Friday, September 30, 2016

Better Than You Think

You know the saying "we're our own worst enemy," right? For creative people, I think it's probably one of the truest sayings there is. Well, for me, at least.

I have this bad habit of kind of hating everything I produce. I enjoy making it, and I always think it has potential, but the minute I send pages to my critique group, I start anticipating the notes I'll get back and start picking it apart way further than my critique partners ever do.

Michelle knows how intense I get about this. Just yesterday before group, I was texting her about how much I wanted to burn the pages I'd sent for critique. I didn't think any of the jokes worked. I knew my characters' reactions and emotions weren't written out well. I was convinced I'd spent entirely too much time describing the magical uniforms. I thought my voice had slipped and gotten weird. Basically, I thought it was an absolute mess.

Critique pointed out some of the issues I'd seen, but thought others worked all right. Overall, they actually really liked my pages and thought they were about 70% to amazing. Which is a lot closer than the 20% I felt like they were.

Which really just is another reason for a critique group: they can not only help find flaws you skated over, but they can also help bolster you when you want to quit. They can point out the amazing things you forgot about, or purposefully ignored.

And, really, other creative friends can remind you to stop being so hard on yourself. We see the flaws in our work more intensely than others because we spend so much time with it. But sometimes it's a good plan to just take a step back, breathe, and remind yourself that it's probably not as bad as you think it is.

Emer is enjoying a cup of green tea and gearing up for recording this weekend. She's also decorated her work computer with Steven Universe blind box figures. Because she can.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Book Review: The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

It should come as no surprise that we love Jim Butcher around here. So, when I heard a few years ago that he was going to write a steampunk novel, I was more excited than an overfilled, boiling tea kettle. I’m happy to say that The Aeronaut’s Windlass did not disappoint.

Ever since humanity can remember, they have had to live in spires, huge towers that protect them from the dangerous surface of the planet below. Captain Grimm commands the AMS Predator, a well-known merchant ship that calls Spire Albion home. When the cold war between Spire Albion and the neighboring Spire Aurora suddenly erupts into violence, Captain Grimm and his crew are persuaded by Albion’s Spirearch to help defend their home.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is told from various perspectives throughout the novel. Each character has their own unique voice throughout their given chapters. Gwendolyn, a lady of the aristocracy, is proud and brash, Captain Grimm has the tone of a swashbuckler with a conscience, and Rowl, Prince of the Silent Paws, a tribe of cats, sounds exactly like all cat lovers imagine their feline friends should.

I appreciated the interior illustrations that Priscilla Spencer created for Butcher’s new world. Not only do the illustrations give the reader a layout for Captain Grimm’s ship, Predator, but also, provide maps of the various “habbles” the characters visit in their adventures. I found myself flipping back to the illustrations in the front often to better flush out the picture Butcher was painting in my head. Being such a huge fan of Gail Carriger’s steampunk universe, I was happy to see that Butcher created his own steampunk world that had its own quirks and specialties. However…

Would I call The Aeronaut’s Windlass steampunk? Yes and no. Woven into the story are all the marks of a steampunk world: a monarch-type figure, a ruling aristocracy, skirts, airships, and tea. (Heaven forbid you mess up one of the character’s tea…*shudder*.) That being said, very little in this universe actually runs on steam power. Almost everything: weapons, ship engines, and even tea kettles are all powered by energy that comes from crystals. I liked this idea because it set this novel separate from the various steampunk stories that I have already read. I am, therefore, going to create a new genre for this series: crystalpunk. That fits nicely.

I have actually read Aeronaut’s twice since it was released. I’ll be honest, the first time through, I got stuck. I didn’t like the nasty, insect-like creatures that Butcher created for this series. Mainly because they reminded me too strongly of the Vord, the nasty, insect-like creatures who almost destroyed the world in Butcher's Codex Alera series. The second time I read through Aeronaut’s Windlass, I ignored the feeling of déjà vu and read the story exactly the way it was on the page. Then I loved it.

If you have read The Dresden Files or the Codex Alera series, you will probably enjoy this new series. The multiple points of view story, a snarky narrator, and the nasty, insect-like baddies will almost feel like coming home, but into a different universe.

Emily is looking forward to recording day this Saturday and the green chili enchiladas they will have for supper. She's starting to drool already. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sharing Our Excitement

When I first found out about LARPs The Series, I knew I had to tell EVERYONE about it. Why? Because it's such an AWESOME SHOW! I know this isn't the first time I've brought it up for Beyond the Trope, but in this context I want to simply say that this is one of my favorite shows. And if you haven't listened to our interview with the creators and/or watched EVERY EPISODE already, then you're missing out.

Broadening the scope on this topic, one of the things I love about Beyond the Trope is that we get to share many of our favorite topics, authors, books, shows, and so much more. Obviously, we don't limit the show simply to those things which we "absolutely love" because doing so would close us off to new and awesome discoveries. We've met new authors, learned about awesome books, discovered great shows, and even found new hobbies as a result of what we do.

All because our guests and listeners share THEIR excitement with us. Yes, this show is our show, but in a lot of ways, it's your show, too! And we want to keep sharing our excitement with you. I think it's important. Letting creators know that they've made a positive impact on us is always amazing, and helping them make a positive impact on other people is even better.

So go watch LARPs The Series. Then tell us what you think we should be checking out next.

Giles loves sharing exciting new ideas with his friends, and getting the chance to chat with the amazing folks at LARPs was a genuine pleasure. That's why he's so excited today!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Writer’s Block is Poppycock

I don’t believe in writer’s block. This opinion isn’t popular--especially when I run into people who do, in fact, believe in it. Creatives like to think that if something is holding them back, it’s an outside force: Painters who don’t paint are waiting for their muse. Musicians who don’t make music are waiting for inspiration to strike. And writers who don’t write are blocked.

While I do believe times of uber creativity are often followed by stretches of, shall we say, less intense creativity, I don’t believe a decrease in inspiration is a valid reason to stop creating altogether. When I feel blocked, it’s usually because the story I really want to tell doesn’t match what’s coming out on the page.

Orson Scott Card described it like this:
Writer’s block is my unconscious mind telling me that something I’ve just written is either unbelievable or unimportant to me, and I solve it by going back and reinventing some part of what I’ve already written so that when I write it again, it is believable and interesting to me.

As a writer, I have two modes: Writing or Not Writing. No muse determines whether I do one or the other—it’s all on me. Some authors recommend writing through a block, and others think it’s a signal to move on to other things. I have yet to come across a pro who believes writer’s block is an excuse to stop writing until you think you have the attention of your muse.

Philip Pullman says, “Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP.” We’ve coddled ourselves into thinking that if we’re not spinning pure gold, anything we make is useless. This simply isn’t true. If you don’t believe me, just ask Yoda:
Do or do not. There is no try.

Or maybe you prefer Ray Bradbury's take:
“What if you have a blockage and you don’t know what to do about it?” Well, it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing, don’t you? In the middle of writing something you go blank and your mind says: “No, that’s it.” Ok. You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying “I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for.” 

Writer’s block is poppycock because there’s always something to write—your subconscious just needs to give a damn about it.

Michelle once drop-kicked a crab that had the audacity to try to pierce her big toe. Her family laughed. Michelle did not.

You can internet-stalk her on Twitter (@redactionaire) or here, where she tends to write on Mondays.   

Friday, September 23, 2016

Falling Out of Love with a Fandom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What Giles is Binge Watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pushing for Content

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 12, 2016

Is Your Book Done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 9, 2016

Con Wall

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

This week's book came recommended from a reliable source: my sister, Molly. By the time I finished this book, Molly had already finished the entire Throne of Glass series. When she bought me the first novel, I figured why not give it a try?

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas was different from many of the books that I have come across. For example, the main character, Celaena, is a convicted assassin, and I found myself rooting for her throughout the story. After spending a year working in a death camp for her crimes, Celaena is taken from the camp and transported to the kingdom's castle to compete in a tournament. Her reward if she survives? Her freedom from the death camp to work as the King's Champion. But first, she'll have to defeat the twenty-three other thieves, murderers, and soldiers who are all competing for the same position. 

Honestly, I never thought I would be rooting for a killer who has absolutely no regrets about what she's done in the past. I liked Celaena's character. She's a survivor, a logical thinker, a reader, and a problem solver. Celaena's world is well thought out. A powerful, vicious king rules from a castle made of both stone and glass that he has built on the backs of conquered kingdoms. In this world, magic has been outlawed and almost forgotten, but remnants are still secretly practiced in other cultures, and magic is sometimes literally carved into stone. Altogether, I really did enjoy the core of the story. 

Unfortunately, the inconsistencies I saw in Throne of Glass kept me from falling in love with it. Celaena's character flip flopped between her hardcore survivor mode, and the kind personal relationships she builds with the other characters. Her assassin side, I understood and found creepy and believable. Her friendly side, I also understood. But Celaena's two sides didn't come together for me. The resolution of the story was also a little strange. I liked the ending, but the author didn't do a great job wrapping up this specific story. It  seemed that she opened more storylines and left the reader with more questions than answers. Finally, and this is just a personal preference, if I have to refer to a pronunciation guide, it drags me out of the narrative. 

I'll be honest, this wasn't my favorite. However, I have read Maas' other series which begins with A Court of Thorns and Roses. I enjoyed it more than this one. Maas is a talented fantasy writer, and I look forward to following her other series as it continues. 

Emily has been binge watching Supernatural with Giles every chance they can get. She never used to like creepy things, but is starting to enjoy the creepy more and more. Supernatural may just get her to read and enjoy a horror book someday! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Video Game Review: Four Sided Fantasy

When Serenity Forge offered me a chance to review this game, I was thrilled. The previews I'd seen back at Denver Comic Con, and on their website, looked beautiful. And the idea for gameplay itself sounded like something I NEEDED to try, not just because it sounded fun, but because it had a retro style to it that I haven't jumped into in decades.

The basic premise of the game is that you play as two different characters, but only one at a time. It starts out as a fairly simple side-scroller, but almost right away, you're taught how to solve puzzles by changing the "rules" of the universe.

The game itself is simple, and I mean that in a good way. A lot of modern indie games (that I've played) seem to cram a lot of excessive rules, mechanics, and ideas into a stream of levels and challenges that don't feel like they tie together. And what's more, a lot of the features that are built in get used once or twice in the game, then never get used again.

Four Sided Fantasy, on the other hand, uses two buttons and the control pad OR joystick (depending on how you want to play). You move, you jump, and you "lock" the screen, creating a hard edge that allows you to bypass walls simply by walking off one edge of the screen to end up on the opposite side.

The visuals on this game are super fun, colorful and artistic, like a picture book written for adults who grew up on strong colors and evocative images. I would LOVE to get prints from this game, or at least in the same art style, to put up in my house. The music, too, is engaging. It rises and falls when it needs to, holds itself to the background when you need to focus, and then jumps out to the foreground to evoke emotions and excitement.

All of that, combined with the gameplay itself, made this game super fun. Just FUN! It's a quick play (I spent a total of three hours making it through the levels, but didn't earn even half of the Trophies). That doesn't mean that it's unchallenging. I had to stop and rethink how I played the game, reimagining the rules of the universe to stop thinking linearly and start taking advantage of the screen lock.

I highly recommend this game, and I think it's worth every minute you play. Even when I got frustrated with the challenges, I found a real sense of accomplishment by overcoming them. A handful of glitches got in the way of two challenges, but they weren't game-breaking, and they're not universal (you probably won't experience them unless you play the same way I do). But all in all, I couldn't stop smiling and bouncing in my chair while I exclaimed with each revelation that "I love this game!"

Giles loves good games, and it excites him that this was such a good game. He can't recommend it highly enough. Seriously, go play it. Then read something fun, too.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Show and Tell

Until a couple of weeks ago, I thought I had “Show, Don’t Tell” in the bag. And then, while driving around Kansas City at World Con, I got an email that said my manuscript had too much telling and not enough showing.  I asked Emer, Emily, and Giles about it (since they’ve all helped with this book). Everyone said my book felt much more showy than telly. I laughed at the email's comment, passing it off as one of those subjective things.

That was before. This is now: if I told you the amount of telling I’ve removed from this book, you would faint. The process has been painful in the way that a good editing pass makes you cry. When your personal trainer finds a muscle group that’s lacking and forces you to work on it, you feel the burn. Sometimes the pain continues into sore muscles the next day. If you have a good trainer, that soreness results in a stronger body.

After that initial denial, I went back to my trainer’s email and considered her words. I used her notes to edit the first chapter of my manuscript, and I realized something terrifying: she was right. I thought I knew the difference between showing and telling. I used to tell everyone that I was really good at showing instead of telling. *facepalm*

Now that I’m about twelve chapters deep in clearing out all this ridiculous info-dumpy telling, I think I might have the hang of it. I know now that one of the reasons I overwrite is because I not only tell the reader things, I show them the exact same thing in the next sentence. Ha! Who needs to pick one when you can pick both of them?

If you’re trying to figure out if you “tell” too much, dive into your book at the paragraph and sentence level. Does your narrator present the reader with a picture to interpret, or does he/she use a filter (I see, I look, I smell) to describe a moment for the reader? I’ve had to re-evaluate every phrase in my manuscript to make it more active and engaging.

How do you spot issues with telling in your own writing?

Michelle’s writing buddy, the fluffbeast called Dell, has lodged a formal complaint about holiday weekends being used to write, edit, and wire bathroom lighting instead of playing with the dog. The pup is incredibly  disappointed in her human. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

In Defense of Cartoons

There's this weird stigma among normal people (not necessarily so much among nerds) that cartoons are for kids and adults who enjoy them are weird or immature. My response to this statement: have you seen the cartoons that are being made nowadays? Holy crud!

While most of the cartoons are still couched in this super-colorful, kind of goofy style, quite a few of them are dealing with some really deep issues.

The Last Airbender addressed war and pacificsm, different belief systems, growing up, and more in a fantasticly poignant way. The last season of The Legend of Korra focused on tyranny and issues with various governmental structures, as well as PTSD.

Steven Universe has some incredible messages about the importance of family and deals with topics like emotional abuse in an incredibly hard-hitting way that's understandable by kids without beating them over the head with the psychology that we know about it as adults.

Voltron Legendary Defender has that great scene about gender (you know the one if you've seen it) and then proceeds to not make a big deal about it.

Yes, all of these shows have their ridiculous, cartoon-y moments. Yes, they're marketed mostly to kids. But that doesn't mean adults can't or shouldn't watch and enjoy them. Cartoon creators put in some pretty wonderful references now and then that go right over kids' heads, but appeal to an older audience.

So if you don't have any plans over the long weekend, I'd suggest pulling up some Netflix and giving a cartoon a try. You never know; you might enjoy it.

Emily has been binge watching Steven Universe every day after work this week and she's loving it. If you haven't seen it yet, she highly recommends it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Book Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

No opening paragraph for this review. Just. Read. This. Book.

It’s 1943, and “Verity” has just crash landed in Nazi-occupied France with her best friend Maddie in the back seat of her spy plane. After being arrested by the Gestapo, Verity has one choice, give up the details of her mission, or be executed. After the crash, Maddie also has one choice, join the French Resistance to save her friend, or die trying. Code Name Verity is a historical novel that is equal parts adventure, espionage, and, at times, horror. And yes, it will also rip your heart out.

Elizabeth Wein’s story is technically shelved in the young adult section, but do not let that dissuade you from this story. Code Name Verity is a well written novel that would fit comfortably into the adult section as well. There were three things about this novel that made it impossible to put down. First, Verity and Maddie’s voices are so brilliantly written that I never had difficulty telling them apart. Both girls have a unique personality, voice, and perspective on the events going on around them. Second, Wein builds the story on what is a rollercoaster of a plotline. Just when the reader believes there will be a modicum of relief around the corner, they are transported down a series of gut wrenching hills and turns that are unexpected. And finally, at the end of the novel, Wein included an “Author’s Debriefing”. The characters, places, and events became so real during my read that I had to know what happened after the novel ended. There are very few books in my personal library that have left me in a panic and desperate to find out what happened after the story.

(Imagine me now, sitting in front of the keyboard, desperately searching my brain for something to criticize.) Nope. I’ve got nothing.

Read. This. Book.

Emily is now on her way to Barnes and Noble to buy the companion book to Code Name Verity. If you need her, you’ll have to wait until after she’s finished Rose Under Fire.

Editor's note: Two years ago, Michelle also reviewed this book. Like our resident reviewer, Michelle truly loved it. No matter how many books we've read and reviewed in the past, we will not stop posting reviews from our Official Reviewer, Emily. She will be the Beyond the Trope "final say" when it comes to reviews, whereas the rest of us are enthusiastically recommending books with our reviews.