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.