionate. That’s formidable.

As a female author writing young adult fiction, I try to draw from my own experience and what I went through as a teenager to make my characters more fleshed out and more complex. It isn’t about writing “strong” female characters (or male ones). It’s about writing REAL ones—making them well rounded with both emotional and physical strengths and weaknesses … making them multifaceted and intricate. It’s about giving them challenges and allowing them to rise to meet those challenges. At the end of the day, it’s not about actual strength—it’s about versatility and resilience. It’s about how these characters respond to the things they come up against and how they are shaped by their experiences. That’s the message I want to convey as a writer to the young people (girls and boys) reading my books. Be brave. Be resilient. Believe in yourself and what you can accomplish. Don’t be afraid to be different—one day you’re going to be happy that you’re the exception and not the rule. And never, ever give up. That’s the hallmark of true strength. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Interview with Author Amalie Howard

Ladies and gentlemen, meet best-selling author Amalie Howard! Her first piece of published writing was a poem in the University of Warwick journal (she was just 13!). Now she writes young adult books. Amalie’s first book, Bloodspell, wasn an Amazon bestseller and was names a Seventeen Magazine Summer Beach Read. Since she’s guest blogging for us on Wednesday, we thought a short get-to-know-you session was in order.

You've done so much traveling, but of all of the places you have yet to visit, which one are you most excited to go to next?

I’ve visited nearly a hundred and eighty cities in the world, and I’ve had some wonderful (and surprising) experiences. I’d like to visit Hawaii next. I’ve never been to any of the Pacific islands, and I think I would really enjoy experiencing the culture there. I’m also a surfer, and would love to do some surfing!

How did growing up in the Caribbean shape your writing?

Growing up in the Caribbean, an area of the world full of folklore and mysticism, gave me a great foundation for dreaming, reading and writing fantasy! My imagination had a lot of food for thought. On top of that, being able to explore such a rich cultural heritage has given me a great foundation for experiencing different cultures and understanding the true meaning of diversity, which I think gives my writing a unique edge and voice.

Tell us about your tattoos! Are you the kind of person to get them just for fun or to represent something deeper?

My tattoos each have some personal significance to me, either because I got them during a special time in my life to mark some personal milestone or because they mean something specific. I’m thinking of getting a half-sleeve that incorporates my books and my kids in a cherry blossom type design, but that’s a big commitment.

Do you work with a critique group or beta readers? Why or why not?

I am lucky to be part of a wonderful critique group, and I strongly encourage new writers to find similar writing groups in your area. For children’s writers, you can check your local SCBWI chapter for a listing of groups, or even start one yourself. A writing group is helpful for brainstorming, getting beta reads, editing help, and general commiserating. Writing can be a lonely job—it’s nice to have conversations with people who understand the challenges and frustrations as well as those who can share in your successes and achievements. A personal support network is always a good thing to have.

What have you learned as a world traveler that you wish everyone else could know, too?

To more readily accept people who may be different from you. Everyone has something to offer—if we were all the same, the world would be a pretty boring place. Celebrate the differences around you. Embrace your world.

Authors spend a lot of time explaining “Why” and “How”. What question do you wish you would be asked more often, and what is its answer?

I really like the question: What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Rock what you’ve got. Be resilient. When life throws you a curveball, don’t be afraid to take a swing. Life’s not going to be easy at the best of times, and it’s about how you respond to those challenges. Face what comes your way with courage, trust yourself to do the best thing you can do. Sometimes, you just have to take the jump without knowing what’s on the other side.

Here's a teaser to Amalie's first book, BLOODSPELL: 
The spell was simple...

Cruentus Protectum (Defend the Blood)

But what do you do if your blood is your enemy?

Victoria Warrick has always known she was different. An outcast at school, she is no stranger to adversity. But when she receives an old journal for her seventeenth birthday, nothing prepares her for the dark secrets it holds -- much less one that reveals she's a witch with unimaginable power.

What's more, when she meets the dazzling but enigmatic Christian Devereux, she has no idea how much her life is about to change. Enemies will hunt her. Friends will turn on her. The terrible curse that makes her blood run black will stop at nothing to control her. And Christian has a sinister secret of his own...

Without knowing whom to trust, can Victoria survive her blood's deadly desires? Or will she lose everything, including herself?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Review: Fade to Black by Sue Duff

You met Sue Duff earlier this week. Now it's time for a look at the first book in her Weir Chronicles series. FADE TO BLACK can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and Smashwords. 

FADE TO BLACK reads like a rollercoaster. You know the drill: you buckle in and grab the bars. You stare at the course ahead of you, wondering what in the world you’ve gotten yourself into. Then the click-click-click of the cars heading up the first hill begins. It’s slow and steady, but smooth. And then you get shoved into 60-mile-an-hour headlong race to the finish.

If you’d like a plot blurb, jump to the bottom of this post for the official summary. This YA novel has some classic sci-fi and fantasy elements, from magical beings to fancy technology. The setting is urban and modern, so you don’t have to wrap your head around a weird distant future or a skewed medieval setting. There are cars, cell phones, and people who can teleport (called “shyfting” in the book – pretty cool).

FADE TO BLACK’s strongest point, in my opinion, is its characters. Once you get to know the main crew, it’s hard not to love them. I would argue that Patrick, who is jokingly referred to as Ian’s sidekick, is one of the best characters in the entire book. Ian (the protagonist) is complex and endearing, but there’s just something about Patrick and how he changes throughout the book that makes me love him. The whole team is quirky – how could they not be, since most of them have magical abilities? But they aren’t so quirky as to be totally unreachable. I found myself invested in nearly every person in the book, not just a choice few.

It’s a quick read and full of action and some snark. People die and there are giant wolves. (Oh, yeah. My inner middle-schooler was really excited about that part.)

Final ruling: Definitely recommended!

Sue Duff's FADE TO BLACK is Book One of the Weir Chronicles:
Ian Black is an illusionist with a talent for keeping secrets. College student Rayne Bevan has a gift for uncovering them. She suspects the popular performer’s skills extend beyond the stage and that he’s the area’s mysterious and elusive defender of the innocent.

In her efforts to uncover the truth, she is swept into a hidden world of the Weir, a magical race who struggle to prevent Earth from self-destructing. Her inquiries expose Ian to those who would kill for his connection to the planet, and as he fights to keep Rayne safe, they discover a force behind the Weir’s raging civil war – a traitor bent on launching Earth’s Armageddon.

MASKS AND MIRRORS (out NOW!) is Book Two of the Weir Chronicles:
Ian Black’s commitment to safeguarding Earth has come at a price. His career as an illusionist is at a standstill and attending to the planet’s needs has distanced him from his best friend, his guardians, and the woman he loves. When presented with an opportunity to perform, Ian seizes the chance. But moments before he takes the stage, Ian encounters the mysterious Jaered and a rebel force fighting to protect Earth alongside the Weir.

Jaered is determined to stop a malevolent Weir from releasing a drug capable of wiping out the last vestiges of their race and plunging Earth into self-destruction. But when Jaered is willing to sacrifice an innocent child to obtain the drug for himself, Ian risks everything to uncover the secrets of the rebel forces and their true intentions for Earth’s survival.

This Beyond the Trope Book Review was written by Michelle. You can find more of her reviews on Goodreads. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Guest Blog! A Word from Author Sue Duff

Denver Comic Con 2015 is coming! Today, Colorado author Sue Duff has agreed to do a guest blog post. Sue has been writing since high school but never became serious about it until a skiing accident laid her up for an entire summer and she turned on the word processor to combat the boredom. A couple of years later, her first urban fantasy novel, Fade to Black, was a finalist in the RMFW Colorado Gold Writing Contest. By day, she’s a dedicated speech-language therapist in an inner city school district to pay the bills but her life as a writer is her true passion and the creative outlet keeps her sane.

I can’t wait for this year’s DenverComicCon 2015!!! Never could I have imagined going to my very first Con in 2014, that I would be one of the featured Colorado authors at this year’s event! Hands=down it will be a highlight of The Weir Chronicles inaugural year, and hot on the heels of releasing the second book in the series, MASKS AND MIRRORS a short six months after the first novel, FADE TO BLACK hit stores in October 2014!

I couldn’t get enough of fantasy and science fiction growing up and spent my youth dreaming of vampires, werewolves, aliens, outer space, evil robots and monsters that were beyond description but oh-so-creepy. Anything speculative fiction could be found under my bedcovers, jammed in my school desk or falling out of my backpack. I could find the speculative fiction section in the library blindfolded, and my bedroom walls were plastered with as many posters as my measly babysitting money could buy.

Combining things that I love has always come easy for me. Not only did I combine fantasy and science fiction into one seamless storyline, but I loved researching every aspect of it! I took Earth and Space Sciences in high school, admittedly to avoid having to take Chemistry. That gutless move introduced me to the quirkiest high school science teacher you would ever want to meet, Mrs. Davies. She opened up my world to the wonders of the planet and beyond the solar system and left me with a life-long love of science—and that learning could be exciting.

Years later, when I sat down at my computer to stave off boredom (or was it to avoid killing my teenager), I drew upon my love of natural sciences and created my world of the Weir, a magical race of Earth’s caretakers who connect the energies of the planet to keep it in harmony. But even magical beings are fallible, and the Weir are dying out. Desperate to save Earth from self-destructing, they turn to modern science in an attempt to stop their extinction. But as we all know, it’s not smart to tweak with Mother Nature!

I hope if you’re in the Denver area over Memorial Weekend, you’ll make the DenverComicCon a stop in your plans. If you pop in, please stop by and say hi at my book signing booth. I’d love to swap favorite monsters with you, or spill some secrets about the Weir!

Book Two of the Weir Chronicles, MASKS AND MIRRORS, is out now! Here's a peek at the plot: 
Ian Black’s commitment to safeguarding Earth has come at a price. His career as an illusionist is at a standstill and attending to the planet’s needs has distanced him from his best friend, his guardians, and the woman he loves. When presented with an opportunity to perform, Ian seizes the chance. But moments before he takes the stage, Ian encounters the mysterious Jaered and a rebel force fighting to protect Earth alongside the Weir.

Jaered is determined to stop a malevolent Weir from releasing a drug capable of wiping out the last vestiges of their race and plunging Earth into self-destruction. But when Jaered is willing to sacrifice an innocent child to obtain the drug for himself, Ian risks everything to uncover the secrets of the rebel forces and their true intentions for Earth’s survival.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Interview with Author Sue Duff

To kick off our Denver Comic Con 2015 festivities, we welcome Colorado author Sue Duff to Beyond the Trope! Sue has been writing since high school but never became serious about it until a skiing accident laid her up for an entire summer and she turned to the word processor to combat boredom. A couple of years later, her first urban fantasy novel, Fade to Black, was a finalist RMFW Colorado Gold Writing Contest. By day, she's a dedicated speech-language therapist in an inner city school district to pay the bills but her life as a writer is her true passion and the creative outlet keeps her sane.

We wanted to get to know Sue, so we asked her a few fun questions to warm up for her guest blog on Wednesday. Check it out!

We love RMFW for everything it offers to writers – especially the Colorado Gold contest! How did the Colorado Gold contest affect your writing and career?
Placing in the top five for an earlier version of FADE TO BLACK really led me to believe in myself as a writer. Until that point, I was struggling to think of myself as a writer in spite of already penning three novels at that point! In fact, only those closest to me even knew that I was writing novels. When FADE TO BLACK placed in the Speculative Fiction category, I was given a special ribbon for my name tag at the conference. Right away, I noticed I was treated differently by veteran writers, agents and publishers as a “serious” writer. It was that pivotal moment that I truly believed I could get published one day if I kept honing the craft and working on my skills. 

"A cook's guide to writing" is a great name for a blog series; how did you come up with it?
I have a knack for finding ways to combine things that I love, like combining fantasy and science fiction genres in my Weir Chronicles series where a magical race of beings turn to science to stop the extinction of their race—with serious consequences! I’m an avid cook and recognized how writing and cooking shared so many similarities from following a menu (plotting) or throwing together a bunch of ingredients (characters, settings, dialogue, etc.) and seeing what came from it. Both were creative outlets for me, and when I tried to explain to a friend how I created my world for the Weir, I used analogies about cooking. The blog just grew from there!

What’s your favorite non-writing thing to do on a day off?
Sleeping-in is always a favorite! But seriously, I crave taking walks, running errands, being active in some way. Between my job as a speech therapist and writing when I’m not doing that, I’m in front of a computer and sit most of the day. The kinks set in all too quickly. Now that I have a Great Dane puppy, she insists on taking me for walks more than I do her!

How does being a speech-language pathologist change the way you write dialogue?
I’m acutely aware of what “sounds natural.” Conversations are rarely, if ever, complete sentence structure. We all speak in cryptic ways and especially with familiar friends or individuals. Actually, in MASKS AND MIRRORS, being a speech therapist hindered me! My editor insisted that I take out the “authentic” speech for my “just-turned-three-year’s-old” character and change it to true words (twirsty/thirsty). It killed me because I knew that most toddlers don’t use certain sounds or sound combinations until later in life and I felt that those types of speech errors is what makes toddlers so endearing. My editor convinced me that it was just odd enough that it gummed up the flow of the dialogue and made readers stop and think too much. I got away with using a little of it when I first introduced him, but then not at all later. I did stick with him speaking in phrases and short sentences, though, and left out complex grammar to be as close to his age as I could.

If you could join the cast of any movie or TV show, where would you jump in?
Ha, what a great question! I have a guilty pleasure TV show, ARCHER, on FX. I love it for its raunchy, never-politically-correct humor and dialogue. I wish I had the guts to be that irreverent in real life! I also love the dialogue for the SUPERNATURAL on the CW. It’s so real and I love how it pokes fun at its own pop-culture. THE BIG BANG THEORY is another favorite. I have a soft spot because of the nerd in me and I feel like I’m hanging out with my peeps every time I tune in.

Authors spend a lot of time explaining “Why” and “How”. What question do you wish you would be asked more often, and what is its answer?
How do I come up with my ideas?

I get a twinkle in my eye when I’m asked this question because I can honestly say, “I don’t know.” I’d like to think it’s 100% creativity on my part, but in truth, I believe it’s a product of TV, movie and reading preferences from my childhood. The list included fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, adventure, and romance genres that somehow festered inside me and turned into a soup of creative juices. They eventually boiled over and dripped onto a word processing page one snowy, wintry day. The challenge wasn’t coming up with the stories, in one form or another they’ve been around for centuries! Making them unique and putting my own creative spin on them was the goal. From what I’ve read of the reviews, I’ve achieved that! Oh, and I do a lot of writing in my sleep. No lie! I often wake up after spending the previous day agonizing about how to work out a scene. The next morning I wake up and it’s plotted out and ready to be typed up!

Sue is the author of the Weir Chronicles, and Book Two is out! Here's the low-down on MASKS AND MIRRORS, a young adult fantasy novel:

Ian Black’s commitment to safeguarding Earth has come at a price. His career as an illusionist is at a standstill and attending to the planet’s needs has distanced him from his best friend, his guardians, and the woman he loves. When presented with an opportunity to perform, Ian seizes the chance. But moments before he takes the stage, Ian encounters the mysterious Jaered and a rebel force fighting to protect Earth alongside the Weir.

Jaered is determined to stop a malevolent Weir from releasing a drug capable of wiping out the last vestiges of their race and plunging Earth into self-destruction. But when Jaered is willing to sacrifice an innocent child to obtain the drug for himself, Ian risks everything to uncover the secrets of the rebel forces and their true intentions for Earth’s survival.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Interviews! Guest Blogs! Awesomesauce!

Part of the reason I like Friday blogging is because I get to be the one to announce a lot of awesome things going down (I don't know, man, the scheduling just works out this way). For example, over the next two weeks, we'll have a book review, guest blog from, and interview with two incredible authors!

Starting things off, we'll post an interview with Sue Duff, author of Fade to Black and Masks and Mirrors, next Monday. On Wednesday, Sue's taking over the blog with a guest post to let us really get into her brain. Then, on Friday, one of us is reviewing the first novel in The Weir Chronicles, Fade to Black.

Starting Monday, May 18th, we're chatting with Amalie Howard, author of Alpha Goddess, The Almost Girl, and The Aquarathi series. We'll start with an interview on Monday, let her take over the blog on Wednesday, and review book one of The Aquarathi, Waterfell, on Friday.

Needless to say, we're really excited. We always love talking to authors, and it'll be a blast to have so much time with them. If we're really lucky, we'll be able to meet both of them at Denver Comic Con this year and grab an episode or two, too.

Tune in next week and the week after to catch all the coolness going down, right here on the Beyond the Trope blog! 

Emily is already starting to get psyched for Comic Con, and not just because we might get to meet Sue and Amalie in person. She's also looking forward to the cosplay and the panels and the general incredible-ness that comes with a convention. She might be just a little bit too excited, but we're not going to talk about that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Guest Blog! Josh Vogt On Being a Reading Writer

We'd like to welcome Josh Vogt, author of ENTER THE JANITOR, book 1 of THE CLEANERS series, out this week. Josh has also written stories in the IRON KINGDOMS and PATHFINDER universes, and he's a full-time freelance writer, as well. You can find out more about him on his website, and he'll be joining us in the studio for several episodes of the Beyond the Trope podcast this summer.

Now on to the blog post he was generous enough to share with us!

On Being a Reading Writer

Talk with any author about the books they’re reading lately, and they’ll likely tell you that, at one point or another, they stopped being able to read purely for pleasure. Oh, they still love to pounce on a good book and crack that spine until it screams for mercy, but it’s rare-if-not-impossible to read a story without the writing and editing portions of the brain flaring up along the way.

I’ll admit to this being true in my case. Whenever I jump into a story, my writing perspective kicks into place. I start deconstructing sentences. I try to track the structure of a scene and see how the author brings in sensory details or emotional depth. I scan dialogue to get a sense of whether it feels “natural” or not. I nitpick awkward phrasings, thinking of how they might be written a little more smoothly. Or I marvel at a particularly powerful line and try to figure out how the  author accomplished it.

There’s this ongoing critique and deciphering going on in the back of my brain whenever my eyes rove over words. I can’t help it. In fact, I have to make a determined effort if I want to stop it.

But let me clarify. It’s not that I (or other writers) don’t or can’t enjoy reading. Far from it. It’s just that reading, in itself, gains extra layers. It becomes more than just entertainment. We do it because we want to learn. To grow. To become better writers. And what better way to do so than to constantly expose ourselves to the very thing we wish to create?

Think of it like a chef eating a meal. Sure, she’ll be able to enjoy the flavors and a full belly afterwards, but she’ll likely be analyzing that meal to determine what makes it deliciously satisfying or not. What ingredients went into it? How was it cooked? How do the flavors and colors contrast? What’s the texture like? 

Regular diners will absorb these sensations as they eat and maybe note them as an afterthought, but the chef will be more consciously aware of those elements. She’s tuned into them through her training and commitment to making edible masterpieces.

Or think of an artist studying a painting in a museum. They can enjoy the beauty and symbolism found within the painting—but they’re also going to be instinctively considering factors such as the types of paint used, the direction of the brush strokes, the frame it’s held within, the lighting, and much more. 

I’m curious: does this manifest in your life in any way? Do you have an activity or habit you’ve elevated beyond entertainment or distraction and actually begun to learn from, evaluating and practicing the techniques behind it? Do you study webcomics in the hopes to produce one? Do you watch certain athletes to perform better at sports? Do you analyze motivational speakers to teach yourself better public speaking habits? Do you play video games in order to become a graphics developer?

If not...maybe it’s time to start!

Thanks, again, Josh! Now, readers, Josh has two very awesome books you that you should really read. They're epic!


Clean-freak college student Dani Hashelheim never imagined she’d discover her latent magical ability in, of all places, a bathroom. But when she ducks into the ladies’ room at the library, she’s put in the crossfire between an elderly janitor and a ravenous muck-monster that emerges from the sink. 

Enter Ben, the janitor, who works for the Cleaners, a supernatural sanitation company that keeps reality tidy and safe…and a company Dani now works for as well, whether she wants to or not. This puts a significant crimp in her dream to attend med school and become a doctor. Nor is Ben happy, since it’s his duty to help Dani adapt to the job and learn to control her chaotic talent before it kills them both. 

Dani barely has time to try on her new company uniform before she and Ben are hunted down by a cult that wants to cleanse all life from the planet, and believes her power provides the means to do so. While fighting to survive the cult’s increasingly violent recruitment attempts, the pair must battle dust devils, navigate a maze of mystical sewers, face down trash golems—and scrub the occasional toilet.


Years ago, the dwarven warrior Akina left her home in the Five Kings Mountains to fight in the Goblinblood Wars. Now at long last she’s returning home, accompanied by Ondorum, her silent companion of living stone. What she finds there is far from what she remembers: a disgraced brother, an obsessive suitor, and a missing mother presumed dead. Yet the damage runs deeper than anyone knows, and when Akina’s brother is kidnapped by ancient enemies from the legendary Darklands, she and Ondorum must venture below the surface—and into danger as old as the stones themselves.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Sneak Peek: The New Logo

With our total makeover right around the corner, I can see no better use of my time than hinting at the awesomeness that is our new logo!

A lot of thought went into this crazy thing – after all, we haven’t really had one until now. Those little cartoons are cute, but we needed something with more pizzazz! We wanted to keep a fun, casual feel, but we also wanted to create something epic.

I love our new logo. It’s unique and perfectly encapsulates the podcast. Our designer Leah has done a fabulous job. She also created our Anomaly Con magnet design, and we loved it so much we decided to make her a very busy designer.

Can you guess what makes up our new look? 

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Plotting Pantser

I've always considered myself a pantser. I hate being bound by what my brain tends to see as the 'rock-solid walls' of an outline. I never even outlined essays in school unless I was required to turn one in.

Due to quite a history of not finishing things, I'm trying to shake things up. I got a sweet new novel idea from a class I'm taking at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (seriously, take classes on random things if you're idea-stuck) and, instead of just jumping into a rough draft like I wanted to, I'm taking the time to plan it out.

I started with the "plotting from characters" method we talked briefly about with Angie Hodapp way back at the beginning of the podcast. In the last few days, I've veered off course a little bit and skipped right to writing a huge synopsis. Gasp. For those of you know me, this should be a huge and shocking revelation!

The funny part is that I'm actually kind of enjoying the process. It's nice to see how a story is likely to work, and whether or not it will work before putting in the effort of writing thousands of words to find out that you started in the wrong place. I wouldn't necessarily call myself a plotting-convert yet, but I'm starting to see some merits here.

What about you? Have you ever tried to switch up your writing process--from pantsing to plotting or vice versa? How did it work for you?

Emily is super psyched about the re-branding we're doing and wishes she could have spend this blog post talking about that. But the new look is still pretty top-secret, so she talked actual writing instead.