Thursday, September 29, 2016

We'll be in Milwaukee WI this weekend!

Convention alert!

Now starts October, our crazy month of back to back cons!  
This weekend (Oct 1) we'll be Sci-fi Family Day at Discovery World!

We'll have a table with our books and costumes and pillows as normal!  

But, bonus!!

As the Kickstarter for magnifiqueNOIR starts on Monday, we'll also have the preview books there and an easy QR code to get to the Kickstarter page!  We hope you stop by!

See you there!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ConLife: Artist Alley 101 - Before You Step Into the Ring

Welcome to ConLife! Where in I tackle some of the questions people have asked about us travelling to so many conventions a year and selling our crafts, books and costumes. Have questions? Comment with them and let me know what you'd like me to answer!
We've all done it.  

So you arrive at the convention for the weekend, costumes packed securely in your suitcase, anime shirt and hoodie comfortably in place and wallet full of cash to spend in the dealer's room.  While you're meeting up with friends from around the country whom you only see a couple times a year, you decide to make a stop off into the Artist Alley room and take a look at the art being offered and if they have your new favorite pairing.  And somewhere, in that room full of art, you notice that these artists have suitcases of art and a table set up - and they're making money instead of spending it.  That's not too different from you is it?  Besides you can draw too, right?

You're right - and you're not.  Let me explain.

The point of this article is to give you a bit of a back door look into the world of Artist Alley and conventions.  This isn't a discussion on if you can draw/sew/sculpt and/or craft.  In fact, what you plan to make and sell doesn't really matter here, and it might even apply to full fledged vendors.  Instead I want to explore the background stuff you may not realize that goes into an Artist Alley table, even before the first item is sold and things you certainly should consider if you want to start.

1. Organization
Running an Artist Alley table is a lot of background work, so being organized is a solid key.  From convention rules, to expenses, orders, supplies and just money in general, there's a lot of information that can pile up fast.  Not to mention just keeping track of where your crafting supplies are in your own home.  It's really easy to get stressed out really fast, so if you're diving into this, attempt to be organized from the start - it'll save you a lot of headache in the future.  And trust me, you'll learn what information you need to keep track of as you go to make your life and business easier.

Simple bookkeeping can go a long way with this too. Bookmark the cons you're looking at and peruse their forums and sites for their rules. Keep track of your receipts when you make a few items and take notes. What takes you longer, what sort of things should you remember? Get used to keep track of a lot of things, because you'll need to if you start getting into this seriously.

2. Business
There's that scary word.  Running an Artist Alley table is fundamentally a small business and comes with many things that this word entails: especially customer service.  Being able to sell your craft is great and you will have people who love your stuff.  But you will also encounter people who are displeased with your item, your style, your skill etc.  The ability to put on a smile and be polite until they move to the next table is a needed skill and will help you in the long run.  You don't have to agree with them, but you do have to be polite so that they'll move on and you can spend more time with another customer who is willing to spend money.  This goes for anime series too... you may find yourself having to pretend to like a series you can't stomach just to make a fanboy or fangirl happy.  It's ok, it comes with the territory.

3. Self Care
Sitting behind a table for a weekend is easy right?  After all, you're not required to do anything other then talk and collect money and it seems like a win/win.  However, consider that some Artist Alleys can be open for 12 hours at a time and often it's a cramped space that may be hard to get in and out of, depending on your setup and how close the tables are together.  You'll need to figure out how you're going to handle bathroom and food breaks - especially if you're manning the table alone - and you WILL need them.  Pack some snacks that will tide you over throughout the day, and make sure to have plenty of water.  Have a friend that can jump behind your table to cover it while you disappear to the bathroom, or at least have a sign and let your neighbor know where you're disappearing to.  They may not be able to sell your items, but they can at least make sure nothing is swiped while you're gone.  Trust me, dehydration headaches are not something you want to go to sleep with and sitting at your table looking miserable because you're hungry is not a sign of strength, it will only hurt your sales. Plus, if you plan on going to more and more cons, keep in mind that you're the one making and selling your art, if you get sick, there is no replacement you can call in until you get better.

4. Schedule
As an average con goer you have a preferred schedule.  You have the panels you love, the friends you meet up with, the costumes you wear and masquerades and raves to attend.  The hard reality of manning an Artist Alley table is that you're likely not going to be able to do most of these.  

If you're running the table by yourself, that's especially true, but even if you have a friend to help you will have to cut down.  The simple truth is that you will sell your items the best, so you need to be at the table.  You can't set up a table and expect your friends to run it for you while you still enjoy the convention - you have to be there.  Beyond this, your sleep schedule will be wildly different from others you might be rooming with.  Since setup for the Artist Alley may be around 7am, going to a rave each night might not be the best idea if you want to avoid the con plague and return to normal life in one piece.  The same is true for elaborate costumes - you'll need to make sure they can fit behind your table and you can sit in them for long periods of time without hampering the other artists around you.  Changes will likely have to be made to how you normally 'con', so keep this in mind and plan accordingly. The nice thing is, your friends will have an easy time finding you throughout the entire con.

5. After Con Work
For someone who has an Artist Alley table, the work doesn't stop at closing ceremonies.  We pack up our bags and head home, usually with a list of items to make for customers who've already paid and for future con tables.  Even if you're not like us veterans and don't have two to three cons a month, you will still have to do some work after the convention.  Chief among this is your internet presence - because people will want to contact you after seeing your table.  Be it a customer who couldn't afford something at the con and now can, or just a random person who wants more of what you had - people will be looking for you.  So building a website, having a Facebook, twitter or instagram is pretty much a necessity.  Business cards are also a thing of wonder to pass out while at your table and to keep on you at all times. Crafting and selling doesn't stop after that weekend, you'll find as time goes on there will always be more to do.

Artist Alley isn't just a fun weekend job, there's a lot more that goes into it.  Your mileage may vary, of course, and there really is no one perfect way to run a successful table. Instead, part of the draw of the Artist Alley is the variety in that room.  From the range of crafts to how people handle it as a business or a hobby, you could spend years collecting all the different tips and tricks.  The true answer is that the more cons you go to, the more you'll learn about how to do this right and your way.  So maybe keep this as a small checklist in your back-pocket as you're packing that new suit case.  Enjoy the weekend and keep your eyes open, adjust what doesn't work and make note of what does.  Before you know it you'll be a well oiled machine and conventions will be just like the back of your hand, and you'll be sharing your own works in the process and having fun - which really is the most exciting part.

Jessica and Briana (Snow & Brichibi Cosplays) travel to about 15 conventions a year, dressing up in costumes, giving panels about writing and body positivity. Frequently at these conventions you can find us in Artist Alley or the Dealer's Room selling their novels, art and costumes. Got some questions about Artist Alley and the convention life we live? Just comment and maybe it'll be the next subject I cove on my blog!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review: Fear the Walking Dead - Season 1

Right off the bat, if you're here on my blog you probably already know that I have a serious love for zombie related stories.  It's not so much the falling apart creatures that pique my interest, but rather what effect they have on the humans around them as they slowly (or quickly) take over.  That added to the fact that at this point I've seen about 5 seasons of The Walking Dead and I finally decided to give this one a shot. 

What's it about?

Fear the Walking Dead is the prequel to the popular Walking Dead series, telling the story of the beginning of the zombie plague.  We join a whole new cast of characters on their journey to adjust and survive with the ever spreading virus.


If you notice, I haven't really done any reviews on The Walking Dead series, and likely that'll remain the case.  it's not that I don't like the series, but I honestly like it less then a lot of other things I've been watching and thanks to repedative storylines, characters being stupid and a lack of diversity it has become a background series for while I sew and feel the need to occassionally watch zombies. 

In contrast, I've impressed with FTWD much more, and I'm not sure I can pin it down to any one factor, but I'll at least try to discuss a few.  Warning, spoilers may be a thing for the first season. 

So the first thing that caught me on FTWD was the story.  I don't know about anyone else, but the part I love about zombies is people adjusting to it, and the original series missed that because when the main character woke up, the invasion and infection had already happened.  Here we don't have that, instead we have a mixed family that is already trying to navigate combining their children and households and drug addicted son tossed right into the middle of the outbreak.  Each deals with it in a different way and I love how the large extended family dynamic played into it with their different loyalties.  (Take note Walking Dead, THIS is what you can do with a diverse cast of characters from different cultures and backgrounds.  THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING.)

The character of the son, Nick, and his addiction is the most interesting dynamic and I'm happy to see they didn't treat it as a single plot point throughout the show.  He's addicted to heroin and quite often we see him acting much like a zombie while he's high, or freaking out because he can't get to his next fix.  He creates a very interesting mirror to hold up to the outbreak and he himself knows it and states so in the show.  Nick isn't generally the type of character I would like and identify with, but the writers use him beautifully in the context. 

I've already touched on the diverse cast, but it bears repeating.  Not only do we have the standard suburban house wife deals with the hoard troupe, but we're also presented with very specific pieces of immigrant culture, spanish culture, other languages, the moral pull between being a mother and a nurse, having to deal with your ex and his new family and a whole host of things.  I really feel that the front runners for this show heard the complaints about the Walking Dead's habit of only having one black character at a time (in Georgia?  REALLY?) and that when a new one comes in the older one is killed off and took it to heart.  I really do hope that this cast remains as interesting and diverse as it is, even when people start getting killed off.

I'm also a huge fan of how the zombies aren't such a big part of this show.  True to the state of a spreading infection, in the beginning they won't be as prevelant and they aren't.  Instead they're treated more as set pieces who complicate the characters lives.  This is perfect writing.  The threat is there and it's imminent, but people still have lives and their own feelings to deal with.  I especially love the mother, Madison, dealing with her home being turned into a make shift hospital in their little refugee camp and not being able to cope with that and her son's addiction.  It makes them all more human and gives me much more hope for this series then the other.

In conclusion?
I'm watching more as soon as I can get it!

Where'd I get it?

Currently I'm watching the series on Hulu, but they only have season 1.  I'm keeping my eye out for season 2 and I'm sure I'll be watching it as soon as it's up. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Blog Tour - Waiting for Patrick by Brynn Stein

Welcome to my blog tour for Waiting for Patrick. I’m offering giveaways of one signed copy, one electronic copy, and a choice of one title from my backlist. Comment below and at any of my other blog stops (posted below) to be entered to win. One comment, one entry. Dreamspinner is offering my other paranormal titles (Haunted, Lifeline, and What No One Else Can Hear ) for $0.99 during “Weekend Reads” on September 2, 3, and 4, in honor of Waiting for Patrick being my ninth published book. Waiting for Patrick will be available at a discounted price throughout the tour (September 1 through 15). Winners of the raffle will be announced on September 16th.


Architect Elliot Graham has bought and restored dozens of historic homes to their original splendor. As in his personal life, he loves them and leaves them, selling them off without looking back. But there’s something about the old plantation house he finds in South Carolina—a connection he can’t explain. He feels as though he recognizes the house, as if within its crumbling walls he might find something he doesn’t even realize he’s lost.
Ben Myers had promised his lover and soul mate, Patrick, that he would wait for his return. Ben has kept his word ever since Patrick left him to wait at the plantation house—during the Civil War. For the first time in many long years, Ben is no longer alone, and he reaches out to Elliot in dreams. Elliot tries to convince Ben that Patrick isn’t coming back, but Ben’s devotion is about to change not only his lonely existence, but Elliot’s life as well.
Buy Link:

About the Author
Brynn has always loved to write about strong male characters and their close friendships. When she found the world of m/m fiction, she fell in love. Finally, a way to bring those strong male characters together and let those emotional connections spill over into deeper relationships. Sometimes her characters go through the emotional wringer, but they always have each other.
Brynn lives in Virginia near her two grown daughters who support her writing and sometimes act as proof readers. Both of her daughters are also aspiring writers and hopefully it'll just be a matter of time before they have their own author's biography.
Brynn was a teacher by profession for thirty years. She worked in special education with children with emotional disabilities. She has recently changed careers and is now working as a mental health counselor to this same population and their families. When she is not working or writing, she loves to draw and paint. She also gets outside as often as she can, reads anything that doesn't move out of the way, and is always looking for her next story.

Contact Brynn:

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