Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Review: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

It's no secret that we love steampunk here at Beyond the Trope. So when a friend from work recommended The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson, I thought, "Hey! Cyberpunk! Let's punk it up!" (Just kidding, I didn't think, "Let's punk it up!" That's just weird.)
The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (and yes, that's the full title), takes place in twenty-first century Shanghai.  It is a mulit-perspective novel and told through the point of view of at least seven characters. At the heart of the story is a young girl named Nell, who, through a series of odd events, acquires a book which is written through her life experiences using nanotechnology. The rest of the novel's story explains how the Primer was created, how it comes into Nell's possession, and then follows Nell as she grows into an adult. 

I have to admit, I usually don't like books that are told from multiple points of a view.  I find myself always wanting the story to stay on the character that I like the most, and I become frustrated when it jumps to another character. Unfortunately, this book was the same way. Also, while I usually appreciate chapter headings, if I found myself not so interested in the upcoming section, the headings gave me enough of an idea of what was going to happen that I was tempted to skip certain sections focusing on characters I didn't feel connected to. 

That being said, there were many parts of the story that I enjoyed. First, I did fall in love with Nell. Stephenson did a remarkable job of making Nell a believable character through her life experiences and her relationships with others. Stephenson also built a world which was remarkably vivid. One of the dangers science fiction authors can face is creating a universe set too far into the future with technology that is just on the other side of believable, and that can leave the reader thinking, "Yeah, I don't think so." Stephenson did not fall into this category. I also enjoyed the fact that my first, "What the?!" moment came within the first 45 pages of the novel. Semi-spoiler: The person who I thought was going to be the protagonist, well, turns out, he wasn't. I love that kind of surprise!

Stephenson is a terrific world builder and knows both his world and his technology inside and out. Seriously, if you were to ever sit down with him and ask him about the nanotechnology that is in his world, you would swear you we're talking to a real scientist. (Which, considering his background in physics, you would be!) Honestly, this book wasn't really my cup of tea, but if you like cyberpunk worlds and a compelling multi-person story, go for it!

Emily is actually writing her own bio this week. She's enjoying her new job as Official Book Reviewer and hopes you are enjoying it as well. If you have any book suggestions for her to read and review, please leave a comment below! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Work and Success

There are many levels of success, as can be heard in our interviews from Denver Comic Con 2016, especially this week's. All of our guests have reached one level of success or another, and they all love what they do.

I asked Cat Staggs which property she'd love to draw for that she hasn't yet had the opportunity to work on. I can't remember her exact wording, but it can basically be summed up by saying that, when she wants to work for a comic series, she looks for opportunities and makes it happen. She's already drawn for properties that excite her, and she's consistently busy. She may not be a world-famous artist with portfolios that sell for millions, but she's doing what she loves AND paying her bills by doing so. I'd call that success, and something to be EXTREMELY proud of.

Terry Brooks is a different type of success story. For anyone who reads fantasy, he's a household name. I'll admit, I've only ever read (listened to the audiobook, actually) ONE of his books. The story was good, though I could nitpick some things here and there, but I knew who he was for years before I actually picked up his writing. Now, with a show on MTV based off of his stories, he has even more opportunities to expand his audience.

Ann Stampler isn't in the same place as either of our other guests from this week, but she's creating consistently, meeting readers, going to conventions, and getting book contracts. She writes stories that excite people, that are unique, and she's happy about it!

I don't know the financial state of any of our guests, and it's none of my business. But I would say all of them are successful. Very successful. They've probably had their failures over the years, but their outcomes, as vastly different as they are, should all be looked at as victories. They've overcome one challenge or another and achieved goals that were important to them. They've pursued their dreams. And even if they're not living in mansions or jet-setting around the globe, they're doing something that they love and making it a core part of their lives.

We got a chance to talk with Terry Brooks after the interview ended, and off the mic he's just as kind and fun to talk with as on the mic. One thing that was very clear about him is that he worked very hard to get where he is. Is still working hard. And even though (I'm assuming) he may not have to work as hard as he used to, he's still writing, still creating, and still achieving new success. Being successful takes work. That's why I titled this blog post the way I did. Work and success have to go hand-in-hand.

What are you working toward? Can we help?

Giles is working, maybe not hard but still working, on achieving his goals. It may take some time, but he's pushing toward an end, even if he doesn't know what that end will look like, yet.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Best Music for Writing Action

You might know already that I love writing playlists. They help my brain get on the right track without getting stuck in the middle of the road. When I hear those first couple of songs on my list, I almost physically feel myself drop into the right world.

But what do you do when your music playlist gives you the right mood for the, but it misses the mood of the scene? Last night I was trying to transcribe the movie in my head, but my playlist kept going to songs like Ruth B’s Lost Boy or David Guetta’s Titanium. Both amazing songs…just not what I needed while two of my main characters were facing a broken nuclear fusion engine, a genocidal maniac, and possible mutiny.

Instead of wallowing in self-induced writer’s block, I leaned on a few old friends: my favorite film composers. If you’re like me and you need some action-driven music to help beef up your current playlist, try turning on these three geniuses:

Hans Zimmer
This guy knows where it’s at. He’s composed music for movies such as Inception, Transformers, and 12 Years a Slave. My favorite score from Zimmer is The Dark Knight. So. Good. He always seems to know exactly how to fuse the theme of the movie with each note.

John Powell
If you haven’t already become addicted to the How to Train Your Dragon film score, now is your chance. Powell has done a lot of music for animated features, but don’t let that trick you into thinking his work is for kids. He also composed for The Bourne movies, X-Men, and Hancock.

Joe Hisaishi
I will forever be a lover of the Princess Mononoke soundtrack. You haven’t heard emotion until you’ve subjected yourself to it. Hisaishi has worked on almost all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, which is just plain cool. He pulls inspiration from classic Japanese music as well as from works all over the world to create charming and ofttimes nerve-wracking musical scores.

Michelle's favorite part of writing sci-fi/fantasy is that she gets to research quantum teleportation, optogenetics, and nuclear fusion. 
*cough*she's a nerd*cough*

You can find Michelle here every Monday and most days on Twitter, @redactionaire

Friday, June 24, 2016

Writing Comedy

As you probably know by now, I'm working on writing humor. I have a humorous short story coming out soon-ish (still waiting on an ETA), and I'm pounding away at a longer comedy work, too. This isn't really anything I thought I'd even do, because I never really thought of myself as funny. But here I am! So, because no one asked for it, here are some of the things I've realized from this foray. Hopefully they'll be useful to anyone looking at trying their hand at comedy.

  • I realized at our critique group last night that I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself to be funny in this piece. Like, all the time. Which isn't how comedy works. There are lulls and more serious parts, and there are parts that are ridiculous and slapstick, and every story needs a good balance. Just like a balance of action and rest. Don't try to force humor into every situation or scene, and don't beat yourself up if it isn't coming easily.
  • Beta readers or critique groups are your friend. I mean, they're great for every genre, but they really can help figure out which jokes are working and which aren't, if you need more time for a specific image, or where you're missing opportunities to be even funnier. "Glitter Bomb" wouldn't be half the story it is now without their input. 
  • Everyone's sense of humor is different. Things you think are hilarious might get brushed off by other people, and that's okay. Gail Carriger told us the story of her critique group, where everyone had different ideas of what was funny. She asked them all to mark places where they laughed out loud so she could make sure there were bits for each of their sensibilities on every page. I'm stealing that idea for my own work.
  • If you think it's funny, put it on the page. Worst case scenario, no one will get the joke and you'll have to re-write it. But best case scenario, everyone thinks you're a comedic genius! If your comedy isn't entertaining and funny to you, odds are it won't be to anyone else, either. So take the risk! 
Emily is now going to be going by Emer on this blog, to help distinguish between Co-Host Emily and Book-Reviewer-Producer Emily. So, that's a thing. She's also pretty thrilled about the thunderstorm currently brewing, and new cosplay ideas she's brainstorming with her roommate.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Review: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

After reading Aimie K. Runyan’s Promised to the Crown (and thoroughly enjoying it, I might add), I wanted to venture into another romance. An oldie, but a goodie. Just after college, I lived with a girl who owned I Capture the Castle on DVD. Once, while sick at home, I popped it into the DVD player just for something to do. I loved it. And as most of us know, if the movie is good, the book has to be better, right?

In this case, right.

I Capture the Castle is a collection of diary entries written by the main character, Cassandra. She and her odd little family live in a castle—yes, a real castle—out in the English countryside. Cassandra and her family are struggling to get by when, unexpectedly, their landlord pases away and his sons move from America into the manor house nearby. The family nearly goes into a panic when the Cottons arrive, afraid of what the two gentlemen will do when they discover they actually own the castle and that the Mortmain family hasn’t paid their rent in years. What follows is the story of Cassandra and her family’s relationship with the Cottons and their bumpy journey back into society.

The author, Dodie Smith, gives Cassandra a unique voice throughout the novel. I appreciated the fact that, even though Cassandra is seventeen when the novel begins, she isn’t your modern, whiny, flaky heroine. In fact, Cassandra is, in my opinion, the most mature and level headed character in the entire novel. She is smart, independent, and knows her own mind. In fact, there are quite a few times the reader will forget that Cassandra is only seventeen. While there is a “love triangle” in the book, what you won’t find is a main character who is wishy washy and can't make up her mind about who she loves.

My other favorite character in the novel was Cassandra’s father, James. James had published a highly praised book years before Cassandra begins telling her story. Since then, he hasn’t written a single thing, much to the frustration of his family. Why did I like his character so much? Because he is a realistic portrait of all of my author friends. They have their good days and their bad days, and are desperately trying to find a way to put their thoughts onto the page in a way they like. Sound familiar to anyone?

My one concern with recommending this book? It was first published in 1948, which means the language and the style of writing may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The story reads like many of the other books written during that time period, and Cassandra never left her native England, which means some of the language might be confusing to us Yanks. However, if you like romance and have a longing for a narrator/character who actually sounds like a real person, I Capture the Castle may be a good choice for you. If not, you could always go and read another of Dodie Smith’s novels. I hear that The Hundred and One Dalmatians is good.

Sorry, still no portrait of Emily. She's still very well spoken of by her friends, and she knows even more about writing now that she helped us through Denver Comic Con last weekend. Stay tuned for more awesomeness and book reviews!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Post-Con Excitement

There's always a rush to get our con content up as soon as possible, especially after Denver Comic Con. Yes, we met new people who will want to see the pictures we took, hear our coverage of the show, and get engaged over shared excitement and fandom.

More importantly, I'm always excited by the awesome stuff we got to do, and I'm eager to relive it. This year more than others, too, because we have VIDEO!

I'd love to give everyone an actual schedule on when content will be released, so what I CAN say is that we'll have at least five episodes coming out starting next Tuesday. The video will take more time because I'm learning to edit as I work on this project. It'll be especially complicated for me because our video and audio are coming from two distinct sources and will require syncing and a lot of patience.

Overall, though, I'd like to thank Pop Culture Classroom and Denver Comic Con for bringing us back this year. We got to talk to awesome friends and meet new people who we suspected were awesome but had to wait for confirmation. And they confirmed with an EXCESS of awesome. Seriously, these people are so cool!

Life and work will get in the way of many things for Giles, but he will produce content for our awesome fans in a timely manner. Because he's super excited to engage with all of you.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Denver Comic Con 2016: Wings Tutorial

My absolute favorite thing to say is, "Don’t buy that – I can make it.” As if to test me and my motto, Emer declared several months ago that she wanted to cosplay as Hazel, the daughter of Alana and Marko from Image Comics’ Saga. I looked up a picture and considered the work it would take.  

I’ve been crafting things my entire life, and I’m well aware that not everyone looks at that picture and thinks, “Oh, that would be easy.” But I’m here to prove that it IS easy! Here’s the secret: make a prototype before you cut into anything that cost money.

This is how I made Emer’s wings for Denver Comic Con 2016:

Step 1: Plan
I printed out a picture of Hazel and drew the general shape of her wings on top of it. That made it easier to envision how many pieces I would need and how long they would be. I decided early on to make the frame out of balsa wood so it would be lightweight, but still strong enough to be fitted with feathers. With my rough sketch, I had a pretty good idea of how much material I needed to buy.

Step 2: Find feathers
This was actually the hardest part of the entire project. Why? Feathers are frickin’ expensive, people. I could spend years buying one feather at a time with Hobby Lobby’s 40% off coupon, but my time is more valuable than that. Google led me to a fantastic deal on – 10 meters of feather trim for $25.

Step 2: Buy frame materials
One pre-cut 4 x 12 x 1/8 in. plywood for the frame base and six pieces of ¼ x ½ x 36 in. balsa wood for the arms. I bought extra just in case I destroyed something, and because I wasn’t sure if I would need to reinforce anything once I was almost done. Everyone needs extra balsa wood around the house, right? I also went to Home Depot and bought tiny washers and two different sizes of screw and nut pairs. Since the plywood frame was only 1/8 in., the screws that held the balsa to the frame wouldn’t need to be as long as the screws I used on the hinges of the wings themselves.

Step 3: Plan again
I grabbed my handy X-acto knife, a cardboard box, and some twisty ties. I made a prototype with strips of half inch cardboard. The first version was made with the dimensions of the marked-up picture of Hazel in mind. But when Emer came over to approve the design, we both realized that wings sticking out 8 inches on either side of her body just wasn’t ideal in a crowded con situation. I cut the design down by several inches, then measured the parts and wrote the length on each piece.
Prototype 1
Prototype 2
Step 4: Go for it
Because I’d already made the prototype and measured the pieces, I knew exactly how much balsa to cut. All I needed was a fresh X-acto blade – with balsa wood, you should be able to press down with the blade, rocking slightly until it goes through the wood. I was already planning to sand my ends, so I didn’t care if the cuts were a bit rough. From there, I laid everything out on my drafting table to look at it again before I drilled any screw holes. (I do a lot of sitting back and staring at things before jumping to the next step). I decided to put screws half an inch in from the end of the balsa, so I marked them and drilled right away. If you don’t have a drill, you could probably use an awl or just a nail for this.

Step 5: Design check
Before I sanded anything or started drilling into the actual plywood frame, I put all my pieces together and had Emer come over to try everything on for size. We decided to go with backpack-style straps with another around her waist, and after that was decided, I used my cardboard prototype to mark up the plywood and drill the holes. For the ribbon slots, I drilled three holes close together, sliced through the remaining wood with my X-acto knife, and sanded the slot smooth on all sides.

Step 5: Make it pretty
One of the other benefits of balsa wood is that it’s incredibly easy to sand. I rounded all the edges and ends of every arm, and I even attacked the plywood frame, too. Once everything was nice and smooth, I snagged a can of dark green spraypaint and gave everything a thick two coats, leaving time to dry in between. I strung all the pieces on a piece of wire to dry, went out to run a few errands, and added a final coat of metallic black paint. I let it all cure overnight to be on the safe side.

Step 6: Assemble
When the pieces were dry, I put everything back together to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I decided to drill extra holes in the frame and arms that attach to the frame to lend extra support to the wings. That done, I sat back and stared at everything for a good half an hour, looking from the feather trim in my hands to the balsa wood on my mannequin, trying to decide on the best way to attach everything.

Step 6: Add feathers
 I wanted to cover both sides of the balsa wood, but the ribbon trim attached to the feathers doesn’t really bend much. I measured the extended wing and after some messing around and talking to myself, decided the easiest way to get feathers on both sides was to sew the feather trip to another ribbon. I pulled out some ½ in. black scrap ribbon. I cut a 3-foot piece of feather trim, folded it in half, and sewed a 20-inch piece of ribbon down the center. This fit perfectly over the wing arm. Next, I cut tiny holes in the trim over where the screws are. Slide the trim over the screw, twist on the nut, and violĂ !

Step 7: Wear the wings!
Emer wore two tank tops -- one on either side of the frame. I sliced holes in the top tanktop so the frame screws could stick out. The wings fit perfectly over everything, and once everything was situated, I covered the silver hardware with black paint. Emer says the wings are incredibly lightweight. They look really pretty, too! The only problem we had at the convention was other people...apparently no one cares if they snap your wings when they slam into you from behind. I'll probably reinforce the balsa with wire later this month.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Emily's Con Survival Tips

I'm pretty sure we've done some convention survival tips before, but given that we're at Denver Comic Con this weekend (starting today!), it bears repeating.

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A lot of people forget to drink enough water while attending panels and wandering around the show floor. Dehydration can make you feel terrible, give you headaches, and mess up other things in your body. Don't do it. If you don't have a water bottle or can't figure out how to carry one around with your costume without looking ridiculous (I see you, hardcore cosplayers), make sure you make frequent trips to the water fountain. 
  2. Along with number one, make sure you also eat enough! It's easy to get swept up in the convention and forget to eat lunch, but if you're anything like me, that leads to getting hangry, upset, and sometimes total meltdowns. Don't do that to yourself, your friends, or the convention staff. Bring some snacks and a sandwich, or enough cash to grab food somewhere else. 
  3. Speaking of cash, it's not a bad idea to make a convention budget for yourself, especially if money is a little tighter than you would like. I know it's tempting to want to buy all the things because they're amazing, but your bank account really doesn't like that. Trust me. 
  4. Shower. For the love of everything holy, make the time to shower and take care of your personal hygiene needs. Not only will you feel less gross at the end of the con, the people around you will thank you. 
  5. Try to get enough sleep and downtime. The human body needs rest and sleep, like it or not. When we're trying to cram as much as we can into a convention weekend, a lot of us sacrifice sleep for getting in line early or staying up late to chit chat with celebrities. Like not eating enough, that can lead to getting upset or frustrated or melting down. So try to at least get a few hours of shuteye a night. 
  6. Make sure your costume is comfortable, or bring other clothes to change into. There's something really awful about trying to enjoy a panel or photo op or signing and only being able to think about how much your makeup itches or how much your feet hurt. I'm all for incredible cosplay and sometimes that requires being uncomfortable, but know yourself and your limits and plan for that. 
  7. Don't try to do everything. Take a look at the panels and events beforehand and pick which ones you absolutely must get to (and realize that can often change throughout the weekend). Especially if you're an introvert like me, try to plan in some downtime where you can find a nice secluded corner and just breathe for a little bit instead of trying to rush to the next event. Trust me, this is a lifesaver. 
What do you do to survive conventions? Let us know!

Emily is currently prancing around Denver Comic Con with an epic set of wings Michelle made for her and prosthetic elf ears that required way more work than she'd anticipated. If you read Saga, you might recognize her grown-up Hazel costume. Or you might be really confused. Either way, stop by our table and say hi! 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Book Review: Promised to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan

Readers, please welcome Emily Hash, the "other" Emily. She is now our official book reviewer. While the three of us will continue to review books from time to time, we felt it was important to bring in an avid reader who is not also a writer. This will give us the freedom to take on more reviews without the potential conflict that can arise from authors who review books. These reviews will be honest, though kind. Unlike previous book reviews, though, there will be room for negative comments, where we've stuck to only reviewing books that we've enjoyed. So without further ado, Emily will review PROMISED TO THE CROWN by Aimie K. Runyan.

I love historical fiction. I grew up devouring the Dear America series and have always been a history buff. But the romance genre? I could usually do without. I’m happy to say that Aimie K. Runyan’s Promised to the Crown may have changed my opinion about romance...and that’s a good thing!

As you may have heard in this week's interview with Aimie, this book takes place in 1667 when King Louis the XIV was attempting to colonise and hang on to Quebec, Canada. His solution? Send women with good character to the colony to marry and have children. In the story, Elisabeth, Rose, and Nicole all leave France for their own reasons and make the harrowing journey across the Atlantic. The novel then takes place over the next five years, during which the three main characters try to find their place in the New World.

Runyan does a masterful job tackling the often uncomfortable topics of infertility, rape, and heartbreaking loss. Her characters’ emotional and psychological responses are absolutely believable while they are facing these difficult situations. There were quite a few times while I was reading this story where I was left thinking, “Oh, please, please let this end well.” Another thing I loved about this story was that it was fast paced. Runyan does not waste any time throwing the reader into the story. Seriously, by chapter two, the reader is on their way across the Atlantic.

If there was one thing I would have changed about the novel, it would have been how the author shows the passage of time. I appreciated how she starts each chapter with the current month and year, but the reader is sometimes forced to flip back to the beginning of the previous chapter to familiarize themselves to how much time has passed.

When the Trio asked me to read this novel and write a review for the blog, I was willing because of the historical setting of the novel, but hesitant about romance thread. I’m happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the whole story, and I’m looking forward to its sequel, Duty to the Crown, due to be released in November of 2016.

Emily does not currently have a picture for her byline, but she is assuredly adorable and knows a TON about great writing. If her husband wasn't writing out this mini bio for this post, she might not be so forthright about her own awesomeness, but that's what she gets for letting someone else write it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Supporting Arts at Denver Comic Con

One of the things I love about going to Denver Comic Con is that I get to provide a place for authors and artists to promote their work. That's actually one of the things I love about Beyond the Trope in general.

The artistic community is changing so much these days because of the internet, it's easy to get lost in the crowd. And while we're not a massive venue like The Nerdist, we are an outlet set apart from an author's blog, an artist's website, or a musician's soundcloud.

At Denver Comic Con this weekend, we're going to be talking to a lot of people. Many of them will be con attendees who wander by our table. Others will be authors or artists. Some of them already have a consistent following and a blog where they can connect with their readers/fans. But not all of our listeners know our guests.

That's the cool part for me. When we sit down for an interview with someone I'm excited to talk about (like Holly Jennings), there's a chance that one of our listeners or blog readers has never heard of them before. But, as people who share some of our interests, they may be looking for the exact story, comic, or (occasionally) show we're talking about.

To me, making a genuine connection with a creator is something that excites me about their work. If it's work I may not have been super excited about but would've simply enjoyed, then that's awesome. They found a fan. But as soon as that connection happens, I start telling the world! And, yes, I'm only one person, but in a sea of new pieces of art, that one person can add another person, and then THEY add another person, until that artist or author has an audience, people willing to support them, and a reliable source fandom.

Keep an eye out these next few weeks for interviews, blog posts, and a ton of pictures!

Giles is excited for con this year, even if he's missing a day. It will be an epic chance for him to discover new, great stories and art. And then tell the world about them.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Denver Comic Con 2016: Nerds Unite!

Holy canoli, Batman. Is it really time for Denver Comic Con already?

Our schedule for this coming weekend is so packed that I feel tired just thinking about it*. BUT I’m also incredibly excited, and my excitement is making my anticipatory exhaustion eat dust.

We have a huge amount of fun things on our plate, including interviews with authors, participation in panels, and some moderating. I love that Beyond the Trope gets to be a part of Denver Comic Con. It’s so fun to help where we’re needed and to grow our community of nerds.

As a person who didn’t start going to nerdy cons until 2014, these geeky get-togethers fascinated me. I found it slightly amusing that a bunch of people would dress up as fictional characters, and then sit in classrooms to talk about their fantasy worlds. When the idea gets boiled down like that, of course it sounds kind of weird! But a nerd con isn’t about sitting around with weirdos – it’s about immersing yourself in a sea of nerd.

A con can feel like its own world – when you’re inside, it’s a safe zone for you to be yourself and have fun with people who don’t act condescending when you get excited about something. And, as I tell my non-con-going friends, even if you don’t want to go to panels or dress up, Comic Con has the best people watching ever**.

I love walking the aisles of artists and running into someone who’s dressed as the same character as me. We make eye contact, grin, give a thumbs-up, and sometimes stop for a picture together. I might think you’re insane for wearing heels to a convention center, but hey, that’s a really cool wig and ohmygosh did you embroider that yourself? I’m constantly amazed by all the months of hard work and creativity that go into the cosplay, booths, and art for sale.

Make sure you come say hi this weekend! We’d love to geek out with you. Our table will be near the same place as the past two years, next to the Xfinity booth and across from Barnes and Noble.

Denver Comic Con: Where “Nerd” and “Geek” are always compliments.

Before go-time on Friday, Michelle has to put the finishing touches on Emer’s wings, find her missing black leggings, rip up a pair of jeans, email a zillion interview confirmations, and paint her nails. And that’s on top of the day job. Whew. It’s hard work being a nerd.

*Introverts unite! #amiright #butreally

**Even better than the airport, and the airport is prime people-watching territory. I used to go there with my bff and play Who Are They Waiting For? It was the best. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Cosplay is Like Writing

Earlier this year, I promised myself I wouldn't be putting together a last-minute cosplay. Denver Comic Con is next week and I'm currently working on that last-minute cosplay I said I wouldn't do. Apparently time got away from me. Michelle is awesome enough to be building the wings for me, but I still need to gather the other pieces (horns, ears, spirit gum, shirts that I can rip holes in, a water gun to paint, a thigh holster, and maybe a wanted poster). So my day tomorrow is going to be running around town trying to get everything I need.

As much as I complain about doing this every year, it's also kind of fun. It's like having your writing on a deadline: you don't have time to agonize over everything any more. You have to do the best that you can and trust that it'll turn out okay. Which, for a perfectionist like me, is hard. But good.

In cosplay, like in writing, there will always be someone with better skills or a cooler product than you. But I feel like the cosplay community generally has less of a jealousy problem. The cosplayers I know (I can't really talk for everyone, and I've heard some horror stories) tend to all be very nice and compliment each other and share tips and tricks. Writers have a bit of a harder time not being jealous of other peoples' success, even if we don't admit it.

Plus, both are creative endeavors that require a lot of passion and commitment and a certain degree of nerdiness. I know there are some writers (especially outside the spec fic genres) that put their hackles up at the idea that writing makes them a nerd, but it's true. You need to be able to geek out about grammar and character creation and ironing out your plot. So just come over to the dark side already.

Emily is looking forward to seeing if anyone recognizes her costume at Denver Comic Con, given the tweaks she's making to it. Make sure you stop by our booth next weekend to get a glimpse and make your guess. Hint: it's from one of her favorite comics that she's mentioned several times on the show.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


This is a well-covered topic, so I'm going to keep this post brief. Pitching is hard work. Any time a creator goes into the world to convince someone that there's value in their work, they're putting a part of themselves on display.

I believe very strongly in separating myself from my writing. It is not WHO I am, it is something that I do. I'm passionate about it, sure, but when my work is rejected, it's ONLY my work that is rejected, not me.

That doesn't make pitching any easier. Especially in the early days. To be honest, I've spent a lot of time not pitching. Not because I lack confidence in my work, but because I'm still learning how to pitch it well. This is why it's important to ask for help.

A member of our critique group is an employee of a literary agency, and part of his job includes reading the slush pile. He was kind enough to sit down with me for two hours a few weeks back to go line by line through my query. And when I say "line by line," I mean he sat there while I wrote a query letter, then helped me revise it, then rerevise it, then go over it one more time. For two hours. It was valuable insight, and while it doesn't necessarily get me closer to the next step in my path to publication, it gave me confidence in my pitch. Because I asked for help.

So my advice is that, if you're getting ready to pitch a project, ask for help. Either through one of the pitch contests we talked about in this week's episode, or by talking with someone who has experience with pitching.

Giles is still learning a lot, and that includes how to pitch well. He's also prepping for Denver Comic Con next week, which leaves him a little distracted. Hence the shorter, but still relevant, post.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Denver Comic Con 2016: Cosplay Yay!

Comic Con is coming. To kick off our very first DCC2016 blog, here’s something I’m excited about :D

Every nerd I talk to about DCC2016 is excited beyond belief. The list of celebrity attendees is fantastic this year, and the programming looks amazing. Everyone is pumped and psyched and all those other things that mean being totally ready to walk into a swarm of nerds dressed as pretend people.

And, since I apparently become more of a nerd every year I hang out with Giles and Emer, I think it’s probably time to announce that yes, I’m going to be a part of that cosplaying swarm. My first year at DCC was all about hipster princesses (Belle, Snow White, Mononoke). Last year I did superheroines (Wonder Woman, Raven, Sailor Mars).

My theme this year is… bad@$$ women. I could say I have no theme, but bad@$$ery is just so much fun to say and type. I like to do comfortable, casual outfits, because it’s less work and less stressful to try to make every single detail exactly perfect. Some might say my "costumes" are more “inspired by” instead of “cosplay of”. Besides, so many female characters spend their lives in heels, and I’m just not about that life – especially during 10-hour days at the convention center! You’ll also notice I choose brunettes, which makes my life a lot easier.

Here’s my plan for Denver Comic Con weekend:
Friday: Agent Carter
Saturday: Carmen Sandiego
Sunday: Jessica Jones

Cosplay is a fun way for my introverted self to pretend to be extroverted. It makes me feel extra creative and like I’m part of the in-crowd. Let’s be honest – my day-to-day wardrobe isn’t half as nerdy as anyone else on the podcast team. I need to do cosplays so I don’t feel so out of place!

What are you most excited about for Denver Comic Con this year?

Just for fun, here's Michelle as Hipster Snow White. Come say hi to her over Comic Con weekend!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Mid-Year Goal Revisit

It's June. That means we're halfway through the year. Which means it's totally time to revisit the goals we made at the beginning of the year. [Insert hysterical laughter here.]

I originally wanted to have a short story submitted, my short story "Glitter Bomb" published, a novel draft finished, and another half a novel done by now. Because, you know, I have ambition problems. If you know me off the interwebs at all, you probably know this has not happened.

The short story I wanted to submit still needs at least one more round of edits, but the magazine I was writing it for shut down, so urgency isn't really a thing with it any more.

"Glitter Bomb" is still getting published...eventually. I was told the anthology it's in would be out in July, but it looks like it's getting pushed back for a fall release (hopefully).

The draft of the novel (a steampunk) I wanted to have finished stalled out at chapter three after 25,000 words of pantsing and then a month and a half of planning based on what I'd come up with.

The second novel (a cyberpunk dystopian) I was planning on working on has been replaced with a comedy that I'm slowly picking away at (there's no way I'll have a decent draft by July 1, which was the original goal).

And, you know what? It's okay. It's okay that I didn't hit any of my original goals. Life happens, my priorities shifted temporarily, and I'm getting back on the horse, so to speak. There's no point beating ourselves up about goals or resolutions we didn't hit. What matters is that we try to figure out what happened to derail us (in my case, stress, procrastination, not giving myself time, etc.) and how we can fix that moving forward.

How are you doing on whatever goals or resolutions you set at the beginning of the year? Let me know and we can cheerlead each other!

Emily is totally planning on spending this afternoon doing nothing but writing and, hopefully, making people stare because she's laughing to herself. Since, you know, she's writing a comedy. You'd think she could make this bio funnier. Oh, well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Geeking Out

I'm not the most educated person on the planet, but talking with Dan Koboldt this week got me thinking about one of my passions/hobbies: homebrewing. You see, Dan is a researcher on the Human Genome project, and he's studying ways to better understand human DNA. In the episode, he told us about another project that's been going on (studies and some experimentation in China) to figure out how modify DNA.

It reminded me of another project I'd heard about from White Labs where they're working on sequencing yeast DNA to figure out how to get certain properties out of each strain and eliminate others. Or, at the very least, understand how the yeast actually works (aside from basic fermentation, of course).*

Honestly, if I'd been sitting with Dan at a con instead of Skyping with him alongside my two co-hosts at the beginning of VERY busy recording day, I would've tried to spark up a conversation about...YEAST DNA. Yes, yeast. DNA. Why?

Because I LOVE geeking out about beer and brewing! I know next to nothing about yeast (comparatively speaking). But I know even LESS about DNA, be it human or single-cell yeast DNA. Of course, I tried over on Twitter, but because that's such a limited space for decent conversations, and it was the middle of a work day, it didn't really go anywhere. But why would I, a beer geek, want to talk to a human DNA researcher? Surely he knows more than I do about pretty much anything on the science side of the conversation.**

Well that's the point! When I'm interested in a subject and I want to geek out about it with someone else, of course I want to share what I know if it can help them get more enjoyment out of the hobby, but I REALLY want to learn. Because I LOVE LEARNING! To me, the best part of geeking out about a topic is the opportunity to obtain a new, cool piece of information, and if possible, share some, too.

If you get a chance, look into homebrewing. Just do a few minutes of research on the process (beyond a brewery tour). The basic progression from grain to beverage is fascinating. The actual brew day for me, even though exhausting and somewhat stressful, is one of the most relaxing hobbies I participate in. There's a basic ritual to it, a set of steps I have to focus on. It forces me to block out all other distractions, allowing me to step away from the stress of everyday life. Plus, I get beer at the end. Great beer? No. Well, maybe sometimes. But it's drinkable,*** and it's something that teaches me science and makes me use algebra.

Maybe I'll get a chance to geek out again, soon. Like at Denver Comic Con! Or World Con!!

Yes, this turned into a beer post. Giles likes beer, and thinking about DNA led him to this topic.

*Scientists probably know a LOT more than just how yeast converts sugars into alcohols, but I DO know they're still learning why certain strains make certain flavors when others may not. Yes, they know a ton, but DNA sequencing will only make this knowledge more extensive.

** He very well could know more about the artsy, crafty side of brewing, too. Which would be awesome because I love talking beer with people who know about beer! Especially when they're not snobs (seriously, if you like Coors Light, enjoy every sip of it!).

***Except once. I made a beer that was SO awful that I couldn't bring myself to share it with ANYONE. Seriously, it was disgusting! And, no, I didn't throw it out. I suffered through every drop of that swill. To teach myself a lesson about sanitation.