Tuesday, May 31, 2016

We're at A-Kon this Weekend! - Dallas Texas

Convention alert!

This weekend (June 2nd - 5th) we'll be at A-Kon in Dallas, Texas!

Artist Alley will be open from:
6pm to 9pm - Thursday
10am to 9pm - Friday
10am to 9pm - Saturday
10am to 5pm - Sunday

And we have a map!  You'll be able to find us in spot F22 in the Artist Alley section! We'll be in costume, as always, and we'll have our books and crafts for sale.  Feel free to stop by, check out our wares and just say hi!

Don't forget, we'll also have prints of Brichibi's/Briana's new magical girls magnifiqueNOIR! Also, we have preview books!!  Want to read the first chapter and see what this new series is going to be all about?  Pick up your preview book at the convention!  


See you there!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Bandwagon, and Why It No Longer Comes to This Stop

Back many years ago, when I was in college, I wrote fanfiction.  In the worlds of the internet, when it was still fairly new, I was part of a yahoo mailing list of authors who wrote about certain Gundam pilots getting together in romantic ways (wow, watch me date myself).  Back then I had a specific pairing I liked, but I was in the minority and there wasn't much of a fandom around that pairing.  So I made myself change.  I conformed and stepped aside, picking up the most popular pairing and made my stories match them.  Heero and Duo weren't my favorite, and they still aren't, but that was where the readers were and I wanted people to read my stories.  So I conformed and I got a lot of reviews and comments and author friends because of it.  My fanfiction got quite a bit of attention and I was happy.  I did my best to incorporate other characters in in other ways, but I conformed and mostly wrote about those two.

It wasn't horrible, but I'm well aware that I jumped on the bandwagon and rode it for reviews and popularity, happy to swap out characters when my muses really wanted to write about someone else just so I could get more readers and feedback.

Now, years later as a published author, I'm seeing it in a new light with regards to writing.  I see something like Twilight come out and suddenly there's vampires everywhere, sparkles and all.  I see 50 Shades of Grey and there's an uptick in erotica selling, no matter what the quality.  And I see movies like The Hunger Games and the explosion of young adult, dystopian fiction is so thick you could drown in it.  All of these have their good points and bad points, but the bandwagons are loaded up and ready to go, pausing at each stop to bring in more authors, stories and movies, until we as an audience are all so sick of them we swear them off and go look for something new.

In Hollywood, this is especially prevalent and even more noticeable.  It's not just a genre thing, instead it's boiled down to the very basics where it's assumed that movies (and media in general) will not sell unless it involves white leads in a heroic story.  Because white is the default right?  White is where all the money and culture and stories are, it's the easiest to identify with and forcing your story into the most palatable form for 'all audiences' is a bandwagon in itself.  (And I've addressed that specific rant before too.)

The problem is, as an author, that's boring and it's not why I'm here in front of my computer.  I'm not here to write cookie cutter stories that apply to the 'highest denominator' and I have no interest in telling another story similar to something already proven to be popular just to make money.  Even when I took up the most popular pairing in my fanfiction days, I still tried to give my stories a unique twist that made them stand out.  What I'm saying is I'm not willing to 'sell out' anymore just for reviews and just for money, in the end it leaves my work feeling empty and then I begin to wonder what was the point of writing it in the first place?

Don't get me wrong - some authors can do this.  Some authors can churn out bandwagon stories and make lots of money doing it, and all the power to them if that's what they enjoy.  But I'm not that author anymore.  And I would also like to make this argument that there's a very specific reason to not follow the bandwagon, no matter how popular it is.

Like I've mentioned in previous blogs, there's a world of diversity around us and while I grew up white and privileged in a suburban neighborhood, that's not where I want to write and that's never where I wanted to read.  I want to write about those little dark corners, the ones we all pass by and don't give a second glance to.  I want to write about that dark alley with a horribly lit store front tucked in the shadows.  I want to write about that tree trunk that looks like a door and I want to write about that shape in your closet that looks a little too alive.

Yes.  Writing about horror and non-binary characters and unhappy endings and other races won't get me the attention that writing about white, straight, happy ending adventures supposedly will, but as I'm writing this and putting my thoughts into words I'm realizing that I don't care.  I'm not in this to be rich, I'm in this to feed my muses and write the stories that I wish I could have found as a kid.  I'm here to fill in the gaps between those mainstream stories and offer another way of looking at things that hopefully, at least a couple people, will find they enjoy.  I'm here to write the stories that I worked so hard to find as a bookworm kid perusing the endless library shelves and still never finding  enough stories about someone like me who felt so different.

Does that sound self serving?  Do I sound self important?  Do I have grand dreams for something that isn't likely to happen?


But see, here's the thing.  The really really important thing: If I don't write that story, who will?

Back then, in the Gundam fanfiction days, the reason stories didn't exist about the pairing I liked was because people didn't write them.  And if they did, people didn't pay attention to them - including me.  I fell into the bandwagon trap and assumed that because it wasn't popular, it wasn't worth doing, because I wouldn't get the reviews and feedback I wanted and that I was convinced fanfiction lived on.  That is where I made a mistake in not acknowledging what I wanted and the space I could fill and it's the mistake I've consciously decided not to make again.

If I don't step forward and say I'm going to write about a gay romance between a not so nice fairy and the human who falls under his spell which touches on unhealthy relationships then who will?  It's not self important to think that my story, however odd, has an audience out there that just needs to find it.  Why?  Because I was that child who spent so many years of my life not realizing that I was searching for fantasy stories with magic where characters were allowed to be their gay selves and just exist.  I didn't have a name for it as a kid, but I do now.  So I'm writing in the hopes that I'll find that audience and give them what they want and what they may not realize they're searching for.

The part that is important and that people tend to forget - especially Hollywood it seems recently - is that between the ever stuffed bandwagon stops, there are little side streets full of people who are simply waiting at their own stops, wondering when the wagon they want will stop by.  Sure, they go about life and they may not speak up or they may yell - but they want something different.  And if everyone jumps on that bandwagon, they'll never get it.  They'll keep wondering where that story they like and they can relate to is.  I was that child and I remember how lonely those stops are when no one acknowledges they're there.

There are reasons behind the bandwagon, and there are cases where it's a good thing and it does give people what they need.  But there's an equally good argument (if not better) for that side street and out of the way stop they always seem to skip.  I firmly believe that everything has a place and every story has a mind to inspire and comfort.  So that's where you'll find me, writing away in my own little corner, selling to convention fans and typing away.

I also think you should try it some time.  Because the bandwagon isn't the only want to get around and sometimes a different view is world changing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

We're at Anime Central this Weekend! - Illinois

Convention alert!

This weekend (May 20th - 22nd) we'll be at Anime Central in Rosemont, Illinois!

We have a map!  You'll be able to find us in spot D09 in the Artist Alley section! We'll be in costume, as always, and we'll have our books and crafts for sale.  Feel free to stop by, check out our wares and just say hi!

Don't forget, we'll also have prints of Brichibi's/Briana's new magical girls magnifiqueNOIR! Also, we have preview books!!  Want to read the first chapter and see what this new series is going to be all about?  Pick up your preview book at the convention!  


See you there!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

We're at MSP ComiCON this Weekend! - Minnesota

Convention alert!

This weekend (May 14th - 15th) we'll be at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds for MSP ComiCON!

Sadly we don't have a map of where you can find our table this time, but that's ok, I'm sure we won't be too hard to find!  We'll be in costume, as always, and we'll have our books and crafts for sale.  Feel free to stop by, check out our wares and just say hi!

Don't forget, we'll also have prints of Brichibi's/Briana's new magical girls magnifiqueNOIR!  Also, she'll be debuting her new Wonder Woman apron which I just finished this last weekend!


See you there!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What Star Wars and George Lucas Taught Me About the Creative Industry

In honor of "May the Fourth"...

What Star Wars and George Lucas taught me about the creative industry...

Love him or hate him, George Lucas and his world of Star Wars has been a part of the popular culture around us for a long time.  And like many my age there's hardly a time I can remember in my life where Star Wars wasn't present at least some where.  I've had my love and hate for the series and experienced highs and lows in the fandom from fanfiction, to waiting in line for the re-releases at the theaters to the horror of the prequels and to the redemption of "The Force Awakens."  Through it all it occurred to me that looking at George Lucas' creative journey with Star Wars has actually taught me a lot (albeit indirectly) about my own creative writing journey and given me several lessons to take to heart and I thought I'd share those.

1. When you sell your characters, they are no longer yours. 

Right on the heels of everything, I'm jumping right in.  A good number of people remember the photo released right after George Lucas sold his characters to Disney of him standing with Mickey Mouse and cast with a decidedly sour face.  As soon as the deal was done, rumors surfaced that George Lucas wasn't happy with the deal and might have accepted it begrudgingly.  Whatever the truth in all of that, the reality of the situation goes much deeper.

When you send your creative works into the world, especially writing, it usually involves giving a portion of the control to someone else.  Be is a publisher, an agent, or even a website to print your works, you're handing your creation to someone else and that comes with potential risks and rewards.  More then anything else, it's scary, but it's near impossible to do it all by your lonesome (even self publishing involves trusting other people and entities).  That sour faced photo is a reminder that what seems like an awesome deal might turn out to be rotten at the core, or vice versa - it might be the most amazing thing ever.  It's all about perspective, being careful and still taking those risks. There's no way to avoid this that I've found, but I remember that photo every time I consider signing a contract, and make sure to give all such decisions extra thought to try and avoid potential disaster.

2. Fans will be fans

Looking at interviews with George Lucas about Star Wars it doesn't take long to locate quotes where he eludes to the fans not being happy, especially with what became of the infamous prequels, and how they're impossible to please.  At the time the prequels were released a good number of fans were incredibly hyped, but upon seeing the first of them fan views tanked and even die-hard fans admitted to being "Phantom Menaced" - where they convinced themselves the prequels were amazing just so they didn't have to admit the falling of their favorite fandom.

Again, regardless of your feelings about the prequel movies, it's worth noting that sending your own creations out in to the world is a scary prospect in itself.  No matter how popular your stuff is, you will generate fans and those fans have a tendency to claim ownership (at least in part) of the things they love.  Fandom as a whole is a scary concept and fills the nightmares of many creators, but it is a reality and not something to be afraid of.  In the end, fans are the lifeblood of this creation you've sent out there.  While the world you're creating is yours, upon publishing it you're sending it out into the world to be experienced.  Fans will be good, bad, amazed and indifferent and that's all part of the journey.  What's important to remember is this is your creation and you're handing it to people who will love it and hate it.  Enjoy your fans and give them something worth reading.  Delight in surprising them and scaring them and making their dreams come true.  Enjoy giving them new worlds and dreams to grasp on to and don't get caught up in what they think - even when you see that inevitable hated review.  In the end there will always be someone out there who loves and hates your work and there is nothing you can do to please everyone.  So don't try, just create and respect that creation and the fans are an added bonus to enjoy - but not someone you're required to preform for.

3. Creativity needs direction and limits

Star Wars is a amazingly diverse world with deep fantasy and lore.  That lore started with three movies and then expanded into countless TV shows, novels and even *shudder* a Christmas special. Each had it's assets and flaws. However, in reading the novels, and watching the prequels, it became very clear that there was a lack of control and oversight missing or forgotten.  Now, I'm not privy to what guidelines were given to authors who were allowed to write in the Expanded Universe, but there was evidence that certain characters' personalities varied wildly between stories (I'm looking at you Mara Jade and Kevin J Anderson).  Beyond that the prequels were made with almost no one seeming to reign in George's ideas and tell him that 'maybe he should reconsider' on some of the more outlandish things.

In the world of writing, this job is done by a good editor and beta reader, one who will read through your story and advise not only on the missed commas and misspellings but also on the plot-holes that might cover your prized possession.  The importance here is two fold.  A good editor who is willing to be honest and let you know what's missing is important and so is your ability to listen and consider their advice.  Yes, it is your creation, but sometimes creations are hard to understand and while writing is you putting it all to paper - readers still need to enjoy and understand what you're creating.  So make an effort to find these people who will be honest with you and make an effort to listen to them.  You don't have to obey them in the end, but at least consider that maybe, just maybe, there might be another way to do what you're intending. And who knows, many times listening to editors might even make your work better; after all that is their job.

4. Once it's out there, it's out there.

Remember how in number 2 I mentioned that fans take a bit of ownership of your work?  Well, that bears repeating.  This is especially important when considering the Special Editions of the original Star Wars movies and how George Lucas took the opportunity to pull the movies back and change things he felt needed to be changed.

This is a big no no - because it rarely comes out well.  While his intention may have come from a great creative place and it is his work to do with as he pleases, trying to change history is never a good thing.  And that's what the original Star Wars movies were - history.  Like the FX and storytelling or not, the story of Luke Skywalker is sewn into many people's childhoods and collective memories and to some it's almost as important as the Bible.  Basically in this case, keep in mind that yes it's your creation to do with as you wish, but you need to also respect those who have enjoyed your creation since it was released.  Trampling over characters they've identified with - even if you think you're improving them - will be met with resistance and you will have to deal with that fallout. Beyond that once you publish something it's out there and likely you can't pull it back and fix it.  So make sure what you're releasing is the best you and your team can make it. There's a good chance this book you're writing and world you're creating will become someone's life and you want that to be something they and you will love for the whole future to come.

5. Nobody is nobody. 

While the things above are general guidelines for how to approach creative writing and endeavors, this one is not a guideline, it's a fact.  If a farm-boy can pick up a sword and become a hero of the galaxy and a cute little droid can hold the key to the most sought after secret in the world - so to can a simple person in front of a computer share an idea far too big for themselves.  As a writer you are a creator and more then that - as a human you have a story to tell.  Be it on paper, tablet screen or podcast, inside of every single one of us is a story that is slowly trying to make its way out.  At the time of writing and putting together what was to become Star Wars, George Lucas had no idea it would become the huge thing that it is today.  He might had dreamt about it becoming big, but there's no way he had an idea of everything that was to come.  So too, the same applies to you and that little muse whispering in your ear.

You are not nobody.  You are a person and you are somebody and that little nugget of a story in your head deserves to be told in whatever incarnation you can.  So take a chance and do it, and maybe after a bit of hard work, you'll hold a galaxy of fantasies and dreams that the whole world can enjoy in your hands too.