Rookie Photographer- So much to learn!

Rookie Photographer- So much to learn!

This past weekend was Anime Central down in Rosemont, IL. I usually go down for the whole weekend but since money’s been a little tight, I just went with a few friends on Saturday. I had a lovely time! Though I’m always a little sad when I’m not cosplaying, it was nice to have chill, casual con experience. No con crunch the night before and I got to sleep in my own bed. Plus, not having to worry about cosplay gave me a chance to bring the camera and get a little more practice taking pictures.

One thing became immediately clear- it’s so hard to get quality shots just finding people in the hall. To get a good picture, I need more control over the background and waaaaay more time to get a good sample size of shots and give the cosplayer time to pose. I also still struggle with stopping people for a photo (even though as a cosplayer I know we LOVE being asked for a picture) since I have a hard time getting past the idea that I may be inconveniencing someone. It’s illogical and stupid but it’s still an obstacle for me. So I got all of like 15 pictures between all the other fun stuff we were doing. Wah!

Even with so few pictures, I think I’ve gotten the hang of shooting in aperture priority mode. It would be much easier to get the kind of background blur I’m after with a better lens but that will have to wait until I’m less sad and broke. And I had already kinda figured that out from practicing before. What I didn’t realize was I definitely, absolutely bought the wrong editing software. Having no idea what I was doing, I bought Photoshop Elements a while back and it does get the job done. I’d used it before and it’s certainly better than nothing. But after watching a few tutorials it became obvious I should have gotten Lightroom instead. So I downloaded a free trial to confirm my fears and yeeeeaaaaaah- It’s WAY easier, way more tailored for the kind of editing I’m trying to do. So that’s getting plopped on the wish list too, though I have no idea when I’m going to be able to afford all this jazz. Still, it was fun to play around with. It’s crazy what a difference a little bit of basic editing does to a pic.

For comparison:

 

Pretty basic stuff but I really enjoy it! I want to set up some some little practice mini-sessions with my friends this summer.

My only issue going forward is it will always be a battle to chose between playing photographer and cosplaying myself. I suppose I could try to do both but that might get complicated. We’ll see!

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I’m equal parts excited about some of the progress I’ve made and frustrated that I haven’t made more. I’m not where I hoped I would be at this point, both in my writing and my other creative endeavors. And I have to acknowledge that a big part of that is due to a major interruption in my life- I got knocked off the rails by a huge personal loss that I don’t feel comfortable addressing quite yet in this format. That aside, I still need to be better at staying on task and keeping myself motivated.

As far as my writing goes, I’m unexpectedly having a lot of trouble with beta readers. I’ve sent my WIP to about six friends and only two have gotten back to me. Though I’ve gotten positive feedback from the two that did read it, I’m feeling down about the others… I kind of wish they’d just turned me down rather than let me send them something this personal and not hear anything back. I know they’re really busy and I’m asking for a lot of their time- that’s why whenever I do ask, I try to make it abundantly clear that I totally understand if they don’t have time for this right now. But to hear nothing makes me worry that my writing is so crappy it doesn’t even warrant a critique. I’m sure this is just my anxiety talking and they probably just got busy and forgot but it still stings.  And I don’t have a remedy for that.

On a more positive note, I got my sewing machine going and made my first little project. img_1848img_1850It’s a dice bag! I want to make more. I’m flirting with the idea of making a bunch of little projects like this and opening up an Etsy store? I wouldn’t be selling them for much but it would be a fun way to make a little pocket money and get some practice with the machine. Haven’t decided if it’s worth doing yet but we’ll see.

I’m also a little behind on my cosplay progress but now I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to go to some of the cons I had planned. Money has become an issue (well, a bigger issue) as of late. I was already a little overextended in buying the supplies I need for these costumes and then my personal issues created additional expenses that I wasn’t super prepared for. But we’ll see. I’m trying not to be down about it- I might still come up with the money and, it not, there’s always next year. Kind of a bummer though. Why does everything cost money and why do I never have any?! (story of everyone’s life, I’m sure)

Ending on a positive- I just finished listening to The Adventure Zone: Balance and I don’t even have the words to express how infatuated and impressed I am. TAZ has been the following light for me during this period of extreme darkness and I am so grateful to the McElroys for gifting it to the world. I’m not even being dramatic- it’s that good. I’m fully planning on cosplaying Taako this year since I know I’ll at least make it to the Ren Faire. I’ll post some pictures once I’ve made more progress on it.

Anyway…things will turn around soon, I’m sure. The worst is behind me now.

A little bit of everything: some of it good, some of it… less good

A little bit of everything: some of it good, some of it… less good

I don’t have any real definitive theme for this post, which I typically like to avoid less this become nothing more than a public journal. But it’s been too long since I last updated and if I don’t get something up I run the risk of letting it go dormant again. I want to at least keep the blog alive through the summer. (which I assume will be easier since the warm weather will bring with it interesting activities to write about) So I guess this update will be a bit of a potpourri, slice-of-life style entry.

Things I’m currently excited about:

  • The new seasons of FLCL finally got a trailer and definitive release dates aaaaaaaand Haruko’s English voice actor is back! (I know that was already announced but hearing her voiceover was just, man– I got chills) FLCL is probably my all-time favorite anime so I am beyond excited. I’ll probably have to wear my Haruko cosplay again sometime this year and then maybe after the new seasons I’ll look at building one of her new outfits? Anyway, I haven’t been properly excited about an anime release in a long time so this is really, really cool. (fooly cool you might even say, right? Aaaayyyyy! I’ll…I’ll see myself out)
  • I joined my first proper D&D group! It’s a girls group comprised of close friends so it’s the perfect setting for comfortably getting back into the game. I played a little one-off scenario a few weeks ago to kind of reacquaint myself with the mechanics and I am excited to get into a proper campaign and an invested character. I rolled a Tiefling Cleric who is Neutral Good and I’m making her super nicey-nice (think Starfire from Teen Titans) cause I think that’ll be a fun style of roleplaying. The campaign starts in a couple of weeks so I’m sure I’ll have another post or two coming about that.
  • Related to that- I just started listening to The Adventure Zone podcast and I am kicking myself for not taking people’s recommendations sooner. It is hilarious– I highly recommend it even if you’ve never played D&D and have no interest in roleplaying- It’s that charming.

Thing’s I’m currently frustrated about:

  • There’s that old adage that you either have the time or the money but never both, so I feel like it’s especially unfair that I have neither. Through a combination of some unexpected expenses and my ill-advised purchasing of little odds & ends that I can’t afford, I am cut off from using my credit card until it’s back under control. Not a huge deal as I have plenty to keep me busy in the meantime but it does suck being so SO broke.
  • And then, somehow, I’ve found myself back in that gross purgatory of having so much I want to do and seemingly no time in which to do it. I have a book I need to read for book club that I haven’t even started (the meeting is in a week and a half) called Little Fires Everywhere, still haven’t circled back around to finish reading The Wise Man’s Fear, desperately want to get ahead in Monster Hunter since I am lightyears behind all my friendos, and I haven’t made any progress on my novel in damn near a month now. My days off have been occupied and after work I haven’t had the energy to really get going on anything. Plus I feel bad ignoring the boyfriend when he doesn’t have any projects of his own and wants to hang out- that time is sacred and comes before most other things.

But I know this is a normal part of the weekly/monthly cycle and I’ll be back on track soon enough; this is just the normal ebb and flow of all things and I need to be patient and remain optimistic. Summer will be here soon!

Speaking of summer, I’m dying for it to get warm and for everything to turn green again so I can start practicing with my camera! I want to get a better feel for it so I can decide whether it’s worth investing in a better lenses. (when I have money again) Also I’ve decided I’ll probably go down to Acen this year for Saturday only, and since I won’t be cosplaying (wouldn’t want to try that without a room) I want to focus on taking pictures. So, excited about that! Then, depending on funds, I may build Sesshomaru for Anime Midwest in July or just plan to have it done for Daisho in November. I’m not in any rush since I have plenty to rewear. Cannot wait!

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Reignited

Reignited

I’m excited to feel excited again! This past year it seemed like all my interests went to sleep- I was still into writing and reading but it felt somewhat subdued and many of my other hobbies had fallen by the wayside. I lost almost all interest in cosplay and conventions and was struggling to feel social. I don’t know if it’s the warm weather returning or if I just needed time to rest and regain my energy but I’m suddenly reinvested.

I felt the cosplay bug nibbling me again and I’m thinking about what I want my first new build to be. I’m leaning toward Sesshomaru from Inu yasha- it’s one I’ve always wanted to do. I want to look into picking up a cheap entry-level sewing machine and trying my hand working with EVA foam or worbla.  I definitely want to hit a con or two this summer, I’m just not sure which ones. I was kind of getting burnt out on Acen. Maybe I’ll check out Anime Midwest for a day? I love the Rosemont venue either way.  I definitely don’t want to do C2E2 again. I’m used to cons being crowded but last year was ridiculous. It was so busy I could barely move and it sucked out all the fun. They either need to restrict badge sales or better yet, open the other side of McCormick and expand the con space. I’ll for sure do Daisho again- it’s my favorite con, but it’s not till November. Beyond that, I’ll have to ask around, see if there’s any others that people recommend.

I was really hoping to get back down to RTX in Austin this August but I think I’ll have to put it off for another year. Comparatively speaking, it’s a really expensive trip and I think I want more time to build myself back up financially- plus the dates this year conflicted with work so it made more sense to wait.

Other summer goals include: go to Bristol Ren Faire a few times, maybe check out the Janesville Faire, ride the bike some more and get better at it, plan a cheaper trip to visit a city I’ve never been to, get down to Chicago a couple times or up to Milwaukee, practice with the camera and try to improve, and just be more active.

I’ve also joined a book club (which I love and gets me reading things outside my normal tastes) bought a PS4 for gaming, and I got back into D&D! So I think I have the whole spectrum of indoor and outdoor, social and solitary hobbies covered. I’m feeling really positive and I want this year to be all about learning and growing, getting better at the things I love and making the most of my time. Here’s to hoping it goes that way!

Distractions, Glorious Distractions

Distractions, Glorious Distractions

Progress check in!

Managed to get at least a little writing and a fair bit of editing done. Not as much as I would have liked, of course… perhaps in no small part due to a certain distraction I may or may not have purchased for myself.

monsterhunter

Yeeeeeaaaah, kind of worth it though. A girl needs her outlets! Writing is frustration- I need to let off some steam, slay some monsters!

So, at this rate, I’m going to miss my first goal- now it’s up to me to determine by how much. Luckily I’m going out of town for a few days and I’m hoping a new environment (and some distance between me and my PS4) will help me get a little more writing done.

I’ve also spent a lot of my time nose first in a book lately, which I feel less guilty about since reading is basically training for writing.  Current read is book two of the Kingkiller Chronicles- The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. If you’re looking for a great fantasy read, I can’t recommend book one (The Name of the Wind) enough. Not that I have to; it’s usually at the top of everyone’s fantasy recommendation list. It’s like a woodsier, grittier, more medieval version of Harry Potter.

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Plus I heard they’re moving closer to production on the TV series/movie for it. Music is a huge part of the story and they’ve named Lin-Manual Miranda as one of the creative minds involved so that’s kind of amazing. Now Mr. Rothfuss just needs to get book three out. I know I’m going to be beside myself when I’m done with book two and I can’t jump right in to book three. Although I have plenty more left in my to-read pile.

Especially now that I joined a book club! I’m pretty excited about that- but I’ll save it for another post.

Happy writing everyone- wishing you all a productive week and power over all your distractions. (glorious as they may be)

P.S. – I’m kind of digging these less formal, more personal updates. Cathartic for me and keeps me updating the blog even when I have nothing of importance to say. All writing is good practice in the end.

Back at it

Back at it

Woof. What a month. Made it through the holidays and survived the big boat show at work. Needless to say, I haven’t written or edited or done much of anything bookish in weeks. But my calendar is beginning to clear and it’s time to get back at it. So I’ll consider today day one of my 2018 writing schedule and I am incredibly anxious to get going again.

I’ve tried to use this blog as a way to check in with myself, stay organized and stay motivated and… it never seems to work. But I think it’s worth trying again. No harm in it, really- if it doesn’t help and only serves to get in the way, then it’ll just go dormant again.

 So! Let’s get a rough outline going.

The big question is, as always: will this year be the year I finally finish my freakin’ manuscript for book one? I reeeeally hope so. I’m going to try my damnedest to get there. And boy am I becoming impatient to get it out there and get some people looking at it. I love writing for myself- I deeply enjoy the process and it’s a lot of fun but there reaches a point where I’ve been working with these characters and ideas for so long that I crave feedback. I wish I could post it chapter by chapter on a site like fictionpress or wattpad but I know that’ll complicate things down the line if I feel that it’s good enough to submit to a publisher. And I don’t want to count myself out just yet. I want to try. So that means I need hurry up and finish it so I can start the publication process. If that doesn’t pan out, then I can explore posting it or self-publishing or whatever.

So that brings us back to the main goal: finish the damn thing.

I have the rough draft split into six pieces and I’ve got two done with edits. I’m about half way through part three but there’s still a lot of additional writing to do as well.

Let’s aim high and try to finish a piece every month. There’s half the month left and part three is half done so that works out. If I can successfully hit those goals that means I’d more or less have a finished draft by the end of April. That’s probably a bit ambitious but I’ll give it a shot and go from there.

I’ll try to update this thing at the end of every week. Or not! We’ll see what life brings.

Good luck to everyone else going through similar struggles. Happy writing!

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A Court of Mist & Fury – Mini Review

A Court of Mist & Fury – Mini Review

Haven’t really tried my hand at writing a review before but as long as I’m on such a reading kick, seems like a good avenue to explore. Especially given that the book I just finished surprised the hell out of me. 

So, I read the first installment of A Court of Thorns and Roses (Sarah J. Maas) last winter and while I can say I genuinely enjoyed it, it didn’t blow me away or anything. I love the world-building Maas undertakes; love the Fae and the courts and the way magic works. I like the new spin on an old fairy tale motif- heavy beauty & the beast vibes. It was a solid balance of action and romance. But there were problems- little, subtle details that didn’t make sense to me, and which detracted from the overall story; problems that I had simply attributed to sloppy writing. 
And yet, all over Instagram, book bloggers were going bananas for the second installment and I thought, what am I missing here? So I finally got around to reading A Court of Mist and Fury and… holy cow. Every little inconsistency that I had chalked up to a difference of opinion with the author turned out to be CAREFULLY SEEDED PARTS OF THE PLOT?? I couldn’t believe it. Blew my freakin’ mind. Gotta give credit to Maas for having the guts to play the long game because it really, really paid off. 

I don’t want to spoil anything for those who are considering picking up the series (which I recommend!) so I’ll save my deeper reflections about the way relationships are explored between installments for a different post. 

Can’t wait to start reading the next one! 

Fear & Self-Loathing in Las Veg- Er, the Midwest

Fear & Self-Loathing in Las Veg- Er, the Midwest

Week one of keeping a progress journal and, of course, I’m a little late with my entry. But here it is, it exists! PROGRESS.

It’s almost amazing how, the more I want to write, the more difficult it seems to be to find the time, energy, and motivation to actually do it. Yes, they appear to be directly proportional. (I’ve found it’s an often bemoaned reality in the writing community, so at least I’m not alone on this)
So it goes, I get myself all hyped up to work on my book. I’ll set aside time, make a schedule, set some goals and then, when it finally comes time to put pen to paper, I find an excuse to do something else. Anything else. It’s madness.

And yet, I find myself doing the same thing when it comes to practicing on my motorcycle. I’ll tell myself tonight, after work, I’m going on a nice long ride- really push the boundaries on my comfort zone. But then there’s laundry, and dishes, and boy golly the shower could use a scrub, and gosh, look at the time! No motorcycles tonight!

And I know why I’m doing it- I’m still a bit afraid of the bike. I still don’t have a lot of trust in my fledgling abilities- even though I know the only cure for that is, duh, MORE PRACTICE. But fear is a powerful distraction. And so, it’s easy to extrapolate, to assume fear plays a large part in my procrastination with my writing. But it’s more subtle, less sensible. My fear of practicing on the bike makes perfect sense- it’s bloody dangerous! But writing? What exactly am I afraid of? Fear of failure, of confirming my own mediocrity? Something like that.

But the solution is just as straightforward. Get your butt on the bike and ride, dammit! Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately as a compromise for when I can’t bring myself to write, and I’m finding it really helps. The more I read, the more I really, REALLY want to write, and it starts to tip the scales, my excitement beginning to outweigh the fear. My productivity is on the rise!

Now, if only I could find a similar strategy for the bike…

I’mmm baaaaaack! 

I’mmm baaaaaack! 

Ooooh boy- If this was a physical journal, the dust on it would be three inches thick. To be honest, I kind of forgot this thing existed. But I’m trying to get myself reorganized and I want to get back into blogging, if not only to strengthen my writing habits. And I haven’t stopped writing. Progress on my rough draft has been crawling along. It hasn’t come quickly, but at least it hasn’t stalled. 

 I think I’ll try to start penning little weekly updates, just to keep myself accountable as I try to finish my editing. Writing for a blog that no one really reads feels a little like screaming into the void, but even that has its purpose, I think. I’d like to kick my editing into overdrive and get the lion’s share finished before November. That’ll free me up to participate in NaNoWriMo again.

 That’s the plan anyway. I just need to become a little more disciplined.

October Writing Update (NaNoWriMo Approaches)

October Writing Update (NaNoWriMo Approaches)

Hello there!

I realize I haven’t updated this poor blog in a while but I’ve actually been too busy writing. Which I think is a good excuse!

The rough draft for my first novel is approaching something resembling finished. (finally!)

I’m sitting around 56,000 words right now with a few entries that haven’t been integrated yet. At this stage, having written almost all the larger pieces, I’m going back through and rewriting some of the earliest fragments to better fit the evolution of the characters and general tone of the overall story. Getting it all in order makes it easier to see where there are still holes or scenes missing. Plus I need to pen all the connecting ‘bridge’ segments. But I think it’s safe to say I’ve officially entered revision mode! Woo! Time to dance the progress jig! XD

So! For the month of October I have two goals, and lofty ones at that: completely finish my rough draft and plan for NaNoWriMo.

I seriously considered skipping NaNoWriMo this year. My rough draft is so close to completion; it would make a lot of sense to buckle down and focus all my energy on getting it ready for submission to a publisher. I’m especially anxious about that step as I believe I’ve found a micro-publisher that’s the perfect fit for me. I’m excited to send them my manuscript and see if they feel the same!

But, I can’t forget that NaNoWriMo is what got me serious about this project in the first place. And while I only penned 12,000 words in last year’s competition, I would never have reached this point had I not competed at all. So, not only do I feel like I have some sort of moral obligation to compete again this year, but I can’t ignore the singular opportunity to jump start my next project. Plus, with the first novel still in draft form, working on the plot for the second adds some flexibility that I might not otherwise have. I still have the power to go back and alter the story should I need something to make sense in the overall arc.

Getting back into plot planning has been really exciting! I’ve become so invested in these characters over the last year. Getting to advance their stories and introduce new characters for them to interact with is exhilarating. I’m trying to find a balance between finishing my first draft and making sure I’m as well prepared for this year’s NaNo as I possibly can be. October is going to be a busy month and November will be even busier. NaNoWriMo is grueling.  I don’t know if I’ll win this year- 50,000 words in a single month seems nearly impossible considering how hard it was to reach that over the course of the last year. But I’m going to try my damnedest! And honestly, anything beyond last year’s 12k I’ll call a success.

So here’s hoping for the best! With a little luck and a lot of effort, I’ll hopefully see you all on the other side of November with one polished manuscript and at least a partial new rough draft.

Happy writing and good luck to everyone else preparing for the NaNoWriMo challenge this year!