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Convention Report: FanExpo 2014

Fair warning: I’ll start with some explanations, but I can’t explain every reference. This post will get geekier as it goes on…

What Is FanExpo?

Yes, that's a person in the Stormtrooper suit. Photo by Louise Kiner.

Yes, that’s a person in the Stormtrooper suit. Photo by Louise Kiner.

Labo(u)r Day weekend saw Toronto’s biggest fan convention — FanExpo. It’s a comic-con for people who like comics, anime, gaming, anything to do with science fiction and fantasy and horror (mostly TV and movies), and related activities such as steampunk and LARPing. Actors show up and sign autographs and do photo ops. (This year’s celebrity guests included Elijah Wood, several actors from Doctor Who, William Shatner, and Patrick Stewart.) Hundreds of thousands of people flood the convention centre. It’s crazy and geeky and overwhelming and exciting all at once.

This year I didn’t go to any of the panels or Q&As. My geekery tends to revolve around books, and although I do watch genre movies and TV, I’m not terribly interested in seeing the actors involved. (I tend to be disappointed when they’re less articulate than their characters — probably the fault of the sharp dialogue that’s in vogue these days. Plus you have to pay extra for autographs and photo ops, and it’s not cheap.) However…

The Cosplay

Star Wars cosplayers

Star Wars cosplayers. Photo by me.

One of the biggest parts of FanExpo is cosplay — people dressing up as their favourite characters. Part of the fun is watching the effort that people put into their costumes, either replicating the originals with as much attention to detail as they possibly can, or putting a twist on them (like genderswapping). For more on cosplay, see Kit Campbell’s Introductory Guide to Cosplay and my own post from last year’s FanExpo.

Many years ago, I used to cosplay as Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I haven’t done it in a long time. But this year, my two partners in FanExpo crime decided to dress up as two of the Doctors from Doctor Who. So I pulled together a last-minute Amy Pond costume (based on this outfit).

Me, Ninth Doctor, and Fifth Doctor. Photo by a kind Doctor Who Society of Canada volunteer.

Me (left) and my partners in crime, Ninth Doctor (kneeling) and Fifth Doctor. (Why yes, that is celery in his lapel.) Photo by a kind Doctor Who Society of Canada volunteer.

It wasn’t a total success — for one thing, my hair isn’t red enough to be noticeable anymore — but it was fun. I don’t think I’m going to be hooked into cosplaying again (I have too many hobbies already) but I did enjoy taking pictures with — and of — all the Doctor Who paraphernalia and the other Whovian cosplayers.

(And then I bought a T-shirt with some Game of Thrones snark, but I digress.)

Even more fun was drooling at all the other cosplay. I saw:

  • lots and lots of Doctors (mostly Eleven since Matt Smith was there — saw an excellent Ten and several Nines, and one of my companions went as Five, but no Twelves), Amy Ponds, and River Songs
  • also lots and lots of anime cosplay that went over my head (since that’s not my preferred style of geekery), and video game cosplay ditto
  • a fair number of superheroes and other comics characters, though fewer than last year (I guess because it’s been a few years since the last really major superhero movie)
  • lots of Stormtroopers (but not much else from Star Wars)
  • several great steampunk outfits
  • genderswapped Mal Reynolds and several Jayne hats (but not much else from Firefly)
  • one Ms. Marvel / Kamala Khan in hijab — didn’t get a picture, but more power to you, lady!

(Warning: more large photos after the jump.)

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We’re back!

First, an apology for the long blog silence! Nothing terrible has happened. I just had other things to do with my time over an all-too-short summer, so I went on an unscheduled hiatus. I’m back now and eager to get back into blogging on a regular basis. Look for a report on this year’s FanExpo (Toronto’s Comic-Con) on Monday!

Second, my fellow Turtleduck Press authors and I are doing a blog tour to promote our anthology Under Her Protection: Stories of Women to the Rescue:

  • Aussie fantasy writer Ellen Gregory let me take over her blog with a Q&A about the making of the anthology
  • Another fellow writer, Dianna Bell, featured us on her blog not once but twice — first with an introduction by Turtleduck Press author Erin Zarro and second with a review by Dianna.

Thank you to Ellen and Dianna for helping us spread the word! Stay tuned for more stops on the tour…

Third, I’m over at Turtleduck Press this week talking about gardening (*ahem* again).

And best wishes to all of you for the new year ahead! Okay, I know it’s not January. I haven’t been in school for ages, but I still think of September as the start of the year, and I bet a lot of you do too.

Your turn! How has your summer been? What are you looking forward to this fall? (Translate seasonal references as required…)

 

Anthology Announcement: Stories of Strong Women

So you might have noticed a lack of posting around here. *watches tumbleweeds roll past* There are several reasons for that, including me getting distracted by my garden, but here’s the best one:

Under Her Protection edited by Siri Paulson

We at Turtleduck Press have been working hard to bring you our best anthology yet (okay, I might be a teeny bit biased). This one features four fantasy romance stories about women rescuing, well, dudes in distress:

Sometimes men are the ones trapped in a tower, or bound by a curse, or doomed to stay in the underworld. Damsels or not, they need rescuing too. And these are just the women to do it…

A swordswoman and a scholar.

A grim reaper and a dead man.

A maidservant and an inventor.

A new university grad and a prince.

Fantasy romance stories from four indie writers about strong women…and men who need their help.

Stories by Kit Campbell, KD Sarge, Erin Zarro, and yours truly. Full disclosure: I am also the editor.

As you can see from the above, we’ve written four very different stories (as usual!) — a paranormal, a fairy tale, and two secondary world adventures. But they all feature female leads who are strong in their own ways, and handsome love interests who are deserving of their affections.

In other words, just what (I hope) you’ve come to expect from Turtleduck Press.

Buy it direct from our printer here, from Amazon (Kindle or paperback) here, or in other ebook formats here. Enjoy!

 

Living in the Moment

This past weekend, I was at a folk dance camp. Here’s a taste…

Imagine this:

You are in a community hall. On the stage, a band is playing traditional folk music, led by a fiddler. In the hall, people are dancing until the wooden floor bounces — the whole room moving in unison.

You’re all grinning like fools and sweating and your eyes sparkle with sheer joy and you are alive, right there in the moment and nowhere else.

(Read the rest here.)

What I’m describing is something called flow. With flow, you are wholly present and aware. You’re not thinking about anything but what you’re doing. You are doing it fairly well, and you’re enjoying doing it well.

If you find flow while doing something like dance, you are really inhabiting your body and your surroundings. Flow can also arise out of an intellectual exercise like writing, in which case your body and surroundings might tend to disappear as you dive deeper into the page. Either way, you lose track of time and you’re living completely in the moment.

Some other places where I’ve found flow include:

  • outdoor adventure sports — hiking, canoeing, kayaking
  • exercise — ice skating, rock climbing, swimming, yoga
  • physical chores around the house — gardening, building furniture
  • anytime when I’m outside of my routine, maybe walking somewhere I don’t usually go, and not too busy rushing to pay attention to where I am at that moment
  • partaking in the arts — reading, singing or playing music, attending a really good concert
  • travel

I find flow to be essential to my mental health. It can also make time seem longer — so if your weekends feel too short, maybe try chiselling out some time for flow and see what happens!

Your turn! Where do you find flow?

 

O Canada: 7 Things I Love About Canada

Happy Canada Day (plus one) to all of you!

maple leaf

Copyright Siri Paulson, 2011

I’ll be the first to tell you that Canada isn’t perfect. In fact, we Canadians sometimes have an inferiority complex. But we also tend to forget how great a country we live in, or at least we forget to stop and celebrate it.

Here, then, are just a few of the things I love about Canada and Canadians…

7. The way we say “sorry” constantly. I bumped into you? Sorry. You bumped into me? Sorry. I swear we say it more often than “eh”.

6. The cleanliness of our cities and streetscapes. Having travelled widely, I can tell you…it’s unusual. Some places don’t have traffic lights, or clear sidewalks, or garbage-free streets. I’m grateful that we do.

5. Our quiet national pride and patriotism. We’re not much for flying flags and strutting our stuff, but if you ask us? We’ll tell you that we believe in this country of ours.

4. Our diversity, and our commitment to being an accepting nation. Here’s one very small anecdote: Yesterday there was a street party in my neighbourhood because Argentina won their match at the World Cup. Last week Mexico and Brazil both won matches the same afternoon, so we had TWO street parties, alternating, for blocks. Yes, multiculturalism is our thing. We’re also cool with different religions and different sexual orientations, and that makes me proud too.

3. Our health care. And our other social services. Again, these are far from perfect, but when we look at some of the alternatives…we’re grateful.

2. Our wide-open natural spaces, from the prairies to the forests to the mountains to the tundra…and the ways we have found to (mostly) use them without destroying them.

1. Our people. Canadians are known for being nice. We take pride in it. And hey, as a defining national characteristic, that’s not bad!

 

Your turn! What do you love about Canada? If you don’t live here, what’s your impression of Canada?

 

Lucky Seven — A Writing Snippet

I promised yesterday that I would start blogging about things other than ROW80 updates. Here, to kick things off, is a blog hop.

I’ve been tagged by the Aussie writer Ellen Gregory to post a short snippet from my work in progress — 7 lines from page 7.

My current work in progress is the short story I’ve mentioned. It’s for the upcoming Turtleduck Press anthology — a quartet of fantasy stories with romance, all variations on the theme of women rescuing men. (And I do mean rescuing. Some of the women even have swords. But of course there are many ways to be strong and these stories explore several of them.)

I’m still editing my contribution, but here are 7 sentences from page 7 of the present draft…

(A little context: the main character is a maidservant in a raja’s palace, and has volunteered to go and work for an insane inventor who lives in a mountaintop fort.)

I woke the next morning, in the little room I had chosen behind the kitchen, to the smell of cooking vegetable curry. At first I thought I was back in the palace. Then I remembered, and sat up with a start. Was there another servant here?

When I walked into the kitchen, the madman was cooking flatbread over the fire, just as though he were a servant himself, and not a…a palace exile or whatever he was. Except that he wore a pair of thick leather gloves. His hands must be too sensitive for such work.

If that piqued your interest, stay tuned for more about the anthology and where you can buy it in just over a month from now…

And now, back to the blog hop. The rules of the Lucky Seven game are:

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current WIP… Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 sentence or 7 lines—as they are!
  • Tag 7 people to do the same

I’m not going to tag people, because I’m lazy some writers don’t like sharing works in progress (WIPs). If you’d like to play, consider yourself tagged, and please leave a comment so I know to visit your blog and read your snippet!

 

ROW80: End of Round 2

Aaand that’s it for this Round of Words in 80 days! The next one begins July 7, so until then I will not be updating on Sundays. Instead, maybe I’ll start blogging on a day that is *gasp* not Sunday, about things other than what’s going on with me.

With that said, here’s this week’s recap…

Writing

My short story is now on its third edit. I got the rest of the critiques back on Thursday, so I’m working to incorporate the best of the suggestions and make the story more awesome. This is the last round of content edits — in a few days I’m sending it off for copyediting. A few final tweaks, and it’ll be ready for release as part of the new Turtleduck Press anthology on August 1!

In between, I’ve been doing critiques, and will be busy with that for a while. But I’m not standing still on my own writing — I’m going to submit a story to a contest before the end of June, and we’ll see where that goes.

Exercise

This week I did:

  • 7.3 km (4.5 miles) of walking in 3 sessions
  • 1 session of stair-climbing

Umm…oh dear.

I did discover that my favourite science fiction and fantasy bookstore, Bakka Phoenix, is close enough to my office for a lunch hour walk there and back, if I don’t dawdle too much among the lovely, lovely books. Not only that, but the walk itself is pleasant, with wide sidewalks and lots of shade. I foresee a problem.

Home Improvement

Still waiting to get the shrubs in — they’ll be delivered tomorrow. In the meantime, we’ve bought some patio furniture, which is also getting delivered this week. Still haven’t gone for a load of perennials…tomorrow night, I hope.

In other words, our backyard is going to look a whole lot better in the next week!

The vegetable garden is coming along nicely. We’ve started eating the greens and herbs — arugula, chicory, basil, mint, cilantro — and let me tell you, it feels pretty neat. It’ll be a while until we are harvesting vegetables (northern gardening, you know…), but I’m seeing tiny green tomatoes, and flowers on the bell peppers and acorn squash. Another month or so and things will be very exciting around here.

ROW80 Recap

To go back to the beginning for a minute…

This round my goals included:

  • weekly reports on my Year of Making My Living Space Better
  • weekly reports on exercise progress
  • 1.5 hours a week of writing (broadly defined to include editing and outlining)

The first two goals were easy, and probably helped with mindfulness. The third? I missed it on 3 weeks and hit it on 8 weeks, including several where I blew the goal away — there were two weeks where I hit 6 hours, and three weeks where I passed 3 hours. I set that goal deliberately low, so I’m pleased to have crushed it on multiple weeks.

According to ROW80 rules, you get a break between rounds, so I’m not going to set any goals for between now and July 7. I’ll be busy critiquing anyway. But once those critiques are done, watch out!

And you, my faithful readers…watch this space for a larger variety of blog posts in the coming weeks. I hope you’ll stick around.

Your turn! If you were doing ROW80, how did this round go? If not, well, we’re almost halfway through the year…how is this year going for you?