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?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Staying Productive While Jobless

A little over a month ago, I was let go. I could go into the backstory and pile on the woe, but Mondays are depressing enough. It's been equal parts rough and liberating, however, and looking back, I'm not heartbroken over the situation. But being unemployed until my next gig starts means a lot of time to myself–time that needs to be filled.

I've blogged about productivity before, but all those posts have been geared toward people with jobs. People who had so much to do all they actually wanted to do was watch Netflix. Now I'm faced with a different problem: How do I stay productive when I feel like I have all the time in the world? 

First, I don't actually have all that much time–not when you consider that I have to apply for unemployment, take care of health insurance (ugh), figure out a new budget, apply for a teacher's license, write a short story, edit a novella (twice), edit a novel, participate in a wedding, do flowers for two weddings... That's half the list. Half. 

Since I don't want to sit around watching Netflix all day, most of the things on my long-term list are self-imposed and not at all required. I enjoy getting things done, and I don't like being idle. 

I used to fill out a weekly notepad planner with everything I needed to do on breaks and after work, but I've decided to change my tactics. I found an old whiteboard calendar in my closet, and as I schedule responsibilities, I write them down. I'm a huge fan of writing things down. Putting it on my Google calendar helps me prevent double-booking, but I never look at it otherwise. So, big responsibilities go on the whiteboard. For instance, today says "French" and "Blog" because I needed to grade some French assignments and write a blog. 

Then, every morning before I work out, I write the order of my day on a piece of notebook paper. Fancy, I know. I list my projects by priority and split them into related categories. Here's how today's list went: Grade. Money order. Fingerprint card? Folder for resumes. BTT Blog-->BTT emails and interview reqs. Text Clara. Supernova. Dress fitting 6 p.m. 

The nice thing about to-do lists is that you can break things up into so many steps that you feel like you've accomplished much more than you really did. I could just write "BTT" for all my Beyond the Trope Monday responsibilities, but I like crossing things off, so I write more things down. In the end, my motivation to complete everything on the list is partly the idea of how terrible it would be not to ever get anything done every again (a.k.a. guilt trips) and a reward of a TV show and/or a food splurge when I finish things on time. It takes discipline, but it's worth it!

How do you stay productive when you don't have a boss hanging deadlines around your neck?

Michelle found folders from elementary school stashed in her library. Twenty-year-old Lisa Frank art is appropriate for holding resumes, right?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


When I was a child, I remember seeing Columbo and that kid from The Wonder Years talking about this farm boy and the woman he loved. There was fencing, a pirate, enormous rats, and fire that sprayed from the ground.

And kissing. Ew.

I'm speaking, of course, of Muppet Treasure Island...wait, that's not it. The Princess Bride!

I loved this movie. It was full of action, adventure, and giants. Even the romance was epic. And this week, my wife and I get to go see it at a special screening with Cary Elwes!

Tell me, have YOU seen The Princess Bride? Is it one of the best movies of all time, or THE best movie of all time?

Giles' wife asked if he wanted to go to this screening. All he said was...

Monday, April 10, 2017

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast

I didn’t grow up watching “Beauty and the Beast”. I was Belle. I dressed like her to watch the movie. I taught myself to walk and read at the same time. I knew (*cough*know*cough*) every song, and I secretly called my bike Philippe. My neighborhood was surrounded by open space, and sometimes I would ride Philippe to the fields to run to the top of a hill and sing.*

You can imagine how intense my fangirling was when they announced the live-action film. They were going to make my movie! It was going to be real! I had loved the live-action Cinderella, so I had high hopes for Beauty and the Beast.

Maybe that was the problem–I was so excited and hopeful that nothing could’ve lived up to the world inside my head. I enjoyed the movie. Really, truly enjoyed it. But there were a few things amiss, and I’m curious to know if anyone else agrees with me.

First, let’s talk music. It was beautiful, wasn’t it? Nearly every character who sang did justice to their songs. I was impressed with Luke Evans; actually, his songs were possibly the best scenes of the whole movie. But… (how do I say this without being mean?) Emma Watson’s songs felt out of place. The autotune put my teeth on edge. I found myself bracing myself whenever one of Belle’s songs was coming up, simply because I hate autotune. It doesn’t make a tune. It makes a robot.

Which leads me to casting. Was there no Broadway ingenue who could have sung for Ms. Watson? Don’t get me wrong–I think she was a great choice to be Belle. She is a wonderful actress and person. But I think the movie would have been better if someone had sung for her, since the producers obviously thought her voice wasn’t strong enough.

I also question the casting of Ian McKellen, whose voice didn’t really do it for me. It felt like he was relying on his presence as the Great Ian McKellen to carry Cogsworth’s character, but it just didn’t work out. Mrs. Potts was slightly better cast, but still not 100% in my mind. Yet, if you ask my bff, the absolute worst, most despicable casting choice was deciding that Philippe was no longer a draft horse.

On the other hand, Le Fou, Gaston, the Beast, Lumiere, and Maurice were perfect. So. Perfect. Can anyone claim that pub scene wasn’t fantastic? I wish I could love the rest of the cast choices as much as I loved Gaston. And for the backstory changes they made, Kevin Kline’s portrayal of Maurice was splendid. Or maybe that’s just my crush on his version of Cyrano talking…

I did appreciate the world: the castle, the village, the feeling of being somewhere you loved dearly. The story choices the writers made were well-done and believable. Those added details made the screenplay feel fuller and rich.

So, all in all, Beauty and the Beast is worth it. I didn’t love all of its parts equally, but the great ones tended to make up for the ones I didn’t fall head over heels for.

What did you think of it?


For another lovely Beauty and the Beast story, Michelle recommends Robin McKinley’s Beauty, which is one of her Top 5 favorites of all time.

*I’m not ashamed. I was adorable.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Why I'm Excited!

I've been a fan of Beth Revis for quite some time. Yes, it's true. Want proof? Check here, also here, and this spot, too.

Now, what do you think my reaction was when I heard she was coming on the show? No, not that. Sure, I was excited, but no jumping or clapping. Just a smile. A wide smile.

This is going to be a short post for a couple reasons. One, you have homework to do. Go read those links, then go buy Beth's books. Also, if you haven't, listen to the interview with her. She's amazing.

Two, I found 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I'm COMPLETELY hooked. So much so that I'm ready to go get the book, too.

So, go read everything by Beth Revis.

Yep, a short post. Because Giles is hooked on good stories.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Concerning Vacation and Accidental Writing Constraints

I didn't mean to constrain my writing time while on vacation–my intentions were, in fact, completely opposite. I would write every day. I would finish editing my novella, then I would attack two sessions' worth of critique notes on my novel. I would be consistent. I would be triumphant.

I would...get on the first plane, exchange a wary glance with my laptop, and pull out a book.

When jetlag had me awake at 4 a.m. three days in a row, did I whip out the computer and go tap-tap-tapping away? Nah. I turned on HGTV* and drank hotel coffee. You can guess how much I knew about the rest I needed: ZERO. I thought I needed a break from my job, not from fun. (Writing is FUN, day job is DUMB: this has always been my mantra). I was increasingly confused when my daily word quota ended up piled with the dirty laundry instead of checked off my to-do list. I finally stopped expecting myself to write at the end of the first week. It was a relief to stop berating myself for not writing.

I learned that I needed a hard reset from the past year. Job problems, losing family members, podcast responsibilities–everything whooshed around and made it nearly impossible to get a creative footing. Have you ever tried to cross a stream or river on foot? You know there are rocks down there, and you can even see some of them, but every once in a while, you step on a hidden, huge, slippery rock, and as you crash into the water you can't help but wonder, "Why in the world didn't I see that coming?" That was me. I kept trying out different rocks, but I either went nowhere or wiped out.

Halfway into my vacation, I took the sentiment of "OK, I don't have to write" one step further: I told myself I wasn't allowed to write. I could observe, and I could make mental notes, but I wasn't allowed to turn on my computer or open my notebook. It was easy for about a week. And then everything flipped on its head. I had ideas. Inspiration. Cool things were happening in my brain, but I wasn't allowed to do anything with them. It became physically painful–like when you hear someone badly explaining a subject you know everything about.

I've had a couple of days now of "allowed" writing time, and those hours have been the clearest my creative brain has been in months (years?). I am once again excited to sit down and work through my muddle of pages. Sometimes when you think you're happy writing, you're not. And sometimes when you think you want to do something, you don't. Resting doesn't make me a failure–it simply means I'm becoming aware of how clear my creative stream needs to be in order for those crossing expeditions to be better than vacation.

Michelle's vacation is coming to an end, which is sad, but at least she'll be able to devote her time to getting the podcast ready for future interviews and fun summer awesomeness!

*This is how I know I'm on vacation: 24/7 HGTV.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Form Bending

Recently, I've kind of stepped away from fiction writing for a multitude of reasons. I'm not currently pursuing traditional publication with anything, and I'm very slowly picking at a co-authored piece that should have been up a month ago. But that's about it as far as fiction goes right now.

But over the last two weeks or so, I've been exploring other writing forms. I checked out a couple books from the library about writing personal essays, and I've read a handful of online articles about revising poetry. I have the a couple rough poems and the beginning of an essay so far, and it's a very interesting experience.

I've been focused on writing fiction since high school. I would always try to turn an essay into a short story, if I could. My college essay was a short about one of my characters telling me how great I was because I couldn't figure out how to write about myself. Oh, yeah. That happened.

So it's kind of weird to be looking at writing creative nonfiction without gagging, honestly. But it's something totally different, and it's been helping me catalogue and examine my thoughts recently. I don't know if it'll ever go anywhere, but it's been an interesting experiment so far.

Emer has always been a fan of poetry, but her tendency toward length has consistently made a problematic exercise. But who hasn't written angsty poetry the world never sees, right?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Zeroing in on Goals

It's been a fantastic month so far. I'm hitting goals square on the bullseye! And this despite the fact that I'm not exactly feeling "motivated."

That's right, motivation isn't particularly "high" these days. Well, maybe that's not true. I'm motivated because I still want success. Just not driven, I guess. I'm content. Relaxed. Enjoying peace. Which doesn't make for high levels of productivity.

That being said, I'm putting a lot of effort into reaching some of my goals. In fact, I submitted three —yes THREE—workshop proposals for RMFW's Colorado Gold conference. That's the most I've ever submitted, and if any of them get excepted, it'll be the first time I present at that conference solo. It's exciting to me because RMFW changed my life so much. Yes, I've presented several workshops before, even solo. But RMFW is kind of a dream for me...

Next goal: finishing this short story so I can start submitting it. I have one...maybe two...more passes, and I'll be done! The only reason I'm not working on it tonight is that I finished a pass yesterday. I like to let a day or two sit in between edits on short stories so I get a "fresh" perspective on each run-through. Seriously, I'm excited for this short! It might be one of the best things I've ever written. I hope.

The next goal will be a novel. Of course.

Any goals that you're reaching so far this year?

Goals achieved, including a blog post. Giles is rocking it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Breckenridge Brewery and DCC Press Release

So, every year, Breckenridge Brewery (a major sponsor for Denver Comic Con) brews a special beer for the convention. And every year they open up a contest to name that beer. This year, it's one of my favorite styles: a Bohemian Pilsener!

Here's the official press release for you:

Breckenridge Brewery and DCC Open Up Submissions For “Name the Denver Comic Con Beer” Contest

WHAT: The annual “Name the Denver Comic Con Beer” contest starts today, March 21. This is the sixth year Breckenridge Brewery has brewed a special beer exclusive for Denver Comic Con (DCC). The 2017 DCC official beer is a Bohemian-style Pilsner. It’s delicate and well-balanced, light yet complex. Saaz hops, a classic pilsner ingredient, impart a pleasant, earthy aroma while giving spicy flavor characteristics and a crisp, dry finish. Past winners of the "Name the Comic Con Beer" contest are, The Fantastic Pour, The Caped Brewsader, Brews Wayne, Hulk's Mash, and Snape-ricot.

  • March 21 - “Name the Denver Comic Con Beer” contest starts
  • March 23, 5:00 pm - Deadline for name submissions
  • March 24 - Final four names announced and voting period opens
  • March 29 - Official name and winner announced
  • April - May - Stay tuned for more info on final artwork and beer release date

HOW: To submit an idea for a name, comment in the section of this Facebook post here by 5:00 pm on Thursday, March 23rd. Check back on Facebook, Friday March 24th to vote for one of the four select entries decided on by Breck and DCC.

WHY: This year’s winning name will be illustrated by a local comic book artist and featured on this year’s DCC pint glass. The winner receives a custom prize package from Breckenridge Brewery that includes free beer for a year and a Denver Comic Con beer tap handle.

So if you're a geeky beer drinker, go submit your name ideas. And don't forget to go get your passes for Denver Comic Con!

Giles is a HUGE beer fan, and every year, he's excited for this contest.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Learning Rocks

I'm sure at least a couple of you noticed that I missed another blog post last week. I have a really great excuse: I was sitting on my couch...and I couldn't get up.

The thing is, I spent nearly four hours of last Monday taking the Praxis for English Content Knowledge. By the time I got home, my brain was so mushified I couldn't get it coagulated enough to do anything. I nearly forgot to eat dinner. And I love dinner.

Being the odd person that I am, I loved every second I spent studying and taking the exam. I learned all sorts of new things, such as the origin of the colon, the process of language acquisition in children, and the fact that I might be the only person not impressed with Finnegans Wake. I filled an entire notebook with notes, and my to-be-read list grew by leaps and bounds. I'm so excited to tackle that list. Who am I kidding–I'm so excited to start studying again.

Every once in a while, when I consider my choice to change careers, I drive myself crazy with "What the heck are you even thinking?" thoughts. But studying (and passing, yay!) the Praxis reminded me that I love school. I love learning, and I love sharing my passion for learning. I am a bit sorry that I didn't keep up with blogging, but all's well that ends well, right?

Michelle is headed on vacation in the morning, hurray and huzzah!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cosplay Perks

One of my favorite things about cosplay is that it often requires you to be super inventive and creative. I mean, anime physics doesn't exactly apply to real life, so how can you possibly create a costume that captures the impossible design?

While my steampunk costume isn't anime-inspired, it still has some pretty unique touches. I had to research a bit of leatherwork to make my new hat band (which includes several cups worth of tea leaves), and I still have to figure out how I want to attach the epaulettes my friend made me (with teaspoons!), which will be a whole other creative endeavor.

In cosplay, there are no limits, except by time and how much effort you want to put in. It's an excuse to learn new skills and be able to show off the results to a bunch of other nerds who will appreciate them. It's a chance to express your love for something in a visual way. And there's something really confidence-boosting about wearing something you made that's totally awesome.

In short, I love cosplaying, and I can't wait to put the finishing touches on this year's steampunk. If I remember and have time, I'll try to post photos on our Facebook page. Otherwise, I'll be wearing it again at DCC, in all likelihood, so come find us to see it.

Emer will be at AnomalyCon all weekend, looking dapper as heck with her burgundy spats and tea hat. Find her and say hi!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Video Game Review: Watch Dogs 2

A few weeks ago, I sat down and realized I wanted to play video games. But I didn't necessarily want to sit down and focus on in-depth missions like the ones in Dishonored 2, and I need a bit of a break from Fallout 4 still. My solution? Buy a new game. One that's gotten good reviews and gives me some open-world run-around space that I've always enjoyed.

My first introduction to a game of this style was actually The Godfather for the Nintendo Wii. I've never been interested in the Grand Theft Auto games.

This game starts out by jumping the player right into the main story, giving them a glimpse into this alternate reality where the government and corporations are spying on citizens and collecting their information for criminal profiling, marketing, societal control. The player follows a series of missions to expose the data collection firm for the unconstitutional monsters they are.

Despite how serious that sounds, there's a lot of humor and whimsey to the game. The characters are a little cartoony, like a Hollywood caricature of early nineties hackers. But it's subtle, too, because the characters have depth, personality, and a consistency that makes them feel like real people, except that one or two of their personality traits are focused on to make sure they stand out from each other (not that it would be a problem).

What I like about this game, really, is the humor. Due to the extremely serious subject matter, the bright colors, missions and side quests meant to gain more "followers" bring a lightheartedness to the game that keeps it from becoming stressful and disconcerting.

And, of course, there's driving. Some cool cars, taxi missions, and sightseeing in a beautiful rendition of San Fransisco make for a great experience for those moments when I need to just shut down my brain.

All in all, I recommend this game to anyone who likes open-world games. There is some violence, and the occasional interruptions from other players in online gameplay can be annoying (at times), but it feels like a real world. An awesome city with places to climb, machines to hack, and cool clothes to collect.

Of course, this game reminds Giles of Hackers. Not a great movie, but still one of his favorites.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Steampunk Ahoy!

After two weeks of various illnesses, I'm finally feeling myself again. Breathing and eating are kind of nice things to be able to do. Just saying. You know, in case you forgot about that.

I'm super glad I'm doing better with enough time to finish putting together my new cosplay for Anomaly Con next weekend. This will be an interesting con for a couple reasons:
  • It's the last year of Anomaly Con
  • I'm the only member of Beyond the Trope that's going
  • We won't have a podcast table
  • I didn't apply to be on panels at all
The last two years when we went to Anomaly, we had a table and were on panels and discussions. If you visited our table, you probably picked up a sweet magnet. This year, it's just me. And my awesome new outfit (complete with giant feather in my hat and lovely spats).

Now that I can breathe again, I'm working on putting the final touches on said awesome outfit. I'm planning on making a tea-themed hat band, with vials of loose leaf tea and a strainer attached, so all I'll need is a cup and hot water to have tea anywhere. Because tea is life. My friend is also making me some other tea-themed accessories, because she's amazing.

I'm kind of looking forward to not having to worry about a table this year. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having a podcast booth and meeting listeners. But it's also nice to be able to go to a con at least once without working it. I went to the second year of DCC (before Beyond the Trope was even an idea), so I'm good with tabling there. But we've only ever been to Anomaly with a table before! So, for this last year, I'm super excited to be able to roam freely and not worry about scheduling conflicts.

If you're coming to this year's Anomaly Con, look for the person in a bright yellow shirt with a burgundy cravat and hat feather, and come say hi! I promise I don't bite.

Emer is trying to focus on little, good things right now. Conventions, costumes, good music, Pokémon, cartoons--things like that. It's been a rough week, but she's made it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Video Game Review: Dishonored 2

Now that I've had a chance to actually sit down and work on a second play-through of Dishonored 2, I feel like I can review it well.

I'm not finished with my second play-through, yet, and I'm not sure when that's going to happen. You see, with Dishonored, I couldn't HELP but keep playing it, again and again.* It wormed into my brain, drew me into a story and world that engaged my imagination, made me care about the characters, and pulled at my heartstrings in ways that convinced me that I NEEDED to play through a specific way.

With Dishonored 2, there's just something off about the game. They added another character, who is AWESOME and has powers that are super cool and fun to use. But the way some of the powers work, including powers carried over from Dishonored, just feels different. And not different the way you'd think they'd feel based on the storyline reasons for changing how they work.

I think part of it is that, rather than using the Unreal Engine, they created their own game engine (The Void Engine) for this game. The physics don't feel any different, and the combat feels the same. So maybe it's not the engine so much as just some of the "magical rules" that they've updated.

Story-wise, I found it hard to engage with the reason and agency behind the characters' motivations. Without spoiling either story, in Dishonored, the storyline is a vindication/redemption/vengeance arc where the main character has to clear his name and save the empire and the princess. In Dishonored 2, it's not personal with either character you can choose. Sure, if you pick Corvo, Empress Emily needs to be rescued, and that's the end-game. If Emily is your chosen character, then you have to rescue Corvo. But the how and where they go and who they pursue? I didn't connect the dots. It didn't feel like a cohesive plot or a logical direction. Which means some of the missions feel like filler in between chasing the TRUE end goal, and not in a side-quest manner like they're supposed to be.

More than that, most of these missions take place in broad daylight. In Dishonored, several of the missions took place in daytime, but there were plenty of places to hide. For a stealth assassination game, that seems like the way to go. But only a small percentage of the missions take place at night in Dishonored 2. More than that, most of the places where you're expected to "sneak" around to finish the mission don't even have great places to hide unless you know how to get up REALLY high and move around over peoples' heads (which is pretty often an option). But this is a stealth assassination game. It brings me back to figuring out motivation and reasoning within the characters. Why sneak around to go after a target in the bright sunshine when everyone can see you when you can wait for nightfall and hide in the shadows?

Overall, the gameplay is fun, and I find myself thinking about jumping back into it a lot (when I have serious free time). But it's not as engaging. The motivation feels forced, and the characters lack dimension. Despite the fact that they got voice actors to record dialogue for the protagonists this time around. If I had to rate it, I'd give it 2/4. It's not a BAD game, it's just not as good as the first one. Which may not be fair, but if they'd changed just ONE of the things that bothers me about this game, I think it would make a world of difference.**

Giles might be overcompensating with such a long post since he missed last week's blog. Don't mind him, though, because he was actually working last week instead of goofing off like he could've been.

*I played through the main campaign two full times and the DLC campaign two full times, and I'm about half way through my third play-through of the main campaign. Which will be started over on the PS4 now that I have the Ultimate Edition with updated graphics.

**Seriously, if ALL they did was make MOST of the missions take place at night and/or inside in the dark with just one or two taking place in the daytime with STRONG reasons why, that would fix this game. Story would NOT matter nearly as much.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Are we Postmodernists?

One of the last things I studied* before going to sleep last night was the timeline of Western literary movements. It's too easy to forget that literature doesn't pop up from a vacuum–it amazes me how simple it can be to see how an author's themes fit in with their peers. Everyone who has ever written prose or poetry has been a product of (or reaction against) the world around them.
As I finished my review of Postmodernism (generally considered to be the movement beginning in the late 1900s and continuing to the present day), I wondered if my writing would be considered Postmodernist, or if I'm part of a different movement altogether. How do you classify a literary movement you are literally in the middle of? Many critics would say that, being a writer in 2017, I am a postmodernist. I'm just not sure I agree.

Postmodernists are big on deconstruction, which reads texts with particular attention to contradictions. Famous examples of postmodern literature include James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and Alan Moore's Watchmen comic. When I look at examples such as these, I have a hard time identifying my own work with this movement.

Yet, the very definition of postmodernism is founded on a sort of subjectivity. The Renaissance may have created writers and artists who created for creation's sake, but religion still held sway over many creatives. Even if they weren't painting or writing as an act of worship, their works revolved around their religion. It wasn't until the early 1900s that (I think) writers truly became aware of what and why they were writing, and I see that as the final move from objectively evaluating art to subjectively seeing it in a greater context**.

Postmodern writing also tends to be experimental, such as James Joyce's stream of consciousness style, and I wouldn't put my science fiction adventure stories in the "experimental" column. I use punctuation, for Pete's sake. Also, I don't know that I've read a postmodernist work besides Watchmen that I actually enjoyed. Many of them deal with heavy, where-is-the-meaning topics in a way that I simply don't care to follow. In that way, however, they are certainly brilliant. What better way to find meaning than to craft a novel whose very style and form reflects your search?

Am I writing in reaction to Postmodernism and therefore, a part of whatever literary movement came after, or am I a postmodernist? I'm a fan of postmodern subjectivity, and I'm fascinated by David Foster Wallace's description*** of pop culture references in postmodern literature:
"...a generation of new fiction writers who saw themselves as sort of avant-avant-garde, not only cosmopolitan and polyglot but also technologically literate, products of more than just one region, heritage, and theory, and citizens of a culture that said its most important stuff about itself via mass media."

That could be me–especially being a product of multiple heritages and theories. And yet, when I compare the themes and style of my work to that of the postmodernist works I've read or studied, I simply don't see the resemblance. I'll need to find a new perspective to base my research on, or at least start brainstorming names for this new movement I may or may not be a part of.

What do you think of this literary movement?

 Michelle really just wants to read all the things.

*I'm getting ready to take the PRAXIS–the test that teachers must take to prove they're smarty pants-type people. I have to pass it in order to jump into my Master's degree studies later this year. Most people take it straight out of college after four years of English lit classes. Not me!
**...I did say I was a nerd, right?
***From his 1990 essay "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction"

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Book Review: Spindle's End by Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley is one of those authors that everyone seems to know about, but I had never read one of her books. I won a copy of Spindle's End at a book swap party a while back and began reading it the week after. It did take me a while to get through it, but that isn't a bad thing. In fact, reading through it slowly made me enjoy the story even more.

Spindle's End is a retelling/twisting of a classic fairytale. And by twisted, I mean Robin McKinley took the story of Sleeping Beauty we all know and turned it on its head. The story begins by following Katriona, a fairy from the outskirts of the kingdom who takes the baby princess (Briar-Rose) after she is cursed by the evil fairy Pernicia on her name-day. Katronia takes Rosie to her home in Foggy Bottom, and between herself and her aunt, raise Rosie as one of their own. No one knows Rosie's true identity, and, if she is to survive beyond her twenty-first birthday, it needs to stay that way.

What I loved about McKinley's version of this story is she took it far and beyond the Grimm Brothers' tale, and even further past Disney's version. McKinley's version begins even before Rosie is born, follows her while she is growing up, and does not end the way that you expect it to. Spindle's End is like drinking a cup of hot cocoa....with a shot in it. Warm, comforting and familiar, but also different and a bit of a shock when it veers away from the story you're expecting. I throughly enjoyed the plot, characters, and world building.

Was I absolutely in love with everything about the story? No. But that was because there were a few things that just didn't fit my particular tastes. While I loved all of the human characters, the animal characters with their names and descriptions were difficult to keep track of. Sunflower is a dog (I believe) but I can't for the life of me tell you much more than that. I liked the little guy (or girl) and Sunflower plays a pretty significant role towards the end of the book, but I can't tell you what he looks like. Unfortunately, that happened with more than a few of the animal characters.

Also, McKinley's writing style was a little difficult to get used to. She's not a straightforward writer; she likes to use great descriptive words and flowery language to describe Rosie's world. Eventually, I did get used to the style, but it took a while to do so.

Will I read another one of McKinley's books? Most likely. After reading Spindle's End and The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, I'm developing a taste for retellings of old fairytales.

Emily is not sure what she's going to dive in to next. She has a stack of books that are calling her name; she just doesn't know where to begin!