Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Book Review: Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Hey everyone!

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

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

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

American Gods: A (Kind-Of) Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Anne with an "E"

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

DCC...Without Cosplay?

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Game Night!

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

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

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

So, yeah, I'm excited.

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: Into the Fire by Patrick Hester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Wonder Woman!

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

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cop Out Blog

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

Writing with Empathy

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

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

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

How do you connect to stories?

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