Making Your Own Magic

This past summer, I listened to the audiobook version of Felicia Day’s memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). Listened, rather than read, because I saw her in person on a panel at Denver ComicCon and thought she was a delightful and engaging speaker.

Almost anyone who considers themselves a geek is familiar with Felicia Day. Along with recurring roles on Supernatural and Eureka, and co-starring in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, and being a consummate gamer, she created and starred in that seminal Internet video series, the Guild. In her memoir, she tells the story of how she pulled together this show using spit and chicken wire, inspiration and perspiration, and a whole lot of caffeine. Her budget was whatever she could beg, borrow or steal. In other words, she made her own magic and the result was a phenomenon.

Felicia Day’s memoir spoke to me. It said you can make your own magic happen, too. Coincidentally (or was it?), while I was listening, I received a conditional resubmit letter from a publisher. It basically stated that they were interested in my novel, Fake, but wanted me to submit a rewrite with some substantial edits, including changing the point of view. This isn’t the first time this has happened. A few years ago, I submitted another book to a publisher and got a similar request. I did the rewrite and didn’t much like the results. It altered the story and characters too much. I resubmitted and was rejected. All that work for nothing. Or was it?

During that time, I was living in Colorado, and after receiving the rejection I had a bit of a meltdown and went to stay with a friend in San Francisco. While there, I wandered the streets and came up with the idea for Fake and the world of the Crossroads.

The offer from this latest publisher brought me to my own crossroads. Do I take that chance again? Do I send the manuscript to another publisher? Or, like Felicia Day, do I make my own magic?

I chose magic. I put myself on the path, and steep learning curve, of indie publishing, which I’ll blog about in future posts. I’ve submitted Fake to Amazon’s KDP program. It’s now available for pre-order and will launch on November 1, 2016.

Hitting the button that submitted my final draft was the hardest part. I wondered why and then realized it was the final step in saying farewell to my dream of being traditionally published. Making your own magic means discovering and owning your own power. Wish me well on this journey. May you discover and make your own magic and dreams come true.

Big Wow! Comic Fest 2015

Stepping out of the TARDIS and into adventure with Four and Six.

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At Big Wow Comic Fest with Four and Ten.

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This is the last year for San Jose’s Big Wow! Comic Fest. Next year, it becomes Silicon Valley Comic Con. Exciting news! I’ll definitely be there.

Convention Etiquette

I spent a fabulous weekend at Denver Comic and arrived home Sunday night a weary-to-the-bone but happy fan girl.

This was the convention’s second year and it seemed twice as large with twice as many in attendance. Initially, I was a little disappointed because I really enjoyed last year’s small, homey con. However, bigger did mean better, with great guests like George Takei, Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day and The Shat. The dealers’ room/artist alley space was huge and took hours to get through. There were some great panels on geek culture. I especially enjoyed the one on geek girls, which included a lively discussion on whether or not the label is still relevant.

I also enjoyed seeing lots of children. This was a kid friendly event and whole families turned out, some dressed in costume. One of my favorites was dad dressed as the fourth Doctor, mom dressed as his Time Lord companion, Romana, and their daughter costumed as a Dalek. Adorable!

Unfortunately, bigger also meant lengthy line for just about everything, particularly registration, where the lines were hours long.  Inside the convention center, lines to see the guests of honor and even some of the panels wound around the hallways. The dealers’ room/artist alley aisles were usually packed with people.

It was a saving grace that most people were polite. Since this is convention season, I thought this would be a good opportunity to go over a few basics of con etiquette.

Do Not Cut in Line
Yes, the line is very long and you really want to get in, and you really shouldn’t have to wait for two-three hours. Suck it up. It’s first come, first served, and the people at the front of the line probably arrived at 5 a.m. and deserve their spot. Holding a place in line for up to five people is acceptable. More than that should go to the back of the line.

Ask Permission Before Taking a Photo
It may be assumed that all cosplayers are exhibitionists who want their pictures taken at any time. False! For example, if cosplayers are sitting down at a table and eating lunch, they don’t want to be bothered by every fool with a camera. Those who want their pictures taken usually make themselves available in some way. Catch them when they’re strolling around the concourse, not otherwise engaged, and always ask permission. This gives the cosplayer(s) time to stop and pose, and give you an awesome shot.

I asked the zombie’s permission before entering his cage. He rewarded me by trying to eat my brains!

I asked the zombie’s permission before entering his cage. He rewarded me by trying to eat my brains!

If you like a popular fandom, such as “Game of Thrones” and “Doctor Who,” chances are there will be a group photo shoot. In this case, you don’t need to ask permission, but you should wait until the cosplayers are posed before you start photographing.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, you should ALWAYS ask a parent’s permission before photographing a young child. The one exception is a group photo shoot, when permission is implied.

Save a Reasonable Number of Seats
It is reasonable to save up to two seats on either side of you. Trying to save a whole row makes you a jackass and no one will respect that.

Respect the Artists and Dealers
You might not like all the art you see on Artist Alley. Keep those remarks to yourself until you are out of earshot of the artist. You might think a dealer booth is overpriced. Fair enough, but don’t haggle unless the vendor seems open to it. For example, you show an interest in a $20 item and the dealer offers to give you two for $30. Don’t place your stuff on their merchandise. Anything that damages their merchandise is their monetary loss and they are at the con to make money.

Last but Not Least: Hygiene!
You are going to be at close quarters with lots of people. It is a much more pleasant experience if everyone in the room bathed or showered and brushed their teeth that morning. Deodorant is a must, but lay off on the heavy scented colognes and perfumes.

In the end, at cons as well as regular life, it is always best to follow Wheaton’s Law: Don’t be a dick.

Convention Season

Convention season is upon us and I hope all my fellow geeks out there have at least one fun con in which to romp. I am geeking out in a major way, spending two consecutive weekends at three conventions.

Over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, I headed to San Jose for the joint conventions, Fanime and Clockwork Alchemy. I have to shout this out to San Francisco Bay Area folks who aren’t in the know. For a $50 preregistration fee, you can spend four days at two conventions. It’s an incredible value and tons of fun.

Fanime is all things anime and manga, as well as a bit of Asian cinema thrown in. The attendees love to cosplay, i.e., dress in the costumes of their favorite characters. It’s like a four-day costume party that goes all day and all night. Just so you know, this is a very young crowd and the majority tends to be in their teen and twenties.

There’s a lot going on: video rooms, panel discussions, live bands, karaoke, swap meets and a 24-hour game room. There is a large dealers’ room where you can buy all kinds of anime-related paraphernalia. This year, the Artists’ Alley was enormous. This is where you can buy creative pieces by talented fan artists.

In the dealers' room with a Cthulhu plushie. Who knew an elder god could be so huggable?

In the dealers’ room with a Cthulhu plushie. Who knew an elder god could be so huggable? (Photo credit: Teacher Jennifer)

Clockwork Alchemy is all things steampunk. If you love Tesla and Jules Verne, this is where you want to be. The crowd is more mixed, with younger and middle-aged folks mingling equally. If you like the technical and/or historical side of the genre, there were plenty of informative panels as well as an art gallery and hands-on exhibit. There was an authors’ salon where writers could attend panels hosted by published genre authors. The convention also included a dealers’ room, a martial arts studio, dance lessons and three nights of live performances.

Steampunk fans love to cosplay, too. I got into the spirit and put on some steamy duds. Huge dioramas were placed around the con for posing purposes.

Oh the humanity! I watch in thrilled horror as zeppelins battle above me.

Oh the humanity! I watch in thrilled horror as zeppelins battle above me. Photo credit: hostess with the mostest Susan.

This coming weekend, I will be attending Denver’s Comic Con. Can’t wait for that, though I’m glad I have a few days to rest up before I get my con on again.

Does this all look and sound like a lot of fun? Well, it is! And you can do it, too. Check out this website, Upcoming Cons, for current information on upcoming conventions.

Gender and Genre

Free Today on Amazon

While browsing the Science Fiction category in Kindle books I noticed two free-for-now novels by science fiction and fantasy writer, Andre Norton. For those who aren’t familiar with this author, here’s the Wikipedia blurb on Amazon:

Andre Alice Norton, née Alice Mary Norton (February 17, 1912 – March 17, 2005) was an American science fiction and fantasy author (with some works of historical fiction and contemporary fiction) under the noms de plume Andre Norton, Andrew North and Allen Weston. Norton published her first novel in 1934, and was the first woman to receive the Gandalf Grand Master Award from the World Science Fiction Society in 1977, and won the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) association in 1983.

That’s right, Andre Norton was a woman. Back in the day, she and other female science fiction writers, such as James Tiptree, Jr., used male or gender neutral pseudonyms in order to be published in the genre.

This got me thinking about my previous post, The Big Bang Theory of Comic Books. A lot has been written about women and geekdom, and all things being equal. Or not. Recently, the Fake Geek Girl meme exploded all over the Internet, due in no small part to the article, Booth Babes Need Not Apply.

The tired, sad trope is this: attractive woman + sexy cosplay costume = fake geek.

There’s been plenty (plenty) of follow-up and debate, even making it to the Forbes website, with two converse articles written by a man (‘Fake Geek Girls’: How Geek Gatekeeping Is Bad For Business) and a woman (Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away.)

Which brings us back to Andre Norton. Not a fake geek girl at all, yet she had to hide her gender to be taken seriously. Back in the day, right? Yet, what about J.K. Rowling who also hid her gender behind a pseudonym in order to be published?

What is it about gender and genre? And while it’s easy to point an accusing finger at sexism in science fiction, how many male romance writers do you know of? They most certainly do exist and, according to this Publisher’s Weekly article, also tend to use pseudonyms.

My answer to all this is to try not to allow stereotypes to color my judgment. People should be able to cosplay a character they enjoy/admire without the fear of being grilled over every tiny detail of that character’s existence and being called fake. When it comes to literature, what really matters is content: well-written, good stories, such as those authored by Ms. Andre Norton.

Time Traders  Time Traders by Andre Norton
Intelligence agents have uncovered something which seems beyond belief, but the evidence is incontrovertible: the USA’s greatest adversary on the world stage is sending its agents back through time! And someone or something unknown to our history is presenting them with technologies—and weapons—far beyond our most advanced science. We have only one option: create time-transfer technology ourselves, find the opposition’s ancient source . . . and take it down. When small-time criminal Ross Murdock and Apache rancher Travis Fox stumble separately onto America’s secret time travel project, Operation Retrograde, they are faced with a challenge greater than either could have imagined possible. Their mere presence means that they know too much to go free. But Murdock and Fox have a thirst for adventure, and Operation Retrograde offers that in spades.

Star Soldiers  Star Soldiers by Andre Norton
Only as interstellar mercenaries can humans go to the stars; the aliens who already dominate the galaxy allow no other recourse. But when Swordsman Third Class Kana Karr and his comrades-in-arms are betrayed and abandoned on a hostile world by their alien masters, the warriors from Earth begin a desperate but glorious march across a planet whose every sword is against them. Their actions may doom humanity’s future . . . or lead the way to an empire of their own! Four thousand years later, galactic civilization is collapsing, and the underfunded crew of an exploration starship is forced to set down on an uncharted planet: a mysterious, abandoned world that is achingly beautiful-and hauntingly familiar. Ranger Sergeant Kartr, telepath and stellar Patrolman, searches with his crewmates for the source of a beacon which may mean escape for them all. What he finds is far stranger: the first clue to what may become the greatest revelation in galactic history!

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Stuck on Homestuck

Wherein I Sort Of Become a Stuckie

I haven’t posted in the past few days because I’ve spent most of my free time trying to catch up on Homestuck.

What is Homestuck? Good question, but there is no good answer.

It could be called a web comic, but it so much more than that. Homestuck incorporates comics, animated gifs, text, Flash movies and Flash games in an epic undertaking that is, to date, upwards of 5000 pages in length.

The story begins as the tale of four teenagers who play the beta version of a computer game, Sburb, and inadvertently bring about the end of the world. They manage to escape to an alternate plane where a higher destiny awaits each of them. Oh, and there are trolls. And these trolls are immensely popular.

The core audience is teens and young adults, called Stuckies, and they are obsessed with it. Homestuck is popular among the cosplay crowd at anime and comic book conventions, even though it exists only on the Internet. Here are some photos I took at Fanime 2012 in San Jose, CA.

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Mike Rugnetta of PBS’ Idea Channel likened Homestuck to James Joyce’s Ulysses. I think he’s got a point. Check out the video below to get some idea of what the deal is with Homestuck.

Confused? Don’t worry. You’re supposed to be. Homestuck has a wiki, of course. It’s helpful, but dense, with layers upon layers of information. It’s a useful guide for when the story winds back around on itself and you’re trying to figure out who or what a certain character and/or thing is.

Homestuck is part of a larger work called MS Paint Adventures. The creator, Andrew Hussie, wrote and drew three other interactive comic adventures before beginning on what became his masterpiece.

I’m on Act 4 and there are currently six acts with at least one more to go. On top of that, Mr. Hussie has decided to create a Homestuck game. To raise the money, he’s appealed to the Stuckies with a Kickstarter fundraising page. The primary goal was to raise $700,000 in a month, starting on September 4, 2012. As of this post, he has raised over $1,155,000. Pretty impressive and a testimony to the popularity of Homestuck and the strength of the fan base, especially considering the game won’t be delivered until June 2014.

So, if you’re looking for something to read/watch/play/experience or are interested in exploring a cultural phenomenon, you might want to check out Homestuck.

Nikola Tesla Day

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla. Image from Wikimedia.

Today is the 156th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla. On this day, geekdom celebrates his astounding genius, world-changing inventions and batshit craziness. For those not familiar with Tesla, let’s just say he makes Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory” look like an Average Joe.

Much has been said about the rivalry between Tesla and Thomas Edison, who was said to have exploited and ripped off Tesla while he was an employee. I’ll add that Edison was never cool enough to be portrayed by David Bowie.

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla

David Bowie (left) as Nikola Tesla in the movie, “The Prestige.” Image from Popular Mechanics.

The web comic, The Oatmeal, has published an homage to Tesla. It is informative, hilarious, touching and profane. It is also a bitter indictment against Edison. Not work safe. I do recommend reading it to learn more about this amazing man to whom we owe so much.

Nikola Tesla by The Oatmeal

This is just a portion of the whole comic. See the rest here.

If you get a chance, watch “The Prestige,” a very cool and wicked movie. It’s available for streaming on Amazon and VUDU.