Music Monday

So in addition to loving writing, geeky things and comics, I’m a huge fan of all kinds of music.  I regularly make playlists for what I’m working on or have playlists about random things that help me get into the right writing mood.

Each Monday, I’ll give you my recommended tracks for the week, as well as a link to a spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.  Sometimes there will be a theme, other times there won’t be.

This week, I’m just going to share some of stuff I’ve recently discovered, or found myself listening to all over again.

  1. Force of Nature – Bea Miller
  2. Somebody New – Joywave
  3. The Ghosts of Beverly Drive – Death Cab for Cutie
  4. Adventure of a Lifetime – Coldplay
  5. Cream on Chrome – Ratatat
  6. Compass – Zella Day
  7. Lose It – Oh Wonder
  8. Run – Daughter
  9. I Found – Amber Run
  10. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1 – The Flaming Lips

Here’s the Spotify Link/Playlist:

Let me know what you liked, or share a track you fell in love with this week.

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And we begin again.

I spent a lot of 2015 figuring out the direction I wanted for my life.  I actually started this blog about two years ago, but for the first year or so it  laid dormant, until a friend of mine asked if I would write a guest blog for his website’s blog (Which has some amazing/inspirational posts).  At that point, I blew the dust off this blog and started to try post regularly.

I plan to do a lot of things in 2016.  Finish a novel, including all the revisions of it, so I can start publishing.  Submit short stories, hope they get published as well.  Make comics.  And blog a lot more.

I started this blog to highlight my writing, but as it has gone on, I’ve used it to share what I’ve learned about writing along the way.  I also wanted to hear from others and find out what they’ve learned along the way.  Our greatest resource is always the people around us.  I want to share things I love, and perhaps don’t love so much, over the next year.

One thing I’ve learned in the last year that I want to share with you is this:

If you don’t make a goal, a real and measurable goal, you aren’t going to get anywhere.

Let’s break that down for a second here.  The goal has to be real.  I want to write professionally and write comics professionally someday.  That is a real goal, but it would not be real if I put that I wanted to work for Marvel in 2 months.  That’s not achievable for me, yet.

How do I make a real goal that reflects that dream?  I could say that I’ll make my own comics, reach out to artists to collaborate, learn more about writing  comics over the next year.

Next, it has to be measurable.  I learned a lot about measurable goals when I taught special education.  Each student has to have individual goals that you can show real progress on.  If you can’t measure a goal, you can’t show progress.

One of my goals this year was to revise the novel I made last year.  At first I just wrote down “Revise VF novel” which is vague and not really measurable.  With encouragement from my best friend I wrote down deadlines for the completed first revision, when I wanted to send it to beta readers, when I wanted to start draft two, and finally, when I wanted to start publishing it.  That’s measurable progress.  If I miss deadlines, I’m not making the progress I need to complete that goal.

So make some goals.  Make them measurable and real.  Make sure they are something you can achieve in the time frame you plan to finish them in.

What are your goals for the year?  How are you going to work towards them?  Tell me how you do it, I’d love to hear your feedback!

4 Awesome Comic Series You Should Check Out

So this week has been a bit busy and I didn’t get to hit the shop on New Comic Book Day.  That means I don’t have a comic to review as I usually do.  Instead, I’m going to share with you some of the series I’ve read recently that I’ve absolutely enjoyed.

The Wicked and the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

I got to go to a panel and meet Kieron at Denver Comic Con and he is as awesome as I expected him to be.  The Wicked and the Divine combines two of my favorite things, mythology and music.  The series centers around people who become gods/pop stars.  Becoming a good is not without cost, as those that do have a fairly short life span.

“You will be loved, you will be hated.  In two years you will be dead.”

What I love about this comic, is that like a lot of Gillen and McKelvie’s work, it feels both very current and somewhat experimental.  They play with form and you will see things in their comics that you don’t necessarily see in others.  I asked Gillen about communicated with McKelvie and he spoke about how long they had known each other and how a relationship had developed, I think you can see that relationship in their body of work and “The Wicked and the Divine” is the perfect example of it.

It’s obvious that Gillen and McKelvie have a passion for music and intertwining immortality, so If you enjoy this comic you might also want to check out Phonogram.  They have earlier runs of Phonogram and their newest run “The Immaterial Girl” is going to hit shelves in the near future.

Black Widow by Nathan Edmundson and Phil Noto

Black Widow has just finished a 20 issue run which is something of a feat in the comics industry now a days.  I am a big fan of Natasha as a character and though for the most part I love Ed Brubaker’s run on Winter Soldier, his last story arc left Natasha in a place that had me worried.  This comic series put many of those fears to bed.  It shows Natasha in her element, she is a spy and though she has many people around her, she still keeps many of them at arm’s length.

We also get a cameo from Bucky Barnes later in the series, which gives a nod to what happened between them during Brubaker’s run.  The art is gorgeous and surprisingly clean even though it is done in largely a water color painted style.  Noto is one of my favorite artists, so I may be slightly biased in my judgement, but this book was worth picking up for the art alone.

We get to see a much more personal side of Natasha in these comics, which I feel like her previously series have lacked to an extent.  She is vulnerable yet hard, capable yet fearful, isolated yet not alone.  This is a great series to pick up if you like female characters with depth and a little bit of spy craft in your comics.

The Silent Grove (Dragon Age) by David Gaider, Alexander Freed and Chad Hardin

This series is a great companion to the Dragon Age video game series, particular if you’re a fan of Alistair Therin, Isabela or Varric Tethras.  In this version of Thedas, Alistair is King of Ferelden and he sets off to follow a room about his long-lost farther, King Maric.  Maric, of course, was presumed dead many years before when he was lost at sea.  With the help of Isabela and Varric, the mystery behind his disappearance begins to unfold.

If you are anything like me, when you get into a video game or movie, I love other supplemental media that continues the story.  I’ve also read some of the Dragon Age books and while they are good, the comics are much more engaging and the story is much more entertaining.  If you enjoy “The Silent Grove,” the story continues in “Those Who Speak and “Until we Sleep”

Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro

I’ve enjoyed a lot of Kelly Sue’s work in the past and it was no surprise when Bitch Planet became a fast favorite for me.  The focus of the story is on women who have been sent to a prison planet because they are “Non-Compliant.”  This can mean everything from murdering someone to not really keeping yourself tight and together and beauitful.  If you aren’t conforming to the strict gender roles enforced on women, you might find yourself locked up with the rest of the rebels.

When DeConnick began sharing about this comic, she mentioned that she wanted to take the “Women in prison” exploitation trope and turn it on it’s head.  The art is perfect, it has a slightly gritty feeling to it, that helps to further suspend reality and put you in this universe that only feels a few decades down the line from the world we live in.  DeConnick and De Landro also work really hard to ensure that their take on the subject does not look exploitative like what inspired it.  There is a shower scene in one of the issues which had to be redrawn several times all in the name of not objectifying the women in the scene.

This comic is a strong deviation from DeConnick’s other Image title “Pretty Deadly” but I strongly recommend picking that title up as well, if you’re looking from something else to read.  Emma Rios is the artist and her pages are simply stunning, so many of them look like paintings that should be in museums and on postcards everywhere.  “Bitch Planet” is currently still ongoing and “Pretty Deadly” has completed it’s first arc, gearing up for it’s second this fall.

Weekly Comic Review: Last Days of Black Widow, 19

bw2I’m a little low on time this week, so I’m this might be more of a comic recommendation and less of a review.

This week the only thing I picked up was Last Days of Black Widow by Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto and VC’s Clayton Cowles.  I’ve been following the series since it began, and I’ve really loved the art as well as the portrayal of Natasha balancing both her life as a spy and a superhero.

In issue 19, we’re starting to see the effects of Secret Wars effect her corner of the universe.  This is touched on, but then rest of the story is a flashback into one of Natasha’s missions for the Red Room.

Personally, I love anything that shows us more about Natasha’s past, since it’s often been written about in very different ways and sometimes even conflicting stories.  A lot of the fans chalk this up to the possibility that Natasha doesn’t have her own history straight.  This story does a great job of showing Natasha’s past, without stepping on previously narratives.

Noto again does a great job with the art. I especially liked the contrast between the first panel on page 1 and the first panel on page 2.  On the first page, we have the modern Natasha, ready to face down danger.  Her hair is whipping in the wind, the shot is very dynamic.  She looks at directly at us and says “I can’t save them all.” but she still looks determined to try. On the next page where we start to flash back to the past, the shot is framed similarly, but Natasha is turned away from us.  Her hair seems to be carefully combed under her beret.  Snow falls on Russian in the background.

The first panel seems full of movement and action that is about to happen, but the second panel is still and Natasha is a passive participant.  I thought it was amazing way to visually tell the difference between the two states Natasha is in, in respective parts of her life.

I’m a big fan of spy stories and Black Widow, so this comic series continues to be a favorite of mine.

Denver Comic Con, Part 1: The Panels

I’m home from Denver Comic Con!  And now it’s time to share with you what awesome things happened and what I learned.

Even though this post is about panels, here’s one of the awesome cosplay shots I got from the convention:

Credit to dashboardmessages.blogspot.com for taking this great photo!

So I got brave and I took business cards.  I only handed out three, but hey, it was more than I’ve done in the past so I’m counting it as a win.  I met some of my favorite creators and I cosplayed.  All in all it was just a great experience.

I attended quite a few panels this time:

– WOMEN IN COMICS NOW!

WITH ACTUAL WOMEN!! So this was a flash panel put together in 24hrs, and presented on Monday.  It was done in response to a panel done on Saturday that was called “Women in Comics” and only involved men, none of which were actual comic creators.  I’ve seen a few people go “Well, one of them was a professor and he was recounting comic history which he’s an expert in.” but TRINA ROBBINS was upstairs and literally she is a comics historian who is THE expert on women in comics and a comic creator.  All they had to do was walk upstairs and ask her to appear.

Instead, they apparently did a lot of mansplaining.

But the panel with the actual women was fantastic. It featured Trina, Amanda Conner, Joelle Jones, Marguerite Bennett, Hannah Means-Shannon of Bleeding Cool and two more women who sadly I did not write their names down, but were awesome!   Crystal Skillman put the whole thing together and I am so glad she did.

They talked about how “What’s it like being a woman in comics” is a level 101 question and how they wish people that interview them would dig deeper.  I can’t relate on a creator level, but I can relate to the fact that I am exhausted with being asked why I like geeky things, or treated like I must be new to them.  Nah, I’ve been here.  Even if I hadn’t been, you don’t get to gate keep me.  Marguerite was absolutely inspiring to me more than once.  I’m sort of new to her work, but she talked about how sometimes she writes from a place of revenge, or to give girls a role-model or a hero.

She also mentioned a time when she went to a writing summit and was the only woman among 29 men, and how that felt, and how she didn’t want her nieces and the little girls she knew to have to go through that.  It resonated with me so much, because it is very much in line with what I’ve felt about the work I want to do in this world.

Trina Robbins was amazing.  You could feel her fire and her fury and it was also very inspiring.

Amanda Conner has also convinced me to check out Harley Quinn again, because she spoke about how the new comic is about more than her being just “Joker’s Girlfriend.”  I’m a HUGE Harley fan, but in recent years, I got a bit frustrated about her being defined by the men in her life, and it was nice to hear that it sounds like she has gotten away from that.  I can’t wait to pick up the series.

– Women in the Geek Industry

I felt like though I had heard the message before “Don’t wait for permission.  Just do it.”  They also talked about dealing with hate on the internet and that you just have to put yourself out there, while being authentic and passionate.  They also re-iterated a sentiment I’ve seen from many female creators, which was find your girls and hold onto them.

– Kieron Gillen

I got to listen to Kieron talk about his work, both upcoming and in the past.  It was so great to here him talk about Phonogram, which has a dear place in my heart.  He was also asked about the diversity in his comics, and he talked about how he wanted comics to reflect what he saw in his life.  I thought that was such a good way to communicate how it is simple to include diversity and it shouldn’t just be seen as a checklist.  I also got my books signed by him the day before and he showed me his lunch, which just made me giggle up a storm.  I greatly admire his work and I’m so glad he was so kind.

– En Garde: Writing Action  

This was a very good panel that talked about how fights work, and Jim Butcher broke them down to the simplest formula: Stimuli-> Response.  Stimuli -> Response.  He also said something to the effect of writing an action scene is like lifting the engine block of a car, simple but simple should not be confused with easy.  AND one of the greatest things I got out of this was it’s easier to beef up something you’ve written lean, than it is to take away from something you’ve written thick.

– Indie Comic Creators

This panel was 3 creators that were local to Colorado, and they discussed their process and such.  Mostly I wished I lived closer to Denver to talk face to face with more artists, but they also recommended some places online to network.

– Beyond Bechdel: Queer Femmes and Women in Comics

They talked about the importance of representation and how we’re getting a lot more good representation of in comics of late.  They also talked about how sometimes a character gets coded as queer (like Black Widow) but there really isn’t any good indication that this is for a fact true, or in any way really represented in the comics.  I also liked when they touched on what is and isn’t objectifying and how we “know it when we see it.”

– Developing Systems of Magic

Jim Butcher was supposed to be on this panel, but he didn’t make it.  The other three authors were good, but since I wasn’t familiar with their work and they primarily used it as an example, it was somewhat hard to grasp some of what they were speaking off.  I did like this: “The ability to solve problems with magic should be proportional to the reader’s understanding of magic.”  The Q&A of the session also became “I’m writing a novel and I don’t know how to make this magic work” over and over again, which was a little frustrating, because I don’t feel like you should be asking published writers to do your footwork for you.

All in all, I was really pleased with all the programming I was able to attend.  We cosplayed in the mornings, and I still feel like I got so much out of the stuff I checked out.  I also liked that it had a definite comic and writing focus, which was sort of lacking at Salt Lake Comic Con.  SLCC does have writing panels, but it doesn’t seem like they’ve gone out of their way to get current creators of comics at their show.  I’m hopeful that 2015 might be different, but I’m definitely hoping we can make it out to Denver Comic Con next year.  Who knows, maybe at that point I’ll have enough created to have a table of my own.

Teeth, Nails and Pain

This piece was originally published in the anthology “Strangely Ever After” by the Pacific Review.  It was filled with lovely stories and art about fairy tales that did not quite end happily ever after.


Teeth, Nails and Pain

By Aubrey Lyn Jeppson

I knew he was a wolf when I met him. The hunger in his eyes was evident, the gleam of his sharp teeth should have frightened me, but it did not. It drew me in, and even though I had heard a thousand times that those teeth would tear me to bits, I ignored it.

I wanted the adventure and the danger, and I thought I could teach him how to be a man. If I was kind enough, sweet enough, gentle enough, surely he would not simply want to devour me like he had all the other girls.

At first I thought I had been successful, that I had tamed the wolf. He was sweet, protective, and careful not to cut my delicate flesh with his sharp claws.

When other predators would vie for my attention he would stare them down, a low threatening growl coming from his throat. And they would run. Oh how they would run. I saw this as a testament of the wolf’s love for me, that he would keep me so safe from those that might take me away from him.

His true nature took months to reappear and even then it crept back like a slow crawling vine, starting at my ankles and then twisting upwards, winding around me. I loved him then, a foolish devotion. I tried to love him more, to be more obedient, to bend to his devious ways in a hope that I could again change his nature.

He no longer meant to protect me, but keep me as his territory, his possession. I did not realize that the wolf had succeeded in what he had intended all along, he had captured his prey, and caged me, by convincing me to walk willing into his trap.

I tried to escape, to claw my way free of the bars he had put around me. To slip between those bars and find my way out of them. There were times I nearly found my freedom and then I would hear his whispers. Pleas of love and devotion and dedication. Threats that no one would want a girl who had been caged, no one would want a girl who loved wolves. Words that would twist my insides until I locked myself inside again.

The color seeped from my cheeks, the light in my eyes began to dim. My cloak which had once been the fiercest red was now grey and tattered. At first I did not noticed my own transformation, just the loss of what I had once been. Though the cage he had coaxed me into took my vibrancy, it reminded me of what was left behind it. Teeth, nails and pain.

My teeth had grown sharp, and my nails looked more like claws, and the pain gave me reason to use them both. Though others had likely died in the cage, or lost their way…I had become a wolf. I had become like him, and I knew that was how I would escape this cage.

This time I did not slid between the bars, my escape was not some quiet, meek act. I held the lock of the cage in my hands, and crushed it between my palms. Even if his words swayed me, I could not again be held within that prison. And the words did come.

At first tender, loving words. Promises that we would be together forever, and face the world as wolves at each others side. And then the low growl of anger, of possession. The reminder that no one would love the wolf I had become, no one could care for the thing he had created.

He was mistaken about that. Not that no one could love what he had created, but that his hands hand been the ones to transform me into a wolf. I had been a wolf all along, somewhere deep inside. When I had required the strength, the teeth, the nails, and had the pain to feed that predator within, it was made manifest. Before he could continue his tirade, his pleading, I acted on instinct.

I gobbled him up.

Perhaps little girls should not fear the forest or the wolves at all, for pain can transform them into something just as deadly.


You can find “Strangely Ever After” available for purchase here:

http://www.amazon.com/Strangely-Ever-After-pacificREVIEW-2014/dp/1938537041

The Valkyrie

This piece was originally written and performed at the Burnal Equinox at Burn2 in Secondlife. It was something that I became inspired to write as I studied about my ancestry and where I came from.  I have Scandinavian ancestors on both sides of my family.


The Valkyrie

By Aubrey Lyn Jeppson

My grandmothers were Shield Maidens, Pioneers, and Suffragettes.

 

They were strong.

They were warriors.

 

But now, I am told the war is over.

The battle is won.

I am equal.  Women are equal…to men.  Girls equal to boys.

 

We have found our balance…But…

 

But I scream….

Like a girl.

But I throw…

Like a girl.

But I run…

Like a girl.

But I do battle…

Like a girl.

 

If I am equal, if my daughters will be equal, then why are they told that they are the lesser?

Why are girls synonymous with frail, feeble, fragile?

 

How can I be strong when I am born to be weak?

 

Strenght is not just swinging a sword.

 

Strength is endurance.  Strength is enduring…

“You’d be so much prettier if you smiled.”

“No, honey, let me explain this to you.”

“You’re pretty good at games, for a girl.”

“You’re getting angry, are you on your period?”

“Why do you serve your cousins some pie?  Or help out in the kitchen?”

 

So I endure…And I fight.

My hands are strong, but so is my mind

and I find my balance on the sharp edge of my grandmother’s sword.

 

And I will do as my grandmothers did.  As my mother did.

 

I will become the Valkyrie my ancestors believed in.

 

A beautiful, strong and wise maiden.

 

I will scream battle cries like a girl.

I will throw my spear like a girl.

I will run and face injustice like a girl.

I will do battle like a girl.

 

I will use my strength to guide the souls of the weary and wounded in this life,

to lift the spirits of those that stumble and become fallen.

 

The will not break me because I am strong, brave and courageous…

Like a girl.