Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Photo credit: xololounge from morguefile.com 

Instead of dispensing advice this week, I'm seeking feedback from you, dear readers. This will be short but sweet because I'm heading to the Catskills with the family later this week, in part for my daughter to compete in an Irish Dance Feis. We figured we'd make a mini-getaway out of it.

I've been busily working on a productivity writing resource I hope to wrap up in the coming months. Among other topics covered will be brainstorming techniques. One that I haven't used much myself is listmaking, so I thought I'd ask you to share your experiences.

Answer any or all of these in the comments:

Do you use listmaking as a brainstorming tool when working on a new story? 

At what phase(s) of writing do you make lists? 

What kinds of lists do you make?

All thoughts/feedback helpful! Thanks!
12:02 PM Laurel Garver
Photo credit: xololounge from morguefile.com 

Instead of dispensing advice this week, I'm seeking feedback from you, dear readers. This will be short but sweet because I'm heading to the Catskills with the family later this week, in part for my daughter to compete in an Irish Dance Feis. We figured we'd make a mini-getaway out of it.

I've been busily working on a productivity writing resource I hope to wrap up in the coming months. Among other topics covered will be brainstorming techniques. One that I haven't used much myself is listmaking, so I thought I'd ask you to share your experiences.

Answer any or all of these in the comments:

Do you use listmaking as a brainstorming tool when working on a new story? 

At what phase(s) of writing do you make lists? 

What kinds of lists do you make?

All thoughts/feedback helpful! Thanks!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“Epistle” is a fancy word for letter or correspondence; coming from the Greek, it means “send news.”

Epistle brainstorming is a method in which you write imagined correspondence by a character or even between characters. Since it’s imagined, you can conceive of exchanges happening slowly, as with postal-service mail or rapid-fire, as with texting or instant messaging.

Photo: SRCHEN from morguefile.com
The goal is to get characters speaking in their own voices. It’s a great warm up for dialogue. It can also help you figure out how your protagonist would think through and interpret an event so you can narrate it in your protagonist’s voice.

Epistolary exercises might also help you brainstorm back stories. Sometimes the act of telling a story to someone else can help clarify which details are most important.

You can also use epistolary brainstorming to interact directly with your characters to develop plots that feel organic and emerge from who the characters are. Imagine you, the author, are instant messaging with your character in order to ask deeper questions.


Epistolary exercises

  • Write a letter describing a pivotal experience that changed a character’s life.
  • Write a text exchange between the protagonist and best friend explaining a major plot turn.
  • Write a text exchange in which one character tries to pump information from another.
  • Write a love letter that lists the beloved’s most loved characteristics and describes the time s/he knew that affection and admiration had become something more.
  • Write a text exchange in which one character tries to hide information.
  • Write a letter in which a character summarizes his/her entire childhood.
  • Write a letter in which a character summarizes the events that led him/her to make an important decision or life change.
  • Write a letter in which a character describes his/her family to another character who has never met them.
  • Write a text exchange in which you ask your character his/her reasons for taking a particular action or his/her feelings about events or other characters.
  • Write a text exchange in which you ask the protagonist what s/he thinks should happen in the story—how s/he would prefer to tackle the story problem.
  • Write a text exchange in which you discuss your revision ideas with the protagonist.
How might you use epistles to explore your characters and their opinions, attitudes, beliefs and voices?
12:57 PM Laurel Garver
“Epistle” is a fancy word for letter or correspondence; coming from the Greek, it means “send news.”

Epistle brainstorming is a method in which you write imagined correspondence by a character or even between characters. Since it’s imagined, you can conceive of exchanges happening slowly, as with postal-service mail or rapid-fire, as with texting or instant messaging.

Photo: SRCHEN from morguefile.com
The goal is to get characters speaking in their own voices. It’s a great warm up for dialogue. It can also help you figure out how your protagonist would think through and interpret an event so you can narrate it in your protagonist’s voice.

Epistolary exercises might also help you brainstorm back stories. Sometimes the act of telling a story to someone else can help clarify which details are most important.

You can also use epistolary brainstorming to interact directly with your characters to develop plots that feel organic and emerge from who the characters are. Imagine you, the author, are instant messaging with your character in order to ask deeper questions.


Epistolary exercises

  • Write a letter describing a pivotal experience that changed a character’s life.
  • Write a text exchange between the protagonist and best friend explaining a major plot turn.
  • Write a text exchange in which one character tries to pump information from another.
  • Write a love letter that lists the beloved’s most loved characteristics and describes the time s/he knew that affection and admiration had become something more.
  • Write a text exchange in which one character tries to hide information.
  • Write a letter in which a character summarizes his/her entire childhood.
  • Write a letter in which a character summarizes the events that led him/her to make an important decision or life change.
  • Write a letter in which a character describes his/her family to another character who has never met them.
  • Write a text exchange in which you ask your character his/her reasons for taking a particular action or his/her feelings about events or other characters.
  • Write a text exchange in which you ask the protagonist what s/he thinks should happen in the story—how s/he would prefer to tackle the story problem.
  • Write a text exchange in which you discuss your revision ideas with the protagonist.
How might you use epistles to explore your characters and their opinions, attitudes, beliefs and voices?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book and Internet research can provide you will all kinds of wonderful facts and details, as well as stimulate your thinking about possible story events, locations, and people to inhabit your fictional world.

But this sort of research isn’t interactive. It also typically isn’t customized to your specific needs. Thus, you can spend a great deal of time wading through reams of information to get to the facts and details you truly need.

Many times you’ll get the very best information most quickly by speaking with an expert. A ten minute phone conversation might just save you from hours of trawling through page after page of useless information. And more often than not, an actual human being will have insider knowledge that will keep you from making embarrassing mistakes.

For example, a medical book might give you the correct terminology for a hospital procedure, for example, but that term is likely not the one bandied about among the hospital staff. Using the more formal term will make your information seem stilted and naive and could cause readers to lose confidence in your authority over your story world.

Finding experts

You need the right kind of expert who can speak to your story’s particular situation. Your family doctor might know the standard procedure for treating a broken leg, but his knowledge is likely limited to treatment best practices under ideal conditions. You know, in a clean, shiny hospital. But what about injuries in non-ideal conditions, when X-rays and surgery are not readily available? Your family doctor isn’t going to be much help—partly because he will fear opening himself to legal liability by dispensing advice that isn’t clinically defensible. Your better bet would be to find a military field medic, or a mountain climber trained in first aid—someone who has experience with non-ideal conditions.

A golden truth I learned in journalism school is that people love to be considered experts (well, eight out of ten; take into account a certain percentage of natural jerkiness in the general population). Start by approaching people you already know, and be as specific as possible with the kind of information you’re seeking.

Look! A plethora of experts! (Photo DMedina from morguefile.com)
Your friends and family just might surprise you in having a hidden expertise or life experience that would make them excellent resources to provide you authentic details. Staying curious when in social situations can yield amazing opportunities. The cousin seated beside you at your nephew’s wedding reception just might be a law enforcement officer, a Civil War re-enacter, a cancer survivor or oenophile. Even the charming flower girl might help you write a child character by getting you up to speed on youth culture today.

When you meet people, keep your radar attuned to where their interests, experiences, and training intersects with your story world and bravely ask questions. A simple request like “tell me about yourself” can turn a dull party into a research extravaganza.

I once got some amazing research done while at a church luncheon. I was seated by a friend who is a speech-language pathologist, and realized she might know something about speech problems in stroke patients, an element in my story. So I said, “I’m working on a story in which a grandparent has a stroke. What kind of speech problems might he possibly have?” That short chat was more focused and helpful than hours of reading. She knew in practice, not just theory, how patients behave and what the stages of recovery look like. That kind of information is pure gold.

This technique is great for those socially-demanding seasons when you shuttle from wedding to graduation to baby shower. Think about how your story might connect to every person you meet. Tap their knowledge and expertise as a professional, volunteer, hobbyist, or representative of an age group, family role, ethnicity or religion. And if the setting isn’t appropriate or convenient to have a useful chat, arrange for another time to interview them.

Your personal contacts might also lead you to other experts in their extended networks. The idea that every person on earth is “six degrees of separation” from any other person is actually pretty amazing when you think about it. Anyone you regularly cross paths with, from your mother to your plumber, likely knows someone who knows someone.

But don’t be afraid to take a leap and call or e-mail a stranger whose name you uncover while researching. The worst they can do is ignore you or say, “Sorry, I can’t help you.”

What kind of expertise would help you write your story?
8:25 AM Laurel Garver
Book and Internet research can provide you will all kinds of wonderful facts and details, as well as stimulate your thinking about possible story events, locations, and people to inhabit your fictional world.

But this sort of research isn’t interactive. It also typically isn’t customized to your specific needs. Thus, you can spend a great deal of time wading through reams of information to get to the facts and details you truly need.

Many times you’ll get the very best information most quickly by speaking with an expert. A ten minute phone conversation might just save you from hours of trawling through page after page of useless information. And more often than not, an actual human being will have insider knowledge that will keep you from making embarrassing mistakes.

For example, a medical book might give you the correct terminology for a hospital procedure, for example, but that term is likely not the one bandied about among the hospital staff. Using the more formal term will make your information seem stilted and naive and could cause readers to lose confidence in your authority over your story world.

Finding experts

You need the right kind of expert who can speak to your story’s particular situation. Your family doctor might know the standard procedure for treating a broken leg, but his knowledge is likely limited to treatment best practices under ideal conditions. You know, in a clean, shiny hospital. But what about injuries in non-ideal conditions, when X-rays and surgery are not readily available? Your family doctor isn’t going to be much help—partly because he will fear opening himself to legal liability by dispensing advice that isn’t clinically defensible. Your better bet would be to find a military field medic, or a mountain climber trained in first aid—someone who has experience with non-ideal conditions.

A golden truth I learned in journalism school is that people love to be considered experts (well, eight out of ten; take into account a certain percentage of natural jerkiness in the general population). Start by approaching people you already know, and be as specific as possible with the kind of information you’re seeking.

Look! A plethora of experts! (Photo DMedina from morguefile.com)
Your friends and family just might surprise you in having a hidden expertise or life experience that would make them excellent resources to provide you authentic details. Staying curious when in social situations can yield amazing opportunities. The cousin seated beside you at your nephew’s wedding reception just might be a law enforcement officer, a Civil War re-enacter, a cancer survivor or oenophile. Even the charming flower girl might help you write a child character by getting you up to speed on youth culture today.

When you meet people, keep your radar attuned to where their interests, experiences, and training intersects with your story world and bravely ask questions. A simple request like “tell me about yourself” can turn a dull party into a research extravaganza.

I once got some amazing research done while at a church luncheon. I was seated by a friend who is a speech-language pathologist, and realized she might know something about speech problems in stroke patients, an element in my story. So I said, “I’m working on a story in which a grandparent has a stroke. What kind of speech problems might he possibly have?” That short chat was more focused and helpful than hours of reading. She knew in practice, not just theory, how patients behave and what the stages of recovery look like. That kind of information is pure gold.

This technique is great for those socially-demanding seasons when you shuttle from wedding to graduation to baby shower. Think about how your story might connect to every person you meet. Tap their knowledge and expertise as a professional, volunteer, hobbyist, or representative of an age group, family role, ethnicity or religion. And if the setting isn’t appropriate or convenient to have a useful chat, arrange for another time to interview them.

Your personal contacts might also lead you to other experts in their extended networks. The idea that every person on earth is “six degrees of separation” from any other person is actually pretty amazing when you think about it. Anyone you regularly cross paths with, from your mother to your plumber, likely knows someone who knows someone.

But don’t be afraid to take a leap and call or e-mail a stranger whose name you uncover while researching. The worst they can do is ignore you or say, “Sorry, I can’t help you.”

What kind of expertise would help you write your story?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Photo by clarita at morguefile.com
If you’re suffering from serious stress, so much that stringing sentences together feels impossible, try taking a purely visual route to writing. Pick up your favorite writing utensil and doodle instead. It can be a wonderful way to brainstorm elements of your story.

The images don’t need to be great art. Go as silly or serious as your mood dictates. The goal is to get in touch with your the intuitive part of your mind. The jury is still out regarding whether certain kinds of creativity are consigned to a particular side of the brain (studies now challenge a right brain/left brain dichotomy when it comes to artistic, musical and literary skill), but research has consistently shown that drawing can improve memory, increase intuition, reduce stress, and raise levels of helpful brain chemicals. So, let's draw!

Exercises

Doodle floor plans and maps of your settings
Doodle building exteriors from your settings
Doodle interiors of important rooms
Doodle images of key scenes as panels in a storyboard
Doodle a key scene or image from an unusual angle
Doodle characters in their most typical pose and expression
Doodle a range of character expressions
Doodle characters’ wardrobes
Doodle favorite things for each character
Doodle family portraits and family trees
Doodle key memories for your characters
Doodle tattoos and graffiti your character might choose or create
Doodle characters’ dreamworlds
Doodle characters’ pets or livestock
Doodle chapter header images

Have you ever used doodles to brainstorm? Which visual brainstorming (aka doodling) exercise might you try? 
6:30 AM Laurel Garver
Photo by clarita at morguefile.com
If you’re suffering from serious stress, so much that stringing sentences together feels impossible, try taking a purely visual route to writing. Pick up your favorite writing utensil and doodle instead. It can be a wonderful way to brainstorm elements of your story.

The images don’t need to be great art. Go as silly or serious as your mood dictates. The goal is to get in touch with your the intuitive part of your mind. The jury is still out regarding whether certain kinds of creativity are consigned to a particular side of the brain (studies now challenge a right brain/left brain dichotomy when it comes to artistic, musical and literary skill), but research has consistently shown that drawing can improve memory, increase intuition, reduce stress, and raise levels of helpful brain chemicals. So, let's draw!

Exercises

Doodle floor plans and maps of your settings
Doodle building exteriors from your settings
Doodle interiors of important rooms
Doodle images of key scenes as panels in a storyboard
Doodle a key scene or image from an unusual angle
Doodle characters in their most typical pose and expression
Doodle a range of character expressions
Doodle characters’ wardrobes
Doodle favorite things for each character
Doodle family portraits and family trees
Doodle key memories for your characters
Doodle tattoos and graffiti your character might choose or create
Doodle characters’ dreamworlds
Doodle characters’ pets or livestock
Doodle chapter header images

Have you ever used doodles to brainstorm? Which visual brainstorming (aka doodling) exercise might you try? 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

photo by deegolden at morguefile
If you're heading out on the road (or air or sea) for some much-needed rest and relaxation, you don't necessarily need to lug along your laptop to keep your hand in your writing. Just grab a small notebook and a pen, and you can easily use you leisure travel time to build a repository of details for use in a current or future project.

One of the most fun things to research through observation is setting. If you plan to set a story in your vacation destination, then any and every detail you can record will be useful. But even if your story world is quite different from where you're headed (i.e. science fiction or historical) you may find that observing real-world settings helps you think through key aspects of world building.

Pens ready? Here are some key things to observe and take notes on.

Topography


  • What's the lay of the land? Is it smooth and flat? Undulating with small hills? Mountainous? 
  • What is the quality of the ground? Rocky? Dry? Sandy? Reedy? Swampy? Muddy? Covered with sharp, stiff grass? Full of manicured lawns? Meadow-like? Lush fields of crops? Densely forested?
  • What bodies of water are nearby? Ocean? Sea? Lake? Pond? River? Stream? Creek? Wadi? Swamp?
  • What features of the land do you find most striking for positive or negative reasons? Gather sensory details about how they look, feel, sound, smell, and (where appropriate) taste.

Weather


  • Does the area have distinct seasons? What signs do you see to indicate that? 
  • How much does the temperature change in a given day? 
  • How humid or dry is the air? How does that make your skin and hair feel? 
  • What sorts of storms do you encounter? How does the air feel before, during, and after the storm? How does is smell?
  • What do you like and dislike most about the weather in this location? Gather sensory details about how the weather feels, sounds, looks and smells. 

Architecture 


  • What is the mix of public buildings? Mostly national chain stores, unique boutiques, or struggling mom-n-pop shops? Many office buildings or many factories? How diverse are the houses of worship? How well-kept are the schools?
  • What do most homes look like? How can you tell the prosperous neighborhoods from the poor ones?
  • In what era were most of the buildings built? How do older sections differ from newer ones?
  • What unique features seem adapted for the environment? (i.e. screen porches in buggy places, homes on stilts in flood-prone places)
  • What color schemes do you see most often? What kinds of furniture?
  • What buildings best represent this place? Snap some photos and gather sensory details of how the buildings look, feel, smell and sound.

Culture


  • What kinds of cuisine are offered at restaurants? Ethnic? Fancy? Unhealthy or healthy? Generous portions or stingy? Is food generally expensive, mid-range or dirt-cheap? 
  • What foods do locals love most? (A grocery store visit helps here)
  • What do the locals do for fun? 
  • What activities seem most advertised and supported? Sports? Arts? Shopping?
  • How do the locals dress? Are they fashion-forward or backward? Do they seem to spend a lot of time on their appearance or very little? What sorts of outfit would fit in or draw stares?
  • How do the locals interact with one another and with visitors? Are they chatty or standoffish? Polite or brusque? Easygoing or high-strung and rushed?
  • What's the prevailing mood of the local population? Do they seem happy and hopeful? Angry and annoyed? Discouraged and listless? 
  • What features of the local culture do you find most striking? Snap candid photos of everyday activities and gather sensory details about how foods smell and taste, how venues look, smell and sound.


What do you  most enjoy observing and learning about in new locations?
5:11 PM Laurel Garver
photo by deegolden at morguefile
If you're heading out on the road (or air or sea) for some much-needed rest and relaxation, you don't necessarily need to lug along your laptop to keep your hand in your writing. Just grab a small notebook and a pen, and you can easily use you leisure travel time to build a repository of details for use in a current or future project.

One of the most fun things to research through observation is setting. If you plan to set a story in your vacation destination, then any and every detail you can record will be useful. But even if your story world is quite different from where you're headed (i.e. science fiction or historical) you may find that observing real-world settings helps you think through key aspects of world building.

Pens ready? Here are some key things to observe and take notes on.

Topography


  • What's the lay of the land? Is it smooth and flat? Undulating with small hills? Mountainous? 
  • What is the quality of the ground? Rocky? Dry? Sandy? Reedy? Swampy? Muddy? Covered with sharp, stiff grass? Full of manicured lawns? Meadow-like? Lush fields of crops? Densely forested?
  • What bodies of water are nearby? Ocean? Sea? Lake? Pond? River? Stream? Creek? Wadi? Swamp?
  • What features of the land do you find most striking for positive or negative reasons? Gather sensory details about how they look, feel, sound, smell, and (where appropriate) taste.

Weather


  • Does the area have distinct seasons? What signs do you see to indicate that? 
  • How much does the temperature change in a given day? 
  • How humid or dry is the air? How does that make your skin and hair feel? 
  • What sorts of storms do you encounter? How does the air feel before, during, and after the storm? How does is smell?
  • What do you like and dislike most about the weather in this location? Gather sensory details about how the weather feels, sounds, looks and smells. 

Architecture 


  • What is the mix of public buildings? Mostly national chain stores, unique boutiques, or struggling mom-n-pop shops? Many office buildings or many factories? How diverse are the houses of worship? How well-kept are the schools?
  • What do most homes look like? How can you tell the prosperous neighborhoods from the poor ones?
  • In what era were most of the buildings built? How do older sections differ from newer ones?
  • What unique features seem adapted for the environment? (i.e. screen porches in buggy places, homes on stilts in flood-prone places)
  • What color schemes do you see most often? What kinds of furniture?
  • What buildings best represent this place? Snap some photos and gather sensory details of how the buildings look, feel, smell and sound.

Culture


  • What kinds of cuisine are offered at restaurants? Ethnic? Fancy? Unhealthy or healthy? Generous portions or stingy? Is food generally expensive, mid-range or dirt-cheap? 
  • What foods do locals love most? (A grocery store visit helps here)
  • What do the locals do for fun? 
  • What activities seem most advertised and supported? Sports? Arts? Shopping?
  • How do the locals dress? Are they fashion-forward or backward? Do they seem to spend a lot of time on their appearance or very little? What sorts of outfit would fit in or draw stares?
  • How do the locals interact with one another and with visitors? Are they chatty or standoffish? Polite or brusque? Easygoing or high-strung and rushed?
  • What's the prevailing mood of the local population? Do they seem happy and hopeful? Angry and annoyed? Discouraged and listless? 
  • What features of the local culture do you find most striking? Snap candid photos of everyday activities and gather sensory details about how foods smell and taste, how venues look, smell and sound.


What do you  most enjoy observing and learning about in new locations?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Karen Gillan and Matt Smith in PHILLY! 
I don't typically let my geek flag fly as much as some bloggers do, but when I learned that the 11th Doctor and his companion Amy Pond were going to be in MY city, well...it was something that could not be missed.

This was my very first Comic Con. I don't read comic books. Superheroes...I can take 'em or leave 'em. Other than Wii Fit and online puzzle games, I don't really play video games either.

Waiting for the Dr. Who panel with the fourth Doctor!
But I was totally willing to rub elbows with the geekiest of geeks for a chance to see Matt Smith and Karen Gillan live. They have great chemistry, love to laugh, and are just so thankful to have been a part of SciFi's longest-running TV series. The Q&A session ran 90 minutes, and fans asked lots of really great questions beyond "what is your favorite memory?" I especially liked their thoughtful responses to what aspects of their characters do they wish there had been more time to develop. For Karen, it was the period when Amy went through four therapists trying to cure her obsession with "the raggedy man." Apparently the two have an ongoing rivalrly to see which can remember the season and episode number for the particular plots. (Matt won, I think.)

Over the years, these conventions have diversified, and now include all kinds of SciFi and fantasy cultural production, beyond comics and gamer culture. If you like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Torchwood, Orphan Black, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Game of Thrones, or The Walking Dead you won't feel entirely out of place at a Comic Con.

"Cosplay" is the term for all the amazing getups you are likely to see. Here's a small sampling.

Name those characters...'cause I can't.
Tim the Enchanter: "what is your favorite color?"

The boy wonder at Panera!

Sean has been acting since 1981. He's a busy guy!

The convention floor is largely a giant geek supermarket, where you can trade in or purchase an entire comic collection, pick up a light saber in the color of your choice (teal anyone?), build an enormous t-shirt collection, get signed films posters without the hassle of stalking stars, and turn your hard-earned cash into a cache of geeky gadgets and knickknacks.

My husband, daughter and I spent two days at the con, the first largely on the convention floor, the second largely attending Q&A panels with various TV and film stars. In addition to Karen Gillan and Matt Smith from Dr. Who, we also heard James Marsters from Buffy, Angel, Torchwood and others; Sean Astin, who you might know best as Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings films; and finally, Firefly and Serenity stars Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion.

The Firefly panel was by far the most crowded--standing room only. For a show that ran only one season, over ten years ago, it was pretty surprising it has such an enormous cult following. I think part of what keeps the show alive is these two guys. They continue to do lots of convention appearances and are completely hilarious together. Tudyk does lots of voice work for animated films, so at times he answered questions as King Candy from Wreck It Ralph or as the Duke of Weseleton from Frozen.

One of the funniest things they did was give out signed gifts to anyone brave enough to come to the microphone and ask questions. And those gifts? Random items from Alan Tudyk's bag--old mugs, t-shirts, script pages, a pack of gum. If there's any lesson to be learned, it's that fans absolutely adore starts who are approachable and willing to be a bit silly.

Have you ever attended a Comic Con? What questions would you have asked any of the stars I saw?
12:18 PM Laurel Garver
Karen Gillan and Matt Smith in PHILLY! 
I don't typically let my geek flag fly as much as some bloggers do, but when I learned that the 11th Doctor and his companion Amy Pond were going to be in MY city, well...it was something that could not be missed.

This was my very first Comic Con. I don't read comic books. Superheroes...I can take 'em or leave 'em. Other than Wii Fit and online puzzle games, I don't really play video games either.

Waiting for the Dr. Who panel with the fourth Doctor!
But I was totally willing to rub elbows with the geekiest of geeks for a chance to see Matt Smith and Karen Gillan live. They have great chemistry, love to laugh, and are just so thankful to have been a part of SciFi's longest-running TV series. The Q&A session ran 90 minutes, and fans asked lots of really great questions beyond "what is your favorite memory?" I especially liked their thoughtful responses to what aspects of their characters do they wish there had been more time to develop. For Karen, it was the period when Amy went through four therapists trying to cure her obsession with "the raggedy man." Apparently the two have an ongoing rivalrly to see which can remember the season and episode number for the particular plots. (Matt won, I think.)

Over the years, these conventions have diversified, and now include all kinds of SciFi and fantasy cultural production, beyond comics and gamer culture. If you like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Torchwood, Orphan Black, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Game of Thrones, or The Walking Dead you won't feel entirely out of place at a Comic Con.

"Cosplay" is the term for all the amazing getups you are likely to see. Here's a small sampling.

Name those characters...'cause I can't.
Tim the Enchanter: "what is your favorite color?"

The boy wonder at Panera!

Sean has been acting since 1981. He's a busy guy!

The convention floor is largely a giant geek supermarket, where you can trade in or purchase an entire comic collection, pick up a light saber in the color of your choice (teal anyone?), build an enormous t-shirt collection, get signed films posters without the hassle of stalking stars, and turn your hard-earned cash into a cache of geeky gadgets and knickknacks.

My husband, daughter and I spent two days at the con, the first largely on the convention floor, the second largely attending Q&A panels with various TV and film stars. In addition to Karen Gillan and Matt Smith from Dr. Who, we also heard James Marsters from Buffy, Angel, Torchwood and others; Sean Astin, who you might know best as Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings films; and finally, Firefly and Serenity stars Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion.

The Firefly panel was by far the most crowded--standing room only. For a show that ran only one season, over ten years ago, it was pretty surprising it has such an enormous cult following. I think part of what keeps the show alive is these two guys. They continue to do lots of convention appearances and are completely hilarious together. Tudyk does lots of voice work for animated films, so at times he answered questions as King Candy from Wreck It Ralph or as the Duke of Weseleton from Frozen.

One of the funniest things they did was give out signed gifts to anyone brave enough to come to the microphone and ask questions. And those gifts? Random items from Alan Tudyk's bag--old mugs, t-shirts, script pages, a pack of gum. If there's any lesson to be learned, it's that fans absolutely adore starts who are approachable and willing to be a bit silly.

Have you ever attended a Comic Con? What questions would you have asked any of the stars I saw?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

By Tyrean Martinson

Photo credit: kconnors from morguefile.com 
We all find ourselves believing in the myth of “enough” time. With busy schedules, work, family activities, and much-needed relaxation time all competing for time in our lives, we often find ourselves wishing for a few more hours in a day or a week so that we could have “enough” time to pursue our writing or other creative pursuits. We chase the myth of “enough” time.


I homeschool my kids. I volunteer at my church. I teach classes at a homeschool co-operative and for that I must prep classroom exercises and homework for my students, and grade all their homework. I write stories, poetry, and novels. I like to ski, bike, read, and do fun activities with my family and friends. And, I never have “enough” time.

I have to make time.

When my kids were tiny, the time I could find for my writing came in the midst of their activities, or when they were sleeping. Most of the time, I wrote poems and snatches of stories when they were busy at play between lessons in early elementary school. I had to keep ideas written down in lists so that way when I had the chance for fifteen minutes of writing, that writing time was all writing time. No daydream or planning time could take place when I had the chance to sit down. I planned my ideas while folding laundry, doing dishes, or on my daily exercise walk. When I sat down to write, the pen hit the paper or my fingers hit the keyboard and went flying with no time for thought or worry over word choice in a rough draft, no time for planning a character’s emotional development or choosing actions to show the character’s emotional state. That had to happen outside of my writing moments. Then, three or four days a week, my husband would give me “alone” time with my writing for an hour or two. Again, I tried to focus that time on writing only. No e-mails, game playing, or daydream allowed – even about the story. Sometimes, during the long sessions, I actually had time for revision.

When my kids hit the older elementary years, they needed less of my “teaching” and more time of learning on their own – reading, doing math problems, writing, and doing science experiments without me hovering at their elbows. The reality is that although some learning is done during a lecture or discussion (or on the lap while reading when they were little), a lot of the connections and work take place when we are on our own and engaged with the material. My kids no longer needed me to read them all their lessons out loud, and they didn’t want me to. They needed me to plan, present, grade, and discuss, but for shorter bursts throughout the day. Other than that, they were happy to have me “out of the way” but engaged at a separate task near at hand for help.

Now, with a fiercely independent middle school kid and a high school kid with a lot of ideas and need to spend time with her friends, we’ve gone through more changes. My writing time and teacher preparation time has expanded, but I need to be ready to drop it at any moment throughout the day to present material/drive places/help with math conundrums/discuss serious matters of history, literature, and politics that arise from the curriculum we’ve chosen. It’s hard to write and then stop, and then write, and then stop, but I’ve found that it works for me most of the time. When I need a long, “solitary” session for writing or revising, I do that during my daughters’ activities: at the dance studio, in coffee shops, and even on the docks during kayaking. Overall, I usually feel that their learning and activity helps give me perspective in my writing and increases my creativity. (And I haven’t even mentioned how busy my talented husband gets – whew. The family calendar is full six days a week.)

The routines of writing have fallen into and around the routines of life. There is never a day when I feel I have “enough” time, but I find a way to make some for each activity, including writing. Some days I only get in a paragraph in my journal. Some days I type five pages. It all depends on the day. Goals are good, but I have long since left the “perfectionist” 1,000 words a day word count behind and tried for getting words on the paper each day and overall “realistic” monthly goals. Sometimes, I get up before everyone in my house does when I have an idea burning bright in my head at 4a.m. and sometimes I barely get any writing done while sitting in a car with rain pouring down while my youngest is kayaking in freezing water.

My tips to any and all busy writing parents are:


1. Take the writing time you have and use it to the fullest extent.

2. Set realistic monthly goals for whatever time of life you are in. I couldn’t write novels when my kids were in early elementary school and needed near constant attention and lap-time.

3. Use the time in which your kids are engaged in activities that they love – sports, dance, with friends – to benefit your writing.

How do you find time to write?

You can find Tyrean Martinson at Tyrean's Writing Spot and Twitter.

Her latest novel is Champion in Flight, book two in the Champion Trilogy

A year after she won the battle for Septily, Clara feels trapped in Skycliff by the Allied Council. As the last pieces of information about the Healing Caves fall into place, Clara is attacked by an assassin. Covert Drinaii mercenaries and the Council aren’t going to stop Clara from her quest to heal her broken blade. As Champion of Aramatir, she must act. Meanwhile, in the joint kingdoms of Rrysorria and Wylandria, the youngest and still cursed swan prince despairs of ever being whole again. In a moment of anger and desperation, Liam discovers a blood link between him and a dark sorceress.

Clara won the battle for Septily, but her battle isn’t over.

Champion in Flight is available at Smashwords and Amazon.

6:30 AM Laurel Garver
By Tyrean Martinson

Photo credit: kconnors from morguefile.com 
We all find ourselves believing in the myth of “enough” time. With busy schedules, work, family activities, and much-needed relaxation time all competing for time in our lives, we often find ourselves wishing for a few more hours in a day or a week so that we could have “enough” time to pursue our writing or other creative pursuits. We chase the myth of “enough” time.


I homeschool my kids. I volunteer at my church. I teach classes at a homeschool co-operative and for that I must prep classroom exercises and homework for my students, and grade all their homework. I write stories, poetry, and novels. I like to ski, bike, read, and do fun activities with my family and friends. And, I never have “enough” time.

I have to make time.

When my kids were tiny, the time I could find for my writing came in the midst of their activities, or when they were sleeping. Most of the time, I wrote poems and snatches of stories when they were busy at play between lessons in early elementary school. I had to keep ideas written down in lists so that way when I had the chance for fifteen minutes of writing, that writing time was all writing time. No daydream or planning time could take place when I had the chance to sit down. I planned my ideas while folding laundry, doing dishes, or on my daily exercise walk. When I sat down to write, the pen hit the paper or my fingers hit the keyboard and went flying with no time for thought or worry over word choice in a rough draft, no time for planning a character’s emotional development or choosing actions to show the character’s emotional state. That had to happen outside of my writing moments. Then, three or four days a week, my husband would give me “alone” time with my writing for an hour or two. Again, I tried to focus that time on writing only. No e-mails, game playing, or daydream allowed – even about the story. Sometimes, during the long sessions, I actually had time for revision.

When my kids hit the older elementary years, they needed less of my “teaching” and more time of learning on their own – reading, doing math problems, writing, and doing science experiments without me hovering at their elbows. The reality is that although some learning is done during a lecture or discussion (or on the lap while reading when they were little), a lot of the connections and work take place when we are on our own and engaged with the material. My kids no longer needed me to read them all their lessons out loud, and they didn’t want me to. They needed me to plan, present, grade, and discuss, but for shorter bursts throughout the day. Other than that, they were happy to have me “out of the way” but engaged at a separate task near at hand for help.

Now, with a fiercely independent middle school kid and a high school kid with a lot of ideas and need to spend time with her friends, we’ve gone through more changes. My writing time and teacher preparation time has expanded, but I need to be ready to drop it at any moment throughout the day to present material/drive places/help with math conundrums/discuss serious matters of history, literature, and politics that arise from the curriculum we’ve chosen. It’s hard to write and then stop, and then write, and then stop, but I’ve found that it works for me most of the time. When I need a long, “solitary” session for writing or revising, I do that during my daughters’ activities: at the dance studio, in coffee shops, and even on the docks during kayaking. Overall, I usually feel that their learning and activity helps give me perspective in my writing and increases my creativity. (And I haven’t even mentioned how busy my talented husband gets – whew. The family calendar is full six days a week.)

The routines of writing have fallen into and around the routines of life. There is never a day when I feel I have “enough” time, but I find a way to make some for each activity, including writing. Some days I only get in a paragraph in my journal. Some days I type five pages. It all depends on the day. Goals are good, but I have long since left the “perfectionist” 1,000 words a day word count behind and tried for getting words on the paper each day and overall “realistic” monthly goals. Sometimes, I get up before everyone in my house does when I have an idea burning bright in my head at 4a.m. and sometimes I barely get any writing done while sitting in a car with rain pouring down while my youngest is kayaking in freezing water.

My tips to any and all busy writing parents are:


1. Take the writing time you have and use it to the fullest extent.

2. Set realistic monthly goals for whatever time of life you are in. I couldn’t write novels when my kids were in early elementary school and needed near constant attention and lap-time.

3. Use the time in which your kids are engaged in activities that they love – sports, dance, with friends – to benefit your writing.

How do you find time to write?

You can find Tyrean Martinson at Tyrean's Writing Spot and Twitter.

Her latest novel is Champion in Flight, book two in the Champion Trilogy

A year after she won the battle for Septily, Clara feels trapped in Skycliff by the Allied Council. As the last pieces of information about the Healing Caves fall into place, Clara is attacked by an assassin. Covert Drinaii mercenaries and the Council aren’t going to stop Clara from her quest to heal her broken blade. As Champion of Aramatir, she must act. Meanwhile, in the joint kingdoms of Rrysorria and Wylandria, the youngest and still cursed swan prince despairs of ever being whole again. In a moment of anger and desperation, Liam discovers a blood link between him and a dark sorceress.

Clara won the battle for Septily, but her battle isn’t over.

Champion in Flight is available at Smashwords and Amazon.