Monday, February 25, 2013

A Weekend in Geekdom

            I spent this past weekend selling chainmaille at Con-G, an anime/videogame/geek convention that has been taking place for the last five years in Guelph, Ontario. As a shy, introverted person, I have to say I’m amazed at just how much fun I had.

            First, I should explain a bit more about these events. Essentially, a hotel (or group of hotels) or conference centre is taken over by a hoard of the strangest (and nicest) people you’ll ever meet. At least half of these people (known as cosplayers) show up dressed as their favourite characters from shows and games – some of them even act the part the whole time they’re there! Others (like my wife and sister-in-law) have a different costume for each day of the event. Various activities are scheduled for these eccentric people, such as panels where people discuss their favourite shows/games or skills related to costume-making or art, gaming rooms for everything from Dungeons & Dragons to Pokemon card games to DDR, cosplay chess (where attendees are the chess pieces), dances and skits. Also always present are the Dealers’ Room and Artists’ Alley where vendors and artists sell their geeky wares.

            It’s funny, really, that this is a gathering from all walks of life of the people who the rest of society makes the most fun of – yet, as I said before, they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. No one is judgemental; boys dress as girls, girls dress as boys, heavy people dress as skinny characters and no one ever says anything negative to any of them! Everyone is always complimenting each other and it’s very common to see signs declaring “Free hugs!” being worn by people – and, yes, they tend to get a lot of hugs.
(An awsome Ezio from Assassins' Creed)
(This girl made a perfect Sherlock)

            Being a vendor, I got to experience this event in a way that few people do. I stood still and watched to world go past, as it were, because sooner or later, just about everyone passes through the Dealer’s Room. That meant that I was able to see most of the fabulous costumes that people pour so much time and effort into and, even as someone who didn't recognise most of the costumes, I can say that of lot of them are phenomenal. And the people! Every now and then, someone would stop at my table and we’d get talking and joking around as if we’d known each other all our lives when, in reality, we didn't know each other’s names.

            One such experience was a guy who later introduced himself as Wallet. He had come to the Con without a costume and was piecing together an outfit as he went along. He spent quite some time at my table, chatting with me, and ended up deciding to buy a scale flower for a girl he knew. The problem was that he didn't know her favourite colour, so he’d have to come back later so she could choose one.

            Now, during this time, my wife Colleen had been spending a lot of time off enjoying the event. When Wallet returned with the girl he wanted to buy the scale flower for (Angel), I was surprised to find Colleen with them! It turned out that Colleen and Angel had met at an event and struck up a friendship. Not only that, but earlier in the day Angel had been talking to me and showing me a chainmaille bracelet a friend had made her! It was a craziest set of coincidences.

We ended up mashing up a couple of our items so Angel could wear the scale flower (red) as part of her costume for the next day. Needless to say, there were many occasions upon which we encountered Angel and Wallet over the rest of the event, including Angel borrowing a necklace and doing some advertising for us.

            Another experience was someone who took a video of my products and asked me some questions for a video about his experiences at Con-G for his Youtube channel. There were a number of people who kept walking by again and again, finally stopping to buy something when they could no longer resist. Some people came by every day just to say hi and tell me how they wished they had more money. I can’t tell you how many compliments I received on my chainmaille tie!

            Now, all the costumes and friendly people can be experienced by anyone at the event, but what really made the event for me was the other vendors. You can never know it without being behind the tables, but I’m convinced that all vendors are awesome people. From the moment you set up shop, you start talking to the people around you and what you find are a lot of people who are fun to talk to and are happy to share selling secrets and other events to attend. Within a few hours, you’re willing to leave them alone with your money to watch your table while you go get something to eat – and you know you have nothing to worry about.

            All in all, I’m very glad I went to this event. If you ever want to go somewhere where you can truly let down your hair and be yourself, or show of how weird you really are, while surrounded by friendly people who won’t even think of judging you, find yourself one of these conventions to go to.

            Then tell me about it so I can go, too, and sell you some chainmaille.

Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.


To see my chainmaille, click here.

If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How to be a Writer

            You write. It’s as simple as that.

            When I tell people I'm an author, they often look at me in shock and say something along the lines of, “You wrote a book!? Wasn't that hard?”

            My answer is, “Yes, I wrote a book. Actually, I wrote three and am currently working on a fourth.” As to how hard it was... only the first one was, and even then it wasn't all that challenging – the most difficult part was gaining the confidence to actually do it.

            I first decided I wanted to be an author when I was somewhere around the age of twelve – at least, that’s when I started to write my first novel. It was a disaster. Not because I wasn't any good, no, but because at the time I was attempting to emulate my latest favourite author: Brian Jacques. When you write a book about warrior woodland creatures, it’s a bit obvious that it’s a rip-off. When I became aware of this, I started a new book and learning my own style.

            The new book was good, but it had one major flaw – the protagonist had no weaknesses. Oh, I did my best to give him some, but it was a very futile attempt. This, coupled with my difficulties writing descriptions, caused me to give up on my goal.

            I still wrote now and then. On occasion I even took a shot at starting up another book, but the thing that really set me on the road to writing again was when I chose to take a high school Writers’ Craft course when I was eighteen. I was assigned a short story project and, as I wrote it, I realized there was far more potential for the story. It was then read aloud to my class for criticism, but they all got so lost in the story that they forgot they were supposed to be doing work. Then a number of my classmates asked when I was writing the rest.

            You’d think that would be the kick I needed to get writing, right? Wrong. I still lacked the confidence in my writing – sure, I could write something short, but a whole book? That seemed like an impossibility! Over the next few years I wrote bits and pieces here and there, but never sat down to write seriously. I lacked the confidence.

            It wasn't until January of 2010, when I was dating Colleen, that I started seriously writing. I made a deal with her – I would write my book if she would help me when I got stuck. That’s all I needed. So, I started writing. Not just sitting down to write every now and then, but every day. If I wasn't working on the book itself, I was working on background information, developing the world I was writing in further and further.

By the end of July, I had finished the book. Well... okay, it had several locations where [INSERT DESCRIPTION HERE] was written, but other than that... I had written a book! It was such an exhilarating feeling! After that, Colleen went through it, then I read and edited the whole thing, followed by sending it off to my parents for editing and I started writing the next book.

            So, it took me a long time to get there, but I learned a lot in the process. The most important thing, though, was the confidence. I knew I had done it before, so I could do it again! So I did, and this time the book was better and had far fewer [INSERT DESCRIPTION HERE]s. The same was true for the third book. It was a bit of a revelation for me that “practice makes perfect” applied to creative writing.

            In conclusion, if you want to write a book but aren't sure if you can, here is my advice:
-Go for it!
-Write a little every day, even if it’s only a sentence.
-Believe in yourself, or find someone else to believe in you for you.
-Don’t read it until you’re done unless you’re going back to check on details. Many authors will tell you that they don’t like what they write. This is because you are your own worst critic. You see things that only you can see because you were the one who put the words there in the first place. But! Leave those words sitting long enough (say, long enough to finish writing the book) and you’ll forget that you wrote them in the first place. I can’t tell you the number of times I've read something and been amazed that I was the one who had typed it! All those little things that you were picky about will still be there, but if they still need to be fixed, they can be fixed later. By that time, the book is already complete, so it’s too late to give up on it.

Happy writing!

Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.

To see my chainmaille, click here.

If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Curse of the Writer

            The curse of the writer is that you just have to keep writing. You just can’t stop. No, really, I mean it! The more you write, the more you have to write.

            I've heard accusations hurtled at J.K. Rowling saying that she’s just written her newest book because she wants more money, which is ridiculous. She wrote it because she’s a writer, so she writes on even when she no longer needs to.

            You see, the way it works is that you start off with an idea for a book. As you write that book, you come up with a great idea, character, or scenario that just won’t quite work for what you’re writing, so you put it aside. As you write, that idea grows and expands in the back of your mind until you have a whole new book waiting to be written! The worst part is that the number of books you plan to write grows exponentially.

            I actually started with a trilogy planned, although it’s not the trilogy I've written. This trilogy is waiting until I feel I'm experienced enough to write it and make it all that I hope it will be. Anyway, so that’s three books I started with living in my head. The first book I completed, To Slay a Dragon (working title), started as a school project that grew. By the time I was done writing it, I knew it was going to be a trilogy. So, I now had one book written and five more planned, bringing the total number of books in my head to six.

            While writing my second book, I brought back a character who’d had a cameo in my first book. I loved working with this character so much that I started sketching out the story of his life and wondering what kind of book it would make. As well as that, by the time I’d finished the second book, I’d also come up with a really cool idea for a stand-alone in my series (this is the one I'm currently working on). So, that’s two books written and six planned, totalling eight in my head.

            Moving on to the third book I was thinking that these ideas must surely die out soon, right? How wrong I was. First, my wife and I started a roleplay where we took turns writing our characters and the events going on around them. It was meant for fun, as well as an excellent writing exercise, but the more we wrote the more we realized that we were starting another book. Then, while I was throwing some minor characters into my third book, I was writing up the character backgrounds and discovered that one of them had a whole book there! Finally, just as I was finishing my third book, my brain started playing with some puns and spat out another book at me. That’s three books written and eight more planned for a grand total of eleven books.

            Better make that twelve because, less than a month into writing my fourth book, I started thinking it will need a sequel. I hate to think how many books I’ll have planned by the time I'm finished writing it!

            So, if you’re thinking of becoming a writer, think long and hard about it, because you’re getting yourself into a job that will never end. That’s probably the only regret I have. I view everything that has happened to me in my life as part of what led me to where I am today, but I think it’s fair to regret that I won’t live long enough to empty my imagination.

            To that end I must ask, has J.K. Rowling ever let on to exactly how Dumbledore and Flamel made the philosopher’s stone? I wouldn't mind some elixir of life.

Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.

To see my chainmaille, click here.

If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Why Writing and Chainmaille Mesh

            I've been doing this blog thing for a whole month now and I realized that I haven’t included anything relating to my chainmaille work yet. I was considering writing about the construction of chainmaille, but I realised that, on its own, that might turn out rather dull – after all, you can only say so much about linking rings together. That got me thinking about my odd combination of occupations, which led me to start thinking about why I enjoy them both so much and what links the two together.

            The best place to start is with a brief description on how chainmaille is assembled. I am, of course, functioning on the assumption that anyone reading this understands the writing process, i.e. I make things up and write them down, hopefully in a way that will entertain people – preferably with a lack of pointing and laughing.

            Chainmaille was originally developed as a type of armor, back in the ancient days, and has since been adapted to make jewelry, clothing and just about anything else people can dream up. It is made by linking metal rings together in various patterns, or weaves, but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here. It all starts with a single ring.

            No, this is not the One Ring to Rule Them All, though I have often thought of making a shirt out of those. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of money, but if anyone out there does, I would be delighted to make it for you!

            I digress. So, this one ring must first be bent closed, ideally with a pair of pliers, so that the ring appears to be one solid ring. This can take quite a lot of practice to achieve as many metals tend to have a bit of spring in them and the edges need to be flush to avoid scratching. Once that is done, you move on to the next ring, then the next one and the next, until the project is done. The following is the progression of a small piece of European 4 in 1, one of the easiest and most common weaves, as it is constructed one ring at a time.

            Hopefully, that will give you a good idea of what it is like to make chainmaille. Now to start comparing it to writing!

            The first thought that came to me was that, when writing, a book often goes together like a piece of chainmaille. You keep adding little bits on until the whole is complete. Both when you’re working on a book and working on a piece of chainmaille, you often have a general idea of how it will turn out, but you can only clearly see small parts and you hope the rest will work itself out. The more you make, the clearer the overall project becomes, just like with chainmaille. A lot of time and patience go into both projects.

            So writing a book is a lot like making chainmaille and they both provide me with a similar sort of enjoyment, but is that the only reason why I was drawn to both of these? Perhaps at first, but I've now come to realise how well the two complement each other. You see, chainmaille takes a long time to make, while a book requires a whole lot of background thinking. You can’t work an eight hour day constantly writing; your brain can’t keep up with that! Besides, the best results come from an idea that has been stewing for a while.

            Likewise, chainmaille all day isn't the greatest idea ever. You end up with hands that are callused, blistered and have distinct pliers indents in them. Sometimes that’s after only a couple of hours! So, not only is the brain allowed to quietly work in the background while the chainmaille is being made, but the chainmaille requires breaks. A perfect opportunity for writing! At the end of the day (or year, as the case may be), the two jobs get completed together because each of them can be worked on while a break is being taken from the other. What other jobs link together and mesh so well?

Over the last couple weeks, I've been nominated for a number of blog awards. At this point I'm not ready to participate in these, but I’d like to thank TriciaKay and Lindsey for their nominations, they mean a lot to me!

Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.

To see my chainmaille, click here.

If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.