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.