Love at First Site: Awesome People Reading

I’m utterly fascinated by photographs of people reading. Always have been-well, as far back as I remember. For me, life is largely about words: it’s no wonder that I love reading culture in all of its odd facets. On the flip side, I have a history of becoming temporarily addicted to a newly discovered Tumblr blog. I’ll read the entire archive in one sitting, rapturously inform my husband of this new pet favourite like the nerd-girl I am, only to forget about it for months, if not years, to come. Today, I make this pledge: the cycle stops now, with Awesome People Reading.

Go here to find out why. You can thank me later.

Lillian Gish Reads (A Romance of Happy Valley, 1919)

Lillian Gish Reads (A Romance of Happy Valley, 1919). From  Awesome People Reading.

Fuel for My Jetpack, Mead for My Dragon Supplement –

Fan to Pro by Steven Savage

A Review

The engineering major gazing at the movie screen, wishing he had been at the computers of WETA studios when Gandalf took on the Balrog.  The retired warehouse worker with his Steelers jersey, hat, socks, beer mug – and faded fantasies of being on the gridiron during the big game.  The overworked store manager who had been told her singing voice was angelic, but that her dreams of singing for the masses were impractical and childish.

From an early age, we are told that our various fandoms – be they for sports, entertainment, recreational sciences, art, whatever – are just silly wish-dreams that should be put aside for the rigors of the seemingly more practical day-in-day-out of work.  We may find no joy in ‘work’, in fact, we may even hate it – yet, we attend our duties faithfully while dreaming of more desirable activities.

Why do we do this?  Sure, we have to keep from starving, but why are people always encouraged to relegate their fandoms to their off hours, always warned against turning their passions into paychecks?  Are we obligated to condemn that which brings us happiness the joyless realm of Never-Everland?

Fan-to-Pro: Unlocking Career Insights With Your Hobbies is a work that doesn’t merely seek the answer to that question; author Steven Savage and editor Jessica Hardy intend to help you get past it.

Fan-to-Pro is a book that revels, praises, exults, and joyfully rolls around in the world of fandom.  Though he has a background in science-fiction and fantasy fandom (as well as extensive experience in IT and career recruiting), Savage makes it clear that fandom covers any number of celebrated subjects, from the aforementioned sci-fi, to sports, and even art.

As the title implies, Fan to Pro refers to turning your hobby into a career that you would love.  What makes the book special is how much it puts itself in the corner of the fan.  A touching element of Chapter 3 is where Savage delves into “Fandom Edges”.  These would be common traits seen among die-hard fans that give them a particular advantage when striving for their goal.  In these fans, Savage sees qualities such as experience, knowledge and passion, tools inherent in any successful artist, football player or entrepreneur.  The goal is to get the reader to recognize these qualities in themselves and fan them into confidence to move forward, improve their skills, and excel in their endeavors.

The book lends itself well to being read.  It is written in a straightforward, informal and funny tone in which it presents sage advice and several exercises meant to help the reader get past the common hurdles, both physical and mental, of making their dream come true.  It’s not simply focusing on what you like that matters; it’s important to look at what you like from different perspectives and see practical ways to turn it into a profession.

The reader is implored to turn away from the disheartening, ultimately empty criticisms of how futile and unprofitable fandom can be, and instead is advised to focus on the actually pragmatic benefits fandom can provide.  Organizing a convention would be a fantastic way to network, for example.  The author himself mentions that his math skills were greatly enhanced from having to work with math while playing RPGs in college.

Fan to Pro, however, is not simply a warm-fuzzy meant to make you feel that all the hours you spend chatting on a Skyrim forum is actual work.  In addition to the exercises mentioned, important topics such as learning about the industries you’re interested in, connecting with others, and even the particularly tricky subject of relocating is thoroughly addressed.

Savage and Hardy have comprised this short (127 pages) work from a series of blogs that had explored the world of fandom and fandom-based careers thoroughly. Through gentle, good-natured humor and encouragement, the reader is instructed to take their passions seriously.  History has proven repeatedly that no great writer, inventor, physician, linebacker – geeks all, in their own way – could have ever made it otherwise.

Fan-to-Pro: Unlocking Career Insights With Your Hobbies is available to order from in print, Kindle, ePub and PDF format.  To see the blog that brought about the book, check out

Check out Steven Savage’s additional work at and  Point your browser to the following for his other books.

Fuel for My Jetpack, Mead for My Dragon (02 February, 2012)

Having been a child of 1980’s cinema, I was exposed and became enamored of science-fiction movies with a good dose of action in them.  From the eye-popping SLAM!-BANG! of the early Star Wars saga to the bloody shootouts of Robocop, action sequences were the go-go juice that inspired my imagination whenever I sent my heroes on their perilous quests.  Just as fitting in fantasy as in sci-fi, pulse-pounding action sees us through classic scenes of knights battling dragons and elves battling orcs.

The task of putting an action sequence in your story can be tricky and frustrating.  Not being a visual medium, literary stories don’t have the advantage of simply showing the audience what’s happening; the reader must be told what’s going on.  As a lot of the excitement of action relies on a chain of events happening in quick succession, the risk emerges of losing the reader’s interest through wordy, overworked description.  Conversely, it’s kind of difficult to sell the heart-pounding suspense of “He swung his sword and almost chopped the other guy’s head off.”  The entire sequence can come off as a ‘You had to be there’ moment.

Fortunately, there are those out there who have experienced success in writing action.  I’ve done a little digging around and found some sound advice from around the Internet that may help with chronicling not just a battle, but an awesome battle.

One of the key elements of creating another world is populating it with unearthly creatures, the way-out nature of which could distract from the tone of the story. Storm The has a wise bit of advice about that featured in the piece, “How to Write a Great Combat Scene – Advice for Fantasy Writers”:

Handle Strange Creatures Realistically – When writing a creature into a combat scene, whether it be a Troll, Ogre, Goblin, Orc, or any other type of exotic fantasy creature, it still must follow the rules of flesh and blood. You probably don’t have a real fantasy creature to model combat motions after, but you will have a familiar creature that you can use as a template for motion. Fantasy creatures are almost always distortions of real creatures. Trolls become very large men, Goblins are wiry and quick, and Centaurs follow the template of horses. What you can do is to transfer your thinking about the creature in terms of what it is similar to. How would a horse move in this situation? How would a very large man move in this combat scene? These transferences of physique work well and make the combat realistic.

If you go check out the rest of the great tips listed (there are a number of them), remember to check out the other pages as well.  Storm the Castle has a treasure trove of fantasy-based craft projects and other goodies. is a massive collection of science-fiction and fantasy on the web.  Their stated goal to “provide a place for amateurs from all over the world to share, teach, and inspire a new generation of dreams” is backed up by their large library of stories and artwork, as well as the Fantasy Art Resource Project (FARP), an elaborate series of tutorials intended to aid the struggling visionary in the creative process.  In her article “Writing Action”, S. B. ‘Kinko’ Hulsey provides an excellent example of writing action by, in fact, providing an example of written action.  She starts with a rather drab, wordy piece of text and uses valuable tools to improve it.  A great piece of advice is to carefully choose one’s words, which can really make a difference in presenting action and keeping the play-by-play from getting boring.  Consider the following passage:

Janis leapt into the air, clearing the large, granite boulder without touching it with his plain, brown leather boots. He saw a glint of metal out of the corner of his eye and turned to see a huge ugly monstrosity of a troll swinging a large, engraved sword, made by dragons by the looks of it, at the boy. Jumping backwards, Janis avoided the sword and countered with his rapier, its strong, plain blade holding up to the strength of the beast.

Pretty clunky. But once it’s jazzed up with more arresting verbiage:

Janis leapt into the air, clearing the boulder easily. He caught a flash of metal out of the corner of his eye and whirled to see a huge troll swinging a sword straight at the boy. Leaping backwards, Janis avoided the blade, then countered with his rapier, its blade holding up to the strength of the beast.

… it becomes more interesting, and shorter to boot.  Brevity in an action sequence is important – and the article even says as much.  There’s much more inspiring information in the article, as well as the rest of  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Finally, what better place to learn about something than a site called  I’ve gone there many a time for other issues (everything from food safety to finding the right kind of freeware to do a project), and lo, they even have an entry about writing action, Ginny Wiehardt’s “How Do You Write Action Scenes?” One of the more soothing elements of the article is that it starts right off saying “Action scenes are really hard to write: it’s not just you.”  Good to know I’m not alone.

Get up and act out the scenes as best you can (though I realize this is not always possible when writing fantasy novels). As you act it out, you’ll also get ideas for other things you can describe. You might also try watching action sequences on screen (you could even observe or take a martial arts or fencing class). How do people tend to fall, on their sides, on their hands, etc.? What sorts of exclamations do they make? Do they wipe sweat away, or do they ignore it? How does a body respond when a sword (or hand, foot, etc.) makes contact?

Sage words. One of the keys to writing fantasy or science-fiction is to ground the world into some kind of reality.  This makes the characters and the situation relatable to the reader. I, for example, have never been to a high-tech park nestled in the jungle of a Central American island that saw bloodshed and disaster after the scientists that brought dinosaurs back to life lost control of the facility, but Michael Crichton provided plenty of effective descriptors of the action and the environments in Jurassic Park for me to relate to the danger the characters were in.

These were just a handful of search results.  Action writing can be a hassle, but it can also be a satisfying challenge met.  Never give up until you’ve created something that flows on the page as fast as it flows in your mind.


All of the quoted material is copyright their respective authors.

Love at First Site: The Selby

My introduction to The Selby came courtesy of the Asian Cajuns a few years ago. With an ‘aha!’ born of discovering something fabulous, new, and unknown, I spent the majority of that afternoon meandering through the site’s archives. The Selby–sumptuous, off-the-wall, and inspiring–is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, with eyes practically glued to the screen. There is so much to take in; none of it should be missed.
Scrolling through The Selby is like flipping through a fabulous coffee-table book or being given a detailed, intimate tour of a home by its owner, followed by a wacky Q & A session and some finger-painting. Todd Selby–yes, he has a first name–takes stunning photographs of the abodes of creative-types: musicians, artists, designers, writers, etc.. Naturally, most of these people live in enviable locales: New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Milan and Sydney. Yet, it is no travel diary: the focus is always on the subject-at-hand and the nooks and crannies and knickknacks of their most intimate surroundings.
I have always been fascinated by how other creative people live, or lived, from Colette to Amy Sedaris: our homes, to one extent or another, usually double as work-space, think tank, studio. Those lucky enough to be featured on The Selby are lucky for other reasons as well . They are always successful–or at least well-heeled–and dwell amidst above-average luxury. Yet, Todd Selby focuses his lens on the small details: books, ash-trays, framed art, shoes, figurines, plants. Because of this, it is not an endless, claustrophobic tour through a top-notch home magazine’s features section. These artists are eclectic, unusual and genuinely inspirational–even the most cursory glance at the photographs reveals people living out their various and deeply artistic natures.
The Selby is not just straight-up photography. He paints each subject in a quirky, backwards-style and puts them through a hand-written Q & A so bizarre that Dali would be amused. It is a winning combination of whimsy, entertainment, visual delight and unconscious decorating advice.
Although I would love to take a peek into the places and spaces of artisans like myself–those who conjure creative surroundings (and artistic goods) with much less money at-hand–The Selby remains an interesting look at Bohemians of another sort.

The Selby-go Here.
The Selby’s book-go Here.

Love at First Site: Amelia’s Magazine

The bad news: the tactile version of Amelia’s Magazine is no longer available. The good news: it has been restructured as a blog, and an illustration anthology is in the works. The brainchild of, yes, a woman named Amelia, it survived in its original form for 5 years. There were 10 amazing issues. Though we must now content ourselves with the on-line incarnation, it is more a sacrifice of spirit than content. This is , for me, the hidden thorn.
This luxurious, artistic gem of a magazine was founded on true small-press principles, with passionate intent to be old-school three-dimensional. In other words, paper. It featured art, fashion, the environment , photography, and music (the first issue had an interview with pre-train wreck Pete Dougherty). There was something to satisfy every art-conscious person, and it was beautifully presented. I realize that the founder’s ideals have not altered. Amelia herself, on the blog, refers to is as “creativity in the climate of change”: that is a heart-rending encapsulation of the world that artists ,and all of us, currently face.
It is true that Amelia’s Magazine was home-grown but it was a glossy, potent and professional product. She invested real money into the endeavour and, where there is money to be gained, there is also money to be lost. In this sense, it was not really a kitchen-table affair (KTA) but the relatively expensive, sophisticated product of an artist with access to real resources, something that most of us lack. This at once elevated the publication into the realm of the big boys. An indie magazine playing on a real stage. This is impressive and is, perhaps, at the heart of what every creative renegade hopes to achieve: Independence, readership and respect. Another lesson to be learned here is how building a network of like-minded artists can pay off for all involved.
The blog is not to be trifled with or dismissed: it retains much of what made the hard copy so invigoratingly delicious. There is a core of savvy contributors, beautiful or eye-opening pieces (reviews, interviews) and an atmosphere electric with creativity and respect for all of the kaleidoscopic artistry to be found in our sometimes frustrating, ever-altering modern world. Amelia’s Magazine’s passionate, particularly English approach to the arts is still here, just in a different form. Knowing where the blog sprang from can give the briefest pause, as you stop to mourn ,with genuine grief, the old-school ideals that first gave it life. Meeting the demands of the economic and artistic moment means tangling with compromise. The end result is , perhaps, not all that one would hope for: yet, the willingness of Amelia and her staff to engage in some shape-shifting has ensured that it will remain with us for some time to come.

I am having some problems with linking things. Actually, the links work properly but, even though it is set up correctly, it is not highlighting the links. So, to go directly to the site, simply click on the first place that it says “Amelia’s Magazine” at the top of the page. Thanks!