Friday, January 30, 2015

Women's Leadership Challenge Conference: Jearlyn Steele and the Generosity of Purpose

This last week my 'normal' job paid for me to go to a Women's Leadership Challenge Conference run at St Catherine's University in Minnesota.  What I thought would be a normal work function turned out to have significant meaning to me and where my career and life are going.  So I thought I would share the numerous amounts of notes I took with others through my blog.

How does this work?  Easy.  As I post stuff, the header will have the same first part of the subject and the name of the seminar with what I learned.  I'll do my best to provide links to the people who gave the talk so that people can trace information back if you want.  By no means am I an expert on any of this, I'm just organizing my notes so others have access to at least part of what I learned.  Also, this isn't a substitute for the program, and dang it if you can go to something like this, do it!

St Catherine's University: website
And here's their event page with more info about the program

The first keynote speaker of the morning was Jearlyn Steel and called "The Generosity of Purpose".

The main focus of this Keynote speech was started with the idea of your gift and your talent.  Basically, your talent is what you're good at and your career, it's what makes you money.  But your gift is your calling and what you were made for.  There's overlap between the two, to be sure, but they are different things and the way to enjoy your life and make the most of it is to find where the two intersect.

You are responsible for giving the gift you have.  It's a package inside you that is made to share and give to other people.  If you squeeze it and hide it inside yourself - for whatever the reason - and don't use it, like any closed off flame it can go out, and then it's pretty hard to relight.  So don't ignore it, share it!  Give your gift to people and let it be alive.

This isn't primarily a religious thing, a spiritual thing, or a mechanical thing - but it can be any of those.  It's different to each person and it takes some searching to find it.  But everyone has it.

Now, with sharing your gift, that doesn't mean give it away for free.  You still have to make the money and pay the bills but share your gift.  But in the same vein, don't let the pursuit of money regulate your gift, this will also stomp it out.

Related to talent - you don't have to be perfect at it.  What you do have to do is combine it with your gift.  Basically, if you're good at something (your talent), putting yourself in a position where you can add your gift like a cherry on top will set you out from the rest and it will make your talent stand out in the best way.

In life - be yourself, no matter how scared you are.  Those butterflies?  Use them.  Take them and turn that shaking into your strength.  If you're nervous or if you're scared, that's a good thing.  It means you're doing something you're unfamiliar with.  It means you're expanding yourself and even if you fall, it's proof that you tried and damnit, one little try might be all you need to get that much closer to what you want/need.

If you don't know where your gift is taking you, if you don't understand how to use it, be patient.  Just use it and listen - it will show/tell you what to do and where to go.

If you are stuck and at a plateau - find your filling station.  Think of what makes you happy, what fills you with comfort and job.  Now, think of what you have to do to get to where you want to be, and there should be one or two places where those things intersect - do them!  You can't forget to fill up and relax, because you will wear yourself out like a car.  You have to change your oil and re-energize.

Create a mantra for yourself - a realistic one and repeat it to yourself each morning.  The reinforcement will work.

Silence is speaking up. When you come up to an issue and you say nothing, you are actually saying something: you're basically just saying something you don't want to physically say.  So silence is not an escape, never use it like that.

What you do in the morning will affect your entire day - from the music you listen to, your mood and what you do.  So do calming things in the morning and uplifting things in the morning and that will define your day.   Hand in hand: what you do before bed can infect your night. If you go to bed feeling guilty, it will be hard to sleep.  Things like that, so keep that in mind and use those two things to improve your days and nights.

Listen to your inner voice - it doesn't always communicate your needs.  Sometimes, it tells you how to fulfill others.  There are needs that everyone has that they might not be able to fulfill themselves, they might need you, your inner voice will direct you to these people.  Just go with it and it will come back on to you when you need it as well.  Be open and follow your inner voice.

You should enable others to act - give them permission.  You are here to encourage other people - no one lives in a vacuum.  Humans are social creatures and we work best when we are exactly that.  So use your gift and interact with others.

What is your gift?  Ask yourself, if you never had to worry about getting paid or paying, what would you do for the rest of your life.  Your gift can be found there, in the thing you really enjoy. Then expand from there.

Getting over jitters and plateaus - Listen.  If it's a crappy day out and you don't want to do it even if you have to, just open up and listen.  There will always be someone who will give you that little push you need.  It might be a post you see online from a quick glance, a word from a passing stranger, a stray thought as you get in the car or a simple smile from a spouse.  Look for it and be open and it will help you move forward.

Your purpose, your gift, will accommodate your quirks.  It's you, so it is made for you.  And you are made for it.

That's it for this one, I'll be posting more next week ^__^

Monday, January 26, 2015

Backseat Gamer: Tomb Raider

Back Seat Gamer: Tomb Raider (2013)

As a child I grew up with a PC and wasn't allowed to have a game console system.  I have fond memories of Jazz Jackrabbit, Lemmings, Carmen Sandiego and Catacombs, while other people became familiar with Mario and Sonic.  I remember I started to get out of playing video games as school became harder with more homework and I pretty much forgot about them, until I ran into Tomb Raider.  And really, I've been in love with the puzzle/first person shooter style ever since.  Heck, Tomb Raider even lead to my love/hate relationship with Resident Evil, but that's another article. 

Lara Croft is known as the kick ass tomb exploring female of the video game world.  Through various incarnations in video games, comic books and movies, pretty much everyone has heard of this double gun wielding explorer with the British accent and large chest.  This game decided to take a very different route and 'reboot' her beginnings to tell us how she became the Tomb Raider that we're all so familiar with.

Back when this game was announced, I was worried, to say the least.  At the time, the word 'reboot' was already getting tired and old thanks to a string of bad movies and a couple horrible video games with female leads (I'm looking at you Third Birthday and Metroid: Other M).  That coupled with the first few shots of Lara looking nothing like the Tomb Raider I knew and loved left me really unsure about the outcome.

The first few previews of Lara and her horrible 'Hostel' and 'Eli Roth' style deaths really didn't help matters at all.  

When I finally sat down to play the game, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was my worry not warranted, this would come to be my favorite Tomb Raider yet - and not just because I have a special place in my heart of the series, no matter how cheesy some of those incarnations are.

Lets get the deaths out of the way.  I compared them to Eli Roth and Hostel because well, if you've ever played the game you know!  They're brutal and gory and painful to watch, and the shock factor really doesn't wear off.  I found myself wincing even when I'd played a part numerous times and still couldn't get past it.  But I found that this actually creates an interesting dynamic in the game - I wanted to get through it without killing her.  In a world where automatic saves and check points are common, killing a character by accident and starting the level over is just a shrugging moment and you don't really feel it (unless you have to watch a long cut scene over and over).  Instead this game forced you to watch her die and see her lifeless body hanging there for a few long seconds, before restarting your game and it leaves an impression.  So that next time you really really don't want to see that again.

With that out of the way we can talk to my favorite part: the origin story.  From my previous knowledge of the series, I knew that Lara's parents had died under suspicious circumstances and she'd grown up into an impressive women who traveled the world and sought out artifacts that had a taste of the supernatural.  There was always a huge gap in there and it never really hit me until this game.  Here, instead of climbing hills and shooting tigers in the first scene, you're forced to live through a plane crash and watch innocent student Lara learn to be who you expect her to be.

The background story of Himiko and the cursed island seems a bit flimsy at first but the strangers controlling the island and the lack of anyone being able to leave heighten the story line quickly as you are forced to try and find your shipmates and find a way out without dying.  Here Lara doesn't have her guns - in fact guns are really only a bonus in this game.  Your best weapon - by far - is the bow and arrow you get in the very beginning.  Aside from being nearly silent, it allows you to snipe off enemies from the shadows and hunt food to restore your health.  Ammo is common and when you get the power-up to loot used arrows off of bodies you've killed, the guns are easily forgotten. I only realized toward the end of the game how much this forced me to learn to be stealthy, running into situations and just firing your guns everywhere always ended up in being killed.

The other characters in the game were fleshed out and interesting, the enemies were creepy and yet realistic and the supernatural elements at the end reminded me of a good Indiana Jones movie or X-files episode where it was crazy, but yet completely believable in that tingle up your spine way.

And - spoiler alert - I will say that the most satisfying thing about the game, other then beating it myself, was seeing Lara in that final cinematic fight with the iconic two guns.  That was the moment I had been waiting the whole game for and I wasn't disappointed.

How Much I Played:
The whole game!  While I love watching my partner play video games, Tomb Raider is one of the few that is all mine.  Yes, I did hand her the controller in a few parts that I just couldn't get past, but it was minimal and I'm proud to say that I played the whole game and beat it.  Yes, it does happen.

Now off to try some Uncharted while I wait for the next one to come out. 

Loved it more then I thought I would.  Why'd it take me so long to play?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Announcing Upcoming Collaboration with Grave Impressions!

A little late announcing it to my blog, so if you follow me on any other social media you've probably already heard...

But I'm happy to announce that my partner and I will be collaborating with the creators of Grave Impressions on the second volume of their reimagined fairy tales series!

The first volume is a fantastic GLBT retelling of Cinderella.  If the Shoe Fits tells the story of a shy young man who falls for a charming prince.

You can actually purchase the first volume here, if you're interested!  I've read it myself and I can tell you it's a beautiful and sweet story with an amazing water color art style.

Our collaboration will be for a different fairy tale, which isn't revealed quite yet.  I'll be sure to post updates here as we're allowed to release them and once it's ready for purchase, you'll be sure to know!

In the meantime, please, check out their page!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Changes to my blog

After some careful thought, I've decided to make some changes to my blog.  In an effort to do more writing her myself and get into better practice with writing articles and such, I'm going to be discontinuing Character Days.  Instead I'll be focusing on posting articles about writing and sewing that interest me and hopefully interest you guys.

I do apologize to the people who have send me their character interviews for their books, however the feature doesn't draw that many viewers and I've decided to move on to other things.  Thanks to everyone who's helped me with the interviews and I hope that you guys enjoy the new stuff I'll be posting in it's place.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Yes I Made That Dress: Five Nights at Freddy's

Aside from writing and doing character interviews, I actually have another huge hobby: making costumes.  These entries are meant to be image heavy, going through the different methods I use to make my costumes.  If you have questions about how I do any of it, feel free to ask!

Some history:
My partner discovered Five Nights at Freddy's on tumblr last year and couldn't stop looking up information on it.  Turns out, or those who might not know, it's an indie game where you're basically a security guard at Chuckie Cheese and you have to try and survive the night on limited power while the anamatronics wander the building.  The catch is, if they see you, they'll try and stuff you into a suit like them - which would kill you.  It's a simple horror game, but very effective with making you paranoid about the creatures and the jump scares always get you in the end.

We don't have Steam, or a computer strong enough to play the game, so we ended up watching Marklipier's play through and loved the game.  The idea to cosplay from it followed soon after - as usual - but this time it came with the fun idea of designing them myself and adding little bits of my own style.

(Incidentally I'm calling my style like this 'Patchwork Witch', you'll see more of it in the future.)

I wanted something cute and simple for Freddy and Chica that would be recognizable as the characters, but also could cross into every day wear if I wanted.  Also, as an added challenge to myself, I wanted to buy as few new materials for these outfits as possible. Since these are technically Halloween costumes, I have a tradition around Halloween of altering already made clothes from Savers or using only scrap fabric to build the pieces I need.  It gives the holiday a specific challenge, to see what I can make under limits and forces me to come up with creative ideas I can incorporate overall into my costuming skills.

For these outfits we purchased the tops we both wore and already had Freddy's top hat.  I made both skirts, plus her little fur accessories for Freddy and Chica's bib.  Shoes were found at Savers and awesome creepy makeup purchased at Ulta.

Making the Dress

The main part of the two outfits are the skirts.  I started by grabbing every piece of yellow and brown fabric I had, patterned and otherwise, and laid them out to pick the ones I want.  For the Freddy skirt we found enough fabric to make the ruffle and bought the main brown fabric and a sting of fur for the edge.   For Chica, all the yellow fabric was found and the ruffle is made from scraps of a bunch of different yellow patterns all sewn together in one long strip.

If you look in the Chica picture you can also see the pattern I used for the Chica skirt.  Feddy's skirt was a simple rectangle with an elastic waist band. 

Both finished skirts:

Next came the props!  Since we didn't have a Bonnie and Foxy to cosplay with, I bought two stuffed animals off of Amazon and gave them teenie alterations.  Bonnie got a red bow while Foxy got an eyepatch. 

And then there was the pizza box.... 

My 'real life' job has a cafe on the main floor of the office building, so I was able to get a blank pizza box from them.  Then we search online for the most official looking pizza box style art for the game.  We finally decided on the design by NinjaInk and I printed out a copy large enough to fit on the pizza box.  The next part was to slowly cut shape by shape out of the picture I printed so that I could draw the design on the pizza box in marker. 

The final design and the plushies?  All ready to play! (of course with a credit on the pizza box for the original artist)

Back to the sewing, it was time to work on Chica's bib, which I decided to make an apron for the skirt.  Once again I used scrap white fabric I had, some random lace I had lying around and some pink ribbon to make it look a bit more fancy.  The words are drawn on the apron in fabric marker because I didn't have the time to applique them and wanted the 'sketched' look instead.  Sadly means I have to make sure I don't get the apron wet, but it comes off the skirt, so that shouldn't be an issue. 

At the last minute we decided that Freddy needed one more accessory, and I had some fake fur lying around, so we made her two small hand pieces with fur and some clip in ears. 

A special shout out here to my wifey and her amazing makeup skills!  She's been learning a lot in the last year and came up with her own Freddy makeup.  She also inspired me to do a broken doll look for Chica.

Finally, with the purchase of cute tops from the local thrift shop, the costumes were done and it was time for con shennanigans!  

These costumes were premiered at Youmacon 2014, and I'm sure that won't be the last time you see them.  Next convention we'll be at this year is Anime Milwaukee in Wisconsin.  If you're going, look us up!  Next costumes?  We have several coming in 2015 year, so you'll just have to wait and see!

You can follow our cosplay hijinks on this journal, or on our cosplay pages!

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Novel Coming Soon!! Iron Bound Kisses!

I have great news to share!

I have just signed a contract to publish my first Gay Romance novella with Dreamspinner press!  Tentatively called Iron Bound Kisses, you can expect to hear more news about this in the next coming months!

This will be my first solo published novella and I can't wait to work with Dreamspinner on it! 

Keep an eye here for updates!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Character Days: Dexter Knight from Bitter Bread

Tell me a little about yourself and the world you live in.
I live in a small town in outback Queensland, Australia. I own a baker's shop. I've been here seven years but I'm an outsider. Most people find the fact that I am badly disfigured on one side of my face challenging.

So I tend to not interact with people, except as customers.

Let's jump right in, what's your most closely guarded secret?

I have faced down the personification of madness.

Tell us about your single most important memory. What was it and how does it affect you now?
The car accident that killed my father and left me looking like this. It has affected me in many ways. Look at my face. How would you feel?

What type of person are you? Are you a hero or do you shy away from conflict?
I'm no hero. However sometimes one has to choose a side and once I have chosen a side, I am unshakable.

Do you have any hobbies, any special talents?
I am a good baker of bread. I'm good at, or for, nothing else.

What sets you out from the crowd? Like your talents, would I be able to spot you if I passed you by?
I would be the one you would try to avoid staring at. But your eyes would be drawn to my ugly face.

What's an ideal day for you?
One that ends with me still breathing.

Do you have any one close? Any friends or family of interest?
There is a young woman who helps me. Her name is Maree and I am in love with her. Of course I haven't told her that.

What about your most prized possession?
I have no prized possessions.

Back to your story, what initially spurred your actions? Everything had to start somewhere, so where's your beginning?
We keep going back to the car accident. That's where I remember it all starting from. Even my mother's abuse came after that.

Where do you think your future will lead?
I don't know. I am trying to learn how to hope. It doesn't come easy for me.

Where can we find more about you?
Bitter Bread is part of the Heartland series of novellas.

Author: John Holland
You can buy the book here: 

Author Website: