Making the Impossible Possible: Creating the Rules of Magical and Futuristic Worlds

ECCC2018

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. I attended last year and had so much fun, but this year I was pleasantly surprised to see many panels for writers (comic/graphic novel panels, and fantasy/sci-fi panels) as well as a big turnout for literary guests. I was lucky enough to meet Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicles), Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns series, Anna Dressed in Blood series), and Marko Kloos (Frontlines series) and get them to autograph their books for me. But while there, I attended the Making the Impossible Possible panel which focused on writing and worldbuilding for authors of fantasy and sci-fi.

IMAG1231

The following authors participated in the panel and gave great advice to aspiring fantasy and sci-fi authors: Charlie N. Holmberg (The Paper Magician series), Emily R. King (The Hundredth Queen series), Marko Kloos (Frontlines series), J.D. Horn (Witching Savannah series), and Jeff Wheeler (Legends of Muirwood series).

The format of the panel was the moderator, editor Jason Kirk, posed a total of six questions to the panel of authors. Keep reading to find out what was asked of these fantasy and sci-fi writers as well as to see what their responses were. I found their responses to offer great advice and writing techniques to better improve my own fantasy and sci-fi writing.

Question 1

Each author in this panel writes their own rules to govern the worlds they create. How does this work when the same rules don’t apply, even though you may be writing within a similar genre?

  • “You need to choose your main character as a one in a million type of person. You need to write your characters as the person who brings the magic to the world and not necessarily have been the chosen one.”
  • The general discussion around this question discussed how it’s important to have governing rules within your world, but to not let them overshadow your characters. Let your characters shine through in the world they surround themselves in.

Question 2

In Fantasy or Sci-fi we often find that the main character always tends to be exceptional. So, if no one is exceptional is there no story?

  • “In Sci-fi, you play within the confines of that structured society. Nobody is different from each other since they all have the same governing laws of physics and biology applying to them. So, the characters in this genre work within their existing system to prove their abilities or skills.”
  • The authors on the panel discussed how it would be even more interested to see more work of fiction in fantasy and sci-fi who fall out of the “exceptional” phase and are characters that work harder to prove themselves versus having everything be naturally gifted to them. It even makes the character more relatable to the reader, no more what fantastic setting the character may be placed in.

Question 3

Every author has their own writing process. Do you start with world-building or do you start with the character or the plot or themes?

  • “Start with the character, then the world becomes a crucible for them.”
  • “Your characters act depending on what the world is and the action or reaction they do becomes the plot.”
  • “Look for the tension, the drama. Ask yourself, why do we follow these characters? Why tell this story in the first place? First find the drama that the character will face.”
  • “If the world is complex enough, all these conflicts come up naturally and then the character, character’s motivation, etc. will follow.”

Question 4

Does your world need to be completely believable to make it work?

  • “As long as you don’t break the suspension of disbelief.”
  • “I can excuse sloppy physics [in Sci-fi] if the story, the plot, and the characters are absolutely believable.”
  • “It doesn’t have to be so much as believable as it has to be intoxicating enough to completely pull you in.”
  • “Don’t overdo the details to try to make it as ‘realistic’ and ‘believable’ as possible. Too much in the details can cause a big learning curve for your reader and can prevent them staying with your story.”
  • “Build the world and characters quickly so you hook the reader in. The strength of your story are your characters who provide the real emotions, real reactions the reader can connect to despite them being in an impossible world.”

Question 5

How do you solve your mistakes?

  • “Take a slice of humble pie from your critique partners.”
  • “Incomplete or sloppy world-building will lead to mistakes. If you ask, what does my character do now? Then you didn’t do enough world-building to throw enough cool things at your characters.”
  • The panel then gave examples from their own work where edits and proofreading provided great feedback for their novels in which they had to go back and rewrite certain parts to make the story turn out better.

Question 6

What tip do you have for aspiring writers?

  • “Think outside the box. It’s all about originality. Do something that’s less expected.”
  • “Don’t try to chase trends. Don’t write to market it. If the book is good, it’ll have its own market.”
  • “Just tell your story. Keep going.”
  • “The world around you can create something different. You don’t have to create something new, you just need to write it in a new way.”
  • “Read what you like to write. It keeps you immersed in your world. Steal little pieces of what you like and make them into your own.”

The panel was then opened to take questions from the audience. Here are a few of the questions that I found to have really good advice in their answers.

  • How do you build a society in your stories? This was answered in 4 parts.
  1. “Ask yourself, what type of government do you want? The kind of government you create governs the rules and freedoms your characters are subject to.”
  2. “What weird customs or traditions do your characters partake in? Create a history for each tradition.”
  3. “Everything is a result of what has come before. Make sure your society has a history.”
  4. “Do real research of Earth’s own history, then tweak it and make it your own for your story.”
  • How do you organize everything when you are working on a current novel?
  1. “You need a story Bible! It’s just 1 document where everything is stored and you can do a quick search.”
  2. “Use Scrivener. This allows you to keep you draft, research, notes, and edits all in one document.”
  • How do you write mundane tasks to make them see fantastic?

“Write characters’ reactions to that task. Like in Harry Potter, Harry thinks the dishes washing themselves in the Weasley’s house is magical and fantastic, but Ron just thinks it’s completely normal.”

This was such an amazing panel to sit on and I hope you found their advice to be inspiring and helpful to your own work. Below you can find the Goodreads page for each author named here so you can check out their work and get hooked onto some fun new series.

Kendare Blake

Charlie N. Holmberg

J.D. Horn

Emily R. King

Marko Kloos

Patrick Rothfuss

Jeff Wheeler

4 Ways Audio Books Can Transform Your Day

 

audioBook1Saying audio books are better than printed hardbacks/paperbacks can easily be damning in certain circles. But before you click away, just hear me out. Do you ever find yourself not having any spare time? Let alone, time to sit down and enjoy a good book? When I’m having a busy work week it’s nearly impossible to fit in an hour or so to open up a book.

My New Year’s goal is to read at least one chapter a day. But by the third day in January, I was failing to fit in my chapter a day. Then I discovered the audio book section in my local library. Normally, these can be pretty pricey, especially if you get the CD format instead of the MP3 drive version, but both of these beauties are completely free with a library card. And I was pleasantly surprised to find a varied mix ranging from current bestsellers to the classics.

There are many ways to use audio books if you think you don’t have enough time to fit reading into your schedule. And whatever genre you are interested in, there’s an audio book for that. Need self-help or motivation books. Check. Want to read a suspenseful thriller? Check. Or, need something with a little romance? Check, check check.

_DSC5415

One great use of an audio book is to listen to it on your daily commute to work. A 20-30 minute drive can turn into 40-60 minutes of reading (or listening to) a book a day. And with the right book, your daily commute will become more enjoyable.

audiobook2

My second favorite way to listen to an audio book is to download it onto my phone and plug in my headphones and listen to it while I walk my dog. My library has MP3 digital audio books available to download, but you can also try Amazon or Audible to find any book you want to listen to in a digital download format. I try to walk my dog everyday for 20-30 minutes, so this is just another way I squeeze in more reading.

_DSC5418

Also, another great thing about the digital download of an audio book on your phone is that wherever you go your book will be right there with you. For example, if you have to go to appointments where you have to wait, like a doctor’s office, then this is just another way to squeeze in more reading and pass the time.

_DSC5409

A fourth way to incorporate an audio book into your daily life is to listen to it while doing chores or errands. I think I can say that no one looks forward to doing chores, however listening to an audio book helps me get them done with less complaint. I simply download the book on my phone, plug in my headphone, and I’m off to wash dishes or vacuum.

While I love having the feel of a paperback in my hands, right now with my schedule, audio books are a life saver and they help e enjoy many parts of my day.

The Cosplays of Comic Con 2017

DSC_4739

(My husband posing with these awesome Cosplayers)

Every year, San Diego’s Comic Con lures in all types of self-declared nerds and geeks to celebrate the art of comics and all things pop culture. With the love and appreciation for comics comes the creation of cosplaying.

You may ask, what is cosplaying? Cosplaying is when a person dresses up as their favorite character from a TV show, movie, comic, or video-game. But it’s not limited to just those things. As you’ll see from this year’s cosplayers, you can choose to be just about anything.

The real heart and soul of cosplaying comes from identifying one’s self with the character. And, like an adult version of Halloween, one can feel free to express this artistic aspect of themselves for a day. It’s a fun, creative form of self-expression that celebrates pop-culture and, more importantly, celebrates one’s self as well as the character they admire.

DSC_4993

(Me dressed up as Emily)

For Comic Con, my husband and I dressed as Emily and Corvo from the video-game Dishonored 2. Making these costumes together was a ton of fun (despite the few sewing mishaps we had) and it was a really great bonding experience for the two of us. Plus, it was really cool to be recognized at Comic Con by fans of the video-game. And it was absolutely an honor to have people ask to take our pictures. It was such a blast!

DSC_4969

(My husband dressed up as Corvo)

Here are a few awesome cosplayers we ran into. Look and see how amazing, fun, and various the cosplays were at this year’s Comic Con.

DSC_4768

(These cosplayers are dressed up as characters from the video-game Overwatch. The middleman is Cosplayer Mike Justice. Follow him on Instagram @mikejusticee or Twitter @mikeejustice)

DSC_4804

(another Overwatch Cosplay)

DSC_4814

(My husband posing with Pimp Darth Vader and Pimp Boba Fett)

DSC_4723

(A cool Deathstroke Cosplay)

DSC_4774

This beautiful Taco Belle Cosplay)

Review of San Diego Comic Con 2017 + 10 Tips for Attendees

IMAG0728

As you may know from my Instagram or Twitter, last month, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego and attend Comic Con 2017. It was our first time attending this particular Comic Con, but I have been to other Comic Cons in Seattle and in London. So, there were some interesting differences (both good and bad) between this world-renown Comic Con and the other ones I’ve attended. I thought it would be beneficial to you to create some tips if you plan on attending next year’s SDCC that can help you navigate through the crowds and get the most out of your time there.

DSC_4936

(The crowds inside the Exhibit Hall)

First, let’s start with an overall review of SDCC 2017. I can say without a doubt that this Comic Con is without a doubt the most interesting one I’ve ever attended. There is so much to do and so much to see, that no matter where you go or what you do you will surely be entertained. But given its popularity, this is also the most hectic Comic Con I’ve ever attended. With over 130,000 people attending, you can bet that this place was consistently crowded, which can be overwhelming to people with anxiety or for any normal person for that matter. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about San Diego’s Comic Con was their organization. In the past, I could easily find out which artists and guests were attending days/weeks before the event. However, at SDCC, they didn’t list artists/guests that were attending, which made it difficult to know who was even going to be there. For example, my favorite illustrator Dustin Nguyen was there and I had no idea he was going to be there. If I had known I would’ve brought the graphic novels he’s worked on and gotten his autograph. I feel like the only way I would’ve known he was going to be there was if I followed on him on social media (which I didn’t at the time). But, I’m sure the sheer amount of people, events, press, and exhibitors there, SDCC did have a lot to juggle in organizing this event. I just wished they would’ve given first-time attendees more info before entering the building so we could have an easier time planning our day there.

DSC_4929

(The Small Press Section in the Exhibit Hall)

Now, onto the specific tips to make the most of Comic Con. Here’s a list of Do’s and Don’t’s to help future Comic Con goers navigate through the crowds and really enjoy your time there despite the large crowds.

DSC_4711

(The Star Wars exhibit promoting the new movie and video game coming out this winter)

Tip 1: DO plan 1-2 items you want to do/attend/see for that day. Try to have one goal for each day your there, since this will help you arrange your schedule in what you need to do to achieve that. For example, if you want to sit on a panel, then make sure you give yourself plenty of time to wait for it (i.e. 2-3 hours for a popular TV show, or 1 hour for an educational/informative panel of the industry), and then plan your day around that huge block of time. That way, you known for those 3-4 hours you will be doing that one item and you can take it easy before and after the panel and still get to enjoy the rest of your day. A great way to manage your time is to try to get at least 2 days in. I know it’s hard to get badges for certain days, but try not to fit all of Comic Con into one day. It’s just simply not possible and you’ll feel very rushed and anxious trying to fit everything into one day.

DSC_4690

(This statue is made entirely out of Legos and was found at the Lego Booth in an awesome exhibit showcasing popular figures made out of Legos)

Tip 2: DON’T sit on a panel if you are not really that interested in it. Otherwise you will be wasting your time (about 3-4 hours of your day) just waiting, and later you will feel like it wasn’t worth it. And it won’t be worth it if you’re not really that invested or interested in it. Since panels procure long wait times, you better be prepared to wait a long time since there are so many people who are also waiting. Also, if you are not that interested in a certain panel, it’s best to avoid it and give your spot to someone else who really wants to be there. However, if you are interested in a certain panel but you can’t get in, just know they have replays of panels later in the afternoon in case you missed it.

DSC_4774

(This awesome Cosplayer decided to go for a pun and dressed up as Taco Belle*wink wink)

Tip 3:  DO take pictures with or of cosplayers. This is by far the coolest aspect of SDCC. So many people dress up in cosplay as their favorite game/movie/tv show/comic book character. And it’s so cool to recognize them and see the amazing costumes people come up with. Of course, make sure to ask to take their picture. Just because they are dressed up doesn’t mean you have the right to take the picture without their permission. Most of the time (almost always), cosplayers will say yes and allow you to take their picture. And since you’ve asked, they will be able to pose/model for you, which makes your picture even more awesome! (*Note: I will be posting an entire article dedicated to the cosplaying/cosplayers at this year’s Comic Con. Stay tuned for that.)

Tip 4: DON’T touch cosplayers or their outfits without their permission. I know it’s cool to see their costumes, especially the ones that require mechanical engineering, but remember to be polite and don’t touch them or their costume. They might be uncomfortable with that or their costume might be fragile and can’t be touched by people. Just a little reminder to pass on, especially a good remember for parents to pass down to their kids.

DSC_4913

(My husband and I dressed up as Corvo and Emily from the video game Dishonored 2)

Tip 5: DO feel free to dress up. Feel free to cosplay, whether it’s a costume you hand-made yourself or if it’s a costume you bought from a Halloween store. You get a free pass to dress up as basically anything you want to here. No judgement being passed here. So, find something you’ll be comfortable wearing and have fun.

Tip 6: DON’T bring little kids for a whole, full day. Comic Con is a long, all-day event, which is naturally very tiring and exhausting after a long day of walking around. So, keep that in mind if you plan on bringing children to this event. It might be too much or too long for some kids. But, SDCC has dedicated Sunday as Kid’s Day. It’s also a shorter day (from 9:30-5) and has more activities dedicated just to children. So, this might be the day you plan to be with your children all day.

DSC_4659

(Can’t meet a celebrity? Didn’t win the raffle to get a celebrity signature? Just pose with their wax figure! Here is Jason Momoa as Aquaman)

Tip 7: DO visit Artist’s Alley. This is another cool part of Comic Con is all the artists and illustrators there who are selling their artwork. It’s cool to just look around, and if you find something you like you can buy a print. Remember though, don’t touch the art unless the artist allows you to. Think of museum rules when walking through this area.

Tip 8: Speaking of kids, DO remember to be a little mom-like and pack snacks. This is a long day, and yes there is food available inside, but remember how many people attend this? Yeah, all those people get hungry around the same time as you do. So, there will be long lines for food. But if you bring snacks, it can help you while you wait to order your food, or to help stave off your hunger a little while until the lines calm down some.

DSC_4679

(Getting a feel for the Oculus Rift controllers at the Marvel Booth)

Tip 9: DO make time to just check out the exhibition hall and look around at everything there is to offer. The big companies like Marvel, Blizzard, Nintendo, etc. all offer interactive exhibits to do while you are there. Sure, there will be a wait, but they tend to be really fun and enjoyable (especially the video games). My husband and I got to try the Oculus Rift game made by Marvel. And it was completely awesome! We got to play for a whole 10 minutes, and we got the chance to try a virtual reality game that turned out to be really cool.

DSC_4684

(The Oculus Rift Marvel Game up on the screen. The four characters you got to play as were The Hulk, Rocket, Deadpool, and Captain Marvel)

Also, you can check out the small press section and see lesser known comics being released. My favorite thing to do was to look around and buy little souvenirs for my friends. They have really awesome fandom gear (T-shirts, art, gadgets) for sale which was a marvelous find.

Tip 10:  DO talk to people. While you are standing in line, get the chance to meet new people from all over the world (we met 2 nice girls from South Korea). And while you’re talking make sure to compare your Comic Con experiences, because it’s a really good possibility that you’ve missed something. We stood in line and met a nice guy named Sydney from the press (DCCOMICNEWS.COM) who shared with us his favorite things at Comic Con which is how we ended up at the Marvel booth playing the oculus rift game. So, it’s totally worth it to talk to people when you’re in line, because they might give you a good recommendation and they’ll help make the waiting time pass by faster.

IMG_20170722_124154

(Our Badges for the Day)

I hope these tips will help you in your future visit to Comic Con. I obviously created this tips with San Diego in mind but feel free to apply these tips to any Comic Con you may be attending. Out of the three Comic Con experiences I’ve had, I can say that these tips are pretty universal and transferable to any comic con no matter where it’s located.

Dungeons & Dragons

aviary-image-1499039663191

I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful 4th of July. My husband and I had a wonderful weekend with a few friends over and a lot of fun games to play and good food to eat. Playing a table top/ role playing game such as Dungeons and Dragons was exactly what I needed. And quite frankly, I think it is something everyone could use more of in their lives.

Sitting in a circle, having conversations, and eating food that everyone pitched in to make, just made me feel really connected and very in the moment. I know there are other ways to feel this way, but for me (someone who used to refuse the idea of playing RPG’s) playing games with people who you enjoy being around is how I got that feeling of connectivity and present in the moment.

So, I hope you can remember that in the midst of a busy life or a hectic one, you can make time to really connect with people who make you laugh and feel good to remind you what life is worth living for.

Top 5 Comic Book Series/Graphic Novels

Top5Comics

With Comic Con in San Diego less than a month away, I am excited for all things nerdy – cosplay outfits, superhero movie panels, and, of course, comics! I am lucky enough to be attending Comic Con San Diego this year, so stay tuned to keep posted. I will have many posts coming soon about making cosplay outfits and accessories, comic book lists and recommended reads, as well as reviews of the panels that I plan on attending. But, until the end of July rolls around, I’ll probably be focused on making cosplay costumes (can you guess who I’m going as?) and reading as many comics and graphic novels I can get my hands on. So, in the spirit of Comic Con, I thought I’d make you a list of my top five favorite reads for whether you’re new to comics or you are the comic-obsessed veteran. I know comics can sometimes be pricey, so if you can’t afford them then I suggest checking out your local library because they have many comics/graphic novels in circulation. So, I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did.

watchmenWatchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

There’s a really good reason why this is the only graphic novel to make Time Magazine’s “100 Best Novels” list. It’s simply genius with the double story-line and the amazing world building developed not only through the plot, but through the end-of-chapter-segments ranging from newspaper clippings to adverts. It’s so immersive, I bet you won’t be able to put it down once you pick it up.

saga

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

This on-going series is an epic space opera fantasy (have I caught your attention, yet?) depicts a husband and wife, Alana and Marko, from long-warring extraterrestrial races, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their daughter, Hazel, who is born in the beginning of the series and who occasionally narrates the series as an unseen adult. It’s refreshingly humorous and seriously addictive.

lazarusLazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

This dystopian science fiction comic book series depicts the world divided among sixteen rival families who run their territories in a feudal system. The main character is Forever Carlyle, who is the military leader for the Carlyle family. With the themes of family and loyalty ever present, this story’s amazing world building is similar to Watchmen’s. Also, it’s currently in the works to be adapted for television. So, make sure to read it before it becomes one of the coolest and most badass show on TV.

the wicked and the divineThe Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

This series is a contemporary fantasy comic book that is largely influenced by pop music and various mythological deities. Imagine gods as rock stars. The narrative follows a young teenage girl, Laura, as she interacts with the Pantheon, a group of twelve people who discover that they are reincarnated deities. This discovery grants them fame and supernatural powers, with the stipulation that they will die within two years – part of a ninety-year cycle known as the Recurrence. This series will make you laugh out loud as well selecting your favorite god to root for.

DescenderDescender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

This series follows a young robot’s struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. In this cosmic odyssey, is pitted humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling space opera. Plus, the unique illustrations and coloring (resembling watercolor) give a fresh appeal to the story.