15 July 2014

Guest Author Post: Brenna Lauren

 Brenna's Lovely  series
is available Winter 2014

Pajama-Wearing, Caffeine-Addicted, 

Sweet-Smelling Inspiration

The ever-elusive Muse. She takes many forms.

Ask any writer and they will tell you how infuriatingly fickle, stubborn and high-maintenance motivation can be. And that’s all Muse is, really: inspired motivation.

Kind of like scoring that crystallized honey at the bottom of a mason jar, sometimes you’ve got some spastic shaking and scraping to do. Things can get a little sticky in the process, but put in the effort, and you’ll end up with some finger-lickin’ golden sweetness.

And yet, despite the determination by many a scribe, sometimes Muse just refuses to cooperate. (This usually happens in the case of a looming deadline.)

So what’s a writer to do?

Well, once the toilets are scrubbed, the floors have been vacuumed, that entirely unnecessary errand run and the DVD case alphabetized, yes, once every innocuous task is completed, it’s time to regroup and re-evaluate. Muse isn’t going to show up because the towels are folded and the floors are clean enough to eat off of. Muse is a slob with perpetual bed head. Trust me.

When all else fails, it’s time to get mean. To wait around for inspiration to show up is a disaster in the form of good intentions. Every moment you spend shoe shopping, waiting for that special feeling to call you over to the laptop, some other bozo wearing twenty-year-old Keds is grinding out the next bestseller.

The Times List waits for no writer, or muses either. It’s time to become that gym teacher you were afraid of in middle school and whip your story into action. Sure it’s uncomfortable, and yes, it feels like work. But don’t get your panties in a knot. This is nothing like trying to climb that damn rope all the way up to the ceiling.  For goodness’ sake, you’re a writer. You get to work in your pajamas and drink coffee from a mug shaped like your favorite Disney character.

The trick is to find what works for you. Figure out what turns your muse on and invest in that. If a brand new ITunes playlist will break you out of your funk long enough to get your muse talking to you again, then maybe it’s worth the five or ten bucks. Or if that shakes the foundations of your Starbucks budget allotment, find a new radio station and be surprised with each new song.

Music too distracting? Maybe it’s a scent that will put you in the mood. Take a field trip to your local gift shop and play scratch and sniff in the candle aisle for a bit. Find a scent that best smells like your story and get ready to bask in coconut-scented motivation.

The possibilities are endless. Which upon deeper reflection, might be why the prospect of nailing down inspiration can be so overwhelming. But suck it up and invest in the relationship with your own creativity.  Remember the bozo in Keds? She’s probably typing away in a broom closet in her company’s basement next to a puddle of dirty mop water. But you can bet your last sip of chocolate-chip frappuccino that her muse is there with her. Because the bozo wants it. Bad.

At the end of the day, that’s what it’s really all about. How bad do you want it? And do you really have time to wait around for inspiration to show up on her own terms? Or do you need to lure your muse close enough to grab her by the hair and drag her kicking and screaming until she catches a whiff of your new Yankee Candle and decides to cooperate?

Do you want it bad enough to sit down and squeeze out the words even when you don’t feel like it? Even when it’s hard? If the answer’s yes, then what are you waiting for? Be your own pajama-wearing, caffeine -addicted, sweet-smelling inspiration.

So, don’t be shy. What’s your secret for wrangling your muse?

About Brenna 

As the author of the up-and-coming Lovely Series and three romantic women’s fiction novels, I’m pretty busy living out my very own happily-ever-after. But I’m never too distracted to appreciate the little things that make every day lovely.

Follow me on Twitter, @Brenna_Lauren, and check out my website, www.brennalauren.com. You can find inspiration and marketing ideas for your own novel that you’ll discover in my headlines for writers.

Whatever your pleasure, my site is about all things exquisite. So pour a fragrant cup of tea, slip into something comfortable and get ready to fall in love. – Brenna Lauren 

This post originally appeared on the website It's Only a Novel. Brenna kindly allowed me to share it with you here. Brenna is an upcoming graduate from Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction program--if you're interested in writing fiction, check my alma mater out!

07 July 2014

Let's Look Back: Colossalcon 2014

My Colossalcon badge!
I've been going to Colossalcon for THREE (!) years now, and I'm happy to say that I've loved it every single time. On top of that, I'm incredibly lucky to have been able to present creative writing panels for each convention. Huzzah!

This year was no different. Well, maybe a little different. Due to financial and time constraints, I submitted only one panel this year (Fanfic into Fiction) and didn't cosplay at all. I also stayed at a different hotel due to the Kalahari and nearby resorts being completely sold out! Last but not least, I went solo this year, which meant I had to budget my time to prevent me from driving back and forth from my hotel to the convention. I spent more time on the convention floor during this year's Colossalcon than any other con I've attended thus far in the history of my life.

And behold, my Attack on Titan tee!
In the three years of attending Colossalcon, I can happily say that there is one true consistency--I've had a blast every time. 

I did some haphazard packing and checked into my hotel in the afternoon, then drove over to the Kalahari to pick up my badge and check in at Events/Programming. 

Haruko from FLCL
This was the first year where I had to wait until the last minute to book everything. My goal was to come back as a VIP simply because of the private autograph session benefit, but the VIP badges sold out quickly. After a disastrous autograph experience at Ohayocon 2014, I really didn't want to wait for hours in any other autograph line anywhere, so I waited and watched for the Baby Tiger Club badges to go on sale. These are extremely limited badges because they not only give you VIP privileges, but yes, you can play with a baby tiger as part of your convention adventure. Due to some obsessive stalking of the Colossalcon website, I managed to nab one of these passes, which really played a huge role in how I was able to enjoy the con.

Dramatical Murder cosplay group
Noiz, Mink, and Aoba
After being a three-time presenter, I started getting the warm and fuzzy feeling that my panels were making some kind of difference at Colossalcon. The programming head, +Greg Wicker, checked me in and said, "Have you noticed I've been giving you better times for your panels?" YES!! Woohoo!! Because Fanfic into Fiction was scheduled Friday at 4pm--a huge upgrade from my Thursday and Sunday time slots from the previous years. Prime con time is Friday and Saturday, when the attendee population swells. After hearing Greg acknowledge my panel I did a merry dance, feeling like what I was doing at Colossalcon was important! 

Even though I'd been to the Kalahari Convention Center before, for some reason when I grabbed my map I couldn't figure out how to read it properly. Instead of checking out the Thursday night panels, I roamed the convention floor for an hour trying to figure out where the heck my panel room was located, which was the Wisteria Room--enclosed in a glass courtyard-hallway-looking area that I overlooked repeatedly. After finally locating the room, I headed to Meijer's to load up on food for the weekend and went back to the hotel.

FRIDAY, June 6
Friday was a huge day for me. Not only did I have my panel presentation to give--which I made 90 minutes long this year!!--but the VIP autograph session was Friday night. 

Anna and Elsa from Frozen
Before I got ready for my presentation, I made time for "Attack on Colossalcon," an Attack on Titan panel starring the voice actors for Eren Jaeger (Bryce Papenbrook) and Hange Zoe (Jessica Calvello). They were a great duo and really fun to listen to as they were onstage sharing experiences and doing Q + As. 

Then there was a terribly awkward episode to the Q+A, and I'm sharing it because this is a CON ETIQUETTE TEACHING MOMENT. (I'm paraphrasing here, but yes, this actually happened).
Con attendee: This question is for Bryce. What do you do, or how does it feel when you hear bad stuff about your acting, like being told your work in dubs sucks? 

Bryce answers the question first, but Jessica also comes in, and both mention that it's rough to hear negative criticism when they've put so much work into the parts they play, but they also try not to let the critics get to them and keep working on performing, etc., etc.

Con attendee: Oh, and one more thing, I just want to say that I review anime online and I said your work was terrible and not as good as the seiyuu. 
Audience collectively groans.
Con attendee: I just want to apologize because I wrong. 
Bryce and Jessica can't hear what the original comment was so they ask him to repeat it, which creates another awkward moment. 
Bryce: Thanks, man, I appreciate it.

Prince Joffrey from Game of Thrones

Bryce is not being sarcastic. He answers him unfazed and genuinely thanks him. Meanwhile, the con attendee gives a very theatrical bow, in what he probably thought was a sign of humble reverence, before returning to his seat.
That whole ordeal was pain, pain, painful. So, future con attendees, what was wrong with this exchange?
  • The audience member hijacked the Q + A with his own personal agenda
  • The question he asked was only used to set up the "apology" he wanted to give
  • The audience member didn't take into account that even voice actors have lives and probably do not read every single piece of criticism about them online, especially if it's coming from a non-professional reviewer
  • The audience member directly insulted the guest
  • The audience member directly insulted the audience by stealing valuable time that could've gone to another attendee to ask a question
  • Bowing in reverence does not absolve the audience member from being rude 
  • The audience member didn't have the self-awareness to realize that even if his apology was innocent and from the heart, he comes across as rude
This is exactly what it looks like. I love it!
...Right after that weirdness in an otherwise entertaining guest panel, I got to trot off to the fabled Wisteria room to present Fanfic into Fiction. My panel presentation went really well and I had a perfect audience--engaged listeners who weren't afraid to speak up and share their writing experiences. And I had a few attendees stay afterward to compliment me. The best one: "You're really good. This was really good. I was mesmerized the whole time." 

With that obstacle out of the way, it was time to return to my hotel room to get ready for VIP autographs. The past few times I took my picture with celebrities, I ended up hating how they came out, especially because you don't get the time to really set up the picture. When there's a line to meet with guests, it's like, "Do you want a picture?" "Yes." (Runs to table. Helper snaps picture. Exit stage left.) You have seconds to take care of things. 

Maleficent, Cruella de Vil, Ursula, the Horned King, and the Evil Queen
This time, I put in a lot of extra effort into my appearance beforehand. At the time, it seemed ridiculous to add an extra two hours into getting ready for VIP autographs (I might as well have cosplayed!) but I was committed to making myself look presentable in my photos with guests. The effort definitely paid off. I got a lot of compliments about my hair, my outfit, and how I looked overall. These came from random con attendees as well as some of the guests (!) and it made the picture-taking experience feel a lot better. 

Ezra Scarlet from Fairy Tail
I did a mix of photos and autographs. Some of the more famous guests, like Cree Summer, charged for photos, and like a dummy I forgot to go to the ATM beforehand. But I did chat with her and got her autograph, which was still a wonderful experience. She's done so much work, and voiced tons of characters I've loved over the years. 

As far as autographs and pictures go, I got them from Jonny Yong Bosch, Jessica Calvello, Sevana Wehunt, Cherami Leigh, Bryce Papenbrook, Vic Mignogna, and Lisa Ortiz.  I feel kind of lame for saying this, but every year I get in Vic's autograph line to say hello and snap a picture just because he is so fun to talk to! This time, we had a decently-lengthed conversation about Seton Hill and Greensburg, talked briefly about Star Trek Continues, and I had him sign some of the artwork I made for the Risembool Rangers, which he enjoyed (particularly this one). On top of that, he mentioned that he remembered meeting me before and when I told him about the first time I met him (he kissed me!) he gave me another kiss on the cheek "to keep up with tradition." I'm such a cheeseball, but he's really nice. 

Bryce Papenbrook was a bowl of awesome. He's adorable. He was one of the VAs I wanted to meet the most, because he voices Eren Jaeger in Attack on Titan as well as Kirito in Sword Art Online. We had a fun experience with taking pictures together...my camera was having issues and wouldn't go off, and while we waited and waited in our pose, I made a weird noise with impatience; something akin to a peacock caw that sounded like "Eeeeeeeeuuuuuuhhhh?" Bryce and I started laughing, and the camera went off while we were cracking up, and then we took a third picture just to be on the safe side. Ta-dah!

Round One (Bottom pic): We're smiling, but we don't know if the camera is going off.
Round Two (middle pic): Weird noises make us laugh.
Round Three (top pic): SUCCESS!

If you want to see more pictures from the VIP autograph session (and more cosplay), check out my Deviant Art gallery.

I didn't have enough money to book a hotel room for Saturday night, so the morning was a mad dash to pack everything up again and check out. The problem was, I was supposed to have left my hotel room at like 9am in order to play with my baby tiger (we had to schedule time in advance). But for whatever reason, I was so hyper Friday night that I didn't fall asleep until 4am. I knew that I wouldn't be awake in time to play with baby tigers (tears!) so I emailed the tiger handler to tell him I wouldn't make it. This was a huge bummer.
My anime autgraph haul!
And then I overslept.

I was definitely grateful I didn't incur fees for my late checkout from the hotel, but it did shape the early part of my convention experience. I was frazzled and felt rushed, so I planted it in Events 1 (the largest room in the convention center) and sat through panels for four hours straight. The first two hours were Vic Mignogna's Q+A, which turned into a lovefest/karaoke fest. I'd never attended a Vic panel before so I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a fun experience. After Vic's panel, I moved further up in the audience so I could be a couple rows away from Jonny Yong Bosch. I was able to capture this really fun moment on my cell phone camera:

What's interesting is that I knew Jonny Yong Bosch was a Power Ranger (the black Ranger) but the last time I watched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was during breakfast before leaving to catch the school bus. I had no idea the large number of devoted Power Ranger fans he had, and not only that, but it was cool to see he could just flip right into Morphin' Time! whenever fans wanted him to.

Truth be told, I've only seen three things Jonny's done--Gankutsuo: The Count of Monte CristoAkira, and most recently, Blue Exorcist (yay Adult Swim!). It's a regular habit of mine at conventions to ask voice actors what they'd like me to watch, especially if I haven't seen enough of their work. Jonny told me to watch Code Geass, so now that is on my watchlist. He also asked me to leave a comment on his Facebook letting him know what I thought of it. Yay! 

Aladdin from Magi:
The Labyrinth of Magic
After sitting in Events 1 for what felt like forever, I spent the next hour panicking because I lost my digital camera with all of my VIP photos! I discovered this while waiting in line to meet Patrick Seitz (I wanted him to sign my Hellsing Ultimate DVD). I was about five people away from meeting him and I debated with myself--should I stay and take a crappy cell phone pic first, and then start searching for the camera, or bail on the line? 

I bailed on the line. I felt like time was of the essence and that the longer I waited, the less of a chance I had to find my camera in the sea of thousands and thousands of people. Since I only went to the Artist Alley and Events 1, I searched those areas over and over again and came up with nothing. I was ready to cry. I coughed up a lot of money to have the VIP experience and taking photos with actors is one of my favorite things to do, so losing the camera meant all the photos were lost. 

The Chalk Twins, Devon and Lexi, working their magic!
But Colossalcon has the best attendees and staff ever, because someone turned my camera in to Lost and Found a half hour after I started searching for the camera. And I'm so happy I can share my photos with you now. God bless whoever saved the day!

For the rest of the convention I blew money in the Dealer's Room and Artist Alley. As much as I wanted to get photos and autographs with Phil Lamarr, Cree Summer, and Patrick Seitz, I was starting to burn out, so I did some shopping and ate some buffet food from the Kalihari. I wanted to see the Ask Your Favorite Anime Character event, because I watched it at Colossalcon before and have always found it hilarious. But it didn't start until 9pm and I just couldn't find a way to kill three hours beforehand, so I just headed to my car and drove home. 

Andresh sketch by Paige (aka Thumbcramps)
I bought a treasure trove of art from Sarah Brand, Stephen Raffill, Sean Forney, Thumbcramps, August Antoinette, Bonny Kessinger, and Lesser Key Studios. I purchased fan art from Game of Thrones, The Legend of Zelda, and Attack on Titan, plus a set of runes from Father-Daughter Swords as a gift for Lonely Coyote

For another art fix, I stopped by and saw the special guest artists The Chalk Twins as they worked on Kill La Kill art for a charity auction. They were so sweet and happy to say hello (isn't that an awesome picture?). 

I also commissioned a couple of artists to do very quick sketches of Andresh from The Name and the Key. It's always cool to see someone else interpret my characters. I've included my favorite, by the artist Thumbcramps. I love the textures and lines that come from sketches and I thought she did a wonderful job. 

My haul from the Dealer's Room was a little insane in terms of the money I spent. I was hoping to buy more original anime series sketches and cells but the selection this year wasn't so good, so I blew money on DVDs/Blu-Ray. I purchased Summer Wars, Gantz--The Complete Series, and Attack On Titan episodes 1-13. I bought Summer Wars because it was done by the studio who made Wolf Children; I purchased Gantz because I read the manga (which is twisted) and was curious about the anime; and I bought Attack on Titan because I wanted it to be autographed (although I would've bought the show at any point, anyway). 

All in all, this was another wonderful time at Colossalcon. Although I wish I would've cosplayed this year, it really didn't dampen my experience to walk around as a "normaller" (quoting Jerry Jewell). I had a great time, had an amazing panel experience, and a slew of new memories to take home with me.

I'm looking forward to 2015!