Friday, August 18, 2017

Epistolary Fiction in the Age of the Geek

I've always been one of those people who enjoys dabbling in different storytelling formats. Epistolary fiction has existed for a long time, but the internet is allowing us to expand and explore it in new and interesting ways.

I recently read a novel-length fanfic told through emails, text messages, images, and GIFs, and it was a really fascinating thing. The authors did a fabulous job of setting up a situation through the emails and texts, then instead of writing out the details of a scene immediately, using a GIF or photo to evoke the feeling and general overview of what the characters are doing. They even got fan artists to help illustrate a portion of the story, and hand-made crafts and food to photograph as part of the details. It was, honestly, an incredible labor of love and was really fascinating as a reader.

My roommate and I just started writing a fanfic of our own with some unusual formatting: we're telling the story mostly through text messages and emails, but we're also writing some full-prose interludes. It's an interesting challenge, getting across a full story (plotline, world building, character development, etc.) via texts with a rare full scene thrown in here and there. Admittedly, it's fanfic, so there's less world building we need to accomplish, but still.

It's also weirdly freeing to dabble in a new (to me) story format. It makes it easier to turn off my critical brain and just focus on the fun of writing the piece. 

Have you tried writing epistolary fiction before? What were your thoughts on it?

Emer has written more fanfic in the last week than she has in her entire life combined so far. And she's not even sorry. It feels great to write again, and immediate feedback and validation from readers is a great way to stoke the creative flames.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Revisiting The Matrix

Not long ago, my wife and I rewatched The Matrix because it was on Netflix. It had been eight years since the last time, and when I watched it back in '09, it was badly written, weighed down with metaphors that beat the viewer over the head with immediate literal representations of said metaphor. The improbable storyline forced its way from one point to the next with highly contrived events that "magically" saved the day in time for the hero to save the world.

Then when my wife and I watched it again a few days ago, it was so good. Not quite as incredible as the first time I saw it, but still awesome. In the same way that classic action flicks from the '80s and early '90s are awesome. Yes, in comparison to today's movies (ignoring the bad writing of many summer blockbusters), the writing in those movies isn't great, but they're still fun. Die Hard is one of the best movies of all time. In my opinion. Compared to Mad Max: Fury Road, the writing is a little lacking. But I still think it holds up.

With some time, and a lot of perspective, I can appreciate The Matrix for what it was when it came out. And now that it's almost 20 years old, I love it for what it is, even if they never released the super-awesome phones everyone carried.

Now if only they'd managed to greenlight a sequel ;).

As sacrilegious as as it sounds, Giles is actually looking forward to the reboot, especially after watching the original. It has a chance of renewing the awesomeness that was The Matrix in the same way that The Force Awakens renewed the awesomeness that is Star Wars.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Do you have comfort media? You know, that book or movie or song you always turn to when you're feeling awful? That short story or TV show or podcast that always makes you feel better?

I do. I have a handful:
  • The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine 
  • Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman 
  • How to Train Your Dragon (the movie, though the book is also adorable) 
  • Neil Gaiman's "Make Good Art" speech 
  • Song of the Sea 
  • Final Fantasy XV 
  • Yuri on Ice 
  • "Peace and Love" and "Here Comes a Thought" from Steven Universe

Can I explain why these things are comfort media for me? For some of them, sure. The books have nostalgia factor and cute, uplifting messages. "Make Good Art" is just plain inspiring, and the Steven Universe songs are calming and fun. Yuri on Ice is not only an adorable relationship, but also shows a main character dealing with stress and anxiety and failing, so I can watch it and convince myself that if Yuuri can do it, I can, too.

The rest? No clue. There's just something in that media that speaks to me and soothes me when I need it. Back at my previous job, when I had a really awful day, I would come home and play Final Fantasy XV for hours and actually feel like a human again when I went to bed (admittedly, this was just the first half of the game; the second half is pure pain omg). In college, How to Train Your Dragon got me through finals and losing friends (and I can still quote most of the movie). The lullaby from Song of the Sea still makes me smile and calm down almost immediately, and I'll never get tired of watching that stunning animation.

What about you? What's your comfort media?

Emer is currently considering a reread of Odd and the Frost Giants because she misses it. It's been a while since she read it and it's so cute. She also apologizes for the lack of headshot this week, but her computer and Blogger are super not working together.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

All the News That Is News

Ladies and gentlemen! As has been previously discussed, both here and on the show, we have a Patreon up and running. And it's moving along nicely thanks to some amazingly awesome supporters of the show. While we're going to be releasing a lot of exclusive content for our patrons over there, it will also become the home of all upcoming news. Big announcements—like events, conferences, and awesome changes (improvement)—will be made exclusively there (and linked on the socials).

Of course we'll still talk about cool stuff on the blog, especially when amazing personal events occur (can anyone say future agent? or publication???). This is where I'm going to tell the world when I get my first publishing credit, when I get an agent, and if/when I earn any awards.

I can't speak to my co-hosts' plans, but this blog will continue to be where I make personal announcement, and Patreon is where Beyond The Trope will make podcast/company announcements.

Giles is excited for new announcements, and some of them will be coming up very soon.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Back to School

Today I went to my first day at my new job. Professional development days aren't that exciting for teachers–not when you have to hear some of the same material every year for as long as you've been teaching. But so much of it was new information to me that I couldn't help but feel slightly overwhelmed.

The best part of the day, however, was going into a classroom with my mentor, looking around, and realizing that it was ours. As in, partly mine. We staked our claim on corners in the back of the room and started moving student desks and talking about what to put on the bulletin boards. I placed my office chair and sat down, experimenting with how far I could rotate before I smacked into the desk before me or the filing cabinet behind me. Mine.

I don't know anything about the students I'll have in our classes. I'm not even completely sure how to do everything that needs to get done–much less what I want to get done. But for now I'm excited to have that tiny corner of classroom real estate and an endless string of possibilities in front of me. Will I teach Frankenstein or Fahrenheit 451? Persepolis or Maus? I'm not sure yet. Maybe none of them, maybe all of them. The awesome thing is, I get to share my excitement for the written word with people.

Here's to a challenging and (hopefully) successful year of teacher residency!

Michelle has a feeling this year is going to teach her the value of a caffeine addiction.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Last week I mentioned that I was trying to get through Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses. I'll admit that it was a tad difficult for me to get into, but once I hit the halfway point, I found myself not being able to read fast enough.

Let's start with the great things. First, I'm a sucker for anything related to Beauty and the Beast. In Maas' story, the Beauty is a huntress and the Beast is a shape-shifting faerie, but the familiar plot is still there. The setting is at once dark and vividly colored–everything from the landscape to the beings in it seem to have more color and life on the faerie side of the world.

Other elements I enjoyed include the story's tone and the side characters. It's possible I loved Lucien (the best friend to the Beast character) more than the protagonist and her ill-fated lover. Maas made every secondary character seem real and full, which is not always the case in many young adult books.

I personally had very few problems with this novel. In the end, it was alluring and I couldn't put it down. In the beginning, however, I considered not finishing. Feyre, the narrator, had so little to recommend herself to me that I didn't care if she died or not. When I finally met Lucien and had a character to look forward to, I read much faster. And then something changed when I was about 40-50% done with the book: Feyre finally had a degree of likeability.

I won't spoil the ending, as it's a great twist on the typical fairy tale–just don't expect happy little rainbows and unicorns to come out of it. Final recommendation: A great read for lovers of Beauty and the Beast, faerie stories, and sassy female protagonists who don't let anything get them down.

Michelle's next book is going to be Winter, the final installment in the Cinder series. She's so excited to drive to work so she can listen to the audiobook!

Friday, July 28, 2017

When Fan Theories Come True

My roommate and I have been watching the new Little Witch Academia on Netflix over the last week. It's freaking adorable, btw. But I'm not going to gush about it for a whole blog post, I promise. Instead, I'm going to gush about the fact that weird fans like us are now becoming creators, and providing content we adore to other weirdos like us.

Long story short, we were two or three episodes in and my roommate came up with this theory about a character named Shiny Chariot. Neither of us honestly thought her theory was going to be more than this little fan theory to amuse us (and maybe, you know, write fanfic about later). It seemed totally off-the-wall and, while it was entertaining, we've consumed enough media to realize the odds of this actually happening were pretty slim.

But halfway through the season--it came true!

She also called a character development in the second season of Voltron: Legendary Defender on minimal hints.

While this could be dismissed as my roommate just being super good at reading tiny hints in shows and extrapolating, I think it's also a huge possibility that it's a cool little side effect of people in our generation becoming creators and putting their work into the world. There are little things, plot twists and tropes, that people who grew up in fandom tend to enjoy--and those little things are now making their way into popular media instead of remaining relegated to fanfic and fan art.

Those of us who grew up participating in fandom in some way or another are now the ones putting out webcomics, new TV shows, books, and other media--and we're not at all ashamed to use those tropes and ideas and goofiness we put into our fics and headcanons in our 'legit' work. In my opinion, it's super cool to watch as things continue to evolve and change and encompass more diverse ideas.

Emer is still plugging away at her massive fanfic, which is taking up most of her downtime and creative energy. But she's still making time to watch anime, because she's a massive nerd.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What A Good Movie Needs

Short answer: entertainment value.

You see, I've watched a lot of bad movies. Many of those movies were panned by critics, and I loved them. Many of them were panned by my friends. And I still loved them. And many of them were loved by critics and/or my friends, and I thought they were the most boring waste of my time in the history of film. Obviously, it's all subjective. But what I always want in a movie is to be entertained. And it really only has to have a 60% Entertainment Index for me to say, "Yeah, I liked that."

Now, I can hear you, sitting at your computer, reading this, saying, "Giles, we need an example. What does a 60% Entertainment Index LOOK like?"

Well, I'll tell you, lucky reader! For me, it's not enough to be entertaining some of the time. And, for that matter, if all 60% of that entertainment shows up in one solid chunk with the other 40% of the film just sucking, then there's a good chance I'm not going to like it. We're not looking at a bell curve or a rising graph. We want something more like a sine wave, but unbalanced, with the peaks higher than the drops. If it's as low as 60%.

But that's not really an EXAMPLE, is it? No, what I'm talking about is best described by Pacific Rim. I loved that movie. It's robots vs. monsters, for crying out loud! But taken from an "objective" analysis of it's individual parts, it should have been a colossal failure (and box-office-wise, it was). The writing was sub-par with several plot holes, mediocre dialogue, shallow character development, and contrived story events that didn't flow naturally. The acting left something to be desired, too. But it was beautiful! And what it lacked in writing and acting, it made up for in excitement, energy, and engagement. For me, it was entertaining and exciting. Even my complaints couldn't overcome how much I loved it.

One the other hand, we have movies like Revenge of the Sith. Which I only saw once because the writing, acting, and visual effects felt shoehorned and unnecessary for the story itself. Yes, there was an awesome lightsaber fight. One of the best in movie history! But aside from Ewan McGregor, the performances didn't engage me. They stood out as stiff, awkward, and forced.

So, what does a good movie need? Engagement. Entertainment. And a story that's good enough to make up for all of its other failings.

Yes, yes. Giles is aware that this post doesn't really answer all of the burning questions his reader might have about how to find the best movie of all time. But, like he said, it's all subjective.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Science for Your Stories!

I'm always on the lookout to find scientific discoveries (or dreams) to include in my stories. The manuscript I'm querying features quantum mechanics, and the one I'm editing has elements of nuclear fusion. I'm still a few months away from starting a new first draft, but I couldn't help but look up a few new-ish discoveries. If you're a science nerd like me, maybe you can use some of these in your writing!

Pull water out of thin air
Your desert city doesn't have to live without water–now you can simply pull it out of the air. A porous, metal-organic layer captures water from the air, the water is heated and released via fancy solar elements, and then a condenser turns the vapor into liquid water.

Microchipped employees
Why carry around a key fob or your credit card when you can just get a microchip injected into your hand? Some people believe that these implants will soon replace passports, passcards, and most forms of payment. At least it'll be harder to lose your wallet?

Replace steel with graphene
Instead of using the same ol' metals for your world, why not fuse some lightweight layers of graphene? Graphene is essentially a latticework of carbon atoms, and as such is incredibly strong, but scientists so far have had a hard time translating that 2D strength to a 3D world. MIT has started fusing graphene flakes and reports that the resulting pieces have 5% of steel's density but are ten times as strong.

Time crystals are the new matter
Oh, yes, you read that right. Scientists have created a new phase of matter–a "time" crystal whose 3D atomic patterns repeat not in space, but in time. They hope this discovery can be used in quantum computers.

Michelle geeks out about science on a daily basis. Especially quantum mechanics.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Linguistic Evolution

Last week, a friend and I had an interesting conversation about what the internet is doing to the evolution of the English language. I used to be one of those "English Purists," who corrected people's grammar, insisted there was only way "correct" way to use English, and shuddered at the thought of chat speak. But during this conversation, I was the one defending internet slang.

Here are some things I think are really cool about the way the internet is changing language:
  1. Easier access to words from other languages that describe things we have no good words for in English. Some of my favorite posts on Tumblr are lists of these types of things, and I love being able to better research other languages in general (but, seriously, stay away from Google Translate, okay?). 
  2. More breadth of tonal punctuation. There was a post going around a few weeks ago that explained this better than I can here, but basically the casual evolution of the way people talk on the internet has provided some really incredible ways to punctuate things in order to provide better tone context, like sarcasm or confusion, or getTING SUPER EXCITED. Sure, it looks weird at first to see typing in crescendo like that or a bunch of question marks in the middle of a sentence to denote an up-tone, but the fact that people have basically agreed that these particular changes to punctuation and capitalization mean these particular things is just really cool to me. 
  3. A whole new level of connotations to use. My roommate and I basically communicate almost purely in memes and pop culture references--it's a pretty common thing to see on the internet, too--but this actually provides us with a very deep level of communication, due to the specific connotations, emotions, and memories tied to a particular reference or meme. So instead of just saying "hey, I appreciate you," we say something along the lines of "hey, thanks for being my Prompto," which comes with the same basic gratitude, but with the added connotations of "you make me laugh; I couldn't do this without you; and I love and appreciate you, please don't let me accidentally throw you off a train in the middle of a frozen wasteland." 

Emer might spend entirely too much time on the internet, but since she can now justify it as linguistic research, she doesn't really care. If you need her, she'll be working on her fanfic and re-watching Yuri on Ice again. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Things I Missed

Okay, I've talked a few times about going back to revisit books and/or TV shows that I really enjoyed but never thought about going back to. For books especially, I always thought, "I already read this. I know what's going to happen, and I don't need to do it again." But despite the fact that I've listened to a bunch of my favorite books on audio AND read some of them twice, I never realized how much I forgot or even missed.

I'm rereading The Dresden Files right now. Started out with the first book, and now I'm just going to hit the entire series. Because why not?

And, wow, I missed a lot in Storm Front. There are full chapters and sub-plots that I don't remember from the last two times I went through them. Characters I don't remember seeing. Other characters and locations, scenes and events that only spark a memory because they show up in later books, too.

Now that I'm a couple of chapters into Fool Moon, I'm really excited to reread stuff I don't remember. It's probably been at least six years since the last time I read this one, which means a lot of this is going to be new to me again.

The same thing is happening as I rewatch Burn Notice, and I find it incredibly interesting and exciting. I can't wait to go back to some of my old novels, too, and see what I missed there that could take them out of the trunk!

Writing, rereading, and rewatching are a new passion for Giles, especially as he hammers his way through his WiP.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Books to be Tasted

“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested….”  –Francis Bacon

Why do you read? Why do any of us read? Is it to jump into another world, to grow your mind, or for another reason entirely? I haven't been reading as much as I normally do. Without a lot of time in my car this summer, I didn't gorge on audiobooks. And since I was out of town a lot or trying to actually be a productive writer, I didn't get many "real" books from the library. I don't like it. I feel lost without a book to chew on.

I spotted the quote above as I was reading through Colorado's state English Language Arts standards. It speaks to me because I have always enjoyed books of all types: those that are tasted, swallowed, or chewed and digested. The last really chewy book I read was For Whom the Bell Tolls. I want to find another classic like that to dive into.

I am "tasting" a book right now: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas. I haven't quite decided if it's truly to my taste, but it came on a recommendation from a bookish friend I trust. When it comes to book I gulp up, the answer is Beauty by Robin McKinley, hands down. I'm not reading each of these books to give my mind a good workout–I like to read a variety of genres to keep things interesting.

What do you think of Francis Bacon's quote? Do you think we should read with such lofty goals in mind?

Michelle is in Week Two of her teacher's seminar, and even though it's only Monday, her brain is already exploding with information.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Emer Might be Crazy

If you listen to our show (what are you doing here if you don't?), you've probably realized by now that I'm kind of the biggest fangirl-type nerd of the three of us. I'm the one who gets super obsessed with things, reads all the wikis, cosplays, and now writes fanfic.

But for all that, I've actually been involved with fandom only on the peripherals. I've never participated in big fandom things like group cosplay, or maintaining a fan blog, or writing a fan zine. The most involved I've been is reblogging memes and theories on Tumblr--until now.

Next week, I'm signing up for what's called a fandom Big Bang--which connects fanfic writers with fan artists, editors, and cheerleaders to produce illustrated stories of at least 20k words around a specific fandom or relationship (ship). Each piece is released within a certain time frame, so there's this explosion of new fan content centered on this fandom/ship, hence the term 'Big Bang.' I had honestly never heard of something like this before (because, you know, I've never delved all that deep into fandom with other people), but I'm thrilled by the idea. I mean, who doesn't want artwork based on their stories, right?

I haven't written anything longer than 10k-ish words in a while (all three of my published short stories capped out at around 10k), so I'm a little intimidated by the word count requirement. But I started my story early and I'm already 10,500 words in with a lot of story left, so I'm pretty sure I can do it.

Add the lack of pressure to be 'traditional publishing worthy,' the knowledge that I'm going to partner with an editor who also loves this fandom/ship, and three more months to write this story, and I'm almost bouncing up and down excited. I'm annoyed that my brain turned what was supposed to be a fun, fluffy story into something that's going to be incredibly angsty and potentially very dark, but I'm writing again! And falling in love with fan fiction again.

Has anyone else ever done something like this before? How do you get involved with your chosen fandom?

Emer finds it very refreshing to be creating again, even if it's not completely original work. She's also excited to see what other people create for this event and might never climb out of this fandom hole she's dug herself. It's comfy down here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Saving the Day vs. Saving the Hero

I'm working on a book right now that's very different from all of my other books. The hero in everything I've ever written saves the day. If not for the entire planet, at least for one or two innocent victims of a terrible crime.

This hero, on the other hand, is battling an enemy who's after her specifically. No other victims, no planet-shattering threats, just this protagonist. More than that, this hero is fighting her own inner demons. It's a unique approach for me, and it's really pushing my abilities. But in a good way.

For me, I read a lot of "let's save the world" novels. It's what I love about the stories I read. From Harry Potter to The Dresden Files. Parasol Protectorate and The Sprawl Trilogy. There's something I realized about all of these books, though. The characters all change as people throughout the entire book. My characters do, too, but as I'm writing THIS book (and as I'm writing this blog post, actually), I'm realizing that what I love about those stories, above and beyond the "saving the world" action, I love to see the characters grow. To overcome their self-imposed hurdles more than the ones put in place for them by the "world-destroying monsters."

Rather than spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to make sure these changes are powerful for my sub-plot, I decided to make it my main plot. So far, it's working out well. Instead of saving the world, or even saving a friend, my hero is (hopefully) going to save herself.

Funny side-note: I'm also pantsing this novel rather than outlining. So I'm not sure how this book's going to end, yet.

Giles wanted to write a blog about Denver Comic Con purchases. But due to circumstances beyond his control, he couldn't make it happen. It's complicated.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Power of Language

While reading through a book for my teacher's seminar (which starts today!), I read a sentence that blew my mind: "...I focus on those things teachers say (and don't say) whose combined effect changes the literate lives of their students" (from Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston). That sentence led me a million different directions, but I zeroed in on just one: Everything you say to a person changes their life. 

Loaded words, right?

As an incredibly sarcastic child*, I didn't need to be told that a well-phrased jab was more effective than any physical injury. Everyone has experienced hurtful words–whether they came from someone intending harm or a person who thought what they said wouldn't matter.

The thing is, the words that come out of our mouths don't simply fall out. Writers talk a lot about agency; in the book world it's about characters who do rather than react. In the teaching world, agency is about showing students that their actions have immediate and delayed effects on the world around them.

Looking at the world around me, it often feels as though the general public has no sense of their own agency. They allow anything and everything to pour out of them, as easy as dumping out a glass of water. We call names and talk smack without realizing that every time we label a person a certain way, we might be turning them into the monster we assumed they were.

As I jump into being a teacher, I hope I can choose my words well and use them for good. 

Michelle is back to a (relatively) normal work schedule, huzzah! Hopefully the new routine doesn't kill her... D:

*child...and adult. Let's not make the mistake of thinking I grew up and lost my dry sense of humor. Heaven forbid!

Friday, July 7, 2017

More Thoughts on DCC 2017

Man, I can't believe this was our fourth Denver Comic Con. So much great stuff!

This year, my personal goals were to find some other cosplayers from the things I was cosplaying from (Final Fantasy XV and Yuri on Ice were my last-minute decisions), bring home merchandise from a few specific fandoms, and not totally freeze while interviewing Diana Gabaldon on the main stage. I'm thrilled to announce I accomplished all of those goals!

Friday, I stumbled upon two other cosplayers from Final Fantasy XV and, as we were taking photos together, two more found us and we wound up with a fabulous group who might even get together for non-con cosplay photos at some point. It was fantastic to nerd out with these other people who were also super into this game and discuss how they put their costumes together, their favorite parts of the game, and what they were looking forward to at the convention. On Sunday, when I was Yuuri, I happened upon a Victor in a flower crown who let me get a picture, too. I seriously love cosplay nerds, guys.

As far as merchandise goes, I wound up with way too many keychains, some beautiful art prints, and a set of stickers that still need to go on my water bottle. There was so much to see this year, so many incredible artists, and I still feel like I somehow missed out on a lot despite being on the con floor most of the weekend between interviews and panels.

On Saturday, for the Q&A with Diana Gabaldon and Andrew Gower, I was dang glad I had theatre training! I was doing okay the morning before, but the minute we got to the backstage green room and Diana and Andrew came in, I got super nervous. I'd never done a mainstage event on my own before, and I'd been table watching when Michelle did it last year, so I had no idea what to expect. The DCC crew was fantastic for making sure we were where we needed to be, had microphones and water, and were running on time. The mainstage crew are some seriously fantastic people! Once I hit the stage and the lights were on, my theatre brain kicked in and I went from "omg, what am I doing?!" to acting-mode, and I like to think the panel went brilliantly. We have audio that'll go up on our feed soon, and I believe DCC will be posting video as well. We'll definitely cross-link when they do!

So, yeah, overall, it was a fabulous weekend, even though I'm still recovering. Not having a table meant a lot more walking!

Emer is a rebel this week and posting a photo of her Final Fantasy XV cosplay instead of her normal headshot because she can. She's also going immediately back to sleep to try and fully recover from the amazingness of DCC.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thoughts on Denver Comic Con, Year 4

First off, I'd like to give a huge shout-out to Pop Culture Classroom for bringing us to Denver Comic Con this year. If you're not familiar with their mission, go check out their website and read up on what they do for the community.

This year was different for us because we didn't have a table. It meant that putting together interviews was a bigger challenge, forcing us, not only to rely on the schedule of our interviewees, but also the media room schedule. As a result, we got a lot more interviews at guests' tables in the middle of the show floor than we have in years past. In my opinion, this is actually a good thing. Sure, my legs STILL hurt from all the walking and standing I did over the weekend (over seventeen miles!), but we got out onto the floor, into panels we may not have attended, and into Main Events we might've otherwise had to skip.

The biggest highlight for me was going to see James Marsters. I may not be an uber fan who has to track down every project he's worked on, but I really loved his work on Buffy, and his narration of The Dresden Files audio books. And when he got up on stage to start talking, it was obvious that he's a down-to-earth guy who loves what he does and loves his fans. I even heard that if people couldn't afford an autograph, he was letting people walk the "signing" line to just come up and say hi. I don't know if this was all weekend, but my wife told me that on Friday he would just chat with fans for a casual meet-and-greet at his table. Which he REALLY didn't have to do.

His stories were amazing, too. He knows how to share anecdotes, to draw in the crowd and get them engaged. He can make the audience laugh, sigh, and cheer. And, again, he comes across as an average guy who just happens to act and sing.

The Diana Gabaldon/Andrew Gowan event was cool, too, and I have to give some serious props to Emily Singer (my fantastic co-host!) for doing such a great job as moderator. She was a little nervous before the event started, but up on stage, she asked amazing, insightful questions, engaged both of the guests, and kept the audience involved and moving with the Q&A. She's a real pro, and no one can convince me otherwise.

All in all, this was the best year for us, in my opinion, especially because it forced us out of our comfort zone. Made us grow, figure out how to get the most out of the con so we could give back, and we also had more freedom to enjoy the entire weekend. Do I miss having a table? Maybe. It's nice to have a home-base with a place to sit. But as I look back, it really limited us in how we covered the convention.

I also want to give a special shout out and thank you to Jason and Margaret from D Street who helped us when we needed to figure out how to cover the con without a table. They ran the media booth fantastically, and coverage of the con would not be the same without them.

Stay tuned to our podcast feed for more of our con coverage, and if you want a sneak peek at what we're releasing, you can sign up for our Patreon.

Giles is excited for next year's Denver Comic Con, and he's still psyched about how much awesome content Beyond The Trope got from the weekend.

Monday, July 3, 2017

10 Things I Learned at Denver Comic Con

  1. You can never drink enough water.
    I had a waterbottle the first two days, but I forgot it at home on Sunday. I thought I was going to die. Water fountains aren't exactly on every wall, and dehydration isn't fun–especially not when you're surrounded by thousands of people in a room with lackluster air conditioning. Next year, I'm making sure to have water with me at all times!
  2. Nerds come in all shapes, sizes, obsessions, and outfits.
    Claiming nerd-dom comes with certain expectations. Example: few people believe me when I tell them I'm a nerd. But I can't even begin to describe how many different kinds of people I saw at DCC. Frat boys buying Spider-Man prints right next to what most people label as the "nerd" stereotype? Oh yes. It happened. Nerds aren't bespectacled wimps, my dear readers. We are everyone.
  3. No matter how many times you walk the show floor, you will find something new.
    I walked the same aisle four times before I discovered the artist who would sell me one of my con conquests: a tiny dinosaur reaching for a bunch of leaves. When you are surrounded by so much art, it can take a while to process.
  4. There is no such thing as too much Wonder Woman fan art.
    I don't even need to explain this as it's common sense and 100% factual.
  5. Take it easy.
    I thought I was taking it easy, but I was wrong. Did you know that walking from 8 to 6 for three days in a row can be exhausting? Especially if you rarely sit still for more than an hour. by the time Sunday evening hit, I never wanted to move ever again. Next year, I'm going to plan ahead and build in time to chill without worrying about what I'm missing.
  6. Your phone might not work, but that's OK.
    Phone service was actually better this year than it ever has been, but it was still iffy. My phone kept claiming my texts had failed, yet Giles and Emer responded to my questions. Odd. I learned to expect my phone to be a fancy clock, which made the times it worked all the more exhilarating.
  7. Con food is expensive.
    And you know what else? It's not a 10/10, either. Unless you have the back power to carry around a cooler with all your snacks and meals, you're stuck. Leaving is a hassle, and any food you buy inside is going to be at least $9. If you have to stay inside for lunch, I say spring for the crepes or gelato.
  8. People are people, whether they're bestselling authors, your favorite actor, or that random dude dressed as Star-Lord.
    There's nothing I love more than realizing that a talented person I admire is also a genuinely cool person. Nathan Fillion, Catherine Tate, James Marsters...these are just a few of the people I enjoyed seeing a completely different side of. And now I just want to be friends with them.
  9. Nothing helps a moderator more than a great audience question.
    Seriously, people. There's nothing worse than a packed house full of silent people who give you no feedback. If you want a great panel, get involved in the conversation!
  10. You can prepare for everything and freak out, or prepare for nothing and still freak out.
    Going to a con as a media person is a lot of work. Giles and Emer and I prepared for weeks to get everything lined up, and there were still a few things we messed up. Luckily, the freak-outs were few and, so far, easily remedied. 
Here's to a great year at a great con! I hope we get to see you all at Denver Comic Con 2018.

Michelle only did one day dressed in costume this year: Lara Croft! Shorts and a tank top were a great idea for the stuffy convention center.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Let The Con Begin!

Denver Comic Con is coming. This week. In two days!

This year, we're going to get off of the show floor for a lot more of the con. And my wife, who VERY kindly watched the table for us in years past, will be able to walk around and see WHATEVER she wants. And she'll be with her sister.

We're going to have a lot of awesome content this year, too. Panels, interviews, and (hopefully) a ton of pictures. In years past, I haven't done a lot with panels. I moderated three, I think, our first year, and I wasn't really near the events again until last year, though Michelle and Emily got to do a lot with the events. Last year, of course, I got to sit on a Space Opera panel, but THIS year, I get to moderate a Writing Star Wars books panel with TWO AMAZING AUTHORS!

There's a lot more to look forward to, as well, and I'm seriously excited about it! This weekend, along with our last recording day, is going to get us content that lasts almost through the end of August. It's going to be a jam-packed year, and that's before we even start to consider all of the exclusive content that's going up on our Patreon.

So, final question: what do you want us to try to cover at Denver Comic Con?

Denver Comic Con is one of our favorite events of the year. And Giles is more excited than ever!

Monday, June 26, 2017

You Should Be Volunteering

I've grown up either volunteering or being volunteered for things. When I was a kid I thought it was annoying to be required to donate my time and talents, but as an adult, I don't think I could stop if I tried. Last week I volunteered at a kids' camp called Royal Family, an organization that provides camps, clubs, and mentors for kids from foster care. 

I adore this camp. For five days, pairs of adults act as camp counselors to a small group of kids. We do all the typical camp stuff, but there's an underlying purpose of building kids' self esteem and guiding them toward success. It's one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, but knowing that I helped make some kind of difference in the world is immensely rewarding.

If you've been thinking about volunteering–whether it's as a mentor, at the food bank, or even for an organization like Habitat for Humanity–I say go for it. It can be hard to find the time, but even a couple of hours can change the course of someone's life.

Volunteering lets me share my talents, gets me involved with the community, and helps me contribute great things to society. So many people complain about the world being a terrible, dark, awful place, but too few people do very much about it. We can change the world. All we have to do is find a cause we care about and step up to the challenge.

Michelle is still recovering from camp food and the exhaustion of late nights and early mornings.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fanfic Fun

In high school, I was a fan fiction fanatic. I loved reading it and writing it and hearing about other peoples' ideas for it. I've always been one of those fans who gets entirely too into whatever fandom I'm currently enjoying, and I could never get enough of headcanons and theories and alternate universes and all the other fun things people do in fanfic.

Toward the end of high school or beginning of college, I kind of slid over into the "fan fiction isn't real fiction" camp and shunned everything to do with fanfic. I stopped writing it, I didn't read any of it, I rolled my eyes when someone told me a new chapter had come out on something I had previously enjoyed. Yeah, I turned into a sob. It was a dark time in my fan life.

What's really interesting is that, since I'm on an indefinite hiatus from 'normal' fiction at the moment, I've started back up on fanfic. I don't know if there's a correlation or not, but over the last few weeks, I've been devouring a handful of fics on Archive of Our Own and poking at a goofy one of my own. There's something freeing about not needing to do the worldbuilding or character development in order to tell a story. Plus it's fun to play with someone else's characters for a while, and put your own spin on them.

Long story short, I'm remembering how much fun this side of fandom is, and I'm so glad I got over my silly little snob phase.

What about you? Do you read or write fanfic? What are your favorites?

Emer isn't sure whether or not her current fanfic will ever see the light of day, but it's fun to work on. She's also posting last-minute cosplay tips and a preview of one of her DCC costumes for our patrons over on Patreon. Throw money at our faces so you don't miss you!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Spy Fun

When it first aired, one of my favorite shows was Burn Notice. I got super into it and watched every week. Then I got married but never bought cable, which left me out of luck for a while. Then they brought it to Netflix.

We watched all the way through Season 5 (maybe 6, but I can't remember for sure), and then we saw an episode that changed everything for us (yes, I'm talking about my wife, here). It was such a hard turn that it almost ruined the show for me. However, I've been craving this show again for a few weeks, now. And since I missed the final episode of Psych before they removed that from the streaming service, I had another show that I really wanted to finish up.

Emily and I started watching Burn Notice from the beginning. It's just as exciting as I remember, fun, funny, and it's been so long since we watched that I don't quite remember everything that happened.

Yes, part of me wants to finish Sons of Anarchy, Hell on Wheels, Longmire, and Frontier. But Burn Notice doesn't take itself as seriously as those shows do. That's nice for me. I like serious, tense shows. But Burn Notice has enough humor that it's a far more relaxing show to watch. And I'm not nearly as exhausted by it as I am with some other shows.

What are you rewatching? What about rereading? (I'm currently rereading Storm Front by Jim Butcher.)

Giles doesn't always revisit old shows or books. Except How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Friends, and Leverage. And Harry Potter (the books). But the ones he goes back to hold a special place in his life.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Secret for Our Blog Readers

Pssssst. Wanna hear something really cool? Something that's getting announced here before it's anywhere else?

Our Patreon is live!

Cue confetti showers and ear-bleeding vuvuzela serenades. Cue happy screaming and excited flailing. Cue one (or three) of us co-hosts sobbing in the corner and wondering what we've just done.

Okay, kidding on that last one. Mostly.

But, yes! You can now officially become a patron of Beyond the Trope and help us afford all sorts of cool things like, you know continuing to do what we do, upgrading our gear, and getting to more conventions--which all add up to better-quality, more ridiculous content for you, our fabulous listeners. You can also get cool things like a meme of the month made by one of us, or a super-special Q&A Google Hangout during our monthly recording sessions. Not that we're biased or anything, but we think that's pretty nifty.

All of our content--this blog and the podcast itself--will remain free and available for everyone, so don't worry about that! The Patreon feed just comes with cool behind-the-scenes extras, more nerding out, and the knowledge that you're an awesome person helping an awesome podcast.

Pretty sweet, right? And, because you're here reading this blog, you're one of the first people to hear about it! If you like our show, please help us out by becoming a patron and/or helping us spread the word! We seriously can't do this without our listeners, and we appreciate each and every one of you.

Emer is psyched about so many things right now! She's putting together last-minute cosplays for DCC after all, the Patreon is live, the new DLC for Final Fantasy XV is coming out many things to be excited about!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Big Push

It's June. We have some serious stuff going on this month. Not just the Patreon Launch (it's coming, keep looking!), but we also have Denver Comic Con (not a first, but still big for us).

This year will be different, though. We don't have a table, and we're involved in a few different panels. Oh, and one of us (not me, but pay attention to the feed) will get to moderate one of the Main Events!

As such, the blog posts are going to be a bit lighter over the next couple of weeks. We need to focus on the con and the launch. The good news is, when we come back, we'll have some awesome content!

In other news, Giles is working on his book like there's no tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A New Obsession

I've found a new show I really like: Riverdale. Netflix recommended it to me based on how much I like Supernatural, and I decided one evening, while waiting for Season 12 of Supernatural to show up, that I'd give it a try.

I've never read any of the Archie comics, but when I found out this was a "darker" take on the world, I knew I had to check it out. And I am SERIOUSLY pleased! The show is so good. It's a murder mystery with drama, action, and fun, simple romance. Many of the characters make the same, dumb, "this problem would be solved if we JUST COMMUNICATED" mistakes, but then they actually go and make real-life choices, including COMMUNICATING, solving their problems (eventually), and asking for help when they need it. They even own up to their mistakes.

The acting is okay, and the scripting falls a little below "par" in quality at times. But the tension, story arc, and character development are incredible!

If you haven't checked it out, yet, go do it. It's dark, serious, and a ton of fun.

Giles is definitely obsessed. And very sad that he only has three episodes left in the season.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

If I could, I would simply fill this post with a heck-ton of heart-eyed emojis. I'm not joking–I enjoyed it so much, I could forego actual words.

I'm not going to talk about the fights going on over this movie. I don't really care. For me, the question isn't which audiences are pleased or displeased with the final product. All I really care about is whether the movie accurately encompass the spirit of one of the coolest classic superheroes out there.

I, for one, say YES. Yes, it does. Don't worry, I won't spoil any of the major plot points–just know that this film is fantastic. Gal Gadot is my new hero. I read another reviewer who said her performance was "charismatic", and I couldn't agree more. She was electric. But then, the entire cast did a splendid job. I was fully immersed in the world, and it was only later that I began to remember that many of those actors were better known in other roles.

And the screenwriting. Yes. Also yes. So much yes. The intense action is seasoned with funny one-liners that had the entire theater laughing out loud. I would like to digitally shake the hands of those writers. Thank you for bringing such a powerful story to life.

In short, DC did it. OMG. They made a great movie! It's possible, people! I'm looking forward to the next few DC films, and I hope they continue to improve their storytelling.

Michelle now wants to learn to leap up off of a running horse to shoot bad guys with her mad archery skills. BRB, just off to craft her new armor-based workout outfits...

Friday, June 2, 2017

Steven Universe Soundtrack Release

Guys. Guys. The official Steven Universe soundtrack comes out today! I'm so excited! I love the music in this cartoon so much. Seriously. "Here Comes a Thought" actually helped me stave off a panic attack for half an hour a few months ago. This entire soundtrack always makes me smile, and I've been making do with covers since my roommate introduced me to the show.

And now Cartoon Network is officially releasing the soundtrack with the actual voice actors (including Patti Lupone as Yellow Diamond). Happy early birthday to me!

What's so great about the music of Steven Universe? Have a bulleted list because reasons.
  • It's all fun and lighthearted. 
  • There are a variety of musical styles, depending on the song and the character singing. 
  • A lot of the songs (like the show itself) handle themes a lot of others don't touch on (like dealing with anxiety in "Here Comes a Thought"). 
  • They're pretty short songs, generally two minutes or less, so it's easy to listen to when you don't have much time 
  • Surprise feels! (Omg, talk to me about "It's Over, Isn't It?") 
Basically, I'm super excited to finally have an official version of this soundtrack and I'm going to be blasting it in my car all summer. You can't stop me. Join me and grab the soundtrack on iTunes here! Then we can all be Crystal Gems together!

 Emer is an episode or two behind on Steven Universe, due to waiting for her roommate, so please don't send her spoilers! She's also really hoping to see some awesome Crystal Gem cosplay at DCC. Not that she's obsessed or anything. Of course not.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Book Review: Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann

Regulars to the show will know that Susan Spann is one of our most featured guests. We originally brought her on for her legal expertise, but wanted to give her a chance to showcase her writing, too. I never knew if I would read her books simply because there are so many books, and when we first met, I was SUPER focused on reading as much sci-fi and fantasy as I could get my hands on. Little factoid about me, though: one of the first books I ever tried to write was a mystery. I even studied mystery writing for about a year before returning to fantasy.

As a kid, some of my fondest memories were of mystery shows on PBS. Poirot, Miss Marple, Cadfael...great memories. Especially when I was sick. It was comforting, familiar. Home.

Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann reminded me EXACTLY of those childhood memories.

I've never read Japanese historical mysteries, but Claws of the Cat ticked every box I ever wanted in a classic mystery novel. A genuine who-dun-it with all the clues on the page for the reader to figure out so that the big reveal isn't annoying. It moved forward with new pieces of the puzzle, character development, and rich setting descriptions that kept the story alive and vivid on the page.

I seriously have no complaints. If I REALLY wanted to dig for something that I "wish" were different, it would be that I wanted a couple closer insights into the protagonist's thoughts. It's written in third-person close POV, so on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being first person and 10 being a synopsis), I'd say the reader gets about a 5-6 level of insight most of the time, zooming into a 4 at times. I would've liked to see a more consistent 4 with a few spots that zoom into a 3. But, really, that's a personal preference and not in any way a comment on the quality of the writing. I think the book is excellent, and everyone should go out and read it RIGHT NOW!

Mystery is one of Giles' first true loves. He's excited to read the next book in Susan's series. And the ones that follow.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Hey everyone!

It's been a crazy weekend for me, so I simply wanted to send out a quick note of well-wishing for Memorial Day. I don't feel like "Happy Memorial Day" adequately covers everything this holiday means. So many men and women have given their lives to protect us, and I'm thankful for their sacrifices.

I hope you all were able to enjoy the chance to spend time with friends and family today. Here's to our heroes and everything they do to make the world a better place.

Michelle has yet to recover from a long weekend of wedding festivities.

Friday, May 26, 2017

American Gods: A (Kind-Of) Review

I don't know if any of our listeners remember this little factoid, but American Gods is one of my favorite books. I love how weird it is, and the mythology, and Neil Gaiman's descriptions and writing style.

So, naturally, I was psyched when they started talking about a TV adaptation. As the casting announcements started coming out, I only got more exciting. And now it's finally here!

I've only watched the first three episodes so far (not for lack of wanting), but I'm incredibly impressed. The show beautifully captures the sort of ungrounded, bizarreness of the book, through some really interesting, unexpected cinematography. I'm going to have to re-watch it to find all the little details.

And I've never seen a more perfect book-to-screen adaptation cast. Ricky Whittle is seriously 100% spot-on for Shadow Moon, the protagonist, and, in my opinion at least, he does an incredibly job of portraying the constant confusion and over-thinking that happen in Shadow's head on the page without overplaying it or making the character too subdued. And don't even get me started on Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday or Gillian Anderson as Media. Seriously. Perfect.

In addition, they've updated and changed some of the book's events to fall more in line with what's happening in today's world (since, you know, it was published in 2001), and I'm really adoring those tweaks. There's a much more potent and prominent discussion of racism in America, without beating you over the head with a moral. But Anansi's speech at the beginning of the second episode? Totally gave me shivers.

A word of warning, for those unfamiliar with the book/show: this is not necessarily a family-friendly piece of media. There is a lot of cursing and sex (I mean, come on, it was in the book and now it's a show on Starz), and that might make some people uncomfortable.

But if you're good with that, I highly recommend giving it a watch, especially if you're a fan of Neil Gaiman's works, or of Brian Fuller's shows (both of them executive produced American Gods, and what a team, man). And, no, this doesn't count as a 'real' review, because I haven't found anything to nitpick about yet; I'm too much in fandom awe. 

Emer is a huge Neil Gaiman fan (not that anyone would have ever guessed that, what with her cosplaying from his comics before), and seriously can't wait to catch up on this show. In the meantime, she's re-watching Mirror Mask and reading the new American Gods comic.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


We had a meeting tonight. A BIG meeting. About awesome stuff.

As we've mentioned on our Facebook page, we're setting up a Patreon. It's launching soon. Very soon. We can say this because today we were talking about the Website Copy!

This is going to be epic, and I'm super excited. Patreon is a huge step for us. We're putting an emphasis on longevity, working on our future so that we can continue to create awesome content for all of our amazing listeners.

Keep an eye out. We'll make the official launch announcement soon.

 Giles is an aspiring writer, podcaster, and some-time conference presenter. You can find him at Denver Comic Con, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer's Colorado Gold, and over on Beyond the Trope.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Anne with an "E"

I have to admit I was hesitant to try watching Netflix's new take on Anne of Green Gables. I grew up with the 1985 miniseries and love it with all my heart. It's hard to jump into a reboot without a grain of salt, so I started watching the series rather hesitantly.

Now that I'm a few episodes in, though, I'm happy to say I'm a huge fan of Anne with an "E". It's charming, and the casting is fantastic. I'm not sure I would say the intended audience has remained the same, but I'm definitely enjoying the series.

One of the things I like best is the use of backstory. The writers went far more in depth to show just how messed up Anne's younger years were. I don't know that I would've loved it (or understood it) as a kid, but having rounder characters and a more intense foundation for Anne's wild imagination is satisfying.

If you've held off watching because you didn't want to poison your love for the original, I would encourage you to give it a try. Anne is just as effervescent as ever, Gilbert is amazing, and Marilla and Matthew are the best. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I am.

Michelle is terrible and has never read the books, but don't worry! She reserved the first of the series at the library and is eagerly waiting its arrival.

Friday, May 19, 2017

DCC...Without Cosplay?

It's May and, as I'm writing this, it's snowing. Because Colorado. But we're already thinking about Denver Comic Con and that's exciting! The guest list this year is super cool, they're getting the panel announcements together, and I've already got my wish list of merch I want to bring home (well, the list of fandoms I want to find things for, at least). I'm not excited for another con, what are you talking about?

What's weird is that I don't think I'm going to be cosplaying this year. I could re-use some costumes, but most of them were too hot for the summer, or were too tight to work with my current health issues. So I'm probably going to just be wearing nerd shirts this year, and that's bizarre for someone who's never been a convention without a costume!

But one of the most important things about conventions is taking care of yourself. Making sure you're hydrated and eating enough food to enjoy the panels and the con floor is what allows you to have a good time. And if that means not cosplaying for once, well there are worse things.

Who else is coming to DCC this year? We want to say hi!

Emer was looking forward to wearing her most recent steampunk costume again, but it's just not going to happen. So instead, she'll be showing off her Tee Turtle shirts and maybe some closet cosplay. Maybe, if she gets really ambitious, she'll bust out Death from The Sandman comics again.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Game Night!

I LOVE game night! At my best friend's house, it's all about goofing off, drinking beer, and playing D&D and/or board games. Betrayal at House on the Hill, Sea Fall, Carcassonne, even The Oregon Trail Card Game.

So imagine why I'm excited to join a new game night this week! Yes, it's going to be on Fridays, and yes I'll be hanging out with new friends (newer than my Sunday night peeps), and I get to PLAY in an RPG that I've never been a PC in before. Board games are awesome because they're a great way to relax and get to know each other.

And, as a writer, roleplaying games rock because they exercise my brain and help build story ideas and stretch my character building abilities.

So, yeah, I'm excited.

Do you have a game night? What's your favorite game?

Yep, Giles is exciting for gaming. It's one of his favorite hobbies. Along brewing and video games.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: Into the Fire by Patrick Hester

When I first met Patrick Hester, it was across a very crowded table at a pub in Downtown Denver. Gail Carriger introduced him and said we should get together. Fast forward a couple of years, and now Patrick is a great friend to have. He's supported us by bringing us on SF Signal, talking me through a VERY stressful job situation, and generally just goofing off with us at cons. So when he said he had a book coming out, I KNEW I had to read it. And review it, since it's SO GOOD!

Into the Fire is Patrick's debut novel, out through Wordfire Press. It's an urban fantasy that takes place in Denver (my home town), and it breaks a lot of the common tropes of the genre in the best possible ways.

Samantha Kane is a detective in her mid-thirties who suddenly discovers that she's a wizard. And unlike most wizards, who, at a very young age, learn from other wizards how to use their magic, she's completely clueless. Enter Jack Mayfair, local wizard with a "special department" of DPD who has the chops to teach an out-of-control Samantha how not to blow up the planet.

I went into this story expecting a lot of similarities to Jim Butcher, but like I said, Patrick Hester broke away from a lot of the urban fantasy tropes. The story arc hits a couple of "typical" waypoints for the genre, but rather than sticking with the gritty cop story, this feels more like Charlaine Harris' take on the noir/magic genre. Samantha's voice and personality are unique, and she stands out as a great character, and rather than compare this story to the other UF books I've read, I think this one deserves to be talked about on its own merit. It doesn't NEED the comparison.

One of the great things about this story is it felt like it really takes place IN Denver. More than that, the descriptions, character depth, and fun use of magic made me LONG to jump into a new role playing campaign, both as a player and a GM.

My only "complaint" is that I never got a sense of HOW magic works in this world. As a roleplaying nerd and consumer of fantasy, I often want to see a lot of the rules in a fantasy world's magic system. A "science" with internal logic and consistency. While I'm sure it exists in the author's notes and mind, I didn't see enough of that for my personal taste. With that being said, I strongly recommend this book, and I think the publisher needs to push for a sequel as soon as possible.

Giles is excited about the chance to read and review this book, especially because he thinks his friend deserves this success. He's also excited about his own writing, which is coming along nicely, if he does say so himself.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Wonder Woman!

I watched the full Wonder Woman trailer today, and I can hardly contain my excitement. (It certainly doesn't hurt that I already thought she's the coolest). And since I know you're just dying to hear the play-by-play, here are a few of the thoughts I had while watching my new favorite trailer:
  1. Oh man this song. It's my favorite.
  2. Those boots...I'm so conflicted. Awesome...yet...heels?
  3. Awww tiny Diana is the cutest. 
  4. Ugh I want an awesome shield.
  5. That battle scene, though. ALL THE BULLETS.
  6. Yay saving Chris Pine!
  7. OMG Doctor Poison Yaaasss. 
  8. And she has a Phantom of the Opera mask. (Gawd I love that book.)
  9. WHAT. I want to climb a wall like that. And steal armor and weapons...and be her. 
  10. The costumes! Her dress! The hats!
  11. "Diana, princess of Them–" "Diana Prince." hehehe
  12. I just want to be her. With a SWORD HIDING IN MY FANCY DRESS. 
  13. Gal Gadot is my new hero. Tiny Diana on a horse is my hero also. 
After a string of disappointing DC attempts to turn classic comic heroes into movie heroes, I can only hope that this one turns out well. For once.

Michelle's go-to costume for any Halloween or cosplay event is Wonder Woman. She's not obsessed at aaaaaalll.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cop Out Blog

I'm pretty sure this has been a really tough week for a lot of people, including most (if not all) of us here at Beyond the Trope. So, because I have about zero brain power left right now, I'll keep this short and sweet:

Don't be afraid to take care of yourselves, friends. Whether that's playing video games or reading a book or going for a long walk doesn't really matter. Do something that makes you happy and helps relieve some stress. Take a deep breath. Treat yo self and imagine a Parks and Rec gif here.

We all need some time to rest and recover. It's okay. Take the time you need.

Emer is doing her best to take her own advice. But she can't currently drink tea, so it's hard.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Writing with Empathy

Can you believe a lie so well it becomes true? It can hurt, but it's often my go-to for writing emotional scenes. While working on a particularly tough scene last week, I spent about hours imagining the loss of my sister. From what I've heard and read, this tactic is similar to method acting. I stopped being a writer crafting a story–I become the girl who'd lost her best friend.

Empathy is exhausting, but it's also what pulls us in. We've all read a book or movie with a supposedly emotional scene that fell flat. I know many a person who sobbed at the end of The Fault in Our Stars–and I know many who simply shrugged it off. When I watch Les Misérables, Éponine's song "On My Own" gets me every time. Think back to the stories that have hit you the hardest–I'll bet you empathized with the characters or situations, and leaving your mind open to that emotion made an even stronger connection.

Allowing a story to run your emotions via your imagination can be fun–you can get a new puppy, fall in love, save a life...all events with a great payoff. But using this strategy to construct heartbreak can produce lingering effects. It makes for a great book (hopefully), but after six hours spent putting yourself in a character's shoes, the emotion sticks. After all, we write what we know, and it's difficult to write heartbreak if you don't open yourself up to it.

How do you connect to stories?

Michelle drinks tea and cuddles her pupster to cope with all this empathy.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Making Motivation Fun

For two weeks or so now, I've been using/playing an app/site called Habitica to keep me on track for doing things. I'll be honest--I totally adore it!

The basic premise turns your to-do list into an adorable little RPG. You set up your account and fill out your list of habits (like eating healthy or drinking water), daily items (things you want to do every day, like write 1,000 words or plan a project), and to-do list (exactly what it sounds like). For every item checked off the lists, you get experience points, gold, and sometimes item drops. For ever daily item you miss, you take damage at the end of the night. You can team up with your friends in a party like Dungeons and Dragons and fight against monsters that do even more damage if you miss your daily tasks.

As a gaming nerd and someone who needs help motivating myself to get things done, this is fabulous for me. Trying to keep my character and my party from taking too much damage has definitely motivated me to get more done. And I admit I've totally finished things quicker than I would have otherwise so I could get enough gold to buy a seasonal exclusive item before it disappeared.

Is anyone else playing Habitica? What are you experiences? If you're not on it, how do you personally keep yourself organized and motivated?

Emer is really looking forward to level 10, when she's going to become a rogue. She's also enjoying watching her roommate play Persona 5. And enjoying reading the Baccano! light novels.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

More Big News

So, not only do we get to go to Denver Comic Con this year, and not only are we setting up a Patreon, I also have some pretty awesome personal news. Well, personal for my career.

I'm teaching TWO workshops at RMFW's Colorado Gold conference! I pitched three workshops, and they picked two of them. This is a big deal for me because I've only taught one workshop on my own before. It was at another local con, and a LOT of people showed up. A lot more than I expected, too.

So what am I teaching? I'll be revisiting Podcasting your Platform. I know I've taught this once before, but I can't remember if I taught it a second time. This one will be more focused on writers than the last time (which was aimed at all artists). And I'll also be teaching a Building Your Brand workshop, focusing on using new media to build a brand and a platform all at once.

It'll be exciting to go to a writing conference again. It'll be two years since I went to the last conference, since Beyond the Trope spent all last year at fan conventions rather than craft conferences. It meant I didn't have time or the finances to go to a writing conference. We met a few of our friends at the bar after the Saturday keynote, but I missed getting to spend a whole weekend with writing friends, talking about craft, listening to awesome speakers, and meeting new people.

Giles is also excited about the idea of pitching a book again. And critique groups, maybe? But definitely being at a conference where he can learn rather than work.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Mysterious Poet

Now do not stop. Don't lay your writers down–
Your pencils, felt-tips, Smith-Coronas, Bics–
Please keep them softly pressed to notebook pad
And make them dance around and through your life.
Fill pages, tablets, journals, books. Sling ink
Across your years, and paper-mate your mind.
Keep track on lines, look back in time, and see
Some stranger growing there. Where once you wrote,
Now ask, "Who thought that thought? Who was I then?"
The draft revised, syntax transformed, your slant
May lead you to some fresh enlightenment.
Then join with me; repeat the poet's lines:
"No one can know how glad I am to find
On any sheet the least display of mind."

I adore this poem. Not only does it sound lovely when you read it aloud, it conjures up the exact feelings of being a writer looking back at years of ink-slinging. The only problem is, I have no idea who wrote it. I found it on a photocopied sheet of paper stuffed into my high school writing portfolio–no author, no indication of the book of origin.

While I love research, it can be daunting to try to track down this Mysterious Poet ("M.P."). I've Googled every line of the poem–which led me not to an online version, but to Robert Frost's 1939 "A Considerable Speck", which my dear M.P. referenced in the last three lines of this poem. The first Bic pens, however, didn't appear until 1950. Since I photocopied M.P.'s poem in 2005, I need to find a poet who wrote between 1950 and 2005. I'm sure that's a short list. 

So, I've decided to try to cut some labor by asking all you wonderful people one question: Do you have any idea who wrote this charming piece?

Michelle is working on a book with rake heroine who absolutely refuses to play nice with the other cast members.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Fandom Manners

There's a lot of craziness happening in fandom all the time. I've been lucky to be only tangentially aware of most of the drama, but it's a thing. Things like comic book geeks pretending to be gatekeepers by giving female fans "a fake geek girl test," or gamers complaining about people playing on easy mode (which I do because I want to enjoy a game, not be frustrated by it), or putting on airs and claiming someone can't be a real anime fan because they haven't watched X, or whatever.

And that's dumb. We're all fans, aren't we? We all started somewhere, and not everyone enjoys fandom the same way. Some people collect trivia and others write fanfic. Some people put together elaborate cosplay and others memorize every line of their favorite episode. No method is wrong or makes someone less of a fan.

We all enjoy our fandoms--our books, tv shows, movies, games, etc.--however it works for us. And as long as that isn't telling someone else they're doing it wrong, or bullying someone else because they have a different headcanon, or something just as jerky, we're all good here.

I'll leave you with this lovely Doubleclicks song as a reminder:

Emer is super excited for some fandom things happening in her life. Mostly cosplay planning. If anyone has any suggestions on where to get sparkly driving gloves for an Ignis Scientia cosplay, let her know.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Big News

In case you missed it, we made a HUGE announcement over on our Facebook page last Saturday. If you haven't seen it yet, go check it out. It's exciting!

For a while, now, I've wanted to move forward on something like this. Granted, each of us have had our hesitations at times, but we put our head together to start working out how we can build on what we've created. This isn't going to be easy. Just figuring out the rewards system is already a challenge.

This isn't the first time we've each tried something like this, either. A few years ago, all three of us sat down and created alternate Twitter profiles meant to inspire some back-and-forth between our real selves and these alter-egos. Mine was Angsty Author, and I planned to do a weekly Q&A show where I gave solid writing advice in response to angsty cliches from writers (very much like myself) who are struggling to keep motivated.

Obviously, that never turned into a thing that I did.

But now we're exploring ideas, options, and opportunities. It's exciting, and we can't wait to get into more detail. Once we've figured those details out.

Giles is getting super excited. Can you tell?