Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Times Are A'Changin'

I've been silent for some time because my wife and I are moving. It's been seriously crazy-busy, and when we're not prepping for the move, working our day jobs, or trying to get some rest, I've been editing podcast episodes.

As a result, no blog posts for some time. This may change a bit in the next couple of weeks, but it will be spotty for some time.

For those of you "worried" what this move means for the podcast, it's a good thing! We're staying in the same state, still a very short driving distance from my wonderful co-hosts, and now we'll be able to set up recording space that is much more comfortable and functional (though not the permanent studio I craved!). The "biggest" change is that our final recording session for the year will be recorded at Michelle's place instead of mine.

January, though, will come with all new content, awesome, exciting Patreon goodness, and an overall new year.

For now, that's about all I have to talk about. I'm on a lunch break at work, and I'm going to be busy a lot for the next couple of weeks. I'm hoping to get a blog post or two up here, but with inventory starting at work, I may not be able to think when I'm not at my work computer.

Giles misses blogging, and he's excited to have some "downtime" to get more podcast-related stuff done.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Book Review: The Merchant of Venice

I hadn't read The Merchant of Venice before I started it last week. It's the next unit my mentor and I are co-teaching to our juniors and seniors, and wouldn't you know it, it's usually a good idea to have read the stories you're trying to teach. Ha.

Now, you might be thinking that it's odd to have a book review for such a famous play. Who needs my opinion when there are literally hundreds of better-read scholars just waiting to analyze it? I considered reviewing something else, but I'm so excited about this play that I couldn't leave it alone.

Here's the real reason I never read the play before now: I thought it would be dull. A moneylender and a couple of rich guys get in a fight that has to be settled in court? Woooo. No one told me that this play has a badass female lead who hoodwinks all the men while they're declaring their undying devotion to the brotherhood. No one mentioned that most of the love scenes read with a sort of tongue-in-cheek roll of the eyes, or that you didn't have to read the lines aloud to hear the sarcasm.

I don't know why I had such a skewed view of what The Merchant of Venice was really about, but I'm glad I finally read it. It pairs two interwoven storylines: Portia, the heiress forced to marry whichever suitor has the luck to pick the right box, and Antonio, the merchant who offers his  flesh as collateral on a loan so his bestie can court Portia. It paints an awful, anti-Semitic view of Shylock, the moneylender who loans the money to Antonio and his friend*.

As in many of Shakespeare's plays, the women are brilliant, sneaky, and get a lot of great speeches. Portia doesn't sit around waiting for Bassanio to watch his best friend be murdered by the villain–she does something about it. The entire story is a fantastic mix of romance, comedy, and drama. If you haven't read it yet, here's your chance!

This year, Michelle is attempting the most difficult task of all: getting her students to laugh at her terrible jokes.

*Although, one could argue that Shylock had to be portrayed that way due to Elizabethan views of Jews and their worth. It makes me wonder what Shakespeare really believed. Did he hate Jews, too, or was he trying to draw attention to ridiculous anti-Semitism? 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Giving Good Feedback

I recently read an article about learning being based purely on how much quality feedback a student receives from their teacher. It brought me back to my very first critique group meeting with Giles and Emer. We had to teach ourselves to give meaningful feedback, and then we had to learn to listen to that critique without getting ultra defensive.

If you're a writer and you've never been to an in-person critique session, I highly recommend it. Some days feel like getting stuck in a room with a horde of Internet trolls. Other days can surprise you with positive feedback. The great thing is that even terrible comments can help you learn–what matters is  seeking the feedback in the first place.

Knowing how to take feedback isn't just a skill for writers. Whether you have an office job, are a full-time student, or get to spend your days traveling the world, the ability to listen to feedback without having a mental breakdown is indispensable. If my teaching mentor never told me what I did right or wrong, I wouldn't know what to improve. Imagine never knowing if your boss thought you were good at your job or not–how awful would that be?

Whenever I have to give someone feedback, I try to use what we call a "crap sandwich". Instead of pointing out every single thing I hated or that was wrong, I mix positive responses with constructive criticism. I'm not always the best at it, but it's something I'd like to continue to work on.

How about you? Do you give good feedback to the people around you?

Michelle definitely doesn't have too many different shades of red lipstick.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Let's Be Odd Together

I'm a fan of odd things. Odd stories. Odd dishes. Odd people. It could be an art thing--ever heard of the Rule of Thirds? Or, just maybe*, it's because I'm as odd as the things I like. Perhaps that's why I've found myself beating–cough–teaching the finer points of literacy and the English language to a gaggle of high school students in Thornton.

Teachers are an odd breed, for sure. I thought writers were weird (they are), but teachers have their very own brand of kooky. We walk into our schools laden with bags of food, school supplies, and graded homework; it looks like we're moving in. Every time I swipe my key card to enter the building, I get the distinct feeling of walking into the zombie apocalypse. Every day we face the zombie hoard, trying to get them to at least use a complete sentence when they ask us for more brains.

Writers and teachers have a lot in common. Besides often fighting zombies, both groups are trying to save the world. My writer friends do it one story at a time, and my teacher friends do it one person at a time. Not that we're saviors by any means; I simply mean that in the grand scheme of things, imagination and a caring, kind adult can be the difference between a kid's success and his/her failure. Every time I volunteer at Sunday school with my little first and second graders, I see those differences being built. Every time I walk into a high school classroom or through the halls at work, I watch those successes (and failures) being fortified. My mob of zombie students takes in every word from the stories and teachers around them, trying to make sense of who they are now and who they will be later.

I've been thinking lately that we live in odd times. Life is chaotic and everyone seems to be looking for a way to bring things into peaceful perspective. It's been a bittersweet year for myself and many of my close friends–in the end, though, the sweet outweighs the bitter. Sometimes I wondered if we would make it through, yet my odd circle of teachers and writers has triumphed. It may not be the end of the year yet, but I can see the finish line. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, and...oh, wait. Is that...a zombie?


Michelle's students all love reading horror, which is simply further proof that they are all zombies and will soon overrun the earth.

*"Maybe"? Ha. Try "definitely".

Monday, October 2, 2017

Pace Yourself

As many of you know, I'm part of a rather intense teacher's residency. My work life essentially consists of doing all the work of a master's program...without it actually being a master's program. On any given day, I might play the role of a T.A., a student teacher, the primary teacher, or someone who is simply incredibly lost and confused.

I'm the kind of person who tends to go big or go home. Do your best or don't try at all. "A" is the only acceptable grade. Yet when I was a copywriter, I didn't consider myself to be a workaholic. I simply had a lot I wanted to do. Podcasting didn't count as work. Tutoring didn't count as work. My vacation days were rarely spent on vacation–instead, you often found me working my "hobby" jobs on my days off.

So, being a person who worked a lot and didn't mind being busy, I never thought I would get so stressed I needed a mental health day. But last week, my mentor declared that I wasn't allowed to teach because I was running myself ragged. I had, as we say, run out of spoons.

At first I said I would still try to come in for half of a day of work, but my mentor nixed that idea. He was sick, and I needed to learn to actually take a vacation day that didn't have any other responsibilities. And can I just tell you...that single day off was the best day off E-V-E-R. For the first time in years, I restricted how much work I did on a day I wasn't at my day job. I watched Netflix, edited, and took my dog on a long walk. It was glorious.

This experience has taught me that it's important to take breaks before I need them. They say that if you're thirsty, you've already waited too long to hydrate. I haven't been one to allow myself to chill, but over this next year of residency I want to teach myself to be more careful with my time.

Michelle corrupts high school students with the nerdery of grammar, punctuation, and well-written stories.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Stretching My Skills

Recently, I volunteered to take on another blogging project for a good friend of mine. This project will be wildly different from anything I've done before because it's going to be photography and business focused.

While I don't have a lot of experience with business blogging, I do have experience interviewing people. The first three posts I'm tasked with are "featured member" blogs for the group I'll be working with. Writing interviews will be new to me, but it's not much different from how I've blogged in the past or shared stories of conversations I've had. Some people tackle it differently, but I'm going to start the way I handle interviews for the show. Obviously, with a different focus.

The other blog posts I'll be diving into, though, are going to be more of a challenge. First, I need to work out what I'm going to talk about. A lot of it will be branding, networking, and time-management focused, I think, but there will be topics covering art, style, and industry trends in an industry I'm not active in (yet).

There are a lot of reasons behind why I'm willing to take this risk, and the biggest one is that I need to stretch myself. It's been a long time since I forced myself to write outside of my comfort zone, and as a result, I'm not really pushing the limits of what I can achieve, even in my day-to-day writing (which isn't as day-to-day as I'd like due to my crazy schedule). It's exciting for me because I don't take as many risks as I should, and while this is a "safe" risk, it's still a big risk. One I didn't even know I wanted to take until I was offered the opportunity.

Question: what's the biggest risk you've ever taken in your career? And/or to improve skills you've wanted to improve?

Giles wrote this several days in advance so that it would be ready to go today. He's tired of missing his Wednesday blog posts, and even though his schedule is crazy and way different, he doesn't want to make excuses.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

I have been in love with this novel since my third grade teacher read it to us after recess every day. She did all of the voices and read with such amazing expression the story has been forever imprinted on my mind. 

Meg has always been one of my favorite literary characters. She's headstrong (almost to a fault) and completely imperfect. She has braces, a temper, and is fiercely loyal to her little brother. About the time I read this on my own, I had braces, a temper (who doesn't at 12 years old?), and was fiercely loyal to my little long as she stayed away from my stuff. I’ve always loved the faith of Meg’s little brother, Charles Wallace, as he, Meg, and their friend, Calvin, travel across time and space to try to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace’s father from the terrifying IT. Calvin’s patience and love towards both Charles Wallace and Meg, even though they aren’t technically family, is something we should all inspire to. 

I’ve always loved how the story is so straight forward. Father disappears, kids try to find him, they encounter obstacles, and, well, I won’t say how it ends. I loved how the book starts with the trope of, “It was a dark and stormy night…” but somehow, L’Engle doesn’t make it sound like a cliché. I could go on gushing for a long time.

Is there anything I didn’t like about the book? Yes. It was incredibly creepy to an eight year old. Monsters with no eyes, kidnapped parents, and a giant brain that controls everything you do, down to what you can play? *shudder* But, as an adult, I really can’t think of anything that I don’t like. 

The best part of A Wrinkle in Time? It has sequels and companion novels. If you fall in love with the story as much as I did, there is more of the world you get to discover and explore through L’Engle’s other works.

Emily is loving the fact she has time to read again. She's hoping that won't change any time soon!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book Review: Anna and the Vampire Prince by Jeanne C. Stein

Ladies and gentlemen, the book reviews are back! New and improved and…a heck of a lot shorter than before. Why? I’m hoping with the book reviews being shorter, I can write them more easily and more frequently. So, here we go!

Anna is the Vampire Prince is an Anna Strong Vampire novella which takes place between books nine and ten in Stein’s wildly successful series. I must admit, I haven’t read any of the other novels in the Anna Strong series, but I really liked this story. Stein did a marvelous job of introducing just enough of the main character and her back story, that even a reader who is a stranger to her world won’t have trouble following along. In fact, reading this novella made me want to read her entire series. Anna is a likable “human” character who seems to live in a completely believable world. 

The story is told quickly, but is appropriately paced for a novella. It’s a classic kidnapping story whose ending then ties into the plot of her 10th novel. That being said, and this is my only criticism, I wish the kidnapping plot would have taken up more of the story. The ending, I’m sure, ties into the next novel wonderfully, but I was so wrapped up in the kidnapping story, I didn’t want it to end.

Go check out Anna and the Vampire Prince, even if you haven’t read Stein’s other novels. It’s a quick, entertaining read and you won’t be disappointed. 

The Other Emily is excited to start writing book reviews again. She hopes our listeners won't mind the shorter format and encourages them to go and read these books for themselves. She loves to have book discussions with other people!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Writing + Teaching

There is an enormous difference between saying you are going to do a thing and actually doing the thing. I've been saying for months that I was going to switch careers and become a teacher, but I've noticed recently that there is a difference between a teacher in thought and a teacher in action.

This concept isn't necessarily new for me; it's difficult to avoid after years of writers' conferences telling me that if I'm not writing, I'm not a writer. In school, you can be a "teacher" yet do little to no teaching. We've all seen or heard about it. Some teacher's names are spoken in a sort of annoyed whisper because everyone knows they are employed at the school out of habit, not because they are any good at their job.

I don't want to be one of those writers who "isn't a writer", just as I don't want to be one of those teachers who "isn't a teacher". This means working hard to stay away from easy solutions. In stressful times as these, I tend to pick the easier route. It often means putting off goals, such as when I decided to stop querying because my life was incredibly chaotic. But Giles and I have been planning an afternoon of querying, so I'm glad to say that I'm beginning to steer away from the writer's easy route*.

It's easy to jump in front of a class of students and treat the space like a giant stage for all your great ideas. The hard part is tricking the students into using things they've learned in the past and a few new tidbits of information to teach themselves. I'm excited to learn to be a better teacher; I never want to be the person whose name is attached to not trying hard enough.

Michelle didn't make anyone cry at school today. 
Oh, well. There's always tomorrow. 

*This is one of my personal goals :) If you're a writer and you're not querying, good for you. If you are querying, good for you! Everyone has a different definition of what makes them a writer. Actively querying and getting words written or edited every week happens to be mine.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Missing Episode (158): What Happened

This week on Beyond the Trope, we'd recorded and prepared to release a Get to Know Us episode. When we put together all of the audio, I (Giles) listen to the full audio, edit out longer pauses, awkward things that don't add to the show in any way (easily misconstrued and/or not funny/entertaining), and then I add in the intro and outro and hit the "Publish" button.

Somewhere between reaching the end of the audio, adding the outro tag, and hitting "Publish," I must've accidentally hit "delete," which is why, for those of you who dowloaded Episode 158 this morning already know, we had about 28 minutes of...silence.

Since we first published Episode 1, we've never missed a deadline on releasing episodes. And that's true today (we have enough audio ready to release that we won't fall behind at all), but this is the first time that we've had such a huge failure in our process. I (Giles Hash, the Production Director) take full responsibility, and hopefully we won't have anything like this happen again. Sorry for the confusion to our listeners, and please enjoy this week's interview with Jason LaPier.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy Labor Day!

Is it just me, or did August seem much busier than normal? I feel like this is the first day in a month that has actually been a day off. Whew!

As fall sneaks up on us, I hope we can all take some time to take a day off. It's been a rough year for a lot of people in my life, and I know many of them are simply excited for it to be the end of the year. An extra day on the weekend isn't always enough to get recharged for the following week, but it's a start. I, for one, tend to get stuck in go go go  mode and forget to chill. So, I'm taking today to do things that make me happy.

I don't know if you're going to be working, hanging out with friends, or sitting on the couch reading a book, but whatever you do today, I hope it's something that makes you happy.

Happy Labor Day!

Michelle started teaching a few weeks ago, and she keeps having dreams about being in front of a classroom speaking French to her English students.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Preparing for Fall

How the heck is it September already? Does anyone else feel like this year has just flown by? That being said, I'm super ready for Autumn. Fall in Colorado is the best. Sweaters and apple cider and pumpkins and that lovely fallen-leaves smell. And, beside of not, weather that doesn't make you want to melt.

It's the perfect season for curling up with a kitty and a good book, and I can't wait. I haven't narrowed down what I want to read just yet, but my shelves have a lot of good suggestions. Maybe I'll re-read some of my favorite comics, or prepare for the new Good Omens mini-series with a re-read of that. Or maybe I'll finally work my way through one of the many series that have been recommended to me and kept falling down my TBR list. Maybe I'll just keep bingeing on fan fiction. Who knows?

Emer apologizes for the short post, but she's exhausted from trying to wrangle her new kitty at all hours of the night. She's hoping to have a little more energy by the RMFW conference next weekend, where she's planning on hanging out in the bar/lobby area and working on her fanfic.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Denver Podcast Network

This has been mentioned a couple of times on the show already, but for those who may not be caught up, Beyond The Trope is now a part of the Denver Podcast Network. This is a big step for us because we're branching out and meeting new people!

More than that, we'll be cross-promoting each other on our shows, building new audiences, and learning how to improve the quality of our episodes. As we build this network together, there will be live events, meet-and-greets, show cross-overs, and most importantly: a growing community of podcasters who all love the city we live in.

There's going to be a lot more to this community some day, too, but for now, that's where we're starting. And even though we have the website up and running already, we'll be kicking off the network with an official launch party soon, too. For info about that, keep an eye out on Facebook and our Patreon feed (you won't need to be a patron to get this news).

Giles is prepping for critique group, the RMFW Colorado Gold conference, and a slew of other projects on behalf of Page 42 Productions, LLC. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Thoughts on Blogging and Branding

A few years ago, I stopped blogging on my personal blog. Not because I didn't like it anymore, but because it felt like I'd run out of things to say.

The thing about a brand, like we've developed in Beyond the Trope, is that whatever we do with this project, it needs to be, as often as possible, on-brand. Obviously, because of how we've set up the brand, we're allowed to deviate from it to an extent, and by definition, we'll still be "on-brand" because we're "flipping the trope" of our brand.

That doesn't mean it's always easy to come up with blog topics. It's an odd position to be in. I write almost every day (most weeks, anyway), and I'm even doing research for my day job, possible new opportunities for life, and my workshops at RMFW in a couple weeks. What this means is that I have a lot to think about. But it's hard to make those thoughts turn into something worth writing about in blog form.

But because I'm writing a branding workshop, it's something that I can discuss today, insomuch as I have already done so, and I think there are a couple of other small tips I want to leave you with. First off, all of my branding knowledge comes from the college courses I took back in '15 and from the short process (okay, almost half a year) of preparing to start up a company. Granted, we never started that company, but we learned a LOT. Anyway, my two pieces of advice for anyone who wants to build a personal or professional brand is to figure out what you do that other people also do and focus on how you do that differently than everyone else. Second, focus on that difference, build on it, make it a strength, and then integrate that into an ever-evolving process that will help you stand out from the crowd.

It's not a lot, but if you're looking to build a brand, that's the best place I can think of to start. That's how we branded ourselves after doing this for a year, and that's how I'm building my own brand. It may not be the best way to do it, but you'd have to ask real experts to learn that. Which you should absolutely do.

Giles in NO way makes any claim of expertise in the world of business. If any reader in any way intends to pursue business opportunities, either personal or professional, he STRONGLY recommends seeking the advice of professional consultants.

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.