Saturday, March 25, 2017

Video Games, Belly Dancing, and Fire-Spinning, Oh My!

Friday night was a pretty typical girls' night out. After work, I went out with my friend Miranda for dinner at Demera Ethiopian Restaurant (so damn good) and to watch a show at the Uptown Underground involving video game-themed belly dancing, burlesque, and fire-spinning routines. You know, same ol' same ol'.

Miranda's the inspiration for one of the main characters in my WIP, actually
The show we watched was Ready Player Two by Raks Geek, and it was so much fun. I was a little worried since Miranda's not into geeky stuff (just a good friend willing to indulge my oddities) and I had no idea what to expect (seriously, go to that website and see what you think). But you know what? We both had a a fantastic time.

I managed to get at least one picture of each performer, but honestly, I'm not a great photographer. I'm the kind of person who has so much fun at an event that I forget to take any pictures, then kick myself afterwards. These are the best quality ones I took. I wish I could've taken more, but I was seriously so enthralled by most of the performances that I literally forgot to clap and cheer sometimes, let alone take pics.
Diana Xiana Moon as Elizabeth from BioShock

Kamrah as Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII
Watching Sephiroth belly-dancing to One-Winged Angel (his theme song) was surreal and amazing.

Lee Na-Moo as Ermac from Mortal Kombat
I couldn't get more than one picture because he was so fast and the choreography was so cool, I gave up trying.

Michi Trota as The Assassin from Assassin's Creed
Assassin Fire-Spinning

 I was so tense throughout this routine! So freakin' cool.

Gaea Lady as Poison Ivy (Batman villain)
 So, so mad that I only have this one picture of Poison Ivy because her costumes (there was a burlesque bit where she shed this dress) were AMAZING. Absolutely beautiful and the routine was fantastic too.

Lee Na-Moo as Mario 
 The audience laughed when he came out because that Super Mario hat seemed so silly, but when he started to dance...OMG. Another time where I was so into the performance, I forgot to react.

Michi Trota as the Last Starfighter
More fire, more fun, more tension.

Kamrah as the Nurse from Silent Hill

THIS PERFORMANCE. I never thought that the carefully controlled movements of belly-dancing would pair so well with the terrifying movements of the nurse from Silent Hill, but holy crap. Miranda literally had her mouth hanging open this entire performance. Ah-mazing.

Gaea Lady as Jade from Mortal Kombat
Seriously, Idk why I was terrible at taking pictures of Gaea Lady. Another gorgeous costume and wonderful performance.

Diana Xiana Moon as Wookie
The showstopper! The last performance of the night was this hilarious and fantastic belly dancing Wookie routine. The audience couldn't stop laughing the entire time and it was a great way to end the night.

I was really excited to see Michi Trota there, because she's a contact I've been wanting to make for a while. A feminist Filipino woman heavily involved in the geek community and using her platform to push for more diversity and #ownvoice creators? Sign me up. I managed to introduce myself and give her a business card without being too awkward (I hope). Since my WIP is about a Fil-Am amateur sleuth solving a murder at a comic book convention, I'd love to get her insights. Fingers crossed, but I know she's a very busy woman.

The girly bonding, nerd-themed drinks, and geeky dance performances were enough to make a pretty fantastic night, but what I loved most of all was that this was a charity event with partial proceeds going to I Need Diverse Games, a non-profit I hadn't known about, but now wholeheartedly support (donated on Patreon). The founder of I Need Diverse Games came out to explain what the organization was, and I not only loved her passion, I also loved that she was decked out in Mass Effect swag.

In case you were wondering, the Mass Effect series is my 3rd favorite video game series, with the first two positions being held by the Persona series (Persona 4 Golden is my shit) and the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney series (maximum ridiculosity).

...nobody was wondering, were they?

Anyways, their next show is in June and has a space/sci-fi theme. Think I might have to check that one out as well ^^

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Murder and Mayhem in Chicago (and some other stuff)

This past Saturday was the first annual Murder and Mayhem in Chicago (MMC), a one-day conference dedicated to crime fiction. It was a lot of fun, and a wonderful way to start my hectic weekend.

The conference was essentially just a program of panels, with time in-between for mingling and book-buying, but it went so quickly and was so fun and informative.

Panel Schedule

Violence in Crime Fiction 

Making a Mystery
Playing with the Past

All the panels were great, but my favorite had to be "Genre Conventions and Why We Break Them," moderated by Danny Gardner and featuring Lori Rader-Day (co-chair/creator of MMC), Shaun Harris, Marcus Sakey, Sean Chercover, and Alverne Ball.

Not only was it hilarious, but it was especially important to me as a writer whose work doesn't fit into neat little genre slots. I also love that it featured writers who work cross-media, since that's something that I'm interested in (I'm strictly a writer, but have plans for a graphic novel as well as a film project).

Genre Conventions and Why We Break Them

Another major perk of this panel? I got to sit next to the legendary Sara Paretsky, and it took everything in me to not completely fangirl out on her. I might not have been all that successful...

I'm gonna have a collage of ridiculous photos of me and Sara Paretsky someday

Sadly, I had to leave early to attend one of my closest friends' baby shower, so I missed the panel moderated by Nancy Johnson, where she interviewed librarians and booksellers. I also had to miss the keynote conversation between Sara Paretsky and William Kent Krueger, though I did make sure to get both my books signed by them. I was really sad to miss that last conversation, because I heard it was great and they are both such kind and talented people.

Alas, my overbooked weekend had to continue, and I headed out into the cold and up to Albany Park to attend the only baby shower that I've ever had fun at. The decorations were adorable, the food was great (they had a taco guy!), and the company was even better. I'm so excited for my friend, and I can't wait to spoil my honorary nephew/godson (especially since he might be the only baby in our close circle of friends. We are not a particularly maternal bunch).

The adorable mom-to-be (and equally adorable cookie)
First helping, straight from the Taco Guy
Dessert table (minus donuts and watermelon)
The Winners Circle (AKA my best friends)

To round out the night, my husband and I headed to our friend Sean's birthday party, where we sipped overpriced cocktails and fancy beer, and had the nerdiest of nerd conversations (ranging from Power Rangers to Voltron to Dragonball Z and other such properties). It was a good way to end the night.

Organic means it's healthy, right?

After such an action-packed day, Sunday was obviously a chill day where I did nothing but marathon the Great British Baking Show and eat ice cream, right? I wish (though I do that often enough). Sunday was the March MWA Midwest meeting, featuring guest speaker Clare O'Donohue talking about the 10 Things Writers Shouldn't Do. Expect that post sometime soon.

After the meeting, I participated in the first MWA Midwest critique group, which consisted of me and 6 other unpublished writers going over the first 20 pages of 3 different manuscripts (including mine). I got a lot of great feedback, including some praise for my dialogue and setting, but the biggest takeaway? I love writing backstory way more than people enjoy reading it. Probably leftover from my love of character creation for tabletop gaming, but it's a bad habit I'm trying to kick.

So now I'm off to edit my entire first act (which inevitably means changing everything else, as well) for the billionth time. Yay...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Obligatory Introduction Post

Why hello there, new reader. Welcome to my blog.

So I'm sure the big question is: If I'm an unpublished writer, why should you bother reading my blog?

Well, first of all:

Yes, I know that seems a bit trite, but if there's anything I've learned in the last year and a half, it's that persistence is the name of the game when it comes to being a published writer. It's been almost two years since I decided to start taking my dream of being a writer more seriously and actually investing in myself.

This meant taking creative writing classes (which I had never done before), joining various writing organizations, going to conventions and conferences, and, most dreaded of all for me and my fellow introverts...networking.

How successful have I been? Well, I'm in the middle of revisions for draft 2.5 and got tired of banging my head against the desk in frustration, so I decided to start this blog as a way to keep the writing flowing while still maintaining my sanity.

One of the things keeping me going is the idea of "potential." I love the premise of my story, and I'm having so much fun writing my protagonist that I feel the need to see this through to the end. I've entered the first few chapters in a couple of contests and have actually won: the first one was a scholarship from the Mystery Writers of America (an awesome organization that I'm part of), and the second one is a grant that I can't talk about just yet, but will definitely blog about in the future ^_~

As for networking...that's a work-in-progress. I'm definitely much better than I was a year ago, when I'd attend events and meetings with the MWA, hang around awkwardly in the hopes that someone would come talk to me, and then leave when they wouldn't. As time went on, the more outgoing members did eventually introduce themselves to me and I've met some amazing people.

As a book-lover, the fact that I have access to so many authors is kind of mind-blowing. I still get fangirlishly awkward when I get to meet an author that I love. Case in point, this amazing picture with me and Sara Paretsky at Bouchercon 2016:

I think she likes me
One of my favorite things about starting down this path is how helpful and encouraging everyone has been. Mystery writers have got to be some of the nicest and coolest people in the world. Recently, I met Libby Fischer Hellman at a Chicago Writers' Association panel and introduced myself, saying that I was pursuing a career in mystery writing and that we were both members of the MWA. She graciously offered to read the first 10 pages of my WIP, which I thought was just her being polite, but she actually sent me a ton of helpful corrections and comments. Today, she spent over 20 minutes on the phone with me going over all these points and giving me further advice for the rest of the story. Yes, her comments will lead to me re-writing almost all of the first few chapters (hence the comment about bashing my head against the desk earlier), but I can already tell I'm making them that much stronger.

Also, I've gotten to meet lots of people who are on the same path as me: passionate, unpublished writers who are fun and funny and delightfully noncompetitive; there's never been a sense of, "Well, I can't tell X about this opportunity/resource/whatever because that's just more competition for me." Not to get all sappy on you, but the people I've met have been amazingly supportive. Which, for me, is absolutely necessary in a profession that is plagued by self-doubt. These people (along with my amazing husband, who is pursuing a career in screenwriting) are what keep me going.

So why should you follow my blog? Maybe you're a writer who's just starting out, and my trials and tribulations make you feel less alone in the process. Maybe you're a writer who's already made it and can chuckle along with my efforts, remembering what it was like for you and offering some advice and encouragement to those who need it. Or maybe you just like reading about food and geek stuff, which there will be plenty of in the future.

Either way, welcome to my world ^^

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