Sharing Nostalgia: My Trip to The Hundred Acre Wood

Hey, everyone!  Since Lady Diceacorn has written 2 of the recent “ELS Ladies” blog posts, I, Meepline, will helm this one!

As many of you know, I have 3 sons, the Meeplteenies.  My oldest is 11, the middle one is 4, and my youngest (the unofficially official ELS baby) will be 2 on Sunday.  As those with kids can tell you, they go through phases of being obsessed with certain movies, usually starting around 2 years old.  At 2, my oldest rode the Cars wave, my middle one started his dino obsession with The Good Dinosaur, and now the little one is obsessed with all things Winnie the Pooh.

boys

The Meeplteenies on St Patrick’s Day (yes, we’re Irish).

Continue reading

Advertisements

The NoSleep Diaries: Entry 2 -“The Woman Made of Glass”

Please welcome guest contributor Lindsay Moore. Lindsay has written for us before, sharing her experience putting together an all women horror anthology. In this series, she’ll share her experience writing horror stories that were adapted for the NoSleep Podcast. 

 

One of my all-time favorite horror tropes is ‘the piece of art that drives the viewer to madness.’ The most famous example of this trope is the 1998 Japanese film Ringu (and its American remake, The Ring). Characters encounter a haunted video tape, and before being killed by the ghost, they start to slide slowly into madness. It’s a criminally under-utilized trope, as you can do so much with it because art is subjective. It covers a wide variety of mediums, including (but not limited to) music, literature, paintings, sculptures, films — regardless of medium, art is a feast for the senses. And when it comes to inducing madness, there’s just so much potential.

(Coincidentally, the NoSleep Podcast has featured several stories about this trope, including “The Artist” from Season 3, “Beacon House” from Season 5, “The Thing in the Rust” from Season 7, and “The Earworm” from Season 12.)

The Woman Made of Glass” was my second story featured on the NoSleep Podcast. As with “The Thing in the Yard,” I’ll try not to spoil it, as I firmly believe it should be listened to. In fact, it’s part of the free episode.

Unlike “The Thing in the Yard,” it came from a more creative place than ‘I wonder if I can get on this podcast.’ In 2016, when I first began writing for the NoSleep Podcast, I was working at a dreadfully boring job. The one plus-side was that I was able to listen to podcasts while I worked. I was alternating between keeping up with NoSleep and exploring Pseudopod’s extensive back catalogue when I came upon a short story called “Final Girl Theory” by A.C. Wise. The story was featured on Pseudopod (episode 287) and told the tale of a bizarre cult film and its equally bizarre and overly obsessed fanbase. I won’t spoil it, because I think it’s a fantastic story that everyone should read or listen to. The Pseudopod adaptation of “Final Girl Theory” was nominated for a Parsec Award in 2013 — that’s how good it is.

“Final Girl Theory” begins with a graphic description of a scene from a grindhouse film. A woman is strapped to a gigantic roulette wheel. She is covered with shards of multicolored glass. Someone off-camera spins the wheel. As the woman spins around and around, it creates a kaleidoscopic effect of swirling colors. The image stuck in my head for the rest of the day and eventually began to mutate.

In my head, I saw a woman made entirely out of multicolored stained glass. She twirled through my head, a dazzling, dancing rainbow. I needed to write a story about her.

While pirouetting through my subconscious, the woman made of glass found a half-baked idea I had had for a short story. This story was about a college student making a short film that would drive whoever viewed it to madness. The core concept for this story was to make it a dark comedy; it would be told from the point of view of a poor college student who’d been roped into production and was stuck holding the boom mic. The story would consist of his journal entries as he complained about aspects of the film and the increasingly weird behavior of the actors and crew members.

I decided that the narrator of this story would be the titular woman made of glass; she’d be a ballerina recruited to star in the short film and would be completely ignorant to the filmmaker’s true intent to spread madness. During the screening of the short film (which the ballerina would be unable to attend due to a recital), the audience would collectively lose their minds.

I submitted “The Woman Made of Glass” to the NoSleep Podcast and was excited when they approved it. I was even more excited when I heard Nikolle Doolin’s voice narrating it. Nikolle Doolin is one of NoSleep’s regular narrators and her unique voice has made her one of the fan favorites. Nikolle’s the one you call when you need a woman who sounds suave and sophisticated, just on the verge of snobby but not quite there, authoritative and in-charge, or elegant and refined. She does a phenomenal job playing a talented ballet student in “The Woman Made of Glass.”

Lindsay Moore and Nikolle Doolin NoSleep live tour 2018.

David Cummings, the podcast’s creator, also performed in “The Woman Made of Glass.” He portrays Adam, the enigmatic student filmmaker whose creation drives everyone who watches it to madness. He brought a great deal of warmth to the role that gave it more depth than what I had originally written. Adam could have easily been portrayed as a stone-cold psychopath or a pretentious student filmmaker, but David plays him as a sensitive artsy type who is genuinely excited and passionate about his project. It adds a layer of mystery to the character that’s missing from the prose, as it casts the smallest shadow of doubt onto Adam and made me ask, did he really know his film would drive people insane if they watched it?

In 2017, the NoSleep Podcast went on tour. The roster included David Cummings (the show’s founder), Brandon Boone (the show’s composer), and narrators Peter Lewis, Nichole Goodnight, Jessica McEvoy, and David Ault. I was ecstatic. I was going to meet the people who brought my work to life. I was over the moon hyped. I worked through lunch so I could leave work early. I sat in my cubicle, practically bouncing off the walls until it was time to leave, then rushed home and printed off one of my stories for Nichole Goodnight and Jessica McEvoy to autograph (more on that next time).

What I didn’t know was the Nikolle Doolin would be at the Boston show. When her name was announced, my excitement was through the roof, although I was a bit disappointed when I realized that I didn’t have a copy of “The Woman Made of Glass” for her to sign.

When the NoSleep Podcast went on tour in 2018, I was better prepared. I had a copy of the “Woman Made of Glass,” and when the show was over and the cast was doing their meet and greet, you can bet I awkwardly shoved it in Nikolle Doolin’s face and said, “HI I WROTE THIS AND YOU NARRATED IT CAN I HAVE YOUR AUTOGRAPH I LOVE YOUR VOICE.” Or something like that. I was like an overexcited puppy, and everyone was very gracious about it. If there’s another tour, maybe I’ll learn how to behave myself (no promises).

Nikolle Doolin is hands-down one of the nicest people I have ever met. In spite of my awkward fangirling, she gave me a big hug and told me that she was a fan of my work. She told me that she had fun with the story; I was surprised that she remembered it. Nikolle joined the NoSleep crew in Season 2 and has (to date) narrated over 40 stories; this isn’t including stories where she had a secondary role or other podcasts that she’s appeared in. I was absolutely floored that she remembered my contribution to the NoSleep Podcast.

At the NoSleep liveshows, I also got to meet the show’s composer, Brandon Boone. I love Brandon’s music. I think it’s probably my favorite aspect of “The Woman Made of Glass.” Even though I had written a story that was about music and dancing, I hadn’t described either one of those in great detail. I played clarinet in high school, but I was never very good at it, and I’m not very musical. I can’t dance, I can’t sing, and I can’t read music. So, naturally, when it came time to describe the music featured in “The Woman Made of Glass,” I was intentionally vague.

When I met Brandon, the first thing I did was tell him how much I loved the music he wrote for “The Woman Made of Glass.”

“Oh yeah, I remember that,” he said. He didn’t seem to notice that I had to pick my jaw up off the floor; he’s been with the podcast since season four and has composed hundreds of pieces of music for it.

“I had a lot of fun doing the scene where everyone goes crazy and starts attacking each other,” he continued. I honestly hadn’t expected him to remember anything specific about my work. He’s been with the podcast since Season 4 and has composed hundreds of pieces for it. The fact that my story stuck out is still mind-boggling, especially because there are better ones out there.

Hearing “The Woman Made of Glass” on the NoSleep podcast proved to me that I wasn’t just a flash-in-the-pan or a one-hit-wonder. I could do this. So, naturally, I decided I had to do it again.

If you’re curious about the NoSleep Podcast, please check out their website: https://www.thenosleeppodcast.com/.

Classic Nikolle Doolin episodes:

  • “Forget Me Not” (Season 2, episode 22)
  • “Her Name Was Emma” (Season 4, episode 6)
  • “The Donacrann” (Season 5, episode 14)
  • “Magic Marty” (Season 8, episode 10)
  • “Gehenna” (Season 10, episode 2)
  • “Containing Secrets” (Season 11, episode 5)
  • “After the Lifeboat” (Season 11, episode 23)

A Captain Marvel Hot Take

At our Issues on Issues: Marvel Retrospective I was asked a really good question. (Actually I was asked a lot of really good questions.) This one focused on the Captain Marvel movie and if I thought it suffered because of the lack of romance.

Short answer-Absolutely NOT. The long answer is more complicated.

Captain Marvel is an origin story and it suffers from that a bit. I thought the beginning was slow, spending way too much time on the Kree rather than ramping into what it ultimately is…an identity story.

While I enjoyed Wonder Woman (it’s impossible not to get teary during the No Man’s Land scene) it felt like more of a Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor movie. Additionally, Diana is very often depicted through the male gaze in the form of wide-eyed male reaction shots to her appearance, both when she is showing more skin and dressed in more conservative period appropriate clothing; and Steve Trevor’s overbearing guidance and protection as he leads her around while trying to reign her in.

This is not the case with Captain Marvel. And while in some ways, Carol is also a fish out of water when she first comes to earth, her relationship with Nick Fury starts as an alliance against a common enemy rather than an infatuation. He seems more interested in seeing what she will do next rather than trying to direct her. Visually, despite the character’s previous comic book costumes, this version of Carol is covered because that is how you should be when you are riding a motorcycle, or fighting in space. She chooses the colors she wants to fly and even in her “magical girl” transformation scene, when we finally see Carol take full ownership of her power, there is no costume change or full visual transformation; instead it’s an addition to the base; she becomes more, not different.

Carol finds herself through friendships, and a connection to her past, rather than through romantic love. Her connection to the Rambeau’s, both Maria and Monica, is a critical part of her background and highlights the importance of female relationships and mutual support; and the relationship that develops with Nick Fury is one that comes from trust and respect. Nick Fury is very much along for the ride, but it’s clear that Carol is the one behind the wheel, driving full tilt toward her better self.

Romance is only one kind of relationship, and giving female characters a chance to explore other types of relationships is a critical part of making well rounded female characters who are more representative and realistic.

Community, Connection, and Cooking: Dumplings at MeiMei

How cute is this folding technique comic?

Food has always been an integral thread in the Ladies of Comicazi fabric. We’ve created a wide variety of offerings around food; theme parties, events, and even ComicCon panels. In part, it’s because food is historically such a big part of the genre fiction we love – from the feasts in series like Redwall and Lord of the Rings, to the wonders of replicators and the horrors of Soylent Green. But it’s also because the Ladies of Comicazi is, and has always been, about creating a community, a chosen family of people who share the same interests and passions. So when the opportunity to take a dumpling making class came up, of course we jumped at the opportunity. After all, as we learned from our instructor, Irene Li, dumpling making is very much a family affair.
Continue reading

Mini Review: Bloom

While I’m not always the best at knowing about new books and their release dates, I am blessed to be surrounded by people and – in some cases – things (*waves at Amazon algorithm), that know me well enough to give me a gentle nudge in the right direction. Whether it be a friend making reccomendations, a knowledgeable staff member at my local shop, or some strange Goodreads based rabbit hole I’ve fallen into, there are a lot of great ways to hear about what’s new in the world of comic books.

Thanks to my many resources, I’ve managed to make a very nice discovery. In the interest of trying to include myself in that grand network of book sharing, I wanted to use my post this month to let you know about one of my latest finds that is truly enjoyable.

Bloom – written by Kevin Panetta, Art by Savanna Ganucheau

Bloom has everything I love in a book – romance, emotional growth, and baking. And yes, you read that right – baking!

bloom2

Image: First Second

The story doesn’t really break that much new ground. After graduating from high school, Ari is itching to leave his home town to join his friends in the city and seek success making music. Ari doesn’t get too far as his father asks that he keep working in the charming yet struggling family bakery until a suitable replacement can be found. In walks the enthusiastic Hector, who not only reminds Ari of why he used to love baking, but also challenges him to think about what it is he truly wants.

What follows is a very solid coming of age story that is both sweet and satisfying.

So, what makes this book so good?

The Art

 Savanna Ganucheau kills it with the art in this book.  The backgrounds create tone that doesn’t steal from the emotion of the scenes, but instead enhances it. You can sense the summer heat and breezes. The characters themselves are soft and expressive, with a great variety of different faces and expressions.

bloom4

Image: First Second

The Characters

Maturity is hard and for most of us, it doesn’t come overnight. Ari has a lot of growing up to do, and that journey feels very natural in this book. He goes from being passionate and relatable in one scene to stubborn and resentful in the next. Kevin Panetta writes Ari in a way that never feels forced. Instead, it feels natural as Ari struggles to choose his next steps. Hector, on the other hand, is older and has learned from his experiences. He sticks up for himself and encourages Ari to work harder. The chemistry between these two characters is very real and while I was reading, I couldn’t help but root for them both.

Bonus – hot baking action

I’m a sucker for a book that focuses on food, especially when food is used to connect family and community. In this book, it’s the act of baking that provides the space and spark that bring Ari and Hector together. There’s meaning in the sharing of recipes and experiences. This book illustrates that beautifully.

bloom3

Image: First Second

 

As I mentioned before, there isn’t a lot in this book that is groundbreaking or new, but it doesn’t really matter. There are books that are warm, comfortable, and enjoyable even if you know where the plot is going the entire time. You are still taken along with the story and have a great journey along the way. Bloom is that kind of book. So if you’re looking for something undeniably tender and warm, this book is made for you.

 

 

Scenes from a Library Overhaul

33E48603-45D6-474D-95C1-0CF3A646EC01The beginning of the year is usually when I dive in to a big cleaning project. This year, it’s organizing the library, the various volumes that my husband and I have collected over multiple decades. I remain neck deep in the process of hunting for errant books and shelving them, so this week, you get a peek at some of the highlights of our books. Continue reading

How Game Book Art has inspired us…

20180416_203948

Time to talk about RPG’s!

     Happy February everyone! We are very excited because this month at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival there is a D&D art documentary called Eye of the Beholder. It is not only a great title, but a great topic as well. Its question is: How has the art of Dungeons and Dragons inspired you? It is something we are going to discuss here, but we are going to broaden it a little. We are going to talk about the art of all game books and how it influences us as players and game masters. Once you enter through the door of D&D there are so many other games and systems to explore. We encourage you to do so and we are always happy to give you some recommendations. So we will be using Game Master and not Dungeon Master when we discuss this topic in this post.

Lady Diceacorn

20190212_195008

This books is so gorgeous that even after all these years it is one of Lady Diceacorn’s favorites.

     The cover art of an unknown RPG is what draws me to it immediately.  I remember one of the first times it happened and to this day it is a book I still use. I was browsing the aisle at a game store when a book from Pinnacle Entertainment Group caught my eye. It had pirates on it and in big pirate font Pirates of the Spanish Main. I picked it up and looked inside. It took me 30 seconds to realize that I not only needed this book in my life, I needed to run this game with a strong lady pirate captain at the helm. It used the Savage Worlds ruleset, which I was familiar with. I still love this book so much. It is one of the few books that I had to stop reading and grab a notebook to jot down ideas. I still haven’t run all of them, but maybe with the new edition, I will have another adventure in the works.

20190212_194324

It is hard not to be inspired with items as awesome as this.

        As a GM, anything can inspire a great game, but it is usually the art and design of the book that gets my brain racing with ideas. The newest addition to my RPG library and the game books I am currently loving to look at are my Star Trek Adventures books. They are laid out like a Starfleet Manual and the artwork is original and amazing. I have at least three games planned out for this system and I haven’t even finished reading the books. Plus, it comes with a pretty map. The cover is just the Enterprise and it evokes some of my favorite feelings. The other art shows away missions in dangerous caves and a large number of Red Shirts. The thing I love the most is that you can purchase pre-generated characters of your favorite crew, or mix and match for your game if you wanted. We have two “Try an RPG Day” dates this year, and I am pulling this game out for one of them. Although I am still determining which of the seven game ideas I will run. It is not a bad problem to have.

20190212_194844

Goblins in Spaaaaaaaccccceeee!!!!

     This inspiration is not just reserved for the games I run. It is also reserved for the games I am a player for. The best example I have of that is when we were starting a home Starfinder campaign. My GM had the book out and I was looking down and smiling back at me was the most awesome space goblin I had ever seen. I knew in that moment that was what I needed my character to be. My good-natured GM rolled with it and thus Dr. Spork T. Space Goblin was born. She is the smartest of the space goblins and that is why she is a doctor. Just seeing that artwork of a space goblin with a makeshift machete and a homemade laser gun, I had not only the character concept, but also her personality.

Meepline

     The thing I like most about art in RPG books is how it sets the tone for the game.  There are games that are intense, some silly, some fantastic, some gritty. The art, not only on the cover, but throughout the book, really sets the tone for the game as a whole.

rue

I mean…. Who wouldn’t want to fight this thing?

      My first ever RPG, Rifts, is a complicated mess of convoluted rules, but it’s still dear to my heart.  The art in the pages of the many (many, many, many) books sets you up for adventure of the crazy, gritty, post-Apocalyptic variety.  The art on the cover of the Ultimate Edition corebook (colloquially known as the RUE) shows a vaguely steampunkish mystical being kneeling in front of a portal (or rift) with a giant eyeball and nasty mouth tendrils emerging from it (this is a particularly big nasty being known as the Splugorth; if you’ve played Rifts you KNOW the Splugorth).  When you crack open the pages of it, each image really invokes that crazy adventure feel, from the illustration of the Rogue Scientist scaling a cliff, to the pictures of the Coalition Dogboys.

devils-spine

The artwork from The Devil’s Spine that sparks Meepline’s GM creativity!

     My favorite RPG in the entire universe, Numenera, also has the most gorgeous artwork.  The way the artists portray the Ninth World gets you in the spirit of exploration. The colors are bold, pastels and bright colors combined, unlike the dark colors of Rifts, giving it a more inquisitive feel.  And that’s true of the game; it’s all about uncovering the mysteries left behind by the previous worlds. The most used and iconic picture is on the Corebook and Starter Set. It’s a bright orange background, with the Amber Monolith in the center, surrounded by creatures and people.  It gives the sense of the vastness of the world and the possibilities. All of the art in every book is full-color and just as gorgeously detailed and vast. My favorite picture in all of the Numenera books is from the pre-written adventure, The Devil’s Spine. The adventure itself is a ton of fun, and I’ll try not to give too many spoilers, but at one point, adventurers may encounter a swamp filled with giant statues of vaguely humanoid shape.  The art is in muted tones of gray and yellow, highlighted with purple flowers. It certainly sets the tone of uneasiness meant to be felt in that area, and gives a slight vision of what is to come to those who venture into the swamp.

     Honorable Mentions for books whose cover art sets the tone for the game (and either has minimal inside art, or not as thematic art):  Ten Candles, a horror game by Calvary Games (I have yet to play this game, but the cover was what drew me to it, as well as the mechanic of using actual candles in the gameplay); Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker (this is one of my favorite games, and the first game I ever ran!  The cover art really sets the tone for how post-apocalyptic and open-ended this game really is); and finally, The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen by James Wallis (the version I own is stark white with black text and filigree; it really sets the tone for how lush and over the top the game is.  This game is all about telling the most extravagant lie)!

     We are grateful for all the work that it takes to put together games. It is so exciting that Eye of the Beholder is shedding light on one of them. We hope you will consider joining the directors at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival on Friday, February 15, 2019 at 7:00 PM for a screening at the Somerville Theater. We both have plans to be there!  (Note: Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival has not paid us to promote this event and we are paying for our tickets. This is just a topic that excites us and we have offered to promote it as something awesome to do with a Friday night.)

    We also hope you join us for another fabulous ELS Day on March 10, 2019 from 12-6 at Comicazi. We are working on which woman created game we will be featuring, so we are going to make our game announcement via social media soon.   

 

Until next time…. May all your hits be crits.

The Ladies Podcast: Women at the Gaming Table

In this episode, Valerie (Smalerie) sits down with fellow Ladies and current co-Organizers of ELS Game Day, Savannah (Meepline) and Tracey (Lady Diceacorn) to discuss the experience of women at the gaming table. Together they discuss what it can feel like to be the only woman at the gaming table and share some tips on ways all players can create a more positive gaming space. 

Continue reading

The NoSleep Diaries: Entry 1- “The Thing in the Yard”

Please welcome guest contributor Lindsay Moore. Lindsay has written for us before, sharing her experience putting together an all women horror anthology. In this series, she’ll share her experience writing horror stories that were adapted for the NoSleep Podcast. 

 

I discovered the NoSleep Podcast in 2015, midway through its fifth season. At the time, my day job was less than fulfilling; it was downright boring. But, on the plus side, I was able to listen to podcasts and music all day.

I sat in my cubicle, alone, listening to horror fiction podcasts while I worked. I discovered the NoSleep Podcast through the subreddit, which is infamous for its creepypasta-style horror fiction. I couldn’t sit and read the stories, but I could listen to the best of the best, those carefully selected for audio adaptation. Continue reading

Starless Wonders: Tony McMillen’s Lumen

A couple of summers ago, I reviewed some books, as I am wont to do. One of them was An Augmented Fourth by friend of the Ladies and local celebrity Tony McMillen. Since then, Tony’s written and drawn a comic, Lumen. Since the first four issue arc has just drawn to a close, it felt like a good time to tell you all about it – you can get in on the ground floor of what I hope will be an ongoing series, while still getting a complete story.

The story of Lumen begins with a young man, Esteban Vela, who stumbles upon a suit of armor and a lantern one day after following a falling star. It sounds romantic, except for two things – one, the armor still holds its previous occupant. Two, Esteban lives in the Nocterra, a world enshrouded entirely in darkness. There are no stars, not even falling ones, and being too romantic in a world like this is will get a boy killed. Still, inspired by tales of “the legendary Vaquero Rubus Bramble…the hero who was supposed to lasso the sun,” Esteban decides not only to take the armor, but promptly finds himself embarking on an epic quest.

You see, while the sun is gone, devoured by “the Beast that fell to earth,” there is one source of life and light in the Nocterra – lumen, a glowing substance that allows plants to grow. It also provides energy; it’s the power source for Esteban’s armor as well as the various weapons and mechs designed by his nearest neighbor, Detta the science witch. It’s Detta who sends him on his quest, to obtain the lumen horde in the southern castle. All that stands in his way are giant fungus monsters, the Fun Guys, who thrive in the darkness of the Nocterra. No problem for a hero, right?

The story has many of the best elements of a fairy tale – a magical destiny, a witch, a quest, even an animal companion and a pretty girl – while still managing to feel entirely new and unique. McMillen has clearly spent a lot of time on world-building, thinking through the rules of his night universe and how it operates, and he deploys it brilliantly, through the illustrations and actions of the plot rather than through tiresome exposition. Likewise, the characters all have distinct voices and personalities – I could hear Esteban’s cocky bravado (and its undercurrent of doubt and fear) in my head perfectly.

McMillen’s art is likewise wholly unique, loose and smudgy, yet sharp and distinct when it needs to be. The use of color is amazing in a book about a world cast in darkness, and book three has a multi-page sequence that manages to be clever without being gimmicky. And the Fun Guys – well, no one draws a monster like Tony. Each are named after actual mushrooms – there’s a great single page shot of different types in issue that looks cool AND had me reaching for google to see what a “Gristly Domecap” looks like here on our Earth.

All told, Lumen is an impressive debut comic from a writer I know is only getting better, and I can’t wait for the next arc.

If you want to read Lumen, the first copies are sold out in print but available online at McMillen’s Etsy shop, and the later issues are available either online or here in Boston at Comicazi and Hub Comics. Even more exciting, the first issue is up for FREE over at Tony’s website. So get on over there and check it out!